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"Are We Downhearted? No!"
by [?]


There are certain people who will never understand this story, people who live their lives by rule of thumb. Little lives they are, too, measured by the letter and not the spirit. Quite simple too. Right is right and wrong is wrong.

That shadowy No Man’s Land between the trenches of virtue and sin, where most of us fight our battles and are wounded, and even die, does not exist for them.

The boy in this story belonged to that class. Even if he reads it he may not recognise it. But he will not read it or have it read to him. He will even be somewhat fretful if it comes his way.

“If that’s one of those problem things,” he will say, “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t see why nobody writes adventure any more.”

Right is right and wrong is wrong. Seven words for a creed, and all of life to live!

This is not a war story. But it deals, as must anything that represents life in this year of our Lord of Peace, with war. With war in its human relations. Not with guns and trenches, but with men and women, with a boy and a girl.

For only in the mass is war vast. To the man in the trench it reduces itself to the man on his right, the man on his left, the man across, beyond the barbed wire, and a woman.

The boy was a Canadian. He was twenty-two and not very tall. His name in this story is Cecil Hamilton. He had won two medals for life-saving, each in a leather case. He had saved people from drowning. When he went abroad to fight he took the medals along. Not to show. But he felt that the time might come when he would not be sure of himself. A good many men on the way to war have felt that way. The body has a way of turning craven, in spite of high resolves. It would be rather comforting, he felt, to have those medals somewhere about him at that time. He never looked at them without a proud little intake of breath and a certain swelling of the heart.

On the steamer he found that a medal for running had slipped into one of the cases. He rather chuckled over that. He had a sense of humour, in spite of his seven-word creed. And a bit of superstition, for that night, at dusk, he went out on to the darkened deck and flung it overboard.

The steamer had picked him up at Halifax–a cold dawn, with a few pinched faces looking over the rail. Forgive him if he swaggered up the gangway. He was twenty-two, he was a lieutenant, and he was a fighting man.

The girl in the story saw him then. She was up and about, in a short sport suit, with a white tam-o’-shanter on her head and a white woolen scarf tucked round her neck. Under her belted coat she wore a middy blouse, and when she saw Lieutenant Cecil Hamilton, with his eager eyes–not unlike her own, his eyes were young and inquiring–she reached into a pocket of the blouse and dabbed her lips with a small stick of cold cream.

Cold air has a way of drying lips.

He caught her at it, and she smiled. It was all over for him then, poor lad!

Afterward, when he was in the trenches, he wondered about that. He called it “Kismet” to himself. It was really a compound, that first day or two, of homesickness and a little furtive stirring of anxiety and the thrill of new adventure that was in his blood.

On the second afternoon out they had tea together, she in her steamer chair and he calmly settled next to her, in a chair belonging to an irritated English lawyer. Afterward he went down to his cabin, hung round with his new equipment, and put away the photograph of a very nice Toronto girl, which had been propped up back of his hairbrushes.