Gone With the Windsors Laurie Graham The hilarious and touching novel from Laurie Graham – the fictional diary of the Queen’s best friend in pre-war London.Laurie Graham's brilliant novel is the fictional diary of Maybell Brumby, a wealthy American widow who arrives in London in 1932 and discovers that an old school friend is in town: Bessie Wallis Warfield, now Mrs Ernest Simpson. Maybell and Wally are made for one another. One has money and a foothold in high society, courtesy of a sister who married well. The other has ruthless ambition and enough energy to power the National Grid. Before the year is out, Wally has begun her seduction of the Prince of Wales, and as she clambers towards the throne she makes sure Maybell and her cheque book are always close at hand.So Maybell becomes an eye-witness to the Abdication Crisis. From her perch in Carlton Gardens, home of her influential brother-in-law Lord Melhuish, she has the perfect vantage point for observing the anxious, changing allegiances for and against Queen Wally, and the political contours of pre-war London.When the crisis comes and Wally flees to the south of France, she insists on Maybell going with her. 'Are you sure that's advisable, darling?' asks the King. 'Of course it is,' snaps Wally. 'She's the Paymaster General.' Maybell's diary records the marriage, the Windsors' exile, and the changing complexion of the Greatest Love Story. It takes the sound of German jackboots at the gate and personal tragedy to make her close its pages for the last time. LAURIE GRAHAM Gone With the Windsors Copyright (#) Fourth Estate An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd. 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/) Copyright © Laurie Graham 2005 Laurie Graham asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work Cover illustration © Rachel Ross A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this ebook on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins ebooks HarperCollinsPublishers has made every reasonable effort to ensure that any picture content and written content in this ebook has been included or removed in accordance with the contractual and technological constraints in operation at the time of publication Source ISBN: 9780007146765 Ebook Edition © SEPTEMBER 2012 ISBN: 9780007369836 Version: 2017-03-30 Praise (#) From the reviews of Gone with the Windsors: ‘Graham succeeds in crystallising the lives of a social set whose raison d’être was the next poolside gin-fizz. Alongside le tout Baltimore, we await to see how far Wallis will jeopardise her hard-won security with Ernest for the title of “Queen of Nowhere”. It’s a testament to Graham’s pitch-perfect storytelling that we care’ Independent ‘Graham’s sunny control makes the abdication crisis sound as fresh and tangy as Wally’s favourite dinner party dessert, strawberry sherbet. Maybell Brumby is a wonderful, sassy creation: not exactly one of your heart-of-gold heroines, but, more entertainingly, one with a heart of gilt’ Sunday Times ‘With an enviable sleight of hand, Laurie Graham affectionately impales her hilariously oblivious heroine. I ate this book right up’ MARY GUTERSON, author of We Are All Fine Here ‘[An] absolute pleasure to read from start to finish … Wryly observed secondary characters are also a joy … By infusing her sharp satire and meticulous social observation with a certain sweetness, Laurie Graham proves herself a master of showing without ever needing to tell’ Time Out ‘Laugh-out-loud funny’ Daily Telegraph ‘Refreshing, honest and very funny … enjoyable without being thoughtless, smart without being superficial’ Scotsman ‘Maybell Brumby is a marvellous comic creation’ Scotland on Sunday ‘Laurie Graham is such a vivid, creative storyteller’ TLS Dedication (#) To Howard Contents Cover (#u1d269e92-1FFF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474) Title Page (#u1d269e92-2FFF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474) Copyright (#u1d269e92-3FFF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474) Praise (#u1d269e92-6FFF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474) Dedication (#u1d269e92-7FFF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474) 10th March 1932, Sweet Air, Baltimore (#u1d269e92-9FFF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474) 1st January 1933 (#u1d269e92-130F-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474) 1st January 1934 (#litres_trial_promo) 1st January 1935 (#litres_trial_promo) 2nd January 1936, Wilton Place (#litres_trial_promo) 1st January 1937 (#litres_trial_promo) 2nd January 1938 (#litres_trial_promo) 2nd January 1939 (#litres_trial_promo) 8th January 1940 (#litres_trial_promo) 8th January 1946, Sweet Air, Baltimore (#litres_trial_promo) Keep Reading (#litres_trial_promo) About the Author (#litres_trial_promo) By the Same Author (#litres_trial_promo) About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) 10th March 1932, Sweet Air, Baltimore (#) Six months since Danforth Brumby surrendered to the first hint of kidney failure and left me a widow. It always was the risk in marrying an older man. Yesterday his headstone was raised, so now it’s time to look to the future. I still have my youth and my looks. Men are already flocking to my side and women are pursuing me as always for my advice and my vivacious presence at their dinner tables. Le tout Baltimore is impatient for my return to society, so tomorrow I shall drive into town, place my chinchilla in cold storage, and order a selection of spring outfits from Madame Lucille. A new chapter opens. 13th March 1932 A letter from sister Violet. Why not come to London, Maybell? she begs. It will lift you out of yourself. It’s impossible to remain sad for long in a house full of children. Well, that is a matter of opinion. Pips Waldo is here, she writes. You always liked Pips. And Judson Erlanger. Remember him? He’s married to one of the Chandos girls. I’ll say I remember him! Judson Erlanger took me to the Princeton Ball. It’s getting to be a real Little Baltimore over here, she concludes. And who knows, we may even find you another husband. Melhuish knows quite everyone. I have already endured thirteen years of Violet’s condescension, brought on by her marriage to Donald Melhuish—Lord Melhuish as she reminds me with tedious regularity. The truth is, I could have snagged Melhuish for myself, had my tastes run to cold castles and men in skirts, but I allowed Violet to have him and I’ve said nothing since to disturb her smug satisfaction in her title and her connections and her lumpen Melhuish offspring. To some, it is given to tread the wilder track, to risk the ravine in order to conquer more majestic peaks, and I have always had a head for heights. PS, she adds. You might think of spending some time with Doopie. She has missed you dreadfully. So there we have it. Violet doesn’t want me in London for the zest I would undoubtedly bring to her life, nor does she particularly intend to find me a lord to marry. Tired of playing the angel of mercy, she hopes simply to saddle me with the retard. What a trial Doopie has been to us all, a regrettable afterthought in a family already perfectly adorned by myself and Violet. If people must have children, two is certainly enough. But our misguided parents would have her, and they would allow her to arrive on my birthday, too. “Maybell,” Father said, “you have the best birthday gift a girl could ask for.” I had hoped for a new donkey cart, not an attention-seeking brat of a sister. They named her Eveline and doted on every smile she smiled and every mew she mewed, but Sister Eveline didn’t impress me. Over and over, she’d allow a person to take away her pacifier, then look injured and start her sobbing. She never learned to say “No.” Then, after she caught inflammation of the brain, there could be no doubt about it. The child was a vegetable. “Slow” was the word Mother used. “Slow, but special.” The fact is, Eveline is stupid. Always was, always will be. I renamed her Stupid, but she’s so dumb she can’t even say it. “Doopie” is the best she has ever managed. They tried her at Elementary School, but she was an embarrassment to us all, and it was soon decided that she would do just as well at home. She’s handy with a needle, I suppose. She can knit and crochet. And she’s quite the green-thumb, which used to endear her to Father. “I had given up that Ficus for lost,” he’d say, “but Eveline has raised it from the dead.” He claimed she knew every plant in the conservatory and talked to them like friends. Well, that says it all about Doopie’s powers of communication. “Bayba,” she used to call me. And “Vite” was the best she ever managed for Violet. “She does love you so,” Mother used to tell me. “Her eyes don’t leave you for an instant when you come into the room.” There has never been any question of Doopie marrying, though I believe I am the only one who ever took the trouble to inform her of this. In 1914, when Violet was coming out, it was decided that because of the threat of war I had better come out, too. Just as well, because the Prussians quite ruined the 1915 season. Doopie helped with the trimming of our gowns. “We’re invited to the Bachelor’s Club Cotillion,” I explained to her, “which is something that will never happen to you.” She just smiled. How much of what one says penetrates her brain one never can tell, but she always seems contented enough. The only question was what would become of her. Father seemed to think that two sisters and a Trust Fund answered the case, but I was never consulted. And when Danforth Brumby asked for my hand, nobody asked him if he’d mind having a half-wit in the attic someday. Violet thought she’d made her escape, I guess, settling overseas. I suppose she thought an idiot couldn’t be sent on a sea voyage. But when the time came, after Father passed over and Mother had to be placed in the care of a full-time nurse, it so happened that Brumby and I were much burdened with the renovations at Sweet Air. It would have been most unsuitable for Doopie to move in with us. She might have bumped into a marble pillar awaiting installation and brought it tumbling on top of her, or wandered into the path of some falling beam. It was safer by far to send her to Violet. We provided her with a chaperone, and they traveled first class, and everything has worked out for the best. From their army of peasant retainers, Violet and Melhuish have been able to furnish her with the simple companionship she requires and then, with the arrival of the babies, she has gained a nursery full of playmates. So, I will not fall for Violet’s sly attempt at luring me to England. I see her little game. She hopes to catch me while I’m weakened by grief, and change the arrangements for Doopie. Well, they seem perfectly satisfactory to me. I shall stay where I am and reign over Baltimore. 20th March 1932 Stepsons are sent to try us. The earth has barely settled on his father’s grave, and Junior is demanding to know my plans for Sweet Air. Do I expect to stay on, alone in such a large and isolated house? And if I were to think of selling, he knows his father would have wanted the place kept in the family. Junior has never liked me. He’s never forgiven me for replacing his sainted mother and making Danforth smile again. He obviously hopes to spook me out of the place and then pick it up at a knockdown price. He’ll probably come around tapping on windows and making hooty owl noises. Well, he’ll find Maybell Brumby is made of sterner stuff than that. 24th March 1932 Randolph Putnam pressed me to join him for luncheon today, but I declined. I find him too eager, and anyway I’d already agreed to take tea with Nora Sedley Cordle. One social obligation a day is enough for anyone, especially where Nora is involved. She sat behind her Reed and Barton teapot, pretending friendship, but I read her like a book. She’s hoping I’ll give up Sweet Air, too. I always was a challenge to her social ambitions and now I suppose she’s hoping I’ll get me to a nunnery. Well, one thing I can tell her. She may be a Daughter of the American Revolution, but she had better learn to leave the ruffled neckline to those of us who can carry it off. 1st April 1932 The telephone keeps ringing and no one speaks. Today a package arrived, The World’s Most Chilling Ghost Stories. Junior must take me for a fool. 3rd April 1932 Not sleeping well. I’ve instructed Missie not to answer the telephone after ten p.m. 7th April 1932 Randolph Putnam crossed the street to tell me how strained I look and recommend I take myself off to Palm Beach for a while. And leave Nora Sedley Cordle to consolidate the gains she made while I was in mourning? I think not! 10th April 1932 A quantity of horse manure was deposited on the front steps during the night. Missie says she was wakened by the sound of unearthly laughter and didn’t close her eyes again till morning. Much theatrical yawning when she brought in my breakfast tray. Just what one needs at a time like this: the help falling asleep on their feet. 12th April 1932 Another letter from Violet. The most extraordinary thing, she wrote. You’ll never guess who has appeared on the scene. She then digresses, recounting in unnecessary detail various antics of the brood. Ulick won a trophy for shooting. Flora wet her drawers at Lady Londonderry’s. Rory fell off his new pony and knocked out two teeth. On and on it went without at all getting to the point. Violet’s meanderings are so fatiguing. I had to turn two pages before I learned who it was who had so extraordinarily appeared on the scene. Minnehaha, no less. Wally Warfield! Well! I ran into Pips Waldo, she writes, who told me all she knew. Apparently, she’s married to someone who was in the Guards but is now in business. They have a little place somewhere north of Marble Arch, and from what Pips has heard, she’s quite on the make. I can imagine. Her mother didn’t have a dime, but Wally never allowed that to hold her back. She had sharp elbows and a calculating mind, and she didn’t miss a trick. Great fun though. School was much more interesting once Wally was around. She came to Oldfields in 1911 and only because an uncle was paying for her. One didn’t expect a new girl to start throwing her weight around, especially a girl who was a charity case, but on her first day she warned everyone that although her given name was Bessie Wallis, she only answered to Wallis or Wally. I could see her point. Bessie’s more a name for a cow or a mammy. But more often than not, we called her Minnehaha, because of her cheekbones and the way she braided her hair, and she quite liked it. She reckoned she was descended from Pocahontas, but then so do a lot of people. Pips Waldo and Mary Kirk and I were her main friends. Lucie Mallett was a hanger-on, but she never invited Wally to her home, because Mrs. Mallett knew all the dirt about Wally’s mother taking in boarders and wearing lip rouge, and the Malletts had very closed minds. But we Pattersons were raised differently. ‘Let me not judge my brother,’ Father always said. Anyway, it was Lucie Mallett’s loss. Wally and I used to have such fun. Inventing pains so we could stay in and read fashion tips instead of playing basketball. Drinking ginger ale and eating butter cookies after lights out. I was always sorry we drifted out of touch. So, now she’s in London. Perhaps I’ll reconsider. It would be nice to see Pips. It might be interesting to pick up the threads with Judson Erlanger. And with Wally around livening things up, I think I could even endure a few weeks of dull old Violet. 15th April 1932 Dead crows nailed to the gate posts this morning and yesterday. I leave for England next week. And if Randolph Putnam is so anxious to be of service to me, he can arrange for the locks to be changed. I don’t want to come back and find Junior has taken possession of Sweet Air. 11th May 1932, Carlton Gardens, London A whole month since I found the energy for my diary. Can there be anything more prostrating than travel. And my recovery is being made a thousand times harder by the chaos in Violet’s establishment. She and Melhuish had been in the country, so, when I arrived, the house in Carlton Gardens wasn’t properly aired and my bed was distinctly damp. I threatened to move to Claridge’s. Violet eventually asked a rebellious-looking domestic if she might find the time to fill a rubber bottle with hot water and rub it between my sheets, and seemed to think that addressed the problem. Said rubber bottle was finally delivered, with heavy sighs, an hour after I had fallen exhausted into my bed. If this house is anything to go by, England is on the very edge of revolution. The good news is that the location seems to be the very best. Melhuish is handy for his clubs and the House of Lords, Buckingham Palace is practically in our backyard, so very convenient for Violet, who is thick as thieves with Their Majesties, and the shops of Bond Street are no great distance away. If I can only get my rooms heated, I think I’ll be suited. Violet has grown stouter and probably hasn’t had her hair attended to since the day she left Baltimore. She clips it up, and she’s no sooner clipped it than it escapes. Melhuish’s hair, on the other hand, is now in the final stages of retreat. One thing I will say for Danforth Brumby, he kept a fine head of hair till the very last. Of the children I have so far met only Flora. She is eight years old and has occasional lessons from a spinster who comes to the house whenever she can be spared by her sick relations. Otherwise the child seems to tag along with whatever Doopie is doing, which cannot be very much. They take each other for walks in St. James’s Park and make tiny coverlets for a dolls’ house. My arrival caused great excitement, and the child immediately showed signs of wishing to attach herself to me, so today I was forced to establish some rules. She is not to visit my room. She is not to lurk in doorways spying on me. She is not to play her drum within a country mile of me. One must start as one intends to go on. As for Doopie, she never seems to age. She stared and stared at my face, then smiled and said, “Ids Bayba!” but I’m not convinced anything really registered with her. Violet credits her with understanding, but a person may smile in an aimless way without at all understanding whether there’s anything to smile about. Nora Sedley Cordle springs to mind. I haven’t yet sighted the two boys. They are normally kept at a school called Pilgrims but are being allowed out tomorrow night for something called an exeat. Not on my account, I hope. A sweet note of welcome waiting for me from Pips Waldo, now Crosbie. She and her husband, Freddie, are in Halkin Street, just off Belgrave Square. We lunch on Monday. 14th May 1932 Besieged. The house is filled with boys wearing hobnailed boots. They were brought down to the drawing room to meet me last evening. All Violet’s children have Melhuish’s carroty hair and freckled skin. Ulick is tall, I’d say, for twelve; Rory is like a skinned rabbit. According to Violet, he suffers from night terrors. According to one of the housemaids, who offers unsought opinions on everything while dust gathers in drifts inches deep, he sees “imaginings.” Well, all children are prone to imaginings, and the less intelligence they have the more susceptible they are. I remember I used only to have to snake my arm out of bed and set a rocking chair in unexplained motion for Violet to start howling, followed rapidly by Doopie. Anyway, both boys shook me nicely by the hand and Ulick asked me how many acres I have at Sweet Air. Rory was gazing at me with his mouth open, Ulick nudged him in the ribs, and when he still stood catching flies, Ulick said, “And how was the crossing? Agreeable, I hope.” Rory said, “You beast! I was going to ask that. You know I was. Now what shall I ask?” Quite droll. But they’ve all been tramping overhead since the crack of nine and now, just as I thought I’d found peace in the morning room, Violet has appeared with her book of lists, and the child Flora has bounded in, draped in a tartan traveling rug. She says they’re playing Highland Clearances and she is It. This evening, Violet and Melhuish are dining with the Bertie Yorks. He’s a brother of the Prince of Wales. Violet said, “I’ll have cook prepare you a tray. I hope you understand. It’s not the kind of dinner where one can arrive with an extra.” Extra indeed! As if I’ve come to London to beg dinners from junior Royalties! I shall go to a movie theater with a box of candy. 15th May 1932 The boys Ulick and Rory were driven back to their school after luncheon, Rory sobbing pitifully when the moment came to leave, begging to be allowed to have lessons at home like Flora. Ulick was in a fury with him. He kept saying, “Stop it at once. Melhuishes don’t blub.” Violet busied herself in the library with committee papers while he was being bundled into the car. She says he always cries, but once he’s back with his friends he soon cheers up. She said, “He’ll toughen up. And someday he’ll thank us for it. Imagine if a boy went into Officer Training still soft from home life.” 16th May 1932 Lunch with Pips Crosbie. She now has a red tint and bangs and looks adorably modern. She goes to Monsieur Jules in Bruton Street and is going to introduce me. Her husband, whom she can’t wait for me to meet, is in Parliament, a kind of congressman, I gather, but not in the same House as Melhuish. Freddie Crosbie had to get elected to his seat, whereas Melhuish has one simply because he’s Lord Melhuish. It has been warmed by Melhuish b-t-ms through the centuries. Pips and Freddie seem to see quite a bit of Judson Erlanger. She said, “As I recall, you had quite a pash for him.” Pips is misremembering. Judson was the one who pursued me. Another name from the past. Ida Coote is in town, living some kind of artistic life in a rooming house full of White Russians. Extraordinary. I hadn’t realized Russians came in any other color. I don’t believe I’ve seen Ida since Gunpowder River Summer Camp. It must be twenty years. She was another unusual girl. I can’t wait. Wally is now married to someone called Simpson, and I have her address from Pips. George Street. All I’ve been able to discover is that it’s in some kind of backwater north of Marble Arch and absolutely nobody lives there. Poor Wally. Pips says they’ve seen each other in passing at several receptions, but so far they haven’t managed to get together for lunch. I sense Pips dragging her heels. She said, “I don’t know. Maybe the years have improved her, but didn’t you always find her rather mouthy?” Actually, I liked that in her. I had the face and the figure, but Wally had the patter. We’d take a slow walk down to the Chesapeake tea rooms on a Sunday and collect ourselves quite an escort of good-looking Navy boys, in from Annapolis for the afternoon. We made a good team. Perhaps we will again. Me, Wally, Pips, Ida. At this rate, we belles of Baltimore will be taking over London. Violet says Ida’s address is in West Kensington, which hardly counts as London. Also that she’d hesitate to classify Wally Warfield as a belle. Tomorrow to Swan & Edgar for woolen camisoles. 