by Frederick Orin Bartlett
When the United States of America finally declared
war against His Satanic Majesty, Wilhelm of Prussia,
Carter nodded his approval. The nation’s decision
was reached at a time when he was in a particularly
generous mood, for things had been coming his way for
some time and he had finally settled down comfortably
to enjoy them. In the preceding fall he had reached
the goal of his ambition, the managership of the New
York office of the Atlas Company, where he had been
employed for twenty-five years. This carried a salary
of seventy-five hundred—some jump from the petty
twelve hundred on which he had started; even some
jump from the forty-five hundred he had been drawing
for the past year.
The increase allowed Carter to make several very
satisfactory changes: first, to move from the rented
house in Edgemere, where he had lived for five years,
to a house of his own in the same town, for which he
gave a warranty deed to his wife; to take his son Ben
out of a commercial school and send him to Harvard
for a liberal education; and to purchase a classy little
runabout. There were certain other perquisites, too,
which made the world a better place to live in, such
as an added servant, a finer table, and, finally, the
privilege of taking the eight-ten to town instead of
Carter enjoyed all these luxuries as only a man can
who has worked hard for them and waited long. He
had promised them to his pretty wife the day he married
her, and now, after twenty years, he had made good.
It was worth something to see him, after a substantial
breakfast, kiss Kitty good-by on the front porch, give
a proprietary look at the neat shingled house, and
stroll down the gravelly path at a leisurely pace, stopping
at the gate to light a fat cigar and wave a second
adieu to the little woman, who was still pretty and
who he knew admired him from the crown of his head
to the tips of his shoes. She was that kind.
On the eight-ten he was meeting a new class of
neighbors—all eight to ten thousand dollar men, with
a few above that figure, though the latter generally
moved to the Heights at round twelve thousand.
They were men whose lives were now polished and
round like stones on the seashore within reach of the
waves. They varied, mostly, in their dimensions,
with of course some differences of political coloring.
But they were fast becoming neutral even in politics.
With America at war the old issues were disappearing.
Most of the men had long since become used to each
other, but Carter, sitting in the smoker—it was almost
like a private car reserved for those not due at their
offices until nine—was actually thrilled by his associates.
And if ever he found an opportunity to refer
among them to “my son at Harvard” he was puffed
up all the rest of the day. The only thing he regretted
was that the war had done away with football, because
in high school the lad had promised to make a name for
himself in the game. Still, even that had its redeeming
features: his neck was safe. Though the boy was
climbing toward six feet and weighed, at eighteen,
round one hundred and seventy, he threw himself into
the line in those final school games with a recklessness
that made Carter, looking on, catch his breath.
Carter had not been able to keep pace with the boy’s
physical growth. It still seemed to him but a brief
time ago that he had been carrying him round in his
arms as a baby. And he had carried him for miles.
He had not been able to keep his hands off him. He
had loved to feel the downy head against his cheek
and the frightened little heart pounding against his
own. Night after night he had walked the floor with
him with a sense of creation akin to God’s. And when
anything was really the matter with the child Carter
became a trembling wreck.
Well, those days were something to look back upon
now with a smile. They even played their part in the
present. They afforded the contrast necessary to allow
him to extract to the last drop his final triumphant
success. Some of those who had never taken the seven-fifteen
did not know what it meant to take the eight-ten.
Carter, who had previously been content with one
paper, now bought the Times and the Sun at the station
and glanced through the headlines. He had read with a
thrill of pride, as did everyone in the whole car on that
early spring morning, the President’s declaration of war.
He was sitting beside Culver, of the Second National
Bank, and exclaimed: “Guess that’ll make Wilhelm
sit up and take notice, eh?”
Culver was an older man. Carter could have punched
him for his response in a level voice: “Yes. But ’tis
going to make us sit up and take notice, too.”
“What do you mean?” demanded Carter with a
trace of aggressiveness.
“I mean that our resources are going to be tested
to the limit before we’re through with this.”
