Saturday, July 08, 2006

Dorothy Meets Bea's Ship

I hear a faint voice and go investigate.

“Is that the doctor?” Bea asks. “Are you a doctor?”

Her eyes focus as I come up beside her bed.

“Oh, Sandy dear, how nice to see you! I love to see your sweet face.”

“Do you need a doctor? Does something hurt?”

“My throat feels all gummy.”

No wonder! Bea has had nothing to drink for 24 hours. I quickly administer a glass of water, which she gulps down. On my way to fetch breakfast, I discover my cousin has joined this journey into Bea's past: Nan has emailed an entry from her mother's diary. Dorothy Chinnock was only 14 in 1928, too young to go to Europe with her sisters, and very envious of their opportunity, a plum she would be denied by the stock market crash ...

“September 18, 1928. We – Grandma White, Daddy, Hunter, Bobby, and myself – had breakfast, got in the car, ordered flowers & started for N.Y.C. The boat had docked when we got there, so we missed a lot of the fun. I discovered them first, all dressed up in chic, close-fitting Parisian felt hats & reeking of cigarette smoke and lipstick. They looked darling though. I met a Mr. Ford, who is quite a something in Washington D.C., & I saw some darling looking boys with their tutors, who stayed all summer in a castle. I met the Biddle Boy, quite it in New York & Newport Society. We watched them inspecting the baggage and then went out. We all got in the car but Bee had to do some shopping for college & so I wanted to go, too. Murdo put us on the subway and we went to Macy's & shopped until 1:30 P.M. Then Bee got an idea to ask a girl 14 years old, whom she had met on the boat, to have luncheon with us so I could meet her. Her name is Josephine Pringle Smith of Charleston & she was staying in New York City a few days before she left to go directly to Baltimore and St. Timothy's, an exclusive Episcopalian girls finishing & preparing school. Well, we rode by taxi to her hotel & I met her. She had on a black felt hat with a satin ribbon & silver buckle, a flannel coat, and a pleated French georgette dress with a lace collar and tan gloves and an envelope pocketbook, tucked under her arm. We had luncheon in Alice Foote MacDougall Florentine Place, which needless to say was darling. Balconies, shutters, pottery, Italian-dressed waitress. It was all lovely.”

Dorothy’s diary entry clearly demonstrates Bea’s solicitude for her little sister and a propensity for matchmaking, a habit, which would continue throughout her life.

From Bea’s room comes that faint voice again, calling me. I hurry in to tell her about the email.

“Would you like to hear what Dotty wrote?” I ask, aware that an entry from a secret diary is always tantalizing.

“I’d love to,” Bea responds.

“Do you remember?” I ask hopefully afterwards.


“Who was Murdo?”

Bea hesitates and then says softly, “A nice Englishman. That was a long time ago …”


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