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It brings back, pictured in my mind, the main street of the little Belgian village of Ledeghem on a cold October morning, when the first pale streaks of dawn crept into the sky, and the village, empty and asleep, was awakened suddenly to find itself shattered and tottering beneath tons of high explosives, and the whole drama of War seemed centred and concentrated on it and it alone.
The two places which I am most anxious to see are Waterloo and Ledeg- hem, and I am determined if possible to see them.
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Imagine trains again going along the railway hne which not long ago was the line of the German counter-barrage. Think of people waiting for trains on that platform where hundreds of men waited in an agony of mind for the barrage to lift! It is almost impossible to conceive. He was sent home with another officer to bring out the Regimental Colours, which had been left in the keeping of the Mayor and Corporation of Torquay. After all, he was not able to leave Torquay, where he had a wretched Christmas. No one even thought of asking him to dinner on Christmas Day.
His senior officer had gone away and he ate his Christmas dinner alone in the hotel. It was late on Christmas Eve when his box of souvenirs and presents came. It had, of course, been held up by the Christmas rush — and for three days we had been sending the car to meet every train. It was a very lonely Christmas and our last at Clare- morris, and together.
We had come to the parting of the ways. I should like to correct that impression. It was quite true that we were the objects of something like a social boycott by the Mayo " quality. He was the Home Rule Viceroy, and so not to be forgiven, despite his beautiful qualities of mind and heart. Another reason for the boycott was that we were supposed to have supplanted Alan Bell, who had been sent up North, and very much objected to leaving Clare- morris. There were other reasons, perhaps, but this is too much a personal matter for me to dwell on.
Suffice it to say that we had had three very lonely years at Claremorris before the coming of the soldiers in April, The Mayo people we hardly knew at all.
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It is said of the Mayo men, of the Western men generally, that they lock their hearts against all who are not of the West. I have heard the Leinster wives of Western men complain that in a long life together they have never known the hearts of the men they were married to. Perhaps my husband's official position set up something of a barrier between us and the people.
I imagine that Mayo is the closest and most secretive of all the western counties to a stranger.
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The priests said that the people were not accustomed to be spoken to by their social superiors ; and that probably was true. I very soon gave up saying, " That's a nice-looking pig you've got there! It was woefully unhke what I had foreseen when I went into the West. Holloran and her husband : they were the Irish I had known and loved.
There was also the Lam- berts' httle old gardener ; I've forgotten his name. He used to come and look at the big walled garden of Brook- hill, which had superseded the old garden that lay out in the sun and wind, under the drawing-room windows — its paths, and the shapes of its beds, were always coming up in the moss, though it must have been long, long since it was given back to grass. The old fellow would say : " Wisha, wisha!
Brookhill garden was always a late and a cold garden.
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No matter what I did the gardener at Carradoyne always bet me with the early pays and the new potatoes. Certainly it was delightful to be their tenants. They and their agent, Mr. Ruttledge, could not have been kinder. After some months at Brookhill Mr.
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Ruttledge said to someone, who told it to us, that we were admirable tenants and never asked for anything to be done. While we preened ourselves on this commendation — I believe it was that very night — all the pipes burst and the roof sprang a leak. We found them in Mayo among the priests and the doctors, my husband's professional brethren, and just a handful of the Anglo-Irish gentry.
Once a kind old parson at Louisburgh gave us delightful hospitaUty ; and I saw only too little of Mrs. Hegarty of Clonbur.
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We visited Lord Killanin at Spiddal and he came to us. That was about all. I think there must have been a ukase which some were not strong enough to brave. Many people came at the close of whom we had seen nothing during the three lonely years. Some people were, I think, influenced by the fact that Lady Elliott, who had been a former tenant of Brookhill, returned for a few days while we were yet at Carradoyne, and told the neighbours that she had heard of us from Lord Grey, whose friendship had been such a happiness during the three lonely years. The most lovable of men had taken a great interest in Pat and Pam.
Lady Elliott told how he had knocked at the door of the United Empire Review for Pam, aged fifteen ; had got a poem of hers accepted there as a delightful surprise for the young lady, only to find that the poem had already gone into the Queen. The unneighbourliness is certainly a chiU memory. When our two boys were fighting on difEerent fronts, my husband met, week after week, at his Courts loyal magistrates who never asked if the boys lived or died. He had enormous journeys. Mayo, which is the biggest county in Ireland, had had its staff of four Resident Magistrates reduced by two, early in the War, Dublin Castle had acted with characteristic meanness.
Whereas the usage up to then had been that a Resident Magis- trate going outside his own district received his expenses, this huge accession of work carried with it no additional expenses and no additional pay. Perhaps hospitality had never really inhabited the houses I think of. Perhaps Ireland derived her reputation for hospitahty from quite different sources.
My husband passed by, week after week of the wild winters, the houses of his brother-magistrates of the Unionist class, without hospitality. The other Resident Magistrates, the ever-hospitable priests, a sprinkling of the " quality," opened their doors to him. For the rest it was a sandwich diet when his way lay only by the inhospitable portals, and, being a delicate man, he often returned with the sandwiches uneaten. I remember that the Fitzgerald-Kennys, whose hos- pitality was boundless, who sent us home, after a lavish welcome, laden with all the fruits of their garden, and perhaps a little game thrown in — saying, when we talked of the inhospitality, that they thought Irish hospitahty, at least in modern days, was much exaggerated.
It could not have been in their case.
I am reminded of the sorrowful plaint of a young Irish poet, coming back a year ago from the mountains of Donegal. This withholding of hospitality could not have been entirely personal, for I remember in our first days in Mayo my husband coming home with a story most dis- concerting, almost unbelievable to us, with our tradi- tions of Irish hospitality.
He had attended a very distant Court with Alan Bell, Mrs. Bell being of the party. They had called at the house of the local magnate of those parts, who was a friend of the Bells.
Luncheon was on the table. The visitors were offered whisky-and-soda, of which the men partook, eating their sandwiches at the same time. They departed as the covered dishes were brought on to the table. I can smile now at the memory of the shocked faces of my Irish audience as I tried to explain and justify.
One lady gasped : " But you would not let any one do that, surely? Of course, the Irish menu was always much more elastic. There was always an extra handful in the pot for the man coming over the hill ; and if there wasn't itself, the casual visitor shared what there was. Since the tight times came I have observed in Ireland, and indeed sometimes in England, the utter impossibility, to a class brought up to habits of hospitality, of giving up those habits.
The younger generation may not find the self-denying ordinance so bitter.
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