LONG IN APRIL, Gadsby sat finishing his morning toast as a boy, rushing in, put a Post on his lap with a wild, boyish gasp of:
My gosh, Mayor Gadsby, Look!! and Gadsby saw a word about a foot high. It was W A - R. Lady Gadsby saw it also, slowly sinking into a chair. At that instant both Nancy and Kathlyn burst frantically in, Nancy lugging Baby Lillian, now almost two, and a big load for so small a woman, Nancy gasping out:-
Daddy!! Must Bill and Julius and Frank and John,
Gadsby put down his Post and, pulling Nancy down onto his lap, said:
Nancy darling, Bill and Julius and Frank and John must. Old Glory is calling, baby, and no Branton Hills boy will balk at that call. Its awful, but its a fact, now.
Lady Gadsby said nothing, but Nancy and Kathlyn saw an ashy pallor on that matronly brow; and Gadsby going out without waiting for his customary kiss.
For what you might call an instant, Branton Hills, in blank, black gloom, stood stock still. But not for long. Days got to flashing past, with that awful sight of girls, out to lunch, saying:
Four from our shop; and that big cotton mill has forty-six who will go,
With Virginia saying:
About all that our boys talk about is uniforms, pay, transportation, army corps, divisions, naval squadrons, and so on.
An occasional Branton Hills politician thought that it might blow out in a month or two; but your Historian knows that it didnt; all of that blowing consisting of blasts from that military clarion, calling for mobilization.
* * *
Days! Days! Days! Finally, on May Fourth, that day of tiny Nancys big church ritual, you know; that day, upon which any woman would look back with romantic joy, Nancy, with Kathlyn, Lady Gadsby and His Honor, stood at Branton Hills big railway station, at which our Municipal Band was drawn up; in back of which stood, in solid ranks, this citys grand young manhood, Bill, Julius, Frank, John, Paul and Norman standing just as straight and rigid as any. As that long, long troop train got its signal to start, - but you know all about such sights, going on daily, from our Pacific coast to Atlantic docks.
As it shot around a turn, and Gadsby was walking sadly toward City Hall, a Grammar School boy hurrying up to him said:-
Wow!! I wish I could go to war!
Hi! said Gadsby. If it isnt Kid Banks!
Aw! Cut that kid stuff! Im Allan Banks! Son of Councilman Banks!
Oh, pardon. But you dont want to go to war, boy.
Aw! I do too!!
But young boys cant go to war.
I know that; and I wish this will last until I grow so I can go. Its just grand! A big cannon says Boom! Boom! and,
Sit down on this wall, boy. I want to talk to you.
All right. Shoot!
Now look, Allan. If this war should last until you grow up, just think of how many thousands of troops it would kill. How many grand. good lads it would put right out of this world.
Gosh! Thats so, aint it! I didnt think of guys dyin.
But a man has to think of that, Allan. And you will, as you grow up. My two big sons just put off on that big troop train. I dont know how long Bill and Julius will stay away. Your big cannon might go Boom! and hit Bill or Julius. Do you know Frank Morgan, Paul Johnson and John Smith? All right; that big cannon might hit that trio, too. Nobody can say who a cannon will hit, Allan. Now, you go right on through Grammar School, and grow up into a big strong man, and dont think about war ; and Gadsby, standing and gazing far off to Branton Hills charming hill district, thought: I think that will bust up a wild young ambition!
But that kid, turning back, sang out:-
Say!! If this scrap stops, and a big war starts,Aha, boy! You just watch Allan Banks! Son of Councilman Banks! ! and a small fist was pounding viciously on an also small bosom.
By golly ! said Gadsby, walking away, thats Tomorrow talking!
* * *
So now this history will drift along; along through days and months; days and months of that awful gnawing doubt; actually a paradox, for it was a conscious coma ; mornings on which Branton Hills icy blood shrank from looking at our citys Post, for its casualty list was rapidlytoo rapidly,growing. Days and days of our girlhood and womanhood rolling thousands of long, narrow cotton strips; packing loving gifts from many a pantry; Nancy and Kathlyn thinking constantly of Frank and John; Lucy almost down and out from worrying about Paul; Kathlyn knowing just how Julius is missing his Hall of Natural History, and how its staff is praying for him; Nancys radio shut down tight, for so much as a thought of Station KBH was as a thrust of a sword. Days. Days. Days of shouting orators, blaring bands, troops from far away pausing at our big railway station, as girls, going through long trains of cars, took doughnuts and hot drinks. In Gadsbys parlor window hung that famous World War flag of nothing but stars; nobody knowing at what instant a gold star would show upon it. A star for Bill; a star for Julius. Ah, Bill! Branton Hills fop! Bill Gadsby now in an ill-fitting and un-stylish khaki uniform.
Gadbys mansion had no brilliant night lights, now; just his parlor lamp and a small light or two in hallways or on stairways. Only our Mayor and his Lady, now worrying, worrying, worrying; but both of good, staunch old Colonial stock; and carrying on with good old Plymouth Rock stability; and Nancys baby, Lillian, too young to ask why Grandma wasnt hungry, now; and didnt laugh so much.
Kathlyn got into our big hospital, this studious young ladys famous biological and microscopic ability holding out an opportunity for most practical work; for Branton Hills shot-torn boys would soon start drifting in. And thus it was; with Lucy, Sarah and Virginia inspiring Branton Hills womanhood to knit, knit, knit! You saw knitting on many a porch; knitting in railway trains; knitting during band music in City Park; knitting in shady arbors out at our big zoo; at many a womans club, and, actually, knitting in church!! Finally a big factory, down by our railway station, put out a call for anybody, man or woman, who wants to work on munitions ; and many a dainty Branton Hills girl sat at big, unfamiliar stamping, punching, grinding, or polishing outfits; tiring frail young backs and straining soft young hands; knowing that this factorys output might and probably would, rob a woman across that big Atlantic of a husband or son ,but, still, it is war!
Gadsby, smoking on his ivy-clad porch, as his Lady- was industriously knitting, said, in a sort of soliloquy:
War! That awful condition which a famous military man in command of a division, long ago, said was synonymous with Satan and all his cohorts! War! That awful condition of human minds coming down from way, way back of all history; that vast void during which sympathy was not known; during which animals fought with tooth, claw or horn; that vast void during which wounds had no soothing balm, until thirst, agony or a final swoon laid low a gigantic mammoth, or a tiny, gasping fawn! But now, again, in this grand day of Mans magically growing brain, this day of kindly crooning to infants in cribs; kindly talks to boys and girls in school; and blood-tingling orations from thousands of pulpits upon that Holy Command: Thou Shalt Not Kill, now, again, Man is out to kill his own kind. And Lady Gadsby could only sigh.