Madeleine Witherspoon Dent
Madeleine Witherspoon Dent was born in New York in 1892. Her mother was from Arkansas and her father, a doctor, from Mississippi. Her father had moved his family to New York and became Superintendent of the Female Department of the Manhattan State Hospital on Wards Island. He died suddenly in 1906, at only 49 years of age. A few years after her father's death, Madeleine who was studying violin, decided to go to Italy and continue her studies in Florence, a city which already had a large colony of English and Americans. With her went her mother, Anna, her sister, Ricarda and a great-aunt called Tante. In Florence, Madeleine met Francesco Gori-Montanelli and they fell in love. They were married sometime at the beginning of the First World War. When Italy entered into the war in 1915, Madeleine joined the Italian Red Cross as a volunteer nurse and spent the war years in hospitals as near as possible to where Francesco was at the front. Although her Italian was still rather rudimentary, sometime, when an injured soldier was brought in who spoke no Italian but only dialect, whether Sicilian, Sardinian or other, the Italian doctors who could not understand the dialect, would ask the "American nurse" to come in and see whether she could understand them better. Sometime she could.
Both Madeleine and Francesco were admirers of Gabriele D'Annunzio, the best known poet of the time in Italy and a war hero. D'Annunzio was particularly known for his daring exploits as a pilot and became even more famous when he decided to fly over Vienna, the capital of the enemy Austrian-Hungarian Empire, to bomb the city with leaflets urging the Austrians to surrender.
After the end of the war in which millions of Italians had died, a war which the Italians saw as the completion of the unification of their Country which started in the XIX Century, what was being offered to Italy by the winning Allies at the table of the Versailles
Peace Conference was short of their hopes and expectations. Part of the Istrian Peninsula and Dalmatia were to be made part of the newly created Republic of Yugoslavia. This included territory and cities which had a large Italian population. A strong nationalist movement started agitating against the inept Italian Government which appeared to be passively accepting the proposals put on the table by the Allies and endorsed by President Wilson. They wanted Italy to be more assertive of its rights and even to take action by occupying the territory which they strongly believed should belong to Italy. Many of these nationalists looked to D'Annunzio as the commander who could lead the movement by coalescing and galvanizing public opinion and meeting the wishes of so many Italians. After a period of indecision, D'Annunzio, the poet, became the statement warrior and decided to march on Fiume with the volunteers who had been gathering in the general area of Trieste , not far from Fiume. He had the support of many mutinous units of the Italian Army, volunteers from all over Italy and from all walks of life. They rallied around him and on September 12,1919 the Marcia di Ronchi started and his "army" entered into Fiume without serious resistance from the Italian Army and the Allied forces stationed there. The move was intended to force the hand of the representatives of Italy at the Versailles Peace Conference and convince the Allies that Italy was serious in its claims. Madeleine and Francesco embraced the "cause". They were already near Fiume before the Marcia di Ronchi started. Madeleine's first letters of August 26 and September 3, 1919 were written in Trieste and Abbazia.All of Madeleine's letters which were found were addressed to her mother who, with Tante and Ricarda, was living in Florence where Francesco's parents also lived.
Madeleine and Francesco stayed in Fiume from September 1919 to the end of Summer 1920. She was Head of the Red Cross, worked for the Propaganda Department of the City of Fiume and organized the recreational activities for the Army. He was the head of the Engineers Corps and in charge of the Photographic Section of the Command. They left for the United States at the beginning of the Fall of 1920, sent there in mission by D'Annunzio to represent the City of Fiume for the purpose of explaining to the halo-American Communities the reasons behind the occupation of the City of Fiume and gathering support and funds for the "cause". During their stay in the United States, the news reached them that the Italian Government, persuaded and pressured by the Allies, finally decided to send the regular Army and take over Fiume by force. After five days of resistance, the so called "bloody Christmas", D'Annunzio capitulated to avoid further shedding of blood and left the city. Although Fiume was not annexed to Italy as D'Annunzio and his legionares had hoped, an important result was reached because the Treaty of Rapallo recognized that the City of Fiume would not become part of Yugoslavia, but would be recognized as an independent City, independent of both Italy and Yugoslavia, and in Dalmazia the city of Zara would be recognized as part of Italy.
