“Why, Geraldine,” he exclaimed, “where are you off to?”
“To Boulogne, of course,” she answered. “Don’t pretend that you are surprised. Why, you got me the appointment yourself.”
“Of course,” he agreed, “only I had no idea that you were going just yet, or that you were on this boat.”
“They told me to come out this week,” she said, as he drew a chair to her side, “and so many of the nurses and doctors were going by this boat that I thought I would come, too. I feel quite a professional already. Nearly all the women here are in nurse’s uniform and three-quarters of the men on board are doctors. Where are you going, Hugh?”
“Just to the Base and back again to-morrow,” he told here. “There’s a court martial I want to attend.”
“Still mysterious,” she laughed. “What have you to do with courts martial, Hugh?”
“Too much, just for the moment,” he answered lightly. “Would you like some coffee or anything?”
She shook her head.
“No, thank you. I had an excellent supper before we started. I looked at some of the cabins but I decided to spend the night on deck. What about you? You seem to have arrived in a hurry.”
“I missed the train in London,” he explained. “They kept me at the War Office. Then I had to come down in a Government car and we couldn’t quite catch up. Any news from Ralph?”
“I had a letter days ago,” she told him. “It was posted at Harwich but he couldn’t say where he was, and of course he couldn’t give me any news. Father came back from the Admiralty very excited yesterday, though. He says that we have sunk four or five more submarines, and that Ralph’s new equipment is an immense success. By-the-bye, is there any danger of submarines here?”
“I shouldn’t think so,” Thomson answered. “They are very busy round the Scilly Islands but we seem to have been able to keep them out of the Channel. I thought we should have been convoyed, though.”
“In any case,” she remarked, “we are a hospital ship. I expect they’d leave us alone. Major Thomson,” she went on, “I wonder, do you really believe all these stories of the horrible doings of the Germans—the way they have treated drowning people attacked by their submarines, and these hateful stories of Belgium? Sometimes it seems to me as though there was a fog of hatred which had sprung up between the two countries, and we could neither of us quite see clearly what the other was doing.”
“I think there is something in that,” Major Thomson agreed. “On the other hand I think it is part of the German principle to make war ruthlessly. I have seen things in Belgium which I shall never forget. As to the submarine business, if half the things are true that we have read, they seem to have behaved like brutes. It’s queer, too,” he went on, “for as a rule seamen are never cruel.”
They were silent for a time. For some reason or other, they both avoided mention of the one subject which was in the minds of both. It was not until after the steward had brought him some coffee and they were more than half-way across, that Thomson a little abruptly asked her a question.