Alice Cholmondeley.

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not see Bernd for a long while after tonight."

"No German officer marries an alien enemy," snapped out the Colonel.
"Remove the woman's hand, Herr Leutnant."

Again Bernd gently took my hand, but I held on. "This is good-bye,
then?" I said, looking up at him and clinging to him.

He was facing the Colonel, rigid, his profile to me; but he did at that
turn his head and look at me. "Remember - " he breathed.

"I forbid all talking, Herr Leutnant," snapped the Colonel.

"Never mind him," I whispered. "What does _he_ matter? Remember what,
my Bernd, my own beloved?"

"Remember courage - patience - " he murmured quickly, under his breath.

"Silence!" shouted the Colonel. "Take that woman's hand off your arm,
Herr Leutnant. _Kreutzhimmeldonnerwetter nochmal_. Instantly."

Bernd took my hand, and raising it to his face kissed it slowly and
looked at me. I shall not forget that look.

The Colonel, who was very red and more like an infuriated machine than
a human being, stepped on one side and pointed to the door. "Precede
me," he said. "On the instant. March."

And Bernd went out as if on parade.

When shall we see each other again? Only a fortnight, one fortnight
and two days, have we been lovers. But such things can't be measured
by time. They are of eternity. They are for always. If he is killed,
and the rest of my years are empty, we still will have had the whole of

And now there's tomorrow, and my getting away. You won't be anxious,
dear mother. You'll wait quietly and patiently till I come. I'll
write to you on the way if I can. It may take several days to get to
Switzerland, and it may be difficult to get out of Germany. I think I
shall say I'm an American. Frau Berg, poor thing, will be relieved to
find me gone. She only took me in tonight because of Bernd. While she
was demurring on the threshold, when at last I got to her after a
terrifying walk through the crowds, - for I was afraid they would notice
me and see, as they always do, that I'm English, - his soldier servant
brought her a note from him which just turned the scale for me. I'm
afraid humanity wouldn't have done it, nor pity, for patriotism and
pity don't go well together here.

I wonder if you'll believe how calmly I'm going to bed and to sleep
tonight, on the night of what might seem to be the ruin of my
happiness. I'm glad I've written everything down that has happened
this evening. It has got it so clear to me. I don't want ever to
forget one word or look of Bernd's tonight. I don't want ever to
forget his patience, his dear look of untouchable dignity, when the
Colonel, because he is in authority and can be cruel, at such a moment
in the lives of two poor human beings was so unkind.

God bless and keep you, my mother, - my dear sweet mother.

Your Chris.

_Halle, Wednesday night, August 5th, 1914_.

I've got as far as this, and hope to get on in an hour or two. We've
been stopped to let troop trains pass. They go rushing by one after
the other, packed with waving, shouting soldiers, all of them with
flowers stuck about them, in their buttonholes and caps. I've been
watching them. There's no end to them. And the enthusiasm of the
crowds on the platform as they go by never slackens. I'm making for
Zurich. I tried for Bale. but couldn't get into Switzerland that
way, - it is _abgesperrt_. I hadn't much difficulty getting a ticket in
Berlin. There was such confusion and such a rush at the ticket office
that the man just asked me why I wanted to go; and I said I was
American and rejoining my mother, and he flung me the ticket, only too
glad to get rid of me. Don't expect me till you see me, for we shall
be held up lots of times, I'm sure.

I'm all right, mother darling. It was fearfully hot all day, squeezed
tight in a third class carriage - no other class to be had. It's cold
and draughty in this station by comparison, and I wish I had my coat.
I've brought nothing away with me, except my fiddle and what would go
into its case, which was handkerchiefs. Bernd will see that my things
get sent on, I expect. I locked everything up in my trunk, - your
letters, and all my precious things. An official came along the train
at Wittenberg, and after eyeing us all in my compartment suddenly held
out his hand to me and said, "_Ihre Papiere_." As I haven't got any I
told him about being an American, and as much family history not till
then known to me as I could put into German. The other passengers
listened eagerly, but not unfriendly. I think if you're a woman, not
being old helps one in Germany.

Now I'm going to get some hot coffee, for it has turned cold, I think,
and post this. The one thing in life now that seems of desperate
importance is to get to you. Oh, little mother, the moment when I
reach you! It will be like getting to heaven, like getting at last,
after many wanderings, and batterings, to the feet of God.

