A Celebration of Women Writers

A Pair of Grey Socks: Facts and Fancies.
By .
Verses by Margaret Duley, 1894-1968.
St. John's, Newfoundland: 1916.




Verses by Margaret Duley.

[advertising on inside cover omitted]

A Pair of Grey Socks.

A BEAUTIFUL DAY in late September was drawing towards its close. Already the girls were beginning to gather on the white dusty roads, plentifully besprinkled with loose stones from the nearby beach, that wound its zig-zag course round the edge of the shore. This, in itself, heralded the approach of evening, for it was not the custom in Sweet Apple Cove for any one, above the age of childhood, to walk the streets otherwise than for business, until the work of the day was over. Then, and then only, the younger set dressed themselves smartly and foregathered as youthful nature wills. It had been what the inhabitants of Sweet Apple Cove called "A beautiful drying day," and the salt scent of the fish, as they gathered it in piles for the night, was sweet to their nostrils. The bow of a late returning skiff grated against the wharf, and a tall, slim youth sprang ashore and fastened the boat to the gump head. A voice called, "Here, catch this!" and, turning, the lad deftly caught a string of small fish thrown him by one of the men, whose likeness to the boy proclaimed the relationship of father and son. Two or three women on a nearby flake straightened their backs as the last fish was placed on the pile, and looked at the boy as he slowly walked up from the shore. He was well worth looking at, tall and slim, with the lean strength that told of work outdoors, and of perfect physical condition. As he passed the women he looked up, and his blue eyes and wide, firm mouth smiled at one of them.

"Fine day, Aunt Jane," he called. "Yes, grand, Jack. Any luck to-day?" "Yes, full. Is the mail in, Aunt Jane." "No, boy; I think she's coming now, though." As the boy passed on, a tall comely woman on the other side of the stage half whispered, "Do you reckon he'll go, Jane?" "I 'lows he will, and my George, too. You heard what the minister said the other night, they wants all the boys, and his own son Jim is going. Oh, Betsy, I'm afraid" – the woman's hands clasped themselves convulsively.

"Oh, don't fret, Jane, he won't be long away; the war will soon be over and the boys will see the world a bit," was the comforting reply of the younger woman, whose own eldest child was only six; but both women as they stepped down from the flake and walked towards their homes spoke no other word. The boy they had spoken to had reached the road, and they saw him stop and look across the harbour towards the entrance to the cove. From over the hill was seen a long line of black smoke rolling lazily skywards in the still evening air. The boat was coming, bringing the weekly mail to Sweet Apple Cove. The boy's eyes brightened and he caught his breath. This was the night for the news of the war; he would read of new victories, for of course there could be no reverses for the brave English. Didn't his grandfather who had lived in England till he was a young man say so? And didn't the old man often talk of the beauties of the country and the courage of the men? – and he – he was going to help them fight, if only his father would say "Yes". His eyes glowed and his head went up. Oh, he was glad to be a man. Deep in his heart he feared it would be all over before he could get into it, and he wondered if it were wrong to hope it would not. The schoolmaster said it would be over in a few months, but the Minister, Mr. Hammond, whose son Jim was Jack's greatest friend, and would also go with him, shook his head and looked grave when they discussed the duration of the war.

"Here, slow-coach, are you going to fry these fish on the rocks?" Jack turned, his sister was walking towards him. She had dressed for the evening after the fashion of Sweet Apple Cove. If the blue muslin frock that she wore was very old-fashioned, it was laundered as only skilful hands can, and the ribbon on her hair matched her eyes. In her hands she held what would be a man's thick sock, and the walking in no way impeded the rapidity of her moving fingers. "Mary," said the boy as they walked towards their home, "I'll want some of those socks." "Yes" – the quick understanding told of long confabs together. "We'll know to-night, Mary." "May be." The answer was quiet, but the girl's lips quivered.

When the evening meal had been cleared away in the Within househould. Jack entered with a bundle of papers in his arms. His mother's face shadowed, for she knew what was in her boy's heart; but the old man, who was still tall and straight, reached quickly forward. His own loved country was in trouble, and although he was fifty years out of it, it was still his home and he was eager to hear the news. A reverse was chronicled, he could hardly believe his eyes, but it was there.

