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#0229: Willa Cather to Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, May 21 [1912]

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I’ve been walking with such nice English people here—went down to the Half Way House—an awful pull!

My Dear Elsie1:

For the first two weeks nothing happened to me. Then things began to happen so fast that I’ve had no time to write letters and I wanted to write to you too much to send postcards. I wrote you about the trip with the Priest5 over to his Indian missions? The came Julio6—pronounce Hulio, please—and he came and came, too beautiful to be true and so different from anyone else in the world. He is the handsome one who sings; from Vera Cruz7; knows such wonderful Mexican and Spanish songs: But there, if I began on Julio you would have to like me very much to be patient, and I don’t wish to put you to any such test as yet. But he is won-der-ful!

Then came three days in the upper Canyons8—Clear Creek, Jack's Canyon, and Chevelin. It had all the advantages of a camping trip and yet we9 got home every night and had hot baths and beds to sleep in. We started every morning at day light, light wagon and light camp outfit, canteens, coffee, bacon, fruit, cream etc. Tooker10 is a different man in the Hills. All his miserable information, the encrustation of a EL TOVAR, GRAND CANYON, ARIZONA
wash of millions of magazines, drops away, just as a boy drops his clothes when he goes swimming, and there emerged the real Tooker, the man the sheep camps and the hills made, a very decent sort, strong and active and lots of nerve. We did some really good stunts in climbing. Went down one cliff 150 feet by hand-holds, and it was no joke. I have some white canvas shoes with red rubber soles that I got in Boston11, and they are fine for rock climbing; you can walk right up a slant of 45 degrees on sandstone or granite. And Tooker told me lots of stories; he’s a perfect mine of them when you get through the sediment deposited by magazine articles.

Then came a day in the Painted Desert12 with Julio. It took several days to get over that; and I have already been five days at the Grand Canyon. It is really the most attractive place I have found in this country. Wonderful walking and riding. The whole place is interesting aside from the “Wonder”, which, indeed is wonderful enough. Of course a “wonder” that has only a geological history can only be interesting for only a limited space of time. But the place is EL TOVAR, GRAND CANYON, ARIZONA
so [illegible]“let alone”. Not one shop, you can’t buy an orange, even; Not one amusement. Two hotels—one magnificent and the other excellent—set down in an immense pine forest; these, and silence and the “Wonder”, nothing else.

I don’t know what to tell you about New Mexico13. It’s all so big and bright and consuming. And it’s expensive everywhere. The old Bright Angel Camp14 house where I am staying is comfortable but very simple. It costs me three dollars a day and is the very cheapest place I have found. Then all the places most worth seeing are off the railway, and you pay about $2.50 for a a day for a riding horse and five dollars for a team and open wagon. Then it takes time and strength to find ways and routes. Then you would certainly pick up a Mexican sweetheart—don’t laugh scornfully, for you couldn’t help it, and he certainly couldn’t—and wouldn’t; and he would take just as much time and strength as you would give, and he would be so attractive that you wouldn’t be tight-fisted, and so it would go.

I have a feeling that about Albuquerque15 and Old Santa Fe16 EL TOVAR, GRAND CANYON, ARIZONA
things are closer together, simpler, cheaper, and I’ll certainly let you know. I meet my brother9 in Flagstaff17 Friday to [illegible] find some Cliff Dwellers18 along the Little Colorado. Then I shall be in Winslow19 a few days, for I have to go to a Mexican dance I’ve been asked to; and then if I can really sever Julio’s strong Egyptian fetters, I am going to Albuquerque with my brother and from there trail about over pretty much all of New Mexico. Sh Write to me at Winslow, please, the faithful Tooker will forward all mail. But will you go to Mexico20 with me some day? My brother and Julio have told me of such splendid places to go as soon as the fighting is over21—buried cities and Aztec ruins and gold mines—perfect Arabian Nights22 stories. Julio knows one such lovely as story about an Aztec Cleopatra23, and it is called “The Forty Lovers of the Queen”24 and I am going to write it when I can go to the place where it happened. There are some very sharply cut figures in it, not at all the type-figures. Prescott25 has a dim account26 of it, I remember27, but Julio’s version is much more alive. He’s never read anything but the prayer-book, so he has no stale ideas—not many ideas (over) at all, indeed, but good many fancies and feelings, and a grace of expression that simply catches you up. It’s like hearing a new language spoken, because he speaks so directly. He will EL TOVAR, GRAND CANYON, ARIZONA
drive any number of miles to see flowers or running water, but Cliff Dwellers bore him awfully. “Why,” he says raising his brows “do you care for Los Muertos28? We are living.” For him, as for Mrs. Bell29, there are only the quick and the dead30; it is [illegible] fitting to say masses for the dead, but that ends our business with them; any further attention is a waste of time. It annoys him him to be pressed about certain dim details connected with the “forty lovers”. “No me importa31. They died so long ago. Pobrecitos! (poor fellows).”

Well, I broke into Julio after all! I was afraid I would, and that’s the real reason I have not written before. Next to “travel” letters, I hate to get letters that rave about the beauty of untutored youths of Latin extraction. People always do one to death with such letters when they go to Italy32. But Julio is not soft and sunny. He’s indifferent and opaque and and has the long strong upper lip that is so conspicuous in the Aztec sculpture, and somber eyes with lots of old trouble in them, and the yellow his skin is the pale, bright yellow of very old gold and old races. I really think I must get him to New York33. He’d make an easy living as an artist’s model. They’d fight for him. Pardon!

W. S. C.
BRIGHT ANGEL CAMP, GRAND CANYON ARIZ.2 FRED HARVEY. Miss Elizabeth Sergeant1 4 Hawthorne Road Brookline3 Mass. GRAND CANYON ARIZ.2 MAY 22 1912 8 AM