“…[so you said, after he spent most of July with you he went to Canada?]
On a War Bond drive.
[and Ouida went with him]
Yes. She wasn’t going, but then at the last minute she said she was. And…and when he told me that, something just flickered on and off in my mind…in the back of my mind. Some kind of little psychic warning thing. I just had a moment of…bad feeling about it.
[and how long had you and he been lovers by this time?]
Since February. So six or seven months.
[the time you told me about, the time she spoke to you at the War Relief function, when was that?]
Oh. Yes. That was in the fall, just before they left.
[and after he’d spent all that time with you at your beach house]
[so that all knits together]
Yes it does. When I told my mum she said, “I told you he’s trouble.”
[she didn’t like him?]
She liked him. She’d actually had a crush on him when he was on stage in London. She saw him in Peter Ibbetson. But he was married with a child. So he was trouble. After she knew about us she used to call him “HIM.” Never used his name. She’d say, “Are you seeing HIM? Is HE going to be there? Is HE staying over again. I know HE gives you a good time in bed dear, but is it worth it?” Mary…bless her.
[so what happened when [Basil] was in Canada?]
That was when Ouida told him she wanted him to stop seeing me. He said she never – ever – even acknowledged he was seeing this or that woman. It was…they never discussed it. She’d never wanted to discuss it. She was…it was “Do what you have to, deal with these gross physical needs, but don’t tell me.”
[But presumably she was used to them being pretty brief anonymous kind of things…]
[and she must have known this was different]
It was probably not hard to work out.
[so, she asked him to stop seeing you]
Yes. They were in a sleeping car on the train to Calgary. She… asked him to stop seeing me and intimated she was prepared to have sex with him.
[so, she told him she didn’t want him to see you anymore and then said she’d sleep with him]
Yes. Well, she invited him to sleep with her.
[like a trade-off]
That’s how he saw it.
[and did he?]
[he turned her down]
Yes. I think he thought, “Alright, you can fuck me and I’ll try not to show my disgust,” was not a great turn on.
When he came home he told me. And it was only then, when he told me, that it really hit me, I was…I had no right to him. He was married. She had the rights. He had a baby. They’d adopted a baby together. I sat there looking at him when he was telling me, thinking, “I don’t know how to do this.” Trying to tough it out, trying not to cry like some pathetic child, and just feeling like the ground was giving way beneath me. I said, “So, is this it?” He said, “It should be, but I can’t do it.” I just…I was…I just thought, “Thank God, I don’t have to deal with it, not yet.”
[he didn’t end it]
No. It was…it was…”not yet…soon, but not yet. We’ll just have this time, or…we’ll just see each other once more.”
[did his wife think it was over?]
[so at this point it’s crossed a line]
[a line he’d never crossed before]
Yes. He’d…always avoided anything…it was always friendly and, you know, women who knew the deal. Mostly they were just, a lot were just one night stands.
[sounds like a dream situation for most men]
Oh you know the irony though was he’d…he was trying to escape from that life by getting married. He’d wanted to…be faithful to her, but…
[Why do you think his wife wanted it this way?]
I…she…I don’t think she wanted him to sleep with other women, she just didn’t want him to sleep with her, and…she didn’t want to have sex with him, so giving him permission to satisfy the need elsewhere was a way of exercising some control. Better that than him doing it behind her back…or…I don’t know. The marriage wasn’t about…it was more like a business for her I think. And she’d invested in it, and wanted a secure return. That was her way of trying to shore it all up safely.
[why not just sleep with him?]
Don’t ask me…she found sex repulsive.
[ok…ok…so we are in the fall of 1941?]
[she’s asked him to stop seeing you, and tried to reinstigate a sexual connection, and he said, “thanks but…”]
[and when he came home from Canada he told you about it]
[but you didn’t end it]
He you know…I was desperate to not lose him quite yet, to just hang on for as long as possible. And I was very young and I didn’t see…I didn’t see what…I didn’t think about what the lie meant for him and his marriage. I didn’t think of him in relation to this woman, only in relation to me. But he’d married her. They were raising a child. They had boundaries and he’d made promises to her that he was breaking. And all the construction of their lives was going to collapse as soon as she knew. You know maybe it was only fair I had my turn. Except when my husband found a woman young enough to be his daughter he just walked out the damn door and didn’t come back. [laughs]I used to think about Ouida then. She was still alive, living in New York. I used to think, “you know don’t you, and you’re laughing.”
[how long did it go on like that?]
I don’t remember. She found out eventually. And it was…after that it was just…it just went to hell.
[so at this point, when are we, still fall 1941?]
Around then. I was still on suspension. So, it must have been in October or early November.
After she found out?
Oh there was a very big scene. She…was very upset. She yelled and cried and…attacked him. I mean she went berserk. When I saw him he had nail scratches, here…
[across his cheek]
Yes, deep. And on his neck. He just…she threw him out. She told him she wanted him to leave. And…
Yes. She…he couldn’t talk to her. She was just screaming at him, “get out.” So, he got out. He stayed with the Bruces.
[for how long?]
I don’t know, a few weeks. She wouldn’t talk to him. She communicated with him via Bunny and Benita Colman. She said she was going to divorce him and he was going to be very very sorry.
[so she said she’d take his daughter away]
She said a lot of things. She was always threatening something. She said she would tell everything to the gossip columns, and she knew about his…obviously she knew names of…
Yes. And a couple of them…they were very big names and there were marriages and careers. And. So, it…it could have ended up hurting a lot of people.
[so what did he do?]
What could he do?
[and that’s when he asked you if you’d go with him to England?]
He talked about it. Because…well, it would have made things easier…if Ouida was going to tell all in public then it would have been…Louella would have been all over it…it. And…well you know in those days…
[it would have been hard for you especially as the “other woman” breaking up a family]
Yes…I…personally I didn’t give a damn…I mean it was a small price…because I thought…I really thought for that time we might have a future. I was just…I was…it sounds morbidly selfish but I was incredibly happy and full of joy. But yes it could…it would have been pretty nasty. So, he said…he thought I’d be shielded to some extent in England…and…and he wanted to go home.
[what did you say when he asked if you’d go?]
I said yes. I said I’d go with him wherever he wanted.
The image at the top of the page is a cap from “Madame X” (1920) starring Pauline Frederick