“You wait until the Huns see Uncle Sam with his
sleeves rolled up. Wouldn’t surprise me any if they
Carter shifted his seat to a place near Barclay and
Newell, who were leading a group in three cheers for
the President. And on his way downtown that day
he stopped to buy a flag and pole to be sent to the
house. Before he reached his office these flags of red
and white and blue had begun to appear in numbers
on the tops of buildings and from windows, brightening
the dull gray backgrounds as with flowers. It made
him want to cheer. It made him walk more erect.
The whole downtown atmosphere became vibrant.
The declaration of war was the sole topic of conversation
in the office, and one of the first things he did was
to ring up Kitty and tell her about it.
“Well, old girl, we’ve done it!” he exclaimed.
“Done what?” she asked anxiously.
“Declared war,” he announced, as though in some
way he had been personally concerned in the act.
“Guess that will make the Huns rub their eyes.”
“War?” trembled Kitty.
“You bet! Fritzie waited a little too long with his
apologies that last time.”
In the succeeding days Carter followed the nation’s
preparations for the task ahead with a feeling of reflected
glory. His favorite phrase was: “We’re going
at it man-fashion.”
He was keen for conscription and liked to speak of a
possible army of two million. When the First Liberty
Loan came along he subscribed for a thousand dollars.
He would have taken more, but he found that his
personal expenses had taken in the last few months a
decided jump. It was costing him more than twice
as much to maintain his new house as it had his old.
Besides that, Ben’s expenses at college were a considerable
item. His car, too, was costing more than
he had anticipated, and he had added unconsciously
a lot to his everyday expenditures. He was smoking
better cigars, eating better lunches and wearing better
clothes. At the same time each one of these items was
costing more. However, his new position in a way
called for these things, and, besides, he was entitled
to them. He had worked hard for them and they were
the fair reward of attainment.
Carter had hoped to do better on the Second Liberty
Loan, but when the time came he found it difficult
to take out even another thousand. He rather resented
the way Newell, the overzealous member of the
local committee, harried him about it. When Newell
suggested that he double the amount the man was
presuming to know Carter’s circumstances better than
he himself knew them.
He had answered rather tartly:
“I’m capable of deciding my investments for
In the interval between the two loans both the servants
had asked for an increase in wages, and Carter
had been forced to pay it or see them go. Kitty had
suggested that she be allowed to get along with one
and undertake some of the housework herself, but
he had set his foot down on that.
“You’ve had your share of housework, little woman,”
he said. “It’s time you took a rest and enjoyed yourself.”
But the servants were not the only ones who held
Carter up. The grocer, the butcher and the iceman
all conspired against him. When the Government
began to take control under Hoover and fix prices for
some of the essentials Carter was outspoken in his
“It’s time something of the sort was done to check
the food pirates,” he declared to Culver.
“Where’s this government control going to stop?”
questioned the latter.
“I don’t know and I don’t care,” replied Carter
“It’s a type of paternalism, and that’s dangerous,”
Carter replied with a glittering generality: “Your
Uncle Sam has rolled up his shirt sleeves and means
Carter always chuckled contentedly over the cartoons
of the tall, lank figure with the lean face, grimly
set jaws and starred top hat. It expressed for him
in a human way his own patriotism. It filled him with
pride and gave him confidence. It satisfied his traditional
conception of Americanism. He even saw
in the face a reflection of his own ancestors who had
fought at Bunker Hill and through the Civil War.
It was distinctly New England, but New England
was still in his mind distinctly America.
And yet Carter was puzzled at first when he read the
names appearing in the final draft lists—puzzled and a
bit worried. These names were not like those that
were signed to the Declaration of Independence or
those who fell at Bunker Hill. Decidedly they were
more like those found in to-day’s New York directory.
This might have been expected, and yet it gave Carter
something of a shock until one afternoon he saw a
regiment of khaki-clad men marching down Fifth
Avenue. Then he felt a lump in his throat that prevented
him from cheering as loud as he wished. In
uniform and marching to the stirring music of a military
band these men were, every mother’s son of them,
Americans. He saw the same lean faces, the same
lank, sinewy bodies, the same clear eyes and set jaws.
