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Authors: Mary Burchell

Love Is My Reason

LOVE IS MY REASON

Mary Burchell

The heroine of this novel, Anya, is a

displaced person

; a young girl who for most of her life had known nothing but the ugliness and hardship of various refugee camps. Then came the day when
her
life was strange
ly
linked with an English party visiting Bavaria. David Manworth was the first to wish to help her; his cousin Bertra
m

s professional eye saw in her possibilities for a stage career; kind Mrs. Preston wanted to make her one of the family; only Celia Preston, with an eye on David, was unwelcoming.

Returning to England with them, Anya found that even in a secure and prosperous world th
e
re can be doubts and anxieties; but in the end she was to attain a happiness greater than she had ever dared to imagine.

Mary Burchell

s pre-war work for the victims of Nazism has become famous, and her sympathy for the victims of war, so often shown in a practical way in her life, gives a
specially warm interest to this novel.

 

CHAPTER ONE

She was standing
at the
edge of the wood when he first saw her, and for a fanciful moment David Manworth felt she must be some elusive spirit of the place who might vanish if he made too sudden a sound or movement.

From where she stood it was possible to look down on the medieval town below and the rolling country which surrounded it, and even as he watched her she flung out her thin arms, as though to embrace the rich beauty of the scene. The warm spring breeze which blew, heavily scented, across the flowering uplands of Bavaria flattened her colourless cotton dress against her, emphasizing the beautiful lines of her young figure, and he
f
ound himself thinking—almost as though the fact really mattered—


Too thin, of course.

Then she turned and saw him. And because a startled look flashed into her wide blue eyes, and the gesture with which she smoothed her bright, streaming hair was embarrassed, he instinctively hastened to reassure her.


Hello,

he said in his most matter-of-fact way, speaking without thinking in his own language.

Were you—

Then, recollecting himself, he was about to drop into German when she startled him in his turn by replying in a clear, soft, though curiously accented English.


Hello,

she said shyly.

Where you too enjoying—this?

Once more, though rather less dramatically this time, a comprehensive gesture took in the scene below.


Why, yes.

He drew slowly nearer to her, still feeling that she might suddenly turn and flash away into the woods and be lost to him. And, even then, some curious, inner instinct told him that her going
would
be a loss.


I’
m staying in the district,

he offered, because he had to say something to keep her with him.

I came out from
England a few days ago. Look, you can see the green roof of my hotel below there.

He was standing beside her now, and he pointed out the roof of the Drei Kronen Hotel in the town below them. But her glance did not follow the way he pointed. It remained fixed on him, and after
a
moment she said, as though to herself.


So you come from England?


Yes. Have you ever been there?


I?

She seemed astounded at the question.

But no. Of course not.


I thought you might have.

He smiled and glanced at her with a curiosity he could not suppress.

You speak the language so extraordinary well.


You are very kind.

She smiled too then and flushed with almost childlike pleasure.

I learned it from my mother.


Then she was English?


Oh, no.

She was Russian. But she was a teacher of
modern
languages.


Was
she?

Somehow a teacher of
modern
languages seemed oddly out of keeping with anything so elusive and unusual as this girl.

Then—

he hesitated—

are you Russian
?

She nodded.


But you live here, in Augustinberg?

She nodded again, but as though she were not eager to go into that question. He was intrigued, however, and

used to having what he wanted—he pressed his queries further.


Show me where you live,

he urged her.

Can we see it from here?

And again he looked down on the town below them.

For a moment he thought she was going to deny his request. Then, with an odd gesture of defiance, she pointed beyond the winding river to the less crowded part of the town.


Do you see the church tower of St Augustin?


Yes.


Then, to the right, the line of red roofs?


Yes.


And
beyond
that, further away from the river, there is a group of building round an open courtyard.


Yes.


That is where I live.


There!
But it looks like a barracks.


It was a barracks once. Now it is the home of more than five hundred people. I am one of them.


You
are?

He was staggered and curiously embarrassed.

But—I don

t understand. What is the building now?


It is a camp, mein Herr. A camp for displaced persons.

Slowly his thought shifted into focus again.


Then you are a—displaced person?

Somehow the term was oddly distasteful, particularly as applied to this girl. But she accepted the description without demur.


Yes. I am what is called a displaced person. I have no home and no country. Only a Russia which no longer exists.


