Anne Severn and the Fieldings (Chapter 7, page 1 of 7)


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Chapter 7

i They would never know what it cost her to come back and look after
Colin. That knowledge was beyond Adeline Fielding. She congratulated
Anne and expected Anne to congratulate herself on being "well out of
it." Her safety was revolting and humiliating to Anne when she thought
of Queenie and Cutler and Dicky, and Eliot and Jerrold and all the
allied armies in the thick of it. She had left a world where life was
lived at its highest pitch of intensity for a world where people were
only half-alive. To be safe from the chance of sudden violent death was
to be only half-alive.

Her one consolation had been that now she would see Jerrold. But she did
not see him. Jerrold had given up his appointment in the Punjaub three
weeks before the outbreak of the war. His return coincided with the
retreat from Mons. He had not been in England a week before he was in
training on Salisbury Plain. Anne had left Wyck when he arrived; and
before he got leave she was in Belgium with her Field Ambulance. And
now, in October of nineteen fifteen, when she came back to Wyck, Jerrold
was fighting in France.

At least they knew what had happened to Colin; but about Eliot and
Jerrold they knew nothing. Anything might have happened to them since
they had written the letters that let them off from week to week,
telling them that they were safe. Anything might happen and they might
never know.

Anne's fear was dumb and secret. She couldn't talk about Jerrold. She
lived every minute in terror of Adeline's talking, of the cries that
came from her at queer unexpected moments: between two cups of tea, two
glances at the mirror, two careful gestures of her hands pinning up her
hair.

"I cannot bear it if anything happens to Jerrold, Anne."

"Oh Anne, I wonder what's happening to Jerrold."

"If only I knew what was happening to Jerrold."

"If only I knew where Jerrold _was_. Nothing's so awful as not knowing."

And at breakfast, over toast and marmalade: "Anne, I've got such an
awful feeling that something's happened to Jerrold. I'm sure these
feelings aren't given you for nothing... You aren't eating anything,
darling. You _must_ eat."

Every morning at breakfast Anne had to look through the lists of killed,
missing and wounded, to save Adeline the shock of coming upon Jerrold's
or Eliot's name. Every morning Adeline gazed at Anne across the table
with the same look of strained and agonised enquiry. Every morning
Anne's heart tightened and dragged, then loosened and lifted, as they
were let off for one more day.

One more day? Not one more hour, one minute. Any second the wire from
the War Office might come.

ii Anne never knew the moment when she was first aware that Colin's mother
was afraid of him. Aunt Adeline was very busy, making swabs and
bandages. Every day she went off to her War Hospital Supply work at the
Town Hall, and Anne was left to take care of Colin. She began to wonder
whether the swabs and bandages were not a pretext for getting away from
Colin.

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