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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, September 1, 1940

1.IX.40 Geneva

I hope, dearest Mildred, that you’ve had an air-mail letter from Elisina, which I mailed here on my return from our meeting.

The talks I had with her and with ChevreuxCharles Chevreux (1883–1951), prefect of the Côte-d’Or between 1938 and 1940. gave me a clear picture of the situation as it is at present, and I can answer the various points in your letter of Aug.2. (1) It is impossible at present to get our books to the railroad. (2) I am in constant touch with our Embassy people at Vichy, by phone, and through them with those in Paris. Also with the heads of the Amer. Red X over here. There hasn’t been a Red X truck anywhere near Elisina yet, and there seems to be no prospect of one going that way. Even if the books could be got to the railroad, Elisina couldn’t take the cases with her in a compartment. The trains in France are few, and are jammed full. It is hard enough to take a little hand baggage, let alone the bulky cases our books would require. (3) Elisina may get a couple of suit-cases, with small objects, up to Paris and put them in the caves. But opinions of those best qualified to judge are divided as to the advisability of attempting this, from the point of view of security. (4) Impossible to get the cases of books to a port. (5) The house has so far been respected, because Elisina was there. If she were to leave, it is doubtful whether, in a variety of circumstances that might arise, a seal would protect it. (6) Conditions being as they are, Elisina wants to stay. She would leave if I ordered her to do so. She might leave if it became possible to move book and objects. She would leave if conditions became so bad, locally, that it would be silly to stay. Now, it seems just possible that there may be a (temporary) improvement in transportation conditions, such as might enable her to get the stuff moved. She is in touch with our Embassy people in Paris, and the Red X, and everyone who might help. I can’t order her out now—it would be a fearful wrench for her; she’d feel she was leaving a job only part done. She begs me to go over to your side myself, and not worry about her, if I think I ought to. But just at present, even apart from her, I don’t think I should do so. This situation might change any time, and I might even decide to go over there without her. I realise that I’m running the risk of not being able to go when I’d like to, but there it is. (7) In present circumstances, the Vichy Govt. can do practically nothing in occupied France. And I’m afraid that future developments are likely to make conditions in unoccupied France more like those in occupied France, rather than the reverse.

ChevreuxCharles Chevreux (1883–1951), prefect of the Côte-d’Or between 1938 and 1940. thinks he may be able to get me a permit to go to join Elisina, chez nous,“At our place.” for a bit. That would be a great blessing.

I can telephone to Vichy, and our chargé there phones daily to Paris, so I can get messages that far on the way to Elisina. But there is no telegraph in her region, and no telephone, except for the occupants, and the post functions very irregularly—the facteur“Postman.” turns up twice or thrice a week, at any old hour.

I’ve had, since I got back, news from Bill, who is wallowing in reposeful Bangor after his strenuous and anxious time these last months. Betsy too. They seem to have come through it all well. So does Elisina, happily. She hasn’t yet recovered from the break-down of May ‘38,Elisina Tyler had suffered “apolplexy,” probably a stroke, in May 1938. See also letters of June 28, 1938; July 2, 1938; July 10, 1938; July 13, 1938; and July 29, 1938. but I think she is getting back strength, even in present circumstances, little by little. The ChevreuxThe family of Charles Chevreux (1883–1951), prefect of the Côte-d’Or between 1938 and 1940. are a great stand-by for her. And now I get a letter from Diane de VogüéDiane Pastré, comtesse Charles de Vogüé (1888–1971), who lived at the Château de Commarin near Dijon. that she is going back to Commarin. That will also help. There are a few neighbors round about, and I expect more will return. The trouble, of course, is the difficulty of getting about. Elisina is buying a bicycle! But in the bad weather she won’t be able to use it much.

I’ve been looking about for a job for May Anbuhl [sic],May Amboul Herbert had been Mildred Barnes Bliss’s personal secretary in Paris. but haven’t found anything. Almost all the international institutions here (there were many of them, of one sort or another) have closed down or reduced to a minimum. The Geneva Red Cross only employs Swiss as salaried workers. With our-show, there’s very little left, and if there were need to take on someone, there are a number of former employees, living here in Geneva, who would have a prior claim. May Anbuhl [sic] is very courageous, and is chasing up any temporary work she can find. I’ll bear her in mind, and do my best for her—but I fear the chances are bad. I can quite understand that she should not want to take her girls back to France just now—and though living is much cheaper there, opportunities for employment are perhaps even harder to find.

As to our Bib. Sacra friend,Wolfgang Friedrich Volbach. Volbach and his wife immigrated to the Vatican City in 1934, and he worked in the Vatican library and as a professor at the Papal Institute for Christian Archaeology. he was told by the Rome consulate, on 19 June, to apply at Naples for a non-quota visa as a professor, the requisite invitations from over there having been received. Since 19 June, no more has been seen of him at the Rome Consulate, where it is said that there can’t be any obstacle as far as visas are concerned. Mgr. HurleyJoseph Patrick Hurley (1894–1967), an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1934, he became the first American to serve as an official of the Vatican Secretariat of State. is in touch with him. I’m told there’s nothing more that needs to be done from over there.

The thought of the InstituteDumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. is like an oasis, dearest Mildred. My thoughts are constantly with you and Robert.

Fondest love to you both.

R. T.