Recurring initials and names in the letters:
"F" = Francesco "B" = I3eppina, Francesco's sister. "Babbo" = Francesco's father. "Lorenzo" = Francesco's brother "Rigoletto" = Francesco's orderly during the war. "Genio" = Corps of Engineers
Madeleine's Letter to Mother
Trieste, August 26, 1919
We have moved here (Excelsior Palace Hotel Savoia) ( the most magnificent hotel in Trieste, right on the water) because at the hotel where we were we paid more for our room than we do here, imagine we paid 25 lire a day for the room only and here 20 lire and the restaurant a la carte. In proportion it is cheaper eating at the hotel than elsewhere and as we have so many acquaintances in Trieste it pays to be here. The hotel is full of American, English and French officers and quite gay. It seems more like a home hotel in every respect, except that the Austrian proprietor has remained. I am so busy and so constantly on the go that I never have a minute to write.
I looked up one of my colleagues the other day, Yole Hendel, her mother is from Trieste so they are here now ( the Massarani girl told me ) so we went out for a tea and a trolley trip along the sea. We saw the death of one of our colleagues in the Corriere, it was quite a shock. She died of tuberculosis contracted in service. She was very delicate and anemic and always staying home, poor girl. We called on Col. Villasanta ( the Duke of Aosta secretary, you know ) and brother of our friend in Florence, the doctor. Francesco was in Libia with him. He had a permit made out for me to go on the military autocorriere in all the zone and gave me lots of pamphlets for propaganda work for Francesco or me when we go to America, which I am going to work on, and also letters of introduction to military heads in the Zona di Occupazione where we are going which will be of great help. We are going to Adelsberg ( where the famous Grotto is ) tomorrow, I think. Then we want to go to Tarvis and on to Vienna. Life is very expensive here, but in Vienna with the exchange, it is a heap less.
This traveling is not especially resting, although terribly interesting and I needed a little excitement. Lots of love from us both.
Madeleine's Letter to her Mother
Pensione Breiner Abbazia - Istria Sept. 3, 1919
We simply can't understand why we don't hear from you all. Do you receive my letters ? Have sent several from Fiume, but as the stamps are valuable, they are probably taken off on the way and therefore may not arrive. Yesterday Francesco received an espresso from Babbo ( and one in Trieste ). Other news we have never had except your raccomandata to Trieste with check. You can imagine how anxious I am to have news and know how you got back to Florence, about Armida and Rigoletto, etc. and how you like keeping house?
This is a beautiful place ( it will certainly be Italian, but is now armistice zone ). The pensione is all terraces on the sea and we have a shut in terrace and every morning we take sunbaths in our birthday clothes and then go bathing. The people who run it are Germans and understand no Italian so my German comes into great play and I am practicing it right and left so as to get re accustomed! Even Francesco is learning "gabes sie mir das butter, bitter". He loves "bitter sehr and bitter shoen". I wish you could see the spelling on my wash list in German !!! This was a bathing resort of the Hungarians and I have talked to lots of them to get their ideas on things.
There is one very nice family at our table and they have taken us to Fiume in their auto. They all welcome the Italians, only the Yugoslavs, who want Fiume, are terrible in every way. I am going head over heels for studying the question and go into propaganda against them in America. Have met all the big bugs and am to meet the President of the Consiglio Nazionale of Fiume today. The Allies have told it to dissolve, but they haven't answered and do not intend to and say still "Italia o Morte" and unless the Allied forces go against them, they will remain as they are. They are wonderful and the women especially are ready to do any sacrifice ! and have been given the vote in these days !! They gave me a nastrino tricolore with "Italia o Morte" and I am going to dedicate myself to the cause and so is Francesco. Even if a revolution comes I will help them- they are in the right !!! They are lovely in regard to America - hate Wilson and hiss his name - but never a word against American people who they say are with them. I knew about that beautiful telegram from Senator Sherman and also the one from the Consiglio Nazionale of Fiume two days ago to the American Senate before they were sent. In fact I am in on many things and if I were a millionaire I would dedicate my money to helping the cause. As it is, Signora Pedrazzi ( the nurse I staid with at Feltre, whose husband is a friend of Francesco's and a well known reporter and was sent to America and liked America, has been given orders by his paper to go to America in the Fall at the time of the nomination to make a campaign against Wilson among Italian in America ) she and I are going to offer ourselves today to the Italian Red Cross course which is be opened there this next week by the Duchess. She and her husband have been made "Cittadini onorari di Fiume" for his propaganda work ! Col. Villasanta gave lots of pamphlets for propaganda work and also letters to Generals here which we have presented and had them promise us help and trips to interior places etc. We went to Fiume to present the one to Grazioli but he was too busy to see us and made an appointment for the next day, but when we went back his "ufficiale di ordinanza" told us he was gone. ( We had heard that he was to go, but had the appointment so we went.) It seems he made appointments with everybody on purpose so as throw sand in their eyes, as he could not let the Fiumans know he was going. They would have made too many demonstrations not to have him go. They loved him and he had been their friend, but he had made the mistake of promising too much !! Am sorry however not to have known him.
