April 7, 1917 Daphne

April 7, 1917

It was wet with cold rain and I didn’t leave the lodge today. The furthest I ventured was to the storehouse, the second part of Mowat Lodge. Shannon, when he took it over, made some guest rooms, but during the winter it is mostly empty and unheated. The canoes, including mine are stored here. At the far end, there’s a set of drafty double-doors. In the winter Shannon brings the horses here to groom them. The light’s better than in the stable and there more room to work and you don’t have to contend with cows and chickens. They tend to put up a fuss when the horses get the attention, so Shannon brings them here. Shannon’s eventual goal is to fashion more guest rooms for the busy part of the season, but I don’t think he has to worry about that this year.

The storehouse is a good place to sketch from. I can get a good view of the lake from the window. If  I need a better view I can look through the door or sit on the front verandah which extends between both structures. Mowat Lodge is a fair ways back from the shore so if you ignore the intervening tree stumps, dead trees and scrap lumber strewn about, it’s a pretty good view of the lake. I could see Little Wapomeo Island and to the south I could see the big hill that leads you into Bonita Lake.

I got to know the new guests a litter better today, the Crombies. Lt. ‘Robin’ Crombie is a veteran and a consumptive. His wife, Miss Crombie (‘Daphne’ as she’s asked me to call her) is in her early twenties. I chatted with her at breakfast and discovered that Robin was a broker in Toronto, signed up in 1914, went overseas in the spring of 1915 and was back by the fall with tuberculosis. He never saw any action before they sent him back. Over this past winter, his condition didn’t improve so they decided to come up to Mowat Lodge for the fresh northern air.

After the coughing fit last night, I was surprised that he survived the night. I was relieved he did, because if he didn’t I’d have to contend with a newly available widow. I could tell that Daphne, (or ‘Mrs. Crombie’ as I have been address her) was intrigued and interested in my pursuits. So long as Robin was incapacitated she wasn’t going to leave me alone.

The doctor’s order was that Robin was supposed to spend as much time on the outdoors as long a possible. He was in no condition to spend the duration in a rocking chair, so Shannon decided to retrieve one the beds from the store house at set it up on the veranda. I helped him bring it out So that he could have a good view of the lake over the railing, Shannon propped up the head end of the bed with two apple crates. They’re taller and stronger than the orange creates. So the bed had a healthy inclination facing toward the lake. Robin looked helpless, bundled up in his feather-filled officer’s quilt, but he had no reserve to protest the arrangement.

I returned to the store house to work on my sketch. With Robin securely ensconced in his recuperative position, Daphne came to visit me. At first, with her doe-eyes, she didn’t strike me as the talkative sort and I tried to signal that I wasn’t the talkative sort either, especially when I was painting, but she insisted on chatting and started to ask me a few questions. I usually despise small talk, but her demeanour was pleasant and I didn’t mind the conversation. It was like talking to my sisters. Ask a question. Give an answer. Ask another question. Give another answer. Rinse. Repeat.

Daphne told me they’d be here until later spring, maybe until summer. The doctor’s prescription for Robin was to sit out on the porch in the cold air and to sleep with the window open. I could tell that she wasn’t used to being married, otherwise she wouldn’t have approached me alone in the storage shed. Married women didn’t do that. I didn’t ask, but I am sure that they got married just before he left.  Marriages like that happened a lot in the early part of the war. But when the soldiers started to not return, or came back shells of the themselves, women started to conclude to reserve their marrying prospects for the returning soldiers, not for the departing ones.

Daphne and I talked for about an hour and I finished my sketch just before noon. I helped her bring Robin in and to the dinner table. He looked pretty relieved to be back in the lodge. But then he was back out again on the verandah for his afternoon regimen.

Yesterday looked like a full moon, but it’s a full moon tonight. The evening sky was bright and the still snow-covered lake looked a pristine white silk cloth laid at the foot of the hills. After dinner, we gathered in the dining room to play parlour games. Chess, crokinole, cribbage and euchre. No poker or Ouija board. Annie has forbade its use in the lodge. If we do use a Ouija board, we’ll have to do it where Shannon hides his whisky – in the horse barn.

All duuring the day, we all tried to put on an air of normalcy. But the shock of the war declaration weighed heavily on everyone. I knew that the calls for conscription were sure to become louder and more vociferous. I thought I could escape and gain some refuge here, but I’m beginning to doubt that now.

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