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Title: An Englishwoman's Home
Author: Smith, Mrs. A. Burnett
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                         AN ENGLISHWOMAN’S HOME

                         MRS. A. BURNETT SMITH
                            [Annie S. Swan]



_The removing of those things that are shaken, ... that
those things which cannot be shaken may remain._

Hebrews xii, 27



[Illustration: Mrs. A. Burnett Smith]



                                  *AN
                             ENGLISHWOMAN’S
                                 HOME*


                                  *BY
                         MRS. A. BURNETT SMITH
                         [*_*Annie S. Swan*_*]*



                                NEW YORK
                        GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



                           _Copyright, 1918,
                      By George H. Doran Company_



               _Printed in the United States of America_



                                   TO

                          THEODATE POPE RIDDLE

            AND THE DEAR AMERICAN WAR WOMEN WHO OPENED TO ME
              THEIR HEARTS AND HOMES, THIS RECORD OF TRUE
                   HAPPENINGS IN THE ENGLISH WAR ZONE
                         IS AFFECTIONATELY AND
                          GRATEFULLY INSCRIBED



                        *A PUBLISHER’S PREFACE*


It was in "_Aldersyde_" many years ago that I first met Mrs. Burnett
Smith, writing then as during the intervening years under the pen name
of Annie S. Swan, beloved of all readers of wholesome books.

Many times since I have met her—acquaintance ripened into
friendship—visit succeeded visit, until now upon the occasion of her
official visit to the United States it has been the good fortune of
myself and my family to entertain her as an honoured guest.

In the course of our quiet talks Mrs. Burnett Smith has told me the
story of her life in England, just outside of London, since war began.
Her experiences were so varied, yet so typical of what the Englishwoman
has been called upon to endure, that I begged of her to make record of
them for her friends in America.  She demurred until I reminded her that
she was in our debt many letters—hence the intimate form of this
narrative.  Indeed it was only by urging the personal obligation that
she has been persuaded to tell her story, which it is my proud privilege
to publish in this form.

[Illustration: Signature of George H. Doran]

NEW YORK, May 10, 1918.



                        *AN ENGLISHWOMAN’S HOME*



                                  *I*


My Dear: To-day I opened the cedar wood box—I can see the little wrinkle
of your level brows over these cryptic words, can almost hear you ask
why something so simple should be chronicled as a war time event.

I expect you remember just where the box stood on the little very old
table at the left side of my study window.  It was often between us,
when we had those wonderful talks in the summer of 1913.  Once I
remember I removed it gently out of your reach, as you thumped its
precious lid rather hard to emphasise your indignation over the
accumulated injustices of life.

It is far removed now from the delicate setting you so much approved,
the red rose of the window hangings no longer accentuates its quaint
outline.

It now stands bald and bare on the workman-like writing table in the
smoking room of our Kingdom by the Sea.  You never achieved acquaintance
with this dear place in your extensive yet inadequate travel year, owing
to George’s feverish desire to transport you to the particular bit of
Germany he had so long idealised.  I am thinking now of his chastened
demeanour when he brought you back. Something had gone out of his early
dream; that elusive essence which once gone can never be recaptured.
Youth is ours only once—we may go on pretending; but there comes no
second spring.

Your letters—and certain of George’s—considered by his critic worthy of
the privilege, have always been "taken care of" (I love that comforting
American phrase) in the cedar wood box.  It so happens that it is the
one intimate thing I have brought here with me.  It was picked up in the
garden with part of its contents scattered, after making a hasty exit
through the window—Heavens!  I hear you say—what can she be talking
about—and why is she so far from her base in war time?  Here is the bald
and awful fact—

There is no more North House.  Have you taken it in, Cornelia?  You
loved its simple dignity, its old-world repose.  You had no fault to
find because it did not spread itself to any great extent, and lacked
all the wonderful conveniences to which you are accustomed in your own
home.  You allowed it the defects of its quality, nay, I even believe
that you loved them.  Did you not put your hand over my mouth when I
audibly wished that my mauve thistle spare bedroom had been a more
spacious chamber, where you could sit or stand at an angle immune from
draughts, or from bumping against some aggressive article of furniture.

I often apologised for the one bathroom, small at that, and for the
inadequate supply of hot water.  Then you would point to the moss-grown
terrace at the back, the cedar tree on the lawn, sloping to the winding
river, and the delicate vistas beyond.  "Oh yes," I said, "it is the
only garden in the world, but the house could be improved on."  Did I
really say that? I know I did, not once, but a thousand times, and now I
am the prey of a most unendurable kind of remorse, that which we feel
when something we loved is removed permanently from our sight and we
know we belittled it.

Now perhaps you will understand, Cornelia,—the home we all loved
together—though often belittling it in the grumpy Scotch way—is dead.
It will never be ours any more. Its roof can never shelter those we
love, nor its walls echo the happy laughter which doeth good like a
medicine.  I see the bewilderment gathering in your quizzical eyes, and
you wonder what it is all about, and whether I have taken leave of the
small modicum of sense Himself and you allotted to me the last time we
discussed the question together.

The truth is, I am afraid to begin.  I do not know how to tell it.  The
world is full of words—but there do not seem to be any to fit this case.
But I must try.  I have been sitting ever so long, looking out to the
sea, which is no longer a pathway to the sun, but a menacing grey
highway across which awful shapes may at any moment race to destroy our
peace, and fill us with terror and dismay.  To the left, as I turn my
eyes, through the window I see the gleaming nozzle of one of the big
guns, with the gunners ready beside it.  They are there night and day.
So even our summer home is in the grip of the war monster from which
there is no escape.  It is the 16th of October and the skies are very
grey, the air heavy with a strange chill, the sea mists are creeping
up—and the moan of the breakers against the rocks seems to presage some
coming doom.

It was very lovely in Hertfordshire in October—its early weeks gave us a
taste of the most beautiful Indian summer I have ever seen.  Our
chestnut trees were never more glorious, nor more vividly clad.  Flame
was the keynote of the colour scheme, and it lingered—wonderfully blent
with all the undertones of departing summer, till the picture our garden
presented was so entrancing, I could not attend to my ordinary tasks,
grudging every moment spent away from it.  We were clearing the
herbaceous borders—and planning a new scheme for enhancing the beauty of
the lily pond.  I had long serious discussions with the gardener, an
understanding creature, about economy in bulbs.  The true garden-lover
would do without clothes, rather than raiment for her garden; but we had
to patriotically compromise, and, with a little ingenuity and extra
planning, saw a very promising vista for the spring.  You have noticed,
indeed, it was, I think, more than once the subject of our talk, that
the last summer of a person’s life is often the most beautiful.  It was
so with our boy.

Do you remember how I told you that when our little fishing expedition
at Amulree came to an end in 1910, and the children were so loth to
leave the old inn and the everlasting hills, I said to him, "Never mind,
son, next summer when Dad and I go to America to visit Uncle George and
Aunt Cornelia, you and Effie will come here all by yourselves, or with
Aunt Jack, and have it all over again."

He turned his big quiet grey eyes on mine and said very simply, "These
things don’t happen, Mummy."  He was very young when he learned that
lesson.  It all came true, not in my sense, but in his.

Before the next summer came, his dear beautiful body was laid on the
cliff side at the Kingdom by the Sea and his soul had stolen "away" to
his appointed place in his Father’s House.

That was the most beautiful summer in our lives—not in his only, but in
our whole family life, of a richness and nearness and dearness, to
describe which, there are no words.

Well, and this the last summer of our garden’s life, in so far as it
concerned us, was the most beautiful we have ever known, in a circle of
many summers, all beautiful.

Never had there been such wealth of bloom. The roses!  They simply flung
themselves in regal magnificence at our feet.  The more you cut and gave
away the more persistently they insisted upon coming on; not in single
spies, but in battalions.

The old walled vegetable garden which you so loved, being invariably
found, when missing, between its box hedges, surpassed itself. We could
not use the stuff.  Our Belgian household over the way, of whose doing
and being I as chairman of the Belgian Guest committee have written you
so much, had access to the garden to help themselves.  It is a royal
memory we have; but only a memory.  Sometimes it seems as if soon, all
life would be only a memory.

Hope seems—for the moment—to have folded her tent like the Arabs, and
silently stolen away.



                                  *II*


On the 12th Effie came home from France in her first leave from active
service.  You can imagine the excitement in the household, the somewhat
tremulous expectancy of Himself and myself.

The one ewe lamb, as you know right well, is a kind of desperate
possession.  Once or twice I have recalled your warning counsel not to
let her leave us; but, my dear, you would have to be here to understand
the strange new blood that is firing the veins of both youth and
maturity and age, the red blood of patriotism. She was very young to go
out to that strange awful sublime place they call the war zone. But she
came back to us radiant, quite unchanged; but yes, there is a change.
She has the eyes of one who, born in a great time, is striving to live
greatly.  She was, before the war, one of the lotus flowers to whom the
call came opportunely, and now she is blooming for others all
unconscious of herself.  You who have known and shared my anxieties
about her future, will rejoice with me, I know.  She is not a good
letter writer, she has the very Scotch habit of leaving out all you want
to know.

A dear English friend of mine, whose name I must not tell you, speaking
of her husband, one day in a moment of exasperation said, "You have to
take too much for granted with a Scotch husband."  I smiled
comprehendingly, having lived so long with Himself.

Effie is a little like that.  You never know what is shut up inside of
her.  The Boy was so different, so easy to know—and so lovely when you
did know him.  Well I suppose it would not be good for us to be given
without effort or seeking the key to every treasure house.  Heavens, how
I wander!  I must come back and tell about the thing to which Effie came
home.

We had had a quiet lovely day together. I had managed to worm a little
out of her about her beloved camp at Etaples, not half enough—but just
enough to know what this wonderful new life of service for others is
doing for the child.

Himself was rather busy, and had to go out after dinner to see some
patients who required a late visit.  The house surgeon from the hospital
had just dropped in asking for him and we kept him, expecting that
Himself would be back quickly.

At half past nine, tea came up.  Do you remember how you, and especially
George, jeered at our evening teacups, and how gradually you were drawn
into the snare until you acquired the passion, and used to watch the
library clock, sure the kitchen one did not correspond?

I had a restless feeling that night.  It was very dark, with a close
sultry air, and I went upstairs throwing open windows that had been
shut.  I was standing at the open window of Himself’s dressing room when
I heard the unmistakable whirr of the Zeppelin engine.

I have tried to describe it to you before.  It is a sinister grinding
noise, unlike anything on earth.  I flew down to tell them that the
Zeppelins were out.  Effie, eager with the quick longing of youth for
every adventure, said, "No such luck," and we immediately went out on
the terrace to crane our necks in an endeavour to discover the
marauder’s silver silhouette against the clear dark sky.  Then quite
suddenly there was the most terrific bang, and somewhere in the near
distance strange lights like shooting stars seemed to descend upon our
little inoffensive town—we stood dumb, holding our breath, while the
bangs continued getting louder and louder.  Presently, we were joined by
the terrified servants, who, at their supper in the basement kitchen,
unaware that the Zeppelins were in the neighbourhood, came rushing out.
The young ones were inclined to scream.  I remember laying my hand on
somebody’s arm, and saying, "Hush, be still!"  To me it was a stupendous
moment, during which the whole fabric of existence seemed to be
tottering—and we on the edge of some unimaginable abyss.  I remember
Effie’s face lit by the weird glare from the incendiary bombs now
falling in rapid succession from the upper air.

There was no fear upon it, only a kind of uplifted spirituelle look.  I
seem to remember that she said, "Do you think it will be this one,
Mummy?" but she stoutly denies having uttered any such words.
Presently, however, "this one" descended and found its mark.  The din
was indescribable; conceive of forty-two bombs dropping in a limited
area in the space of four minutes, the glare of their bursting, the air
full of sulphurous fumes and an awful indescribable sense of evil,
imminent, devilish, against which we were absolutely helpless and
unarmed.  As we stood there in absolute silence, holding on one to
another, we had no sort of knowledge or information that our very own
house was being destroyed.  To you this may seem incredible, when you
reflect that the terrace, though wide, is joined to the house.

It was all so quick and so terrible, that we felt it must be the end of
the world, the total destruction of everything we had considered stable
in our earthly life.  Presently, the voice of the man beside us spoke:
"I think it’s over now, and we’re safe."  The air-ship, sailing low, so
that we saw it distinctly between the cone of the cedar tree and the
sky, disappeared rapidly and the noise of explosions ceased—only to be
replaced by the cries of excited people, and the moans of the hurt and
dying in the street.  The darkness was profound, the power station
having been destroyed early in the attack.

We pulled ourselves together, and proceeded towards the house with a
view of entering. Part of the walls remained standing, but there was no
house.  There in the middle of the beautiful hall you so much admired
the whole fabric seemed to have collapsed.  Doors, windows, furniture,
pictures, piled in an inextricable heap.  We saw right out into the
street in the further side, where already there were twinkling lights
and moving figures as the work of mercy and assistance began.  But where
was Himself?


Quickly people began to climb in upon our ruins, seeking presumably for
us or for our remains.  Presently, among them, very white in the face,
and very glassy about the eyes, appeared Himself, wheeling his bicycle.
They had told him down the street that his home and every one in it had
been destroyed.  He counted us,—we clung together for just a moment,
then he said, "I must go."  "Where?" I asked, still holding on.  "To my
job," he answered as he unstrapped his emergency bag from his machine
and strode away.  We did not see him any more till the early morning, he
and his colleagues being busy at the hospital.  Then the whole
population seemed to be crowding us where we stood.  We had no lights
but a few stray candles.  Police and military presently appeared to take
possession, and the general public were excluded.  The accredited powers
climbed across the debris to reach the garden, when a strange sight
presented itself.  Five incendiary bombs which had been dropped after
the explosive ones and were intended to complete the work of
destruction, had only sunk in the soft earth, and were burning there
like bale fires.  The authorities were hunting for unexploded bombs,
always a terrific menace until handled by experts and shorn of their
hellish power.  They said, and say still, that one is at the bottom of
the river where it can’t do any harm.  We tried to go up what remained
of the staircase.  The secondary staircase which connected the old wing
with the more modern part, was blown into space; not a step of it
remained.  The beds, which had been in the rooms of the old wing, were
outside somewhere, their twisted metal work and torn mattresses being
afterwards found near the railings of the front garden.

You remember the mysterious little passage with the double doors that
led from my bedroom into the old wing; well, it was entirely gone; cut
off as clean as if a knife had done it. We were very adventurous,
climbing about trying to see by candlelight the full extent of the
damage, and with nobody to tell us that we took our lives in our hands
every minute where walls were tottering, and ceilings, so to speak,
hanging by a thread.  My eight-foot old mahogany wardrobe which you
admired so much had climbed upon my bed, and half the ceiling was on the
top of that.  Conceive what would have happened had the attack come
without warning, when we were asleep in our beds!

It has happened in other places.  The protecting mercy of God was over
and round about us—our time had not yet come.  I had then no feeling of
anguish over my ruined home, none of us had.  To Effie, it was a great
adventure—the War in concrete visible tangible form!  We simply did not
realise what it all meant; I suppose we shall realise it right enough
later on.


Midnight came—one o’clock in the morning—two o’clock—Himself turned up
at last and insisted that I should find a billet somewhere and lie down.
He and Effie determined to keep a vigil in the ruins.  A fine rain had
begun to fall, but there were dry places in the house, a corner of the
drawing room queerly almost untouched.  The vagaries of the concussion
were beyond belief.  The gable end of the dining room left standing was
stripped inside of every scrap of plaster, leaving the lathes naked and
bare.  An old Chippendale mirror still stuck heroically to its nail,
above the mantel, or rather the place where the mantel had been, not
shattered or scratched.  But all the lovely old ladder-back chairs are
gone and the sideboard.  I shan’t really know till I go back whether we
have anything left.

Effie took me up to my billet in a neighbour’s house, and as we groped
our way by the railings in the inky darkness I suddenly clutched
something soft.  The flashlight revealed part of our dining room
curtains—heavy silk damask ones, that had evidently been blown clean out
up the street, and twisted round the railings by invisible hands.

I did not sleep any, you may be sure.  I was the slave of physical fear
after the excitement had died down.  Shaking in every limb, even to my
lips, I lay till about six o’clock, then got up again and dressed to go
and seek my treasures.

The sun was shining cheerfully as I wended my way through the gaping
crowds which had come from God knows where, getting a sympathetic word
and grip here and there from familiar friends.

And presently I came to the North House gate, Oh Cornelia!


It all looked so piteous in the clear sunlight, the shell of the dear
home; the inextricable mass of plaster and bricks and broken wood work
and all the belongings of a house.  The crowds, there seemed to be
millions of them, everywhere fell back to let me go in.  Himself met me,
smiling bravely, but a little grim about the eyes.

