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Title: The Diary of a Provincial Lady
Author: E M Delafield
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Title: The Diary of a Provincial Lady
Author: E M Delafield



The Diary of a Provincial Lady
With Illustrations by Arthur Watts
[illustrations appear in the html version]

First published 1930




THE DIARY OF A PROVINCIAL LADY



_November 7th._--Plant the indoor bulbs. Just as I am in the middle
of them, Lady Boxe calls. I say, untruthfully, how nice to see her, and
beg her to sit down while I just finish the bulbs. Lady B. makes
determined attempt to sit down in armchair where I have already placed
two bulb-bowls and the bag of charcoal, is headed off just in time, and
takes the sofa.

Do I know, she asks, how very late it is for indoor bulbs? September,
really, or even October, is the time. Do I know that the only really
reliable firm for hyacinths is Somebody of Haarlem? Cannot catch the name
of the firm, which is Dutch, but reply Yes, I do know, but think it my
duty to buy Empire products. Feel at the time, and still think, that this
is an excellent reply. Unfortunately Vicky comes into the drawing-room
later and says: "O Mummie, are those the bulbs we got at Woolworths?"

Lady B. stays to tea. (_Mem_.: Bread-and-butter too thick. Speak to
Ethel.) We talk some more about bulbs, the Dutch School of Painting, our
Vicar's wife, sciatica, and _All Quiet on the Western Front_.

(Query: Is it possible to cultivate the art of conversation when living
in the country all the year round?)

Lady B. enquires after the children. Tell her that Robin--whom I refer to
in a detached way as "the boy" so that she shan't think I am foolish
about him--is getting on fairly well at school, and that Mademoiselle
says Vicky is starting a cold.

Do I realise, says Lady B., that the Cold Habit is entirely unnecessary,
and can be avoided by giving the child a nasal douche of salt-and-water
every morning before breakfast? Think of several rather tart and witty
rejoinders to this, but unfortunately not until Lady B.'s Bentley has
taken her away.

Finish the bulbs and put them in the cellar. Feel that after all cellar
is probably draughty, change my mind, and take them all up to the attic.

Cook says something is wrong with the range.


_November 8th._--Robert has looked at the range and says nothing
wrong whatever. Makes unoriginal suggestion about pulling out dampers.
Cook very angry, and will probably give notice. Try to propitiate her by
saying that we are going to Bournemouth for Robin's half-term, and that
will give the household a rest. Cook replies austerely that they will
take the opportunity to do some extra cleaning. Wish I could believe this
was true.

Preparations for Bournemouth rather marred by discovering that Robert, in
bringing down the suit-cases from the attic, has broken three of the
bulb-bowls. Says he understood that I had put them in the cellar, and so
wasn't expecting them.


_November 11th.--Bournemouth._ Find that history, as usual, repeats
itself. Same hotel, same frenzied scurry round the school to find Robin,
same collection of parents, most of them also staying at the hotel.
Discover strong tendency to exchange with fellow-parents exactly the same
remarks as last year, and the year before that. Speak of this to Robert,
who returns no answer. Perhaps he is afraid of repeating himself? This
suggests Query: Does Robert, perhaps, take in what I say even when he
makes no reply?

Find Robin looking thin, and speak to Matron who says brightly, Oh no,
she thinks on the whole he's put _on_ weight this term, and then
begins to talk about the New Buildings. (Query: Why do all schools have
to run up New Buildings about once in every six months?)

Take Robin out. He eats several meals, and a good many sweets. He
produces a friend, and we take both to Corfe Castle. The boys climb,
Robert smokes in silence, and I sit about on stones. Overhear a woman
remark, as she gazes up at half a tower, that has withstood several
centuries, that This looks _fragile_--which strikes me as a singular
choice of adjective. Same woman, climbing over a block of solid masonry,
points out that This has evidently fallen off somewhere.

Take the boys back to the hotel for dinner. Robin says, whilst the friend
is out of hearing: "It's been nice for us, taking out Williams, hasn't
it?" Hastily express appreciation of this privilege.

Robert takes the boys back after dinner, and I sit in hotel lounge with
several other mothers and we all talk about our boys in tones of
disparagement, and about one another's boys with great enthusiasm.

Am asked what I think of _Harriet Hume_ but am unable to say, as I
have not read it. Have a depressed feeling that this is going to be
another case of _Orlando_ about which was perfectly able to talk
most intelligently until I read it, and found myself unfortunately unable
to understand any of it.

Robert comes up very late and says he must have dropped asleep over the
_Times_. (Query: Why come to Bournemouth to do this?)

Postcard by the last post from Lady B. to ask if I have remembered that
there is a Committee Meeting of the Women's Institute on the 14th. Should
not dream of answering this.

_November 12th._--Home yesterday and am struck, as so often before,
by immense accumulation of domestic disasters that always await one after
any absence. Trouble with kitchen range has resulted in no hot water,
also Cook says the mutton has _gone_, and will I speak to the
butcher, there being no excuse weather like this. Vicky's cold, unlike
the mutton, hasn't gone. Mademoiselle says, "Ah, cette petite! Elle ne
sera peut-être pas longtemps pour ce bas monde, madame." Hope that this
is only her Latin way of dramatising the situation.

Robert reads the _Times_ after dinner, and goes to sleep.

_November 13th._--Interesting, but disconcerting, train of thought
started by prolonged discussion with Vicky as to the existence or
otherwise of a locality which she refers to throughout as H.E.L. Am
determined to be a modern parent, and assure her that there is not, never
has been, and never could be, such a place. Vicky maintains that there
_is_, and refers me to the Bible. I become more modern than ever,
and tell her that theories of eternal punishment were invented to
frighten people. Vicky replies indignantly that they don't frighten her
in the least, she _likes_ to think about H.E.L. Feel that deadlock
has been reached, and can only leave her to her singular method of
enjoying herself.

(Query: Are modern children going to revolt against being modern, and if
so, what form will reaction of modern parents take?)

Much worried by letter from the Bank to say that my account is overdrawn
to the extent of Eight Pounds, four shillings, and fourpence. Cannot
understand this, as was convinced that I still had credit balance of Two
Pounds, seven shillings, and sixpence. Annoyed to find that my accounts,
contents of cash-box, and counterfoils in cheque-book, do not tally.
(_Mem_.: Find envelope on which I jotted down Bournemouth expenses,
also little piece of paper (probably last leaf of grocer's book) with
note about cash payment to sweep. This may clear things up.)

Take a look at bulb-bowls on returning suit-case to attic, and am
inclined to think it looks as though the cat had been up here. If so,
this will be the last straw. Shall tell Lady Boxe that I sent all my
bulbs to a sick friend in a nursing-home.

_November 14th._--Arrival of Book of the Month choice, and am
disappointed. History of a place I am not interested in, by an author I
do not like. Put it back into its wrapper again and make fresh choice
from Recommended List. Find, on reading small literary bulletin enclosed
with book, that exactly this course of procedure has been anticipated,
and that it is described as being "the mistake of a lifetime". Am much
annoyed, although not so much at having made (possibly) mistake of a
lifetime, as at depressing thought of our all being so much alike that
intelligent writers can apparently predict our behaviour with perfect
accuracy.

Decide not to mention any of this to Lady B., always so tiresomely
superior about Book of the Month as it is, taking up attitude that she
does not require to be told what to read. (Should like to think of good
repartee to this.)

Letter by second post from my dear old school-friend Cissie Crabbe,
asking if she may come here for two nights or so on her way to Norwich.
(Query: Why Norwich? Am surprised to realise that anybody ever goes to,
lives at, or comes from, Norwich, but quite see that this is unreasonable
of me. Remind myself how very little one knows of the England one lives
in, which vaguely suggests a quotation. This, however, does not
materialise.)

Many years since we last met, writes Cissie, and she expects we have both
_changed_ a good deal. P.S. Do I remember the dear old pond, and the
day of the Spanish Arrowroot. Can recall, after some thought, dear old
_pond_, at bottom of Cissie's father's garden, but am completely
baffled by Spanish Arrowroot. (Query: Could this be one of the Sherlock
Holmes stories? Sounds like it.)

Reply that we shall be delighted to see her, and what a lot we shall have
to talk about, after all these years! (This, I find on reflection, is not
true, but cannot re-write letter on that account.) Ignore Spanish
Arrowroot altogether.

Robert, when I tell him about dear old school-friend's impending arrival,
does not seem pleased. Asks what we are expected to _do_ with her. I
suggest showing her the garden, and remember too late that this is hardly
the right time of the year. At any rate, I say, it will be nice to talk
over old times--(which reminds me of the Spanish Arrowroot reference
still unfathomed).

Speak to Ethel about the spare room, and am much annoyed to find that one
blue candlestick has been broken, and the bedside rug has gone to the
cleaners, and cannot be retrieved in time. Take away bedside rug from
Robert's dressing-room, and put it in spare room instead, hoping he will
not notice its absence.

_November 15th._--Robert does notice absence of rug, and says he
must have it back again. Return it to dressing-room and take small and
inferior dyed mat from the night-nursery to put in spare room.
Mademoiselle is hurt about this and says to Vicky, who repeats it to me,
that in this country she finds herself treated like a worm.

_November 17th._--Dear old school-friend Cissie Crabbe due by the
three o'clock train. On telling Robert this, he says it is most
inconvenient to meet her, owing to Vestry Meeting, but eventually agrees
to abandon Vestry Meeting. Am touched. Unfortunately, just after he has
started, telegram arrives to say that dear old school-friend has missed
the connection and will not arrive until seven o'clock. This means
putting off dinner till eight, which Cook won't like. Cannot send message
to kitchen by Ethel, as it is her afternoon out, so am obliged to tell
Cook myself. She is not pleased. Robert returns from station, not pleased
either. Mademoiselle, quite inexplicably, says, "Il ne manquait que ca!"
(This comment wholly unjustifiable, as non-appearance of Cissie Crabbe
cannot concern her in any way. Have often thought that the French are
tactless.)

Ethel returns, ten minutes late, and says Shall she light fire in spare
room? I say No, it is not cold enough--but really mean that Cissie is no
longer, in my opinion, deserving of luxuries. Subsequently feel this to
be unworthy attitude, and light fire myself. It smokes.

Robert calls up to know What is that Smoke? I call down that It is
Nothing. Robert comes up and opens the window and shuts the door and says
It will Go all right Now. Do not like to point out that the open window
will make the room cold.

Play Ludo with Vicky in drawing-room.

Robert reads the _Times_ and goes to sleep, but wakes in time to
make second expedition to the station. Thankful to say that this time he
returns with Cissie Crabbe, who has put on weight, and says several times
that she supposes we have both _changed_ a good deal, which I
consider unnecessary.

Take her upstairs--spare room like an icehouse, owing to open window, and
fire still smoking, though less--She says room is delightful, and I leave
her, begging her to ask for anything she wants--(_Mem_.: tell Ethel
she _must_ answer spare room bell if it rings--Hope it won't.)

Ask Robert while dressing for dinner what he thinks of Cissie. He says he
has not known her long enough to judge. Ask if he thinks her
good-looking. He says he has not thought about it. Ask what they talked
about on the way from the station. He says he does not remember.

_November 19th._--Last two days very, very trying, owing to quite
unexpected discovery that Cissie Crabbe is strictly on a diet. This
causes Robert to take a dislike to her. Utter impossibility of obtaining
lentils or lemons at short notice makes housekeeping unduly difficult.
Mademoiselle in the middle of lunch insists on discussing diet question,
and several times exclaims: "Ah, mon doux St. Joseph!" which I consider
profane, and beg her never to repeat.

Consult Cissie about the bulbs, which look very much as if the mice had
been at them. She says: Unlimited Watering, and tells me about her own
bulbs at Norwich. Am discouraged.

Administer Unlimited Water to the bulbs (some of which goes through the
attic floor on to the landing below), and move half of them down to the
cellar, as Cissie Crabbe says attic is airless.

Our Vicar's wife calls this afternoon. Says she once knew someone who had
relations living near Norwich, but cannot remember their name. Cissie
Crabbe replies that very likely if we knew their name we might find she'd
heard of them, or even _met_ them. We agree that the world is a
small place. Talk about the Riviera, the new waist-line, choir-practice,
the servant question, and Ramsay MacDonald.

_November 22nd._--Cissie Crabbe leaves. Begs me in the kindest way
to stay with her in Norwich (where she has already told me that she lives
in a bed-sitting-room with two cats, and cooks her own lentils on a
gas-ring). I say Yes, I should love to. We part effusively.

Spend entire morning writing the letters I have had to leave unanswered
during Cissie's visit.

Invitation from Lady Boxe to us to dine and meet distinguished literary
friends staying with her, one of whom is the author of _Symphony in
Three Sexes_. Hesitate to write back and say that I have never heard
of _Symphony in Three Sexes_, so merely accept. Ask for _Symphony
in Three Sexes_ at the library, although doubtfully. Doubt more than
justified by tone in which Mr. Jones replies that it is not in stock, and
never has been.

Ask Robert whether he thinks I had better wear my Blue or my
Black-and-gold at Lady B.'s. He says that either will do. Ask if he can
remember which one I wore last time. He cannot. Mademoiselle says it was
the Blue, and offers to make slight alterations to Black-and-gold which
will, she says, render it unrecognisable. I accept, and she cuts large
pieces out of the back of it. I say: "Pas trop décolletée," and she
replies intelligently: "Je comprends, Madame ne desire pas se voir nue au
salon."

(Query: Have not the French sometimes a very strange way of expressing
themselves, and will this react unfavourably on Vicky?)

Tell Robert about the distinguished literary friends, but do not mention
_Symphony in Three Sexes_. He makes no answer.

Have absolutely decided that if Lady B. should introduce us to
distinguished literary friends, or anyone else, as Our Agent, and Our
Agent's Wife, I shall at once leave the house.

Tell Robert this. He says nothing. (_Mem_.: Put evening shoes out of
window to see if fresh air will remove smell of petrol.)

_November 25th._--Go and get hair cut and have manicure in the
morning, in honour of Lady B.'s dinner party. Should like new pair of
evening stockings, but depressing communication from Bank, still
maintaining that I am overdrawn, prevents this, also rather unpleasantly
worded letter from Messrs. Frippy and Coleman requesting payment of
overdue account by return of post. Think better not to mention this to
Robert, as bill for coke arrived yesterday, also reminder that Rates are
much overdue, therefore write civilly to Messrs. F. and C. to the effect
that cheque follows in a few days. (Hope they may think I have
temporarily mislaid cheque-book.)

Black-and-gold as rearranged by Mademoiselle very satisfactory, but am
obliged to do my hair five times owing to wave having been badly set.
Robert unfortunately comes in just as I am using bran-new and expensive
lip-stick, and objects strongly to result.

(Query: If Robert could be induced to go to London rather oftener, would
he perhaps take broader view of these things?)

Am convinced we are going to be late, as Robert has trouble in getting
car to start, but he refuses to be agitated. Am bound to add that
subsequent events justify this attitude, as we arrive before anybody
else, also before Lady B. is down. Count at least a dozen Roman hyacinths
growing in bowls all over the drawing-room. (Probably grown by one of the
gardeners, whatever Lady B. may say. Resolve not to comment on them in
any way, but am conscious that this is slightly ungenerous.)

Lady B. comes down wearing silver lace frock that nearly touches the
floor all round, and has new waist-line. This may or not be becoming, but
has effect of making everybody else's frock look out-of-date.

Nine other people present besides ourselves, most of them staying in
house. Nobody is introduced. Decide that a lady in what looks like blue
tapestry is probably responsible for _Symphony in Three Sexes_.

Just as dinner is announced Lady B. murmurs to me: "I've put you next to
Sir William. He's interested in _water-supplies_, you know, and I
thought you'd like to talk to him about local conditions."

Find, to my surprise, that Sir W. and I embark almost at once on the
subject of Birth Control. Why or how this topic presents itself cannot
say at all, but greatly prefer it to water-supplies. On the other side of
the table, Robert is sitting next to _Symphony in Three Sexes_. Hope
he is enjoying himself.

Conversation becomes general. Everybody (except Robert) talks about
books. We all say (a) that we have read _The Good Companions_, (b)
that it is a very _long_ book, (c) that it was chosen by the Book of
the Month Club in America and must be having immense sales, and (d) that
American sales are What Really Count. We then turn to _High Wind in
Jamaica_ and say (a) that it is quite a short book, (b) that we
hated--or, alternatively, adored--it, and (c) that it Really _Is_
exactly _Like_ Children. A small minority here surges into being,
and maintains No, they Cannot Believe that any children in the World
wouldn't ever have _noticed_ that John wasn't there any more. They
can swallow everything else, they say, but not _that_. Discussion
very active indeed. I talk to pale young man with horn-rimmed glasses,
sitting at my left-hand, about Jamaica, where neither of us has ever
been. This leads--but cannot say how--to stag-hunting, and eventually to
homeopathy. (_Mem_.: Interesting, if time permitted, to trace train
of thought leading on from one topic to another. Second, and most
disquieting idea: perhaps no such train of thought exists.) Just as we
reach interchange of opinions about growing cucumbers under glass, Lady
B. gets up.

Go into the drawing-room, and all exclaim how nice it is to see the fire.
Room very cold. (Query: Is this good for the bulbs?) Lady in blue
tapestry takes down her hair, which she says she is growing, and puts it
up again. We all begin to talk about hair. Depressed to find that
everybody in the world, except apparently myself, has grown, or is
growing, long hair again. Lady B. says that Nowadays, there Isn't a
Shingled Head to be seen _anywhere_, either in London, Paris, or New
York. Nonsense.

Discover, in the course of the evening, that the blue tapestry has
nothing whatever to do with literature, but is a Government Sanitary
Inspector, and that _Symphony in Three Sexes_ was written by pale
young man with glasses. Lady B. says, Did I get him on to the subject of
_perversion_, as he is always so amusing about it? I reply
evasively.

Men come in, and all herded into billiard room (just as drawing-room
seems to be getting slightly warmer) where Lady B. inaugurates unpleasant
game of skill with billiard balls, involving possession of a Straight
Eye, which most of us do not possess. Robert does well at this. Am
thrilled, and feel it to be more satisfactory way of acquiring
distinction than even authorship of _Symphony in Three Sexes_.

Congratulate Robert on the way home, but he makes no reply.

_November 26th._--Robert says at breakfast that he thinks we are no
longer young enough for late nights.

Frippy and Coleman regret that they can no longer allow account to stand
over, but must request favour of a cheque by return, or will be
compelled, with utmost regret, to take Further Steps. Have written to
Bank to transfer Six Pounds, thirteen shillings, and tenpence from
Deposit Account to Current. (This leaves Three Pounds, seven shillings,
and twopence, to keep Deposit Account open.) Decide to put off paying
milk book till next month, and to let cleaners have something on account
instead of full settlement. This enables me to send F. and C. cheque,
post-dated Dec. 1st, when allowance becomes due. Financial instability
very trying.

_November 28th._--Receipt from F. and C. assuring me of attention to
my future wishes--but evidently far from realising magnitude of effort
involved in setting myself straight with them.

_December 1st._--Cable from dear Rose saying she lands at Tilbury on
10th. Cable back welcome, and will meet her Tilbury, 10th. Tell Vicky
that her godmother, my dearest friend, is returning home after three
years in America. Vicky says: "Oh, will she have a present for me?" Am
disgusted with her mercenary attitude and complain to Mademoiselle, who
replies: "Si la Sainte Vierge revenait sur la terre, madame, ce serait
notre petite Vicky." Do not at all agree with this. Moreover, in other
moods Mademoiselle first person to refer to Vicky as "ce petit demon
enrage".

(Query: Are the Latin races always as sincere as one would wish them to
be?)

_December 3rd._--Radio from dear Rose, landing Plymouth 8th after
all. Send return message, renewed welcomes, and will meet her Plymouth.

Robert adopts unsympathetic attitude and says This is Waste of Time and
Money. Do not know if he means cables, or journey to meet ship, but feel
sure better not to enquire. Shall go to Plymouth on 7th. (_Mem_.:
Pay grocer's book before I go, and tell him last lot of gingernuts were
soft. Find out first if Ethel kept tin properly shut.)

_December 8th.--Plymouth._ Arrived last night, terrific storm, ship
delayed. Much distressed at thought of Rose, probably suffering severe
sea-sickness. Wind howls round hotel, which shakes, rain lashes against
window-pane all night. Do not like my room and have unpleasant idea that
someone may have committed a murder in it. Mysterious door in corner
which I feel conceals a corpse. Remember all the stories I have read to
this effect, and cannot, sleep. Finally open mysterious door and find
large cupboard, but no corpse. Go back to bed again.

Storm worse than ever in the morning, am still more distressed at thought
of Rose, who will probably have to be carried off ship in state of
collapse.

Go round to Shipping Office and am told to be on docks at ten o'clock.
Having had previous experience of this, take fur coat, camp-stool, and
copy of _American Tragedy_ as being longest book I can find, and
camp myself on docks. Rain stops. Other people turn up and look enviously
at camp-stool. Very old lady in black totters up and down till I feel
guilty, and offer to give up camp-stool to her. She replies: "Thank you,
thank you, but my Daimler is outside, and I can sit in that when I wish
to do so."

Return to _American Tragedy_ feeling discouraged.

Find _American Tragedy_ a little oppressive, but read on and on for
about two hours when policeman informs me that tender is about to start
for ship, if I wish to go on board. Remove self, camp-stool, and
_American Tragedy_ to tender. Read for forty minutes. (Mem.: Ask
Rose if American life is really like that.)

Very, very unpleasant half-hour follows. Camp-stool shows tendency to
slide about all over the place, and am obliged to abandon _American
Tragedy_ for the time being.

Numbers of men of seafaring aspect walk about and look at me. One of them
asks Am I a good sailor? No, I am not. Presently ship appears, apparently
suddenly rising up from the middle of the waves, and ropes are dangled in
every direction. Just as I catch sight of Rose, tender is carried away
from ship's side by colossal waves.

Consoled by reflection that Rose is evidently not going to require
carrying on shore, but presently begin to feel that boot, as they say,
may be on the other leg.

More waves, more ropes, and tremendous general activity.

I return to camp-stool, but have no strength left to cope with
_American Tragedy_. A man in oilskins tells me I am In the Way
there, Miss.

Remove myself, camp-stool, and _American Tragedy_ to another corner.
A man in sea-boots says that If I stay there, I may get Badly Knocked
About.

Renewed déménagement of self, camp-stool, _American Tragedy_. Am
slightly comforted by having been called "Miss".

Catch glimpse of Rose from strange angles as tender heaves up and down.
Gangway eventually materialises, and self, camp-stool, and _American
Tragedy_ achieve the ship. Realise too late that camp-stool and
_American Tragedy_ might equally well have remained where they were.

Dear Rose most appreciative of effort involved by coming to meet her, but
declares herself perfectly good sailor, and slept all through last
night's storm. Try hard not to feel unjustly injured about this.

_December 9th._--Rose staying here two days before going on to
London. Says All American houses are Always Warm, which annoys Robert. He
says in return that All American houses are Grossly Overheated and
Entirely Airless. Impossible not to feel that this would carry more
weight if Robert had ever been to America. Rose also very insistent about
efficiency of American Telephone Service, and inclined to ask for glasses
of cold water at breakfast time--which Robert does not approve of.

Otherwise dear Rose entirely unchanged and offers to put me up in her
West-End flat as often as I like to come to London. Accept gratefully.
(_N.B._ How very different to old school-friend Cissie Crabbe, with
bed-sitting-room and gas-ring in Norwich! But should not like to think
myself in any way a snob.)

On Rose's advice, bring bulb-bowls up from cellar and put them in
drawing-room. Several of them perfectly visible, but somehow do not look
entirely healthy. Rose thinks too much watering. If so, Cissie Crabbe
entirely to blame. (_Mem_.: Either move bulb-bowls upstairs, or tell
Ethel to show Lady Boxe into morning-room, if she calls. Cannot possibly
enter into further discussion with her concerning bulbs.)

_December 10th._--Robert, this morning, complains of insufficient
breakfast. Cannot feel that porridge, scrambled eggs, toast, marmalade,
scones, brown bread, and coffee give adequate grounds for this, but admit
that porridge is slightly burnt. How impossible ever to encounter burnt
porridge without vivid recollections of Jane Eyre at Lowood School, say I
parenthetically! This literary allusion not a success. Robert suggests
ringing for Cook, and have greatest difficulty in persuading him that
this course utterly disastrous.

Eventually go myself to kitchen, in ordinary course of events, and
approach subject of burnt porridge circuitously and with utmost care.
Cook replies, as I expected, with expressions of astonishment and
incredulity, coupled with assurances that kitchen range is again at
fault. She also says that new double-saucepan, fish-kettle, and nursery
tea-cups are urgently required. Make enquiries regarding recently
purchased nursery tea-set and am shown one handle without cup, saucer in
three pieces, and cup from which large semicircle has apparently been
bitten. Feel that Mademoiselle will be hurt if I pursue enquiries
further. (Note: Extreme sensibility of the French sometimes makes them
difficult to deal with.)

Read Life and Letters of distinguished woman recently dead, and am
struck, as so often, by difference between her correspondence and that of
less distinguished women. Immense and affectionate letters from
celebrities on every other page, epigrammatic notes from literary and
political acquaintances, poetical assurances of affection and admiration
from husband, and even infant children. Try to imagine Robert writing in
similar strain in the (improbable) event of my attaining celebrity, but
fail. Dear Vicky equally unlikely to commit her feelings (if any) to
paper.

Robin's letter arrives by second post, and am delighted to have it as
ever, but cannot feel that laconic information about boy--unknown to
me--called Baggs, having been swished, and Mr. Gompshaw, visiting master,
being kept away by Sore Throat--is on anything like equal footing with
lengthy and picturesque epistles received almost daily by subject of
biography, whenever absent from home.

Remainder of mail consists of one bill from chemist--(_Mem_.: Ask
Mademoiselle why _two_ tubes of Gibbs' Toothpaste within ten
days)--illiterate postcard from piano-tuner, announcing visit to-morrow,
and circular concerning True Temperance.

Inequalities of Fate very curious. Should like, on this account, to
believe in Reincarnation. Spend some time picturing to myself completely
renovated state of affairs, with, amongst other improvements, total
reversal of relative positions of Lady B. and myself.

(Query: Is thought on abstract questions ever a waste of time?)

_December 11th._--Robert, still harping on topic of yesterday's
breakfast, says suddenly Why Not a Ham? to which I reply austerely that a
ham is on order, but will not appear until arrival of R.'s brother
William and his wife, for Christmas visit. Robert, with every
manifestation of horror, says Are William and Angela coming to us for
_Christmas?_ This attitude absurd, as invitation was given months
ago, at Robert's own suggestion.

(Query here becomes unavoidable: Does not a misplaced optimism exist,
common to all mankind, leading on to false conviction that social
engagements, if dated sufficiently far ahead, will never really
materialise?)

Vicky and Mademoiselle return from walk with small white-and-yellow
kitten, alleged by them homeless and starving. Vicky fetches milk, and
becomes excited. Agree that kitten shall stay "for to-night" but feel
that this is weak.

(_Mem_.: Remind Vicky to-morrow that Daddy does not like cats.)
Mademoiselle becomes very French, on subject of cats generally, and am
obliged to check her. She is _blessée_, and all three retire to
schoolroom.

_December 12th._--Robert says out of the question to keep stray
kitten. Existing kitchen cat more than enough. Gradually modifies this
attitude under Vicky's pleadings. All now depends on whether kitten is
male or female. Vicky and Mademoiselle declare this is known to them, and
kitten already christened Napoleon. Find myself unable to enter into
discussion on the point in French. The gardener takes opposite view to
Vicky's and Mademoiselle's. They thereupon re-christen the kitten, seen
playing with an old tennis ball, as Helen Wills.

Robert's attention, perhaps fortunately, diverted by mysterious trouble
with the water-supply. He says The Ram has Stopped. (This sounds to me
Biblical.)

Give Mademoiselle a hint that H. Wills should not be encouraged to put in
injudicious appearances downstairs.

_December 13th._--Ram resumes activities. Helen Wills still with us.

_December 16th._--Very stormy weather, floods out and many trees
prostrated at inconvenient angles. Call from Lady Boxe, who says that she
is off to the South of France next week, as she Must have Sunshine. She
asks Why I do not go there too, and likens me to piece of chewed string,
which I feel to be entirely inappropriate and rather offensive figure of
speech, though perhaps kindly meant.

Why not just pop into the train, enquires Lady B., pop across France, and
pop out into Blue Sky, Blue Sea, and Summer Sun? Could make perfectly
comprehensive reply to this, but do not do so, question of expense having
evidently not crossed Lady B.'s horizon. (_Mem_.: Interesting
subject for debate at Women's Institute, perhaps: That Imagination is
incompatible with Inherited Wealth. On second thoughts, though, fear this
has a socialistic trend.)

Reply to Lady B. with insincere professions of liking England very much
even in the Winter. She begs me not to let myself become
parochially-minded.

Departure of Lady B. with many final appeals to me to reconsider South of
France. Make civil pretence, which deceives neither of us, of wavering,
and promise to ring her up in the event of a change of mind.

(Query: Cannot many of our moral lapses from Truth be frequently charged
upon the tactless persistence of others?)

_December 17th, London._--Come up to dear Rose's fiat for two days'
Christmas shopping, after prolonged discussion with Robert, who maintains
that All can equally well be done by Post.

Take early train so as to get in extra afternoon. Have with me Robert's
old leather suit-case, own ditto in fibre, large quantity of
chrysanthemums done up in brown paper for .Rose, small packet of
sandwiches, handbag, fur coat in case weather turns cold, book for
journey, and illustrated paper kindly presented by Mademoiselle at the
station. (Query: suggests itself: Could not some of these things have
been dispensed with, and if so which?)

Bestow belongings in the rack, and open illustrated paper with sensation
of leisured opulence, derived from unwonted absence of all domestic
duties.

Unknown lady enters carriage at first stop, and takes seat opposite. She
has expensive-looking luggage in moderate quantity, and small red morocco
jewel-case, also bran-new copy, without library label, of _Life of Sir
Edward Marshall-Hall_. Am reminded of Lady B. and have recrudescence
of Inferiority Complex.

Remaining seats occupied by elderly gentleman wearing spats, nondescript
female in a Burberry, and young man strongly resembling an Arthur Watts
drawing. He looks at a copy of _Punch_, and I spend much time in
wondering if it contains an Arthur Watts drawing and if he is struck by
resemblance, and if so what his reactions are, whether of pain or
gratification.

