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#1638: Willa Cather to Carrie Miner Sherwood, September 18, 1943

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ My dear Carrie1:

I am sending you two letters from Mary Virginia3 which will explain why I cannot go out to see you in October.

While I was in cool, clean, Maine4 I made a lovely plan, and I felt well enough to carry it out. I even wrote Mary Virginia about it and asked her to tell no one. But after I got back to hot, dirty New York2 and found my apartment5 shrouded under a whole summer’s dust, I had to fall to work in earnest. We6 have no regular maid and hire such poor help as is possible nowadays. I don’t think I have done so much physical work since my early days on Bank Street7. My courage about travel ebbed with my vitality. When we returned to town, just before Labor Day, we were held up in Boston8 for one week waiting for railway accommodations from Boston to New York - a journey of five hours. In the Boston station there was a large poster which read: REMEMBER! TRAVEL USED TO BE A PLEASURE, NOW IT IS A HARDSHIP. I certainly found that true this summer.

Mary Virginia has been wanting to come back to New York for some time, and I want very much to see her. Through all the many years she lived in New York she was a great help to me in countless little ways, and I have missed her dreadfully. When I was in the hospital9 for amy gall bladder operation, and for weeks afterward when I was in bed at home, she was the one member of my family who wrote me constantly - and always such gay little letters. She repeatedly offered to come then, at twenty-four hours notice,. bBut I was really too weak and ill to enjoy her. When you are as sick as that, pleasant excitement is almost as bad for you as disaster,. sSo I had Miss Lewis6 telegraph her not to come. Roscoe10 is not very strong, you know, and I didn’t let him know that I had had an operation until I was very much on the mend.


I want you to know that I did count on having a little visit with you this fall, and I felt strong enough to undertake the travel when I wrote Mary Virginia from Maine. But the difficulties of getting an apartment cleaned and of getting enough to eat have taken a good deal of the energy out of me.

I wonder, my dear Carrie, whether you ever received a long letter11 I sent you before I went away for the summer - a letter telling you about a new English edition of “My Antonia”12, etc. Perhaps I may have sounded a little boastful about it, but I felt you would be interested in the fortunes of a book founded on happy memories which we both cherish. and I share would interest you. Perhaps you sent that envelope and its contents on to Irene13. But Irene, you know, almost never answers letters. She sent me a casket of jewels last Christmas, but she never writes to me.

The news of Willard Crowell’s14 accident has been a great shock to me. I learned of it through the Red Cloud15 paper16. Why should so careful and prudent a man trust his weight to a cleat on the roof! Those cleats are always carelessly nailed on. It seems so out of character for him to meet with such a misfortune. And the recovery from such injuries is so tedious and painful.

Well, Carrie, I have written Mary Virginia that I will be here in October, which means that I can’t spend that month with you. But I will get to you sometime, if only you don’t wear yourself out with Red Cross work. Let some of the young people take over. It’s their turn. Life is pretty difficult for all of us just now. I spend most of the morning haggling at markets, trying to get enough to eat. My weight has gone down five pounds again. Since I have been home I have done more cleaning and housework with my own back and hands that than I have ever done in my life—except in the early days on Bank street when I painted the furniture and oiled the floors! Just now I’m pretty tired.

Lovingly Willie