Week 8 and I draw the nine of clubs and read “Told by the Schoolmaster”. This is part of the World War One Short Stories collection and is written by John Galsworthy. Deal Me In is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis. You can find the general guidelines and my list for this year from this post.
“Told By the Schoolmaster” is roughly seven pages and is told from the Schoolmaster’s point of view. This is the story of Jim Beckett and Betty (Roofe) Beckett. Only 16 years old when they fell in love, Jim fakes his age so he can join the British Army.
A year later, Jim is on leave when he and Betty get married and Jim has to leave immediately after to go to the front lines. Several months later, we learn Betty is pregnant. Jim comes home on leave to be with Betty for the birth of their son but she soon worries something is wrong because he’s home for so long. She mentions her concern to the village constable who checks and learns that Jim deserted the front lines to be with Betty. He’s immediately arrested and returned to the British Army in France.
The schoolmaster writes everyone he can to try and save Jim to no avail. The story is just so tragic and breaks your heart, especially knowing they were so young and that he volunteered two years too young to serve his country. Galsworthy writes well with just enough detail to highlight what happened with Betty and Jim but not so much detail that the reader gets bogged down wishing the story would reach its conclusion. Towards the end, I was wondering whether Jim would be killed in action or shot by the Army for desertion and hoping neither would happen. Two great stories two weeks in a row makes me wonder if the third time/week will be the charm?