H. M. (Henry Major) Tomlinson.

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WAITING FOR
DAYLIGHT

* * * * *

_BOOKS BY H. M. TOMLINSON_

THE SEA AND THE JUNGLE
OLD JUNK
LONDON RIVER
WAITING FOR DAYLIGHT

* * * * *

THE FIRST PRINTING OF THIS BOOK CONSISTS
OF TWENTY-ONE HUNDRED COPIES,
OF WHICH TWO THOUSAND ARE FOR SALE.

THIS IS NUMBER

669

* * * * *




WAITING FOR
DAYLIGHT

By H. M. TOMLINSON


NEW YORK · ALFRED · A · KNOPF · MCMXXII

* * * * *

COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
ALFRED A. KNOPF, Inc.

_Published May, 1922_


_Set up, electrotyped and printed by the Vail-Ballou Co., Binghamton, N. Y._
_Paper furnished by Henry Lindenmeyr & Sons, New York, N. Y._
_Bound by the H. Wolff Estate, New York, N. Y._


MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

* * * * *

To
MY WIFE

* * * * *




CONTENTS


I. IN YPRES 3

II. A RAID NIGHT 12

III. ISLANDS 24

IV. TRAVEL BOOKS 28

V. SIGNS OF SPRING 31

VI. PROSE WRITING 36

VII. THE MODERN MIND 40

VIII. MAGAZINES 44

IX. THE MARNE 49

X. CARLYLE 56

XI. HOLIDAY READING 58

XII. AN AUTUMN MORNING 65

XIII. NEWS FROM THE FRONT 74

XIV. AUTHORS AND SOLDIERS 80

XV. WAITING FOR DAYLIGHT 88

XVI. THE NOBODIES 96

XVII. BOOKWORMS 112

XVIII. SAILOR LANGUAGE 115

XIX. ILLUSIONS 120

XX. FIGURE-HEADS 127

XXI. ECONOMICS 133

XXII. OLD SUNLIGHT 135

XXIII. RUSKIN 140

XXIV. THE REWARD OF VIRTUE 147

XXV. GREAT STATESMEN 149

XXVI. JOY 152

XXVII. THE REAL THING 162

XXVIII. LITERARY CRITICS 170

XXIX. THE SOUTH DOWNS 175

XXX. KIPLING 182

XXXI. A DEVON ESTUARY 188

XXXII. BARBELLION 194

XXXIII. BREAKING THE SPELL 200



WAITING FOR
DAYLIGHT




I. In Ypres


JULY, 1915. My mouth does not get so dry as once it did, I notice, when
walking in from Suicide Corner to the Cloth Hall. There I was this summer
day, in Ypres again, in a silence like a threat, amid ruins which might
have been in Central Asia, and I, the last man on earth, contemplating
them. There was something bumping somewhere, but it was not in Ypres, and
no notice is taken in Flanders of what does not bump near you. So I sat
on the disrupted pedestal of a forgotten building and smoked, and
wondered why I was in the city of Ypres, and why there was a war, and why
I was a fool.

It was a lovely day, and looking up at the sky over what used to be a
school dedicated to the gentle Jesus, which is just by the place where
one of the seventeen-inchers has blown a forty-foot hole, I saw a little
round cloud shape in the blue, and then another, and then a cluster of
them; the kind of soft little cloudlets on which Renaissance cherubs
rest their chubby elbows and with fat faces inclined on their hands
consider mortals from cemetery monuments. Then dull concussions arrived
from heaven, and right overhead I made out two German 'planes. A
shell-case banged the _pavé_ and went on to make a white scar on a wall.
Some invisible things were whizzing about. One's own shrapnel can be
tactless.

There was a cellar near and I got into it, and while the intruders were
overhead I smoked and gazed at the contents of the cellar - the wreckage
of a bicycle, a child's chemise, one old boot, a jam-pot, and a dead cat.
Owing to an unsatisfactory smell of many things I climbed out as soon as
possible and sat on the pedestal again.

A figure in khaki came straight at me across the Square, its boots
sounding like the deliberate approach of Fate in solitude. It stopped and
saluted, and said: "I shouldn't stay 'ere, sir. They gen'ally begin about
now. Sure to drop some 'ere."

