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A Sailing on a Refugee Ship- 1914 - REFUGEE SKETCHES - Introduction

During the delightful task of collecting refugee sketches from fellow passengers, I experienced only one disagreeable sensation, and that was the realization -- the overwhelming realization -- that I could not record the war experiences of everyone on board. I often wished that, like Beelzebub, I were legion, so that I might gather every tale which circulated amongst the ship's company; but my wishing did no good and I heard only forty accounts during the trip.

Some of these stories dealt with sights and sounds that cause the soul to ache; sights of a national hatred which transformed the children of twentieth century culture into ravaging vandals, and sounds of the shuffling of many feet in secret midnight mobilizations.

I wanted to record them all, but limitations of space forced me to omit many, to shorten others, and to choose for variety as well as for general interest.

In recording these narratives, I have given the substance rather than the actual words of the authors; not from reasons of choice, but from necessity, for I do not write shorthand.

If the persons whose accounts I have published think that I have erred in the transcription of their tales, I am exceedingly sorry, and I take the opportunity at this time to offer them my most sincere and humble apologies.

In every instance, I have told the accounts in the first person, and with very little introduction, believing that this would be the most satisfactory manner. Although I should gladly have written a Chaucerian prologue, -- because the narrators are a charming group of people -- such a task surpasses my feeble powers, and I present only the tale, and not the teller.



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