Filename: RC1109.TXT Source: +quot;In the Land of the Living Dead+quot; by Prentiss Tucker

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Filename: RC1109.TXT Source: "In the Land of the Living Dead" by Prentiss Tucker [PAGE 3907] IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING DEAD: CHAPTER I: A VISIT TO THE INVISIBLE PLANES: It all came about from a German high-explosive shell. Nothing happens without a cause. We might say that this story began in Germany when Gretchen Hammerstein put the finishing touches on a certain high-explosive shell and with the contact of her fingers filled the shell with the vibrations of her hatred for the Americans. We might note the various occurrences which, each the result of an endless train of circumstances, contributed to the fact that this particular shell was brought to the German front at just such a time and just such a place. But to follow up these lines of happenings, almost infinite in number, would re- quire an infinitude of patience. So we will take up the history of events when this high-explosive shell burst in the American trenches, scattering, besides its material and visible charge and fragments, the hatred for Americans which Gretchen Hammerstein had packed into it. Jimmie Westman was leaning against the trench wall nearest the German line and was peering through the well CAMOUFLAGED peephole which was used in [PAGE 3908] watching the dreary and awful wastes of No Man's Land to guard against any surprise attack. The shell burst within a few feet of him and to the rear, but Jimmie did not know it. It was, in fact, a long time before he found out just what had happened, and it is of the things which came in between the bursting of the shell and the time when Jimmie was able to reconstruct the whole affair, that I wish to tell. They were quite remarkable events; they produced a great impression upon Jimmie and completely changed his ideas of life. It was, as I have said, a long time before Jimmie regained consciousness after the explosion. To be exact it was practically three days. While he is lying in that condition of COMA let us take a little look into his life and history. Jimmie was not born of "poor but honest parents." His parents were hon- est but not poor; neither were they rich, but they had given him a good up-bringing and a good education. He had gone through high school and was engaged in the study of medicine when the war broke out. I say he was en- gaged in it. I like Jimmie and am reluctant to say that he was putting far more of his time into the sports of the gridiron and the diamond than he should have done, but, nevertheless, that was the case. He was a specimen of the clean, honorable, somewhat careless American boy, eager to succeed, eager to stand high in work and sport alike, but glamoured to a certain [PAGE 3909] extent by the adulation paid to the prominent athletes in the college which he attended. However, he was engaged in the study of medicine, partially engaged, per- haps I should add, and he was really deeply interested in his chosen profes- sion although he had not progressed so far as to be very profound in his knowledge of MATERIA MEDICA. He had imbibed some of the scientific spirit of the lecturers to whom he had listened, and his mind had taken on a rather skeptical tinge which had given his mother some little worry; still she well knew that her early teachings were deeply rooted, and that the character of her boy was too strong for the scientific skepticism of his surroundings to do much more than ruffle the surface of his clean young life. But Jimmie had an inquiring soul, and while the seemingly illogical and unscientific platitudes, which he heard from the pulpit when he did go to church, produced little effect upon him, yet the objections put forward by the doctors and students with whom he was associated seemed to him to be also lacking in force and weak in reason. He was swayed between the two but controlled by neither, though at heart he was inclined to be deeply reli- gious as most people are if they have the chance. In the first year of his college life the great war began. It was prac- tically at the end of the first year just before the final examinations, [PAGE 3910] and when he went home for the summer vacation the whole country was seeth- ing. Farsighted ones knew that the war would involve the United States. Jimmie began to think and turned over and over in his mind the state of the world, and when he went back to his study in the fall it was with the settled conviction that the United States would soon be forced to enter the war and that he would necessarily be involved. At that time no one had foreseen the shortage of doctors, and Jimmie, feeling sure that the fight was a righteous one and that it was his duty to help even though his country still held back, during the second year of his medical course enlisted with the Canadians. He paid a short visit home first and succeeded in making his mother and father see the matter in his way, though it was the hardest task he had ever attempted. It was when he was home on this errand that he got the news of the death of an old friend of his. She had grown up with him and the loss of her dis- pelled a dream which had half formed in his mind and toward the realization of which he had unconsciously been working. So he enlisted and was whirled into the great seething caldron of war. By the time the United States came in, he was a war worn veteran of wide [PAGE 3911] experience in spite of his youth, and he sought and obtained a transfer from the Canadian troops to those of his own country by whom he was welcomed with enthusiasm. At