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Grandmother's Travel Memories

John Lawton Reflections

Photo: John Lawton

A man came out and saw me taking notes. "Looking for someone?" he asked. "Yeah," I said. "My grandmother." He looked skeptical. "In here?"

The next day at the British Library, I hunted for a familiar name in the India Office Records, a massive repository of documents relating to the pre-1947 government. But my grandmother didn’t show up, at least not under "British maids, 1906," the only terms I thought to use. Turning to the private papers, I found the diaries of Lady Curzon, wife of the viceroy. She was from the wealthy Leiter family of Washington’s Dupont Circle. Didn’t William Eustis once work at the U.S. embassy in London?In my new six-degrees-of-separation world, it seemed possible that the Mortons or Eustises might have been connected to the Leiters. But nothing came up there either. Or in a later search of the London Times. Or in two more frustrating days spent wrestling with spools of microfilm at the London Metropolitan and City of Westminster archives.

On a final stroll through Marylebone, I found myself at 2 Upper Wimpole Street, where Arthur Conan Doyle had created Sherlock Holmes. It made me regret that I hadn’t been able to make better use of my clues. But what had Holmes said?"When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Now, on Great Titchfield Street, by eliminating the Malibu Girls, I could see my grandmother, in her dainty shoes, running off to buy her trunk.

Visions and a crystal inkwell—these were her indubitable legacy.

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