Enter W. Hugh Chance
Nana had been keeping an eye on me when I came to live in London, and she now arranged that I should meet Cedric Thomas’ elder brother Kenneth. So one day Kenneth invited me to join him and a friend for a drive out into Kent. The friend was called Hugh Chance, whose ancient Mercedes we were to drive in, while Kenneth and a girl he was courting, sat in the back. I had met Kenneth only once. I didn’t know either Hugh or Hazel. Hugh was taking us out to Mersea Island, where he had done some of his army training at the beginning of the war, and he wanted to see it again. It was quite a long drive, and not a particularly interesting one, as we had to go through the east and north east outskirts of London.
What did we find to talk about? Hugh told me about Chance’s Glass Works and what he did there. I tried to describe what I was working at. Particularly on the way home, this developed into quite a philosophical conversation. The other two were blissfully wrapped in their own affairs, and it was after this expedition that they announced their engagement.
At the beginning of December there was the “Three Arts Ball”, and Hugh invited me to go with him. I accepted the invitation at once. But what was I to wear? I had absolutely nothing suitable for such a big occasion, and no money to get a new dress. But Granny had given me a dress of hers – blue chiffon beautifully embroidered with beads. She was very large and I was very slim – so what to do? Mrs. Gadd came to my rescue, and between us we managed to cut the dress down to size, and it was a great success.
Kenneth Thomas’ parents had a large house in Kensington, and we met up there: Kenneth and Hazel, Hugh and me. All I remember is that it was a marvellous Ball and we all enjoyed ourselves enormously. We went back to Bolney House with the Thomases and then Hugh took me back to my place. I can’t remember the name of the road, only his promise to meet again soon.
We eurythmists were working hard for an important performance in a theatre at the end of term, and I had the temerity to invite Hugh to come to it, as I wanted him to see what I was doing. The performance went well and was much applauded, and Hugh took me home. I suppose we talked a bit about the performance, but Hugh then put his arms round me, and in a rather incoherent way suggested we should get married! And kissed me. We simply found ourselves engaged in the most informal way, this being only the third occasion on which we had met! For me, there was no question, no doubt; it was simply something that had to be.
The next day I had to tell all my wonderful friends at Gloucester Place what had happened, and that I would not now be coming back or going to Dornach. I also had to let Vaughan Williams know that I could not now be in his choir. I was giving up everything that had made life worth living for a future that was the fulfilment of all my dreams and aspirations. Something told me that this man needed me, among other things to help heal the severe damage of body and mind that he had suffered as a Prisoner of War (POW), and this was a clear directive of Karma. As I look back on these days now, I can still feel the strength of what my “inner self” was telling me, and no power on earth would have taken me away from Hugh. I was just totally convinced that my life must be devoted to him, and for all our differences and spells of unhappiness during our marriage, I shall always think of it as the right one. We had actually so much to give to each other and also to learn from each other.
Goodbyes & Hellos: Engagement and Marriage
The farewells at Gloucester Place all round were very heartfelt and moving, as this had been no ordinary year of work. I was far more than another eurythmy pupil there. George and Mary Kaufman, in particular, and Dorothy Osmond had given me riches of spiritual knowledge and teaching that would be like a capital investment to be with me for the rest of my life. Dear Mrs. Gadd, who had been such a good friend to me for these six months, was very happy for me and gave me the warmest of send-offs.
So back to Hauxley, knowing that I was not going to be staying there for very long. As soon as I got home I had to tell them that I was engaged to be married, to someone they had never heard of. As I had given no hint of any sort of attachment, the news hit like a bombshell. None of us had ever heard of the name Chance, though as we subsequently discovered, they were a large and very well-known family in Cumberland. Hugh was invited to come up and meet us all directly after Christmas. Fortunately he made a very good impression on mother, Dora and Grandma, and we soon got down to discussing a date for the wedding, and where it should be.
