“I think the driver of the car was careless,” he said mildly, as if he were giving a gentle reproof to a student.
By contrast, he had reason to be thankful for his lot. Looked after by a brave man attendant in another room were the wounded who were too horrible to see; who must die. Then, in another, you had a picture of a smiling British regular, with a British nurse and an Englishwoman of Calais to look after him. They read to him, they talked to him, they vied with each other in rearranging his pillows or bedclothes. He was a hero of a story; but it rather puzzled him why he should be. Why were a lot of people paying so much attention to him for doing his duty?
In the cavalry, he had been separated from his regiment on the retreat from Mons. Wandering about the country, he came up with a regiment of cuirassiers and asked if he might not fight with them. A number of the cuirassiers spoke English. They took him into the ranks. The regiment went far over on the Marne, through towns with French names which he could not pronounce, this man in khaki with the French troopers. He was marked. C’est un Anglais! People cheered him and threw flowers to him in regions which had never seen one of the soldiers of the Ally before.
Yes, officers and gentlemen invited him to dine, like he was a gentleman, he said, and not a Tommy, and the French Government had given him a decoration called the Legion of Honour or something like that. This was all very fine; but the best thing was that his own colonel, when he returned, had him up before his company and made a speech to him for fighting with the French when he could not find his own regiment. He was supremely happy, this Tommy. In waiting Calais one might witness about all the emotions and contrasts of war —and many which one does not find at the front.
Never had the war seemed a more monstrous satire than on that first day in Germany as the train took me to Berlin. It was the other side of the wall of gun and rifle-fire where another set of human beings were giving life in order to take life. The Lord had fashioned them in the same pattern on both sides of the wall. Their children were born in the same way; they bled from wounds in the same way—but why go on in this vicious circle of thought?
My impressions of Germany were brief, and the clearer perhaps for being brief, and drawn on the fresh background of Paris and Calais waiting to know their fate; of England staring across the Channel, in a suspense which her stoicism would not confess, to learn the result of the battle for the Channel ports; of England and France straining with all their strength to hold, while the Germans exerted all theirs to gain, a goal; of Holland, stolid mistress of her neutrality, fearing for it and profiting by it while she took in the Belgian foundlings dropped on her steps—Holland, that little land at peace, with the storms lashing around her.