29 October 1918

St. Hilda’s Hall

Oxford.

28.10.18

P.S. That beast Rags made me play forward at hockey this afternoon! – had me running like a kid of 11!  After rowing too!  Mean!!

My dear Mother,

I am so sorry not to have written to you before.  I entended [sic] to write to you yesterday, but had such a bad headache last night that I thought I would wait and see if I had got “flue” before I wrote.  I retired to bed before supper, and the B. came up and took my temperature.  It was well below normal, so we decided it was not flue, but perhaps an aftermath of the plague I had had on the previous day, which the Levett took in hand.  She made me sit over my fire all day and read light literature and forbade me to wait at dinner.  I took Baptisia1, and the consequence was my plague disappeared before dinner.

There are only four of the students still in bed.  The Bursar is all right, but weak, so is to be sent away for a holiday.  The doctor is sending the worst cases home to their mothers for a few days, much to their delight.  Darnell has had it badly, and has gone home to day.  The survivors – so far – are Muriel, Audrey and Silvia in the 3rd year, Paddy, Gerry, Isabel, Joan Curzon, Fay and I in our year, and about half a dozen of the 1st Yr.

The kitchen staff is the worst.  All the parlour maids and the cook are down – the kitchen is run by 2 poor washed-out little kitchen maids and about four charwomen.  We wait at dinner, carry round trays and help wash up.  My particular job I have made is laying breakfast.  You would laugh at my present mode of life.  I am Muriel’s A.de C.  We share her alarm clock.  We wake each other at 6.30.  We both dress, and I wake the top landing at 7.00 a.m.  Then we both go down into the common room and work by the anthracite stove.  At 7.30 I depart to set breakfast.  Only I know how to do it, for all the parlourmaids are in bed.  It is rather fun if a bit strenuous and hard on your work.  However Grant Bobs understands.  He asked us if we had been scrubbing floors on Saturday.

He was very sweet over our essays.  Said they were clear, but chronological, which is a crime in his eyes.  He said that they would do – for 3rd class work!  We were both capable of writing better!

I am glad Max and Teddie are better.  Take care of both our men, for this flue is deadly – and most of all of yourself.  The only preventives are – according to G. Bobs – rest, warmth, good food, and – freedom from overwork and worry!!!  But, seriously, I warn you, if you have it, – I shall come home immediately!

I sent off my new combs2 and two new pairs of stockings this morning – also the Virginian to Jack.  I got a quite nice pair of mole stockings here at the Scottish Wool Shop – 5/3.  The result is I am short of money – as usual.

Please give my love to Daddie and the boy and all the Faulkners – including the Major.  Tell Betty I practised 3 hours yesterday.

Your loving daughter

Margot.

1Baptisia, a very strong homeopathic remedy, now only available from a homeopathic doctor or chemist, not over the counter .  Margot’s mother used many homeopathic medicines.

2‘Combs’ are combinations, an all-in-one vest and pants, long-legged of course at least to the knee.

Next letter to be posted on 3 November 2015.

22 October 1918

St. Hilda’s Hall

Oxford.

22.10.18

                My dear Max,

Very many thanks for the little silver chain.  It is charming, and the pendant looks very pretty on it.

You will be pleased to hear that the bicycle is behaving splendidly.  I have not even had to pump it up yet.  The basket is also very useful and seems capable of bolding any amount of things in it.  This morning, for instance, I brought home 3 notebooks, a pair of gloves, a pair of spats and a cake in [sic], besides several other little things, my purse, diary, pen, etc.  My byke is absolutely invaluable here.  I go everywhere on it, although I have not yet arrived at riding along the towing path, as some rash spirits do – too bumpy!  Its rather like that switchback arrangement on Dulwich Common that you and Teddie are so fond of, the bridges go up and then down very steeply;

I am sorry you were done out of your match against Merchant Taylors – you might have met Norman Cole.  Does your being asked to play mean that you are in the first XV?

I am just off sculling, so must stop writing.  Please give my love to Teddie.  I hope that man at Norbury will do your byke soon.

Yours with love,

Margot.

St. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

22.10.18

                My dear Mother,

Many thanks for your letter, and the handkerchieves, and the wee chain.  What a triumph for the Post Office!  I only posted my card at 10 a.m. on Monday morning, and your little parcel arrived by the first post this morning.

I feel very sad about Mrs Harris’ death.  She was such a cheery little woman.  Mrs Farrow is at present looking after the children with a sister of Mrs Harris.  The mortality here in the town is very high.  I think our own patients are taking a turn for the better.  Two are up and about.  We survivors are doing all the work.  I have constituted myself Muriel’s right-hand man.  Last night I made cocoa for five people and put them to bed.  This morning Muriel called me and I called the rest of the top landing, and then we both went downstairs to offer our services on the domestic staff. Muriel dusted the common rooms, while I helped lay the breakfast.  My cold is better and I keep out as much as possible – rowing this morning, and sculling this afternoon – so hope to escape, but you never can tell!

It is going to be rather awkward about my washing, for the laundry calls for and leaves the things at the same time, which means you want 3 of everything.  So could you send me another pair of knickers and a camisole?  One of my old camisoles will do.

I enclose bill and letter from the jeweller.  Could you please call, pay the bill, and ask him to send the ring here, and perhaps he would show it to you.

Your loving daughter

Margot.

Next letter to be posted on 28 October 1915

20 October 1918

                                St. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

20.10.18

                My dear Mother,

Many thanks for your two parcels and the enclosed letters.  The dressing gown is beautifully warm and fits quite sufficiently.  The cake has just been cut for tea.  Did you get my post card acknowledging Daddie’s cheque?  I have sent of [sic] a withdrawal notice for the balance.  I wrote to Auntie Lucy yesterday.  Will you let me have Jack’s address as soon as you know it?  Don’t you think he would like the “Virginian”1 if I could get hold of the cheap copy which Uncle Arthur had?  It would be no use giving him anything really nice.  He would be sure to lose it sooner or later.

Flue2 is rife here. Five of our year are down with it, and at least half the freshers.  The bursar and most of the maids are also ill!  We have therefore imported a nurse and a doctor (military), and are making our own beds, waiting at dinner, and so forth.  The B. is worried out of her wits.  My cold is better, and I keep out as much as possible, but I won’t guarantee not to have flue, as it comes upon you so suddenly.

I have had my first coaching with Grant Bobs, but did not write an essay for him.  His coachings are like private lectures.  I have not yet had the courage to interrupt his flow of language.  Fortunately he does not expect you to read your essays to him, but has them in to correct.  He says the more he picks them to pieces the better he thinks them, which rather leaves one on the horns of a dilemma when you try to discover what he really does think.  The Levett is as charming as ever, and we discussed Roman Britain at great length last Wednesday morning.

We had such an adventure on Tuesday.  Four of us volunteered to take the sculler up over the rollers3 to our boat-house on the Upper Char.  Gerry met us at the rollers with the key of the gates, which are kept shut in winter.  None of the keys would fit, and we were debating what to do when along came a man, with a punt, a lady and a dog, on the other side of the gates.  He, too, found the keys impossible, but man-like, deciding to make full use of his masculine strength, forced a key into the lock and forced it round, with the result that he broke off the top of the key!  Finally we dragged our boats across a bit of land between the rollers and the weir, and set off gaily, only to discover that we had left Benjie at the rollers – Benjie was a squirrel make of the same material as a Teddy bear and with a nice fluffy tail.  We had left him sitting in a particularly damp cornier.  He belongs to an L.M.H. girl who had lent him to Joyce Tomlin for a mascot.  Phyllis and Audrey who were due at L.M.H. to tea, were to return him to his owner.  We dropped Phyllis and Audrey at the bottom of the garden of L.M.H. and Silvia and I took the boat up to our boat-house.  We had an awful time getting it in, for there were three submerged punts blocking up the way, the slope was all overgrown with weeds, and the rollers wouldn’t roll.  However we finally managed to get it in.  Audrey and Phyllis rescued Benjie on their way home.  Their task was complicated by the fact that the only way of getting to the rollers by land is by a particularly risky climb over one of the bridges in Mesopotamia, which closes at 5.15.  I went rowing on Saturday – with the result that a good square inch of skin is missing from the side of my right thumb.  I hope to get my sculling whole soon.

