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#0241: Willa Cather to Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, August 14 [1912]

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Dear Elsie1

What a splendid long letter from you did await me here—and full of such interesting plans. And if you are sleeping again you won’t sail all worn out, and if this cool weather holds it will be a help to you. Then, from the equestrian photo—art department phrase—I don’t gather that you are far gone in emaciation. Surely when you are at sea, with such a calm companion as Bergson5, you’ll get the rest that awaits one on the water.

Last night Isabelle6 and I read the Scribner7 paper8 aloud with such enjoyment. The way you shortened the Burgundian part seems to me most successful and satisfactory, and the whole paper has such lightness and go about it. Mr. Burlingame9 wrote me such a pleasant and friendly note about a piece of verse10 he took while I was in the West. I’ll send you a copy when it is published. Sometime, when you are comfortably settled again, I shall beg you to look over the other “foreign” story11 I did in Cherry Valley12. It’s a cold, chilly sort of thing and would be a dull chore on an eventful day. Besides, it has to be worked over13, when I can get round to it. I am delighted that The Bohemian Girl14 did not disappoint you. The Mulberry Tree15 is about Bohemians, too.

Do you know, I’m glad, glad to be back out of the west—for the first time in 2 years and years I’ve had enough of it. It is too big and consuming. I’m glad to lie down among a few books and slowly come to myself again, with all that swift yellow excitement to think of. That pace did tire me out after awhile. Slowly the real meaning came upon me out there of a sentence that I once read carelessly enough somwhere in Balzac16: “dans le desert, voyez-vous, il y a tout et il n'y rien; Dieu, sans les hommes17.” That sentence really means a great deal. I was sitting mournfully beside the Rio Grande one day, just outside a most beautiful Indian village—Santo Domingo18—when I looked up and saw that sentence written in the sand, and it explained what was the matter with me. Julio19 was a wonder, but he couldn’t, for very long, take the place of a world civilization. That’s a stupid thing to say and I’m not really so calculating as that sounds; but you see you can play with the desert and love it and go hard night and day and be full of it and quite tipsy with it; and then there comes a moment when you must kiss it goodbye and go! Go bleeding, but go, go, go! It’s a sudden change, like a norther, and when it comes you have to trek.

Isabelle and I are having the most peaceful and satisfying days–Michelet20, tome 921–and enjoying the emptiness of the city and the freedom it gives us. I had such interesting days in the Bohemian town22. There is a Bohemian prof- essor chair of Bohemian23 in the University of Nebraska; a woman holds it, a very unusual person. I can tell you a thrilling story about her sometime. Such a clever chap committed suicide on her account last winter.

You shall have the letter to Pinker24 within a very few days, as soon as I have get his address from the office. Don’t think of writing to me again until you are on the boat. I shall love to have word of you from there. I’d like so much to see you since before you go. It’s a thousand years since march March, and so many things have happened to each of us. What a lot of things lie before you just now! I’m so g-l-a-d!

Miss Elsie Sergeant1 c/o Miss Lester3 Woodstock 4 Conn. PITTSPBURGH, PA.2 AUG 15 1912 6 PM