Eugáene Emmanuel Lemercier

The Argonne, France

The Argonne, France

7 o’clock.

I have received your card of the 1st. What joy it gives me that we should be at last in touch with each other. Certainly, our thoughts have never been apart. You tell me of Marthe’s misfortune, and I am happy that you can be useful to her. Dear mother, that is the task that belongs to us both: to be useful at the present moment without reference to the moment that is to follow.

Yes, indeed, I feel deeply with you that I have a mission in life. But one must act in each instant as though that mission was having immediate fulfilment. Do not let us keep back one single small corner of our hearts for our small hopes. We must attain to this—that no catastrophe whatsoever shall have power to cripple our lives, to interrupt them, to set them out of tune. That is the finest work, and it is the work of this moment. The rest, that future which we must not question—you will see, mother dear, what it holds of beauty and goodness and truth. Not one of our faculties must be used in vain, and all useless anxiety is a harmful expense.

Be happy in this great assurance that I give you—that up till now I have raised my soul to a height where events have had no empire over it, and I promise you that my effort will be still to make ready my soul as much as I can.

Tell M—— that if fate strikes down the best, there is no injustice: those who survive will be the better men. Let her accept the sacrifice, knowing that it is not in vain. You do not know the things that are taught by him who falls. I do know.

To him who can read life, present events have broken all habit of thought, but they allow him more glimpses than ever before of eternal beauty and order.

Let us recover from the surprise of this laceration, and adapt ourselves without loss of time to the new state of things which turns us into people as privileged as Socrates and the Christian martyrs and the men of the Revolution. We are learning to despise all in life that is merely temporary, and to delight in that which life so seldom yields: the love of those things that are eternal.

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Eugáene Emmanuel Lemercier

The Argonne, France

The Argonne, France

It is true, dear mother, that some renunciation costs a great deal of effort, but be sure that we both possess the necessary strength of soul to live through these difficult hours without catching our breath in painful longing at the idea of the return we both crave for.

The great thing is to know the value of the present moment and to make it yield all that it has of good and beauty and edification. For the rest, no one can guarantee the future, and it would be vain and futile torment to live wondering what might happen to us. Don’t you think that life has dispensed us many blessings, and that one of the last, and the greatest, is that we have been able to communicate with each other and to feel our union? There are many unfortunate people here who do not know where their wives and children are, who have been for three months isolated from all. You see that we are still among the lucky ones.

Dear mother, less than ever ought we to despair, for never shall we be more truly convinced that all this agitation and delirium of mankind’s are nothing in view of the share of eternity which each one carries within himself, and that all these monstrosities will end in a better future. This war is a kind of cataclysm which succeeds to the old physical upheavals of our globe; but have you not noticed that, in the midst of all this, a little of our soul is gone from us, and that we have lost something of our conviction of a Higher Order? Our sufferings come from our small human patience taking the same direction as our desires, noble though they may be. But as soon as we set ourselves to question things in order to discover their true harmony, we find rest unto our souls. How do we know that this violence and disorder are not leading the universal destinies towards a final good?

Dear mother, still cherishing the firmest and most human hope, I send my deepest love to you and to my beloved grandmother.

Send also all my love to our friends who are in trouble. Help them to bear everything: two crosses are less heavy to carry than one. And confidence in our eternal joy.

May Sinclair

Ostend, Belgium

Ostend, Belgium

I got up at six. Last thing at night I had said to myself that I must wake early and go round to the Hospital with the money.

With my first sleep the obsession of Ghent had slackened its hold. And though it came back again after I had got up, dressed and had realized my surroundings, its returns were at longer and longer intervals.

The first thing I did was to go round to the Kursaal. The Hospital was being evacuated, the wounded were lying about everywhere on the terraces and galleries, waiting for the ambulances. Williams and Fisher and the other man were nowhere to be seen. I was told that their ward had been cleared out first, and that the three were now safe on their way to England.

I went away very grieved that they had not got their money. Continue reading

May Sinclair

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium

It is nearly two o’clock. Downstairs, in the great silent hall two British wounded are waiting for some ambulance to take them to the Station. They are sitting bolt upright on chairs near the doorway, their heads nodding with drowsiness. One or two Belgian Red Cross men wait beside them. Opposite them, on three other chairs, the three doctors, Dr. Haynes, Dr. Bird and Dr. —— sit waiting for our own ambulance to take them. They have been up all night and are utterly exhausted. They sit, fast asleep, with their heads bowed on their breasts.

Outside, the darkness has mist and a raw cold sting in it.

A wretched ambulance wagon drawn by two horses is driven up to the door. It had a hood once, but the hood has disappeared and only the naked hoops remain. The British wounded from two [?] other hospitals are packed in it in two rows. They sit bolt upright under the hoops, exposed to mist and to the raw cold sting of the night; some of them wear their blankets like shawls over their shoulders as they were taken from their beds. The shawls and the head bandages give these British a strange, foreign look, infinitely helpless, infinitely pitiful. Continue reading

May Sinclair

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium

One bad symptom is disappearing. Towards dawn it has almost gone. He really does seem stronger.

[5 a.m.]

He has had no return of pain or restlessness. But he was to have a morphia piqûre at five o’clock, and they have given it to him to make sure.

[8 a.m.]

The night has not been so terrible, after all. It has gone like an hour and I have left him sleeping.

I am not in the least bit tired; I never felt drowsy once, and my cough has nearly gone.

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Antwerp has fallen. Continue reading

May Sinclair

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium

I have got something to do again—at last!

I am to help to look after Mr. ——. He has the pick of the Belgian Red Cross women to nurse him, and they are angelically kind and very skilful, but he is not very happy with them. He says: “These dear people are so good to me, but I can’t make out what they say. I can’t tell them what I want.” He is pathetically glad to have any English people with him. (Even I am a little better than a Belgian whom he cannot understand.)

I sat with him all morning. The French boy has gone and he is alone in his room now. It seems that the kind Chaplain sat up with him all last night after his hard day at Melle. (I wish now I had stood by the Chaplain with his Matins. He has never tried to have them again—given us up as an unholy crew, all except Mr. Foster, whom he clings to.) Continue reading