Their lips were sealed, so that it did not matter what
language they spoke. In khaki they were all Americans—the
same who fought at Bunker Hill.
The sight sent Carter home with a renewed enthusiasm,
which helped him survive the shock of the
news that the cook had, without notice, packed up
her trunk and left to take some sort of job in a factory.
But fortunately he had brought along with him a
sirloin steak, which, broiled, made a very satisfactory
dinner. A week later the second girl left.
Mrs. Carter took it good-humoredly, even with a
certain amount of relief. She had turned to Red
Cross work and one thing or another, but still she
missed the care of her own home. Furthermore, she
had been genuinely disturbed by the way the expenses
had been creeping up. But Carter stormed round
and spent half the next day trying to find some new
girls. The agencies showed him a few old women and
shook their heads.
“We can’t compete with the factories,” they said
“But, hang it all, what’s a man going to do?” he
The agencies, perforce, left him to answer that for
As a matter of fact Carter was not wholly unselfish
in his desire to relieve his wife of the housework—particularly
the culinary part of it. She did her conscientious
best, but she had never been able satisfactorily
to master the fine art of cooking. Possibly it
was because she herself was more or less indifferent to
what she ate. A slice of bread and a cup of tea were
enough at any time to satisfy her, so that when she
did cook it was always for him and without any other
personal interest in the result. Sometimes she forgot;
in fact, more often than not she forgot. Perhaps it
was only some one little thing, like leaving the baking
powder out of the biscuits or the sugar out of the pies.
Or if she did get everything in, perhaps she failed to
remember in time that the mixture was in the oven.
When she began fooling round with war recipes she
found herself even more bewildered. Lord knows, it
calls for deft fingers and inborn skill to make a good
pie crust out of honest wheat flour, with all thought of
economy thrown to the winds. It requires nothing
short of genius to produce the same results with substitutes
for everything except the apples.
She tried all one afternoon and created something
that had a fairly good surface appearance. She waited
anxiously until Carter tasted it, and then asked: “How
do you like it, Ben?”
“You want the truth?” he returned.
“Of course there is no white flour in the crust, but——”
“There isn’t anything in it that ought to be in a
pie,” he declared. “It tastes to me as though it were
made out of sawdust and motor oil.”
He did not eat it. It might have been possible had
he been starving, but he was in no such unfortunate
condition. A man does not ask for apple pie because
of its calory content, but because he wants apple pie.
It is a matter of taste. A primary essential is, then,
not that it shall look like apple pie, but that it shall
have the flavor of apple pie. He had been fond of
apple pie all his life, and it certainly seemed like an
innocent enough addiction. That was equally true of
doughnuts and coffee for breakfast. He had enjoyed
them all his life until they had become an integral
part of the morning meal. As a result of long practice
Mrs. Carter had finally succeeded in perfecting herself
in the art of doughnut making. But now instead of
frying them in fat, she began to use an excellent vegetable
substitute. Not only that, but she followed this
by using a sirup for the sugar, and using eighty per
cent barley flour and twenty of wheat. She had been
given the recipe by the local conservation board and
been assured that the product was very satisfactory.
From the viewpoint of the conservation board that
may have been true, but to Carter it was nothing
short of criminal to allow these balls of fried barley
flour to masquerade under the same name.
“Don’t call ’em doughnuts,” he growled, “’cause
they aren’t. Invent a new name for them.”
“War doughnuts?” suggested Mrs. Carter anxiously.
“War nothing!” sputtered Carter. “They don’t
even belong to the same family.”
Whereupon he turned to his coffee, sweetened with
a new kind of sticky substance that tasted like an
inferior grade of molasses. There were those who
maintained that it was just as good as sugar for sweetening.
