#2421: Willa Cather to Mary Virginia Boak Cather and Elsie Cather, July 15 [1920]

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Dear Mother3 and Elsie4:

I was delighted when I got your letter yesterday, saying you are to be in Smethport5. How nice it will be for mother to be with Jack6! I have written to Father7 lately, thinking you would all be there.

Edith8 went on to Italy9 last week and I am staying on with the Hambourgs10. Edith got perfectly well11 and gained a good deal in weight. Isabelle and Jan have moved to my hotel and when I am tired or ill they take beautiful care of me. Next week we go up to photograph G.P.12's grave for Aunt Franc13. I have tried again and again to go, but it is quite difficult. The whole country up there is torn up and devastated, and lately there have been floods and the one temporary railroad has been under water. I wrote father14 about how his body was found and where he was buried. When I came over here I was determined to find out what I could for Aunt Franc. When I was last out to see her she kept saying "No useless coffin enclosed his breast."15 But he was found by the Red Cross after his first internment, put in a coffin and properly buried at Villers Tournelle16, and his name is on his grave. I have talked with a woman who has seen it.

Isabelle finds just what I found—that just now Paris is no place to shop. All the big industries were stopped by the war. There is no silk or velvet, and no straw for hats. All the french women are shabby, even the grand ladies of title. They have not had new clothes for five years, they would be ashamed to look smart, until France17 is well on her feet again. One goes into a grand tea room and sees handsome old women with the most beautiful jewels and such shabby gowns. Women go to the Opera in street suits! Of course the best dressed people in the world can be absolutely shabby when there is good reason for it, because they are so intelligent.

Tell Jack Mr. Goeghegan18, his old teacher, is due at my hotel next week. Isabelle is looking very handsome and has managed to squeeze a few new clothes out of shabby, beautiful Paris. She brought me two lovely waists from London19, and a dozen Irish linen handkerchiefs.

I am sitting in the Luxembourg Gardens20 under the magnificent cottonwood trees. In Paris that tree is loved above all trees except the Linden. They especially love the kind that bear cotton; they call it "niege d' ete", the summer snow. It was flying over everything when I first came. Will we ever have any sense at home?