The empty coaches stood on a siding, and the stream of khaki-clad men wound across the common from the Fair buildings, which were then used as a military camp. The men were heavily loaded with all their equipment, but cheerful as ever. The long-looked-for order to go forward had come at last!
Men in uniform look much the same, but the women who came with them and stood by them were from every station in life. There were two Ukrainian women, with colored shawls on their heads, who said good-bye to two of the best-looking boys in the regiment, their sons. It is no new thing for the Ukrainian people to fight for liberty! There were heavily veiled women, who alighted from their motors and silently watched the coaches filling with soldiers. Every word had been said, every farewell spoken; they were not the sort who say tempestuous good-byes, but their silence was like the silence of the open grave. There were many sad-faced women, wheeling go-carts, with children holding to their skirts crying loudly for “Daddy.” There were tired, untidy women, overrun by circumstances, with that look about them which the Scotch call “through-other.” There were many brave little boys and girls standing by their mothers, trying hard not to cry; there were many babies held up to the car-window to kiss a big brother or a father; there were the groups of chattering young people, with their boxes of candy and incessant fun; there were brides of a day, with their white-fox furs and new suits, and the great new sorrow in their eyes.
One fine-looking young giant made his way toward the train without speaking to any one, passing where a woman held her husband’s hands, crying hysterically—we were trying to persuade her to let him go, for the conductor had given the first warning.
“I have no one to cry over me, thank God!” he said, “and I think I am the best off.” But the bitterness in his tone belied his words.
“Then maybe I could pretend that you are my boy,” said a woman’s voice behind me, which sounded familiar; “you see I have no boy—now, and nobody to write to—and I just came down to-night to see if I could find one. I want to have some one belonging to me—even if they are going away!”
The young man laid down his bag and took her hand awkwardly. “I sure would be glad to oblige you,” he said, “only I guess you could get one that was lots nicer. I am just a sort of a bo-hunk from the North Country.”
“You’ll do me,” said the old lady, whom I recognized at once as my former train companion,—“you’ll do me fine. Tell me your name and number, and I’ll be your war-mother,—here’s my card, I have it all ready,—I knew I’d get some one. Now, remember, I am your Next of Kin. Give in my name and I’ll get the cable when you get the D.S.O., and I’ll write to you every week and send you things. I just can’t keep from sending parcels.”
“Gee! This is sudden!” said the boy, laughing; “but it’s nice!”