Roused from these unprofitable, but sympathetic, considerations by
agitation on the part of elderly gentleman, who says that, upon his soul,
he is being dripped upon. Everybody looks at ceiling, and Burberry female
makes a vague reference to unspecified "pipes" which she declares often
"go like that". Someone else madly suggests turning off the' heat.
Elderly gentleman refuses all explanations and declares that _It comes
from the rack_. We all look with horror at Rose's chrysanthemums, from
which large drips of water descend regularly. Am overcome with shame,
remove chrysanthemums, apologise to elderly gentleman, and sit down again
opposite to superior unknown, who has remained glued to _Sir E.
Marshall-Hall_ throughout, and reminds me of Lady B. more than ever.

(_Mem_.: Speak to Mademoiselle about officiousness of thrusting
flowers into water unasked, just before wrapping up.)

Immerse myself in illustrated weekly. Am informed by it that Lord Toto
Finch (inset) is responsible for camera-study (herewith) of the Loveliest
Legs in Los Angeles, belonging to well-known English Society girl, near
relation (by the way) of famous racing peer, father of well-known Smart
Set twins (portrait overleaf).

(Query: Is our popular Press going to the dogs?)

Turn attention to short story, but give it up on being directed, just as
I become interested, to page XLVIIb, which I am quite unable to locate.
Become involved instead with suggestions for Christmas Gifts. I
want my gifts, the writer assures me, to be individual and yet
appropriate--beautiful, and yet enduring. Then why not Enamel
dressing-table set, at £94 16s. 4d. or Set of crystal-ware, exact replica
of early English cut-glass, at moderate price of £34 17s. 9d.?

Why not, indeed?

Am touched to discover further on, however, explicit reference to Giver
with Restricted Means--though even here, am compelled to differ from
author's definition of restricted means. Let originality of thought, she
says, add character to trifling offering. Would not many of my friends
welcome suggestion of a course of treatment--(six for 5 guineas)--at
Madame Dolly Varden's Beauty Parlour in Piccadilly to be placed to my
account?

Cannot visualise myself making this offer to our Vicar's wife, still less
her reception of it, and decide to confine myself to one-and-sixpenny
calendar with picture of sunset on Scaw Fell, as usual.

(Indulge, on the other hand, in a few moments' idle phantasy, in which I
suggest to Lady B. that she should accept from me as a graceful and
appropriate Christmas gift, a course of Reducing Exercises accompanied by
Soothing and Wrinkle-eradicating Face Massage.)

This imaginative exercise brought to a conclusion by arrival.

Obliged to take taxi from station, mainly owing to chrysanthemums (which
would not combine well with two suit-cases and fur coat on moving
stairway, which I distrust and dislike anyhow, and am only too apt to
make conspicuous failure of Stepping Off with Right Foot foremost)--but
also partly owing to fashionable locality of Rose's flat, miles removed
from any Underground.

Kindest welcome from dear Rose, who is most appreciative of
chrysanthemums. Refrain from mentioning unfortunate incident with elderly
gentleman in train.

_December 19th._--Find Christmas shopping very exhausting. Am
paralysed in the Army and Navy Stores on discovering that List of Xmas
Presents is lost, but eventually run it to earth in Children's Books
Department. While there choose book for dear Robin, and wish for the
hundredth time that Vicky had been less definite about wanting Toy
Greenhouse and _nothing else_. This apparently unprocurable.
(_Mem_.: Take early opportunity of looking up story of the Roc's Egg
to tell Vicky.)

Rose says "Try Selfridge's." I protest, but eventually go there, find
admirable--though expensive--Toy Greenhouse, and unpatriotically purchase
it at once. Decide not to tell Robert this.

Choose appropriate offerings for Rose, Mademoiselle, William, and
Angela--(who will be staying with us, so gifts must be above
calendar-mark)--and lesser trifles for everyone else. Unable to decide
between almost invisibly small diary, and really handsome card, for
Cissie Crabbe, but eventually settle on diary, as it will fit into
ordinary-sized envelope.

_December 20th._--Rose takes me to see St. John Ervine's play, and
am much amused. Overhear one lady in stalls ask another: Why don't
_you_ write a play, dear? Well, says the friend, it's so difficult,
what with one thing and another, to find _time_. Am staggered.
(Query: Could I write a play myself? Could we _all_ write plays, if
only we had the time? Reflect that St. J. E. lives in the same county as
myself, but feel that this does not constitute sound excuse for writing
to ask him how he finds the time to write plays.)

_December 22nd._--Return home. One bulb in partial flower, but not
satisfactory.

December 23rd.--Meet Robin at the Junction. He has lost his ticket,
parcel of sandwiches, and handkerchief, but produces large wooden
packing-case, into which little shelf has been wedged. Understand that
this represents result of Carpentry Class--expensive "extra" at
school--and is a Christmas present. Will no doubt appear on bill in due
course.

Robin says essential to get gramophone record called "Is Izzy Azzy Wozz?"
(_N.B._ Am often struck by disquieting thought that the dear
children are entirely devoid of any artistic feeling whatever, in art,
literature, or music. This conviction intensified after hearing "Is Izzy
Azzy Wozz?" rendered fourteen times running on the gramophone, after I
have succeeded in obtaining record.)

Much touched at enthusiastic greeting between Robin and Vicky.
Mademoiselle says, "Ah, c'est gentil!" and produces a handkerchief, which
I think exaggerated, especially as in half-an-hour's time she comes to me
with complaint that R. and V. have gone up into the rafters and are
shaking down plaster from nursery ceiling. Remonstrate with them from
below. They sing "Is Izzy Azzy Wozz?" Am distressed at this, as providing
fresh confirmation of painful conviction that neither has any ear for
music, nor ever will have.

Arrival of William and Angela, at half-past three. Should like to hurry
up tea, but feel that servants would be annoyed, so instead offer to show
them their rooms, which they know perfectly well already. We exchange
news about relations. Robin and Vicky appear, still singing "Is Izzy Azzy
Wozz?" Angela says that they have grown. Can see by her expression that
she thinks them odious, and very badly brought-up. She tells me about the
children in the last house she stayed at. All appear to have been
miracles of cleanliness, intelligence, and charm. A. also adds, most
unnecessarily, that they are musical, and play the piano nicely.

(_Mem_.: A meal the most satisfactory way of entertaining any guest.
Should much like to abridge the interval between tea and dinner--or else
to introduce supplementary collation in between.)

At dinner we talk again about relations, and ask one another if anything
is ever heard of poor Frederick, nowadays, and how Mollie's marriage is
turning out, and whether Grandmama is thinking of going to the East Coast
again this summer. Am annoyed because Robert and William sit on in the
dining-room until nearly ten o'clock, which makes the servants late.

_December 24th._--Take entire family to children's party at
neighbouring Rectory. Robin says Damn three times in the Rector's
hearing, an expression never used by him before or since, but apparently
reserved for this unsuitable occasion. Party otherwise highly successful,
except that I again meet recent arrival at the Grange, on whom I have not
yet called. She is a Mrs. Somers, and is said to keep Bees. Find myself
next to her at tea, but cannot think of anything to say about Bees,
except Does she _like_ them, which sounds like a bad riddle, so
leave it unsaid and talk about Preparatory Schools instead. (Am
interested to note that no two parents ever seem to have heard of one
another's Preparatory Schools. Query: Can this indicate an undue number
of these establishments throughout the country?)

After dinner, get presents ready for children's stockings. William
unfortunately steps on small glass article of doll's furniture intended
for Vicky, but handsomely offers a shilling in compensation, which I
refuse. Much time taken up in discussing this. At eleven P.M. children
still wide awake. Angela suggests Bridge and asks Who is that Mrs. Somers
we met at the Rectory, who seems to be interested in Bees? (A. evidently
more skilled than myself in social amenities, but do not make this
comment aloud.)

_Xmas Day._--Festive, but exhausting, Christmas. Robin and Vicky
delighted with everything, and spend much of the day eating. Vicky
presents' her Aunt Angela with small square of canvas on which blue
donkey is worked in cross-stitch. Do not know whether to apologise for
this or not, but eventually decide better to say nothing, and hint to
Mademoiselle that other design might have been preferable.

The children perhaps rather too much _en évidence_, as Angela,
towards tea-time, begins to tell me that the little Maitlands have such a
delightful nursery, and always spend entire day in it except when out for
long walks with governess and dogs.

William asks if that Mrs. Somers is one of the _Dorsetshire_ lot--a
woman who knows about Bees.

Make a note that I really must call on Mrs. S. early next week. Read up
something about Bees before going.

Turkey and plum-pudding cold in the evening, to give servants a rest.
Angela looks at bulbs, and says What made me think they would be in
flower for Christmas? Do not reply to this, but suggest early bed for us
all.

_December 27th._--Departure of William and Angela. Slight shock
administered at eleventh hour by Angela, who asks if I realise that
_she_ was winner of first prize in last week's _Time and Tide_
Competition, under the pseudonym of _Intelligensia_. Had naturally
no idea of this, but congratulate her, without mentioning that I entered
for same competition myself, without success.

(Query: Are Competition Editors always sound on questions of literary
merit? Judgement possibly becomes warped through overwork.)

Another children's party this afternoon, too large and elaborate. Mothers
stand about it in black hats and talk to one another about gardens,
books, and difficulty of getting servants to stay in the country. Tea
handed about the hall in a detached way, while children are herded into
another room. Vicky and Robin behave well, and I compliment them on the
way home, but am informed later by Mademoiselle that she has found large
collection of chocolate biscuits in pocket of Vicky's party-frock.

(_Mem_.: Would it be advisable to point out to Vicky that this
constitutes failure in intelligence, as well as in manners, hygiene, and
common honesty?)

_January 1st, 1930._--We give a children's party ourselves. Very,
very exhausting performance, greatly complicated by stormy weather, which
keeps half the guests away, and causes grave fears as to arrival of the
conjurer.

Decide to have children's tea in the dining-room, grown-ups in the study,
and clear the drawing-room for games and conjurer. Minor articles of
drawing-room furniture moved up to my bedroom, where I continually knock
myself against them. Bulb-bowls greatly in everybody's way and are put on
window-ledges in passage, at which Mademoiselle says: "Tiens! ça fait un
drôle d'effet, ces malheureux petits brins de verdure!" Do not like this
description at all.

The children from neighbouring Rectory arrive too early, and are shown
into completely empty drawing-room. Entrance of Vicky, in new green
party-frock, with four balloons, saves situation.

(Query: What is the reason that clerical households are always
unpunctual, invariably arriving either first, or last, at any gathering
to which bidden?)

Am struck at variety of behaviour amongst mothers, some so helpful in
organising games and making suggestions, others merely sitting
about. (_N.B._ For sake of honesty, should rather say _standing_
about, as supply of chairs fails early.) Resolve always to send Robin and
Vicky to parties without me, if possible, as children without parents
infinitely preferable from point of view of hostess. Find it difficult to
get "Oranges and Lemons" going, whilst at same time appearing to give
intelligent attention to remarks from visiting mother concerning
Exhibition of Italian Pictures at Burlington House. Find myself telling
her how marvellous I think them, although in actual fact have not yet
seen them at all. Realise that this mis-statement should be corrected at
once, but omit to do so, and later find myself involved in entirely
unintentional web of falsehood. Should like to work out how far morally
to blame for this state of things, but have not time.

Tea goes off well. Mademoiselle presides in dining-room, I in
study. Robert and solitary elderly father--(looks more like a
grandfather)--stand in doorway and talk about big-game shooting and
the last General Election, in intervals of handing tea.

Conjurer arrives late, but is a success with children. Ends up with
presents from a bran-tub, in which more bran is spilt on carpet,
children's clothes, and house generally, than could ever have been got
into tub originally. Think this odd, but have noticed similar phenomenon
before.

Guests depart between seven and half-past, and Helen Wills and the dog
are let out by Robin, having been shut up on account of crackers, which
they dislike.

Robert and I spend evening helping servants to restore order, and trying
to remember where ash-trays, clock, ornaments, and ink were put for
safety.

_January 3rd._--Hounds meet in the village. Robert agrees to take
Vicky on the pony. Robin, Mademoiselle, and I walk to the Post Office to
see the start, and Robin talks about Oliver Twist, making no reference
whatever to hunt from start to finish, and viewing horses, hounds, and
huntsmen with equal detachment. Am impressed at his non-suggestibility,
but feel that some deep Freudian significance may lie behind it all. Feel
also that Robert would take very different view of it.

Meet quantities of hunting neighbours, who say to Robin, "Aren't you
riding too?" which strikes one as lacking in intelligence, and ask me if
we have lost many trees lately, but do not wait for answer, as what they
really want to talk about is the number of trees they have lost
themselves.

Mademoiselle looks at hounds and says, "Ah, ces bons chiens!" also
admires horses, "quelles bêtes superbes"--but prudently keeps well away
from all, in which I follow her example.

Vicky looks nice on pony, and I receive compliments about her, which I
accept in an off-hand manner, tinged with incredulity, in order to show
that I am a modern mother and should scorn to be foolish about my
children.

Hunt moves off, Mademoiselle remarking, "Voilà bien le sport anglais!"
Robin says: "Now can we go home?" and eats milk-chocolate. We return to
the house and I write order to the Stores, post-card to the butcher, two
letters about Women's Institutes, one about Girl Guides, note to the
dentist asking for appointment next week, and make memorandum in
engagement-book that I _must_ call on Mrs. Somers at the Grange.

Am horrified and incredulous at discovery that these occupations have
filled the entire morning.

Robert and Vicky return late, Vicky plastered with mud from head to foot
but unharmed. Mademoiselle removes her, and says no more about _le
sport anglais_.

_January 4th._--A beautiful day, very mild, makes me feel that with
any reasonable luck Mrs. Somers will be out, and I therefore call at the
Grange. She is, on the contrary, in. Find her in the drawing-room,
wearing printed velvet frock that I immediately think would look nice on
_me_. No sign anywhere of Bees, but am getting ready to enquire
about them intelligently when Mrs. Somers suddenly says that her Mother
is here, and knows my old school-friend Cissie Crabbe, who says that I am
so _amusing_. The Mother comes in--very elegant Marcel wave--(cannot
imagine where she got it, unless she has this moment come from
London)--and general air of knowing how to dress in the country. She is
introduced to me--name sounds exactly like Eggchalk but do not think this
possible--and says she knows my old school-friend Miss Crabbe, at
Norwich, and has heard all about how very, very amusing I am. Become
completely paralysed and can think of nothing whatever to say except that
it has been very stormy lately. Leave as soon as possible.

_January 5th._--Rose, in the kindest way, offers to take me as her
guest to special dinner of famous Literary Club if I will come up to
London for the night. Celebrated editor of literary weekly paper in the
chair, spectacularly successful author of famous play as guest of honour.
Principal authors, poets, and artists from--says Rose--all over the
world, expected to be present.

Spend much of the evening talking to Robert about this. Put it to him:
(a) That no expense is involved beyond 3rd class return ticket to London;
(b) that in another twelve years Vicky will be coming out, and it is
therefore incumbent on me to Keep in Touch with People; (c) that this is
an opportunity that will never occur again; (d) that it isn't as if I
were asking him to come too. Robert says nothing to (a) or (b) and only
"I should hope not" to (c), but appears slightly moved by (d). Finally
says he supposes I must do as I like, and very likely I shall meet some
old friends of my Bohemian days when living with Rose in Hampstead.

Am touched by this, and experience passing wonder if Robert can be
feeling slightly jealous. This fugitive idea dispelled by his immediately
beginning to speak about failure of hot water this morning.

_January 7th._--Rose takes me to Literary Club dinner. I wear my
Blue. Am much struck by various young men who have defiantly put on
flannel shirts and no ties, and brushed their hair up on end. They are
mostly accompanied by red-headed young women who wear printed crêpe
frocks and beads. Otherwise, everyone in evening dress. Am introduced to
distinguished Editor, who turns out to be female and delightful. Should
like to ask her once and for all why prizes in her paper's weekly
competition are so often divided, but feel this would be unsuitable and
put Rose to shame.

Am placed at dinner next to celebrated best-seller, who tells me in the
kindest way how to evade paying super-tax. Am easily able to conceal from
him the fact that I am not at present in a position to require this
information. Very distinguished artist sits opposite, and becomes more
and more convivial as evening advances. This encourages me to remind him
that we have met before--which we have, in old Hampstead days. He
declares enthusiastically that he remembers me perfectly--which we both
know to be entirely untrue--and adds wildly that he has followed my work
ever since. Feel it better to let this pass unchallenged. Later on,
distinguished artist is found to have come out without any money, and all
in his immediate neighbourhood are required to lend him amount demanded
by head-waiter.

Feel distinctly thankful that Robert is not with me, and am moreover
morally certain that distinguished artist will remember nothing whatever
in the morning, and will therefore be unable to refund my
three-and-sixpence.

Rose handsomely pays for my dinner as well as her own.

(This suggests _Mem_.: That English cooking, never unduly
attractive, becomes positively nauseating on any public occasion, such as
a banquet. Am seriously distressed at probable reactions of foreign
visitors to this evening's fish, let alone other items.)

Young gentleman is introduced to me by Rose--(she saying in rapid murmur
that he is part-author of a one-act play that has been acted three times
by a Repertory company in Jugo-Slavia.) It turns out later that he has
met Lady Boxe, who struck him, he adds immediately, as a poisonous woman.
We then get on well together. (Query: Is not a common hate one of the
strongest links in human nature? Answer, most regrettably, in the
affirmative.)

Very, very distinguished Novelist approaches me (having evidently
mistaken me for someone else), and talks amiably. She says that she can
only write between twelve at night and four in the morning, and not
always then. When she cannot write, she plays the organ. Should much like
to ask whether she is married--but get no opportunity of asking that or
anything else. She tells me about her sales. She tells me about her last
book. She tells me about her new one. She says that there are many people
here to whom she _must_ speak, and pursues well-known Poet--who does
not, however, allow her to catch up with him. Can understand this.

Speeches are made. Am struck, as so often, by the eloquence and
profundity of other people, and reflect how sorry I should be to have to
make a speech myself, although so often kept awake at night composing
wholly admirable addresses to the servants, Lady B., Mademoiselle, and
others--which, however, never get delivered.

Move about after dinner, and meet acquaintance whose name I have
forgotten, but connect with literature. I ask if he has published
anything lately. He says that his work is not, and never can be, for
publication. Thought passes through my mind to the effect that this
attitude might with advantage be adopted by many others. Do not say so,
however, and we talk instead about Rebecca West, the progress of
aviation, and the case for and against stag-hunting.

Rose, who has been discussing psychiatry as practised in the U.S.A. with
Danish journalist, says Am I ready to go? Distinguished artist who sat
opposite me at dinner offers to drive us both home, but his friends
intervene. Moreover, acquaintance whose name I have forgotten takes me
aside, and assures me that D.A. is quite unfit to take anybody home, and
will himself require an escort. Rose and I depart by nearest Tube, as
being wiser, if less exalted, procedure.

Sit up till one o'clock discussing our fellow-creatures, with special
reference to those seen and heard this evening. Rose says I ought to come
to London more often, and suggests that outlook requires broadening.

_January 9th._--Came home yesterday. Robin and Mademoiselle no
longer on speaking terms, owing to involved affair centering round a
broken window-pane. Vicky, startlingly, tells me in private that she has
learnt a new Bad Word, but does not mean to use it. Not now, anyway, she
disquietingly adds.

Cook says she hopes I enjoyed my holiday, and it is very quiet in the
country. I leave the kitchen before she has time to say more, but am only
too well aware that this is not the last of it.

Write grateful letter to Rose, at the same time explaining difficulty of
broadening my outlook by further time spent away from home, just at
present.

_January 14th._--I have occasion to observe, not for the first time,
how extraordinarily plain a cold can make one look, affecting hair,
complexion, and features generally, besides nose and upper lip. Cook
assures me that colds always run through the house and that she herself
has been suffering from sore throat for weeks, but is never one to make a
fuss. (Query: Is this meant to imply that similar fortitude should be,
but is not, displayed by me?) Mademoiselle says she _hopes_ children
will not catch my cold, but that both sneezed this morning. I run short
of handkerchiefs.

_January 16th._--We all run short of handkerchiefs.

_January 17th._--Mademoiselle suggests butter-muslin. There is none
in the house. I say that I will go out and buy some. Mademoiselle says,
"No, the fresh air gives pneumonia." Feel that I ought to combat this
un-British attitude, but lack energy, especially when she adds that she
will go herself--"Madame, j'y cours." She puts on black kid gloves,
buttoned boots with pointed tips and high heels, hat with little feather
in it, black jacket and several silk neckties, and goes, leaving me to
amuse Robin and Vicky, both in bed. Twenty minutes after she has started,
I remember it is early-closing day.

Go up to night-nursery and offer to read Lamb's _Tales from
Shakespeare_. Vicky says she prefers _Pip, Squeak, and Wilfred_.
Robin says that he would like _Gulliver's Travels_. Compromise on
Grimm's Fairy Tales, although slightly uneasy as to their being in
accordance with best modern ideals. Both children take immense interest
in story of highly undesirable person who wins fortune, fame, and
beautiful Princess by means of lies, violence, and treachery. Feel sure
that this must have disastrous effect on both in years to come.

Our Vicar's wife calls before Mademoiselle returns. Go down to her,
sneezing, and suggest that she had better not stay. She says, much better
not, and she won't keep me a minute. Tells me long story about the Vicar
having a stye on one eye. I retaliate with Cook's sore throat. This leads
to draughts, the, heating apparatus in church, and news of Lady Boxe in
South of France: The Vicar's wife has had a picture postcard from her
(which she produces from bag), with small cross marking bedroom window of
hotel. She says, It's rather interesting, isn't it? to which I reply Yes,
it is, very, which is not in the least true. (_N.B._ Truth-telling
in everyday life extraordinarily difficult. Is this personal, and highly
deplorable, idiosyncrasy, or do others suffer in the same way? Have
momentary impulse to put this to our, Vicar's wife, but decide better
not.)

How, she says, are the dear children, and how is my husband? I reply
suitably, and she tells me about cinnamon, Viapex, gargling with
glycerine of thymnol, blackcurrant tea, onion broth, friar's balsam,
linseed poultices, and thermogene wool. I sneeze and say Thank you--thank
you very much, a good many times.. She goes, but turns back at the door
to tell me about wool next the skin, nasal douching, and hot milk last
thing at night. I say Thank you, again.

On returning to night-nursery, find that Robin has unscrewed top of
hot-water bottle in Vicky's bed, which apparently contained several
hundred gallons of tepid water, now distributed through and through
pillows, pyjamas, sheets, blankets, and mattresses of both. I ring for
Ethel--who helps me to reorganise entire situation and says It's like a
hospital, isn't it, trays up and down stairs all day long, and all this
extra work.

_January 20th._--Take Robin, now completely restored, back to
school. I ask the Headmaster what he thinks of his progress. The
Headmaster answers that the New Buildings will be finished before Easter,
and that their numbers are increasing so rapidly that he will probably
add on a New Wing next term, and perhaps I saw a letter of his in the
_Times_ replying to Dr. Cyril Norwood? Make mental note to the
effect that Headmasters are a race apart, and that if parents would
remember this, much time could be saved.

Robin and I say good-bye with hideous brightness, and I cry all the way
back to the station.

_January 22nd._--Robert startles me at breakfast by asking if my
cold--which he has hitherto ignored--is better. I reply that it has gone.
Then why, he asks, do I look like that? Refrain from asking like what, as
I know only too well. Feel that life is wholly unendurable, and decide
madly to get a new hat.

Customary painful situation between Bank and myself necessitates
expedient, also customary, of pawning great-aunt's diamond ring, which I
do, under usual conditions, and am greeted as old friend by Plymouth
pawnbroker, who says facetiously, And what name will it be _this_
time?

Visit four linen-drapers and try on several dozen hats. Look worse and
worse in each one, as hair gets wilder and wilder, and expression paler
and more harassed. Decide to get myself shampooed and waved before doing
any more, in hopes of improving the position.

Hairdresser's assistant says, It's a pity my hair is losing all its
colour, and have I ever thought of having it touched up? After long
discussion, I do have it touched up, and emerge with mahogany-coloured
head. Hairdresser's assistant says this will wear off "in a few days". I
am very angry, but all to no purpose. Return home in old hat, showing as
little hair as possible, and keep it on till dressing time--but cannot
hope to conceal my shame at dinner.

_January 23rd._--Mary Kellway telegraphs she is motoring past here
this morning, can I give her lunch? Telegraph Yes, delighted, and rush to
kitchen. Cook unhelpful and suggests cold beef and beetroot. I say Yes,
excellent, unless perhaps roast chicken and bread sauce even better? Cook
talks about the oven. Compromise in the end on cutlets and mashed
potatoes, as, very luckily, this is the day butcher calls.

Always delighted to see dear Mary--so clever and amusing, and able to
write stories, which actually get published and paid for--but very uneasy
about colour of my hair, which is not wearing off in the least. Think
seriously of keeping a hat on all through lunch, but this, on the whole,
would look even more unnatural. Besides, could not hope that it would
pass without observation from Vicky, let alone Robert.

_Later._--Worst fears realised, as to hair. Dear Mary, always so
observant, gazes at it in nerve-shattering silence but says nothing, till
I am driven to make half-hearted explanation. Her only comment is that
she cannot imagine why anybody should deliberately make themselves look
ten years older than they need. Feel that, if she wishes to discourage
further experiments on my part, this observation could scarcely be
improved upon. Change the subject, and talk about the children. Mary most
sympathetic, and goes so far as to say that my children have brains,
which encourages me to tell anecdotes about them until I see Robert
looking at me, just as I get to Robin's precocious taste for really good
literature. By curious coincidence second post brings letter from Robin,
saying that he wishes to collect cigarette-cards and will I send him all
the types of National Beauty, Curious Beaks, and Famous Footballers, that
I can find. Make no comment on this singular request aloud.

Mary stays to tea and we talk about H. G. Wells, Women's Institutes,
infectious illness, and _Journey's End_. Mary says she cannot go and
see this latter because she always cries at the theatre. I say, Then once
more will make no difference. Discussion becomes involved, and we drop
it. Vicky comes in and immediately offers to recite. Can see that Mary
(who has three children of her own) does not in the least want to hear
her, but she feigns enthusiasm politely. Vicky recites: "Maître Corbeau
sur un arbre perché"--(_N.B._ Suggest to Mademoiselle that Vicky's
repertory should be enlarged. Feel sure that I have heard Maitre Corbeau,
alternately with La Cigale et la Fourmi, some eight hundred times within
the last six months.)

After Mary has gone, Robert looks at me and suddenly remarks: "Now
_that's_ what I call an attractive woman." Am gratified at his
appreciation of talented friend, but should like to be a little clearer
regarding exact significance of emphasis on the word _that_. Robert,
however, says no more, and opportunity is lost as Ethel comes in to say
Cook is sorry she's run right out of milk, but if I will come to the
store-cupboard she thinks there's a tin of Ideal, and she'll make do with
that.

_January 25th._--Attend a Committee Meeting in the village to
discuss how to raise funds for Village Hall. Am asked to take the chair.
Begin by saying that I know how much we all have this excellent object
at heart, and that I feel sure there swill be no lack of suggestions as
to best method of obtaining requisite sum of money. Pause for
suggestions, which is met with death-like silence. I say, There are so
many ways to choose from--implication being that I attribute silence to
plethora of ideas, rather than to absence of them. (_Note_: Curious
and rather depressing, to see how frequently the pursuit of Good Works
leads to apparently unavoidable duplicity.) Silence continues, and I say
Well, twice, and Come, come, once. (Sudden impulse to exclaim, "I lift
up my finger and I say Tweet, Tweet," is fortunately overcome.) At last:
extract a suggestion of a concert from Mrs. L. (whose son plays the
violin) and a whist-drive from Miss P. (who won Ladies' First Prize at
the last one). Florrie P. suggests a dance and is at once reminded that
it will be Lent. She says that Lent isn't what it was. Her mother says
the Vicar is one that holds with Lent, and always has been. Someone else
says That reminds her, has anyone heard that old Mr. Small passed away
last night? We all agree that eighty-six is a great age. Mrs. L. says
that on her mother's side of the family, there is an aunt of
ninety-eight. Still with us, she adds. The aunt's husband, on the other
hand, was gathered just before his sixtieth birthday. Everyone says, You
can't ever _tell_, not really. There is a suitable pause before we
go back to Lent and the Vicar. General opinion that a concert isn't like
a dance, and needn't--says Mrs. L.--interfere.

On this understanding, we proceed. Various familiar items--piano solo,
recitation, duet, and violin solo from Master L.--are all agreed upon.
Someone says that Mrs. F. and Miss H. might do a dialogue, and has to be
reminded that they are no longer on speaking terms, owing to strange
behaviour of Miss H. about her bantams. Ah, says Mrs. S., it wasn't only
_bantams_ was at the bottom of it, there's two sides to every
question. (There are at least twenty to this one, by the time we've done
with it.)

Sudden appearance of our Vicar's wife, who says apologetically that she
made a mistake in the time. I beg her to take the chair. She refuses. I
insist. She says No, no, positively not, and takes it.

We begin all over again, but general attitude towards Lent much less
elastic.

Meeting ends at about five o'clock. Our Vicar's wife walks 'home with me,
and tells me that I look tired. I ask her to come in and have tea. No,
she says, no, it's too kind of me, but she must go on to the far end of
the parish. She remains standing at the gate telling me about old
Small--eighty-six a great age--till quarter-to-six, when she departs,
saying that she cannot _think_ why I am looking so tired.

_February 11th._--Robin writes again about cigarette-cards. I send
him all those I have collected, and Vicky produces two which she has
obtained from the garden-boy. Find that this quest grows upon one, and am
apt now, when in Plymouth or any other town, to scan gutters, pavements,
and tram-floors in search of Curious Beaks, Famous Football Players, and
the like. Have even gone so far as to implore perfect stranger, sitting
opposite me in train, _not_ to throw cigarette-card out of the
window, but give it to me instead. Perfect stranger does so with an air
of courteous astonishment, and as he asks for no explanation, am obliged
to leave him under the impression that I have merely been trying to force
him into conversation with me.

(_Note:_ Could not short article, suitable for _Time and Tide_,
be worked up on some such lines as: Lengths to which Mother-love may
legitimately go? On second thoughts abandon the idea, as being faintly
reminiscent of _démodé_ enquiry: Do Shrimps make Good Mothers?)

Hear that Lady Boxe has returned from South of France and is entertaining
house-party. She sends telephone message by the butler, asking me to tea
to-morrow. I accept. (Why?)

