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Slowly and inevitably, yet with a sudden surge at the last, while Amory
talked and dreamed, war rolled swiftly up the beach and washed the sands
where Princeton played. Every night the gymnasium echoed as platoon
after platoon swept over the floor and shuffled out the basket-ball
markings. When Amory went to Washington the next week-end he caught some
of the spirit of crisis which changed to repulsion in the Pullman car
coming back, for the berths across from him were occupied by stinking
aliens--Greeks, he guessed, or Russians. He thought how much easier
patriotism had been to a homogeneous race, how much easier it would have
been to fight as the Colonies fought, or as the Confederacy fought. And
he did no sleeping that night, but listened to the aliens guffaw and
snore while they filled the car with the heavy scent of latest America.
In Princeton every one bantered in public and told themselves privately
that their deaths at least would be heroic. The literary students read
Rupert Brooke passionately; the lounge-lizards worried over whether the
government would permit the English-cut uniform for officers; a few of
the hopelessly lazy wrote to the obscure branches of the War Department,
seeking an easy commission and a soft berth.
Then, after a week, Amory saw Burne and knew at once that argument would
be futile--Burne had come out as a pacifist. The socialist magazines,
a great smattering of Tolstoi, and his own intense longing for a cause
that would bring out whatever strength lay in him, had finally decided
him to preach peace as a subjective ideal.
"When the German army entered Belgium," he began, "if the inhabitants
had gone peaceably about their business, the German army would have been
"I know," Amory interrupted, "I've heard it all. But I'm not going to
talk propaganda with you. There's a chance that you're right--but even
so we're hundreds of years before the time when non-resistance can touch
us as a reality."
"But, Amory, listen--"
"Burne, we'd just argue--"
"Just one thing--I don't ask you to think of your family or friends,
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