Beatrice Harraden.

Thirteen all told online

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tion in knowing that the message over which he had ex-
pended so much trouble and brain power, had reached the
right quarter. As far as Miss Cresswell could make out,
it had been a source of more anxiety to him than all the
bombs at the front.

" It were the name what did me in," he repeated several
times. " But I went on, dogged like, same as if we was
trying for a trench see ? "



THE MESSAGE 211

And then, half shyly, half brusquely, as if no doubt fearing
to appear silly and sentimental, Private Jenkins said :

" Perhaps one day, when this 'ere war is over, you'll
be doing what that German female wanted. I should
if I was you. Poor old Fritz, you know, he can't help
hisself any more nor we could."

She promised him that if ever a chance arose for her to
see the battlefields, she would not forget that Berthold
von Blumenstein-Erzbach lay buried at Vimy.

Private Jenkins nodded. He was satisfied that he had
done his bit in more ways than one, and that now he was
free to forget all these tiresome and unnecessary happenings
in the great world outside H . Now, with easy con-
science, he could concentrate on the things which really
mattered in everyday life, the importances and events of
the countryside where he had been born and reared, and
to which he had returned, in more or less exactly the same
mental condition in which he had left it three years previ-
ously the story of thousands of our boys taken from these
tiny hamlets throughout the length and breadth of England.

Yet there was a difference. Miss Cress well extracted
from him that before he went to France, he'd never given
much thought to or wanted to possess one of those ugly
white-faced Herefordshire Cows which are a familiar
feature in the Oxfordshire pastures. But it appears that
they had haunted him in his dreams in his prison hospital.
He did not put the idea into so many words, of course ;
but they had evidently conjured up to him the thatched
cottage with its eyebrow window, peaceful scenes, winding
lanes, green fields, cornfields, the upturned brown earth,
the barns and stacks and all the things which spelt home.
But now he rather thought he'd like a cow, one of these
days, when he was better. Bert could milk her, and
perhaps he could manage to tumble along and " mind "
her. It was his only ambition, dimly visualised and
barely breathed. But Miss Cresswell resolved then and
there that it should be materialised. And it was Bert
himself and Miss Cresswell herself who drove White Face
home from Banbury cattle market one Thursday afternoon.
" Well, I never," said his mother, as she contemplated



212 THIRTEEN ALL TOLD

the cow. " Bob must have been a-doing something
after all in that 'ere France where the war's going on
what they speak so much on."

Jenkins's war record did not make him half such a
hero in the village as the unexpected gift of that Here-
fordshire cow.



m

THE war had ended, and the armistice was some four
months old. Helen Cresswell was wandering about alone
amidst the desolation of the plains of Vimy.

She had been unable to keep up with the other members
of the party, who, under the charge of two French officers,
were making at a breakneck speed for Vimy Ridge. She
had tried ; but realising the impossibility, she gradually
fell back, until her comrades became distant dots on the
landscape, and then were lost to sight. She regretted that
she would have to miss the military lecture arranged for
this company of twenty Englishwomen, who in those
early days of the armistice had been invited by the Mayor
of Lille to visit the Devastated Areas, see for themselves the
piteous plight of Northern France, and go home and tell
the story so vaguely realised then and now.

But after a spell of disappointment, she began to be glad,
both physically and spiritually, and thankful to be alone,
alone on the scene of tragic happenings, alone in the silence
and desolation, to think of the courage and endurance of
the men who had laid down their lives there, alone to sift
out the bewildering emotions and impressions of these
amazing two weeks in which she had seen miles and miles
of devastated land, countless ruined and obliterated towns
and villages and wrecked homes, and those deliberately
destroyed factories sights inconceivable, unbelievable,
unless seen by one's own eyes.

There was no sign of animal life, no sound of human
life, no music or stir of bird life. All round her stretched a
seemingly unending expanse of trenches and dug-outs,
shell holes, some of them full of water, barkless, bleached
tree-trunks twisted like writhing ghosts, masses of rusted



THE MESSAGE 213

barbed wire ramping like dead bracken on the ground, and
debris of all kinds.

But Nature was beginning to cover up, with her carpet
of green, the hideous ravages of war. She was fringing
the grim shell-holes with a delicate greenery ; she was creep-
ing stealthily round the trenches; she was bidding the
violets and wood anemones to spring up here and there
amongst the dead trees and blackened bushes, as if to pro-
claim a message of hope.

