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#1922: Willa Cather to Elsie Cather, June 22, 1935

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ My dear Elsie1:

By this time you must have received a copy of my letter telling about Virginia3's wedding. I have known of the engagement from the first, but I didn't want to write anyone at all about it until she got up the courage to write herself, to her father4. Just at this time, when I have two invalids5 to look after6, and more business complications and worries than I could tell you in a year, I don't feel that my judgment is worth much. The question of where and how you could live most comfortably we can take up in the fall, when I hope to be a little rested. But for the immediate present, I hope you will take my advice.

I want you to send to Stratton, Nebraska7, for poor little Lizzie Huffman8. I guess they have been gnawed to the bare bone out there. I am sure that Lizzie would come to you for $10 a week. She could leave her boy9 with his father10, and bring the little girl11 with her. The child could stay with Gertrude12 and Lizzie could occupy the little west room, since you don't like to be alone at night. Now Lizzie knows the house13 thoroughly and she would keep it clean, do all the cooking and relieve you of every care. She gets on well with the tradesmen. You could have one summer at home of perfect rest and entertain your friends. I would recommend that you have your breakfast in bed - that is good for tired nerves, and Lizzie would love to bring it to you.

What I started out to say is, that nothing would give me more pleasure than to pay Lizzie's wages14 for you this summer. Why don't you telegraph her, or write at once? Then let me know as soon as you get her reply and an arrangement is made, and I will send you a check for her two months or six weeks wages.


I never do get much satisfaction out of giving people money just to put away in a bank. But when I can buy anyone whom I care for real rest or comfort or pleasure, it is an altogether different thing. I know Lizzie would give you the kind of service that would mean a perfect rest for your nerves and the happiness of spending your time doing things you like to do and enjoying the company of your friends.

Why in the world, my dear Elsie, do you speak as if you weren't going to retire until you are about seventy? Does this mean that Will Auld4 lost some of your money? I am not asking from curiosity, but from astonishment concern. I thought you would be ready to retire very soon. When I come back in the fall we can talk these things over at length, as we will both be in a better frame of mind. I have had a very trying winter15 since March first, and I don't think much of my judgment just now. One thing I do beg you, not to sell the house in Red Cloud16 until we have had serious consultation about it. I really wanted very much to buy it that last winter when I was in Red Cloud. I hadn't taken an apartment17 in New York2 then , and was still living in a hotel18 - and hating that kind of life. But at that time you didn't seem to want to sell at all, and rather edged away from the subject whenever I brought it up. I think you felt then that you wanted the house for your very own, and that you wanted to live in it. That is why I expected that you would retire from teaching very soon; indeed, the morning you left for Lincoln19 you were just beginning to talk about your retiring when sister Jessie20 came in and interrupted us.

I have the whole de luxe edition21 of LUCY22 to autograph within the next three days (870 copies), so I haven't much time, but my last word is, don't be a pessimist, send for Lizzie and for this summer, have a real housekeeper who will do all the work, and give me the satisfaction of paying her wages and ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ of knowing that you get the benefit of service which was certainly very satisfactory to me - and I am supposed to be rather fussy. Cheer up, my dear Elsie, and make this summer in Red Cloud a happy one. IT is the first chance you've had to have a really care-free vacation there.

Lovingly and anxiously Willie