The next day was the fourth of August—my birthday. And it was that day that Britain declared war upon Germany. We sat at lunch in the hotel at Melbourne when the newsboys began to cry the extras. And we were still at lunch when the hall porter came in from outside.
“Leftenant Lauder!” he called, over and over. John beckoned to him, and he handed my laddie a cablegram.
Just two words there were, that had come singing along the wires half way around the world.
John’s eyes were bright. They were shining. He was looking at us, but he was not seeing us. Those eyes of his were seeing distant things. My heart way sore within me, but I was proud and happy that it was such a son I had to give my country.
“What do you think, Dad?” he asked me, when I had read the order.
I think I was gruff because I dared not let him see how I felt. His mother was very pale.
“This is no time for thinking, son,” I said. “It is the time for action. You know your duty.”
He rose from the table, quickly.
“I’m off!” he said.
“Where?” I asked him.
“To the ticket office to see about changing my berth. There’s a steamer this week—maybe I can still find room aboard her.”
He was not long gone. He and his chum went down together and come back smiling triumphantly.
“It’s all right, Dad,” he told me. “I go to Adelaide by train and get the steamer there. I’ll have time to see you and mother off—your steamer goes two hours before my train.”
We were going to New Zealand. And my boy was was going home to fight for his country. They would call me too old, I knew—I was forty-four the day Britain declared war.
What a turmoil there was about us! So fast were things moving that there seemed no time for thought, John’s mother and I could not realize the full meaning of all that was happening. But we knew that John was snatched away from us just after he had come, and it was hard—it was cruelly hard.