They were liars—bold-faced liars or they had
lost their sense of taste. They belonged to the same
class as people who maintained that coffee was better
without sugar—that so one enjoyed the taste of the
native berry. One might just as well argue that flapjacks
for the same reason were best without sirup;
cake without frosting; bread without butter.
Carter found his breakfast spoiled for him at precisely
the period in life when he was prepared most
to enjoy his breakfast. This was extremely irritating.
It sent him to the office every morning with a grouch
that did not wear off until toward noon, when it was
renewed by having to pay twice what he should for a
tasteless lunch. His cigars were the only thing that
held up well in flavor, and he began to smoke too
many of them.
Carter still followed each day’s news of the nation’s
part in the great war with honest pride. He liked
the big way his country was going about its preparations.
He rolled the dramatic figures over his tongue
and gloated over the scale of the various projects.
Six hundred millions appropriated for airplanes!
“We’ll show ’em,” he announced to Culver. “We’ll
have the air over there black with planes!”
And that job at Hog Island! They were planning to
build fifty ways there inside of a year—just put them
down on a marshy island.
“Nothing small about your Uncle Sam,” he chuckled.
When the inevitable scandals began to be whispered
and congressional investigations were started, Carter
“If these stories are true,” he declared, “the grafters
ought to be lynched; if they’re not we ought to lynch
the darn-fool congressmen who are interrupting the
The investigations took place, changes were made,
and the work went on, with the investigations soon
forgotten. Nothing could check the onward movement.
Pershing landed in France, and soon was followed by
his men. Work on the same gigantic scale was begun
on the other side. Docks were built, railroads laid
down overnight, warehouses put up almost between
dawn and twilight. This vanguard saw big and built
big, and when the news of its accomplishment began
to filter across to the men at home it made every American
At the close of his freshman year in June, Ben came
back home, and that personal interest took the place
of every other in Carter’s mind. The boy was looking
fine. Drill with the Harvard regiment had taken the
place of athletics and had left him as rugged and tanned
as a seasoned soldier. Carter proudly took the boy
to town with him on the eight-ten and introduced
him to the crowd. Then he introduced him to everyone
in the office, including Stetson, the second vice
president. There was some design in this. He was
preparing the way for an opening here for Ben as soon
as the lad was through college. With the benefit of
the experience Carter could give him the boy ought
to climb high in the Atlas.
Ben had acquired poise in this last year. He met
these men with an assurance and charm of manner
tempered with respectful deference that surprised his
father. It was clear that the boy made a very pleasant
At lunch Ben repeated to his father some of the
experiences he had heard from college mates who had
gone over to drive ambulances. The boy was full of
it and his cheeks grew flushed as he talked. Carter
“That’s all very well,” broke in Carter; “but those
fellows might have made themselves more useful if
they had waited until they were of age. Both President
Lowell and the War Department are advising men to
wait and finish their college courses, aren’t they?”
“Yes,” admitted Ben; “they advise that.”
“Well, it’s sound advice,” declared Carter. “A man
with a college education and Plattsburg on top of that
is worth twenty ambulance drivers. Officers are what
“I suppose so,” agreed Ben abstractedly.
The reply left Carter more comfortable. The boy
was only just nineteen, and that gave him two more
years before he was twenty-one. By that time the
war would be over. Carter was sure of it. The nation
by then would be in full stride, and when that time
came that was to be the end. Of course, if by any
chance the war should be prolonged—why, then the
boy would have to go. But that contingency was
two years off—two long years off. In the meanwhile
the boy could feel that he was getting his training. He
was going to make a better officer for waiting. He
would gain in experience and judgment—two most
necessary qualifications for an officer. Carter proceeded
to enlarge on that subject. But the boy listened
indifferently. Carter’s position, however, was
sound, and the more he talked the more he convinced
himself of this, so that he succeeded in putting himself
enough at ease to talk of the war in a general way.
“Sort of makes a man glad he’s an American to be
living in these days, eh, Ben?”
“You bet!” nodded Ben.
“The rest of the world thought we’d gone soft, but
your old Uncle Sam has shown that he still has fighting
stuff in him. It took us some time to get stirred up,
but once started—woof!”
