#0510: Willa Cather to Frances Smith Cather, July 4 [1920]

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Dear Aunt Franc1:

This morning I saw 20,000 French war orphans, who are supported by Americans4, march down the Champ Èlysèe5 past our Ambassador6 and the President7 of France8, each carrying a little American flag, and many carried a second flag with the name of the state in which their protector lives. They seemed nice, healthy children, not forlorn orphans, and very proud of they flag they carried. Certainly that flag never looked so beautiful to me before. Twenty thousand children are a great many, and it surely that is a fine thing to do with money! All those children will grow up loving our country9 and our people. After the parade I stopped a number of the children and greeted them and one little boy would point to himself and say "I am Michigan10", and a little Girl girl would say "I am Tex-ass11." The French always make the best of things, and these youngsters are so proud of being protected by the citizen of a great State, they regard it as a distinction as well as a charity, and they try so hard to speak a few English words. One tiny boy said he had to come so early, at eight oclock, tried to count the hours to me in English; got to six and had to finish in french!

Today the American flag is flying on all the old palaces of the Kings of France, and on all the public buildings. I find all the french people kind and friendly. The American soldiers are much beloved, though Wilson12 is not. Roosevelt13 is still the great American name here. Next week I hope to get to Cantigny14. I have made several efforts to go15, but it is a difficult spot to reach as the trains in that section are few and irregular. Cantigny itself is not on any railroad line, and the railroads in that region are very much disorganized. In that demolished district there are now no hotels and no places to spend the night. I want to get there if possible in order to see it for you and to tell you about it when I get home16.

When I last heard from home17 you were much better in health, and I pray that by this time you are almost well again. I had a hard winter with two attacks of Influenza, but the sea voyage did me a world of good and now I feel quite like myself again. After a few more weeks in France I am going18 to Italy19 to spend the rest of the summer with some friends20 who have a home on the sea near Naples21. I rather dread the long trip, as travelling over here now is difficult, with waits and delays and poor service. Goodnight, my very dear Aunt. I wish you could have seen the thousands of war orphans with their little flags. I like to think of them and thousands more growing in the remote parts of France, growing up with the feeling that that flag is their friend.

With a heartful of love to you, Willa

This Fourth of July in Paris is the most American "Fourth" I have ever spent—no noise or row, but real feeling about something real, all the ceremonies solemn and beautiful.

Mrs. George P. Cather1 Bladen3 Nebraska U.S.A SAINTS-PERES2 5 - 7 20 9 40