But


He frowned, trying to make the facts fit into
any of his previous knowledge.

You

re much too young to be a refugee from the Russian Revolution. How did you come to be here?

She hesitated, and it struck him that he was showing perhaps an unpardonable degree of curiosity.


I

m sorry. Perhaps you don

t want to tell me. Only you are—

he dunged the wording—

I was interested, somehow.

She smiled—that lovely fugitive smile which was like a shaft of sunlight across the thin seriousness of her oval face.


You are very kind,

she said again,

to be interested.

And he saw she spoke without irony. She meant it. She thought his curiosity friendly and well-intentioned. Which, he supposed a little amusedly, it was.


My mother and father fled from Russia before the war,

she explained.

For some years they had been able to compromise—to make the best of a worsening situation. But it was difficult. My grandparents on both sides had belonged to the earlier regime. It was increasingly difficult to earn a living, and even to keep out of the hands of the secret police. They fled to Czechoslovakia.


To Czechoslovakia?

To David Manworth, whose ideas of security were based on a lifetime spent in the political safety of the British Empire, Czechoslovakia—raped twice in a generation by different aggressors—seemed an odd choice of sanctuary. But perhaps these things looked different in different parts of Europe.


Yes. I was a baby then, of course. We lived in Prague

precariously, but we lived


The little shrug indescribably conveyed the impression of one who did not seek to look further ahead than today

s problems.

Then in 1945 the Russians came. And again we fled. We have been refugees ever since.


We?

he queried, because it seemed best to ask conventional questions only in the face of this calm recital of disaster.


My mother and father and I. My mother died four years ago. That was in one of the camps in Silesia. It was colder there,

the girl explained unemotionally,

and the shelter was not so good.


My God,

said David Manworth softly.

You mean one perhaps—died of the cold there?


And the weariness and general sickness and the lack of hope,

the girl agreed, but not as though she were asking pity for this state of affairs. This was the way the world

her world—was arranged. She accepted it, because acceptance of the inevitable was something one had learned in the long, long years.


Is it—

he bit his lip involuntarily—

better in the camp where you are now?


Oh, yes. It is crowded, but it is heated in the winter, and the people with whom we share a room, my father and I, are nice. They are an elderly married couple. Polish. Brought to Germany for slave-labour by the Nazis during the war.


I see,

he said. But he knew that he did not. Nothing in all his well-ordered, comfortable existence provided him with a measuring stick for such conditions. He had known crowded camp life during the war, and there had been danger and fear and acute discomfort, of course. But nothing in what he would have called normal life paralleled what this girl was telling him, in that soft, beguiling voice of hers.

For a moment he even wondered if she were spinning a tale in order to interest or touch him. But the next minute he dismissed the idea. She was so casual about it all.

Most of the facts were not even remarkable to her, he saw. He had asked for information and she was imparting it
.
That was all.

Some people—his aunt, for instance, playing bridge down there in the hotel, or his cousin Bertram or even Celia—would possibly have ended the conversation before now But something—some indescribable feeling compounded of fascination and horrified curiosity—made
him
go on.


Do you mean that four of you live in one room?


It is a big
room
,
,”
she assured him.

One divides it with blankets or a cupboard or some cardboard, you know.

He didn

t know. He felt it was an affront to all humanity that she did know. But because he was more moved than was at all usual with him, he simply asked abruptly,

What is your name?


Anya,

she said, and she smiled at him slowly, so that the beautiful hollows under her high cheek-bones deepened slightly, and he thought suddenly that it was the loveliest name he had ever heard.


Anya,

he repeated And then, realizing incredulously that his voice had held a quality of tenderness impossible to explain or justify, he added briskly,

Mine is David. David Manworth. I

m staying here with a—a party of friends.


You are not alone?

In some strange way she seemed to be withdrawing from him, like a ghost that fades away at cockcrow. And there was something mournful now in the quality of her voice.


No,
I’m
not alone. But does it matter?

And then, to his astonishment, he found himself adding hastily,

I think my
aunt would like
—“


No, no,

she said quickly, before he could even propound whatever plan it was that was forcing itself upon him.

I must go now.


But wait


He even put out a hand to detain her,
but she slipped past him like a shadow.

I want to know where to find you again. You mustn

t go like that.

But she had gone, running in and out among the trees, like some light-footed creature born of the woods and the flowers and the late spring evening.

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