While they were reading, two other boys entered the kitchen, and joined in the conversation. One was the Minister's son, Jim Hammond. Finally he made the announcement, "Father says I can go." There was perfect stillness in the room for a minute; then Jack looked at his father quickly and his eyes asked questions. The man rose from his chair and turned away his face, but he answered, "Yes, lad, we must do our part," and left the room. He could not wait to see his wife drop her head in her arms on the table, nor hear her sobs. But the old man stood upright, and laying his hand on the lad's head said, earnestly, "God bless you, my son; may you do your duty and fear God." The boy turned and touched his mother's shoulder. All a son's love was in his voice when he said, "Mother, I'll come back," then he quickly followed his two companions into the street.

Later in the evening Mary Within came in from the street. "Mother," she cried, in excited tones, "the new wool is come from St. John's; Mrs. Hammond says we can begin the socks for the soldiers to-morrow." "We must knit for Jack first." The mother's face was still pale, but her voice was quiet and steady. "But, mother, everything is given to them by the Government – they get socks and everything." "How many pairs?" the voice had a touch of scorn in it. "Two, I think." "Two!" there was no doubt whatever about the scorn now. "Two! and what kind are they, I'd like to know? Machine knit things – no good at all. No, if I give my boy to his country, please God I'll ask no Government to keep him in clothes." And that night a new skein of black and white wool was balled and Jack's first soldier sock was put on the needles.

The next day at the W. P. A. meeting held in Mrs. Hammond's house the new wool was given out; it was soft and thick, and to the knowing held glorious possibilities. In Jack's mother's mind entered the strong desire to knit some of that wool for her own boy. He was leaving home in two weeks and there was no time to get it from far-off St. John's; but she was determined that by the time he left Newfoundland for England, and with the thought her hand went swiftly to her eyes, he should have them. So she herself knitted the black and white wool for Jack while Mary knitted the soft grey wool with the white stripe for the unknown soldier who was out for his country's need. But by the time Jack was ready to leave St. John's to cross the Atlantic six extra pairs of warm grey socks was added to his store, and in his kit bag were stored twelve pairs, good and warm.

He was gone, the house seemed very empty, but letters came that told them he had reached Scotland, of the wonders seen round the old historic city of Edinburgh, and of the beauties of the early spring. During each reading of the letters Jack's younger brother's eyes glowed, and he wished – oh! how he wished he was a few years older and could follow, while Mary fingered the silk blouse length he had sent and wished she could see the glorious shops. The old grandfather saw again through his grandson's eyes the daffodils and primroses in the hedges, and, bowing his white head, prayed that his country might be saved.

Jack's father read the letter a second time, then straightened his back to bear the extra work, and said nothing. But the mother carried them over her heart and prayed for her boy night and day. In those first letters one thing alone held her thought, "Those grey socks, mother, that you sent me are grand for the long marches; they are like pads for my feet." As her needles clicked through the winter evenings they seemed to reiterate "Pads for his feet! – pads for his feet!" and because of the work her heart was comforted. Her boy had grown to be a man and had shown himself worthy. Her tears fell but she was glad. Mary still knitted for the unknown soldiers. One day in the early spring she washed and put to dry her twenty-fifth pair. As she took them from the line and pulled them into shape, a girl friend entered. From a bag she drew a similar sock and began to knit. "Mary, how many is that?" she, asked. "Twenty-five pairs." "You beat us all." She paused a second and then continued, "Mary did you ever put your name in any of them?" "Oh, No!" "Kate does," her friend went on. "She says she always does, and Mrs. Hammond told us to-day that lots of women in England write little notes to the soldiers, just to cheer them up, you know. She says sometimes the soldiers write back. Put in a note, Mary, just for fun, I'm going to." "Oh, I wouldn't like to." Mary's tone showed dismay but her eyes shone mischievously. "Well, I'm going to," and the girl rose to go. As she passed the table a small photo of Mary's attracted her attention and she paused to pick it up. It was good of the girl and showed her sweet smile and fluffy hair to perfection. As she laid it down again she laughed and said, "You'd better put in this, Mary; he'd like it better than a letter, and perhaps it would keep a bullet off."