At that moment a mournful cry went over us, followed by a crash in
Sinister Street. My way home! Some masonry fell in sympathy from the
Cloth Hall.

"Better come with me till it blows over, sir. I've got a dug-out near."

We turned off into a part of the city unknown to me. There were some
unsettling noises, worse, no doubt, because of the echoes behind us; but
it is not dignified to hurry when one looks like an officer. One ought to
fill a pipe. I did so, and stopped to light it. I paused while drawing at
it, checked by the splitting open of the earth in the first turning to
the right and the second to the left, or thereabouts.

"That's a big 'un, sir," said my soldier, taking half a cigarette from
behind his ear and a light from my match; we then resumed our little
promenade. By an old motor 'bus having boards for windows, and War Office
neuter for its colour, but bearing for memory's sake on its brow the
legend "Liverpool Street," my soldier hurried slightly, and was then
swallowed up. I was alone. While looking about for possible openings I
heard his voice under the road, and then saw a dark cavity, low in a
broken wall, and crawled in. Feeling my way by knocking on the dark with
my forehead and my shins, I descended to a lower smell of graves which
was hollowed by a lighted candle in a bottle. And there was the soldier,
who provided me with an empty box, and himself with another, and we had
the candle between us. On the table were some official documents under a
shell-nose, and a tin of condensed milk suffering from shock. Pictures of
partly clad ladies began to appear on the walls through the gloom. Now
and then the cellar trembled.

"Where's that old 'bus come from?" I asked.

"Ah! The pore old bitch, sir," said the soldier sadly.

"Yes, of course, but what's the matter with her?"

"She's done in, sir. But she's done her bit, she has," said my soldier,
changing the crossing of his legs. "Ah! little did she think when I used
to take 'er acrorse Ludget Circus what a 'ell of a time I'd 'ave to give
'er some day. She's a good ole thing. She's done 'er bit. She won't see
Liverpool Street no more. If medals wasn't so cheap she ought to 'ave
one, she ought."

The cellar had a fit of the palsy, and the candle-light shuddered and
flattened.

"The ruddy swine are ruddy wild to-day. Suthin's upset 'em. 'Ow long will
this ruddy war last, sir?" asked the soldier, slightly plaintive.

"I know," I said. "It's filthy. But what about your old 'bus?"

"Ah! what about 'er. She ain't 'arf 'ad a time. She's seen enough war to
make a general want to go home and shell _peas_. What she knows about it
would make them clever fellers in London who reckon they know all about
it turn green if they heard a door slam. Learned it all in one jolly old
day, too. Learned it sudden, like you gen'ally learn things you don't
forget. And I reckon I 'adn't anything to find out, either, not after
Antwerp. Don't tell me, sir, war teaches you a lot. It only shows fools
what they didn't know but might 'ave guessed.

"You know Poperinghe? Well, my trip was between there an' Wipers,
gen'ally. The stones on the road was enough to make 'er shed nuts and
bolts by the pint. But it was a quiet journey, take it all round, and
after a cup o' tea at Wipers I used to roll home to the park. It was
easier than the Putney route. Wipers was full of civilians. Shops all
open. Estaminets and nice young things. I used to like war better than a
school-boy likes Sat'd'y afternoons. It wasn't work and it wasn't play.
And there was no law you couldn't break if you 'ad sense enough to come
to attention smart and answer quick. Yes, sir.

"I knew so little about war then that I'm sorry I never tried to be a
military expert. But my education was neglected. I can only write picture
postcards. It's a pity. Well, one day it wasn't like that. It dropped on
Wipers, and it wasn't like that. It was bloody different. I wasn't
frightened, but my little inside was.

"First thing was the gassed soldiers coming through. Their faces were
green and blue, and their uniform a funny colour. I didn't know what was
the matter with 'em, and that put the wind up, for I didn't want to look
like that. We could hear a gaudy rumpus in the Salient. The civvies were
frightened, but they stuck to their homes. Nothing was happening there
then, and while nothing is happening it's hard to believe it's going to.
After seeing a Zouave crawl by with his tongue hanging out, and his face
the colour of a mottled cucumber, I said good-bye to the little girl
where I was. It was time to see about it.