We _ought_ to be at Waldshut, on the frontier, tomorrow morning, but
nobody can say for certain, because we may be held up for hours
anywhere on the way.

Your Chris.

It's a good thing being too tired to think.

_Wursburg, Thursday, August 6th, 1914, 4 p. m_.

I've only got as far as this. I was held up this time, not the train.
It went on without me. Well, it doesn't matter really; it only keeps
me a little longer from you.

We stopped here about ten o'clock this morning, and I was so tired and
stiff after the long night wedged in tight in the railway carriage that
I got out to get some air and unstiffen myself, instinctively clutching
my fiddle-case; and a Bavarian officer on the platform, watching the
train with some soldiers, saw me and came over to me at once and
demanded to see my papers.

"You are English," he said; and when I said I was American he made a
sound like Tcha.

I can't tell you how horrid he was. He kept me standing for two hours
in the blazing sun. You can imagine what I felt like when I saw my
train going away without me. I asked if I mightn't go into the shade,
into the waiting-room, anywhere out of the terrible sun, for I was
positively dripping after the first half hour of it, and his answer to
that and to anything else I said in protest was always the same:
"_Krieg ist Krieg. Mund halten_."

There was no _reason_ why I shouldn't be in the shade, except that he
had power to prevent it. Well, he was very young, and I don't suppose
had ever had so much power before, so I suppose it was natural, he
being German. But it was a most ridiculous position. I tried to see
it from that side and be amused, but I wasn't amused. While he went
and telephoned to his superiors for instructions he put a soldier to
guard me, and of course the people waiting on the platform for trains
crowded to look. They decided that I was no doubt a spy, and certainly
and manifestly one of the swinish English, they said. I wished then I
couldn't understand German. I stood there doing my best to think it
was all very funny, but I was too tired to succeed, and hadn't had any
breakfast, and they were too rude. Then I tried to think it was just a
silly dream, and that I had really got to Glion, and would wake up in a
minute in a cool bedroom with the light coming through green shutters,
and there'd be the lake, and the mountains opposite with snow on them,
and you, my blessed, blessed little mother, calling me to breakfast.
But it was too hot and distinct and horribly consistent to be a dream.
And my clothes were getting wetter and wetter with the heat, and
sticking to me.

I want to get to you. That's all I think of now. There isn't a train
till tonight, and then only as far as Stuttgart. I expect this letter
will get to you long before I do, because I may be kept at Stuttgart.

Another officer, higher up than the first one, let me go. He was more
decent. He came and questioned me, and said that as he couldn't prove
I wasn't American he preferred to risk believing that I was, rather
than inconvenience a lady belonging to a friendly nation, or something
like that. I don't know what he said really, for by that time I was
stupid because of the sun beating down so. But he let me go, and I
came here to the restaurant to get something to drink. He came after
me, to see that I was not further inconvenienced, he said, so I thought
I'd tell him I was going to marry one of his fellow-officers. He
changed completely then, when I told him Bernd's name and regiment, and
was really polite and really saw that I wasn't further inconvenienced.
Dear Bernd! Even just his name saves me.

I went to sleep on the bench in the waiting room after I had drunk a
great deal of iced milk. My fiddle-case was the pillow. Poor fiddle.
It seems such a useless, futile thing now.

It was so nice lying down flat, and not having to do anything. The
waiter says there's a place I can wash in, and I suppose I'd better go
and wash after I've posted this, but I don't want to particularly. I
don't want to do anything, particularly, except shut my eyes and wait
till I get to you. But I think I'll go out into the sun and warm
myself up again, for it's cold in here. Dear mother, I'm a great deal
nearer to you than I've been for weeks. Won't you borrow a map, and
see where Wurzburg is?

Your Chris.

* * * * *

Transcriber's note: The following is my attempt to convert the music
found earlier in this book into Lilypond format.
Search for "G minor Bach".

\clef treble \key b \major \time 4/4
r8 d8 d8[ d8]
\bar "|"
d8[ c8[ b16]] c8[ a8]
\bar "|"

This was produced by a combination of examining
other Lilypond files and on-line research. I
know little of music reading or theory, so any
errors are mine. I have made no attempt to
create any Lilypond "wrapper" components that
may be required.


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Online LibraryAlice CholmondeleyChristine → online text (page 12 of 12)