That night as Mary prepared for bed, the parcel of socks pressed and ready to tie up lay on her bedroom table. Across her mind came her friend's words, "Put in your photograph, Mary; he'll like it better than a letter, and perhaps it will keep a bullet off." She walked towards her bureau and pulled out a drawer. Her face flushed, and impatiently she pushed the drawer back to its place and turned away. "Nonsense," she said to herself, "I'm cracked," and kneeled to say her prayers. But the words rang in her head, and when she rose once more she pulled out the drawer and from the bottom took another copy of the photograph. "I had a mind I would," she whispered. "Nobody would ever know." Then she pulled a pen and ink well towards her and wrote on the back:–

"I've knitted these socks for you, just you,
And I've prayed that God might keep you true,
and make you brave right through and through,

In danger's hour."

MARY of Sweet Apple Cove.

As she wrote the name of the village she laughed, "He'll never know where that is, anyhow," and pushed the picture well down in one of the socks. Then she pulled it out again, the sock she had inadvertently chosen had a white stripe. She didn't like small men. Then she pushed it into one bearing the red stripe, and, folding the parcel carefully, jumped into bed. All that night she dreamed of grey socks, with red stripes, worn by men surrounded by smoke. She could only see their forms, but in one sock she could see a flat form, as if there was a card inside, and she knew this man was wearing her photograph inside his sock, and something told her he had never found it. When she awoke in the morning she laughed at her dream and chided herself vigorously for being so foolish. "I'll take that thing out the very minute after breakfast," she resolved; "I must have been crazy." But her mother sent her on an errand that morning and when she came back the parcel in her bedroom was gone. "Mother," she inquired, "what did you do with the soldiers' socks in my room?" "I took them up to Mrs. Hammond's, she wants to send the box to St. John's to-morrow; she was packing it when I got there and put yours right in. She said she needn't open your socks, they were always right."

* * * * * * * * * *

A bunch of men in khaki uniform lolled round on a hill above Suvla Bay. Most of them were smoking, but it was noticed that they smoked their cigarettes to the very last nib, and that one match was made to do duty for two or three boys, for smokes were getting short. One of the boys had off his boots and was ruefully surveying the holes in his last pair of socks. He twisted and turned another pair in his hand but could think of no way to mend them at all. "Darn it all," he ejaculated, "I wish I had some of that footgear that's down on the beach." "What's the matter, Ned?" a comrade asked. "Socks gone? Well, boy, we're all alike there; but I got a needle from the Quartermaster yesterday and a few threads of wool. I'll lend it to you and you can draw those holes together; but go easy, don't waste any string. It's all I've got and heaven knows when the new supply will get here. I'd give a good bit for a pair of mother's good hand-knit socks now." "Socks is it yere talkin' about?" The new voice was Irish. The two Regiments, Newfoundlanders and Irish, were side by side. A tall man with face sunburnt almost to blackness strolled up. His uniform, like everybody else's, was thickly coated with dirt, but his eyes were bright with content. "Sure they are bad indade. I don't see but what you'll be havin' to sew the legs up and cut off the toes and turn them upside down. Sure now that would be a grand plan. 'Tis quare I never thought of it before." A tall black haired man strolled up here and joined the group. He surveyed the luckless boy who was diligently striving to draw the holes together in the grey socks. The badge on his arm showed him to be the Quartermaster. "I haven't got a leg left, Ned," he said, "not to talk of a whole pair, – and to think of all that stuff left behind is enough to make a saint swear." "Sure now I'll tell ye what I'll do," the Irishman spoke again. "Ye'll have yere stuff soon and then 'twill be a dress parade ye'll be havin' and getting a fit-out for Buckingham Palace. I've got a bran new pair of socks up in my bag and if ye'll say ye'll give me a pair of yours when they come, sure you can have that same pair." Another sunburned man joined the group. "Bob," he remonstrated, "you gave a pair to me yesterday, you'll want them yourself." "Sure now hould your tongue, Jack Within, who would I give them to if not to me chum – and it's not givin' them I am at all; sure 'tis a bargain I'm making. 'Tis green with envy I am at your grey socks. 'Tis tryin' to get a pair of them I am, and not likely to only this way." "Well," said the Quartermaster, "I'll remember when the stuff comes you'll get a pair in return." Irish Bob and Jack Within walked away to get the desired socks. Those two had been friends ever since the landing of the Newfoundland Regiment. Turkish snipers had been busy, and as Jack Within stepped from the small boat which had conveyed the men from the troopship, a bullet had sped across his head, leaving a thin red line on his cheek. From the shock he fell into the water, and knew nothing more till he heard a voice say, "Sure, do you think it's drowned men were wantin' here? That's right, now," the voice tenderly coaxed; "stand up, now, 'tis all right you are. Aye, I bet yere Irish for yere pluck," and Jack straightened up and laughed weakly. "'Tis only a scratch you got," went on the voice. "Bedad it takes more than a Turkish bullet to kill an Englishman. 'Tis as broad as a puncheon you'd need to be to be a target, they're such bad hands at it. Sit still, now, and I'll stop the blood, and 'twill be all right in the mornin'." The scratch proved to be nothing but a scratch; but from that time Newfoundland Jack and Irish Bob were firm friends. They dug trenches within call of each other, their dug outs were side by side, they were together in the trenches, facing the vicious Turks, and often ducked heads together to escape the flying shells – and laughed.

