Three Quotations

(November 7th to 17th)




1. They were there—five of them, two little boys and three girls—headed by the anxious-eyed ten-year-old whom she had seen before. They must have entered by the outer door, which Anna had neglected to shut behind her when she returned with the inhaler. She counted them backward and forward as one counts scales—one, two, three, four, five. .

This is from "Swept and Garnished" in A Diveristy of Creatures (1917).

In the early months of the War the German army has been driving thorugh Belgium, shooting civilians, burning villages, leaving children homeless. Frau Ebermann ih her comfortable Berlin apartment is surprised to find five little ragged wounded children in her smart elegant room ...



2. What do you say?’ said Mary disgustedly, keeping well to one side, though only the head moved.

‘Cassée,’ it repeated. ‘Che me rends. Le médicin! Toctor!’

‘Nein! said she, bringing all her small German to bear with the big pistol. ‘Ich haben der todt Kinder gesehn.’

The head was still. Mary’s hand dropped. She had been careful to keep her finger off the trigger for fear of accidents. After a few moments’ waiting, she returned to the destructor, where the flames were falling, and churned up Wynn’s charring books with the poker. Again the head groaned for the doctor.

‘Stop that! ‘said Mary, and stamped her foot. ‘Stop that, you bloody pagan!’

This is from "Mary Postgate", in A Diversity of Creatuures (1917)

Mary, an elderly childless woman, has been a mother to her young nephew in the Royal Flying Corps. He has just been killed flying. She has been in the garden burning his possessions, an agonising task. She happens on a wounded German airman, who has crashed after dropping a bomb in the village, which has killed a child. He asks her for help, but she is implacable. She has seen the dead child.



3. ... it was just on dark an’ the fog was comin’ off the Canal, so I hopped out of Little Parrot an’ cut across the open to where those four dead Warwicks are heaped up. But the fog turned me round, an’ the next thing I knew I was knee-over in that old ’alf-trench that runs west o’ Little Parrot into French End. I dropped into it—almost atop o’ the machine-gun platform by the side o’ the old sugar boiler an’ the two Zoo-ave skel’tons. That gave me my bearin’s, an’ so I went through French End, all up those missin’ Buckboards, into Butcher’s Row where the poy-looz was laid in six deep each side, an’ stuffed under the Buckboards. It had froze tight, an’ the drippin’s had stopped, an’ the creakin’s had begun.’

This is from "A Madonna of the Trenches" in Debirs and Credits (1926).

After the war a young runner. in deep distress, describes what it was like in the trenches in the winter time, with frozen bodies propping up the walls, and creaking in the perishing cold. Later he decribes the suicide of his uncle, a sergeant, gone to meet his secret love, who has just died of cancer in England.