On this day (a Tuesday) at Fort Brockhurst George received the following letter from Kittie’s lifelong friend Nina Astley, née Stewart, Nina Corbet by her first marriage:
The Cottage at the Crossways
May 2 1915
My dear George,
From my heart I thank you for your dear letter.
Yes it is splendid and I thank God every minute — it was instantaneous, so that he could not regret — even for a moment all he was leaving behind him.
For him — one can have no regrets — he is merely gone to a fuller life.
But for the poor girl who was to have married him — it’s terrible. At that age — it’s so hard to keep one’s faith in anything — when your whole world has crumbled to ashes — in one moment.
She is so plucky — so worthy of Jim — but every day her little face gets whiter and smaller.
Dear George — always you have had a very warm corner in my heart — But more than ever now I feel I may say Your friend
Forgive me if I address you wrong.
The letter is Nina’s reply to George’s of 18/19 April (see my posts of 15, 17 and 20 April) and had been forwarded by Kittie from Hampstead. Obviously he was not able to attend a service for Jim Corbet at Moreton Corbet (see my post of 30 April), but the latter may explain why Nina had not responded to him before 2 May.
It was almost certainly the last letter Nina wrote him. She had been through so much herself, and was fantastically knowledgeable about the human heart. She doubtless realised she might not see George again for a long time, if ever, hence the emotion of her last paragraph. Since courting Kittie in 1899, he had been deeply challenged by her intimate relationship with Nina, but had always been respectful of it and given them their space.
In fact Nina played a vital part in bringing George and Kittie together. Shortly after the death of Kittie’s first husband, Archie Ripley, on 23 October 1898, she wrote to him from Kittie’s home, 17 Golden Square, Piccadilly: ‘Dear Mr Calderon, I know Kittie wants to see you this morning. Come if you can. She does not know that I am asking you. I am Kittie’s friend, Nina Corbet.’ Although George had played a part in Archie’s care in his final illness, until Nina’s letter he had been careful not to thrust himself forward.
The reason Nina apologises in the above letter for addressing George wrongly is that on the envelope she has not given his military rank (lieutenant).
Next entry: Ruth Scurr’s exhilarating experiment