Miss Cresswell wandered about for a long time, intending
to find her way back to the main road where the military
motor lorry and Corporal Dobson, the driver, cheeriest and
friendliest of souls, and his mate, would be waiting for them
somewhere near the great cross to the memory of the Cana-
dians who fell at Vimy in April, 1917. But she missed the
trail, and only lit on the main road after much searching.
There she sat down on a heap of scrap iron, cleaned her
boots, which were caked with mud, and collected her
senses. There was no trace of the lorry, no trace of anyone.

She supposed something would happen eventually. Cor-
poral Dobson would be sure to come along. He had driven
the party for so many miles, that he had learnt to look
upon them as his special charges, who had come to France
at his personal invitation. He had been all through the
war without a scratch except from a sardine tin, so he
said, and since the armistice he had been hauling coal
a job he did not care about. He was exceedingly pleased
to have been told off to haul his country-women, and he
spared no pains to do all he could for them. Yes, Miss
Cresswell felt certain he would turn up ; but she thought
vaguely that if nothing did happen, she would go in pur-
suit of him. Meantime she would remain on that scrap
iron and await developments.

And as she rested, scenes and memories of our own
peaceful, untouched countryside rose before her as if in
contrast to this stricken land. Her thoughts wandered
to Private Jenkins's picturesque little village, with its
fields and pastures and winding lanes, and thatched cot-
tages, and trees and hedges, and cows strolling leisurely
along the by-roads, munching as they went. She smiled



214 THIRTEEN ALL TOLD

in thankfulness, and then visioned to herself White Face
swishing her tail and munching whilst Private Jenkins
" minded " her on her daily promenades.

Suddenly she looked across to the other side of the road
and saw what appeared to be a little group of graves.
She went there, and found an enclosure with about six
or seven mounds with wooden crosses. To her surprise
she discovered they were German graves. She scanned
the names well to see if by any chance she could find that
of Berthold von Blumenstein-Erzbach. There was no
such name, and no cross carved with an edelweiss answer-
ing to the description furnished her by Private Jenkins.

She took from her pocket-book the paper with the details
of the position of the grave, but could make nothing of
it. She was still studying it hopelessly when the cheery
voice of Corporal Dobson called out :

" Just spotted you. My mate and me was beginning
to think we'd lost you all. The old bus is waiting about
a quarter of a mile further down. That's where we'd reck-
oned you'd all come out. But I thought I'd better take a
stroll round and see. Are the others coming along \ "

" That's more than I know, Corporal Dobson," Miss Cress-
well said. " I can only tell you with shame that I couldn't
keep up with them. So I've wandered about alone."

" A good thing you didn't stick in the mud or fall into
a shell hole," he said with a friendly grin. " And a pity
you didn't get to the Ridge. But I don't think much of
them two Frenchies. They wouldn't be telling you
nothing what I couldn't have told you twice over and
in a tick, as it were. You come along with me, and I'll
show you a thing or two. See here, this German helmet.
You can have it, if you want it. Lots of things round here
belonging to old Fritz. Fritz was here a long time, you
know, and made hisself jolly comfortable in some of the
best dug-outs I've seen. I'll show you a good few of them
further down, and dozens more of them little cemeteries.
They're all Fritz's graves. Yes, Fritz made hisself at
home here, and buried hisself, too. I've been looking
at one or two of them, and sort of tidying them up a bit.
Had to do it, you know, for it's my job in Blighty, and



THE MESSAGE 215

mighty glad I'll be to get back to it when I'm demobbed."

" Corporal Dobson," Miss Cresswell said impulsively,
" I wonder whether you would help me to look for a German
grave that of the son of my old school friend, who is buried
at Vimy somewhere. I know, of course, there is not much
chance of finding it, but I promised I would try if I could."

In a few words she confided to him the story of the
message.

" Ay, ay," said Corporal Dobson. " And why not ?
Poor old Fritz couldn't help hisself any more nor we
could."

" That's just what Private Jenkins said," put in Miss
Cresswell, with a catch in her voice.

" Ay, ay, I bet he did," answered Corporal Dobson
quietly. " Now let's have a look at that bit of paper,
and we'll see if we can't find the spot."