the time the shell burst which made so great a change in his life he was second lieutenant with a good chance of promotion. He had not heard the shell, and as I have said did not know that it had exploded, so was somewhat surprised to suddenly find himself in a part of the country which he did not know. It was a wide, meadowlike stretch of land sloping gently upward and he was walking leisurely along as though he had all the time there was at his disposal. He was walking up this gentle slope, wondering a little in his mind because, as he remembered it, he should have been at his post in the trench. Things were a little different somehow, but just how, he could not for the life of him understand. He seemed to be moving with considerable ease, much more than he was ac- customed to, for the ever-lasting mud of this country did stick to one's boots terribly and it was often hard work to place one foot before the other. Now, however, he was stepping along easily and without effort, but he did not know where he was going, or where he came from. The trench was not in sight but he was walking so entirely without effort [PAGE 3912] that it made little difference to him, for he could find it, doubtless even though his knowledge of French was quite limited. Thank goodness! he was not behind the enemy lines. But stop! If he were behind his own lines and did not know how he got there, why might he not be behind the enemy lines equally without his knowledge? His mind was coming back to him more and more. It was as if he had awak- ened from a deep sleep and was just coming to himself. But if he had been asleep, why did not some of the boys come and wake him up before the whole line had been pushed forward like this? For goodness sake! where was the trench? Where was the camp, the com- munication trenches, the roads, everything? Where was this place, this nice, easy meadow sloping gently upwards? The line must have gone forward and he had been left behind in his sleep. That was evidently so, because if the line had gone backwards, he would surely have been awakened in the retreat; or if not then, the enemy would have waked him up when they took the trenches. No, the line had gone for- ward and somehow he had not waked up but had evidently walked in his sleep to this place, wherever this place might be. He could not remember leaving the firing post where he had been watching [PAGE 3913] through the peephole, but that was a mere detail. The main thing now was to find out where the command was and rejoin it. He could easily find it be- cause he knew how to keep his direction by the sun. Involuntarily he looked up. The sun was not visible, although it was broad daylight and there was no haze apparent. Never before in France had he seen so long a stretch of country with no signs of humanity. Either there were towns and hamlets and farms or there was the awful desolation where the enemy had passed, but this meadow showed neither the one nor the other. It was certainly an enormous meadow, espe- cially for France. Put a number of tractors on this place and the dread of famine would pass away for there was land enough here to raise food for a kingdom. But time was passing and he must hurry; also he must think of some kind of excuse for his absence, for the captain was pretty strict and sleep-walking might not be taken as a valid reason for being away from his post of duty. "Why don't you GLIDE." "What do you mean by `glide'?" He turned to see who spoke, for he had heard no footsteps and had thought he was quite alone. He saw a girl walking along beside him or, at least, moving along beside him, for apparently she was not walking the conventional [PAGE 3914] way. He knew her well, and as he recognized her he felt his face grow pale, for the girl beside him was one who had been a particular friend of his. But he had been told on his last visit home that she had--had--well, that she had died while he was away at college and just before his return to say good-bye to his parents previous to enlisting. He must have been misin- formed, somehow. He looked at her, edged away just a trifle, pinched him- self, and was quite at a loss just what to do or say. It must be that she had not died but perhaps she had been sent to an insane asylum and had got- ten over here to France somehow by mistake; and here she was talking non- sense to him about "GLIDING". He glanced at her again. By jove, she WAS gliding! For heaven's sake! Had he gone crazy too? A merry peal of laughter interrupted his amazement. It was the old, joy- ous, hearty laugh of the girl he had known so well. By jiminy! she was laughing at him. Bewildered? Well, who wouldn't be bewildered in such a case? Thoughts flash through the mind at times with terrific rapidity, and the thoughts which I am setting down apparently took a long time to occur, but in reality they were almost instantaneous and practically took no time at all; yet they had a logical sequence and seemed to him at the time to be [PAGE 3915] slow and careful reasoning. She was laughing at him! Ghosts don't laugh. It is not--not--well, it simply is not done, that's all. Everybody knows that ghosts don't laugh. And she was talking to him about GLIDING. That showed that she was crazy and upheld the insane asylum theory but, and here he glanced again at her feet--she really WAS gliding. At least she was not walking by lifting up one foot and putting it down again in front of the other. No she was glid- ing and laughing at him. Besides, ghosts are gloomy, distraught, lovers of darkness and graveyards and midnight and mystery and of frightening people. Yet here was one, if she really were a ghost, who