18th May 1932 Swan & Edgar’s store knows nothing of customer service. They told me there was no demand for woolen camisoles at this time of year, when only two minutes earlier I had demanded them. They advised me that their next supply will arrive toward the end of August and asked would I care to leave my name and number. I said, “I see no point. I shall be dead of the cold.” A long wait while Ida was fetched to the telephone by one of her Russians. She screamed for joy when she heard my voice. Lunch tomorrow. 19th May 1932 Treated Ida to the Dorchester. She has dyed her hair black and wears costume jewelry, having lost everything in the Crash, but seems very gay. She said, “Money’s a curse, Maybell. I’m a free spirit these days.” Of course, I don’t know that Ida ever had that much money. She’s taking me to the Argentine Embassy on Monday. She says attendance at one cocktail party begets invitations to ten more, so there’s no faster way to meet people and canapés also solve the question of dinner. No call from Wally. 21st May 1932 To the Crosbies. Freddie Crosbie is very sweet in that dithering English way. He has no chin and makes only four hundred a year as Member of Parliament, but Pips obviously adores him. They must be very glad of her money. The house is all beige and cream, what Pips calls “neutrals,” and is run in the modern style. There’s no withdrawing after dinner, which I very much applaud. I’ve never liked all that sitting around drinking tea, waiting for the men to finish their cigars. The great shock of the evening was seeing Judson Erlanger after all these years. He never had what one could call chiseled features, but he did once have a certain amount of dash. Now he looks like a big, pink man in the moon and is married to Hattie, formerly Chandos, who has crooked teeth and a permanent wave and dukes in the family. Pips says Hattie’s people go back years. But surely everybody’s people go back years? Still nothing from Wally. I begin to wonder whether Pips copied down the address correctly. 24th May 1932 How I missed Danforth Brumby last evening. Ida and I had no sooner arrived at the Argentines than she set off across the room in search of potato chips and left me at the mercy of a Latin with shiny hair and built-up shoes. What is one supposed to say to these people? Brumby would have struck up a conversation about silver mines or the price of beef, but I felt quite at a loss. Was finally rescued by an American press attaché called Whitlow Trilling, also married to an English girl. He knows Judson and Pips, but Wally’s name meant nothing to him. Perhaps this whole Wally business is a red herring. Violet came in before I was dressed, wanting to discuss something called Royal Ascot. Ascot is a race track, and there’s a week of races there next month. I wouldn’t mind going. Brumby and I went to Saratoga once and it was quite fun. Violet said, “Oh I’m afraid it’s not that simple, Maybell. Melhuish and I will be in the Royal party, you see? And I’m just not sure what best to do with you.” I said, “You make me sound like a surplus chair. It’s very simple. I’ll join the Royal party, too.” But she says that’s out of the question. That one cannot invite oneself along, nor even propose that one’s dearest sister, recently bereaved and newly arrived in a foreign land, be added to the invitation list. She said, “Let me have a word with Lady Desborough. She’s always very sweet about accommodating an extra.” That word “extra” again. I said, “As a matter of fact, now I reconsider. I expect to be rather busy that week, so don’t give it another thought.” She said, “Will you? Nobody’ll be in town, you know? But it’ll be a great weight off my mind. Their Majesties absolutely depend on us for Ascot, you see. Well, Melhuish has known them all his life.” Violet never tires of displaying her tired old stock of claims to grandeur. How she met Melhuish when he was traveling with the Prince of Wales. How Melhuish’s father was equerry to two Kings, which as I understand it amounts to nothing more than being a royal errand boy. How Melhuish has known the Duchess of York since she was a baby in her bassinet. She forgets how differently things might have turned out. If I hadn’t stayed home to represent us at Lucie Mallett’s wedding shower, I’d have been at Sulphur Springs myself. Who knows, I might have caught the Royal eye, never mind Donald Melhuish’s. Not that I’d have wanted either of them. They say that crowns are unbearably heavy to wear. I notice anyway that the Prince of Wales seems to have dropped Melhuish. Violet says it’s not a question of “dropping.” She says friends grow apart when one of them becomes a family man and the other continues to run with a fast set. I said, “I assume you’ll leave me with a cook at least, and a maid while you’re being indispensable to Their Majesties?” She said, “I’ll leave you with everything but a driver. And you’ll have Flora and Doopie for company.” So there it is. It doesn’t bother me. I’m sure Royalties must be death to the natural gaiety of friendship. Better to stay at home and be one’s true self, even if it does mean being left with a child to supervise, and an imbecile, and a staff of Bolshevik insurgents. 25th May 1932 Minnehaha at last! She said, “Maybell, you must think me such a slouch, but I’ve been sick. This is my first good day for a week.” Stomach ulcers, apparently. I didn’t think she looked too bad, though. Still skinny, still parting her hair in the middle, still as tidy as a tinker. Little gray suit, white shirtwaist, good shoes. Her skin isn’t brilliant but then it never was. Lunch was a riot, we had so much to talk about. She’s been married to Simpson for four years, his name is Ernest, and she’s never been happier. Of course, she said that when she married the aviator, but it was all far too hasty. The first summer we were “out,” 1915, she got an invitation to visit a cousin who was stationed at Pensacola, Florida, and she was off like a shot. Wally always adored a uniform. The next thing we knew, she was back with a diamond on her finger, engaged to a lieutenant in the Aviation Corps. That was Win Spencer. The wedding was at Christ Church, and I was supposed to be a bridesmaid, along with Mary Kirk, but then Grandma Patterson died and I had to go to the burying, so Lucie Mallett stepped in at short notice. I wasn’t altogether sorry. The gowns were yellow, which has never been my color, and our bouquets were snapdragons. Somehow whenever I see a snapdragon, I think of Wally. We lost touch after that. I said, “You could have written.” “Well,” she said, “it wouldn’t have made an edifying read. I knew the first week I’d made a mistake.” I think the honeymoon comes as a shock to every bride. It was years before I felt able to enjoy the Pocono Mountains again. But with Win Spencer, there was the additional problem of drink. They went to a resort in West Virginia, which was dry, but apparently he’d thought to bring along his own supplies. She said it was the stress of flying that had turned him to alcohol. It was the usual thing to toast the flag before anyone went up in one of those crates, but Win would always have a couple more shots, to settle the first one. She sounds to have had a pretty good war though. He was posted to California and they say the beaches at Coronado are divine. Then he was sent to China, and she thought it’d be more fun to tag along than sit it out on Soapsuds Row with all the other Navy wives, so she followed him. There was never any stopping Wally. In fact, advising her against something only made her all the more set on doing it. Like the time she borrowed Nugent Wilson’s suit and crashed a Bachelors’ Club ball dressed as a buck. She says China was a real adventure. Hong Kong, Shanghai. There was a war going on, people getting shot in the streets, heads appearing on pikes, and there was typhoid. She ended up in Peking, had an affair that didn’t work out, and then decided to call it a day with Win. He was drinking more than ever. She went back to the States, got a divorce, and was staying with Mary Kirk for a while, getting back on her feet, when she met Ernest, who has business interests in London. So here she is. I said, “You never looked up Violet? She’s Lady Melhuish, you know, in Carlton Gardens?” “Yes,” she said, “I know. But I don’t think Violet ever really approved of me, and these days she’s so grand. Frankly, I’m looking to create a livelier circle. I’m more interested in what people are than who their grandfathers were.” I’m invited for Saturday. She says I’ll find Ernest very knowledgeable on wine and literature. Loelia and Bendor Westminster to dinner at Carlton Gardens. She’s his third duchess and very young. They say she married him for his money. Poached salmon again. Violet might take time off from her committees one of these days to review her recipe book. 26th May 1932 Flora fell crossing the Mall, and came in crying. Even Doopie couldn’t soothe her. “Mummy, I crazed my knee,” she kept sobbing, but there was cold comfort to be had from Violet. “Did you, darling?” she said. “Jolly good. Now off you skip. I have Fishermen’s Orphans this afternoon.” Every day there’s something. Consumptives, Highland Crafts, Unmarried Mothers. A note pushed under my door when I woke from my nap. HULO written in wax crayon. The poor child spends too much time around Doopie. 28th May 1932 Wally’s apartment is in Bryanston Court. A dull building in a dull street. Wally’s on the second floor with a cook, one live-in maid, a daily, and a driver for Ernest. A claustrophobic entrance hall filled with white flowers and ivory elephants. A modest drawing room, mahogany and striped silk mainly, but one glorious lacquered Chinese screen and a table full of gorgeous little jade doodads. All bought for a song, I’m sure. Her China years may be glossed over whenever Ernest is around, but she doesn’t make any effort to hide the booty. Ernest came home at seven and presided over the drinks’ tray. He’s pleasant enough, dapper, a little too fat in the face to be handsome and he almost certainly dyes his mustache. To hear him speak, you’d take him for an Englishman. He showed me some of his first editions while Wally interfered in the kitchen. She always did love to cook. After her mother remarried, she’d often come home with me during vacation, and one time she took over our kitchen and made terrapin stew, because she heard Father saying it was his favorite dish in the whole world and nobody ever cooked it for him. I reminded her about that. She laughed. “Nineteen-twelve,” she said. “I can tell you exactly. After Mama moved to Atlantic City with that four-flusher.” Her stepfather was a drinker and an idler called Rasin. Goodness knows what Mrs. Warfield saw in him. Wally used to say she prayed he was a seedless Rasin, because she was in no mood for any baby sisters and brothers. He was dead within two years anyway. Ernest said, “You two certainly do go back a long way.” Indeed we do. Back as far as her mother’s sad little boardinghouse, though I’d never dream of bringing up that kind of embarrassment now. 29th May 1932 Decided it was time to pick the brains of someone from the old crowd, so I placed a call to Lucie Mallett. Violet fretting in the background about expense, quite unable to understand why a letter wouldn’t do just as well. She knows I always pay my way. I just wanted to find out if Lucie knew anything about Ernest. She said, “All I know is, Wally came back from China with her insides in some kind of disarray, crossed the state line to get a divorce, and wasted no time in helping herself to someone else’s husband. She met him at Mary Kirk’s.” I said, “I know that. But who is he?” “A nobody,” she said. “And he left a child and an invalid wife, just because Wally Warfield snapped her fingers. Scandalous.” I said, “I’ll tell her you said hello.” “Please don’t,” she said. Another note under my door. HULO ARNT. 30th May 1932 Lunched with Pips and Wally at the Criterion restaurant in Piccadilly. I do feel a light touch is called for with mosaics, unless you’re decorating a temple of worship. The girls were a little stiff with each other at first, but a bottle of hock wine soon got them talking about past times. Pips remembered something I’d quite forgotten: how Wally talked Homer Chute into masquerading as her cousin and picking her up from Oldfields in his Lagonda one Sunday. They were gone all day at the pleasure beach and Wally came back with a tintype portrait of herself sitting on Homer’s knee. Not that Pips was backward with the boys. She had more fraternity pins than any of us. Wally says she doesn’t know how long she and Ernest will be in London but she’d really like to liven things up while she’s here, and leave her mark. Pips suggested costume parties, but she hasn’t seen Bryanston Court. It’s far too small for a crush. Anyway, Wally says unlimited drink is death to conversation. She prefers elegant little dinners where she can draw people out. Wally believes the secret of success as a hostess is to mix important people with a sprinkling of interesting types from lower levels. Also, in the matter of food and presentation and entertainment to have the courage to season the expected with the unexpected. She says the King of England would be happy to come to dinner if he thought he might meet Mahatma Gandhi and be served a good, tasty hamburger on a Minton plate. Pips says Mahatma Gandhi doesn’t eat hamburger. After lunch, Wally took us to see an adorable gramophone she’d found in Wigmore Street, completely portable, in a lizard-skin case. I couldn’t resist. But I’ve entrusted it to Wally, because if I bring it to Carlton Gardens, Flora will expect to play with it and it will soon be broken. Pips was on the telephone the instant I got home. She said, “Minnehaha’s as slow as ever to pick up a check, I see. And I hope you’re not going to buy her every toy in the store. You’re too generous, Maybell. Always were.” Well, what’s a little money between friends? And I’m only lending her my gramophone. 2nd June 1932 Shopping with Wally. Ernest seems to keep her on a very strict allowance and goes through the account books at the end of each month. Thank heavens Brumby was never so particular. Flora sitting on the stairs watching for my return. She announced that she’d been making “gakes” and had one saved for me up in the nursery, but I was too exhausted to climb more stairs. I said, “I’ll come tomorrow.” A hammering on my door five minutes later, and there she stood, with a lump of warm gray dough in a paper case. Tonight dinner with Violet and Melhuish’s friends, the Belchesters, who can’t wait to know me. 3rd June 1932 Anne Belchester’s busybodying and charitable works make Violet look like a positive lady of leisure. She wanted to know about my Baltimore committees, but I told her, it isn’t everyone who’s suited to committees. There are talkers and there are doers, and I’m a doer. All that time spent shuffling papers and drinking tea. I’d sooner sign a check. Billy Belchester said, “Careful now, Maybell. You’ll have writer’s cramp by the time Anne’s finished with you!” Melhuish said, “Violet gives her time, that’s the thing, and her expertise. All the money in the world is no use if it’s not wisely marshaled, and the thing about Vee is, she’s terribly good with lists.” Anne Belchester said, “She is. She sometimes mislays them, but when they come to hand, they’re absolutely first-rate.” Oh well, glory in the highest to Violet and her lists. I do my bit. I sort through my closets every fall and give to Christmas Goodwill. Quality woolens, shoes hardly worn, hats that aren’t keepers. I just don’t make a fuss about it. Pips is getting up a party to go to Ciro’s tomorrow night. So far the Judson Erlangers and Wally and Ernest. Ida is an unknown. 5th June 1932 We closed Ciro’s last night. There was a wonderfully droll ensemble playing with homemade banjos. The Moses Jackson Coon Band! Judson and Hattie brought along the press attaché, Whitlow Trilling, and his wife, Gladys. Ida turned up with an Argentine who smelled of brilliantine. Ernest had business papers to peruse, so cried off at the last minute. No great loss. He’s so serious. People don’t always want to be discussing Pluto’s Republic. According to Whitlow, a new First Secretary just arrived, and it’s someone Wally knows from her Navy days in San Diego. Benny Thaw. Pips said, “Is he an old flame?” Wally says absolutely not, but she’s going to look him up. The birds were singing as I arrived home, so I looked forward to a restful day in bed, but Wally was on the telephone at ten, slave-driving me to go shopping for lingerie, and then a military parade started up. Violet says it was the Major General’s Review. Men and horses tramping across Horse Guards’ Parade. Drums, bugles, shouting, all bad enough in themselves, but Doopie and Flora came back from watching and proceeded to reenact it in the corridor outside my room. Doopie always did get overexcited by military bands. Violet is walking around with a furrowed brow, because the Rutlands are dining tonight, all the way from their castle in the country, also the terrifically von Bismarcks, but someone has chucked, leaving her with thirteen, and I’m far too tired to make up the numbers. I don’t have the strength to lift a soup spoon. Caught my heel in the hem of my charcoal silk getting out of the car this morning, and there is apparently no girl among the overfed rabble of servants in this house who knows how to mend. Not one. Light rain. 6th June 1932 I am completely recovered. Dr. Collis Browne’s soothing nerve linctus certainly lives up to its promises. Now I’ve tried it I shall never be without it. And while I slept, Doopie has quite expertly repaired my ripped hem. I shall buy her a box of candy. Wally on the phone first thing. She sent a message of welcome to Benny Thaw and he replied immediately with an invitation for drinks. She seemed particularly excited about his being married to Connie Morgan. I said, “Do you know her?” “No,” she said, “but I soon will. This should get the American scene here fizzing. Those Morgan girls all have money and style.” Lunched with Pips, who says she doesn’t know anything about Connie Morgan, but what her sisters have is money and reputations. Gloria Morgan was married to Reggie Vanderbilt until he drank himself to death, and Thelma Morgan was Mrs. Bell Telephone but is now Lady Furness. She said, “And we all know about her!” Then Ida turned up, raving about a miraculous new oxygenated face cream, and we somehow never got back to the subject of Thelma Furness and what it is we’re all supposed to know. Took a tray of fruit fondants for Doopie. Violet was out at her Distressed Pit. Flora knows the days of the week by her mother’s committees. “Bunday, Pit Ponies, Doosday, Blood, Wesday, Falling Women and Not Forgottens.” She was stuck for a minute with Thursday but Doopie helped her out. Something called “Lebbers.” They seem to be great friends and have a most amusing sign-language they use from time to time. How simple their lives are! I have to dine with Lord and Lady Anglesey and Violet’s gruesome in-laws, while they can play with their dolls and have sugar sandwiches for tea. There is something enviable about the life of an imbecile. Of course, Flora will never learn to speak clearly listening to Doopie’s version of things. I may take her in hand. Violet finally came home at six. I said, “Don’t you think Flora’s rather backward with her speaking? She just copies Doopie, you know?” “Oh,” she said, “they’ll sort that out when she goes to school. They did Rory.” I said, “Well I feel sorry for her. She never goes anywhere.” Violet said, “What nonsense. Doopie takes her across to St. James’s Park. They walk to Duck Island almost every day. And she was invited to the Yorks for tea yesterday but would she get dressed?” I said, “That’s because no one has taught her properly. She sees you running out to committee meetings, hair uncombed, egg yolk on your blouse. It’s no wonder she thinks she can go to tea parties in bloomers and a liberty bodice.” “Maybell,” she said, “Will you please go and bathe. Salty and Elspeth are coming at seven.” I said, “First tell me if you ever heard of Thelma Furness and if so, what’s her scandalous story?” She made a great business of closing the door to the drawing room, then said, “Lady Furness is a friend of the Prince of Wales, but not the kind we mention in front of the children. Why do you ask?” I said, “No reason. Wally knows the husband of one of her sisters. She probably thinks this is going to be her entrée to royal circles. She’s as ambitious as ever. She keeps quizzing me about our connections with the throne.” “Well,” she said, “first of all, you have no connections. Secondly, those who do have them never speak of them. And thirdly, I would say it’s a very steep climb from acquaintance with the husband of a certain person’s sister to meeting Royalties, too steep even for Minnehaha.” Violet has always taken herself far too seriously. She said, “I hope it goes without saying, Lady F. is never to be mentioned in this house. And Maybell, hot water costs money. Please don’t have your bath too deep.” Chance would be a fine thing. 