#0015: Willa Cather to Mariel Gere, August 1, 1893

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My Dear Mariel1;

I have not written to you before because I have been away. After Louise3 left I was lonesome and weary of life so I went westward and sojourned some days in the country.

Well, I will begin at the beginning. The day before Louise came I bribed James4 for the sum of two nickles and a bottle of pop to go out in the country and stay in order that he might not bother the young lady. I was determined that she should not suffer what you girls5 had endured. James, being greatly in need of funds, went, but I, alas, forgot to specify how long he must remain away, and the very next evening he ran away from Papa6 and begged a ride of a farmer who was coming to town and dashed in on the newly arrived. They got on much better than I expected, but you know Jim is disposed to be affectionate, and the young lady is not used to children and used to positively blush under his caresses. He made brakes (or is it breaks?) as usual. Imagine my horror when one morning at breakfast he cooly said, "I say, Louise, they've got some mighty nice 2 chocolate drops downtown, suppose you set 'em up to me, Ned7 did."" She set 'em up. He liked her pretty well, but he struck the same ice that I have been three years getting through. He declares that "Louise is not as good as Ned's little finger." Tell Ned I have a lasting grudge against that little finger, though I am tremendously fond of the rest of her. For me the visit was all too short, just enough to make me feel the need again and then lose her.

I wish you could have been out in the country with Roscoe8 and myself. When you come down next summer we will Aug 1 93 93 drive you all up to Bladen9 for we find that the drive can be made in one day though it is some what tedious. We will treat you to Bladen ice cream and if you survive that you will be good fellows.

We spent several days at my uncle's10, who lives in a small colony of Virginians11 who came out here overland ages ago about the time of the creation. They are a clannish set and hang together. They have the usual country "Literary" on a somewhat better scale than it is usually carried on. My aunt12, who is a graduate of Smith and Mt. Holyoak13 is at the 3 head of it and surely does her share in distributing manna in the wilderness14. Roscoe and I went to one of their meetings15 and it was really quite endurable, except a great deal of singing by a young lady16 who could not sing. You see the meeting was at the fair damsel's home, so it was her great and only chance to go on the programme as often as she wished, and she sang twelve times not counting encores. Yes, positively she sang a song or rather warbled after every number on the programme. All the while that file-like voice grated on her mother17 stood in the doorway gazing on her with fond pride. The twelfth song had a refrain beginning "Pray does the music charm thy heart?" which, considering the universal disgust was a some what delicate question. The programmes were all printed in the paper and the fond mother bought fifty papers and sent them to all her friends "back east" to let them know what a talented daughter she posessed. The author under discussion that night was Emmerson18 4 and I think the hayseeds understand transcendentalism about as well as most university students, some of them better. By the way I must tell you about that aunt of mine some time, she is one of the ugliest, smartest, and most eccentric of human kind,—they say I am like her in ugliness and eccentricity.

One of our favorite amusements out there was sitting on the top of the fifty foot wind mill tower at night. It was great on calm evenings. We could see for miles and miles, see "right off the edge of the world" as Ross said. The red harvest moon, swollen with plenty, rose over the lagoons and wheat fields, not very clear at first, but fleecy and cloud girt, as though timid of her own my c richness and fullness. But in an hour or so, she when she felt the full zest of her race and the strength of her serenity, she left the vapors behind her. As soon as she was up, the little ponds all over the country began to glimmer, and the corn tassels in all those forests of corn looked white as silver. We could see the windmills and groves of cottonwoods all over the country as plainly as in day light. Moonlight has 5 a peculiar effect on a country; it obliterates what is ugly, softens what is harsh, and what is beautiful it raises almost to the divine and supernatural.

But the greatest thing we saw from that mill tower was the coming of a storm. The moon did not show herself at all; there was a long black bank of clouds in the west, and the lightening kept playing along it as steady as the fire of a battery. The world seemed to get ready for a storm; the cattle all huddled together in one end of the corall, the corn leaves got restless and began to toss their long blades up as if to reach for rain. In a moment the big wind struck us, just such a wind as struck Roscoe and the girls out by the brick kiln19, and we fifty feet up in the air on a four-foot platform! r Roscoe howled, "Off with your skirts, Willie or we'll never get down" you bet I peeled them off, all but a little light one. The descent was something awful, the wi tower shook and we shook, the wind hummed and sang and whistled all about us, if it had not been for Rosses grip on me I believe 6I should have fallen. My hands are still blistered from the way I hung to the rounds of the ladder.

Roscoe is out on the farm making hay now. When he comes in he and I are going to have a pull up the river and brave the horror of that accursed island20 again, "Ora pro nobis21!" Poor Jack22 has been awfully sick. All the babys around here have been dying and Mamma23 has been pretty badly scared about him.

The world goes on as usual here. The elephant, Lora, still jumps the fence, "Winning Card" still paceth the side walk attended by master and mistress, "Chew Spear Head Plug" still burns before in us in letters of living light as a guide to our youth and innocence. We were deprived of cream24 for some days after you left, using it all to annoint Roscoe's back which was one large blister as a result of an unfortunate swimming expedition. The poor lad lay for two days on his stomach reading Ebar's25 "Egyptian Princes"26 in sore travil of back and spirit.

Mother sends her regards and says she was very much pleased to get your 7 letter, but she is too busy with Jaques to answer it at present. Roscoe sends his regards also, and James his "affectionate regards." Neddins is the one Jim singled out upon whom to bestow his worthless and offensive affections, though he feels that he must show proper regard for Frances27 because of certain mysteries connected with his beehive bank.

I am afraid I must spend the rest of the summer at home and in the country. I want to get some more air and level, and write Aug 1 1893 a little nonsense. I hope I can get up awhile before school begins, and if convenient I should like very much to spend part of that time with you. Give my love to all your folks28, and if you meet a certain blond haired maiden gaze on her tenderly for my sake. I am eagereager to be back to my work, you see there has been a whole summer of DePue29 and it has left its mark. But DePue will marry this winter, and you know what that means, it means victory! I have won the ground from under her inch by inch, and that marriage of hers will 7 be my coronation. You see when she is gone I will be first, and I will keep my place, if honor and watchfullness can keep it. Heaven the help the Greek and Latin in this year's warfare; you see it is a fight in which so much time must be spent in doing nothing gracefully and patiently.

I am pretty well now, save for sundry bruises received in driving a certain fair maid over the country with one hand, sometimes, indeed, with no hand at all. But she did not seem to mind Aug 1 '93 up in the wind mill my method of driving, even when we went off banks and over hay stacks, and as for me—I drive with one hand all night in my sleep.

You can read all of this letter to Ned and Frances except the last part, as I dont wish to corrupt them by spooniness. This is a very silly epistle on the whole, what Louise would call "soulfull", she has broken me of writing this kind but once and awhile old tricks creep out.

Yours Cather.