_February 12th._--Insufferable behaviour of Lady B. Find large
party, all of whom are directed at front door to go to the Hard Courts,
where, under inadequate shelter, in Arctic temperature, all are compelled
to watch young men in white flannels keeping themselves warm by banging a
little ball against a wall. Lady B. wears an emerald-green leather coat
with fur collar and cuffs. I, having walked down, have on ordinary coat
and skirt, and freeze rapidly. Find myself next unknown lady who talks
wistfully about the tropics. Can well understand this. On other side
elderly gentleman, who says conversationally that this Naval Disarmament
is All his Eye. This contribution made to contemporary thought, he says
no more. Past five o'clock before we are allowed to go in to tea, by
which time am only too well aware that my face is blue and my hands
purple. Lady B. asks me at tea how the children are, and adds, to the
table at large, that I am "A Perfect Mother". Am naturally avoided,
conversationally, after this, by everybody at the tea-table. Later on,
Lady B. tells us about South of France. She quotes repartees made by
herself in French, and then translates them.

(Unavoidable Query presents itself here: Would a verdict of Justifiable
Homicide delivered against their mother affect future careers of children
unfavourably?)

Discuss foreign travel with unknown, but charming, lady in black. We are
delighted with one another--or so I confidently imagine--arid she begs me
to go and see her if I am ever in her neighbourhood. I say that I
will--but am well aware that courage will fail me when it comes to the
point. Pleasant sense of mutual sympathy suddenly and painfully shattered
by my admitting--in reply to direct enquiry--that I am _not_ a
gardener--which the lady in black is, to an extent that apparently
amounts to monomania. She remains charming, but quite ceases to be
delighted with me, and I feel discouraged.

(_N.B._ _Must_ try to remember that Social Success is seldom
the portion of those who habitually live in the provinces. No doubt they
serve some other purpose in the vast field of Creation--but have not yet
discovered what.)

Lady B. asks if I have seen the new play at the Royalty. I say No. She
says Have I been to the Italian Art Exhibition? I have not. She enquires
what I think of _Her Privates We_--which I haven't yet read--and I
at once give her a long and spirited account of my reactions to it. Feel
after this that I had better go, before I am driven to further excesses.

Shall she, says Lady B., ring for my car? Refrain from replying that no
amount of ringing will bring my car to the door all by itself, and say
instead that I walked. Lady B. exclaims that this is Impossible, and that
I am Too Marvellous, Altogether. Take my leave before she can add that I
am such a Perfect Countrywoman, which I feel is coming next.

Get home--still chilled to the bone owing to enforced detention at Hard
Court--and tell Robert what I think of Lady B. He makes no answer, but I
feel he agrees.

Mademoiselle says: "Tiens! Madame a mauvaise mine. On dirait un
cadavre..."

Feel that this is kindly meant, but do not care about the picture that it
conjures up.

Say good-night to Vicky, looking angelic in bed, and ask what she is
thinking about, lying there. She disconcertingly replies with briskness:
"Oh, Kangaroos and things."

(_Note:_ The workings of the infant mind very, very difficult to
follow, sometimes. Mothers by no means infallible.)

_February 14th._--Have won first prize in _Time and Tide_
competition, but again divided. Am very angry indeed, and write excellent
letter to the Editor under false name, protesting against this iniquitous
custom. After it has gone, become seriously uneasy under the fear that
the use of a false name is illegal. Look through _Whitaker_, but can
find nothing but Stamp Duties and Concealment of Illegitimate Births, so
abandon it in disgust.

Write to Angela--under my own name--to enquire kindly if _she_ went
in for the competition. Hope she did, and that she will have the decency
to say so.

_February 16th._--Informed by Ethel, as she calls me in the morning,
that Helen Wills has had six kittens, of which five survive.

Cannot imagine how I shall break this news to Robert. Reflect--not for
the first time--that the workings of Nature are most singular.

Angela writes that she _didn't_ go in for competition, thinking the
subject puerile, but that she solved "Merope's" Crossword puzzle in
fifteen minutes.

(_N.B._ This last statement almost certainly inaccurate.)

_February 21st._--Remove bulb-bowls, with what is left of bulbs, to
greenhouse. Tell Robert that I hope to do better another year. He
replies, Another year, better not waste my money. This reply depresses
me, moreover weather continues Arctic, and have by no means recovered
from effects of Lady B.'s so-called hospitality.

Vicky and Mademoiselle spend much time in boot-cupboard, where Helen
Wills is established with five kittens. Robert still unaware of what has
happened, but cannot hope this ignorance will continue. Must, however,
choose suitable moment for revelation--which is unlikely to occur today
owing to bath-water having been cold again this morning.

Lady B. calls in the afternoon--not, as might have been expected, to see
if I am in bed with pneumonia, but to ask if I will help at a Bazaar
early in May. Further enquiry reveals that it is in aid of the Party
Funds. I say What Party? (Am well aware of Lady B.'s political views, but
resent having it taken for granted that mine are the same--which they are
not.)

Lady B. says she is Surprised. Later on she says Look at the Russians,
and even, Look at the Pope. I find myself telling her to Look at
Unemployment--none of which gets us any further. Am relieved when tea
comes in, and still more so when Lady B. says she really mustn't wait, as
she has to call on such a number of Tenants. She asks after Robert, and I
think seriously of replying that he is out receiving the Oath of
Allegiance from all the vassals on the estate, but decide that this would
be undignified.

Escort Lady B. to the hall-door. She tells me that the oak dresser would
look better on the other side of the hall, and that it is a mistake to
put mahogany and walnut in the same room. Her last word is that she will
Write, about the bazaar. Relieve my feelings by waving small red flag
belonging to Vicky, which is lying on the hall-stand, and saying _A la
lanterne_! as chauffeur drives off. Rather unfortunately, Ethel
chooses this moment to walk through the hall. She says nothing, but looks
astonished.

_February 22nd._--Gloom prevails, owing to Helen Wills having
elected, with incredible idiocy, to introduce progeny, one by one, to
Robert's notice at late hour last night, when he was making final round
of the house.

Send Mademoiselle and Vicky on errand to the village whilst massacre of
the innocents takes place in pail of water in backyard. Small ginger is
allowed to survive. Spend much time in thinking out plausible story to
account to Vicky for disappearance of all the rest. Mademoiselle, when
informed privately of what has happened, tells me to leave Vicky to
her--which I gladly agree to do--and adds that "les hommes manquent de
coeur". Feel that this is leading us in the direction of a story which I
have heard before, and do not wish to hear again, regarding _un mariage
échoué_ arranged years ago for Mademoiselle by her parents, in which
negotiations broke down owing to mercenary attitude of _le futur_.
Break in with hasty enquiry regarding water-tightness or otherwise of
Vicky's boots.

(Query: Does incessant pressure of domestic cares vitiate capacity for
human sympathy? Fear that it does, but find myself unable to attempt
reformation in this direction at present.)

Receive long, and in parts illegible, letter from Cissie Crabbe, bearing
on the back of the envelope extraordinary enquiry: Do you know of a
really _good_ hotel Manageress? Combat strong inclination to reply
on a postcard: No, but can recommend thoroughly reliable Dentist. Dear
Cissie, one remembers from old schooldays, has very little sense of
humour.

_February 24th._--Robert and I lunch with our Member and his wife. I
sit next elderly gentleman who talks about stag-hunting and tells me that
there is Nothing Cruel about it. The Stag _likes_ it, and it is an
honest, healthy, thoroughly _English_ form of sport. I say Yes, as
anything else would be waste of breath, and turn to Damage done by recent
storms, New arrivals in the neighbourhood, and Golf-links at Budleigh
Salterton. Find that we get back to stag-hunting again in next to no
time, and remain there for the rest of lunch.

Can hear Robert's neighbour, sitting opposite in cochineal three-piece
suit, telling him about her Chilblains. Robert civil, but does not appear
unduly concerned. (Perhaps three-piece cochineal thinks that he is one of
those people who feel more than they can express?) She goes on to past
appendicitis, present sciatica, and threat of colitis in the near future.
Robert still unmoved.

Ladies retire to the drawing-room and gather round quite inadequate fire.
Coffee. I perform my usual sleight-of-hand, transferring large piece of
candy-sugar from saucer to handbag, for Vicky's benefit. (Query: Why do
people living in same neighbourhood as myself obtain without difficulty
minor luxuries that I am totally unable to procure? Reply to this, if
pursued to logical conclusion, appears to point to inadequate
housekeeping on my part.)

Entrance of males. I hear my neighbour at lunch beginning all over again
about stag-hunting, this time addressed to his hostess, who is well-known
supporter of the R.S.P.C.A.

Our Member talks to me about Football. I say that I think well of the
French, and that Béhotéguy plays a good game. (_N.B._ This solitary
piece of knowledge always coming in useful, but _must_ try and find
out name of at least one British player, so as to vary it.)

As we take our leave with customary graceful speeches, clasp of handbag
unfortunately gives way, and piece of candy-sugar falls, with incredible
noise and violence, on to the parquet, and is pursued with officious zeal
and determination by all present except myself.

Very, very difficult moment...

Robert, on the whole, takes this well, merely enquiring on the way home
if I suppose that we shall ever be asked inside the house again.

_February 28th._--Notice, and am gratified by, appearance of large
clump of crocuses near the front gate. Should like to make whimsical and
charming reference to these, and try to fancy myself as "Elizabeth of the
German Garden", but am interrupted by Cook, saying that the Fish is here,
but he's only brought cod and haddock, and the haddock doesn't smell any
too fresh, so what about cod?

Have often noticed that Life is like that.

_March 1st._--The Kellways lunch with us, before going on all
together to wedding of Rosemary H., daughter of mutual friend and
neighbour. Fire refuses to burn up, and am still struggling with it when
they arrive, with small boy, Vicky's contemporary--all three frozen with
cold. I say, Do come and get warm! and they accept this, alas
meaningless, offer with enthusiasm. Vicky rushes in, and am struck, as
usual, by the complete and utter straightness of her hair in comparison
with that of practically every other child in the world. (Little Kellway
has natural wave.)

Chickens over-done, and potatoes underdone. Meringues quite a success,
especially with the children, though leading to brisk _sotto-voce_
encounter between Vicky and Mademoiselle on question of second helping.
This ends by an appeal from Mademoiselle for "un bon mouvement" on
Vicky's part--which she facilitates by summarily removing her plate,
spoon, and fork. Everybody ignores this drama, with the exception of the
infant Kellway, who looks amused, and unblenchingly attacks a second
meringue.

Start directly after lunch, Robert and Mary's husband appearing in a
highly unnatural state of shiny smartness with a top-hat apiece. Effect
of this splendour greatly mitigated, when they don the top-hats, by
screams of unaffected amusement from both children. We drive off, leaving
them leaning against Mademoiselle, apparently helpless with mirth.

(Query: Is not the inferiority complex, about which so much is written
and spoken, nowadays shifting from the child to the parent?)

Mary wears blue with admirable diamond ornament, and looks nice. I wear
red, and think regretfully of great-aunt's diamond ring, still reposing
in back street of Plymouth, under care of old friend the pawnbroker.
(_Note:_ Financial situation very low indeed, and must positively
take steps to send assortment of old clothes to second-hand dealer for
disposal. Am struck by false air of opulence with which I don fur coat,
white gloves, and new shoes--one very painful--and get into the car.
Irony of life thus exemplified.)

Charming wedding, Rosemary H. looks lovely, bridesmaids highly
picturesque. One of them has bright red hair, and am completely paralysed
by devastating enquiry from Mary's husband, who hisses at me through his
teeth: _Is that the colour yours was when you dyed it?_

Crowds of people at the reception. Know most of them, but am startled by
strange lady in pink, wearing eye-glasses, who says that I don't remember
her--which is only too true--but that she has played tennis at my house.
How, she says, are those sweet twins? Find myself telling her that they
are very well indeed, before I know where I am. Can only trust never to
set eyes on her again.

Exchange talk with Mrs. Somers, recent arrival to the neighbourhood, who
apologises profusely for never having returned my call. Am in doubt
whether to say that I haven't noticed the omission, or that I hope she
will repair it as quickly as possible. Either sounds uncivil.

Speak to old Lady Dufford, who reminds me that the last time we met was
at the Jones wedding. _That_, she says, came to grief within a year.
She also asks if I have heard about the Greens, who have separated, and
poor Winifred R., who has had to go back to her parents because He
drinks. Am not surprised when she concludes with observation that it is
rather _heartrending_ to see the two young things setting out
together.

Large car belonging to bridegroom draws up at hall-door, and old Lady D.
further wags her head at me and says Ah, in _our_ day it would have
been a carriage and pair--to which I offer no assent, thinking it very
unnecessary reminder of the flight of Time--and in any event, am Lady
D.'s junior by a good many years.

Melancholy engendered by the whole of this conversation is lightened by
glass of champagne. I ask Robert, sentimentally, if this makes him think
of _our_ wedding. He looks surprised and says No, not particularly,
why should it? As I cannot at the moment think of any particular reply to
this, the question drops.

Departure of the bridal couple is followed by general exodus, and I take
the Kellways home to tea.

Remove shoes with great thankfulness.

_March 3rd._--Vicky, after Halma, enquires abruptly whether, if she
died, I should cry? I reply in the affirmative. But, she says, should I
cry really _hard_. Should I roar and scream? Decline to commit
myself to any such extravagant demonstrations, at which Vicky displays a
tendency to hurt astonishment. I speak to Mademoiselle and say that I
hope she will discourage anything in Vicky that seems to verge upon the
morbid. Mademoiselle requires a translation of the last word, and, after
some consideration, I suggest dénaturé, at which she screams dramatically
and crosses herself, and assures me that if I knew what I was saying, I
should "en reculer d'effroi".

We decide to abandon the subject.

Our Vicar's wife calls for me at seven o'clock, and we go to a
neighbouring Women's Institute at which I have, rather rashly, promised
to speak. On the way there, our Vicar's wife tells me that the secretary
of the Institute is liable to have a heart attack at any minute and must
on no account exert herself, or be allowed to get over-excited. Even a
violent fit of laughing, she adds impressively, might carry her off in a
moment.

Hastily revise my speech, and remove from it two funny stories. After
this it is a shock to find that the programme for the evening includes
dancing and a game of General Post. I ask our Vicar's wife what would
happen if the secretary _did_ get a heart attack, and she replies
mysteriously, Oh, she always carries Drops in her handbag. The thing to
do is to keep an eye on her handbag. This I do nervously throughout the
evening, but fortunately no crisis supervenes.

I speak, am thanked, and asked if I will judge a Darning Competition.
This I do, in spite of inward misgivings that few people are less
qualified to give any opinion about darning than I am. I am thanked again
and given tea and a doughnut. We all play General Post and get very
heated. Signal success of the evening when two stout and elderly members
collide in the middle of the room, and both fall heavily to the floor
together. This, if anything, will surely bring on a heart attack, and am
prepared to make a rush at the handbag, but nothing happens. We all sing
the National Anthem, and our Vicar's wife says she does hope the lights
of her two-seater are in order, and drives me home. We are relieved, and
surprised, to find that the lights, all except the rear one, are in
order, although rather faint.

I beg our Vicar's wife to come in; she says, No, No, it is far too late,
really, and comes. Robert and Helen Wills both asleep in the
drawing-room. Our Vicar's wife says she must not stay a moment, and we
talk about Countrywomen, Stanley Baldwin, Hotels at Madeira (where none
of us have ever been), and other unrelated topics. Ethel brings in cocoa,
but can tell from the way she puts down the tray that she thinks it an
unreasonable requirement, and will quite likely give notice to-morrow.

At eleven our Vicar's wife says that she _does_ hope the lights of
the two-seater are still in order, and gets as far as the hall-door.
There we talk about forthcoming village concert, parrot-disease, and the
Bishop of the diocese.

Her car refuses to start, and Robert and I push it down the drive. After
a good deal of jerking and grinding, engine starts, the hand of our
Vicar's wife waves at us through the hole in the talc, and car disappears
down the lane.

Robert inhospitably says, let us put out the lights and fasten up the
hall-door and go up to bed immediately, in case she comes back for
anything. We do so, only delayed by Helen Wills, whom Robert tries vainly
to expel into the night. She retires under the piano, behind the
bookcase, and finally disappears altogether.

_March 4th._--Ethel, as I anticipated, gives notice. Cook says this
is so unsettling, she thinks she had better go too. Despair invades me.
Write five letters to Registry Offices.

_March 7th._--No hope.

_March 8th._--Cook relents, so far as to say that she will stay
until I am suited. Feel inclined to answer that, in, that case, she had
better make up her mind to a lifetime spent together--but naturally
refrain. Spend exhausting day in Plymouth chasing mythical
house-parlourmaids. Meet Lady B., who says the servant difficulty, in
reality, is non-existent. She has No trouble. It is a question of knowing
how to treat them. Firmness, she says, but at the same time one must be
human. Am I human? she asks. Do I understand that they want occasional
diversion, just as I do myself? I lose my head and reply No, that it is
my custom to keep my servants chained up in the cellar when their work is
done. This flight of satire rather spoilt by Lady B. laughing heartily,
and saying that I am always so amusing. Well, she adds, we shall no doubt
see one another at lunch-time at the Duke of Cornwall Hotel, where alone
it is possible to get a decent meal. I reply with ready cordiality that
no doubt we shall, and go and partake of my usual lunch of baked beans
and a glass of water in small and obscure café.

Unavoidable Query, of painfully searching character, here presents
itself: If Lady B. had invited me as her guest to lunch at the D. of C.
Hotel, should I have accepted? Am conscious of being heartily tired of
baked beans and water, which in any case do not really serve to support
one through long day of shopping and servant-hunting. Moreover, am always
ready to See Life, in hotels or anywhere else. On the other hand, am
aware that self-respect would suffer severely through accepting
five-shillings-worth of luncheon from Lady B. Ponder this problem of
psychology in train on the way home, but reach no definite conclusion.

Day a complete failure as regards house-parlourmaid, but expedition not
wasted, having found two cigarette-cards on pavement, both quite clean
Curious Beaks.

_March 9th._--Cannot hear of a house-parlourmaid. Ethel, on the
other hand, can hear of at least a hundred situations, and opulent
motor-cars constantly dash up to front door, containing applicants for
her services. Cook more and more unsettled. If this goes on, shall go to
London and stay with Rose, in order to visit Agencies.

Meet Barbara, wearing new tweed, in village this morning--nice bright
girl, but long to suggest she should have adenoids removed. She says,
Will I be an Angel and look in on her mother, now practically an invalid?
I reply warmly Of course I will, not really meaning it, but remember that
we are now in Lent and suddenly decide to go at once. Admire the new
tweed. Barbara says It _is_ rather nice, isn't it, and adds--a
little strangely--that it came out of John Barker's Sale Catalogue, under
four guineas, and only needed letting out at the waist and taking in a
bit on the shoulders. Especially, she adds elliptically, now that skirts
are longer again.

Barbara goes to Evening Service, and I go to look in on her mother, whom
I find in shawls, sitting in an armchair reading--rather
ostentatiously--enormous _Life of Lord Beaconsfield_. I ask how she
is, and she shakes her head and enquires if I should ever guess that her
pet name amongst her friends once used to be Butterfly? (This kind of
question always so difficult, as either affirmative or negative reply apt
to sound unsympathetic. Feel it would hardly do to suggest that
Chrysalis, in view of the shawls, would now be more appropriate.)
However, says Mrs. Blenkinsop with a sad smile, it is never her way to
dwell upon herself and her own troubles. She just sits there, day after
day, always ready to sympathise in the little joys and troubles of
others, and I would hardly believe how unfailingly these are brought to
her. People say, she adds deprecatingly, that just her Smile does them
good. She does not know, she says, what they mean. (Neither do I.)

After this, there is a pause, and I feel that Mrs. B. is waiting for me
to pour out my little joys and troubles. Perhaps she hopes that Robert
has been unfaithful to me, or that I have fallen in love with the Vicar.

Am unable to rise to the occasion, so begin instead to talk about
Barbara's new tweed. Mrs. Blenkinsop at once replies that, for her part,
she has never given up all those little feminine touches that make All
the Difference. A ribbon here, a flower there. This leads to a story
about what was once said to her by a friend, beginning "It's so
wonderful, dear Mrs. Blenkinsop, to see the trouble you always take on
behalf of others", and ending with Mrs. B.'s own reply, to the effect
that she is only A Useless Old Woman, but that she has many, many
friends, and that this must be because her motto has always been: Look
Out and Not In: Look Up and not Down: Lend a Hand.

Conversation again languishes, and I have recourse to _Lord
Beaconsfield_. What, I ask, does Mrs. B. feel about him? She feels,
Mrs. B. replies, that he was a most Remarkable Personality. People have
often said to Mrs. B., Ah, how lonely it must be for you, alone here,
when dear Barbara is out enjoying herself with other young things. But
Mrs. B.'s reply to this is No, no. She is never alone when she has Her
Books. Books, to her, are _Friends_. Give her Shakespeare or Jane
Austen, Meredith or Hardy, and she is Lost--lost in a world of her own.
She sleeps so little that most of her nights are spent in reading. Have I
any idea, asks Mrs. B., what it is like to hear every hour, every
half-hour, chiming out all through the night? I have no idea whatever,
since am invariably obliged to struggle with overwhelming sleepiness from
nine o'clock onwards, but do not like to tell her this, so take my
departure. Mrs. B.'s parting observation is an expression of thanks to me
for coming to enquire after an old woman, and she is as well as she can
hope to be, at sixty-six years old--she _should_ say, sixty-six
years _young_, all her friends tell her.

Reach home totally unbenefited by this visit, and with strange tendency
to snap at everybody I meet.

_March 10th._--Still no house-parlourmaid, and write to ask Rose if
I can go to her for a week. Also write to old Aunt Gertrude in Shropshire
to enquire if I may send Vicky and Mademoiselle there on a visit, as this
will make less work in house while we are short-handed. Do not, however,
give Aunt Gertrude this reason for sending them. Ask Robert if he will be
terribly lonely, and he says Oh no, he hopes I shall enjoy myself in
London. Spend a great deal of eloquence explaining that I am _not_
going to London to enjoy myself, but experience sudden fear that I am
resembling Mrs. Blenkinsop, and stop abruptly.

Robert says nothing.

_March 11th._--Rose wires that she will be delighted to put me up.
Cook, very unpleasantly, says, "I'm sure I hope you'll enjoy your
holiday, mum." Am precluded from making the kind of reply I should
_like_ to make, owing to grave fears that she should also give
notice. Tell her instead that I hope to "get settled" with a
house-parlourmaid before my return. Cook looks utterly incredulous and
says she is sure she hopes so too, because really, things have been so
unsettled lately. Pretend not to hear this and leave the kitchen.

Look through my clothes and find that I have nothing whatever to wear in
London. Read in _Daily Mirror_ that all evening dresses are worn
long, and realise with horror that not one of mine comes even half-way
down my legs.

_March 12th._--Collect major portion of my wardrobe and dispatch to
address mentioned in advertisement pages of _Time and Tide_ as
prepared to pay Highest Prices for Outworn Garments, cheque by return.
Have gloomy foreboding that six penny stamps by return will more
adequately represent value of my contribution, and am thereby impelled to
add Robert's old shooting-coat, mackintosh dating from 1907, and least
reputable woollen sweater. Customary struggle ensues between frank and
straightforward course of telling Robert What I have done, and less
straightforward, but more practical, decision to keep complete silence on
the point and let him make discovery for himself after parcel has left
the house. Conscience, as usual, is defeated, but nevertheless
unsilenced.

(Query: Would it not indicate greater strength of character, even if
lesser delicacy of feeling, not to spend so much time on regretting
errors of judgement and of behaviour? Reply almost certainly in the
affirmative. Brilliant, but nebulous, outline of powerful Article for
_Time and Tide_ here suggests itself: _Is Ruthlessness more
Profitable than Repentance?_ Failing article--for which time at the
moment is lacking, owing to departure of house-parlourmaid and necessity
of learning "Wreck of the Hesperus" to recite at Village Concert--would
this make suitable subject for Debate at Women's Institute? Feel doubtful
as to whether our Vicar's wife would not think subject-matter trenching
upon ground more properly belonging to our Vicar.)

Resign from Book of the Month Club, owing to wide and ever-increasing
divergence of opinion between us as to merits or demerits of recently
published fiction. Write them long and eloquent letter about this, but
remember after it is posted that I still owe them twelve shillings and
sixpence for Maurois's _Byron_.

_March 13th._--Vicky and Mademoiselle leave, in order to pay visit
to Aunt Gertrude. Mademoiselle becomes sentimental and says, "Ah, déjà je
languis pour notre re-tour!" As total extent of her absence at this stage
is about half-an-hour, and they have three weeks before them, feel that
this is not a spirit to be encouraged. See them into the train, when
Mademoiselle at once produces eau-de-Cologne in case either, or both,
should be ill, and come home again. House resembles the tomb, and the
gardener says that Miss Vicky seems such a little bit of a thing to be
sent right away like that, and it isn't as if she could write and
_tell_ me how she was getting on, either.

Go to bed feeling like a murderess.

_March 14th._--Rather inadequate Postal Order arrives, together with
white tennis coat trimmed with rabbit, which--says accompanying
letter--is returned as being unsaleable. Should like to know _why_.
Toy with idea of writing to _Time and Tide_'s Editor, enquiring if
every advertisement is subjected to personal scrutiny before insertion,
but decide that this, in the event of a reply, might involve me in
difficult explanations and diminish my _prestige_ as occasional
recipient of First Prize (divided) in Weekly Competition.

(_Mem_.: See whether tennis coat could be dyed and transformed into
evening cloak.)

Am unfortunately found at home by callers, Mr. and Mrs. White, who are
starting a Chicken-farm in the neighbourhood, and appear to have got
married on the expectation of making a fortune out of it. We talk about
chickens, houses, scenery, and the train-service between here and London.
I ask if they play tennis, and politely suggest that both are probably
brilliant performers. Mr. White staggers me by replying Oh, he wouldn't
say _that_, exactly--meaning that he would, if it didn't seem like
boasting. He enquires about Tournaments. Mrs. White is reminded of
Tournaments in which they have, or have not, come out victors in the
past. They refer to their handicap. Resolve never to ask the Whites to
play on our extremely inferior court.

Later on talk about politicians. Mr. White says that in _his_
opinion Lloyd George is clever, but Nothing Else. That's _all_, says
Mr. White impressively. Just Clever. I refer to Coalition Government and
Insurance Act, but Mr. White repeats firmly that both were brought about
by mere Cleverness. He adds that Baldwin is a thoroughly _honest_
man, and that Ramsay MacDonald is _weak_. Mrs. White supports him
with an irrelevant statement to the effect that the Labour Party must be
hand in glove with Russia, otherwise how would the Bolshevists dare to go
on like that?

She also suddenly adds that Prohibition and the Jews and Everything are
really the thin end of the wedge, don't I think so? I say Yes, I do, as
the quickest way of ending the conversation, and ask if she plays the
piano, to which she says No, but the Ukelele a little bit, and we talk
about local shops and the delivery of a Sunday paper.

(_N.B._ Amenities of conversation afford very, very curious study
sometimes, especially in the country.)

The Whites take their departure. Hope never to set eyes on either of them
again.

_March 15th._--Robert discovers absence of mackintosh dating from
1907. Says that he would "rather have lost a hundred pounds"--which I
know to be untrue. Unsuccessful evening follows. Cannot make up my mind
whether to tell him at once about shooting-coat and sweater, and get it
all over in one, or leave him to find out for himself when present
painful impression has had time to die away. Ray of light pierces
impenetrable gloom when Robert is driven to enquire if I can tell him "a
word for _calmer_ in seven letters" and I, after some thought,
suggest "_serener_"--which he says will do, and returns to
_Times_ Crossword Puzzle. Later he asks for famous mountain in
Greece, but does not accept my too-hasty offer of Mount Atlas, nor listen
to interesting explanation as to associative links between Greece,
Hercules, and Atlas, which I proffer. After going into it at some length,
I perceive that Robert is not attending, and retire to bed.

_March 17th._--Travel up to London with Barbara Blenkinsop--(wearing
new tweed)--who says she is going to spend a fortnight with old
school-friend at Streatham and is looking forward to the Italian Art
Exhibition. I say that I am, too, and ask after Mrs. B. Barbara says that
she is Wonderful. We discuss Girl Guides, and exchange surmises as to
reason why Mrs. T. at the Post Office is no longer on speaking terms with
Mrs. L. at the shop. Later on, conversation takes a more intellectual
turn, and we agree that the Parish Magazine needs Brightening Up. I
suggest a crossword puzzle, and Barbara says a Children's Page.
Paddington is reached just as we decide that it would be hopeless to try
and get a contribution to the Parish Magazine from anyone really
_good_, such as Shaw, Bennett, or Galsworthy.

I ask Barbara to tea at my club one day next week, she accepts, and we
part.

Met by Rose, who has a new hat, and says that _no one_ is wearing a
brim, which discourages me--partly because I have nothing _but_
brims, and partly because I know only too well that I shall look my worst
without one. Confide this fear to Rose, who says, Why not go to
well-known Beauty Culture Establishment, and have course of treatment
there? I look at myself in the glass, see much room for improvement, and
agree to this, only stipulating that all shall be kept secret as the
grave, as could not tolerate the idea of Lady B.'s comments, should she
ever come to hear of it. Make appointment by telephone. In the meantime,
says Rose, what about the Italian Art Exhibition? She herself has already
been four times. I say Yes, yes--it is one of the things I have come to
London _for_, but should prefer to go earlier in the day. Then, says
Rose, the first thing tomorrow morning? To this I reply, with every sign
of reluctance, that to-morrow morning _must_ be devoted to Registry
Offices. Well, says Rose, when _shall_ we go? Let us, I urge, settle
that a little later on, when I know better what I am doing. Can see that
Rose thinks anything but well of me, but she is too tactful to say more.
Quite realise that I shall have to go to the Italian Exhibition sooner or
later, and am indeed quite determined to do so, but feel certain that I
shall understand nothing about it when I do get there, and shall find
myself involved in terrible difficulties when asked my impressions
afterwards.

Rose's cook, as usual, produces marvellous dinner, and I remember with
shame and compassion that Robert, at home, is sitting down to minced beef
and macaroni cheese, followed by walnuts.

Rose says that she is taking me to dinner to-morrow, with distinguished
woman-writer who has marvellous collection of Jade, to meet still more
distinguished Professor (female) and others. Decide to go and buy an
evening dress to-morrow, regardless of overdraft.

_March 18th._--Very successful day, although Italian Art Exhibition
still unvisited. (Mem.: Positively _must_ go there before meeting
Barbara for tea at my club.)

Visit several Registry Offices, and am told that maids do not like the
country--which I know already--and that the wages I am offering are low.
Come away from there depressed, and decide to cheer myself up by
purchasing evening dress--which I cannot afford--with present-day
waist--which does not suit me. Select the Brompton Road, as likely to
contain what I want, and crawl up it, scrutinising windows. Come
face-to-face with Barbara Blenkinsop, who says, _How_ extraordinary
we should meet here, to which I reply that that is so often the way, when
one comes to London. She is, she tells me, just on her way to the Italian
Exhibition...I at once say Good-bye, and plunge into elegant
establishment with expensive-looking garments in the window.

