Private Peat

Biography & Autobiography/
#Biography & Autobiography #Personal Memoirs & Diaries
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Excerpt CHAPTER I THE CALL—TO ARMS "Well," said old Bill, "I know what war is ... I've been through it with the Boers, and here's one chicken they'll not catch to go through this one." Ken Mitchell stirred his cup of tea thoughtfully. "If I was old enough, boys," said he, "I'd go. Look at young Gordon McLellan; he's only seventeen and he's enlisted." That got me. It was then that I made up my mind I was going whether it lasted three months, as they said it would, or five years, as I thought it would, knowing a little bit of the geography and history of the country we were up against. We were all sitting round the supper table at Mrs. Harrison's in Syndicate Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta. War had been declared ten days before, and there had been a call for twelve hundred men from our city. Six hundred were already with the colors. Now, to throw up a nice prosperous business and take a chance at something you're not sure of getting into after all, is some risk, and quite an undertaking as well. But I had lived at the McLellens' for years and knew young Gordon and his affairs so well that I thought if he could tackle it, there was no reason why I shouldn't. "Well, Bill, I'm game to go, if you will," I said. Bill had just declared his intention rather positively, so I was a bit surprised when he replied in his old familiar drawl: "All right, but you'll have to pass the doctor first. I'm pretty sure I can get by, but I'm not so certain about you." Ken Mitchell looked up at that and, smiling at me, said, "I can imagine almost anything in this world, but I can't imagine Peat a soldier." "Well, we'll see about that, Ken," I replied, and with that the supper came to an end. That evening Bill and I went over to the One-Hundred-and-First Barracks, but there was nothing doing, as word had just come from Ottawa to stop recruiting. It was on the twenty-second of August, 1914, before the office was opened again, and on that day we took another shot at our luck. The doctor gave me the "once over" while Bill stood outside. "One inch too small around the chest," was the verdict. "Oh, Doc, have a heart!" "No," he said, "we have too many men now to be taking a little midget like you." That was disappointment number two. I walked out and reported to Bill, and I need not say that that loyal friend did not try to pass without me. That night—August twenty-second—I slept very little. I had made up my mind that I was going to the war, and go I would, chest or no chest. Before morning I had evolved many plans and adopted one. I counted on my appearance to put me through. I am short and slight. I'm dark and curly-haired. I can pass for a Frenchman, an American, a Belgian; or at a pinch a Jew. I had my story and my plan ready when the next day I set out to have another try. At twelve-thirty I was seated on Major Farquarhson's veranda where I would meet him and see him alone when he came home to lunch. "Excuse me, Doctor," I said when he appeared, "but I'm sure you would pass me if you only knew my circumstances." "Well?" snapped the major. "You see, sir, my two brothers have been killed by the Germans in Belgium, and my mother and sisters are over there. I must go over to avenge them." I shivered; I quaked in my shoes. Would the major speak to me in French? I did not then know as much as Bon jour. But luck was with me. To my great relief Major Farquarhson replied, as he walked into the house, "Report to me this afternoon; I will pass you." August 28, 1914, saw old Bill—Bill Ravenscroft—and me enlisted for the trouble. A few days later Bill voiced the opinion of the majority of the soldiers when he said, "Oh, this bloomin' war will be over in three months." Not alone was this Bill's opinion, or that of the men only, but the opinion of the people of Canada, the opinion of the people of the whole British Empire....
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