'Hugh, Hugh, I'm here,' said Lucy Ramsey, She was dressed in a somber gray coat, purple boots, and a black feather boa, looking for all the world as if she were in mourning. She was accompanied by two other young ladies, who were already sniffing into their handkerchiefs at the promise of a touching scene.
'You shouldn't have come,' said Hugh. 'It's such a crush on the platforms.'
'I couldn't let you go without saying a proper goodbye,' she said.
'Go on down to her, sir,' said one of the Scotsmen, and another must have unlatched the lock because Hugh was half propelled from the carriage by the swinging of the door. He stumbled down the step to the platform and into Lucy's open embrace.
'I don't think I can bear to let you leave,' she said, pulling back to tip up her face and to gaze at him with deep yearning.'
'But if I had stayed you would hand me a feather,' said Hugh, trying to remain jocular. He smiled at the other young ladies and tried to ignore the urge to wriggle from Lucy's arms. The soldiers leaned from the carriage and watched with much interest.
'Of course I expect you to go, Hugh,' said Lucy. 'But what am I to do while you are gone? Every day will be an agony of not knowing if you live or die.'' A tear trickled down her pretty cheek, and she bravely let it fall unchecked. Hugh knew he should feel for her distress, but instead the thought came to him that Beatrice Nash would not dream of subjecting him to such a ridiculous scene.
'I assure you I shall be quite safe,' he said, gently disengaging her arms. He immediately felt guilty at his churlishness; she was young, and her distress was not to be so lightly cast aside. He took her hands in his and added, 'The clearing stations and hospitals are some way behind the lines.'
'If only we had some definite hope to which we might cling,' said Lucy. 'I know I made you wait in the most horrible way manner, Hugh, but won't you please let me send a notice to The Times? It would warm our darkest moments of fear.'
'Give 'er something to hold on to,' said a rough voice, and several of the men laughed and sniggered in a way Hugh might have rebuked had he not wished to avoid enlarging the scene.
'In good conscience I cannot bind you to any promise in these dangerous times,' he said, in what he hoped was a kind but firm tone. 'I would not want you to waste your youth and beauty in mourning.'
'I think I would make a most interesting widow,' said Lucy. She smoothed a wayward ringlet of hair behind her ear and smiled. 'Not that one would wish such a state on anyone, but a sensible woman might use the gravity of the position to great authority in these times.'
from The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson