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Alone   By: (1868-1952)

Book cover

First Page:

Tonya Allen, Eric Eldred, Charles Franks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team

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... Continue reading book >>




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