Mary Russell’s War, week one
On the centenary of the Great War, a journal has come to light, containing weekly entries from a very young Mary Russell. It begins, appropriately enough, on August 4, 1914, when Russell is living with her parents and brother in San Francisco.
4 August 1914.
I was fourteen when I first heard about the War. Fourteen years and 214 days, with my nose (as usual) in a book as I walked down the stairs.
At least, that’s how Mother says I shall remember it. And Father agrees, that War will be both long and hard, for all the European countries and the British Empire. Flo’s parents—Flo is my best friend, so of course I telephoned to her about Britain’s declaration of War immediately after I had finished my meal, although it was a brief conversation since Mother and Father both wished to use the instrument, yet they would not allow me to go to Flo’s house, oh, when will I be permitted to take a simple walk without a chaperone?—at any rate, Flo’s parents say that’s silly, that England will sweep up the German army in no time. However, since Mother has a dreary way of being right about everything, I thought I might mark the occasion by taking out the Journal she gave me for my birthday 214 days ago, and begin writing in it. If she’s wrong, I shall show her this, as a demonstration of her fallibility.
They’ve all been talking about war for what seems like forever, even before the Archduke and his wife were shot in Sarajevo at the end of June. I have to admit that I have yet to understand precisely what the heir to a Bohemian throne (will I ever be able to hear that name without envisioning Irene Adler?) has to do with an invasion of Belgium. Judging by the conversation of many adults and the cross-purposes of the newspaper editorials, I am not the only one to whom the sequence is unclear.
Still, one thing is clear: the fuse of the powder-keg that is Europe has been set alight.
Looking at what I have written here, I realise that I have yet to introduce myself, the author. My name is Mary Judith Emily Russell, daughter of Charles Russell (of Boston, Massachusetts) and Judith Rebecca Russell (née Klein, of London, England.) In addition to being fourteen years and 214 days old, I am tall for a girl, nearsighted, with blonde hair the same shade as my father’s (although considerably longer) and the blue eyes that so often go with that colour. I have a brother, Levi, who is nine years old and resembles our mother, being dark of hair and eye, and irritatingly right about things. Especially mathematics. He’s something of a genius. I’m merely very smart.
I probably shouldn’t have written that, since if he finds this he’ll take it as an admission that he has the superior mind. If you are reading this, Levi, remember that even Sherlock Holmes, the world’s smartest man, wasn’t as bright as a woman.