Alone By Norman Douglas













































































 - ALONE

BY

NORMAN DOUGLAS

AUTHOR OF SOUTH WIND, THEY WENT, TOGETHER, ETC. 



TO HIS FRIEND 

EDWARD HUTTON 

WHO PRINTED SOME - Page 1
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ALONE BY NORMAN DOUGLAS

AUTHOR OF "SOUTH WIND," "THEY WENT," "TOGETHER," ETC.

TO HIS FRIEND

EDWARD HUTTON

WHO PRINTED SOME OF THESE TRIVIALITIES

IN THAT "ANGLO-ITALIAN REVIEW"

WHICH DESERVED A BETTER FATE

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

MENTONE

LEVANTO

SIENA

PISA

VIAREGGIO (February)

VIAREGGIO (May)

ROME

OLEVANO

VALMONTONE

SANT' AGATA, SORRENTO

ROME

SORIANO

ALATRI

Introduction

What ages ago it seems, that "Great War"!

And what enthusiasts we were! What visionaries, to imagine that in such an hour of emergency a man might discover himself to be fitted for some work of national utility without that preliminary wire-pulling which was essential in humdrum times of peace! How we lingered in long queues, and stamped up and down, and sat about crowded, stuffy halls, waiting, only waiting, to be asked to do something for our country by any little guttersnipe who happened to have been jockeyed into the requisite position of authority! What innocents....

I have memories of several afternoons spent at a pleasant place near St. James's Park station, whither I went in search of patriotic employment. It was called, I think, Board of Trade Labour Emergency Bureau (or something equally lucid and concise), and professed to find work for everybody. Here, in a fixed number of rooms, sat an uncertain number of chubby young gentlemen, all of whom seemed to be of military age, or possibly below it; the Emergency Bureau was then plainly - for it may have changed later on - a hastily improvised shelter for privileged sucklings, a kind of nursery on advanced Montessori methods. Well, that was not my concern. One must trust the Government to know its own business.

During my second or third visit to this hygienic and well-lighted establishment I was introduced, most fortunately, into the sanctuary of Mr. R - - , whose name was familiar to me. Was he not his brother's brother? He was. A real stroke of luck!

Mr. R - - , a pink little thing, laid down the pen he had snatched up as I entered the room, and began gazing at me quizzically through enormous tortoise-shell-rimmed goggles, after the fashion of a precocious infant who tries to look like daddy. What might he do for me?

I explained.

We had a short talk, during which various forms were conscientiously filled up as to my qualifications, such as they were. Of course, there was nothing doing just then; but one never knows, does one? Would I mind calling again?

Would I mind? I should think not. I should like nothing better. It did one good to be in contact with this youthful optimist and listen to his blithe and pleasing prattle; he was so hopeful, so philosophic, so cheery; his whole nature seemed to exhale the golden words: "Never say die." And no wonder. He ought to have been at the front, but some guardian angel in the haute finance had dumped him into this soft and safe job: it was enough to make anybody cheerful. One should be cautious, none the less, how one criticises the action of the authorities. May be they kept him at the Emergency Bureau for the express purpose of infusing confidence, by his bright manner, into the minds of despondent patriots like myself, and of keeping the flag flying in a general way - a task for which he, a German Jew, was pre-eminently fitted.

Be that as it may, his consolatory tactics certainly succeeded in my case, and I went home quite infected with his rosy cheeks and words. Yet, on the occasion of my next visit a week or two later, there was still nothing doing - not just then, though one never knows, does one?

"Tried the War Office?" he added airily.

I had.

Who hadn't?

The War Office was a nightmare in those early days. It resembled Liverpool Street station on the evening of a rainless Bank Holiday. The only clear memory I carried away - and even this may have been due to some hallucination - was that of a voice shouting at me through the rabble: "Can you fly?" Such was my confusion that I believe I answered in the negative, thereby losing, probably, a lucrative billet as Chaplain to the Forces or veterinary surgeon in the Church Lads' Brigade. Things might have been different had my distinguished cousin still been on the spot; I, too, might have been accommodated with a big desk and small work after the manner of the genial Mr. R - - . He died in harness, unfortunately, soon after the outbreak of war.

I said to my young friend:

"Everybody tells one to try the War Office - I don't know why. Of course I tried it. I wish I had a shilling for every hour I wasted in that lunatic asylum."

"Ah!" he replied. "I feel sure a good many men would like to be paid at that rate. Anyhow, trust me. We'll fix you up, sooner or later. (He kept his word.) Why not have a whack at the F.O., meanwhile?"

"Because I have already had a whack at it."

I then possessed, indeed, in reply to an application on my part, a holograph of twelve pages in the elegant calligraphy of H.M. Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the same gentleman who was viciously attacked by the Pankhurst section for his supposed pro-Germanism. It conveyed no grain of hope. Other Government Departments, he opined, might well be depleted at this moment; the Foreign Office was in exactly the reverse position. It overflowed with diplomatic and consular officials returned, perforce, from belligerent countries, and now in search of occupation. Was it not natural, was it not right, to give the preference to them? One was really at a loss to know what to do with all those people. He had tried, hitherto in vain, to find some kind of job for his own brother.

A straightforward, convincing statement. Acting on the hint, I visited the Education Office, notoriously overstaffed since Tudor days; it might now be emptier; clerical work might be obtained there in substitution of some youngster who had been induced to join the colours.

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