The Crimson Field: What’s Your Secret?

crimsonfieldPreviously on The Crimson Field: Catherine had a lover and a baby and now her mother won’t speak to her. Rosalie is so repressed she can’t bear the sight of a penis, and when Joan tried to help her Rosalie completely lost it and went running straight into Quayle’s waiting arms.

Tom sits in his tent, fantasizing about Catherine in her underwear, standing in the surf at the beach. He’s rudely interrupted by some douchebag hammering on the typewriter and telling Tom to wake up. He grabs his coat and walks through the tents, watched a little nervously by Catherine.

Grace finds a patient named Nicholls down at the beach and quietly tells him he can’t keep coming down there. He promises he won’t try to run away, he just enjoys the peace of the place. She lets him have a little more time there. Two men are out swimming in the sea.

The men are Irishmen, and the senior of them, Sgt McCafferty, says the freezing water is bracing. His younger underling, Peache, obediently agrees. Peache notices Nicholls but McCafferty tells him to ignore the man, because he’s a ghost.

Nicholls walks back to the ward with Grace, noting that nobody will look at him. Grace tells him to ignore them. In his tent, the other occupants stare and gossip. Grace starts to unwrap his bandaged hand to look at it as Nicholls insists this was an accident. He barely has a hand left. Yikes!

Oh, great, we have yet another obnoxious, incompetent, upper class jerk to deal with. This one insists to Brett that Nicholls’s injuries are clearly self-inflicted. Jesus, how desperate do you have to be to get away from somewhere that you’d blow your own hand off? Brett’s not quite so certain, and he wants to be sure, because this guy would be court martialed for harming himself. He asks Grace how the man seems and she reports he’s subdued and nervous. Upper Class Jerk, Yelland, sneers that he’s nervous because he knows he’s done wrong. Brett thanks him for his immense help and Yelland goes to leave, completely missing Brett’s subtle sarcasm. He drops the word that there’s a fancy dinner on that night and bids Brett and Grace goodbye. Once he’s gone, Brett sighs and tosses the file in the bin, but he has no choice but to send Nicholls off to court.

Miles hands Joan his report on Nicholls, commenting that the man’s injury is common enough that it could have been accidental. She thinks shooting a man for cowardice is disgraceful, and clearly he does too, but he warns her to watch what she says. Miles peels off, and Joan’s attention is diverted to a man who comes running into camp, calling for help for his little girl, who’s been burned. While Joan attends to the child, the man explains that they’re Belgian refugees. Joan tries talking to the girl in French, but she doesn’t respond.

The two Irishmen are out for a walk in the woods. McCafferty notices two other men stealing away into the woods and warns Peache to stick to the path in future, if he comes into the woods. ‘Bloody queers,’ he mutters. A little later, Flora, out collecting kindling, spots Foley out in the woods and looks thoughtful.

McCafferty takes Peache into one of the tents and introduces him to Quayle, whom he knows from their days together at Ladysmith. He talks up Peache, clearly proud of his protégé, though Peache seems a little less impressed with himself or anything else.

Joan finishes up with the little girl and asks the dad if she’s always been so quiet, since it’s unusual for a kid not to make any noise at all. He says the little girl’s mute. She apologises for prying and goes to fetch the man’s jacket. As he tries to stop her, a book of poetry by Goethe falls out of the jacket. He immediately defends himself, telling her it’s just poetry, it doesn’t mean he’s a spy. She hands the book back and warns him to be careful.

Peache is talking to some of the other lads, saying McCafferty thinks he has a grand future in the army. Nicholls watches the little gathering a bit wistfully from behind some curtains. Peache gets a letter and immediately goes to McCafferty to tell him the letter’s from his mum, saying the local priest has been saying that no true Irishman would wear the uniform of the British army. McCafferty tells him to just chill and let it go, but Peache is concerned because his mother’s had a brick thrown through her window and is now frightened. He wants to go back to show his face and shut them up. How will showing your face help? Sure, you’ll divert all the hate to yourself for a while, but when you leave, it’ll go right back to your family, right? McCafferty tells him he can’t have leave and tells him to write to his mother and tell her to suck it up, essentially. Disappointed, Peache leaves, as Rosalie approaches McCafferty and invites him to tea on Quayle’s behalf.

Tom finds one of the nurses outside a tent trying to calm a soldier with a head wound who keeps babbling about his trees while scratching at his wound under the bandage, making it bleed. The man is bundled back inside.