It was some weeks later when word went round that the stuff had come for the Newfoundland boys. "Not any too soon, Bob, for the socks you're to get. Yours are bad enough now." "Well, sure, 'tis well off I'll be to-morrow with a new pair of them beauties." The next day every boy had fresh clothing and good new socks. True to his promise the Quartermaster made good Bob's loss, and also replaced the pair given to Jack. Late that night, as he sat in his dugout. Bob drew from his kit bag two pairs of grey socks. In one of them there was a flat card. "A billy doo," said Bob with a chuckle, and drew out a small photograph. A girl's sweet eyes smiled right into his, and her laughing lips seemed to say, "How do you do?" Bob looked at the picture again and again. The face was familiar, but nowhere could he place her. She was surely a stranger but certainly a friend, for it was only a friend that could look at him and say, "How do you do" in so sweet a manner. Bob had a foolish wish to kiss the half-parted lips. Certainly the girl's picture had bewitched him. He raised the card half to his lips, and then suddenly lowered it – the eyes had changed suddenly and were looking reproachful, and the lips had ceased saying "How do you do?" "Bob, your sure daft," he said to himself, and then turned the card over.

"I've knitted these socks for you, just you,
And I've prayed that God might keep you true,
and make you brave right through and through,

In danger's hour."

MARY of Sweet Apple Cove.

The name had a familiar sound, but he knew no place of that name. He turned to the face again. Yes, he fancied she would be just the kind of girl who would want a chap to be a man. She was once more smiling and her lips were again saying "How do you do?" Suddenly the voice of his chum sounded, "Well, old man, how are the socks?" Then quickly, "What's that you've got?" But Bob had thrust the card into his pocket; not even to his chum would he show the eyes that smiled and the lips that said "How do you do?"

That night Bob, with his head on a lump of earth, dreamed that a girl came to him and smiled into his eyes and said:

"I've knitted these socks for you, just you,
And I've prayed that God might keep you true,
and make you brave right through and through,

In danger's hour."

And on many a night Bob dreamed that the girl came to him and smiled, and he carried the card inside his tunic, but he told no one, not even his chum.

* * * * * * * * * *

In Sweet Apple Cove the women still knitted. In the Within household Mary sent many a pair to the unknown soldier, but never again did she write anything to put in them, and many a time her face flushed when she remembered the card she sent. It comforted her wholly to think no one would ever know, for the socks were sent here, there and everywhere, and she knew nobody that was fighting only the boys from Newfoundland. Her mother, whose hair had added streaks of grey, and whose face was often sad, still knitted for her absent boy. He was fighting now and there was a casualty list nearly every day. Thank God she would not have to wait for the papers to learn of news from him. Mrs. Hammond had told her that the Minister would know first and tell the parents should anything happen. A cold day in the fall the two women sat in the cozy kitchen, each with a grey sock in their hands. Suddenly Mary spoke. "Mother, Mr. Hammond is coming down the street." The mother's face whitened. "Is he coming in here?" she gasped. A knock sounded and Mary answered the door; the Minister entered. "I thought I'd drop in, Mary, and tell your mother the news." Mr. Hammond was smiling, but the mother in the room only heard the words. "News" meant to her something wrong with her boy. Unconsciously she rose to her feet and backed against the table. As the Minister entered the grey sock fell unheeded to her feet, and she gripped the table edge with tense fingers. The white stricken face turned with dumb anguish towards the visitor. Her lips moved but only one word escaped, "Jack!" She wondered why he was smiling; it was only of course to soften the blow. A moment of incomprehension, then Mr. Hammond understood. "Mrs. Within, Jack is all right and a hero." In his anxiety to relieve her distress he almost shouted, "He is all right and well," but he spoke to deaf ears, the mother had fainted.

