The mosquitoes from the canal have come up and bitten me. I was ill all night with something that felt like malarial fever, if it isn’t influenza. Couldn’t get up—too drowsy.
Mr. L. came in to see me first thing in the morning. He also came to hear at first hand the story of our run into Antwerp. He was extremely kind. He sat and looked at me sorrowfully, as if he had been the family doctor, and gave me some of his very own China tea (in Belgium in war-time this is one of the most devoted things that man can do for his brother). He was so gentle and so sympathetic that my heart went out to him, and I forgot all about poor Mr. Davidson, and gave up to him the whole splendid “scoop” of the British troops at Saint Nicolas. Continue reading
(I have no clear recollection of Sunday morning, because in the afternoon we went to Antwerp; and Antwerp has blotted out everything that went near before it.)
The Ambulance has been ordered to take two Belgian professors (or else they are doctors) into Antwerp. There isn’t any question this time of carrying wounded. It seems incredible, but I am going too. I shall see the siege of Antwerp and hear the guns that were brought up from Namur.
Somewhere, on the north-west horizon, a vision, heavenly, but impalpable, aerial, indistinct, of the Greatest Possible Danger. Continue reading
Mr. L. asked me to breakfast. He has told me more about the Corps in five minutes than the Corps has been able to tell me in as many days. He has seen it at Alost and Termonde. You gather that he has seen other heroic enterprises also and that he would perjure himself if he swore that they were indispensable. Every Correspondent is besieged by the leaders of heroic enterprises, and I imagine that Mr. L. has been “had” before now by amateurs of the Red Cross, and his heart must have sunk when he heard of an English Field Ambulance in Ghent. And he owns to positive terror when he saw it, with its girls in breeches, its Commandant in Norfolk jacket, grey knickerbockers, heather-mixture stockings and deer-stalker; its Chaplain in khaki, and its Surgeon a mark for bullets in his Belgian officer’s cap. I suggest that this absence of uniform only proves our passionate eagerness to be off and get to work. But it is right. Our ambulance is the real thing, and Mr. L. is going to be an angel and help it all he can. He will write about it in the Illustrated London News and the Westminster. Continue reading
We get up at six.
We hang about till eight-thirty or nine. A fine rain begins to fall. An ominous rain. Car 1 and Car 2 are drawn up at the far end of the Hospital yard. The rain falls ominously over the yellow-brown, trodden clay of the yard. There is an ominous look of preparation about the cars. There is also an ominous light in the blue eyes of the chauffeur Tom.
The chauffeur Tom appears as one inspired by hatred of the whole human race. You would say that he was also hostile to the entire female sex. For Woman in her right place he may, he probably does, feel tenderness and reverence. Woman in a field ambulance he despises and abhors. I really think it was the sight of us that accounted for his depression at Ostend. I have gathered from Mrs. Torrence that the chauffeur Tom has none of the New Chivalry about him. He is the mean and brutal male, the crass obstructionist who grudges women their laurels in the equal field. Continue reading
It really isn’t safe for the Commandant to go out with Ursula Dearmer. For her luck in the matter of bombardments continues. (He might just as well be with Mrs. Torrence.) They have been at Termonde. What is more, it was Ursula Dearmer who got them through, in spite of the medical military officer whose vigorous efforts stopped them at the barrier. He seems at one point to have shown weakness and given them leave to go on a little way up the road; and the little way seems to have carried them out of his sight and onward till they encountered the Colonel (or it may have been a General) in command. The Colonel (or the General) seems to have broken down very badly, for the car and Ursula Dearmer and the Commandant went on towards Termonde. Young Haynes was with them this time, and on the way they had picked up Mr. G. L——, War Correspondent to the Daily Mail and Westminster. They left the car behind somewhere in a safe place where the fire from the machine-guns couldn’t reach it. There is a street or a road—I can’t make out whether it is inside or outside the town; it leads straight to the bridge over the river, which is about as wide there as the Thames at Westminster. The bridge is the key to the position; it has been blown up and built again several times in the course of the War, and the Germans are now entrenched beyond it. The road had been raked by their mitrailleuses the day before. Continue reading
The Argonne, France
I can say that, as far as the mind goes, I have lived through great days when all vain preoccupations were swept away by a new spirit.
If there should ever be any lapse so that only one of my letters reaches you, may it be one that says how beneficial, how precious have these torments been!
(from a note-book)
It follows from this that our suffering, every moment of it, should be considered as the most marvellous source of feeling and of progress for the conscience.
I now know into what domain my destiny leads me. No longer towards the proud and illusory region of pure speculation, but in the way of all little daily things—it is there that I must carry the service of an ever-vigilant sensibility.
I see how easily an upright nature may dispense with the arts of expression in order to be helpful in act and in influence. Precious lesson, which will enable me, should I return, to suffer less if fate no longer allows me to paint.