was looking at him with a really beautiful face, happy, apparently joyous, and frankly and unaffectedly amused at him,--at him! He remembered her well. He had known her well. He had been-er--well to tell the truth--he had thought that perhaps when he got started in his profession--oh! shucks, he must be dreaming. He was in France, had come over to fight the Kaiser and to make the world safe for democracy, and that was a serious job. Yet here she was laughing at him. How could such a mistake have oc- curred? They had told him all about it. They had gone over it again and again for they knew how he had--cared for her. Yet they must have made a [PAGE 3916] made a mistake. He had to believe the evidence of his own eyes. Dear heart, but she was pretty now! She ad been pretty before, beauti- ful, he had thought, but now she seemed radiant. Now she was walking and with that little dancing step which cannot be described but is called "trip- ping." She moved slightly ahead and half turned toward him, laughing at him in such a natural way, just like her own old self, that he began to laugh too. Things had seemed pretty serious, but with so much merriment around and such a pretty girl mocking him he could not realize that the enemy was so near and that so much human suffering was going on. She instantly grew serious as though she had divined his thought. "I couldn't help it, Jimmie, you looked so bewildered." "I surely am bewildered. How did you get here, over here in France? And why did they tell me that you had--er-gone--" he groped helplessly for a way to express the thought. She answered him with a rippling little laugh at his dilemma. "Don't be afraid to say it, Jimmie." He WAS "afraid to say it" however and he countered with-- "How did you get here?" [PAGE 3917] "I was sent." "Look here, Marjorie, don't fool me. How did you get over here in France?" "Truly, Jimmie, I am not 'fooling'; honest Injun, as we used to say, I WAS sent, really and truly I was, but I asked to be sent," she added. "You see the others were so busy and there was not much that I could do, but I knew that I could help you and I knew that you would be glad to see me, so I asked for permission ad the Elder Brother gave it to me; he is always so kind to me." The insane asylum theory received a new impetus with this statement. The "Elder Brother" must be one of the doctors, but she didn't talk like an in- sane person. She was radiantly beautiful now, far more beautiful than she had been when he had seen her last, and she was talking rationally, but who in the dickens was this "Elder Brother"? She was an only child. It must be the doctor. He had been through an insane asylum once with a party of sight-seers and had not noticed that any of the women inmates were beautiful. Even if one of them had been pretty, the expression of the eyes would have offset any mere physical prettiness. But this dancing, gliding, tripping girl beside him, with her blue eyes and fair hair, was so bewilderingly, dazzingly beau- tiful, and her eyes had not a trace of that fixed stare or lack of focus [PAGE 3918] which makes the insane person so terrible to look at. And, besides, she COULD glide! Great Scott! He had forgotten that. She could GLIDE! How in the dickens could any one GLIDE? It just couldn't be done, except on skates-- "It's easy to glide. You can do it yourself!" "Me! How did you know what I was thinking of?" "Why, I can tell from your aura." "My--what?" "Aura. Your aura! Don't you know you have an aura?" "Never heard of it before. I got a medal for sharpshooting, but they didn't give me any aura and I know I didn't bring one over with me." She danced around in front of him as he walked, gliding, tripping, and looking tantalizingly at him first from one side and then from the other, and all the time laughing at him with hat thrilling, tinkling laugh of hers, so full of merriment and fun. She was laughing so that she could not speak for some moments. He did not understand what the joke was, but it was evidently a good one and she was so happy over it and so pretty that he reached out and took her hand and they danced along together, laughing, she at him and he at himself, for the joke he could not understand. [PAGE 3919] By Jove! He had forgotten! By all the rules he ought to be worn out. Since the big bombardment had commenced several days ago he had not known what it was not to be tired; yet here he was, dancing along with this pretty girl just as though he were as fresh as a daisy. Ah! He felt tired now, dreadfully tired; it just showed the force of mind over matter that he had forgotten his weariness for an in- stant in the joy of this new-found friendship. He could hardly drag one foot after the other. She drew her hand away with that old, familiar expression of pretense at anger. "You're not tired, either! You just THINK you are. Now make up your mind that you're NOT tired!" "I can't Marjorie! I'm awfully tired. Why I haven't had any sleep for two nights, and tramping around i that mud and all--why--Marjorie, a fellow can't do that for three days not NOT be tired." "Now, Jimmie, don't you KNOW you didn't feel at all tired at first? When we were walking along and you were wondering how I came to be here, you were not tired at all because you were not thinking of it, and now just because you THINK you OUGHT to be tired you go and GET tired. Let's sit down awhile." "It's too damp here for you to be sitting on the ground; you'd catch your death of cold." She laughed at him. [PAGE 3920] "No, I won't catch my death of cold. It's quite dry here. See how dry the ground is. Besides I CAN'T catch my death of cold. There are reasons. That's