Try on five dresses, but find judgement of their merits very difficult,
as hair gets wilder and wilder, and nose more devoid of powder. Am also
worried by extraordinary and tactless tendency of saleswoman to emphasise
the fact that all the colours I like are very trying by daylight, but
will be less so at night. Finally settle on silver tissue with large bow,
stipulate for its immediate delivery, am told that this is impossible,
reluctantly agree to carry it away with me in cardboard box, and go away
wondering if it wouldn't have been better to choose the black chiffon
instead.

Hope that Beauty Parlour experiment may enhance self-respect, at present
at rather low ebb, but am cheered by going into Fuller's and sending
boxes of chocolates to Robin and Vicky respectively. Add peppermint
creams for Mademoiselle by an afterthought, as otherwise she may find
herself _blessée_. Lunch on oxtail soup, lobster mayonnaise, and cup
of coffee, as being menu furthest removed from that obtainable at home.

Beauty Parlour follows. Feel that a good deal could be written on this
experience, and even contemplate--in connection with recent observations
exchanged between Barbara B. and myself--brightening the pages of our
Parish Magazine with result of my reflections, but on second thoughts
abandon this, as unlikely to appeal to the Editor (Our Vicar).

Am received by utterly terrifying person with dazzling complexion,
indigo-blue hair, and orange nails, presiding over reception room
downstairs, but eventually passed on to extremely pretty little creature
with auburn bob and charming smile. Am reassured. Am taken to discreet
curtained cubicle and put into long chair. Subsequent operations, which
take hours and hours, appear to consist of the removal of hundreds of
layers of dirt from my face. (These discreetly explained away by charming
operator as the result of "acidity".) She also plucks away portions of my
eyebrows. Very, very painful operation.

Eventually emerge more or less unrecognisable, and greatly improved. Lose
my head, and buy Foundation Cream, rouge, powder, lip-stick. Foresee
grave difficulty in reconciling Robert to the use of these appliances,
but decide not to think about this for the present.

Go back to Rose's flat in time to dress for dinner. She tells me that she
spent the afternoon at the Italian Exhibition.

_March 19th._--Rose takes me to dine with talented group of her
friends, connected with Feminist Movement. I wear new frock, and for once
in my life am satisfied with my appearance (but still regret great-aunt's
diamond ring, now brightening pawnbroker's establishment back-street
Plymouth). Am, however, compelled to make strong act of will in order to
banish all recollection of bills that will subsequently come in from
Beauty Parlour and dressmaker. Am able to succeed in this largely owing
to charms of distinguished Feminists, all as kind as possible. Well-known
Professor--(concerning whom I have previously consulted Rose as to the
desirability of reading up something about Molecules or other kindred
topic, for conversational purposes)--completely overcomes me by
producing, with a charming smile, two cigarette-cards, as she has heard
that I collect them for Robin. After this, throw all idea of Molecules to
the winds, and am happier for the rest of the evening in consequence.

Editor of well-known literary weekly also present, and actually remembers
that we met before at Literary Club dinner. I discover, towards the end
of the dinner, that she has not visited the Italian Exhibition--and give
Rose a look that I hope she takes to heart.

Cocktails, and wholly admirable dinner, further brighten the evening. I
sit next Editor, and she rather rashly encourages me to give my opinion
of her paper. I do so freely, thanks to cocktail and Editor's charming
manners, which combine to produce in me the illusion that my words are
witty, valuable, and thoroughly well worth listening to. (Am but too well
aware that later in the night I shall wake up in cold sweat, and view
this scene in retrospect with very different feelings as to my own part
in it.)

Rose and I take our leave just before midnight, sharing taxi with very
well-known woman dramatist. (Should much like Lady B. to know this, and
have every intention of making casual mention to her of it at earliest
possible opportunity.)

Offices, less

_March 20th._--More Registry Offices, less success than ever.

Barbara Blenkinsop comes to tea with me at my club, and says that
Streatham is very gay, and that her friends took her to a dance last
night and a Mr. Crosbie Carruthers drove her home afterwards in his car.
We then talk about clothes--dresses all worn long in the evening--this
graceful, but not hygienic--women will never again submit to long skirts
in the day-time--most people growing their hair--but eventually Barbara
reverts to Mr. C. C. and asks if I think a girl makes herself cheap by
allowing a man friend to take her out to dinner in Soho? I say No, not at
all, and inwardly decide that Vicky would look nice as bridesmaid in blue
taffetas, with little wreath of Banksia roses.

A letter from dear Robin, forwarded from home, arrives to-night. He says,
wouldn't a motor tour in the Easter holidays be great fun, and a boy at
school called Briggs is going on one. (Briggs is the only son of
millionaire parents, owning two Rolls-Royces and any number of
chauffeurs.) Feel that it would be unendurable to refuse this trustful
request, and decide that I can probably persuade Robert into letting me
drive the children to the far side of the county in the old Standard. Can
call this modest expedition a motor tour if we stay the night at a pub.
and return the next day.

At the same time realise that, financial situation being what it is, and
moreover time rapidly approaching when great-aunt's diamond ring must
either be redeemed, or relinquished for ever, there is nothing for it but
to approach Bank on subject of an overdraft.

Am never much exhilarated at this prospect, and do not in the least find
that it becomes less unpleasant with repetition, but rather the contrary.
Experience customary difficulty in getting to the point, and Bank Manager
and I discuss weather, political situation, and probable Starters for the
Grand National with passionate suavity for some time. Inevitable pause
occurs, and we look at one another across immense expanse of pink
blotting-paper. Irrelevant impulse rises in me to ask if he has other
supply, for use, in writing-table drawer, or if fresh pad is brought in
whenever a client calls. (Strange divagations of the human brain under
the stress of extreme nervousness presents itself here as interesting
topic for speculation. Should like to hear opinion of Professor met last
night on this point. Subject far preferable to Molecules.)

Long, and rather painful, conversation follows. Bank Manager kind, but if
he says the word "security" once, he certainly says it twenty times. Am,
myself, equally insistent with "temporary accommodation only", which I
think sounds thoroughly businesslike, and at the same time optimistic as
to speedy repayment. Just as I think we are over the worst, Bank Manager
reduces me to spiritual pulp by suggesting that we should see how the
Account Stands at the Moment. Am naturally compelled to agree to this
with air of well-bred and detached amusement, but am in reality well
aware that the Account Stands--or, more accurately, totters--on a Debit
Balance of Thirteen Pounds, two shillings, and tenpence. Large sheet of
paper, bearing this impressive statement, is presently brought in and
laid before us.

Negotiations resumed.

Eventually emerge into the street with purpose accomplished, but feeling
completely unstrung for the day. Rose is kindness personified, produces
Bovril and an excellent lunch, and agrees with me that it is All Nonsense
to say that Wealth wouldn't mean Happiness, because we know quite well
that it _would_.

_March 21st._--Express to Rose serious fear that I shall lose my
reason if no house-parlourmaid materialises. Rose, as usual, sympathetic,
but can suggest nothing that I have not already tried. We go to a Sale in
order to cheer ourselves up, and I buy yellow linen tennis-frock--£1 9s.
6d.--on strength of newly-arranged overdraft, but subsequently suffer
from the conviction that I am taking the bread out of the mouths of Robin
and Vicky.

Rather painful moment occurs when I suggest the Italian Exhibition to
Rose, who replies--after a peculiar silence--that it is now _over_.
Can think of nothing whatever to say, and do not care for dear Rose's
expression, so begin at once to discuss new novels with as much
intelligence as I can muster.

_March 22nd._--Completely amazed by laconic postcard from
Robert to say that local Registry Office can supply us with
house-parlour_man_, and if I am experiencing difficulty in finding
anyone, had we not better engage him? I telegraph back Yes, and then feel
that I have made a mistake, but Rose says No, and refuses to let me rush
out and telegraph again, for which, on subsequent calmer reflection, I
feel grateful to her--and am sure that Robert would be still more so,
owing to well-authenticated masculine dislike of telegrams.

Spend the evening writing immense letter to Robert enclosing list of
duties of house-parlourman. (Jib at thought of being called by him in the
mornings with early tea, and consult Rose, who says boldly, Think of
waiters in Foreign Hotels!--which I do, and am reminded at once of many
embarrassing episodes which I would rather forget.) Also send detailed
instructions to Robert regarding the announcement of this innovation to
Cook. Rose again takes up modern and fearless attitude, and says that
Cook, mark her words, will be delighted.

I spend much of the night thinking over the whole question of running the
house successfully, and tell myself--not by any means for the first
time--that my abilities are very, very deficient in this direction. Just
as the realisation of this threatens to overwhelm me altogether, I fall
asleep.

_March 25th._--Return home, to Robert, Helen Wills, and new
house-parlourman, who is--I now learn for the first time--named
Fitzsimmons. I tell Robert that it is impossible that he should be called
this. Robert replies, Why not? Can only say that if Robert cannot see
this for himself, explanation will be useless. Then, says Robert, no doubt
we can call him by his first name. This, on investigation, turns out to
be Howard. Find myself quite unable to cope with any of it, and the whole
situation is met by my never calling the house-parlourman anything at
all except "you" and speaking of him to Robert as "Howard Fitzsimmons", in
inverted commas as though intending to be funny. Very unsatisfactory
solution.

Try to tell Robert all about London--(with exception of Italian
Exhibition, which I do not mention)--but Aladdin lamp flares up, which
interferes, and have also to deal with correspondence concerning Women's
Institute Monthly Meeting, replacement of broken bedroom
tumblers--attributed to Ethel--disappearance of one pyjama-jacket and two
table-napkins in the wash, and instructions to Howard Fitzs. concerning
his duties. (_Mem_.: Must certainly make it crystal-clear that
acceptable formula, when receiving an order, is not "Right-oh!" Cannot,
at the moment, think how to word this, but must work it out, and then
deliver with firmness and precision.)

Robert very kind about London, but perhaps rather more interested in my
having met Barbara Blenkinsop--which, after all, I can do almost any day
in the village--than in my views on _Nine till Six_ (the best play I
have seen for ages) or remarkable increase of traffic in recent years.
Tell Robert by degrees about my new clothes. He asks when I expect to
wear them, and I reply that one never knows--which is only too true--and
conversation closes.

Write long letter to Angela, for the express purpose of referring
casually to Rose's distinguished friends, met in London.

_March 27th._--Angela replies to my letter, but says little about
distinguished society in which I have been moving, and asks for full
account of my impressions of Italian Exhibition. She and William, she
says, went up on purpose to see it, and visited it three times. Can only
say--but do not, of course, do so--that William must have been dragged
there by the hair of his head.

_March 28th._--Read admirable, but profoundly discouraging, article
in _Time and Tide_ relating to Bernard Shaw's women, but applying to
most of us. Realise--not for the first time--that intelligent women can
perhaps best perform their duty towards their own sex by devastating
process of telling them the truth about themselves. At the same time,
cannot feel that I shall really enjoy hearing it. Ultimate paragraph of
article, moreover, continues to haunt me most unpleasantly with reference
to own undoubted vulnerability where Robin and Vicky are concerned. Have
very often wondered if Mothers are not rather A Mistake altogether, and
now definitely come to the conclusion that they _are_.

Interesting speculation as to how they might best be replaced interrupted
by necessity of seeing that Fitzs. is turning out spare-bedroom according
to instructions. Am unspeakably disgusted at finding him sitting in
spare-room armchair, with feet on the window-sill. He says that he is
"not feeling very well". Am much more taken aback than he is, and lose my
head to the extent of replying: "Then go and be it in your own room."
Realise afterwards that this might have been better worded.

_April 2nd._--Barbara calls. Can she, she says, speak to me in
_confidence?_ I assure her that she can, and at once put Helen Wills
and kitten out of the window in order to establish confidential
atmosphere. Sit, seething with excitement, in the hope that I am at least
going to be told that Barbara is engaged. Try to keep this out of sight,
and to maintain expression of earnest and sympathetic attention only,
whilst Barbara says that it is sometimes very difficult to know which way
Duty lies, that she has always thought a true woman's highest vocation is
home-making, and that the love of a Good Man is the crown of life. I say
Yes, Yes, to all of this. (Discover, on thinking it over, that I do not
agree with any of it, and am shocked at my own extraordinary duplicity.)


Barbara at length admits that Crosbie has asked her to marry him--he did
it, she says, at the Zoo--and go out with him as his wife to the
Himalayas. This, says Barbara, is where all becomes difficult. She may be
old-fashioned--no doubt she is--but can she leave her mother alone? No,
she cannot. Can she, on the other hand, give up dear Crosbie, who has
never loved a girl before, and says that he never will again? No, she
cannot.

Barbara weeps. I kiss her. Howard Fitzsimmons selects this moment to walk
in with the tea, at which I sit down again in confusion and begin to talk
about the Vicarage daffodils being earlier than ours, just as Barbara
launches into the verdict in the Podmore Case. We gyrate uneasily in and
out of these topics while Howard Fitzsimmons completes his preparations
for tea. Atmosphere ruined, and destruction completed by my own necessary
enquiries as to Barbara's wishes in the matter of milk, sugar,
bread-and-butter, and so on. (_Mem_.: Must speak to Cook about
sending in minute segment of sponge-cake, remains of one which, to my
certain recollection, made its first appearance more than ten days ago.
Also, why perpetual and unappetising procession of small rock-cakes?)

Robert comes in, he talks of swine-fever, all further confidences become
impossible. Barbara takes her leave immediately after tea, only asking if
I could look in on her mother and have a Little Talk? I reluctantly agree
to do so, and she mounts her bicycle and rides off. Robert says, That
girl holds herself well, but it's a pity she has those ankles.

_April 4th._--Go to see old Mrs. Blenkinsop. She is, as usual,
swathed in shawls, but has exchanged _Lord Beaconsfield_ for
_Froude and Carlyle_. She says that I am very good to come and see a
poor old woman, and that she often wonders how it is that so many of the
younger generation seem to find their way to her by instinct. Is it, she
suggests, because her _heart_ has somehow kept young, in spite of
her grey hair and wrinkles, ha-ha-ha, and so she has always been able to
find the Silver Lining, she is thankful to say. I circuitously approach
the topic of Barbara. Mrs. B. at once says that the young are very hard
and selfish. This is natural, perhaps, but it saddens her. Not on her own
account--no, no, no--but because she cannot bear to think of what Barbara
will have to suffer from remorse when it is Too Late.

Feel a strong inclination to point out that this is _not_ finding
the Silver Lining, but refrain. Long monologue from old Mrs. B. follows.
Main points that emerge are: (a) That Mrs. B. has not got very many more
years to spend amongst us; (b) that all her life has been given up to
others, but that she deserves no credit for this, as it is just the way
she is made; (c) that all she wants is to see her Barbara happy, and it
matters nothing at all that she herself should be left alone and helpless
in her old age, and no one is to give a thought to that for a moment.
Finally, that it has never been her way to think of herself or of her own
feelings. People have often said to her that they believe she _has_
no self--simply, none at all.

Pause, which I do not attempt to fill, ensues.

We return to Barbara, and Mrs. B. says it is very natural that a girl
should be wrapped up in her own little concerns. I feel that we are
getting no further, and boldly introduce the name of Crosbie Carruthers.
Terrific effect on Mrs. B., who puts her hand on her heart, leans back,
and begins to gasp and turn blue. She is sorry, she pants, to be so
foolish, but it is now many nights since she has had any sleep at all,
and the strain is beginning to tell. I must forgive her. I hastily do
forgive her, and depart.

Very, very unsatisfactory interview.

Am told, on my way home, by Mrs. S. of the _Cross and Keys_, that a
gentleman is staying there who is said to be engaged to Miss Blenkinsop,
but the old lady won't hear of it, and he seems such a nice gentleman
too, though perhaps not quite as young as some, and do I think the
Himalayas would be All Right if there was a baby coming along? Exchange
speculations and comments with Mrs. S. for some time before recollecting
that the whole thing is supposed to be private, and that in any case
gossip is undesirable.

Am met at home by Mademoiselle with intelligent enquiry as to the
prospects of Miss Blenkinsop's immediate marriage, and the attitude
adopted by old Mrs. B. "Le coeur d'une mère," says Mademoiselle
sentimentally. Even the infant Vicky suddenly demands if that gentleman
at the _Cross and Keys_ is really Miss Blenkinsop's True Love? At
this, Mademoiselle screams, "Ah, mon Dieu, ces enfants anglais!" and is
much upset at impropriety of Vicky's language.

Even Robert enquires What All This Is, about Barbara Blenkinsop? I
explain, and he returns--very, very briefly--that old Mrs. Blenkinsop
ought to be Shot--which gets us no further, but meets with my entire
approval.

_April 10th._--Entire parish now seething with the _affaire_
Blenkinsop. Old Mrs. B. falls ill, and retires to bed. Barbara bicycles
madly up and down between her mother and the garden of the _Cross and
Keys_, where C. C. spends much time reading copies of _The Times of
India_ and smoking small cigars. We are all asked by Barbara What she
Ought to Do, and all give different advice. Deadlock appears to have been
reached, when C. C. suddenly announces that he is summoned to London and
must have an answer One Way or the Other immediately.

Old Mrs. B.--who has been getting better and taking Port--instantly gets
worse again and says that she will not long stand in the way of dear
Barbara's happiness.

Period of fearful stress sets in, and Barbara and C. C. say Good-bye in
the front sitting-room of the _Cross and Keys_. They have, says
Barbara in tears, parted For Ever, and Life is Over, and will I take the
Guides' Meeting for her to-night--which I agree to do.

_April 12th._--Return of Robin for the holidays. He has a cold, and,
as usual, is short of handkerchiefs. I write to the Matron about this,
but have no slightest hope of receiving either handkerchiefs or rational
explanation of their disappearance. Robin mentions that he has invited "a
boy" to come and stay for a week. I ask, Is he very nice and a great
friend of yours? Oh no, says Robin, he is one of the most unpopular boys
in the school. And after a moment he adds, _That's why_. Am touched,
and think that this denotes a generous spirit, but am also undeniably
rather apprehensive as to possible characteristics of future guest. I
repeat the story to Mademoiselle, who--as usual, when I praise Robin--at
once remarks: "Madame, notre petite Vicky n'a pas de défauts"--which is
neither true nor relevant.

Receive a letter from Mary K. with postscript: Is it true that Barbara
Blenkinsop is engaged to be married? and am also asked the same question
by Lady B., who looks in on her way to some ducal function on the other
side of the county. Have no time in which to enjoy being in the superior
position of bestowing information, as Lady B. at once adds that
_she_ always advises girls to marry, no matter what the man is like,
as any husband is better than none, and there are not nearly enough to go
round.

I immediately refer to Rose's collection of distinguished Feminists,
giving her to understand that I know them all well and intimately, and
have frequently discussed the subject with them. Lady B. waves her
hand--(in elegant white kid, new, not cleaned)--and declares That may be
all very well, but if they could have got _husbands_ they wouldn't
_be_ Feminists. I instantly assert that all have had husbands, and
some two or three. This may or may not be true, but have seldom known
stronger homicidal impulse. Final straw is added when Lady B. amiably
observes that _I_, at least, have nothing to complain of, as she
always thinks Robert such a safe, respectable husband for _any_
woman. Give her briefly to understand that Robert is in reality a
compound of Don Juan, the Marquis de Sade, and Dr. Crippen, but that we
do not care to let it be known locally. Cannot say whether she is or is
not impressed by this, as she declares herself obliged to go, because
ducal function "cannot begin without her". All I can think of is to
retort that Duchesses--(of whom, in actual fact, I do not know
any)--always remind me of Alice in Wonderland, as do white kid gloves of
the White Rabbit. Lady B. replies that I am always so well-read, and car
moves off leaving her with, as usual, the last word.

Evolve in my own mind merry fantasy in which members of the Royal Family
visit the neighbourhood and honour Robert and myself by becoming our
guests at luncheon. (Cannot quite fit Howard Fitzs. into this scheme, but
gloss over that aspect of the case.) Robert has just been raised to the
peerage, and I am, with a slight and gracious inclination of the head,
taking precedence of Lady B. at large dinner party, when Vicky comes in
to say that the Scissor-Grinder is at the door, and if we haven't
anything to grind, he'll be pleased to attend to the clocks or rivet any
china.

Am disconcerted at finding itinerant gipsy, of particularly low
appearance, encamped at back door, with collection of domestic articles
strewn all round him and his machine. Still more disconcerted at
appearance of Mademoiselle, in fits of loud and regrettable Gallic
merriment, bearing extremely unsuitable fragments of bedroom ware in
either hand...She, Vicky, and the Scissor-Grinder join in unseemly mirth,
and I leave them to it, thankful that at least Lady B. is by now well on
her way and cannot descend upon the scene. Am seriously exercised in my
mind as to probable standard of humour with which Vicky will grow up.

Look for Robin and eventually find him with the cat, shut up into totally
unventilated linen-cupboard, eating cheese which he says he found on the
back stairs.

(Undoubtedly, a certain irony can be found in the fact that I have
recently been appointed to new Guardians Committee, and am expected to
visit Workhouse, etc., with particular reference to children's quarters,
in order that I may offer valuable suggestions on questions of hygiene
and general welfare of inmates...Can only hope that fellow-members of the
Committee will never be inspired to submit my own domestic arrangements
to similar inspection.)

Write letters. Much interrupted by Helen Wills, wanting to be let out,
kitten, wanting to be let in, and dear Robin, who climbs all over all the
furniture, apparently unconscious that he is doing so, and tells me at
the same time, loudly and in full, the story of _The Swiss Family
Robinson_.

_April 14th._--Cook electrifies me by asking me if I have heard that
Miss Barbara Blenkinsop's engagement is on again, it's all over the
village. The gentleman, she says, came down by the 8.45 last night, and
is at the _Cross and Keys_. As it is exactly 9.15 A.M. when she
tells me this, I ask how she knows? Cook merely repeats that It is All
Over the Village, and that Miss Barbara will quite as like as not be
married by special licence, and old Mrs. B. is in such a way as never
was. Am disconcerted to find that Cook and I have been talking our heads
off for the better part of forty minutes before I remember that gossip is
both undignified and undesirable.

Just as I am putting on my hat to go down to the Blenkinsops' our Vicar's
wife rushes in. All is true, she says, _and more_. Crosbie
Carruthers, in altogether desperate state, has threatened suicide, and
written terrific farewell letter to Barbara, who has cried herself--as
our Vicar's wife rather strangely expresses it--to the merest
_pulp_, and begged him to Come At Once. A Blenkinsop Family Council
has been summoned--old Mrs. B. has had Attacks--(nobody quite knows what
of)--but has finally been persuaded to reconsider entire problem. Our
Vicar has been called in to give impartial advice and consolation to all
parties. He is there now. Surely, I urge, he will use all his influence
on behalf of C. C. and Barbara? Our Vicar's wife, agitated, says Yes,
Yes,--he is all in favour of young folk living their own lives, whilst at
the same time he feels that a mother's claims are sacred, and although he
realises the full beauty of self-sacrifice, yet on the other hand no one
knows better than he does that the devotion of a Good Man is not to be
lightly relinquished.

Feel that if this is to be our Vicar's only contribution towards the
solution of the problem, he might just as well have stayed at home--but
naturally do not impart this opinion to his wife. We decide to walk down
to the village, and do so. The gardener stops me on the way, and says he
thought I might like to know that Miss Barbara's young gentleman has
turned up again, and wants to marry her before he sails next month, and
old Mrs. Blenkinsop is taking on so, they think she'll have a stroke.

Similar information also reaches us from six different quarters in the
village. No less than three motor-cars and two bicycles are to be seen
outside old Mrs. B.'s cottage, but no one emerges, and I am obliged to
suggest that our Vicar's wife should come home with me to lunch. This she
does, after many demurs, and gets cottage-pie--(too much
onion)--rice-shape, and stewed prunes. Should have sent to the farm for
cream, if I had known.

_April 15th._--Old Mrs. Blenkinsop reported to have Come Round.
Elderly unmarried female Blenkinsop, referred to as Cousin Maud, has
suddenly materialised, and offered to live with her--Our Vicar has come
out boldly in support of this scheme--and Crosbie Carruthers has given
Barbara engagement ring with three stones, said to be rare Indian
Topazes, and has gone up to town to Make Arrangements. Immediate
announcement in the _Morning Post_ expected.

_April 18th._--Receive visit from Barbara, who begs that I will
escort her to London for quiet and immediate wedding. Am obliged to
refuse, owing to bad colds of Robin and Vicky, general instability of
domestic staff, and customary unsatisfactory financial situation. Offer
then passed on to our Vicar's wife, who at once accepts it. I undertake,
however, at Barbara's urgent request, to look in as often as possible on
her mother. Will I, adds Barbara, make it clear that she is not losing a
Daughter, but only gaining a Son, and two years will soon be over, and at
the end of that time dear Crosbie will bring her home to England. I
recklessly commit myself to doing anything and everything, and write to
the Army and Navy Stores for a luncheon-basket, to give as
wedding-present to Barbara. The Girl Guides present her with a
sugar-castor and a waste-paper basket embossed with raffia flowers. Lady
B. sends a chafing-dish with a card bearing illegible and far-fetched
joke connected with Indian curries. We all agree that this is not in the
least amusing. Mademoiselle causes Vicky to present Barbara with small
tray-cloth, on which two hearts are worked in cross-stitch.

_April 19th._--Both children simultaneously develop incredibly low
complaint known as "pink-eye" that everyone unites in telling me is
peculiar to the more saliently neglected and underfed section of the
juvenile population in the East End of London.

Vicky has a high temperature and is put to bed, while Robin remains on
his feet, but is not allowed out of doors until present cold winds are
over. I leave Vicky to Mademoiselle and _Les Mémoires d'un Ane_ in
the night-nursery, and undertake to amuse Robin downstairs. He says that
he has a Splendid Idea. This turns out to be that I should play the
piano, whilst he simultaneously sets off the gramophone, the musical-box,
and the chiming clock.

I protest.

Robin implores, and says It will be just like an Orchestra. (Shade of
Dame Ethel Smyth, whose Reminiscences I have just been reading!) I weakly
yield, and attack, _con spirito_, "The Broadway Melody" in the key
of C Major. Robin, in great excitement, starts the clock, puts "Mucking
About the Garden" on the gramophone, and winds up the musical-box, which
tinkles out the Waltz from _Floradora_ in a tinny sort of way, and
no recognisable key. Robin springs about and cheers. I watch him
sympathetically and keep down, at his request, the loud pedal.

The door is flung open by Howard Fitzs., and Lady B. enters, wearing
bran-new green Kasha with squirrel collar, and hat to match, and
accompanied by military-looking friend.

Have no wish to record subsequent few minutes, in which I endeavour to
combine graceful greetings to Lady B. and the military friend, with
simple and yet dignified explanation of singular state of affairs
presented to them, and unobtrusive directions to Robin to switch off
musical-box and gramophone and betake himself and his pink-eye upstairs.
Clock has mercifully ceased to chime, and Robin struggles gallantly with
musical-box, but "Mucking About the Garden" continues to ring brazenly
through the room for what seems about an hour and a half...(Should not
have minded quite so much if it had been "Classical Memories", which I
also possess, or even a Layton and Johnstone duet.)

Robin goes upstairs, but not until after Lady B. has closely scrutinised
him, and observed that He looks like Measles, to her. Military friend
tactfully pretends absorption in the nearest bookcase until this is over,
when he emerges with breezy observation concerning _Bulldog
Drummond_.

Lady B. at once informs him that he must not say that kind of thing to
_me_, as I am so Very Literary. After this, the military friend
looks at me with unconcealed horror, and does not attempt to speak to me
again. On the whole, am much relieved when the call is over.

Go upstairs and see Vicky, who seems worse, and telephone for the doctor.
Mademoiselle begins lugubrious story, which is evidently destined to end
disastrously, about a family in her native town mysteriously afflicted by
Smallpox--(of which all the preliminary symptoms were identical with
those of Vicky's present disorder)--afterwards traced to unconsidered
purchase by _le papa_ of Eastern rugs, sold by itinerant vendor on
the quay at Marseilles. Cut her short after the death of the
six-months-old baby, as I perceive that all the other five children are
going to follow suit, as slowly and agonisingly as possible.

_April 20th._--Vicky develops unmistakable measles, and doctor says
that Robin may follow suit any day. Infection must have been picked up at
Aunt Gertrude's, and shall write and tell her so.

Extraordinary and nightmare-like state of affairs sets in, and I
alternate between making lemonade for Vicky and telling her the story of
_Frederick and the Picnic_ upstairs, and bathing Robin's pink-eye
with boracic lotion and reading _The Coral Island_ to him
downstairs.

Mademoiselle is _dévouée_ in the extreme, and utterly refuses to let
anyone but herself sleep in Vicky's room, but find it difficult to
understand exactly on what principle it is that she persists in wearing a
_peignoir_ and _pantoufles_ day and night alike. She is also
unwearied in recommending very strange _tisanes_, which she proposes
to brew herself from herbs--fortunately unobtainable--in the garden.

Robert, in this crisis, is less helpful than I could wish, and takes up
characteristically masculine attitude that We are All Making a Great Fuss
about Very Little, and the whole thing has been got up for the express
purpose of putting him to inconvenience--(which, however, it does not do,
as he stays out all day, and insists on having dinner exactly the same as
usual every evening).

Vicky incredibly and alarmingly good, Robin almost equally so in patches,
but renders himself unpopular with Fitzs. by leaving smears of
Plasticine, pools of paint-water, and even blots of ink on much of the
furniture. Find it very difficult to combine daily close inspection of
him, with a view to discovering the beginning of measles, with
light-hearted optimism that I feel to be right and rational attitude of
mind.

Weather very cold and rainy, and none of the fires will burn up. Cannot
say why this is, but it adds considerably to condition of gloom and
exhaustion which I feel to be gaining upon me hourly.

_April 25th._--Vicky recovering slowly, Robin showing no signs of
measles. Am myself victim of curious and unpleasant form of chill, no
doubt due to over-fatigue.

Howard Fitzsimmons gives notice, to the relief of everyone, and I obtain
service of superior temporary house-parlourmaid at cost of enormous
weekly sum.

_April 27th._--Persistence of chill compels me to retire to bed for
half a day, and Robert suggests gloomily that I have caught the measles.
I demonstrate that this is impossible, and after lunch get up and play
cricket with Robin on the lawn. After tea, keep Vicky company. She
insists upon playing at the Labours of Hercules, and we give energetic
representations of slaughtering the Hydra, cleaning out the Augean
Stables, and so on. Am divided between gratification at Vicky's classical
turn of mind and strong disinclination for so much exertion.

