December 24, 1914


     The holidays, it is said, are a time for miracles.

     For wounded German troops returning from the Eastern Front during the First World War, such a miracle occurred on the morning of December 24, 1914.

     At 7:37 am, immediately after the departure of the northbound Boston & Maine commuter train, a strange locomotive rumbled into the Cross station. As amazed residents watched, the tracks shifted to adjust to the new train’s gauge, and the engine came to a staggering halt.

     When the doors opened, surprised German soldiers and nurses stepped out onto the platform.

     Seeing the desperate need of the troops, the Cross citizenry sprang into action. Homes were opened to the wounded, and operating theaters were set up in the train station, town hall, and in the First Congregationalist Church.

     By the time evening fell, not a single soldier had died.

     As the Germans were being cared for and fed, welcomed into homes to celebrate Christmas, a young German officer stood beside Duncan Blood. Matthew Dube, one of the train station’s porters, paused at the ticket counter, exhausted from the madness of the day. As he leaned against the marble, he heard Duncan murmur something unintelligible, and the German officer nodded.

     “I’m not for either side, despite what they say from their pulpits,” the officer said in perfect English. “I am quite content to let them sort it out by themselves. Everything works out in the end. It always does.”

     Matthew watched as the officer shook Duncan’s hand, turned, and went back to the platform. When the officer stepped onto the train, all its doors closed, and it faded from view.


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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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