what I came to tell you about, but I don't know how to begin, Jimmie." He looked at the ground. It really was perfectly dry, just as she had said. "Well, let's sit down, then. But remember I've got to hurry back and re- port and so I can't stop but a minute or two. But what did you come to tell me about? And why can't you tell it? I never knew you to be unable to hold up your end of the conversation, Marjorie. What is it you want to tell me?" "Oh, Jimmie! It's hard to tell you. You won't believe me." "Yes, I will Marjorie. I'll believe anything you say. But there are some mighty queer things happening this morning that I don't understand at all. Now, how did you come here?" "Just as I told you. I was sent. But I ASKED to be sent because I wanted to help you. And now I don't know how to say it." "Who sent you, Marjorie?" "The Elder Brother. Oh, he is so kind and good to me." "Who is this 'Elder Brother'--a doctor?" She smiled, a little sadly but very sweetly. "Do you remember what you thought first when I spoke to you and you [PAGE 3921] looked around and saw who it was? "Yes, I remember what I thought but--but--you don't know what I had been told." "Oh, yes I do, for I was there when you were told, and I saw you turn around and swallow something in your throat and I know you were told I was--was--dead." "Yes. That's just what I was told, and I believed it because everybody said it and they took me out and showed me the--the--grave and--and--" "Yes, Jimmie dear, I know all about it for I was there and heard it all, and I saw how you went out that night, way out into the country and into that old lane in which we used to walk, and how you cried and cried when you thought no one knew. Yes, I know all about it, Jimmie, for I was there." "You!--there!" "Yes, Jimmie, my dear friend, my dear, DEAR friend. I was there and I saw your grief and I put my arms around you and tried to comfort you. I was there, for it was true--what they told you--it was TRUE." "You were--you are--?" "Yes, dear friend, I WAS dead. There! I might as well say it." She smiled through the tears for she was frankly crying now. "I might as well use the hateful word. It has to be used though it is [PAGE 3922] untrue--untrue, Jimmie. We never die. Neither you nor I are dead. No! We are both more alive than we ever were before for we are one step nearer the great Source of all life and love, and I know it is true for the Elder Brother told me. He is so great and good and he knows everything, Jimmie, and he knows you and all about you and he loves you too, Jimmie. I knew I COULD Help you, and I have permission to tell you more than is told most of the soldiers because you are able to bear more than most of them. I know that you will believe what I tell you because it is what the Elder Brother has told me. And, oh! Jimmie dear, it is nothing to worry about for now you will be able to do so much more work when you have learned about the war and the other things and about the Master." She spoke now with almost a whisper and with awe making her beautiful face even more lovely than it had been. "You will learn about the Master and how we can work for Him and maybe, maybe if you work hard for Him, Jimmie, some day you will see Him. I saw Him once," she added proudly; "I saw Him once at a distance. I think He looked at me and I felt so happy that I just danced and sang for a long time. But that was before they had let me do any of the war work that is going on here. They told me at first that the conditions were too terrible for me to try to help until I got stronger, but since then they have let me [PAGE 3923] help a little, especially with the children. I do love to take the little ones when they first come over, so terrified and so frantic, and soothe them to sleep and work with them until they realize that they are surrounded with love over on this side and not with that awful hate which has so filled poor Belgium. I feel so sorry for the dear little mites. I have helped in this way a good deal lately." Jimmie had not known what an aura was when the thing was mentioned but now he saw Marjorie surrounded with a glowing cloud, a radiating light of which she seemed unconscious but of which she was the center. It made her far more beautiful than she had been, and Jimmie shrank back a little, feel- ing unworthy to be so near one of God's own saints. "Since I began this work I haven't danced much," Marjorie continued, "not nearly as much as I have today, for I am so glad to see you and to be al- lowed to come and help you. It is the first time they have allowed me to meet any of the soldiers who have come over for it is a dangerous thing sometimes. It needs great strength and wisdom and I have neither, but I have one thing that counts for more, far more." She turned away and whis- pered the words to herself; Jimmie was not sure but he thought the words were--"I have love." [PAGE 3924] "Oh, Marjorie! Do you mean that I am--what we just now said?" "Yes, you are, Jimmie, but don't let it worry you for it is really an ad- vantage. There are lots of reasons why it is a great thing to be here and I am going to tell you some of them. But you are lucky for the Elder Brother is coming to meet you." "I don't want to meet any Elder Brothers. I want to talk to you." He reached out and took her hand. "If I am dead then you are too and so neither of us has any advantage. I'm sure you don't LOOK dead a bit and I don't FEEL dead. I can't make head or tail of it." [PAGE 3925] A SERGEANT'S EXPERIENCE: "O Jimmie, the Elder Brother is coming! Oh! Oh! I'm so glad for it must be that he wants to talk to you himself." "Well, I wish he'd stay away. I