Eleven pages—this is a letter! Have courage. I'm going to stop.
Yours always, Judy
Dear Mr. Rich-Man,
Here's your cheque for fifty dollars. Thank you very much, but I do not feel that I can keep it. My allowance is sufficient to afford all of the hats that I need. I am sorry that I wrote all that silly stuff about the millinery shop; it's just that I had never seen anything like it before.
However, I wasn't begging! And I would rather not accept any more charity than I have to.
Sincerely yours, Jerusha Abbott
Will you please forgive me for the letter I wrote you yesterday? After I posted it I was sorry, and tried to get it back, but that beastly mail clerk wouldn't give it back to me.
It's the middle of the night now; I've been awake for hours thinking what a Worm I am—what a Thousand-legged Worm—and that's the worst I can say! I've closed the door very softly into the study so as not to wake Julia and Sallie, and am sitting up in bed writing to you on paper torn out of my history note-book.
I just wanted to tell you that I am sorry I was so impolite about your cheque. I know you meant it kindly, and I think you're an old dear to take so much trouble for such a silly thing as a hat. I ought to have returned it very much more graciously.
But in any case, I had to return it. It's different with me than with other girls. They can take things naturally from people. They have fathers and brothers and aunts and uncles; but I can't be on any such relations with any one. I like to pretend that you belong to me, just to play with the idea, but of course I know you don't. I'm alone, really—with my back to the wall fighting the world—and I get sort of gaspy when I think about it. I put it out of my mind, and keep on pretending; but don't you see, Daddy? I can't accept any more money than I have to, because some day I shall be wanting to pay it back, and even as great an author as I intend to be won't be able to face a PERFECTLY TREMENDOUS debt.
I'd love pretty hats and things, but I mustn't mortgage the future to pay for them.
You'll forgive me, won't you, for being so rude? I have an awful habit of writing impulsively when I first think things, and then posting the letter beyond recall. But if I sometimes seem thoughtless and ungrateful, I never mean it. In my heart I thank you always for the life and freedom and independence that you have given me. My childhood was just a long, sullen stretch of revolt, and now I am so happy every moment of the day that I can't believe it's true. I feel like a made-up heroine in a story-book.
It's a quarter past two. I'm going to tiptoe out to post this off now. You'll receive it in the next mail after the other; so you won't have a very long time to think bad of me.
Good night, Daddy, I love you always, Judy
Field Day last Saturday. It was a very spectacular occasion. First we had a parade of all the classes, with everybody dressed in white linen, the Seniors carrying blue and gold Japanese umbrellas, and the juniors white and yellow banners. Our class had crimson balloons—very fetching, especially as they were always getting loose and floating off—and the Freshmen wore green tissue-paper hats with long streamers. Also we had a band in blue uniforms hired from town. Also about a dozen funny people, like clowns in a circus, to keep the spectators entertained between events.
Julia was dressed as a fat country man with a linen duster and whiskers and baggy umbrella. Patsy Moriarty (Patrici really. Did you ever hear such a name? Mrs. Lippett couldn't have done better) who is tall and thin was Julia's wife in a absurd green bonnet over one ear. Waves of laughter followed them the whole length of the course. Julia played the part extremely well. I never dreamed that a Pendleton could display so much comedy spirit—begging Master Jervie' pardon; I don't consider him a true Pendleton though, any more than I consider you a true Trustee.
Sallie and I weren't in the parade because we were entered for the events. And what do you think? We both won! At least in something. We tried for the running broad jump and lost; but Sallie won the pole-vaulting (seven feet three inches) and I won the fifty-yard sprint (eight seconds).
I was pretty panting at the end, but it was great fun, with the whole class waving balloons and cheering and yelling:
What's the matter with Judy Abbott? She's all right. Who's all right? Judy Ab-bott!
That, Daddy, is true fame. Then trotting back to the dressing tent and being rubbed down with alcohol and having a lemon to suck. You see we're very professional. It's a fine thing to win an event for your class, because the class that wins the most gets the athletic cup for the year. The Seniors won it this year, with seven events to their credit. The athletic association gave a dinner in the gymnasium to all of the winners. We had fried soft-shell crabs, and chocolate ice-cream moulded in the shape of basket balls.
I sat up half of last night reading Jane Eyre. Are you old enough, Daddy, to remember sixty years ago? And, if so, did people talk that way?
The haughty Lady Blanche says to the footman, 'Stop your chattering, knave, and do my bidding.' Mr. Rochester talks about the metal welkin when he means the sky; and as for the mad woman who laughs like a hyena and sets fire to bed curtains and tears up wedding veils and BITES—it's melodrama of the purest, but just the same, you read and read and read. I can't see how any girl could have written such a book, especially any girl who was brought up in a churchyard. There's something about those Brontes that fascinates me. Their books, their lives, their spirit. Where did they get it? When I was reading about little Jane's troubles in the charity school, I got so angry that I had to go out and take a walk. I understood exactly how she felt. Having known Mrs. Lippett, I could see Mr. Brocklehurst.
Don't be outraged, Daddy. I am not intimating that the John Grier Home was like the Lowood Institute. We had plenty to eat and plenty to wear, sufficient water to wash in, and a furnace in the cellar. But there was one deadly likeness. Our lives were absolutely monotonous and uneventful. Nothing nice ever happened, except ice-cream on Sundays, and even that was regular. In all the eighteen years I was there I only had one adventure—when the woodshed burned. We had to get up in the night and dress so as to be ready in case the house should catch. But it didn't catch and we went back to bed.
Everybody likes a few surprises; it's a perfectly natural human craving. But I never had one until Mrs. Lippett called me to the office to tell me that Mr. John Smith was going to send me to college. And then she broke the news so gradually that it just barely shocked me.
You know, Daddy, I think that the most necessary quality for any person to have is imagination. It makes people able to put themselves in other people's places. It makes them kind and sympathetic and understanding. It ought to be cultivated in children. But the John Grier Home instantly stamped out the slightest flicker that appeared. Duty was the one quality that was encouraged. I don't think children ought to know the meaning of the word; it's odious, detestable. They ought to do everything from love.
Wait until you see the orphan asylum that I am going to be the head of! It's my favourite play at night before I go to sleep. I plan it out to the littlest detail—the meals and clothes and study and amusements and punishments; for even my superior orphans are sometimes bad.
But anyway, they are going to be happy. I think that every one, no matter how many troubles he may have when he grows up, ought to have a happy childhood to look back upon. And if I ever have any children of my own, no matter how unhappy I may be, I am not going to let them have any cares until they grow up.
(There goes the chapel bell—I'll finish this letter sometime).
When I came in from laboratory this afternoon, I found a squirrel sitting on the tea table helping himself to almonds. These are the kind of callers we entertain now that warm weather has come and the windows stay open—
Perhaps you think, last night being Friday, with no classes today, that I passed a nice quiet, readable evening with the set of Stevenson that I bought with my prize money? But if so, you've never attended a girls' college, Daddy dear. Six friends dropped in to make fudge, and one of them dropped the fudge—while it was still liquid—right in the middle of our best rug. We shall never be able to clean up the mess.
I haven't mentioned any lessons of late; but we are still having them every day. It's sort of a relief though, to get away from them and discuss life in the large—rather one-sided discussions that you and I hold, but that's your own fault. You are welcome to answer back any time you choose.
I've been writing this letter off and on for three days, and I fear by now vous etes bien bored!
Goodbye, nice Mr. Man, Judy
Mr. Daddy-Long-Legs Smith,
SIR: Having completed the study of argumentation and the science of dividing a thesis into heads, I have decided to adopt the following form for letter-writing. It contains all necessary facts, but no unnecessary verbiage.
I. We had written examinations this week in: A. Chemistry. B. History.
II. A new dormitory is being built. A. Its material is: (a) red brick. (b) grey stone. B. Its capacity will be: (a) one dean, five instructors. (b) two hundred girls. (c) one housekeeper, three cooks, twenty waitresses, twenty chambermaids.
III. We had junket for dessert tonight.
IV. I am writing a special topic upon the Sources of Shakespeare's Plays.
V. Lou McMahon slipped and fell this afternoon at basket ball, and she: A. Dislocated her shoulder. B. Bruised her knee.
VI. I have a new hat trimmed with: A. Blue velvet ribbon. B. Two blue quills. C. Three red pompoms.
VII. It is half past nine.
VIII. Good night.
You will never guess the nice thing that has happened.
The McBrides have asked me to spend the summer at their camp in the Adirondacks! They belong to a sort of club on a lovely little lake in the middle of the woods. The different members have houses made of logs dotted about among the trees, and they go canoeing on the lake, and take long walks through trails to other camps, and have dances once a week in the club house—Jimmie McBride is going to have a college friend visiting him part of the summer, so you see we shall have plenty of men to dance with.
Wasn't it sweet of Mrs. McBride to ask me? It appears that she liked me when I was there for Christmas.
Please excuse this being short. It isn't a real letter; it's just to let you know that I'm disposed of for the summer.
Yours, In a VERY contented frame of mind, Judy
Your secretary man has just written to me saying that Mr. Smith prefers that I should not accept Mrs. McBride's invitation, but should return to Lock Willow the same as last summer.
Why, why, WHY, Daddy?
You don't understand about it. Mrs. McBride does want me, really and truly. I'm not the least bit of trouble in the house. I'm a help. They don't take up many servants, and Sallie an I can do lots of useful things. It's a fine chance for me to learn housekeeping. Every woman ought to understand it, and I only know asylum-keeping.