7th June 1932 Flora has renamed one of her dolls “Lady Furness” and has banished it to the back stairs. I grow fonder of the child. 9th June 1932 All the talk is of Race Week. Violet said someone called Lightfoot might be willing to escort me to the Guards’ luncheon tent, but I recognize crumbs when I see them falling from my sister’s table. Three times today she’s asked, “Are you sure you won’t let Ettie Desborough squeeze you in?” Guilt. Wally says, without a white badge, Royal Ascot isn’t royal at all, so why bother? The white badge is the Open Sesame to the inner sanctum, the Royal Enclosure, but seemingly impossible to get unless one is on intimate terms with the Prince of Wales. So we may just ignore Ascot. We’ll borrow Ernest’s driver and go shopping for bibelots in forgotten backwaters. 12th June 1932 Wally and Ernest went to drinks with the Benny Thaws and met the unmentionable Thelma F. Wally says Connie and Thelma are both adorable and she’s meeting them for lunch on Monday. Pips says if they’re lunching with Wally, someone had better warn them to take along a fistful of their Morgan dollars. Violet and Melhuish’s luggage has been taken to Windsor, not a great amount of it for three days of banquets and royal carriage rides. Wally says fashion is everything at Ascot, but I’m certain Violet hasn’t bought a single new gown. We might have had such fun shopping together, but no. She didn’t even ask my advice about hats. Wally would have been much more fun as a sister. 13th June 1932 Violet and Melhuish left after lunch for Windsor. Ida Coote has been angling to stay with me while they’re out of town. She seems to have become some kind of nomad since she lost her money, always offering to air people’s villas or walk their dogs. She said, “You won’t want to be alone in that great big house, all those empty rooms, all those portraits with eyes that follow you.” But I’m not going to be alone. I shall have Violet’s staff to lick into shape. Anyway, Ida has only two topics of conversation: Ida and men. It’s all right for the occasional lunch, but a slumber party would be unendurable. More rain. To Gamages for overshoes, then home for a nursery tea. Jello, grilled cheese, and gingerbread. Afterwards, we played at Royal Ascot, with dolls strapped to Ulick’s spaniel and Melhuish’s little ratting dog. Gave Flora an almost, almost empty scent bottle. She wanted to know if I was going to live with them forever! 14th June 1932 I’m a great hit with my niece, not least because I’ve decreed no fish will be served as long as I’m in command. I told her she could choose her favorite dinner, and she came down in her nightgown to deliver her demands: LAB SHOPS. SIRUB TART. GUSTARD. I said, “Flora, wouldn’t you like to go to school?” “No thank you,” she said. I said, “Other little girls do.” She said, “Lilibet York doesn’t.” But Lilibet York is a princess. She’ll never need to use her brain the way we ordinary girls have to. At the very most, she might get called upon to be Queen, but only if they ran out of Kings. All highly unlikely. A lot of huffing and puffing from the housekeeper over my menus. Flora’s choice tonight, then tomorrow a rib roast and ice cream. She said, “I don’t know, madam. Her Ladyship didn’t say anything about specials. This kind of thing isn’t customary.” I said, “I know it isn’t customary. That’s precisely why I’m ordering it.” Such a fuss. All she has to do is telephone Harrold’s. They have everything. “Carry on like this,” she said, half out of the door, “Her Ladyship won’t know the place when she gets back. We shall be all upside down with bilious attacks and overspending.” I’ll deem it a failure if Violet doesn’t see a difference. I’ve already put a stop to the maid Trotman’s discussions. She now understands that if I say the tea is too strong I’m not inviting her to pour herself a cup to see whether she agrees. Give me a little longer and I’ll break that footman of breathing through his mouth. Tomorrow with Wally to the rolling hills of Cotswoldshire and all those darling cottages with hairy roofs. 15th June 1932 A profitable day in Chipping Norton, a most characteristic town, pretty little stone row houses with windows you can look right into from the sidewalk, ancient hostelries, all haunted, I’m sure, and such sweet, simple country folk. They seemed to find us quite fascinating. We got Wally a set of silver-plated vanity boxes, quite good enough for a guest room. Also a bone china compote dish, with the tiniest hairline crack, and a very pretty set of Victorian creamers. Bryanston Court is the kind of apartment that needs all the help it can get. It has no features. Wally’s done the best she can with her Chinese pieces, but the place still looks half-dressed. I suppose when Ernest got his divorce, the invalid wife was awarded all his good things. Wally’s going to give a dinner for the Benny Thaws and invite Thelma Furness, too. I can’t wait. Doopie was in good form last evening, chatting away in that funny, snuffly style of hers. Flora seems to understand all of it. We looked through Doopie’s albums, pictures I’d quite forgotten. Mother and Father with baby Violet, posed beside a potted palm. Me in a little cotton pinafore, with Doopie in her crib. That would have been before she lost her mind. Several photographs of our Season, too. Pips and Violet setting off for Mary Kirk’s tea dance. Me, Pips, Violet, and Wally in our finery before the Bachelors’ Cotillion. What a production that was. Wally and I used to practice our one-step together. “I’ll be the man,” she’d say. Homer Chute had taught her the tango, too, but that was far too racy for the Baltimore Bachelors’. It looked at first as though Wally wouldn’t be able to attend, because her uncle refused to help her out. He said it wasn’t seemly to be giving balls when young men were laying down their lives in Flanders. But then he relented and gave her a gown allowance, and she spent it all on one fabulous white satin. She reckoned she’d rather star at one important ball than blend with the masses at half a dozen. Flora wanted to know why there were no pictures of Doopie going to a ball. I told her there was a war, and left it at that. I supposed having been cooped up with Doopie in that nursery all her life, she thinks of her as normal. I must say though, they both sat up so nicely and ate so daintily I’ve ordered dinner served in the dining room tonight. 16th June 1932 Unexpected company last evening. We were about to go into dinner when Melhuish’s friend, George Lightfoot, called in on his way back from Windsor. He said, “I thought I’d look in on my favorite girls.” Flora clambered onto his knee immediately, so I offered him a sherry wine and he stayed to carve the beef. He’s a tall drink of water, rosy cheeks, tangled hair. He had a brother who was in the Grenadiers with Melhuish, lost at Passchendaele. He said, “I would never have taken you and Violet for sisters, but you and Doopie, yes. I see a definite resemblance.” I don’t think so. He said it was a criminal waste to eat such a fine-looking roast without a drop of wine, raced off to his cellars in South Audley Street, and came back with a bottle he described as “toothsome but sincere.” I don’t know that it was advisable to allow Doopie a glass, but afterwards she kept us quite entertained with her impersonations of Theda Bara and poor Fatty Arbuckle. 17th June 1932 Violet and Melhuish got back just as I was leaving to meet Pips for lunch. Flora came thundering down the stairs to greet them. “Mummy!” she said, “I’ve had a splendid time with Aunt Bayba. We had lab shops and ice cream and Doopie had red drink. Cook says she’s never seen such garryings-on in her life.” “Not now, darling,” Violet said. “I have to talk to Lady Habberley about raffle tickets.” Pips thinks Wally’s only inviting Thelma Furness to dinner in the hope she’ll bring the Prince of Wales, but I’m sure Wally knows that’s out of the question. Theirs is a very private affair. Pips said, “I suppose having the Prince’s sweetie to dinner is still more than a little Cinderella like Wally ever dreamed of.” Poor Wally, tarred for life, even by a friend like Pips. It’s not that there was anything particularly inferior about the Warfields. Her Uncle Sol had a very good house on Preston Street, and her Aunt Bessie is still well thought of. It was her mother who lowered the tone of things with one foolish marriage after another. Too many husbands and too much rouge. No wonder Wally’s so determined to start over and make something of herself. Tonight to the Embassy Club with the Benny Thaws. 18th June 1932 Violet says what I had Smith spend on meat for two days would feed an African for a year. Ridiculous. I don’t believe Violet knows any Africans. Interesting people at the Benny Thaws’ party last night. Boss and Ethel Croker from Michigan. Ethel was a Navy wife before she met Boss. She knew Wally from China. Somehow Ethel seemed more pleased to see Wally than Wally did to see Ethel. 20th June 1932 Wally’s birthday. I gave her a calfskin guest book and lunch at the Dorch. Ernest gave her a fountain pen. What a dull old stick he is. We’ve been worked off our feet all afternoon planning her dinner party. There’s so much to do. The menu to be decided and the placement, new table linens and stemware to be purchased, conversational topics to be studied. Wally reads the newspapers cover to cover every day, and she’s skimmed through centuries of history and philosophy while having her hair done. She says one hardly ever needs to plod through an entire book. 21st June 1932 Lunch with Pips, who had invited along Ethel Croker, as she put it, “to help us join up a few more dots in Minnehaha’s Chinese period.” Ethel’s nice. Overdressed and hair an unhappy shade of brass, but very sweet and chatty. Ethel was in Panama, waiting for a transport to Hong Kong. When she joined the ship, they berthed her with Wally, and they became friends. She said, “God knows, you needed a friend. It was hell in a sardine can. Heat and storms and doughboys fighting with knives. Five weeks of it.” She and Wally both got Navy quarters on Kowloon when they arrived. She said, “She did try with Win Spencer, you know? She really did. I don’t know why, because he was a bastard. If I’d been her, I’d have left him. But then he left her, added insult to injury. She went off the deep end a bit after that. Man crazy. And travel crazy. I went with her on a trip to Shanghai, to take her mind off Win, but I couldn’t keep pace with her. I was a married woman, you know? There was a lot of talk about Wally. Still, it’s all a long time ago now.” Ethel’s made a good marriage with Boss Croker. They say he’s Mr. Frozen Fish. She said, “It’d be nice to catch up with Wally again. He seems all right, the new husband? A bit serious, but he doesn’t look like a drinker. I’ll bet he doesn’t hit her.” Poor Wally. No wonder she grabbed Ernest when he came along. She’s still a man short for Tuesday’s dinner. Pips says the obvious solution is to drop a lone woman, the prime candidate being me. She predicts Wally will ask me to fall on my sword, but I shall absolutely refuse. Given my outlay on guest towels from Liberty, the very least I’m owed is dinner with the fabled Lady Furness. If the situation is desperate, I’ll suggest George Lightfoot. He seemed to me the kind of man who could fit in anywhere. 23rd June 1932 Pips was quite wrong. Wally couldn’t care less about odd numbers. She said, “This may be London, but aren’t we Americans, Maybell? Don’t we do things our own way? More women than men, so what? Anyhow, Nada Milford Haven is coming, and to all intents and purposes, she’s a man. It’s going to give my table a rather avant-garde complexion.” One thing about Wally, she’s always made necessity the mother of invention. The menu is now decided. We’re to have caviar, followed by grilled squab, iced camembert, and then strawberry sherbet. It remains to be seen though whether Ernest will cough up for caviar. He seems to keep Wally very short. I said, “Well, if it doesn’t run to caviar, you can always serve soup.” “Never,” she said. “Take it from me, Maybell, soup is the ruin of a good dinner.” I’m quite agog to meet this Milford Haven person. I wonder whether she wears pants! 26th June 1932 Violet’s put out because she assumed I’d be free on Tuesday evening and now finds I’m engaged. The Nicholases of Greece and the Harewoods are dining. She said, “Now who am I going to pair with Lightfoot? I was depending on you. Surely, if it’s only Minnehaha, you can chuck?” I have agreed to stay for one drink, provided Melhuish has his driver at the ready, engine ticking over, to whisk me to Bryanston Court. It’s like Baltimore all over again. Everyone wants me. 27th June 1932 A working lunch with Wally, putting the final touches. We’ll be eleven. An interesting number. She’s placing me between a decorator called MacMullen and a German commercial attaché. She promises me he speaks English. Ernest telephone while I was there. I heard her say, “Of course we must. First impressions! There’s nothing worse than being offered caviar and then needing a magnifying glass to see it on your plate.” I must say, when it came to paying, I was rather shocked at her lavishness. Beluga, sevruga, and ossetra! She calls it an overture of caviars, but I could hear Ernest worrying away at the other end. “Ernest,” she barked, “Think of it as an investment in our future. Do you want to meet the Prince of Wales or not?” Pips says she doesn’t eat caviar anyway, so there’s one economy that could have been made. 29th June 1932 Flora came hammering on my door at some unearthly hour, found me prostrated by migraine, and fetched Doopie to minister to me. Cold compresses and a draught of something pleasantly medicinal. Flora said it’s called Dog Hair. Whatever it was, it made me sleep, and I woke restored. I think my headache must have been brought on by an unhappy mixture of beverages. A whiskey and soda with Violet and her guests, and then two deceptively strong Russian cocktails at Wally’s. The dinner was a qualified success. I found the squab a little dry, but the sherbet was delicious and my linens and crystal looked superb. The German did speak English but seemed to find Thelma Furness so fascinating he omitted to turn between courses, and Freddie Crosbie became engrossed in conversation with Benny Thaw, which left me easy prey for Nada Milford Haven who was seated across the table. Wally says she’s not only a marchioness but also a Romanov. I can well believe it. She may have been wearing a gown but that didn’t prevent her foot from romanoving up and down between my knees. Thelma Furness and her sister both have pale, pale complexions and wild black eyebrows. They’re exotic rather than pretty. The Prince of Wales can surely take his pick of the most beautiful women in the world, so he obviously has a taste for the unusual. They’re both very sweet though, and Thelma doesn’t at all trade on her special position. She has a child apparently. I wonder whose it is? Pips says Lord Furness stays in the south of France with a tootsie, so as to leave the field clear for the Prince. Flora has been tiptoeing in and out, waiting for me to be awake enough to inspect a little story she wrote this morning. It was about a good aunt who buys candy and ice cream but then gets sent away by the bad aunts. She said, “Daddy said you were a loose cannon. Why did he?” That’s because I uttered the forbidden F word in the drawing room last evening. Henry Harewood asked where I was off to in such a hurry, and I told him I was dining with Lady Furness. I only said it to provoke Violet. How was I to know Mary Harewood is the Prince of Wales’s sister? The Royalties can be so confusing with their multitude of names. She, being the daughter, the one and only, of the King and Queen, is the Princess Royal, but she married Lord Harewood and likes to use his name. Odd. I’m sure if I were the Princess Royal, nothing would part me from my title. She’s a homely little creature, too. Not my idea of a princess at all. Rory and Ulick will be home from school on Friday. 30th June 1932 To Fortnum’s, for a postmortem with Wally. She’s already had a warm note of thanks from Thelma, so she feels she’s established another useful friendship. I said, “You’re very keen to meet the Prince of Wales.” “Not especially,” she said. “I already met him. But Ernest would be very thrilled, and anyway, who ever knows where these things may lead?” She claims she met His Royal Highness at a reception in Coronado in 1920, when he was on his way to Australia and his battleship refueled at San Diego. Strange she never mentioned it before. And she doesn’t remember what he said to her. I’ll bet she didn’t actually meet him at all. I said, “So, what happens next?” She said, “We wait and see. But I’ll be very surprised if we don’t get an invitation to Thelma’s country house in the fall.” That’s where the royal affaire takes place, apparently. I said, “Why the fall? That’s months away.” “Well,” she said, “after the middle of July, nothing important happens till September. We’re going to the Tyrol.” Pips wasn’t impressed by Thelma Furness. She found her doe-eyed and vapid. I said, “What else would she need to be? The Prince of Wales is heir to the throne. He’s used to giving out edicts and laying down the law. He’d hardly choose a sweetie who answered back.” She said, “Oh I don’t know. I’ve heard he’s pretty vapid himself.” She and Freddie are going to Italy for the month of August. 1st July 1932 Even Ida seems to be fixed up for summer, care-taking someone’s house in Gloucestershire. When I asked Violet if she planned to remain in London, she looked at me as though I’d asked whether she intended jumping into the Thames. “Maybell,” she said, “no one stays in London in August. We go to Drumcanna, of course, and this year you’ll come with us.” We’ll see about that. It’s so typical of Melhuish’s family to have their castle practically at the North Pole. All that way, and for what? To catch a few fish when one could so easily have them delivered by a good fishmonger? To crawl across Scottish moors in pursuit of some kind of elk? Knowing Violet’s culinary repertoire, we’ll be dining on poached elk till Thanksgiving. No. I shall make other arrangements. Wally and Ernest are dining with Boss and Ethel Croker before they leave London. I said, “You and Ethel must have so much to catch up on.” “Not really,” she said. “We were never close. But Ernest and Boss will find lots to talk about. They have a house on Long Island, you know? And they travel all over, first class. Ethel’s certainly landed on her feet. Traded in a midshipman for a multimillionaire.” Hardly “traded in.” Ethel’s husband was killed in Canton, friendly fire. 3rd July 1932 Ulick and Rory are home. Doopie has been flapping around all morning, unpacking trunks and examining socks for holes and shirt collars for turning. After the summer, Ulick will be going to Melhuish’s old school, Eton College, and so has to have his name stitched into dozens of new garments. A simple, repetitive task that would drive a normal person insane, but Doopie is clearly in her element. Violet says the entertainments at Drumcanna will be simple, outdoor pursuits. Fishing, deerstalking, shooting. She says they don’t keep late nights, because of making an early start, but they do play parlor games after dinner and they always give a ball, where the help and the guests mingle and dance. I told her I didn’t think it was for me. “Nonsense,” she said. “You’ll have a wonderful time. The mountain air will do you good, and you’ll strike up new friendships. Jane Habberley is coming, and Penelope Blythe. Anyway, you can’t stay here. Smith and the maids go to their families for August.” The butler and the driver go north with them, apparently, but Drumcanna is otherwise run by a staff of locals, even more wayward than the London tribe, no doubt, left to their own Scottish devices for months at a time. I said, “Then I’ll go to a hotel.” “You’ll come to Drumcanna, Maybell!” she said, “and do what normal people do.” A note under my door at bedtime. Dear Aunt Maybell, Please come to Scotland. Flora and I will be very sad if you do not. Yours truly, Rory Melhuish. 4th July 1932 To the U.S. Legation for luncheon. The “Star-Spangled Banner” brought a tear to my eye and made me think of going home. But to what? Sweet Air will seem so quiet after the mad house at Carlton Gardens. To be alone in Baltimore or alone in London? Everyone is paired off, making their gay plans. No one considers you when you’re a widow. 5th July 1932 Violet says I’ve relieved her of a great worry by agreeing to go to Drumcanna, and she promises me I won’t regret my decision. She said, “We’ll go for lovely walks. It’ll lift your spirits. And I think I can promise you you’ll get to meet Bertie and Elizabeth York. They’ll be at Birkhall and may very well invite you over. It’s even possible you’ll be presented to Their Majesties!” Bertie is the second Royal brother. There’s Edward, the eldest, except everyone calls him “David” or “Wales” when they disapprove of something he’s done. He’ll be the next King. Then comes Bertie, who’s the Duke of York, married to Elizabeth, followed by Harry and George and, of course, the sister, who doesn’t really count. I asked if the Prince of Wales is likely to be there. That’d be one in the eye for Wally! But Violet thinks it unlikely. She said, “Wales comes and goes. He’s like a flea at a fair. Never settles to anything for long.” I said, “Thelma Furness calls him ‘David’.” Pursed lips. “Does she indeed?” she said. “Well, in the unlikely event of your being in his company, don’t think of imitating her. Be on your guard, Maybell. Don’t let Wally and her set lead you into regrettable habits.” I’m going to retrieve my gramophone and my tango record from Wally before she leaves for the Tyrol. It sounds as though it may be the saving of those Drumcanna evenings, and Violet thinks a guest called Tommy Minskip might enjoy the novelty of it. He’s a viscount, unattached, and prefers indoor diversions to the hearty outdoor activities Melhuish’s other friends seem to enjoy. Violet said, “Who knows, perhaps you’ll hit it off!” I do believe she’s matchmaking. Less than three weeks till we leave for Scotland, which allows very little time for purchasing mountain wear. Violet has offered me a green waterproof cloak she keeps for rainy days at Ascot, but I have no intention of meeting Viscount Minskip dressed as a cucumber. 