"And fact is, I didn't 'ave much time to think about it, what with
gettin' men out and gettin' reinforcements in. Trip after trip.

"But I shall never have a night again like that one. Believe me, it was
a howler. I steered the old 'bus, but it was done right by accident. It
was certainly touch and go. I shouldn't 'ave thought a country town, even
in war, could look like Wipers did that night.

"It was gettin' dark on my last trip, and we barged into all the world
gettin' out. And the guns and reinforcements were comin' up behind me.
There's no other road out or in, as you know. I forgot to tell you that
night comin' on didn't matter much, because the place was alight. The sky
was full of shrapnel, and the high-explosives were falling in the houses
on fire, and spreading the red stuff like fireworks. The gun ahead of me
went over a child, but only its mother and me saw that, and a house in
flames ahead of the gun got a shell inside it, and fell on the crowd that
was mixed up with the army traffic.

"When I got to a side turning I 'opped off to see how my little lady was
getting on. A shell had got 'er estaminet. The curtains were flying in
little flames through the place where the windows used to be. Inside, the
counter was upside down, and she was laying with glass and bottles on the
floor. I couldn't do anything for her. And further up the street my
headquarters was a heap of bricks, and the houses on both sides of it on
fire. No good looking there for any more orders.

"Being left to myself, I began to take notice. While you're on the job
you just do it, and don't see much of anything else except out of the
corner of the eye. I've never 'eard such a row - shells bursting, houses
falling, and the place was foggy with smoke, and men you couldn't see
were shouting, and the women and children, wherever they were, turning
you cold to hear 'em.

"It was like the end of the world. Time for me to 'op it. I backed the
old 'bus and turned 'er, and started off - shells in front and behind and
overhead, and, thinks I, next time you're bound to get caught in this
shower. Then I found my officer. 'E was smoking a cigarette, and 'e told
me my job. 'E gave me my cargo. I just 'ad to take 'em out and dump 'em.

"'Where shall I take 'em, sir?'

"'Take 'em out of this,' says he. 'Take 'em anywhere, take 'em where you
like, Jones, take 'em to hell, but take 'em away,' says he.

"So I loaded up. Wounded Tommies, gassed Arabs, some women and children,
and a few lunatics, genuine cock-eyed loonies from the asylum. The
shells chased us out. One biffed us over on to the two rear wheels, but
we dropped back on four on the top speed. Several times I bumped over
soft things in the road and felt rather sick. We got out o' the town with
the shrapnel a bit in front all the way. Then the old 'bus jibbed for a
bit. Every time a shell burst near us the lunatics screamed and laughed
and clapped their hands, and trod on the wounded, but I got 'er goin'
again. I got 'er to Poperinghe. Two soldiers died on the way, and a
lunatic had fallen out somewhere, and a baby was born in the 'bus; and me
with no conductor and no midwife.

"I met our chaplain and says he: 'Jones, you want a drink. Come with me
and have a Scotch.' That was a good drink. I 'ad the best part of 'arf a
bottle without water, and it done me no 'arm. Next morning I found I'd
put in the night on the parson's bed in me boots, and 'e was asleep on
the floor."




II. A Raid Night


SEPTEMBER 17, 1915. I had crossed from France to Fleet Street, and was
thankful at first to have about me the things I had proved, with their
suggestion of intimacy, their look of security; but I found the once
familiar editorial rooms of that daily paper a little more than
estranged. I thought them worse, if anything, than Ypres. Ypres is within
the region where, when soldiers enter it, they abandon hope, because they
have become sane at last, and their minds have a temperature a little
below normal. In Ypres, whatever may have been their heroic and exalted
dreams, they awake, see the world is mad, and surrender to the doom from
which they know a world bereft will give them no reprieve.

