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#0140: Willa Cather to Sarah Orne Jewett, October 24 [1908]

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ Dear Miss Jewett1;

Your letter4 reached me on a gloomy and tired day and such a new heart as it gave me. It is so true that "great worries make little frets," and that worried people become sour and disposed to find faults. Let me take that as a rebuke, whether you meant it so or not, for it is a rebuke that will do me good. The fact that both you and Mrs. Fields5 felt vitality in the first chapters6 of Mrs. Ward7's story8 has cheered me mightily. I am sending you a letter from her in which she outlines the rest of the story. I am now ransacking libraries to find material on divorce for her. I sent her off a bundle of pamphlets yesterday.

I knew Mr. Norton9's death would be a sorrow to both you and Mrs. Fields, and I thought of you both when I saw the headlines announcing it. Mrs. Fields is the only one left who can evoke that vanished time that was so much nobler than this. How she does evoke it! I think it never had much reality for me until that afternoon when I first went to her house10 on Charles Street, and she sat in the window with the fine broad river11 and a quiet sunset behind her. It was the first time in my life that I ever felt that we had any past—of that kind—of our very own, and I went out with an exultant feeling of acquisition acquisition. I dont think she said anything about those old chapters of her life, but one got the feeling of them almost more than if she had. That is one reason why I love her verses to the Charles River12. The moment my eye fell on them they brought back that first meeting with you both—a thing so long waited for.

What joy I have had from "The Singing Shepherd,"13 which you marked and tied up for me with your own hands. I love "Blue Succory"14 and "An Autumn Bird"15 and "Winter Lilacs."16 But I think "Still in Thy Love I Trust"17 is perhaps the most beautiful. That is one of the complete things that give one such complete and utter satisfaction. And then there is dear "Little Guinever,"18 that is so like a song in some Elizabethan play. How really gay that is, and how it sings.

I feel sure that you are both back in Charles Street by this, and I am hopeful that Mrs. Fields is getting joy out of these soft warm autumn days. "The Gloucester Mother"19 was copied20 in the N. Y. Times21, and when I was on the train going up to New Haven22 to spend Saturday and Sunday of last week, I saw a dear old lady cut the verses out of the paper with a hair pin!

Miss Lewis23 and I are enjoying our apartment more every day, although we lead no dreamy, idle lives in it. Mrs. Fields, I know ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩will exclaim when you tell her that so far we have largely fended for ourselves and have managed to get our own breakfast and luncheon and, about three days a week, our dinner. We dine at the Brevoort24 on other nights and have a maid come in to clean two days a week. There are good reasons why we should each of us practise reasonable economy this winter, and cooking does take one's mind away from office troubles. These latter cares will, we hope, be somewhat lighter after the middle of November. Meanwhile, we shall have a pretty thorny path to tread until then. The sales for October were 10,000 more copies than last October, and November has started well.

I have just finished the page proofs of my story25 in the December number. I am afraid you wont like it26, dear Lady. The scent of the tube-rose seems to cling to it still. It rather screams, and I cant feel anythat stories like that matter much. But there is a little one27, which Mr. McClure28 and Mr. Burlingame29 sniff at, which I somehow think might interest you a little—because it is different from the things you knew when you were littlea child. In the West we had a kind of Latin influence30, as you had an English one. We had so many Spanish words, just as you had words left over from Chaucer31. Even the cow-boy saddle, you know, is an old Spanish model. There was something heady in the wind that blew up from Mexico32. I make bold to send this scornèd tale (Mr. McClure says it is all introduction) and I pray you cast your eye upon it in some empty half hour. It is about a place a weary long way from South Berwick33.

I hope the size of this packet will not frighten you. A thousand good wishes and much love goes with it to you and to Mrs. Fields. Are you rested by this, I wonder, and is your anxiety for Mrs. Fields quite over? I hope so. Good night, Dear Lady.

Devotedly Willa