"We are going to breakfast at the Odell’s," he said, "and after that you
and Effie go off to Scotland; it is all arranged."

It was no use protesting—you know how Himself can look, and what it
means when he says a thing has got to be done.

We hung about a little, and I had a sort of resentment because the
public were all over the place where my house had been.  They were not
our own townsfolk, but incomers, who had arrived in motors, in horse
traps, on bicycles from miles away.  The North road was simply black
with them.  We went off presently in a cab to our kind neighbour’s
house, where we had a good breakfast and much sympathy, which seemed to
put fresh heart into us.  When we got back, it was to get ready for our
journey to Scotland.

Somebody found my clothes; people I had never seen before seemed to be
packing them up in trunks, not ours, which appeared mysteriously from
the outside.  Kind hands brought us lunch, already prepared, and so we
got ready to go away.  But before the end I had a hard task.  Poor
Tubby, the lovely old mother chow, had gone mad, or at least become
dangerous through sheer terror.  You know how sensitive she was.  She
had to be shot and nobody could get her out of the kennel but me.  I
went and dragged her forth and put the collar around her neck and took
her to the place of execution, where the man with the gun was waiting.

How did I do it?  God knows, Cornelia. But it was absolutely necessary
for the safety of human creatures, and I know she has forgiven me in the
happy hunting ground where she has gone.  She knew I loved her; but when
I heard the report of the gun the iron seemed to enter into my soul.
Wang has gone too, and Satan, the impish and delicious Persian cat that
became an inmate of this animal-loving house after you left, was found
stark by the edge of the immense crater made in the front garden by the
bursting shell.  It wiped out his favorite laurel bush, under which we
suppose he had been sleeping when the terror came.

He was not injured in any way—he died of the same concussion which split
the old cedar tree and broke it right in two.  Soon after eleven we
trundled away to the station en route for London and Scotland, leaving
Himself to make shift alone.  It was his ordination, and we seemed too
dazed to stand up against it.  We have been here three days, and already
Effie and I are both very restless.  I expect in a few more days in
spite of Himself we shall be speeding back, for there is much to do
there.  First and foremost we have to find another roof to cover us.

I will write as soon as I get back, and can co-ordinate my thoughts.

You and George will mourn with us, and I have no doubt George’s
sentiments on the subject of America entering without further parley
will be vivified and strengthened.  As I write I see the desolate
ruins—the broken and desecrated household gods, the crowds of gaping
strangers who regarded it as a spectacle without appearing to sense its
tragedy. Other houses in the town were destroyed, but I have presently
no knowledge or cognisance of them.

All sorrow and loss must be intensive at the first.  This certainly is.
It is a poor devilish kind of sport, to rain death upon non-combatants
and sail away immune from punishment or reprisal.  It makes women dumb
and men desperate.  I know what is in the mind of Himself.  Loathing of
the age limit, longing to defy the years and be out with the fighting
forces in the field.  I shall never keep him after this, Cornelia.  He
will slip through another door.

Is there a light?  Yes, I remember kind faces I never saw before looking
eloquently into mine, the clasp of strange but friendly hands, the offer
of a score of homes.  The gleam of brotherhood and sisterhood lightens
the dark places of the earth, and defies organised and perfected cruelty
to do its worst.



                                 *III*


It is three weeks since I wrote my last letter—two weeks and three days
since I came back—no, not home, only back.  We have no home any more—as
we used to have it, though we have found a roof to cover us.

I got your cablegram yesterday—it was dear of you to send it, but my
spirit quailed at what it must have cost you to send such a lengthy
despatch.  Of course we knew how George and you would feel about it, and
there was a curious softness in Himself’s eyes when I showed it to him;
we even discussed whether we should launch out into a similar
extravagance.  We decided, however, that no adequate presentment of what
we were doing could be offered in any cablegram, and that we must ask
you to wait for another letter.  Himself even said, he would write it,
but you know how he lives, and what stacks of unanswered ones lie in his
pigeon-holes. I heard him say in an exasperated moment, that his private
and particular hell would be a place where there were unending streams
of letters of no importance, which he would be compelled to answer by
return of post.  It was he who suggested the one word, "reconstructing,"
and we both hope you grasped its full significance.  It is a big word,
and it means a lot.  Before there can be reconstruction, there has to be
destruction, and the _Hun_ has done it very thoroughly for us.

I had better go back, I think, to where I left off.  I told you, I
remember, that after three days both Effie and I grew restless, and on
the sixth we wired Himself that we were coming back and that he must
find a place for us.  We knew that he was still sleeping on a shake-down
in the corner of the drawing room where the free winds of Heaven blew in
upon him—and the rain when it chanced that way.

You know how he loved everything in the house, how much of it was his
individual choice, only the grouping left to me.  And he was hanging on
desperately to the remnant of his treasure house—though forbidden by
official orders to touch anything until the representative from the
Government Air Raid Insurance should come to inspect the premises, and
the damage.

When we arrived we found it arranged for us to stay at the Wrights’
house.  You remember how you liked them, free, jolly, unconventional
people, who understand hospitality in the big sense, which makes you
feel at home in their house.  I can never forget what they have done for
us at this time; and they were only two out of many.  Effie remained
only long enough to collect her kit and go back to her beloved
Camiers—of course the house couldn’t mean as much to her; and for the
time being she is detached from us and her usual surroundings.  She went
off gaily and gladly, not aware I am sure of the heartache she left
behind.  She will be the heroine of a great adventure when she gets back
to her comrades. But I am sure she will never tell how fearlessly she
carried herself through it.

To us—that is to me, principally, is left the work of reconstruction.

We have got the loan of a house from a kind neighbour who volunteered to
find his family other quarters.  They all felt that Himself must have
quarters as near as possible to the old place, so that his patients
could easily find him, and his professional work be carried on.

You will remember the house, a wide red brick many-windowed structure,
standing sheer on the street just opposite St. Andrew’s Church.  You
will particularly remember it because you asked me what style of
architecture its porch was supposed to represent.  I replied that I had
been told it was Chinese Chippendale.

You said, "Whatever is that, anyway?"  And we both laughed.  Behold us
then, installed in the house of the Chinese Chippendale porch.  It’s
just round the corner from the North House, less than two minutes’ walk.
It is very strange and rather awful, I find, to live with other people’s
things.  They don’t belong to you.  There is no intimate touch, and you
don’t in the least want to arrange them or show them to the best
advantage.

There are more chairs in this house than in any house I have ever seen
or heard tell of—the sort you don’t want to sit on.

It is too full of everything for comfort, but the beds are beautiful,
and it is such a relief to have a shelter, that we never can be grateful
enough.

Cornelia, I wonder if you will understand that I was two whole days
here, nearly three, indeed, before I dared to go round the corner. I
simply couldn’t; but at last, quite early one morning before many people
were about, and Himself was safely out of the way, I stole round.  There
was a policeman at the gate, for there were heaps of things that could
easily be removed by predatory hands.  Wooden barricades had been
erected everywhere, and what windows were left were boarded over. The
man touched his hat to me, but did not open his mouth.  He was an
understanding creature, who saw how it was with me.

Before I went inside I took a bird’s-eye view of what had happened
outside.  There was a great gap in the wall of the kitchen garden which
flanked the street, a gap big enough to let a horse and cart through.
In this street just by the kerb you could see where the crater made by a
shell explosion had been filled up. I forget whether I mentioned in my
first letter how that particular shell had broken the water main,
causing a small deluge to add to the general horror of that night of
desolation. I went into the garden through the gap, and round about, to
the river’s brim, thankful to find little damage, except much trampling
of the lawns.  The gardeners, I think, had gone to their breakfast—at
least, I did not see either of them.  All the time I kept my eyes
averted from the house; but when I came behind the cedar tree, half of
which was torn away, showing a hideous scar all over its beautiful body,
I could not help seeing.  I gripped myself tight, and ran, just ran up
the sloping lawn across the terrace, and right in.  I don’t know how I
can describe it.  I feel as if I must not even try.  Nothing had been
touched.  It was sealed, so to speak, by Government orders.  A few
things had been covered up to prevent the rain damaging them.  It was
just awful, indescribable, heartrending.  The dining room was pitch
dark, but a candle standing on the seat of a broken chair with matches
beside it invited me to inspection.  I can’t describe what I saw, and
there seemed to be a faint odour of sulphur and brimstone redolent of
the bottomless pit.  The drawing room had suffered least, though part of
the ceiling had fallen on the piano, marring its beautiful top.  The
shake-down on which Himself had slept all the time we were away, stood
in what looked like the safest corner.  He had set up a screen to keep
the night winds off his dear head.  I just sat down there and after a
minute tears came.  They were the first I had shed and they were
blessed.  They relieved the tightness of my heart, the band across my
brain.  Afterwards I was able to climb in and about, taking stock and
inventory of what had happened.  I thought that with luck a few sticks
might be retrieved, and mended up, but knew that all my cupboards must
be bare of the glass and china which every housewife holds most dear.
You remember the cupboard in the dining room with its priceless store of
Waterford and old English glass?  There is not so much as a salt cellar
left.

A cup here and there, with the handle off, or a gash in its side is all
that is left of my Crown Derby, my old Worcester, my Lowestoft. It is
all very awful.  But these are only things.  They don’t at this moment
matter. What does matter is that the monster of war has laid its foul
desecrating hand on the sanctuary of my home.

In a flash of lightning, the suffering of France, of Belgium and all the
invaded countries stood revealed.  I understand, and I know why our
sweet dignified old Belgian refugee guest, Madame Savarin, spat upon the
remnants of the bomb I showed her yesterday.



                                  *IV*


Himself got George’s second cable this morning.  When I read it the
words of the old hymn flashed back, "Death like a narrow sea divides
that happy land from ours."

I wonder if you just quite know how safe and free and happy you are on
the other side of the Atlantic.  I see you knit your brows, and hear
George’s language, occasionally,—I regret to say, not quite fit to grace
any very genteel chronicle.  I hope this is going to be a little more
than that anyway.  I will take back the last adjective, and beg you to
thank God that you are safe and free for a little while longer.  Happy I
know you and your kind will never be until you are standing shoulder to
shoulder with us in this awful but glorious fight.  I don’t know how
George’s cable ever got through, really, on your side or ours. Conceive
what would have happened had he presented it at any telegraph office in
Germany.  His head would have paid the forfeit. I am going to set it
down here just to see how it looks in real writing with the cold
official script.

There, what do you think of it?  I only hope you are properly proud of
George.

All the Georges are nice.  There is something comforting about them.
Shall I ever forget the other George, whom you too liked, who flew to us
when the Heavens darkened in 1910.  He was here again at this time, the
moment he could be of any use.  When we are in trouble, his own affairs,
however urgent, have to stand by.  It is wonderful to have friends like
that.  They are a shield and buckler in the day of trouble.

Well, I laughed out loud when I read George’s cablegram and it did me so
much good that I wish he would think up a new one every day, each one
more violent than the other.  It would never exceed or even fit the
crime.  Perhaps you wonder how I can joke and play about with words in
the midst of what is happening.  I have to, Cornelia.  Don’t you
understand?  If I didn’t I should never be able to carry on?  And when I
sit down in obedience to George’s express command by cable to tell you
every single solitary thing—though how he ever expects it to be allowed
out of the country I don’t know, my spirit positively quails.

It is very awful, my dear—much more awful than it seemed at first.  I am
now spending all my days in the ruins, mostly quite alone, trying to
retrieve what remains of our household gods.  I am allowed to do this
since the day the Government Insurance Inspector came, and, having
inspected, pronounced and assessed the damage, unsealed the debris, and
went away—I don’t doubt, quite satisfied with himself.  I suppose there
is some kind of a system for the appointment of such officials, perhaps
the less they know about their job the better.  This one had no sort of
conception of values.  I tried to explain some of them, but soon gave
out, and let him carry on.  Let me try to give you some idea of the
tragic comedy.  He was elderly, quiet and polite, not in the least
sympathetic, because I am only one of many similarly placed, and
sentiment interferes with business.  His job was to minimise our loss.
What was mine, I wonder?  I’m not sure, but this I do know, that it
hurt, hurt desperately, to have to stand by, and hear this well-meaning
person make light of what had happened.  Once or twice I longed to see
Wang come bounding out of the unknown with his lovely face distorted,
his bristles standing up and his growls like distant thunder in the air,
but alas, I have to go through this thing quite alone.  Himself couldn’t
do it—even if he weren’t too busy.  He would just have a stand-up fight
with the government representative, and that would be an end of
compensation, though no doubt Himself would enjoy the tussle immensely.
We didn’t know quite where to begin.  A table was erected in what is
left of the library, and he spread out his inventory sheets and we
started in.  I had made an inventory too, and the contents of the dining
room came under discussion first.  He had a copy of this which had been
previously submitted to him through our lawyer.  His business was now to
assess the amount they would pay.  He put down the entire contents of
the glass cupboard at ten pounds.  Fifty dollars of your money.  I
gently but firmly pointed out that there were single pieces in it that
had cost that.  He shook his head, and explained that in that case each
piece should have been insured separately, as in the case of articles of
jewellery.  That was the platform from which he never departed, and I
quickly realised that our cause was lost.  Six dollars he allowed for
that priceless old Chamberlain Worcester tea service over which you
raved so often, warning me that it should not be used every day.  But
you know we have never kept anything just for ornament; or lived in a
house as a mere show place.  The other George, of whom I’ve just been
speaking, once told me I could make a home out of a cave, supposing I
had only a handful of twigs to start with.  Well, that is how we have
lived. The Insurance gentleman was more reasonable about large solid
articles of furniture, with which he seemed to be quite familiar.  I
don’t suppose he observed at what an early stage I gave up the ghost and
simply allowed him to carry on, and put down what figures he liked.  He
visibly brightened, however, as the ghastly inspection proceeded, and
became more and more friendly every minute, but not any more
understanding.

I got even with him over Effie’s clothes. You know she wears only
uniform in France, with one simple silk or crêpe-de-chine frock for the
rare occasions when she goes out to dine, or to some informal hospital
dance.  So all her clothes were down in the wardrobe room, and they had
been pulled out of the debris, and laid, a melancholy array, on the only
bed left standing, which happened to be her own. You can imagine what
last year’s frocks look like, especially when they have been a good deal
worn, and finally come through an air raid.  A torn and crumpled mass of
satin and lace and chiffon, stained with lime and water. The sight
seemed to affect the official mind profoundly; though my shattered
treasures had left him cold.  He asked their values, touching them
rather pitifully; perhaps he visualised the radiant youth they had once
enfolded, and I may have been misjudging him all along.

He then asked bluntly what they had cost. I replied vaguely about ten
pounds each.  He put down fifty pounds without a murmur, and hurried out
of the room as if he had had enough.

It took the whole long, long day, Cornelia, and when he went out for his
lunch I sat among the ruins, and ate the dry sandwich Florence had put
up for me.  I fear I watered it with my tears.  I never knew there could
be so many tears in the world.  I had none to shed when the Boy went
away; but somehow this has unsealed the fount.  It is a different kind
of grief; it tears you a thousand ways; sometimes you are shaken with an
impotent rage. Of course it means that it will be more evanescent.

The heart can only stand a certain number of vital, staggering blows.
After the assessing business was over I was free, so to speak, of what
remained of my own possessions, and I have been going round every day
immediately after breakfast and stopping until dusk drove me away.  Lots
of people wanted to help.  I didn’t want them—I had to be alone with my
ghosts.  Florence would come round now and again when her work was done,
or between whiles, and then we just stood together thinking unutterable
things.  She is not quite a servant, as you know, but a dear faithful,
understanding friend who lives in the heart of us, and loves us every
one.  But mostly I was alone, my job to gather up the fragments—the
little things, and try to gauge and co-ordinate the whole before the
removal men came to take everything away.  I found quite a lot of things
and carried them one by one to one of the pantries where a shelf
remained intact.  My greatest find, in a place with which they had no
connection whatever, was four cut crystal baskets belonging to the old
Sheffield plate epergne, we used as a centrepiece in the days when table
decoration was of the heavy ornate type.

How pleased I was to get them, you can’t think!  I held them tight quite
a long time, gave them a little polish with the corner of my apron, and
then took them to the pantry shelf aforesaid, where I regarded them with
a species of adoration as the nucleus of some future glass cupboard
collection, when war has ceased to be.

But I think it is ordained that for me there shall be no new glass
cupboard.  When I got back next day, two of them had gone.  I pinched
myself, wondering whether, like some of the college boys after a night
out, I had been seeing double.