The things that have arisen since are a great "pasticcio" and no one knows what will happen ! They don't want the English police and one can't blame them. They say " we have been a free "comune" for ages and under Austrian rule we always had our own police and "comune". Now they take away all the liberties we had under the Austrians and put us under another foreign yoke !". Also these policemen are Maltese (who are Italians in reality- or were way back, like Fiume and are about par to Mexicans with us that is brigands, assassins and such like ) so you can imagine between the two!! They are going to try to absorb them, so to speak, and make their Italian blood show up and get them on their side. This was an affront on the part of the British and they touched a sore spot in all Italy by this act and wont be forgotten. But what the French did is worse, they sent very few white troops to Fiume but sent "those Chinese troops they have in that colony near Siam as they said "pour la colonization de Fiume", can you imagine such an insult !!! They are awful little chimpanzees, barbarians who do not understand a word. This will never be forgotten and France will pay for this soon as well, I hate the French. Wait until I can tell you of some of the acts they have done against Italy for jealousy. One - and this is authentic - at Spelt they have forbidden the Italians to be buried with an Italian name, they make them add a Slav name at the end. This is because one American friend of Fiume wrote back to America -" the stones dating back centuries back are all Italian"- so the French, who are head of the Allied troops at Spelt, have decided that from now on the grave stones must be Slav to carry out their point that Astir ought not to be Italian ! Can you imagine the other Allied troops present sitting back and not protesting. They wont allow Italians to go into the port, but I am going to see if I can get in as an American through the American Admiral to see if this is true as I had it. If so, I would like to hang those Frenchmen. Hope all this will go through the Censor !! I will tell you all this when I see you. I want to write a book on this trip - it will be worth reading all right.
The food here is wonderful and I am getting fat - eggs and marmalade and butter and rolls for breakfast and special dishes for Francesco. Must stop as I have a date to go bathing and rowing. Lots of love and kisses and send me an espresso with all back news as I have done here. I am afraid you had hot weather after you arrival in Florence.
P.S. They wanted us here to give a speech. Maybe I can manage it and I will speak in Fiume to the American sailors to explain the situation to them as it really is. They understand nothing and admit it!!
Madeleine's Letter to her Mother
I am afraid my letter of the 20th only got off this morning, as we had such a deluge of rain, no one could get off. Am enclosing letter to Rosso I forgot to put in. Write to me thusly and I will receive your letters O.R.1 Put your letter in an envelope, seal it and address it to Capitano F. Gori Montanelli - nothing else - then put this in another envelope, seal and address it to Gualtiero Tonchich, Volosca, Venezia Giulia. I will receive it somehow. Don't write much about us. Tell me about you all and whether you got my letters, etc. I asked an officer to go see at the pensione if there was any mail for me, but there wasn't a thing - Can't understand it ! At Fermo Posta they wont give the letters to anyone except the person to whom they are addressed, so there was no use going. Have been sick the last three days. Tomorrow night at midnight, I am going to run the gauntlet and get over to the other side of the line and go get some of my clothes. Hope I succeed. I cant go on any longer, it has turned real cold here.
I enter into service this afternoon in the hospital. There are many cases of bronchitis, influenza, etc., nothing worse. Two nurses came down from Torino -Red Cross nurses, voluntary of course - travelling hidden in a baggage car from Trieste. Altogether, we are now 5 and we are to form our officers mess and have our food and lodging free like at the front. I will keep my room with Francesco here at the hotel, but will accept the food on account of the saving and also because Francesco can eat at two officers mess now ( he has the right to eat at D'Annunzio's table as a Capo Servizio - he is Capo del Genio,you see) where he hears all the news, etc.I wish you all knew some Americans to get up a collection from to send me here for the Cause. We need money and it would be nice to have an offer from some Americans. We have a voluntary American soldier and an American newspaper reporter also now. I am to meet them. Did you see Francesco's article in the Roman newspaper "Il Giornale d'Italia" of the 20th of September - buy it- on 1st page. I intend to write an article to Whitney Warren who writes on it, the American who has done so much for the cause of Fiume. What a fool Wilson is - he has made America appear ridiculous. Why don't the senators throw him down - they talk, but go no further! The Italian Government too has made a mess of things. Nitti must fall or there will be a revolution. Keep in touch with the G.M.'s as Francesco writes to Babbo often. Hope you are all well! I hate to leave you in the lurch like this, but I am destined not to settle down, it seems.
