WHAT A BOY DID FOR RUPERT BROOKE
DURING the Great War, many young Englishmen were killed whom we could ill afford to lose. Many young Germans, too,
and Frenchmen and Italians. There's not much sense in saying they went "because their time had come." It had only come because
the time they lived in was such a bad time. It is always a bad time when young people have to die because older ones have been
lazy, or selfish, or forgetful of God.
The young Englishman about whom this story was told was one whom we all could have wished to live for many years. Though
very young, he had already made a name for himself.
When the time came for him to go to France, though he had many friends, the call came so suddenly that there was no time to let
them know, so that they could come to see him off. Consequently, when the steamship was taking its men aboard, this young man
found himself strangely alone. All around were people saying their good-byes — wives, parents, sweethearts, relatives and friends.
Before long this young man began to feel a powerful heart-hunger. Among all these folks who knew and loved each other, he had
no one who really belonged to him.
Looking round, he espied a small boy among the crowd who seemed to have no one in the company in whom he was specially
interested. He was just there, as small boys are often found where great events are taking place, noticing everything, and storing
up memories for years to come.
Beckoning the boy to him, this young officer spoke.
"Would you like to earn a sixpence, sonny?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," replied the boy promptly.
"Have you got a handkerchief?"
"Yes, sir," said the boy again,, bringing forth from his pocket a dingy square of khaki, possibly a little present from his own father
across the seas.
"Good," said the officer. "Now here's your sixpence, and this is what I want you to do to earn it. When our boat leaves, and we are
sailing away, I want you to mount those railings there and wave your handkerchief to me. I will wave back to you. You understand?
You will wave good-bye and good wishes to me. Is it a bargain?"
"Yes, sir," said the boy, and, true to his promise, he perched himself on the railings, and as the boat began to draw away, he began
to wave. All along that crowded landing-stage were hundreds of handkerchiefs, hats, caps and little flags waving and fluttering,
but as he stood on the deck that young officer kept his eye on that boy and his fluttering rag of khaki, saying to himself,
"That handkerchief is waving for me — for me."
That young officer never came back, and when the news came that he was gone, all England grieved, for he had left behind him
some verses which will never die. Here is one: —
His name was Rupert Brooke, and England has never been so rich in fine young men with great gifts, that she could afford to lose
one such as he before his time.
We wonder if that urchin has ever discovered who it was that gave him the sixpence and made such a strange little request to him!
What sort of a boy was he, and what kind of man has he grown into? This much is sure. No sixpence he has ever earned was better
worth the earning than the one he got for giving Rupert Brooke a brave "Cheerio" as he looked his last on England.
GEORGE A. PARKINSON in The Methodist Recorder