WEEK 127: I’M DEAD WITH SLEEP & FEEL LIKE AN OWL
Monday 27 November to Sunday 3 December 1916
Having become secretary of the Lord Roberts Memorial Fund, which supported the training and rehabilitation of wounded soldiers, Mrs Armstrong became heavily involved in the organization of a fundraising matinee at the end of November. Her daughters Jess and Ione also assisted, spending many days distributing notices of the matinee around Folkestone and collecting donations on trays on the day of the event. The matinee took place on 1 December at the Pleasure Gardens Theatre and the programme included a one-act play, Rouget de L’Isle, starring the popular Chilean-born stage actress Miss N. de Silva. In the meantime in France, Pat Armstrong felt increasingly trapped and became more and more frantic in his efforts to extricate himself from a hasty engagement.
Monday 27 November
Zooie & I went down the town, to do some shopping, & look for a dressing gown for Muz. Then I went to the Dew Drop1 , & wore a cap for the first time. Muz & Zooie came down & had tea, & waited to bring me back. We brought Miss Tidswell back too. Then gave out things etc2. Tom still in bed, but better. After dinner we counted envelopes etc, for the Lord Roberts Memorial.
Tuesday 28 November
Muz had her meeting at 11, for the committee for the Lord Roberts Memorial, Mrs Boddam-Whetham, Miss Steele, Mrs Gardiner, Mrs & Col. Thurburn, & Mrs Rees & Mrs Cleghorn came. I didn’t go in, I gave out things etc, & sat with Tom. They stayed on till late. After lunch Zooie & I went down to shop, & went to Nelson’s to get a cake, but the funny old man was away. Tom still in bed, but much better. After tea Muz & Ione went down to the theatre to see Mrs Martin Harvey about speaking at the matinee on Friday. I wrote letters & gave out things etc.
Wednesday 29 November
Tom still in bed. Muz, Zooie & Ione went in the car to leave notices about the matinee on Friday & I walked, & left a lot in Clifton Gardens & Westbourne Gardens etc, & gave them to soldiers, & people in the street. After lunch we went down to Sandgate in the car & left notices etc, then Zooie took us all to tea at the Dew Drop. Then talked after dinner, & went to bed at about 10-30.
Thursday 30 November
Tom still in bed. We all went off in the car, & then ran round leaving notices of the matinee in the houses, & booking seats etc. Then at about 12-30, we went down & stood outside the P.O. & gave notices to people as they passed. Then after lunch I went round with more notices & didn’t come in till late. Muz went to tea with Mrs Battiscombe, Zooie to the Parsons, & Ione to Hythe with Mrs Hemming, & didn’t get back till late. Muz & Zooie both went off this afternoon, so we had to do everything, get dinner etc. Heppie went off to look for servants late. We did the washing up etc, & went to bed at about 11-30. Zooie took us to the play, “David Garrick” 3, it was very funny. Martin Harvey & N. de Silva acting.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
My dear wee Mus.
I haven’t had a moment to write for the last couple of days. Times is (sic) strenuous. I have just written the enclosed to Irene. I feel rather a hypocrite in a way as I know that at present I don’t really love her. I like her as a friend but that is all. But I suppose I can’t very well break it off till I see her & even then it will be difficult. It’s no good going on now that I realise it isn’t the real thing. It would not mean happiness for either of us. I don’t think I will ever fall in love with anybody. I’m too callous. Thank you so much for writing that letter wee Mus, it is just grand. I’m dead with sleep & feel like an owl. It’s 1 am & time for bed. I was up till after 1 o’c this morning & out by 7.30 & was up in the line till 3.30. Since then I’ve been in the office except for a short break for dinner. I feel stupid & not in good form for letter writing. There seems a pretty good chance of my getting home for Xmas. The Gen will probably go for 10 days about the 11th of next month & then I ought to get away when he comes back. It will be rather a difficult leave I fear. However sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Your letter is difficult to answer as it makes me feel I can’t explain anything further as I wrote exactly as I thought in my letter to you and could only repeat myself again were I to write more. I love you darling as I told you & feel sure you would not, as you wrote have said yes if you did not mean it. At the same time I want to wait and see more of one another and am positive it is best. I love you saying “rightly or wrongly I believe I do know you well enough to give you my answer”, it looks like great happiness before us. But I know that I shouldn’t have asked you till we’d know each other longer.
