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#0257: Willa Cather to Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, [March 22, 1913]

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ My Dear Elsie1:

The Outlook3 people simply say that they do not know when they can publish the second4 article5. I told them that I wanted to know to arrange for book rights, but they replied coldly that they were sorry, but they could give me no date. You should certainly write to whoever said the articles would be published in successive numbers. If this was said in a letter from the Outlook, so much the better. I would not write in wrath, but I would speak firmly. They have not behaved well and and they ought to explain their conduct. I know no one on the staff there, so my conversation with them was by telephone from our office6. They would be more likely to tell the truth to another publishing house, and the interest of one publishing house always stimulates another. But these people are a dead lot.

I cabled you to send the story7 along to Harrison8 because I thought he could get an idea of it even with one page gone, and since the book is to come out early in the fall9 there would be no chance of his running it except in the summer numbers. I shall write to him at once explaining this, and telling him that I will send a postal note for the postage. That will be simple. I'll be forever grateful to you if you corrected the French. I tried to use the queer sort they speak out there10, but I felt that I was unsuc unsuccessful, so it will be better to have it simply correct. I wrote it down by ear, so to speak, phrases I heard out there11 last summer. They are inconsistent—always spell the church "Sainte Anne", the town "Saint Anne." etc. ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩

I feel such a sense of relief that you do like it. You put your finger exactly on the weak spot when you say that the skeleton does not stand out enough. The modelling is not bold. But the country itself has no skeleton—no rocks or ridges. It's a fluid black soil that runs through your fingers, composed not of by the decay of big vegetation but that of the light ashes of grass. It's all soft, and somehow that influences the mood in which one writes of it—and so the very structure of the story. Oh I would like to do one with nice sharp lines, like the mountains you now have behind you! That I would!

Mr. Greenslet12 rose to the occasion like a gentleman. He was delightfully enthusiastic about this story, and they are rushing it into type without delay. He is very strong for Marie, like the other gentlemen. I believe Frank satisfies me me more than any of the people in it. Just now I'm in the trough of the wave about it. Having got it through and arranged for, I can be honest with myself and admit that I really want to do a very different s sort of thing. I went up to see Fremstad13 last week and ever since I've been choked by things unutterable. If one could write all that that battered Swede makes one know, that would be worth while. Lord, but she is like the women on the women on the Divide14! The suspicious, defiant, far-seeing pioneer eyes. Yesterday, after she sang Kundry in the Good Friday "Parsifal15," I ran into her as she was getting into her motor. I wanted to shout "Pretty good for you, Mrs. Ericson!" But instead I bowed to her charming secretary16. Frem Fremstad's eyes were empty glass. She had spent her charge. Hurrah for Mrs. Ericson!

And Oh, Elsie Sergeant, her apartment ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ is just like Alexandra's pl house17! The mixture of "mission" and gold legs, and the chairs! The poor thing's ideas of comfort have never had a chance to develop. I learned from her secretary that she had had some twenty "sets" of furniture sent up before she selected the agonizing objects I saw about me.

Miss McClung18 has been with me for three weeks. She says please remember her in that land19 where you now are. I've been thinking of you there with a kind of mournful pleasure. It wont be very long long until you come now, will it? That will be good indeed! Thank you for everything: for reading the story and for liking it and for wanting to like it—this last most of all. It gives me great pleasure to please you; but more pleasure to feel that you care about the whole thing,—aside from stories, aside from me or yourself or anybody else. As I've told you, I dont know as many as six people who know or care anything about writing. You've read Mérimee20's "Lettres a une Inconnue"21? If not, do! I love that dry, proud old chap! In so far as I like his pride, and his contemptuousness. Thank you, and thank you. Goodbye