_May 7th._--Resume Diary after long and deplorable interlude,
vanquished chill having suddenly reappeared with immense force and fury,
and revealed itself as measles. Robin, on same day, begins to cough, and
expensive hospital nurse materialises and takes complete charge. She
proves kind and efficient, and brings me messages from the children, and
realistic drawing from Robin entitled "Ill person being eaten up by
jerms".

(Query: Is dear Robin perhaps future Heath Robinson or Arthur Watts?)

Soon after this all becomes incoherent and muddled. Chief recollection is
of hearing the doctor say that of course my Age is against me, which
hurts my feelings and makes me feel like old Mrs. Blenkinsop. After a few
days, however, I get the better of my age, and am given champagne,
grapes, and Valentine's Meat Juice.

Should like to ask what all this is going to cost, but feel it would be
ungracious.

The children, to my astonishment, are up and about again, and allowed to
come and see me. They play at Panthers on the bed, until removed by
Nurse. Robin reads aloud to me, article on Lord Chesterfield from pages
of _Time and Tide_, which has struck him because he, like the
writer, finds it difficult to accept a compliment gracefully. What do
_I_ do, he enquires, when I receive so many compliments all at once
that I am overwhelmed? Am obliged to admit that I have not yet found
myself in this predicament, at which Robin looks surprised, and slightly
disappointed.

Robert, the nurse, and I decide in conclave that the children shall be
sent to Bude for a fortnight with Nurse, and Mademoiselle given a holiday
in which to recover from her exertions. I am to join the Bude party when
doctor permits.

Robert goes to make this announcement to the nursery, and comes back with
fatal news that Mademoiselle is _blessée_, and that the more he asks
her to explain, the more monosyllabic she becomes. Am not allowed either
to see her or to write explanatory and soothing note and am far from
reassured by Vicky's report that Mademoiselle, bathing her, has wept, and
said that in England there are hearts of stone.

_May 12th._--Further interlude, this time owing to trouble with the
eyes. (No doubt concomitant of my Age, once again.) The children and
hospital nurse depart on the 9th, and I am left to gloomy period of total
inactivity and lack of occupation. Get up after a time and prowl about in
kind of semi-ecclesiastical darkness, further intensified by enormous
pair of tinted spectacles. One and only comfort is that I cannot see
myself in the glass. Two days ago, decide to make great effort and come
down for tea, but nearly relapse and go straight back to bed again at
sight of colossal demand for the Rates, confronting me on hall-stand
without so much as an envelope between us.

(_Mem_.: This sort of thing so very unlike picturesque convalescence
in a novel, when heroine is gladdened by sight of spring flowers,
sunshine, and what not. No mention ever made of Rates, or anything like
them.)

Miss the children very much and my chief companion is kitchen cat, a
hard-bitten animal with only three and a half legs and a reputation for
catching and eating a nightly average of three rabbits. We get on well
together until I have recourse to the piano, when he invariably yowls and
asks to be let out. On the whole, am obliged to admit that he is probably
right, for I have forgotten all I ever knew, and am reduced to playing
popular music by ear, which I do badly.

Dear Barbara sends me a book of Loopy Limericks, and Robert assures me
that I shall enjoy them later on. Personally, feel doubtful of surviving
many more days of this kind.

_May 13th._--Regrettable, but undeniable ray of amusement lightens
general murk on hearing report, through Robert, that Cousin Maud
Blenkinsop possesses a baby Austin, and has been seen running it all
round the parish with old Mrs. B., shawls and all, beside her. (It is
many years since Mrs. B. gave us all to understand that if she so much as
walked across the room unaided, she would certainly fall down dead.)

Cousin Maud, adds Robert thoughtfully, is not _his_ idea of a good
driver. He says no more, but I at once have dramatic visions of old Mrs.
B. flying over the nearest hedge, shawls waving in every direction, while
Cousin Maud and the baby Austin charge a steam-roller in a narrow lane.
Am sorry to record that this leads to hearty laughter on my part, after
which I feel better than for weeks past.

The doctor comes to see me, says that he _thinks_ my eyelashes will
grow again--(should have preferred something much more emphatic, but am
too much afraid of further reference to my age to insist)--and agrees to
my joining children at Bude next week. He also, reluctantly, and with an
air of suspicion, says that I may use my eyes for an hour every day,
unless pain ensues.

_May 15th._--Our Vicar's wife, hearing that I am no longer in
quarantine, comes to enliven me. Greet her with an enthusiasm to which
she must, I fear, be unaccustomed, as it appears to startle her.
Endeavour to explain it (perhaps a little tactlessly) by saying that I
have been alone so long...Robert out all day...children at Bude...and end
up with quotation to the effect that I never hear the sweet music of
speech, and start at the sound of my own. Can see by the way our Vicar's
wife receives this that she does not recognise it as a quotation, and
believes the measles to have affected my brain. (Query: Perhaps she is
right?) More normal atmosphere established by a plea from our Vicar's
wife that kitchen cat may be put out of the room. It is, she knows, very
foolish of her, but the presence of a cat makes her feel faint. Her
grandmother was exactly the same. Put a cat into the same room as her
grandmother, hidden under the sofa if you liked, and in two minutes the
grandmother would say: "I believe there's a cat in this room," and at
once turn queer. I hastily put kitchen cat out of the window, and we
agree that heredity is very odd.

And now, says our Vicar's wife, how am I? Before I can reply, she does so
for me, and says that she knows just how I feel. Weak as a rat, legs like
cotton-wool, no spine whatever, and head like a boiled owl. Am depressed
by this diagnosis, and begin to feel that it must be correct. However,
she adds, all will be different after a blow in the wind at Bude, and
meanwhile, she must tell me all the news.

She does so.

Incredible number of births, marriages, and deaths appear to have taken
place in the parish in the last four weeks; also Mrs. W. has dismissed
her cook and cannot get another one, our Vicar has written a letter about
Drains to the local paper and it has been put in, and Lady B. has been
seen in a new car. To this our Vicar's wife adds rhetorically: Why not an
aeroplane, she would like to know? (Why not, indeed?)

Finally a Committee Meeting has been held--at which, she interpolates
hastily I was much missed--and a Garden Fête arranged, in aid of funds
for Village Hall. It would be so nice, she adds optimistically, if the
Fête could be held _here_. I agree that it would, and stifle a
misgiving that Robert may not agree. In any case, he knows, and I know,
and our Vicar's wife knows, that Fete will have to take place here, as
there isn't anywhere else.

Tea is brought in--superior temporary's afternoon out, and Cook has, as
usual, carried out favourite labour-saving device of three sponge-cakes
and one bun jostling one another on the same plate--and we talk about
Barbara and Crosbie Carruthers, beekeeping, modern youth, and difficulty
of removing oil-stains from carpets. Have I, asks our Vicar's wife, read
_A Brass Hat in No Man's Land_? No, I have not. Then, she says,
_don't_, on any account. There are so many sad and shocking things
in life as it _is_, that writers should confine themselves to the
bright, the happy, and the beautiful. This the author of _A Brass
Hat_ has entirely failed to do. It subsequently turns out that our
Vicar's wife has not read the book herself, but that our Vicar has
skimmed it, and declared it to be very painful and unnecessary. (_Mem_.:
Put _Brass Hat_ down for _Times_ Book Club list, if not
already there.)

Our Vicar's wife suddenly discovers that it is six o'clock, exclaims that
she is shocked, and attempts _fausse sortie_, only to return with
urgent recommendation to me to try Valentine's Meat Juice, which once
practically, under Providence, saved our Vicar's uncle's life. Story of
the uncle's illness, convalescence, recovery, and subsequent death at the
age of eighty-one, follows. Am unable to resist telling her, in return,
about wonderful effect of Bemax on Mary Kell-way's youngest, and this
leads--curiously enough--to the novels of Anthony Trollope, death of the
Begum of Bhopal, and scenery in the Lake Country.

At twenty minutes to seven, our Vicar's wife is again shocked, and rushes
out of the house. She meets Robert on the doorstep and stops to tell him
that I am as thin as a rake, and a very bad colour, and the eyes, after
measles, often give rise to serious trouble. Robert, so far as I can
hear, makes no answer to any of it, and our Vicar's wife finally departs.

(Query here suggests itself: Is not silence frequently more efficacious
than the utmost eloquence? Answer probably yes. Must try to remember this
more often than I do.)

Second post brings a long letter from Mademoiselle, recuperating with
friends at Clacton-on-Sea, written, apparently, with a pin point dipped
in violet ink on thinnest imaginable paper, and crossed in every
direction. Decipher portions of it with great difficulty, but am relieved
to find that I am still "Bien-chère Madame" and that recent mysterious
affront has been condoned.

(_Mem_.: If Cook sends up jelly even once again, as being suitable
diet for convalescence, shall send it straight back to the kitchen.)

_May 16th._--But for disappointing children, should be much tempted
to abandon scheme for my complete restoration to health at Bude. Weather
icy cold, self feeble and more than inclined to feverishness, and
Mademoiselle, who was to have come with me, and helped with children, now
writes that she is _désolée_, but has developed _une angine_.
Do not know what this is, and have alarming thoughts about Angina
Pectoris, but dictionary reassures me. I say to Robert: "After all,
shouldn't I get well just as quickly at home?" He replies briefly:
"Better go," and I perceive that his mind is made up. After a moment he
suggests--but without real conviction--that I might like to invite our
Vicar's wife to come with me. I reply with a look only, and suggestion
falls to the ground.

A letter from Lady B. saying that she has only just heard about
measles--(Why only just, when news has been all over parish for weeks?)
and is so sorry, especially as measles are no joke at my age--(Can she be
in league with Doctor, who also used identical objectionable
expression?).--She cannot come herself to enquire, as with so many
visitors always coming and going it wouldn't be wise, but if I want
anything from the House, I am to telephone without hesitation. She has
given "her people" orders that anything I ask for is to be sent up. Have
a very good mind to telephone and ask for a pound of tea and Lady B.'s
pearl necklace--(Could Cleopatra be quoted as precedent here?)--and see
what happens.

Further demand for the Rates arrives, and Cook sends up jelly once more
for lunch. I offer it to Helen Wills, who gives one heave, and turns
away. Feel that this would more than justify me in sending down entire
dish untouched, but Cook will certainly give notice if I do, and cannot
face possibility. Interesting to note that although by this time all
Cook's jellies take away at sight what appetite measles have left me, am
more wholly revolted by emerald green variety than by yellow or red.
Should like to work out possible Freudian significance of this, but find
myself unable to concentrate.

Go to sleep in the afternoon, and awake sufficiently restored to do what
I have long contemplated and Go Through my clothes. Result so depressing
that I wish I had never done it. Have nothing fit to wear, and if I had,
should look like a scarecrow in it at present. Send off parcel with
knitted red cardigan, two evening dresses (much too short for present
mode), three out-of-date hats, and tweed skirt that bags at the knees, to
Mary Kellway's Jumble Sale, where she declares that _anything_ will
be welcome. Make out a list of all the new clothes I require, get
pleasantly excited about them, am again confronted with the Rates, and
put the list in the fire.

_May 17th._--Robert drives me to North Road station to catch train
for Bude. Temperature has fallen again, and I ask Robert if it is below
zero. He replies briefly and untruthfully that the day will get warmer as
it goes on, and no doubt Bude will be one blaze of sunshine. We arrive
early and sit on a bench on the platform next to a young woman with a
cough, who takes one look at me and then says: "Dreadful, isn't it?"
Cannot help feeling that she has summarised the whole situation quite
admirably. Robert hands me my ticket--he has handsomely offered to make
it first-class and I have refused--and gazes at me with rather strange
expression. At last he says: "You don't think you're going there to
_die_, do you?" Now that he suggests it, realise that I _do_
feel very like that, but summon up smile that I feel to be unconvincing
and make sprightly reference to Bishop, whose name I forget, coming to
lay his bones at place the name of which I cannot remember. All of it
appears to be Greek to Robert, and I leave him still trying to unravel
it. Journey ensues and proves chilly and exhausting. Rain lashes at the
windows, and every time carriage door opens--which is often--gust of icy
wind, mysteriously blowing in two opposite directions at once, goes up my
legs and down back of my neck. Have not told children by what train I am
arriving, so no one meets me, not even bus on which I had counted. Am,
however, secretly thankful, as this gives me an excuse for taking a taxi.
Reach lodgings at rather uninspiring hour of 2.45, too early for tea or
bed, which constitute present summit of my ambitions. Uproarious welcome
from children, both in blooming health and riotous spirits, makes up for
everything.

_May 19th._--Recovery definitely in sight, although almost certainly
retarded by landlady's inspiration of sending up a nice jelly for supper
on evening of arrival. Rooms reasonably comfortable--(except for extreme
cold, which is, says landlady, quite unheard-of at this or any other time
of year)--all is linoleum, pink and gold china, and enlarged photographs
of females in lace collars and males with long moustaches and bow ties.
Robin, Vicky, and the hospital nurse--retained at vast expense as a
temporary substitute for Mademoiselle--have apparently braved the weather
and spent much time on the Breakwater. Vicky has also made friends with a
little dog, whose name she alleges to be "Baby", a gentleman who sells
papers, another gentleman who drives about in a Sunbeam, and the head
waiter from the Hotel. I tell her about Mademoiselle's illness, and after
a silence she says "Oh!" in tones of brassy indifference, and resumes
topic of little dog "Baby". Robin, from whom I cannot help hoping better
things, makes no comment except "Is she?" and immediately adds a request
for a banana.

(_Mem_.: Would it not be possible to write more domesticated and
less foreign version of _High Wind in Jamaica_, featuring
extraordinary callousness of infancy?) Can distinctly recollect heated
correspondence in _Time and Tide_ regarding _vraisemblance_ or
otherwise of Jamaica children, and now range myself, decidedly and for
ever, on the side of the author. Can quite believe that dear Vicky would
murder any number of sailors, if necessary.

_May 23rd._--Sudden warm afternoon, children take off their shoes
and dash into pools, landlady says that it's often like this On the.
_last_ day of a visit to the sea, she's noticed, and I take brisk
walk over the cliffs, wearing thick tweed coat, and really begin to feel
quite warm at the end of an hour. Pack suit-case after children are in
bed, register resolution never to let stewed prunes and custard form part
of any meal ever again as long as I live, and thankfully write postcard
to Robert, announcing time of our arrival at home to-morrow.

_May 28th._--Mademoiselle returns, and is greeted with
enthusiasm--to my great relief. (Robin and Vicky perhaps less like
Jamaica children than I had feared.) She has on new black and white check
skirt, white blouse with frills, black kid gloves, embroidered in white
on the backs, and black straw hat almost entirely covered in purple
violets, and informs me that the whole outfit was made by herself at a
total cost of one pound, nine shillings, and fourpence-halfpenny. The
French undoubtedly thrifty, and gifted in using a needle, but cannot
altogether stifle conviction that a shade less economy might have
produced better results.

She presents me, in the kindest way, with a present in the shape of two
blue glass flower-vases, of spiral construction, and adorned with gilt
knobs at many unexpected points. Vicky receives a large artificial-silk
red rose, which she fortunately appears to admire, and Robin a small
affair in wire that is intended, says Mademoiselle, to extract the stones
out of cherries.

(_Mem_.: Interesting to ascertain number of these ingenious
contrivances sold in a year.)

Am privately rather overcome by Mademoiselle's generosity, and wish that
we could reach the level of the French in what they themselves describe
as _petits soins_. Place the glass vases in conspicuous position on
dining-room mantelpiece, and am fortunately just in time to stem comment
which I see rising to Robert's lips when he sits down to midday meal and
perceives them.

After lunch, Robin is motored back to school by his father, and I examine
Vicky's summer wardrobe with Mademoiselle, and find that she has outgrown
everything she has in the world.

_May 30th._--Arrival of _Time and Tide_, find that I have been
awarded half of second prize for charming little effort that in my
opinion deserves better. Robert's attempt receives an honourable mention.
Recognise pseudonym of first-prize winner as being that adopted by Mary
Kellway. Should like to think that generous satisfaction envelops me, at
dear friend's success, but am not sure. This week's competition announces
itself as a Triolet--literary form that I cannot endure, and rules of
which I am totally unable to master.

Receive telephone invitation to lunch with the Frobishers on Sunday. I
accept, less because I want to see them than because a change from
domestic roast beef and gooseberry-tart always pleasant; moreover,
absence makes work lighter for the servants. (_Mem_.: Candid and
intelligent self-examination as to motive, etc., often leads to very
distressing revelations.)

Constrained by conscience, and recollection of promise to Barbara, to go
and call on old Mrs. Blenkinsop. Receive many kind enquiries in village
as to my complete recovery from measles, but observe singular tendency on
part of everybody else to treat this very serious affliction as a joke.

Find old Mrs. B.'s cottage in unheard-of condition of hygienic
ventilation, no doubt attributable to Cousin Maud. Windows all wide open,
and casement curtains flapping in every direction, very cold east wind
more than noticeable. Mrs. B.--(surely fewer shawls than
formerly?)--sitting quite close to open window, and not far from equally
open door, seems to have turned curious shade of pale-blue, and shows
tendency to shiver. Room smells strongly of furniture polish and
black-lead. Fireplace, indeed, exhibits recent handsome application of
the latter, and has evidently not held fire for days past. Old Mrs. B.
more silent than of old, and makes no reference to silver linings and the
like. (Can spirit of optimism have been blown away by living in continual
severe draught?) Cousin Maud comes in almost immediately. Have met her
once before, and say so, but she makes it clear that this encounter left
no impression, and has entirely escaped her memory. Am convinced that
Cousin Maud is one of those people who pride themselves on always
speaking the truth. She is wearing brick-red sweater--feel sure she
knitted it herself--tweed skirt, longer at the back than in front--and
large row of pearl beads. Has very hearty and emphatic manner, and uses
many slang expressions.

I ask for news of Barbara, and Mrs. B.--(voice a mere bleat, by
comparison with Cousin Maud's)--says that the dear child will be coming
down once more before she sails, and that continued partings are the lot
of the Aged, and to be expected. I begin to hope that she is approaching
her old form, but all is stopped by Cousin Maud, who shouts out that
we're not to talk Rot, and it's a jolly good thing Barbara has got Off
the Hooks at last, poor old girl. We then talk about golf handicaps,
Roedean--Cousin Maud's dear old school--and the baby Austin. More
accurate statement would perhaps be that Cousin Maud talks, and we
listen. No sign of _Life of Disraeli_, or any other literary
activities, such as old Mrs. B. used to be surrounded by, and do not like
to enquire what she now does with her time. Disquieting suspicion that
this is probably settled for her, without reference to her wishes.

Take my leave feeling depressed. Old Mrs. B. rolls her eyes at me as I
say goodbye, and mutters something about not being here much longer, but
this is drowned by hearty laughter from Cousin Maud, who declares that
she is Nothing but an Old Humbug and will See Us All Out.

Am escorted to the front gate by Cousin Maud, who tells me what a topping
thing it is for old Mrs. B. to be taken out of herself a bit, and asks if
it isn't good to be Alive on a bracing day like this? Should like to
reply that it would be far better for some of us to be dead, in my
opinion, but spirit for this repartee fails me, and I weakly reply that I
know what she means. I go away before she has time to slap me on the
back, which I feel certain will be the next thing.

Had had in mind amiable scheme for writing to Barbara to-night to tell
her that old Mrs. B. is quite wonderful, and showing no signs of
depression, but this cannot now be done, and after much thought, do not
write at all, but instead spend the evening trying to reconcile grave
discrepancy between account-book, counterfoils of cheque-book, and rather
unsympathetically worded communication from the Bank.

_June 1st._--Sunday lunch with the Frobishers, and four guests
staying in the house with them--introduced as, apparently, Colonel and
Mrs. Brightpie--(which seems impossible)--Sir William Reddieor Ready, or
Reddy, or perhaps even Reddeigh--and My sister Violet. Latter quite
astonishingly pretty, and wearing admirable flowered tussore that I, as
usual, mentally try upon myself, only to realise that it would
undoubtedly suggest melancholy saying concerning mutton dressed as lamb.

The Colonel sits next to me at lunch, and we talk about fishing, which I
have never attempted, and look upon as cruelty to animals, but this, with
undoubted hypocrisy and moral cowardice, I conceal. Robert has My sister
Violet, and I hear him at intervals telling her about the pigs, which
seems odd, but she looks pleased, so perhaps is interested.

Conversation suddenly becomes general, as topic of present-day Dentistry
is introduced by Lady F. We all, except Robert, who eats bread, have much
to say.

(_Mem_.: Remember to direct conversation into similar channel, when
customary periodical deathly silence descends upon guests at my own
table.)

Weather is wet and cold, and had confidently hoped to escape tour of the
garden, but this is not to be, and directly lunch is over we rush out
into the damp. Boughs drip on to our heads and water squelches beneath
our feet, but rhododendrons and lupins undoubtedly very magnificent, and
references to Ruth Draper not more numerous than usual. I find myself
walking with Mrs. Brightpie (?), who evidently knows all that can be
known about a garden. Fortunately she is prepared to originate all the
comments herself, and I need only say, "Yes, isn't that an attractive
variety?" and so on. She enquires once if I have _ever_ succeeded in
making the dear blue Grandiflora Magnifica Superbiensis--(or something
like that)--feel really happy and at home in this climate? to which I am
able to reply with absolute truth by a simple negative, at which I fancy
she looks rather relieved. Is her own life perhaps one long struggle to
acclimatise the G. M. S.? and what would she have replied if I had said
that, in _my_ garden, the dear thing grew like a weed?

(_Mem_.: Must beware of growing tendency to indulge in similar idle
speculations, which lead nowhere, and probably often give me the
appearance of being absentminded in the society of my fellow-creatures.)

After prolonged inspection, we retrace steps, and this time find myself
with Sir William R. and Lady F. talking about grass. Realise with horror
that we are now making our way towards the _stables_. Nothing
whatever to be done about it, except keep as far away from the horses as
possible, and refrain from any comment whatever, in hopes of concealing
that I know nothing about horses except that they frighten me. Robert, I
notice, looks sorry for me, and places himself between me and
terrifying-looking animal that glares out at me from loose-box and curls
up its lip. Feel grateful to him, and eventually leave stables with
shattered nerves and soaking wet shoes. Exchange customary graceful
farewells with host and hostess, saying how much I have enjoyed coming.

(Query here suggests itself, as often before: Is it utterly impossible to
combine the amenities of civilisation with even the minimum of honesty
required to satisfy the voice of conscience? Answer still in abeyance at
present.)

Robert goes to Evening Service, and I play Halma with Vicky. She says
that she wants to go to school, and produces string of excellent reasons
why she should do so. I say that I will think it over, but am aware, by
previous experience, that Vicky has almost miraculous aptitude for
getting her own way, and will probably succeed in this instance as in
others.

Rather depressing Sunday supper--cold beef, baked potatoes, salad, and
depleted cold tart--after which I write to Rose, the Cleaners, the Army
and Navy Stores, and the County Secretary of the Women's Institute, and
Robert goes to sleep over the _Sunday Pictorial_.

_June 3rd._--Astounding and enchanting change in the weather, which
becomes warm. I carry chair, writing-materials, rug, and cushion into the
garden, but am called in to have a look at the Pantry Sink, please, as it
seems to have blocked itself up. Attempted return to garden frustrated by
arrival of note from the village concerning Garden Fete arrangements,
which requires immediate answer, necessity for speaking to the butcher on
the telephone, and sudden realisation that Laundry List hasn't yet been
made out, and the Van will be here at eleven. When it does come, I have
to speak about the tablecloths, which leads--do not know how--to long
conversation about the Derby, the Van speaking highly of an
outsider--_Trews_--whilst I uphold the chances of _Silver
Flare_--(mainly because I like the name).

Shortly after this, Mrs. S. arrives from the village, to collect jumble
for Garden Fête, which takes time. After lunch, sky clouds over, and
Mademoiselle and Vicky kindly help me to carry chair, writing-materials,
rug, and cushion into the house again.

Robert receives letter by second post announcing death of his godfather,
aged ninety-seven, and decides to go to the funeral on 5th June.

(_Mem_.: Curious, but authenticated fact, that a funeral is the only
gathering to which the majority of men ever go willingly. Should like to
think out why this should be so, but must instead unearth top-hat and
other accoutrements of woe and try if open air will remove smell of
naphthaline.)

_June 7th._--Receive letter--(Why, in Heaven's name, not
telegram?)--from Robert, to announce that godfather has left him Five
Hundred Pounds. This strikes me as so utterly incredible and magnificent
that I shed tears of pure relief and satisfaction. Mademoiselle comes in,
in the midst of them, and on receiving explanation kisses me on both
cheeks and exclaims: "Ah, je m'en doutais! Voilá bien ce bon Saint
Antoine!" Can only draw conclusion that she has, most touchingly, been
petitioning Heaven on our behalf, and very nearly weep again at the
thought. Spend joyful evening making out lists of bills to be paid,
jewellery to be redeemed, friends to be benefited, and purchases to be
made, out of legacy, and am only slightly disconcerted on finding that
net total of lists, when added together, comes to exactly one thousand
three hundred and twenty pounds.

_June 9th._--Return, yesterday, of Robert, and have every reason to
believe that, though neither talkative nor exuberant, he fully
appreciates newly achieved stability of financial position. He warmly
concurs in my suggestion that great-aunt's diamond ring should be
retrieved from Plymouth pawnbroker's in time to figure at our next
excitement, which is the Garden Fete, and I accordingly hasten to
Plymouth by earliest available bus.

Not only do I return with ring--(pawnbroker, after a glance at the
calendar, congratulates me on being just in time)--but have also
purchased new hat for myself, many yards of material for Vicky's frocks,
a Hornby train for Robin, several gramophone records, and a small mauve
bag for Mademoiselle. All give the utmost satisfaction, and I furthermore
arrange to have hot lobster and fruit salad for dinner--these, however,
not a great success with Robert, unfortunately, and he suggests--though
kindly--that I was perhaps thinking more of my own tastes than of his,
when devising this form of celebration. Must regretfully acknowledge
truth in this. Discussion of godfather's legacy fills the evening
happily, and I say that we ought to give a Party, and suggest combining
it with Garden Fete. Robert replies, however,--and on further reflection
find that I agree with him--that this would not conduce to the success of
either entertainment, and scheme is abandoned. He also begs me to get
Garden Fête over before I begin to think of anything else, and I agree to
do so.

_June 12th._--Nothing is spoken of but weather, at the moment
propitious--but who can say whether similar conditions will prevail on
17th?--relative merits of having the Tea laid under the oak trees or near
the tennis-court, outside price that can be reasonably asked for articles
on Jumble Stall, desirability of having Ice-cream combined with Lemonade
Stall, and the like. Date fortunately coincides with Robin's half-term,
and I feel that he must and shall come home for the occasion. Expense, as
I point out to Robert, now nothing to us. He yields. I become reckless,
have thoughts of a House-party, and invite Rose to come down from London.
She accepts.

Dear old school-friend Cissie Crabbe, by strange coincidence, writes that
she will be on her way to Land's End on 16th June; may she stay for two
nights? Yes, she may. Robert does not seem pleased when I explain that he
will have to vacate his dressing-room for Cissie Crabbe, as Rose will be
occupying spare bedroom, and Robin at home. This will complete
House-party.

_June 17th._--Entire household rises practically at dawn, in order
to take part in active preparations for Garden Fete. Mademoiselle
reported to have refused breakfast in order to put final stitches in
embroidered pink satin boot-bag for Fancy Stall, which she has, to my
certain knowledge, been working at for the past six weeks. At ten o'clock
our Vicar's wife dashes in to ask what I think of the weather, and to say
that she cannot stop a moment. At eleven she is still here, and has been
joined by several stall-holders, and tiresome local couple called White,
who want to know if there will be a Tennis Tournament, and if not, is
there not still time to organise one? I reply curtly in the negative to
both suggestions and they depart, looking huffed. Our Vicar's wife says
that this may have lost us their patronage at the Fete altogether, and
that Mrs. White's mother, who is staying with them, is said to be rich,
and might easily have been worth a couple of pounds to us.

Diversion fortunately occasioned by unexpected arrival of solid and
respectable-looking claret-coloured motor-car, from which Barbara and
Crosbie Carruthers emerge. Barbara is excited; C. C. remains calm but
looks benevolent. Our Vicar's wife screams, and throws a pair of scissors
wildly into the air. (They are eventually found in Bran Tub containing
Twopenny Dips, and are the cause of much trouble, as small child who
fishes them out maintains them to be _bona fide_ dip and refuses to
give them up.)

Barbara looks blooming, and says how wonderful it is to see the dear old
place quite unchanged. Cannot whole-heartedly agree with this, as it is
not three months since she was here last, but fortunately she requires no
answer, and says that she and C. C. are looking up old friends and will
return for the Opening of the Fete this afternoon.

Robert goes to meet old school-friend Cissie Crabbe at station, and Rose
and Ito help price garments at Jumble Stall. (Find that my views are not
always similar to those of other members of Committee. Why, for instance,
only three-and-sixpence for grey georgette only sacrificed reluctantly at
eleventh hour from my wardrobe?)

Arrival of Cissie Crabbe (wearing curious wool hat which I at once feel
would look better on Jumble Stall) is followed by cold lunch. Have made
special point of remembering nuts and banana sandwiches for Cissie, but
have difficulty in preventing Robin and Vicky--to whom I have omitted to
give explanation--making it obvious that they would prefer this diet to
cold lamb and salad. Just as tinned pineapple and junket stage is passed,
Robin informs me that there are people beginning to arrive, and we all
disperse in desperate haste and excitement, to reappear in best clothes.
I wear red foulard and new red hat, but find--as usual--that every
petticoat I have in the world is either rather too long or much too
short. Mademoiselle comes to the rescue and puts safety-pins in
shoulder-straps, one of which becomes unfastened later and causes me
great suffering. Rose, also as usual, looks nicer than anybody else in
delightful green delaine. Cissie Crabbe also has reasonably attractive
dress, but detracts from effect with numerous scarab rings, cameo
brooches, tulle scarves, enamel buckles, and barbaric necklaces.
Moreover, she clings (I think mistakenly) to little wool hat, which looks
odd. Robin and Vicky both present enchanting appearance, although Mary's
three little Kellways, all alike in pale rose tussore, undeniably
decorative. (Natural wave in hair of all three, which seems to me unjust,
but nothing can be done until Vicky reaches age suitable for Permanent
Waving.)

