an authoritative-looking person who vetoed the whole proceeding.
What those moments were to me I shall never be able to describe--that
pen so near the paper! A naked sword three times across my throat would
not have been greater suspense. Marie Antoinette could not have suffered
Well, the game was up anyway, and as there was no American Consul nearer
than London, I decided to try the amiability of the French Consul which
I found impeccable.
At the French Embassy again was that rush and struggle for papers, and
there I witnessed a pathetic scene. A Belgian man, of middle age, and
well dressed, came to the consul literally asking alms. "Monsieur," he
said, "to ask you for help is the hardest thing that I shall ever do in
my life, but I have lost everything and I must go to my wife, who is ill
in France, and I have but five francs. Could your Embassy aid me?"
At five P. M. the boat left Folkestone, containing a
conglomerate parcel of humanity--sailors and soldiers of different
nations and in divers uniforms, singing alternately the "_Marseillaise_"
and "God Save the King"; Red Cross assistants eager to reach the field
of their work; white-haired mothers in search of their wounded sons,
trembling for the message that land would have in store for them and
despairing exiles awaiting at least the welcome sound of their beloved
tongue. Night fell like a soft mantle and we forged on, into the
darkness, chancing what might befall. What impressed me among the people
aboard was the apparent lack of anxiety for personal safety. Past
sufferings and the great future issue were the predominant thoughts.
The dock at Calais was crowded with anxious friends and Belgian
soldiers. Madame de M. found several acquaintances among the
latter--friends of her husband. After the usual Custom House proceedings
we started on a quest for rooms for the night. A subdued excitement
trembled over the city; the whole population was in the streets; throngs
were seething up and down; hundreds of soldiers were hurrying to and fro
and intense groups of men discussed probabilities, while anxious women
pressed in on the crowd to catch a hopeful word. We heard that the
German army was about to plunge through to Dunkirque and would shell
Calais from there. The civil population was therefore expecting every
moment the order to evacuate the city.
As we crossed the railroad near the pier, we saw in the half light a
small company of Belgian soldiers limping along, each with a forlorn
bundle on his back. Their aspect was _completement demoralize_, and the
young lieutenant with us, moved by his quick sympathy, shouted, "Oh,
say, _camarades_, have you heard of the new victories on the Yser and
the brilliant defense of the Belgians?" The poor, despondent things,
fired at once by the spirit of his enthusiasm, straightened themselves
up and cried, "Oh! Ah! Is it true? _Merci, mon lieutenant, vivent lesDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>