Sometimes a rough lot fill the canteen, drawn from the poorest class, perhaps, of an English seaport. They hustle for their food, shout at the helpers, and seem to have no notion that such words as “please” and “thank you” exist. After three or four hours of battling with such an apparently mannerless crew one of the helpers saw them depart to the platform where their train was waiting for them, with very natural relief. But they were no sooner gone, when a guardsman, with the manners, the stature, and the smartness of his kind, came back to the counter, and asked to speak to the lady in charge of it. “Those chaps, Miss, what have just gone out,” he said apologetically, “have never been used to ladies, and they don’t know what to say to them. So they asked me just to come in and say for them they were very much obliged for all the ladies’ kindness, but they couldn’t say it themselves.” The tired helper was suddenly too choky to answer. The message, the choice of the messenger, as one sure to do “the right thing,” were both so touching.
But there was a sudden movement in the crowd. The train was up. We all surged out upon the platform, and I watched the embarkation—the endless train engulfing its hundreds of men. Just as I had seen the food and equipment trains going up from the first base laden with everything necessary to replace the daily waste of the army, so here was the train of human material, going up to replace the daily waste of men. After many hours of travelling, and perhaps some of rest, these young soldiers—how young most of them were!—would find themselves face to face with the sharpest realities of war. I thought of what I had seen in the Red Cross hospital that afternoon—“what man has made of man”—the wreck of youth and strength, the hideous pain, the helpless disablement.