There aren't any girls our age at the camp, and Mrs. McBride wants me for a companion for Sallie. We are planning to do a lot of reading together. We are going to read all of the books for next year's English and sociology. The Professor said it would be a great help if we would get our reading finished in the summer; and it's so much easier to remember it if we read together and talk it over.
Just to live in the same house with Sallie's mother is an education. She's the most interesting, entertaining, companionable, charming woman in the world; she knows everything. Think how many summers I've spent with Mrs. Lippett and how I'll appreciate the contrast. You needn't be afraid that I'll be crowding them, for their house is made of rubber. When they have a lot of company, they just sprinkle tents about in the woods and turn the boys outside. It's going to be such a nice, healthy summer exercising out of doors every minute. Jimmie McBride is going to teach me how to ride horseback and paddle a canoe, and how to shoot and—oh, lots of things I ought to know. It's the kind of nice, jolly, care-free time that I've never had; and I think every girl deserves it once in her life. Of course I'll do exactly as you say, but please, PLEASE let me go, Daddy. I've never wanted anything so much.
This isn't Jerusha Abbott, the future great author, writing to you. It's just Judy—a girl.
Mr. John Smith,
SIR: Yours of the 7th inst. at hand. In compliance with the instructions received through your secretary, I leave on Friday next to spend the summer at Lock Willow Farm.
I hope always to remain, (Miss) Jerusha Abbott
LOCK WILLOW FARM, 3rd August
It has been nearly two months since I wrote, which wasn't nice of me, I know, but I haven't loved you much this summer—you see I'm being frank!
You can't imagine how disappointed I was at having to give up the McBrides' camp. Of course I know that you're my guardian, and that I have to regard your wishes in all matters, but I couldn't see any REASON. It was so distinctly the best thing that could have happened to me. If I had been Daddy, and you had been Judy, I should have said, 'Bless yo my child, run along and have a good time; see lots of new people and learn lots of new things; live out of doors, and get strong and well and rested for a year of hard work.'
But not at all! Just a curt line from your secretary ordering me to Lock Willow.
It's the impersonality of your commands that hurts my feelings. It seems as though, if you felt the tiniest little bit for me the way I feel for you, you'd sometimes send me a message that you'd written with your own hand, instead of those beastly typewritten secretary's notes. If there were the slightest hint that you cared, I'd do anything on earth to please you.
I know that I was to write nice, long, detailed letters without ever expecting any answer. You're living up to your side of the bargain—I'm being educated—and I suppose you're thinking I'm not living up to mine!
But, Daddy, it is a hard bargain. It is, really. I'm so awfully lonely. You are the only person I have to care for, and you are so shadowy. You're just an imaginary man that I've made up—and probably the real YOU isn't a bit like my imaginary YOU. But you did once, when I was ill in the infirmary, send me a message, and now, when I am feeling awfully forgotten, I get out your card and read it over.
I don't think I am telling you at all what I started to say, which was this:
Although my feelings are still hurt, for it is very humiliating to be picked up and moved about by an arbitrary, peremptory, unreasonable, omnipotent, invisible Providence, still, when a man has been as kind and generous and thoughtful as you have heretofore been towards me, I suppose he has a right to be an arbitrary, peremptory, unreasonable, invisible Providence if he chooses, and so—I'll forgive you and be cheerful again. But I still don't enjoy getting Sallie's letters about the good times they are having in camp!
However—we will draw a veil over that and begin again.
I've been writing and writing this summer; four short stories finished and sent to four different magazines. So you see I'm trying to be an author. I have a workroom fixed in a corner of the attic where Master Jervie used to have his rainy-day playroom. It's in a cool, breezy corner with two dormer windows, and shaded by a maple tree with a family of red squirrels living in a hole.
I'll write a nicer letter in a few days and tell you all the farm news.
We need rain.
Yours as ever, Judy
SIR: I address you from the second crotch in the willow tree by the pool in the pasture. There's a frog croaking underneath, a locust singing overhead and two little 'devil downheads' darting up and down the trunk. I've been here for an hour; it's a very comfortable crotch, especially after being upholstered with two sofa cushions. I came up with a pen and tablet hoping to write an immortal short story, but I've been having a dreadful time with my heroine—I CAN'T make her behave as I want her to behave; so I've abandoned her for the moment, and am writing to you. (Not much relief though, for I can't make you behave as I want you to, either.)
If you are in that dreadful New York, I wish I could send you some of this lovely, breezy, sunshiny outlook. The country is Heaven after a week of rain.
Speaking of Heaven—do you remember Mr. Kellogg that I told you about last summer?—the minister of the little white church at the Corners. Well, the poor old soul is dead—last winter of pneumonia. I went half a dozen times to hear him preach and got very well acquainted with his theology. He believed to the end exactly the same things he started with. It seems to me that a man who can think straight along for forty-seven years without changing a single idea ought to be kept in a cabinet as a curiosity. I hope he is enjoying his harp and golden crown; he was so perfectly sure of finding them! There's a new young man, very consequential, in his place. The congregation is pretty dubious, especially the faction led by Deacon Cummings. It looks as though there was going to be an awful split in the church. We don't care for innovations in religion in this neighbourhood.
During our week of rain I sat up in the attic and had an orgy of reading—Stevenson, mostly. He himself is more entertaining than any of the characters in his books; I dare say he made himself into the kind of hero that would look well in print. Don't you think it was perfect of him to spend all the ten thousand dollars his father left, for a yacht, and go sailing off to the South Seas? He lived up to his adventurous creed. If my father had left me ten thousand dollars, I'd do it, too. The thought of Vailima makes me wild. I want to see the tropics. I want to see the whole world. I am going to be a great author, or artist, or actress, or playwright—or whatever sort of a great person I turn out to be. I have a terrible wanderthirst; the very sight of a map makes me want to put on my hat and take an umbrella and start. 'I shall see before I die the palms and temples of the South.'
Thursday evening at twilight, sitting on the doorstep.
Very hard to get any news into this letter! Judy is becoming so philosophical of late, that she wishes to discourse largely of the world in general, instead of descending to the trivial details of daily life. But if you MUST have news, here it is:
Our nine young pigs waded across the brook and ran away last Tuesday, and only eight came back. We don't want to accuse anyone unjustly, but we suspect that Widow Dowd has one more than she ought to have.
Mr. Weaver has painted his barn and his two silos a bright pumpkin yellow—a very ugly colour, but he says it will wear.
The Brewers have company this week; Mrs. Brewer's sister and two nieces from Ohio.
One of our Rhode Island Reds only brought off three chicks out of fifteen eggs. We can't imagine what was the trouble. Rhode island Reds, in my opinion, are a very inferior breed. I prefer Buff Orpingtons.
The new clerk in the post office at Bonnyrigg Four Corners drank every drop of Jamaica ginger they had in stock—seven dollars' worth—before he was discovered.
Old Ira Hatch has rheumatism and can't work any more; he never saved his money when he was earning good wages, so now he has to live on the town.
There's to be an ice-cream social at the schoolhouse next Saturday evening. Come and bring your families.
I have a new hat that I bought for twenty-five cents at the post office. This is my latest portrait, on my way to rake the hay.
It's getting too dark to see; anyway, the news is all used up.
Good night, Judy
Good morning! Here is some news! What do you think? You'd never, never, never guess who's coming to Lock Willow. A letter to Mrs. Semple from Mr. Pendleton. He's motoring through the Berkshires, and is tired and wants to rest on a nice quiet farm—if he climbs out at her doorstep some night will she have a room ready for him? Maybe he'll stay one week, or maybe two, or maybe three; he'll see how restful it is when he gets here.
Such a flutter as we are in! The whole house is being cleaned and all the curtains washed. I am driving to the Corners this morning to get some new oilcloth for the entry, and two cans of brown floor paint for the hall and back stairs. Mrs. Dowd is engaged to come tomorrow to wash the windows (in the exigency of the moment, we waive our suspicions in regard to the piglet). You might think, from this account of our activities, that the house was not already immaculate; but I assure you it was! Whatever Mrs. Semple's limitations, she is a HOUSEKEEPER.
But isn't it just like a man, Daddy? He doesn't give the remotest hint as to whether he will land on the doorstep today, or two weeks from today. We shall live in a perpetual breathlessness until he comes—and if he doesn't hurry, the cleaning may all have to be done over again.
There's Amasai waiting below with the buckboard and Grover. I drive alone—but if you could see old Grove, you wouldn't be worried as to my safety.
With my hand on my heart—farewell.
PS. Isn't that a nice ending? I got it out of Stevenson's letters.
Good morning again! I didn't get this ENVELOPED yesterday before the postman came, so I'll add some more. We have one mail a day at twelve o'clock. Rural delivery is a blessing to the farmers! Our postman not only delivers letters, but he runs errands for us in town, at five cents an errand. Yesterday he brought me some shoe-strings and a jar of cold cream (I sunburned all the skin off my nose before I got my new hat) and a blue Windsor tie and a bottle of blacking all for ten cents. That was an unusual bargain, owing to the largeness of my order.
Also he tells us what is happening in the Great World. Several people on the route take daily papers, and he reads them as he jogs along, and repeats the news to the ones who don't subscribe. So in case a war breaks out between the United States and Japan, or the president is assassinated, or Mr. Rockefeller leaves a million dollars to the John Grier Home, you needn't bother to write; I'll hear it anyway.
No sign yet of Master Jervie. But you should see how clean our house is—and with what anxiety we wipe our feet before we step in!
