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#1987: Willa Cather to Elsie Cather, August 27 and September 4 [1923]

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ Dear Sister1:

Don't let these people worry mother! The portrait3 won't reach Omaha4 before January, or later, as it will be exhibited with other Bakst5 paintings in Philadelphia6 and Boston7 before it goes west.

I know how Mother8 frets about such things, and I won't let them put any strain on her. Why, she might worry herself sick over it! She's no brassy club-woman. So tell her in the beginning, I think it nonsense. If she wants to do it, all right, but there's no sense in going to any strain about it. If the picture has to be "unveiled"9, Mary Virginia10 can do it, it won't hurt her nerves one bit! And mother I am afraid would worry about what she should wear, and thus make it a hardship. So, if she begins to look forward to it and worry, just stop her, and tell her M.V. can do this silly business more gracefully than any mature person. It's so silly, anyway!

Here I am, my dear, "taking the waters"11 as the English say. My back12 had been getting worse all summer, and when Dr. Litchfield13 was in Paris14 for his daughter15's wedding he gave me a going over and urged me to come here and take the baths, which he said are the best in the world for rheumatism. He had been here with rich patients from Pittsburgh16. Mr. McClure17 has been trying for five years to get me to come here, as Mrs. McClure18 was cured of terrible rheumatism here. Finally Bakst begged me to come and said he would change all his engagements and give me five more sittings when I got back to Paris. (The picture will take 15 sittings instead of 10; they always take more than one expects.)

Well, the doctor to whom Dr. Litchfield directed me here says all my backache is from intercostal rheumatism19, and that a course of baths every day for three weeks will cure cure me. Of course if my friend comes along20 in ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ the middle of the treatments, then it will delay them and I'll have to stay longer. It's hard to be away from Paris, which is so lovely in the fall, but if I can get rid of this continual backache it will be worth a few weeks of exile. The gay, fashionable season at Aix is over now. I tried to come in August but all the hotels were full.

I am have a nice room in a very clean and comfortable hotel21—no running water in the rooms, but I don't need it when I'm in a hot sulphur bath for an hour every morning. I get my room and three delicious meals for 35 francs a day, about two dollars! And at Lakewood N.J.22 last winter I paid $8 a day for a poor room and chewy, messy food! Of course the doctor and the baths will be expensive. All the time one is in the baths, two fine big women gently massage one's sore back and shoulders under water. Then they play a hot sulphur hose on you for half an hour.

I came down here on the grandest train in France23, the Paris-Rome Express, with a private state-room, and it all [missing] address me always. Ville D'Avray24. cost nine dollars, the present fare from N.Y.25 to Boston! Of course this is all because of exchange; all these things are ex expensive enough for the poor French. I wonder they don't hate us, when we can come with our dollars and buy all the nice things they love and have to go without. And there wouldn't be any nice things if all their sons and brothers26 hadn't died to save them.

I just love Helen Louise27 and the baby's28 pictures, dear. So does Isabelle29, and the Italian cook30, who is expecting a baby of her own any day now, looked and looked at it and said she hoped her baby would be like that one. She and her husband have been getting ready for their baby all summer, and a sister came on from Italy31 to do the cook's work while she is in bed. Jan32 is to be godfather and it is to be named after him, if a girl, why then Giovanna.

Goodnight dear, with much, much love. I want to get this off on a fast boat.

Willa