want to talk to you--" "Here he is--" Jimmie turned in response to a gesture from Marjorie and saw standing be- fore him a man, somewhat past middle age, tall, erect, and with nothing so prominent about him as the ability to inspire in others the feeling of being in the immediate presence of great power. The man bowed slightly and while Marjorie and Jimmie were rising, spoke: "I know you very well, Mr. Westman, partially through the help of our little friend here," and he touched Marjorie's curls gently and lovingly. "I sent her to meet you first but we must not tax her strength too greatly. I want you to come with me for a while, and later you may have a long talk with her." The newcomer's manner and tone bore such an air of quiet authority that Jimmie never for an instant entertained a thought of appeal. He merely re- sponded to Marjorie's little graceful gesture of adieu and turned to walk [PAGE 3926] beside the man whom Marjorie had called the "Elder Brother." They walked for some distance in silence, a silence which Jimmie thought it best not to break, for in some way which he could not explain, he felt as though this man was quite a "big bug" in this country, and so he walked on silently until the man himself might feel moved to begin the conversation. Some rods had been passed in slow pacing before the silence was broken. In the meantime Jimmie had cast a furtive glance around to see how far Marjorie had gone, but to his surprise she was not in sight at all although he was sure he could see a couple of miles in any direction. "You have had a good rest," his companion said at length, "and it will not be too great a tax upon you to map out briefly some of the duties which it will be your privilege to attend to in this new life upon which you have entered. But before that I will show you a little of what has happened and is happening, and as soon as you are ready for the information I shall show you just why this war was allowed to come upon the world and in just what manner your help will be needed. "Things are somewhat different here from what you have been accustomed to, and I want to call your attention to one thing which Marjorie hesitated to dwell upon and that is the method of your locomotion. You do not need to [PAGE 3927] walk in the old way; it is much more convenient and much quicker to progress by what Marjorie suggested to you at first--the glide. We all of us here move that way. It only requires a slight effort of the will and is as such superior to walking as walking is to crawling on the hands and knees. In fact there is hardly a limit to the speed of the glide and without it we would find it impossible to do the work which has to be done in these strenuous times. Try it." At the word he began to glide just as Jimmie had seen Marjorie do. Jimmie then made the effort himself and to his surprise found that he could move along as he had often done on ice when skating, only this movement was the result of an effort of the will and required no exertion of the body at all. He was as delighted as a child with this newly acquired power and glided around like an ice skater cutting the old familiar figure eight and other patterns a number of times before he once more steadied down at the side of his new acquaintance. There is a great deal of the boy in every man just as there is a great deal of the man in every boy, and Jimmie was frankly more absorbed and in- terested in the possibilities of the glide and i the fact that he had re- sumed his place at the Elder Brother's side without being in the least out of breath or feeling any of the effects which usually follow such strenuous exercise, than he was in the tremendous fact that he had really and truly [PAGE 3928] crossed over the "Great Divide" and was in the very act and article of learning what was on the "Other Side of Death." Slowing down to the more dignified progress of his guide, he felt some- what abashed at his exhibition of enthusiasm and began to apologize in an indirect manner. "This gliding business is quite a novelty to me and it seems to be just what I have always wanted to do. I've dreamed of just that very thing at times, and when I once realized that I could actually glide, it was like do- ing some old, familiar stunt over again." "You were not mistaken. It is an old familiar 'stunt.'" "It must be that my ice skating is what made it seem natural to me." "No. It was familiar because you have often glided and you were really used to doing it. In your sleep you have always spent your time over on this side. On most nights you were not actually conscious, yet you were partially aware of what you were doing though you were not able to take the memory back with you." "Gee! Well, what do you know about that!" "It's an improvement on walking, isn't it?" "Well! I should say so. I'll sure teach it to the boys when I go back.