My old hand is going on slowly but is still all bandaged and is rather a nuisance to me. It’s so weary I can write no more.
Yours ever Pat.
Friday 1 December
The Matinee. Muz called us all, & then I got breakfast etc, & did the washing up. Went off in the car again, & left more notices, & then stood outside the P.O. again, & then came back here for lunch & changed & went down the town at two, & met all the girls there. Miss Steele, Miss Callaghan, Miss Crooks, Miss Goff, Miss Thurburn & Miss MacGregor & Ione & I, & we collected on trays after Mrs Martin Harvey spoke. They are giving us this special matinee for the workshops. It was a variety entertainment first, & then she spoke, & then they had “Rouget de Lisle”. The theatre was quite full, & they said we had got £75 but afterwards said it was upwards of £100. Miss Allen & Mrs Cleghorn came for tea, Heppie had it in when we got back. Then got dinner etc, & did the washing up etc afterwards. Went to bed at about 11.
My dear we Mus.
I got a long letter from you to-day of the 27th. The old hand is going on grand. I ought to have the bandage off in a day or two now. So glad wee Tom is better. Horrid complaint that. I hope the others won’t get it too. You seem to be doing great work with your fund, but don’t go and overdo it will you wee Mus. Thank you so much for the Parishe syrup4 & pills. Dear wee Mus it was nice of you to send them but I’m afraid I’ve been too lazy to take them yet. That was an awfully nice letter of Alice Baird’s about the girl. I do wish I knew her better, she is an awfully nice little girl & I’m awfully fond of her but not in love with her. I’m rather worried about it in a way as I feel I have made her unhappy. I haven’t heard from her for over 10 days now. Not since that letter I sent you in reply to mine. I feel rather a brute in many ways as it’s hard on her but I’m sure it’s all for the best. It’s after 12 o’c so I must off to bed. I’ll try & write a decent letter to-morrow. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Letter from Nina Williams, The Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells, to Pat Armstrong
Dear Capt Armstrong
I had intended writing to thank you long ago for your nice letter telling me about my husband – Please forgive my neglect. The fact is I have been very ill, but I have not let him know. I was so afraid he would not take leave if he knew. It is such a blessing to feel he will be coming soon, tho I fear a great disappoint! (sic) to him not to find me fit. We are having very foggy beastly weather, which I hope will change before the 11th. Your mother wrote me such nice letters, but I am not able to write much. Excuse more, & the best of luck. Don’t let my husband know I’m not well.
Yours sincerely Nina Williams.
Saturday 2 December
I called them all, & then got breakfast etc, & did the washing up. After lunch Zooie went down the town, & Muz & I went to visit York House5 & Manor Court6. Then Muz, Zooie & Ione & I went down to the club, & Ione came away early. Mrs B-W. brought Mrs Massey with her. We weren’t very busy.
My dear wee Mus.
I got your letter of the 29th to-day. You seem to be awfully busy with your work, but don’t work too hard will you. What has happened about the servants? What an awful nuisance they have gone. That letter arrived quite safely without a stamp, try some more. My old hand is getting on well but of course it’s slow. It will take sometime before it’s right I’d be afraid. The General got a bit of a shell on the knee to-day & is a bit lame. It bled a good bit but he seems quite happy about it. He hopes to go on leave on the 11th for about 10 days so I’m hoping to get away about the 22nd when he comes back. What fun it will be. I suppose I will have to go and meet some of Irene’s relations. As a matter of fact it will be rather difficult. The more I think of it the more I wish I had never spoken. I hate this uncertain feeling & I feel now that when I meet her again I will have to make up my mind quickly one way or the other. The thing that really does worry me is that I’m now making her unhappy. I’m afraid she is awfully worried about it. I haven’t heard from her now for over a fortnight. The last letter I got from her was before I went away with my hand. The one I sent to you. I feel that she is too worried about it to write ordinary letters. It is rather hard on her & she must think it very odd, but I feel sure it is for the best. I really don’t know her well enough. The fact of her not wanting to go and stay with you shows this. I felt so certain she’d go & stay with you & it’s now nearly two months ago since I came back! It would be different if she was busy but she’s doing sweet damn all in London.
