Somewhere by Twickenham the moon had floated down; somewhere up from Kentish Town the sun came soaring; wheels rolled again, and the seven million sleepers in their million houses woke from morning sleep to that same thought....
Edward Pierson, dreaming over an egg at breakfast, opened a letter in a handwriting which he did not recognise.
“V. A. D. Hospital,
“Mulberry Road, St. John’s Wood N. W.
“Dear cousin Edward,
“Do you remember me, or have I gone too far into the shades of night? I was Leila Pierson once upon a time, and I often think of you and wonder what you are like now, and what your girls are like. I have been here nearly a year, working for our wounded, and for a year before that was nursing in South Africa. My husband died five years ago out there. Though we haven’t met for I dare not think how long, I should awfully like to see you again. Would you care to come some day and look over my hospital? I have two wards under me; our men are rather dears.
“Your forgotten but still affectionate cousin
“P. S. I came across a little letter you once wrote me; it brought back old days.”
No! He had not forgotten. There was a reminder in the house. And he looked up at Noel sitting opposite. How like the eyes were! And he thought: ’I wonder what Leila has become. One mustn’t be uncharitable. That man is dead; she has been nursing two years. She must be greatly changed; I should certainly like to see her. I will go!’ Again he looked at Noel. Only yesterday she had renewed her request to be allowed to begin her training as a nurse.
“I’m going to see a hospital to-day, Nollie,” he said; “if you like, I’ll make enquiries. I’m afraid it’ll mean you have to begin by washing up.”
“I know; anything, so long as I do begin.”
“Very well; I’ll see about it.” And he went back to his egg.
Noel’s voice roused him. “Do you feel the war much, Daddy? Does it hurt you here?” She had put her hand on her heart. “Perhaps it doesn’t, because you live half in the next world, don’t you?”
The words: “God forbid,” sprang to Pierson’s lips; he did not speak them, but put his egg-spoon down, hurt and bewildered. What did the child mean? Not feel the war! He smiled.
“I hope I’m able to help people sometimes, Nollie,” and was conscious that he had answered his own thoughts, not her words. He finished his breakfast quickly, and very soon went out. He crossed the Square, and passed East, down two crowded streets to his church. In the traffic of those streets, all slipshod and confused, his black-clothed figure and grave face, with its Vandyk beard, had a curious remote appearance, like a moving remnant of a past civilisation. He went in by the side