Aunt Minnie & Arthur

Truly a noble self-denying woman, though hard in some ways, and who could wonder at it? It was good to think that with us she had no need to pinch and save; but could live in comfort and plenty. In the spring of 1904 Arthur fell very ill indeed with typhoid fever; and for many weeks he lay in a very critical condition. The Nurse we got for him had just come from a fatal case of the same nature: and she and Aunt Minnie gave up hope. Aunt Minnie wanted to pray in his room; but I was hard hearted and forbade it, instinctively knowing that it was cheering up he needed, and confidence rather than a solemn business of preparing to die. Doctor (afterwards, Sir James) Barr was called in from Liverpool by our good faithful old friend and Doctor, Dr Thomas Floyd. He came to see Arthur, and in a cheery voice he asked him what was troubling him. I was in the room at the time, and a thin feeble little voice replied from the bed:-

"I can't eat, Doctor, I've had nothing for days!"
"Nonsense man," cried Dr Barr with a cheery laugh, "Why, you could live for three weeks on your own fat"
"Could I, Doctor?" said Arthur, wonderingly,
and from that moment he began to get better and was soon convalescent.


On the return of the travellers, it was arranged that Frieda should go to Dresden and that May should accompany her. Frieda had now grown up a very beautiful and accomplished girl. Her dark hair, which, though fine and wavy in texture, grew, as it were, thick all round her head - very difficult to describe - and framed a very thoughtful, gentle, rather sad but remarkable countenance. Indeed, she had a striking resemblance, borne out by some portrait photographs at Hermitage, to the Rosetti girl, a type much favoured by the school of artists who called themselves the Pre-Raphaelites. This type was noted for its willowy figure, frizzy hair (sometimes gold or bronze) and somethat thin but poetic and romantic faces. I am not imagining all this, though I find it hard to convey my meaning. Frieda might have stepped out of one of Sir Philip Burne-Jones' pictures, a mediaeval Madonna, and in doing so become radiantly alive and much more beautiful.

She played the violin with a sympathetic understanding of its melodious quality. It was always a pleasure to listen to her. Her favourite piece then was Dvorak's 'Humouresque' which she often played to Father. She had a quaint and puckish humour, which often revealed itself in pen and ink sketches and little pictures. I have already told you she was an accomplished mimic.

And now she and Ruth MacIver went to Dresden, and May went with them, partly as chaperone, and also because May, too, wanted to study more music. They were there for several months, and had the advantage of the tuition of the celebrated pianist and Professor, Egon Petri. At Christmas time, Mother, Tram, Arthur and I went over to join them. We listened to Opera, we skated, we made an excursion to Saxon Switzerland, and had some experience of travelling in the stuffy overheated trains, of observing the arrogance of German Officers and other Officials, and, being Christmas time, of undergoing the long stodgy feasting so popular with that strange, aggressive, misbegotten race, who were destined over and over again to upset the peace of the world and injure us all in our lives and homes. A nation without a sense of humour, incapable of living peacefully, false and treacherous, whose only redeeming feature was their love of good music.

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