--" [PAGE 3929] He stopped short, realizing that there was no "going back." The man's face glowed with sympathy. "No," he said, "there is no going back, but I think that when I have shown you that which lies before you and which is so much grander and greater than what lies back of us, you will not want to go back, you will want with all your heart and soul to go forward. "I am going to take you back to the trench where your company is, for one of your friends is going to pass over. As he will not go in the same way you did he will recover consciousness almost immediately and I want you to take charge of him. In this way you will learn a good deal about some phases of what your duties will be later on. "And now," he continued, "before you begin actual work, I want to impress upon your mind that this war was necessary, because in no other way could the human race be saved from an impending and overwhelming fate. This fact does not in the least excuse those who are responsible for bringing it on, but I speak of it because the great conflict and awful suffering have made some think that the powers of good were helpless before the powers of evil. This is not so. God rules over all and as the sparrow cannot fall without His knowledge and will, so no war can be started without His knowledge and will; but, as said, this does not excuse those who bring it on." His face [PAGE 3930] grew very stern but withal tender, and his eyes had a look in them as though his thoughts were far away over the centuries that are to come before the good which is to result from the great struggle shall have formed its pat- tern on the loom of time. "Now," he resumed, "we will travel a little faster and you can use that newly found power of yours, the glide." He began to glide as he spoke and moved faster and faster. Jimmie kept gliding along by his side, occasionally forgetting and fixing his mind on something else, and when he did this he found that he was apt to stop alto- gether. This he explained to himself by saying that walking had become so much a second nature to him that he could do it and still think of something else, but that gliding was yet new and so he had to center his mind on it all the time. The Elder Brother moved faster and Jimmie followed him as well as he could, though when his companion left the earth and moved through the air Jimmie was a little dubious as to his ability to follow so strenuous a leader. Soon, however, he became more and more accustomed to the new sensa- tion and began to take a little interest in the landscape. Now he noticed that they were passing over a part of the country which was familiar to him, and in another moment or two he saw that they were nearing the trenches. He heard the reports of the great guns and saw the planes flying far above, for [PAGE 3931] he and his guide were again nearing the earth, and I another minute they had alighted on the edge of that section of the trench where his firing post had been. There it was yet with one of the men of the company in it, and Jimmie mo- tioned to his friend that they had better jump down into the trench where they would be safe. It was not until the Elder Brother smiled at him in a quizzical way that he remembered the fact that the danger of bullets was over for him, that they could pass through his present ethereal body without causing discomfort. The Elder Brother laid a hand on Jimmie's arm and pointed to a man some- what over forty, in the uniform of a sergeant, who was sitting quietly in a little dugout smoking a cigarette and looking at an old magazine. As they watched him he threw away the stub of the cigarette, laid down the magazine, rose slowly, and stepped into the trench. He walked leisurely to the firing post, raised his head to look through the little opening, and was neatly drilled through the forehead with a rifle bullet. He stood still for a mo- ment, then as the muscles lost their vitality they slowly relaxed, and the body as slowly leaned against the wall of trench, quietly sinking down. That was what the horrified rifleman on duty saw, but what Jimmie saw was that the sergeant quietly stepped out of his body and stood there, looking [PAGE 3932] at the rifleman with a puzzled expression on his face. Jimmy needed no guide to tell him what had happened, and he called to Sergeant Strew who looked up at him and said quietly: "Hello, Jimmie, glad to see you. When did you blow in? I heard you'd 'gone west.'" "Hello, old fellow," said Jimmie, "I just came out and brought a friend of mine." He turned to the Elder Brother and said: "I'd introduce you to my friend, Sergeant Strew, sir, if I knew your name." Sergeant Strew seemed to evince no great surprise that Jimmie should have come out to the firing line in such a manner, bringing a friend with him as though the front trench were a visiting place, nor did the unusual circum- stance strike either of them as at all out of the ordinary. It is often thus with those who have recently passed over and who had not had their pow- ers of observation and reason trained. The sergeant knew as a matter of fact that Jimmie was dead, or at least he had been told so and had no reason to doubt the fact. Yet when Jimmie appeared alive and well and apparently com- fortable, the sergeant merely accepted the fact without any hesitation. Had he seen Jimmie, however, before the sniper's bullet severed the connection between his physical and vital bodies, the case would have been entirely different. [PAGE 3933] Jimmie's very respectful mode of addressing the Elder Brother, too, was indicative not only of the atmosphere or aura of dignity and power which surrounded the Elder Brother but showed the fact that these auric vibrations were not impeded by the physical body, hence were a thousand times more po- tent than would have been the case on the physical plane. Jimmie knew noth- ing of mental vibrations and had not the slightest idea that the cause of his attitude lay outside of himself, but of the fact of this respectful at- titude he was aware, and he promptly set it down to his own good upbring- ing. The name which was given I may not divulge, but in its place I will sub- stitute one, and say that the Elder Brother gave the name of CAMPION. The introduction over, the Elder Brother said: "Jimmie, come to me in about an hour and bring your friend." "All right, sir, but my watch has stopped and I will have to guess the time. And where will I find you, sir?" "I will