Mary Russell’s War (nineteen: young soldiers and Santa Claus)


8 December 1914

At last, I have the sensation of moving forward with my life, for the first time since I set out to find the German spies back in October. What a very long time ago that seems, and such a young child she was.

(I do feel, however, that the authorities were mistaken to dismiss my accusations, and before I leave here, I shall post a stern but anonymous letter concerning the dangers. If I type it, on Father’s machine, perhaps that will add a degree of authority.)

Letters arrive with regularity from Boston, my grandmother’s increasingly distraught pleas for me to board a train, with a hired nurse, instantly. I understand she has taken to writing Dr. Ginsberg as well, although I imagine that the tone there is less pleading than commanding. I have just sent a telegram to Grandmother, saying that I plan to arrive some time between the 18th and 21st, and that I shall cable again with further details. No doubt my unwillingness to consult with her as to the exact train I take, in which precise compartment, and wearing which hat is going to set off a positive blizzard of envelopes both postal and telegraphic. However, unless I am willing to turn my life over to the woman, here is the time to stand firm and convey the message that I intend to take command of my own life.

No: I shall pack my trunks, have another conversation with my parents’ lawyer—my lawyer, now—and make the final arrangements for closing up the house.

My house.

Also, have two or three more conversations with Dr. Ginsberg. I find that, as my health returns, my recollection of events is becoming oddly vague, as if my brain will only permit me one or the other: health or memories. It is worrying. I have dreams in which my mother’s face is obscured by a grey veil, like mist. Last night, I came bolt upright in my bed, unable to remember which of his two mechanical pencils Levi had with him when the car went off the cliff. I could not fall asleep again for the longest time—but why should it matter in the least? I can only think that some portion of my brain is protesting the obscuring effects of another portion. And since I cannot permit my own mind to rebel against me, perhaps Dr. Ginsberg can help me retrieve the clarity of those events.

Other than this peculiar mental quirk, my injuries are beginning to fade, and I am pleased to find that the strength in my hand is nearly restored. I can even raise the arm enough to brush my own hair, at last. Dr. Ginsberg will take me into the shops this afternoon, since all my shoes pinch and my winter coat is now childishly short. She says that we need not go into the City of Paris, that the Emporium has perfectly adequate clothing. Which is good, since I believe merely walking in the door of Mother’s favourite shop, particularly at this season of the year, would reduce me to tears.

So, my trunk lies packed in the house, ready for the final tucking-in of objects. I do not know who removed the mezuzah from the front door, but I have removed the one that graced Mother’s door into the garden, and packed that in. After a last survey of the house tomorrow (during which I shall type the letter concerning the deeds of the German embassy) the trunk will be shipped off for Boston, and I can turn to saying good-bye to San Francisco.

I need only wait for the arrival of the December Strand, and then set off across the country. If I am to be alone now, then alone is how I must go forward.

In the meantime, my eyes seem to linger over these final issues of the San Francisco Chronicle, although the reading makes for distressing news indeed.


Most Fiendish Atrocity in Galicia

French Youths May Fight

300,000 Under 18 to Prepare


utter surprise at the absence of movement and lack of noise. Within one’s range of vision

with a strong glass are probably concealed 100,000 men…

And, troubling to a different degree:

Commercializing Santa Claus Is Something New

It’s Positively the Very Latest Idea in Christmas Celebrations

*  *

The earlier episodes of Russell’s War are collected here.


  1. Merrily Taylor on December 8, 2014 at 7:19 am

    So sad and yet another example of Mary’s remarkable maturity and courage. And we begin to see the reasons that she didn’t go to her grandmother, something I’ve always wondered about (did she know how bad the aunt was going to be, though?)
    It’s touching to see her fears about what is happening to her memory, given our foreknowledge of “Locked Rooms”…

  2. Chris on December 8, 2014 at 8:37 am

    I’ve deliberately only dipped in and out of these little gems – safe in the knowledge that they are to be collected in one e-book version (print too? Pretty please?). With not much more than two months until Dreaming Spies arrives, this will be a wonderful winter warmer;-)


    • Laurie King on December 8, 2014 at 10:13 am

      When the time comes, I will do some judicious editing and see about publication, either e or print. Time enough for that, however.

  3. ann hunt on December 8, 2014 at 9:56 am

    As I’ve come to look forward to your books over the years, so I’ve come to look forward to these Monday posts… I will miss them when they run there course… but perhaps they will flow on forever… Blessings and thanks!

    • Laurie King on December 8, 2014 at 10:12 am

      Well, the War went on for four and a half years…

  4. carolyn fetsko on December 8, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Your mention of the City of Paris and the Emporium made me miss the city in which i spent the first 19 years of my life. I so looked forward to the enormous Christmas tree in the City of Paris and the affordable prices at the Emporium which was always our first stop after getting off the #1 California bus.

  5. Robbin Stull on December 8, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Laurie please! No judicious editing. We love it as it is. It has just occued to me that this is a weekly continuing story. Hmm. Similar to the Strand? And thank you.

  6. Sheila Bundy on December 9, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Laurie–Please print versions of everything you write! I re-read Mary’s adventures every year and they just aren’t the same when not on the printed page! I am glad to have stumbled on to this site, but prefer to read stories ON PAPER!
    Thank you for all of the hours of enjoyment you provide me!

    • Laurie King on December 12, 2014 at 9:27 am

      We’ll do it when we can, but it takes time and effort, so we tend to do only the pieces a lot of people might like. We shall see what response there is for “Mary’s Christmas”, although ten dollars for a short story is pretty pricey!

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