" I, of course, can't make head or tail of the situation,"
said Miss Cresswell. " But you see the directions say
it was near a dug-out, that there were seven graves in the
enclosure, and that her boy's grave had a cross with an
edelweiss flower carved on it."

" By some pal that was fond of him, I expect," nodded
Corporal Dobson. " Well, this is the right-as-rain region,
no doubt about that, but whether he's lying in one of those
enclosures down yonder remains to be seen. Now you
follow me, and we'll work down towards the old bus."

He looked up as he spoke, scanned the horizon, and
lit a cigarette.

" Nobody in sight," he said, " nothing doing as I can
see. Them two Frenchies are leading them a dance, I
expect ! You're well out of it, you know, and we've
got time to do this German job for poor old Fritz's mother.
If we find it, we'll tidy it up. And if we don't find it,
you can't say as you've shirked, can you ? Come on now,
and mind how you step. This 'ere Vimy plateau aren't
as good walking as Hyde Park."

They found the grave after toilsome searching, a search-
ing which would have been an entirely hopeless task without
Corporal Dobson's willing and patient help. From time



216 THIRTEEN ALL TOLD

to time he consulted the paper, and furrowed his brow
over the name which had been such a nightmare to Private
Jenkins.

And at last they ran it to earth. The letters on the cross
were faint, but still readable ; and the wood had split
across the heart of the edelweiss. But the edelweiss was
there, and the letters were there, and there could be no
mistaking the last resting-place of Leonora's son.

They tidied up the little enclosure with its seven graves.
Helen Cresswell placed amidst them the wood anemones,
those sweet harbingers of spring, which she had gathered
in her wandering over Vimy plain ; and Corporal Dobson
nodded with professional approval when he had surveyed
their work.

" It looks better," he said, thoughtfully. " It needed
a bit of tidying up same as the poor old world needs."

He turned away and again scanned the horizon in
search of his missing flock, and then strolled down the road,
softly whistling The Little Grey Home in the West.

But Miss Cresswell knelt down for a moment and
closed her eyes.

What were the thoughts and hopes passing through her
mind hopes for the healing of the nations for the
tidying up of the world hopes that all these young boys
of all the countries had not died in vain, and that of their
sacrifice would be born a new order in which war was a
legend of barbaric times ?

She rose, took out her Kodak, and photographed the
enclosure, and was passing on her way to join Corporal
Dobson when some idea flashed through her mind.

She returned to the graves, deciphered, as well as she could,
the names on the other six crosses, and wrote them down.

" The other mothers," she murmured.



IV

THIS was part of the letter which Miss Cresswell received
some weeks later. It came by way of Holland under cover
to Gertrude Linton :

" I knew that meine geliebte Helen would not fail



THE MESSAGE 217

me. My friends had said you would. They were with
me when your letter came. I read it to them, every
word, and showed them the seven photographs and the
list of the six names for the other mothers. One of them
was present. Her son was in Berthold's regiment. She
had been one of the bitterest amongst us. But when she
was going, she turned to us all and said :

" ' Friends, listen, I take back every fierce word I have
spoke against those pigs of Englishwomen.'

" And for myself, meine geliebte Helen, I am always
your grateful and ach, ach, always your fat school friend,
LEONORA VON BLUMENSTEIN-ERZBACH."



THE WOMAN PAVEMENT ARTIST



IT was twilight on a late autumn day, and Theodora
Hearn sat in her little studio thinking things out.
Money had ceased to come in, orders had ceased to flow.
No one wanted her delicate and lovely pictures of old world
gardens. No one wanted her illustrations to books. She
had been given to understand that her style and treatment
were out of date. Modernity had swept over her, swept
past her, swept her away.

She was not in the least bitter about this misfortune :
for she had a fine and generous understanding, and could
see wide spaces everywhere. She knew her work was good ;
she knew it had certain qualities of distinction which her
sternest critics had never denied her. But she recognised
that the time for it was past ; and if she had been a rich
woman, she would have accepted the fact and gone on
creating merely for the joy and rapture of creation, and
with no further striving after recognition or remuneration.

