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SHELL-SHOCKED – AND AFTER in the next room in a conference. I felt remarkable. A man nationally famous, , a chill of fear grip me. I locked myself he had given up his practice to help the in, sat down, and held on to my desk as army in its time of need - but he had things got gray and the ache in my not been 'over there,' and he did not head gave way to a hum, a low chanting know. It was this man, whose opinion I hum, like the one that comes when valued so highly, whose keen percepone is just going under an anæsthetic. tion was always a source of wonder to It required all my will-power to keep me, whose training was all along the conscious then. Many times afterward line that would lead to a real underI used my will to keep control of my- standing of my case, who first showed self; but I remember that as the first me how utterly alone I was to be in the time, and it left me tired physically, hot year that followed. all over, and shaking with an intangible I had been more or less alone before, fear of a thing not understood.
because everyone seemed to be so inThen a thought came to me, slowly, capable of seeing things as I saw them, in a vague sort of way - I was losing but my previous feeling was but little, my mind! Dear God, I was losing my compared to what followed. I wish that mind! I grabbed my head in my hands, I could properly describe that feeling of
, closed my eyes to keep away those utter loneliness in the world. I wish I fooling, fluffy, flying things that came could in some way convey to those who out of nowhere and tumbled off into had their men on the other side how nowhere again. Things became quiet, perfectly damnable that solitude is to I got control, picked up my cap, un- some of those men. I wish more still locked the door, and started to leave that I could in some way get it into the the office. My secretary met me at the minds of all Americans who have not door and laughingly asked me why I been through it, how dreadfully alone a had locked her out that she had been shell-shocked man can be, even though knocking. I said I would not be back surrounded by those who love him most. that afternoon.
After some weeks I was given more I went as straight as I could go to the liberty and would drive out to see attending surgeon, an old friend. In the friends - but with what result? Al
seclusion of his office I told him my ways I met with the same thing, that story, and went all to pieces and sobbed lack of interest, - either assumed or like a woman. Pretty soon we were in real, I do not know, — and would go my car, and he was driving me to the back to the hospital and lie on my bed Walter Reed Hospital, talking to me and lose all control of myself, and cry quietly on the way. Then followed like a baby. Sleep did not come when I those interminable examinations, day seemed most to need it, and food was after day, – blood-tests, eye-tests, ear- positively repulsive a great deal of the tests, balance-tests, every test apparent- time. ly that could be devised. I was thank- There is no use in going into the deful for my shoulder-straps, which gave tails of what followed in the hospital, me a room to myself.
except that one day three doctors came There came interviews with a famous in to see me. They seemed to have nerve specialist, a man whose grasp of something on their minds, but took human nature was wonderful; but he did some time to get it off. Finally, with not know the answer. He advised one the greatest consideration, calmly and thing and then another; he was kind- with expressions of regret, I was inness itself, and his understanding was formed that it was their opinion that I
had best get my affairs in shape as I
V would probably not live for more than a month, or at best would be permanently At my own request I was soon alinsane.
lowed to leave the hospital on a long Angry? When I had heard them out, sick leave, to do whatever I wished. I was more than that. I seemed to have Apparently the doctors had done all,
. an insane desire to hurt those men. I they could — it was up to me. called them all the names I could think I was mad all through, fighting mad. of; damned them with as much abuse as I was simply possessed with the idea I could command. I wanted to break that I would not die, that I would show
I the furniture, to smash anything that those doctors what fools they were. In came near me. They must have thought the year that followed, I exhausted me crazy; perhaps I was, but it was the everything I could think of that would craziness of a wild rage at anybody who help me to get well, to get back to where was such a fool as to think I was ready I had been two years before. My conto die. Die? Why, I would not have stant thought was that I was going to died to please those doctors — and I win in some way. It would be tedious did n't.
