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© Rob McGibbon, 2013

20th February

Sir Maurice continues to treat Olive. Remarkably, she is recovering strongly and seems to be through the worst…


Back in Margate, The Hydro Hotel re-opens after six weeks of renovation work and the local newspaper publishes a glowing review of the extensive changes. A completely new level, adding 30 bedrooms, has been constructed on the roof. A new dining room has been built and an ultra modern heating system – with radiators throughout – has been installed. The entire hotel has been re-decorated, including murals in the main areas. New guests are welcomed to the hotel for the opening weekend.

21st February

An exhausted Sir Maurice Abbot-Anderson continues to treat Olive, but he is satisfied that she is out of danger.

Today was circled by Olive because it would mark the beginning of an extended holiday for Lent and she would have been staying at Lily’s now.

24th January… Got up feeling very gay, sure something nice is going to happen! yes it does happen, I hear of a holiday of 4 days end of February, how lovely, do hope Dad + Peggs let me go to Lily, also going to move to other dormitory with nice Mlle [Giomar] who speaks English! Have a lovely day with Lily, go to a lovely cinema, best one have ever been to, pictures splendid, never seen such crowds in the Metro before! lose 2 trains in the crush, lovely dinner at No.10, return feeling very gay, 5 minutes late, but beery nose quite nice!! to-day’s indeed been lucky!!

26th January… Wake up feeling extremely gay, could not sleep early for thinking…why can’t I speak French!? Oh it does seem so hard! draw some “Fairies” to send home, can’t wait, must write home about holiday, am getting so excited, receive letter from Auntie + 5/=, very good indeed of her, especially useful at present…day seems to drag! news that I cannot change the dormitory to-night, what a fag! never mind, am very tired, could sleep on a mat!

27th January… write a long letter to Dad + ask about holiday, do hope he lets me go to do Lily’s! Go for a walk in Luxembourg Gds, quite a change…receive a letter from Peggs + one from Frank, feeling a bit homesick, wish to goodness I didn’t get these fits!! usual lessons, one with the old girl (for piano) who has a rotten cold which she very kindly puffs at me! usual evening, bed in new dor’…

30th January …write a long letter to Peggs in the morning, longing to have an answer to dad’s….

31st January …another week gone! hurrah! only 9 more, thats not so bad, 2 letters from Peggs Oh! the joy, but so sorry she’s not very well, how I wish I were at home + not stuck miles away from helping anyone!! good news of the holiday, can go with Lily! Oh! I ought to be happy with everything so nice! + so I am really! except that I would give anything to have Dad + Peggs! music-lesson, how I loathe them in this place, + the old girl too, she’s no idea of playing! anyhow! Easter wont be long now its the last day of January, I could shout, I’m so pleased!! hares and rabbits tonight. hope I get a present this month. 62 more days!!!!!…



22nd February

Olive is well and appears to have fully recovered. It is an incredible turnaround and Sir Maurice is convinced enough that her health is stable that he will leave for London. He must attend the King’s Levee at St James’s Palace on Tuesday. He boards the train at Gare du Nord and takes a ferry from Calais to Dover.

Thomas and Peggs remain in Paris. Olive has a matter of great significance to discuss with her father.

The nuns of Our Lady of Sion attend the first of two mass services in the school’s chapel.

…I only go to mass, Sundays + fête -days.

…rolled out of bed at 7 o’clock, very sleepy + cold! premier dejeuner, after, sit in infirmary till girls come up from mass. 9 o’clock study french, later go to drawing. dejeuner, more french, till tea, french again, dinner, recreation, more serviettes to hem. talk of Bon Marche in not over polite english!!

…The chapel is very pretty, but frightfully overheated + the benches none to comfortable, a small organ, worked in the old-fashioned-style by the feet, sends out weird sounds assisted by the old fat french Mdlle who puffs and blows in time to the music + makes one feel quite hot!!!

23rd February

Olive has been profoundly affected by her ordeal. She tells her father that she wants to be baptised into the Catholic faith and asks for his permission. She has been surrounded by so much prayer during her illness, from the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion and Father MacCarthy, to her dear friend Lily and her beloved step-mother Peggs.

Thomas gives his blessing and it is agreed that the ceremony will be held at a future date when Olive is fully well.

People across Paris are preparing for elaborate celebrations to mark the beginning of Lent.

7th February… had awful nightmare, but do not mind because it is Saturday which means the end of another week! 8 weeks today we go home + 14 days today is the short one. Oh! I am longing for it, there is to be a wonderful carnival in Paris, everyone turns out for it! have had a letter from Mr Abrahams today, was very pleased to receive it. Hurrah!  Father MacCarthy came to see me, talked to him for an hour + three quarters, have had a really nice day today! + Sunday tomorrow, like the prospect immensely, Lily + I must enjoy ourselves extra specially, do fancy work in evening retire 8.15pm.


24th February

Paris is over-run with a huge carnival to celebrate Mardis Gras. Thousands of people in masks and colourful costumes parade through the streets with the crowds enjoy street entertainers and festival stalls. Music and dancing fill every quarter of the city throughout the day and long into the night.

Thomas Higgins prepares to leave for Margate, but Peggs will stay with Olive. She has remained at her bedside throughout and has been lightly ticking off in pencil the days on a calendar inside the preliminary pages of Olive’s abandoned diary.

11th February… had a fairly good night, feel a bit better this morning, don’t get up till 8 o’clock, talk to Mlle whilst I am dressing she is nice, she always cheers me up, last night she gave me a tangerine to eat in bed. practise + study till déjeuner, go upstairs to watch gyms in the chicken-run! never seen such funny gyms in my life! no wonder the girls are short + stumpy! had a ripping letter from Norah with heaps of home news!  Ah! it makes me long to be there!! Never mind, tomorrows Thursday. go to painting in afternoon but head aches so, so stop at 3 o’clock and sit in Salle d’etude reading + talking to american girl, same sort of evening do fancy work, am not to get up till 8 again in the morning, have a good night, bar waking up once or twice, always feel more cheery when am going out the next day!! + its the carnival in a weeks time nearly, so must buck up a bit!!!!!

25th February. Ash Wednesday

Thomas Higgins leaves for England, content in the knowledge that Olive is well and will make a full recovery. She is being looked after by Peggs.

In the morning, the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion attend mass and the distribution of the Ashes ceremony. They accept the cross of ashes on their foreheads…

“Rappelons-nous que tu es poussière, et à la poussière tu retourneras….Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”





The silent days

Someone, most probably Peggs, has lightly ticked the days of the calendar in the preliminary pages of the diary from the date Olive first fell ill…

A Baptism Before Dying

Olive’s health suffers a sudden and catastrophic relapse. A priest is called to her bedside and, according to her wishes, Olive is baptised.

With time so short, it is conducted only with holy water “sous condition”, the term used for the briefest of ceremonies that occur in an emergency.

“I baptize you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

A Prayer for Olive Higgins

At 4.45pm on 25th February, with Peggs at her bedside, Olive dies.



26th February

Preparations begin to take Olive home. A train from Gare du Nord to Calais, a steamboat to Dover, then on to Margate…