Madeleine's Letter to Tante
Fiume, 8 October 1919
Francesco and I received your dear letter brought by Col. Klein and we thank you ever so much for the 500 lire. It was sweet of you to send it and poor Babbo to send Francesco 200 lire. Really we are not badly off for money as Francesco receives his full pay with extra as we are in state of war and when with the high exchange it is turned into kronen, we are rich! Our room costs us nothing as officers ( as we have the "buoni di alloggio") and now we nurses are to be paid a salary according to our grade. The Trentino girl is a 2nd lieutenant and the other girl and I are 1st lieutenant, so we get more (about 400 a month). Of course Red Cross nurses are never paid in Italy, but everything here is special and rules have been made differently and according to new ideas, they decide we are volunteers just like the officers and were to be treated according to our grade. We have decided we will pay for our room and food ( all the nurses at the front had the right to this anyhow) and what remains we will make a fund for charity. We have worked like slaves this last week. All the poor of the city ( Croats as well Italians) having heard we are to work and nurse among the poor, sent in petitions for pensions and help and we simply had to go visit them all to be sure they had need, and they certainly did. I went into certain attics which would make your hair stand on end - whole families in one room without light or air and no food to eat. The Croats seemed so surprised that we were willing to help them and kissed my hand etc. In fact, I worked so hard and walked so much in the sun that I was taken with an attack of dysentery (with blood) and had to go to bed for 2 days. Francesco was scared to death and had me taken to the sanitarium. So here we are and I haven't eaten except broth and milk and rice for 4 days and I could eat a horse I am so hungry and I feel all right again (you cant kill me, you know and my stomach is made of iron). I must confess that we have been trying to get in here for a long time as it is above the city, better and purer air, lovely all white rooms with hot and cold running water in each room, double windows and hot water heating for later and lovely garden and balconies, so it is altogether desirable and it does not seem a bit like a hospital. Signora Pedrazzi is here too and it is nice to be together, but one needs an excuse to get in - when one is here it is enough to stay on - so we had the excuse and here we are. A week of special diet will do us both good, we were tired to death of restaurants and afterward we will eat at the special mess up at the Command. I was invited by D'Annunzio to dinner last night with the other 2 nurses but I was in bed and could not go, could have eaten my head off I was so vexed, but on the 12th there will be another chance when we nurses open our "casa del soldato" and celebrate also the first months anniversary of Fiume Italiana.
As you know from my last letter, I got to Abbazia safely and returned with our things - that is, those necessary. I left the trunk there, however, and my jewelry, but Signora Pedrazzi will take that to you when she goes to Florence at the end of the month to her brother's wedding, so I will have it off my mind.
A very sad thing occurred here yesterday. Two aviators, a Florentine tenente Bini and a Roman fell down (the motor stopped and would not restart), hit a house, knocking down a corner of it, took fire and burned to charcoal the two young fellows entangled in the debris before they could put the fire out. It was a terrible sight, one of the nurses saw it and told me. I was in bed and heard them flying, it was a glorious day for flying, no wind and clear. Poor chaps, so gay and happy. I knew them. The Roman was a carabiniere, a handsome boy. The funeral was today and I got up and went, couldn't have stayed in bed to save my life. The nurses walked in the military procession and the other aviators were flying overhead all the time. I don't believe any general ever had a more impressive funeral. D'Annunzio spoke, of course. Every window in Fiume had, if nothing else, a black veil hanging out and all flags were at half mast. Poor boys. To get through the war with great honors and then die unnecessarily before seeing the end - that is: Fiume accepted as Italian Whitney Warren, the great American architect, the great friend of D'Annunzio came a few days ago. He has always said that Fiume must be Italian and even told D'Annunzio last April that Italy should seize it. He has written continually letters of protest against Wilson in regard to the Fiuman affair and is now going back to America to lecture on it. He promised me to have an article I sent him published. I sent him my card and told him where I was and that I wanted to meet him and he came to see me. He was at dinner last night with D'Annunzio and to think I couldn't go!! He is so interesting and I pumped him on many questions I was anxious to know, until I guess he blessed me. He assures me Wilson will be defeated. If he'd only croak now that he is ill it would be a Godsend to humanity! Warren built the Grand Central Depot (designed, I mean), the Vanderbilt Hotel, the Belmont, the Docks etc. etc. He said Stanford White's death was a geat loss to American architecture.
Don't let them wear you out, Tante dear, with punching too many holes in you!! Do you need the punctures? Hope mother is not having any more trouble with boils again? Tell mother to put that money in Buoni del Tesoro (those that finish further, 1923 or later even -as they cost a bit less). Must close now. Lots of love to you all from both of us and many thanks, Tante dear, for your sweet thought for us. A hug and a kiss for you all three.
