A Love Like Blood
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In Flanders Fields
As we now know here in these 1950s, WWI was not to be what we had hoped it would be: The war to end all wars. It was only the beginning. It would be the beginning of our ongoing apocalypse. World War II would be the thing that would catch the consciences of our kings and queens. World War I became the catalyst for a future war that, to this day, Great Britain has yet from which to recover, if ever she does.
Apocalypse, Armageddon, The End Of All Things: these are terms that have more than just prophetic or mythical meaning for me now. Having somehow survived two world wars and now a ‘cold’ war, I am now assured that I must be living in the End Times per the Revelation of St. John, the Beloved. But, in truth, my End Of All Things came much sooner than my current situation in the present day. I left something behind in those long years between 1914 and 1917. I only have the souvenirs of my memories and traumas to know that life existed for me once. Since those days there has been only one thing that I’ve lived for, but I shall reveal that in my revelation a bit later. Outside of the life that I keep for this One, there is no life in me since those days long ago. Cedrick Temple died in World War I. What was left was a living body with only half of its soul remaining. That other half of me died with a quickening that still causes me to question the realities of time and space as we know them. How can time move so quickly and yet so slowly at the same time? How can something happen in a space of weeks and months that feel as though ages of the world have passed in geological slowness?
I imagine it is a matter of perception. Death brings an end to movement and a stop to time. For the part that Death keeps of a person, that portion stops in time and fixes there. Yet again, it becomes like another souvenir encased in adamantine amber, frozen forever, like an insect’s fossil cast there as a memory of what once was, but can never be again!
Adrien left me the morning after his giving me his most precious ‘moonlight soliloquy’ with its beatific contents hiding its equally dire omen. Indeed, ‘the echo of love’s ghosts that glimmer in their time and then evaporate with such alacrity upon the ever undulating movements of time’ are words that will forever haunt me. How such beautiful words can end themselves as daggers of ice embedded in my heart is one of many mysteries the Great War has left with me.
As came to pass, I was not able to tarry long to grieve. Although all of my soul desired nothing more than to follow Adrien out into that cold undiscovered country beyond Death, my damnable English sense of duty managed to countermand my bleakest of desires. That very afternoon after Adrien had left me, a telegram arrived on a silver and gold platter addressed to me.
It was from my Father. I was to return at once to Buckinghamshire. He was assured that since France had now gotten itself mixed up in this dominoes game of kingdoms, czardoms, and republics, that Great Britain was right to follow. England was entailed upon France as much as Germany was entailed upon Austria-Hungary. As per usual, it would be the two great Teutonic nations that would have to decide the fate of the world ever so much and once again – fools for war that both our two people’s are.
Father wanted me ‘In Place’ when the expected eventuality did occur. This would give him control over our fate in the situation. My father was many things, but a Teutonic fool he was not! Should Britain engage in this foolish escapade, the House of Temple would stand ready, yet stand cleverly. Our house has stood Original to England since mythical Arthurian times and we have done so by navigating the periodic and inevitable storms of war that England has always enjoyed getting herself into. Honour and loyalty to the Crown are, of course, paramount, but only in so much as the Temples can survive to the next generation and not become extinct by the ever capricious natures of politics and war.
It was under these ‘Rules of Engagement’ that my Father sent for me. I boarded the RMS Britannic. It was, at the time, a brand new ship of the line; a sister ship to the unfortunate Titanic. Alas, I would be one of its last aristocratic passengers still as a Gentleman rather than as an Officer. Britannic would serve for the remainder of the war as a hospital ship. A short two years after my voyage home on the great ship, she would lay down her life in service to the Crown. Another costly casualty of war, Britannic sank in the Aegean Sea after hitting a mine. Not even hospital ships were sacrosanct during the Great War.
As you can see, my life, from then on, would become one of near misses. Very little remains of my time after Adrien except for my memories and the fruits that I have promised to explain later in this memoir. Even the ships upon which I would travel would be things that I would survive and outlast, perhaps, for no other reason than as a witness to tell their stories.
