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.

In disguise.

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.


  1. Merrily Taylor on December 29, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Oh, Russell, you are a brave (and desperate) young woman, but you mustn’t be reckless – I am getting worried about you! If only you knew that there was hope (and love) in your future…

  2. RAchael Hungerford on December 29, 2014 at 7:18 am

    I, too, am a journal keeper and I so often feel like I have lived much my life in disguise – as an invisible ghost! Go Mary! And live and love and ‘know’ every moment of your living

  3. John Sims on December 29, 2014 at 10:48 am

    As much as I have loved these vignettes from Mary Russell’s fourteenth year, I confess that they leave me wanting more. This traumatic period in Ms Russell’s life is worthy of a more detailed exposition, and I for one hereby promise to be first in line to purchase a full-length book! The cross-country trip by train, the upcoming sea voyage, the first months of 1915 as she settles into Sussex, the details of how she came to live in the horrible situation with her aunt, all the lead-up to that day she goes walking on the Downs with her newly-purchased copy of Virgil … would make an excellent addition to the series.

    • Chuck Haberlein on December 29, 2014 at 12:42 pm

      John Sims is right on the money. I look forward to seeing how Mary solves all the many challenges she’ll face in the first quarter of 1915.

    • Judith Lasker on January 6, 2015 at 6:59 am

      I, too, agree with John Sims and have tried to post that a couple of times but somehow it doesns’t get past either the moderator or the captcha (darn that thing to perdition) code.

      Judith Lasker

      • Laurie King on January 6, 2015 at 7:20 am

        Hi Judith, sorry I’ve missed your post approvals–the first time someone posts a comment I need to approve them, but now I’ve done so, it should be okay for you. Yes, blessed technology, eh?

  4. Constance on December 29, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    I love these journal entries. She isn’t fearless but she doesn’t let fear stop her. A great role model. Oh, and I really wish her Aunt had been prosecuted for stealing that money from her!

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