Letter from George to his Aunt Margaret, 9 July 1906
[No original available]
Egerton House, Berkhamsted.
9 July 
Dear Aunt Margaret,
This letter proves that I could send a line, after all. I am going up to Eton tomorrow. Father and mother are coming also, as far as London, as father has got to go to the dentist. We start at ten-thirty and have dinner at the flat. Then I am sent off to Eton at Paddington. I don’t feel so funky of the exam as I was before. I’m going to stay with Mr Macnaghten.
All the animals are getting on well. The Blue Buck [rabbit] is in the run at present. Mr’s nose is almost well now, and the guinea-pigs squeak more than ever. I have just been mowing grass to make hay of for the rabbits. Father is getting stronger every day. Last Wednesday he came down to watch a match, in which I made 9 not out.
Yesterday I went out a bike-ride with Ritchie. He found a lark’s nest with six eggs in it.
This afternoon we found two curious things. First an old black-cap’s nest newly lined with moss and with two eggs in it, either hedge-sparrow or redstart.
Then we found an old wren’s nest which we had known for nearly 3 months and which had always been empty every time we looked, lined with feathers and having three eggs.
“This letter also proves,” as it seems to me, that George, at 13, was equally unaware of the seriousness of Arthur’s illness and of how much hung on his performance in the scholarship examination. I am sure everything had been done to keep all of us in happy ignorance of the true state of affairs, and with complete success. With an only child it might have been difficult; with a gang of five I expect it was easy enough. I am equally sure it was a matter of principle with both Arthur and Sylvia not to let the examination weigh heavily on George.
Ritchie was, so far as I remember, George’s closest friend, and was a grandson of Thackeray’s, or more probably great-grandson. There were one or two other links with Victorian literature at Berkhamsted School. A Trollope, grandson of Anthony, went into the Navy at the same time as Jack – and I believe failed. Among my own intimates were a Yonge, grand nephew, I think, of Charlotte, and two brothers Creasy, grandchildren of the author of “Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World”. These, (except Trollope, who was a boarder) were among the more socially elite of the day-bug side of the school, to which also resorted the sons of the local tradesmen, such as the Perrys, in the haberdashery line, and Cripps, the Northchurch chemist’s son, an amiable albino who always beat me at every branch of learning, and made up for it by giving me test tubes from his dad’s shop; and local farmers’ sons, among whom I recall Puddephatt – a very ancient Hertfordshire name, I fancy – and the aptly-named Dane, a great heavily-built, blue-eyed blonde, slow of speech and sublimely indifferent to the canings the Rev. Fry used to administer to him in Old Testament lessons, for not knowing the difference between Habakkuk and Haggai or whatever it was.
I think it was valuable to us to be mixed up with these boys, and to have found them just as pleasant to be among as the sons of rather classier – or richer – homes one met at Eton – to which school, by the way, the local tradesmen’s sons also went to be educated until early Victorian times.
“Mr” was one of George’s rabbits.
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