Letter from Arthur to his sister Margaret, 13 August 1906
[No original available]
Cudlow House, Rustington
Aug. 13, 1906.
We have no more outbreaks yet, but expect them now every day. George has had a rather light attack, no fever or loss of appetite, but a good deal of swelling, and for a few days some trouble in swallowing and chewing. He is still a good deal swollen in the face. We regard the cheerful chubbiness of his cheeks as rather an improvement, and wish it could be permanent.
Jack came across in a motor on Saturday and is in great spirits and apparently robust health and vigour. We are all very glad to be reunited. The doctor here errs on the side of caution, and says that Jack must not bathe, bicycle or play lawn tennis at present, for fear of a chill. He also insists on George staying in bed for at least a full week.
Lady Maud (who is expecting a visit from Dolly and her children) is in prodigious and continual excitement about the infectiousness of mumps, rather as a topic of conversation than as a matter of alarm. She sits for hours in the garden talking to Sylvia about it continuously. I hear her now below, as I sit with George – “You can carry it about with you everywhere…” “The most infectious disease in the world.”
We had a visit on Saturday from Dr. Rendel, who is staying 20 miles off across the downs, and bicycled over. Otherwise we are alone, except for Jimmy, and are shunned by most of the neighbours. But we manage to get along very well.
From time to time I urge George to write to you, and he will probably screw himself up to the effort presently.
Dr Rendel, whom Jack will remember quite as well as I do, had ceased to be our family doctor when we left London and went to Berkhamsted, but remained a friend. I think he had been at Marlborough with Arthur. Our last sight of him was in the summer holidays of 1909, at Postbridge, where he had built a house; having, I think, married money.
I can’t say I really remember Lady Maud Parry, though I have a dim and misty recollection of her sitting in the Cudlow House garden that summer, with Dolly, talking to Sylvia. In the following extract from Dolly Ponsonby’s diary, the little dig at Margaret is no doubt fair enough, in a purely private document, and accurately observed; but as I smile at it I don’t forget her goodness and her love of Sylvia as well as Arthur, nor, for that matter, that Dolly P. was herself devoted to Margaret and used to see her regularly till the end of her life.
From Lady Ponsonby’s diary:
August, 1906. Went to see Sylvia in the evening. She is an amazing creature, certainly beauty and charm could not go further, and now she is more beautiful with a touch of sadness in her face, and her wonderful blue garments. She talked so naturally of all her hopes and fears regarding Arthur, and how Margaret’s luxury of woe attitude nearly killed her and her intenseness about everything.
When Margaret said she hates money on rails against it, Sylvia says, “I should love to have it. I should like to have gold stays and a scented bed and real lace pillows,” and Margaret is shocked and swallows it all.
Arthur is more pathetic than he was – it gives one a terrible twinge to see him with his poor maimed face, and always escaping from people…
[AB: Dolly’s diary continued: “Mr Barrie is always with them, a nurse to the children and an extraordinarily tactful and helpful companion to Sylvia and Arthur though his moods like those of most genius types sometimes appears to be a little trying.]
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