I arrived home in a state of rushed ardency. I had first expected my Father or, at least, one of his retinues, to greet me at the train station to explain the situation to me. The only one to greet me was our chauffeur who conveyed me back to Temple House in his typically professional reticence to speak to his elite passenger. It was one of many times in my life that protocol would chafe upon my sensibilities to the point of absolute distraction!
Upon entry into the palatial anteroom of my cold and empty home, I was again expecting to be greeted by my Father who would, no doubt, need to recite his didactic commands to me regarding family honour, duty, and, most importantly, appearances.
There was no such greeting. I asked after my Father because his disposition in his post seemed spiced with uncharacteristic urgency. I felt assured that I was to be expected. However, the new footman, a charmingly handsome fellow by the name of Sheldon who couldn’t have been more than eighteen years of age, informed me, with regret, that my father had been called away to London on business of a most pressing matter. He had even taken Geoffreys with him leaving only this new footman in charge of the house. I felt the familiar pang of how little my Father thought of me. After the weeks of being cherished by someone who truly loved me, I felt this cold homecoming like a splash of ice water to my face. I assured myself, at the time, that should my Father make another appearance again, I would give him a piece of my mind no matter the consequences! To pull me away like that after the kind of heartbreak I had just suffered and then not even be there to greet me? The very idea brought bile up into my throat! Poor Sheldon could see my displeasure and offered to fix a drink to settle my nerves.
That talk, of course, would never transpire. I only saw my Father briefly from then on, as it had always been. This time, however, it would be because I was too busy for him rather than vice-versa.
I was left with detailed instructions by my Father in a letter. The very business at hand that had caused him to desert me, was ‘for my benefit’, as it were.
I was to await another telegram from him. Then, if all things went as planned, I would follow the telegram’s promptings and report to a location to be revealed in the said telegram. Until then, I was to wait and ‘not do anything rash’.
The expectation in my engaging in ‘rash’ activities brought an intensity of fear that I’d never known before. Needless to say, I slept not at all that night waiting for a doom I was sure would find me. I was convinced that I would be imprisoned in some position sheltered and locked away. I would be prevented from any way of getting to France to fulfil my hope of finding my beloved Adrien and fighting by his side. Where some young men dreaded entering into the field of combat for fear that they would, likely, never be heard from again, I dreaded my likely inability to effect that same eventuality. I wanted combat duty if it meant that I could use what resources I could muster to find Adrien and rescue him from his nobility of purpose!
My Father, per his penchant for promptness, had, without delay, sent his telegram in the early hours of the morning. I had found sleep during that time, though it amounted to perhaps only two hours at most.
I was to report back to Oxford. To say that I was surprised by this is no understatement. I was assured I’d be allowed, at least, to work from London at the War Office, or some such. But, to return from whence I came? It seemed absurd for me to return to the place where my life had taken such an unexpected turn in finding Adrien. Oxford would thus torment me with my memories of Adrien and the fact that I had to, impotently, abide at the University I suspected, for the duration of the war. I’d never again been able to see Adrien and, more than likely, I would never know if he had survived or not.
As it turned out, my course of study was changed for the war effort. I would be turned out an Officer from the Oxford Officer Training Corp. Upon the fields of my old contemplations I, instead, trained my body and mind toward my military service to the Crown. It was rather a satisfactory eventuality, or so I thought at the time. I held hope that I would be turned out into command on the front line. Where others in my class dreaded that fate, I longed for it! There, I could, perhaps, track Adrien and, perhaps, connive a way to fight with him for his homeland! There could be no greater protector of another than one driven to become a lion of battle in the name of love! A love like blood that runs hot in the veins and seeks only ruin to an enemy bent on the destruction of that love!
I trained vigorously and was even merited on my prowess and acumen. Even my Father took notice of my change upon my infrequent leaves to Temple House for a restorative retreat. Retreats I chaffed at most agonisingly being that I wanted to clear the academy to get on with it and get to the battlefront where I might find Adrien and fight with him! My Father even condescended to treat me a smile as he saw my uniform and my merits already being on display.
