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(1902) A. E. W. Mason escribe un libro sobre valores que a primera vista parecen pasados de moda, como son la pérdida de la honra en un ambiente militar y su restauración. Sin embargo, el libro quiere ir más profundo: el estudio de los caracteres nos revela finura de observación y conocimiento de la naturaleza humana, con sus altruismos y bajezas. Algunos de los temas tratados son  la carga de la herencia espiritual de una familia y lo que este entorno espera de una persona; el miedo a equivocarse o a fallar, que puede provocar justamente esa equivocación; la amistad y el sacrificio  por amor; la estupidez de ciertas convenciones sociales y la carga que suponen para los afectados por ellas, y un sentido de la mediatez de esta vida, que la lleva a ver como un cierto tiempo en el que sufrimos y nos regocijamos, pero que dará lugar a una eternidad llena de sentido y plenitud.


Incluyo dos citas que ilustran algunos de estos puntos:


Ethne ha recogido a Harry con el coche, cuando él viaja a Dublin a visitarla. En el trayecto conversan:


“I saw this morning that your regiment was ordered from India to Egypt. You could have gone with it, had I not come in your way. There would have been chances of distinction. I have hindered you, and I am very sorry. Of course, you could not know that there was any possibility of your regiment going, but I can understand it is very hard for you to be left behind. I blame myself.”

Feversham sat staring in front of him for a moment. Then he said, in a voice suddenly grown hoarse:—

“You need not.”

“How can I help it? I blame myself the more,” she continued, “because I do not see things quite like other women. For instance, supposing that you had gone to Egypt, and that the worst had happened, I should have felt very lonely, of course, all my days, but I should have known quite surely that when those days were over, you and I would see much of one another.”

She spoke without any impressive lowering of the voice, but in the steady, level tone of one stating the simplest imaginable fact. Feversham caught his breath like a man in pain. But the girl’s eyes were upon his face, and he sat still, staring in front of him without so much as a contraction of the forehead. But it seemed that he could not trust himself to answer. He kept his lips closed, and Ethne continued:—

“You see I can put up with the absence of the people I care about, a little better perhaps than most people. I do not feel that I have lost them at all,” and she cast about for a while as if her thought was difficult to express. “You know how things happen,” she resumed. “One goes along in a dull sort of way, and then suddenly a face springs out from the crowd of one’s acquaintances, and you know it at once and certainly for the face of a friend, or rather you recognise it, though you have never seen it before. It is almost as though you had come upon some one long looked for and now gladly recovered. Well, such friends—they are few, no doubt, but after all only the few really count—such friends one does not lose, whether they are absent, or even—dead.” Cap IV


La segunda cita describe la amistad que une a Harry y Jack, y de alguna manera anticipa los hechos de la novela, que corroborarán esos pensamientos:


The friendship between these two men was not one in which affectionate phrases had any part. There was, in truth, no need of such. Both men were securely conscious of it; they estimated it at its true, strong value; it was a helpful instrument, which would not wear out, put into their hands for a hard, lifelong use; but it was not, and never had been, spoken of between them. Both men were grateful for it, as for a rare and undeserved gift; yet both knew that it might entail an obligation of sacrifice. But the sacrifices, were they needful, would be made, and they would not be mentioned. It may be, indeed, that the very knowledge of their friendship’s strength constrained them to a particular reticence in their words to one another. Cap. 2

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