A Poor Wise Man HTML version
So he had, and he had come out of his Red Cross work in the camp with one or
two things in his heart that had not been there before. One was a knowledge of
men. He could not have put into words what he felt about men. It was something
about the fundamental simplicity of them, for one thing. You got pretty close to
them at night sometimes, especially when the homesick ones had gone to bed,
and the phonograph was playing in a corner of the long, dim room. There were
some shame-faced tears hidden under army blankets those nights, and Willy
Cameron did some blinking on his own account.
Then, under all the blasphemy, the talk about women, the surface sordidness of
their daily lives and thoughts, there was one instinct common to all, one love, one
hidden purity. And the keyword to those depths was "home."
"Home," he said one day to Lily Cardew. "Mostly it's the home they've left, and
maybe they didn't think so much of it then. But they do now. And if it isn't that, it's
the home they want to have some day." He looked at Lily. Sometimes she smiled
at things he said, and if she had not been grave he would not have gone on.
"You know," he continued, "there's mostly a girl some place. All this talk about
the nation, now - " He settled himself on the edge of the pine table where old
Anthony Cardew's granddaughter had been figuring up her week's accounts, and
lighted his pipe, "the nation's too big for us to understand. But what is the nation,
but a bunch of homes?"
"Willy dear," said Lily Cardew, "did you take any money out of the cigar box for
anything this week?"
"Dollar sixty-five for lard," replied Willy dear. "As I was saying, we've got to think
of this country in terms of homes. Not palaces like yours - "
"Good gracious!" said Lily, "I don't live in a palace. Get my pocket-book, will you?
I'm out three dollars somehow, and I'd rather make it up myself than add these
figures over again. Go on and talk, Willy. I love hearing you."
"Not palaces like yours," repeated Mr. Cameron, "and not hovels. But mostly self-
respecting houses, the homes of the plain people. The middle class, Miss
Cardew. My class. The people who never say anything, but are squeezed
between capital, represented by your grandfather, with its parasites, represented
by you, and - "
"You represent the people who never say anything," observed the slightly flushed
parasite of capital, "about as adequately as I represent the idle rich."
Yet not even old Anthony could have resented the actual relationship between
them. Lily Cardew, working alone in her hut among hundreds of men, was as
without sex consciousness as a child. Even then her flaming interest was in the
private soldiers. The officers were able to amuse themselves; they had money