He was wont to express his ‘admiration’ for the OTC for having the wherewithal to forge such a fine shape of a man from the lump of boyhood I had once been! Naturally, it was the OTC’s doing and not my efforts that made this change possible, but oddly, even my Father’s backhanded compliments held little sting for me. I was bent, with all of my will, toward battle! It was a lust in me driven by my unnameable love that my Father could never guess or come to understand. My passion for war he could only account to an awaking of my British aristocratic blood. The Knight’s Gleam, he liked to call it. It must have been something he’d read in a memoir or some such as my Father was in no way poetic in his speech, generally.
But of course, as is my curse, my Father had other plans for me that did not involve the Western Front directly. He was far too influential with the War Office being that his investitures in Rail and Train made of him a driving force for British expansion of the building of weapons of war. My father, ever the frustrated engineer, had spent all his time while I was away in Southern France, lobbying for a defence industry that could be fashioned out of industrialised steel and engine manufacturers. My father was practically single-handed among the Peerage in his beliefs in a new kind of warfare. He had kept up with German industrialists and had even conferred with them upon many occasions. He saw first hand what German Industry could do and, most importantly, how flexible it was! A factory making steam engines for trains and ships could be retooled for a war effort with a rapidity that was positively frightful! These things I would later read in a short memoir he wrote of his efforts.
This dovetailed into his plans for me, alas. With my blind ambition to accomplish whatever task or subject placed before me to speed my induction into the Army Officer Corp, I did not pay that much attention to the actual core of my course of study. I was naive in trusting to my schools that what I was doing was preparing myself for the intricacies of mechanised war. It should have dawned on me that I was learning rather more about the engineering aspects of war machines than were my peers. My fellows, who had been directed toward other courses of study, often had no idea of what I tried to discuss with them. They were far more interested in tactics and the strategies of this general or that general, etc., where I was often stuck upon some aspect of a machine gun’s workings!
I, in fact, rather horrified one of my fellows, a handsome cadet of common stock, but from a well-off bourgeois household. I was thoughtlessly rattling off the output of the Vickers MK 1 when Michaels, the name of our war college cadet, was literally shaking and almost ready to cry!
I’ll never forget what he said, “450 and 600 rounds per minute? Imagine, if each round found a mark in one man then there would be at least a mean average of 550 dead in a single minute? How . . . are we expected to survive a war built upon such weapons, much less win it?” I quickly changed the subject to whiskey, a more favourable topic for discussion between poor Michaels and I. I made no mention of his words to anyone. In that climate in those times, such talk was tantamount to treason for all knew the truth . . . the fields of France and Belgium, where the war was being waged, were becoming a charnel house and England, knowingly or unknowingly, was sending her men to certain doom. Michaels’ question haunts me to this day. It haunted me far more then because I knew that my beloved was amid such weapons or worse!
My Father had assured me that the Germans had a distinct advantage where their machine guns were concerned. They were damnably efficient! My Father had told me, upon one of my ‘resting’ visits, that the Germans were developing a twin-barrelled machine gun capable of tearing out 1600 rounds per minute! I let no one know of this. I accounted it one of my Father’s flights of fancy into super-machination. As it turned out, he knew, possibly before anyone else, of the Gast Gun – a terrible weapon comparable to a sausage grinder of human flesh! We were all fortunate that this weapon never saw much use in the Great War or it might have been possible that English-kind could have been exterminated off of the face of the Earth.
But, I digress. My thoughts wander into minutia due to the safety of mental myopia much as they did through my short stay through the AOC. In the span of half a year, I was considered ‘fully prepared’ to take on official duties. A course of study that should normally have taken two full years was reduced to approximately six months. Upon my commissioning, as a Second Lieutenant, I was ‘forward’ deployed as far as London.
By fathoms of connivance that, to this day, I cannot possibly plumb, I was remanded into the custody of the Industrial Liaison Office, an artefact of my own Father’s creation! I should have been flattered and been completely put to a loss of words regarding my Father’s regard for me in his dubious efforts. Going to these extreme lengths to create an entire bureaucracy where-in he could install me and keep me out of direct conflict, were machinations worthy of a Medici! Unfortunately, I could only see calumny, cowardice, and frustration from his efforts! I wanted to go into battle! I needed to be with Adrien . . . somehow! But, my Father had completely blocked my every attempt to accede to a combat post on the Western Front.