I hope he'll come soon; I am longing for someone to talk to. Mrs. Semple, to tell you the truth, gets rather monotonous. She never lets ideas interrupt the easy flow of her conversation. It's a funny thing about the people here. Their world is just this single hilltop. They are not a bit universal, if you know what I mean. It's exactly the same as at the John Grier Home. Our ideas there were bounded by the four sides of the iron fence, only I didn't mind it so much because I was younger, and was so awfully busy. By the time I'd got all my beds made and my babies' faces washed and had gone to school and come home and had washed their faces again and darned their stockings and mended Freddie Perkins's trousers (he tore them every day of his life) and learned my lessons in between—I was ready to go to bed, and I didn't notice any lack of social intercourse. But after two years in a conversational college, I do miss it; and I shall be glad to see somebody who speaks my language.
I really believe I've finished, Daddy. Nothing else occurs to me at the moment—I'll try to write a longer letter next time.
Yours always, Judy
PS. The lettuce hasn't done at all well this year. It was so dry early in the season.
Well, Daddy, Master Jervie's here. And such a nice time as we're having! At least I am, and I think he is, too—he has been here ten days and he doesn't show any signs of going. The way Mrs. Semple pampers that man is scandalous. If she indulged him as much when he was a baby, I don't know how he ever turned out so well.
He and I eat at a little table set on the side porch, or sometimes under the trees, or—when it rains or is cold—in the best parlour. He just picks out the spot he wants to eat in and Carrie trots after him with the table. Then if it has been an awful nuisance, and she has had to carry the dishes very far, she finds a dollar under the sugar bowl.
He is an awfully companionable sort of man, though you would never believe it to see him casually; he looks at first glance like a true Pendleton, but he isn't in the least. He is just as simple and unaffected and sweet as he can be—that seems a funny way to describe a man, but it's true. He's extremely nice with the farmers around here; he meets them in a sort of man-to-man fashion that disarms them immediately. They were very suspicious at first. They didn't care for his clothes! And I will say that his clothes are rather amazing. He wears knickerbockers and pleated jackets and white flannels and riding clothes with puffed trousers. Whenever he comes down in anything new, Mrs. Semple, beaming with pride, walks around and views him from every angle, and urges him to be careful where he sits down; she is so afraid he will pick up some dust. It bores him dreadfully. He's always saying to her:
'Run along, Lizzie, and tend to your work. You can't boss me any longer. I've grown up.'
It's awfully funny to think of that great big, long-legged man (he's nearly as long-legged as you, Daddy) ever sitting in Mrs. Semple's lap and having his face washed. Particularly funny when you see her lap! She has two laps now, and three chins. But he says that once she was thin and wiry and spry and could run faster than he.
Such a lot of adventures we're having! We've explored the country for miles, and I've learned to fish with funny little flies made of feathers. Also to shoot with a rifle and a revolver. Also to ride horseback—there's an astonishing amount of life in old Grove. We fed him on oats for three days, and he shied at a calf and almost ran away with me.
We climbed Sky Hill Monday afternoon. That's a mountain near here; not an awfully high mountain, perhaps—no snow on the summit—but at least you are pretty breathless when you reach the top. The lower slopes are covered with woods, but the top is just piled rocks and open moor. We stayed up for the sunset and built a fire and cooked our supper. Master Jervie did the cooking; he said he knew how better than me and he did, too, because he's used to camping. Then we came down by moonlight, and, when we reached the wood trail where it was dark, by the light of an electric bulb that he had in his pocket. It was such fun! He laughed and joked all the way and talked about interesting things. He's read all the books I've ever read, and a lot of others besides. It's astonishing how many different things he knows.
We went for a long tramp this morning and got caught in a storm. Our clothes were drenched before we reached home but our spirits not even damp. You should have seen Mrs. Semple's face when we dripped into her kitchen.
'Oh, Master Jervie—Miss Judy! You are soaked through. Dear! Dear! What shall I do? That nice new coat is perfectly ruined.'
She was awfully funny; you would have thought that we were ten years old, and she a distracted mother. I was afraid for a while that we weren't going to get any jam for tea.
I started this letter ages ago, but I haven't had a second to finish it.
Isn't this a nice thought from Stevenson?
The world is so full of a number of things, I am sure we should all be as happy as kings.
It's true, you know. The world is full of happiness, and plenty to go round, if you are only willing to take the kind that comes your way. The whole secret is in being PLIABLE. In the country, especially, there are such a lot of entertaining things. I can walk over everybody's land, and look at everybody's view, and dabble in everybody's brook; and enjoy it just as much as though I owned the land—and with no taxes to pay!
It's Sunday night now, about eleven o'clock, and I am supposed to be getting some beauty sleep, but I had black coffee for dinner, so—no beauty sleep for me!
This morning, said Mrs. Semple to Mr. Pendleton, with a very determined accent:
'We have to leave here at a quarter past ten in order to get to church by eleven.'
'Very well, Lizzie,' said Master Jervie, 'you have the buggy ready, and if I'm not dressed, just go on without waiting.' 'We'll wait,' said she.
'As you please,' said he, 'only don't keep the horses standing too long.'
Then while she was dressing, he told Carrie to pack up a lunch, and he told me to scramble into my walking clothes; and we slipped out the back way and went fishing.
It discommoded the household dreadfully, because Lock Willow of a Sunday dines at two. But he ordered dinner at seven—he orders meals whenever he chooses; you would think the place were a restaurant—and that kept Carrie and Amasai from going driving. But he said it was all the better because it wasn't proper for them to go driving without a chaperon; and anyway, he wanted the horses himself to take me driving. Did you ever hear anything so funny?
And poor Mrs. Semple believes that people who go fishing on Sundays go afterwards to a sizzling hot hell! She is awfully troubled to think that she didn't train him better when he was small and helpless and she had the chance. Besides—she wished to show him off in church.
Anyway, we had our fishing (he caught four little ones) and we cooked them on a camp-fire for lunch. They kept falling off our spiked sticks into the fire, so they tasted a little ashy, but we ate them. We got home at four and went driving at five and had dinner at seven, and at ten I was sent to bed and here I am, writing to you.
I am getting a little sleepy, though.
Here is a picture of the one fish I caught.
Ship Ahoy, Cap'n Long-Legs!
Avast! Belay! Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum. Guess what I'm reading? Our conversation these past two days has been nautical and piratical. Isn't Treasure Island fun? Did you ever read it, or wasn't it written when you were a boy? Stevenson only got thirty pounds for the serial rights—I don't believe it pays to be a great author. Maybe I'll be a school-teacher.
Excuse me for filling my letters so full of Stevenson; my mind is very much engaged with him at present. He comprises Lock Willow's library.
I've been writing this letter for two weeks, and I think it's about long enough. Never say, Daddy, that I don't give details. I wish you were here, too; we'd all have such a jolly time together. I like my different friends to know each other. I wanted to ask Mr. Pendleton if he knew you in New York—I should think he might; you must move in about the same exalted social circles, and you are both interested in reforms and things—but I couldn't, for I don't know your real name.
It's the silliest thing I ever heard of, not to know your name. Mrs. Lippett warned me that you were eccentric. I should think so!
PS. On reading this over, I find that it isn't all Stevenson. There are one or two glancing references to Master Jervie.
He has gone, and we are missing him! When you get accustomed to people or places or ways of living, and then have them snatched away, it does leave an awfully empty, gnawing sort of sensation. I'm finding Mrs. Semple's conversation pretty unseasoned food.
College opens in two weeks and I shall be glad to begin work again. I have worked quite a lot this summer though—six short stories and seven poems. Those I sent to the magazines all came back with the most courteous promptitude. But I don't mind. It's good practice. Master Jervie read them—he brought in the post, so I couldn't help his knowing—and he said they were DREADFUL. They showed that I didn't have the slightest idea of what I was talking about. (Master Jervie doesn't let politeness interfere with truth.) But the last one I did—just a little sketch laid in college—he said wasn't bad; and he had it typewritten, and I sent it to a magazine. They've had it two weeks; maybe they're thinking it over.
You should see the sky! There's the queerest orange-coloured light over everything. We're going to have a storm.
It commenced just that moment with tremendously big drops and all the shutters banging. I had to run to close the windows, while Carrie flew to the attic with an armful of milk pans to put under the places where the roof leaks and then, just as I was resuming my pen, I remembered that I'd left a cushion and rug and hat and Matthew Arnold's poems under a tree in the orchard, so I dashed out to get them, all quite soaked. The red cover of the poems had run into the inside; Dover Beach in the future will be washed by pink waves.
A storm is awfully disturbing in the country. You are always having to think of so many things that are out of doors and getting spoiled.
Daddy! Daddy! What do you think? The postman has just come with two letters.
1st. My story is accepted. $50.
ALORS! I'm an AUTHOR.
2nd. A letter from the college secretary. I'm to have a scholarship for two years that will cover board and tuition. It was founded for 'marked proficiency in English with general excellency in other lines.' And I've won it! I applied for it before I left, but I didn't have an idea I'd get it, on account of my Freshman bad work in maths and Latin. But it seems I've made it up. I am awfully glad, Daddy, because now I won't be such a burden to you. The monthly allowance will be all I'll need, and maybe I can earn that with writing or tutoring or something.
I'm LONGING to go back and begin work.
Yours ever, Jerusha Abbott,
Author of When the Sophomores Won the Game. For sale at all news stands, price ten cents.
Back at college again and an upper classman. Our study is better than ever this year—faces the South with two huge windows and oh! so furnished. Julia, with an unlimited allowance, arrived two days early and was attacked with a fever for settling.
