The Refugees

The Refugees

by Edith Wharton
     
 

On the 8th of September, 1914, Charlie Durand stood hopelessly blinking
through his spectacles at the throng of fugitives which the Folkestone
train had just poured out upon the platform of Charing Cross.

He was aware of a faint haze on the spectacles which he usually kept
clear of the slightest smirch. It had been too prolonged, too… See more details below

Overview

On the 8th of September, 1914, Charlie Durand stood hopelessly blinking
through his spectacles at the throng of fugitives which the Folkestone
train had just poured out upon the platform of Charing Cross.

He was aware of a faint haze on the spectacles which he usually kept
clear of the slightest smirch. It had been too prolonged, too abominable,
too soul-searching, the slow torture of his hours of travel with the
stricken multitude in which he had found himself entangled on the pier at
Boulogne.

Charlie Durand, Professor of Romance Languages in a western University,
had been spending the first weeks of a hard-earned Sabbatical holiday in
wandering through Flanders and Belgium, and on the fatal second of August
had found himself at Louvain, whose University, a year or two previously,
had honoured him with a degree.

On the advice of the American consul he had left Belgium at once, and,
deeply disturbed by the dislocation of his plans, had carried his shaken
nerves to a lost corner of Normandy, where he had spent the ensuing weeks
in trying to think the war would soon be over.

It was not that he was naturally hard or aloof about it, or wanted to be;
but the whole business was so contrary to his conception of the universe,
and his fagged mind, at the moment, was so incapable of prompt
readjustment, that he needed time to steady himself. Besides, his
conscience told him that his first duty was to get back unimpaired to the
task which just enabled him to keep a mother and two sisters above want.
His few weeks on the continent had cost much more than he had expected,
and most of his remaining francs had gone to the various appeals for
funds that penetrated even to his lost corner; and he decided that the
prudent course (now that everybody said the war was certainly going to
last till November) would be to slip over to cheap lodgings in London,
and bury his nose in the British Museum.

This decision, as it chanced, had coincided with the annihilation of
Louvain and Malines. News of the rapid German advance had not reached
him; but at Boulogne he found himself caught in the central eddy of
fugitives, tossed about among them like one of themselves, pitched on the
boat with them, dealt with compassionately but firmly by the fagged
officials at Folkestone, jammed into a cranny of the endless train, had
chocolate and buns thrust on him by ministering angels with high heels
and powdered noses, and shyly passed these refreshments on to the fifteen
dazed fellow-travellers packed into his compartment.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940013740778
Publisher:
WDS Publishing
Publication date:
01/05/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
0 MB

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