There, Tom checks on a patient who’s got a massive leg wound that hasn’t been properly attended to. Tom yells at a nurse for failing to irrigate it and she says that Yelland told her to let the guy sleep, and he’s senior. Well, thanks to Yelland, the leg is reinfected and the poor man needs to go back into surgery.

Back outside, Tom runs into Miles and angrily tells him he wants to kill Yelland. Miles doesn’t blame him. Tom stomps into the storeroom and just stands there while Catherine struggles to get a trolley of stuff through the door. What a gentleman. Once she sees him, Catherine brings up the Beach Incident and tells him she appreciates him not telling anyone she was there when she wasn’t supposed to be. He coldly tells her he doesn’t care what she does. What’s his deal? Why’s he being such a dick to her?

Rosalie brings out the tea for Quayle and McCafferty. Is Rosalie her minion now? And how does Quayle have time for a tea party in the middle of the day like this? And why is this being held in an open tent in the  middle of nowhere? Is this the dedicated tea party tent? So many questions.

Nicholls seeks out Grace and hysterically asks what’s been decided. She has no idea. He begs her for help, but she can’t give it and merely tells him he needs to get back to the ward. He takes a deep breath and admits he only joined up because his girlfriend gave him a white feather (for cowardice). And now look where he is. Poor guy. Also, his girlfriend’s a bitch.

New wounded are brought in, as Joan sees off the Belgian man and his daughter. Belgian tells her he was a teacher and when they fled, they brought their books with them. Joan understands but tells him he really should get rid of the Goethe. As they leave, Grace approaches and asks what’s up. Joan catches her up and says she agreed to go see the girl in a couple of days, apologizing for not asking permission first. Grace excuses her, saying they have a responsibility to the refugees and locals.

Quayle and McCafferty have tea, while Rosalie stands by like a maid. McCafferty talks proudly of Peache and how he’s determined to turn him into a first-rate soldier. She warns him to beware of protégés, because they can stab you in the heart. He tells her about Peache wanting to go home and says he worries the young man might not come back if he’s allowed to go. She advises him to act as his sergeant now, not like a father.

Peache, meanwhile, has gone to the regimental clergyman to beg for help, but the man refuses to do anything. I’m not sure what he could do anyway. Beg for the leave on…religious grounds?

Tom’s operating on that poor guy’s leg, without any painkiller, by the look of it. Poor bastard. Yelland oozes in to be useless, condescendingly asking Tom if he’s still experimenting on this guy. He checks out the wound and detects all the nastiness and asks the patient if he wouldn’t prefer a nice stump instead. Yeah, ask the major from last week how nice it is to just have a stump instead of a leg. Yelland obnoxiously says that this must be what passes for surgery in ‘whatever backwater’ Tom comes from. Tom manages to remain calm and tells Yelland he’s in the light. Yelland slooooowly leaves, calling tom an amateur as he goes. Whatever.

Joan runs into Rosalie, who brushes her off and hurries away.

Miles runs into Catherine and says he’s still waiting for a smile from her. She tells him he’ll be waiting a while.

One of the nurses puts Catherine on babysitting duty. She has to watch the guy with the head wound who keeps getting up and freaking out about kids in his apple trees or something. The nurse, who’s totally overworked, which makes Quayle’s midday tea break even more absurd, tells Catherine to just steer the man back to his bed if he gets up. Catherine promises to do her best.

Tom comes in to check on Leg Guy, who immediately tells Tom he wants the leg taken off, because Tom’s treatment is agony. The leg’s up in some complicated traction thing. Tom refuses to remove the leg, even though the man accuses him of treating him like a science experiment. Tom loudly tells everyone to ignore what Yelland says and make sure they irrigate the leg every two hours.

Flora notes that Joan looks a bit grayish and Joan claims she’s just under the weather. A wounded man is brought in, and Joan goes to take care of him. When she opens his jacket, she sees that he’s got two human ears on a string around his neck. Eeeeek! She panics a bit and he shouts that they’re his trophies. Joan flees and Miles goes after her, offering a flask. Good man. He sits down beside her and advises her not to think about it too much, and if she does think about it, just to remind herself that it’s two fewer Germans shooting at their men. She gives him a wan smile.

Peache goes to Tom to ask if there’s some way he can help him get home. There isn’t. Peache whines about nobody being willing to help him. Tom warns him not to do anything stupid. Peache promises not to, but takes the piece of shrapnel that Tom has apparently removed from him.