“We’ve got a big job on our hands,” said Ben.
“The bigger the better,” declared Carter. “It takes
a big job to wake us up.”
The boy was surprised and encouraged by his father’s
aggressive attitude, and yet when he ventured to reintroduce
the subject of ambulance service he saw his
father shy off again. He was puzzled by this and went
away after lunch to meet his chum Stanley.
A week later, as Carter was about to settle down on
the front porch for an after-dinner smoke, Ben came
along, took his arm and led him down the graveled
path toward the road—out of sight of the house, where
Mrs. Carter was washing the dishes. The boy kept
his father’s arm in an unusually demonstrative manner
until he stopped beneath an electric light.
Then he asked quite casually: “Dad, got your
fountain pen with you?”
The lad held out a paper.
“What in thunder is this?” demanded Carter.
“My enlistment papers, dad. I went down to the
Marine Recruiting Office the other day and passed my
physical. Now—they’ve left a place along the dotted
line for you to sign because I’m under age.”
The thing that astonished Carter most after the
initial shock was a feeling of helplessness. It was as
though his relations with his son had suddenly changed
and the son had become the father. He was a foot
shorter than the boy anyway, and now he felt two feet
shorter. He saw a new light in the boy’s eyes, heard a
fresh note of dominance. And yet it was only a brief
time ago—a pitifully brief time ago—that he had
been holding this same boy in his arms as a baby.
Now he stood at the lad’s mercy, even though he still
saw below the stalwart figure of the boy-man the
Carter gulped back a lump in his throat.
“Good Lord!” he choked. “I can’t. I can’t.
You’re all I’ve got.”
The young man placed a steady hand upon his
“You must take this thing right, dad,” he said
“In another year——”
“I’d never forgive myself if I waited,” cut in Ben.
“I’ve heard too much from the fellows who’ve been
over there and seen. I want you to understand that
it isn’t the adventure of the thing that gets me. It’s
the right of it. I’m strong enough for the game, and
that’s all that counts. Another year wouldn’t make
me any more fit.”
“You’d be ready for Plattsburg—in a couple of
“Maybe,” Ben nodded; “but somehow—well, I
just hanker to use my arms and legs rather than my
head. The way I feel, nothing short of a chance with
the bayonet will satisfy me. That’s why I went in for
Carter glanced up. He saw those lips, which had
once been so tender and soft, now sternly taut.
“Have you told your mother?” asked Carter.
“No, dad. I want it all settled first.”
“I—I don’t know what it will do to her,” Carter
struggled on feebly.
“She’ll take it right,” declared the boy with conviction.
“She’ll take it right because—because it’s
for women like her that we’re going over there.”
Carter did not reach for the paper, even then. He
merely found it in his hands. He drew out his fountain
pen and the name he scrawled upon the dotted line
might have been written by a man of eighty.
“That’s the good old dad,” Ben whispered hoarsely
as he replaced the paper in his pocket. “You’re a
Carter tried to see it that way. There were moments
even when he thought he was going to feel proud.
A day or two later, when Newell, Culver and the
others on the eight-ten heard of it, they hurried up to
him and shook his hand with such phrases as “The
boy has the right stuff in him, Carter,” and “He makes
us glad we live in Edgemere.” All Carter could do
was to turn away.
The boy’s going left a great big hollow place in
Carter—a hollow that only grew bigger when he began
to receive the lad’s enthusiastic letters from the
training camp. He missed him in a way that disturbed
every detail of his daily life. When he woke up in the
morning it was with a sense of some deep tragedy
hanging over him—as though the boy were dead.
This sent him downstairs depressed and irascible.