We have new wall paper and oriental rugs and mahogany chairs—not painted mahogany which made us sufficiently happy last year, but real. It's very gorgeous, but I don't feel as though I belonged in it; I'm nervous all the time for fear I'll get an ink spot in the wrong place.
And, Daddy, I found your letter waiting for me—pardon—I mean your secretary's.
Will you kindly convey to me a comprehensible reason why I should not accept that scholarship? I don't understand your objection in the least. But anyway, it won't do the slightest good for you to object, for I've already accepted it and I am not going to change! That sounds a little impertinent, but I don't mean it so.
I suppose you feel that when you set out to educate me, you'd like to finish the work, and put a neat period, in the shape of a diploma, at the end.
But look at it just a second from my point of view. I shall owe my education to you just as much as though I let you pay for the whole of it, but I won't be quite so much indebted. I know that you don't want me to return the money, but nevertheless, I am going to want to do it, if I possibly can; and winning this scholarship makes it so much easier. I was expecting to spend the rest of my life in paying my debts, but now I shall only have to spend one-half of the rest of it.
I hope you understand my position and won't be cross. The allowance I shall still most gratefully accept. It requires an allowance to live up to Julia and her furniture! I wish that she had been reared to simpler tastes, or else that she were not my room-mate.
This isn't much of a letter; I meant to have written a lot—but I've been hemming four window curtains and three portieres (I'm glad you can't see the length of the stitches), and polishing a brass desk set with tooth powder (very uphill work), and sawing off picture wire with manicure scissors, and unpacking four boxes of books, and putting away two trunkfuls of clothes (it doesn't seem believable that Jerusha Abbott owns two trunks full of clothes, but she does!) and welcoming back fifty dear friends in between.
Opening day is a joyous occasion!
Good night, Daddy dear, and don't be annoyed because your chick is wanting to scratch for herself. She's growing up into an awfully energetic little hen—with a very determined cluck and lots of beautiful feathers (all due to you).
Are you still harping on that scholarship? I never knew a man so obstinate, and stubborn and unreasonable, and tenacious, and bull-doggish, and unable-to-see-other-people's-point-of-view, as you.
You prefer that I should not be accepting favours from strangers.
Strangers!—And what are you, pray?
Is there anyone in the world that I know less? I shouldn't recognize you if I met you in the street. Now, you see, if you had been a sane, sensible person and had written nice, cheering fatherly letters to your little Judy, and had come occasionally and patted her on the head, and had said you were glad she was such a good girl—Then, perhaps, she wouldn't have flouted you in your old age, but would have obeyed your slightest wish like the dutiful daughter she was meant to be.
Strangers indeed! You live in a glass house, Mr. Smith.
And besides, this isn't a favour; it's like a prize—I earned it by hard work. If nobody had been good enough in English, the committee wouldn't have awarded the scholarship; some years they don't. Also— But what's the use of arguing with a man? You belong, Mr. Smith, to a sex devoid of a sense of logic. To bring a man into line, there are just two methods: one must either coax or be disagreeable. I scorn to coax men for what I wish. Therefore, I must be disagreeable.
I refuse, sir, to give up the scholarship; and if you make any more fuss, I won't accept the monthly allowance either, but will wear myself into a nervous wreck tutoring stupid Freshmen.
That is my ultimatum!
And listen—I have a further thought. Since you are so afraid that by taking this scholarship I am depriving someone else of an education, I know a way out. You can apply the money that you would have spent for me towards educating some other little girl from the John Grier Home. Don't you think that's a nice idea? Only, Daddy, EDUCATE the new girl as much as you choose, but please don't LIKE her any better than me.
I trust that your secretary won't be hurt because I pay so little attention to the suggestions offered in his letter, but I can't help it if he is. He's a spoiled child, Daddy. I've meekly given in to his whims heretofore, but this time I intend to be FIRM.
Yours, With a mind, Completely and Irrevocably and World-without-End Made-up,
I started down town today to buy a bottle of shoe blacking and some collars and the material for a new blouse and a jar of violet cream and a cake of Castile soap—all very necessary; I couldn't be happy another day without them—and when I tried to pay the car fare, I found that I had left my purse in the pocket of my other coat. So I had to get out and take the next car, and was late for gymnasium.
It's a dreadful thing to have no memory and two coats!
Julia Pendleton has invited me to visit her for the Christmas holidays. How does that strike you, Mr. Smith? Fancy Jerusha Abbott, of the John Grier Home, sitting at the tables of the rich. I don't know why Julia wants me—she seems to be getting quite attached to me of late. I should, to tell the truth, very much prefer going to Sallie's, but Julia asked me first, so if I go anywhere it must be to New York instead of to Worcester. I'm rather awed at the prospect of meeting Pendletons EN MASSE, and also I'd have to get a lot of new clothes—so, Daddy dear, if you write that you would prefer having me remain quietly at college, I will bow to your wishes with my usual sweet docility.
I'm engaged at odd moments with the Life and Letters of Thomas Huxley—it makes nice, light reading to pick up between times. Do you know what an archaeopteryx is? It's a bird. And a stereognathus? I'm not sure myself, but I think it's a missing link, like a bird with teeth or a lizard with wings. No, it isn't either; I've just looked in the book. It's a mesozoic mammal.
I've elected economics this year—very illuminating subject. When I finish that I'm going to take Charity and Reform; then, Mr. Trustee, I'll know just how an orphan asylum ought to be run. Don't you think I'd make an admirable voter if I had my rights? I was twenty-one last week. This is an awfully wasteful country to throw away such an honest, educated, conscientious, intelligent citizen as I would be.
Yours always, Judy
Thank you for permission to visit Julia—I take it that silence means consent.
Such a social whirl as we've been having! The Founder's dance came last week—this was the first year that any of us could attend; only upper classmen being allowed.
I invited Jimmie McBride, and Sallie invited his room-mate at Princeton, who visited them last summer at their camp—an awfully nice man with red hair—and Julia invited a man from New York, not very exciting, but socially irreproachable. He is connected with the De la Mater Chichesters. Perhaps that means something to you? It doesn't illuminate me to any extent.
However—our guests came Friday afternoon in time for tea in the senior corridor, and then dashed down to the hotel for dinner. The hotel was so full that they slept in rows on the billiard tables, they say. Jimmie McBride says that the next time he is bidden to a social event in this college, he is going to bring one of their Adirondack tents and pitch it on the campus.
At seven-thirty they came back for the President's reception and dance. Our functions commence early! We had the men's cards all made out ahead of time, and after every dance, we'd leave them in groups, under the letter that stood for their names, so that they could be readily found by their next partners. Jimmie McBride, for example, would stand patiently under 'M' until he was claimed. (At least, he ought to have stood patiently, but he kept wandering off and getting mixed with 'R's' and 'S's' and all sorts of letters.) I found him a very difficult guest; he was sulky because he had only three dances with me. He said he was bashful about dancing with girls he didn't know!
The next morning we had a glee club concert—and who do you think wrote the funny new song composed for the occasion? It's the truth. She did. Oh, I tell you, Daddy, your little foundling is getting to be quite a prominent person!
Anyway, our gay two days were great fun, and I think the men enjoyed it. Some of them were awfully perturbed at first at the prospect of facing one thousand girls; but they got acclimated very quickly. Our two Princeton men had a beautiful time—at least they politely said they had, and they've invited us to their dance next spring. We've accepted, so please don't object, Daddy dear.
Julia and Sallie and I all had new dresses. Do you want to hear about them? Julia's was cream satin and gold embroidery and she wore purple orchids. It was a DREAM and came from Paris, and cost a million dollars.
Sallie's was pale blue trimmed with Persian embroidery, and went beautifully with red hair. It didn't cost quite a million, but was just as effective as Julia's.
Mine was pale pink crepe de chine trimmed with ecru lace and rose satin. And I carried crimson roses which J. McB. sent (Sallie having told him what colour to get). And we all had satin slippers and silk stockings and chiffon scarfs to match.
You must be deeply impressed by these millinery details.
One can't help thinking, Daddy, what a colourless life a man is forced to lead, when one reflects that chiffon and Venetian point and hand embroidery and Irish crochet are to him mere empty words. Whereas a woman—whether she is interested in babies or microbes or husbands or poetry or servants or parallelograms or gardens or Plato or bridge—is fundamentally and always interested in clothes.
It's the one touch of nature that makes the whole world kin. (That isn't original. I got it out of one of Shakespeare's plays).
However, to resume. Do you want me to tell you a secret that I've lately discovered? And will you promise not to think me vain? Then listen:
I am, really. I'd be an awful idiot not to know it with three looking-glasses in the room.
PS. This is one of those wicked anonymous letters you read about in novels.
I've just a moment, because I must attend two classes, pack a trunk and a suit-case, and catch the four-o'clock train—but I couldn't go without sending a word to let you know how much I appreciate my Christmas box.
I love the furs and the necklace and the Liberty scarf and the gloves and handkerchiefs and books and purse—and most of all I love you! But Daddy, you have no business to spoil me this way. I'm only human—and a girl at that. How can I keep my mind sternly fixed on a studious career, when you deflect me with such worldly frivolities?
I have strong suspicions now as to which one of the John Grier Trustees used to give the Christmas tree and the Sunday ice-cream. He was nameless, but by his works I know him! You deserve to be happy for all the good things you do.
Goodbye, and a very merry Christmas.
Yours always, Judy
PS. I am sending a slight token, too. Do you think you would like her if you knew her?