Brett tells Grace that Nicholls is going to be court martialed and will be taken away that night. He complains about what a waste it all is, to put all that work and skill into healing someone just so they can stand trial and be shot.

Peache has gathered some of his buddies together, shows them the shrapnel, and tells them they get no thanks for risking their lives. I don’t think that’s true, but they agree. He says the British are all liars and are operating a double standard, with one rule for the Brits and another for the Irish. God, Peache, you really are an idiot. It’s not the British refusing you leave, it’s your Irish sergeant! And what makes you think that a Brit would be allowed home when you aren’t?

McCafferty comes across this little nascent rebellion and tells them all to stop being jerks and remember they’re here to fight for king and country. Peache says George is not the king of his country, throwing in a precision F bomb so we know we’re definitely after the watershed. McCafferty punches Peache in the face and warns him that he needs to straighten out or he’ll get into the kind of trouble McCafferty can’t do anything about. Peache lies on the ground, sobbing.

Grace and Foley bring Nicholls his uniform, which is how he learns that the court martial is going ahead. Grace says he’ll be moved as soon as he’s changed, and Foley will stay with him.

Joan goes to see the Belgian and his daughter, Matilda. He thanks her for her help with the little girl and for not ratting them out. He admits that Matilda’s not mute. Her mother was German, and when he and the girl fled to France he told Matilda not to tell them about her mom, so she stopped talking altogether, out of fear of betraying them. He, too, observes that Joan doesn’t look well and asks if something happened.

Foley walks Nicholls out of his tent, passing both McCafferty and Tom on the way. Tom catches McCafferty and warns him that Peache seems to be getting himself really worked up.

Joan tells Belgian about how hard it is not to keep thinking of all the awful things she’s seen. He guesses she has a loved one fighting and she says she hasn’t heard from him at all. Since the beginning of the war? Wow. Belgian asks how that can be, and then realizes it’s because the man’s a German. Ahhh, now we have it. She explains that she met him in England, before the war. Now, she doesn’t even know if he’s alive or dead. Belgian fetches pen and paper and tells her there are ways to get letters to the other side. After some hesitation, she picks up the pen and words start pouring out of her.

The higher ups at the camp are having a very fancy dinner, with champagne and everything. Brett begs off, which means Yelland’s hosting. Awesome. Tom and Miles are not looking forward to a nice evening now, especially when Yelland makes a big show of reminding everyone to sit in order of precedence at the table.

Quayle brings Grace some dinner on a tray and compliments the handkerchief Grace’s working on. It’s for Nicholls, and when she hears that, Quayle makes it clear she disapproves. Grace won’t condemn a man for not being cut out to be a soldier, but Quayle makes no such allowances. She urges Grace to eat, but once she’s gone, Grace goes back to her embroidery.

Foley and Nicholls play cards while they wait for Nicholls’s ride. Nicholls talks about how horrible it is to kill someone, and how you really can’t prepare yourself for it.

That night, McCafferty kind of apologises to Peache for punching him, saying he did it to protect him from getting into trouble for cowardice. Peache does not respond.

In her tent, getting ready for bed, Joan fingers her ring, kisses it, and then puts on her robe to go wash up.

Rosalie’s already in the bathing tent, but she hides when she sees Joan come in. Joan, thinking she’s alone, disrobes and Rosalie sees the ring.

Big fancy dinner. Everyone’s gone through several glasses of wine, Yelland especially. He asks Tom if he’ll be writing about the ‘contraption’ he has Leg Guy up in and Tom fills him in on the proper name for it (which I can’t seem to find on Google, so I have no idea what it is). Yelland mocks it and says it doesn’t work but Tom responds that there’s been some interference with it. Yelland goes right for the low blow, referencing Tom’s poor background and saying it must be awkward to now be so far above everyone he grew up with. He keeps pushing, asking what Tom’s parents think of their son now they’re his inferiors. Just about everyone around the table winces, because this is such totally poor form. This isn’t a rich guy being a snob, this is just some guy being a giant asshole. Tom responds by laughing, which is probably the best answer here. But then he says that Yelland’s a waste of skin as a man, and as a surgeon he’s, well, hopeless. Yelland gets up and stomps over to Tom, ordering him to get on his feet. Tom gets up and offers to meet Yelland anytime. Careful, Yelland, I’ll bet Tom doesn’t fight by the Queensberry rules. He’ll be a scrapper. Probably realizing this, Yelland instead stomps out.