But being poor, she had, whilst accepting failure in her
own familiar genre, to devise a new departure which might
ensure some measure of success. The increase in rent had
to be met somehow if the home was to be saved. For
herself it did not matter very much how or where she was
housed ; but it did matter enormously for Gwendolen
Gwendolen, fierce, proud, frail, and often ill, with literary
gifts which had nev/er found appreciation, yet were of un-
usual fineness, but too wayward and elusive to materialise
into definite expression.

What was to be done ? Dividends had dwindled or were

219



220 THIRTEEN ALL TOLD

quiescent. Small incomes were more than halved, expenses
more than doubled, and work was not forthcoming the
plight of thousands in this year of grace, 1921.

Theodora sat by the empty anthracite stove, and half
laughed to herself that she should draw up her chair to
this husk of former warmth.

" Imagination does a great deal," she said. " If I see
the red glow of a fire with my mind's eye, I may feel the
comforting heat in my brain and body."

She thought and thought, but nothing came of her deep
pondering. She could evolve no scheme that had any
promise of success ; and she ended by falling into a state of
entire listlessness, when a curious thing happened. She
chanced to turn round in the direction of her easel, and
to her utter astonishment, it was shrouded in a veil of mist
which parted as she looked, and which revealed, not her
easel and the landscape at which she had been working,
but instead, a blank wall, a pavement, and the figure of
a woman who had drawn some pictures on the pavement,
propped up others against the wall and was now busily
engaged on a small painting. She sat on a camp stool and
was supporting the block on her knees. A bowl for money
reposed on her left-hand side.

So vivid was the scene, that Theodora called out :

" Please, do let me see your picture."

The woman looked up and smiled. She appeared to
be on the point of holding out her picture for Theodora to
see, when the mist crept back, obscured the scene and then
dispersed ; as on the mountain-side it steals over the villages,
covers them from view a while and, passing away as though
by magic, leaves them revealed once more in intimate
detail. Even so Theodora saw again the easel and land-
scape, her palette and brushes and her portfolios in their
accustomed places, clear, distinct, definite.

She had started up and stood riveted to the ground, her
hands clasped over her head, her eyes fixed on the space
covered but an instant before by the pavement vision.
She breathed deeply as one does breathe in some great
emotional excitation.

Where had she met that woman ? Her features were



THE WOMAN PAVEMENT ARTIST 221

curiously familiar, and yet there were differentiations
which destroyed their familiarity. Who was she ? What
was she ? Was she a figment of Theodora's own brain,
a projection of her own subconsciousness, a quickening of
some forgotten experience ? Or was she a direct messenger
from the Unseen World, showing to her a path she might
tread, revealing to her a possibility which would not
have suggested itself in the ordinary circumstances of
every -day life ?

As far as Theodora remembered, a plan of this
nature had never occurred to her when she was battling
with her doubts and difficulties and disappointments,
and turning over in her mind all the different ways and
means within her reach of earning money. Schools she
had thought of private schools, art schools, designing
furniture, fashion plates, advertisements for every con-
ceivable thing such as electric lamps, polish, sauces,
whiskey, soap work of any kind, no matter how uncon-
genial to her artist soul, to be done in the quiet and privacy
of her studio, amidst her own surroundings, in her own
atmosphere. But to exhibit her art on the pavement, to
sit in public and draw pictures to tempt the passers-by :
this scheme had never once to her knowledge intruded
itself even on the outer threshold of thought.

She shrank from it now. She shuddered at the bare
idea, and sought to banish it from her brain.. She put
on hat and coat, went out hurriedly to do some house-
hold shopping, called at a friend's house and took a hand
at bridge. But the vision remained with her despite
all her attempts to escape from its spell. And she brought,
it home with her, took it to bed, dreamed of it and awoke
in the middle of the night murmuring :

" Please let me see your picture."

She rose from her bed, dressed herself and stole noise-
lessly into her studio. Half in apprehension she glanced
in the direction of her easel. It was there as usual, uncon-
cealed by mist, usurped by no spirit picture. The lovely
little woodland scene at which she was working, reposed
in its own place, awaiting her touch ; and palette and
brushes were as she had left them when she fell into her



222 THIRTEEN ALL TOLD

mood of despondency the previous afternoon and was
seized with despairing doubt about the use of working
and wasting precious money on paint and canvas for
pictures which never sold. Yes, these definite, material
objects were all there, inviting, challenging her. No
vision there to be seen with the outer eye.