I hated him for it. He drew my unending wrath with his contrivance. Seeing no way out of my trap, I settled in and worked my station with a diligence that afforded me awards. Though I may have been present at such ceremonies, I have very little recollection of attaining these ‘high honours.’ Why should anyone merit medals for merely holding down a desk so that it would not fly away in an ill-favoured breeze? As it turned out, my single-minded escape from my pain was to focus my intelligence and skill at finding ways to resupply heavy artillery and tank divisions using technologies in rail transit that my Father had funded and overseen. In all due fairness, the rail system in delivering goods and services to our battle-weary Armies allowed me ways to improve the Post such that letters and personal items might have a more efficient way of arriving at the Front so that they could be enjoyed by our forces with some regularity. Such comforts from home, I believe, gave many of our men the lasting strength to survive and endure their long siege of the German incursive line. It may have been for this reason that the Army had decorated me. Such a silly thing as I did this for solely selfish reasons. I managed to connive the position so that I could have my ear to the Post. This meant that I could have any intelligence for my ears directed to me with speedy efficiency and without interference from ‘Command’. I came to know later that this would be my lasting legacy in British Service! By such means and protocols, I helped to found an intelligence network for Britain that would go unrivalled up until the insertion of the CIA and KGB to the world stage.
That said, at the time I could keep an ear out for Adrien and I could facilitate getting eyes afield to keep a lookout for him. I managed, through deft negotiations and alliances through my control of the Post, to create quite the spy network with the one goal of keeping watch over my ‘friends’.
As I worked my long hours that were extended agonisingly into a greater expanse of hours due to my search for Adrien, I should have known my Father was being just as diligent. Outside of my knowledge, my Father built a web to forever ensnare me and ground me such that his legacy could move forward. All of his will was bent upon this, as I was to find. Lorelei Sebastina Graham-Peebles came into my life at an Officer’s Ball held at Temple House in celebration of my field commission to Captain. By duty as an Officer and a Gentleman, I was bound to attend, naturally, and so it was that my Father, with his fellow conspirators, arranged a lively hen house of very ‘suitable’ ladies for my review.
All were lovely enough and I knew that I would possibly be disinherited if I did not pick at least one to court per my ‘familial obligation’. I danced and conversed with all in twenty of them in a most exhausting process, but did finally settle upon Lorelei as being the most tolerably winsome of the gaggle. She was suitably well mannered, even-tempered, attractive, and well-appointed being the daughter of a baronet. Alas, her family was a failing house in southern Scotland, but, at this point, my Father was beyond trying to tie me to any advantageous arrangements outside of finding a woman of class that could bare a legitimate heir to his name.
Lorelei was better favoured in her findings in my regard, I supposed, by her demure submission to my every proper whim of that evening. She laced every charm she could contrive in tying me to her favour. For the record, I should say it worked rather well since she was the ‘winner’ of my affections that evening. I made a good show of it for my Father’s sake. My only regret is that my contrivance was so dutifully received by Lorelei that she was convinced of my true and undying ardour for her in my disposition.
The feat achieved, our courtship extended for a proper six months which was three months shy of the usual courting period required by tradition. This was due to my Father’s impatience due to the War Office’s threats of fielding all able-bodied men to the Western Front by the end of 1916. He, rightfully, feared that I would be sent to my certain doom before having impregnating my wife-to-be with his proper heir. Once that was achieved, I’m sure my Father would not have spent any sleeplessness upon my being put afield with the possibility of being martyred. In that eventuality, I’d make a fine painting of one of the Temple’s sacrificial dead to the cause of Crown and Country! My child (a son naturally) would be raised by my Father to replace me quite easily enough. All my child would know of me is a portrait in the Grand Gallery and a story as made up as King Arthur’s fable.
Lorelei and I were married on May 17, 1916. I did manage to consummate the marriage and my awkwardness in this proved better than I could have hoped that I was still a ‘virgin’ upon my intercourse with her. She was a virgin but had taken the liberty of having a doctor incise her maiden’s head such that our first coupling would be more agreeable for her and thus a better pleasure for me.
It is with sadness that I admit that my pleasure and happiness was of utmost importance to Lady Lorelei Sabastina Graham-Temple. She was very much in love with me as I was to find. Such a boon any gentleman of my standing should thrice rejoice, being that aristocrats rarely marry out of love, but out of facility.