Lady Frobisher arrives--ten minutes too early--to open Fete, and is
walked about by Robert until our Vicar says, Well, he thinks perhaps that
we are now all gathered together...(Have profane impulse to add "_In
the sight of God_", but naturally stifle it.) Lady F. is poised
gracefully on little bank under the chestnut tree, our Vicar beside her,
Robert and myself modestly retiring a few paces behind, our Vicar's wife
kindly, but mistakenly, trying to induce various unsuitable people to
mount bank--which she humorously refers to as the Platform--when all is
thrown into confusion by sensational arrival of colossal Bentley
containing Lady B.--in sapphire-blue and pearls--with escort of
fashionable creatures, male and female, apparently dressed for Ascot.

"Go on, go on!" says Lady B., waving hand in white kid glove, and
dropping small jewelled bag, lace parasol, and embroidered handkerchief
as she does so. Great confusion while these articles are picked up and
restored, but at last we do go on, and Lady F. says what a pleasure it is
to her to be here to-day, what a desirable asset a Village Hall is, and
much else to the same effect. Our Vicar thanks her for coming here
to-day--so many claims upon her time--Robert seconds him with almost
incredible brevity--someone else thanks Robert and myself for throwing
open these magnificent grounds--(tennis-court, three flower borders, and
microscopic shrubbery)--I look at Robert, who shakes his head, thus
obliging me to make necessary reply myself, and our Vicar's wife, with
undeniable presence of mind, darts forward and reminds Lady F. that she
has forgotten to declare the Fete open. This is at once done and we
disperse to stalls and sideshows.

Am stopped by Lady B., who asks reproachfully, Didn't I know that she
would have been perfectly ready to open the Fete herself, if I had asked
her? Another time, she says, I am not to hesitate for a _moment_.
She then spends ninepence on a lavender bag, and drives off again with
expensive-looking friends. This behaviour provides topic of excited
conversation for us all, throughout the whole of the afternoon.

Everyone else buys nobly, unsuitable articles are raffled--(raffling
illegal, winner to pay sixpence)--guesses are made as to contents of
sealed boxes, number of currants in large cake, weight of bilious-looking
ham, and so on. Band arrives, is established on lawn, and plays
selections from _The Geisha_. Mademoiselle's boot-bag bought by
elegant purchaser in grey flannels, who turns out, on closer inspection,
to be Howard Fitzsimmons. Just as I recover from this, Robin, in wild
excitement, informs me that he has won a Goat in a raffle. (Goat has
fearful local reputation, and is of immense age and savageness.) Have no
time to do more than say how _nice_ this is, and he had better run
and tell Daddy, before old Mrs. B., Barbara, C. C., and Cousin Maud all
turn up together. (Can baby Austin _possibly_ have accommodated them
all?) Old Mrs. B. rather less subdued than at our last meeting, and goes
so far as to say that she has very little money to spend, but that she
always thinks a smile and a kind word are better than gold, with which I
inwardly disagree.

Am definitely glad to perceive that C. C. has taken up cast-iron attitude
of unfriendliness towards Cousin Maud, and contradicts her whenever she
speaks. Sports, tea, and dancing on the tennis-lawn all
successful--(except possibly from point of view of future
tennis-parties)--and even Robin and Vicky do not dream of eating final
ice cream cornets, and retiring to bed, until ten o'clock.

Robert, Rose, Cissie Crabbe, Helen Wills, and myself all sit in the
drawing-room in pleasant state of exhaustion, and congratulate ourselves
and one another. Robert has information, no doubt reliable, but source
remains mysterious, to the effect that we have Cleared Three Figures.
All, for the moment, is _couleur-de-rose_.

_June 23rd._--Tennis-party at wealthy and elaborate house, to which
Robert and I now bidden for the first time. (Also, probably, the last.)
Immense opulence of host and hostess at once discernible in fabulous
display of deck-chairs, all of complete stability and miraculous
cleanliness. Am introduced to youngish lady in yellow, and serious young
man with horn-rimmed spectacles. Lady in yellow says at once that she is
sure I have a lovely garden. (Why?)

Elderly, but efficient-looking, partner is assigned to me, and we play
against the horn-rimmed spectacles and agile young creature in expensive
crepe-de-chine. Realise at once that all three play very much better
tennis than I do. Still worse, realise that _they_ realise this.
Just as we begin, my partner observes gravely that he ought to tell me he
is a left-handed player. Cannot imagine what he expects me to do about
it, lose my head, and reply madly that That is Splendid.

Game proceeds, I serve several double-faults, and elderly partner becomes
graver and graver. At beginning of each game he looks at me and repeats
score with fearful distinctness, which, as it is never in our favour,
entirely unnerves me. At "Six-_one_" we leave the court and silently
seek chairs as far removed from one another as possible. Find myself in
vicinity of Our Member, and we talk about the Mace, peeresses in the
House of Lords--on which we differ--winter sports, and Alsatian dogs.

Robert plays tennis, and does well.

Later on, am again bidden to the court and, to my unspeakable horror,
told to play once more with elderly and efficient partner.

I apologise to him for this misfortune, and he enquires in return, with
extreme pessimism. Fifty years from now, what will it matter if we
_have_ lost this game? Neighbouring lady--probably his wife?--looks
agitated at this, and supplements it by incoherent assurances about its
being a great pleasure, in any case. Am well aware that she is lying, but
intention evidently very kind, for which I feel grateful. Play worse than
ever, and am not unprepared for subsequent enquiry from hostess as to
whether I think I have _really_ quite got over the measles, as she
has heard that it often takes a full year. I reply, humorously, that, so
far as tennis goes, it will take far more than a full year. Perceive by
expression of civil perplexity on face of hostess that she has entirely
failed to grasp this rather subtle witticism, and wish that I hadn't made
it. Am still thinking about this failure, when I notice that conversation
has, mysteriously, switched on to the United States of Ameerca, about
which we are all very emphatic. Americans, we say, undoubtedly
_hospitable_--but what about the War Debt? What about Prohibition?
What about Sinclair Lewis? Aimée MacPherson, and Co-education? By the
time we have done with them, it transpires that none of is have ever been
to America, but all hold definite views, which fortunately coincide with
the views of everybody else.

(Query: Could not interesting little experiment he tried, by possessor of
unusual amount of moral courage, in the shape of suddenly producing
perfectly brand-new opinion: for example, to the effect that Americans
have better manners than we have, or that their divorce laws are a great
improvement upon our own? Should much like to see effect of these, or
similar, psychological bombs, but should definitely wish Robert to he
absent from the scene.)

Announcement of tea breaks off these intelligent speculations.

Am struck, as usual, by infinite superiority of other people's food to my
own.

Conversation turns upon Lady B. and everyone says she is really very
kindhearted, and follows this up by anecdotes illustrating all her less
attractive qualities. Youngish lady in yellow declares that she met Lady
B. last week in London, face three inches thick in new sunburn-tan. Can
quite believe it. Feel much more at home after this, and conscious of new
bond of union cementing entire party. Sidelight thus thrown upon human
nature regrettable, but not to be denied. Even tennis improves after
this, entirely owing to my having told funny story relating to Lady B.'s
singular behaviour in regard to local Jumble Sale, which meets with
success. Serve fewer double-faults, but still cannot quite escape
conviction that whoever plays with me invariably loses the set--which I
cannot believe to be mere coincidence.

Suggest to Robert, on the way home, that I had better give up tennis
altogether, to which, after long silence--during which I hope he is
perhaps evolving short speech that shall be at once complimentary and yet
convincing--he replies that he does not know what I could take up
instead. As I do not know either, the subject is dropped, and we return
home in silence.

_June 27th._--Cook says that unless I am willing to let her have the
Sweep, she cannot possibly be responsible for the stove. I say that of
course she can have the Sweep. If not, Cook returns, totally disregarding
this, she really can't say what won't happen. I reiterate my complete
readiness to send the Sweep a summons on the instant, and Cook continues
to look away from me and to repeat that unless I _will_ agree to
having the Sweep in, there's no knowing.

This dialogue--cannot say why--upsets me for the remainder of the day.

_June 30th._--The Sweep comes, and devastates the entire day.
Bath-water and meals are alike cold, and soot appears quite irrelevantly
in portions of the house totally removed from sphere of Sweep's
activities. Am called upon in the middle of the day to produce
twelve-and-sixpence in cash, which I cannot do. Appeal to everybody in
the house, and find that nobody else can, either. Finally Cook announces
that the Joint has just come and can oblige at the back door, if I don't
mind its going down in the hook. I do not, and the Sweep is accordingly
paid and disappears on a motor-bicycle.

_July 3rd._--Breakfast enlivened by letter from dear Rose written
at, apparently, earthly paradise of blue sea and red rocks, on South
Coast of France. She says that she is having complete rest, and enjoying
congenial society of charming group of friends, and makes unprecedented
suggestion that I should join her for a fortnight. I am moved to
exclaim--perhaps rather thoughtlessly--that the most wonderful thing in
the world must be to be a childless widow--but this is met by
unsympathetic silence from Robert, which recalls me to myself, and impels
me to say that that isn't in the least what I meant.

(_Mem_.: Should often be very, very sorry to explain exactly what it
is that I _do_ mean, and am in fact conscious of deliberately
avoiding self-analysis on many occasions. Do not propose, however, to go
into this now or at any other time.)

I tell Robert that if it wasn't for the expense, and not having any
clothes, and the servants, and leaving Vicky, I should think seriously of
Rose's suggestion. Why, I enquire rhetorically, should Lady B. have a
monopoly of the South of France? Robert replies, Well--and pauses for
such a long while that I get agitated, and have mentally gone through the
Divorce Court with him, before he ends up by saying Well, again, and
picking up the _Western Morning News_. Feel--but do not say--that
this, as contribution to discussion, is inadequate. Am prepared, however,
to continue it single-handed sooner than allow subject to drop
altogether. Do so, but am interrupted first by entrance of Helen Wills
through the window--(Robert says, Dam' that cat, I shall have it drowned,
but only absent-mindedly)--and then by spirit-lamp, which is discovered
to be extinct, and to require new wick. Robert strongly in favour of
ringing immediately, but I discourage this, and undertake to speak about
it instead, and tie knot in pocket-handkerchief. (Unfortunately
overcharged memory fails later when in kitchen, and find myself unable to
recollect whether marmalade has run to sugar through remaining too long
in jar, or merely porridge lumpier than usual--but this a digression.)

I read Rose's letter all over again, and feel that I have here
opportunity of a lifetime. Suddenly hear myself exclaiming passionately
that Travel broadens the Mind, and am immediately reminded of our Vicar's
wife, who frequently makes similar remark before taking our Vicar to
spend fortnight's holiday in North Wales.

Robert finally says Well, again--this time tone of voice slightly more
lenient--and then asks if it is quite impossible for his bottle of Eno's
to be left undisturbed on bathroom shelf?

I at once and severely condemn Mademoiselle as undoubted culprit,
although guiltily aware that original suggestion probably emanated from
myself. And what, I add, about the South of France? Robert looks
astounded, and soon afterwards leaves the dining-room without having
spoken.

I deal with my correspondence, omitting Rose's letter. Remainder boils
down to rather uninspiring collection of Accounts Rendered, offensive
little pamphlet that makes searching enquiry into the state of my gums,
postcard from County Secretary of Women's Institutes with notice of
meeting that I am expected to attend, and warmly worded personal
communication addressed me by name from unknown Titled Gentleman, which
ends up with a request for five shillings if I cannot spare more, in aid
of charity in which he is interested. Whole question of South of France
is shelved until evening, when I seek Mademoiselle in schoolroom, after
Vicky has gone to bed. Am horrified to see that supper, awaiting her on
the table, consists of cheese, pickles, and slice of jam roly-poly,
grouped on single plate--(Would not this suggest to the artistic mind a
Still-life Study in Modern Art?)--flanked by colossal jug of cold water.
Is this, I ask, what Mademoiselle _likes_? She assures me that it is
and adds, austerely, that food is of no importance to her. She could go
without anything for days and days, without noticing it. From her early
childhood, she has always been the same.

(Query unavoidably suggests itself here: Does Mademoiselle really expect
me to believe her, and if so, what can be her opinion of my mental
capacity?)

We discuss Vicky: tendency to argumentativeness, I hint. "C'est un petit
coeur d 'or," returns Mademoiselle immediately. I agree, in modified
terms, and Mademoiselle at once points out dear Vicky's undeniable
obstinacy and self-will, and goes so far as to say: "Plus tard, ce sera
un esprit fort...elle ira loin, cette petite."

I bring up the subject of the South of France. Mademoiselle more than
sympathetic, assures me that I must, at all costs, go, adding--a little
unnecessarily--that I have grown many, many years older in the last few
months, and that to live as I do, without any distractions, only leads to
madness in the end.

Feel that she could hardly have worded this more trenchantly, and am a
good deal impressed.

(Query: Would Robert see the force of these representations, or not?
Robert apt to take rather prejudiced view of all that is not purely
English.)

Return to drawing-room and find Robert asleep behind the _Times_.
Read Rose's letter all over again, and am moved to make list of clothes
that I should require if I joined her, estimate of expenses--financial
situation, though not scintillating, still considerably brighter than
usual, owing to recent legacy--and even Notes, on back of envelope, of
instructions to be given to Mademoiselle, Cook, and the tradespeople,
before leaving.

_July 6th._--Decide definitely on joining Rose at Ste. Agathe, and
write and tell her so. Die now cast, and Rubicon crossed--or rather will
be, on achieving further side of the Channel. Robert, on the whole, takes
lenient view of entire project, and says he supposes that nothing else
will satisfy me, and better not count on really hot weather promised by
Rose but take good supply of woollen underwear. Mademoiselle is
sympathetic, but theatrical, and exclaims: "C'est la Ste. Vierge qui a
tout arrange!" which sounds like a travel agency, and shocks me.

Go to Women's Institute Meeting and tell our Secretary that I am afraid I
shall have to miss our next Committee Meeting. She immediately replies
that the date can easily be altered. I protest, but am defeated by small
calendar, which she at once produces, and begs me to select my own date,
and says that It will be All the Same to the eleven other members of the
Committee.

(Have occasional misgivings at recollection of rousing speeches made by
various speakers from our National Federation, to the effect that all
W.I. members enjoy equal responsibilities and equal privileges...Can only
hope that none of them will ever have occasion to enter more fully into
the inner workings of our Monthly Committee Meetings.)

_July 12th._--Pay farewell calls, and receive much good advice. Our
Vicar says that it is madness to drink water anywhere in France, unless
previously boiled and filtered; our Vicar's wife shares Robert's distrust
as to climate, and advises Jaeger next the skin, and also offers loan of
small travelling medicine-chest for emergencies. Discussion follows as to
whether Bisulphate of Quinine is, or is not, dutiable article, and is
finally brought to inconclusive conclusion by our Vicar's pronouncing
definitely that, in _any_ case, Honesty is the Best Policy.

Old Mrs. Blenkinsop--whom I reluctantly visit whenever I get a letter
from Barbara saying how grateful she is for my kindness--adopts quavering
and enfeebled manner, and hopes she may be here to welcome me home again
on my return, but implies that this is not really to be anticipated. I
say Come, come, and begin well-turned sentence as to Mrs. B.'s wonderful
vitality, when Cousin Maud bounces in, and inspiration fails me on the
spot. What Hol says Cousin Maud--(or at least, produces the effect of
having said it, though possibly slang slightly more up-to-date than
this--but not much)--What is all this about our cutting a dash on the
Lido or somewhere, and leaving our home to take care of itself? Talk
about the Emancipation of Females, says Cousin Maud. Should like to reply
that no one, except herself, ever _does_ talk about it--but feel
this might reasonably be construed as uncivil, and do not want to upset
unfortunate old Mrs. B., whom I now regard as a victim pure and simple.
Ignore Cousin Maud, and ask old Mrs. B. what books she would advise me to
take. Amount of luggage strictly limited, both as to weight and size, but
could manage two very long ones, if in pocket editions, and another to be
carried in coat-pocket for journey.

Old Mrs. B.--probably still intent on thought of approaching
dissolution--suddenly says that there is nothing like the
Bible--suggestion which I feel might more properly have been left to our
Vicar. Naturally, give her to understand that I agree, but do not commit
myself further. Cousin Maud, in a positive way that annoys me, recommends
No book At All, especially when crossing the sea. It is well known, she
affirms, that any attempt to fix the eyes on printed page while ship is
moving induces sea-sickness quicker than anything else. Better repeat
poetry, or the multiplication-table, as this serves to distract the mind.
Have no assurance that the multiplication-table is at my command, but do
not reveal this to Cousin Maud.

Old Mrs. B., abandoning Scriptural attitude, now says, Give her
Shakespeare. Everything is to be found in Shakespeare. Look at _King
Lear_, she says. Cousin Maud assents with customary energy--but should
be prepared to take considerable bet that she has never read a word of
_King Lear_ since it was--presumably--stuffed down her throat at
dear old Roedean, in intervals of cricket and hockey.

We touch on literature in general--old Mrs. B. observes that much that is
published nowadays seems to her unnecessary, and why so much Sex in
everything?--Cousin Maud says that books collect dust, anyway, and
whisks away inoffensive copy of _Time and Tide_ with which old Mrs.
B. is evidently solacing herself in intervals of being hustled in and out
of baby Austin--and I take my leave. Am embraced by old Mrs. B. (who
shows tendency to have one of her old-time Attacks, but is briskly headed
off it by Cousin Maud) and slapped on the back by Cousin Maud in familiar
and extremely offensive manner.

Walk home, and am overtaken by well-known blue Bentley, from which Lady
B. waves elegantly, and commands chauffeur to stop. He does so, and Lady
B. says, Get in, Get in, never mind muddy boots--which makes me feel like
a plough-boy. Good works, she supposes, have been taking me plodding
round the village as usual? The way I go on, day after day, is too
marvellous. Reply with utmost distinctness that I am just on the point of
starting for the South of France, where I am joining party of
distinguished friends. (This not entirely untrue, since dear Rose has
promised introduction to many interesting acquaintances, including
Viscountess.)

Really, says Lady B. But why not go at the right time of year? Or why not
go all the way by sea?--yachting too marvellous. Or why not, again, make
it Scotland, instead of France?

Do not reply to any of all this, and request to be put down at the
corner. This is done, and Lady B. waves directions to chauffeur to drive
on, but subsequently stops him again, and leans out to say that she can
find out all about quite inexpensive _pensions_ for me if I like. I
do _not_ like, and we part finally.

Find myself indulging in rather melodramatic fantasy of Bentley crashing
into enormous motor-bus and being splintered to atoms. Permit chauffeur
to escape unharmed, but fate of Lady B. left uncertain, owing to
ineradicable impression of earliest childhood to the effect that It is
Wicked to wish for the Death of Another. Do not consider, however, that
severe injuries, with possible disfigurement, come under this law--but
entire topic unprofitable, and had better be dismissed.

_July 14th._--Question of books to be taken abroad undecided till
late hour last night. Robert says, Why take any? and Vicky proffers
_Les Malheurs de Sophie_, which she puts into the very bottom of my
suit-case, whence it is extracted with some difficulty by Mademoiselle
later. Finally decide on _Little Dorrit_ and _The Daisy Chain_,
with _Jane Eyre_ in coat-pocket. Should prefer to be the kind of
person who is inseparable from volume of Keats, or even Jane Austen, but
cannot compass this.

_July 15th._--_Mem._: Remind Robert before starting that
Gladys's wages due on Saturday. Speak about having my room turned out.
Speak about laundry. Speak to Mademoiselle about Vicky's teeth,
glycothymoline, Helen Wills _not_ on bed, and lining of tussore
coat. Write butcher. Wash hair.

_July 17th._--Robert sees me off by early train for London, after
scrambled and agitating departure, exclusively concerned with frantic
endeavours to induce suit-case to shut. This is at last accomplished, but
leaves me with conviction that it will be at least equally difficult to
induce it to open again. Vicky bids me cheerful, but affectionate,
good-bye and then shatters me at eleventh hour by enquiring trustfully if
I shall be home in time to read to her after tea? As entire extent of
absence has already been explained to her in full, this enquiry merely
senseless--but serves to unnerve me badly, especially as Mademoiselle
ejaculates: "Ah! la pauvre chère mignonne!" into the blue.

(_Mem_.: The French very often carried away by emotionalism to
wholly preposterous lengths.)

Cook, Gladys, and the gardener stand at hall-door and hope that I shall
enjoy my holiday, and Cook adds a rider to the effect that It seems to be
blowing up for a gale, and for her part, she has always had a Norror of
death by drowning. On this, we drive away.

Arrive at station too early--as usual--and I fill in time by asking
Robert if he will telegraph if anything happens to the children, as I
could be back again in twenty-four hours. He only enquires in return
whether I have my passport? Am perfectly aware that passport is in my
small purple dressing-case, where I put it a week ago, and have looked at
it two or three times every day ever since--last time just before leaving
my room forty-five minutes ago. Am nevertheless mysteriously impelled to
open hand-bag, take out key, unlock small purple dressing-case, and
verify presence of passport all over again.

(Query: Is not behaviour of this kind well known in therapeutic circles
as symptomatic of mental derangement? Vague but disquieting association
here with singular behaviour of Dr. Johnson in London streets--but too
painful to be pursued to a finish.)

Arrival of train, and I say good-bye to Robert, and madly enquire if he
would rather I gave up going at all? He rightly ignores this altogether.

(Query: Would not extremely distressing situation arise if similar
impulsive offer were one day to be accepted? This gives rise to
unavoidable speculation in regard to sincerity of such offers, and here
again, issue too painful to be frankly faced, and am obliged to shelve
train of thought altogether.)

Turn my attention to fellow-travellerdistrustful-looking woman with grey
hair--who at once informs me that door of lavatory--opening out of
compartment--has defective lock, and will not stay shut. I say Oh, in
tone of sympathetic concern, and shut door. It remains shut. We watch it
anxiously, and it flies open again. Later on, fellow-traveller makes
fresh attempt, with similar result. Much of the journey spent in this
exercise. I observe thoughtfully that Hope springs eternal in the human
breast, and fellow-traveller looks more distrustful than ever. She
finally says in despairing tones that Really, it isn't what she calls
very nice, and lapses into depressed silence. Door remains triumphantly
open.

Drive from Waterloo to Victoria, take out passport in taxi in order to
Have It Ready, then decide safer to put it back again in dressing-case,
which I do. (Dr. Johnson recrudesces faintly, but is at once dismissed.)
Observe with horror that trees in Grosvenor Gardens are swaying with
extreme violence in stiff gale of wind.

Change English money into French at Victoria Station, where superior
young gentleman in little kiosk refuses to let me have anything smaller
than one-hundredfranc notes. I ask what use that will be when it comes to
porters, but superior young gentleman remains adamant. Infinitely
competent person in blue and gold, labelled Dean & Dawson, comes to my
rescue, miraculously provides me with change, says Have I booked a seat,
pilots me to it, and tells me that he represents the best-known Travel
Agency in London. I assure him warmly that I shall never patronise any
other--which is true--and we part with mutual esteem. I make note on half
of torn luggage-label to the effect that it would be merest honesty to
write and congratulate D. & D. on admirable employe--but feel that I
shall probably never do it.

Journey to Folkestone entirely occupied in looking out of train window
and seeing quite large trees bowed to earth by force of wind. Cook's
words recur most unpleasantly. Also recall various forms of advice
received, and find it difficult to decide between going instantly to the
Ladies' Saloon, taking off my hat, and lying down Perfectly
Flat--(Mademoiselle's suggestion)--or Keeping in the Fresh Air at All
Costs and Thinking about Other Things--(course advocated on a postcard by
Aunt Gertrude). Choice taken out of my hands by discovery that Ladies'
Saloon is entirely filled, within five minutes of going on board, by
other people, who have all taken off their hats and are lying down
Perfectly Flat.

Return to deck, sit on suit-case, and decide to Think about Other Things.
Schoolmaster and his wife, who are going to Boulogne for a holiday, talk
to one another across me about University Extension Course, and
appear to be superior to the elements. I take out _Jane Eyre_ from
coatpocket--partly in faint hope of impressing them, and partly to
distract my mind--but remember Cousin Maud, and am forced to conclusion
that she may have been right. Perhaps advice equally correct in respect
of repeating poetry? Can think of nothing whatever, except extraordinary
damp chill which appears to be creeping over me. Schoolmaster suddenly
says to me: "Quite all _right_, aren't you?" To which I reply, Oh
yes, and he laughs in a bright and scholastic way, and talks about the
Matterhorn. Although unaware of any conscious recollection of it, find
myself inwardly repeating curious and ingenious example of alliterative
verse, committed to memory in my schooldays. (_Note:_ Can dimly
understand why the dying revert to impressions of early infancy.)

Just as I get to:

"Cossack Commanders cannonading come
Dealing destruction's devastating doom--"

elements overcome me altogether. Have dim remembrance of hearing
schoolmaster exclaim in authoritative tones to everybody within earshot:
"Make way for this lady--she is _Ill_"--which injunction he repeats
every time I am compelled to leave suitcase. Throughout intervals, I
continue to grapple, more or less deliriously, with alliterative poem,
and do not give up altogether until

"Reason returns, religious rights redound"
is reached. This I consider creditable.

Attain Boulogne at last, discover reserved seat in train, am told by
several officials whom I question that we do, or alternatively, do not,
change when we reach Paris, give up the elucidation of the point for the
moment, and demand--and obtain small glass of brandy, which restores me.

_July 18th, at Ste. Agathe._--Vicissitudes of travel very strange,
and am struck--as often--by enormous dissimilarity between journeys
undertaken in real life, and as reported in fiction. Can remember very
few novels in which train journey of any kind does not involve either (a)
Hectic encounter with member of opposite sex, leading to tense emotional
issue; (6) discovery of murdered body in hideously battered condition,
under circumstances which utterly defy detection; (c) elopement between
two people each of whom is married to somebody else, culminating in
severe disillusionment, or lofty renunciation.

Nothing of all this enlivens my own peregrinations, but on the other
hand, the night not without incident.

Second-class carriage full, and am not fortunate enough to obtain
corner-seat. American young gentleman sits opposite, and elderly French
couple, with talkative friend wearing blue béret, who trims his nails
with a pocket-knife and tells us about the state of the wine-trade.

I have dusty and elderly mother in black on one side, and her two
sons--names turn out to be Guguste and Dédé--on the other. (Dédé looks
about fifteen, but wears socks, which I think a mistake, but must beware
of insularity.)

Towards eleven o'clock we all subside into silence, except the blue
béret, who is now launched on tennis-champions, and has much to say about
all of them. American young gentleman looks uneasy at mention of any of
his compatriots, but evidently does not understand enough French to
follow blue béret's remarks--which is as well.

Just as we all--except indefatigable béret, now eating small
sausage-rolls--drop one by one into slumber, train stops at station and
fragments of altercation break out in corridor concerning admission, or
otherwise, of someone evidently accompanied by large dog. This is opposed
by masculine voice repeating steadily, at short intervals: "Un chien
n'est pas une personne," and heavily backed by assenting chorus,
repeating after him: "Mais non, un chien n'est pas une personne."

To this I fall asleep, but wake a long time afterwards, to sounds of
appealing enquiry, floating in from corridor: "Mais voyons--N'est-ce pas
qu'un chien n'est pas une personne?"

The point still unsettled when I sleep again, and in the morning no more
is heard, and I speculate in vain as to whether owner of the _chien_
remained with him on the station, or is having _tête-à-tête_ journey
with him in separate carriage altogether. Wash inadequately, in extremely
dirty accommodation provided, after waiting some time in lengthy queue.
Make distressing discovery that there is no way of obtaining breakfast
until train halts at Avignon. Break this information later to American
young gentleman, who falls into deep distress and says that he does not
know the French for grapefruit. Neither do I, but am able to inform him
decisively that he will not require it.

Train is late, and does not reach Avignon till nearly ten. American young
gentleman has a severe panic, and assures me that if he leaves the train
it will start without him. This happened once before at Davenport, Iowa.
In order to avoid similar calamity, on this occasion, I offer to procure
him a cup of coffee and two rolls, and successfully do so--but attend
first to my own requirements. We all brighten after this, and Guguste
announces his intention of shaving. His mother screams, and says, "Mais
c'est fou"--with which I privately agree--and everybody else remonstrates
with Guguste (except Dédé, who is wrapped in gloom), and points out that
the train is rocking, and he will cut himself. The blue béret goes so far
as to predict that he will decapitate himself, at which everybody
screams.

Guguste remains adamant, and produces shaving apparatus and a little mug,
which is given to Dédé to hold. We sit around in great suspense, and
Guguste is supported by one elbow by his mother, while he conducts
operations to a conclusion which produces no perceptible change whatever
in his appearance.

After this excitement, we all suffer from reaction, and sink into hot and
dusty silence. Scenery gets rocky and sandy, with heat-haze shimmering
over all, and occasional glimpses of bright blue-and-green sea.

At intervals train stops, and ejects various people. We lose the elderly
French couple--who leave a Thermos behind them and have to be screamed at
by Guguste from the window--and then the blue béret, eloquent to the
last, and turning round on the platform to bow as train moves off again.
Guguste, Deck, and the mother remain with me to the end, as they are
going on as far as Antibes. American young gentleman gets out when I do,
but lose sight of him altogether in excitement of meeting Rose, charming
in yellow embroidered linen. She says that she is glad to see me, and
adds that I look a Rag--which is true, as I discover on reaching hotel
and looking-glass--but kindly omits to add that I have smuts on my face,
and that petticoat has mysteriously descended two and a half inches below
my dress, imparting final touch of degradation to general appearance.

She recommends bath and bed, and I agree to both, but refuse proffered
cup of tea, feeling this would be altogether too reminiscent of English
countryside, and quite out of place. I ask, insanely, if letters from
home are awaiting me--which, unless they were written before I left, they
could not possibly be. Rose enquires after Robert and the children, and
when I reply that I feel I ought not really to have come away without
them, she again recommends bed. Feel that she is right, and go there.

_May 23rd._--Cannot avoid contrasting deliriously rapid flight of
time when on a holiday, with very much slower passage of days and even
hours, in other and more familiar surroundings.

(_Mem_.: This disposes once and for all of fallacy that days seem
long when spent in complete idleness. They seem, on the contrary, very
much longer when filled with ceaseless activities.)

Rose--always so gifted in discovering attractive and interesting
friends--is established in circle of gifted--and in some cases actually
celebrated--personalities. We all meet daily on rocks, and bathe in sea.
Temperature and surroundings very, very different to those of English
Channel or Atlantic Ocean, and consequently find myself emboldened to the
extent of quite active swimming. Cannot, however, compete with
Viscountess, who dives, or her friend, who has unique and very striking
method of doing back-fall into the water. Am, indeed, led away by spirit
of emulation into attempting dive on one solitary occasion, and am
convinced that I have plumbed the depths of the Mediterranean--have
doubts, in fact, of ever leaving it again--but on enquiring of extremely
kind spectator--(famous Headmistress)--How I went In, she replies gently:
About level with the Water, she thinks--and we say no more about it.

