Sir: You never answer any questions; you never show the slightest interest in anything I do. You are probably the horridest one of all those horrid Trustees, and the reason you are educating me is, not because you care a bit about me, but from a sense of Duty.
I don’t know a single thing about you. I don’t even know your name. It is very uninspiring writing to a Thing. I have n’t a doubt but that you throw my letters into the waste-basket without reading them. Hereafter I shall write only about work.
My reëxaminations in Latin and geometry came last week. I passed them both and am now free from conditions.
I am a BEAST.
Please forget about that dreadful letter I sent you last week—I was feeling terribly lonely and miserable and sore-throaty the night I wrote. I did n’t know it, but I was just coming down with tonsilitis and grippe and lots of things mixed. I ’m in the infirmary now, and have been here for six days; this is the first time they would let me sit up and have a pen and paper. The head nurse is very bossy. But I ’ve been thinking about it all the time and I shan’t get well until you forgive me.
Here is a picture of the way I look, with a bandage tied around my head in rabbit ’s ears.
Does n’t that arouse your sympathy? I am having sublingual gland swelling. And I ’ve been studying physiology all the year without ever hearing of sublingual glands. How futile a thing is education!
I can’t write any more; I get sort of shaky when I sit up too long. Please forgive me for being impertinent and ungrateful. I was badly brought up.
Yours with love,
Yesterday evening just toward dark, when I was sitting up in bed looking out at the rain and feeling awfully bored with life in a great institution, the nurse appeared with a long white box addressed to me, and filled with the loveliest pink rosebuds. And much nicer still, it contained a card with a very polite message written in a funny little uphill back hand (but one which shows a great deal of character). Thank you, Daddy, a thousand times. Your flowers make the first real, true present I ever received in my life. If you want to know what a baby I am, I lay down and cried because I was so happy.
Now that I am sure you read my letters, I ’ll make them much more interesting, so they ’ll be worth keeping in a safe with red tape around them—only please take out that dreadful one and burn it up. I ’d hate to think that you ever read it over.
Thank you for making a very sick, cross, miserable Freshman cheerful. Probably you have lots of loving family and friends, and you don’t know what it feels like to be alone. But I do.
Good-by—I ’ll promise never to be horrid again, because now I know you ’re a real person; also I ’ll promise never to bother you with any more questions.
Do you still hate girls?
8th hour, Monday.
I hope you are n’t the长腿 who sat on the toad? It went off—I was told—with quite a pop, so probably he was a fatter Trustee.
Do you remember the little dugout places with gratings over them by the laundry windows in the John Grier Home? Every spring when the hoptoad season opened we used to form a collection of toads and keep them in those window holes; and occasionally they would spill over into the laundry, causing a very pleasurable commotion on wash days. We were severely punished for our activities in this direction, but in spite of all discouragement the toads would collect.
And one day—well, I won’t bore you with particulars—but somehow, one of the fattest, biggest, juiciest toads got into one of those big leather arm chairs in the Trustees’ room, and that afternoon at the Trustees’ meeting— But I dare say you were there and recall the rest?
Looking back dispassionately after a period of time, I will say that punishment was merited, and—if I remember rightly—adequate.
I don’t know why I am in such a reminiscent mood except that spring and the reappearance of toads always awakens the old acquisitive instinct. The only thing that keeps me from starting a collection is the fact that no rule exists against it.
After chapel, Thursday.
What do you think is my favorite book? Just now, I mean; I change every three days. “Wuthering Heights.” Emily Bronté was quite young when she wrote it, and had never been outside of Haworth churchyard. She had never known any men in her life; how could she imagine a man like Heathcliffe?
I could n’t do it, and I ’m quite young and never outside the John Grier Asylum—I ’ve had every chance in the world. Sometimes a dreadful fear comes over me that I ’m not a genius. Will you be awfully disappointed, Daddy, if I don’t turn out to be a great author? In the spring when everything is so beautiful and green and budding, I feel like turning my back on lessons, and running away to play with the weather. There are such lots of adventures out in the fields! It ’s much more entertaining to live books than to write them.
Ow ! ! ! ! ! !
啊！ ！ ！ ！ ！ ！
That was a shriek which brought Sallie and Julia and (for a disgusted moment) the Senior from across the hall. It was caused by a centipede like this:
only worse. Just as I had finished the last sentence and was thinking what to say next—plump!—it fell off the ceiling and landed at my side. I tipped two cups off the tea table in trying to get away. Sallie whacked it with the back of my hair brush—which I shall never be able to use again—and killed the front end, but the rear fifty feet ran under the bureau and escaped.
This dormitory, owing to its age and ivy-covered walls, is full of centipedes. They are dreadful creatures. I ’d rather find a tiger under the bed.
Friday, 9.30 P. M.
Such a lot of troubles! I did n’t hear the rising bell this morning, then I broke my shoe-string while I was hurrying to dress and dropped my collar button down my neck. I was late for breakfast and also for first-hour recitation. I forgot to take any blotting paper and my fountain pen leaked. In trigonometry the Professor and I had a disagreement touching a little matter of logarithms. On looking it up, I find that she was right. We had mutton stew and pie-plant for lunch—hate ’em both; they taste like the asylum. Nothing but bills in my mail (though I must say that I never do get anything else; my family are not the kind that write). In English class this afternoon we had an unexpected written lesson. This was it:
I asked no other thing,
No other was denied.
I offered Being for it;
The mighty merchant smiled.
