|Alexandria 9 March 1885
|My dear Constantine,
Many thanks for your letter 3rd instant and poems. I always shew your communications to Aristides and Peter, and the former agrees with me in pronouncing your verses to be very artistic and in good style. I had no time to write to you last week at any length, but I shall now try to make amends. First let me say that I found Monsieur Verhaeghe, aunt Sévastie, and Helen, all you have described them to be. I shall never forget them: their presence here during two short days has indelibly impressed my mind ¯ Monsieur Verhaeghe de Neyer is, as you say, a perfect gentleman, of quiet and self-possessed demeanour. Aunt Sévastie is good, affectionate, handsome, elegant, lady-like; I think she is very much like our mother; my telling her so seemed to delight her to the extreme. Helen is a charming little person, both as regards looks and manners, and one with whom it is impossible not to strike up an immediate friendship: she is captivating to a degree, and I felt as if I had known her for months after I had been with her for a few minutes. ¯ Aristides intends writing you in full all their “faits et gestes”, so that I shall only tell you what I myself saw of this charming “trio”. ¯ The steamer Medea did not arrive until nearly 11 am, and Tuesday bring a very busy day with me. I could not go on board to meet them. Had the ship arrived at daybreak, as expected, I would have gone with Aristides and Peter. ¯ I did not leave the Office that day to go to lunch until about 2 o’clock; in the meantime Mr. Moss had been, as is his wont, to the Hotel Abbat to get his midday meal, and had there caught a glimpse of Helen with Peter ¯ He came back to tell me that my cousin was a lovely little creature, and asked me to try and induce my uncle, when I saw him, to stay a few days in Alexandria, in order that he (Mr. Moss) might have the pleasure of receiving them at “Colline Moss” where Mrs. Moss would be well pleased to see them etc etc. I had told Mr. Moss I was expecting my aunt etc. ¯ I did not see them until 6 o’clock that evening; Monsieur Verhaeghe kept us all three to dinner, and we passed one of the most pleasant evenings imaginable. Aunt Sévastie shewed us mother’s photograph and I was very glad to find mother looking so well and young; I think the likeness is a great success and I am indeed sorry that mother cannot afford to send us one.
Next day I did not see them until after noon. I had promised to go with Aristides and take them out at 10 in the morning, but as you know I am anything but fortunate. The first thing that met my eyes at the office in the morning was a note from Kneen saying he was unwell. ¯ So I could not get off until the afternoon. At their earnest request, we conducted Aunt Sévastie and Helen to our rooms ¯ All mother’s family have such an affectionate, enticing manner, that an acquaintance of a few hours appears as strong as that of years, and both aunt Sévastie and Helen were so kind and effusive that it would take a very difficult man not to like them. Helen has given me her photograph and aunt Sévastie took a copy of my last verses, on which I was much complimented by M. Verhaeghe ¯ We accompanied them to the station and saw them start at 6 pm; aunt Sévastie wanted if possible to carry us all off to Cairo: they felt the parting very much, and there was kissing, and waving of handkerchiefs and flowers, and reiterated thanks from M. Verhaeghe, and promises from Helen to write to me and asking me to write, and caresses from aunt Sévastie, and dear oh! dear we felt very lonely when they had gone. We talked of them far on into the night ¯ I need hardly tell you that we did all we possibly could for them during their short stay: that is to say, Aristides and Peter did (I had no share). They were received right royally and Aristides was of invaluable help to them; M. Verhaeghe was exceedingly thankful and acknowledged twenty times ¯ if once ¯ that he should have lost his head but for Aristides’ kind succour in passing thro’ the Custom House all their luggage (some 20 packages) and paraphernalia ¯
Aunt Sévastie has since written to Peter; they started from Cairo for Suez yesterday, and they leave on the 12th instant in the P.+O. steamer for Shanghai ¯ God speed them on their long voyage! ¯
I think I have already written that Mrs. Moss is now here. As usual I spend my Sundays at Ramleh and the Mrs. appears this time to make much of me and be fond of my company ¯ Tell mother üôé ðÜ÷áéíå êáé Ýãéíå ìéá ÷ïíäñïìïñïýíá. These Sundays, I assure you, are great ðïýñãáéò for me.
The indemnities, it is averred, will be paid very shortly, and I think we shall escape paying more interest. You will have noticed that the Soudan Campaign is now put off until next Autumn, ¯ and that fresh troubles are arising for England, in the form of a Russian advance into Afghanistan.
Remember me affectionately to dear mother, Alexander and Paul and believe me ever
Your loving brother
P.S. I say, dear Constantine, I hope there is no fear of my letters falling into strange hands? I wish you would burn them.
|From John C. Cavafy|
To Constantine Cavafy
Transcribed and edited by Katerina Ghika