Hotel Terminus Nord. Paris.
Fate again has arranged that we should spend one night here. This time there was a connection that we ought to have caught with the greatest of ease, to be exact somewhere about 9. o’clock this morning: last time if you remember there was no connection so fate had no difficulty in delaying us; this time she had to make somewhat more elaborate arrangements. These arrangements took the form of a very neat little railway accident at 5.30.a.m. at a tiny village station at which we arrived up to time at 5.40a.m.
After writing yesterday’s letter, the one on the ship, Viccars & I went on shore & made a few arrangements for our journey. He then returned to the ship & I to a tea-shop. Just as I was leaving I ran into my old friend the French “Commandant” who talks English & of whom I have I think written a word or two before. We talked for some time & before parting exchanged names & addresses. I always said that he was an aristocrat & he turns out to be M. Le Vicomte de Terny de Preaux.
We found the train very full but as the authorities had booked us the corner seats we were all right. Almost as soon as the train had started we had dinner, not a great success but still something to eat. We then settled down to make ourselves as comfortable as possible in the circumstances & went to sleep. At 5.40am we woke to find that the train had stopped & it was snowing. Snow was lying quite thick on the ground & it was cold. We stopped for an hour & showed no signs of going on at all so at last some of us got out. The cause of our delay was the above mentioned railway smash. It appeared that something had run into something else & blocked both lines.
As you may observe it is a most complete jam. No one was hurt & only wagons & trucks were concerned. No proper break down gang was obtained but a few men set to work with a few jacks & looked like being all day at their job. However as it turned out there was one man who really knew his job & by midday he had got all except one of the trucks either re-railed or completely clear of the line. The operations round the one remaining truck were being conducted by an individual in a fur coat who appeared to be about as much use as a common grasshopper. It took him three hours to get the truck back, & doing so he improved the situation by bodliy uprooting some 20 yards of hitherto undamaged permanent way.
At last at 3.40, exactly ten hours late we got underway. We had not had a particularly pleasant day, food was a difficulty. The restaurant car had left us at Dijon & we had to depend entirely on a minute café in one of the minutest of little French villages – we managed to get a few things but nothing very much. Arriving at the station we drove at once to this hotel so as to be near the station from which we are making a rather early start tomorrow morning. We then decided to dine at the Café de Paris & get a shave en route. The latter turned out to be impossible, but we put our pride in our pockets and dined unshaven. Curiously enough only three tables away was sitting an officer with whom I was interred in the Mont ds Cats Monastery hospital at the time of my tooth pullings. After dinner we went to a Revue at the “Follies Bergere” – I believe that is spelt right but am by no means certain. It was quite a good show & one man in particular who had a very stiff part indeed, on almost the whole time & in a different part, & different costume every few minutes, who was far better than anyone I have ever seen in England. Tomorrow then we go on, & by tomorrow evening ought to be settled in. All we know at present is that none of our people are actually in the trenches, but how soon they will be going that we know not. Whether or no the Brigadier will have arrived it is impossible to say: it all depends upon whether he was behind or ahead of our little railway smash.