Then my friend, the big policeman, told me he had turned out some
well-dressed people wandering through the ruins after I had left. It was
no common thief who took these little things.  There were articles of
more value beside them.  No, it was some horrible woman who coveted a
souvenir from the Zeppelined house, and took what she fancied most.  I
rather wish she had taken the four, then I might have amused myself by
dreaming that they had been found.

It was a mean cold-blooded unsisterly kind of theft.  It almost deserves
to have the adjective Hunnish attached as a label.

Every day this sad task of mine has been going on, for more than a week,
and now, tomorrow, this being Sunday, the workmen are coming in and the
removal men, and the few sticks, at least such as are worth removing,
will be taken away to a furniture hospital for repair.

Your housewifely soul, already rent, I am sure, by this recital of my
woes will be still further exercised by a brief description of what
happened to my store cupboard.  It was very full this autumn, owing to
the garden abundance aforesaid, and our conspicuous industry and success
in bottling, preserving and pickling,—the shelves simply groaned with
good things, and now it is all one inextricable sticky mass of jam, and
fruit, and broken glass, and lathe and plaster.  You could not imagine
anything more disgusting.  It is part of the needless waste of war—a
little bit, however, that just comes right home.

Just one more straw, surely the last.  Friend Government Assessor valued
the stock of my store cupboard at ten shillings, two dollars and a half.
And I just let him, because it was so funny, and there didn’t seem to be
any use telling him any more about anything.

When I write again I expect it will be all over and the lid shut down on
the place that was once a home.

I sat a little while to-day on the mossy wall beside the lily pond, one
of your numerous garden thrones.

Do you remember the day they cleaned it out, and your excitement over
the queer little black fresh water cray fish the men took out with their
hands and laid on the grass while they swept and scoured the concrete
bottom of the pond?  They crawled about so painfully, poor things, and
if they thought at all, I suppose they must have imagined it the end of
the world.  Then how pleased you were, and they too, I expect, when they
were put back, and the lovely clean water from the upper river ran in on
them.  It is very clear to-day, and there is a crooning sound in the
voice of the waterfall—it sounds almost like a dirge. Summer is quite
gone, and the yellowing leaves are drifting down everywhere.  Some of
them have camouflaged the horrid burned places the incendiary bombs made
in the grass.  A few late roses hang about rather wistfully, but there
doesn’t seem to be any hope anywhere. We don’t quite know what is going
to happen, whether this house is going to be rebuilt, and we come back
to it.

There are immense legal and technical difficulties in a situation for
which no precedent or legislation exists.  We do not own, but only lease
the property, and at the moment don’t know where our responsibility
begins or ends.

Himself is wrestling with the problem, and the little lines are
gathering about his eyes and mouth.

He does not say very much at all, and he won’t go near the North House
any more.  I know he can’t bear it.

You and I have often talked of how dear they are, and how they never,
never grow up, but are just boys all their days.

They can do the fighting, but they can’t do the enduring.  That is our
bit.

I am trying to do mine, all I know how, but I am hard hit this time,
Cornelia.  I am on my knees.



                                  *V*


Such a lot has happened since I wrote last. I am beginning to regard
these letters as a real and faithful record of this strange phase of our
life.  I know how faithfully you will keep them as I do yours.  They may
come in handy one day to the person who may gather up the fragments of
my achievement—when Finis has been written across the last page.

You see, Cornelia, here we have to keep rather quiet and lift a gallant
head—_Noblesse oblige_ has to be the watchword.  This for two reasons,
that so many people require bolstering, who if they detected any
weakening in this direction would feel that the front line had broken.

Then it is necessary for our inward life. You know how much I have been
through, and unless I had held my head high right along why then, it
would just have meant the end of all things.  But oh, how we can be
misunderstood!

In the dark days of 1910 I met a woman in the street about three months
after the Boy had passed, and after we had exchanged greetings she
remarked with a charming smile, "How nice that you have got over it so
easily."  My smile was a little sickly as I replied steadily, "Yes,
isn’t it very nice?"

I did not see anything very clearly for quite a while after I had passed
on.

Just for a moment, I wondered whether it had been all wrong to bury that
irreparable loss so deep that nobody suspected its existence, as a loss.
I had been rather proud because I had been able to "carry on," but these
careless words suddenly awoke in me a passion of remorse lest I had been
disloyal to his precious memory.  Then I just laughed weakly as I wiped
my nose and eyes.  Am I not his mother, and do mothers ever forget or
prove disloyal?  Another of "that sort of person" said to me on the
morning of the raid as I was hurrying to the bank to get some money, "So
sorry; you _have_ had bad luck, haven’t you, since you came here?"  Have
we, I wonder?  And what is luck anyway?  You and I both know there is no
such thing.

There have been developments since I wrote you, chiefly regarding our
tenancy of the North House.  It happens that under the terms of our
English lease we are responsible for this damage, and will have to
rebuild for the proprietor at our own expense.  Preposterous, you
exclaim!  So do we, and Himself has got his mind firmly made up that he
will fight it out.  Some of our advisers would like us to take it to the
law courts and make a test case of it, but our adviser-in-chief—that
dear friend and great law lord who made such fun of your Nipigon fishing
story at our big dinner party, is strongly against it.  He says, "Pay up
whatever it costs.  The case simply bristles with litigious points and I
see it going on indefinitely and finally coming up before me at the
House of Lords."  Himself is in fighting trim, however, and the decision
will rest with him.

Meanwhile we have got to do something about our future, as we can’t go
on living in this furnished house, which gives me the queer unhappy
feeling of not belonging anywhere in particular.  The kind neighbour who
offered us the shelter had another proposition, that he should vacate
altogether and have us take over his lease.  We are going to do it, but
will have to wait some time before the transaction is completed, because
we have no furniture except the broken stuff which is being mended up at
the furniture dealer’s in the town.

I have to go down almost daily to consult and decide whether this or
that article is worth repairing.  It usually resolves itself into an
argument with the expert.  The more he says it can’t be done, the more I
want it done.  Of course, it is our dearest treasures that have received
the deadliest damage.  Meanwhile, my dear, all these matters merely fade
into insignificance beside the one great tremendous yet glorious fact.
Himself is going to the war.

You know how hard and often he has hammered on the War Office doors, and
how his age was hurled at him, and he was bidden go and carry on the
good work he was doing in his own town.  Well, he has got a commission
at last through the intervention of an old college friend who occupies
the exalted position of A.D.M.S. to a part of the Northern Army. That
means that he is the Director of Medical Service.  Himself will be
attached to the Black Watch and report himself first to the Headquarters
in Perthshire.

Is he pleased about it?  He does not say much, but he has been far more
restless since the raid.  Am I pleased?  Cornelia, honestly I don’t
know.  Every woman wants her man to be in this tremendous fight, but I
think I am a little afraid.

Our household is sadly reduced.  Two have gone to munitions from indoor
service, and the gardeners have been called up.  We don’t need them
mercifully, as we have no garden now; only a backyard.  Life is being
gradually shorn of some of its more dignified material attributes.  No
doubt they are the things that don’t matter, but some of them we loved,
and parting from them hurts.

This morning I read a wonderful verse in Hebrews.  Every bit of the
Bible takes on new meanings these days.  I can’t recall the chapter at
this moment.  I daresay, you will remember it at once.  "Yet once more,
signifieth the removal of these things that are shaken—as of things that
are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain."  What do
these words mean quite?  Have I been clinging too frankly to the things
that are made, and must they all go one by one, so that I may realise
and grip the things that cannot be shaken?

Perhaps that is the war in a nut-shell.  It is a poignant, almost a
terrifying thought.


He went this morning, Cornelia, New Year’s morning, "in a blast of
Januar wind that blew hansel in on Robin."  He looked so dear and
splendid in his perfect-fitting uniform (you know he never leaves
anything of that kind to chance and would go without food any day if the
fit of his clothes depended on it).  I was worshipping all the time and
Cook, our faithful chauffeur, left the car at the door to come and see
whether he could help with the leggings which were rather stiff and
new—and just to take a general view.  He was the picture of desolation
and woe.  Old servants don’t like those cataclysms.  They have no
reserve weapons to deal with them.  They are conservative to the
innermost fibre of their being.

At last they drove away to catch the north-going train at the junction.

I have often envied other women when I heard them speak with conscious
pride of their men at the front—but oh, Cornelia, when the door was shut
and the toot of the horn echoed faintly in my ears, I forgot to be
proud—and was nothing at all but a lone woman, left desolate in the
house of her dreams.



                                  *VI*


Reconstruction is now my job.  Everything that could be removed from the
wreckage at the North House has been removed and the ruins left to the
owls and the bats.  The retrieval was conducted during days of pitiless
rain which accentuated the desolation.  But it is all accomplished now,
and I don’t go around there any more.

We had twenty tons of coal buried in the debris of the old stabling,
where it was housed, and the police came to tell me it would have to be
removed, if I wanted to get the benefit of any, as a steady pilfering
was going on.  It was a tremendous job but with coal at its present
price an effort had to be made to get it out.  It has just been put down
in the cellar of this house and the transfer cost four pounds.

In the absence of Himself, I have concluded the arrangements for an
actual possession of this house, which we have taken for a term of three
years.  No more leaseholds for me in this country, and though a casually
rented house gives one an odd feeling of insecurity—anything may happen
in three years. There will have to be a little papering and painting
done, just to make it clean and wholesome, and then I will bring back my
poor sticks from the repairing shops, and group them in this strange new
setting.  It is really quite a nice house, with some points the other
lacked.  A great advantage when one has a depleted staff is a kitchen on
the ground floor. It is a thoroughly bad kitchen, dark and gloomy, and
the hot water arrangements, and facilities for cooking are positively
the worst I, an experienced housewife, have ever encountered. If I had
not two specimens of the salt of the earth in these regions beyond, the
situation would be impossible.  They are quite selfless, as far as their
own comfort and accommodations are concerned.  They think only of us.
Such personal devotion takes the edge off many sorrows.

Already I have a scheme which perhaps in the far future will convert
this house into a real home.  How ineradicable is the instinct to
reconstruct in the human breast!  That it cannot be killed has been
incontestably proved by the persistence with which our poor French and
Belgian confrères creep back to their ravaged fatherland and begin
again.

Himself builded better than he knew when he began to talk of
reconstructing the moment the shock was over.  He is always
distressingly right in the fundamentals, and our small internal wars
have invariably been caused by my refusal to admit it.  But life is not
all fundamental, Cornelia, it needs camouflage, needs it desperately.
All women know it.


There are gleams of glory.  The finest is the love of the people for my
lover.  A poor woman rushed up to me to-day to ask the latest news of
him.  From her I learned that they call him "The Friend of the Poor."
If I were to die to-morrow, Cornelia, I could ask no sweeter epitaph.

I have decided that the house is not bad at all, and I am beginning to
sit up and take a little notice.  Only I must not look out of the back
windows.

You remember the enchanting vistas spread before the green bedroom, and
the study window around the corner.  There was no fret of the spirit
that could not be healed and comforted, always there was beauty to lift
you up, and a message, no matter how bleak the prospect elsewhere.  It
was that dear intimate kind of a garden where there was something for
every mood.

Doctor Horton once came to dine and sleep when speaking at a meeting
here, and at six next morning he was out roaming about, to the disquiet
of the staff.  He had visions of a hermit’s study cell in the ruined
tower by the waterfall, and wondered why I did not establish a writing
room out of doors.

I explained that my writing was a stern business which would admit of no
distractions. I have found that even a very comfortable study is a bad
place for the cultivation of thought.  A wooden bench and bare walls, or
the "fender end" of my childhood and a block on my knee produced the
best results.

But to return to the only thing that matters at the moment.  I am
reduced to a cabbage patch.  Even that is a misnomer, for there is not
even a "Kailyaird runt" i.e. remnant, on that little ugly bit of mother
earth.

It is a slice of No Man’s Land that has never grown anything but weeds.
It is relieved by a background of trees, our own chestnuts, Cornelia,
whose glory of pink-and-white cones we used to watch till they were
mirrored in all their majesty in the clean depths of the backwater above
the fall.

When I want positively to revel in heartbreak, to be homesick and
unashamedly miserable (which I fear I am most of the time, since Himself
retired from the scene), I go to the uttermost edge of my No Man’s Land,
where I can hear the rush and tumble of the waterfall, though I cannot
see its foaming tears.

To descend to mundane things, let me explain that this house belonged to
a master-builder who once upon a time had his workshop and all the
paraphernalia of his business in the backyard.  After a while he secured
more ambitious premises, and carried away all the plant, leaving us the
legacy of a concrete floor in the very middle of the patch.

So before we can obey the Food Administrator’s order to plant potatoes,
the concrete will have to be broken up and removed by the hand of George
Cook.

His face was a study when I explained that as the young doctor preferred
to drive the car himself, his, George’s, job would be to make the desert
blossom like the rose.  He looked at me, and then at it, queerly, with
his one active eye; pulled his forelock with rather a grim smile, and
went forth for a pick.  Inside of an hour he had started on that task
and now the thud of the pick is the music to which I waken of a morning.
Sometimes consulting together (I am beginning to be interested, though I
try not to be), we doubt very much whether the concrete plus the
ineradicable root of an obnoxious weed called horseradish, will ever be
gotten out in time for a spring crop.  But Cook is very dogged; and the
joy of the creator is beginning to lay hold on him.  I find it is a
better day’s work when I potter round the patch, sympathising and
anathematising turn about.  Anyhow, the work of reconstruction, as
ordained by Himself, is going forward cheerfully.  The workmen are in
possession of most of the rooms, and I am just about as uncomfortable
and as busy as the most active housewife could desire to be.

My war-work has had to call a halt till I get through with this business
of home making; that being the duty that lies nearest.  You think I’m
not saying so much as usual about Himself?  I can’t, because, oh,
Cornelia, he seems to have passed out of my life!  I get his dear
letters, but they are all about people I have never seen and don’t want
to see, because they are there with him, seeing him every day, and I am
not.  He is loving the life—you know how he would—and the boys with whom
he lives in the mess, himself the biggest boy of all.

In every letter I can sense the buoyancy of spirit that comes with the
laying down of responsibility.  Here he had so much, and now he is only
a nut in the great machine of war, and so long as he does his duty and
obeys orders he can have an easy and comfortable mind.

He is stationed at the moment up in what is the frozen north, but they
are the hills of home, and he is assuredly content.  He is not even
homesick, though always asking when I am coming.  I am waiting for
Effie’s next leave, when we will go up together.  Meanwhile I must hold
the fort here, or all the wrong wall papers will go up, and there might
even be structural undoing if the workmen were left to their own sweet
wills.  But it is an empty life, Cornelia, out of which the soul has
gone. Even the picture in uniform, on my desk, the man of the house at
war, fails to afford the uplift or the comfort once imagined.  I must
get through with this reconstruction job as it affects material things,
and start the reconstruction of my own inner life.  I, too, must go to
the war.



                                 *VII*


I had your dear letter yesterday and have every word of it by heart,
even George’s postscript.  I always knew him to be an understanding
creature, but his knowledge of human beings, more especially the heart
of woman, is a wee bit uncanny.

Is he your product, Cornelia, or is he just the American husband at his
best?  It is long since you told me (it was on that wonderful testing
first visit which we essayed fearfully—not sure whether it would grapple
us to one another with hooks of steel or merely end in a polite parting
with regrets on either side) that English husbands are not properly
brought up.  You imagined, or really perceived, in them a lordly air of
superiority—and even said that some of our households bear the impress
of the feudal age in which our race was cradled.

I remember wanting to say that the criticism did not, and could not,
apply to Scotch husbands.  But perhaps wisely I held my peace.

We left it, what is called in Scotland "a moot point"—and a moot point,
I guess, it must remain.  Anyway, wherever George got his knowledge,
whether natural or acquired, he has gripped the essence of this thing
when he calls separation the supreme test of the bond.  I am going to
write to him when I am through with this, and you are not to see that
letter, nor yet ask to see it—I need him—I want the man’s point of view.

What is this all about anyway?  I think I hear you say with the uplift
of the brows which is your very own.

You, in America, with your semi-detached ideas of marriage, which enable
you to bear six months’ or a year’s separation without any sinking of
heart, or vague questionings, must naturally find it difficult to
realise our point of view.  With us marriage is "for keeps," as you say,
and when upheaval comes, it seems always to spell disaster.

Perhaps our theory is all wrong, and an unwarrantable interference with
the freedom of the individual.  But I can’t be happy thinking of Himself
with a whole lot of new interests I can’t share, making shoals of
friends, which is as easy to him as breathing the air, friends whom
probably I shall never see.  He can guess pretty well what I am about,
but I can’t visualise him.  Just think of the hundreds of wives, and of
other women who are feeling like this, and who are at war with the war,
that has brought it about.

