Jeremy’s War: Chapter 26 “The Mirror Cracks “

Posted on March 29, 2008

Ch.26

THE MIRROR CRACKS

 

Heidi’s world went on collapsing around her.
She missed her little brother more and more as time went by, with that deep seated maternal loving that knows no consolation. That perhaps feigns recovery to cope with the world. But never, ever forgets.
She missed all the little things she used to do for Hans. Wash his clothes, help him with his homework, comb his hair, tidy his room. She used to cheerfully polish his shoes, regardless of her little brother’s inconsiderate ways. Perhaps she had spoiled him a bit, she knew that. Now that he was gone, however, she went through bitter self recriminations; it was all her fault – she should have fought her against him going. She should have supported her father against her tyrannical mother. The poor old man had bravely spoken up, and condemned the war. Heidi’s mother had gone berserk. Hans had listened to her. With a head full of ideas of glory and the good of the fatherland, he had finally marched off to war. And now… he was dead.

Dead. The awful finality of it.
Even now she ached to run her fingers through his curls, and to hear his delightful laughing. She ached to love and care for him, and to be able to go running to him when he came home. The thought of him lying alone in a grave, somewhere in France, drove her to distraction. With all her heart she wanted only to flee there, and throw herself down upon his grave.

Then her innate common sense and level headed self
would take over, and she would lavish on her sickly father all her pent up loving desire. He would seem to understand, and often would just sit in the garden with her, saying nothing, just holding her hand. Sometimes he would kiss her hand, very gently, or stroke her nose.
She was now even more terrified of anything ever happening to him, and one night pleaded with him not to die.
“Father, don’t leave me. I couldn’t bear it! I would have nobody left to love! Please don’t leave me! ”
The wise old man had said nothing for a while. He had not commented on his wife’s exclusion from his daughter’s expression of love. He knew if he had commented, that Heidi would have instantly dissolved into guilt feelings, and would have protested that she DID love her mother.
It was better not to mention his wife…

Instead, he found himself laughing quietly.
It surprised even himself, and it stunned Heidi. She had lifted her head from his shoulder and exclaimed in dismay: “Father! You’re laughing at me! ”
The old man had shaken his head.
“No, love, I am not laughing at you. I am laughing with you. I love you very, very much. I know we shall meet up again, you know. We shall only be a short while apart. It doesn’t matter. Think how happy we shall be when we meet again! ”
Heidi had stared him earnestly in the eyes for a long, long time.
“Father “, she had asked eventually. “Will we ever see our Hans again? ”
Her voice had ended on a quiver, and tears had sprung into her eyes. The old man had kissed her hair.
“If the Good Lord wills it, then we shall. That I can promise you. There are many things we do not understand. Things that we can only feel in our hearts. But God is good, Heidi, God is good… And he is always near. ”
Heidi had buried her face in his shoulder again.
In that position they had remained, without speaking, until the front door had banged, and a loud, shrill voice had imperiously demanded:
“Heidi? Heidi! Goodness, where is that child now?
Come here, girl! Didn’t I tell you to polish the kitchen mirror? Look at this! It has streaks all over it! What have you being done? Useless girl! ”

Father and daughter had quickly slipped apart, but not before she had placed a delicate kiss on his temple.

* * *

Was it possible that Germany would NOT win the war?
The Hunter pondered the question, quietly. The tide was no longer flowing in their favor. Losses were mounting.

He stared in the mirror, and studied this man, whom many regarded as a living legend. They said he was invincible. Was he?
A faint feeling spread through him. It started in a deep, long forgotten part of his nervous system. And spread momentarily. Was it fear? he? Afraid?
Nonsense! Resolutely he shrugged off the emotions, and disciplined his heart and feelings. That was better!
He checked his uniform, and noticed the cuffs were getting a little shabby. That would not do. He would order himself a new jacket. That would be a good idea.
He clicked to attention in front of the mirror, and gave himself a smart salute. That was better!
Then he strode out of the room, disciplined, unswerving, and super human.
Afraid? He afraid? Rubbish!

The highly polished black boots clumped on the ground as he exited into the sunshine. Two men stood to attention.
He swung gauntily into his stride, reveling in his authority and success.
His boots mercilessly ground out his flash of humanity of a moment before. It swirled away into the timeless dust…

* * *

The problem, Mr Armstrong felt keenly, was that Mrs Armstrong was just not playing her part. She was simply becoming more and more hysterical. At the merest hint of anybody being cheerful about the war effort, she would simply explode. Start talking about the hospital where Emmy worked, about the injured, the suffering, the pointless waste. It was all decidedly unpatriotic. More than once she had rounded on him, in front of guests into the bargain.
She had accused him of being a warmonger, and insensitive to the cost of war. He had felt hurt. Of course he understood the cost! He was not inhuman…
And in front of his friends as well. Unforgivable.
It was a sad reflection on his marriage. He would have to speak to her sharply. It was simply not good enough.

* * *

The little French priest walked slowly around the cemetery, tending the graves of the fallen airmen. He pulled up a weed here, arranged some flowers there, and prayed a wordless praise to his God, in whom he had the deepest faith. He came to the grave of one Digsby, and remembered the conversation with the tall English pilot, the serious looking one. He sighed, and faced the evening sky. His kind heart prayed lovingly, full of trust, knowing beyond any doubt that the Creator listens to all men’s prayers.
“Lord, he is only a boy. Guide him to your ways. Make him seek your paths… ”

The old priest loved God, and the war had not hurt his faith in the least. It had only heightened his awareness of Man’s desperate need for God…

F.M.
(c)


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