7th July 1932 To Peter Jones department store for cardigan sets, warm nightgowns, and bed socks. Violet says we’re not going to the North Pole. Life here may have thickened her blood, but so far it hasn’t affected mine. In addition to Viscount Minskip, the guests at Drumcanna will be the Habberleys, the Blythes, the Anstruther-Brodies, George Lightfoot, and ex-Queen Ena of Spain. Melhuish’s sisters and their encumbrances will be at Birkhall, staying with the Bertie Yorks. Next Tuesday is Rory’s eleventh birthday. I’m granting him his dearest wish and taking him to a cafeteria for poached eggs on toast. I said he could invite a friend, too, but he says he’ll just bring Flora. Ulick has declined, and Doopie gets anxious in tearooms. 8th July 1932 With Wally to collect her vacation outfits. What she does is buy one good thing each season and then have it copied. She has a little woman in Cromwell Road, who does it for a song and also remodels gowns, if they still have wear in them but have been seen rather too often. Wally’s accustomed to this kind of thing, of course. All her life she’s had to make a little go a long way, but still, how depressing! I felt compelled to take her to Derry and Toms and treat her to a new day dress. She says it’s not that Ernest’s poor, but he’s in the family shipping business, which went through shaky times when his father was in charge, so even though it’s now quite successful, Ernest has a fear of financial reversals. I said, “Did you know this when you agreed to marry him?” She said she didn’t know very much about him at all except that he had nice manners and good taste. Also, he offered to divorce his wife, so he seemed like a better prospect than working as a stenographer and living in a walk-up, which was the bleak future she faced after she’d dumped Win Spencer. I still think she rushed into things. I made Brumby wait two years for my answer. She insists they’re well suited though. She says that apart from being a stickler over the accounts, Ernest is very quiet and undemanding. He’s quite happy to smoke his pipe and read his books and leave the decisions to her. 10th July 1932 Last evening to Pips and Freddie Crosbies. Came: Judson and Hattie Erlanger, Whitlow and Gladys Trilling, and an English couple, Prosper and Daphne Frith. Prosper is in Parliament with Freddie. Much talk about vicious street fighting in Germany. The Communists are behind it, of course, picking on the National Socialists. Prosper Frith says the situation is particularly tense in Hamburg, which is precisely Wally and Ernest’s first port of call. Ernest has an office there. I must warn her. 11th July 1932 Wally says Germany is a wonderful, law-abiding country, and she isn’t the least bit nervous about her trip. After Hamburg, they’ll be motoring south to stay with an American friend called Lily. She has a small castle. 12th July 1932 Rory’s birthday. My success as an aunt knows no bounds. It was such a hot afternoon we went first to the Serpentine Lido, where Rory and Flora took off their shoes and stockings and paddled, then to Oxford Street to Lyon’s Corner House for tea. Flora wanted to know whether we have Red Indians at Sweet Air. Rory quizzed me about Wally. So much for Violet’s whispering. Children don’t miss a trick. I said, “She’s a friend who went to school with your mummy and me, and she’s had a rather hard life. Her people didn’t have any money.” “Gracious,” he said, “that must have been jolly hard. Couldn’t they have sold one of their houses or something?” I said, “There wasn’t anything to sell. Imagine. But your grandma and grandpa Patterson were always kind to her. She used to come to our house all the time in school vacation. She was like an extra sister. And now she’s in London and so am I, so we can be friends again.” He wanted to know if she’s still poor. I said, “Well, she’s certainly not rich.” He said, “I expect Mummy hasn’t invited her to tea because she wears raggedy clothes.” Flora said, “That’s not why. It’s because she’s vast. I heard Mummy say so.” I said, “No she’s not. She’s small and slender.” “Well,” she said, “Mummy told Aunt Elspeth the Wally was as vast and bushy as ever.” Extraordinary. I pumped Rory for information about this Viscount Minskip Violet has lined up for me. He said, “I don’t know really. He always comes to Drumcanna, but he never asks me or Ulick to play with him. Uncle George Lightfoot says he doesn’t have both oars in the water.” I’m surprised to hear he rows. Violet gave me the impression he’s more of a drawing-room man. 18th July 1932 Wally gave up my portable gramophone very reluctantly, but she and Ernest leave tomorrow, so she can’t have any possible use for it. I also had to ask for my tango record, and she wouldn’t let me borrow the two she bought. She said Ernest is very particular about lending things. 21st July 1932 The car, the luggage, and the butler have left for the long drive north, and what remains of the staff seems to be in premature holiday mood. Bells go unanswered, baths are run late, and dinner has been pared down to soup, an entrée, and a dessert composed from stale cake and canned fruits. Violet says we’ll be glutted with good food once we get to Drumcanna. I suppose that means more salmon. 27th July 1932, Drumcanna, Aberdeenshire We are at Melhuish’s Scottish seat, by some miracle. Now I know how our great pioneers lived as they forged west. We had to change trains at Edinburgh and again at Aberdeen, into ever more spartan carriages, so that we arrived at Aboyne with every tooth shaken loose. There we were met by cars for another bone-rattling ride. Fifteen miles on rutted tracks and in unaccountably sweltering heat. Drumcanna towers above the Burn of Skelpie, a big granite house with towers at the two front corners, complete with battlements and arrow holes. The chair covers are worn, the drapes are faded, and the principal decorative motif is animal parts. Ink wells, coat hooks, objets d’art, all seem once to have gamboled across Drumcanna Moor. I’ve been put in a turret room below the nursery, pleasantly furnished but one can only reach it by way of a perilous staircase, one narrow, winding climb for everyone, people and servants alike. In the mornings, when the night potties are being taken down and the breakfast trays are being brought up, it must be like Oxford Street. Melhuish is in a jovial mood and has been very attentive to me, teaching me a dance called the strathspey and savoring those moments when the lurching of the train threw us into each other’s arms. I wonder if he has regrets about Violet? She’s become so stout and plain. The first guests arrive tomorrow, Ralph and Jane Habberley and Fergus and Penelope Blythe. The shooting doesn’t start till August 12th, but they’re coming to fish for brown trout. George Lightfoot is expected at the weekend, and Queen Ena on Monday. There’ll also be some local people, the Anstruther-Brodies, but they only come for the start of the shooting. Violet says it’s impossible to predict when Tommy Minskip may arrive, as he’s a law unto himself. I begin to like him already. 28th July 1932 No breakfast trays allowed. Violet says it’s too much for the help when they have to get luncheon ready, and anyway it’s nicer if everyone comes down and starts the day sociably over a kippered herring. But nobody’s here yet, and anyway, what is help for if not to help? We’ll be expected to carry up our own hot water next. I hardly slept. When Violet enthused about the cornucopia of wildlife in the Highlands, she omitted to mention the miniature mosquitoes that have eaten me to the bone. Rory says they’re called midges. He and Flora have been running wild all morning, building a camp in a coppice beyond the vegetable garden. I’m to be invited to view it the moment it’s fixed up. Violet doesn’t seem to care what they drag outside—pillows, tea cups, a meat safe. I said, “Do you realize Doopie’s allowed them to take a good coverlet?” “Not now, Maybell,” she said. “I must catch our Consumptives secretary before she leaves for Glendochrie.” The Habberleys and the Blythes have just arrived. Lady Habberley dresses like a stablehand, but the Hon. Mrs. Blythe, much to Violet’s disgust, is wearing nail polish. Flora’s eyes lit up. She adores nail polish. She always rushes to see what color I’ve chosen when I come home from a manicure. 29th July 1932 The men and Ulick went out to fish at five, banging doors, crunching on the gravel, and generally wakening the dead. I ventured down at nine, hoping to organize a little tea and toast and tiptoe back to my room, but Doopie saw me pass the door and cried out “Bayba!” so I had no choice but to go in and join the ladies. Jane Habberley is a drab creature. Violet described her as “the backbone of our Highland Crafts Association” and certainly, everything she wears appears to be hand-knitted. Penelope Blythe is definitely more promising. She’d already spotted my gramophone and suggested to Violet that we have dancing after dinner this evening. Violet said she had no objection, but we might find ourselves short of men. She said Melhuish doesn’t do that kind of dancing. We’ll see about that. Penelope said, “Who’s at Balmoral? If Prince George is there, I’m sure he’d adore to come over and dance.” Violet says Prince George isn’t there, nor the Prince of Wales. Only Prince Harry, and Bertie York and his little family at Birkhall. Penelope said, “Well, neither of them is any use. They only dance reels. Do you know them, Maybell? Violet won’t like my saying it, but they’re such a dull bunch.” I said, “No, I don’t. But I do know Lady Furness.” “Do you!” she said. “How thrilling! Well, of course, Thelma Furness is the plat du jour, but she’s only the latest in a long line, and Wales still keeps up with some of his old sweethearts, you know? He visits Freda Dudley Ward all the time.” Violet sliced the top off her egg with a fearsome swipe. She said, “I hope you’re coming out for a walk this morning, Maybell? I very much hope you’re not going to sit around gossiping.” She knows darned well I don’t go for walks. One of my conditions of coming here was that I be left in peace to write my diary and peruse the great works of Sir Walter Scott and Rabbi Burns. Penelope Blythe describes Viscount Minskip as chetif. Unfortunately, the library here is not equipped with foreign dictionaries. 30th July 1932 George Lightfoot arrived at tea time and was pleased to find I’d set up my gramophone in the Long Gallery. Penelope and I took turns with him, then Ralph Habberley appeared, drawn by the sound of the music, as did Doopie, Rory, Flora, and several spaniels. I think we’ve managed to give them all the rudiments, except for Flora, who won’t apply herself to anything and made up her own wild Scottish steps. Ralph has more enthusiasm than ability, but George moves rather well, for an Englishman. The help were so fascinated, peering around the door at us, that the dinner bell was late. 31st July 1932 Jane Habberley stood on my tango record and destroyed it. 1st August 1932 There is no store in either Aboyne or Ballater that sells gramophone records. 2nd August 1932 I now know the meaning of chetif. Tommy Minskip is insane. He drives himself in a Bentley motor car, and travels without even a valet. He arrived yesterday with one small valise and a trunk containing dozens of toy soldiers which he has now laid out in the Smoking Room, ready to re-enact the Battle of Waterloo. George Lightfoot has explained it all to me. Every afternoon, as close to two p.m. as social obligations allow, the Royal Scots Greys charge the French infantry, with sound effects, Minskip captures the enemy’s eagle standard and then falls, mortally wounded. “Still a boy at heart,” was George’s explanation. I think he’s too generous. If he were still a boy at heart, he wouldn’t have disappointed Rory and Flora by omitting to visit their sodden camp. 3rd August 1932 Penelope and I have taken up watercolor painting. We find we can run off half a dozen before luncheon and smudges don’t at all matter; indeed, they add to a picture’s talking points. Rain kept us indoors today, but one doesn’t need to be looking at a moor in order to paint an “impression” of it. Penelope tosses hers away at the end of the day, but mine might make interesting gifts for Christmas. George Lightfoot is very amiable, playing at Dolls’ Shooting Lunches with Rory and Flora in their hideaway and holding Doopie’s skeins of knitting yarn while she winds them into balls. He’s been teasing Melhuish about his stags, keeps asking when he’s going to “do a Sassoon” on them? Sir Philip Sassoon, apparently, has had his stags’ antlers gilded so they catch the sun. Shudders from Melhuish. I think it a rather wonderful idea. I said, “I think I’d like to know Sir Philip Sassoon.” George said, “You mean you haven’t met him? Violet, what are you thinking of?” She said, “But we never see him. I see Sybil, of course. She’s on my Blood Bank committee, but Philip, almost never.” George said, “Well, I shall introduce you, directly we get back to London.” I said, “And where do Sir Philip and Lady Sybil live?” “Oh no,” he said, “Syb’s not his wife. She’s his sister. She’s the Marchioness of Chumley, spelled Cholmondeley, nota bene Maybell. She’s married to Rocksavage, but Philip’s not married to anyone.” So much the better. Sir Philip sounds much more to my taste than Viscount Minskip. Penelope says Minskip owns practically half of Yorkshire, but I don’t care. He’s welcome to it. 5th August 1932 Ena of Spain has arrived, wheezing and perspiring but all smiles. She has perfect English, being an actual granddaughter of Queen Victoria and almost raised by her. She’s an ex-queen though, so there’s no need for those time-consuming deep curtsies. A sincere bob is quite sufficient. The ex-King isn’t with her. They take separate vacations. More thunder. More insects. Tonight’s much-trumpeted treat for dinner was sea trout caught by Melhuish and Ulick. “How wonderful,” Violet kept saying. “Only an hour out of the water!” Still a fish though, when all’s said and done. I long for a filet mignon. Ena took my hand and said she hoped we’d be friends. She said, “Violet has been my rock and Doopie’s almost like a daughter to me, so I’m going to claim you, too. Then I’ll have the full set!” 6th August 1932 Ena Spain is quite gay, considering the circumstances of her life. Her children are all sickly, her husband goes with actresses, and last year, when the rebels drove them out of Spain, he left without her. Ran off to Paris and left her to take her chances and follow with the youngest of the brood once they were healthy enough to travel. She says there were rioters ramming the palace doors with trucks, and if it hadn’t been for two footmen helping them slip out the back way, they’d have been murdered in their beds. I wonder whether she lost her jewels. No one dresses here, so it’s impossible to know whether she’s been reduced to paste copies. She’s especially attached to Doopie, because by an extraordinary coincidence, one of her sons is the same kind of dullard. His name is Hymie, but they spell it with a J in Spain. She said, “Hymie and Doopie get along so well. They understand each other perfectly. It’s a pity they’re not closer in age, because I think they’d have made a very happy couple.” The very idea. I told her, they must never be allowed to breed. She said, “I don’t see why. It’s not an inherited kind of deafness. And in every other respect, they’re just like you and me. The Greeces have an aunt with exactly the same problem and she’s led a very full life.” Penelope Blythe agrees with me that Doopie doesn’t seem all there. George Lightfoot says she’s sharp as a tack but deaf as a post. I’m beginning to think information has been kept from me. 7th August 1932 It’s official. Doopie is deaf. I had it out with Violet while she was dressing. I said, “Someone might have thought to mention it to me.” She said, “Mother told you. I know she did. You just never listen. And anyway, it couldn’t matter less. Doopie manages very well and she’s perfectly happy.” I’d just like to know when it was decided she’s not an idiot. She said, “You’re the only one who ever said she was. Things take her longer, that’s all. Some things.” I suppose now I’ll be expected to apologize. Violet says there’s nothing can be done about her ears. Apparently, Prince Hymie with a J tried a hearing aid, an electrical box that hung around his neck and plugged into his ears, for when he had to go to receptions, but it didn’t help him at all. I’m not surprised. No one at receptions can hear anything. The only thing to do is nod intelligently and move swiftly along. Rory says Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, was also deaf. Greek aunts, ex-Prince Hymie, Thomas Edison. Suddenly deafness is all the rage. 8th August 1932 Flora is wearing an Atora suet carton hung on a string and is playing at Hearing Aids. George Lightfoot said there was no need to apologize to Doopie for thinking her an idiot all these years, because there have been many times when she’s thought the same of me. But I did apologize, because even deaf people may have feelings. Doopie said, “Aw ride, Bayba. No needa shoud. Dudn’t mayg any divrent.” She has such a cheerful disposition. Of course, being handicapped, she has never been subjected to the stresses and strains of life as we normal people are. 10th August 1932 Melhuish’s sisters motored over from Birkhall for luncheon. Jinty is even sourer than Elspeth, but she lives in the far, far north, so I’m unlikely to be troubled by her company again. Elspeth may be reconciled to the idea of a foreign sister-in-law; in fact, I think she’s rather fond of Violet, but Jinty doesn’t even approve of the English, so what hope for a patriotic American. The only time she addressed me was to ask me when I’d be returning to the United States. Worried I might stick around and bag one of those spare Scottish lords, I suppose. And she looked at the jug of iced water I requested as though I’d asked for a doggie woops to be brought to the table. I said, “September. I’ll be going back in September.” I hadn’t realized I’d decided until I’d said it. Tears from Flora. She fled from the table, Doopie followed her, and Rory followed Doopie. Penelope said, “Oh Maybell, don’t go. I rather thought we might be chums. You’ll find things much livelier after the summer. Balls, parties. Do stay. Violet has room for you.” But I didn’t say I was going back for good. Not at all. I’ll simply settle my affairs, let it be known to provincialites like Nora Sedley Cordle that Maybell Brumby has gone international, and then return. And Violet’s having room or not won’t enter into it, because I shall take a house anyway. Somewhere I can have my bath run as deep and as hot as I please. And I won’t have to lose sleep over the price of a good rib roast. I’ll be one of the Baltimore belles who are making their mark on London. 11th August 1932 A boot boy has gone by bicycle down to Aboyne with a wire to Fishbone and Strong. I’ve instructed them to find a good tenant for Sweet Air. Flora is happy. She’s been dancing up and down the Long Gallery, singing, “Aunt Bayba’s staying forever!” Penelope seems very pleased, too. She says there’s a house that may be coming up across from them in Cadogan Square. I don’t know. I’ll have to see if it’s my kind of neighborhood. The Anstruther-Brodies have arrived, which signals the start of the shooting party. The quarry is a small bird called grice. 12th August 1932 The guns went out early, Ailsa Anstruther-Brodie among them. It was all too obvious at dinner last night that Melhuish is very smitten. He kept gushing about her being a first-rate shot, and bounding across the room to light her cigarette. It all seems to sail over Violet’s head. Everything now revolves around the shooting, even luncheon, so one has the choice of piling into motors and joining the guns, or going hungry. Even Viscount Minskip has been forced to reschedule his daily battle. Two long tables had been taken up to the moor and set with china and flatware kept especially for these occasions. Shooting lunches, they’re called. The whole thing must be an enormous strain on Violet’s struggling staff, and it would be altogether simpler if sandwiches were sent up in a shooting brake and the rest of us were left in peace, but no. Ladies, children, and Minskip at one table; men, loaders, beaters, and Ailsa Anstruther-Brodie at the other. Stag pie and salad and a cake decorated with flaked almonds, which Rory calls Toenail Cake. Jane Habberley is now sucking up to me, asking my advice about watercolor painting—feeling pangs of guilt about my tango record, I hope. 13th August 1932 I now know everything there is to know about shooting parties. The guns come in at five and talk of nothing but the day’s bag. More than sixty birds were taken today, which means we shall be eating them till kingdom come, but at least it will make a change from fish. The guns also dash away after one whiskey, help themselves to all the hot water, then commandeer the conversation at dinner. Weather prospects, heather bugs, gamekeepers droller than Beatrice Lillie, dogs smarter than Alfred Einstein. Next year, I shall summer with my own kind of people. The raspberries here are delicious, however. Weather close and thundery. Poor Ena Spain is suffering. She perspires even on a cold day. Her age, I suppose. She’ll be moving on to Balmoral on Tuesday, to visit with Their Majesties. George Lightfoot says Balmoral is like Drumcanna with extra tartan. “Home from home,” Ena calls it. She’s been there just about every summer of her life. She said, “Well, no one ever dared question it. Grandmama loved Balmoral, and wherever she went we followed. She never let Mama out of her sight. Even visited her on her honeymoon! But Mama doesn’t come anymore. She had her fill of it, and she doesn’t care for travel. She prefers to stay put.” Ena’s mother is Princess Baby, still going strong, with an apartment at Kensington Palace and a house on the Isle of Wight. Violet said, “And is she still beavering away at her diaries?” Ena said, “She is. Almost finished, I think.” I told her I keep a diary. “Well,” she said, “these aren’t Mama’s own diaries. They’re Grandmama’s.” Princess Baby is apparently going through Queen Victoria’s diaries, taking out anything that might cause offense and rewriting them in fresh notebooks. It’s called editing. I said, “No one had better change my diaries after I’m gone. I’ll be very cross.” Violet said, “Maybell, rest assured, nobody will be interested in your diary.” 