Thursday, June 19, 2008

September 1918 -- Marie Forrest Harleston to EAH

Tantie's sister, Marie, wrote Uncle Teddy a letter in the fall of 1918 to let him know how his brother (her husband, Robert Harleston) was faring.

Robbie and Marie had gone "up in the pines" of Asheville, North Carolina, to ease the symptoms of tuberculosis, which they both had. The disease would kill Marie less than two years after she wrote this letter.

Tantie, referred to here as "Lease" (short for Elise), was staying with Robbie and Marie awhile. At some point during the visit, she took this picture of Marie and Gussie, who is referred to here as "Ras," possibly short for Rascal.

Asheville, N.C.
Sept. 7, 1918

Dear Mr. Teddy:
You surprised me quite a few weeks ago very agreeably. Hope that you will be able to say the same thing when you receive this.

I wonder what are you folks doing tonight. Would you be surprised to hear that we have had on coats all day also had to have a fire with the windows [shut] like winter time. Those who had to go out have come in with rosy cheeks. Together with rain I tell you it makes one feel very homesick.

Mr. Bob tried himself again today. He came down a hill then went back up bicycling. We raised so much fuss that he went off to the doctor. He told him to be careful of all strenuous exercise as it might cause a [hernia] -- but that he saw no signs caused from his actions today. If he can swim and ride a bicycle, walk the hills go whenever he wants to, I am of the opinion that he is well enough to come home and do something.

I saw where you asked Lease if he seems well one day and sick the next. Since we have been here he has had about three days, on which I might say he went back. Twice he had fever and once he lost half a pound. Since he lost the pound he has regained it along with a pound more. Now he is 138 ½. Looks fine, eats well, sleeps (over well). Not only me but the doctor remarks how steadily he came along.

Sometimes he coughs, the sound still makes me shudder. It is hollow and sounds very strange. Then I might say he is irratable at times. The least thing just throws him off. I asked him to have the doctor come see me I suppose he will come out in a few days. Will question [the doctor] then about Bob's coming home when I come on the fifteenth. Also about his coughing.

Its raining brickbats now. Lease has gone across the street to a farewell dance. I made the punch, but no dance for me; it's too cold, then I feel a bit tired so will retire instead.

Lease made three quarts of apple butter today, her jelly is cooking now. Her hands turned dark from the apples and when she was sealing the jars of course they were hot and her hands got burned a little. I wish you could have heard her. I was sewing today so she said she could cook the dinner. I waited nicely until she started to make the fire. Then I hollored to her to clean the stove. Believe me she fussed some. A little girl across the way says she is not coming over here any more because lady name Miss Lease hollors after you too much. Some old maid sister I have.

Ras is still terrible. She won’t ever go to bed unless she has her dirty doll baby. Even when she is eating it's right on the table. She goes all over the house running the window shades up. If the bathroom door is left open she goes in and turns the water on in the tub. I will be glad when I get her home every day I will send her in the office. ...

Every body says that I look good. I am ninety one pounds now. Would give any thing if I could reach one hundred. ...

Hope this won’t tire you too much. Remember us to all inquiring friends. Will write later just when to expect us.

Us Harlestons

Ten days had passed with no response from Teddy. In that era, mail was delivered twice and day, and people often wrote each other daily. Marie is hungry for news from Charleston, especially because she has sent Gussie back home to stay with her parents for a month.

Gussie had not contracted tuberculosis, despite the fact that both of her parents had the disease, and their doctor had advised Marie and Robbie not to have any more children because of the threat of infection. He also suggested they allow other relatives to care for Gussie.

Shortly before her second birthday, she would become the permanent ward of her Uncle Teddy, his brother Moultrie.

Asheville, N.C.
Sept. 17, 1918

My dear Mr. Teddy:
Can’t you spare a few moments and answer my letter. Or have you forgotten all about me. Suppose you are satisfied now that you have a house keeper. You don’t have to keep on speaking terms with this one as you don’t need her any more.

Say Mr. Teddy, Lease said you wanted to give Ras something but did not know just what, so I told her to tell you to give her a pair of shoes and two pairs of white socks. Mr. Mout wrote that he has bought her a pair, if his are white then you buy black or if he bought black then you buy white. Her birth day is next week so it can be a birth day present also.

How do you like her? Do you think is still as ugly as she used to be? Tell Capt. he sure can call her "Breeze" now. The back of her head just won’t behave.

I miss her very much. Mae and Bob actually make me ill playing that they are she. Robbie even goes so far as to roll all over the bed saying, "leave me lone, Daddy Bob" or some other little saying of hers.

The doctor came out to see me tonight. Says he sees no reason why Bob won’t get along alright at home, but he must be prudent. He considers him a very childish young man and not at all careful or particular as he should be. Says most folks in his stage are hard to manage, that they do not realize the seriousness of it until it is generally too late. I asked about when would he suggest leaving. He said around the first of the month, the fifteenth preferably. Says he does not advise me leaving him alone as he sees he is a person who requires attention.

It will be awfully hard to stay another month when my mind is all made up for home, but no one realizes more than I just what and how Bob has to be managed. I have to take him his breakfast, and beg him to eat his dinner, then some how I manage to get the milk and eggs down. Every day it’s the same thing.

Am awfully sorry to hear of Mama being sick, especially since Gus is there. It will be just one more to worry her. Sadie wrote that she looked awfully bad.

Tell Mout to go for Gus as often as he can so as to relieve the folks at home. As soon as she gets use to you all, you will find her a pretty good baby as long as she is left alone. Am awfully afraid that a month will have her some rotten.

Has she sung and played the piano for you yet? Please take her one of her dolls. She used to cry for this one she left here every night. It was too dirty then the arms were off. She had a fit one day because I did not have time to fix it.

Say Teddy, take that piece of brown goods in the bottom [drawer] in the front room, the piece Robbie gave me and have Erwin make it up at once for Bob. He says to make it just like this brown suit. Three pieces. You must try it on. His brown suit has two punches in the seat, is beginning to look shabby. The blue is about gone. He is very much in need of the suit so please have it done at once.

Please answer me at an early date. Tell me all about my daughter. ...


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