send for you when the time comes." The Elder Brother apparently made a step from the bottom to the top of the trench and moved off toward the rear. The sergeant yelled to him and jumpted to interfere but Jimmie caught him by the arm. Strew turned on Jimmie-- "Stop him! Call him back!" [PAGE 3934] "Never mind him," Jimmie shouted, "listen to me--" "All right, Lieutenant, if you say so. But jiminy! I'm glad to see you again. Say! did you notice the way that friend of yours took the whole height of the trench at one step? Some man, that!" "He certainly is." "This'll be great news for the boys to find you're all right again. We heard that you got killed three days ago. I'm mighty glad to find it was a mistake. But where have you been all this time?" Jimmie had come up at a time when there was a lull in the fighting, and Sergeant Strew's was the only casualty at the time. The sergeant was so busy looking at and talking to Jimmie that he had not noticed the group of men gathered about his dead body, and Jimmie was at a loss just how to break the news to him gently. He had never had such a job to do before-- "Well you see, Sergeant, the funny part about it is that what you heard was true." "What was true?" "Why, that I got killed." "you got hit on the bean, that's what's the matter with you." "No, I didn't either. I'm giving you the true dope. I got killed." "Jimmie, go back and tell the doc to fix your noodle. You've got a bad [PAGE 3935] case of 'bats in your garret.' I might have known it was like that or you'd never have brought that spry old gent out here with you which you very well know is against all the regulations even if you are a lieutenant, and I don't see how in thunder he ever got so far, past all the officers." "Well, you see, it's this way, Sergeant, lots of men get killed and never know what's happened to them." "Yes, an' some think they're killed when nothing has happened. Why, if you'd been killed don't you see you would be a ghost now, and then how in the dickens could I see you and be talking to you? It can't be done, Jimmie. You're just as much alive as I am." "That's true, too, Sergeant, but if you'll look behind you a moment you'll see that you're just as dead as I am." Jimmie pointed past him to the dead body which had been laid out on the boards at the bottom of the trench ready to be taken to the rear if things kept quiet after dark, and the sergeant turned and looked. He looked long and quietly. He walked over and stood beside the body and looked at it carefully. He spoke to the sentry in the firing post; when no answer was made he spoke again, more sharply, and then walked over and shook the man by the shoulder, or attempted to shake him, but finding that his hand went [PAGE 3936] through him he gave up the attempt, turned back to Jimmie, and said in a matter of fact way: "I guess you're right, Jimmie. I've cashed in." Jimmie looked at Sergeant Strew and Sergeant Strew looked at Jimmie. Neither knew what to say. The situation was a novel one, and though Jimmie might have found words with which to offer comfort to a friend who had lost some dear one, yet even that task would have been hard; but when it was the friend himself who had died and the one who sought to offer comfort was also dead, the situation began to assume something of the comical. Jimmie smiled a little. Things were too serious to laugh about, yet there was the element of humor and that very fact of itself struck him as funny, for humor and the life after death had seemed to him before this as being as far apart as the poles. No one had ever connected the two to his knowledge. The sergeant, however, was very grave. So it's come at last, he said, partly to himself and partly to Jimmie. "It's come at last and it's not nearly anything like I thought it would be. Say!" he looked at Jimmie, "You have been over here for three days and you ought to be feeling at home kinda by this time; where are they?" "Where are what?" "Why, heaven, though I guess us fellers wouldn't go there just at first anyhow; but where's all the things the parsons talk about, hell and the [PAGE 3937] devils an' the other things? This is just like where we were before an' I don't see much difference except that yap, Milvane, couldn't hear me when I spoke to him; but what does a feller do here? Do we go an' hunt for a harp to play on or do we go on fighting or what? 'Spose a lot of German ghosts come along, what are we to do?" "Darned if I know, said Jimmie to whom the idea was new. "Well, I don't know what we can do but I bet I can lick any blankety blank German ghost that ever lived." Jimmie felt a peculiar sensation. He had never been a profane boy and his worst expletive had usually been the mild word "darn." Stronger than this he seldom spoke but now that the sergeant used a few words of what the majority of the company would have classed as swearing, that is as REAL GENUINE swearing, Jimmie felt a sensation almost akin to pain. It was a mixed feeling, not physical pain and yet much like it; it was much more than mere repugnance to something he formerly would not even have noticed. He remembered the Elder Brother's request and wondered if the hour was up, and if it was, whether he ought to take this friend of his into the somewhat awesome presence of that strange man. His doubts were solved for him by the sudden appearance from nowhere of a laughing little child who came dancing [PAGE 3938] up to him, singing in a semi-chant as children often do: "Come along, Jimmie, the Elder Brother wants you." Jimmie turned to the sergeant who was attempting to interfere with a sol- dier busily engaged in removing the ammunition belt from the