Madeleine's Letter to her Mother undated
Fiume, October (?) 1919
It has been ages since I have written to you all but simply have not found a minute and at night when I go to our room the light is so bad and I am so sleepy and tired I go right to sleep. As I wrote you, I went to Abbazia, but I was able to pass the lines as a newspaper correspondent in an auto and had no difficulty and stayed 2 days in Abbazia and enjoyed the good food and bathing (it was still like Summer there, so different from here). I packed 2 suitcases full of stuff, so now we can get on nicely. I had an interview with the General of the 26mo Corpo d'Armata and they invited me to lunch. The interview was very interesting. I had met him before the affair, had a letter of introduction to him from Col. Villasanta. When I came back, I was given a lot of work to do at the Ufficio Stampa e Propaganda Estero and last night another Ufficio Politica Estera asked me to translate all the bulletins in English for them. Besides all this, the Ufficio Sanita' has given that nurse from the Trentino (with whom I have gotten to be quite friendly) and myself the organization of all the civil aid among the poor. At the head of this is the Contessina Porro (daughter of the Sottocapo (Generale Porro) di Stato Maggiore when Cadorna was in power). She is a Red Cross nurse too (worked in an ambulanza chirurgica at the front) and has just come with a collection of 500,000 lire for civil aid. We 3 have been given an office at the Comando all to ourselves with piantone etc. and yesterday we were called by the Consiglio Nazionale to talk over our work with them and see what we can do. We may start an ambulatorio and one of us nurses by turn dress wounds etc. a sort of first aid place. We would also be going to nurse poor sick people in their homes. There was no use thinking of the hospitals where there have been 2 nurses for 6 months and there are no sick at all —only 40 with bronchitis - and the enthusiasm of the troops is so great that even if they are sick they do not want to go to hospital for fear of missing something. In the meantime they have written to the Marchese Anselmi - Secretary of the Duchessa D'Aosta -asking whether she will assign us to the camp hospital - Ospedale da Guerra 107 - so that we can have right to food and lodging free.
Yesterday I had a private interview with D'Annunzio. He wanted to meet me as the only American woman here and first woman voluntary. He is certainly fascinating and can well understand that whole armies will follow him even to death. He is quite small and rather ugly ( has a glass eye, you know, from a wound in war ) but a fascinating smile. He was lovely with me and said I could be of such great aid to the cause, translating etc. Am already a "pezzo grosso".
I have just received a letter from Beppina last night sent to that address I thought I sent you. Francesco will write today to the Mugello telling them to send you the wood.In regard to the coke, tell Ricarda to go with Armida to Ponte Rosso (where the tram turns the corner to go along Via Vitt. Emanuele) and on the right side (going towards where the tramline finishes) is a coal and wood shop, a little off the street, where a pretty Roman looking matron sells coke. Tell her you are the family of the captain who lived on Via Montughi who bought coke and coal last winter (they also furnished Rigoletto the 4 quintals of coal we have now in Via Cavour). Order about 30 quintals (thirty). You will have to get the janitor to dump all the coal into that room off the kitchen (taking it away from the little room near the heating boiler.
Don't worry about us. Cheer up. Hope you are all well. Lots of love. Tell Uncle Dr. we don't' want to sell yet, besides we do not know for the moment how to invest money. Francesco says for you to buy Buoni del Tesoro with all that money. Madeleine
Madeleine Letter to her Mother
Fiume, October 14, 1919
I gave your letter to Signor Pedrazzi 2 days ago as he was leaving for Florence and I thought you would be receiving it today. Instead he did not leave and I had to have it posted in Italy, so I am afraid you will receive it late. He is leaving tomorrow, however, and he will take this letter to Florence. I haven't received any letter for over a week. I hope you are all well. Got off a long letter to poor Rigoletto. Hope you will be able to find some girl who will do. Don't take any unless you show her references to Beppina who can write to the people and find out about her for you. Or else go to see the lady personally. Do not take any but a Tuscan and Babbo can find out about her. Am so sorry you all are having this bother with servants. We were so sure of that girl in San Casciano as she promised to come.
Am working like a horse with the translating work and the entertainment for the soldiers and it is lots of fun. They call me "nostra piccola madrina" and last time when I had a lottery for the Cavalleria, they presented me with a big bunch of flowers and made a speech - poor boys. The Commando gives me 6000 Kor.a week to spend as I think best for entertaining these boys who depend from me. I was invited to a dance of the Battaglione Misto di Ufficiali - composed of officers of every arm, volunteers, they carry a musket, eat the "rancio" of the soldiers and live just like the soldiers, doing sentinel duty too I We were in about 6 girls only and had a glorious time - danced my head off. They are going to give a dance a week and others are going to follow suit, so you see that we lead a gay life!
