quotes_apr13_2008.htm

(April 13th to 19th)



Format: Triple

The girl raised her blue eyes and looked at the woman for an instant.

‘You see,’ she said, emphasising her statements with her fingers, ‘they told us to wait here till our people came for us. So we came. We wait till our people come for us.’

‘That is silly again,’ said Frau Ebermann. ‘It is no good for you to wait here. Do you know what this place is? You have been to school? It is Berlin, the capital of Germany.’

‘Yes, yes,’ they all cried; ‘Berlin, capital of Germany. We know that. That is why we came.’

  

This is from “Swept and Garnished” in A Diversity of Creatures.

Frau Ebermann, in her luxury Berlin flat, has a touch of influenza, and has taken to her bed. Her maid makes her comfortable, and reports on the latest news from the Western Front in Belgium; ‘another victory, many more prisoners and guns’.

Suddenly she sees a young child in the room, and soon after, four more. She tells them to go home, but they tell her they have no homes to go to; ‘there isn’t anything left’. They have been told to wait until their people come for them. They are from two Belgian villages whose names Frau Ebermann knows, because she had read in the papers that those villages had been punished, ‘wiped out, stamped flat.’ ‘Au revoir, Lady,’ they say as they leave.


A tear trickled from one eye, and the head rolled from shoulder to shoulder as though trying to point out something.

‘Cassée. Tout cassée,’ it whimpered.

‘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.’

   

This is from “Mary Postgate” in A Diversity of Creatures.

Mary is the ungainly companion of a well-to-lady, and has become – in effect – the devoted mother of her nephew, Wynn. On the outbreak of war he joins the Flying Corps and is soon killed on a training flight. The two women decide that Mary should burn all his more personal effects in the garden incinerator.

Going to the village for paraffin Mary witnesses the death of the publican’s small daughter, killed by a bomb dropped by a German plane. Later, while burning Wynn’s possessions, she discovers the German airman, who – after dropping the bomb – has fallen from his plane and is now dying. She refuses to help him, and lets him die, with a deep sense of satisfaction.


He changed his tack then and appealed to me on the grounds of our common humanity. “Why, if you leave me now, Mr. Maddingham,” he said, “you condemn me to death, just as surely as if you hanged me.”’

‘This is interesting,’ Portson murmured. ‘I never imagined you in this light before, Maddingham.’

‘I was surprised at myself—’give you my word. But I was perfectly polite. I said to him: “Try to be reasonable, sir. If you had got rid of your oil where it was wanted, you’d have condemned lots of people to death just as surely as if you’d drowned ’em.” “Ah, but I didn’t,” he said. “That ought to count in my favour.” “That was no thanks to you,” I said. “You weren’t given the chance. This is war, sir.

   

This is from “Sea Constables” in Debits and Credits.

A few months after the outbreak of the Great War, four men are dining in a luxury London restaurant. Three of them, Maddingham, Winchmore and Portson, are wealthy members of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, who have made themselves and their private yachts available for patrol duties round the British coast. They exchange stories of a neutral blockade-runner whom they have been shadowing, and reproach Tegg, an officer of the Royal Navy, for missing a chance to have the ship impounded. He explains that the Admiralty had ordered the neutral’s release for political reasons. The chase had continued until the neutral fell ill with pneumonia and took refuge in a small Irish port, begging Maddingham to take him to London to see a certain doctor. Maddingham had refused, and the man died.

Leave a comment