An hour afterward the Minister walked slowly down the road. His head was bent, the past hour had shaken the soul of the sensitive man, for the first time he had faced his new responsibility. Now that the five boys belonging to Sweet Apple Cove were in the danger zone, was his coming to the homes of those boys to be a repetition of the scene this afternoon? Was a visit from him to herald to them only the breaking of bad news? He remembered how glad he had looked forward to telling of Jack's achievements and promotion, but the sudden fear had clouded the joy. How would he do it if trouble did come? His own boy was among the soldiers; he would have to tell his own boy's mother; would have it told to himself without any gentle breaking of sad news. His lips moved in prayer for added strength; God, it was hard to be minister and man.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Gee, but it's dark; where are you. Bob?" "Here, boy," and the two hands outstretched met each other and telephoned companionship, but no eyes could penetrate the inky blackness of the awful darkness on the Gallipoli Peninsula. "I believe this is going to be a big rain." and a big rain it was. One solid shoot of falling water fell on the thousands of men, British and Turks together. In half an hour the trenches were half full. "Jack, boy, we must jump out of this. 'Tis as well to be shot as drowned." Both Irishman and Newfoundlander jumped and were conscious of all around doing the same; but so dark was it that no forms were visible. Jack and Bob held together, each grasping his rifle in the other hand. They moved slowly away, thinking to get a dugout, but before they reached their own they knew that dugouts as well as trenches were full of water. Surely it would stop raining soon, but it did not. All through that awful night they moved slowly to and fro, afraid to move far during the inky darkness, and waiting for the flashes of lightning, the like of which they had never seen, to reveal their whereabouts and show them where to walk. When morning dawned it was a sodden crowd of boys that gathered round the cook house and drank hot tea. Tales of drowned Turks came to them from other regiments, but, thank God, not one of their own was missing; and in spite of their condition they tried to be cheerful. All that day and the next it rained and rained. It seemed a second deluge. Clothing, kit, food, everything was washed away by the awful flood, and it seemed as if nothing remained to complete their misery. But they were to be tried still further. The still pouring rain turned to sleet, then ceased, and an icy wind sprang up, and, growing colder and colder, turned their sodden clothing to a casing of frost. A lieutenant, well knowing the danger that threatened the men, came and forced them to march to and fro and dig new dugouts in the frozen earth. No food, no drink, paralyzed with cold, the men moved to and fro mechanically. Jack kept close to Bob, both feeling ready to give in and lie down; but the Newfoundlander well knew that that meant death, and when Bob pleaded to sleep. Jack realized he must fight for his friend. "Bob, you mustn't." Jack shook him and putting his arms around him dragged him to his feet and forced him to walk up and down. His own clothes cracked as he moved, but curiously his own feet did not feel cold. "I can't. Jack; let me alone," Bob pleaded, and fell to his knees. Terrified for his friend. Jack pulled him up with almost superhuman strength. "Get up. Bob; come on, you must," but there was no response, only a moan, "Mary, Mary, Sweet Apple Cove." Jack started, his friend's mind wandered; he bent close down to his face and shouted, "Bob, Bob, stand up; I want you," and he shook him lustily. Bob made an effort, and Jack, taking advantage of it, once more brought him to his feet. He knew if he let him fall once more he would never get him up, and the prospect of life without his friend menaced him. No, he would not let him die, he would not. Putting his arms around him he forced him to walk a short distance, then back again. He did not know that in doing this for his friend he was saving himself. For an hour he dragged Bob to and fro, now and then getting help from another comrade. Bob moaned pitifully and often muttered thickly, "She will never know now, she will never know now; and I am not a man, not a man," and his voice trailed off into silence; but his limbs moved and Jack knew he still lived. As the cold gray dawn broke the black haired Quartermaster came up the slope; his clothes were frozen also but he bore in his hand a pail of steaming coffee. "Here, boys, drink quickly," and the gallant boys who had borne it all heroically crowded round him. Jack took a cupful of the hot liquid and forced it between the clenched teeth of his friend. To his joy he swallowed it and then drank it all. A sob of relief rose in Jack's throat. They were saved.

