The young man poses for the camera. The photographer asks him to smile, but he cannot. This snap is for his girl far away and he will not appear happy about that. Besides which, he is an army officer and setting off for the front soon, and although he is a little afraid of what may lie ahead, he is relaxed, confident and responsible. Above all, she must see in him the man with backbone.
The importance of substance cannot be overstated. He is a proud man. Not only does he believe in himself and the cause, but he believes others should too (more than they do). He knows that his serious aspect confuses some – although he enjoys a pint as much as anyone. He specifically rejects any charge of arrogance on the grounds that he is not less than he appears – if anything, he would say (privately to her), he is more. He is a leader of men and of the kind that does it by example and from the front. That is why he wears the uniform and carries the rank and its responsibilities. Nor does he do so lightly, but it is not a burden to him. His strength comes from within and is emphatically not a caricature, he feels.
But he knows that she needs the assurance the portrait will bring when it stands framed on her dressing-table by the cut-glass powder bowl and her silver hairbrush. Every morning she will see his pride over the threshold of her pouted lipstick as she turns to him while she brushes her long golden hair. At least, this is what he imagines.
Does she really understand him? Does she know, does she really know that he is the man in the picture, that it is only a photograph and not the real thing? That beneath the bleak uniform the fire of his passion burns? Should he not smile directly at her through the lens of the camera so that every day his unaverted gaze would pierce her soul? But somehow the photographer is too much part of this private moment and he cannot reveal his love for her. She would understand that.