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Death and Life of a Soldier: 10

CHAPTER THREE     THE WISH EXPRESSED

Thus we continued our talk. It was a great pleasure to have Reg’s company and the plan forming or infused in my mind was very much to my taste. Janet, who could of course follow my thoughts, thoroughly approved. Reg, all unconscious, talked on, or lay with his hands under his head, gazing out to sea.

“That is one of my special joys,” he said at last, pointing to the beach. “I have always been a strong swimmer. Shall I be able to swim here?”

“Of course you will,” Janet assured him, adding, with a glance in my direction, “Why not have a dip now?”

“Really?” Reg leapt to his feet.

He looked like a boy just out of school, and I nodded my agreement at once. “Off you go, old man!”

He did not wait for a second invitation, but dashed down to the beach, threw off his tunic, and dived in. There was a ripple, and then no sign of him for quite a while. Just as we were beginning to look about in bewilderment, his head broke the surface a long way out, and a gleaming arm rose high to wave to us.
“It’s great!” His young voice rang in the air joyously.

I cupped my hands round my mouth and shouted:
“Stay as long as you like, Mister Fish. We shall be waiting!”
With a final wave he was off, and we watched his head moving swiftly.

“He is a dear boy,” Janet said with a maternal air. “Do you think he is beginning to awake?”
“I am sure of it.”

For a long time we said nothing. Looking out over the sparkling sea, our thoughts intermingled. In that restful time, the plan was built up between us, each of us adding a little, so that when Reg returned we were ready and waiting.

We saw his gleaming body rise out of the sea a little way down the beach, and presently he came springing up the slope, his tunic flung negligently around him, and lay down at our feet with a deep sigh of content.
” I have been thinking,” he said drowsily. “Out there, one’s thoughts seem to flow so easily as easily as the sea, in a kind of rhythm.”

“Reg, are you poetic? “Janet teased.

He laughed, and tossed the damp hair out of his eyes.
“No but seriously, I have been thinking.”
“Tell us if you wish,” I invited.

“Oh, I do want to,” Reg sat up and clasped his hands round his knees. “It has been growing in my mind ever since I met Goody Gordon in the Hall of Friends” He broke off abruptly and I said gently:
“What has been growing?”

“The wish to see Him… It was awful” he turned to me impulsively, “kneeling beside you on the green, knowing you could see Him and I could not. Why, even the children could see Him.”

“The children more clearly than any,” Janet agreed. “They are simple and innocent, you see. Remember? ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’.”

“Oh, I do want to be pure!” Now there was an urgency in Reg’s voice that almost bordered on panic. “Only”

“Well, you can be, old fellow,” I said quickly.

“Can I?” He looked puzzled, but hopeful. “But if I haven’t been… if there are things I have done”

“They are stains on your robebut robes can be cleansed, you know.”
“How? And what do you mean by robe? And do you mean that we are cleansed without us doing anything?” His words tumbled over themselves in his eagerness.