Una seems to be settling down quite comfortably.  I had Mrs Broadbent to tea last Monday.  She brought me some lovely brown and yellow chrysanthemums which have lasted fresh to this very day.  The first year is so enormous that one hardly sees anything of it.  There are several quiet “brainy” people who will just suit Una.  I think she will find her feet all right.  She is perfectly self-possessed, and does not appear at all nervous, though she certainly is shy.

I don’t think I will ask you to send me a blanket, for the maids would never k now what to do with it when they are making the bed, but could you spare me Grandma’s hot-water bottle?  I borrowed one on Thursday when I felt groggy and had to lie down.  Also please will you send my waist ribbon, and also if you don’t mind, my Marcus Aurelius, one of books Ethel gave me, in its own box and with a red leather cover.

Last night seven of us went to Canon Streeter’s house to help entertain Canadian cadets – all flying men.  It was great sport!  We played blow football with an air-ball, a most awful game that left you with no breath whatever, and “winking” which is not really quite proper!  We tried to get them to sing, but there was not [sic] piano, so it was rather difficult.  Lots of them had been to Canadian universities.  One of them told me a lot about Toronto, where Norma is.

I am glad Steadman Harker was an addition to the party.  I hope the boys are all quite well and that Max will get his match yet.  Tell him that my byke is behaving beautifully and Betty that the bow is a gem.  Has she tested the violin?  I hope she and Teddie are both better.  Aren’t we getting on with the war?  Best love to Daddie and the boy.

Your loving daughter, Margot.

1The Virginian (sometimes titled The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains) is a pioneering Wild West novel by the American author Owen Wister, published in 1902. The book was dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt a good friend of the author‘s.

2The outbreak of ‘flu in 1918 was a terrible epidemic and killed thousands worldwide.

3The rollers were beside the weir to allow boats like punts to be pushed up to the higher level of the river.

Next letter to be posted on 22 October 1915

13 October 1918

St. Hilda’s Hall

Oxford.

13.10.18

My dear Mother,

I didn’t send you a post-card last night, because I thought this would reach you just as soon.  I arrived quite safely, with all my impedimenta.  I took all the luggage in a cab while Joyce brought the two bykes(sic) along.  Una joined the train at Reading, and Mr and Mrs Broadbent, so your prediction proved correct.  They are staying at the “Isis”, up the Iffley Road.  Una has got into the Hall fortunately, and is in Gerry’s old room, over-looking the dogs’ home.

I have got the room I asked for.  It is very nice and big, and has two chests of drawers and a cupboard.  All my things have turned up, except the odd stocking, which I cannot discover anywhere.  By the way I left my brown silk stockings behind, so will you please send them on as soon as possible.  Also if you think it would be safe to send the corals, please do so, but it does not really matter.  Also if you can spare them, will you please let me have a candle and a box of matches?  And please send me as soon as possible my bed socks.  They were on that chair in the kitchen.  We are going to freeze this term – only allowed a fire once every five nights!  It won’t be so bad this term as next.

We have really got 23 freshers, 8 of them in 2 separate hostels – one in Cowley Place itself, and the other up the Iffley Road.  They seem quite a nice lot on the whole but they do swarm all over the place.  I had four to cocoa last night, including Una and my next door neighbour, who is the top History scholar.  This morning I took two Congregationalists to Mansfield, both from Yorkshire, one from Keighley and the other from Ilkley.  They are coming to tea with me today.

Daddy forgot to give me a cheque – I enclose a statement of accounts.  Please ask him to send it as soon as possible and to tell me how much he wants me to pay out of Auntie Hilda’s £10.  I can pay it all in this term if he would like.  I have written to Auntie Hilda.

I must now get tea for these two people, so will not write any more just now.  Much love to Daddie and Maxted.

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

P.S.  If you think it would be safe to send Doris’ photo, please do so, for there is a big gap on the top of my bureau that would just fit it.

 

£27

0

0

– Residence Fee

8

15

0

– Tuition

10

0

– Delegacy

£36

5

0

£36

5

0

– Total Fees

11

13

4

– Terminal scholarship and grant

£24

11

8

Next letter to be posted on 20 October 1918