Madeleine Parker – sighs and whispers
It was the sociable and wealthy Gosse who helped Parker make arrangements for her mother, Norma, to sail to Australia so that â as she told Haskell – âwe need no longer be separatedâ. Mrs Parker, who lived at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, made arrangements to travel to Montreal to board the freighter, Port Alma.
On October 23, Parker appeared as Frivolity in Les Presages. âShe danced it wellâ, wrote Haskell, âbut the effort was apparent, and there was nothing to suggest frivolity. At times she seemed to be tottering, and when she missed an important cue I rushed round to the wingsâ.
She told him âI will be all right. I must go on; but my head is burning, and I can scarcely breathe. I have such a terrible sore throatâ.
Haskell found her feverish and barely able to stand. Early the next morning he visited Parker, finding her struggling to talk and âas pale as the white frangipani her friends had sent to decorate the roomâ. She told him that a doctor had called on her, and instructed her to rest for a few days. Parker believed that she would be able to travel to Melbourne with the company. Haskell wrote that he met the doctor âin the corridorâ presumably the hotel corridor and was asked if he was Parkerâs closest friend. âI suppose soâ, he replied, âat any rate as close as anyâ.
Later at the doctorâs rooms, Haskell discovered the terrible news. A blood test showed that she probably had leukaemia. The doctor insisted that this news must not leak out âor it may easily reach and alarm her. I believe she has about six weeks to liveâ. Discovering that her mother was on board a ship to Australia, he told Haskell that she might arrive in time to see her daughter alive.
On October 25, Parker was admitted to Ru Rua Private Hospital where her large room overlooked a garden.Â With his mind fixed on the companyâs planned departure in three days to Melbourne, Haskell decided âI would willingly have remained behind, but a man cannot be much comfort to a girl so desperately illâ. Instead, he told Mrs Russell the whole story. She decided to stay behind to care for Parker, leaving her then 15-year-old daughter, Lelia, to travel with the company to Melbourne.
In Melbourne, Haskell immersed himself in the city, finding the social life a distraction and dealing with ongoing dramas over the management of the tour. He received what he called guarded little notes from the doctor and long pathetic letters from Mrs Russell. Not surprisingly, news of Parkerâs illness had leaked to the press, after all itâs hard to believe that most of the company did not know, if not from Haskellâs circle, then from the very young Lelia who could not be expected to keep the news to herself when her mother was caring for Parker in Adelaide.
By November 9, the news of Parkerâs illness was in the press.Â Under the headline âBallet Dancer Reported To Have Rare Diseaseâ the Adelaide paper, The Advertiser, reported that âlittle change is reported in the condition of Miss Mira Dimina of the Russian ballet, who has been in an Adelaide private hospital for two weeks since she developed a throat and mouth infectionâŚ Miss Dimina is suffering from a rare disease, leuchaemia which causes multiplication of the white blood corpusclesâ.
On November 17, the dancer, Betty Scorer wrote to her mother in England: âThere is said to be no hope of Diminaâs recovery, she has pernicious anaemia and itâs only a question of weeks, maybe days. She has the blood transfusions, but all the blood turns white within 48 hours, so it is no use.Â Isnât it frightfulâŚ.â
Haskell, meanwhile, was asked by the Adelaide press to send a photo of Parker âjust in caseâ. On November 22, Haskell was staying with the artist and ballet lover, Daryl Lindsay at his property Mulberry Hill, Baxter, about 50 kilometres from the centre of Melbourne when he received a call from Jacques Lidji, one of the balletâs two company managers. He asked him to return to Melbourne immediately. Parker had died at 10.30am. Lindsay drove him to Melbourne and from there, Haskell travelled by train that evening to Adelaide along with the other managers, Alexander Philipoff and Daphne Deane and the dancer, Natasha Branitzka.
Haskell saw Parkerâs body, surrounded by flowers and âsleeping just as she was when I peeped into her cabin at rehearsal time. Afterwards Pete [Mrs Russell] told me that she had suffered comparatively little and had never known how desperately ill she was. Up to the end, she talked of her dancing and asked to be reassured that she would get her roles back again. The promise of Le Spectre de la Rose gave her infinite pleasure. Before she lapsed into her final sleep she made dancing movements the whole night long. Her courage and fine spirits had endeared her to everyone; the doctor and nurses are mourning her like friendsâ.