AUGUST 26, 1939
HYDE PARK, Friday—I talked to the President in Washington last night and, I suppose, like all women who like to keep the daily happenings on as even a keel as possible, I casually inquired the hour of his arrival next Monday night, only to be told firmly that he would not arrive in any case until Tuesday morning and he might not arrive for months to come. The tone of his voice implied that arrivals and departures are of no importance now, in fact, nothing individual counts, perhaps the fate of civilization hangs in the balance. What does it matter whether we eat or sleep or do any of the things which we thought important yesterday? My heart sank, for that was the old 1914 psychology. It is rather horrible to have a past experience of this kind to check against the present.
We heard yesterday that my mother-in-law is returning to this country on the "George Washington" with our son, John, and his wife. I must say that it was rather a relief to have them actually start, but I can't help thinking of my mother-in-law's sister, Mrs. Forbes, over ninety years old who stays on in Paris with absolute calm.
It is true that as we grow older, we can face all the emergencies, sorrows and trials of life with a greater calm than we could in youth. Some people say this is due to the fact that age slows up our reactions to everything. I prefer to think that it is due to the fact that with age comes wisdom and ability to accept whatever comes with more philosophy and stoicism. Experience should count for something in our ability to meet the vicissitudes of life. In Mrs. Forbes' case, her mind is so alert and she is so interested in everything going on in the world, that I know it is not indifference which makes her calmly stay on in her Paris home.
After the World War, I saw her going through a Paris hospital bringing the men some comforts and pleasures, and I feel quite sure that even now she would try to fulfill some of the obligations which she feels are a part of the life of every human being. There is something very fine about the attitude of "noblesse oblige," which some of the older generation keep right down to the end.
The American embassies in all European countries are asking our citizens abroad to return to their own country as rapidly as possible. In the meantime, both the Pope and the President have issued pleas in the attempt to preserve European peace. Negotiation, mediation or arbitration are just words, but any one of them if put into practice now by people who really want to keep peace, might mean life instead of death to hundreds of thousands of young men. It is not only the young men whom we need to consider, for when the first airplane flies over a foreign country and drops its bombs, then women, children and all men are in equal danger.