Elisina Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, April 21, 1914
April 21st 1914Tuesday.
I was the donkey not to think of the unlikelihood of your being free any time this week.See letter of April 13, 1914, in which Elisina invites Mildred to tea with her cousin, Maria Federiga de Larderel Aloisi. As soon as my letter was gone I remembered: but having bothered you once with proposals, I hesitated to bother you again with a retraction, and when I did not hear, I pictured you soaring ever higher in the immeasurable distance of infinite scorn.
When you are less busy I shall ask you to be a darling and give me a little help in two ways—not for me personally, but for two people who have appealed to me. Nothing could be more widely different than the two appeals.
One comes from an old friend, a member of a very distinguished family. I am asked to find out particulars about a certain Miss Anna Antokolsky,Alexandra (also Alexandrine or Sacha) Antokolsky (or Antocolsky) Ricoy, the daughter of the sculptor Mark Matveyevich Antokolsky (1843–1902). She married Count Sforza, minister of foreign affairs in Italy. whose fatherMark Matveyevich Antokolsky (1843–1902), a Russian sculptor who studied at the Imperial Academy of Arts (1862–1868) in Saint Petersburg and who was known for the psychological complexity of his historical sculptures. is a sculptor, and lives 66 Avenue Henri Martin. This lady is said to have married a Mexican, named Ricoz (?)Ricoy. some seven or eight years ago, and to have obtained a divorce in France, and the annulment of her marriage at Rome. I am not told the reason why any available information will be gladly received, but as it is asked by some one in every way honourable and entirely to be trusted for discretion, I should most certainly conclude that there was some project of alliance in the air. I know no one at the Russian Embassy, and my cousin does not either. Could you make a quite unofficial and discreet little enquiry? In such cases—I don’t know if you have ever met one face to face before,—all foreigners are quite ready to give one assistance, as it is an every day occurrence. I am simply asked to say what people who know the lady think of her, if she has a fortune, and any other public piece of knowledge concerning her, always as near the truth as possible, which may help to establish a balance in the scales known as an “establishment.”See letter of May 5, 1914, in which Elisina notes that she had a "very severe account of [Miss Anna Antocolsky] from Countess Tonielli." See also letter of May 18, 1914.
The other appeal, dear Mildred, comes from a little Cornish body of 56, with a nose on one side, who is by profession a most diligent seamstress, and who is going blind from cataract on both eyes. Until last year she and her mother lived together in a two-roomed cottage with a casement window full of begonias. Last year the mother died,—an experiment in blessings—and Mrs. Henwood thinks that her grieving brought on the cataract. She wrote to me just before Easter, saying she had been to Truro twice, and they told her she must wait six months before they can operate. She is not afraid of the operation, in fact she welcomes it, she tried hard to make them operate her at once, but they wouldn’t, she said. All she can get is 2/6 a week from the parish; so she thought I wouldn’t mind her telling me of it, as I had always proved a friend to those in need in the three parishes of Grade, Ruan Minor and Ruan Major. (These three parishes I must add, playfully skirt Caerleon.)Caerleon Cottage, the country home of Elisina Tyler in western Cornwall at Ruan Minor, a small village on the Lizard peninsula. See letter of June 10, 1910.
I am going to pass the hat round to you and to my sister, dear Mildred; and you were so good in helping that miserable Mrs. Curtis last autumn,See letters of August 5, 1913; August 8, 1913; and August 14, 1913. that I fear you will think you have let yourself in for a series of nuisances. I’ll do my very best to keep them away from you; and if you wish to know why I come and bother you at all, it is because I think if you knew that little Cornish body you would like to help her,See letters of May 5, 1914; May 18, 1914; June 23, 1914; and November 8, 1914. and also, because try as I will, what with a quarterly pittance to Nana, a quarterly pittance to my old gardener,See letter of May 3, 1914, in which Elisina writes that this gardener, "one of the very best of Nature's gentlemen, a candid, upright, honourable soul," is dying. and Caerleon on my hands to a certain extent because I am giving it for half its real annual rent in order to have it empty for the children during the summer, I can’t possibly hope to meet this case alone.
As for me, dearest Mildred, your note was a great blessing. I have heard this morning that the case actually came on yesterday, but Grant was away and couldn’t be found, so it is postponed till to-morrow. If by any chance it can’t come on before Friday it will probably be postponed for weeks. I am sure of your thoughts, understanding, friendship and affection, you dear, rare, beautiful Mildred. I am sometimes afraid that I draw too freely and selfishly on your generous affection. But I cherish the hope that some day you will need me, as you said you would. Then I shall be very proud of myself.
Bless you, dear. Love to Robert. I wonder what his treasure is going to be? William, who is a treasure too, not a mysterious one but on the contrary very self-assertive, sends you his best love. Please excuse a little mess.
Bless you dear
Ever your devoted