Mary Russell’s War (twenty-two): a belief in disguise
29 December 1914
Two days left in this ghastly year. Four days left for me to be fourteen.
And on the third day, I shall slip away.
In the past week, the idea of dressing up as a man in an English ingle-nook has kept coming back to me, to the point of fixation. On Christmas afternoon, I found myself standing before the looking glass, a child in plaits. A child. Then, with a twist of my arm, I gathered those plaits together at the top of my head, and there before me stood a young lady. Hair down: a child; hair up: the assured young adult seen by my fellow passengers on the train. A child, then with a change of hair and attitude, a person who might well travel all on her own.
I must be quit of Boston. This is no place for me, and my well-meaning, barely educated, humourless and conventional grandparents in their suffocating house will either smother me, or drive me mad. And since they will never approve my leaving, never give their permission for me to sail the dangerous Atlantic, leaving is a thing for me alone, to take into my own hands.
Today I shall dress in clothing more suitable to a woman ten years older than I. I shall go to my father’s bank to obtain some funds. Because I cannot be certain they will give me enough, I will take my mother’s emeralds in my pocket, and sell them for the money I need.
Because once I have money, I will have a ticket. And once I have a ticket, I shall be on the ship to Southampton.
New Year’s Day. I tell myself it is a good omen. I tell myself that next year will be less awful. I tell myself the German navy will not see us, and we shall put in to Southampton without harm.
I tell myself the disguise will work.