There was a way in which the office of that daily paper was familiar. I
had not expected it, and it came with a shock. Not only the compulsion,
but the bewildering inconsequence of war was suggested by its activities.
Reason was not there. It was ruled by a blind and fixed idea. The
glaring artificial light, the headlong haste of the telegraph
instruments, the wild litter on the floor, the rapt attention of the men
scanning the news, their abrupt movements and speed when they had to
cross the room, still with their gaze fixed, their expression that of
those who dreaded something worse to happen; the suggestion of tension,
as though the Last Trump were expected at any moment, filled me with
vague alarm. The only place where that incipient panic is not usual is
the front line, because there the enemy is within hail, and is known to
be another unlucky fool. But I allayed my anxiety. I leaned over one of
the still figures and scanned the fateful document which had given its
reader the aspect of one who was staring at what the Moving Finger had
done. Its message was no more than the excited whisper of a witness who
had just left a keyhole. But I realized in that moment of surprise that
this office was an essential feature of the War; without it, the War
might become Peace. It provoked the emotions which assembled civilians in
ecstatic support of the sacrifices, just as the staff of a corps
headquarters, at some comfortable leagues behind the trenches, maintains
its fighting men in the place where gas and shells tend to engender
common sense and irresolution.

I left the glare of that office, its heat and half-hysterical activity,
and went into the coolness and quiet of the darkened street, and there
the dread left me that it could be a duty of mine to keep hot pace with
patriots in full stampede. The stars were wonderful. It is such a
tranquillizing surprise to discover there are stars over London. Until
this War, when the street illuminations were doused, we never knew it. It
strengthens one's faith to discover the Pleiades over London; it is not
true that their delicate glimmer has been put out by the remarkable
incandescent energy of our power stations. There they are still. As I
crossed London Bridge the City was as silent as though it had come to the
end of its days, and the shapes I could just make out under the stars
were no more substantial than the shadows of its past. Even the Thames
was a noiseless ghost. London at night gave me the illusion that I was
really hidden from the monstrous trouble of Europe, and, at least for one
sleep, had got out of the War. I felt that my suburban street, secluded
in trees and unimportance, was as remote from the evil I knew of as
though it were in Alaska. When I came to that street I could not see my
neighbours' homes. It was with some doubt that I found my own. And there,
with three hours to go to midnight, and a book, and some circumstances
that certainly had not changed, I had retired thankfully into a fragment
of that world I had feared we had completely lost.

"What a strange moaning the birds in the shrubbery are making!" my
companion said once. I listened to it, and thought it was strange. There
was a long silence, and then she looked up sharply. "What's that?" she
asked. "Listen!"

I listened. My hearing is not good.

"Nothing!" I assured her.

"There it is again." She put down her book with decision, and rose, I
thought, in some alarm.

"Trains," I suggested. "The gas bubbling. The dog next door. Your
imagination." Then I listened to the dogs. It was curious, but they all
seemed awake and excited.

"What is the noise like?" I asked, surrendering my book on the antiquity
of man.

She twisted her mouth in a comical way most seriously, and tried to mimic
a deep and solemn note.

"Guns," I said to myself, and went to the front door.

Beyond the vague opposite shadows of some elms lights twinkled in the
sky, incontinent sparks, as though glow lamps on an invisible pattern of
wires were being switched on and off by an idle child. That was shrapnel.
I walked along the empty street a little to get a view between and beyond
the villas. I turned to say something to my companion, and saw then my
silent neighbours, shadowy groups about me, as though they had not
approached but had materialized where they stood. We watched those
infernal sparks. A shadow lit its pipe and offered me its match. I heard
the guns easily enough now, but they were miles away.

A slender finger of brilliant light moved slowly across the sky, checked,
and remained pointing, firmly accusatory, at something it had found in
the heavens. A Zeppelin!

There it was, at first a wraith, a suggestion on the point of vanishing,
and then illuminated and embodied, a celestial maggot stuck to the round
of a cloud like a caterpillar to the edge of a leaf. We gazed at it
silently, I cannot say for how long. The beam of light might have pinned
the bright larva to the sky for the inspection of interested Londoners.
Then somebody spoke. "I think it is coming our way."

I thought so too. I went indoors, calling out to the boy as I passed his
room upstairs, and went to where the girls were asleep. Three miles,
three minutes! It appears to be harder to waken children when a Zeppelin
is coming your way. I got the elder girl awake, lifted her, and sat her
on the bed, for she had become heavier, I noticed. Then I put her small
sister over my shoulder, as limp and indifferent as a half-filled bag. By
this time the elder one had snuggled into the foot of her bed, resigned
to that place if the other end were disputed, and was asleep again. I
think I became annoyed, and spoke sharply. We were in a hurry. The boy
was waiting for us at the top of the stairs.