His coffee with its abominable sirup tasted more bitter
than ever. The mere sight of the war doughnuts
irritated him. It was as though they made mock of
him. Half the time the omelet was burned, for Kitty
was becoming more forgetful than ever, and more
often than not did not remember the omelet at all
until she smelled it smoking. She did her best to cheer
Carter up, until she found the wisest thing to do was
to say nothing. As a matter of fact everything she
said sounded to him as hypocritical as all the confounded
war substitutes with which he found himself
more and more hemmed in. Newell particularly was
full of new recipes for foods and drinks that he claimed
were as good as the original articles, and was forever
pulling clippings from his pockets on the morning
“You ought to get your wife to try this, Carter,”
he broke out one day. “It’s a new recipe for cake
without sugar, wheat or butter. Ellen made some
last night and you couldn’t tell it from the real stuff.”
“What do you call the real stuff?” demanded Carter.
“Why, the cake we used to get before the war.”
“And you mean to say you can’t tell the difference?”
“Well, of course this isn’t quite so tasty, but it’s
a darned good substitute.”
“You’re welcome,” growled Carter.
Newell appeared astonished. Later he repeated the
conversation to Manson, and concluded: “Do you
know, if the beggar didn’t have a boy in the Marines
I’d say he was pro-German.”
“Nonsense!” answered Manson.
“Well, he wasn’t any too keen about the Second
Liberty Loan when I saw him. He only took a thousand.”
“So? I thought he’d be good for five, anyway.”
The Government was already beginning to talk
about the Third Liberty Loan. Somewhat fretfully
Carter read the preliminary announcements. Where
was this thing going to stop, anyway? He was not
any more than keeping even with the game now. And
even so, he was not getting so much out of life as he
had been getting before.
On top of that they sent the boy across. After an
interval of silence Carter received a cable one day
announcing his safe arrival at a port in France. It
took the starch all out of him. It was like one of those
nightmares he used to suffer when he dreamed of the
boy in some great danger and was forced to stand by,
dumb and paralyzed, powerless to help. It was like
that exactly, only this was reality. Day by day and
mile by mile this intangible merciless power called
war was dragging the boy nearer and nearer his destruction.
It was barbaric. It was wrong. This boy
Now he was at a port in France. Until the last few
years that would not have been anything to worry
about. He had wished the boy to travel. France had
always stood to Carter as a land of sunshine and holidays—a
sort of pre-honeymoon land to the more
fortunate. To-day a port in France seemed like a
port in hell.
On the eight-ten they kept asking about the boy,
and when Carter told Barclay that Ben was over
there, Barclay answered: “Lucky dog. That ought
to make you proud.”
Carter made no reply. That was in March, just
before the big Hun offensive. When that broke Carter
did not dare read the papers for a while. Those were
bad days. America had then been in the war nearly a
year, and yet it was possible for those gray hordes to
dash at and into the allied lines. They did it again
and again, until the world stood aghast and Carter
himself stood aghast. It made no difference whether
he read the papers or not, for hourly bulletins were
passed round the office and scarcely anything else was
America had been in the war nearly a year. Uncle
Sam had appropriated billions upon billions of dollars;
had built shipyards the size of which staggered belief;
had talked of destroyers and airplanes in terms of thousands;
had established vast military camps and already
drafted millions of men; had turned almost every industry
in the country over to war work; had taken
over the railroads and whatever else was needed.
Uncle Sam had been working with his jaws set and
his sleeves rolled up and flags flying from almost every
housetop between the Atlantic and the Pacific; with
men marching down the streets and bands playing and
half the politicians of the country turned into Fourth
of July orators.
Yet this thing was happening over there. Lines that
had been thought impregnable were falling daily. City
after city was being overrun. If the Huns paused it
was only for breath, and to dash on once more. Nearer
and nearer they came to Paris, until the city heard the
sound of their guns; nearer and nearer, until they came
Carter reached a point where almost his faith in God
was shaken. He did not know exactly just what his
faith in God was, but it stood for something outside
himself representative of justice—just as his patriotism
stood for something outside himself representative of
honor. Not to be in the slightest sacrilegious, God
was a figure crowned with thorns just as Uncle Sam
was a figure crowned with a starred top hat. Both
were invincible. Yet both stood aside, helpless, before
the Huns’ advance.
