|Agnes Shakespeare (Nesta), Alberta to "My darling Lou Lou."
|Irish Emigration Database
|D3590/M/4/1-16: Deposited by Godfrey Higginson Skrine Esq.
|The Public Record Office, Northern Ireland
|Document added by LT, 21:09:99.
|High River, Alberta. July 13th, 1897
My darling Lou Lou
I got your splendid letter last Thursday, and I
was so glad you wrote to me, for I wanted to know what
you were thinking about it too. You can't imagine how I
long to be talking it over at home in the old way, hearing
all the remarks, and having a say - probably wrong - as to
exactly the way it happened, and waiting for our hero's own
letter to settle the contested prints, which of course will
be read aloud with "Now - what did I tell you?" breaking in
at different disputed points. When did we ever have such
a subject for pride and discussion before? Though goodness
knows we have been proud of all our boys over and over again.
But to think of Archie, at his age, on his very first
experience of active service, being actually left in command
of that little force, without an instant's warning, simply
the awful shock of the sudden firing, his own wound, and the
other poor officers killed beside him; and then of course,
without a moment's preparation there he was - in command,
responsible for the lives of all the men round him, as
well as for the honour of the British arms - and in a
position of the most awful difficulty. I tell you, when
I think of it, how that poor darling boy, wounded as he was,
kept his head, and with such bravery and coolness brought
the whole force back to [Dulla Khel?], I simply feel
my own head whirl thinking of the horror and the difficulties
and the terrible dangers he faced and overcame. Most
of all I admire the way they stopped and shelled Shiranni,
routing the enemy there, in the very middle of their
retreat. Talk of moral [-eet!?] Nothing could have shown
what they were made of better than that. You will perceive
that without waiting to be assured of it, I have made
up my mind that Archie was actually in command, though
at first I tried to be prepared to hear he was unable
or unconscious on account of his wounds; as I told May we
had better not make up our minds too finally about his proud
position, for we might be disappointed. However, as I
see none of you at home have the very least doubt of his
having been in command, I determined not to have the least
doubt myself. And no matter how it turns out, we can't
be disappointed, his precious life and safety having been
granted to us, how could we ask for more? It was on the
Saturday before last that I got May's letter and the 'Weekly
Times', which were the first assurance I had of his safety;
after a most awful week of suspense, and the next day -
Sunday - reading the psalms for the day, I came to -
"Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; for thou art with us...." It is
extraordinary how living such words become, at such a time.
That was the first thing we ever learnt out of the Bible.
Mother taught it to the three of us at New Abbey. I wonder
if you remembered at home, any of you, when that wire came,
"The Commander-in-Chief regrets to say that Liet. Higginson
is reported severely wounded -" did you remember how Archie
started out from Rockport, a tiny little fat boy with
golden curls, to join the Commander-in-Chief, "Sir Garnsy
Woolsy", as he called him, and be a soldier. Never shall
I forget him that day, with a penny he had to pay the mail
car to Larne, and a piece of bread for his dinner on the way,
and a rose of the tree in his garden. I remember we went with
him to say good-bye to dear Father who was sitting in his
"office", and Father said very kindly, "well, take care of
yourself, my son!" on which Archie's upper lip got very
long, in that funny way he used to have, and he cried
a little. father nearly melted himself; but on went the
child as brave as ever. Isn't it a pity "Sir Garnsy
Woolsy" doesn't know that?
There is a great deal going on here and more
especially high excitement about the trial of two men
for cattle stealing - a business I would love to describe
to you; but it is all so complicated with the brands,
that I could never explain properly by letter. I am
rather afraid Walter will be required as a witness, but
he hopes not. If it come to a trial at Calgary, I will
certainly send you a paper about it. Everyone here
is so excited about it, that they can hardly even think
of their hay - barring Walter, who has a way of keeping
his great mind steadily fixed on his own business. But
he is excited too, all the same. Just imagine! If
Walter had not bought that land you all know of, we
should have had these two cattle thieves settled on
us, exactly outside our hay meadow bars. They had
set their affections on a spring just there, and applies
to the land office for it. If we had not owned the
land, we couldn't possibly have stood them off it, and
imagine what it would have been for this ranche to have those
boy-o's (as Johnnie used to say), at our very gates, literally!
The excitement began just when I was distracted about
Archie, and I have only begun to think of it, really.
This is my birthday, and I know you will all think of
me at home. I suppose the moss roses are out in the garden,
that you used to put in the front of my wreath long ago, and
roses all over the house. I have never thanked you for all
the Lisloughrey photos, but I think that one of Nessie and
Francis was splendid, and exactly like them both, though
just a little faint. Then the [b---table?] one was grand,
with dear Mother in it. It's so like the way she always
screws her head a little to one side whenever the fatal
camera is pointed at her. Francis wrote us an awfully
nice letter the other day; a very happy one too. I thought.
Now my dear, I have kept this for the last. I have got a maid
this moment in the house; not the great Eliza at all, who is
as unattainable as the Grand Llahma, but a young Swedish
girl, called Hannah Neumann, apparently very nice and
certainly very well trained, but she only arrived yesterday.
Her father and brother are both here, engaged for the haying
to Walter. I have often said I would never have a young girl
again, but "it's all on account of Eliza." We'll see.
Anyhow I know you'll all be glad.
Next time I write I hope to send ÷5 to pay the rent
for the McDonnell sisters, and another thing I'll explain.
Heaps of love at home, from us both.
Your loving sister