An excerpt from one of the new 'found
in the attic' books by D.E. Stevenson [Dorothy Emily Peploe] Click
Prologue: Jean introduces
herself and her parents, and relates, amongst other things, the reasons
for the removal of the Erskine family to Crale.
WHEN I first thought to write a book
about Diana, everyone gave me so much advice on the subject that I
got quite muddled. They all had different ideas as to how it should be
done, and I found that it was impossible to please everybody and very difficult
to please anybody, so eventually I decided to tell my own story in my own
simple manner. But then, for reasons which will transpire, I suddenly saw
that none of these people could ever read my story, not even my family
and least of all Diana herself. For I have been guarding a secret,
a great dark secret, which would ruin the lives and destroy the happiness
of the people dearest to me in the world. So though I will write
Diana’s story, I will keep it safe, and hidden away for others to find
when we are all gone to a better place and these things will no longer
I have always
kept a copious diary, and this fact makes my task much easier than it would
otherwise be. As I look back, turning the well-thumbed pages, many incidents
flash before my eyes like pictures. Things which I thought valueless at
the time now take on a peculiar significance; others which I thought
important, drop into the background.
do we see events when we have outgrown them, when time and distance have
given them their true proportions! How often do those events which we most
dread turn out to be the happiest times in our lives, while those to which
we so eagerly look forward are often disappointing in their fulfilment.
My thought on
looking back is - how I have grown! What a queer, immature child that was
who, less than three years ago, masqueraded under my name! With what tears
and self-martyrdom did she enter upon the happiest and most interesting
time of her life!
My chief difficulty
lay, as I have said, in too much advice, and this especially with regard
to the point where I should take up my pen; for, unlike fiction, there
is no beginning and no end to the stories of real life, they start long
before our birth and do not finish with our death, as many people imagine.
How far back was it necessary to go to make all things as plain and straightforward
After many sleepless
days of thought - as Diana would say - I decided to start my story with
our removal to the country in May 1913; but to do this it is necessary
for me to give a little résumé of the conditions which led
up to this removal, and, not less important, to introduce my family.
I was more than
distressed when we finally decided to leave Edinburgh and move down to
Crale, a tiny fishing village on the east coast. I called it exile, bid
a tender farewell to all my friends, and hugged to myself the blackest
side of the cloud, denying that there was any silver lining at all. I was
very young then, though it was only three years ago, and very young people
are apt to look on the darkest side of their troubles; they hate change
of any sort, not realising the transitory nature of this life and all its
trials and pleasures. Experience alone teaches us that no cloud is as black
as it looks, and that all things work together for our good.
I was sure that
I should never be happy again, and Edinburgh, which until now had
appeared to me in the light of a very ordinary town, became in my eyes
a veritable paradise, from which one poor shivering little Peri was being
shut out for good and all.
Yet, in spite
of this kicking against the pricks, I was reasonable enough to see that
the big Edinburgh parish was getting too much for Father. The wind whistling
down the draughty streets had laid him low with more than one attack of
bronchitis during the winter. Then the long distances that he had to go
from one sick parishioner to another and the steep hilly streets, all this
had tried him to breaking point, and I felt that to pass another winter
under the same conditions was not only unwise, but impossible.
“Take him to the
country,” said the doctor, with professional airiness; and the offer of
the vacancy at Crale had come a few weeks later with an opportuneness that
both Father and Mother felt was Providential.
Besides my parents,
my only relations were Aunt Ellen and her son Andy. When, therefore, we
thought of moving to Crale, Father looked about and succeeded in finding
for her a small farmhouse at Gordonburn, within easy distance of our new
who was the apple of his mother’s eye, was an Erskine through and through;
in fact, I had always thought him ridiculously like my father. At the time
my story opens he was about seventeen years of age. He was a steady quiet
boy and his matter-of-fact outlook upon life had a very beneficial influence
on Aunt Ellen, who was always happier and quieter when Andy was near her.
It was in view of this fact that Father arranged for Andy to spend his
weekends with his mother at Gordonburn, returning to Edinburgh on
the Monday morning and working hard with his tutor all the week.
worked very well, for Andy was one of those naturally hard-working people
and took life’s responsibilities very seriously. In spite of that he was
as full of fun and mischief as any other boy and we were great friends
and had pulled through many a scrape together.
He always came
to me in trouble and what does a woman love more than extricating her man
from the consequences of his own folly? We were more like brother and sister
than mere cousins - possibly because we were both only children and were
therefore thrown more into each other’s society. I had always been the
leader in all our games for I had the advantage both in age and quickness
The only bright
spot in all the darkness of exile was the nearness of Andy. He could often
bicycle over and see me, for Gordonburn was only about four or five miles
distant from Crale Manse across the moor. We could have picnics together
on Saturday afternoons; I imagined myself looking forward to these expeditions
all through the week.
But then I did
not yet know Diana.
Without Diana this book would never
have been written; she is the principal person in the story, all the others
group themselves round her and are coloured by her strong personality.
If I have shown her truly and made her live - with all her lovable whimsies
and straight impulses - I shall have accomplished all, nay more than all,
I hoped to do, and shall not have dipped into my old diaries in vain.
"Jean Erskine's Secret"
Here is our
D.E. Stevenson catalogue .
Stevenson to see our informational bibliography of Dorothy Emily Stevenson's