They waited helplessly until the gray wolves reached
Château-Thierry. Then the news was cabled across
that the Marines were holding this line—not only
technically but actually. Again and again the wolves
came on and staggered back.
The Marines were there—the American Marines—and
they were holding.
The first report brought the sweat to Carter’s brow.
Somewhere in that line without much doubt his son
Ben was standing. The little boy he had carried in his
arms was under that merciless fire of shrapnel and explosive
shells and gas. Carter had read a good deal
about the gas shells—the yellow and the blue and the
green cross kind. It was devilish stuff. It burned into
the lungs and the eyes and the skin. He remembered
when it had first been used—had been sent sneaking
across the allied lines like some ancient superstition
made real. From that moment he had been for war.
He talked war with everyone he met, usually ending
with the exclamation: “Uncle Sam won’t stand for that
sort of dirty work!”
As a matter of fact Uncle Sam had stood for it a
good many months after that, and for acts even more
barbaric. But now your Uncle Sam was right on the
spot and Ben was on the spot. The two were one!
This was what Carter got hold of, suddenly, unexpectedly,
unconsciously, as a man sees a vision. Uncle
Sam was there not in the form of a middle-aged farmer
in a starred top hat, but as one of the Marines, a tough,
wiry young American fighter. And among these
Marines was Ben, holding this ghastly line as in his
play days he had helped to hold the football line. Uncle
Sam was there as Carter’s boy—blood of his blood and
flesh of his flesh and soul of his soul. And so in a sense
Carter himself was there. This was his fight too. He
and Uncle Sam were one! He and the nation were one.
He and the brilliant flags flying unharmed here in the
streets of New York were one. As far as Carter individually
was concerned he was essentially all there
was of the nation—just as, individually and as far as
his own soul was concerned, he was all there was of God.
But because of this, because the thought made him so
big, he took in the others too—his boy, Kitty, his
neighbors, the state and the United States, and finally
God himself. And this God not only stood for justice
and honor but was justice and honor, and Carter was
He and He was Carter.
Now God and Carter and the boy and the Marines
and the nation were all standing side by side behind a
little town that until now had been no more conscious
of itself than Carter had been. It had been merely
Château-Thierry—a tiny village where simple men and
women had gone about their humble business of living
with little thought of the world at large. Now it was
finding itself a turning point in the history of the world,
with the sinewy young men from a country that had
not been discovered when Château-Thierry already was
hoary with age, rushing there to help keep it true. And
with Carter some four thousand miles away staring
from his office window and, quite unconscious of the
business of the Atlas Company, praying not that the
boy might be kept safe for his own sake, but that he
might be spared to fight his best—Carter’s best, the
nation’s best, God’s best.
The Marines held, and then they did a little better;
they began to advance. They say that Foch himself
was none too sure of what these lads would find it possible
to do. These men were getting their baptism of
Hun fire, which is comparable to no fire this side of
hell and which possibly may have introduced some new
ideas into hell itself. Certainly neither Dante nor
Milton revealed any conception of mustard gas.
Creeping forward on all fours the Marines advanced.
It was grim business these boys were about, while the
flags flew dreamily in the streets of New York and a
thousand other cities from the Atlantic to the Pacific
and from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico—flew
dreamily and prettily for safe men to look up at
and for safe women and children to smile at contentedly.
It was serious business they were about to
the right and left of that old town, while the machines
sped up and down Fifth Avenue bright in the summer
sun. And yet when at length the cables flashed across
the ocean the news that the old town had been won
and all that meant, there was little in the message to
hint of that grim business. And there was no mention
at all of individuals—of the boy Ben who lay in a bit
of woods like one asleep, his hair all tousled and his
face dirty as he used to come in from play. But that
night Carter went home with his head held high and
his eyes alight.
When Carter opened the front door he was greeted
with the smell of smoke from the kitchen. He hurried
out there and found Mrs. Carter standing almost in
tears before the charred remains of what had evidently
been intended for a pie of some sort. She looked up
anxiously as Carter entered. Her blue eyes began to
fill with tears.