It saddens me to this day being that I could not love her with the same affection as she did me. Of course, my heart belonged to Adrien who was, for all I knew, gone beyond the veil into the ‘reeds’ as the Egyptians quoted the fact of Death so eloquently. In the short period that he’d left me in Nice to the moment I sat at my secretary composing yet another searching note in his finding, I heard not a word from him or even about him. I had many eyes abroad keeping a search out, but, in all due course, I could not suffer to think that anyone should have any time at all to waste on my maudlin pining in Adrien’s regard. The War went badly for the Allies and, from what horrors I was having reported to me of the hideous routs at Ypres and the Somme, I could only find it base sin to saddle any poor man with my burden who was struggling amidst the apocalypse they were undergoing day to day in the trenches.
That said, I was wracked like a butterfly caught on a wheel, with wings torn and soul cracking, as each day passed without hearing a word from my heart. Lorelei could not but notice my persistent and ever-present melancholy. She said of me that ‘I walked as if I were one of the Undead.’ I had become like a creature bereft of life but going through the movements as a mockery of life. This was something she gleaned from one of her gothic penny dreadfuls she was fond of reading. Lorelei was given to romantic hyperbole, a quality many gentlemen would have found quite diverting in a wife. Alas, for me, her parallels were far too close to home to be entertainment.
Each day the dagger of ice stabbed deeper and deeper into my dying heart knowing that Adrien was out there somewhere, suffering . . . perhaps dying . . . and I was powerless to do anything but continue in some ersatz existence more living nightmare than life!
Beyond our First Night, I shared no more affectionate attentions to my dear wife. My melancholia over Adrien forbade any natural warmth a man should have with his beloved spouse. Lorelei was coming to understand that, despite surface appearances for my Father’s sake, our marriage was a contrivance and rapidly becoming a fraudulent affair. She could not know why I pined, but she did know for a fact that I did pine for someone lost to me. That truth I did give to her as it was only fair to her that she knows. She, of course, divined that it was some lost lady of my heart that my clockwork steel brained Father had not approved of and had sent on her way despite any kind of happiness she could have provided me. Lorelei gathered the true nature of my Father’s desires rather early on in our courtship. She was more than happy to go along with it being that she was in love with me and figured I was likewise.
By any road, as I mentioned before early on, our short marriage lasted perhaps a little over a year, but finally ended mercifully for the both of us. She cited, except for the First Night, that our marriage was unfulfilled and, as far as she could see, would remain so for as long as she remained with me. We both decided first to separate and then to divorce in secret, that way we could avoid ‘shaming’ or respective houses. Our efforts were sound and should have worked well if it had not been for that foul betrayer Geoffreys who managed to deduce the dissolution of my marriage to Lorelei.
He dutifully reported all to my Father who, in great Lordly Imperiousness, ‘summoned’ me with a writ to appear before him and our family lawyer. I knew this meant he intended to put on the thumbscrews and threaten me with disinheritance if I did not retake Lorelei or find some other broodmare to fulfil his desires for an heir. At that point in my Undeath, I had lost much of the will to live so disinheritance would only be the nail driven into the coffin for me, as it were. I had my work with the Army and my law license to live on should I decide that was worth doing, which, at that time, did not seem worth a farthing.
I assured my Father of this in front of Mr Milkes, our estate lawyer. My Father was, for once in his sour life, left without words by my truth. The fury building in him was fascinating to watch as, unlike lower classmen who turn red as vulture necks when in the heat of anger, my father would lose all colour and become grey as a March sky. I figured he’d be wont to launch into one of his long-winded diatribes about familial duty, honour, grievances before God, betrayal of my mother’s memory, etc. But, none of this came. His eyes merely narrowed and he went to take up his quill and made the requirement of the Statement of Will and Testament to the Temple Legacy from Mr Milkes. Milkes, to his credit, bravely, held the document kept in its leather binding to frustrate my Father’s ill-conceived wrath.