There is another side to the picture, the side that proves the part
truth of your assertion that we don’t bring up our husbands properly.
Let me present a little cameo of the times in which we live.  I was at a
war tea at a women’s club in London the other day, and there met an old
acquaintance I had not seen for some time.  She was quite
middle-aged—and had been rather dowdy, not paying much attention to her
clothes.  Before I spoke to her, I was arrested by a subtle change in
her outward appearance.  She had a smart suit on, and wore a distinctly
youthful hat with a rakish air.

The thing interested me, and I had to find out its meaning.

When we exchanged greetings she informed me that her husband, retired,
had gone back to professional work, which meant that he could not live
at home, but at a military Headquarters.

I sympathised and asked how she got through the lonely days which I was
feeling so desperately.  She looked at me queerly through her shrewd
candid grey eyes.

"Oh, I’m not lonely," she assured me.  "In fact, _entre nous_, I’m
having the time of my life."

"Tell me about it," I asked breathlessly, and she told——

"Well, I go out and in as I like, do all the things I have always wanted
to do, but could not.  Nobody now asks me where I’ve been or what I’ve
spent.  In fact, I don’t really think I have any more use for Dan."

There, Cornelia—it will make you smile, perhaps, but there is a tragedy
behind it. Poor old Dan! comfortable, complacent, no doubt inflated by a
new sense of his own importance because his country still needs him, to
what strange and hostile atmosphere will he return!  I can imagine him
rubbing his eyes and wiping his _pince nez_ and saying, "Tut, tut, this
will never do!"

But he won’t be able to put back the clock. He’ll have to march to the
new marching tune.

I foresee ructions in the household of Dan.

Meanwhile, she is having the time of her life!

It makes no appeal to me, because I have always been able to have the
time of my life, as she understands it.  I have gone in and out without
let or hindrance, none daring to make me afraid.  And now, I am just a
lonely creature like a bit of drift on the shore.


There is another side to which George calls the supreme test—a horrible
sordid side. Hear it now.  When I went to France first in 1915, to talk
to the boys, I was asked whether I would go to a small forage camp in a
God-forsaken place away up near Abbeville, beyond the British
Headquarters.  It was a kind of No Man’s Land which nobody ever visited.
Lectures and concert parties passed it by.  I said, "Of course I’ll go,
it is what I’ve come out for."

So Effie and I got up at four o’clock in the morning to catch the only
available civilian train leaving Rouen for "up the line."  The distance
could not be far, according to the map, but it took us till three
o’clock in the afternoon to get there.  We were shunted into sidings to
let troop trains and ammunition trains and hospital trains go by, and
there were no passengers in ours except French officers and other people
connected with the war.

No women, but we two.  I was so thankful to have Effie.  Her gay
inconsequence, her complete disregard of everything but the great
adventure, helped us over every stony bit of the ground.  Gendarmes,
sentries with fixed bayonets, grumpy passport and permit officials—she
captured them all.  Youth is quite invincible, and when its smile is
sweet like hers obstacles melt like mist before the rising sun. If I had
even attempted that wonderful journey through the war zone without her I
should either have been shot as a spy, or interned for the duration.  It
is short shrift for the middle-aged and the ordinary beings who can’t
explain their business in the area where death and destiny walk side by
side.  Well, in course of time, through several minor adventures, we
reached our destination.

A sturdy little divinity student from Aberdeen was holding the fort
there for the Y.M.C.A. and holding it well.  When he went first to give
them a bit of humanizing Christian comradeship, he had to sleep with a
revolver under his pillow, fully aware that any night he might get his
throat cut.  These men were not soldiers, though they wore khaki, but
rough east-enders, dock laborers, most of them, with lawless anarchic
blood in their veins.  They had spent the major part of their lives
rebelling against law and order.  They were the husbands of some of the
women whose faces broke your heart when I took you to my big mothers’
meeting "down east" two years ago.  The fortunes of war had cut them off
from the grime and glory of the Barking Road, and those in authority
found them a tough proposition in that sweet valley in the pleasant land
of France.

We pottered about the camp till nightfall, when the men gathered into
the tent to hear the woman who had brought them a message from home.

I knew when I stood up in front of them and saw their faces, looking
grim and unrelenting through the haze of tobacco smoke and the reek of
the oil lamp, that I was up against something, and would need not only
all my art, but the grace of God to help me through.

But I got them after a bit, got them in the hollow of my hand—playing on
their hearts with memories of home, though all the time I knew the kind
of homes they had left, and how hard most of them had made it there for
the women they had vowed to love, honour and cherish.

When the talk was over they crowded round and one particularly
unattractive person with a scowling eye inquired whether he could have a
word with me privately.  We managed it later on in a remote corner, hard
by one of the evil-smelling lamps.

"’Ere, missus," he began.  "Do yer ’appen to know the Barkin’ Road?"

I eagerly asserted my complete familiarity with the Barking Road, the
Kings’ Highway to Dockland!  I was even ready to proclaim it the finest
thoroughfare in the world.

"See here, then, Lidy, thet was good talk, but it don’t go far enough.
Maybe I weren’t all I should a bin w’en I was back there, but my missus
she ain’t played the game, she’s played it low down on me since I’ve
been in this ’ere war.  I ain’t had no letters from ’er for over four
months, and I carnt ’ear nuthink about the four kids nah, but a bloke
wot lives dahn our street sends me word that she’s sold up the whole
bloomin’ shoot and nobody knows where she is, and the kids is in the
Union.  An’ I carnt git out of this blarsted ’ole to see to the kids and
give ’er wot for.  Wot are ye goin’ to do about it, Lidy?"  That was
what people call a tough proposition, Cornelia, the whole tragedy of
one-half of the war in a nutshell.

I did what I could.  I tried to comfort him and took down all the
particulars in the note book already bulging with behests, which it will
probably take me the rest of my natural life to fulfil.

When I got back to England I made the inquiries, put the Salvation Army
angel on the track, and found it all just as he described. His missus
has never been found—she has gone down in the underworld, urged there by
the very same temptations which made Dan’s wife say she had no more use
for Dan. Tasting independence of action and of purse for the first time,
she lost her sense of proportion. With the well-to-do, it is the sweets
of independence that is testing them—with the other sort, the lure of
the separation allowances, which means more money in hand than they had
ever dreamed of before in their poor, narrow, sordid lives.

There’s something all wrong with life, Cornelia. It will have to be
straightened out and evened up, and the poor and the oppressed will have
to taste a little of the glory and the beauty and the dignity of life.

Perhaps that is what the war is for.

Meanwhile the poor bond!

It will have to be recast in the new world we are coming to.

How many of us will stand the test?


Himself has been back on his first leave. It is Sunday night, he has
just gone, and the door is shut again; leaving me inside while he is
speeding away back to the unknown.  It has been a lovely heartbreaking
time.  But he is detached, Cornelia, he doesn’t belong any more.  I had
made superhuman efforts to get the whole house in order, sitting up late
at night to cover cushions and put in all the fixings that make the real
home.  He was very polite, looking industriously at everything, and all
the time his eyes were not seeing my poor little attempts at
home-making—but something else far away.  All he said was, "It’s very
nice, but I have all I want in a tent," He didn’t mean to be cruel; he
was only gripped by his new life, saw the mess table with his comrades
round about him—the route march—the sham attack, all the pomp and
preparation for the real war they are going out to presently.  The
things no woman can share; or can be asked to share!

It is the man’s life, the big grey splendid thing which we are outside
of, not once in a while, but forever and ever.

He has changed, Cornelia—not to me, but he has gotten the vision of the
fierce arena where men are fighting and dying that Liberty may live; has
not only gotten the vision, but has become part of it.

And I am only the woman left by the fireside. I don’t see the glory of
the war as I used.  The envy I felt towards the women who spoke proudly
of their men at the front has died utterly.  I don’t want him at the
front.  I want him _here_ desperately, every minute of the time.  He
doesn’t feel like that. He can do without me.

You said somewhere that since George heard that Himself has gone, he is,
like Carlyle, "gey ill to live with," cursing the waiting policy of the
President, the everlasting framing of notes full of dignified protest
about nothing in particular.

He wants to have a hand in the great big game, I know.  But if the time
should come, soon or late, when your roads and streets shall resound
with the beat of armed and arming men, put the lid on George.  Never
mind how, but just do it.

It is hell!



                                 *VIII*


I am writing this quite a long way from my base.  The Black Watch, to
which regiment Himself now belongs, has been sent to the East coast and
I am here in a billet with him for a few weeks.

It is the loveliest old city, interwoven with all the ancient history,
when Flemings and Danes and all kinds of weird aliens invaded or flocked
to these shores.  It is beloved by your American tourists; if George and
you did not differ from all American tourists whatsoever, you would have
been here long ago, and could tell me far more about it than is to be
obtained out of the most authenticated guide book. You, however, have
always preferred to take your travel in microscopic doses, to make a
little bit your intimate and dear possession for all time.  I am
surprised to find this old Norwich such a noble city, and I should love
to show you the ancient landmarks.  It is full of treasures, of values
which cannot be told, or was, rather, for the powers that be have
mysteriously spirited them away, and the priceless stained glass windows
have been boarded up—the very most priceless of all has been taken down.
The fate of Rheims and Louvain and Ypres has made the city fathers wise.
But it is an omen, Cornelia, which keeps me awake o’ nights and gives me
the jumps when I hear the streets resound with the tramp of armed men in
the silent watches—Himself having been summoned with the rest to "stand
to" as they call it, with their faces toward the sea.

The boys have an expression which sums up these frequent forced
marches—they call it "getting the wind up."  The wind is up here more
often than I like it, and when I hear quite sober quiet matrons tell
what they will do if the dread moment ever comes when the Hun invades
these shores, I have no strength in me.  I am not brave at all,
Cornelia, something has been left out of my composition. This is the
most vulnerable part of our far-flung coast, and there is a great
watching army right along.  Those whose duty it will be to guide the
civilian population in case of emergency have what you call the schedule
ready, and nothing will be left to chance.  I don’t want to be here when
it happens, my dear; this nameless lurking fear that never sleeps takes
the edge off the joy of being with him.  He has no belief at all in the
landing of German troops in England.  You know he is an incurable
optimist about the War.  He considers that we are invincible and that
victory is only a matter of time.  It must be a delightful atmosphere to
live and move and have your being in; it helps to keep one young.  He
can sleep through anything and only grumbles when he has not enough of
sleep.

My war experiences are widening.  Yesterday we had a bombardment from
the sea—not of Norwich, of course—if you remember your geography you
will know that it is not possible—but of the coast places, Yarmouth and
Lowestoft, less than twenty miles away.

I was awakened about four o’clock in the morning by a dull boom and the
sharp rattle of the windows.  Having lived so much beside naval guns in
our own special Kingdom by the Sea, I knew exactly what it was and shook
Himself.  "That’s naval guns," I said. "There’s a fight going on quite
close by."  "Nonsense," he answered.  "You’re dreaming—go to sleep."  I
could not, and rose early to hear from the little maid, who had heard it
from the milkman, that the coast places had been bombarded and much
damage done. You know how rumours fly and how disasters are multiplied
and intensified, as they pass from mouth to mouth.  Himself came back
from the mess with little news beyond the facts, and I was glad when a
friend rang me up to ask if I’d like to go down to the coast with her in
her car.

Of course I liked it, and we took some of the bigger children with us—it
was Easter week and they were all at home from school, round-eyed,
eager, fearless about the war, which to them is nothing but the Great
Adventure.  We hardly expected to get through the military barrier, but
we did, and saw what had been done.

It is the same pitiful tale of destruction which follows in the
Zeppelin’s track, senseless, horrible war on defenceless folk who have
little or nothing to protect them.  These delightful east-coast watering
places are all ruined, because everybody who could afford it has "quit"
as you say, and the boarding houses and hotels are empty, and will be
for the "duration."

It was very typically British to find the front thronged with
spectators, women wheeling babies in perambulators, all gazing upon the
scene, but not apparently frightened at the wreckage.  The story was
soon told.  Some battle-cruisers suddenly appeared about six miles out
and opened fire for twenty minutes or so, and then ran.  There was no
patrol to attack them, if it was anybody’s business to be on the outside
there, they were off guard. The only criticism one is inclined to make
is that it could not happen in Germany.

This pleasant East Anglian land is lovely beyond compare in the
exquisite spring unfolding, but the blight of war seems over all.

They are getting ready great camps nearer the sea, and the troops will
be taken out of their winter billets.

Himself is very busy inspecting and reporting, and generally proving as
efficient and thorough in military life as he is in civilian.

I begin to understand the lure of the life. There is perpetual movement,
excitement, expectation.  There is a certain kind of social life,
lunches and dinners and other entertainment offered by hospitable people
to the incomers, the great Highland host that has invaded their stately
precincts.  There are lots of little war brides here with their young
soldier husbands, and maturer matrons, some of them with considerable
families, living in furnished houses trying to make a bit of home for
the soldier men, and very interested themselves, though it is all so
strange and inconvenient and far from home.

We have delightful rooms in a comfortable house; it is quite a rest for
me, and I am getting through with my next book.

When they get into camp I shall have to go back home to the loneliness
that is only companioned by fear.

We are kept in inky darkness here on account of the frequent air raids.
A month’s imprisonment without the option of a fine is the sentence for
striking a match in the street. The authorities are lynx-eyed and
vigilant, their reward is that this beautiful old city in its historic
setting has remained immune through more than a score of attacks from
the air.  It is protected, too, by the trees, which add so much to its
beauty.

It has been an experience, Cornelia, it is all part of the strange
upheaval men call war, the outward fringes of it only, yet how deeply,
inextricably woven in with the whole woof of life!

Every day one hears of the most extraordinary war marriages, rushed
into, too often, after a few days’ acquaintance, without a thought given
to the awful indissolubility of the bond.  For whatever the experience
of matrimony may be like, you can never be as you were before.  Already
there has been much repenting at leisure, and when the glamour of the
khaki is off, the tragedy will deepen and enfold the helpless creatures
who cannot free themselves, and have no basis for a future.

There are scandals, too, and tragedies too deep for tears, broken vows,
faithless lovers and husbands, all the cursed things born of abnormal
situations, and the kind of feverish false atmosphere created by war.

These things cry as loud to Heaven as the blood and sorrow from the
battlefields, and make thoughtful people reiterate the prayer, Oh, Lord!
how long?

They are what we call "after the war problems."  Some of them will never
be tackled—there is no machinery known to the human understanding
capable of tackling them—many will just have to be buried deep, and no
cross left to mark the burying place.

There stands out for me here the joy of comradeship as men understand
it, gripping it to their souls with hooks of steel.

We don’t have it, Cornelia—we women, I mean—it is something we do not
get, nor perhaps understand.  It is not that we are too petty, but
rather, I think, because we have to keep ourselves more detached and
selfless for all that men need and must have from us, if the Family is
to be held together.

I have never seen anything more lovely than the tie between Himself and
the young officers, these splendid boys, pictures, every one in their
Kilts, and all the panoply of war. Old enough to be father to any one of
them, he has kept the boy’s heart, so that he is not only with them at
the mess, but one of them.  He is so wise and tender with them, that
they come to him in every trouble.  It makes me weep, and yet feel so
proud, but not in the least surprised.  Did I ever tell you about the
bundle of letters, docketed, dated and tied up, I found among the Boy’s
things after he went away?  His father’s letters—which revealed to me a
side of Himself I had never seen.

They ought to be printed, but I suppose other fathers write the same
kind of letters to their sons at schools, letters that help the
sensitive young souls to grapple with the mysteries of life.  It is all
part of their nature—the bit that isn’t ours—comradeship between man and
man!  When found between father and son, it is the most beautiful thing
in life.

You will be stunned by the news of Kitchener’s passing.  It created a
panic here among the common folk.

I met a woman in the street, with a crushed copy of the evening paper
under her arm, wringing her hands and crying out that "all was lost."
It shows what a hold he had upon the popular imagination.  His has been,
and is, a name to conjure with.  The product of his vast personal
magnetism is on every fighting front, and in every training camp at
home. He was a great man—but his work was done—others will reap where he
has sown.

The memorial services in the Cathedral here were fitting and fine,
massed and muffled bands, a dense crowd of khaki-colored men. Generals
and high military personages galore, all the pride and pomp of war.  But
Kitchener will live in the hearts of the people—his true memorial is to
be found in the serried rows of crosses in France and Flanders where so
much of the army he called into being lies in consecrated dust that is
"forever England."

I am back again in old Hertford to find letters urging my return to
France.

It is sweet to hear, not only from Effie, who says it in almost every
letter from Camiers, but from those in authority, that the boys are
always asking when I am coming back.