Sunday was a glorious day. D'Annunzio reviewed the troops giving the command to General Ceccherini who made a short touching address to the soldiers. The boys adore him. I had an audience with him the other day to get up a festa for his soldiers. He immediately asked if I was related to the famous Giuseppe Montanelli of Fucecchio. I am eating at the nurses' mess up at the Command now and Francesco with the Capi Uffici officers, so we see little of each other, except to go home to sleep, as I am out at 9 and often in the evening I have an entertainment for the boys ( last night they gave me an auto, all young lonesome boys!) so I am off before Francesco finishes eating. Seems as if we are divorced almost - it's funny.
Will you send me per pacco postale my rubbers, I need them badly. They say pacchi can arrive now. Send it to me "Presso Ufficio Assistenza Civile e Militare al Comando di Fiume.
Lots of love for you all and a kiss. We have thought of you often today.
Madeleine's Letter to her Mother
Fiume, November 4,1919
Sent off a long letter this morning by a ferroviere who will post it in Trieste, but as tomorrow Sig. Rosselli is going to Firenze, I am writing this which will arrive sooner with him. He will very probably go to see you and tell you in person that Francesco and I are well and flourishing. His brother is professor at N.Y. University and has a lot to do with the propaganda work in America and when I go I will look him up as he can give me a lot of interesting information - he is in the works.
I wrote you about an American girl - a Miss Bloom of N. Y. City - who says she is a correspondent for the N.Y.Tribune, Harpers, McClives, etc. and gave her your address. If she goes to see you, pump her all you can, find out her impressions, whether she has written back and to whom she sends her articles, etc. I am a little doubtful about her. They - she, her mother and father-are very ordinary people gushing loud and talky. It may all be a bluff and they are only adventurers. Invite them for tea and talk them out of themselves. I have reasons to have doubts and so has someone else here and I want to be sure.
Tomorrow I have the funeral of one of my soldiers of whom I was "madrina". I wrote you this A.M. that he was shot while on duty last night by one of Nitti's sentinels in the spinal cord and lung. He said to D'Annunzio who went to see him at the hospital: "I would not let them take me alive Commander!" I am going to send money to his family which is needy. He was only 19. His captain is all cut up. That Battalion was to give a ball tomorrow night to which D'Annunzio was going and I too !, but they called it off. His companions raised 3000 Kor. for flowers. Poor boys! Lord knows where they raked it together.
Today a bomb exploded and killed one boy and two other kids who picked it up were terribly wounded, so we have our tragedies as well as joys here. I must get busy and do some writing now. Whitney Warren told me to write him in New York once a week. Did you read the message to the Italians of the United States which D'Annunzio wrote for Warren to take to
America? It was in the Vedetta, I think, which you all receive I hope regularly?
Get my skunk furs out and use them and send me my rubbers and my gray and black velvet hat to the usual address in V., please. The latter is in a wooden box at the villa. R. knows the rubbers which are in a closed box in our dressing room.
Lots of love to all from your loving Madeleine
Madeleine's Letter to her Mother
Fiume - December 5, 1919
I received your letters, one dated Nov. 19 and one with yours of the 28th and Tante's of the 29th - both the same day -had been wondering what had happened. The hat has not arrived yet - but as a package it takes more time- it will probably arrive later -hope so at any rate. You all certainly have been having a hard time with servants ! I am glad you have found that nice one, the cousin of those people above the G.M.'s. I hope you can get the one of the Nestis as she very probably will be honest at any rate and maybe you can train her from the very beginning. So get her in the habit of turning down the beds and emptying the slops etc. at night and always having her white apron on in the apt. Don't let Armida take off the black dress you had made. It is probably best that Armida is going. Francesco thinks so too. Am so sorry that R. is having such a dickens of a time. Do hope things will be easier now.
Don't by any chance sell your Eudora Bank stock. If Uncle Doctor offers you that sum it means that he thinks it is worth more and besides it is all invested and you get your money without trouble. Keep a sum ready, so you can bring it over by check in a minute's notice. The exchange is very high. You remember Francesco feared it would be from the newspapers accounts. It seems that the taxes on a small property are not so high and Francesco thinks that at any rate it is the safest investment of money. So if you want to bring over another $5000 about, with what we have here already, we can buy a nice place. Will ask Francesco whether he thinks best 1 bring it now or wait. I will write you.