14th August 1932 Rain beating against the windows all night, heavy snoring from Anstruther-Brodie, who is in the room below mine, and then, just as I’d dropped off to sleep, doors banging as the early birds went down to breakfast. When the party breaks up on Tuesday, I may try the room Jane Habberley’s been occupying. She claims she sleeps like the dead when she’s at Drumcanna, and I believe I can live with wall-to-wall tartan—for a few nights, at any rate. An extraordinary question from Penelope. Have I managed to enjoy a little romance while I’ve been here? Romance! I said, “I already told you what I think of Tommy Minskip.” “Well, not Minskip, obviously,” she said. “But Habberley perhaps, or Lightfoot? You seem quite ‘in’ with him.” Well, Ralph Habberley has bad breath, not to mention a wife. George Lightfoot is certainly the best of the bunch, but a little too young for me. He never brushes his hair and he will sit sideways, swinging his long, gangling legs over the arm of the chair. If I were in a hurry to find a beau, which I am not, I’d be looking for a man with a little silver at his temples. I said, “No. I haven’t had a romance. Have you?” “No,” she said. “I put it down to the quality of the shooting. Last year they were coming in with very small bags, and I found Anstruther-Brodie quite in the mood for an adventure. But this year, not a nibble. Maybe I’ll make a play for Lightfoot this evening, if you’re sure I won’t be trespassing.” How desperate and how dangerous. A person could so easily fall and break their neck, tiptoeing up and down those turret stairs in a state of ardor. 16th August 1932 Penelope winked at me over the kedgeree, signaling she made a conquest last night. She said, “Maybell, why don’t I stay and keep you company when Violet and Melhuish go to Birkhall? Fergus won’t mind going on to Glendochrie without me.” I thanked her but pointed out that everyone else is moving on today. Including George Lightfoot. More winks. Then a lot of giggling in the morning room while she had me guess who she’s seduced. Not Lightfoot, because he played billiards all evening and didn’t tango with her once. Not Anstruther-Brodie, because that would be like reading yesterday’s newspaper. And not Ralph Habberley, because he’s a drip and the last man on earth. So who? Angus. I said, “Who is Angus?” “Shh,” she said. “One of the housemaids is his sister. He’s the underghillie. Isn’t it a lark?” An underghillie! That’s nothing more than a junior fishing assistant. It would be like having an assignation with a boot boy. She says she found him in the rod room. Ena Spain, George Lightfoot, the Anstruther-Brodies, and Doopie, whom the Majesties appear to dote on, just left for Balmoral. The Blythes and the Habberleys are meant to be going south to Perthshire to another shooting party, but a major row blew up between Penelope and Fergus as to whether she should remain here instead. I’m afraid she got no support from me. She said, “Oh but Maybell, what about Minskip? What if he makes a play for you? Shouldn’t you like a chaperone?” But Minskip is on his way home and anyway, I believe I’d have been safe in his company. The only way to get Tommy Minskip’s attention is to disarrange his cavalry. And as for Penelope, I want nothing of her complications. I think a little of Penelope Blythe goes a long way. 17th August 1932 Violet, Melhuish, and Ulick have gone to stay with Bertie and Elizabeth York for three days at Birkhall, on the Balmoral estate. Which leaves me in charge at Drumcanna. I’ve explained to the help how to make French toast, and it will now be served instead of oatmeal in the morning. Rory requested sausages for dinner, and Flora has asked for “gake with lots of jam” and varnish on her stubby little fingernails. It’s so easy to make them happy. They’re now skipping up and down the gravel sweep, crying “Hurrah! Hurrah!” A wire from Fishbone and Strong. They have people from Kentucky keen to take Sweet Air but they’d want it by October. Can I have it ready so soon? I most certainly can. As soon as ever I’m released from duties as Favorite Aunt, I shall go to London and book my passage. 18th August 1932 A little girl called Ellen MacNab, daughter of the head-keeper, overcame her shyness and ventured up the drive to play with Flora. They are much of an age. We’ve had great fun, dancing tangos and reels and strathspeys, all without the benefit of phonograph music. Rory asked to speak to me privately when it was time for Ellen to leave. He said, “Should I walk her home?” I said, “Would you like to?” “Oh yes,” he said, “but it’s rather tricky. Daddy says one should always take care of ladies, but MacNab works for us, and Daddy also says one should be mindful of familiarity with servants.” I said, “We could get one of the maids to take her.” But he did it himself, with Flora tagging along. He said, “I think it was the right thing, Aunt Maybell. I was very mindful.” 20th August 1932 Violet returned from Birkhall, bringing with her Duchess Bertie York and her elder daughter. They stayed to tea. Princess Lilibet is two years younger than Flora, but very pink-and-white and refined. She sat neatly beside her mother for the entire visit and ate her scone without dropping a crumb. Flora, wearing Rory’s kilt and an ecru lace runner from the dining-room sideboard, and for whose benefit I’m sure the call was made, glowered at her little playmate and then hid behind a curtain. The Duchess and Violet are great friends and I can see why. They’re both so homely. 21st August 1932 Tomorrow to London and a midge-free suite at Claridge’s. Violet is raising objections right and left. Why the haste? Why spend money on accommodations when I could wait only two more weeks and travel back with her to Carlton Gardens? Isn’t it a rash move, giving up my home and plunging into the unknown? It says everything about the differences between us. She clings to her lists and timetables and routines, whereas I’m not afraid to seize the moment. Why the haste? Because prospective tenants with good references and no children don’t grow on trees, and the Lancastria sails on August 30th. And a rash move? Well, a two-year lease hardly amounts to burning my boats, and Belgravia isn’t exactly darkest Africa. I’ve reminded her it was her idea I should come to London in the first place. Gay diversions and eligible beaux were the inducements, as I remember it, neither of which Violet is in any position to provide, I now realize. She thought I’d be one of those wallflower widows, eager to meet a titled simpleton, grateful to be squeezed into Lady Desborough’s guest attic. Now she knows better. I shall have my own coterie before Violet can say “agenda.” “Well, if you’re absolutely sure it’s what you want, Maybell,” she keeps saying. I am. 25th August 1932, Claridge’s Hotel, London Violet was right about one thing. London is dead. I woke a realtor from his August slumbers and have appointments to view three houses tomorrow, one of them catty-corner from Penelope and Fergus Blythe. What a surprise Pips and Wally are going to get when they come back and find me with my own establishment. 26th August 1932 I am taking a house on Wilton Place. It’s light and very prettily done out in the palest greens and blues. More important, the owners are Americans, so it has a good, efficient furnace and a Kelvinator icebox. I didn’t like the aspect of the Cadogan Square property. It was convenient for Harrold’s department store, but the drawing room was full west, which can be very bothersome on summer evenings, and the house in Eaton Mews was too close for comfort to Melhuish’s sister Elspeth and her husband. The last thing I need is her training the Rear-Admiral’s telescope on my front door. Wilton Place is exactly right for me. Pips and I will be neighbors almost, and when Doopie and Flora tire of feeding the ducks in St. James’s Park, they can come and visit Hyde Park instead. 2nd September 1932, RMS Lancastria The ocean is as calm as a soup dish, and I have unexpected company. Judson and Hattie Erlanger came on board at the very last moment. I bumped into Hattie as I was taking a turn on deck this morning. She had a friend with her, Daisy Fellowes, and they were on their way to the gymnasium. They begged me to join them, but I preferred to sit with a cup of bouillon and my own thoughts. They said they were going to bicycle all the way to New York, and went off shrieking with laughter. It seemed too early in the day for them to be tight. 3rd September 1932 Judson tells me Hattie’s friend Daisy Fellowes is immensely rich. From what I saw of her at dinner last evening, she’s certainly made inroads into the world’s supply of pink diamonds. He’s in a nice, gossipy mood. He thinks Wally must have stampeded Ernest into marriage, because he has the look of a man who’s not quite sure where he is or what he’s doing there. I said, “I think the appeal of Ernest was he was effectively a free ticket to London and a fresh start.” He said, “Yes, that makes sense. She’d fouled the nest too much to stay in Baltimore.” Judson does rather go on about what a great girl Hattie is. I wonder if he feels under some kind of obligation to try making love to me again? I pray not. Our paths diverged in 1917, and if he has made a happy match with Hattie, I can only be pleased for him. Personally, I find her gratingly tall. 8th September 1932, Sweet Air, Baltimore Sweet Air was bathed in sunlight as I arrived, and it feels so roomy and bright after those London houses with their rooms stacked higgledy-piggledy four and five floors high. I almost picked up the telephone and told Fishbone to call everything off. But it is too big for me in my present circumstances. Too big, too quiet, too remote from invigorating company. I’ve grown accustomed to nightlife and the rattle of London trams. Also, Missie says Junior’s wife stops her car outside every day and peers through the gates up to my pleasure porch. If I stayed, she and Junior would surely rob me of my peace of mind and destroy my health. 19th September 1932 The last of my boxes has gone, and the ticker-tape machine has been removed, my final reminder of Brumby. Whatever Junior may say, we were contented. I didn’t bother him and he didn’t bother me, at least not in recent times. I’ve put Nora Sedley Cordle out of her misery. She’s been making hay in my absence, hosting musical soirees and raising funds for the veterans’ hospital, and must have been anxious about my returning home, worried I’d confiscate her new little empire. By a great stroke of luck, she arrived at Klein’s just as my furs were being loaded into the car. A face like an anaemic chipmunk. I said, “Hello Nora and good-bye. You know, I find Baltimore so narrow now I live in London. I wonder if we shall ever meet again.” I’ve always made good exits, though I do say so myself. 24th September 1932, RMS Rex Junior and that grasping creature he calls a wife had the nerve to send a basket of fruit to my stateroom. All poisoned, I’m sure. I’ve donated it to the stewards’ mess. A squall is forecast for tonight. 25th September 1932 More than a squall. The girl from the infirmary ministered to me like an angel, but there are no hair appointments until tomorrow afternoon. 26th September 1932 Thelma Furness’s sister Connie is on board. She claimed me in the Palm Court as I was trying to regain my sea legs. We shared a pot of tea, and when she heard of my difficulties, she made a call and immediately, miraculously, a hair appointment opened up. She told me Thelma and her Prince have been summering secretly at Biarritz. No wonder he didn’t put in an appearance at Balmoral. A wire from Violet. Melhuish is sending his car to meet me when we dock, and she insists on my going to Carlton Gardens until my own house is aired. How kind everyone is. 30th September 1932, Carlton Gardens, London Ulick and Rory have returned to their schools, and the pace of London life is quickening again. Violet already has a number of invitations on her mantel. I predict that by this time next year, mine will make hers look sadly bare. She said, “Well, now you’re here, what do you plan to do?” My feet have hardly touched dry land. I said, “I’m going to make telephone calls, to see who’s back in town, and tomorrow night I’m going to Ciro’s with Pips and Freddie and the Whitlow Trillings.” “No,” she said, “I mean what are you going to do? There are more important things in life than going to niteries.” She underestimates me. I’m perfectly aware I have to hire a cook and a driver. I also have to pick out new drapes for my dining room, something more confident than pastel stripes, something that says “Maybell Brumby lives here now.” But one can’t be slaving every hour of the day. Lunch with Ida. 1st October 1932 Ida has a new beau, acquired in a lecture hall in Tewkesbury. He’s an Acolyte of the Seventh Ray, drinks only chamomile tea and is showing her the path to inner vitality. The people one meets in Gloucestershire! Wally’s back. Shopping on Monday. Her friend with the castle, Lily Drax-Pfaffenhof, is coming to stay, so she’s splashing out on a new rug for the guest bedroom. 3rd October 1932 Heal’s had a selection of perfectly adequate rugs, but Wally insisted on going to a little Persian in Sackville Street, and once those people have you in their clutches, they won’t let go until you’ve seen their entire stock. Wally, of course, went to his most expensive item like a homing pigeon. “Oh,” he said, “a most discerning choice. A most unique rug made in a mountain village to a pattern known only to one old man.” They always say that, but Wally’s impossible to turn once she’s decided on a thing. She’s promised to get a check sent round to me first thing tomorrow. Another jolt to Ernest’s careful budget. She said, “Ernest will be fine about it. He’d rather stretch himself to buy something good than settle for mediocrity. We’re of one mind on that. And I won’t have Lily stepping out of bed onto the kind of thing a grocer’s wife might buy. Lily’s a landgravine, you know?” A landgravine! Further complications. No doubt there will be the expense of special dietary requirements in addition to outlay on hand-knotted rugs. 4th October 1932 I’ve engaged a butler, a cook, and two housemaids, but still no driver and no satisfactory lady’s maid. Penelope Blythe says there may be servants becoming available at the Orr-Tweedies’ since Mrs. O-T passed away. She’s going to inquire. Ructions in the nursery. It’s Melhuish’s birthday on Thursday, and Flora had the idea of giving him a party. She said, “We can make a gake and Daddy can blow out the gandles.” Violet said it was a sweet idea but out of the question, because he’s speaking on the Pheasant Bill that afternoon and then going on to a January Club dinner. Doopie said, “Bedvus dime?” Violet said, “No, Doopie. Mornings are far too hectic, especially when he’s working on a speech. Don’t pout, Flora. You can have a little party without him. I’ll ask Smith to find you something special. Now off you skip. Mummy has to look for some papers for Lady Strathnaver.” Doopie looked at me, but there was really nothing I could do. The poor child was clearly disappointed, and I’d have taken her out to Harrold’s and bought her a new dolly, but I was already committed to lunch with Pips and then a manicure. By the time I got back, it was too late to save Flora from herself. She’d gone into the writing room and created a snowstorm of papers, from Violet’s desk and from Melhuish’s, scrambling them up with her grubby little hands and tossing them in the air. The floor was still covered when I looked in, Fishermen’s Orphans mixed up with Unmarried Mothers and the Hedgerows Bill. Trotman had hauled her upstairs, and she’d been sent to bed without any tea. This must surely strengthen the case for sending her to school. 5th October 1932 Penelope Blythe has come up trumps. I’ve taken on Padmore, formerly lady’s maid to Mrs. Orr-Tweedie, and also Kettle, who was her driver for nineteen years. He drove me along Piccadilly and the Haymarket and then back by Pall Mall to Carlton Gardens, and he has a pleasingly smooth technique. He also carries a kind of Boy Scout emergency box, which he showed me before he stowed it in the trunk: flashlight, bandages, medicinal brandy, magnesia tablets, and a miniature sewing kit. He said, “In case of a loose button, madam, or laddered hosiery.” There’ll be no need for that. If I ladder my stocking, I shall just have him drive me home so I can change it. Still, it does show he has the right attitude. 6th October 1932 Wilton Place is ready for me. On Saturday, I shall sleep my first night there. A fresh start, and how fitting. It will be a year to the day since I lost Brumby. George Lightfoot was in the nursery when I returned from Monsieur Jules, helping Doopie and Flora fete the absent Melhuish with a rather dry marble cake. “Ah,” he said, “the very girl I was hoping to see. Come with me Monday next to Philip Sassoon’s. He’s asked me to Park Lane to see his new majolica urns.” Over drinks, I heard Melhuish say he didn’t think Sir Philip was “quite the thing.” Lightfoot said, “What can you mean?” Melhuish said, “I don’t know. He strikes me as a bit of a Johnny-come-lately. Belchester told me he has a footman serve tea. Can you imagine!” Violet said, “But dearest, he does raise a great deal of money for hospitals. And we’re very fond of Sybil.” Melhuish said, “Oh, quite so. Sybil’s one hundred percent. I used to play polo with her husband. Never see him nowadays, of course. Seems to spend most of his time in the south of France.” All I said was, “Like Thelma Furness’s husband.” Violet said, “No, Maybell. Not at all like that. Rock plays in tennis tournaments.” That, of course, would be Rock Chumley, spelled Cholmondeley, nota bene. Well, tennis, tootsies, whatever the excuse, it sounds to me as though the south of France is teeming with restless English husbands. 7th October 1932 To the Café de Paris with Pips and Freddie, the Erlangers, and the Simpsons for steak Diane and a Dixieland band. Wally and Ernest brought along Lily Drax-Pfaffenhof, who turns out to be much more fun than she sounds. Her first husband was in Manchester cotton and left her stony broke but fortunately, she made a good second marriage to a landgrave called Willi, which makes her a landgravine. Somewhere between a countess and a duchess, according to Ernest. Anyhow, she wears it very lightly. I think we shall become friends. Wally believes she may know the Sassoons. When she was in Hong Kong, there was a family of that name, and she’s almost certain she went to a party at their house, but Hattie Erlanger says it must be a different lot, because Philip and Sybil are Jews from Baghdad. Freddie said, “Yes, Hattie, but not recently. Sassoon’s been in the Commons twenty years at least.” According to Freddie, he’s something important at the Air Ministry, entertains lavishly, and has a reputation as a firecracker, always sparkling and fizzing and dashing between his various wonderful homes. Sir Philip Firecracker Sassoon! I can’t wait. 8th October 1932, Wilton Place My first year without Brumby. It seems longer, so much has happened. Well, I think I’ve conducted my period of mourning in a decorous manner. Violet may make her disparaging remarks about niteries, but even widows have to while away their evenings somehow, and I’m sure Danforth Brumby would prefer me looking radiant in claret rather than haggard in black. 9th October 1932 I’ve suggested to Padmore that we dispense with the customary black dress for her, too. We can get her something more modern. Dark blue, perhaps, or dove gray, with a little white apron. “Whatever you think, madam,” she said. That’s the kind of attitude I like! 10th October 1932 I am in love! Philip Sassoon is delicious. He’s the same age as Melhuish, but you’d never think it, he’s so svelte and so vibrant. Also, he has exquisite taste. Blood-red roses arranged against a panel of black glass. Twinned pewter buckets filled with white oxeye daisies. He dashed around, showing us everything. The drawing room—one of the drawing rooms—all pink and gilt and tapestries. The dining room azure and silver. Everything done with a very sure touch. Only the ballroom was too hectic for my taste, no surface left unpainted. Camel trains, palm trees, sheikhs of Araby. “The problem with owning a ballroom,” he said, “is that one feels an obligation to use it.” Lightfoot sang my praises as a dancer, but, sadly, Sir Philip doesn’t dance. He said, “One always feels obliged to buzzz around like a bumble bee, pollinating one’s guests with gaiety, and then, when the evening’s over, the room looks horrrribly like the Battle of Culloden Moor.” A location from his Baghdad period, I suppose. I said, “What you need is a woman to hold your balls for you.” “Maybell!” he said, “I think I may thrrrreaten you with an invitation to Trrrrent Park.” I said, “Invite away! You don’t frrrrighten me.” How we laughed. A small point of accuracy for Melhuish. Sir Philip does not have a footman serve tea. He has footmen. And why not! 11th October 1932 Wally was infuriatingly vague about her plans for the day, and then, when I walked into the Ivy to meet Pips, there she was, tête-à-tête with Thelma Furness. They waved but made no move to invite us over to join them. Pips says she finds it horribly entertaining to watch Wally at work. “Spinning her web,” she called it. She said, “Look at her. I mean, Thelma’s nice in her own sappy way, but Wally can’t possibly find her that interesting. She’s just cultivating her so she can get her foot in Wales’s door.” I said, “There are worse projects. I wouldn’t mind meeting him myself. They say he’s a nifty dancer.” Pips said, “Well, I think it’s all rather desperate and sad. It reminds me of the trouble she went to snag a dance with Chevy Auburn. Remember? Cozying up to his sister. Memorizing all his sprint times. And men are so dumb. They fall for it every time. I’ll bet she worked the same old business with Ernest. I’ll bet she pumped Mary Kirk for useful tidbits, filed them under ‘Ernest,’ and then fed them right back to him.” I think Wally just uses what little God gave her. She has a very plain face, no figure, and no fortune. It stands to reason she’s had to develop her wits. Pips could have shown more interest in my tea with Philip Sassoon. All she said was, “But isn’t he a fruit?” 