Brazil? He twirled a button
Without a glance my way:
But, madam, is there nothing else
That we can show to-day?
That is a poem. I don’t know who wrote it or what it means. It was simply printed out on the blackboard when we arrived and we were ordered to comment upon it. When I read the first verse I thought I had an idea—The Mighty Merchant was a divinity who distributes blessings in return for virtuous deeds—but when I got to the second verse and found him twirling a button, it seemed a blasphemous supposition, and I hastily changed my mind. The rest of the class was in the same predicament; and there we sat for three quarters of an hour with blank paper and equally blank minds. Getting an education is an awfully wearing process!
But this did n’t end the day. There ’s worse to come.
It rained so we could n’t play golf, but had to go to gymnasium instead. The girl next to me banged my elbow with an Indian club. I got home to find that the box with my new blue spring dress had come, and the skirt was so tight that I could n’t sit down. Friday is sweeping day, and the maid had mixed all the papers on my desk. We had tombstone for dessert (milk and gelatin flavored with vanilla). We were kept in chapel twenty minutes later than usual to listen to a speech about womanly women. And then—just as I was settling down with a sigh of well-earned relief to “The Portrait of a Lady,” a girl named Ackerly, a dough-faced, deadly, unintermittently stupid girl, who sits next to me in Latin because her name begins with A (I wish Mrs. Lippett had named me Zabriski), came to ask if Monday’s lesson commenced at paragraph 69 or 70, and stayed ONE HOUR. She has just gone.
Did you ever hear of such a discouraging series of events? It is n’t the big troubles in life that require character. Anybody can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh—I really think that requires spirit.
It ’s the kind of character that I am going to develop. I am going to pretend that all life is just a game which I must play as skilfully and fairly as I can. If I lose, I am going to shrug my shoulders and laugh—also if I win.
Anyway, I am going to be a sport. You will never hear me complain again, Daddy dear, because Julia wears silk stockings and centipedes drop off the wall.
Dear Sir: I am in receipt of a letter from Mrs. Lippett. She hopes that I am doing well in deportment and studies. Since I probably have no place to go this summer, she will let me come back to the asylum and work for my board until college opens.
I HATE THE JOHN GRIER HOME.
I ’d rather die than go back.
Yours most truthfully,
Vous etes un brick!
Je suis tres heureuse about the farm, parsque je n’ai jamais been on a farm dans ma vie and I ’d hate to retourner chez John Grier, et wash dishes tout l’été. There would be danger ofquelque chose affreuse happening, parsque j’ai perdue ma humilité d’autre fois et j’ai peur that I would just break out quelque jour et smash every cup and saucer dans la maison.
Pardon brièveté et paper. Je ne peux pas send des mes nouvelles parseque je suis dans French class et j’ai peur que Monsieur le Professeur is going to call on me tout de suite.
Je vous aime beaucoup.
Did you ever see this campus? (That is merely a rhetorical question. Don’t let it annoy you.) It is a heavenly spot in May. All the shrubs are in blossom and the trees are the loveliest young green—even the old pines look fresh and new. The grass is dotted with yellow dandelions and hundreds of girls in blue and white and pink dresses. Everybody is joyous and care-free, for vacation ’s coming, and with that to look forward to, examinations don’t count.
Is n’t that a happy frame of mind to be in? And oh, Daddy! I ’m the happiest of all! Because I ’m not in the asylum any more; and I ’m not anybody’s nurse-maid or typewriter or bookkeeper (I should have been, you know, except for you).
I ’m sorry now for all my past badnesses.
I ’m sorry I was ever impertinent to Mrs. Lippett.
I ’m sorry I ever slapped Freddie Perkins.
I ’m sorry I ever filled the sugar bowl with salt.
I ’m sorry I ever made faces behind the Trustees’ backs.
I ’m going to be good and sweet and kind to everybody because I ’m so happy. And this summer I ’m going to write and write and write and begin to be a great author. Is n’t that an exalted stand to take? Oh, I ’m developing a beautiful character! It droops a bit under cold and frost, but it does grow fast when the sun shines.
That ’s the way with everybody. I don’t agree with the theory that adversity and sorrow and disappointment develop moral strength. The happy people are the ones who are bubbling over with kindliness. I have no faith in misanthropes. (Fine word! Just learned it.) You are not a misanthrope are you, Daddy?
I started to tell you about the campus. I wish you ’d come for a little visit and let me walk you about and say:
“That is the library. This is the gas plant, Daddy dear. The Gothic building on your left is the gymnasium, and the Tudor Romanesque beside it is the new infirmary.”
Oh, I ’m fine at showing people about. I ’ve done it all my life at the asylum, and I ’ve been doing it all day here. I have honestly.
And a Man, too!
That ’s a great experience. I never talked to a man before (except occasional Trustees, and they don’t count). Pardon, Daddy. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings when I abuse Trustees. I don’t consider that you really belong among them. You just tumbled onto the Board by chance. The Trustee, as such, is fat and pompous and benevolent. He pats one on the head and wears a gold watch chain.
That looks like a June bug, but is meant to be a portrait of any Trustee except you.
I have been walking and talking and having tea with a man. And with a very superior man—with Mr. Jervis Pendleton of the House of Julia; her uncle, in short (in long, perhaps I ought to say; he ’s as tall as you). Being in town on business, he decided to run out to the college and call on his niece. He ’s her father’s youngest brother, but she does n’t know him very intimately. It seems he glanced at her when she was a baby, decided he did n’t like her, and has never noticed her since.
