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Elisina Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, May 11, 1936

Sainte-Claire le Château

Hyères (Var)

May 11th 1936

Dearest Mildred,

Yours of the 29th of April, written from the RexHotel Rex, Naples. reached me here yesterday. No doubt it has been lying at 21 Quai Bourbon, having just missed the weekly visit of the person who is given the task of forwarding our mails.

Dearest Mildred, I wrote to you to the Excelsior in Rome from the Hotel Astor, Viareggio, to reach you on April 23rd, according to Royall’s indications. Alas, this is not the first letter addressed to an Anglo-Saxon, which has gone astray in Italy. But I am very deeply grieved that it should not have reached you. I do not think I registered it. But even such precautions have failed in other instances.

As for the letters sent to England, it was really a matter of luck if any reached their destination, and the delays were an understood thing. How hateful in my eyes is the return to these barbarous ways!

You were such dear angels, both of you, to think for an hour of the possibility of going back to Paris to see our Bill. He and Betsy arrived on the 25th, by the Lafayette. I found Bill thin, very waxy-pale, but with clear eyes and not too weary. His voice was a little heavy, and he had a tendency to catarrh if he spoke too long. We went at once to see the “Second” of our great men at the Taverny Sanatorium,The Taverny Sanatorium (Hôpital le Parc de Taverny) was the result of Edith Wharton’s Oeuvre des maisons de convalescence franco-américaines, which created hospitals for tubuculosis patients beginning in 1916. The Taverny Sanatorium was established with seventy-five beds in 1921. as the precious Dr. Smolizanski,Dr. Léon Smolizanski (1882–1944), author of L'albumine dans les crachats des tuberculeux (Paris: Jouve, 1911). the Head, was away on a holiday until May 19th. Dr. Monoret, his “Second” has been his aide for 15 years, and is an excellent man, of the quiet, careful variety. He found Bill in good condition generally, considering what he had been through. He prophesied steady recovery if every care was taken to observe the rules. The only serious point was the infection, (3 to the champ microscopiqueThree basilii in the microscopic field.)—but as it was 6 to the champ microscopique three weeks before, the progress made in the interval gave hope of further improvement.

I had never doubted that Bill would be in my care, or at least under my direct observation. In 1929, Dr. Smolizanski said plainly to Bill and to me that had he been anyone else’s son, he would have sent him at once to a Swiss Sanatorium, but as he knew that I knew all that had to be known in the care of cases such as his, and I had as much experience as any nurse, Bill could be quite safely entrusted to me, and so we accomplished our ‘cure’ together at Antigny. But this time, alas, I found that Betsy had decided to take charge, and Bill must have made her some promise to that effect. No doubt, she had no idea that the care Bill needed was more than just being made to take a rest when he felt tired; and also, no doubt, Bill’s recollection of the last convalescence made him confident that he could follow unaided the same rules.

I hope you agree that I did right in suppressing my own violent longing to be with them, and in silencing my fears of the risks involved; and in order not to add a shade of fretfulness to the picture, I wrote out carefully all the directions I could think of, and let them go alone. The experiment seems to have been justified, since I hear to-day from Royall, who arrived in Viareggio last night, that Bill has gained a kilo since his arrival there on May 1st, and looks well (“a bonne mine.”“Looks good.”)

I took Betsy to my heart as my own daughter, and I am very very fond of her, and, I think, she of me. I reflected that it would be putting an unjust construction on the occurrence if I had taken a personal objection to their wish to be alone at the moment. I am deeply thankful, as you can well understand, that my courageous resolve seems to have been justified on other grounds than those I have mentioned. I confess that there have been moments, when in the quiet seclusion of my own room I cursed with all my heart that recurrent British tendency to “muddle through.” All this of course is between you, Robert and me—With my heart in my mouth, I shall be until every trace of the infection is gone, and Bill is restored to his normal balance and good health. I am going to join them for two or three days on the 20th.

Royall came here from Geneva on the 8th. He was very tired indeed, and jaded, as the circumstances in Europe at present are not conducive to good spirits. Dear Edith’s kindness and affection and the charming atmosphere of Sainte-Claire did him a great deal of good. He left yesterday for Viareggio, and his telegram, which has just come, gives me the good news I have just repeated to you.

I am having Antigny opened on June 1st and we shall be there as soon as the house is ready. The altitude, the silence, the surroundings he loves best, his own rooms, and books, will all help, I hope, to hasten his recovery. I will write to you and give you news, dearest Mildred and Robert.

This break is a very sad thing, because Bill liked his work,—as such,—and was very good at it. He wrote Reports on the situation in America, and in the world as seen from America, to his Father, from time to time, and Royall, judging the work dispassionately, said it was very good work. The problem of a career becomes a very difficult matter, once New York is ruled out. And after what has occurred,—and after weighing the real significance of the circumstances in which his break-down occurred, we both feel it would be criminal folly to expose him again to such tests.

We won’t borrow trouble now, but wait until Bill’s health is what it was, and should always be, and examine the position then.

It has been the most wonderfully healing thing for us all three—indeed all four—to find such wonderful affection, sympathy and solicitude in our dearest friends. The angel, Elizabeth Lindsay,Elizabeth Sherman Hoyt Lindsay, wife of Sir Ronald Charles Lindsay (1877–1945), the British ambassador to the United States between 1930 and 1939. did what you would have done, dearest Mildred, had you been in America,—and what more can I say? I feel it will be a comfort to you to know it, because I know how true it is that Bill is very close to your heart, as your own dear hand tells me in your letter.

There was a proposal from Edith to motor with me to Viareggio, but she does not yet feel quite up to such a protracted “giro”“Tour.” and I feel she is wise in renouncing it. We shall be together for two days at “Johnnie” Johnstone’s,Possibly Harcourt Vanden-Bempde-Johnstone (1895–1945), the son of Sir Alan Vanden-Bempde-Johnstone. and then I take the swiftest train for Viareggio.

My very best love to you both—need I say how deeply I feel it?

Yours ever lovingly


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