As my grandparents (Widdrington) had a long and very happy marriage, I wanted my wedding to be on the same day as theirs. So we fixed it for April 20th that year in spite of this being a Tuesday and possibly an awkward day of the week for guests. As Canon Mangin was a very old friend and also connected by marriage through his wife Rosa, he was asked to marry us in his Church of St. Michael and all Angels in Alnwick. My bridesmaids were to be Diana, Kathleen Risk, Norah Joicey, Ivy Price, Katherine Chance (Hugh’s sister) and another, whose parents were close friends of my mother’s. Norah Joicey’s parents had been very good to me, inviting me to dances. One memorable invitation was to stay with them up in Scotland for the Inverness gathering. The Ball, following the Games, was a truly magnificent affair, with pipers playing for the reels. And you can imagine the liveliness of a hall full of Scotsmen!
My dress and all the bridesmaids’ dresses were made at Miss Barber’s dressmaking establishment in Alnwick. My veil was the Brussels lace mother had worn at her wedding. My train was made from her wedding dress and dyed a very pale green and veiled and lined with chiffon ruche, it reached all round. Mother insisted on a certain design for my dress, which I disliked very much, but she wouldn’t let me have my own choice. The bridesmaids’ dresses were pale green, again not as I really wanted! The wide straw hats were trimmed with daffodils and their bouquets were also daffodils. My own bouquet was to be Madonna lilies. Mother was very generous over my trousseau, and all my large supply of underclothes was handmade at home. There were big questions over the invitations, as mother had not spoken to any of the Cresswell relations since her separation from my father – it was really they who would have nothing to do with someone whom they felt had treated my father so badly. However, the Barnets were invited and Aunt Susan, my father’s sister, who did come to the wedding.
Because of his commitments at the Glass Works, Hugh was only able to come up for one visit, but I went down with him to Bournemouth to visit his parents. His father, George, was very deaf, and one had to speak to him down an ear trumpet. I have a very distinct diction and a clear voice, so he could hear me very well, and we were able to have long conversations about the glass works and my family, but I could not talk with him about Steiner. George Chance was a small man, very different from his wife Kathleen, who was tall and rather broad. Their youngest son, Eustace, had been killed, aged 18, in September at the end of the war, and this was a blow Mrs. Chance could never get over. She very soon began to talk to me about it, and showed me the wooden battlefield cross removed from his grave to keep beside her bed. This woman of Low Church once said to me that “Nothing gives me greater pleasure than breaking the will of a child.” I just did my best to be kind and sympathetic, but I could not create a warm attachment to her. I wished that she could be grateful that two sons had been returned to her, the eldest, Roger, still being treated in hospital for the loss of one leg, below the knee, and the other Hugh, ill from lack of food and general privation from his POW experiences, and needing a great deal of loving care. I didn’t enjoy this visit very much because of the general atmosphere of gloom! But all the more, I was determined to do everything I could for Hugh.
Amongst their many cousins, there was one family in particular with whom the Chances were very friendly — the Bedfords. One of my mother-in-law’s many sisters had married a Canon Bedford, who at that time was rector of Sutton Coldfield. There were three daughters, Esme, Stella and Eleanor. Esme took charge of Hugh, realising the shocked state he was in and I always had a very warm feeling for Esme because of this. Hugh had been destined eventually to go to the Glass Works, but first he went to Cambridge to get the short course degree that was available for returned service men.
The great wedding day arrived. Grandma, who was staying at Hauxley for the special occasion, looked wonderful for her great age, nearly 90. She gave me a pair of pearl drop earrings to complete my outfit. She had had them for a very long time and they became one of my most treasured possessions. Mother was giving me away, and I gladly said farewell to a home that did not hold very many happy memories for me. It seemed a long drive to Alnwick, but it was a fine day. The Church had been most beautifully decorated with masses of daffodils brought over from Howick, and all arranged by my mother’s friends. I was so overcome emotionally by the service that I was quickly shedding tears through most of it! Diana said she was, too. However, all went well, with a full choir singing throughout. Photographs were taken at once outside the Vestry door, and as they took rather a long time, the congregation got a bit restive. Then off to the Assembly Rooms in Alnwick, where the musicians, who had played at so many of our dances, greeted us, and played throughout the reception. It was quite a big affair, and dancing began even before we went to change. And, we later learned, the party went on for quite a long time after we left the old Assembly Rooms.