Sunday, January 18, 2009

Friday 10th to Saturday 11th December 1943

Prelude to the journey:

In the afternoon I visited the acute ward (No 10) to get a book of mine from Murray. (I'd been saving this book for reading on the journey. Murray borrowed it a few days before he again began his bewildered praying act and was transferred to No. 10.)

“You can see him,” said the orderly, “Third strong room on the right.”
I entered the room indicated – a bare apartment, with a bed in the middle and a locker which contained nothing but a towel. Murray lay on the bed. He smiled brightly and said, in his usual Park Lane drawl, “Oh! Hullo!”

I guessed my quest was hopeless, but said, “I called for “Wuthering Heights,” Murray. You borrowed it, you know.” “Oh yes!” brightly and then his eyes went blank, “Oh, that! I left it in ward 4.” I knew well that he hadn't been in ward 4 for many weeks. “Did you? Right, I'll get it there.”

Presently Murray said, “Is that your name? Albert Clarke? It was on the fly-leaf of that book... I remember...” “No, my name is Dawson. I got that book by devious means.” “I'm going home tonight” said Murray, still rational, but with that ghastly, brilliant smile. “Yes! Good news, isn't it? After a year here.” Murray's flash of reason faded slowly. “A year?” he said dreamily, “Has it been as long as that?” He sounded as though he had just awakened and couldn't realise he'd been asleep so long...

When I came out, Murray was laughing, and laughing, and laughing, high-pitched.

Noah Gutwillig, looking very fit, came in to say good-bye to me. He goes home to Leah and Tel-Aviv, next week.

After supper we had our last brew in the kitchen and the four of us decided we'd “all keep together” on the journey.

From 9-11p.m. Joe and Hardy and I paced up and down the compound. I saw Regulus and Leo rise for the first time. Joe said he'd seen McKay in ward 9. McKay of Silloth, who used to walk around in the moonshine months ago, just like this! He was discharged to Base and now came back just as his old friends go away.

From 1:30a.m., I lay on my bed and slept, remaining in battle dress and boots. Then the lights were switched on, and we got up. The gate in the barbed wire was opened and we tramped out, a crowd of men. “The compound spews forth it's hellish population at last,” I said.

This ended the Prelude to the Journey.


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