St. Hilda’s Hall,
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