"What's up?" he asked with merry interest, hoisting his slacks.

"Come on down," I said.

We went into a central room, put coats round them, answering eager and
innocent questions with inconsequence, had the cellar door and a light
ready, and then went out to inspect affairs. There were more searchlights
at work. Bright diagonals made a living network on the overhead dark. It
was remarkable that those rigid beams should not rest on the roof of
night, but that their ends should glide noiselessly about the invisible
dome. The nearest of them was followed, when in the zenith, by a faint
oval of light. Sometimes it discovered and broke on delicate films of
high fair-weather clouds. The shells were still twinkling brilliantly,
and the guns were making a rhythmless baying in the distance, like a
number of alert and indignant hounds. But the Zeppelin had gone. The
firing diminished and stopped.

They went to bed again, and as I had become acutely depressed, and the
book now had no value, I turned in myself, assuring everyone, with the
usual confidence of the military expert, that the affair was over for the
night. But once in bed I found I could see there only the progress
humanity had made in its movement heavenwards. That is the way with us;
never to be concerned with the newest clever trick of our enterprising
fellow-men till a sudden turn of affairs shows us, by the immediate
threat to our own existence, that that cleverness has added to the peril
of civilized society, whose house has been built on the verge of the pit.
War now would be not only between soldiers. In future wars the place of
honour would be occupied by the infants, in their cradles. For war is not
murder. Starving children is war, and it is not murder. What treacherous
lying is all the heroic poetry of battle! Men will now creep up after
dark, ambushed in safety behind the celestial curtains, and drop bombs on
sleepers beneath for the greater glory of some fine figment or other. It
filled me, not with wrath at the work of Kaisers and Kings, for we know
what is possible with them, but with dismay at the discovery that one's
fellows are so docile and credulous that they will obey any order,
however abominable. The very heavens had been fouled by this obscene and
pallid worm, crawling over those eternal verities to which eyes had been
lifted for light when night and trouble were over dark. God was dethroned
by science. One looked startled at humanity, seeing not the accustomed
countenance, but, for a moment, glimpsing instead the baleful lidless
stare of the evil of the slime, the unmentionable of a nightmare....

A deafening crash brought us out of bed in one movement. I must have been
dozing. Someone cried, "My children!" Another rending uproar interrupted
my effort to shepherd the flock to a lower floor. There was a raucous
avalanche of glass. We muddled down somehow - I forget how. I could not
find the matches. Then in the dark we lost the youngest for some eternal
seconds while yet another explosion shook the house. We got to the
cellar stairs, and at last there they all were, their backs to the coals,
sitting on lumber.

A candle was on the floor. There were more explosions, somewhat muffled.
The candle-flame showed a little tremulous excitement, as if it were one
of the party. It reached upwards curiously in a long intent flame, and
then shrank flat with what it had learned. We were accompanied by
grotesque shadows. They stood about us on the white and unfamiliar walls.
We waited. Even the shadows seemed to listen with us; they hardly moved,
except when the candle-flame was nervous. Then the shadows wavered
slightly. We waited. I caught the boy's eye, and winked. He winked back.
The youngest, still with sleepy eyes, was trembling, though not with
cold, and this her sister noticed, and put her arms about her. His mother
had her hand on her boy's shoulder.

There was no more noise outside. It was time, perhaps, to go up to see
what had happened. I put a raincoat over my pyjamas, and went into the
street. Some of my neighbours, who were special constables, hurried by.
The enigmatic night, for a time, for five minutes, or five seconds (I do
not know how long it was), was remarkably still and usual. It might have
been pretending that we were all mistaken. It was as though we had been
merely dreaming our recent excitements. Then, across a field, a villa
began to blaze. Perhaps it had been stunned till then, and had suddenly
jumped into a panic of flames. It was wholly involved in one roll of fire
and smoke, a sudden furnace so consuming that, when it as suddenly
ceased, giving one or two dying spasms, I had but an impression of flames
rolling out of windows and doors to persuade me that what I had seen was
real. The night engulfed what may have been an illusion, for till then I


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Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Major) TomlinsonWaiting for daylight → online text (page 1 of 10)