Anyway, there he was, sitting in the reception room very proper with his hat and stick and gloves beside him; and Julia and Sallie with seventh-hour recitations that they could n’t cut. So Julia dashed into my room and begged me to walk him about the campus and then deliver him to her when the seventh hour was over. I said I would, obligingly but unenthusiastically, because I don’t care much for Pendletons.
But he turned out to be a sweet lamb. He ’s a real human being—not a Pendleton at all. We had a beautiful time; I ’ve longed for an uncle ever since. Do you mind pretending you ’re my uncle? I believe they ’re superior to grandmothers.
Mr. Pendleton reminded me a little of you, Daddy, as you were twenty years ago. You see I know you intimately, even if we have n’t ever met!
He ’s tall and thinnish with a dark face all over lines, and the funniest underneath smile that never quite comes through but just wrinkles up the corners of his mouth. And he has a way of making you feel right off as though you ’d known him a long time. He ’s very companionable.
We walked all over the campus from the quadrangle to the athletic grounds; then he said he felt weak and must have some tea. He proposed that we go to College Inn—it ’s just off the campus by the pine walk. I said we ought to go back for Julia and Sallie, but he said he did n’t like to have his nieces drink too much tea; it made them nervous. So we just ran away and had tea and muffins and marmalade and ice-cream and cake at a nice little table out on the balcony. The inn was quite conveniently empty, this being the end of the month and allowances low.
We had the jolliest time! But he had to run for his train the minute he got back and he barely saw Julia at all. She was furious with me for taking him off; it seems he ’s an unusually rich and desirable uncle. It relieved my mind to find he was rich, for the tea and things cost sixty cents apiece.
This morning (it ’s Monday now) three boxes of chocolates came by express for Julia and Sallie and me. What do you think of that? To be getting candy from a man!
I begin to feel like a girl instead of a foundling.
I wish you ’d come and take tea some day and let me see if I like you. But would n’t it be dreadful if I did n’t? However, I know I should.
Bien! I make you my compliments.
“ Jamais je ne t’oublierai.”
P. S. I looked in the glass this morning and found a perfectly new dimple that I ’d never seen before. It ’s very curious. Where do you suppose it came from?
Happy day! I ’ve just finished my last examination—Physiology. And now:
Three months on a farm!
I don’t know what kind of a thing a farm is. I ’ve never been on one in my life. I ’ve never even looked at one (except from the car window), but I know I ’m going to love it, and I ’m going to love being free.
I am not used even yet to being outside the John Grier Home. Whenever I think of it excited little thrills chase up and down my back. I feel as though I must run faster and faster and keep looking over my shoulder to make sure that Mrs. Lippett is n’t after me with her arm stretched out to grab me back.
I don’t have to mind any one this summer, do I?
Your nominal authority does n’t annoy me in the least; you are too far away to do any harm. Mrs. Lippett is dead forever, so far as I am concerned, and the Semples are n’t expected to overlook my moral welfare, are they? No, I am sure not. I am entirely grown up. Hooray!
I leave you now to pack a trunk, and three boxes of teakettles and dishes and sofa cushions and books.
P. S. Here is my physiology exam. Do you think you could have passed?
Lock Willow Farm,
I ’ve only just come and I ’m not unpacked, but I can’t wait to tell you how much I like farms. This is a heavenly, heavenly, heavenly spot! The house is square like this:
And old. A hundred years or so. It has a veranda on the side which I can’t draw and a sweet porch in front. The picture really does n’t do it justice—those things that look like feather dusters are maple trees, and the prickly ones that border the drive are murmuring pines and hemlocks. It stands on the top of a hill and looks way off over miles of green meadows to another line of hills.
That is the way Connecticut goes, in a series of Marcelle waves; and Lock Willow Farm is just on the crest of one wave. The barns used to be across the road where they obstructed the view, but a kind flash of lightning came from heaven and burnt them down.
The people are Mr. and Mrs. Semple and a hired girl and two hired men. The hired people eat in the kitchen, and the Semples and Judy in the dining-room. We had ham and eggs and biscuits and honey and jelly-cake and pie and pickles and cheese and tea for supper—and a great deal of conversation. I have never been so entertaining in my life; everything I say appears to be funny. I suppose it is, because I ’ve never been in the country before, and my questions are backed by an all-inclusive ignorance.
The room marked with a cross is not where the murder was committed, but the one that I occupy. It ’s big and square and empty, with adorable old-fashioned furniture and windows that have to be propped up on sticks and green shades trimmed with gold that fall down if you touch them. And a big square mahogany table—I ’m going to spend the summer with my elbows spread out on it, writing a novel.
Oh, Daddy, I ’m so excited! I can’t wait till daylight to explore. It ’s 8.30 now, and I am about to blow out my candle and try to go to sleep. We rise at five. Did you ever know such fun? I can’t believe this is really Judy. You and the Good Lord give me more than I deserve. I must be a very, very, very good person to pay. I ’m going to be. You ’ll see.
P. S. You should hear the frogs sing and the little pigs squeal—and you should see the new moon! I saw it over my right shoulder.
How did your secretary come to know about Lock Willow? (That is n’t a rhetorical question. I am awfully curious to know.) For listen to this: Mr. Jervis Pendleton used to own this farm, but now he has given it to Mrs. Semple who was his old nurse. Did you ever hear of such a funny coincidence? She still calls him “Master Jervie” and talks about what a sweet little boy he used to be. She has one of his baby curls put away in a box, and it ’s red—or at least reddish!
