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#0256: Willa Cather to Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, April 14 [1913]

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Dear Elsie1:

Your glorious letter from Avignon5 makes me happy and rebellious. I am a fool not to have managed to be there when you are there. I’ve seldom been so happy as I was there6. I knew you’d love it. Isn’t the Rhone the most splendid river in the world, anyway? I suppose all the little poplars along the shore were knee-deep in water when you wrote. I hope you’ll manage to get back to the “Rocher”7 to work, even if you go to Arles8 and Orange9 now. Are the gardens on top of the Rocher as beautiful as they used to be, I wonder, and does a little ferry boat still come across on a trolley—always in danger of being swept off its wire and sent spinning down the current? And the terrific way way in which the river sweeps about that elbow of the rock! It’s the most satisfying exhibition of force I’ve ever seen. You’ll be amazed when I tell you that I didn’t go St. Rémy10. I don’t know why, except that we kept putting it off and bad weather came on. You say you had mud in Arles—don’t I know how muddy it can be! But fair days there are never-to-be-forgotten. I hope the wild mustard will be in bloom about the tragic theatre.

The proofs of “Pioneers”11 have begun to come—I haven’t looked at them yet, not read a sentence, though there are a pile of them on my desk. As I wrote you before I am somehow “down” about it—I don’t know why. And this after being so well pleased with it at first. I’m more than glad you let Mrs. Muirhead12 see it, and that she liked it. NO! It made no difference, get getting the MS. off a few days later or earlier to Harrison13. I don’t think it interested him in the least, for he returned it nearly a week ago with the enclosed, and upon the cover six one-penny stamps. About the latter I won’t be punctillious—too much bother for too few stamps. It was the irony of fate that you should have to lug all Nebraska14 sod into Provençe15, probably paying excess baggage on it all the way! But I’m more than ever glad I sent it to you, nw now that I seem to have got separated from it the story myself in some mysterious way. It isnt that I feel anything definitely wrong with it—I simply don’t get a thrill out of it anymore. But there, no more whining! I’m too dull to write any but a very dull letter today; and I should have waited, only I want to thank you for your splendid one from Avignon. Lord! I wish I were there this minute!

Yes, “discovering” is the verb that expresses intercourse with Fremstad16—the poor dear calls herself “Olluv”, or “Oluv”, but neither she nor I can help the fact that we grew up in the middle west. But be not misled by an “Oluv” or two—take my word for it that its an intelligence that batters you up as the Rhone would if you fell into it. And this not because its her talk is so emotional but because under its vivid imagery it’s so complex and tightly packed and elliptical. Suddenly she stops “you know what I mean? Then say it.” If you can’t “say it” she throws you [illegible]out the window without a qualm. I shall like to tell you about her when I see you. And may that be soon! I’m more grateful than I can tell you for this good letter on a blue day. And I’ve no reason to be blue: where I caught it, found it, or came by it, I am to learn. But that’s only one more reason to be thankful to you that you won’t demand that I “show sufficient cause why, etc”.

Anyhow Anyhow, if I could sit for an afternoon on the Villeneuve17 shore and watch the gold virgin18 on top of the Rocher des Doms, or if I could have a cup of tea with you in Place de la République19 and see a soldat20 lift the corner of his mustache ever so little at me, I should and would be cured!

A great many thoughts to you, and I wish I could go with them.

W. S. C.

If you get stranded, cable me for nine francs!

Miss Elizabeth S. Sergeant1 c/o Hortinguer & Cie, Bankers 38 rue de Provence Paris3 France [missing]iénes [missing]les (B. du R.) PARIS [illegible]3 24 AVRIL 13H RHONE [illegible] DU RHONE3 25-4 13