The names in most cases were enough, and the pictures in some a little more! If they were his wife’s idea of suitable books for jeunes filles I wondered vaguely with what exactly the grown-ups diverted themselves! I had not the heart to tell him I never read them.
All the French people were extraordinarily kind and often came in to see me. They never failed to bring a present of some sort either. Mademoiselle Marguerite, the dear fat old lady who kept the flower shop in the Rue, always brought some of her flowers, and looking round would declare that I was trying to run an opposition to her! Madame from the Pharmacie came with a large bottle of scent, the little dressmaker brought some lace. Monsieur and Madame from the “Omelette Shop” (a popular resort of the F.A.N.Y.s) arrived very hot and smart one Sunday afternoon. Monsieur, who was fat, with large rolls at the back of his neck, was rather ill at ease and a little panting from the walk upstairs. He had the air of a man trying to appear as if he were somewhere else. He tiptoed carefully to the window and had a look at the plage. “The bonhomme wished to come and assure himself which of the demoiselles anglaises it was, to whom had arrived so terrible a thing,” said Madame, “but me, I knew. Is it not so, Henri?” she cried to her husband. “I said it was this one there,” and she pointed triumphantly to me. As they were going he produced a large bottle of Burgundy from a voluminous pocket in his coat tails. “Ha! le bonhomme!” cried the incorrigible wife, “he would first see which demoiselle it was before he presented the bottle!” Hubby appeared to be slightly discomfited at this and beat a hasty retreat.
And one day “Alice,” whose baby I had doctored, arrived, and even she, difficult as she found it to make both ends meet, had not come without something. As she left she produced a little packet of lace wrapped in newspaper, which she deposited on my bed with tears in her eyes.
I used to lie awake at nights and wonder about those artificial legs, just what they were like, and how much one would be able to cope with them. It was a great pastime! Now that I really know what they are like it seems particularly humorous that I thought one would even sleep in them. My great idea was to have the whole thing clamped on and keep it there, and not tell anyone about it! Little did I know then what a relief it is to get them off. One can only comfort oneself on these occasions with the ancient jest that it is “the first seven years that are the worst!”
It is surprising how the illusions about artificial legs get knocked on the head one by one. I discussed it with someone at Roehampton later. I thought at least I should have jointed toes! An enterprising French firm sent me a booklet about them one day. That really did bring things home to me and I cried for the first time.
My visitors varied in the social scale from French guttersnipes (Jean-Marie, who had been wont to have my old boots, etc.), to brigadier-generals. One afternoon Corporal Coy dropped in to enquire how I was. As he remarked cheerfully, “It would have fair turned me up if you’d come round to the mortuary, miss!”