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#1926: Willa Cather to Elsie Cather, May 26, 1939

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My dear Sister1:

In the first place I want to thank you for the dear letter you wrote me about your Easter in Red Cloud3. That letter, like so many of your previous letters, brought the whole scene before me, and I felt a renewed contact with our old friends there, almost as if I had seen them.

Now as to the second part of your letter. I took it up into the Catskills with me, to think it over4 in a quiet place, and I have come to a complete face-about with regard to the house in Red Cloud5. When I came back to New York2 I found a long letter from Roscoe6, explaining to me why he thought it much better for you to move to Lincoln7 and forego the house. But I had come to my decision before I got his letter. Your long last letter convinced me that you really found no more pleasure at all in the house, and that it is merely a burden to you. Since you want to live in Lincoln and to move your effects there, you certainly ought to do so.

Hitherto my letters to you on this subject have been written under the apprehension that in a low moment you might destroy something for which you had a real affection, and then be sorry for it afterward. You see, my mind has not kept pace with the changes in Red Cloud and in your own feelings. When I last saw you, you were very enthusiastic about your plans for making the house just as you wanted it. You were then in a possessive frame of mind and seemed a little afraid that someone else might try to put an oar in. A summer or two later, when you were painting the house, pulling down the barn, etc., you wrote me at Grand Manan8 about the changes you were making, and wrote -2-enthusiastically. You seemed to enjoy making the place more and more just as you wanted it. When the drought came on you wrote me about your fight to save the trees, as if you enjoyed that, too. I was further influenced by a letter in which you deplored Mrs. Frank Smith9's leaving her own house and renting rooms in Lincoln. All these things made me feel that, in spite of temporary discouragements, you really had a deep fondness for the place and would regret it if you gave it up.

In the four days I had in the country10, I tried to realize how much the town itself hads changed and how much your own circle of friends there hads narrowed. And the climate itself seems to have changed - though I doubt if the climate in Lincoln will be a great improvement.

I think it unreasonable and unjust that you should be expected to be the caretaker of a house which you do not wish to live in, merely because Douglass11 and I had a strong feeling about it. Roscoe was never there enough to feel strongly about the place, and he saw very little of his parents12 there in their gentle and mellow old age. It was different with Douglass and me, and I am so thankful that the house was still there on Douglass' last visit. He talked to me with such satisfaction about it - urged me to go out there soon, and said it was not much changed - "not to hurt". For him it will always be there: so I think you will be glad, on his account, that you kept it as long as you did.

As long as the house is standing on the ground, unsold and unrented, I will certainly send you13 the $250 a year I promised for taxes, etc. But I shall certainly not try to influence your disposal of it in any way. And if you can get any money out of it, I think it would be right for you to do so. You have certainly put up a valiant struggle to keep that housethe place as a reminder of Father and Mother to their old friends,but so many of their old friends are now dead. I can see how the changes in the town and climate have been -3- against you. Don't let the place be any further worry or care to you, Elsie. Slide out of it as easily as you can. If I were ten years younger I would buy it from you in a minute, though I have even fewer friends there than you. I wish I could advise you as to how to get rid of it. I am afraid that will be painful, whatever way you do it. Perhaps you will decide to truck the furniture to your place in Lincoln and let the old shell of the house stand. Tramps and a fire might end the difficulties. It really seems to me that might be the easiest way out. It is all a painful business, but remember the place was there for Douglass to see when he went back. That ought to be a lot of comfort to you.

Affectionately Willa