The time-limit is the difficulty—everywhere, but more especially in the
war zone, the restrictions are growing in intensity, and permits for
foreign service to civilians are now almost impossible to obtain.  If I
agree to stay three months, I can go to-morrow, but how can I leave home
for three months, as long as Himself is still on this side of the water,
liable to come on leave any day, or even just to say good-bye before he
sails?

I can’t do it, so I am compromising by agreeing to go for a spell to the
home camps.

The Winchester Command has asked me for a month and I’ll try to put in a
part of it soon. Effie is due on leave immediately, but she is finding
conditions changing too at her base. What has happened is that all the
butterflies and the undesirables, out merely for a new sensation, have
been weeded out and only the solid workers remain.

"The plague of women" that tormented the military authorities during the
Boer War and created endless problems in South Africa has been more
drastically dealt with in this war.

I wish I could tell you all the things Effie has told me, but there is a
certain reticence to be observed, and amid so much that is fine and
noble why insist or dwell upon the flaws?

You asked about Florence in your last letter and I gave her your
message.  Daily I thank God for my faithful servant and friend who cares
for me so tenderly, and is so understanding of all the trials of this
changed, unnatural life.  She is part of the House of Defence—the shadow
of a great rock in a weary land. She has three brothers in the war.  One
who had been frightfully wounded about the head and face came back
convalescent the other day and I saw him here.  I was afraid to go into
the kitchen, knowing what the nature of his wounds had been, but so
cleverly, wonderfully, had he been handled by these heaven-born surgeons
who repair the waste and wreckage of war that he looked much as of yore,
though with some deep scars where part of a new jaw had been grafted on.
He was very quiet, as those are who have been long in the midst of
unspeakable things, but when I asked him whether he was willing to go
back, he just smiled.

"There is nothing else to be done," he answered.  "And there’s the
regiment and the pals."  That is the spirit of Kitchener’s Army—the
spirit that lives after him, and which will bring the victory.  It makes
one proud to be alive and to belong to the old flag.

Picture me then, Cornelia, carrying on as bravely and steadily as may
be, a little rocky and homesick at times, but yet following, if afar
off, in the track the boys have outlined and worn by the tramp of their
brave unflinching feet.  To be worthy, not only of those who have died
to keep us safe and free, but of those who have been maimed and wrecked
for us in the summer of their days, and have still to live with their
cross upon them—that is the charge laid upon the rest of us, by the God
who is watching the conflict from His secret place, biding His hour to
strike.



                                  *IX*


The grip of war is tightening in on our little Island, Cornelia.  Soon
it will be relentless.

As I was standing this morning with Florence in our sadly diminished and
attenuated store cupboard she said in her simple direct way, "Do you
notice that every day there is a little less, something else we have to
do without?"  It was apropos of the plum puddings and the mincemeat, now
due to be made, but for which there are no ingredients.  A good many
households in England and Scotland depended upon our Christmas puddings.
I hate to have them go short, but diplomatic relations being what they
are with Tino of Greece, we have no currants.  It is thus we visualise
and realise the intimate discomfort of a world at war.  It has all to be
cheerfully faced, however, and we talked substitutes for a good half
hour, and there will be a pudding of some sort to go forth to the
waiting households, though it will be minus the plums.

Since I wrote you last I have been to Scotland.

War has shaken the foundations of our Kingdom by the Sea.  It has ceased
to be a haven and become in very truth a coast defense. The cliffs
bristle with guns, they have crept up from the fort, till the nearest
one is over the garden wall not fifty yards away. There it stands with
its gleaming nozzle to the sea, the gunners unsleeping night and day by
its side.

It has become horrible and menacing.  Its old-world intimate charm,
which belongs to simple places untouched by conventionality, has surely
gone, forever sacrificed, as so much else has been, to the monster that
has convulsed the world.

When we could not keep the Boy we laid him here in the place he so
loved—and it was a crumb of comfort in our sorrow to feel that if he had
been given choice he would himself have chosen to sleep on the windy
hill above the shore where in his childhood days he used to paddle with
his fat brown legs, and his bucket gripped hard in his podgy little
hands.

As I sat there by his white cross on the windy hill and listened to the
beat of the surf on the rocks below, I wondered what he was thinking of
it all, and I felt glad that his dear dust was sleeping sweetly, his
soul safe in the Father’s House.  I think I must tell you here, my
soul’s friend, of a strange story I have had sent to me from France, a
story which affects me and mine.  The Boy had his father’s genius for
friendship, and clung to his chums with all the ardour of his nature.  I
lost sight of his chief one when Oxford swallowed him. In a busy life
like mine there is not time to do all the things one wants to do.  The
garden of friendship even has to suffer through the lack of cultivation.

This chum was starting what promised to be a brilliant professional
career when the war threw him into the vortex.  As a young lieutenant of
the Engineers he crossed to France and received his death wounds at La
Bassée. I was in France at the time and could so easily have found him
in the hospital among the sand dunes near Wimereux, only I did not know.
I did not even see his name in the _Times_.  You know we don’t read the
lists so carefully now, most of us are afraid.  After a time I got a
letter from his mother telling me how he had died.  He had lingered
three weeks, suffering no pain, fully aware that he could not recover,
ready to die as he had lived, without fear, bravely, as brave men only
can and do die. His mother was with him to the end.  I am not sure
whether I envy her.  Mine went in a flash without pain or warning, or
possible shrinking, straight from one home of love to another.  It must
wring a mother’s heart to watch the candle flickering out so slowly.
She wanted to be with him night and day, but he always urged her to
leave him at night; both because she never slept and he was better
alone.  She was very sad until he said one night, "Do go mother, I am
never lonely you know, for when you go, Ned comes.  He is here all the
time—and I want you to know he’s waiting for me and I’ll be all right
over there."  All right over there!  God, how beautiful it is, and how
it comforted me to feel that my son is no more lonely in the Father’s
House.

Those things are not figments of the imagination, Cornelia—the veil is
very thin, and the Lord Christ Himself walks with these dear lads and
shows them the way home.

I am glad they are both out of it now—safe forevermore.

My sister, Janet, whom you never met, and who has so long cared for our
summer home, is no longer able.  She has never really recovered the
shock of the Boy’s passing—and though she stoutly denies it, the strain
of the war had told on her very much.  She must have a rest and get away
for a while from the guns of the coast defence.  So we have let the
house. Conceive it, Cornelia, if you can—strangers living and sleeping
and possessing our Kingdom by the Sea!

The house the children loved best of all the houses in the world is now
in military possession! How truly Florence touched the spring when she
said, "Every day there is something to be given up."

If it means helping to win the war, if it can be won no other way than
by giving up all we are and have, why then let us in the name of God do
it gladly, with high heads and shining eyes in which there are no tears.

It is liberty and love we fight for.  If they are slain, what will be
left?

My sister has come here to be with me for some months.  I am disquieted
about her.  She looks frail, and she has lost the old buoyancy and wit.
Now that she can rest for the first time in her life, the desire to rest
has passed. It is all so pathetic and so typical of the stern discipline
we call life.  We really are in the fighting line from the cradle to the
grave.  I smiled this morning looking back to when I said it was
necessary to take her out of the strain of the Coast Defence.  Because
she has come into the real war zone here, and last night got a taste of
invasion from the air.  I must tell you about it because, though we have
had many attacks from the air during the last year, this one stands out.
We brought one of the raiders down—a mass of flaming wreckage—an awful
but a glorious sight.

I have sometimes wished I could have you come here to share one of our
Zeppelin nights, to feel the thrill of tense fear which seizes the
bravest when the warning sounds, to run with us to shelter, and live the
long hours of strain and terror through.

I forget whether I told you that we have very good cellarage in our
Chinese Chippendale house and that we accommodate about 20 or 30 less
fortunate neighbours while the danger is most imminent.  Florence takes
special pride in the cellar; she keeps it very clean and snug, spreads
old rugs and sets out the garden chairs.  Then there is an oil stove and
various wraps for the cold nights.  It can be very cold in a cellar
about 3 A.M. when one’s vitality is at its lowest ebb, and fear lurks in
every corner.

Some of the women bring their knitting and the mechanical exercise helps
to allay nervous distress.  A woman I met one morning after a raid said
she had been out buying dusters for her Zeppelin guests to hem in their
forced seclusion.  Of course it is the gregarious instinct which brings
them together; danger seems less awful somehow when it is shared.

I don’t know whether they notice how short a time I spend under ground—I
never sit down there.  I want to be up and out if possible, facing the
danger, of which I am yet mortally afraid.  I don’t fancy death in a
cellar and I fear I am like the tommies, a fatalist as regards bullets
and bombs.

But I’m digressing shamefully.  The warning came about seven, and just
before nine, we heard the grating of the engines up aloft. It was so
loud we thought there must be two or three, but we could not see
anything.  They went straight over London, approaching as usual from the
North, and just missing us. They dropped a good many bombs, and the air
was full of the noise of bursting shells, and the clatter of our
anti-aircraft guns.  Shrapnel was flying from them, even over our little
town, and safety was only to be found indoors.

About midnight the marauders began to retrace their steps, if I may put
it so, and came right overhead.

Then we beheld a wonderful and glorious sight.  Our intrepid airmen,
just like great gadflies winging through the night, were searching the
sky for the enemy and presently one got above the stationary Zeppelin
and found the range.  It looked as if they were directly above the
church opposite to us, but the actual conflict took place in the air
about 8 miles away.

When he got the range he showed a green light, a signal to the
anti-aircraft guns below to cease firing.  We could not hear the shot
that made an end of the monster, but presently we saw vivid streaks like
forked lightning run along the side of the giant airship.  The next
moment, a mass of white flame, it toppled over and began slowly to
descend.  The cage became detached first and those who were near enough
saw the body of its unfortunate occupant fall from it.  It descended in
a field behind the doctor’s house at Potter’s Bar, and such a cheer rent
the air, ringing hoarse from a million throats, from London to the sea,
that one felt positively thrilled, and forgot the night of fear.  Some
wept and some sang "God Save the King."  The great solid satisfying fact
that the death-dealing monster had been utterly destroyed sent us
thankful to our beds. These awful happenings have their comic as well as
their tragic side, and even with nerves strung to the highest pitch we
are able to laugh.

We had the Holbrooks for the week end—the whole four of them.  He is a
typical John Bull, and he was much annoyed because a very keen game of
bridge was interrupted.  He resented the interference with his liberty
and personal convenience.  Nothing on earth would take him to the
cellar, he simply planted himself with a very long pipe and a whiskey
and soda in the library, where he sat with a suffering air, what we call
the "O Lord, how long?" expression on his face.  His women folk,
thrilled and interested, for though they live in London their area has
so far escaped intimate acquaintance with Zeppelins, could not be
brought in from the street.

Mrs. Holbrook is just as amusing in her way as her spouse.  Born in
England of German parents, she is loyal to the core, and rejoices that
she has never even seen Germany. She loathes the war and all it stands
for, and she will never give her son until she is obliged to; she is the
living personification of the line, "I didn’t raise my boy to be a
soldier."  She can’t understand, though she is a dear soul, the thrill
and the pride with which we can give and give and give, not money, but
our heart’s blood till there is nothing left.

It is the waste of war which terrifies her. You see, she has no hope or
belief in anything beyond this life.  She just shakes her head if you
speak to her of the souls that are marching on.  "I hope you’re right,"
she says, "but I don’t believe it myself, when I am dead there will be
an end of me; that’s as far as I’ve got."

How awful to have to live up against such a blank wall—no wonder she
clings to the material body of her son with frantic hands that will
never let him go.

We got through the night at last, snatched an hour or two’s sleep, and
in the morning went over to Potter’s Bar in the motor to see all that
was left of the monster of the air.

The pretty little village swarmed with people "out for to see" just as
our town swarmed with them when we got our share of attention from Count
Zeppelin.

We tramped through indescribable mud to the sweet meadow where the
wreckage lay; partly caught in the branches of a giant oak tree—then
trailing away across the sward like the tail of some enormous
rattlesnake.  We did not see the engines—they had been removed in the
small hours on a military truck. What we did see was the retrieval of
the bodies from the wreckage—poor charred objects—perfectly
unrecognisable.  Mothers’ sons every one, and somewhere in Germany their
homes will be desolate because they do not return.  I thought of that,
but the temper of the crowd was hostile and bitter, and the feeling
uppermost was grim satisfaction that they had met a righteous and
deserved doom.

More of the dark fruits of war, the tempering and hardening of a
naturally kindly people into a thirst for revenge.

God send it may end soon—before we are all so changed that we shall bear
no semblance to our former selves.



                                  *X*


I seem to have reached the end of my letter just about the time I wrote
to you last and the doctor, whom in the absence of Himself, I had to
call in, ordered me to go away and take a complete rest—you know the
formula—but dear God, how can we rest in a world where there is no rest,
and with the thunder of the guns in our ears night and day.  It is the
Somme fighting now, in which we have lost so many of those we love.

I think I gave up the day I got a telegram telling me Dick had been
killed at Trones Wood.  You remember Dick, and Isabel, that lovely pair
for whom I wrote the little book, "Letters to a War Bride."

I don’t quite know how to tell you what he was like—a most gallant
gentle Knight without fear and without reproach—yet so full of fun, that
somehow laughter sang in the heart wherever he came—the laughter that
doeth good like a medicine.  The last time I saw him, Isabel had come
down from Palace Gate to spend a few days and Dick came marching through
with his Fusiliers, en route from Colchester to France.  He and his
Major dined with us—and I never saw him again—nor ever will see him now,
till we meet on the other side.

No doubt we are naturally drawn towards those whom nature has richly
endowed.  He was as handsome as a dream—tall, dark with flashing tender
eyes and a smile that was never far away from his lips.  A man of peace
if ever there was one, yet he was dedicated to war, in order that peace
may be established for all time as "one of those things that cannot be
shaken."

They were a beautiful pair; she with her slender, delicate charm, her
braids of red gold hair, her pathetic eyes.  I have never seen such
love.  It often made me afraid.  And now he sleeps there on the Somme
where we have already left ninety thousand like him. Great God, and yet
there are those who ask when Britain is going to come into the war and
why she doesn’t bear her share!

I felt I had to go to her, but she was far away at her father’s place in
Scotland and I was not able to go.  My marching orders were drastic.
Himself ordered me to Harrogate, where he said he would come the moment
he could get forty-eight hours’ leave.

So I got me ready, and Janet went part of the way, branching off at
York, for Hull.  I arrived at Harrogate like a person in a dream,
seeking a cure.  A cure from what?  Inside my heart were wounds for
which there never could be any cure this side the grave.  I found I was
nearer the breaking point than I knew, for when I got to bed there I
found I was not able to get up again.  The heart had gone clean out of
me.  I remember Himself arriving from out of some void at six o’clock in
the morning, and his face as he stood over me asking me questions,
taking temperatures and doing all the things the Doctor has to do when
he is up against his job.

Then there were consultations and telephones and people coming in and
out of the room.  Strange men asking questions and looking at me, and at
one another, with grave faces.  I seemed so out of it all, and when I
heard them say outside of the door, "We’d better tell her," something
flashed through me with a thrill of unexplicable, inconceivable joy.  I
had come to the end, the door was ajar, and I should get away clean and
forever from the fever and the fret—the holding up when you feel
yourself wilting, the carrying on when there is nothing to carry on
with.

Tired?  There is no word that can begin to describe how tired I was.
Then they came in and told me I should have to have an operation
immediately—within an hour or two.  I just smiled and said, "Very well."

The next thing I was being carried down the hotel stairs on a stretcher
to the ambulance, where they laid me down rolled in a blanket—a nurse
was at the head and Himself sitting like a grim sentinel at the foot—we
never spoke to one another, not a single word.  You have never seen him
look like that, Cornelia—you have only heard his laugh, and seen his
dancing eyes, while he tried to tease you and to imitate what he called
the Yankee twang.

As for me my eyes were fixed on the tender blue of the sky—flecked with
those wonderful delicious little fleecy clouds like foam flakes on an
azure sea, and all the time I wondered whether soon I would be up and
away beyond them.

It was to a private hospital they took me and I had to lie in a weird
kind of bed there till the hour came.  I had no fear or apprehension—I
had just given up.  Himself and I did not talk.  When you have been so
long together surely everything has been said.  But I saw his face hard
and set and sharp in the clear light, and understood that the bond had
stood the test.

The operation was successful, but when I awoke and found I was still in
the land of the living, I wept with sheer disappointment.  I had relaxed
my hold, given up, wanted to be free.  But apparently there is work
still to be done, but where, oh where, am I to find strength to do it?