Am worked to death - can't find a minute's time. In the evening there is always something to do too. The Genio gave a big ball night before last - got to bed at 5 and was up at 8 - haven't caught up sleep yet ! Will you get my orange ball dress out. It is in the tray of the trunk in the hall. In the bureau there must be the piece that goes in the slit up the front or else in that chiffonier in our dressing room in the bottom draw. Also get out my purple suit please and have it ripped up and cleaned by Corsini ( she says to let her rip it always) so that if I or someone else goes there suddenly it will be ready to make up turned, or else take it away and have it made up here. Please write her a note to send the girl to get it right away and tell her to attend to it subito.
Please ask Josephine Casali, who knows many Americans in Florence, to ask them for money to buy clothes etc. for the poor children in Fiume. We want to make a Xmas tree for them and we have no money. Any little offer will help. Ask everybody you know to give something and tell them what it is for and how necessary it is for Italy to look after the civil population. Don't be timid -it is all for the good cause. We are so hard up for money that we (all the officers, that is) are going to eat the soldier food, so as to put the difference we pay for our food now, to help the funds.
What have you done with the furs ?
Must close now in great hurry. Hope you are all well.
Lots of love for you all
One of the American journalists sent an account of my work here etc. to the Associated Press, so it is in about 1500 different newspapers in USA.
Fiume, March 26, 1920
I received yours and Tante's letters yesterday wishing me "auguri" for the 27th for which we thank you all. I will write to Tante to thank her for the remembrance she has for me. I will pass the day very prosaically passing a medical visit for 150 poor children to be sent with the next "scaglioni" we intend sending to Italy according to the numerous demands we have from all over Italy for Fiuman children. We will probably take them by boat to Ancona this time and will accompany them - it will be interesting. They will pass through the Romagna and Marche, two districts full of enthusiasm for our Cause. I received Ricarda's letter of March 13. Will try to answer all of your questions now.
Yes, we received the 2nd "avviso" from the Distretto. If they should go to the house and ask you all anything, just say - yes, you signed for it - but your son-in-law is away on a trip and you don't know whether he received it or not. Don't say he is here in Fiume -say your last letter from him was from Venice, Banca Commerciale address and that he is traveling. You need'nt say he has been away from Florence since July either. It seems they don't know he is here and it is just as well.
No, I haven't cashed the check. I have it here and am waiting until the Florence Bank answers the Trieste Branch (which wrote me they had telegraphed to Florence) in regard to my letter of credit and then I can cash it in Vienna at their branch where I will get much more. We will go the-week after Easter. It is true that things cost high in Austria (but not living -board and food cost less than in Italy a good deal) but the exchange is so high that for who has foreign money it is a cinch. A dollar = 20 lire and a lira = 20 kronen, while a dollar =400 kronen - think of it ! Will think of gloves for you all and shoes they say cost little too and photographic material and automobiles etc. etc. Before we go to Florence for Francesco's exams, we want to go Sebrenico and Spalato and the inland of Dalmatia. We have an offer to go in auto with a Major who is a Dalmatian of Zara and also among the islands in his cutter and we do not intend to let this chance go.
Rigoletto has written that he is ready to come to Francesco and us at a moment's notice and hopes it will be soon ! Francesco and I think that we must come to some conclusion as soon as possible now - that at any price we must try to keep him, as he will be too much comfort to us in the future to let this last chance go by. Real estate keeps going up in price, therefore it is best to buy now (Babbo was wrong in saying all along the prices would go down and Francesco always said he was wrong and that the best investment is in land). Therefore, even if it is an exit of money for the present to us all, it will pay us to take and give him the salary (3000 lire, which is only 200 dollars minimum now) and buy some place and let him start in and later we get something bigger or better. We will have a place to go to in Spring and Summer, and vegetables and oil and wine and chickens and if Francesco and I go away on a trip or something we can always be sure Rigoletto will take care of you all and take food etc. into the city to you and in fact act as major-domo in everything so that you will not have anything to worry about. Rigoletto says that Marcellina is at fault in regard to their affair, but that maybe it is best and he will take a girl from Piemonte, daughter of a nearby fattore, who is willing to come with him to Tuscany and knows all about us already. Speriamo bene ! Babbo writes that the Villa Celeste is out of the question, but that the Montanellis have written again to ask him who the buyer is. Babbo spoke as if they are anxious to sell it to someone Babbo suggests. Francesco will write to Babbo about it. If they do not have awful pretenses, I think it will be well to buy it - it is the family home and that means a lot - a town devoted to the family, with statue in the public square, tablet put by the Comune on house, etc. If Francesco goes into politics later it will mean a lot, as Babbo can easily go as Deputato from there if we have a home in Fucecchio. We will have to buy land near there and if we don't want to live in the townhouse we can rent it always, keeping a pied-a¬terre only in it. It is furnished, you remember. Anyhow, we must look into the matter thoroughly.
