“The men who were working at the station were English Quakers. They were splendid men. I have never known more heroic work than they did, and the cure was a splendid fellow. There was nothing too menial for him to do. He was everywhere.”
* * * * *
This is the story she told me that night, in her own words. I have not revised it. Better than anything I know it tells of conditions as they actually existed during the hard fighting of the first autumn of the war, and as in the very nature of things they must exist again whenever either side undertakes an offensive.
It becomes a little wearying, sometimes, this constant cry of horrors, the ever-recurring demands on America’s pocketbook for supplies, for dressings, for money to buy the thousands of things that are needed.
Read Lady Decies’ account again, and try to place your own son on that stone floor on the station platform. Think of that wounded boy, sitting for hours in a train, and choking to death with diphtheria.
This is the thing we call war.
RUNNING THE BLOCKADE
From my journal written during an attack of influenza at the Gare Maritime in Calais:
Last night I left England on the first boat to cross the Channel after the blockade. I left London at midnight, with the usual formality of being searched by Scotland Yard detectives. The train was empty and very cold.
“At half-past two in the morning we reached Folkestone. I was quite alone, and as I stood shivering on the quay waiting to have my papers examined a cold wind from the harbour and a thin spray of rain made the situation wretched. At last I confronted the inspector, and was told that under the new regulations I should have had my Red Cross card viseed in Paris. It was given back to me with a shrug, but my passport was stamped.
“There were four men round the table. My papers and I were inspected by each of the four in turn. At last I was through. But to my disgust I found I was not to be allowed on the Calais boat. There was one going to Boulogne and carrying passengers, but Calais was closed up tight, except to troops and officers.
“I looked at the Boulogne boat. It was well lighted and cheerful. Those few people who had come down from London on the train were already settling themselves for the crossing. They were on their way to Paris and peace.
“I did not want Paris and certainly I did not want peace. I had telegraphed to Dunkirk and expected a military car to meet me at Calais. Once across, I knew I could neither telegraph nor telephone to Dunkirk, all lines of communication being closed to the public. I felt that I might be going to be ill. I would not be ill in Boulogne.
“At the end of the quay, dark and sinister, loomed the Calais boat. I had one moment of indecision. Then I picked up my suitcase and started toward it in the rain. Luckily the gangway was out. I boarded the boat with as much assurance as I could muster, and was at once accosted by the chief officer.