Since she discovered that I know him, I have risen very much in her opinion. Knowing a member of the Pendleton family is the best introduction one can have at Lock Willow. And the cream of the whole family is Master Jervie—I am pleased to say that Julia belongs to an inferior branch.
The farm gets more and more entertaining. I rode on a hay wagon yesterday. We have three big pigs and nine little piglets, and you should see them eat. They are pigs! We ’ve oceans of little baby chickens and ducks and turkeys and guinea fowls. You must be mad to live in a city when you might live on a farm.
It is my daily business to hunt the eggs. I fell off a beam in the barn loft yesterday, while I was trying to crawl over to a nest that the black hen has stolen. And when I came in with a scratched knee, Mrs. Semple bound it up with witch-hazel, murmuring all the time, “Dear! Dear! It seems only yesterday that Master Jervie fell off that very same beam and scratched this very same knee.”
The scenery around here is perfectly beautiful. There ’s a valley and a river and a lot of wooded hills, and way in the distance, a tall blue mountain that simply melts in your mouth.
We churn twice a week; and we keep the cream in the spring house which is made of stone with the brook running underneath. Some of the farmers around here have a separator, but we don’t care for these new-fashioned ideas. It may be a little harder to take care of cream raised in pans, but it ’s enough better to pay. We have six calves; and I ’ve chosen the names for all of them.
1. Sylvia, because she was born in the woods.
2. Lesbia, after the Lesbia in Catullus.
4. Julia—a spotted, nondescript animal.
5. Judy, after me.
6. Daddy-Long-Legs. You don’t mind, do you, Daddy? He ’s pure Jersey and has a sweet disposition. He looks like this—you can see how appropriate the name is.
I have n’t had time yet to begin my immortal novel; the farm keeps me too busy.
P. S. I ’ve learned to make doughnuts.
P. S. (2) If you are thinking of raising chickens, let me recommend Buff Orpingtons. They have n’t any pin feathers.
P. S. (3) I wish I could send you a pat of the nice, fresh butter I churned yesterday. I ’m a fine dairy-maid!
P. S. (4) This is a picture of Miss Jerusha Abbott, the future great author, driving home the cows.
Is n’t it funny? I started to write to you yesterday afternoon, but as far as I got was the heading, “Dear Daddy-Long-Legs,” and then I remembered I ’d promised to pick some blackberries for supper, so I went off and left the sheet lying on the table, and when I came back to-day, what do you think I found sitting in the middle of the page? A real true Daddy-Long-Legs!
I picked him up very gently by one leg, and dropped him out of the window. I would n’t hurt one of them for the world. They always remind me of you.
We hitched up the spring wagon this morning and drove to the Center to church. It ’s a sweet little white frame church with a spire and three Doric columns in front (or maybe Ionic—I always get them mixed).
A nice, sleepy sermon with everybody drowsily waving palm-leaf fans, and the only sound aside from the minister, the buzzing of locusts in the trees outside. I did n’t wake up till I found myself on my feet singing the hymn, and then I was awfully sorry I had n’t listened to the sermon; I should like to know more of the psychology of a man who would pick out such a hymn. This was it:
Come, leave your sports and earthly toys
And join me in celestial joys.
Or else, dear friend, a long farewell.
I leave you now to sink to hell.
I find that it is n’t safe to discuss religion with the Semples. Their God (whom they have inherited intact from their remote Puritan ancestors) is a narrow, irrational, unjust, mean, revengeful, bigoted Person. Thank heaven I don’t inherit any God from anybody! I am free to make mine up as I wish Him. He ’s kind and sympathetic and imaginative and forgiving and understanding—and He has a sense of humor.
I like the Semples immensely; their practice is so superior to their theory. They are better than their own God. I told them so—and they are horribly troubled. They think I am blasphemous—and I think they are! We ’ve dropped theology from our conversation.
This is Sunday afternoon.
Amasai (hired man) in a purple tie and some bright yellow buckskin gloves, very red and shaved, has just driven off with Carrie (hired girl) in a big hat trimmed with red roses and a blue muslin dress and her hair curled as tight as it will curl. Amasai spent all the morning washing the buggy; and Carrie stayed home from church ostensibly to cook the dinner, but really to iron the muslin dress.
In two minutes more when this letter is finished I am going to settle down to a book which I found in the attic. It ’s entitled, “On the Trail,” and sprawled across the front page in a funny little-boy hand:
If this book should ever roam,
Box its ears and send it home.
He spent the summer here once after he had been ill, when he was about eleven years old; and he left “On the Trail” behind. It looks well read—the marks of his grimy little hands are frequent! Also in a corner of the attic there is a water wheel and a windmill and some bows and arrows. Mrs. Semple talks so constantly about him that I begin to believe he really lives—not a grown man with a silk hat and walking stick, but a nice, dirty, tousle-headed boy who clatters up the stairs with an awful racket, and leaves the screen doors open, and is always asking for cookies. (And getting them, too, if I know Mrs. Semple!) He seems to have been an adventurous little soul—and brave and truthful. I ’m sorry to think he is a Pendleton; he was meant for something better.