A month later they were side by side in a London Hospital. They had at first been put in separate wards, but Jack had begged to be put beside his friend. For some time Bob was unable to talk, but gradually his mind cleared and both recovered their spirits sufficiently to recall the terrors of that awful night. "I'll never forget it, Jack, and only for you I would have been dead." "Nonsense, boy. Irishmen don't die so easy. But say, Bob, don't be vexed now and tell me to mind my own business. Who is that Mary you have so often talked about? Don't tell me, old 'chap, if you don't want to." Bob flushed and laughed. "You'll think me an awful fool. Jack; I never saw her but I love her." He put his hand under his pillow and drawing out a photograph handed it to Jack. For fully five minutes Jack gazed at the laughing eyes of his sister Mary. A curious jealousy at the prolonged gaze arose in the other man's heart, and for the first time he was angry with his friend. "Give it to me, I know you'll say I'm a fool," he stormed. "But, man alive, where did you get it? It's my sister Mary." Both men gazed at each other, then Bob told how the picture had come into his possession. As he finished the tale he said, "And I love her. Jack; I love her. And now that I'll be of no use to my country ever again, I'm going back with you to try and win her. You won't hinder me, will you?" The hands of the two men met, "Bob, boy, I wish you luck."

* * * * * * * * * *

Seven years later two tiny tots played in the attic of the Within household. The elder, a lusty boy, dragged from a dusty corner an old kit bag and began to pull out the contents. "Fader's soldiers' clothes; put 'em on, Jackie," the small blue-eyed maiden counselled. Jackie tried but failed, then gathered all in his arms and descended the stairs. "Mudder, put daddy's clothes on me," he demanded as he entered the kitchen. "Bless the child, what next! Where did you get those clothes?" As the boy crossed the floor he dropped from the bundle a pair of much worn grey socks. His father stooped and picked them up. "Here, young man, you ought to take more care of things; you've dropped the most valuable article of the lot." "No, them's old, old." The child shook his head in rejection. "But they're the most valuable in the lot for all that," announced his father. His mother's flushed countenance caught his eye and he paused in his manipulations of the old khaki coat and looked wonderfully. "Bob, put them in the stove," she remonstrated; "I'm ashamed." "You needn't be, sweetheart," and still holding the old grey socks Bob tenderly stooped and kissed her.

A Pair of Grey Socks.

TWO well dressed women stood by the counter of one of our Water Street stores on a fine morning of a summer day in 1914. While they waited they wandered about inspecting here and there articles enticingly displayed for sale. At last they paused, wishing they could be served. Near by lay a huge pile of thick socks flung carelessly down. They were of black and white wool, with white toes and white tops to the legs. With a delicately gloved hand one of the women turned the socks over. "Who on earth wears these?" she asked; not really seeking information and speaking with indifference. "Oh!" answered her companion, "those socks are knitted in the outports, they say they are beautifully soft and warm. They use them hunting, you know, and fishing. George always buys a pair when he goes shooting; but they are awful things, aren't they?" and then both turned away to select some pale shades of silk. The black and white socks and the well dressed shoppers were strangers to each other; there was no bond of affection between them, but there came a day when these same black and white socks held a place of intense importance in the lives of both women, for the trumpet of war had sounded, the Empire was threatened, and for the first time in the mother's life she learned that the Empire claimed an ownership of her sons with herself, for when their country called they had instantly responded.

