#0315: Willa Cather to Ferris Greenslet, [July 24, 1915]

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Dear Mr. Greenslet1;

I have not written you because for the last three days I have been on the point of sailing for Bergen4 for the Evening Mal Mail5. I was to go from Bergen into Germany6 to interview7, as Mr. McClure8 grandiosely puts it, "the leaders of German thought and the makers of Prussian policy." As the trip was to include Poland9 and Servia10 and Austria11, there were clearly difficulties, and as Mr. McClure was to accompany me there must clearly be a third person. Considering all the difficulties of the joyjob, and its highly social nature, I decided that this third person must be Isabelle12 and no–one else. The paper offered to send with meeither my brother13 or Eleanor McClure14, but Isabelle was the only person who could really help me on this kind of job. As they were paying out a great deal of money, I did not want to risk funking, and with Isabellealong I could be sure of getting through with the sort of program laid out for me. A skirt chasing an army is not especially a pleasing sight, a and it has to be the right kind of skirt. I came out here and put the pressure on hard and she was more than game for it. We thought it all settled, but last night Judge McClung15 woke up in the middle of the night and called Isabelle and said he considered it a very chancy trip, and that he did not feel strong enough to bear the strain of staying here and enumerating all the things that might happen , when he could hope to get very little word from her. So this morning I called it all off by telegraph, and will now proceed to get busy on the page proofs16 I've held up, the Epilogue etc.

I don't think we would have run much chance except that of the discomforts of war–time travel, and the financial offer was glittering––– quite drowned the song of any lark whatever. But, on the other hand, there were difficulties. I agreed to write the history of the military idea in Prussia17, and a true report of the statement of the men I was to interview, but insisted that I would write nothing pro–German. After the adventure was over, I might have disagreed strongly with the owners of the Mail as to what was truthful reporting, and what was pro–German, don't you think? Such a disagreement would have been disasterous to S. S., would have meant an ugly funk for me, and the financial strain of refunding heavy expense accounts would have been considerable. I don't think the Mail people would have wished to crowd me into anything proG pro–German18, but in such times as these people's judgment and reasonableness are a good deal warped by strong feeling. If, when I came back, I had felt absolutely unable to write the kind of articles expected of me, think what a lot of wear and tear it would meanhave meant for me, and what a useless scattering of money for them.! So I shall try to regard regard the tapping of Judge McClung's cane on the floor last night as the a fate motif, and I disclaim the responsibility of decision. I was ready to go under the conditions I which I felt would assure the success of the enterprise; it is not up to me to go under conditions which I feel render it doubtful. Isabelle's brother19 would go with me, but he is no linguist and not an experienced traveller. For this job I need another woman, and one with exactly Isabelle's qualities. There would be no unknoow unknown quanctity in our working equipment. After we once entered the German Empire we would not even have to consult together; we would each behave automatically and each would know what to expect of the other. It would have been a tall adventure!. I turn my back on it with a long sigh. But I wouldd be foolish to undertake it with anyone else. The work would be hard under the best conditions, and smoothness and tact are not my peculiar graces, God knows! under the best conditions, and smoothness and tact are not my peculiar graces, God knows!

Now I promisce to be good and togive my attention to proofs and things. I won't hold you up any longer. Excuse this wretched rented machine which happened to be in the house and must do until I get another. I feel as if I'd been to Germany and back, I've been hustling so.

Faithfully Willa Cather