生病后大约十一岁的时候，他在这里度过了一个夏天。然后他离开了“ 在路上”。看起来读起来不错-他肮脏的小手的痕迹经常出现！阁楼的一角也有水车和风车，还有一些弓箭。塞普尔太太一直在谈论他，以至于我开始相信他确实活着。他不是一个戴着大礼帽和手杖的成年男子，而是一个不错的，肮脏的，笨拙的男孩，用可怕的球拍拍打着楼梯，让纱门保持打开状态，并且一直在要饼干。 （如果我认识森普尔太太，也要得到他们！）他似乎是一个喜欢冒险的小灵魂，而且勇敢而诚实。为我以为他是彭德尔顿很抱歉；他注定要有更好的东西。
We ’re going to begin threshing oats to-morrow; a steam engine is coming and three extra men.
It grieves me to tell you that Buttercup (the spotted cow with one horn, Mother of Lesbia) has done a disgraceful thing. She got into the orchard Friday evening and ate apples under the trees, and ate and ate until they went to her head . For two days she has been perfectly dead drunk! That is the truth I am telling. Did you ever hear anything so scandalous?
Your affectionate orphan,
P. S. Indians in the first chapter and highwaymen in the second. I hold my breath. What can the third contain? “Red Hawk leapt twenty feet in the air and bit the dust.” That is the subject of the frontispiece. Are n’t Judy and Jervie having fun?
I was weighed yesterday on the flour scales in the general store at the Corners. I ’ve gained nine pounds! Let me recommend Lock Willow as a health resort.
Behold me—a Sophomore! I came up last Friday, sorry to leave Lock Willow, but glad to see the campus again. It is a pleasant sensation to come back to something familiar. I am beginning to feel at home in college, and in command of the situation; I am beginning, in fact, to feel at home in the world—as though I really belonged in it and had not just crept in on sufferance.
I don’t suppose you understand in the least what I am trying to say. A person important enough to be a Trustee can’t appreciate the feelings of a person unimportant enough to be a foundling.
And now, Daddy, listen to this. Whom do you think I am rooming with? Sallie McBride and Julia Rutledge Pendleton. It ’s the truth. We have a study and three little bedrooms— voila!
Sallie and I decided last spring that we should like to room together, and Julia made up her mind to stay with Sallie—why, I can’t imagine, for they are not a bit alike; but the Pendletons are naturally conservative and inimical (fine word!) to change. Anyway, here we are. Think of Jerusha Abbott, late of the John Grier Home for Orphans, rooming with a Pendleton. This is a democratic country.
I am beginning chemistry, a most unusual study. I ’ve never seen anything like it before. Molecules and Atoms are the material employed, but I ’ll be in a position to discuss them more definitely next month.
I am also taking argumentation and logic.
Also history of the whole world.
Also plays of William Shakespeare.
If this keeps up many years longer, I shall become quite intelligent.
I should rather have elected economics than French, but I did n’t dare, because I was afraid that unless I reëlected French, the Professor would not let me pass—as it was, I just managed to squeeze through the June examination. But I will say that my high-school preparation was not very adequate.
There ’s one girl in the class who chatters away in French as fast as she does in English. She went abroad with her parents when she was a child, and spent three years in a convent school. You can imagine how bright she is compared with the rest of us—irregular verbs are mere playthings. I wish my parents had chucked me into a French convent when I was little instead of a foundling asylum. Oh, no, I don’t either! Because then maybe I should never have known you. I ’d rather know you than French.
Good-by, Daddy. I must call on Harriet Martin now, and, having discussed the chemical situation, casually drop a few thoughts on the subject of our next president.
Yours in politics,
Supposing the swimming tank in the gymnasium were filled full of lemon jelly, could a person trying to swim manage to keep on top or would he sink?
We were having lemon jelly for dessert when the question came up. We discussed it heatedly for half an hour and it ’s still unsettled. Sallie thinks that she could swim in it, but I am perfectly sure that the best swimmer in the world would sink. Would n’t it be funny to be drowned in lemon jelly?
Two other problems are engaging the attention of our table.
1st. What shape are the rooms in an octagon house? Some of the girls insist that they ’re square; but I think they ’d have to be shaped like a piece of pie. Don’t you?
2d. Suppose there were a great big hollow sphere made of looking-glass and you were sitting inside. Where would it stop reflecting your face and begin reflecting your back? The more one thinks about this problem, the more puzzling it becomes. You can see with what deep philosophical reflection we engage our leisure!
Did I ever tell you about the election? It happened three weeks ago, but so fast do we live, that three weeks is ancient history. Sallie was elected, and we had a torchlight parade with transparencies saying, “McBride Forever,” and a band consisting of fourteen pieces (three mouth organs and eleven combs).
We ’re very important persons now in “258.” Julia and I come in for a great deal of reflected glory. It ’s quite a social strain to be living in the same house with a president.
Bonne nuit, cher Daddy.
Acceptez mes compliments,
We beat the Freshmen at basket ball yesterday. Of course we ’re pleased—but oh, if we could only beat the Juniors! I ’d be willing to be black and blue all over and stay in bed a week in a witch-hazel compress.
Sallie has invited me to spend the Christmas vacation with her. She lives in Worcester, Massachusetts. Was n’t it nice of her? I shall love to go. I ’ve never been in a private family in my life, except at Lock Willow, and the Semples were grown-up and old and don’t count. But the McBrides have a houseful of children (anyway two or three) and a mother and father and grandmother, and an Angora cat. It ’s a perfectly complete family! Packing your trunk and going away is more fun than staying behind. I am terribly excited at the prospect.
Seventh hour—I must run to rehearsal. I ’m to be in the Thanksgiving theatricals. A prince in a tower with a velvet tunic and yellow curls. Is n’t that a lark?