12th October 1932 Penelope Blythe says a fruit is a very useful, unmarried type of man friend, and she’s often thought of getting one herself. To Carlton Gardens for drinks. The Billy Belchesters were there, and Leo von Hoesch popped along from the German Embassy. So charming, and never married. I wonder if he’s a fruit, too. Violet says he’s the civilized face of Germany and quite abhors Mr. Hitler and his new ideas. A note had arrived for me from young Rory, to remind me he’ll soon be coming home on his midterm vacation. He writes, I should very much like to take you to a Tea Room but I’m rather out of funds. No matter. What are aunts for if not the occasional piece of pie? I’ve pinned down Violet and Melhuish to come to me today week. I want to throw a little party while the Crokers are still in town. Violet said, “Just drinks, Maybell. Melhuish will never manage your jazzed-up food. And please, no gangsters.” I said, “Boss Croker is not a gangster.” She said, “Well, he sounds like one.” I’ve a good mind to invite Thelma Furness. 20th October 1932 I am launched, and to great applause! Just champagne, whiskey, and salted almonds, but Padmore served them very nicely. I believe she’s thrilled with her new livery. Came: the Crosbies, the Erlangers, George Lightfoot, the Benny Thaws, the Whitlow Trillings, the Crokers, the Fergus Blythes (who brought along with them a sweet creature called Cimmie Mosley, married to a mad revolutionary), Violet and Melhuish, and Wally and Ernest. Thelma sent regrets, as did Philip Sassoon, who was unable to get away from the Ministry, and Leo von Hoesch, who had to give a little reception for some Hohenzollerns. I omitted to invite Ida. I didn’t want her arriving with a bag full of pamphlets, or worse still, with Mr. Acolyte on her arm. Much talk about Mr. Mussolini. Ernest has read that he’s a great all-rounder. He plays the violin and governs his country, and yet he’s not above rolling up his sleeves and helping with the corn harvest. A Renaissance man, Ernest called him. Also, he’s electrificating the railroads. Freddie said that will be all very fine for the Italians but not so good for the Welsh miners, whose coal the Italians will stop buying. Well, I’m behind Mr. Mussolini on this. One has to look out for one’s own. Melhuish allowed Wally to flirt with him wickedly on the subject of trout fishing. He was quite pink by the time he and Violet had to leave for the Londonderries. He said, “Come to Sunday luncheon, Maybell. Bring your Simpson chums with you.” Violet was on the telephone first thing, putting paid to that. She said, “I really don’t want Wally here on Sunday. I’m sure her husband is perfectly pleasant, but she’s as raucous as ever. We’ll have the Habberleys and anyway, Wally’s just not the kind of guest we’d want Flora to meet. Melhuish only suggested it because you’d given him far too much whiskey.” I said, “Don’t worry. Wally and Ernest can’t come anyway. They’re going to a polo tournament. But I don’t see why you have to be so against her. It was you who wrote excitedly to tell me she was in London.” Violet said, “I did not write excitedly. I mentioned her as one might report the arrival of a new dancing bear at the zoo. But I didn’t mean you should pay to watch it day after day, and I certainly didn’t mean you should bring it home.” 23rd October 1932 Wally’s in a state of great excitement. She and Ernest are invited to the Thelma Furness’s country house for a weekend. Leicestershire. This will undoubtedly involve a long, cold train journey, because everything in this country does. It’s a pity Mr. Mussolini isn’t an Englishman. I said, “And will the Prince of Wales be there?” She said, “I don’t know. I could hardly ask. But we’re going to be quite prepared for it.” Ernest has a book on etiquette, and Wally’s practicing her curtsies, but the main thing on her mind is clothes. She’s talking about empire-line georgette with capped sleeves, but my advice was to buy every item of warm underwear Gamages have on sale, and fur-lined boots, too. Crazy. Wherever Leicestershire is, you may be sure it’s nowhere near the frontiers of fashion. Hattie Erlanger says Wally and Ernest will be expected to ride. She says it’s inconceivable to go to Leicestershire without a hacking jacket at the very least. Wally says that’s the trouble with people like Hattie. Their minds run along narrow, muddy ruts, and they fail to notice that thousands of civilized people go their whole lives without ever sitting on a horse. 25th October 1932 Yesterday to Fuller’s Tea Rooms with Rory and Flora. If you want to know what’s being said on the back stairs, take your nephews and nieces out to tea. Prince George goes dancing with black girls. The Duke of Westminster shouts at his new wife. And Lady Furness is getting a divorce. Funny Wally never mentioned that. I brought them back to see my new house before Kettle drove them home. Both chiefly interested in which bedrooms they would have if I were to invite them to stay the night. I don’t know that I would invite them. Tea is one thing, but not the complications of bedtime stories and prayers and night-lights. 3rd November 1932 Found a dear little cashmere cardigan for Wally, edge-to-edge with a braid trim. If she follows my advice, that’s what she’ll wear to dinner in Leicestershire. As a matter of fact, I think she should avoid décolletage whenever possible. She has no bosom to speak of, and the skin on her back is poor. Dinner at the Crosbies. Anne Belchester says she’s heard Thelma Furness keeps her country house ruinously hot for good paintings. Prosper Frith said he didn’t realize the Furnesses had any good paintings. 4th November 1932 To George Lightfoot’s for a small supper party. Came: Penelope and Fergus Blythe, a House of Commons man called Bob Boothby, and old Lady Ribblesdale. She’s the one who paid lawyers to get her a good divorce settlement from John Astor, when had she but known it, she could have waited a little longer, waved him aboard the Titanic, and inherited everything. They say it would be a curse to see into the future, but I don’t imagine Ava Ribblesdale thinks so. Mr. Boothby was just back from a visit with Mr. Hitler in Germany, and said the man is quite insane and we’d better start building battleships while we still have time. Fergus Blythe said Boothby was squawking like a parlor maid who’d seen a mouse. I do agree with Fergus that Mr. Hitler is Germany’s business and no one else’s. Much talk, too, about whether Roosevelt is going to beat Hoover. Penelope said, “He should. He seems full of bright ideas for getting men back to work.” Indeed. Full of ideas that people like me will have to pay for. Lightfoot ran things rather effortlessly, for a single man. Duck terrine, tenderloin of pork, damson tart. All evening my mind kept drifting to Wally and Ernest. I wonder whether they had dinner with the Prince of Wales. 8th November 1932 Wally is back from Leicestershire with bronchitis. She said she felt too ill to see anyone, but what are friends for if not comforting the sick? I hurried round with a bottle of Dr. Collis Browne’s soothing chlorodyne and a jar of chicken essence. She did meet the Prince of Wales. Also his brother, Prince George, the one who’s reported to dance with black girls. The two princes were staying at a nearby house but motored over each day in time for luncheon and stayed till late. She said Wales is short, boyish, and trim, and he calls Thelma “darling.” He didn’t hunt. No one did. Mainly they played old maid and watched Tom Mix movies on Thelma’s personal projection screen. The big question no one dared ask is whether things will change after Thelma’s divorce. Connie Thaw told Wally the Prince leads a dog’s life, bullied by the King, chastized by the Queen. She said his weekends with Thelma are the only thing he has to look forward to. It seems to me it’s quite straightforward. Thelma will get her divorce, the Prince will marry her, and they’ll live happily ever after. I thought Wally seemed rather flat; aside from a hacking cough, she doesn’t have anything to show for her trouble. All that fussing at the beauty parlor and studying newspapers for topical subjects of conversation. So she met a couple of princes? I doubt she exchanged more than two words with either of them. I think Wally’s gone about as far as she can go. Perhaps I should offer to introduce her to Ena Spain. Better to be properly acquainted with an ex-queen than to have one’s nose pressed hopelessly against the gates of Buckingham Palace. 10th November 1932 Franklin Roosevelt is the new President. Well, I’m glad Brumby didn’t live to see it. He never cared for him. Brumby was a Hoover man, through and through. “Never vote for a lawyer, Maybell,” he advised me. “They’ll have their hands in your pocket before you can say ‘dollar.’” Tea at Carlton Gardens. There was an unpleasant odor in Violet’s drawing room. I do hope it wasn’t dear Ena Spain. She was perspiring as usual, in spite of freezing fog. Went up to the nursery and found Flora playing Divorces with her dolls. She’s such a stitch. “Let me smell your scent, Aunt Bayba,” she said. “You always smell nice. Like talgum bowder and jim tonics.” I’m going to have fun when it’s her deb year. I’ll just take charge. If it’s left to Violet, the poor girl will come out smelling of Coal Tar soap. 15th November 1932 Lunch with Lightfoot. He dined at Carlton Gardens last evening and says there was an unaccountably awful smell in the drawing room. He said, “I thought you might bring it up with Violet. It would be better coming from you.” Ena Spain wasn’t present, apparently, so at least she’s not to blame. 16th November 1932 Carlton Gardens is in uproar. The smell is now so bad it greets you before you reach the drawing room. When I arrived, a housemaid was flicking the pelmets with a feather duster—as though something like that could be dusted away! Melhuish was pacing the floor, and Violet had even canceled her meetings. The exterminator hadn’t been sent for, however. I’d have thought that was the very first thing to do. Violet said, “To exterminate what? We don’t have rats.” Trotman said, “Oh yes we do, Your Ladyship. I’ve seen ’em the size of cats outside the scullery.” Thank heavens I’ve moved out. Melhuish took umbrage at my suggestion that the prime suspects must be the dogs. He said, “My dogs do not smell.” Well, they most certainly do, but I didn’t particularly mean the dogs themselves, rather some little gift-offering one of them might have left behind. My advice to them was to have the room stripped out, ceiling to floor. Dollars to doughnuts they’ll find a doggie woops. Violet says it couldn’t be more inconvenient. They have the Yugoslavias coming for the weekend. Crown Prince Paul and his wife, Olga. 17th November 1932 To the Paradise Club for Hattie Erlanger’s birthday. She and Judson are going to Jessie Woolworth’s for Christmas, in Palm Beach. Wally and Ernest are going to Landgravine Lily’s, Pips and Freddie are going to the Prosper Friths in Kent. Everyone seems fixed up except me, but no matter. Solitude holds no fears for me. I shall have delicious little meals served on a tray and immerse myself in the great thinkers of the day. I’ve been meaning to take up reading for quite some time. Wally swears that an informed mind improves the face. More fog. 18th November 1932 Violet’s smell has been run to earth. George Lightfoot called me with the news this morning. Seven pieces of kippered herring tucked into pillow covers and down the arms of chairs. The finger has been pointed at Flora, but she maintains a “purgler” must have done it. Lunch with Wally. Connie Thaw told her that Thelma’s divorce won’t mean the Prince of Wales can marry her. Some day he’ll be king, and there are rules about who he can marry. Well, surely the answer to that is for them to continue as they are until he becomes king. Then, once he’s in charge, he’ll be able to unmake inconvenient rules. I shall ask Violet. 20th November 1932 Violet says the Prince of Wales can never marry Thelma Furness, or any other divorced person. Neither can he change the rules when he becomes king. Only Parliament can do that. I begin to wonder if there are any advantages at all to being king. I said, “Well, it seems hard cheese for Thelma when her husband has gone off on tiger shoots and left the door very obviously ajar.” Violet said Melhuish enjoys a good duck-hunt when he can get it, but they’ve never allowed his absences to lead to moral laxity. Flora is to be tried at Hope House School as a weekly boarder after Christmas, to see if she’s suited. She’s not supposed to know till nearer the time, but she does know. It was the first thing she told me when I went up to the nursery. She said, “I won’t be suited. I’ll kick someone and then they’ll send me home.” Doopie trying to explain to me about the business with the smell in the drawing room. She kept saying, “Vora but a gibba unna share.” That’s the thing about the deaf. Insist as Violet may that Doopie isn’t backward, she certainly can’t get the difference between “kipper” and “gibba,” and, I’m afraid to say, it has rubbed off seriously on Flora. School can only be a good idea. Melhuish said, “Peculiar thing to do. Waste of a fine smokie, too. Damned if I understand it. Never had any of that kind of carry-on with the boys.” 23rd November 1932 I am invited to Philip Sassoon’s birthday luncheon at Trent Park. The question is, what to buy the man who has everything. 25th November 1932 George Lightfoot is also going to the Trent Park party. He always tries to find a bottle of some unusual and undrinkable liqueur by way of a gift, but he says Philip is very keen on ducks and suggests I think along those lines. No help at all. What does he propose I do? Go to St. James’s Park and capture a pair? 28th November 1932 Lunch with Wally, Hattie Erlanger, and Gladys Trilling. When Gladys heard about my invitation to Trent Park, she said, “Oh, Sassoon! The Court Jew! They say he’s fabulously generous, and if you admire something in one of his houses, he’s more than likely to give it to you. They say Her Majesty’s done terribly well out of him.” Wally said, “Then I think Maybell had better introduce us all.” I shall do no such thing. To the Army & Navy. Bought a doorstop fashioned from a mallard duck decoy, very pretty. 5th December 1932 Trent Park is a dream. Acres of parkland, lakes, tree-lined avenues, and dozens of dusky servants who glide around silently and appear the very moment they’re needed. His sister, Sybil, attended, minus husband who was away at a tennis tournament. She looks haughty, very straight-backed, with iron-gray hair and rather hooded eyes, but she’s really very agreeable. “Violet’s sister!” she said. “Of course! How very naughty of Violet not to have brought you to tea.” The other guests were Mrs. Belloc Lowndes, a Polish piano player called Rubinstein plus wife, a Sassoon cousin from Paris, and two Italian airmen, with whom one could only gesticulate and offer the occasional “olé.” We had oysters, flown up from Kent, and roast Guinea fowl dressed with home-grown oranges. In Hertfordshire! Then a blue cheese made on Sibyl’s estate in Norfolk and a plum pudding carried flaming and aloft by a six-foot Ethiopian in silk livery. Everything was perfect. Lightfoot said, “Now will you please set the record straight. Maybell doesn’t believe you have stags with gilded antlers.” Philip said, “Oh but I do, and if only it weren’t such a gray day, you’d see for yourself. I’ve trained them to note the position of the sun and waggle their heads accordingly. Syb believes animals should be left au naturel, but my stags are all trrragedians manqué. They’d have been deeply unhappy left naked on a moor.” I’m sure he’s right. And I may not have seen the stags this time, but I did see his black swans. Very chic! I asked him how they were kept still long enough to dye their feathers, but he refused to say. He loved his mallard doorstop and intends to place it at the entrance to his dressing room. Lightfoot took him a bottle of something made from roasted melon seeds. 7th December 1932 To Harrold’s Lending Library to select my Christmas reading: Ethelda Bedford, Maysie Grieg, George Bertram Shaw, Alma Sioux Scarberry. Kettle had just carried them into the house when Violet telephoned. She said, “What is this nonsense I hear about you spending Christmas alone?” I believe George Lightfoot may have said something. He didn’t at all like my plans for a solitary Christmas, I could tell. He’s so attentive. I think he may have a little pash for me. I said, “I shall be perfectly fine. I was alone last year, except for being frog-marched to church by Randolph Putnam and receiving an unsolicited visit from Junior, and no doubt I shall be alone in the future.” “Not as long as I draw breath,” she said. “You’ll come to Carlton Gardens and be taken out of yourself.” 12th December 1932 The whole day in and out of the car and up and down in elevators, searching for gifts. I’m beginning to agree with Penelope Blythe: Christmas takes all the joy out of shopping and should really just be left to the lower classes. For Ulick, a Tri-ang fort, for Rory an Erector Set, which I’m assured is the gift of choice for boys aged twelve, and for Flora, a Betty Boop tea service. Whisky for Melhuish, a gay jacquard scarf for Violet, to help modernize her look, and for Doopie, a copy of 301 Things for a Bright Girl to Do. She needs to be stretched. To Bryanston Court for dinner. Came: Pips and Freddie Crosbie and the decorator Johnnie MacMullen, with a woman I took to be his mother, but who turned out to be the very unusual Lady Elsie Mendl. She was an actress but now does rooms for people like the Vanderbilts and the Fricks and is apparently ruthlessly strict with her clients. If Elsie Mendl dictates you must have tobacco-brown walls, there is no gainsaying her. Also came friends of Ernest, the Rickatson Hatts. He runs a news agency, of all things. Wally certainly keeps her pledge to seat interesting mixes around her table. Pips says Elsie Mendl is an invert and only married Charlie Mendl for his title. If it’s true, I must say she hides her tendencies very well. She even paints her nails. There were no hackney cabs to be had, so I gave Mr. and Mrs. Hatt a lift to Westbourne Terrace. They were shy about accepting, but as I told them, I’m aware of the punishing hours people in their business are obliged to keep. Melhuish’s Times is always on the breakfast table by eight o’clock. 14th December 1932 Johnnie MacMullen is going to advise Wally on the remodeling of her apartment after Christmas. She says he’s hugely talented and has done Elsie Mendl’s homes from A to Z. Well, he’ll need to be hugely talented to make anything of Bryanston Court. I’d love to see her move somewhere with scope, but Ernest is such a stick in the mud. She agrees with me that Mrs. Hatt is dull, but says she endures her because the husband is always good for whiling away an evening with Ernest. They often have macaroni cheese and peruse the Greek ancients, leaving her free to come dancing. The Hatts’ little shop is called Reuters, but Wally has no idea where it is. 17th December 1932 A festive evening at the Benny Thaws. They had an adorable little chorale of children to sing us carols around the Christmas tree, American children from the compound, with proud deportment and straight teeth. It caused me a flicker of nostalgia for Sweet Air. Just a flicker. Rory and Ulick are home from school. 23rd December 1932 Violet says luncheon will be served at twelve-thirty sharp on Christmas Day so the kitchen maids can get away to visit their mothers. It’s going to make for a very long afternoon, unless, of course, we’re expected to take our tea at three so the rest of the help can go gallivanting to Essex. I don’t know why I don’t just take us all to Claridge’s. 24th December 1932 Violet says they always do things this way, it suits them very well and this is how children learn about their responsibilities to servants. Before the family meal is served, Melhuish goes below stairs to say a few words and carve the first slice of the servants’ goose, and this year Ulick will go with him, to see how it’s done. She says we can have tea whenever we choose, because Doopie will have charge of it, so as to allow Smith the rest of the day off. All the more reason to go to Claridge’s. A greeting card from Randolph Putnam. His mother passed away. And I am missed in Baltimore. Of course. 