“Oh, Ben,” she quavered, “I’m so sorry. I—I’ve
been saving flour and sugar for a week to have enough
to make you a real apple pie. And then—and then I
forgot it. And—and——”
She made a despairing gesture toward the jet-black
evidence of her unpardonable thoughtlessness. And
then before Carter’s accusing glance she shrank back
and hid her face in the folds of her blue gingham
Carter stared from her to the pie and then back to
her. Fresh from the victory of Château-Thierry, this
was such a pitiful travesty! She was crying—she, the
mother of his son who had fought with the Marines
this day, was crying in fear of his anger because she
had spoiled in the baking an apple pie.
Good Lord, to what depths had he sunk! To what
pitiful depths of banality had he dragged her!
He strode to her side and seized her in his arms
fiercely as a baffled lover.
“Kitty,” he cried hoarsely, “look up at me!”
In amazement she obeyed. The clutch of his arms
took her back twenty-five years. He saw the springtime
blue of her eyes.
“Kitty,” he pleaded, “can you forgive me?”
“Forgive—you?” she stammered, not understanding.
“For making you think it matters a picayune what
I have to eat. Little woman—little woman, we took
She drew back a little as though expecting evil news
to follow. But the news had not yet come.
“We,” he repeated—“you and I and Ben and the
Marines and Uncle Sam and God—all together. We
not only held the beasts but drove them back. It’s
in the papers to-night.”
“And Ben——” she faltered.
“He must have been there,” he answered.
But she did not finish her timorous question. She
caught the contagion of the fire in her husband’s eyes
and sealed her lips. And he, stooping, kissed those lips
as he used to kiss them before the boy came.
The next morning Carter drank his coffee black, and
when Kitty brought on the war doughnuts he shoved
“Don’t make any more,” he said. “Cut ’em out altogether.
That’s the trick.”
And when on the eight-ten Newell came round with
a recipe for making frosting without sugar, Carter refused
“Look here, Newell,” he protested, “those confounded
things don’t interest me.”
“They don’t?” returned Newell ominously.
“Not a little bit,” Carter continued calmly.
“You mean to tell me you aren’t interested in conservation?”
“Did I say that?”
“Well, it amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it?”
“Not on your tintype!” replied Carter. “Look
here, Newell, you’ve been talking pretty plain to me
lately and perhaps I’ve deserved it, but it leaves me
free to give you a few ideas of my own. What we’ve
got to do is to face this war—not duck it. We aren’t
going to win with substitutes but with sacrifices. The
trouble with you and your crowd—the trouble with
me—is that we’ve been trying to eat our cake and save
it too. What’s the use of those fool recipes of yours?
The time has come to give up cake and pie and doughnuts—then
why in thunder not give them up and be
done with it?”
“But the Government doesn’t ask that,” cut in
“Who’s the Government?” demanded Carter.
“You are. I am,” Carter cut in, answering his own
question. “That’s all there is to it. And if you want
to understand how important you are, just multiply
yourself by a hundred million. That’s what Hoover
does. Do it for yourself.”
Newell smiled a little maliciously.
“Perhaps you’re right, old man. By the way, I’m
on this Third Liberty Loan committee, and if you’ll
tell me how much I can look ahead for from you it would
“Ten thousand dollars,” answered Carter. “In the
meantime, if you hear of anyone who wants to buy a
house, let me know.”
“You aren’t going to leave us?”
“Not if I can hire a cheap place round town,” answered
“Say—but you are plunging,” exclaimed Newell uncomfortably.
“We can’t let that Château-Thierry victory go for
nothing,” answered Carter quietly.
At last—at last Carter himself had declared war.
That was why when he received a cable to the effect
that Private Ben Carter was reported seriously wounded
the man could sign his name firmly to the receipt.
The time had come for the Huns to take seriously
the entry of the United States into the war.
—Frederick Orin Bartlett.