I meant to write to you from the city, Daddy, but New York is an engrossing place.
I had an interesting—and illuminating—time, but I'm glad I don't belong to such a family! I should truly rather have the John Grier Home for a background. Whatever the drawbacks of my bringing up, there was at least no pretence about it. I know now what people mean when they say they are weighed down by Things. The material atmosphere of that house was crushing; I didn't draw a deep breath until I was on an express train coming back. All the furniture was carved and upholstered and gorgeous; the people I met were beautifully dressed and low-voiced and well-bred, but it's the truth, Daddy, I never heard one word of real talk from the time we arrived until we left. I don't think an idea ever entered the front door.
Mrs. Pendleton never thinks of anything but jewels and dressmakers and social engagements. She did seem a different kind of mother from Mrs. McBride! If I ever marry and have a family, I'm going to make them as exactly like the McBrides as I can. Not for all the money in the world would I ever let any children of mine develop into Pendletons. Maybe it isn't polite to criticize people you've been visiting? If it isn't, please excuse. This is very confidential, between you and me.
I only saw Master Jervie once when he called at tea time, and then I didn't have a chance to speak to him alone. It was really disappointing after our nice time last summer. I don't think he cares much for his relatives—and I am sure they don't care much for him! Julia's mother says he's unbalanced. He's a Socialist—except, thank Heaven, he doesn't let his hair grow and wear red ties. She can't imagine where he picked up his queer ideas; the family have been Church of England for generations. He throws away his money on every sort of crazy reform, instead of spending it on such sensible things as yachts and automobiles and polo ponies. He does buy candy with it though! He sent Julia and me each a box for Christmas.
You know, I think I'll be a Socialist, too. You wouldn't mind, would you, Daddy? They're quite different from Anarchists; they don't believe in blowing people up. Probably I am one by rights; I belong to the proletariat. I haven't determined yet just which kind I am going to be. I will look into the subject over Sunday, and declare my principles in my next.
I've seen loads of theatres and hotels and beautiful houses. My mind is a confused jumble of onyx and gilding and mosaic floors and palms. I'm still pretty breathless but I am glad to get back to college and my books—I believe that I really am a student; this atmosphere of academic calm I find more bracing than New York. College is a very satisfying sort of life; the books and study and regular classes keep you alive mentally, and then when your mind gets tired, you have the gymnasium and outdoor athletics, and always plenty of congenial friends who are thinking about the same things you are. We spend a whole evening in nothing but talk—talk—talk—and go to bed with a very uplifted feeling, as though we had settled permanently some pressing world problems. And filling in every crevice, there is always such a lot of nonsense—just silly jokes about the little things that come up but very satisfying. We do appreciate our own witticisms!
It isn't the great big pleasures that count the most; it's making a great deal out of the little ones—I've discovered the true secret of happiness, Daddy, and that is to live in the now. Not to be for ever regretting the past, or anticipating the future; but to get the most that you can out of this very instant. It's like farming. You can have extensive farming and intensive farming; well, I am going to have intensive living after this. I'm going to enjoy every second, and I'm going to KNOW I'm enjoying it while I'm enjoying it. Most people don't live; they just race. They are trying to reach some goal far away on the horizon, and in the heat of the going they get so breathless and panting that they lose all sight of the beautiful, tranquil country they are passing through; and then the first thing they know, they are old and worn out, and it doesn't make any difference whether they've reached the goal or not. I've decided to sit down by the way and pile up a lot of little happinesses, even if I never become a Great Author. Did you ever know such a philosopheress as I am developing into?
Yours ever, Judy
PS. It's raining cats and dogs tonight. Two puppies and a kitten have just landed on the window-sill.
Hooray! I'm a Fabian.
That's a Socialist who's willing to wait. We don't want the social revolution to come tomorrow morning; it would be too upsetting. We want it to come very gradually in the distant future, when we shall all be prepared and able to sustain the shock.
In the meantime, we must be getting ready, by instituting industrial, educational and orphan asylum reforms.
Yours, with fraternal love, Judy
Monday, 3rd hour
11th February Dear D.-L.-L.,
Don't be insulted because this is so short. It isn't a letter; it's just a LINE to say that I'm going to write a letter pretty soon when examinations are over. It is not only necessary that I pass, but pass WELL. I have a scholarship to live up to.
Yours, studying hard, J. A.
President Cuyler made a speech this evening about the modern generation being flippant and superficial. He says that we are losing the old ideals of earnest endeavour and true scholarship; and particularly is this falling-off noticeable in our disrespectful attitude towards organized authority. We no longer pay a seemly deference to our superiors.
I came away from chapel very sober.
Am I too familiar, Daddy? Ought I to treat you with more dignity and aloofness?—Yes, I'm sure I ought. I'll begin again.
My Dear Mr. Smith,
You will be pleased to hear that I passed successfully my mid-year examinations, and am now commencing work in the new semester. I am leaving chemistry—having completed the course in qualitative analysis—and am entering upon the study of biology. I approach this subject with some hesitation, as I understand that we dissect angleworms and frogs.
An extremely interesting and valuable lecture was given in the chapel last week upon Roman Remains in Southern France. I have never listened to a more illuminating exposition of the subject.
We are reading Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey in connection with our course in English Literature. What an exquisite work it is, and how adequately it embodies his conceptions of Pantheism! The Romantic movement of the early part of the last century, exemplified in the works of such poets as Shelley, Byron, Keats, and Wordsworth, appeals to me very much more than the Classical period that preceded it. Speaking of poetry, have you ever read that charming little thing of Tennyson's called Locksley Hall?
I am attending gymnasium very regularly of late. A proctor system has been devised, and failure to comply with the rules causes a great deal of inconvenience. The gymnasium is equipped with a very beautiful swimming tank of cement and marble, the gift of a former graduate. My room-mate, Miss McBride, has given me her bathing-suit (it shrank so that she can no longer wear it) and I am about to begin swimming lessons.
We had delicious pink ice-cream for dessert last night. Only vegetable dyes are used in colouring the food. The college is very much opposed, both from aesthetic and hygienic motives, to the use of aniline dyes.
The weather of late has been ideal—bright sunshine and clouds interspersed with a few welcome snow-storms. I and my companions have enjoyed our walks to and from classes—particularly from.
Trusting, my dear Mr. Smith, that this will find you in your usual good health,
I remain, Most cordially yours, Jerusha Abbott
Spring has come again! You should see how lovely the campus is. I think you might come and look at it for yourself. Master Jervie dropped in again last Friday—but he chose a most unpropitious time, for Sallie and Julia and I were just running to catch a train. And where do you think we were going? To Princeton, to attend a dance and a ball game, if you please! I didn't ask you if I might go, because I had a feeling that your secretary would say no. But it was entirely regular; we had leave-of-absence from college, and Mrs. McBride chaperoned us. We had a charming time—but I shall have to omit details; they are too many and complicated.
Up before dawn! The night watchman called us—six of us—and we made coffee in a chafing dish (you never saw so many grounds!) and walked two miles to the top of One Tree Hill to see the sun rise. We had to scramble up the last slope! The sun almost beat us! And perhaps you think we didn't bring back appetites to breakfast!
Dear me, Daddy, I seem to have a very ejaculatory style today; this page is peppered with exclamations.
I meant to have written a lot about the budding trees and the new cinder path in the athletic field, and the awful lesson we have in biology for tomorrow, and the new canoes on the lake, and Catherine Prentiss who has pneumonia, and Prexy's Angora kitten that strayed from home and has been boarding in Fergussen Hall for two weeks until a chambermaid reported it, and about my three new dresses—white and pink and blue polka dots with a hat to match—but I am too sleepy. I am always making this an excuse, am I not? But a girls' college is a busy place and we do get tired by the end of the day! Particularly when the day begins at dawn.
Is it good manners when you get into a car just to stare straight ahead and not see anybody else?
A very beautiful lady in a very beautiful velvet dress got into the car today, and without the slightest expression sat for fifteen minutes and looked at a sign advertising suspenders. It doesn't seem polite to ignore everybody else as though you were the only important person present. Anyway, you miss a lot. While she was absorbing that silly sign, I was studying a whole car full of interesting human beings.
The accompanying illustration is hereby reproduced for the first time. It looks like a spider on the end of a string, but it isn't at all; it's a picture of me learning to swim in the tank in the gymnasium.
The instructor hooks a rope into a ring in the back of my belt, and runs it through a pulley in the ceiling. It would be a beautiful system if one had perfect confidence in the probity of one's instructor. I'm always afraid, though, that she will let the rope get slack, so I keep one anxious eye on her and swim with the other, and with this divided interest I do not make the progress that I otherwise might.
Very miscellaneous weather we're having of late. It was raining when I commenced and now the sun is shining. Sallie and I are going out to play tennis—thereby gaining exemption from Gym.
A week later
I should have finished this letter long ago, but I didn't. You don't mind, do you, Daddy, if I'm not very regular? I really do love to write to you; it gives me such a respectable feeling of having some family. Would you like me to tell you something? You are not the only man to whom I write letters. There are two others! I have been receiving beautiful long letters this winter from Master Jervie (with typewritten envelopes so Julia won't recognize the writing). Did you ever hear anything so shocking? And every week or so a very scrawly epistle, usually on yellow tablet paper, arrives from Princeton. All of which I answer with business-like promptness. So you see—I am not so different from other girls—I get letters, too.
Did I tell you that I have been elected a member of the Senior Dramatic Club? Very recherche organization. Only seventy-five members out of one thousand. Do you think as a consistent Socialist that I ought to belong?