And when with gleaming eyes and laughing voice they bore home one day a huge bag which held their kit, they drew from it two pairs of black and white socks. Oh, it was no indifferent women that fingered those socks, and immediately their many deficiencies were criticized: They would not do for those precious boys, they were not soft enough; they would not wear long enough, there was not enough of them. Then at Government House a grey wool was discovered – it was soft, thick, would wear, and there was plenty of it. The grey wool, carded, woven and worsted by up-to-date machinery in huge mills, flouted its lowly cousin, spun and woven in humble homes, and leaped into popularity. During those first days of the W. P. A. at Government House some curious sights were seen. There were many who, like the shoppers on that July morning, had never knitted, but began to learn with almost feverish eagerness. Solicitude for the men behind the guns, far off in France fighting for them, kept their fingers almost glued to the knitting needles, and impelled them to persevere in the almost painful tasks. Slow and arduous was the work; one wondered sometimes how the soldiers would fare if they had to wait for those socks to be finished, and it was only the intense earnestness of the workers that kept one from smiling. It was almost funny to see a knitter, who loved to talk as well as work, try for the first time to knit and talk. Many were the times that the sock was unconsciously laid down and the tongue worked until suddenly the grey sock was caught up and the work renewed with conscience-stricken energy; and many were the stitches dropped. Others there were who could knit the leg only, and it was no unusual thing in a private house to see two sock legs on the needles waiting till some friend dropped in to round the heel or narrow off the toe. Others who used to knit years ago regarded the knitting of the grey sock as the revival of a lost art, took up the work and learned anew. I use the words "learned anew" advisedly, for there were many things that were excellences in the old style knitting that were condemned for our soldiers' socks. Our grandmothers recommended that the knitting be firm and close so that it would wear better; that three fingers was a good measurement for the leg, and half a finger for the heel. These methods would not do for our soldiers' socks, they must be knitted by rule, and there was a reason for every one of the directions. The needles must be No. 12 and the knitting loose, thereby making the socks soft for the marching feet. Twelve inches was all the length allowed from top of leg to heel, for the sock must not reach to the bend of the leg or it might hurt the wearer. Two inches only for a heel, for there must be no chance of a fold, which would be disastrous to comfort; while three full inches must be allowed for the toe, for it must not be narrowed too quickly, making the sock too short, nor too slowly, making it too long. The workers wondered at the minute directions, but the instructions had come from the War Office, and were the result of long experience. The men to wear these socks were to do great work and must in no way be hampered by incapability or carelessness at home.

Not only at Government House were busy fingers at work; the grey socks were inevitable wherever one went, they were found on table or work basket in every house, both in parlour and kitchen. They were found at bridge tables; dummy knitted while her partner played the hand. They accompanied the worker to committee meetings and social calls. Knitting parties became the fashion, and they have even been seen in the theatre, and now some knit them even on Sundays. A pair of grey socks is a never-failing source of conversation. The different qualities of the wool, the various shapes of the heels, the many ways of narrowing the toes, the numbers of pairs accomplished, and above everything, the excellencies and discrepancies of our neighbour's knitting. They are a bond of unity between rich and poor, high and low, between all mothers who have sons at the war, between all women who knit. The grey sock has become the tie that binds.

A woman is knitting most all the day
A sock that shapes from a ball of grey,
Her fingers fly, and the needles click.
Fast grows the sock so soft and thick.
"Why do you knit at such a pace,
Dear woman, with patient face?
Is it for tireless little feet,
Or covering warm for the huntsman fleet?
"Or maybe for fisherman strong and bold,
Who fights the sea when the winds blow cold.
Or perhaps for the strong brave pioneer,
Who faces new worlds with dauntless air?"
"No, no, my child, 'tis for none of those
That I patiently knit in endless rows;
'Tis for nearer and dearer" – then a broken pause,
"For those who are fighting their country's cause.

"For those who sailed on the ocean wide,
To do their bit 'gainst a lawless tribe.
Thus, I do for my country a woman's part,
Who give the pride of their mother's heart."
"But what means the white row I see right here,
Is it a sign to make the pair?"
"No, that marks the socks for the slender youth,
Who does his part for the cause of truth.
"The red is the sign for the hardy man.
At the height of his strength in life's short span;
But young and old alike do the same.
For life or death, for honour or fame.
"Blue in the sock is the medium size,
The color dear to the sailors' wives,
So in the grey socks, red, white and blue
Form our colours so bright and true.
"And that is why all the livelong day,
I sit and knit in the same old way;
And into each sock I weave a prayer
That God keep our boys in His love and care." M. D.

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