26th December 1932 The best-laid plans. Rory claimed Flora’s tea service and performed a very clever trick with overturned cups and disappearing sugar lumps, Flora was only interested in Rory’s Erector Set, and Ulick remained disappointingly aloof from his fort. It would have remained in its box if Lightfoot and Doopie hadn’t begun playing with it. Violet gave me a calendar. “So you can organize your time,” she said. “You’ll see the weeks laid out before you and be able to think how best to fill your days productively.” Rory gave me a rough-hewn letter rack made in his handicrafts’ class, Lightfoot gave me a coffret of candy, and Flora gave me a pink satin letter M, stitched quite nicely and filled with padding. Violet said, “How clever. Is it a scented sachet?” “No,” said Flora, “it’s an em. We made it out of old ploomers.” Melhuish’s sister Elspeth and the Rear Admiral Salty Laird looked in during the afternoon. Elspeth said, “Now Flora, are ye looking forward to being a big girl and going to Hope House?” Flora closed her eyes. She does that when you say something she doesn’t want to hear. She gets that from Doopie. Rory said, “You’ll like it when you get there, Flora. You’ll make friends. And have cocoa every night. I used not to want to go to school, but you get used to it, you see, and then it’s really good fun.” She said, “Then I’ll come to your school.” Ulick said, “You can’t. You’re a girl.” She said, “Well I shan’t stay at Hope House. I shall run away.” Elspeth said, “Do ye know what happens to girls who run away, Flora? The bogeyman comes after them and they’re never seen again.” Doopie and Lightfoot both got her with the peashooter cannons. Ulick said, “I really wonder why we’re bothering with all this. Why not have her taught at home until it’s time for her to be finished? That’s what they did with Pentlow’s sister and she’s now out and practically engaged to Gore-Cummings. Education seems to me to be quite wasted on girls.” 1st January 1933 (#) Gala night at the Savoy last night. Wore my aquamarine chiffon with the beaded shrug. Pips and Freddie came, also the Prosper Friths and Ida with an old Venezuelan flaneur. She said, “Oh Maybell, no date?” I said, “Oh Ida, no taste?” She was putting away Manhattans all night, so I guess she has tired of Mr. Acolyte and chamomile tea. I may not have had a date but I danced Prosper Frith off his feet, not to mention a foxtrot with Billy Belchester and two rumbas with Benny Thaw whose party was at the next table, minus Connie. Apparently, she and Lady Thelma are at Lily Drax-Pfaffenhof’s, so won’t Wally be thrilled. I bet she’ll have been cultivating Thelma Furness like crazy. Freddie stood us all champagne for midnight, which I’m sure he couldn’t really afford. I’d happily have paid for it. 7th January 1933 Wally and Ernest are back from the Alps. She’s wearing a plummier lip color, in imitation of Lady Thelma, no doubt. Landgravine Lily’s house party had been quiet. Canasta, a treasure hunt, a little light shopping. Just Connie and Lady Thelma, a couple called Rothschild, and Crown Princess Cecilie, a sad remnant of German royalty. Ernest has a carbuncle on his neck. Wally needs dental work. She said, “Don’t you hate January? Nothing ever happens.” Lunch tomorrow. 9th January 1933 I’d given up on Wally and was about to order, when she sauntered into the Fountain Room in that skimpy little mink of hers smiling like the cat that’s had the cream. She said she was sorry to be late but had been delayed by an important telephone call from Connie Thaw. “You see,” she said, taking forever to sit down and then starting to nibble on a celery stick in the most annoying way, “you see, Ernest and I are invited to Fort Belvedere for the weekend. By the Prince of Wales.” I’m very happy for her, of course. This is something she’s worked for tirelessly. I just hope she understands that the invitation doesn’t spring from any desire on the part of the Prince of Wales. I’m sure he doesn’t even remember who they are. But I expect he allows Thelma a certain number of her own friends, and she and Wally seem to have hit it off. They’re always screaming with laughter about something. I said, “But Ernest always seems to spend his weekends shuffling business papers. Are you sure he’ll be allowed to take time off?” She said, “Of course he can. Ernest’s a director, not an employee.” If that’s the case, I wonder he doesn’t open the safe and bring home a little more money. There are things she’s going to need, but she said she’d better wait till tomorrow, till Ernest has agreed to a budget. It only leaves her Wednesday and Thursday for all that shopping, not to mention hair, facials, and nails. What an impossible way to live. I offered her Kettle, to take them down to Windsor and bring them back on Sunday. It seemed the least I could do. She said, “Maybell, you’re such a treasure. The thing about Ernest’s car is, his driver doesn’t like to work on Sundays.” The thing about Ernest’s car is it isn’t a Bentley. 11th January 1933 Dinner at the Crosbies. Whitlow and Gladys Trilling, Prosper and Daphne Frith, and young Freddie Birkenhead, who’s an earl. Everyone very exercised about what Roosevelt may be planning to do with the gold standard. When I asked Earl Birkenhead if I had any cause for concern, he said, “It rather depends how many double eagles you have under your mattress,” but gave no clue as to whether having them would be a good thing or bad. I may drop a line to Randolph Putnam. Gladys Trilling said blizzards are forecast for tomorrow. Pips said, “Friends of ours are going to Fort Belvedere for the weekend. I hope they’ll be able to get through.” Prosper said, “Fort Belvedere! They’d be better off staying at home. Wales invites all kinds of nonentities. Get snowed in there, one could be sorry. Mediocre little house, too. The kind of place someone who’d done well in trade might go for.” Birkenhead said, “Well, that’s Wales really. Small and mediocre.” 12th January 1933 Wally has borrowed a ruby choker from Pips. I’m not supposed to know. Cold, but no snow. 13th January 1933 To the Fergus Blythes. George Lightfoot came with a girl with a jutting jaw called Belinda, not at all pretty. Penelope Blythe says the Prince of Wales generally wears a kilt in the evening and keeps his cigarette case in his sporran. Lightfoot says he likes to embroider after dinner and could bore for England. Well, I’m sure that after a week of ceremonial splendor, all he craves is the quiet life. I just hope Wally remembers not to try too hard. She does so love to outshine everyone. 16th January 1933 Kettle had instructions to bring Wally and Ernest back here so I could hear all about their weekend, but he returned with an empty car, Ernest having business papers to attend to and Wally being in pain from her ulcers. That’s what comes of starving yourself into new dinner gowns. I caught Ernest on the telephone. Wally was in bed and not to be disturbed. He said, “We’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable time, but it would be indiscreet of me to say more.” Pompous ass. 17th January 1933 Wally recovered enough to be lunching with Thelma Furness and Connie Thaw, but not to have called me, and not a word of thanks for the use of my car and driver. She said, “Well, of course we’re grateful, Maybell, but we didn’t ask for your car. You almost insisted on our taking it. But do stop sulking. I want to tell you all about our weekend.” Tea tomorrow. 18th January 1933 Wally says Fort Belvedere is comfortable, full of good furniture, and generously hung with Canalettos, but lacking a woman’s touch, except in the love nest itself, where Thelma had been allowed a free hand with pink silk. Also that the Prince did wear a kilt to dinner and has good legs. She said, “David’s very informal. He even mixes his own drinks.” So already it’s “David.” She says she only refers to him as David. When she addresses him, she calls him “sir.” She said, “He is the future king, Maybell. Never forget that.” 20th January 1933 Freddie Crosbie, Judson Erlanger, Fergus Blythe, and Whitlow Trilling have gone to Klosters, so Pips is giving a ski-widows lunch party. Do I think she should also invite Wally Simpson and Ida Coote? Well, ordinarily I’d say no, because Wally demands opinions of people and tries to belittle them with her grasp of current affairs, and the only thing Ida brings to the table is a love life peopled by freaks, but on this occasion, I think the case for two extra Americans is strong. Hattie Erlanger and Gladys Trilling can be so overbearing, braying on about people one neither knows nor cares about, ancient British families who’ve been lords of the manor since the Stone Age. 26th January 1933 Penelope Blythe and Ida Coote got along famously yesterday. They both have men on the brain. I ought to have thought of introducing them sooner. Wally sparred with Gladys, each trying to outdo the other with inside information about the domestic arrangements of royalties. Gladys says it’s a well-known fact that Prince George is a drug fiend and Wales is only interested in clothes, so it would be as well for the country if Bertie York is the next king, being a family man and practically a saint. Wally says Bertie York is reputed to snap like a rabid dog. What a pity Violet was too busy to attend. I’m sure she could have given us character references on all of them. 5th February 1933 Tea at Carlton Gardens, where I was most surprised to find Flora, sent home from Hope House. She had apparently taken to lying on the floor and holding her breath until blue in the face, so the school nurse advised withdrawing her before she damaged her brain. Too late for that, I fear. The situation is to be reviewed after Easter. Mr. Adolf Hitler has been hired as the new Chancellor of Germany. Melhuish says this can only be a good thing, because a properly run Germany is all that stands between us and world Communism. How worrying. A delicious new cranberry nail polish from Elizabeth Arden. 6th February 1933 Lunch with Pips. She thinks getting in with Thelma and the Prince has turned Wally’s head. She said, “I can hear that brain of hers whirring away. I reckon she’s out to scalp herself a duke at the very least.” I said, “What about Ernest?” “Ernest?” she said. “Oh please!” But Pips doesn’t know Wally like I do. All she ever wanted was to rise above that awful mother of hers, to settle down, and have nice things, and in his modest way, Ernest has made that possible. Now she’s making her contribution, using her wits and vivacity to carry them into higher circles. I find them a very well-suited couple. And as for snagging a duke! Wally has certain talents, but I feel entitled to say, as a friend who knows her better than any, beneath all that careful grooming she’s still far too coarse to be a duchess. 8th February 1933 A crisis at Bryanston Court. Ernest has gone to New York on business and left Wally seriously short. She says it’s all a silly mix-up, but her cook is threatening to quit and anyway, there’s the humiliation of it. She’s meant to be giving a dinner for Lily Drax-Pfaffenhof and her friends the Eugene Rothschilds, and what’s she supposed to do? Offer them bread and water? If she didn’t have me to turn to, she’d be in an impossible position. I’ve advanced her enough to pay the help and cover the butcher’s bill. Randolph Putnam writes that I have nothing to fear from Franklin Roosevelt. He says Brumby Steel and Chemical has weathered the worst of things and is in good health, thanks to our Burma operations. He says my adventurous attitude to life has made him think of visiting London himself sometime. I do hope not. I haven’t come all this way to see his shiny face beaming at me across a crowded Grill Room. I’ve written back immediately to warn him that London is wet and sooty. Ten to dinner tonight. Philip Sassoon, Wally, Pips and Freddie Crosbie, Anne and Billy Belchester, Fergus and Penelope Blythe, George Lightfoot. As Wally will discover, she isn’t the only Baltimore belle who can fill a good table in London. 9th February 1933 My dining room looked superb last evening. Ivory candles, Brussels lace laid over a gold undercloth. Mushrooms on toast, saddle of lamb, nougat parfait. I could see Wally noting every detail. Wore my moss-green crepe de chine and amber beads. Wally gave her russet shantung another airing. All the talk was of Mr. Hitler. Freddie says he’s the man to destroy the Communists, root and branch. George Lightfoot predicts the working man will rise up, but as Freddie says, with six million unemployed, the working man will do well to keep his nose to the grindstone. Wally said England has nothing to fear from German rearmament. It was the French and the Poles who appropriated all that German soil, so they’re the ones who’d better watch out. I noticed a little twitch in dear Philip’s cheek. He has tribes of French cousins. He said nothing, but I don’t think he took to Wally. I must make sure not to mix them in the future. Belchester said if Adolf Hitler wants to reduce the number of men out of work, he can advise him exactly how to do it. One million can be set to paint the Black Forest white, one million can be sent to lay linoleum along the Polish corridor, and another million can busy themselves building a one-way railroad to Jerusalem. Much hilarity over this, but by my reckoning, that would still leave three million. Philip was very quiet all evening. He pleaded a sore throat and left early. I believe he may be the kind of man who only sparkles in his own milieu. 15th February 1933 Flora’s birthday. Her ninth. Gave her a silver-mounted hairbrush with her initials. Now someone needs to get her into the habit of using it. To a matinee performance of Giselle with Lightfoot, Doopie, and Flora. He’s Flora’s godfather, and Doopie is one of her godmothers, so he takes them to a ballet every year. Of course, if Doopie’s as deaf as they say she is, it seems rather a waste. Flora was in a very cheery mood and properly dressed, too, for a change, in a good wool dress and Mary Janes. There’s talk of a day school after Easter, but it’s to be sprung on her at the last moment. She quite stuck to my side all afternoon, one hand in mine, the other clutching her hairbrush. She said, “I wish you could be my other gobmother instead of Aunt Elsbeth.” 16th February 1933 Have loaned Wally my sable. She’s going to Leicestershire, to Thelma Furness’s, and will surely freeze without a decent fur. To the Florida Club with Judson and Hattie Erlanger and Pips and Freddie. Pips is wearing her hair and her skirts noticeably shorter. Freddie has told her she has the best legs in London. Who am I to rain on her parade. I do like her bob, however. She said, “This Leicestershire jaunt is so typically Wally. She hates the countryside, she hates horses, but she’ll go and endure it because she just might meet someone useful. I’m telling you, she’s on the prowl for someone with a title.” Hattie said, “The idea is beyond bizarre. She doesn’t even ride. And why would any man look at her twice? She always looks so … corseted. And that frightful, grimacing mouth. I mean, she’s quite fun, but really … Anyway, no one important ever goes to the Furness house. One simply sniggers about it.” 20th February 1933 According to the maid, Wally and my sable have gone direct from the country to The Cedars, for mud baths and facials. She might have asked. Tonight to the Yugoslavs. I shall have to wear my mink. 23rd February 1933 Wally says The Cedars wasn’t her idea. She got dragged along by Thelma and Connie but is glad she went, because she feels greatly rejuvenated. She described the weekend as low-key and cozy. She’d met some new people, the Bernie Cavetts from New Jersey, Humphrey Butler, who equerries for fun-loving Prince George, and the Perry Brownlows, who have a house near Thelma’s. And the Prince of Wales had joined her by the fireside and chatted to her for half an hour at least. She says she wasn’t a bit nervous. She said, “I didn’t even think about it. I was just myself, Maybell. I just treated him like I would any other interesting man.” I bet she didn’t. She said, “Strictly between you and me, I think he finds Thelma rather limited. She’s sweet, but she doesn’t have any conversation, and His Royal Highness has a wide-ranging mind. He wants to know about the lives of ordinary people, and who better to enlighten him on that subject than me.” She’d even told him about her mother’s boardinghouse. She said, “He was fascinated. He’s never met anyone like me before, not socially. He found it refreshing.” Perhaps so, but I don’t think Ernest will thank her for making such a feature of her regrettable background. Philip Sassoon’s sister has invited me to a musical soiree. 26th February 1933 To tea at Carlton Gardens. Fish-paste sandwiches and seed cake. Bertie York’s wife, Elizabeth, was there with Ena Spain and a couple of Greek princesses who never smile. Only Ena could perspire in February. Flora was allowed down briefly to say “good day.” She doesn’t appear to be using her new hairbrush. 27th February 1933 To Sibyl Chumley’s, spelled Cholmondeley, nota bene. Her husband, Rock, was present, charming and dashingly handsome but impatient to get away, it seemed. He kept popping open his Hunter to check the time. And dear Philip wasn’t able to attend, being horribly busy with something called Air Estimates. Lucky Philip. It was such a long program and then, as if we hadn’t had quite enough, one of Sybil’s cronies asked Mr. Rubinstein for an encore, as if he needed any further encouragement. It didn’t seem to occur to them that some of us had had a strenuous day and still weren’t finished. I had the Erlangers and the Trillings waiting for me at the Paradise Club. 28th February 1933 The German Parliament has been burned down by Red agitators. Boss and Ethel Croker are taking a house for Royal Ascot this year and I am invited, as are Wally and Ernest. I’ll just keep the information up my sleeve until Violet starts talking about squeezing me into Lady Desborough’s attic. Ernest is expected home at any moment, and the sooner the better. Wally’s in a flap about ordering gowns. I’m thinking pale lavender and the softest camellia pink. Wally says hats are absolutely de rigueur, a great shame for a natural blonde like myself. 4th March 1933 Lunch with George Lightfoot. He was at the Century Club last night and saw Wally and Ernest at the Prince of Wales’s table. Poor Ernest. He’s not a night person at the best of times, and he’s only been back on dry land for five minutes. 6th March 1933 Five hours of shopping. We’ve decided on midcalf bias-cut for summer, which we’ll follow with a shorter, more tailored look for the fall. Wally is so particular. She examines linings and seams practically with a magnifying glass. She says if she had my money, she’d have everything hand-finished. Our needs are different, of course. Curves like mine may not be the height of fashion right now, but let’s face it, I’d look good in a sugar sack, whereas Wally has to rely on good window dressing to cover all those bones and angles. At any rate, Ernest is so thrilled by their growing closeness to the Prince of Wales that he’s lifted the latch on his cash box and told Wally to buy whatever she needs. We didn’t even stop for lunch, and then she dashed away in a cab. She’s suddenly very assiduous about being at home with a welcoming drinks’ tray when Ernest comes in from business. That’s the deal, I suppose. She’s paying for her Ascot gowns with wifely attention. Called in at Carlton Gardens. Violet was running out to a Soup Kitchen committee. She said, “You should come with me. Do something useful. This has been a hard winter, Maybell. People are cold and hungry.” Well, I was in no condition. I’d been on my feet since ten o’clock. I said, “I’ll write you a check. I’m going up to the nursery to have tea with Flora and Doopie.” She said, “Then be aware that Flora is being punished. She stuck out her tongue at Lady Londonderry, so be stern with her and please don’t give her candy.” I must say, Flora seemed to have forgotten she was in disgrace. We found some chocolate in my purse and made chocolate sandwiches, and then she and Doopie danced Giselle for me in their bedroom slippers. I don’t think chocolate counts as candy. Chocolate is chocolate. 