The Amazing Interlude
The first thing that struck Sara Lee was the way she was saying her nightly prayers in all
sorts of odd places. In trains and in hotels and, after sufficient interval, in the steamer.
She prayed under these novel circumstances to be made a better girl, and to do a lot of
good over there, and to be forgiven for hurting Harvey. She did this every night, and then
got into her narrow bed and studied French nouns--because she had decided that there
was no time for verbs--and numbers, which put her to sleep.
"Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq," Sara Lee would begin, and go on, rocking gently in her
berth as the steamer rolled, "Vingt, vingt-et-un, vingt-deux, trente, trente--et--un--" Her
voice would die away. The book on the floor and Harvey's picture on the tiny table, Sara
Lee would sleep. And as the ship trembled the light over her head would shine on
Harvey's ring, and it glistened like a tear.
One thing surprised her as she gradually met some of her fellow passengers. She was not
alone on her errand. Others there were on board, young and old women, and men, too,
who had felt the call of mercy and were going, as ignorant as she, to help. As ignorant,
but not so friendless. Most of them were accredited somewhere. They had definite
objectives. But what was more alarming--they talked in big figures. Great organizations
were behind them. She heard of the rehabilitation of Belgium, and portable hospitals, and
millions of dollars, and Red Cross trains.
Not once did Sara Lee hear of anything so humble as a soup kitchen. The war was a vast
thing, they would observe. It could only be touched by great organizations. Individual
effort was negligible.
Once she took her courage in her hands.
"But I should think," she said, "that even great organizations depend on the--on
The portable hospital woman turned to her patronizingly.
"Certainly, my dear," she said. "But coordinated--coordinated."
It is hard to say just when the lights went down on Sara Lee's quiet stage and the
interlude began. Not on the steamer, for after three days of discouragement and good
weather they struck a storm; and Sara Lee's fine frenzy died for a time, of nausea. She did
not appear again until the boat entered the Mersey, a pale and shaken angel of mercy, not
at all sure of her wings, and most terribly homesick.
That night Sara Lee made a friend, one that Harvey would have approved of, an elderly
Englishman named Travers. He was standing by the rail in the rain looking out at the