#1861: Willa Cather to Elsie Cather, July 14 [1934]

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Dearest Sister1:

I am writing in bed after packing all day. Thank you for your letter from Hastings4. I am so glad Bess5 is there6 and that she has no cancer. Oh that heat! Every morning for weeks I open the Tribune7 before breakfast and look at the temperatures reported from Omaha8, Kansas City9, and Denver10, always hoping it will say "rain and cooler" and it never does. Minnesota11 and Wisconsin12 are just as bad. My heart is heavy for you all, and especially for the old people. If I were a Catholic I'd be sure this world is being punished for its new ways of thinking and behaving.

The heat was 100 to 110 here2 right along for the two weeks when I was finishing my book13, but I did not mind it much. This apartment14 was usually cool in the mornings, and Josephine15 was always so jolly and resourceful. My poor typist16 could not keep my manuscript clean—the purple ink ran and smeared on the pages, and for the first time I sent in dirty manuscripts to both the magazine and to Alfred Knopf17.

Both Alfred and the W. H. Companion18 are very much excited about the story. Three weeks ago I sent a rough draft to Jan Hambourg19 for musical corrections. Yesterday I got a cable which reads:

"Lucy unquestionably your finest work. Beautiful, rich, inevitable complete. Like Brahms B major trio.

Isabelle20 Jan"

It's by no means my finest book; but the design it good, I think. The first part is written for the last. It would all be much better if I had not had to drop it entirely for nearly four months, just when I was going strong. I never got back the same enthusiasm.

Now I am sending you another check, for it takes days to get to Grand Manan21, and some days to get settled after we22 arrive. You might need something for Doctor or hospital before I can write you again.

Virginia23 cried bitterly when I told her Bess was so ill. She said some of the best memories she had were connected with her Aunt Bessie.

I see by the paper that Charles24 is at home! Pleasant, I should think. What do the townspeople think of Will Auld25? Do you ever see any of them, of the Aulds, I mean? So it turns out that Bess has helped to pay for Tom's26 schooling! I can never have much respect for that young man, I'm afraid.

Elsie, I wish you would use some of this check to get one of those new oscillating electric fans for your bedroom—they are almost noiseless and they saved my life in the hot stuffy room of the Grosvenor hotel27. Changing the air does refresh the body.

I feel guilty to be going off to a cool place, dear Bobbie, but after two weeks I'll have my proofs to read, and I could never do that in Red Cloud3 in the heat. I expect you think I'm pretty selfish, but if you could read the hundreds of letters that come in to me all the time (to the office, too) you would have to believe that my books do give pleasure to the intelligent and the sick and the unfortunate, as well as giving fools and tonguey women something to talk about. They do more for more people than I could personally do if I were as strong as iron and devoted my whole life to good works. I don't write 'em with that purpose, but they have that result. Any kind of integrity helps in this world, and I have my own kind.

With love, dear sister, and thinking of you and what you are up against, every hour in the day, Willie
Miss Elsie. M. Cather1 Red Cloud 3 Nebraska NEW YORK, N.Y. STA Y2 Jul 14 1934 11 PM