I want my life to serve a purpose
June 30th, 1917
Letter from Effie Browntrout to her husband Major Horace S. Browntrout
Much of the countryside is now aflame. For the past two days the attacks have continued day and night from Dover to Manchester. London was hit yesterday. Buckingham Palace was attacked and successfully defended, but Big Ben was not so lucky. It will never tell the time again. Wooly Acres was hit hard. Our turnip patch was decimated by a bomb dropped by one of the silent, high-altitude German “steel ghosts.” The cabbages are gone too. But I have not told you the worst of it. My sister Cordelia was out for a stroll on a country lane near her cottage in Exitmouth Downs when out of the sky came barreling and screeching a winged unicorn, flapping two gigantic purple wings the color of death. On its back was an Austrian officer wearing a cape and a pickelhaube looking for all the world like some Roman imperator. He had a sword raised over his head and was giving a war cry (or a war yodel). He descended so fast that when the hooves of his steed touched the ground, he was jolted off the back of the unicorn face-first into the dirt in front of Cordelia. ‘Dely has always been a quick-acting lady, so just as the invader began to stagger to his feet she grabbed a flower pot sitting on her front stoop and broke it over the dragoon’s head, rendering him unconscious. That left the unicorn, who chased her to the front door of her house.
But the wood of her door is soft pine, and unicorns it seems are quite strong, so at the first butt of its head, its horn thrust all the way through her door, but stuck there and held fast as well. This gave Cordelia time to go retrieve Ian’s hacksaw from the attic, which she then used to saw the horn off and free the poor animal, which, upon seeing it had no horn, promptly bolted away into the cornfields never to be seen again.
Meanwhile, Old Captain McHenry of the Home Guards came along sometime later and arrested the enemy soldier and took him to the nearest prisoner of war camp. Cordelia was deeply shaken by all this, but other than the loss of a prized flower pot and a conspicuous hole in her front door, she was none the worse, which is far more than I can say for all the people living in terror of the evil airships dropping their loads of death all across the land, and bringing us this new breed of flying unicorn to terrorize us. I hope you come home to me soon and are done with this business at the front. I also hope that you and Branwell are on speaking terms again. He has done his nation proud, successfully leading the Saysquacks into battle. I’m sure you know more about it than I do.
Horace, I am tired of sitting here, waiting to be attacked, waiting for your and Branwell’s letters to come. I have spent my entire life waiting, it seems. I want my life to serve a purpose in this hour of need. I also miss you both terribly and want to be closer to you. I have therefore resolved to join a Voluntary Aid Detachment and become a nurse. I have corresponded with Ethel Roosevelt, thanking her for caring for you at the front, and she agreed to provide a character reference and provide a letter of introduction for me. Charlotte is well and happy and will continue to be so with her Aunt Cordelia and Uncle Ian for the time being. It pains me to think you or Branwell may disapprove of my decision, but please understand that just as you have a duty, so do I.
Write to me when you can.
Your loving wife,
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