My second night in Room 25, Japanese number, and Room 221, American number, was just as restless and disturbing as the first. Bedbugs and mosquitoes were busier than ever, and so were the Japs. With their raucous voices barking orders to more late arrivals and with their childish love of flashing lights in our faces, they succeeded in keeping everyone awake.
The baby wailed so much that finally, in desperation, I slipped on a housecoat and went over to the mother’s mat. When I lifted her mosquito net, she became frightened, and for a moment she struggled.
“It’s all right!” I whispered. “Im one of your roommates. I want to take the baby for a while.”
Without any further argument, she handed me the crying child. I carried it into the hall and wandered through the long corridors until I must have walked several miles. Though the baby finally fell asleep, I still kept on walking. Though tired and bleary-eyed from lack of rest, I felt considerably relaxed.
When I slipped the sleeping baby under the net, the young mother never moved.
Before coming into the darkened room, I had looked at my watch and discovered it was only a few minutes after eleven.
I crawled under my net and lay awake for a long time, thinking about that last wonderful night Catesy and I had had at Jai-alai. It seemed more like years instead of exactly one month ago. So much had happened since then!
That carefree, happy night at Jai-alai we made final plans for our wedding, which was to take place in less than a month.
The Latin-American music, the dinner, and the wine were perfect, and I had on my favorite evening dress of red and white splashy flowers. The neck was cut square and low, and the dazzling white native shells I wore around my neck set off my deep tan.
Catesy, in his white sharkskin suit and healthy tan acquired from daily golfing, looked more handsome than any man in the dining room.
We left Jai-alai shortly after midnight, as I had to be on duty by 7 a.m. at the army hospital.
How vividly I remembered my happiness that morning in the taxi en route to the hospital! I thought of my four happy years in the Philippines. They had all been good years. I had liked the climate, my work, my comfortable apartment, and my many fine friends.
After having done twelve-hour duty as a private nurse in Pittsburgh and New York, which more often stretched into fourteen hours a day, counting commuting time, my six hours of duty at the army hospital were easy. No standing in rain, sleet, or snow to catch a bus, subway, or street car! No long hours of commuting time! I rode by taxi to work and Catesy brought me home. After duty I was still fresh enough to go swimming, sailing, riding, picnicking, or dancing.
When I reached my apartment after work, my faithful little servant, Adoracion, and my Skye terrier always met me at the door.
I had only to step out of my uniform and Adoracion was there to remove the buttons and place them in a freshly laundered uniform for the next day. The table was always set, the supper ready, and my clothes were laid out for the evening’s activity.
What a glorious life! Especially for a working girl. Swimming and sun-bathing daily. Picnics. Sailing on Manila Bay. Cruising through the lovely southern islands. Fascinating trips to the colorful land of the Igorots. Shopping trips to Hongkong and Shanghai. Dinners and dancing every night under a tropical moon at the Army and Navy Club, Manila Hotel, and Polo Club if one had the inclination and the constitution, and I had plenty of both.
I attended stately and social functions at Malacanan Palace, and the Filipinas and mestizas in their beautiful costumes and diamonds dazzled eyes far more sophisticated than mine.
High-born Siamese, Burmese, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian ladies attended these balls, and their gorgeous costumes added to the brilliance of the occasion. The Indian ladies in their exquisitely woven saris with diamonds worn in the flare of one nostril were the most colorful and beautiful of all the charming ladies at these functions. The well-groomed American and European women, though less colorful, looked lovely in their summery evening clothes.
There was so much about Manila to charm an Occidental; The hoarse cry of the cocky street vendor! The hauntingly beautiful chimes of St. Paul Cathedral in the Walled City! The cheerful tinkle of the sleigh bells that were attached to all calesas and carramotas (two-and four-wheeled carts drawn by small Mongolian ponies.
Yes, my four years in Manila had been happy years, and that morning of the eighth of December I had a special reason to be happy. In less than a month I would be married to the man I loved!
But when I reached the surgical ward at the Sternberg General Army Hospital where I worked, I learned that Pearl Harbor had been bombed!