What do you suppose is at present engaging my attention in sociology? I am writing (figurez vous!) a paper on the Care of Dependent Children. The Professor shuffled up his subjects and dealt them out promiscuously, and that fell to me. C'est drole ca n'est pas?
There goes the gong for dinner. I'll post this as I pass the box.
Very busy time—commencement in ten days, examinations tomorrow; lots of studying, lots of packing, and the outdoor world so lovely that it hurts you to stay inside.
But never mind, vacation's coming. Julia is going abroad this summer—it makes the fourth time. No doubt about it, Daddy, goods are not distributed evenly. Sallie, as usual, goes to the Adirondacks. And what do you think I am going to do? You may have three guesses. Lock Willow? Wrong. The Adirondacks with Sallie? Wrong. (I'll never attempt that again; I was discouraged last year.) Can't you guess anything else? You're not very inventive. I'll tell you, Daddy, if you'll promise not to make a lot of objections. I warn your secretary in advance that my mind is made up.
I am going to spend the summer at the seaside with a Mrs. Charles Paterson and tutor her daughter who is to enter college in the autumn. I met her through the McBrides, and she is a very charming woman. I am to give lessons in English and Latin to the younger daughter, too, but I shall have a little time to myself, and I shall be earning fifty dollars a month! Doesn't that impress you as a perfectly exorbitant amount? She offered it; I should have blushed to ask for more than twenty-five.
I finish at Magnolia (that's where she lives) the first of September, and shall probably spend the remaining three weeks at Lock Willow—I should like to see the Semples again and all the friendly animals.
How does my programme strike you, Daddy? I am getting quite independent, you see. You have put me on my feet and I think I can almost walk alone by now.
Princeton commencement and our examinations exactly coincide—which is an awful blow. Sallie and I did so want to get away in time for it, but of course that is utterly impossible.
Goodbye, Daddy. Have a nice summer and come back in the autumn rested and ready for another year of work. (That's what you ought to be writing to me!) I haven't any idea what you do in the summer, or how you amuse yourself. I can't visualize your surroundings. Do you play golf or hunt or ride horseback or just sit in the sun and meditate?
Anyway, whatever it is, have a good time and don't forget Judy.
This is the hardest letter I ever wrote, but I have decided what I must do, and there isn't going to be any turning back. It is very sweet and generous and dear of you to wish to send me to Europe this summer—for the moment I was intoxicated by the idea; but sober second thoughts said no. It would be rather illogical of me to refuse to take your money for college, and then use it instead just for amusement! You mustn't get me used to too many luxuries. One doesn't miss what one has never had; but it's awfully hard going without things after one has commenced thinking they are his—hers (English language needs another pronoun) by natural right. Living with Sallie and Julia is an awful strain on my stoical philosophy. They have both had things from the time they were babies; they accept happiness as a matter of course. The World, they think, owes them everything they want. Maybe the World does—in any case, it seems to acknowledge the debt and pay up. But as for me, it owes me nothing, and distinctly told me so in the beginning. I have no right to borrow on credit, for there will come a time when the World will repudiate my claim.
I seem to be floundering in a sea of metaphor—but I hope you grasp my meaning? Anyway, I have a very strong feeling that the only honest thing for me to do is to teach this summer and begin to support myself.
MAGNOLIA, Four days later
I'd got just that much written, when—what do you think happened? The maid arrived with Master Jervie's card. He is going abroad too this summer; not with Julia and her family, but entirely by himself I told him that you had invited me to go with a lady who is chaperoning a party of girls. He knows about you, Daddy. That is, he knows that my father and mother are dead, and that a kind gentleman is sending me to college; I simply didn't have the courage to tell him about the John Grier Home and all the rest. He thinks that you are my guardian and a perfectly legitimate old family friend. I have never told him that I didn't know you—that would seem too queer!
Anyway, he insisted on my going to Europe. He said that it was a necessary part of my education and that I mustn't think of refusing. Also, that he would be in Paris at the same time, and that we would run away from the chaperon occasionally and have dinner together at nice, funny, foreign restaurants.
Well, Daddy, it did appeal to me! I almost weakened; if he hadn't been so dictatorial, maybe I should have entirely weakened. I can be enticed step by step, but I WON'T be forced. He said I was a silly, foolish, irrational, quixotic, idiotic, stubborn child (those are a few of his abusive adjectives; the rest escape me), and that I didn't know what was good for me; I ought to let older people judge. We almost quarrelled—I am not sure but that we entirely did!
In any case, I packed my trunk fast and came up here. I thought I'd better see my bridges in flames behind me before I finished writing to you. They are entirely reduced to ashes now. Here I am at Cliff Top (the name of Mrs. Paterson's cottage) with my trunk unpacked and Florence (the little one) already struggling with first declension nouns. And it bids fair to be a struggle! She is a most uncommonly spoiled child; I shall have to teach her first how to study—she has never in her life concentrated on anything more difficult than ice-cream soda water.
We use a quiet corner of the cliffs for a schoolroom—Mrs. Paterson wishes me to keep them out of doors—and I will say that I find it difficult to concentrate with the blue sea before me and ships a-sailing by! And when I think I might be on one, sailing off to foreign lands—but I WON'T let myself think of anything but Latin Grammar.
The prepositions a or ab, absque, coram, cum, de e or ex, prae, pro, sine, tenus, in, subter, sub and super govern the ablative.
So you see, Daddy, I am already plunged into work with my eyes persistently set against temptation. Don't be cross with me, please, and don't think that I do not appreciate your kindness, for I do—always—always. The only way I can ever repay you is by turning out a Very Useful Citizen (Are women citizens? I don't suppose they are.) Anyway, a Very Useful Person. And when you look at me you can say, 'I gave that Very Useful Person to the world.'
That sounds well, doesn't it, Daddy? But I don't wish to mislead you. The feeling often comes over me that I am not at all remarkable; it is fun to plan a career, but in all probability I shan't turn out a bit different from any other ordinary person. I may end by marrying an undertaker and being an inspiration to him in his work.
Yours ever, Judy
My window looks out on the loveliest landscape—ocean-scape, rather—nothing but water and rocks.
The summer goes. I spend the morning with Latin and English and algebra and my two stupid girls. I don't know how Marion is ever going to get into college, or stay in after she gets there. And as for Florence, she is hopeless—but oh! such a little beauty. I don't suppose it matters in the least whether they are stupid or not so long as they are pretty? One can't help thinking, though, how their conversation will bore their husbands, unless they are fortunate enough to obtain stupid husbands. I suppose that's quite possible; the world seems to be filled with stupid men; I've met a number this summer.
In the afternoon we take a walk on the cliffs, or swim, if the tide is right. I can swim in salt water with the utmost ease you see my education is already being put to use!
A letter comes from Mr. Jervis Pendleton in Paris, rather a short concise letter; I'm not quite forgiven yet for refusing to follow his advice. However, if he gets back in time, he will see me for a few days at Lock Willow before college opens, and if I am very nice and sweet and docile, I shall (I am led to infer) be received into favour again.
Also a letter from Sallie. She wants me to come to their camp for two weeks in September. Must I ask your permission, or haven't I yet arrived at the place where I can do as I please? Yes, I am sure I have—I'm a Senior, you know. Having worked all summer, I feel like taking a little healthful recreation; I want to see the Adirondacks; I want to see Sallie; I want to see Sallie's brother—he's going to teach me to canoe—and (we come to my chief motive, which is mean) I want Master Jervie to arrive at Lock Willow and find me not there.
I MUST show him that he can't dictate to me. No one can dictate to me but you, Daddy—and you can't always! I'm off for the woods.
CAMP MCBRIDE, 6th September
Your letter didn't come in time (I am pleased to say). If you wish your instructions to be obeyed, you must have your secretary transmit them in less than two weeks. As you observe, I am here, and have been for five days.
The woods are fine, and so is the camp, and so is the weather, and so are the McBrides, and so is the whole world. I'm very happy!
There's Jimmie calling for me to come canoeing. Goodbye—sorry to have disobeyed, but why are you so persistent about not wanting me to play a little? When I've worked all the summer I deserve two weeks. You are awfully dog-in-the-mangerish.
However—I love you still, Daddy, in spite of all your faults.
3rd October Dear Daddy-Long-Legs,
Back at college and a Senior—also editor of the Monthly. It doesn't seem possible, does it, that so sophisticated a person, just four years ago, was an inmate of the John Grier Home? We do arrive fast in America!
What do you think of this? A note from Master Jervie directed to Lock Willow and forwarded here. He's sorry, but he finds that he can't get up there this autumn; he has accepted an invitation to go yachting with some friends. Hopes I've had a nice summer and am enjoying the country.
And he knew all the time that I was with the McBrides, for Julia told him so! You men ought to leave intrigue to women; you haven't a light enough touch.
Julia has a trunkful of the most ravishing new clothes—an evening gown of rainbow Liberty crepe that would be fitting raiment for the angels in Paradise. And I thought that my own clothes this year were unprecedentedly (is there such a word?) beautiful. I copied Mrs. Paterson's wardrobe with the aid of a cheap dressmaker, and though the gowns didn't turn out quite twins of the originals, I was entirely happy until Julia unpacked. But now—I live to see Paris!
Dear Daddy, aren't you glad you're not a girl? I suppose you think that the fuss we make over clothes is too absolutely silly? It is. No doubt about it. But it's entirely your fault.
