Page:The forerunners.djvu/113

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

women are cruel—that was the surprising thing. That they can smile and throw roses; that they can give up their husbands, their children, the little boys they have put to bed a thousand times, tucked up a thousand times, have fondled, have created from their own flesh and blood. That was the surprise. That they gave us up—that they sent us—actually sent us. For every one of them would have been ashamed to stand there without a hero. That was the great disillusionment.… Do you think we should have gone if they had not sent us? Do you think so? … No general could have done anything if the women hadn't allowed us to be packed into the trains, if they had screamed out that they would never look at us again if we became murderers. Not a man would have gone if they had sworn never to give themselves to one who had split open other men's skulls or shot and bayoneted his fellows. Not one man, I tell you, would have gone. I didn't want to believe that they could stand it like that. 'They're only pretending,' I thought. 'They're just holding themselves in. But when the whistle blows they'll begin to scream, and tear us out of the train, and rescue us.' That one time they had the chance to protect us. But all they cared about was to be in the fashion! …"

He broke down, and collapsed once more on to the bench. He began to weep. A little circle of people had formed round him. The doctor said gently:

"Come, come, Lieutenant, let's get along to bed. Women are like that, you know, and we can't help it."

The sick man leapt to his feet in a rage.

"Women are like that? Women are like that? Since when? Since when? Have you never heard of the suffragettes who boxed the ears of ministers of state, who set museums on fire, who chained themselves to lampposts, all for the sake of the vote? For the sake of the vote, do you hear? But for the sake of their men? Nothing!"

He paused to take breath, overwhelmed with a throttling