to tell it, except in the most general The thought has come to me since, way, but I want to remind anyone who that perhaps those specialists told me may read this that that period of conthat with a purpose. I don't know —I tinual, continuous scrap lasted for a have never asked; but it has occurred year, and in that time there was but to me that perhaps they told me that to one person who spoke my language. bring out all the fight there was in me. With this one exception, I was as alone If that was their object, I will grant as if I had been in a deserted world. them a hundred per cent of success. I went to one friend after another, That interview was the turning-point searching for help, suggestions that in my
illness. From that minute I was would assist me; but it was like searchobsessed with the idea that I would not ing for the pot of gold at the rainbow's die — I was damned if I would die! end it simply was not there. There The whole object of my life was to were those who were sympathetic in show those men what fools they were to thought and in deed, but apparently think that I was going to die. I remem- they did not know how to do anything ber how I screamed at them in that practical. room, and how they stood there listen- The one person who knew was the ing to me, watching me, and saying military attaché at the French Emnothing. I screamed and cursed those bassy, a young captain of the French men until I cried, and slung myself Army. We were chatting in his apartdown on my bed, and wore myself out ments one day, talking over the past, trying to control the hysterical sobs when it dawned upon us both that we that seemed to shake me all to pieces. had been through the same terrible
I locked my nurse out, but she got thing. It was like finding some precious in and was good to me and gave me possession, long mourned as lost, for us an opiate. She was a sweet girl, the to find each other. We clung to each daughter of a great man, giving her other like blind men left alone. He time and earnest effort to doing good. spoke English - I spoke French - we
. I knew her brother, who, himself a both spoke the language of the Front, shell-shock case, had killed himself af- and we both spoke the language that ter returning from overseas.
needs no words, which exists between
two men who have experienced shell- solitude, weeks of solitude — and read fire and suffered the misery of exhaust- Pilgrim's Progress! ed, shattered nerves known to the It is so useless to go through the list world as shell-shock. In the Somme of- of people to whom I went looking for fensive with the battery, he had been help. To their credit be it said that filling a sand-bag, when a shell of large many of them wanted to do something; calibre struck within a few feet of him. but they never did it, because they He had been peppered with splinters, could not, since they did not have the but not badly hurt. He had been understanding to do it. So I left them, caught running back and forth behind one after another, and went my way the front, muttering to himself, and alone, always alone. had been for months in hospital until My head continued to ache and his mind began to clear. Being of a throb, I continued to be nauseated, I prominent family in France, he had still could not sleep. An insane desire been sent to the United States to get to kill myself, as four other friends had him away from the war, and was going done, took possession of me. I would through the same thing I was, fighting toy with my automatic, and think how it out alone. What long talks we had! best to do it. I would lock myself in We drove about in the country, lay on my room when attacks came that I had the grass in the woods, and talked and to fight, attacks that made me tense all talked, searching together for the spark over, that made me want to scream, in the empty dark that would be a hint break the furniture, pull my clothes to of the life to come.
pieces. I would lean against the wall, I went to an old friend, a teacher who tears running down my face, and scratch kept a school for the daughters of at the plaster, and sob and gag, and end rich parents. She was a graduate of by throwing myself on my bed, utterly Vassar, and I thought she could help exhausted by the effort to regain conme. And the disappointment that fol- trol. I would lock my windows before lowed! I thought that she was human, retiring for the night, lock my door and but she was n't. She had developed throw the key through the transom, to into the same sort that I have found prevent my doing some insane thing be elsewhere since then — the type of neu- fore morning. I would go to sleep late, rotic weaklings who hide away from and wake at about half-past three in reality and live in a comfortable fog the morning, and stare at the dark, of voluntary ignorance. While the war trying to think out the meaning of this was in progress, she had refused to read thing. about it, on the ground that it was I read New Thought, studied Chrisall too horrible. She had purchased tian Science, read the Bible, became a Liberty Bonds, in order to be able to regular attendant at church. I got a tell her clientèle how patriotic she was. copy of that great piece of logical She had closed her door on the war,' as thought, Burke's 'Conciliation with the she dramatically told me.
American Colonies,' and read it care'Close your door on the war?' I fully, searching it for his great ideas on said; ‘how can you
how to cure an ill by removing the cause. the biggest event since the coming of What was the cause of this thing? That Christ?'