Did you ever hear about the learned Herr Professor who regarded unnecessary adornment with contempt and favoured sensible, utilitarian clothes for women? His wife, who was an obliging creature, adopted 'dress reform.' And what do you think he did? He eloped with a chorus girl.
Yours ever, Judy
PS. The chamber-maid in our corridor wears blue checked gingham aprons. I am going to get her some brown ones instead, and sink the blue ones in the bottom of the lake. I have a reminiscent chill every time I look at them.
Such a blight has fallen over my literary career. I don't know whether to tell you or not, but I would like some sympathy—silent sympathy, please; don't re-open the wound by referring to it in your next letter.
I've been writing a book, all last winter in the evenings, and all the summer when I wasn't teaching Latin to my two stupid children. I just finished it before college opened and sent it to a publisher. He kept it two months, and I was certain he was going to take it; but yesterday morning an express parcel came (thirty cents due) and there it was back again with a letter from the publisher, a very nice, fatherly letter—but frank! He said he saw from the address that I was still at college, and if I would accept some advice, he would suggest that I put all of my energy into my lessons and wait until I graduated before beginning to write. He enclosed his reader's opinion. Here it is:
'Plot highly improbable. Characterization exaggerated. Conversation unnatural. A good deal of humour but not always in the best of taste. Tell her to keep on trying, and in time she may produce a real book.'
Not on the whole flattering, is it, Daddy? And I thought I was making a notable addition to American literature. I did truly. I was planning to surprise you by writing a great novel before I graduated. I collected the material for it while I was at Julia's last Christmas. But I dare say the editor is right. Probably two weeks was not enough in which to observe the manners and customs of a great city.
I took it walking with me yesterday afternoon, and when I came to the gas house, I went in and asked the engineer if I might borrow his furnace. He politely opened the door, and with my own hands I chucked it in. I felt as though I had cremated my only child!
I went to bed last night utterly dejected; I thought I was never going to amount to anything, and that you had thrown away your money for nothing. But what do you think? I woke up this morning with a beautiful new plot in my head, and I've been going about all day planning my characters, just as happy as I could be. No one can ever accuse me of being a pessimist! If I had a husband and twelve children swallowed by an earthquake one day, I'd bob up smilingly the next morning and commence to look for another set.
I dreamed the funniest dream last night. I thought I went into a book store and the clerk brought me a new book named The Life and Letters of Judy Abbott. I could see it perfectly plainly—red cloth binding with a picture of the John Grier Home on the cover, and my portrait for a frontispiece with, 'Very truly yours, Judy Abbott,' written below. But just as I was turning to the end to read the inscription on my tombstone, I woke up. It was very annoying! I almost found out whom I'm going to marry and when I'm going to die.
Don't you think it would be interesting if you really could read the story of your life—written perfectly truthfully by an omniscient author? And suppose you could only read it on this condition: that you would never forget it, but would have to go through life knowing ahead of time exactly how everything you did would turn out, and foreseeing to the exact hour the time when you would die. How many people do you suppose would have the courage to read it then? or how many could suppress their curiosity sufficiently to escape from reading it, even at the price of having to live without hope and without surprises?
Life is monotonous enough at best; you have to eat and sleep about so often. But imagine how DEADLY monotonous it would be if nothing unexpected could happen between meals. Mercy! Daddy, there's a blot, but I'm on the third page and I can't begin a new sheet.
I'm going on with biology again this year—very interesting subject; we're studying the alimentary system at present. You should see how sweet a cross-section of the duodenum of a cat is under the microscope.
Also we've arrived at philosophy—interesting but evanescent. I prefer biology where you can pin the subject under discussion to a board. There's another! And another! This pen is weeping copiously. Please excuse its tears.
Do you believe in free will? I do—unreservedly. I don't agree at all with the philosophers who think that every action is the absolutely inevitable and automatic resultant of an aggregation of remote causes. That's the most immoral doctrine I ever heard—nobody would be to blame for anything. If a man believed in fatalism, he would naturally just sit down and say, 'The Lord's will be done,' and continue to sit until he fell over dead.
I believe absolutely in my own free will and my own power to accomplish—and that is the belief that moves mountains. You watch me become a great author! I have four chapters of my new book finished and five more drafted.
This is a very abstruse letter—does your head ache, Daddy? I think we'll stop now and make some fudge. I'm sorry I can't send you a piece; it will be unusually good, for we're going to make it with real cream and three butter balls.
Yours affectionately, Judy
PS. We're having fancy dancing in gymnasium class. You can see by the accompanying picture how much we look like a real ballet. The one at the end accomplishing a graceful pirouette is me—I mean I.
My Dear, Dear, Daddy,
Haven't you any sense? Don't you KNOW that you mustn't give one girl seventeen Christmas presents? I'm a Socialist, please remember; do you wish to turn me into a Plutocrat?
Think how embarrassing it would be if we should ever quarrel! I should have to engage a moving-van to return your gifts.
I am sorry that the necktie I sent was so wobbly; I knit it with my own hands (as you doubtless discovered from internal evidence). You will have to wear it on cold days and keep your coat buttoned up tight.
Thank you, Daddy, a thousand times. I think you're the sweetest man that ever lived—and the foolishest!
Here's a four-leaf clover from Camp McBride to bring you good luck for the New Year.
Do you wish to do something, Daddy, that will ensure your eternal salvation? There is a family here who are in awfully desperate straits. A mother and father and four visible children—the two older boys have disappeared into the world to make their fortune and have not sent any of it back. The father worked in a glass factory and got consumption—it's awfully unhealthy work—and now has been sent away to a hospital. That took all their savings, and the support of the family falls upon the oldest daughter, who is twenty-four. She dressmakes for $1.50 a day (when she can get it) and embroiders centrepieces in the evening. The mother isn't very strong and is extremely ineffectual and pious. She sits with her hands folded, a picture of patient resignation, while the daughter kills herself with overwork and responsibility and worry; she doesn't see how they are going to get through the rest of the winter—and I don't either. One hundred dollars would buy some coal and some shoes for three children so that they could go to school, and give a little margin so that she needn't worry herself to death when a few days pass and she doesn't get work.
You are the richest man I know. Don't you suppose you could spare one hundred dollars? That girl deserves help a lot more than I ever did. I wouldn't ask it except for the girl; I don't care much what happens to the mother—she is such a jelly-fish.
The way people are for ever rolling their eyes to heaven and saying, 'Perhaps it's all for the best,' when they are perfectly dead sure it's not, makes me enraged. Humility or resignation or whatever you choose to call it, is simply impotent inertia. I'm for a more militant religion!
We are getting the most dreadful lessons in philosophy—all of Schopenhauer for tomorrow. The professor doesn't seem to realize that we are taking any other subject. He's a queer old duck; he goes about with his head in the clouds and blinks dazedly when occasionally he strikes solid earth. He tries to lighten his lectures with an occasional witticism—and we do our best to smile, but I assure you his jokes are no laughing matter. He spends his entire time between classes in trying to figure out whether matter really exists or whether he only thinks it exists.
I'm sure my sewing girl hasn't any doubt but that it exists!
Where do you think my new novel is? In the waste-basket. I can see myself that it's no good on earth, and when a loving author realizes that, what WOULD be the judgment of a critical public?
I address you, Daddy, from a bed of pain. For two days I've been laid up with swollen tonsils; I can just swallow hot milk, and that is all. 'What were your parents thinking of not to have those tonsils out when you were a baby?' the doctor wished to know. I'm sure I haven't an idea, but I doubt if they were thinking much about me.
Yours, J. A.
I just read this over before sealing it. I don't know WHY I cast such a misty atmosphere over life. I hasten to assure you that I am young and happy and exuberant; and I trust you are the same. Youth has nothing to do with birthdays, only with ALIVEDNESS of spirit, so even if your hair is grey, Daddy, you can still be a boy.
Dear Mr. Philanthropist,
Your cheque for my family came yesterday. Thank you so much! I cut gymnasium and took it down to them right after luncheon, and you should have seen the girl's face! She was so surprised and happy and relieved that she looked almost young; and she's only twenty-four. Isn't it pitiful?
Anyway, she feels now as though all the good things were coming together. She has steady work ahead for two months—someone's getting married, and there's a trousseau to make.
'Thank the good Lord!' cried the mother, when she grasped the fact that that small piece of paper was one hundred dollars.
'It wasn't the good Lord at all,' said I, 'it was Daddy-Long-Legs.' (Mr. Smith, I called you.)
'But it was the good Lord who put it in his mind,' said she.
'Not at all! I put it in his mind myself,' said I.
But anyway, Daddy, I trust the good Lord will reward you suitably. You deserve ten thousand years out of purgatory.
Yours most gratefully, Judy Abbott
May it please Your Most Excellent Majesty:
This morning I did eat my breakfast upon a cold turkey pie and a goose, and I did send for a cup of tee (a china drink) of which I had never drank before.
Don't be nervous, Daddy—I haven't lost my mind; I'm merely quoting Sam'l Pepys. We're reading him in connection with English History, original sources. Sallie and Julia and I converse now in the language of 1660. Listen to this:
'I went to Charing Cross to see Major Harrison hanged, drawn and quartered: he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition.' And this: 'Dined with my lady who is in handsome mourning for her brother who died yesterday of spotted fever.'
Seems a little early to commence entertaining, doesn't it? A friend of Pepys devised a very cunning manner whereby the king might pay his debts out of the sale to poor people of old decayed provisions. What do you, a reformer, think of that? I don't believe we're so bad today as the newspapers make out.