sergeant's dis- carded body. "Come on, Sergeant, Mr. Campion wants to see us." "T'hell with your friend. Look at this gutter snipe here trying to rob me of all my cartridges an' he knows blame well I got all my tobacco in one of them pockets an' I'm responsible fer that belt. Drop it, gol darn you!" This last was addressed to the soldier at whom and through whom the sergeant swung a right hand blow that would, under former circumstances, have almost felled an ox, but the soldier paid no attention to it. The sergeant was in- articulate with rage. Jimmie had to stop a minute to get the situation clear in his own mind, and then with a laugh he interposed between the fuming sergeant and the un- concerned robber, who was not a robber at all but merely a soldier obeying his orders. "Come out of it, Sergeant! You're dead! Get me? You're dead! You [PAGE 3939] can't hurt that guy. Come along with me. You're dead!" The sergeant stepped back a pace, looked at Jimmie with a puzzled expres- sion on his face for a moment and scratched his head. "Danged if I ain't," he said thoughtfully, "I forgot that." "Sure." Jimmie smiled at him. "And what good would your tobacco do you anyhow? You can't smoke now." The sergeant stopped short and straightened with a jerk, looking at Jimmie, his eyes growing wide with horror. "Ain't that hell?" Again Jimmie felt that painful feeling surge over him at the sergeant's words, and again he doubted the advisability of taking this profane soldier, brave and honorable though he knew him to be, before the Elder Brother, who was, as Jimmie had "sized him up" something in the nature of a "Gospel Sharp" or "Sky Pilot." The army seldom used the word MINISTER, and Jimmie had fallen into the army vernacular. What would this friend of Marjorie's think if Sergeant Strew should forget himself and casually utter an exple- tive? Again the little child with the smiling face danced before his eyes and repeated the message. [PAGE 3940] "Come along, Jimmie, the Elder Brother wants you." This time Jimmie determined to obey. "Come along, Sergeant, it's orders that I've got to bring you with me." The sergeant came along, pensively, muttering to himself something about tobacco and the utter uselessness of any locality or state of being where the solacing weed could not be smoked. Nevertheless, he followed in a preoccupied manner, climbing out of the ditch after Jimmie and then ner- vously looking around as though just remembering that the sight of him might excite Fritz into starting a bombardment. "Don't worry," Jimmie said, noticing the sergeant's apprehension, "Fritz can't see you and if he could he couldn't hurt you. You're just as dead as you can get." "That's right, I never thought of that. I aint got used to the idea of being dead yet." He drew his hand across his forehead wearily, then gave a gasp of dismay as he felt the hole in his head and took his hand away covered with blood. He felt gingerly of the place where the snipers had drilled him. "Say, I better go an' get this fixed up. This is a bad place to get hit. I might have got--it's a wonder it didn't--" He stopped short and looked at Jimmie wistfully. The wound had evidently startled him in a way, for the fact was that in spite of the evidence he had [PAGE 3941] not yet realized that he was dead. Often it takes a long time to realize a thing which we know and admit readily as a mere statement of fact. While the sergeant knew that he was dead, yet he had not realized it nor had he learned to co-ordinate his thoughts with what he knew to be the truth, and the old impulse to get a wound "fixed up" before any complications could set in was too strong to be shaken off. Jimmie did not know and so could not explain to the sergeant that the blood with which his hand was covered was merely the result of his own firmly fixed idea that there ought to be blood where there was such a large wound. Subconsciously the sergeant felt that if he were dead and a ghost, then it would follow that a ghost could not bleed. Yet he was bleeding, for was not his hand covered with blood? So, partly by conscious and partly by subconscious methods he reached the point where he doubted whether he were really dead of not. Theories were thrown to the winds. The wound was a practical and compelling fact. "Say, Jimmie, I've got to go an' get this fixed up. I'll come an' see your fried some other time. I gotta go before this gets worse." It was, indeed, a ghastly wound, not only where the bullet had entered the forehead but much more so where it had come out at the back of the head for there the wound was much larger. Jimmie realized the necessity of [PAGE 3942] getting it "fixed up," but then the thought flashed across his mind--WHERE? Merciful and devoted as the Red Cross was, there was yet no hospital he knew of, where a man who could not be seen could be treated for a deadly wound of which he had already died. "Where you goin' to, Sergeant," he asked, "where do you think you can get that thing fixed up? Don't you know that's what killed you?" "Don't they have no hospitals over here?" demanded the sergeant. "Where do ghosts go when they get hurt?" "They don't get hurt." "The dickens they don't! I'm hurt, aint I? If I don't get this fixed up somehow I'm liable to--to--" "To what, Sergeant? Come to life again?" "Darn you, Jimmie. This thing hurts like the dickens. It's a wonder you wouldn't flag a stretcher bearer or an ambulance or somethin' instead of standin' there grinnin' like a durn fool. Of course they have ambulances over here. Naturally they would." Continued with file "RC1110.TXT" End of File


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