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The Red Cross Barge   By: (1868-1947)

The Red Cross Barge by Marie Belloc Lowndes

First Page:

E text prepared by Suzanne Shell, Mary Meehan, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team ( from page images generously made available by Internet Archive/American Libraries (

Note: Images of the original pages are available through Internet Archive/American Libraries. See




Author of 'The Chink in the Armour,' 'The Lodger,' 'Good Old Anna,' etc.

London Smith, Elder & Co. 15 Waterloo Place 1916

[All rights reserved]




The Herr Doktor moved away his chair from the large round table across half of which, amid the remains of a delicious dessert a large scale map of the surrounding French countryside had been spread out.

On the other half of the table had been pushed a confusion of delicate white and gold coffee cups and almost empty liqueur bottles signs of the pleasant ending to the best dinner the five young Uhlan officers who were now gathered together in this French inn parlour had eaten since 'The Day.'

Although the setting sun still threw a warm, lambent light on the high chestnut trees in the paved courtyard outside, the low walled room was already beginning to be filled with the pale golden shadows of an August night. A few moments ago the Herr Commandant had loudly called for a lamp, and Madame Blanc, owner of the Tournebride, had herself brought it in. Placed in the centre of the table the lamp illumined the flushed, merry young faces now bent over the large coloured map.

Alone the Herr Doktor sat apart from the bright circle of light, and, although he was himself smoking a pipe, the fumes of the other men's strong cigars seemed to stifle him.

Of only medium height, with the thoughtful, serious face which marks the thinker and worker; clad, too, in the plain, practical 'feld grau' uniform of a German Red Cross surgeon, he was quite unlike his temporary comrades. And there was a further reason for this unlikeness. The Herr Doktor, Max Keller by name, was from Weimar; the young officers now round him were Prussians of the Junker class. They were quite civil to the Herr Doktor in fact they were too civil and their high spirits, their constant, exultant boasts of all they meant to do in Paris in Paris where they expected to be within a week, for it was now August 27, 1914 jarred on his tired, sensitive brain.

Behind his large tortoise shell spectacles the Herr Doktor's eyes ached and smarted. He belonged to the generation which had been, even as children, put into spectacles. His present companions, more fortunate than he, had been born into the 'nature eye' cycle of German oculistic research. Not one of them wore spectacles, and their exemption was one of the many reasons why he, though only thirty four years of age, felt so much older, and so apart from them in every way.

Alone, of the six men gathered together to night in that French inn parlour, the Herr Doktor knew what war really means, and something as yet he did not know much of what it brings with it. He had been, if not exactly in, then what he secretly thought far worse, close to, the battle of Charleroi, and for the ten days which had followed that battle he had been plunged in all the stern horrors, and the gaspingly hurried, unceasing work, of an improvised field hospital.

The fine abounding with life young officers, with whom a special circumstance had thrown him for some days, had so far escaped even a skirmish with the unfeared enemy; that they loudly lamented the fact, that they cursed, in all sincerity, the chance which had delayed their regiment till the first series of victories Mons, St. Quentin, Charleroi which had opened the wide road to Paris, was over, secretly irritated the Herr Doktor. He knew the limitless extent to which they were to be envied. And that knowledge made him hopelessly out of touch with them out of touch as he could never be with the arrogant by his mother spoilt lieutenant, his Highness Prince Egon von Witgenstein, whose arrival in the luxurious motor ambulance now standing just outside in the courtyard of the Tournebride alone accounted for the Herr Doktor's presence here... Continue reading book >>

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