Aug 19th 1918
My dear Betty
My very best wishes for your twenty-first birthday. By writing now I shall probably be on the early side, but if I put it off I can foresee that I shall probably be late, as I shall be on a trek almost immediately, and am unlikely to have much opportunity of letter writing and none at all of posting.
I have this morning bought you a birthday present, and I am going to dispatch it immediately, and trust to luck that someday it will reach you. It is sure to be a hazardous journey, but there do exist methods of getting parcels away.
It is of course the obvious thing to send you, a Persian rug. I feel pretty sure you will like it. Unfortunately I am by no means a connoisseur in carpets; but if I were going to keep it I should not regret a penny of its cost even if it should be that the dealer got rather the better of me in the bargain. It was sold to me as being an old one, and I think probably that is correct. You will find on examining it that it has been repaired in one place, and the new work is not to be compared with the old, although it is most skilfully inserted. The rest of the rug shows not the slightest sign of wear at any point, which inclines me to think that the repair must have been made necessary by a burn or a cut. Very likely it has only been used on a wall and not on the floor, though probably it would stand 20 years hard wear without showing a sign of difference. You will also find that it wants cleaning, having got spots of grease on it; probably a good cleaning will bring out the rich colouring all the better.
It is a special type of carpet, with very close stitching, and a very smooth velvety surface. They call it by a special name which, gathered by ear only in the bazaar, resembles very closely the French word “cochon”. I will find out some time if I can what the name really is, and what it signifies exactly. As a type this kind are readily distinguishable from the common type of Persian rug.
It is a risk buying your present here and trusting to getting it home all right. But in the circumstances I thought you would like it better than a cheque with instructions of a more or less definite kind how to spend it: that was practically the only possible alternative.
When it will turn up I cannot say. It will be a piece of great good luck if it reaches you by Nov 20th. Do not be a bit surprised if it is weeks later. I hope you will see it by Christmas at any rate. I wish I could have been bringing it myself!
I have had two letters pretty recently from you, full of various sorts of interesting news, especially the later one. In the latest news I have had of you, from other people, you were just starting your inter. I shall probably have to wait some weeks yet before I hear how things went, but presumably you have known the best or the worst (the former, I hope) for some time.
I think you selected the music I got you to buy, both Mela’s and your own, quite skilfully. Mela fought shy of the more difficult of the two books you got her under stress of war conditions, but I hope in more leisured times of peace she will tackle them with success. The other she got along with straight away.
I think the war should give you time to practise the Tannhauser Overture thoroughly. If it is too prolonged I hope to get leave to come and hear it within the next year.
I know that real efforts are being made to improve conditions of English leave from here, in fact they have been improved quite a lot since last April. I think my qualifications must bring me in the running at some time or other.
I was glad you carried out my instructions and told me all about the subjects you were reading; it was very interesting really and gave me quite a good picture of that large section of your activities.
I hope you may get an opportunity to read in Father’s letter, which I recently posted, some account of my recent journey and my impressions of a country new to me and but rarely visited by Europeans. I don’t want to repeat it, having written similarly to Mela as well just before.
It has been a great change especially of scenery and climate. Every day at present is like a very fine cloudless English August day. To us it is cool, maximum 80° to 90°; residents speak of it as hot, but do not make much of the heat. This place has a very cold winter with much snow; but it is mostly a brisk, dry, exhilarating cold, with bright sun, so I am told.
I have travelled to a lot of unexpected places since I left home, and goodness knows where I shall stop. When we have won the war there will be shorter routes home than the one I have come by.
Your affectionate brother
Cyril E Sladden