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Deeds Of Darkness

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"I don't suppose they'll attack much before nine," said the voice of a stout major named Kemp. "My word, it is dark in here! And dull! Curse the Kaiser!"

"I don't know," said Wagstaffe thoughtfully. "War is hell, and all that, but it has a good deal to recommend it. It wipes out all the small nuisances of peace-time."

"Such as--!"

"Well, Suffragettes, and Futurism, and--and--"

"Bernard Shaw," suggested another voice. "Hall Caine--"

"Yes, and the Tango, and party politics, and golf-maniacs. Life and Death, and the things that really are big, get viewed in their proper perspective for once in a way."

"And look how the War has bucked up the nation," said Bobby Little, all on fire at once. "Look at the way girls have given up fussing over clothes and things, and taken to nursing."

"My poor young friend," said the voice of the middle-aged Kemp, "tell me honestly, would you like to be attended to by some of the young women who have recently taken up the nursing profession?"

"Rather!" said Bobby, with thoughtless fervour.

"I didn't say one," Kemp pointed out, amid laughter, "but some. Of course we all know of one. Even I do. It's the rule, not the exception, that we are dealing with just now."

Bobby, realising that he had been unfairly surprised in a secret, felt glad that the darkness covered his blushes.

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"Well, take my tip," continued Kemp, "and avoid amateur ministering angels, my son. I studied the species in South Africa. For twenty-four hours they nurse you to death, and after that they leave you to perish of starvation. Women in war-time are best left at home."

A youthful paladin in the gloom timidly mentioned the name of Florence Nightingale.

"One Nightingale doesn't make a base hospital," replied Kemp. "I take off my hat--we all do--to women who are willing to undergo the drudgery and discomfort which hospital training involves. But I'm not talking about Florence Nightingales. The young person whom I am referring to is just intelligent enough to understand that the only possible thing to do this season is to nurse. She qualifies herself for her new profession by dressing up like one of the chorus of 'The Quaker Girl,' and getting her portrait, thus attired, into the 'Tatler.' Having achieved this, she has graduated. She then proceeds to invade any hospital that is available, where she flirts with everything in pyjamas, and freezes you with a look if you ask her to empty a basin or change your sheets. I know her! I've had some, and I know her! She is one of the minor horrors of war. In peace-time she goes out on Alexandra Day, and stands on the steps of men's clubs and pesters the members to let her put a rose in their button-holes. What such a girl wants is a good old-fashioned mother who knows how to put a slipper to its right use!"

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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