Convalescence in pleasant surroundings is a kind of lotus land and I
have a sympathy I had never felt before for the women who acquire what
Himself calls the "nursing Home habit."  The utter lack of
responsibility, submission to the will of others; complete surrender of
one’s entity has its private and particular lure for the human soul.  To
eat and sleep and get well is a simple creed enough, but it is apt to
have a corroding effect. Sometimes I had the awful feeling that I should
never be able to go back to the real world and begin the fight all over
again.  I read much and was able to give my full attention to "Mr.
Britling Sees It Through."

It impressed me so much that I wrote a long letter to H.G. and had a
very characteristic reply.  He is taking himself as seriously as ever,
and all the world is called to witness the evolution of his soul.  I
have been watching it for quite a long time.  To us who are veterans on
the road it seems all a little crude and pathetic.

Nevertheless it is one of the finest books of the war that has been
written.  I expect you have already read it—tell me how it strikes you?

Himself, restored to his normal courage and cheerfulness, came and took
me home.  His commanding officer has been very decent to him through it
all, and has not grudged nor forbidden the necessary leave.  I was about
a week alone before Effie came and she is going to stay this time till I
am quite well.  We have all sorts of plans.  It all ended in our going
to Bournemouth to get out of the air raid zone and enjoy the sunshine of
the south coast.

The place was very full and though it was quite safe from the air
alarms—everywhere we met wounded and broken men, blinded men, and those
wearing on their faces the look of those who have seen and known.  And
it was there at Bournemouth that we got the glad, the glorious news that
you had come in.  We did not know how badly we had wanted it, how near
we were to the breaking point till the message which has transformed the
whole world was flashed across the seas.

We were at Boscombe and the Nicolls at the Bath Hotel at Bournemouth.
When we met that night I was struck by the expression on Sir William’s
face even more than by anything he said.  He looked like a man from whom
the cloud had been lifted and who could once more breathe freely.  He
knows all there is to know about the war and when I saw the effect the
momentous decision had upon him, I seemed to realise how much had
depended on it.  All he said was "Thank God, America has come in!"

                     *      *      *      *      *

I wanted to send a cable to George and the only thing I could think of
was "Hail Columbia!"  Effie remarked, "It will be nice and cheap."

This has narrowed the dividing seas and I am seeing you and George and
all the other Georges and Cornelias who care, holding a jubilee.
Nothing seems to matter now—however long the war lasts, we can see it
out. Though the way may be uphill to the very end, we can climb it to
the victory peaks—companioned by your strength and sympathy and
substantial help.

I am so glad about it I can’t sleep.  Effie has just made a little
sketch of Uncle George receiving the news; it is a disrespectful sketch,
but I’m putting it in.

All that matters now is that we belong to one another and to posterity
forever and ever.



                                  *XI*


I got your delightful letter yesterday.  It came at the psychological
moment when I was right down in the depths.  It was a friendly true hand
stretched across the dark void.

It has happened, Cornelia; Himself has gone beyond my ken in the troop
train and the troop ship, across the seas.  It came, as all the marching
orders do, without warning or preparation.  He was simply told to be
ready for embarkation in forty-eight hours—destination Egypt—not France
or Flanders, but away to the Orient, from whence come no leave trains.
How often have I stood on the platform at Victoria or Charing Cross to
bid some comrade good-bye; and been thrilled by the poignant tenseness
of the hour, the glory and the humour and the pathos of it.  Saying
good-bye to a pal, however good he may be, is not the same as saying
good-bye to your very own, every hair of whose head is dear. There was
no glory nor humour for me that day at Waterloo, though Ronald Robertson
of the gallant Gordons did his best to provide both, with his crutches
and his merry smile.

I told you how he had lost his leg at Loos; a boy to whom legs meant so
much.  All he says is that he would give the other one, too, if it would
do them any good.  How are you to even _think_ of your own sorrow in the
face of a devotion so invincible, so divine?

We were a little company of close friends to see Himself go off; no
woman dare go through that ordeal quite alone.  It was an officers’
train, some of them so very, very young, and so pathetically proud to be
really going at last in all the panoply of war, with the addition of
brand new pith helmets which extinguished their features when they put
them on, and made them look like overgrown mushrooms.

There was the usual hustle and delay, but at last the signal blew and
the snorting engine dragged them away to the tunnel which swallowed the
hearts of half the women left behind. It was an awful moment, just black
darkness that could be felt.  There is something wrong, Cornelia,
something terribly wrong with a world in which such things are possible.
People can’t have been meant to suffer so much, yet somehow I feel that
we have not come to the end of the pain yet.  It is Calvary we are
coming to, and this is only getting us ready.

Himself said very little.  He just looked wrung and asked some one in a
very quick, hoarse voice to take care of me.

So he is away out into the void, the biggest void of all, and I am left
to fill up and carry on as best I can.

Your dear letter has turned my thoughts into an entirely new direction.
George’s summing up of your feverish war activities in America as
"getting restless in your sleep" is really fine.  Tell him with my love
that I did not think he could have evolved it from his gay inner
consciousness.  What I am absolutely sure about, is that there is
nothing feverish or casual about _his_ war activities.  I shall expect
to receive a photograph of him in uniform.  Age?  What is Age?  It
doesn’t count in this war.  The uniform took ten years off Himself’s age
and he will see that they are kept off.

I know a man, one of our County magnates, who has given four sons to the
war.  Two have been killed, one still fights and the last has been
invalided out and given a military post at home.

The old man, seventy, if he is a day, has got himself taken on somehow,
and in ranker’s uniform acts as his Colonel Son’s orderly and is very
particular about the salutes!

Love of country is ageless, thank God; Himself thinks before we are
through every veteran will have to take his stand.

Don’t get worried, because you seem to be going slow.  Of course, what
you tell me in confidence is a little disappointing.  We did think you
were quietly getting ready before the clarion call was sounded.

Well, never mind, you will soon get a move on.  You are such a
tremendous big brother. When you really get into fighting trim the
earth, to say nothing of the Kaiser, must tremble.

Tell George to write to me without fail whenever he gets back from
Washington.

I should love to come out to you now, but there is so much to do here
and so few to do it.

I am now strong enough to get into harness again and have been doing
quite a lot of talking at the camps and ammunition works.

The other night, I had rather a curious experience.  They asked me if I
would go down to a big shell factory, almost entirely manned by women,
and speak to the squad on the night shift.  I ought to explain a little
about the women working in Munitions.

They are not ordinary factory hands nor even all working girls.

When the urgent call went out that thousands of women were needed to
make the implements of war and stand as a rampart behind the fighting
men, the response came from all classes.

I know hundreds of women who formerly only knew work as something they
paid other people to do, who are now cheerfully standing on their feet
twelve hours a day with intervals for meals; living side by side in
horrid little communal villages with girls from the East End and the
slums, and who give all they earn to the war funds.

Further, they are happier than they have ever been in their lives.  They
have found the key to one of the finest paradises available to humanity,
and are proving work to be a panacea for almost every sorrow.  I don’t
think they are going to lose that key any more.

But though it is all very fine, the first time I was in real big
munition works and saw these heads—some of them such pretty heads—bent
over the machines, I rebelled, just as I sometimes rebel over Effie’s
youth being spent in the drudgery of the French war zone.

For we are only young once, and for youth there is no substitute.  You
have to grip yourself hard sometimes when you are overwhelmed by the
sight of womanhood dedicated to the work of destruction and ask what it
all means. God made us creators, builders, conservers, and the waste and
cruelty of war is opposed to the very basic principles of our being.
Then why?

Just because there is one thing worse than war, a dishonourable peace
based on selfishness, and love of ease, and shirking of responsibility.

I had the same feeling always when I had to stand up in the huts in
France before the units of the First Hundred Thousand and it was only by
gripping myself tight and holding on to the great ideals they stood for,
that I had the courage to say anything to them at all.

The spirit is fine among the women munitioners but sometimes they get
tired and discouraged and long for the old sweet peace of home, and the
cheerful comradeship of the fireside.  It is then that the welfare
superintendents, watching with unsleeping vigilance, call to the helpers
outside to come and do their bit. I was to speak to them at the lunch
hour, half past two in the morning, just to remind them that they are in
the trenches too and that they must stand solid and unflinching behind
the men who are laying down their lives for us.

I was walking to and fro on the great floor of the factory and had just
paused to ask a rather white, sad-faced girl what was worrying her, when
suddenly the lights went out.  We knew what that meant, all of us, and
it really was one of the most awful moments I have ever experienced.  As
we listened through a silence that could be felt, the machinery having
stopped as if by magic, we could hear the sinister grinding of the
Zeppelin engine overhead.  We all knew that if a bomb crashed through
the frail roof very few of the four thousand would see another dawn.

Presently nerves began to break a little; a sob sounded here and there,
and once there was a little scream.  Then some angel in a far corner,
guided from above, no doubt, began to sing low and softly, "Jesus lover
of my soul."

I have heard many lovely heart-breaking things, Cornelia, but never
anything that thrilled like that.  It reminded me a little of your
Jubilee singers who came over with Moody, the Evangelist, so long ago
from your country.  When they sang "Steal away to Jesus," it had the
same grip and thrill as it came stealing across the vast arena, taken up
by almost every voice.  The effect was instantaneous; it fell like Balm
of Gilead on our terrified hearts.

We suddenly felt that God was over all, and that unless He permitted,
nothing could happen.  Nothing did happen.  After a time the menace
passed, lights went up again and work was quite quickly and cheerfully
resumed.  We did not speak about it at all afterwards.  It is just part
of the day’s work.

I saw something quite as fine when I went to Gretna for a five-day visit
to the workers there.  You know Gretna Green?  Every good American does.
It is one of the shrines at which you worship.  The sweet old world
village has been swept away, or rather become quite unrecognisable.  A
great new city like those to which you are so accustomed "out West" has
sprung up.  When I saw all the signs and symbols of organised industry
on a gigantic scale, I looked away across the shifting Solway sands and
wondered whether the ghost of Ravenswood, riding to his doom, ever comes
back to marvel at the thing that has happened.

Great crowds of women and girls are employed there and the welfare
superintendents have their hands full.  The problems and grave menace to
youth segregated in such numbers far away from home influences are big
enough to keep some of us awake at nights. We are fully alive to them
and tackle them with all the wisdom and foresight we can muster for the
gigantic task.

The spirit is fine—patriotism is a holy fire indeed which can purge the
human heart clean of the dross itself.

I spoke a big incontrovertible truth in answer to a woman who was
condoling rather profusely on the loss of our dear home.  "You can get
another house, but there is only _one_ country."

There are several rows of danger shops at Gretna, where the most
inflammable of all the high explosives is handled.

To minimise the loss in case of accident these shops have been made to
accommodate only ten or twelve workers.  There was an explosion when I
was there, and some of the workers were killed.  The girls behaved with
such quiet courage and endurance that one can hardly speak about it
without tears.

And every one of them insisted on being sent at once into another shop
to take the same risks all over again.  The true war spirit which danger
and death only deepens and intensifies.

But oh, Cornelia, more and more I feel that it is all wrong.

If only all this splendid force could be dedicated to construction,
instead of to destruction, why then our social vices and problems would
melt like mist before the morning sun. But perhaps my vision is limited,
so that I do not see far enough.  Perhaps we are building better than we
know in the midst of this mighty débâcle.

Perhaps, who knows,—the work of national reconstruction through the
discipline, the sorrow and the pain of its individual units has already
begun.



                                 *XII*


Your last letter gave me so much to think about, that I have had to put
off answering it day after day.  Have you observed that those who wait
for the convenient season, never, somehow come up with it?  The time to
answer letters is when you get them, though there may be some danger
lurking in that admirable habit.

For instance, if you get one which causes your dander to be "riz," it is
better to wait for the cooling process.  Disasters have been averted,
especially in business, by the counsel of patience.  How often have I
had to get surreptitious hold of letters written by Himself and keep
them over till he said, "I wish I hadn’t sent that.  Why did you let
me?"  Then I produce it and all is well.  But sometimes I have been too
late, or he wouldn’t let me intervene.

Then sometimes it was the right thing for the bomb to be thrown.

Peace at any price is not the best always; it can be the very worst.
And now he is away where there are no letters to answer, not even mine.
I haven’t had a message of any kind for six weeks—I don’t even know
where he is.

We live through these things.  Thousands of women are eating their
hearts out all over the world, just as I am.  It is the price of war.

What you tell me about your Anne fills me, not with your disquiet, but
with an understanding sympathy.  You are feeling a little as I felt when
I realised that for a time I had lost the Boy.  The period extended over
quite a few years from the second year of his school life.  The first
year he was nothing but a homesick little chap, needing his mother
dreadfully.  Then he began to stiffen up, his father standing like a
comrade by his side.

I never got him back, Cornelia, not as I had him once.  He went out very
soon into the world of men, and the things he met there I could not
share.  No woman can.  When a man fails his young son during those
moulding years of destiny, there is no retrieval.  It is the greatest
failure in history or in life.

Mine did not fail his son, and I stood by a little wistfully sometimes,
bolstering my heart with a vision of the days to be, when the grown man,
a child at heart, would creep back to his mother’s arms.

But the day never came.  I don’t mind now, for he belongs to me so
utterly.  Himself gave him up the day we laid him on the windy hill
above the sea; a chapter of his life that was the most radiant had
_Finis_ written across the page.

But I got my baby back, and can never lose him again.

You must not worry too much about Anne. Girls pass through quite as many
phases as their brothers and some of them are more tiresome.  The only
child is an object for commiseration rather than for envy.  Growth can
be retarded, sometimes even stopped, by over cultivation.  Anne has had
too much waiting on, too much anxiety and sheltering care lavished on
her.  She is the product of intensive culture.

But her nature is so sweet and wholesome that she’ll come out on top
yet.

Of course the very best thing that could happen to her, would be to
marry a comparatively poor man and have a lot of children, certainly not
less than six.

I think I see you gasp, but Cornelia, in these words lie hidden one of
the first elemental truths of existence and of happiness.  It is what we
were made for—to be mothers of men, and when for one reason or another
we miss, or shirk that high destiny, we have got to pay the price.  What
can match the flowers of the field for beauty and strength? Their
sweetness is flung ungrudgingly on a desert world; no man prunes, or
trains or troubles about them; they are the children of mother earth and
greatly do her credit.  We shall have to get back to old primeval simple
things where the big issues are concerned.  The family, not the solitary
child, but the healthy, sturdy row, "steps and stairs," as we used to
call them, will have to become, as of yore, the basic column of our
national life.

The war which has torn at the very roots of our vaunted civilisation has
revealed to us the canker.

Anne is being as tiresome as a self-willed girl of seventeen can be, and
that is saying much.  You see they know everything at that age, and
nobody else knows anything.  Parents are back numbers, their only
function to provide the setting for the soaring ambitions, through which
seventeen aims at self-realisation.

I don’t think there is much you can do at this juncture.  If she had
been but two years older, I should have asked you to ship her over here
and I would have taken her to France. I expect to go there next month.
If she could be beside Effie and do a bit of honest work, the more
sordid and unattractive work the better, she would get something of a
perspective. When my girl went out first and I was very anxious, a wise
man and true friend said:

"Now you must leave Effie alone.  You have done all you can.  Let
Destiny do the rest."

It comforted me mightily and I have honestly tried to follow his advice.
It isn’t easy. I am one of the candid outspoken kind of people, and I
never see any reason for not talking about what interests me.

But Himself and Effie don’t talk.  Half the time you never know what
they are thinking or meaning to do.  I suppose they know themselves,
only they don’t feel the need of sharing things.  Once when particularly
exasperated, I informed Himself he ought never to have been married, as
he would have been a success as a Swiss Family Robinson, without the
family, quartered on a desert island.  He just smiled and made no
comment.

A friend of mine, married to a very distinguished man, whose name I
daren’t mention, said to me once: "It is quite possible to love your
husband dearly and yet to want frequently to throw him out of the
window."

I have just had an interruption from a woman who runs one of the camp
tents here—an awful kind of woman, who never stops talking about herself
for a moment.  When she went away she thanked me for our pleasant talk.
I very nearly said: "Thank yourself, Ma’am—I had no talk."

It took me back quite a long time to a Bohemian night in Douglas
Sladen’s flat, at Kensington, which was filled to overflowing with a
motley crew of what are popularly termed "leading lights" of the stage,
literature, and art.  The party overflowed itself out to the stairs.  I
was caught in the passage beside Hall Caine; he did not know me, though
I knew him.  How he talked!  I was grateful to him, for it made me
forget the weariness and discomfort of the moment.  A day or two later I
got a letter from him, written at Greeba Castle, Isle of Man, telling me
that the only thing he carried away from that party was the memory of
our interesting conversation. There was no conversation that I could
recall.  What _I_ had carried away was a very interesting, one-man talk.
It was mostly about himself, but one forgets that when it is an
interesting self.

