Henry Blake Fuller: Killed and wounded on the fields of hate
Henry Blake Fuller
Member of the Anti-Imperialist League
From On the Stairs (1918)
The Great War waged more furiously than ever, and came more close. The country had first said, “You may,” and, later, “You must.”
In his own body there was not one drop of martial blood; in his being not an iota of the bellicose spirit. Why men fight, even why boys fight – all this had been a mystery which he must take on faith, with little help from the fisticuffs and brawls of school-days, or even from the gigantic, agonizing closing-in of whole peoples, now under way.
McComas’s bank, like others, put its office-machinery at the disposal of the Government, when the first war-loan was in the making…McComas himself felt no promptings to subscribe to this loan; but his directors thought that a reasonable degree of participation was “indicated.” The bank’s name went down, with the names of some others; and the clerks who had been working over hours on the new and exacting minutiae of the undertaking were given a chance to divert their savings toward the novel securities. The bank displayed the Nation’s flag, and the flags of some of the allies. It all made a busy corner…
His wife, who had been flitting from veranda to veranda in their pleasant suburban environment, and been doing, with other ladies of her circle, some desultory work for the wounded soldiers of the future, now came down to the centre of the town and took up the work in good earnest…”Why, it’s the most delightfully absorbing thing I’ve ever done!” she declared. A new world was dawning – a red world that not all of us have been fated to meet so young.
A few brief months ended the foreign service of both our young men. Albert came home invalided, and Tom McComas along with others, lay dead between the opposing lines of trenches. His father would not, at first, credit the news. His son’s very strength and vigor had helped build up his own exuberant optimism. It simply could not be; his son, his only remaining son, a happy husband, a gratified parent…But the truth bore in, as the truth will, and McComas had his days of rebellious – almost of blasphemous – protest.
Albert, whose injuries had made him appear as likely to be a useless piece on the board for longer than the army surgeons thought worth while, was sent back home and made his convalescence under the care of his mother; within her house, indeed – for his father had no quarters to offer him. Among McComas’s flower-beds and garden-paths he enjoyed the ministrations of a physician other and better than any that practices on those fields of hate…
Those few months comprised his contribution to the cause. He mended more rapidly than might have been expected, and soon began to feel the resurgence of those belligerencies which are proper to the nature of the healthy young male. But his belligerencies were not at all militaristic. He had seen war at short range, knew what it was, and desired it no more.