Mary Russell’s War (nine): Gold braid and child snipers
29 September 1914
Catastrophe has struck. It is the end of everything. And I have no one to blame but myself.
On Saturday afternoon, at long last, the Parents took Levi and me into their confidence. Too late.
The letter Papa received from the War Office concerned his intention to enlist in the American army. We are neutral, yes, but that does not mean the government wish to be unprepared. His ability with languages, his family connexions, and some ill-defined (to us, his family) connexions with the Intelligence community conspire to mean that he could be of considerable value, to this country and to England. Not at the Front—even if his limp would allow him to be sent overseas—but in an office in Washington, DC.
Both he and Mother have known for some time that this was coming: this, it seems, was the cause of their disagreement last month. Her immediate impulse, on War’s declaration, was to go home to England, but his utter conviction and her common sense came together in a decision that England was no place to take a family. Once that agreement was reached, they were merely waiting for certain arrangements to be made before revealing their plans to us.
Bitterly, I now learn that Mother was on the edge of convincing him that San Francisco was the safest place for us: that she, Levi, and I would to remain here, continuing with our schooling and her aeroplane-fundraising, rather than (as he wished) that we retreat to my grandparents’ house in Boston. She was on the edge, I say, until…
My fault. Had I not tried to do my part for the War effort, had I not gone after a German spy, the three of us would be waving Papa off at the train station next week. Instead, we shall all board the train with him. It seems that he cannot trust his fourteen year-old daughter to stay out of trouble. Cannot trust his wife to keep control over said daughter. We shall go to Boston, to that fatuous woman, my grandmother, with her small dogs and her flowery hats and her too-warm house that smells of lavender.
Papa had Micah help haul the trunks from the attic, and Mama has begun to pack them, without knowing for how long. Papa wants to go down the Peninsula to the Lodge on Saturday, to retrieve some things we left there on our July holiday there, and to close it up for the coming months. Even years. I would like to accompany him—would like the whole family to go, since it is a place where we have been happy, and which we may never see again. But Mama says we may not be sufficiently packed up by the week-end, and that we probably won’t have time.
My fault, all of it.
And in Europe, the War continues to sink its teeth into civilisation.
Uniforms of French Officers Good Targets
Expert Declares Disproportionate Loss Due to Too Much Gold Braid
and Lace on Clothes.
GERMAN AEROPLANE DROPS BOMBS ON PARIS
Man’s Head Blown Off, Child is Crippled and Damage is Done to Buildings.
A Twelve-year-old boy has been fighting hard in the rifle pits in the public gardens at Belgrade. He is the pet of the full-grown soldiers and lives the same life as they do, and takes his full share of the sniping, as he is a first-class shot.
And in further news, a Christmas ship full of gifts is being put together for Europe. No one talks any more, of the War being over before then.