_July 25th._--Vicky writes affectionately, but briefly--Mademoiselle
at greater length, and quite illegibly, but evidently full of hopes that
I am enjoying myself. Am touched, and send each a picture-postcard.
Robin's letter, written from school, arrives later, and contains
customary allusions to boys unknown to me, also information that he has
asked two of them to come and stay with him in the holidays, and has
accepted invitation to spend a week with another. Postscript adds
straightforward enquiry, Have I bought any chocolate yet?

I do so forthwith.

_July 26th._--Observe in the glass that I look ten years younger
than on arrival here, and am gratified. This, moreover, in spite of what
I cannot help viewing as perilous adventure recently experienced in
(temporarily) choppy sea, agitated by _vent d'est_, in which no one
but Rose's Viscountess attempts to swim. She indicates immense and
distant rock, and announces her intention of swimming to it. I say that I
will go too. Long before we are half-way there, I know that I shall never
reach it, and hope that Robert's second wife will be kind to the
children. Viscountess, swimming calmly, says, Am I all right? I reply, Oh
quite, and am immediately submerged.

(Query: Is this a Judgement?)

Continue to swim. Rock moves further and further away. I reflect that
there will be something distinguished about the headlines announcing my
demise in such exalted company, and mentally frame one or two that I
think would look well in local paper. Am just turning my attention to
paragraph in our Parish Magazine when I hit a small rock, and am
immediately submerged again. Mysteriously rise again from the
foam--though not in the least, as I know too well, like Venus.

Death by drowning said to be preceded by mental panorama of entire past
life. Distressing reflection which very nearly causes me to sink again.
Even one recollection from my past, if injudiciously selected,
disconcerts me in the extreme, and cannot at all contemplate entire
series.. Suddenly perceive that space between myself and rock has
actually diminished. Viscountess--who has kept near me and worn slightly
anxious expression throughout--achieves it safely, and presently find
myself grasping at sharp projections with tips of my fingers and bleeding
profusely at the knees. Perceive that I have been, as they say, Spared.

(_Mem_.: Must try and discover for what purpose, if any.)

Am determined to take this colossal achievement as a matter of course,
and merely make literary reference to Byron swimming the
Hellespont--which would sound better if said in less of a hurry, and when
not obliged to gasp, and spit out several gallons of water.

Minor, but nerve-racking, little problem here suggests itself: What
substitute for a pocket-handkerchief exists when sea-bathing? Can
conceive of no occasion--except possibly funeral of nearest and
dearest--when this homely little article more frequently and urgently
required. Answer, when it comes, anything but satisfactory.

I say that I am cold--which is true--and shall go back across the rocks.
Viscountess, with remarkable tact, does not attempt to dissuade me, and I
go.

_July 27th._--End of holiday quite definitely in sight, and everyone
very kindly says, Why not stay on? I refer, in return, to Robert and the
children--and add, though not aloud, the servants, the laundry, the
Women's Institute, repainting the outside of bath, and the state of my
overdraft. Everyone expresses civil regret at my departure, and I go so
far as to declare recklessly that I shall be coming back next year--which
I well know to be unlikely in the extreme.

Spend last evening sending picture-postcards to everyone to whom I have
been intending to send them ever since I started.

_July 29th, London._--Return journey accomplished under greatly
improved conditions, travelling first-class in company with one of Rose's
most distinguished friends. (Should much like to run across Lady B. by
chance in Paris or elsewhere, but no such gratifying coincidence
supervenes. Shall take care, however, to let her know circles in which I
have been moving.)

Crossing as tempestuous as ever, and again have recourse to "An Austrian
Army" with same lack of success as before. Boat late, train even more so,
last available train for west of England has left Paddington long before
I reach Victoria, and am obliged to stay night in London. Put through
long-distance call to tell Robert this, but line is, as usual, in a bad
way, and all I can hear is "What?" As Robert, on his side, can apparently
hear even less, we do not get far. I find that I have no money, in spite
of having borrowed from Rose--expenditure, as invariably happens, has
exceeded estimate--but confide all to Secretary of my club, who agrees to
trust me, but adds, rather disconcertingly--"as it's for one night only".

_July 30th._--Readjustment sometimes rather difficult, after absence
of unusual length and character.

_July 31st._--The beginning of the holidays signalled, as usual, by
the making of appointments with dentist and doctor. Photographs taken at
Ste. Agathe arrive, and I am--perhaps naturally--much more interested in
them than anybody else appears to be. (Bathing dress shows up as being
even more becoming than I thought it was, though hair, on the other hand,
not at its best--probably owing to salt water.) Notice, regretfully, how
much more time I spend in studying views of myself, than on admirable
group of delightful friends, or even beauties of Nature, as exemplified
in camera studies of sea and sky.

Presents for Vicky, Mademoiselle, and our Vicar's wife all meet with
acclamation, and am gratified. Blue flowered chintz frock, however,
bought at Ste. Agathe for sixty-three francs, no longer becoming to me,
as sunburn fades and original sallowness returns to view. Even
Mademoiselle, usually so sympathetic in regard to clothes, eyes chintz
frock doubtfully, and says, "Tiens! On dirait un bal masqué." As she
knows, and I know, that the neighbourhood never has, and never will, run
to _bals masqués_, this equals unqualified condemnation of blue
chintz, and I remove it in silence to furthest corner of the wardrobe.

Helen Wills, says Cook, about to produce more kittens. Cannot say if
Robert does, or does not, know this.

Spend much time in writing to, and hearing from, unknown mothers whose
sons have been invited here by Robin, and one grandmother, with whose
descendant Robin is to spend a week. Curious impossibility of combining
dates and trains convenient to us all, renders this whole question
harassing in the extreme. Grandmother, especially, sends unlimited
letters and telegrams, to all of which I feel bound to reply--mostly with
civil assurances of gratitude for her kindness in having Robin to stay.
Very, very difficult to think of new ways of wording this--moreover, must
reserve something for letter I shall have to write when visit is safely
over.

_August 1st:_--Return of Robin, who has grown, and looks pale. He
has also purchased large bottle of brilliantine, and applied it to his
hair, which smells like inferior chemist's shop. Do not like to be
unsympathetic about this, so merely remain silent while Vicky exclaims
rapturously that it is _lovely_--which is also Robin's own opinion.
They get excited and scream, and I suggest the garden. Robin says that he
is hungry, having had no lunch. Practically--he adds conscientiously.
"Practically" turns out to be packet of sandwiches, two bottles of
atrocious liquid called Cherry Ciderette, slab of milk chocolate, two
bananas purchased on journey, and small sample tin of cheese biscuits,
swopped by boy called Sherlock, for Robin's last year's copy of _Pop's
Annual_.

Customary rather touching display of affection between Robin and Vicky
much to the fore, and am sorry to feel that repeated experience of
holidays has taught me not to count for one moment upon its lasting more
than twenty-four hours--if that.

(Query: Does motherhood lead to cynicism? This contrary to every
convention of art, literature, or morality, but cannot altogether escape
conviction that answer may be in the affirmative.)

In spite of this, however, cannot remain quite unmoved on hearing Vicky
inform Cook that when she marries, her husband will be _exactly_
like Robin. Cook replies indulgently, That's right, but come out of that
sauce-boat, there's a good girl, and what about Master Robin's wife? To
which Robin rejoins, he doesn't suppose he'll be _able_ to get a
wife exactly like Vicky, as she's so good, there couldn't be another one.

_August 2nd._--Noteworthy what astonishing difference made in entire
household by presence of one additional child. Robert finds one
marble--which he unfortunately steps upon--mysterious little empty box
with hole in bottom, and half of torn sponge on the stairs, and says,
This house is a perfect Shambles--which I think excessive. Mademoiselle
refers to sounds emitted by Robin, Vicky, the dog, and Helen Wills--all,
apparently, gone mad together in the hay-loft--as "tohu-bohu". Very
expressive word.

Meal-times, especially lunch, very, very far from peaceful. From time to
time remember, with pained astonishment, theories subscribed to in
pre-motherhood days, as to inadvisability of continually saying Don't,
incessant fault-finding, and so on. Should now be sorry indeed to count
number of times that I find myself forced to administer these and similar
checks to the dear children. Am often reminded of enthusiastic accounts
given me by Angela of other families, and admirable discipline obtaining
there without effort on either side. Should like--or far more probably
should _not_ like--to hear what dear Angela says about _our_
house, when visiting mutual friends or relations.

Rose writes cheerfully, still in South of France--sky still blue, rocks
red, and bathing as perfect as ever. Experience curious illusion of
receiving communication from another world, visited many aeons ago, and
dimly remembered. Weather abominable, and customary difficulty
experienced of finding indoor occupation for children that shall be
varied, engrossing, and reasonably quiet. Cannot imagine what will happen
if these conditions still prevail when visiting school-fellow--Henry by
name--arrives. I ask Robin what his friend's tastes are, and he says, Oh,
anything. I enquire if he likes cricket, and Robin replies, Yes, he
expects so. Does he care for reading? Robin says that he does not know. I
give it up, and write to Army and Navy Stores for large tin of Picnic
Biscuits.

Messrs. R. Sydenham, and two unknown firms from places in Holland, send
me little books relating to indoor bulbs. R. Sydenham particularly
optimistic, and, though admitting that failures have been known, pointing
out that all, without exception, have been owing to neglect of directions
on page twenty-two. Immerse myself in page twenty-two, and see that there
is nothing for it but to get R. Sydenham's Special Mixture for growing R.
Sydenham's Special Bulbs.

Mention this to Robert, who does not encourage scheme in any way, and
refers to last November. Cannot at the moment think of really good
answer, but shall probably do so in church on Sunday, or in other
surroundings equally inappropriate for delivering it.

_August 3rd._--Difference of opinion arises between Robin and his
father as to the nature and venue of former's evening meal, Robin making
sweeping assertions to the effect that All Boys of his Age have Proper
Late Dinner downstairs, and Robert replying curtly More Fools their
Parents, which I privately think unsuitable language for use before
children. Final and unsatisfactory compromise results in Robin's coming
nightly to the dining-room and partaking of soup, followed by interval,
and ending with dessert, during the whole of which Robert maintains
disapproving silence and I talk to both at once on entirely different
subjects.

(Life of a wife and mother sometimes very wearing.)

Moreover, Vicky offended at not being included in what she evidently
looks upon as nightly banquet of Lucullan magnificence, and covertly
supported in this rebellious attitude by Mademoiselle. Am quite struck by
extraordinary persistence with which Vicky, day after day, enquires
_Why_ she can't stay up to dinner too? and equally phenomenal number
of times that I reply with unvarying formula that Six years old is too
young, darling.

Weather cold and disagreeable, and I complain. Robert asserts that it is
really quite warm, only I don't take enough exercise. Have often noticed
curious and prevalent masculine delusion, to the effect that sympathy
should never, on any account, be offered when minor ills of life are in
question.

Days punctuated by recurrent question as to whether grass is, or is not,
too wet to be sat upon by children, and whether they shall, or shall not,
wear their woollen pullovers. To all enquiries as to whether they are
cold, they invariably reply, with aggrieved expressions, that they are
_Boiling_. Should like scientific or psychological explanation of
this singular state of affairs, and mentally reserve the question for
bringing forward on next occasion of finding myself in intellectual
society. This, however, seems at the moment remote in the extreme.

Cook says that unless help is provided in the kitchen they cannot
possibly manage all the work. I think this unreasonable, and quite
unnecessary expense. Am also aware that there is no help to be obtained
at this time of the year. Am disgusted at hearing myself reply in
hypocritically pleasant tone of voice that, Very well, I will see what
can be done. Servants, in truth, make cowards of us all.

_August 7th._--Local Flower Show takes place. We walk about in
Burberrys, on wet grass, and say that it might have been much worse, and
look at the day they had last week at West Warmington! Am forcibly
reminded of what I have heard of Ruth Draper's admirable sketch of
country Bazaar, but try hard not to think about this. Our Vicar's wife
takes me to look at the school-children's needlework, laid out in tent
amidst onions, begonias, and other vegetable products. Just as I am
admiring pink cotton camisole embroidered with mauve pansies, strange boy
approaches me and says, If I please, the little girl isn't very well, and
can't be got out of the swing-boat, and will I come, please. I go, our
Vicar's wife following, and saying--absurdly--that it must be the heat, and
those swingboats have always seemed to her very dangerous, ever since
there was a fearful accident at her old home, when the whole thing broke
down, and seven people were killed and a good many of the spectators
injured. A relief, after this, to find Vicky merely green in the face,
still clinging obstinately to the ropes and disregarding two men below
saying Come along out of it, missie, and Now then, my dear, and
Mademoiselle in terrific state of agitation, clasping her hands and
pacing backwards and forwards, uttering many Gallic ejaculations and
adjurations to the saints. Robin has removed himself to furthest corner
of the ground, and is feigning interest in immense carthorse tied up in
red ribbons.

(_N.B._ Dear Robin perhaps not so utterly unlike his father as one
is sometimes tempted to suppose.)

I tell Vicky, very, very shortly, that unless she descends instantly, she
will go to bed early every night for a week. Unfortunately, tremendous
outburst of "Land of Hope and Glory" from brass band compels me to say
this in undignified bellow, and to repeat it three times before it has
any effect, by which time quite large crowd has gathered round. General
outburst of applause when at last swing-boat is brought to a standstill,
and Vicky--mottled to the last degree--is lifted out by man in check coat
and tweed cap, who says _Here_ we are, Amy Johnson! to fresh
applause.

Vicky removed by Mademoiselle, not a moment too soon. Our Vicar's wife
says that children are all alike, and it may be a touch of ptomaine
poisoning, one never knows, and why not come and help her judge decorated
perambulators?

Meet several acquaintances and newly-arrived Miss Pankerton, who has
bought small house in village, and on whom I have not yet called. She
wears pince-nez and is said to have been at Oxford. All I can get out of
her is that the whole thing reminds her of Dostoeffsky.

Feel that I neither know nor care what she means. Am convinced, however,
that I have not heard the last of either Miss P. or Dostoeffsky, as she
assures me that she is the most unconventional person in the whole world,
and never stands on ceremony. If she meets an affinity, she adds, she
knows it directly, and then nothing can stop her. She just follows the
impulse of the moment, and may as like as not stroll in for breakfast, or
be strolled in upon for after-dinner coffee.

Am quite unable to contemplate Robert's reaction to Miss P. and
Dostoeffsky at breakfast, and bring the conversation to an end as quickly
as possible.

Find Robert, our Vicar, and neighbouring squire, looking at horses. Our
Vicar and neighbouring squire talk about the weather, but do not say
anything new. Robert says nothing.

Get home towards eight o'clock, strangely exhausted, and am discouraged
at meeting both maids just on their way to the Flower-Show Dance. Cook
says encouragingly that the potatoes are in the oven, and everything else
on the table, and she only hopes Pussy hasn't found her way in, on
account of the butter. Eventually do the washing-up, while Mademoiselle
puts children to bed, and I afterwards go up and read _Tanglewood
Tales_ aloud.

(Query, mainly rhetorical: Why are nonprofessional women, if married and
with children, so frequently referred to as "leisured"? Answer comes
there none.)

_August 8th._--Frightful afternoon, entirely filled by call from
Miss Pankerton, wearing hand-woven blue jumper, wider in front than at
the back, very short skirt, and wholly incredible small black béret. She
smokes cigarettes in immense holder, and sits astride the arm of the
sofa.

(_N.B._ Arm of the sofa not at all calculated to bear any such
strain, and creaks several times most alarmingly. Must remember to see if
anything can be done about it, and in any case manoeuvre Miss P. into
sitting elsewhere on subsequent visits, if any.)

Conversation very, very literary and academic, my own part in it being
mostly confined to saying that I haven't yet read it, and, It's down on
my library list, but hasn't come, so far. After what feels like some
hours of this, Miss P. becomes personal, and says that I strike her as
being a woman whose life has never known fulfilment. Have often thought
exactly the same thing myself, but this does not prevent my feeling
entirely furious with Miss P. for saying so. She either does not
perceive, or is indifferent to, my fury, as she goes on to ask accusingly
whether I realise that I have no _right_ to let myself become a
domestic beast of burden, with no interests beyond the nursery and the
kitchen. What, for instance, she demands rousingly, have I read within
the last two years? To this I reply weakly that I have read _Gentlemen
Prefer Blondes_, which is the only thing I seem able to remember, when
Robert and the tea enter simultaneously. Curious and difficult interlude
follows, in the course of which Miss P. talks about the N.U.E.C.--(Cannot
imagine what this is, but pretend to know all about it)--and the
situation in India, and Robert either says nothing at all, or contradicts
her very briefly and forcibly. Miss P. finally departs, saying that she
is determined to scrape all the barnacles off me before she has done with
me, and that I shall soon be seeing her again.

_August 9th._--The child Henry deposited by expensive-looking
parents in enormous red car, who dash away immediately, after one
contemptuous look at house, garden, self, and children. (Can understand
this, in a way, as they arrive sooner than expected, and Robin, Vicky,
and I are all equally untidy owing to prolonged game of Wild Beasts in
the garden.)

Henry unspeakably immaculate in grey flannel and red tie--but all is
discarded when parents have departed, and he rapidly assumes disreputable
appearance and loud, screeching tones of complete at-homeness. Robert,
for reasons unknown, appears unable to remember his name, and calls him
Francis. (Should like to trace connection of ideas, if any, but am
baffled.)

Both boys come down to dinner, and Henry astonishes us by pouring out
steady stream of information concerning speedboats, aeroplanes, and
submarines, from start to finish. Most informative. Am quite relieved,
after boys have gone to bed, to find him looking infantile in
blue-striped pyjamas, and asking to have door left open so that he can
see light in passage outside.

I go down to Robert and ask--not very straightforwardly, since I know the
answer only too well--if he would not like to take Mademoiselle, me, and
the children to spend long day at the sea next week. We might invite one
or two people to join us and have a picnic, say I with false optimism.
Robert looks horrified and says, Surely that isn't necessary? but after
some discussion, yields, on condition that weather is favourable.

(Should not be surprised to learn that he has been praying for rain ever
since.)

_August 10th._--See Miss Pankerton through Post Office window and
have serious thoughts of asking if I may just get under the counter for a
moment, or retire into back premises altogether, but am restrained by
presence of children, and also interesting story, embarked upon by
Postmistress, concerning extraordinary decision of Bench, last Monday
week, as to Separation Order applied for by Mrs. W. of the _Queen's
Head_. Just as we get to its being well known that Mr. W. once threw
hand-painted plate with view of Teignmouth right across the
bedroom--absolutely right across it, from end to end, says Postmistress
impressively--we are invaded by Miss P., accompanied by two sheep-dogs
and some leggy little boys.

Little boys turn out to be nephews, paying a visit, and are told to go
and make friends with Robin, Henry, and Vicky--at which all exchange
looks of blackest hatred, with regrettable exception of Vicky, who smirks
at the tallest nephew, who takes no notice. Miss P. pounces on Henry and
says to me Is this my boy, his eyes are so exactly like mine she'd have
known him anywhere. Nobody contradicts her, although I do not feel
pleased, as Henry, in my opinion, entirely undistinguished-looking child.

Postmistress--perhaps diplomatically--intervenes with, Did I say a
two-shilling book, she has them, but I usually take the three-shilling,
if I'll excuse her. I do excuse her, and explain that I only have two
shillings with me, and she says that doesn't matter at all and Harold
will take the other shilling when he calls for the letters. I agree to
all, and turn cast-iron deafness to Miss P. in background exclaiming that
this is Pure Hardy.

We all surge out of Post Office together, and youngest Pankerton nephew
suddenly remarks that at _his_ home the water once came through the
bathroom floor into the dining-room. Vicky says Oh, and all then become
silent again until Miss P. tells another nephew not to twist the
sheep-dog's tail like that, and the nephew, looking astonished, says in
return, Why not? to which Miss P. rejoins, Noel, that will _Do_.

_Mem_.: Amenities of conversation sometimes very curious, especially
where society of children is involved. Have sometimes wondered at what
stage of development the idea of continuity in talk begins to seem
desirable--but here, again, disquieting reflection follows that perhaps
this stage is never reached at all. Debate for an instant whether to put
the point to Miss Pankerton, but decide better not, and in any case, she
turns out to be talking about H. G. Wells, and do not like to interrupt.
Just as she is telling me that it is quite absurd to compare Wells with
Shaw--(which I have never thought of doing)--a Pankerton nephew and Henry
begin to kick one another on the shins, and have to be told that that is
Quite Enough. The Pankerton nephew is agitated and says, Tell him my name
_isn't_ Noah, it's Noel. This misunderstanding cleared up, but the
nephew remains Noah to his contemporaries, and is evidently destined to
do so for years to come, and Henry receives much applause as originator
of brilliant witticism.

Do not feel that Miss P. views any of it as being in the least amusing,
and in order to create a diversion, rush into an invitation to them all
to join projected picnic to the sea next week.

(Query: Would it not be instructive to examine closely exact motives
governing suggestions and invitations that bear outward appearance of
spontaneity? Answer: Instructive undoubtedly, but probably in many cases
painful, and--on second thoughts--shall embark on no such exercise.)

We part with Pankertons at the crossroads, but not before Miss P. has
accepted invitation to picnic, and added that her brother will be staying
with her then, and a dear friend who Writes, and that she hopes that will
not be too large a party. I say No, not at all, and feel that this
settles the question of buying another half-dozen picnic plates and
enamel mugs, and better throw in a new Thermos as well, otherwise not a
hope of things going round. That, says Miss P., will be delightful, and
shall they bring their own sandwiches?--at which I exclaim in horror, and
she says Really? and I say Really, with equal emphasis but quite
different inflection, and we part.

Robin says he does not know why I asked them to the picnic, and I stifle
impulse to reply that neither do I, and Henry tells me all about
hydraulic lifts.

Send children upstairs to wash for lunch, and call out several times that
they must hurry up or they will be late, but am annoyed when gong,
eventually, is sounded by Gladys nearly ten minutes after appointed hour.
Cannot decide whether I shall, or shall not, speak about this, and am
preoccupied all through roast lamb and mint sauce, but forget about it
when fruit-salad is reached, as Cook has disastrously omitted banana and
put in loganberries.

_August 13th._--I tell Cook about the picnic lunch--for about ten
people, say I--which sounds less than if I just said "ten" straight
out--but she is not taken in by this, and at once declares that there
isn't anything to make sandwiches of, that she can see, and butcher won't
be calling till the day after tomorrow, and then it'll be scrag-end for
Irish stew. I perceive that the moment has come for taking up absolutely
firm stand with Cook, and surprise us both by suddenly saying Nonsense,
she must order chicken from farm, and have it cold for sandwiches. It
won't go round, Cook protests--but feebly--and I pursue advantage and
advocate supplementary potted meat and hard-boiled eggs. Cook utterly
vanquished, and I leave kitchen triumphant, but am met in the passage
outside by Vicky, who asks in clarion tones (easily audible in kitchen
and beyond) if I know that I threw cigarette-end into drawing-room grate,
and that it has lit the fire all by itself?

_August 15th._--Picnic takes place under singular and rather
disastrous conditions, day not beginning well owing to Robin and Henry
having strange overnight inspiration about sleeping out in summer-house,
which is prepared for them with much elaboration by Mademoiselle and
myself--even to crowning touch from Mademoiselle of small vase of flowers
on table. At 2 A.M. they decide that they wish to come in, and do so
through study window left open for them. Henry involves himself in
several blankets, which he tries to carry upstairs, and trips and falls
down, and Robin knocks over hall-stool, and treads on Helen Wills.

Robert and myself are roused, and Robert is not pleased. Mademoiselle
appears on landing in _peignoir_ and with head swathed in little
grey shawl, but screams at the sight of Robert in pyjamas, and rushes
away again. (The French undoubtedly very curious mixture of modesty and
the reverse.)

Henry and Robin show tendency to become explanatory, but are discouraged,
and put into beds. Just as I return down passage to my room, sounds
indicate that Vicky has now awakened, and is automatically opening
campaign by saying Can't I come too? Instinct--unclassified, but
evidently stronger than maternal one--bids me leave Mademoiselle to deal
with this, which I unhesitatingly do.

Get into bed again, feeling that the day has not opened very well, but
sleep off and on until Gladys calls me--ten minutes late--but do not say
anything about her unpunctuality, as Robert does not appear to have
noticed it.

Sky is grey, but not necessarily threatening, and glass has not fallen
unreasonably. All is in readiness when Miss Pankerton (wearing Burberry,
green knitted cap, and immense yellow gloves) appears in large Ford car
which brims over with nephews, sheep-dogs, and a couple of men. Latter
resolve themselves into the Pankerton brother--who turns out to be from
Vancouver--and the friend who Writes--very tall and pale, and is
addressed by Miss P. in a proprietary manner as "Jahsper".

(Something tells me that Robert and Jahsper are not going to care about
one another.)

After customary preliminaries about weather, much time is spent in
discussing arrangements in cars. All the children show tendency to wish
to sit with their own relations rather than anybody else, except Henry,
who says simply that the hired car looks much the best, and may he sit in
front with the driver, please. All is greatly complicated by presence of
the sheep-dogs, and Robert offers to shut them into an outhouse for the
day, but Miss Pankerton replies that this would break their hearts, bless
them, and they can just pop down anywhere amongst the baskets. (In actual
fact, both eventually pop down on Mademoiselle's feet, and she looks
despairing, and presently ask if I have by any chance a little bottle of
eau-de-Cologne with me--which I naturally haven't.)

Picnic baskets, as usual, weigh incredible amount, and Thermos flasks
stick up at inconvenient angles and run into our legs. (I quote "John
Gilpin", rather aptly, but nobody pays any attention.)

When we have driven about ten miles, rain begins, and goes on and on.
Cars are stopped, and we find that two schools of thought exist, one--of
which Miss P. is leader--declaring that we are Running out of It, and the
other--headed by the Vancouver brother and heavily backed by Robert--that
we are Running into It. Miss P.--as might have been expected--wins, and
we proceed; but Run into It more and more. By the time destination is
reached, we have Run into It to an extent that makes me wonder if we
shall ever Run out of It.

Lunch has to be eaten in three bathing huts, hired by Robert, and the
children become hilarious and fidgety. Miss P. talks about Companionate
Marriage to Robert, who makes no answer, and Jahsper asks me what I think
of James Elroy Flecker. As I cannot remember exact form of J. E. F.'s
activities, I merely reply that in many ways he was very wonderful--which
no doubt he was--and Jahsper seems satisfied, and eats tomato sandwiches.
The children ask riddles--mostly very old and foolish ones--and Miss P.
looks annoyed, and says See if it has stopped raining--which it hasn't. I
feel that she and the children must, at all costs, be kept apart, and
tell Robert in urgent whisper that, rain or no rain, they must go out.

They do.

Miss Pankerton becomes expansive, and suddenly remarks to Jahsper that
_Now_ he can see what she meant, about positively Victorian
survivals still to be found in English family life. At this, Vancouver
brother looks aghast--as well he may--and dashes out into the wet.
Jahsper says Yerse, Yerse, and sighs, and I at once institute vigorous
search for missing plate, which creates a diversion.

Subsequently the children bathe, get wetter than ever, drip all over the
place, and are dried--Mademoiselle predicts death from pneumonia for
all--and we seek the cars once more. One sheep-dog is missing, but
eventually recovered in soaking condition, and is gathered on to united
laps of Vicky, Henry, and a nephew. I lack energy to protest, and we
drive away.

Beg Miss P., Jahsper, brother, nephews, sheep-dogs, and all, to come in
and get dry and have tea, but they have the decency to refuse, and I make
no further effort, but watch them depart with untold thankfulness.

(Should be sorry to think impulses of hospitality almost entirely
dependent on convenience, but cannot altogether escape suspicion that
this is so.)

Robert extremely forbearing on the whole, and says nothing worse than
Well!--but this very expressively.

_August 16th._--Robert, at breakfast, suddenly enquires if that
nasty-looking fellow does anything for a living? Instinct at once tells
me that he means Jahsper, but am unable to give him any information,
except that Jahsper writes, which Robert does not appear to think is to
his credit. He goes so far as to say that he hopes yesterday's rain may
put an end to him altogether--but whether this means to his presence in
the neighbourhood, or to his existence on this planet, am by no means
certain, and prefer not to enquire. Ask Robert instead if he did not
think, yesterday, about Miss Edgeworth, Rosamond, and the Party of
Pleasure, but this wakens no response, and conversation--such as it
is--descends once more to level of slight bitterness about the coffee,
and utter inability to get really satisfactory bacon locally. This is
only brought to a close by abrupt entrance of Robin, who remarks without
preliminary: "Isn't Helen Wills going to have kittens almost at once?
Cook thinks so."

Can only hope that Robin does not catch exact wording of short
ejaculation with which his father receives this.

_August 18th._--Pouring rain, and I agree to let all three children
dress up, and give them handsome selection from my wardrobe for the
purpose. This ensures me brief half-hour uninterrupted at writing-table,
where I deal with baker--brown bread far from satisfactory--Rose--on a
picture-postcard of Backs at Cambridge, which mysteriously appears
amongst stationery--Robin's Headmaster's wife--mostly about stockings,
but Boxing may be substituted for Dancing, in future--and Lady Frobisher,
who would be so delighted if Robert and I would come over for tea whilst
there is still something to be seen in the garden. (Do not like to write
back and say that I would far rather come when there is nothing to be
seen in the garden, and we might enjoy excellent tea in peace--so, as
usual, sacrifice truth to demands of civilisation.)

Just as I decide to tackle large square envelope of thin blue paper, with
curious purple lining designed to defeat anyone endeavouring to read
letter within--which would anyhow be impossible, as Barbara Carruthers
always most illegible--front door bell rings.

Thoughts immediately fly to Lady B., and I rapidly rehearse references
that I intend to make to recent stay in South of France--(shall not
specify length of visit)--and cordial relations there established with
distinguished society, and Rose's Viscountess in particular. Have also
sufficient presence of mind to make use of pocket comb, mirror, and small
powder-puff kept for emergencies in drawer of writing-table. (Discover,
much later, that I have overdone powder-puff very considerably, and
reflect, not for the first time, that we are spared much by inability--so
misguidedly deplored by Scottish poet--to see ourselves as others see
us.)

Door opens, and Miss Pankerton is shown in, followed--it seems to me
reluctantly--by Jahsper. Miss P. has on military-looking cape, and béret
as before, which strikes me as odd combination, and anyhow cape looks to
me as though it might drip rain-drops on furniture, and I beg her to take
it off. This she does with rather spacious gesture--(Can she have been
seeing _The Three Musketeers_ at local cinema?)--and unfortunately
one end of it, apparently heavily weighted, hits Jahsper in the eye. Miss
P. is very breezy and off-hand about this, but Jahsper, evidently in
severe pain, falls into deep dejection, and continues to hold large
yellow crêpe-de-chine handkerchief to injured eye for some time. Am
distracted by wondering whether I ought to ask him if he would like to
bathe it--which would involve taking him up to bathroom, probably
untidy--and trying to listen intelligently to Miss P., who is talking
about Proust.

