Charlie Durand, Professor of Romance Languages in a western University, had been spending the first weeks of a hard-earned Sabbatical holiday in wandering through Flanders and Belgium, and on the fatal second of August had found himself at Louvain, whose University, a year or two previously, had honoured him with a degree. On the advice of the American consul he had left Belgium at once, and, deeply disturbed by the dislocation of his plans, had carried his shaken nerves to a lost corner of Normandy, where he had spent the ensuing weeks in trying to think the war would soon be over. It was not that he was naturally hard or aloof about it, or wanted to be; but the whole business was so contrary to his conception of the universe, and his fagged mind, at the moment, was so incapable of prompt readjustment, that he needed time to steady himself. Besides, his conscience told him that his first duty was to get back unimpaired to the task which just enabled him to keep a mother and two sisters above want. His few weeks on the continent had cost much more than he had expected, and most of his remaining francs had gone to the various appeals for funds that penetrated even to his lost corner; and he decided that the prudent course (now that everybody said the war was certainly going to last till November) would be to slip over to cheap lodgings in London, and bury his nose in the British Museum.
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