CHAPTER 1 Girding Our Loins
Béthune. The long and slatternly train, scarcely in motion for the past twelve hours, stopped dead, and the carriages in succession gave that sudden backward mule-kick which gives troop-trains one of their unique charms, jolting us out of our singularly horrible counterfeit sleep. Yawning and rusty, we collected our trappings and jumped out on the track. I had no more idea than the man in the moon how far we were from the line – from one to thirty miles I decided! A few French porters and stationsupporters, an already besieged Staff Captain, and vast numbers of innocents abroad like ourselves were collaborating in uproar, and several engines were artlessly shunting and shrieking alongside. Making sure of our valises we joined the avalanche with which the betabbed encyclopaedia was dealing, and later in the morning got to know that our objective was Locon and that the toy tramway would shortly take us there. We humped our valises, packs and lesser freights off the station, to find the steam car waiting across the street: but on learning that its departure would be later than sooner, D—, my companion, decided on a coffee first. As our informant was the driver of the car, a RE, this seemed a safe and seasonable plan; yet hardly had we begun on our ‘elevenses’ when a series of diabolical hootings warned us outside and we saw the iron monster (Ph. Gibbs) departing. Our goods were on board, and so we managed to catch up: but it was thus I became aware of the specious nature of the Sapper.
We now went rumbling and banging down a cobbled road (the first time I had seen this arrangement of light rail