Do you want to know what I look like? Here ’s a photograph of all three that Leonora Fenton took.
The light one who is laughing is Sallie, and the tall one with her nose in the air is Julia, and the little one with the hair blowing across her face is Judy—she is really more beautiful than that, but the sun was in her eyes.
I meant to write to you before and thank you for your Christmas check, but life in the McBride household is very absorbing, and I don’t seem able to find two consecutive minutes to spend at a desk.
I bought a new gown—one that I did n’t need, but just wanted. My Christmas present this year is from Daddy-Long-Legs; my family just sent love.
I ’ve been having the most beautiful vacation visiting Sallie. She lives in a big old-fashioned brick house with white trimmings set back from the street—exactly the kind of house that I used to look at so curiously when I was in the John Grier Home, and wonder what it could be like inside. I never expected to see with my own eyes—but here I am! Everything is so comfortable and restful and homelike; I walk from room to room and drink in the furnishings.
It is the most perfect house for children to be brought up in; with shadowy nooks for hide and seek, and open fireplaces for pop-corn, and an attic to romp in on rainy days, and slippery banisters with a comfortable flat knob at the bottom, and a great big sunny kitchen, and a nice fat, sunny cook who has lived in the family thirteen years and always saves out a piece of dough for the children to bake. Just the sight of such a house makes you want to be a child all over again.
And as for families! I never dreamed they could be so nice. Sallie has a father and mother and grandmother, and the sweetest three-year-old baby sister all over curls, and a medium-sized brother who always forgets to wipe his feet, and a big, good-looking brother named Jimmie, who is a junior at Princeton.
We have the jolliest times at the table—everybody laughs and jokes and talks at once, and we don’t have to say grace beforehand. It ’s a relief not having to thank Somebody for every mouthful you eat. (I dare say I ’m blasphemous; but you ’d be, too, if you ’d offered as much obligatory thanks as I have.)
Such a lot of things we ’ve done—I can’t begin to tell you about them. Mr. McBride owns a factory, and Christmas eve he had a tree for the employees’ children. It was in the long packing-room which was decorated with evergreens and holly. Jimmie McBride was dressed as Santa Claus, and Sallie and I helped him distribute the presents.
Dear me, Daddy, but it was a funny sensation! I felt as benevolent as a Trustee of the John Grier Home. I kissed one sweet, sticky little boy—but I don’t think I patted any of them on the head!
And two days after Christmas, they gave a dance at their own house for ME.
It was the first really true ball I ever attended—college does n’t count where we dance with girls. I had a new white evening gown (your Christmas present—many thanks) and long white gloves and white satin slippers. The only drawback to my perfect, utter, absolute happiness was the fact that Mrs. Lippett could n’t see me leading the cotillion with Jimmie McBride. Tell her about it, please, the next time you visit the J. G. H.
P. S. Would you be terribly displeased, Daddy, if I did n’t turn out to be a Great Author after all, but just a Plain Girl?
We started to walk to town to-day, but mercy! how it poured. I like winter to be winter with snow instead of rain.
Julia’s desirable uncle called again this afternoon—and brought a five-pound box of chocolates. There are advantages you see about rooming with Julia.
Our innocent prattle appeared to amuse him and he waited over a train in order to take tea in the study. And an awful lot of trouble we had getting permission. It ’s hard enough entertaining fathers and grandfathers, but uncles are a step worse; and as for brothers and cousins, they are next to impossible. Julia had to swear that he was her uncle before a notary public and then have the county clerk’s certificate attached. (Don’t I know a lot of law?) And even then I doubt if we could have had our tea if the Dean had chanced to see how youngish and good-looking Uncle Jervis is.
Anyway, we had it, with brown bread Swiss cheese sandwiches. He helped make them and then ate four. I told him that I had spent last summer at Lock Willow, and we had a beautiful gossipy time about the Semples, and the horses and cows and chickens. All the horses that he used to know are dead, except Grover, who was a baby colt at the time of his last visit—and poor Grove now is so old he can just limp about the pasture.
He asked if they still kept doughnuts in a yellow crock with a blue plate over it on the bottom shelf of the pantry—and they do! He wanted to know if there was still a woodchuck’s hole under the pile of rocks in the night pasture—and there is! Amasai caught a big, fat, gray one there this summer, the twenty-fifth great-grandson of the one Master Jervie caught when he was a little boy.
I called him “Master Jervie” to his face, but he did n’t appear to be insulted. Julia says that she has never seen him so amiable; he ’s usually pretty unapproachable. But Julia has n’t a bit of tact; and men, I find, require a great deal. They purr if you rub them the right way and spit if you don’t. (That is n’t a very elegant metaphor. I mean it figuratively.)
We ’re reading Marie Bashkirtseff’s journal. Is n’t it amazing? Listen to this: “Last night I was seized by a fit of despair that found utterance in, and that finally drove me to throw the dining-room clock into the sea.”
It makes me almost hope I ’m not a genius; they must be very wearing to have about—and awfully destructive to the furniture.
Mercy! how it keeps pouring. We shall have to swim to chapel to-night.
Did you ever have a sweet baby girl who was stolen from the cradle in infancy?
Maybe I am she! If we were in a novel, that would be the dénouement, would n’t it?
