The War on All Fronts: England's Effort eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 187 pages of information about The War on All Fronts.
gathered round it, were singing the songs of the day, of which the choruses were sometimes taken up in the room.  The men—­drafts going up to different regiments on the line—­appeared to me to come from many parts.  The broad Yorkshire and Cumbrian speech, Scotch, the cockney of the Home Counties, the Northumberland burr, the tongues of Devon and Somerset—­one seemed to hear them all in turn.  The demands at the counter had slackened a little, and I was presently listening to some of the talk of the indefatigable helpers who work this thing night and day.  One of them drew a picture of the Canadians, the indomitable fighters of Ypres and Loos, of their breathless energy, and impatience of anything but the quickest pace of life, their appetites!—­half a dozen hard-boiled eggs, at 3d each, swallowed down in a moment of time; then of the French-Canadians, their Old World French, their old-world Catholicism, simple and passionate.  One of these last asked if there was any chance of his being sent to Egypt.  “Why are you so anxious to go to Egypt?” “Because it was there the Holy Family rested,” said the lad shyly.  The lady to whom he spoke described to him the tree and the Holy Well in St. Georgius, and he listened entranced.

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.

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The War on All Fronts: England's Effort from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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