Qyotes Garnished



Format:

‘When will they come for us?’ he asked, and the girl at the head of the row hauled him bodily into her square little capable lap  ‘He’s tired,’ she explained. ‘He is only four. He only had his first breeches this spring.’ They came almost under his armpits, and were held up by broad linen braces, which, his sorrow diverted for the moment, he patted proudly.

‘Go away!’ said Frau Ebermann. ‘Go home to your father and mother! ‘ Their faces grew grave at once.  ‘H’sh! We can’t,’ whispered the eldest ‘There isn’t anything left.’  ‘All gone,’ a boy echoed, and he puffed through pursed lips. ‘Like that, uncle told me. Both cows too.’

  

This is from “Swept and Garnished” (1915) collected in A Diversity of Creatures.

It is the autumn  of 1914, not long after the German army had swept into neutral Belgium, destroying and killing in a ruthless campaign to outflank the French and British and reach Paris.

In a comfortable Berlin apartment Frau Ebermann is feeling a little unwell.

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 villages whose names Frau Ebermann knows, because she had read in the papers that those villages had been punished, ‘wiped out, stamped flat.’ The little visitors tell her that there are hundreds and thousands of them. One little boy is badly hurt, with an empty sleeve where he may have lost his arm.

They show her their wounds, and leave, saying au revoir.  When Anna at last ran in, she found her mistress on her knees, busily cleaning the floor with the lace cover from the radiator, because, she explained, it was all spotted with the blood of five children.