Nicholls is now ready to get shipped off to wherever his court martial is being held. Foley puts his hat on him and walks him out. Poor Nicholls looks terrified. Grace accompanies them. Nicholls begins to panic when he sees the truck waiting for him, so Grace gives him the handkerchief she embroidered and tells him to remember that there are people who care about him. He calms down and climbs onto the truck as Grace and Foley watch. Once he’s gone, Grace thanks Foley and tells him he can sleep in the following day.

The next day, McCafferty prepares to go for his morning swim, the last one before he and Peache return to the Front. Peache prefers to go to mass.

Flora follows Foley while he checks the snares he’s set out in the woods. When did these two get to be buddies? Last we saw the two of them together, he was making her look like an idiot and she was annoyed with him for doing so. But now she’s tagging along like a little sister? What gives?

Brett calls Tom to the carpet and tells him there’s been a complaint about him. Having made it clear that Tom really should keep his mouth shut, he then makes it clear that he’s on Tom’s side and tells him that Yelland won’t be around for much longer, as he’s being sent to a casualty clearing station elsewhere. Brett dismisses Tom, but at the door Tom stops and asks if he’s doing the right thing with Leg Guy, since he feels like he’s torturing him. Brett reminds him that he’s using an expensive piece of kit, and Brett wouldn’t allow him to use it and put a man through agony if he didn’t think it was worthwhile.

Peache gets communion while McCafferty swims alone.

Back in the woods, Flora mourns the dead bunnies in the snares and then starts chattering inanely about how she’s never been kissed. Foley dismissively tells her he’s not going to fix that problem. ‘Of course I don’t expect you to kiss me, Peter,’ she says blithely, ‘you’re a homosexual.’ Wow, does this girl have serious gaydar or what? Foley kind of panics, but Flora’s cool with it, having seen him go off to the dunes and somehow knowing what goes on there. Apparently her brother’s gay too. You know, I really don’t buy that a young woman this sheltered at this time would have been so easygoing and open about something like this. Homosexuality was against the law in Britain in 1915. You would do serious prison time if you were caught. It wasn’t something that was spoken of in polite circles, and it wasn’t something you just casually dropped into conversation. It certainly wasn’t something you chatted about to the virginal daughter of the house. Foley’s panicked reaction, however, makes sense. He insists she’s wrong, but she knows she isn’t and warns him to be careful, because if she noticed, someone else will. He grabs his bunnies and leaves.

Joan goes for a motorbike ride, her departure observed by Rosalie and Quayle. Quayle mentions Joan’s upset on the ward the other day, and out of nowhere, Rosalie announces that Joan’s engaged. Quayle’s surprised to hear that.

McCafferty puts on his uniform and goes to gather up his men, all of whom are lined up and ready to go, except for Peache, who’s standing there buck naked. He promises to do his duty and fight, but he won’t wear a British uniform. So, he’ll kill on behalf of Britain but not wear their uniform? That’s a pretty stupid protest, if you ask me. McCafferty marches him into an empty tent and reminds Peache of how lame he was when he first joined the army and how the army and McCafferty made a man of him. He actually starts to weep as he speaks, and Peache seems somewhat alarmed. To appease him, he puts the uniform on, but then gets his attitude back, coolly saying that the other men will think McCafferty’s a total badass, but they’ll know different. He goes on to say that if McCafferty had actually fought on his behalf to give him leave, he’d have loved McCafferty like a father, but since he didn’t, the sergeant is nothing to him. Just another ghost. McCafferty gathers himself before following Peache out.

Tom finds Catherine standing at the foot of Bandage Head’s bed and accuses her of basically doing nothing. She says she is doing something, actually. He checks on Leg Guy and admits to him that this is an experiment and that, if he really can’t bear this pain, he’ll amputate, but he really wants to see Leg Guy get the use of two legs back. Leg Guy agrees. Bandage wakes up and Catherine rushes to his side, telling him she’s spoken to the boys’ mothers and they won’t climb his apple trees anymore. Appeased, the guy says they can take all the windfalls they want. Catherine smiles and promises to send word along. He’s calm. She steps away and explains to Tom that she can’t wrestle with him, so this is all she can do. He mentions the Beach Incident and says he saw her clothes on the beach and thought someone was drowning. She fake apologises for having alarmed him. ‘I’ve been alarmed since you arrived,’ he replies. Hurl. Sorry, that was an inexcusably bad line. They have A Moment and that’s all for this week.

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