Samuel was as excited about his clothes as any girl; he spent five times as much on dress as his wife—that appears to have been the Golden Age of husbands. Isn't this a touching entry? You see he really was honest. 'Today came home my fine Camlett cloak with gold buttons, which cost me much money, and I pray God to make me able to pay for it.'
Excuse me for being so full of Pepys; I'm writing a special topic on him.
What do you think, Daddy? The Self-Government Association has abolished the ten o'clock rule. We can keep our lights all night if we choose, the only requirement being that we do not disturb others—we are not supposed to entertain on a large scale. The result is a beautiful commentary on human nature. Now that we may stay up as long as we choose, we no longer choose. Our heads begin to nod at nine o'clock, and by nine-thirty the pen drops from our nerveless grasp. It's nine-thirty now. Good night.
Just back from church—preacher from Georgia. We must take care, he says, not to develop our intellects at the expense of our emotional natures—but methought it was a poor, dry sermon (Pepys again). It doesn't matter what part of the United States or Canada they come from, or what denomination they are, we always get the same sermon. Why on earth don't they go to men's colleges and urge the students not to allow their manly natures to be crushed out by too much mental application?
It's a beautiful day—frozen and icy and clear. As soon as dinner is over, Sallie and Julia and Marty Keene and Eleanor Pratt (friends of mine, but you don't know them) and I are going to put on short skirts and walk 'cross country to Crystal Spring Farm and have a fried chicken and waffle supper, and then have Mr. Crystal Spring drive us home in his buckboard. We are supposed to be inside the campus at seven, but we are going to stretch a point tonight and make it eight.
Farewell, kind Sir.
I have the honour of subscribing myself, Your most loyall, dutifull, faithfull and obedient servant, J. Abbott
Dear Mr. Trustee,
Tomorrow is the first Wednesday in the month—a weary day for the John Grier Home. How relieved they'll be when five o'clock comes and you pat them on the head and take yourselves off! Did you (individually) ever pat me on the head, Daddy? I don't believe so—my memory seems to be concerned only with fat Trustees.
Give the Home my love, please—my TRULY love. I have quite a feeling of tenderness for it as I look back through a haze of four years. When I first came to college I felt quite resentful because I'd been robbed of the normal kind of childhood that the other girls had had; but now, I don't feel that way in the least. I regard it as a very unusual adventure. It gives me a sort of vantage point from which to stand aside and look at life. Emerging full grown, I get a perspective on the world, that other people who have been brought up in the thick of things entirely lack.
I know lots of girls (Julia, for instance) who never know that they are happy. They are so accustomed to the feeling that their senses are deadened to it; but as for me—I am perfectly sure every moment of my life that I am happy. And I'm going to keep on being, no matter what unpleasant things turn up. I'm going to regard them (even toothaches) as interesting experiences, and be glad to know what they feel like. 'Whatever sky's above me, I've a heart for any fate.'
However, Daddy, don't take this new affection for the J.G.H. too literally. If I have five children, like Rousseau, I shan't leave them on the steps of a foundling asylum in order to insure their being brought up simply.
Give my kindest regards to Mrs. Lippett (that, I think, is truthful; love would be a little strong) and don't forget to tell her what a beautiful nature I've developed.
LOCK WILLOW, 4th April
Do you observe the postmark? Sallie and I are embellishing Lock Willow with our presence during the Easter Vacation. We decided that the best thing we could do with our ten days was to come where it is quiet. Our nerves had got to the point where they wouldn't stand another meal in Fergussen. Dining in a room with four hundred girls is an ordeal when you are tired. There is so much noise that you can't hear the girls across the table speak unless they make their hands into a megaphone and shout. That is the truth.
We are tramping over the hills and reading and writing, and having a nice, restful time. We climbed to the top of 'Sky Hill' this morning where Master Jervie and I once cooked supper—it doesn't seem possible that it was nearly two years ago. I could still see the place where the smoke of our fire blackened the rock. It is funny how certain places get connected with certain people, and you never go back without thinking of them. I was quite lonely without him—for two minutes.
What do you think is my latest activity, Daddy? You will begin to believe that I am incorrigible—I am writing a book. I started it three weeks ago and am eating it up in chunks. I've caught the secret. Master Jervie and that editor man were right; you are most convincing when you write about the things you know. And this time it is about something that I do know—exhaustively. Guess where it's laid? In the John Grier Home! And it's good, Daddy, I actually believe it is—just about the tiny little things that happened every day. I'm a realist now. I've abandoned romanticism; I shall go back to it later though, when my own adventurous future begins.
This new book is going to get itself finished—and published! You see if it doesn't. If you just want a thing hard enough and keep on trying, you do get it in the end. I've been trying for four years to get a letter from you—and I haven't given up hope yet.
Goodbye, Daddy dear,
(I like to call you Daddy dear; it's so alliterative.)
PS. I forgot to tell you the farm news, but it's very distressing. Skip this postscript if you don't want your sensibilities all wrought up.
Poor old Grove is dead. He got so that he couldn't chew and they had to shoot him.
Nine chickens were killed by a weasel or a skunk or a rat last week.
One of the cows is sick, and we had to have the veterinary surgeon out from Bonnyrigg Four Corners. Amasai stayed up all night to give her linseed oil and whisky. But we have an awful suspicion that the poor sick cow got nothing but linseed oil.
Sentimental Tommy (the tortoise-shell cat) has disappeared; we are afraid he has been caught in a trap.
There are lots of troubles in the world!
This is going to be extremely short because my shoulder aches at the sight of a pen. Lecture notes all day, immortal novel all evening, make too much writing.
Commencement three weeks from next Wednesday. I think you might come and make my acquaintance—I shall hate you if you don't! Julia's inviting Master Jervie, he being her family, and Sallie's inviting Jimmie McB., he being her family, but who is there for me to invite? Just you and Lippett, and I don't want her. Please come.
Yours, with love and writer's cramp. Judy
LOCK WILLOW, 19th June
I'm educated! My diploma is in the bottom bureau drawer with my two best dresses. Commencement was as usual, with a few showers at vital moments. Thank you for your rosebuds. They were lovely. Master Jervie and Master Jimmie both gave me roses, too, but I left theirs in the bath tub and carried yours in the class procession.
Here I am at Lock Willow for the summer—for ever maybe. The board is cheap; the surroundings quiet and conducive to a literary life. What more does a struggling author wish? I am mad about my book. I think of it every waking moment, and dream of it at night. All I want is peace and quiet and lots of time to work (interspersed with nourishing meals).
Master Jervie is coming up for a week or so in August, and Jimmie McBride is going to drop in sometime through the summer. He's connected with a bond house now, and goes about the country selling bonds to banks. He's going to combine the 'Farmers' National' at the Corners and me on the same trip.
You see that Lock Willow isn't entirely lacking in society. I'd be expecting to have you come motoring through—only I know now that that is hopeless. When you wouldn't come to my commencement, I tore you from my heart and buried you for ever.
Judy Abbott, A.B.
Isn't it fun to work—or don't you ever do it? It's especially fun when your kind of work is the thing you'd rather do more than anything else in the world. I've been writing as fast as my pen would go every day this summer, and my only quarrel with life is that the days aren't long enough to write all the beautiful and valuable and entertaining thoughts I'm thinking.
I've finished the second draft of my book and am going to begin the third tomorrow morning at half-past seven. It's the sweetest book you ever saw—it is, truly. I think of nothing else. I can barely wait in the morning to dress and eat before beginning; then I write and write and write till suddenly I'm so tired that I'm limp all over. Then I go out with Colin (the new sheep dog) and romp through the fields and get a fresh supply of ideas for the next day. It's the most beautiful book you ever saw—Oh, pardon—I said that before.
You don't think me conceited, do you, Daddy dear?
I'm not, really, only just now I'm in the enthusiastic stage. Maybe later on I'll get cold and critical and sniffy. No, I'm sure I won't! This time I've written a real book. Just wait till you see it.
I'll try for a minute to talk about something else. I never told you, did I, that Amasai and Carrie got married last May? They are still working here, but so far as I can see it has spoiled them both. She used to laugh when he tramped in mud or dropped ashes on the floor, but now—you should hear her scold! And she doesn't curl her hair any longer. Amasai, who used to be so obliging about beating rugs and carrying wood, grumbles if you suggest such a thing. Also his neckties are quite dingy—black and brown, where they used to be scarlet and purple. I've determined never to marry. It's a deteriorating process, evidently.
There isn't much of any farm news. The animals are all in the best of health. The pigs are unusually fat, the cows seem contented and the hens are laying well. Are you interested in poultry? If so, let me recommend that invaluable little work, 200 Eggs per Hen per Year. I am thinking of starting an incubator next spring and raising broilers. You see I'm settled at Lock Willow permanently. I have decided to stay until I've written 114 novels like Anthony Trollope's mother. Then I shall have completed my life work and can retire and travel.
Mr. James McBride spent last Sunday with us. Fried chicken and ice-cream for dinner, both of which he appeared to appreciate. I was awfully glad to see him; he brought a momentary reminder that the world at large exists. Poor Jimmie is having a hard time peddling his bonds. The 'Farmers' National' at the Corners wouldn't have anything to do with them in spite of the fact that they pay six per cent. interest and sometimes seven. I think he'll end up by going home to Worcester and taking a job in his father's factory. He's too open and confiding and kind-hearted ever to make a successful financier. But to be the manager of a flourishing overall factory is a very desirable position, don't you think? Just now he turns up his nose at overalls, but he'll come to them.