“Before you sign this document, Lord Temple, you do understand that as Cedrick is the last of the male line with no recourse in blood for any other to inherit this legacy and title, that, you will knowingly commit to the ending of the House of Temple within the Peerage of the British Empire? A family that has held a title in England since the Plantagenets?” Milkes warned.
This did give my Father pause, but he did retort: “So it will end with my issue that has abdicated his duties to this House? Should it not at least end with me, the last true Lord Temple of this House? This one does not fancy his duties as anything at all! Even amid the greatest war, this Empire has ever faced, he still abdicates his duties in favour of some vain impetuousness! Married barely a year and already divorcing? Scandalous! Outrageous! A stigmatic mark of shame from which Temple House shall not recover, mark my words! This? This would be the heir to my legacy?”
“Do as you will Father. You and I have never been anything to one another but bringers of unnecessary pain. I have known love and I have lost it, just as you have. But, I shall not hold to a legacy by paying the price you have. I would go to battle. I would fight to my death so that then, at the very least, you can have one last painting to hang in the Gallery. You will know that the last of us died on his feet defending our realm just as the first of us did. Lorelei was betrayed by a contrivance of your making to force my hand in marriage. Shamefully, also by your contrivance, I was denied my right of valour as a son of a Knight of this kingdom. I could be seen as one of the cowards holding a white flower proving my craven image as a cloistered son of a self-serving aristocrat . . .” A loud sound of a fist striking the mahogany desk before us cut off my diatribe.
He stood shakily, holding his smarting fist clasped in his other hand behind his back to regain some sense of decorum. His efforts were in vain, however, as I saw him shaking. I remember having a slight fear that I’d sent him into some kind of apoplexy. Milkes rose also in caution ready to assist my Father should he fail to remain standing. I did not rise, I did not seem to care at that moment. He had broken something that day. A trust I had that, no matter what, he’d never resort to disowning me for his displeasure. I knew then that he had it in him to be just that cold or . . . so I thought.
“Oh, my son . . . how you wound me! Is this what you think of your Father? That I should want you . . . dead? Why the very idea that I should want you a lifeless painting in that mockingly hateful gallery in that blasted main hall of horrors?” The tremor in my Father’s voice was one I’d never heard before. If I wounded him, then I had felt sorry for this, but then, at the least, he could know how I had been wounded by him year after year with the coldness, the neglect, the constant disapproval and then finally, this insult to injury. To threaten me with being disowned? It was a bridge too far.
So I persisted: “It seems the only way to please you, my Lord Father. My living self is not enough. Better that I should become another memory to haunt this manor; another ghost to wander its halls.” It may seem cruel now how I prodded this on, but it was a confrontation long in the making and I had a bitterness made that much more bitter by my nameless love that was, perhaps, lost to me forever to whom my Father prevented me from going personally to find.
“Please, desist!” He turned to face me and there were indeed tears running down his cheeks.
I froze as he glared in his anguish. Milkes was meekly quiet, hands folded in front of himself, looking down, trying to hide in plain sight as this aggrieved ‘show-down’ played out.
“As you wish, Lord Temple. If there is nothing else, I should be on my way. Duties to perform and all. I trust you’ll inform me by post, Mr Milkes, of any decisions reached?” Ah the British coldness, I had learned it well! Again, I equate it to the ice and fire of Iceland: a fiery hell iced over with the most perfect of disguises! Inside I roiled with rage, sadness, pride, hatefulness, and shame, but none of these I felt safe sharing with a man who was proving as much my enemy as was the Kaiser in Germany. I harnessed my inborn reserve and locked my insides away behind iron doors colder than ice.
It may have been that my father was nearing a reconciliation with me that night. I may have finally broken through his iron portcullis and gained access to that bitter fortress he’d built around his heart. But, as perhaps a successful raiding party might, being weary of the exercise of gaining access to a castle full of worthlessness and disease after a long siege, I abandoned my ‘prize’. I left Temple House that night only to return for the wake of my Father who died shortly after that very night. I account his death as partly my fault, perhaps. But, I comfort myself with the thought that he had been building his tomb since my mother’s death and his discarding of me was merely the sealing caulk around the door to his crypt. He’d sealed himself away from any love the world had to offer, including mine and in so doing, died a lonely broken old man with only regrets to keep him company.