I’ve had a longish day to-day walking about and am going out again early to-morrow so must be off to bed. It’s pouring hard here & has been awfully cold all day. I’m awfully glad that I left Melody & Geisha back in a comfortable stable. They’d be useless to me up here & would have to stand out in all the cold. Now they are awfully comfy back there. I’m longing to see Wiper’s puppies they ought to have had their eyes open yesterday. They will be awfully nice in about 10 days more. I’ve kept three dogs & am going to give one to Percy. I don’t think I’ll keep any myself. I’m going to give Percy the pick. Well dear wee Mus I must go off to bed.
Your loving Pat.
P.S. Will you send me three more pots of Propert’s boot cream for my boots. Will you send me my best uniform coat. It has X.R.H buttons on it & is in the drawer in my room. Also the pair of breeches made by Tautz7 which I sent to Hope Bros8 as a pattern. All my clothes are getting very shabby. Will you send them off as soon as possible.
Sunday 3 December
Zooie went to church in Sandgate, & Muz wrote letters. I had a horrid tummy ache. Muz, Zooie, Ione & Maurice went to the club. Tom still in her room. Later I went down & helped Heppie with the washing up etc, Heppie had a bath for them when they came back. I was up when they came back, & we went to bed at about twelve.
My dear wee Mus.
I have just got the enclosed from Mrs Curtis & have written out a draft letter for you to see. Tell me what you think of it & send it back by express post as there must be no delay but it is very important that you should see it. I hope you think my answer will do. It is a very difficult situation. I don’t know the girl well enough to be really certain. She is a dear little girl & I hate making her miserable as I evidently have done. But I made one mistake by rushing things & now don’t want to make another. This is a very difficult letter to answer. It has taken me a long time to work it out & I hope you think it is alright. I must go to bed as it’s after 10 o’c. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Attached to the above communication is the following draft to Mrs Curtis in Mrs Armstrong’s hand
“Dear Mrs C.
You have altogether misunderstood my letter had I wished to back out of it I should have been man enough to write & tell you so, & Irene too. But I have no wish whatsoever to back out of it. I wish for exactly what I felt I want to begin as friends as I think it is best. You are perfectly right in what you say that I had rushed things but there is no thought on my mind of “backing out”. I want us to know one another better without the tie of an engagement. Irene doesn’t know me now & I want to feel sure she does otherwise I couldn’t make her happy & I suppose I don’t know her but love her. I am devoted to the child as I told you but blame myself very much for having spoken so soon & I am doing the straightest thing now & what I believe firmly is best for our future happiness. You think I was slow in answering Irene’s letter but I was staying in a town about 35 miles from here having my hand looked after & had no direct communication with the Brigade so all my letters had to be forwarded on to me & took several days to reach me. (If you’ve got her letter & the wire I sent you about coming here.) — I got a very short wee letter from Irene explaining away something that disappointed & worried me but I am afraid at the same time it makes big complications as to our meeting & getting to know one another however it must be left entirely in your hands & I am sure you will do all you can for us. Please understand & make things as easy as you can for us.
- The Dew Drop Inn at Bouverie Road West, which had been established by four Folkestone-based Canadian women. The proceeds of the tearoom were devoted to charities ⇑
- The Armstrong family were contributing to the war effort by providing food to soldiers residing in Folkestone ⇑
- A comic play written by Thomas William Robertson about the celebrated 18th-century actor and theatre manager David Garrick. It premiered in 1864 and enjoyed considerable commercial success well into the 20th century ⇑
- He means Parrish’s Syrup, a compound syrup of ferrous phosphate taken to strengthen the blood because of its high iron content ⇑
- York House in Folkestone was a nursing home which had been turned into a hospital at the start of the First World War ⇑
- Manor Court in Folkestone was a nursing home which had been turned into a hospital at the start of the First World War ⇑
- E. Tautz &Sons, Breeches Makers and Tailors at 485 Oxford Street, London ⇑
- Hope Brothers Ltd., Complete Outfitters at 126 Southwark Street, London⇑