I’m getting more information about Mr Bruce from my friend Mary (see the post below) but today I want to show you the 3rd of Bessie’s love letters to him.
If you’re new to this blog,and you’d like to find out what this is all about, it’ll probably help you to scroll down to the first post about the Mystery Challenge,in which I’m asking readers to help me find out more about the love letters from 1920’s China:
If you compare this handwriting to the previous two letters, you’ll see that it was written by a different woman, her friend, Margaret Hartle. I found this very moving when I read it first (once I’d realised that Margaret was writing to explain to Mr Bruce why he had not heard from Bessie, and that Margaret had included a transcript of a Bessie’s own message to him.
To make this clearer, in my transcript, I’ve used italics for Margaret’s own words, and bold print for Bessie’s.
Dear Mr Bruce,
I sent you a chit Monday afternoon asking you to come over because I have a message from Bessie. Since you didn’t respond, I gather you didn’t receive it. They all had the flu and Big Jimmy developed double pneumonia & pleurisy. He was critically ill. Bessie was ill at the same time. You can imagine what she went through. She says
“It has taken me a long time to get over the flu, but I tell you that the flu was the least of it.
And now I must go back and tell you why you haven’t heard from me before this. I wrote you a letter on the boat telling you how Jimmy suspected that I had something in that box that I didn’t want him to see and full of things about Bruce. Jimmy opened the letter and read it and there was a scene. He was going to leave me at Shanghai & go back to Canton & commit murder, I reckon.
I was paralysed and I think the scene was enough to make me realise that after all, my children come first and I can’t do anything that will make their lives the least bit more difficult than any life must of necessity be. Well I am thinking of no one but them & Jimmy now, & this is easier here than it was in Canton. Jimmy wants me to send Bruce’s picture back, and to ask him for mine.
You can tell Bruce that I will never forget that I know every word of his letter (which I am burning) by heart, and that I really don’t need his picture anyway. It is no plainer than the one I carry in my heart. He must know that I am happy, far happier than I was in Canton and than I have any right to be,
but I know perfectly well that it is not the same kind of happiness that I might have had if he had come in to my life before it was too late.
If you ever have a chance you may tell him this, but I am not going to write to him myself. I told Jimmy that I loved Bruce, but that I love him (Jimmy) more than anything in the world. Perhaps it’s true, perhaps not. I can’t really say. I had so little chance to find out how much I really did love Bruce. But I think I know. Please always give me what news of him you can in a casual way.”
She wrote me another letter which obviously was censored. So I enclose
your picture, and if you will send me the one of her you have I will send it on.
How are you? You looked very pale in Canton. Send me any news of yourself you would like passed on.
I am very happy and well. Wuchow is a pleasant spot although not a metropolis!
September 23 1920
I would love to find out more about Bessie, though without a surname for her, I think that’s very unlikely, but somebody might be able to shed some light on Margaret Hartle, Bessie’s loyal friend.
Please send this link to anyone who might be interested in reading this, even if you think they won’t be able to help in my Mystery Challenge - 6 Degrees of Separation. (A FREE Copy of Paper Lanterns to anyone who can find fresh information)