was what I searched for in my own case. She was shocked, horrified at my blas- The thing to do was to remove the cause phemy. She folded her hands, closed - but what was the cause? her eyes, and said that I must seek My mother came and stayed with
me. Never in my life before had I power to keep going; but I knew that I known what a mother could be. I be- could win. Before that time I had been lieve that very few men really appreci- trying to find out if that were a possible ate their mothers. I know I never ap- thing. preciated mine until then. I have never seen such utter unselfishness, such ob- Nearly two years after I received the liviousness to her own desires, her own order that sent me into the shelled area interests, as in my mother's loving of the Front, I left the army and returnthought, her anxiety to help her son. ed to civil life. I got a job that took me
But it was too much — I could not again away from my country for several stand her anxiety. I could not have her months. I was not yet really well, but coming to my room in the middle of the this change helped a great deal, and night, and sitting with me hour after rapidly I returned to normal again. hour, listening to my raving. So I got a Periods of ache and pain became very nurse and traveled for months on end. short, and few and far between. I beI took a ship and sailed off on a cruise lieve the last one has come and gone. It through the Southern Seas. I stopped was several months ago that I was at an island in the south, took a house writing on a typewriter, smoking my
, near the sea, and spent a month or pipe. The pipe suddenly rattled in my more there. It was wonderful in that teeth, my fingers became tense, my quiet and peace. I lay in a hammock, muscles tightened. I grabbed my pipe looking out over the beautiful blue out of my mouth, stood up, forced my Caribbean, listening to the pounding of fingers out straight against my desk, the waves on the rocks, with the limpid took my hat, and walked and walked azure of the sky, and its fleecy, scatter- out into the country for a few miles, ed clouds overhead.
fighting for myself again. Finally I I breathed in the balm of the fronded lighted my pipe again, and smoked. palms in the hush of the moonlit nights. There was no more rattle then, my
, until a wonderful thing came to me. fingers were again all right. Once more The shadows broke, the night of that I had won. That was the last time. hideous fight was gone, and the first Since then I have never had an indicafaint dawn of another day of my life tion that I had a nerve in my body anycame to me, in the knowledge that I where. That was the last dying gasp of was winning. Then the light came the thing that had held me in its grip truly bursting in upon my conscious- for so long. ness. I was winning! I was getting well My work brought me back to the again! I was sleeping better - I could United States. I began to read the eat — the pains in my head were lessen- papers Articles caught my eye — exing – my periods of depression were soldiers not cared for, ex-soldiers out of coming at lengthening intervals. I was work, in insane asylums, in jails, walkgetting well!
ing the streets. I looked into the matThe knowledge that I was coming ter and found that there were thousands back came to me suddenly, all at once, upon thousands of these men in straitand gave me a strength that I thoughtened circumstances, in poverty. There I could never have again. But once it were more thousands, who needed hoscame, the months that were to come pital attention, who were not getting it. were easy indeed, compared with the There was trouble in Washington over ones that had gone before. It was still a the means to care for these men. Govstruggle, it still required all my will- ernmental bureaus overlapped, passed the buck to each other-and still noth- help to start again; not emotional sentiing seemed to be accomplished. What . mentality, but help — practical, subwas the matter with my country? Was stantial help. it really ungrateful? Was it true that How many others there are just like the public had tired of this responsibil- him, who need just a little help. Are we ity? Statements were made to me that going to give it? I believe we shall, if we magazines would no longer accept but realize the truth; if we will but see, war-stories, and that publishers would and not close our door on the war.' no longer print anything pertaining to There has come a thought to me that the war, or the men who had fought in it. I wish the American people would ponI found that these statements could der over when they grow tired of the be easily disproved, but, nevertheless, it war, which they felt so very, very little. was disheartening, when I kept learn- When they damn the men who bother ing for myself how these men were them for jobs, who pester them for help, suffering.
they should search their own hearts I was walking down Broadway, and first. my walking-stick accidentally struck
Judge not! against a man. I apologized perfunctor
The workings of his heart and of his mind ily, but upon looking at him, I saw a Thou canst not see. poorly dressed man who looked familiar. What in our dull brain may seem a stain,
In God's pure light may only be a scar, Then he spoke. 'Colonel,' he said, 'can
Brought from some well-fought field, you do me a favor?'
Where thou wouldst only faint and yield. I was astonished did not know him. But he knew me - he had been Shall we help back those thousands in my regiment overseas. He wanted of humble men who trod the rocky money — two hundred dollars to start pathway of the Front in France? Shall a cigar-stand. We went to the bank and we give them the little boost that they he left me happy. Some day I shall need, to come back? And what of those hear from that man, who drove a lead other men who have suffered, whose pair on the march into silent, sullen minds are gone? Shall we be but ghosts Germany. He will win some day. All for those unburied dead — who did he needed was a little help, practical not die?