To return to Anne, I should not discourage that early love affair if I
were you.  Some girls need such for their education.

From what you tell me about the boy, the experience is not likely to
seriously endanger her future settlement in life.

Don’t worry, because she doesn’t talk to you about it.  You are the very
last person in the world she will make a confidant of in such an affair.
You are too near of an age, yet not near enough.  Besides, you are her
mother. Don’t bully poor George.  He can’t help it. Fathers can’t bring
up girl-children; they only make it more difficult for the mother.  He
can’t do anything; and that he isn’t worrying should reassure you, I
think.  We have to admit that a man sees further and gets a grip of the
whole, while we are handling sections. Leave it at that.  I mustn’t
close without explaining why I am here in the midst of the great camps
stretching right through the heart of Surrey to the sea.

Scenes of unimagined beauty have either disappeared or become so
horribly disfigured as to be unrecognisable.  As I ride through the wind
and rain between the long lines of tin and wooden huts, see the felled
timber, the burned heather, all the ugly features of the military camp,
I chalk up more and more against the makers of war.

I feel sorry for all the people who have built lovely homes and lordly
dwelling places among these matchless hills and downs.  They have been
so good about it, never grumbling or standing in the way.

I am talking every day to the boys.  Last night I was at Bramshott.
But, oh, my dear, it is not the same; the glow and the glory have
departed.  Those who radiated that white heat of splendour are sleeping
in quiet graves in France, or Flanders, or on Eastern sands.

I am not suggesting that the stuff here is not as good—in some respects,
it might even be better.

But youth has gone—these men have the deep eyes of seeing men, and their
mouths are grimly set.  They are here because they have no choice.  I
think your draft bill is splendid, but oh, I hoped great America would
come in on the volunteer basis.  There is something different about it,
something more finely subtle.  I am conscious of the mighty difference
every time I stand up to speak to them. They are not less determined
that the fight shall be to a finish, but they question more.

They are asking some explanation at the hands of those who claim the
sacrifice of their homes and lives and all men hold dear.  Who is to
answer their righteous questioning?

Sometimes in my dreams I see a great Judgment seat where Kings and
Emperors, and diplomats, and politicians, and wire pullers and
profiteers will have to answer to the blood stained hosts they summoned
to fight and die, for what?

I am due back in the French camps in about ten days’ time and I am half
afraid to go.  I can’t answer all the questions they will put to me.  I
don’t know enough.

In the early days you could play upon their mobile hearts as on a harp
of ten strings; tears and laughter and smiles we had then, all side by
side, with the most glorious courage the world has ever seen.

In some of the battalions now you find the fathers of the boys who sleep
in Flanders and in France.

Oh, Cornelia, the waste, the wanton waste and cruelty of war.  Where is
it tending? Where shall we be brought before it is over? Sometimes my
brain reels at the thought.

Meanwhile the band is slowly tightening.

We have not had any butter at home for over a week.



                                 *XIII*


The awful suspense about Himself I was enduring when I wrote last was
broken at last by a cable from France.  It came from Effie at Camiers
and it took me some time to grasp its meaning.  "Safe, unhurt; tell your
mother," was every word it said.

Florence and I, poring distractedly over it together, could only arrive
at the conclusion that there had been a disaster at sea, in which our
troopship was involved.  We did not even know its name, from what port
it had sailed, or whither bound; in fact we did not know he had sailed
at all from the French base.

It is the black darkness in which one has to live which makes it so hard
to be a soldier’s wife in war times.  A few more awful days had to be
lived through—whole ten of them, then a long, closely written letter
from Himself, arrived from a port in France, whose very name was not
given.

But the story was wonderfully vivid and full; in fact I didn’t know how
it had passed the Censor, till I saw his own signature on the envelope,
indicating that he had censored it himself.

I must not enclose the letter, nor yet tell you all it contained,
because I want you to get what I am writing.  These are the facts:

They set sail from Marseilles after long, dreary waiting in a
particularly unpleasant camp, and next morning at ten o’clock were
torpedoed off the Italian coast, not far from Genoa.  Do you remember
Genoa and its terraces where we met first, so long ago that it seems as
if it must have been in some other existence?

You know how Himself writes, very simply and directly, without any
embroideries, but his narrative was far more impressive than if he had
tried to make it effective.  It simply just makes you see it all,
realise the horror of it.

The first torpedo disabled the ship, but if the enemy had left it at
that, she could have been taken into port under her own steam.

There was, of course, a good deal of excitement and the boats were
difficult to handle, apparently they had never been inspected or tested
for any emergency.  Can you conceive it, Cornelia, we have been three
years at war and yet such elementary precautions are left to chance?

Priceless time was lost grappling with them, and before they could be
lowered, priceless lives were lost.  Himself waiting calmly, ready for
the emergency,—or for the end, for which he needed no preparation, saw
the second shell launched from the submarine. Many of the boats had got
clear.  One had the sixty nurses who comprised the hospital unit;
sitting up to their middles in water, they sang hymns to cheer those
drifting helpless in the sea.

The second torpedo found its mark amidships and the gallant boat went
down in eight minutes.

The only chance for those still remaining on her decks was to jump into
the sea.  But that takes a special kind of courage; only those who had
it were saved; the rest went down in the awful swirl of the sinking
ship.  Himself was picked up by a Japanese destroyer, filled with wonder
that he who had done his day’s work should have been saved, while so
many of his boys, with all their lives in front, should have gone down.
It is a great mystery.

How often have we asked ourselves that kind of question during these
dreadful years. So many of us would have gone so gladly in their place.

They were landed at the port of Savonna. The Italians were
extraordinarily kind to them, furnishing them with food and wine and
clothing of every kind.  He enclosed some snapshots—one actually taken
of the sinking ship.  There will be people, I am sure, ready with the
camera on the Judgment Day.  One of these snapshots depicts Himself in
his riding breeches and leggings and an Italian military cloak, which
makes him look like a bandit.

He lost everything except that which he happened to have on at the
moment.  All the lovely new Eastern kit, to say nothing of his
photographs, letters, and dear intimate possessions, are at the bottom
of the sea.

Nothing matters except that he is safe.  He has no idea what will happen
to him now—he supposes they will just have to wait for another ship.
Meanwhile he is getting a little respite from the Spartan rigours of one
of the worst cantonments he has ever struck, by being a voluntary
patient in a hospital.

What he says about that is very amusing. He has been accustomed to boss
a hospital, and now he is being very effectively and vigorously bossed.
I fear he is not chastened yet, but only rebellious.

I can smile at it all because my heart is lightened of its load.  God
means him to come back to me, or he would have gone down in the
Mediterranean.

It is odd how in this war, you have convictions about this one and that;
the sort of presentiment who will get safely through, and who will never
come back.  But they are not always true.  I felt so sure about Dick, of
whom I wrote in my last letter.  I felt that his kind, the very highest
type of fearless soldier and a fine Christian gentleman, was so much
needed here, that God would care for him specially.  When one thinks of
how many like him lie on the blood-soaked fields, one is staggered, and
uncertain about the future of the race.

But we must leave it, leave it all and just hold blindly on.  It has
gotten clear beyond us.  It is so big and awful, we can just not grasp
it at all.


I am now a little like a Jack of all trades, master of none.  Food is
beginning to be spelled with a very large capital and they tell me I
must talk about food.  I went to Scotland for that purpose and to speak
at a great meeting in Glasgow Cathedral to commemorate on the 4th of
August those who had fallen in the war.

It is the first time a woman has ever lifted up her voice in the
Cathedral, and the occasion caused some searching of heart.  The noble
edifice was absolutely packed and directly I got up, standing at a
specially selected spot in the Nave, I forgot everything but the faces
in front, the great sorrowing heart of my own country and its bitter
need.  She is a very little country, but none have more nobly done their
bit.  Do you know, Cornelia, that there are villages in the north and
west of Scotland where the young men are all wiped out—where there is no
link between one generation and another except the babies in arms.
There are no sons left, no husbands for the girls.  It was with these
things my heart broke as I tried to speak.

Nowhere is there any grudging or holding back.  At the overflow meeting
that had to be held in an adjoining church a woman came up at the close,
a little plain country woman in mourning with a bag on her arm.  From it
she took three photographs of soldiers in Highland dress and a war
office telegram which she laid against one of the lads.  "That came
yesterday," she said.  "It’s Jamie—he’s the last——"

All gone and she a widow.  What is one to say to a woe like that?  Where
is compensation to be found?  There will have to be something very
satisfying over there beside the river of God to make up for the roll of
the whelming billows here.

I went on from Glasgow to Dundee to speak to two thousand women about
the necessity for saving food.  The situation is becoming acute and it
has to be explained to the people.  I have come to the conclusion that
food is the supreme test.  They’ll give almost anything more cheerfully,
go into small houses, wear old clothes, economise anywhere but on what
is vulgarly called their "inwards."

Then you see our industrial population was never better off.  In the
shipbuilding districts, the munition areas—the great textile
neighbourhoods, they are simply piling it up.  Of course they want all
the things money can buy.  I am sure I should, if I had been cheated out
of them for a whole section of my life.

So you can’t blame these people for buying salmon at four shillings per
pound, the best beefsteaks and prime cuts from the joints, when they can
get them.  But the trouble is they can’t now get them, so there is
grumbling and unrest.  They have got it into their heads that the
government is hoarding the stuff and that favour is being shown.  So
labour has said that it will go short if capital goes short with them.

It is a perfectly reasonable proposition and the sooner the card ration
scheme comes into operation, the better.  It will not solve the whole
problem, of course, nor yet increase incredulously or automatically the
available stores.  What it will do is to ensure equal distribution.

I, for one, hope Lord Rhondda won’t lose any more time.  I am afraid my
letters are getting less and less interesting.

What you asked for was a plain, unvarnished record of war conditions
here, which you want to keep, and I am setting them down as simply and
faithfully as I know how.  We are getting bit by bit down to the sordid
bedrock where we are face to face with the hideous nakedness of war.
There are things that the glow and glory of our Pentecostal sacrifice
can hardly illumine.

In my deep heart I feel that we are coming to them soon, and that we
shall need more different kinds of courage than at any time during those
searching, aging, interminable years.


I got back to find that the war office has commandeered our "substitute"
for active service.  There is no one else to be got, so the door will
have to be shut.  It means that our living is all gone except what Cook
calls "the Capting’s pay."  Cook himself is working at munitions now
after having successfully planted the potato patch.  So there is only
Florence and me left, and we don’t eat much.

Life truly is shorn for me of much of its dignity, and the amazing thing
is that one doesn’t mind—we are not our own any more, but bought with a
price.

A woman condoled with me not long ago over the house being destroyed.
All I could think of was to say as cheerfully as possible, "You can get
another house, but there is only one country."  I must just keep on
saying it to myself over and over, but sometimes when there is nobody
looking, I am afraid I don’t hold my diminished head so high.



                                 *XIV*


Food is the question of the hour.  The people who have read with
uncomprehending eyes the imploring official appeals "Eat less bread,"
"Save the Wheat," "Food will win the War," are now face to face with
real shortage.  The psychology of this war, in so far as it operates in
human consciousness, is a very remarkable thing.  I had to sit down to
think it over this morning after a very exhausting argument with a food
waster and hoarder.  These two words don’t sort together, do they, but
they are apt to the hour.  He or she who hoards food at this moment of
national stress, wastes it, because he is preserving it for his own
wretched body, which is of no value to his country.  A few minutes’
silent contemplation brought me into a clearer light.  The absolute
refusal of those people to admit the need for conservation and
self-denial, is a form of national pride.  They simply can’t admit the
humiliating fact that Great Britain, proud mistress of the seas, is no
longer self-supporting or sufficient to her own needs.  They never knew,
of course, that in our most prosperous years we could produce only forty
per cent. of what we consumed.  And if they had known it, would it have
made any difference? It is all so very English, so dogged, so unchanged
and unchangeable.

But even this partially comforting reflection, that the grumblers and
obstructionists are really patriots in disguise doesn’t ease the
situation or fill the empty store cupboards.

And I am in it now, Cornelia, up to the neck in it.  Having filled many
rôles, I have now become a food expert, from whose lips calories and
proteids and other heathen words ought to flow glibly.  Only they don’t.
I am a plain woman and most people are plain in the same sense.  They
hate camouflage; it worries and wearies them.  I am trying to tell as
simply as I can, how they may make up with other things, for the things
that are not there.

It does not read very clearly or convincingly, does it?  But that is my
job.

It is not easy.  Food is not an inspiring theme.  You cannot wax
eloquent over it; the only dramatic moments are those when you flame red
with indignation over the breaking down of the voluntary system.  It has
failed all along the line, and card rationing is bound to come.  There
have been several distressing instances from sources where we had every
reason to look for better things—ay, even for leadership in high ethics.
But alas! the temptation to be secure against more troublous times was
too great for resistance.  All this causes a searching of heart lest
there should be very weak points left in my armour.  I am determined
that in this particular respect I shall do rather more than my share.  I
am kept up to high-water-mark by Florence. She really ought to have a
medal for allegiance to the Government under the most trying conditions.
She has weighed everything, done all the things I might not have done,
stood firm between me and every temptation.

If food doesn’t actually win the war, at least its shortage is searching
the hearts and trying the reins of the children of men.

All the time wrestling with those sordid details, trying to interest
people in oatmeal and bones, and the superiority of casserole cooking
over the waste of roast and frying, I have to keep thinking of the glory
and travail which is bound up in it all.  If you haven’t something to
illumine with, if only a farthing dip, you just can’t go on.

Although some people have complimented me on my housekeeping, a lot of
it doesn’t really interest me much.  It is no credit to me that I
happened to be born determined to do my job well.  Even in the great old
dinner-giving days, long before the deluge, when we vied with one
another in frantic endeavours to discover something entirely new, with
which to decorate our menu cards, and fill other women with hopeless
envy, the game never seemed worth the candle.  After all, it takes very
little to keep us alive.

The things that interested me most in those great dinner contests was
the eager look in the eyes of the women as they sampled the unknown and
sometimes fearsome looking dish.

The men usually showed their discrimination by leaving the entrées
severely alone.

Where in Heaven’s name am I wandering to?  We housekeepers have at last
got something really testing to whet our axes upon. We have got to
invent and concoct appetising dishes minus most of the ingredients we
once thought necessary to them.

This is going to be the testing fight.  I am learning great new lessons
every day.  I only wish I could pass them on.  A woman came up to me in
the street the other day and said: "Please, I’ve tried to do what you
said wi’ them substitoots (oh, the scorn in her voice!).  But ’Arry, ’e
won’t look at ’em.  Calls ’em messes, ’e does; wants ’is ’onest
beefsteak, ’e does, an’ I don’t blime ’im, either."

Neither do I, nevertheless it will be my mournful duty to try and
impress on him and all the other Harrys who are making the lives of
their helpmeets a burden over this food conservation business, that the
true patriot is the man who eats his imitation steak with a smile,
assuring the woman who has laboured over its preparation that it is
quite equal to the real thing.

Nobody would be deceived, but life would be easier.

I never before realised that bread is really the staple food of our
working folks.  It is rather humiliating to discover how scanty are the
reserves we are now able to call up.  When you speak to the average
cottage woman about soup and explain how nourishing it is for the
children and how cheaply it can be prepared out of bones, if only the
necessary care is bestowed on it, she has a way of putting her hands on
her hips and looking you very haughtily in the face with the air of a
person receiving a personal insult.  "Feed me chillen on bones!  Good
Lord! ’as it come to that? Not me, thank you, ma’am.  I’ll get me bit o’
meat and bread and butter as long as I can get ’em and wen they ain’t to
be got, will do without."

How are you to combat that sort of argument which is everywhere, like
sorrow—"not in single spies, but in battalions"!

I shall have to think hard.  These people have got to be educated.  The
whole process of teaching them the alphabet has to be entered on now,
when we are in the thick of the testing fight.

Oh, it is so very, very English, so tremendously, unutterably stupid,
and maddening!  I shall have to stop off or I shall be writing down
things that the admirable George, with his exclusive command of strong
language, will not permit you to read.

As usual, when one arrives at the end of one’s tether, something
happens, and there, right in front at the end of what looked like a
blind alley, stood the open door.

The Administration, having fully tested the value of the Communal
Kitchen, has sent out advices to the country to establish them wherever
possible.  As Chairman of our Kitchen Committee, I went to London with
another member—a delightful, practical, breezy person, to inspect the
working of the big experimental Kitchen on Westminster Bridge Road. It
was thoroughly interesting and for the first time hope of solutions of
many problems dawned on our weary spirits.