This leads, by process that I do not follow, to a discussion on Christian
names, and Miss P. says that All Flower Names are Absurd. Am horrified to
hear myself replying, senselessly, that I think Rose is a pretty name, as
one of my greatest friends is called Rose--to which Miss P. rightly
answers that that, really, has nothing to do with it, and Jahsper, still
dabbing at injured eye, contributes austere statement to the effect that
only the Russians really understand Beauty in Nomenclature. Am again
horrified at hearing myself interject "_Ivan Ivanovitch_" in
entirely detached and irrelevant manner, and really begin to wonder if
mental weakness is overtaking me. Moreover, am certain that I have given
Miss P. direct lead in the direction of Dostoeffsky, about whom I do not
wish to hear, and am altogether unable to converse.

Entire situation is, however, revolutionised by totally unexpected
entrance of Robin--staggering beneath my fur coat and last summer's red
crinoline straw hat--Henry, draped in blue kimono, several scarfs
belonging to Mademoiselle, old pair of fur gloves, with scarlet
school-cap inappropriately crowning all--and Vicky, wearing nothing
whatever but small pair of green silk knickerbockers and large and
unfamiliar black felt hat put on at rakish angle.

Completely stunned silence overtakes us all, until Vicky, advancing with
perfect aplomb, graciously says, "How do you do?" and shakes hands with
Jahsper and Miss P. in turn, and I succeed in surpassing already
well-established record for utter futility,, by remarking that They have
been Dressing Up.

Atmosphere becomes very, very strained indeed, only Vicky embarking on
sprightly reminiscences of recent picnic, which meet with no response.
Final depths of unsuccess are plumbed, when it transpires that Vicky's
black sombrero, picked up in the hall, is in reality the property of
Jahsper. I apologise profusely, the children giggle, Miss P. raises her
eyebrows to quite unnatural heights, and gets up and looks at the
book-shelves in a remote and superior way, and Jahsper says, Oh, never
mind, it really is of no consequence, at the same time receiving hat with
profound solicitude, and dusting it with two fingers.

Greatest possible relief when Miss P. declares that they must go,
otherwise they will miss the Brahms Concerto on the wireless. I hastily
agree that this would never do, and tell Robin to open the door. Just as
we all cross the hall, Gladys is inspired to sound the gong for tea, and
I am compelled to say, Won't they stay and have some? but Miss P. says
she never takes anything at all between lunch and dinner, thanks, and
Jahsper pretends he hasn't heard me and makes no reply whatever.

They march out into pouring rain, Miss P. once more giving martial fling
to military cape--(at which Jahsper flinches, and removes himself some
yards away from her)--and entirely disdaining small and elegant umbrella
beneath which Jahsper and his black felt take refuge. Robin enquires, in
tones of marked distaste, if I _like_ those people? but I feel it
better to ignore this, and recommend getting washed for tea. Customary
discussion follows as to whether washing is, or is not, necessary.

(_Mem_.: Have sometimes considered--though idly--writing letter to
the _Times_ to find out if any recorded instances exist of parents
and children whose views on this subject coincide. Topic of far wider
appeal than many of those so exhaustively dealt with.)

_August 25th._--Am displeased by Messrs. R. Sydenham, who have
besought me, in urgently worded little booklet, to Order Bulbs Early, and
when I do so--at no little inconvenience, owing to customary pressure of
holidays--reply on a postcard that order will be forwarded "when ready".
Have serious thoughts of cancelling the whole thing--six selected, twelve
paper-whites, a dozen early assorteds, and a half bushel of Fibre, Moss,
and Charcoal. Cannot very well do this, however, owing to quite recent
purchase of coloured bowls from Woolworth's, as being desirable additions
to existing collection of odd pots, dented enamel basins, large red glass
jam-dish, and dear grandmamma's disused willow-pattern foot-bath.

Departure of the boy Henry--who says that he has enjoyed himself, which I
hope is true--accompanied by Robin, who is to be met and extracted from
train at Salisbury by uncle of boy with whom he is to stay.

(Query: How is it that others are so frequently able to obtain services
of this nature from their relations? Feel no conviction that either
William or Angela would react favourably, if called upon to meet
unknown children at Salisbury or anywhere else.)

Vicky, Mademoiselle, and I wave goodbye from hall door--rain pouring down
as usual--and Vicky seems a thought depressed at remaining behind. This
tendency greatly enhanced by Mademoiselle's exclamation, on retiring into
the house once more--"On dirait un tombeaul"

Second post brings letter from Barbara in the Himalayas, which gives me
severe shock of realising that I haven't yet read her last one, owing to
lack of time and general impression that it is illegibly scrawled and
full of allusions to native servants. Remorsefully open this one,
perceive with relief that it is quite short and contains nothing that
looks like native servants, but very interesting piece of information,
rather circuitously worded by dear Barbara, but still quite beyond
misunderstanding. I tell Mademoiselle, who says "Ah, comme c'est
touchant!" and at once wipes her eyes--display which I think excessive.

Robert, to whom I also impart news, goes to the other extreme, and makes
no comment except "I daresay". On the other hand, our Vicar's wife calls,
for the express purpose of asking whether I think it will be a boy or a
girl, and of suggesting that we should at once go together and
congratulate old Mrs. Blenkinsop. I remind her that Barbara stipulates in
letter for secrecy, and our Vicar's wife says, Of course, of course--it
had slipped her memory for the moment--but surely old Mrs. B. must know
all about it? However, she concedes that dear Barbara may perhaps not
wish her mother to know that we know, just yet, and concludes with
involved quotation from Thomas a Kempis about exercise of discretion. We
then discuss educational facilities in the Himalayas, the Carruthers
nose--which neither of us cares about--and the desirability or otherwise
of having twins. Our Vicar's wife refuses tea, talks about books--she
likes to have something _solid_ in hand, always--is reminded of Miss
Pinkerton, about whom she is doubtful, but admits that it is early days
to judge--again refuses tea, and assures me that she must go. She
eventually stays to tea, and walks up and down the lawn with me
afterwards, telling me of Lady B.'s outrageous behaviour in connection
with purchase of proposed site for the Village Hall. This, as usual,
serves to unite us in warm friendship, and we part cordially.

_August 28th._--Picnic, and Cook forgets to put in the sugar.
Postcard from Robin's hostess says that he has arrived, but adds nothing
as to his behaviour, or impression that he is making, which makes me feel
anxious.

_August 31st._--Read _The Edwardians_ which everybody else has
read months ago--and am delighted and amused. Remember that V.
Sackville-West and I once attended dancing classes together at the Albert
Hall, many years ago, but feel that if I do mention this, everybody will
think I am boasting--which indeed I should be--so better forget about it
again, and in any case, dancing never my strongest point, and performance
at Albert Hall extremely mediocre and may well be left in oblivion. Short
letter from Robin which I am very glad to get, but which refers to
nothing whatever except animals at home, and project for going out in a
boat and diving from it on some unspecified future occasion. Reply to
all, and am too modern to beg tiresomely for information concerning
himself.

_September 1st._--Postcard from the station announces arrival of
parcel, that I at once identify as bulbs, with accompanying Fibre, Moss,
and Charcoal mixture. Suggest that Robert should fetch them this
afternoon, but he is unenthusiastic, and says tomorrow, when he will be
meeting Robin and school-friend, will do quite well.

(_Mem_.: Very marked difference between the sexes is male tendency
to procrastinate doing practically everything in the world except sitting
down to meals and going up to bed. Should like to purchase little painted
motto: _Do it now_, so often on sale at inferior stationers' shops,
and present it to Robert, but on second thoughts quite see that this
would not conduce to domestic harmony, and abandon scheme at once.)

Think seriously about bulbs, and spread sheets of newspaper on attic
floor to receive them and bowls. Resolve also to keep careful record of
all operations, with eventual results, for future guidance. Look out
notebook for the purpose, and find small green booklet, with mysterious
references of which I can make neither head nor tail, in own handwriting
on two first pages. Spend some time in trying to decide what I could have
meant by: Kp. p. in sh. twice p. w. _without_ fail or: Tell H.
_not_ 12" by 8" Washable f.c. to be g'd, but eventually give it up,
and tear out two first pages of little green book, and write BULBS and
to-morrow's date in capital letters.

_September 2nd._--Robert brings home Robin, and friend called Micky
Thompson, from station, but has unfortunately forgotten to call for the
bulbs. Micky Thompson is attractive and shows enchanting dimple whenever
he smiles, which is often.

(_Mem_.: Theory that mothers think their own children superior to
any others Absolute Nonsense. Can see only too plainly that Micky easily
surpasses Robin and Vicky in looks, charm, and good manners--and am very
much annoyed about it.)

_September 4th._--Micky Thompson continues to show himself as
charming child, with cheerful disposition, good manners, and excellent
health. Enquiry reveals that he is an orphan, which does not surprise me
in the least. Have often noticed that absence of parental solicitude
usually very beneficial to offspring. Bulbs still at station.

_September 10th._--Unbroken succession of picnics, bathing
expeditions, and drives to Plymouth Cafe in search of ices. Mademoiselle
continually predicts catastrophes to digestions, lungs, or even
brains--but none materialise.

_September 11th._--Departure of Micky Thompson, but am less
concerned with this than with Robert's return from station, this time
accompanied by bulbs and half-bushel of Fibre, Moss, and Charcoal. Devote
entire afternoon to planting these, with much advice from Vicky and
Robin, and enter full details of transaction in little green book.
Prepare to carry all, with utmost care, into furthest and darkest recess
of attic, when Vicky suddenly announces that Helen Wills is there
already, with six bran-new kittens.

Great excitement follows, which I am obliged to suggest had better be
modified before Daddy enquires into its cause. Children agree to this,
but feel very little confidence in their discretion. Am obliged to leave
bulbs in secondary corner of attic, owing to humane scruples about
disturbing H. Wills and family.

_September 20th._--Letter from County Secretary of adjoining County,
telling me that she knows how busy I am--which I'm certain she
doesn't--but Women's Institutes of Chick, Little March, and Crimpington
find themselves in terrible difficulty owing to uncertainty about next
month's speaker. Involved fragments about son coming, or not coming, home
on leave from Patagonia, and daughter ill--but not dangerously--at
Bromley, Kent--follow. President is away--(further fragment, about
President being obliged to visit aged relative while aged relative's maid
is on holiday)--and County Secretary does not know what to do. What she
does do, however, is to suggest that I should be prepared to come and
speak at all three Institute meetings, if--as she rather strangely puts
it--the worst comes to the worst. Separate half-sheet of paper gives
details about dates, times, and bus between Chick and Little March,
leading on to doctor's sister's two-seater, at cross-roads between Little
March and Crimpington Hill. At Crimpington, County Secretary concludes
triumphantly, I shall be put up for the night by Lady Magdalen
Crimp--always so kind, and such a friend to the Movement--at Crimpington
Hall. P.S. Travel talks always popular, but anything I like will be
delightful. Chick very keen about Folk Lore, Little March more on the
Handicraft side. _But anything I like._ P.P.S. Would I be so kind as
to judge Recitation Competition at Crimpington?

I think this over for some time, and decide to write and say that I will
do it, as Robin will have returned to school next week, and should like
to distract my mind. Tell Mademoiselle casually that I may be going on a
short tour, speaking, and she is suitably impressed. Vicky enquires:
"Like a menagerie, mummie?" which seems to me very extraordinary simile,
though innocently meant. I reply, "No, not in the least like a
menagerie," and Mademoiselle adds, officiously, "More like a mission." Am
by no means at one with her here, but have no time to go further into the
subject, as Gladys summons me to prolonged discussion with the
Laundry--represented by man in white coat at the back gate--concerning
cotton sheet, said to be one of a pair, but which has been returned in
solitary widowhood. The Laundry has much to say about this, and presently
Cook, gardener, Mademoiselle, Vicky, and unidentified boy apparently
attached to Laundry, have all gathered round. Everyone except boy
supports Gladys by saying "That's right" to everything she asserts, and I
eventually leave them to it. Evidently all takes time, as it is not till
forty minutes later that I see gardener slowly returning to his work, and
hear van driving away.

Go up to attic and inspect bulb-bowls, but nothing to be seen. Cannot
decide whether they require water or not, but think perhaps better be on
the safe side, so give them some. Make note in little green book to this
effect, as am determined to keep full record of entire procedure.

_September 22nd._--Invitation from Lady B.--note delivered by hand,
wait reply--to Robert and myself to come and dine tonight. Reads more
like a Royal Command, and no suggestion that short notice may be
inconvenient. Robert out, and I act with promptitude and firmness on own
responsibility, and reply that we are already engaged for dinner.

(Query: Will this suggest convivial evening at neighbouring Rectory, or
rissoles and cocoa with old Mrs. Blenkinsop and Cousin Maud? Can conceive
of no other alternatives.)

Telephone rings in a peremptory manner just as I am reading aloud
enchanting book, _The Exciting Family_ by M. D. Hillyard--(surely
occasional contributor to _Time and Tide_?)--and I rush to
dining-room to deal with it. (_N.B._ Must really overcome foolish
and immature tendency to feel that any telephone-call may be prelude to
(a) announcement of a fortune or, alternatively, (6) news of immense and
impressive calamity.)

On snatching up receiver, unmistakable tones of Lady B. are heard--at
once suggesting perhaps rather ill-natured, but not unjustifiable,
comparison with a pea-hen. What, she enquires, is all this nonsense? Of
course we must dine to-night--she won't hear of a refusal. Besides, what
else can we possibly be doing, unless it's Meetings, and if so, we can
cut them for once.

Am at once invaded by host of improbable inspirations: e.g. that the
Lord-Lieutenant of the County and his wife are dining here informally, or
that Rose's Viscountess is staying with us and refuses either to be left
alone or to be taken to Lady B.'s--(which I know she would at once
suggest)--or even that, really, Robert and I have had so many late nights
recently that we cannot face another one--but do not go so far as to
proffer any of them aloud. Am disgusted, instead, to hear myself saying
weakly that Robin goes back to school day after tomorrow, and we do not
like to go out on one of his last few evenings at home. (This may be true
so far as I am concerned, but can imagine no suggestion less likely to be
endorsed by Robert, and trust that he may never come to hear of it.) In
any case, it instantly revives long-standing determination of Lady B.'s
to establish me with reputation for being a Perfect Mother, and she at
once takes advantage of it.

I return to _The Exciting Family_ in a state of great inward fury.

_September 24th._--Frightful welter of packing, putting away, and
earnest consultations of School List. Robin gives everybody serious
injunctions about not touching anything _whatever_ in his
bedroom--which looks like inferior pawnbroking establishment at
stocktaking time--and we all more or less commit ourselves to leaving it
alone till Christmas holidays--which is completely out of the question.

He is taken away by Robert in the car, looking forlorn and infantile, and
Vicky roars. I beseech her to desist at once, but am rebuked by
Mademoiselle, who says, "Ah, elle a tant de coeur!" in tone which implies
that she cannot say as much for myself.

_October 1._--Tell Robert about proposed short tour to Chick,
Little March, and Crimpington, on behalf of W. Is. He says little, but
that little not very enthusiastic. I spend many hours--or so it
seems--looking out Notes for Talks, and trying to remember anecdotes that
shall be at once funny and suitable. (This combination rather unusual.)

Pack small bag, search frantically all over writing-table, bedroom, and
drawing-room for W.I. Badge--which is at last discovered by Mademoiselle
in remote corner of drawer devoted to stockings--and take my departure.
Robert drives me to station, and I beg that he will keep an eye on the
bulbs whilst I am away.

_October 2nd._--Bus from Chick conveys me to Little March, after
successful meeting last night, at which I discourse on Amateur
Theatricals, am applauded, thanked by President in the chair--name
inaudible--applauded once more, and taken home by Assistant Secretary,
who is putting me up for the night. We talk about the Movement--Annual
Meeting at Blackpool perhaps a mistake, why not Bristol or
Plymouth?--difficulty of thinking out new Programmes for monthly
meetings, and really magnificent performance of Chick at recent
Folk-dancing Rally, at which Institute members called upon to go through
"Gathering Peas-cods" no less than three times--two of Chick's best
performers, says Assistant Secretary proudly, being grandmothers. I
express astonished admiration, and we go on to Village Halls, Sir Oswald
Mosley, and methods of removing ink-stains from linen. Just as Assistant
Secretary--who is unmarried and lives in nice little cottage--has
escorted me to charming little bedroom, she remembers that I am
eventually going on to Crimpington, and embarks on interesting scandal
about two members of Institute there, and unaccountable disappearance of
one member's name from Committee. This keeps us up till eleven o'clock,
when she begs me to say nothing whatever about her having mentioned the
affair, which was all told her in strictest confidence, and we part.

Reach Little March, via the bus--which is old, and rattles--in time for
lunch. Doctor's sister meets me--elderly lady with dog--and talks about
hunting. Meeting takes place at three o'clock, in g delightful Hut, and
am impressed by business-like and efficient atmosphere. Doctor's sister,
in the chair, introduces me--unluckily my name eludes her at eleventh
hour, but I hastily supply it and she says, "Of course, of course"--and I
launch out into A Visit to Switzerland. As soon as I have finished,
elderly member surges up from front row and says that this has been
particularly interesting to _her_, as she once lived in Switzerland
for nearly fourteen years and knows every inch of it from end to end. (My
own experience confined to six weeks round and about Lucerne, ten years
ago.)

We drink cups of tea, eat excellent buns, sing several Community Songs,
and Meeting comes to an end. Doctor's sister's two-seater, now altogether
home-like, receives me once again, and I congratulate her on
Institute. She smiles and talks about hunting.

Evening passes off quietly, doctor comes in--elderly man with two
dogs--he also talks about hunting, and we all separate for bed at ten
o'clock.

_October 3rd._--Part early from doctor, sister, dogs, and
two-seater, and proceed by train to Crimpington, as Meeting does not take
place till afternoon, and have no wish to arrive earlier than I need.
Curious cross-country journey with many stops, and one change involving
long and draughty wait that I enliven by cup of Bovril.

Superb car meets me, with superb chauffeur who despises me and my bag at
sight, but is obliged to drive us both to Crimping-ton Hall. Butler
receives me, and I am conducted through immense and chilly hall with
stone flags to equally immense and chilly drawing-room, where he leaves
me. Very small fire is lurking behind steel bars at far end of room, and
I make my way to it past little gilt tables, large chairs, and sofas,
cabinets apparently lined with china cups and lustre tea-pots, and
massive writing-tables entirely furnished with hundreds of photographs in
silver frames. Butler suddenly reappears with the _Times_, which he
hands to me on small salver. Have already read it from end to end in the
train, but feel obliged to open it and begin all over again. He looks
doubtfully at the fire, and I hope he is going to put on more coal, but
instead he goes away, and is presently replaced by Lady Magdalen Crimp,
who is about ninety-five and stone-deaf. She wears black, and large fur
cape--as well she may. She produces trumpet, and I talk down it, and she
smiles and nods, and has evidently not heard one word--which is just as
well, as none of them worth hearing. After some time she suggests my
room, and we creep along slowly for about quarter of a mile, till first
floor is reached, and vast bedroom with old-fashioned four-poster in the
middle of it. Here she leaves me, and I wash, from little brass jug of
tepid water, and note--by no means for the first time--that the use of
powder, when temperature has sunk below a certain level, merely casts
extraordinary azure shade over nose and chin.

Faint hope of finding fire in dining-room is extinguished on entering it,
when I am at once struck by its resemblance to a mausoleum. Lady M. and I
sit down at mahogany circular table, she says Do I mind a Cold Lunch? I
shake my head, as being preferable to screaming "No" down trumpet--though
equally far from the truth--and we eat rabbit-cream, coffee-shape, and
Marie biscuits.

Conversation spasmodic and unsatisfactory, and I am reduced to looking at
portraits on wall, of gentlemen in wigs and ladies with bosoms, also
objectionable study of dead bird, dripping blood, lying amongst oranges
and other vegetable matter. (Should like to know what dear Rose, with her
appreciation of Art, would say to this.) Later we adjourn to
drawing-room--fire now a mere ember--and Lady M. explains that she is not
going to the Meeting, but Vice-President will look after me, and she
hopes I shall enjoy Recitation Competition--some of our members really
very clever, and one in particular, so amusing in dialect. I nod and
smile, and continue to shiver, and presently car fetches me away to
village. Meeting is held in reading-room, which seems to me perfect
paradise of warmth, and I place myself as close as possible to large
oil-stove. Vice-President--very large and expansive in blue--conducts
everything successfully, and I deliver homily about What Our Children
Read, which is kindly received. After tea--delightfully hot, in fact
scalds me, but I welcome it--Recitation Competition takes place and have
to rivet my attention on successive members, who mount a little platform
and declaim in turns. We begin with not very successful rendering of
verses hitherto unknown to me, entitled "Our Institute", and which turn
out to be original composition of reciter. This followed by "Gunga Din"
and very rousing poem about Keeping the Old Flag Flying. Elderly member
then announces "The Mine" and is very dramatic and impressive, but not
wholly intelligible, which I put down to Dialect. Finally award first
place to "The Old Flag", and second to "The Mine", and present prizes. Am
unfortunately inspired to observe that dialect poems are always so
interesting, and it then turns out that "The Mine" wasn't in dialect at
all. However, too late to do anything about it.

Meeting is prolonged, for which I am thankful, but finally can no longer
defer returning to arctic regions of Crimpington Hall. Lady M. and I
spend evening cowering over grate, and exchanging isolated remarks, and
many nods and smiles, across ear-trumpet. Finally I get into enormous
four-poster, covered by very inadequate supply of blankets, and clutching
insufficiently heated hot-water bottle.

_October 5th._--Develop really severe cold twenty-four hours after
reaching home. Robert says that all Institutes are probably full of
germs--which is both unjust and ridiculous.

_October 13th._--Continued cold and cough keep me in house, and make
me unpopular with Robert, Cook, and Gladys--the latter of whom both catch
my complaint. Mademoiselle keeps Vicky away, but is sympathetic, and
brings Vicky to gesticulate dramatically at me from outside the
drawing-room window, as though I had the plague. Gradually this state of
affairs subsides, my daily quota of pocket-handkerchiefs returns to the
normal, and Vapex, cinnamon, camphorated oil, and jar of cold cream all
go back to medicine-cupboard in bathroom once more.

Unknown benefactor sends me copy of new Literary Review, which seems to
be full of personal remarks from well-known writers about other
well-known writers. This perhaps more amusing to themselves than to
average reader. Moreover, competitions most alarmingly literary, and I
return with immense relief to old friend _Time and Tide_.

_October 17th._--Surprising invitation to evening party--Dancing,
9.30--at Lady B.'s. Cannot possibly refuse, as Robert has been told to
make himself useful there in various ways; moreover, entire neighbourhood
is evidently being polished off, and see no object in raising question as
to whether we have, or have not, received invitation. Decide to get new
dress, but must have it made locally, owing to rather sharply worded
enquiry from London shop which has the privilege of serving me, as to
whether I have not overlooked overdue portion of account? (Far from
overlooking it, have actually been kept awake by it at night.) Proceed to
Plymouth, and get very attractive black taffeta, with little pink and
blue posies scattered over it. Mademoiselle removes, and washes, Honiton
lace from old purple velvet every-night tea-gown, and assures me that it
will be _gentil á croquer_ on new taffeta. Also buy new pair black
evening-shoes, but shall wear them every evening for at least an hour in
order to ensure reasonable comfort at party.

Am able to congratulate myself that great-aunt's diamond ring, for once,
is at home when needed.

Robert rather shatteringly remarks that he believes the dancing is only
for the _young_ people, and I heatedly enquire how line of
demarcation is to be laid down? Should certainly not dream of accepting
ruling from Lady B. on any such delicate question. Robert merely repeats
that only the young will be _expected_ to dance, and we drop the
subject, and I enquire into nature of refreshments to be expected at
party, as half-past nine seems to me singularly inhospitable hour,
involving no regular meal whatever. Robert begs that I will order dinner
at home exactly as usual, and make it as substantial as possible, so as
to give him every chance of keeping awake at party, and I agree that this
would indeed appear desirable.

_October 9th._--Rumour that Lady B.'s party is to be in Fancy Dress
throws entire neighbourhood into consternation. Our Vicar's wife comes
down on gardener's wife's bicycle--borrowed, she says, for greater speed
and urgency--and explains that, in her position, she does not think that
fancy dress would do at all--unless perhaps _poudré_, which, she
asserts, is different, but takes ages to brush out afterwards. She asks
what I am going to do, but am quite unable to enlighten her, as black
taffeta already completed. Mademoiselle, at this, intervenes, and
declares that black taffeta can be transformed by a touch into Dresden
China Shepherdess _à ravir_. Am obliged to beg her not to be
ridiculous, nor attempt to make me so, and she then insanely suggests
turning black taffeta into costume for (a) Mary Queen of Scots, (b) Mme.
de Pompadour, (c) Cleopatra.

I desire her to take Vicky for a walk; she is _blessée_, and much
time is spent in restoring her to calm.

Our Vicar's wife--who has meantime been walking up and down drawing-room
in state of stress and agitation--says What about asking somebody else?
What about the Kellways? Why not ring them up?

We immediately do so, and are lightheartedly told by Mary Kellway that it
_is_ Fancy Dress, and she is going to wear her Russian Peasant
costume--absolutely genuine, brought by sailor cousin from Moscow long
years ago--but if in difficulties, can she lend me anything? Reply
incoherently to this kind offer, as our Vicar's wife, now in
uncontrollable agitation, makes it impossible for me to collect my
thoughts. Chaos prevails, when Robert enters, is frenziedly appealed to
by our Vicar's wife, and says Oh, didn't he say so? one or two people
_have_ had "Fancy Dress" put on invitation cards, as Lady B.'s own
house-party intends to dress up, but no such suggestion has been made to
majority of guests.

Our Vicar's wife and I agree at some length that, really, nobody in this
world _but_ Lady B. would behave like this, and we have very good
minds not to go near her party. Robert and I then arrange to take our
Vicar and his wife with us in car to party, she is grateful, and goes.

_October 23rd._--Party takes place. Black taffeta and Honiton lace
look charming and am not dissatisfied with general appearance, after
extracting two quite unmistakable grey hairs. Vicky goes so far, as to
say that I look Lovely, but enquires shortly afterwards why old people so
often wear black--which discourages me.

Received by Lady B. in magnificent Eastern costume, with pearls dripping
all over her, and surrounded by bevy of equally bejewelled friends. She
smiles graciously and shakes hands without looking at any of us, and
strange fancy crosses my mind that it would be agreeable to bestow on her
sudden sharp shaking, and thus compel her to recognise existence of at
least one of guests invited to her house. Am obliged, however, to curb
this unhallowed impulse, and proceed quietly into vast drawing-room, at
one end of which band is performing briskly on platform.

Our Vicar's wife--violet net and garnets--recognises friends, and takes
our Vicar away to speak to them. Robert is imperatively summoned by Lad y
B.--(Is she going to order him to take charge of cloak room, or
what?)--and I am greeted by an unpleasant-looking Hamlet, who suddenly
turns out to be Miss Pankerton. Why, she asks accusingly, am I not in
fancy dress? It would do me all the good in the world to give myself over
to the Carnival spirit. It is what I _need_. I make enquiry for
Jahsper--should never be surprised to hear that he has come as
Ophelia--but Miss P. replies that Jahsper is in Bloomsbury again.
Bloomsbury can do nothing without Jahsper. I say, No, I suppose not, in
order to avoid hearing any more about either Jahsper or Bloomsbury, and
talk to Mary Kellway--who looks nice in Russian Peasant costume--and
eventually dance with her husband. We see many of our neighbours, most of
them not in fancy dress, and am astounded at unexpected sight of
Blenkinsops' Cousin Maud, bounding round the room with short, stout
partner, identified by Mary's husband as great hunting man.

Lady B.'s house-party, all in expensive disguises and looking highly
superior, dance languidly with one another, and no introductions take
place.

It later becomes part of Robert's duty to tell everyone that supper is
ready, and we all flock to buffet in dining-room, and are given excellent
sandwiches and unidentified form of cup. Lady B.'s expensive-looking
house-party nowhere to be seen, and Robert tells me in gloomy aside that
he thinks they are in the library, having champagne. I express
charitable--and improbable--hope that it may poison them, to which Robert
merely replies, Hush, not so loud--but should not be surprised to know
that he agrees with me.

Final, and most unexpected, incident of the evening is when I come upon
old Mrs. Blenkinsop, all over black jet and wearing martyred expression,
sitting in large armchair underneath platform, and exactly below
energetic saxophone. She evidently has not the least idea how to account
for her presence there, and saxophone prevents conversation, but can
distinguish something about Maud, and not getting between young things
and their pleasure, and reference to old Mrs. B. not having very much
longer to spend amongst us. I smile and nod my head, then feel that this
may look unsympathetic, so frown and shake it, and am invited to dance by
male Frobisher--who talks about old furniture and birds. House-party
reappear, carrying balloons, which they distribute like buns at a
School-feast, and party proceeds until midnight.

Band then bursts into Auld Lang Syne and Lady B. screams Come along, Come
along, and all are directed to forma circle. Singular mêlée ensues, and I
see old Mrs. Blenkinsop swept from armchair and clutching our Vicar with
one hand and unknown young gentleman with the other. Our Vicar's wife is
holding hands with Miss Pankerton--whom she cannot endure--and looks
distraught, and Robert is seized upon by massive stranger in scarlet, and
Cousin Maud. Am horrified to realise that I am myself on one side
clasping hand of particularly offensive young male specimen of
house-party, and on the other that of Lady B. We all shuffle round to
well-known strains, and sing For _Ole_ Lang Syne, For _Ole_
Lang Syne, over and over again, since no one appears to know any other
words, and relief is general when this exercise is brought to a close.

Lady B., evidently fearing that we shall none of us know when she has had
enough of us, then directs band to play National Anthem, which is done,
and she receives our thanks and farewells.

Go home, and on looking at myself in the glass am much struck with
undeniable fact that at the end of a party I do not look nearly as nice
as I did at the beginning. Should like to think that this applies to
every woman, but am not sure--and anyway, this thought ungenerous--like
so many others.

Robert says, Why don't I get into Bed? I say, Because I am writing my
Diary. Robert replies, kindly, but quite definitely, that In his opinion,
That is Waste of Time.

I get into bed, and am confronted by Query: Can Robert be right?

Can only leave reply to Posterity.



THE END



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