With regard to an apartment, Francesco is absolutely of the opinion we must get an empty one - now or never - it will always be inconvenient as far as price is concerned to buy furniture, prices in fact keep going up (! ) and the longer we put it off the worse it will be. Even if you and I go to America, I doubt if it will pay us now to bring over furniture (only our rugs, china, trunks and special things).
If we take an apartment, we will just make up our minds to buy bedroom furniture and dining room and a few articles for the parlor - bare necessities to start with and then, by degrees, add ( and what we bring back too ). It will be awful, but when I think of what we have, really we have'nt much and nothing very serviceable, have we? except our dining room set and kitchen things and your brass bed. The other bedroom furniture is so big, the parlor furniture is handsome but takes room and we have no wardrobes and comodinos and toilette like one has to have over here! so there is little to count on as far as practical things ! Of course our personal things and linen and pictures etc we can bring over to "fix up" with, as they can be crated. If we don't take the final leap am afraid we will always be adrift from one rented house to another, as one can never settle for any lenght of time in them and one never really settles down or feels really at home or has the incentive to "fix up" as one feels always: "I'll have to move in June or Dec. again, so what's the use?". I think you had better go see that apartment Beppina wrote about in Pzza. d'Azeglio (as I wrote Ricarda on a post card) 1st floor, modern in every way, nice locality, also prices will be high of course, but the apt. we had this year was a "cinch" as regards price, but it is out of the question for another year, needs too much service, can't be heated, etc etc. We want one all on one floor - if there are enough rooms and suites otherwise take it and don't dilly-dally. Am only afraid it is already too late. It will cost about what this one costs furnished, I imagine. Better go immediately to Beppina and go and see the apartment - it is free in May, I believe, and during the summer we can look around for things and also while you are still in the via Cavour apartment.
In regard to the servant, am anxiously awaiting a response from Beppina in regard to whether she can get the baby placed in an asilo so that I can send the woman on down to you all III class right away. The only rub is where can we send her while you all are away this summer if Francesco and I are still away ? It would be too bad to lose her after paying trip down etc. Let us hope I can take her and she will turn out O.K. Hope you have heard from Bagni di Lucca by now. It is the best solution, I think.
Have never written to Uncle Tatum, have'nt the time absolutely. I wish you could see how I am occupied. Francesco and I hardly ever see each other until meal times and after dinner, when we go somewhere or other, are dead tired when we get to our room and don't feel equal to writing. Francesco is vice-president of the Ass.for Combattenti Toscani here and State Photographer as well as Commander of Genio and I have the Civil as well as the Military work for Propaganda and also the arranging of the work of sending the Fiuman babies to Italy as well as the Propaganda on the islands where we go with an armored motor boat.
I wrote Ricarda about the money left from the Deschow affair of Tante's. I think Tante makes a mistake if she does'nt bring the money over here as she said she would if she could. The exchange is so high and besides, according to the new law, it seems that foreigners' money in Italy is not to be taxed! so that makes a difference too. Better write and ask Uncle W. to whom the check is made out to, as it is probably in Ricarda's name. In any case, Tante can draw it now and it can be patched up by Uncle W. as to putting it in her Baule etc. and arranging with R. if she has to sign a check to Tante so that she will have that sum actually on hand. Have'nt you heard any further particulars from Uncle W.? or down South ? If I were you I'd get rid of everything over there except the Eudora property land ! If Uncle Tatum or Uncle W. should die, what would you do ? You expect to live here - the exchange will go down with time - but by bringing over now you triple your capital and as everything costs triple you are fixed all right - by leaving it there for the present you are OK with high exchange, but when that goes down definetely your income will be reduced but cost of living will remain the same. My advice and. Francesco's, is of tell Uncle W. to sell your Liberty Bonds in N.Y. which only give 4%, as soon as possible and bring the money over here and put it into different stocks etc. (not Prestito Nazionale ) and in land which is the safest thing. You will still have at least 40,000 dollars in Eudora and N.Y. Telephone stock etc in America, but I'd bring over all Mississippi money and so clear up down there. The Liberty Loan Uncke W. can sell on the receipt of a letter. They have a daily quotation and so in 2 months you could finish that deal easily. As soon as Peace is signed all exchanges will have a drop, so it is best to act subito.
Hope you are all well. We are. Lots of love for you all from us both.