When William Came
Murrey Yeovil got out of the boat-train at Victoria Station, and stood waiting, in an
attitude something between listlessness and impatience, while a porter dragged his light
travelling kit out of the railway carriage and went in search of his heavier baggage with a
hand-truck. Yeovil was a grey-faced young man, with restless eyes, and a rather wistful
mouth, and an air of lassitude that was evidently only a temporary characteristic. The hot
dusty station, with its blended crowds of dawdling and scurrying people, its little streams
of suburban passengers pouring out every now and then from this or that platform, like
ants swarming across a garden path, made a wearisome climax to what had been a rather
wearisome journey. Yeovil glanced quickly, almost furtively, around him in all
directions, with the air of a man who is constrained by morbid curiosity to look for things
that he would rather not see. The announcements placed in German alternatively with
English over the booking office, left-luggage office, refreshment buffets, and so forth, the
crowned eagle and monogram displayed on the post boxes, caught his eye in quick
He turned to help the porter to shepherd his belongings on to the truck, and followed him
to the outer yard of the station, where a string of taxi-cabs was being slowly absorbed by
an outpouring crowd of travellers.
Portmanteaux, wraps, and a trunk or two, much be-labelled and travel-worn, were stowed
into a taxi, and Yeovil turned to give the direction to the driver.
“Twenty-eight, Berkshire Street.”
“Berkschirestrasse, acht-und-zwanzig,” echoed the man, a bulky spectacled individual of
unmistakable Teuton type.
“Twenty-eight, Berkshire Street,” repeated Yeovil, and got into the cab, leaving the
driver to re-translate the direction into his own language.
A succession of cabs leaving the station blocked the roadway for a moment or two, and
Yeovil had leisure to observe the fact that Viktoria Strasse was lettered side by side with
the familiar English name of the street. A notice directing the public to the neighbouring
swimming baths was also written up in both languages. London had become a bi-lingual
city, even as Warsaw.
The cab threaded its way swiftly along Buckingham Palace Road towards the Mall. As
they passed the long front of the Palace the traveller turned his head resolutely away, that
he might not see the alien uniforms at the gates and the eagle standard flapping in the
sunlight. The taxi driver, who seemed to have combative instincts, slowed down as he
was turning into the Mall, and pointed to the white pile of memorial statuary in front of
the palace gates.