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I was perfectly polite. I said to him: “Try to be reasonable, sir. If you had got rid of your oil where it was wanted, you’d have condemned lots of people to death just as surely as if you’d drowned ’em.” “Ah, but I didn’t,” he said. “That ought to count in my favour.” “That was no thanks to you,” I said. “You weren’t given the chance. This is war, sir. If you make up your mind to that, you’ll see that the rest follows.”


This is from “Sea Constables, a Tale of ’15”, collected in Debits and Credits. Three captains, of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve are exchanging stories of a neutral blockade-runner, probably from America, and carrying oil for Germany. As a neutral he was immune from direct attack. The neutral captain had fallen ill with pneumonia and took refuge in a small Irish port, begging Maddingham, one of the British captains, to take him to London to see a certain doctor. Maddingham had refused, and the man died.