Read CHAPTER V of Four Days The Story of a War Marriage, free online book, by Hetty Hemenway, on

A thick yellow fog lay over London; at five o’clock in the Victoria Station the dawn had not penetrated, and the great globes of electricity in the murky ceiling shed an uncertain light. Through the usual somber and preoccupied din of the early morning traffic, came the steady, rhythmic tread of marching feet. Lost in the smoke and fog, a band was playing “Rule Britannia.”

Marjorie and Leonard were standing in the very centre of the vast dingy shed. Heavy-eyed, they looked about them with an unseeing, bewildered gaze, that kept reverting to each other. Marjorie had both her hands about one of Leonard’s, and was holding it convulsively in the pocket of his great-coat. Many times she had pictured this last scene to herself, anticipating every detail. Even in these nightmares, she had always seen herself, with a sick heart, bearing up bravely for Leonard’s sake, making it easier for him.

A hunchback, dodging under the elbows of the crowd, stared at her, and smiled queerly and whispered to himself. Marjie shivered, then forgot him as a spasmodic gasp ran through the crowd; a sound suddenly seemed to envelop her like a wave, breaking, gathering itself, then breaking again just two words: “Good-bye Good-bye Good-bye.”

She looked into Leonard’s face, and saw that the moment had arrived; he was going. She was gripped with a sense of suffocation and panic. It was the same feeling that she had experienced as a child when she had gone in wading and had slipped into the water over her head. She clung to Leonard now just as she had clung to her rescuer then.

“Don’t go! Don’t go! I can’t bear it! O Leonard!”

His hand, disengaging itself from her fingers, increased her panic. He put his arm about her.

“Marjie,” he said, in a steady voice, which yet sounded unreal, not like his own, “I’m going. Good-bye. I love you with my whole soul; I always will. I shan’t be able to hear from you, but I’ll write you as often as I can. Don’t worry if there are long intervals between letters. And, Marjie, don’t believe too easily that I’m dead. If you hear I’m missing, there is still a good chance; even if I’m on the lists, keep on hoping. I’m coming back. Good-bye.” He kissed her, then paused, and put his dark head close to hers. “Marjie, if we should have one, if it’s a boy, I want it brought up in England; and in case we should promise me to take the best care of yourself promise! That’s right. Now stop trembling.”

Marjorie nodded, with white lips, but continued to tremble. Leonard’s face became equally white. He set his quivering mouth and turned away, but Marjorie clutched wildly at his sleeve.

“I’m coming with you as far as the boat, Leonard, just as far as the boat. See, those women are going. Oh, let me, Leonard!”

He hesitated, and in that empty moment a voice behind them said, “The average life of an officer in the Dardanelles is eleven days.”

Leonard frowned; then glared at the hunchback, who was still peering at them.

“O Leonard, please, please!”

“You couldn’t come back with them,” he said painfully, averting his eyes from hers.

“Eleven days!” repeated an incredulous voice.

“I will come I will come!” gasped Marjorie, trying to squeeze past Leonard through the gates.

He pushed her back peremptorily. His boyish face was pitiful in its determination.

“You go back,” he said. He beckoned to a young officer who was standing in the crowd. “Stuart,” he said, “will you see my wife to her carriage? She doesn’t feel well. I’m going.”

The soldier advanced. Marjorie glared at him with the eyes of an animal who sees her young taken away from her, and he drew back, his face full of pity. She threw one last despairing look at Leonard as he turned down the platform, and in that last glimpse of his strangely numb face she saw how he was suffering. She had a revulsion of feeling; a sense of desolate shame swept over her which, for a moment, surmounted her terror.

She had failed him! Behaved like a coward. Made it terrible for him at the very last. Oh, if he would only look at her again! The whole force of her despair went into that wish and Leonard turned. A few yards farther down the platform he swung suddenly about, and finding her face among the crowd, he tilted his chin and flashed his white smile at her while his eyes lighted and his lips framed the word “Smile.”

The band, which had been gathering impetus for the last moment, pealed forth “Rule Britannia.” Marjorie smiled, smiled as she never had before, and kissed her hand. He waved his cap. It was among a forest of caps. The whistle shrieked. The guards slammed the doors. Through the fog the train was moving.

“Rule, Britannia! Britannia rules the waves!
Britons never shall be slaves.”

The crowds cheered. There came an acrid rush of smoke, which swallowed up the moving train with its cargo of khaki-clad boys. Above the cheering the hunchback, still dodging under the elbows of the crowd, was calling loudly,

“I came that they might have Life Life Life!”

The people stared down at the little sardonic face.

“Crazy?” they muttered.

The cripple shouted with laughter.

“Life Life Life!” he said.

When the smoke had cleared again, the tracks were empty, stretching away into blackness.