We returned home to report and got authority to act.  I will explain the
Communal Kitchen to you, though it is incredible to imagine your great,
rich and inexhaustible country ever coming even within long-distance
range of such a contingency.

The Communal or Central Kitchen is established and run by experts for
the cooking of a large number of meals at the lowest possible cost.  A
first-class plant is necessary, the most up-to-date ovens, steamers,
utensils of every kind.  The cook must not only be an expert, but an
artist, as she has to disguise many inferior ingredients and make them
appetising for her consumers.  Stores are purchased, wherever possible,
in large quantities, special permits, of course, being afforded by the
vigilant Food Administrators.  Thus considerable saving is effected.

The cook and her immediate assistant or assistants are highly paid
workers, but those who apportion and handle the food, over the counters,
are volunteers, giving about four hours’ service every day.

No food is consumed on the premises.  The customers bring their own
utensils in which they carry their portions away.  There is a very
complete and clever system of tickets issued at a little box office near
the door, so that no money is tendered at the counter.

The menu cards are hung in the windows so that customers may make their
choice before they come inside.

We went early, watched the cooking in process, got stuffed up with
unheard-of knowledge of every kind, and then waited for the customers.

They interested me beyond everything; although it is a very poor
neighbourhood, it was not the very poor who came.  Some quite well
dressed people, with baskets nicely covered and lined, appeared and were
more than satisfied. One bank clerk’s wife assured me that it was the
greatest Godsend to her, because she was working, too, and they were
both now assured of one good warm, substantial meal every day, and
nothing else mattered.

A mother of seven, "steps and stairs," clinging to her skirts had tears
in her eyes as she spoke of the salvation the Kitchen had brought to her
family.

When I saw the quarts of soup disappearing in jugs and pails through the
swing doors, I took fresh heart and decided to make another onslaught on
the Amazonian mother who would let her offspring "go without" instead of
"demeaning ’erself" to any truck with bones.

Have you ever noticed how a little thing can change the whole outlook;
how you can be transported by a lift of the brows, the glimpse of some
unexpected object, miles from your base?

As I sat there behind the counter of the Communal Kitchen in the
Westminster Bridge Road, I was suddenly transported to South Germany, to
that little Bavarian university town we both know so well.  What do you
think transported me?  Why, the sight of a student-like person, German,
surely, carrying the little arrangement of dishes in a stand (I’ve
forgotten its German name and glory in the lapse), which used to bring
my greasy dinner from the hotel Drei Mohren.

Did these days really exist?  Do you remember my landlady with the
sweet, deprecating smile, her painful humility, her awe and worship of
the temporal powers that ruled her destiny?  How we distrusted it all,
sure that it was a false foundation for life, and that freedom is the
heritage of the human soul!

Even then, we were both conscious of hidden fires—of smouldering hates.
They were deferential to us; yet inwardly loathing, perhaps fearing us.
They have not changed at all, Cornelia, the little river which watered
German sentiment in that horrid mediæval place, has only broadened and
widened into a vast and overwhelming sea.  They were getting ready even
then.  I could see it in the jealous eyes of the women, their veiled and
laboured politeness at the coffee parties had nothing convincing about
it.  It did not warmly enfold you like the gracious hospitality of
kindred peoples.  They were bidden to hate, and they knew how to do it,
and could veil their fine accomplishment in the art.

Oh, Cornelia, where am I now?

The Food Expert has got out of bounds. Call her back, discipline her;
make her toe the line.

The outcome of that interesting morning is that we have a Communal
Kitchen and it is going to be a tremendous success.

Some doubts had to be dispelled.  People have to be convinced that it is
not a charity, bearing the brand of the soup kitchen, or the Penny
Dinner scheme.  We have tried to explain that it is merely co-ordinating
the forces; co-operation on a large scale.

We have gotten the cook, the machinery, the volunteers, and I think we
are going to sleep more soundly "o’ nights" because of it.

At least the children will be better fed. Some of them are getting to
look so peaky, for milk has been very scarce all winter, and butter a
thing of the past.

We just simply daren’t sit down to think of the children.  It must seem
so strange and cruel to them.  What have they to do with the quarrels of
Emperors and Kings and Diplomatists? They are heirs of all the ages and
have the right to live in peace and comfort, none daring to make them
afraid.  Sometimes I have a nightmare of the first indictment this young
generation will bring up at the Day of Judgment—the children who have
known naught but terror—the sons who have had to die before they
lived—the widowed girls and the girls who never will taste the joy of
wifehood or motherhood, but must go unmated to their graves.

Almost it makes me long to be there lying sweetly and unconsciously
beside the quiet dead.

I have no letters from Himself.  Where he is—whether alive or dead—how
can I tell?  I haven’t even the poor consolation of writing to
him—because I have no address.

There is no glory in war for women’s hearts, Cornelia.  To-day I am
neither proud nor glad, but only sorry to be a soldier’s wife.



                                  *XV*


I have been reading over your last letter and find that my impassioned
tirade about Food left many of your questions unanswered.

What you tell me about the present state of your war activities takes me
back about three years to the time when we were at the same stage.  Have
you noticed that one woman’s matrimonial experience is not of the
slightest use to another?  It doesn’t even help her to avoid quite
obvious pitfalls.  War seems to me to be a little like that.  Every
country has to "dree her own weird" in it—grope for her soul in her own
particular way.

One of Lloyd George’s speeches put the matter in a nut shell: "To
peace-loving peoples war is a trackless waste—an undiscovered country
through which a pathway has to be made."

That being so, there must of necessity be side tracking.  I see your
George stamping about in righteous indignation because things are not
being "put over" with the rapidity and despatch which seem to him
essential.  Tell him he’ll just have to possess his soul in patience,
and don’t let him do anything foolish. He’ll only hinder thereby.

I do hope and pray most fervently, however, that you are exaggerating
the state of affairs. I wonder why it is that the war machine has such a
tendency to become unwieldy.  It needs not any vivid imagination, nor a
particularly brilliant intelligence to grasp the magnitude of your war
task.

You have almost everything the old world now lacks, your trouble is to
co-ordinate your forces from sea to sea, and get them into line.
Colossus can’t move with the agility of his lesser brethren, we must
comfort ourselves and stay our impatience with that reflection. I am
sure you will hate leaving your lovely home, but Washington will have
compensations. I could not, somehow, imagine or contemplate existence
for myself very far from London, in wartime, at least for any length of
time.

I don’t agree with all you say about the mobilisation of your women for
war.

There is no other way of doing it; and the things you tell me are only
the excrescences of a great forward movement, the shock of which will
soon make itself felt throughout the entire country.

We, too, had the kind of women you criticise so severely.  I knew one
whose first act of war service for her country was the purchase of a red
cross of rubies to wear with her uniform.  She went to France with it,
but abandoned it before very long.  The real cross, when she came up
with it, red with the blood of brave men, put her to shame.  She has won
the saint’s crown out there, and her name has been on a hundred dying
lips.

So don’t worry about these little things, Cornelia, they will pass as a
tale that is told. The best will remain—the things that cannot be
shaken, and which are the same in all countries, and of all peoples.

God, how I cling to that text.  I have to say it over and over a hundred
times a day.  We are getting so badly shaken here that sometimes we feel
as if we had no foundation whatsoever.

I don’t know whether I have made you understand that a big section of
England now is as truly the war zone as that across the Channel.

The air raids are increasing in number and intensity; this week we had
four nights in the cellar.

There are not so many oddities about the proceedings now we have settled
in to the game in dead earnest.  When we get the warning we act with as
little delay as possible, seek one nearest available shelter, where we
sit down to endure the strain as best we can.

There is precious little badinage now about the Zeppelin parties; we all
feel that they have long passed the amusing stage.

Can you read between the lines?  I wonder have you grasped the fact that
the strain is becoming almost more than we can bear?  I have the
dreadful feeling that perhaps I myself will not be able to hold out.

You know I never could do without sleep; my too active brain has always
demanded its full measure, and rebelled when cheated of it.

A Zeppelin night means anything from seven or eight o’clock at night
till four in the morning—the strain of tension and fear never relaxed
for a moment.  Always you are listening, listening—and the gunfire never
ceases. It is punctuated by the noise of the explosions following the
bomb dropping, which means, though it may be a good many miles from you,
that somebody is being punished.

We still speak about the Zeppelins, though they don’t come any more.
Their successors, the Gothas, are not less terrible; in fact they seem
to be more daring, more destructive, faster and less vulnerable.

Also they are equipped with all kinds of new and terrible death-dealing
weapons.

A very strange one descended on our little town night before last.  We
heard a noise like a rushing mighty wind or an express train, going at
lightning speed through the air.  It was not the usual steady whir of
the Gotha’s engine.  The thing fell in a garden at the top of Queen’s
Hill and then exploded, doing much damage to houses, though mercifully
no one was killed.  They say it was an aerial torpedo which travels
through the air by its own momentum.  If this is true, imagine what
magnitude this form of attack might achieve and how much we may yet have
to suffer!

How often one is appalled by this dedication of human will and mind
power to the devil’s service.  Is there to be no limit set to it? Is it
the beginning of the terrors which will make men call on the rocks to
cover them? You have no idea, Cornelia, what a weak helpless thing
humanity is until it is subjected to this sort of thing.  It isn’t clean
fighting; it makes brave men desperate.

I think on the whole the women bear it better.  They are more used to
suffering and never forget to be protective.  All sorts of moving things
happen about the children.  One poor woman stretched herself over her
two children on the floor as the torpedo was coming, hoping to receive
the brunt herself.  None of them were hurt.

But these things are getting home, Cornelia, they are telling on us all.
Little portents show the weakening of the fibre here and there.  I am
feeling it myself, while all the time fighting against it.

Of course the chief object of these diabolical visitations is just that,
so to weaken the moral stamina that we people will cry for peace at any
price.  That cry will never be heard in this country, Cornelia, not if
he sends his aerial torpedoes hurtling through the sky, world without
end.

There is no grumbling, surprisingly little protest anywhere.  Our people
accept these things as part of the horrible business in which we are
presently engaged.  They don’t even know how to hate properly.  We have
a German prison camp nearby, the men being employed in the woods,
cutting and preparing the timber of which so many of our finest
properties are now being denuded.  These men are scared to death in the
raids, but though you may hear an occasional hope expressed that a bomb
might fall on the prison camp, I question whether, if you drove it home,
you would find they really desired such a thing to happen.  We are not
successful haters; we are only clean fighters, and desperate lovers of
peace.

Can you accept that paradoxical presentment which is an actual
description of our mental attitude?

The children in the war zone here are beginning to exercise us; some of
them are really subnormal now, like their poor little brothers and
sisters in the other countries.  Those who can, remove them to safer
places, sending them often to relations in remote parts of the country.
Children quickly droop when their sleeping hours are shortened or much
disturbed.

The school teachers find them either restless or extremely languid after
an air raid; and cannot urge them to concentrate on their lessons.  One
wee chap in our cellar, in his pajamas the other night, said
pathetically to his mother, with eyes heavy with sleep: "Mummy, you
won’t get me up next night, will you, till they are really here?"


No, I am not hearing regularly from Himself. There has been no letter
for weeks and weeks.  Whether they are being torpedoed when written, or
not written at all, I don’t know.  There is only the blank wall of
silence. How much can the human heart stand, I wonder?  We are amazing
creatures, bound by "cords which come from out eternity."



                                 *XVI*


Yes, I have read Sir Oliver Lodge’s book and had some correspondence
with him about it.  Somehow he got it into his head that I had written a
rather brutal, unsigned article on it in the _Daily Mail_.  Writing to
refute this, I set forth my views on spiritualism and the intervention
of mediums between us and those who have passed on.  We say "gone away"
in Scotland, and I think I like it better. He sent me a long letter in
reply.  I will enclose you a copy.

I don’t think there is any road that way. The only key to the grave was
left on the stone of the sepulchre on the Resurrection morning.

Do you remember the Leightons—Robert and Marie?  They lost their
beautiful son, not the only, but the favourite one, in France, and she
has written a beautiful book about him, called "Boy of My Heart."  It is
the best thing by far she has ever written, and immensely worth reading.
She is now side-tracking with the rest along these doubtful and
bewildering paths.  Oh, I wish people wouldn’t.  To me it seems a kind
of desecration.

If I can have any communication with my son, I don’t want to have it
through some strange, odd freak of a person, who has to go into a trance
for the purpose.  If God means me to hear from the other side, He will
send the Boy to me direct.  That I most firmly believe, and am content
to wait that day.  If it never comes, why then I can go on waiting for
the day which can’t be so very far distant, when I shall cross the
narrow sea between that happy land and ours.  I wrote as strongly and
convincingly as I could to Mrs. Leighton, but I don’t think it availed
much.  There is a little group of the intellectuals just now all heading
in the same direction, names familiar all the world over.

To me it is all intensely pathetic.  It is the cry of lost youth, the
admission that they have no real city or abiding place, and no sort of
surety about what is going to come.

I remember Himself coming in one day and sending me out to a dying woman
with the words: "I’m through with my job.  It’s yours now."  When I got
to her she looked at me so wistfully, saying: "Doctor says you are so
sure."

You have no idea how these words thrilled me.  Thank God I am sure.  We
are all sure, who know in Whom we have believed.

Since I wrote to you last I have had disquieting news about Effie.  She
was knocked down, while standing beside her car, by a big French
military motor.  The officers riding in it did not even stop to pick her
up.  Possibly they were not even aware that anything had happened.  One
must be charitable enough to suppose so.  Some one came along and took
her to a hospital, from which she is now able to send a few pencilled
lines.  She escaped with a few good bruises and it was quite a few days
before I could discover whether there was any facial injury.  Nobody
seemed to reflect that I might be worrying about that.  I applied for
permission to go over to see her, but was refused.  Nobody is permitted
to cross the Channel to visit wounded or sick relatives unless the case
is hopeless.

Her temperature kept up obstinately for longer than they liked, but I am
thankful to say she is now convalescent.

I have had shoals of letters from all kinds of people over there, from
the Brigadier to the orderly, expatiating on her absolute
indispensability at the Base.  They seem terrified in case we order her
to come home.

It is very sweet to hear that she is so greatly beloved, and doing
efficiently and cheerfully so much useful service.  What experience she
must have locked in her too uncommunicative bosom!  She has had three
years of it now, and has really told us very little.  If she never tries
to express it in writing, well, it surely will inform and colour all her
after life.  I should not dare to bid her home on my own responsibility,
though there are days when I not only want, but need her desperately.

Talking of the modernity of these inaccessible, mysterious young
creatures, I don’t think I told you of a friend of mine, mother of four,
who soon after the outbreak of war, received from her family a letter
signed by each member, thanking her for permitting them to be born at
the psychological moment of history.

Another friend of mine who had the misfortune to marry a full-blooded
and very German German, who, however, conveniently departed this life
the year before the war, told me her sons passionately reproached her
for giving them a German father.

One gets bewildered in this strange hurly-burly where every mask seems
to be torn off and the decencies of life hardly respected any more.

I am so glad you are easier in your mind about Anne.  Effie was
tremendously interested.  All she said was "Anne will never marry that
one; he’s only experimental."  Perhaps that may comfort you a little.
Presumably, these birds of a feather understand one another!

Sometimes I have the awful feeling that Effie has passed out of the
region of my love and care.  Yet how dare I intrude these little
personal fears upon a world’s sorrow?

Every day I am writing letters to fathers and mothers whose darlings
have gone forever "where, beyond these voices, there is peace."

One grows heart weary of the task, and even the balm of Gilead seems to
have lost its power to soothe or heal.

Yet often and often I am thrilled by the courage and calmness and faith
of those who have given the most.  They are upheld and illumined by some
white and lovely flame which surely emanates from the secret place of
the Most High.

Never has there been such glory of sacrifice ennobled by that passion
for the right which lifts those whom it inspires very high, above
ignoble things.

My country was never greater than now, Cornelia.  Shorn and
blood-stained, she is worthy to be numbered with those who are arrayed
in white robes and have come out of great tribulation.


A wonderful, wonderful thing has just happened.  I don’t know quite how
to tell you.

I have been asked by our Foreign Office to go to America and tell part
of the story of what we have done in the war and what the war has done
for us.

Do you understand, Cornelia, I am coming to you, right now, by the very
earliest boat?

God has undoubtedly opened this door.  I shall be so glad to leave the
tired Old World for a spell, and drink at the Fount of your glorious
youth.

Even the submarines can’t scare me away from this great Adventure.

At this moment America means only you and George and dear little Anne,
and the heavenly rest under your roof tree.

Perhaps it may prove to be something very different, but that is how I
am feeling at the moment.

God will surely forgive me for this momentary slackening.

I am so tired, Cornelia.

Only God knows how tired I am!



                                THE END





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