I was determined not to follow his example and I did something most unlike me in the mind I had in those foolish days of youth. In the Chapel of Temple House where my father lay in state, I went alone, lit the candles around the small nave and I sat at a pew keeping a vigil for my Father. In the wee hours of that cold early morning in April, I prayed, which was something I hadn’t done since a boy.
I prayed for the release of my Father’s soul from the drear reality of this world and I prayed that he would understand love in Heaven since he could not give it credence on Earth. I could not contemplate that he went into the Inferno. I could not imagine anything my Father could have done to warrant eternal torture. I cannot fathom how any human being of such limited perception and means could ever warrant such unjust punishment. But, that is neither here nor there . . .
I prayed, also, to find Adrien! I prayed ardently and finally tearfully that the Lord would shed His mercy upon us both and reunite us in some way! I left the Chapel as the dawn broke feeling something I hadn’t felt in years . . . hope!
As it turned out, I found that ‘miracles’ sometimes do happen! But of course, they may not give results that one is expecting.
Later on that week, I was invited by some of my Father’s gentlemen friends to a performance of ‘Madame Butterfly’ to be performed in private at Stafford Park, the grand estate of Lord Edmond, Earl of Stafford and Leicester. With its beautifully accented gardens and tightly maintained halls, Stafford Park was every bit the parallel to Temple House, though in a warm baroque that was much more inviting than the austerity of the neo-classical appointments of Temple House.
This was my first viewing of the opera ‘Madame Butterfly’ and, I admit, it had an overwhelming concordance with my feelings at the time. I, naturally, felt the part of the beautiful Cio-Cio-san left aside by her Lieutenant. Adrien was my Pinkerton and I felt bound to abide for him even unto his failure to return. I shared much with the wives of the ‘widows walks’ that were all the rage in Victorian and Georgian homes of the time. These being parapets atop the highest gated mansard roofs crowing the homes in the newer establishments in London. Places where one could walk and overlook the Themes or the sea for a sign of the ship baring one’s loved one home alive from the Death that had been pre-destined for them upon the battlefront.
As if by some cruel contrivance against personal pride, I received a telegram with a priority stamp affixed to it whilst I watched this prophecy in Italian Opera mock me in innocence. I opened the letter . . .
Two years nearly to the day of his leaving me, after the death of my marriage and my father, I had received first word regarding Adrien! My heart stopped beating, I think, but just for a sadly temporary moment. The telegram was addressed directly to me upon my finding. It had been sent ten days prior, a miracle in correspondence in those days of cut telegraph lines and notoriously undependable ship-to-land transmissions. This had to be the work of a friend in my intelligence network.
My intricate networking and efforts to connect one ministry or command to another had borne fruit and the friends and allies I had managed to make correspondence within France came through with information I needed on my Adrien.
Alas, the news was dire, however.
Adrien had been wounded in some way and I was warned that if I should like to see him in life I would need to book passage as soon as I may!
This, necessarily, set in me a cold terror that has frozen into my iciness of heart to this day.
Adrien had been found, but he was dying!
The last souvenir I’d have of my love for him would have to come by his death bed . . .
I was devastated, but determined.
I went forth from Stafford House directly and without delay to the train and then to a Royal Marine transport across the Channel amid concerns of German submarine torpedo boats attacking at any given moment.
Death, then, however, was for me a boon.
At least if I were to die upon my crossing I could be the one to greet my Heroic Adrien in the Death and accompany him either into the Light of Heaven or the Dark of Hell . . . but we would be together there!
I came to Paris. I came to L’hôpital Notre-Dame des Vaillants where my contacts had led me to find Adrien.
I came to his bedside . . .
. . . only to find that Adrien was not there.
Only was his body there!
His mind was long gone!
My love, like blood from a wound, flowed out of me as all my hopes, dreams, and promises of joy drained onto the floor. If he had been truly dead then my death could join me to him.
But, Adrien was dead only in mind. His body yet lived, though his eyes stared out at nothing and the hand that I clutched amid my tears felt as cold and lifeless as that of a corpse.
Adrien . . . was already gone though his heartbeat still and his breathing came in slow, ragged, draughts.
I was too late!