2 March 1915
Today is the second day of March, and there has been no sign of the month’s Strand. February’s issue did not come until the third of the month, and the post seems only to be getting slower. Perhaps the magazine should forswear the serialisation of its pieces for the duration of War, in consideration for the frustration of its readers.
Similarly, I received two letters from Lieutenant Saunders on the same day, although they had been written a week apart. I found it difficult to decide whether I should read both at once, or whether I should wait a week for the second, so as to duplicate his chronology across the Channel. In the end, I compromised and waited but a day to read the second one—by which time a third had arrived.
I shall probably now receive nothing more from him for a month.
(I wonder if the post office could be to blame for my lack of correspondence from Dr Ginsberg? I know that she wrote to me every week, after I left California, although again they arrived in fits and starts. However, I have had nothing since one brief letter that was dated on my birthday, 2 January. That one I did answer—although I fear that she may have taken offence at my previous lack of a reply, since nothing has come since then. Three weeks ago, it occurred to me that that one of the ships sunk by the Germans could have held my piece of Royal mail, so I wrote again. Perhaps I will send a third one, just to be certain that one of them reaches San Francisco? After that, if there is no reply, I shall have to accept that ours was not the friendship I had thought, and that her affection for Mother, followed by her professional care of me after the accident, does not make a sufficient call on her time. She is, after all, a busy woman.)
That would not be the only ship to have gone down. Submarines prowl the waters off Beachy Head, and in the last week have sunk four or five steamers. It must be terrifying to look over the rails and see a periscope sticking up from the waters, followed by the track of a torpedo coming at the hull. One of the ships—the Thordis—claims to have made a run directly at the U-boat and damaged it, but either it sank or it limped off because it did not wash up on our shores.
Not that I would know. I have avoided the coast since my one time there, not wishing to see doomed ships or hear the sound of the guns. Instead, when the weather permits, I go northerly out of the Downs and into the Weald, where the trees shelter one from the distant rumbles. Last week the weather took a turn for the better, Thursday dawning surprisingly mild beneath a cloudless sky. I slid my book in one pocket and some bread and cheese in another, and before midday I reached the Michelham Priory.
I had come across mention of this ancient moated house, formerly monastic and now private, in one of Mother’s histories of Sussex. It reminded me of the moat that surrounds the house in Valley of Fear, and I took a fancy to see it. As I drew near, I saw that the resemblance was thin, since the moat is some distance from the walls of the house, not directly below its windows as in the story. Nonetheless, the place looks intriguing, and perhaps another time I shall knock at the door.
Is it a sign of maturity that I noticed restoration on portions of the structure? Or the preoccupation that comes in being responsible for the fabric of a house? I doubt that last summer I should have noticed such a thing. My parents attended a Christmas party at Michelham one year, and I remember Father’s concern over the heavy hands of the restorers. Today, this seems a frivolous sort of worry, when a million men are at each other’s throats just over the horizon, but a person grasps what small piece of normality she can, in these days.
So, I agree with my father: I hope the Priory’s restoring hands are gentle.