It ’s really awfully queer not to know what one is—sort of exciting and romantic. There are such a lot of possibilities. Maybe I ’m not American; lots of people are n’t. I may be straight descended from the ancient Romans, or I may be a Viking’s daughter, or I may be the child of a Russian exile and belong by rights in a Siberian prison, or maybe I ’m a Gipsy—I think perhaps I am. I have a very wandering spirit, though I have n’t as yet had much chance to develop it.
Do you know about that one scandalous blot in my career—the time I ran away from the asylum because they punished me for stealing cookies? It ’s down in the books free for any Trustee to read. But really, Daddy, what could you expect? When you put a hungry little nine-year girl in the pantry scouring knives, with the cookie jar at her elbow, and go off and leave her alone; and then suddenly pop in again, would n’t you expect to find her a bit crumby? And then when you jerk her by the elbow and box her ears, and make her leave the table when the pudding comes, and tell all the other children that it ’s because she ’s a thief, would n’t you expect her to run away?
I only ran four miles. They caught me and brought me back; and every day for a week I was tied, like a naughty puppy, to a stake in the back yard while the other children were out at recess.
Oh, dear! There ’s the chapel bell, and after chapel I have a committee meeting. I ’m sorry because I meant to write you a very entertaining letter this time.
P. S. There ’s one thing I ’m perfectly sure of. I ’m not a Chinaman.
Jimmie McBride has sent me a Princeton banner as big as one end of the room; I am very grateful to him for remembering me, but I don’t know what on earth to do with it. Sallie and Julia won’t let me hang it up; our room this year is furnished in red, and you can imagine what an effect we ’d have if I added orange and black. But it ’s such nice, warm, thick felt, I hate to waste it. Would it be very improper to have it made into a bath robe? My old one shrank when it was washed.
I ’ve entirely omitted of late telling you what I am learning, but though you might not imagine it from my letters, my time is exclusively occupied with study. It ’s a very bewildering matter to get educated in five branches at once.
“The test of true scholarship,” says Chemistry Professor, “is a painstaking passion for detail.”
“Be careful not to keep your eyes glued to detail,” says History Professor. “Stand far enough away to get a perspective on the whole.”
You can see with what nicety we have to trim our sails between chemistry and history. I like the historical method best. If I say that William the Conqueror came over in 1492, and Columbus discovered America in 1100 or 1066 or whenever it was, that ’s a mere detail that the Professor overlooks. It gives a feeling of security and restfulness to the history recitation, that is entirely lacking in chemistry.
Sixth-hour bell—I must go to the laboratory and look into a little matter of acids and salts and alkalis. I ’ve burned a hole as big as a plate in the front of my chemistry apron, with hydrochloric acid. If the theory worked, I ought to be able to neutralize that hole with good strong ammonia, ought n’t I?
Examinations next week, but who ’s afraid?
There is a March wind blowing, and the sky is filled with heavy, black moving clouds. The crows in the pine trees are making such a clamor! It ’s an intoxicating, exhilarating, calling noise. You want to close your books and be off over the hills to race with the wind.
We had a paper chase last Saturday over five miles of squashy ’cross country. The fox (composed of three girls and a bushel or so of confetti) started half an hour before the twenty-seven hunters. I was one of the twenty-seven; eight dropped by the wayside; we ended nineteen. The trail led over a hill, through a cornfield, and into a swamp where we had to leap lightly from hummock to hummock. Of course half of us went in ankle deep. We kept losing the trail, and wasted twenty-five minutes over that swamp. Then up a hill through some woods and in at a barn window! The barn doors were all locked and the window was up high and pretty small. I don’t call that fair, do you?
But we did n’t go through; we circumnavigated the barn and picked up the trail where it issued by way of a low shed roof onto the top of a fence. The fox thought he had us there, but we fooled him. Then straight away over two miles of rolling meadow, and awfully hard to follow, for the confetti was getting sparse. The rule is that it must be at the most six feet apart, but they were the longest six feet I ever saw. Finally, after two hours of steady trotting, we tracked Monsieur Fox into the kitchen of Crystal Spring (that ’s a farm where the girls go in bob sleighs and hay wagons for chicken and waffle suppers) and we found the three foxes placidly eating milk and honey and biscuits. They had n’t thought we would get that far; they were expecting us to stick in the barn window.
Both sides insist that they won. I think we did, don’t you? Because we caught them before they got back to the campus. Anyway, all nineteen of us settled like locusts over the furniture and clamored for honey. There was n’t enough to go round, but Mrs. Crystal Spring (that ’s our pet name for her; she ’s by rights a Johnson) brought up a jar of strawberry jam and a can of maple syrup—just made last week—and three loaves of brown bread.
We did n’t get back to college till half-past six—half an hour late for dinner—and we went straight in without dressing, and with perfectly unimpaired appetites! Then we all cut evening chapel, the state of our boots being enough of an excuse.
I never told you about examinations. I passed everything with the utmost ease—I know the secret now, and am never going to flunk again. I shan’t be able to graduate with honors though, because of that beastly Latin prose and geometry Freshman year. But I don’t care. Wot’s the hodds so long as you ’re ’appy? (That ’s a quotation. I ’ve been reading the English classics.)
Speaking of classics, have you ever read “Hamlet”? If you have n’t, do it right off. It ’s perfectly corking. I ’ve been hearing about Shakespeare all my life, but I had no idea he really wrote so well; I always suspected him of going largely on his reputation.
I have a beautiful play that I invented a long time ago when I first learned to read. I put myself to sleep every night by pretending I ’m the person (the most important person) in the book I ’m reading at the moment.