But with her mind's eye she saw it, clearer than ever.

Suddenly the tension of her spirit relaxed.

" But tell me, now, why shouldn't I become a street
artist ? " she asked aloud. " No one need know. Gwen
need never know. No one's pride will be hurt except
my own; and after a time even that will have lost its
sensitiveness. Only the beginning will be the real penance.
And if the money comes in, the sacrifice will be more than
worth while, for Gwen's sake more food, better food
for Gwen, the increase in rent met and the home saved.
Courage, Theodora."

She was blest with a resilient temperament, and almost
at once the Daemon of adventure seized hold of her, and
she began to arrange the sort of pictures she ought to
paint. She decided that for the pride of her position,
she must disguise her own style. Even if she had not a
large public for her pictures, she must pretend to herself
that she had. She owed it to herself not to forget that
her pictures had been hung several times in the Salon,
and also that she had held her own exhibitions in the
past. It was her duty to safeguard the pale ghost of
success which had once hovered vaguely around her.
Yes, she must certainly disguise her art, and, of course,
herself.

She took out some crayons, and dashed off a study or
two on the back of some old bits of cardboard. She
became greatly amused and intrigued. And she smiled,
chuckled, laughed and said aloud :

" And it will be a change, Theo, a change and an adven-
ture, Theo. The deadliness of monotonous failure gone
and past. A break in despairing respectability. There
now, my masters how about that ? Is it common-
place enough and yet striking enough to arrest the passers-
by ? "



THE WOMAN PAVEMENT ARTIST 223

She tried first one subject and then another. She
could not keep off the gardens ; but the garden she finally
evolved with puckering of the brow, could never have
been mistaken for her own delicate studies, known and
loved by the few. Once she got up impatiently, threw
the boards from her and exclaimed truculently :

" No, I can't I won't the thing isn't possible."

But the next moment she penitently picked them up,
and went on experimenting, with half a tear trickling
down her cheek.

" Yes, I can do it," she said. " I can dash off some
rough chalk sketches on the pavement, and I'll sit on a
camp-stool like that woman in the vision, and paint
in public some little things in a better style. And now,
having learnt to disguise my art, I must learn to disguise
myself. Yes, Theo, you must disguise yourself, whether
you like it or not. You must have heavier eyebrows,
a less aristocratic nose what a shame but it must
be done and some of the humour must come out of
your mouth yes, my dear, I insist on that and you
must manage to look pathetic and broken even though
you never will be broken and never will be pathetic.
But if you don't manage to look the part, the experiment
will fail. Come now, let's see what we can do. Where's
that box of make-up from last year's pageant for the
Endell Street Hospital ? "

She rummaged in her cupboard for odds and ends,
found it, established herself before a mirror, and began
her work of disguise.

She gave herself heavier eyebrows, darkened the skin
underneath her eyes, toned down the humour lurking
about her charming mouth, and touched in on her cheeks
clever lines which told of suffering of spirit and appealing
pathos. When she had finished the details, she put aside
paint and grease pot, and surveyed herself critically in
the glass.

Yes, the disguise would stand scrutiny. Perhaps the
pathos line must be a little deeper, and by hook or by
crook the mouth must be made more stern and grim.
The eyes were all right and stood out sad and piercing



224 THIRTEEN ALL TOLD

from their darkened frames. The nose was the trouble.
It still looked most annoy ingly distinguished.

" If I could negotiate my aristocratic nose, the pride
of the family since time immemorial, no one would recognise
me. Even Gwen might look at me when I'm properly
dressed for the part, and but for my nose, never know it
was her own Theodora. But when I've disimproved
my nose, I shall be quite safe."

All at once, as she stared at herself in the mirror, it
was borne in on her that she had seen the face which
now was hers somewhere, sometime, where ? when ?
And in a flash of remembrance she knew. It was the
face in the vision which had been strangely familiar to
her, yet not recallable.

The face in the vision had been her own face, disguised
as now.

Her arms fell to her sides. Her heart stood still. Was
the pathway indicated by the vision not a mere suggested
probability, then ? Was it definitely the road she must
take, willing or unwilling a road marked out for her,
inexorably destined for her, since she was that woman
in the vision and that woman in the vision was she


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Online LibraryBeatrice HarradenThirteen all told → online text (page 17 of 23)