Skip to main content
mostly men who had failed to stay the course through
lack of stamina. Too much had been asked of them.
And there was I, a healthy young officer, dumped
down among nurses and nervous wrecks. During my
second month at the hydro I think I began to feel a
sense of humiliation. (Was it "spiritual pride", I won-
der, or merely the remains of esprit de corps?)
With my "fellow-breakdowns" I avoided war talk
as far as was possible. Most of them had excellent
reasons for disliking that theme; others talked about
it because they couldn't get it off their minds, or else
spoke of it facetiously in an effort to suppress their
real feelings. Sometimes I had an uncomfortable no-
tion that none of them respected one another; it was
as though there were a tacit understanding that we
were all failures, and this made me want to reassure
myself that I wasn't the same as the others. "After
all, I haven't broken down; I've only broken out,"
I thought one evening at the end of September as I
watched the faces opposite me at the dinner table.
Most of them were average types who appeared to
be getting "dangerously well". But there were some
who looked as if they wouldn't have had much suc-
cess in life at the best of times. I was sitting between
two bad stammerers—victims of "anxiety neurosis"
as the saying went—(one could easily imagine "an-
xiety neurosis" as a staple frcnt-line witticism). Con-
versation being thus impeded, I could devote my
mind to wondering why I'd been playing my mashie
shots so atrociously that afternoon. Up at the top
table I could see Rivers sitting among the staff. He
never seemed to be giving more than half his atten-
tion to what he was eating. He looked rather as
though he needed a rest, and I wondered how I
should get on while he was away on his two weeks'