At present I ’m Ophelia—and such a sensible Ophelia! I keep Hamlet amused all the time, and pet him and scold him and make him wrap up his throat when he has a cold. I ’ve entirely cured him of being melancholy. The King and Queen are both dead—an accident at sea; no funeral necessary—so Hamlet and I are ruling in Denmark without any bother. We have the kingdom working beautifully. He takes care of the governing, and I look after the charities. I have just founded some first-class orphan asylums. If you or any of the other Trustees would like to visit them, I shall be pleased to show you through. I think you might find a great many helpful suggestions.
I remain, sir,
Yours most graciously,
Queen of Denmark.
maybe the 25th.
I don’t believe I can be going to Heaven—I am getting such a lot of good things here; it would n’t be fair to get them hereafter, too. Listen to what has happened.
Jerusha Abbott has won the short-story contest (a twenty-five dollar prize) that the Monthly holds every year. And she a Sophomore! The contestants are mostly Seniors. When I saw my name posted, I could n’t quite believe it was true. Maybe I am going to be an author after all. I wish Mrs. Lippett had n’t given me such a silly name—it sounds like an author-ess, does n’t it?
Also I have been chosen for the spring dramatics—“As You Like It” out of doors. I am going to be Celia, own cousin to Rosalind.
And lastly: Julia and Sallie and I are going to New York next Friday to do some spring shopping and stay all night and go to the theater the next day with “Master Jervie.” He invited us. Julia is going to stay at home with her family, but Sallie and I are going to stop at the Martha Washington Hotel. Did you ever hear of anything so exciting? I ’ve never been in a hotel in my life, nor in a theater; except once when the Catholic Church had a festival and invited the orphans, but that was n’t a real play and it does n’t count.
And what do you think we ’re going to see? “Hamlet.” Think of that! We studied it for four weeks in Shakespeare class and I know it by heart.
I am so excited over all these prospects that I can scarcely sleep.
This is a very entertaining world.
P. S. I ’ve just looked at the calendar. It ’s the 28th.
I saw a street car conductor to-day with one brown eye and one blue. Would n’t he make a nice villain for a detective story?
Mercy! Is n’t New York big? Worcester is nothing to it. Do you mean to tell me that you actually live in all that confusion? I don’t believe that I shall recover for months from the bewildering effect of two days of it. I can’t begin to tell you all the amazing things I ’ve seen; I suppose you know, though, since you live there yourself.
But are n’t the streets entertaining? And the people? And the shops? I never saw such lovely things as there are in the windows. It makes you want to devote your life to wearing clothes.
Sallie and Julia and I went shopping together Saturday morning. Julia went into the very most gorgeous place I ever saw, white and gold walls and blue carpets and blue silk curtains and gilt chairs. A perfectly beautiful lady with yellow hair and a long black silk trailing gown came to meet us with a welcoming smile. I thought we were paying a social call, and started to shake hands, but it seems we were only buying hats—at least Julia was. She sat down in front of a mirror and tried on a dozen, each lovelier than the last, and bought the two loveliest of all.
I can’t imagine any joy in life greater than sitting down in front of a mirror and buying any hat you choose without having first to consider the price! There ’s no doubt about it, Daddy; New York would rapidly undermine this fine, stoical character which the John Grier Home so patiently built up.
And after we ’d finished our shopping, we met Master Jervie at Sherry’s. I suppose you ’ve been in Sherry’s? Picture that, then picture the dining-room of the John Grier Home with its oilcloth-covered tables, and white crockery that you can’t break, and wooden-handled knives and forks; and fancy the way I felt!
I ate my fish with the wrong fork, but the waiter very kindly gave me another so that nobody noticed.
And after luncheon we went to the theater—it was dazzling, marvelous, unbelievable—I dream about it every night.
Is n’t Shakespeare wonderful?
“Hamlet” is so much better on the stage than when we analyze it in class; I appreciated it before, but now, dear me!
I think, if you don’t mind, that I ’d rather be an actress than a writer. Would n’t you like me to leave college and go into a dramatic school? And then I ’ll send you a box for all my performances, and smile at you across the footlights. Only wear a red rose in your buttonhole, please, so I ’ll surely smile at the right man. It would be an awfully embarrassing mistake if I picked out the wrong one.
We came back Saturday night and had our dinner in the train, at little tables with pink lamps and negro waiters. I never heard of meals being served in trains before, and I inadvertently said so.
“Where on earth were you brought up?” said Julia to me.
“In a village,” said I, meekly to Julia.
“But did n’t you ever travel?” said she to me.
“Not till I came to college, and then it was only a hundred and sixty miles and we did n’t eat,” said I to her.
She ’s getting quite interested in me, because I say such funny things. I try hard not to, but they do pop out when I ’m surprised—and I ’m surprised most of the time. It ’s a dizzying experience, Daddy, to pass eighteen years in the John Grier Home, and then suddenly to be plunged into the WORLD.
But I ’m getting acclimated. I don’t make such awful mistakes as I did; and I don’t feel uncomfortable any more with the other girls. I used to squirm whenever people looked at me. I felt as though they saw right through my sham new clothes to the checked ginghams underneath. But I ’m not letting the ginghams bother me any more. Sufficient unto yesterday is the evil thereof.
I forgot to tell you about our flowers. Master Jervie gave us each a big bunch of violets and lilies-of-the-valley. Was n’t that sweet of him? I never used to care much for men—judging by Trustees—but I ’m changing my mind.
Eleven pages—this is a letter! Have courage. I ’m going to stop.