10th March 1933 Dinner at Judson and Hattie Erlanger’s. According to Pips, Hattie’s family owns much of Eccleston Square. All the more regrettable then that she doesn’t invest some of her wealth in getting her teeth straightened. And why don’t the English keep their diamonds clean? The talk turned to Wally. I only mentioned that she longs to be presented at Court, and Gladys Trilling practically leaped out of her seat. She said, “Oh but that can never happen. Surely Wally and Ernest are both divorced?” According to Gloria and Hattie, divorce is death to any Court ambitions. I said, “But what about Thelma Furness? She’s about to get her second divorce, but that doesn’t seem to deter the Prince of Wales.” Hattie said, “There’s all the difference in the world between sharing Wales’s bed and being brought into the presence of Their Majesties, and I’m sure Thelma Furness has always understood her position.” If that’s the case, I’m surprised she hasn’t explained it to Wally. They’re such friends these days, they must surely commiserate with each other about the taint of divorce. How frustrating. A youthful error with Win Spencer and now Wally’s greatest desire is forever beyond her reach. Well, I’m not going to be the one who tells her. 14th March 1933 Philip Sassoon has invited me to his house by the ocean for Easter. A fête champêtre at Port Lympne! Whatever it is, I can’t wait. 16th March 1933 The most extraordinary thing. I was with Wally at Bryanston Court early last evening, when the door opened and in walked the Prince of Wales. He said, “You didn’t invite me, but here I am anyway.” Wally didn’t miss a beat. She said, “Why sir! I hope you know you’re welcome anytime. We’re very informal tonight, just an old school friend, Maybell Brumby.” She was pulling faces at me behind his back, reminding me to curtsy. She doesn’t understand that when I was at Carlton Gardens, Violet had royalties trooping through on an almost daily basis. His Royal Highness has very blue eyes and a rather high-pitched voice. “Brumby?” he said. “A big name in Baltimore, I seem to remember. Iron, was it?” Iron, coal, nickel, cobalt, silver, bauxite. Wherever it was in the world, Danforth Brumby would find it and have it grubbed out of the ground and turned into dollars. I said, “Yes sir, Brumby Steel and Chemical, founded by my late husband. And you may have heard of my late father, too. John Patterson was a legend for his worker housing.” “Is that so?” he said. “Well, you must tell me about it someday. I’m awfully keen on worker housing.” Wally didn’t like that. She thinks she’s the only one who knows how to draw people out. She thinks I’m just a pretty face. The Prince made us all scotches and soda, very much at home. He’d obviously done it before. Wally’s a sly one. He told us about his week. He’d been in the North, cheering up paupers. Wally was plying him with questions, but he really wanted to know about me, what brought me to London. I said, “Well, funnily enough, sir, you did. I came last year, after my bereavement, to visit my sister Violet. And if it weren’t for you, I very much doubt my sister would be here. If you hadn’t gone to Sulphur Springs with Donald Melhuish all those years ago, Violet wouldn’t have met him and married him and moved to London. So, in a roundabout way, you’re entirely responsible.” He has a funny little laugh. “Melhuish!” he said. “Of course! When was that?” It was 1919. He said, “And you’re Violet Melhuish’s sister? Remarkable! You look nothing like her. A fine soldier, Melhuish. We were together at Verdun, you know?” When Ernest came home, he didn’t seem particularly surprised to find the Prince of Wales sitting on his couch, so I wonder how long this has been going on? Great shows of affability, but I believe I noticed Ernest relax when the Prince said he couldn’t stay to dinner. He said, “No, Ernest. As comfortable as I am, I can’t stay, not even for Wally’s goulash. I have to dine with Their Majesties.” He kissed Wally on the cheek as he left. She said, “Oh Maybell, your face when the Prince walked in! I wish I could have snapped it.” I said, “You might have warned me. You were obviously expecting him.” She said, “Not really. He’s dropped by a few times but he never calls ahead.” I said, “But you didn’t even tell me he’d been here. Why the big secret? You were shouting it from the rooftops when he invited you to Fort Belvedere.” Ernest said, “We certainly did not. We’ve always been discreet about our friendship, and so must you be. Please don’t go telling all and sundry about this evening. His Royal Highness feels at home here, thanks to Wally. She has the right touch. Clever girl.” So that’s why she’s been shopping with such abandon. Ernest’s paid her a good dividend for hauling in the Prince of Wales. Well, their secret is safe with me. Apart from Pips and Violet, I won’t tell a soul. 17th March 1933 I made a point of speaking to Melhuish on the telephone this morning. He said, “You’ve missed Violet. She had a meeting at nine and then she’s going directly to the Habberleys. We’re there for the weekend.” I said, “It was you I wanted. I was with the Prince of Wales last evening and he most particularly asked to be remembered to you.” Stopped him in his tracks. “Wales?” he said. “Really? Were you at the Belchesters?” I said, “No, at the Ernest Simpsons.” “Simpson, Simpson?” he said. “Know the name, but can’t place him.” I said, “You met him at my soiree. He was in the Guards, and his wife is called Wally. She talked to you about salmon flies. She was a school friend, but these days Violet disapproves of her.” He said, “Does she? Well, Vee’s a good judge of people. As for Wales, these days I’m not entirely sure how sound he is. There was a time. We had a good war together, but he doesn’t appear to have done much since. From what I hear, all he does nowadays is plague his tailor and run his valets ragged. He’s a bloody clotheshorse, Maybell. If you ask me, we’re going to get a dandy for a king.” It says it all. The Prince is so modern and unstuffy, and Melhuish is so set in his ways. How left behind he must feel. Stood Wally lunch at the Dorch. Penelope Blythe came to our table and said, “Oh Wally, I hear His Royal Highness is back from Northumberland. How is he?” I could have killed her. I’d sworn Pips and Hattie to absolute secrecy. Wally doesn’t seem as anxious about things as Ernest, though. She said, “Well, of course, nothing the Prince of Wales does goes unnoticed. And why shouldn’t he call in on friends at the cocktail hour?” I said, “I suppose what’s remarkable is that he comes to an address like Bryanston Court.” “Not at all,” she said. “That’s the kind of prince he is.” The Erlangers want me to dinner. The Trillings are begging me. Pips absolutely insists on having me. Wally’s schedule may suddenly be full, but they know they can get the story from me, and without earnest Ernest sucking on his pipe and pontificating about discretion. 20th March 1933 To the Crosbies. The Prosper Friths were there, also the Erlangers and the Belchesters. Billy Belchester said it didn’t surprise him to hear that the Prince of Wales had taken up with people in the suburbs. He said, “It’ll be his latest fad. That’s Wales all over. Picks things up and then drops them. I hope your Simpson friends are prepared for that.” Freddie said, “Still, I think it was very astute of Maybell to get him onto worker housing. He’s not the easiest of conversationalists, but that is a subject dear to his heart. Golf, too.” Prosper Frith said it was all very well for Wales to be keen on worker housing when he didn’t have to find the money for it. He said, “Ask me, he should attend to his own affairs. Cut ribbons. Settle down and produce an heir. Leave politicking to those who understand it.” Daphne Frith said, “Well, I’d hate to have Royalties suddenly proposing themselves for cockers. It’d be such a strain, always being prepared.” Not for Wally, of course. Being prepared is what she does best. I do wonder about Violet and Melhuish though. The Prince is so agreeable, I can’t think why they allowed the friendship to wither. Tea parties with the Bertie Yorks are all very well, but Wales is the one who’ll be king someday. Freddie says His Royal Highness is a big campaigner for pit head baths. 21st March 1933 Harrold’s Lending Library had nothing on pit head baths. Ida says they are facilities to allow coal miners to perform their toilette before going home to dine. All at the mine owner’s expense, you can be sure. 22nd March 1933 Lunched with Wally. The Prince of Wales has asked after me! She and Ernest had dinner with him last evening at the Benny Thaws. She said, “He loves Americans, you know. He finds us much more in tune with his thinking than those English stuffed shirts. And he’s often at a loose end in the evening, especially when Thelma’s in the country. Really, if we want him, he’s ours for the taking.” She’s talking about offering him a dinner. Not a potluck with just her and Ernest, but a proper dinner, where he can meet lively Americans. With only a cook and two maids, it sounds overambitious to me. Wilton Place would be far more suitable, but she didn’t like my saying so. She said, “I can manage perfectly well at Bryanston Court, thank you, and the Prince feels at home there. Obviously, I’ll get in extra help. But don’t be disappointed, Maybell, if you’re not invited. The guest list will be out of my hands. That’s the protocol, you see? David will have to approve everything.” Minnehaha Warfield lecturing me on protocol! 27th March 1933 Lunch with George Lightfoot, who didn’t seem at all interested in the Simpsons and the Prince. He said, “It’s no great coup, Maybell. I could introduce you to any number of people who spend their lives avoiding royalties. They’re costly to maintain and have the habit of encouraging familiarity, then suddenly frowning on it. Befriending them is like venturing onto creaking ice.” Flora is in trouble again. Violet took her to an outfitters to buy her clothes for starting at Miss Hildred’s Day School after Easter, and when they got home with their purchases, Flora hacked her new straw hat to pieces with Doopie’s sewing scissors. Lightfoot said, “I’m afraid it won’t save her from Miss Hildred’s, though. She’s going, bonnet or no bonnet. It’s a shame really. I shall miss her singular ways. It’s not often a child reaches the age of nine without being tamed.” Disappointed to find he’s not coming to Philip Sassoon’s at Easter. We could have traveled together. He was invited but had already accepted for something in Gloucestershire. The girl named Belinda with the jutting jaw. I said, “Are you in love with her?” “No,” he said, “not noticeably.” 2nd April 1933 To Carlton Gardens. The boys are home from school. I’d promised Rory we’d go to a cartoon theater this vacation, but now we have the complication of Flora, who was supposed to come with us but is in the doghouse. He was pleading Flora’s case with Violet, and Flora was doing nothing to help herself, sitting on the stairs, shouting, “I’m not going to Miss Dread’s and I’m not wearing a banama hat.” Ulick said, “It seems very clear to me that she hasn’t yet learned her lesson. It’ll do her no good at all to be let off scot-free. Melhuishes know how to take their punishment like a man.” Rory said, “But she’s a girl. And if she can’t come to see The Three Little Pigs, I shan’t feel decent about going.” To be resolved. 4th April 1933 Saw Lightfoot on my way to Monsieur Jules. He says Rory took his appeal to the House of Lords, but Melhuish told him he never overturns Violet’s decisions. He said, “The only thing I can suggest is that I play the Christian mercy card. I am her gobfather, after all. I’ll see what I can do.” 5th April 1933 Violet has agreed to a compromise. Flora will be allowed to come out with Rory for a high tea, but there will be no cartoons until she has behaved herself for a full term at school. Lightfoot said, “There are conditions, of course. We’re not to indulge her too much, or in any way let her forget her misdemeanors. Doopie said, ‘Bedda nod smile doo mudge, Dordie. Bedda pud on gumby vayzes.’” I don’t see why Doopie always has to tag along on these occasions. And I wish she could be trained to say “George” instead of “Dordie.” 7th April 1933 To Ruddle’s for a fried-fish supper. Flora behaved impeccably. I don’t know why Violet has such problems with her. Rory asked about Wally. There’s obviously been talk in the drawing room at Carlton Gardens. I said, “You may very well see her yourself at Easter. You’ll be at Windsor, and she’ll be just along the road, at Fort Belvedere with the Prince of Wales.” “Gosh,” he said, “even though she’s poor? Are you going, too?” I said, “No, I’m going to Kent to stay with Sir Philip Sassoon.” “Oh,” he said, “the gaudy Semite.” Lightfoot said, “I say, Rory! Where did that come from?” “Ulick,” he said, “after Aunt Maybell told us he gave her luncheon on a lapis lazuli table. Ulick said he’s a gaudy Semite and not our kind of person.” Doopie not following things at all, looking perplexed, asking Lightfoot over and over, “Who Horty Zeemide?” We should leave her at home really. She never does well in restaurants. Flora said, “Gaudy Semite is a nice name.” 8th April 1933 A wire from Randolph Putnam. Franklin Roosevelt has announced that in the future, only the government may own gold bullion, and those of us who thought to put our hard-earned dollars into gold are going to have to sell it to the Federal Reserve. At a very poor price, you may be sure. How sound Brumby’s judgment was. Never trust a lawyer. 10th April 1933 Two days to reach Randolph by telephone, then, when I did get through, he did nothing to put my mind at rest. If I don’t turn in my gold, I can be prosecuted for hoarding and, as if that isn’t bad enough, he’s coming to England in June. I said, “I shall be at Royal Ascot.” “So will I,” he said. “I’ll be staying in a town called Maidenhead. I have a Putnam cousin there, twice removed. Now Mother has passed over I’m going to start seeing the world and I’m holding you to dinner, Maybell. We have a lot to catch up on.” I doubt that anything of interest to me has ever happened to Randolph Putnam. 15th April 1933, Port Lympne, Kent If Trent Park was a dream, Port Lympne is paradise. Terrace gives onto terrace, vista onto vista, and the lawns are carpeted with daffodils. Dickie and Edwina Mountbatten are here, he being a nephew of Ena Spain and brother-in-law of the betrousered Nada Milford Haven. Everyone in this tiny country is connected to somebody. Alex and Nelly Hardinge are also guests. He’s the King’s private secretary, but I don’t suppose His Majesty dictates letters on a holiday weekend. So far I haven’t found out who they’re related to. Others present: Tom Mitford, just back from Munich, Germany, where he and his sister Unity met Mr. Hitler and judge him to be the coming man, Sir Philip’s cousin Hannah, a Frenchman called Hippolyte, who plays tennis, and Marthe Bibesco, who is personally acquainted with Mr. Mussolini. She says he has a magnificent, manly jaw. Arriving tomorrow, the Winston Churchills—he’s something in politics—an actor called Gielgud, and a coal porter! Sir Philip certainly doesn’t give a damn for class distinctions. 16th April 1933 This morning, a treasure hunt for eggs, each couple being provided with a list of clues written in aquamarine ink. I was paired with young Tom Mitford, who’s just back from Heidelberg and speaks very highly of the German nation. Our clues led us to the orangerie, where, hanging from a tree, we found a perfect little egg-shaped crystal pendant for me and a tiny basket with a plover’s egg for Tom. A simple, rustic luncheon was served on the lawn: spit-roasted kid and pineapple ice. Then Philip took us up in his airplane, one at a time, for an aerial view of the estate. What an accomplished man! He makes one feel nothing is too much trouble, and he’s tireless. Everything must be perfect. Last evening, he had the Union flag hauled down, because the red in it clashed so violently with the orange sunset. Musical diversions after dinner. Philip’s wonderful dusky servants brought in thimbles of coffee, which they somehow set ablaze, and then the coal porter, who, I must say, is very well-scrubbed considering his trade, claimed the piano and played and sang for quite an hour. He was really rather good. I’ve advised him to think of taking it up professionally. There must be a great many people in London who’d be willing to pay him, and it would surely be more agreeable than portering coal. Philip said, “Maybell, you’re a rrriot!” He’s so easy to amuse. I think I could very happily be Lady Sassoon. 17th April 1933 Marthe Bibesco says the man who played for us last night was Mr. Cole Porter. Philip might have made it clearer. 18th April 1933 How drab Wilton Place seems after Port Lympne. I found the men rather standoffish, especially Johnnie Gielgud. And Alex Hardinge didn’t smile, even when he was hunting for eggs. They say the King enjoys a joke, but I suppose servants only smile when given leave, and once a servant, always a servant. His wife was adorable though, and so was Clemmie Churchill, and I liked Philip’s cousin once I grew accustomed to her swarthy appearance. She has very good emeralds and superb pearls, but without them, one could quite imagine her selling fish from a barrow in Lombard Street. I couldn’t warm to Marthe Bibesco. She’s one of those predatory types who fastens on to the most important man in the room and allows no one else to get a word in. But an exquisite weekend. Rrrravishing, as dear Philip would say. I wonder why he never married. It may be Cousin Hannah and Sister Syb have stood guard over him too fiercely. Well, they don’t deter me. 19th April 1933 Wally and Ernest are back from Fort Belvedere with the Prince’s blessing to make him a dinner on May 2nd. We start work tomorrow. Lunch with George Lightfoot. He says Marthe Bibesco is a grande horizontale. Something else to look into at the Lending Library. 20th April 1933 Wally says a grande horizontale is a ceiling expert. For his dinner, the Prince has requested a list of lively, interesting people, with a good sprinkling of Americans. She’s told him she can accommodate fourteen, which is stretching Bryanston Court to its absolute limit. Pips and Freddie are already on the master plan, whereas I am scribbled in a margin along with the Judson Erlangers, the substitutes’ bench. She said, “It’s not that I don’t want you there, Maybell. And you probably will be there. I just have to weight every place very carefully. Pips and Freddie are a good combination. She’s sparky, he’s political.” I said, “Well, don’t think I’m going to keep the date open indefinitely.” She said, “Go ahead. Fill it up if you must, but if His Royal Highness summons you to dinner, you’ll have to drop everything. One doesn’t turn down Royalties. I’d have thought you’d know that.” Of course, if she’d only transfer the dinner to my dining room, there’d be seats for twenty. 21st April 1933 Lunched with Pips. Told her she and Freddie are on Wally’s A list. She said, “Only because she owes me, I’m sure.” Not just the loan of a ruby choker, apparently. There have been opera pearls. And a crocodile bag. 25th April 1933 Flora’s first day at Miss Hildred’s. Lightfoot had drinks with Melhuish this evening and says there were no reports of mayhem. 26th April 1933 Wally called me to tell me her plans: only three courses, and no wines, because she’s going to serve curried chicken. There’ll just be gin fizzes and then cold beer with dinner. I said, “It’s of no interest to me. I’ve made arrangements to go to an operetta in aid of Navy Widows.” She said, “Then you’d better unmake them. I’ve just finished the placement, and I’ve put you between Prince George and Prince Louis Ferdinand.” I knew she wouldn’t be able to manage without me! And Prince George! Naughty, rebellious Prince George. We’re sure to get along. Prince Louis Ferdinand is a German, but Wally says he speaks perfect English. His mother is Crown Princess Cecilie, a regular at Lily Drax-Pfaffenhof’s house parties. Wally says it’s quite on the cards that Mr. Hitler will restore the monarchy, and then Louis Ferdinand may reign some day. I’m undecided between my magenta crepe and my copper silk. 28th April 1933 To Carlton Gardens for drinks. Chatted with dear Leo von Hoesch, told him I was dining with a future Kaiser on Tuesday. He said, “How astonishing. We don’t have Kaisers anymore.” I said, “But surely the National Socialists say they’ll bring them back?” “Yes,” he said, “they do say that, don’t they.” I fear Ambassador von Hoesch is losing touch with things. Violet says Wally mustn’t feel too let down if the Princes don’t appear. She says neither of them is known for their punctuality or reliability. Sour grapes, I’m sure. Flora has apparently gone to school like a lamb every morning. 29th April 1933 Wally’s guest list is finalized. No room for Judson and Hattie, because His Royal Highness wanted Thelma’s friends, the Bernie Cavetts, and he’s keen to meet Boss and Ethel Croker. Pips says she’d happily give up her seat. She thinks the idea of Ernest bowing and scraping all evening is excruciating. I said, “Don’t you want to know the Princes?” She said, “Not particularly. They’re not like real people. And anyway, I’ll bet Wally’s going to seat me way down the table. I hope so. I’ll probably get the truck man.” Bernie Cavett made his fortune in road freight, apparently. 30th April 1933 To Bryanston Court, to help with the finishing touches. The menu is decided: avocado ice cream, curried chicken, apple fritters. Ernest has cold sores. He’s anxious about Wally’s idea of serving beer and keeps bringing out bottles of his cherished claret to try and persuade her, but, as she says, the Prince of Wales has access to the finest cellars in the world and anyway, he’s no great wine drinker. He’ll much prefer the novelty of beer. One thing Ernest doesn’t need to worry about this time is the expense. Funny how an overture of caviars was deemed necessary to reel in Thelma Furness, but the Prince of Wales is getting something more akin to a porch brunch. 3rd May 1933 Last evening I danced with two princes, three if you count an exile, which I think I do. More, anyway, than Nora Sedley Cordle will do if she lives to be a hundred, and I shall make sure she hears about it from Randolph Putnam. The two Princes are very different. Wales fidgets a lot and allows his gaze to wander when he’s in conversation. Prince George seems more assured, much more attentive as a dinner partner, and an excellent dancer. Freddie Crosbie had described him as “lavender-toned,” but he looked perfectly healthy to me. And Prince Louis Ferdinand is delightful. He’s been living in Michigan, helping out Mr. Ford at his automobile factory, and adores our American way of life, but he may soon have to give it all up, because his elder brother has chosen to marry a commoner, which places Louis next in line should the Germans bring back Royalties. His mother wants him to go home and find a suitable bride. Zita Cavett said, “Why go home? Why not choose a gorgeous American girl?” He said, “A wonderful idea, but your husband got there first.” They all pant after Zita. It’s her legs. Bernie Cavett found her in the chorus at the Chicago Majestic. A showgirl at a dinner for the Prince of Wales, and with seats at a premium! Hattie Erlanger would be furious if she knew. There was no withdrawing. Boss and Ernest lingered over their cigars. The rest of us rolled back the rugs and played Thelma’s latest hoochie-koochie records on my gramophone. It was the greatest fun. The Royalties didn’t leave till midnight and were effusive in their thanks. Ernest was quite pink with pleasure, but Wally was as composed as ever. All that dancing and not a hair out of place. The whole thing an undoubted success. I must hand it to her. Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/laurie-graham/gone-with-the-windsors/?lfrom=390579938) на ЛитРес. Безопасно оплатить книгу можно банковской картой Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, со счета мобильного телефона, с платежного терминала, в салоне МТС или Связной, через PayPal, WebMoney, Яндекс.Деньги, QIWI Кошелек, бонусными картами или другим удобным Вам способом.