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#2079: Willa Cather to Elsie Cather, May 4 [1917]

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My Dear Bobbie1;

I have simply been ashamed to write to you, because I had neglected it for so long. Iv'e tried to write mother3 often this winter, and while Jack4 was sick I tried to get a few notes off to him because he seemed blue and hated Detroit5, but I've neglected everyone else. I kept putting off writing to Mrs. Deland6 though I knew Mr. Deland7 was very ill, and yesterday he died, and I do feel more than ashamed. The war has made everything so much more difficult, housekeeping and meeting ones bills,-- and it has taken all the fun of work away, somehow. One can't feel that writing books is very important. I am fairly stuck on the novel8 I wrote you about, and will either have to give it up or try it over again a new way. Two Houghton Mifflin men were here last night and I had to make the sad admission to them that I couldn't get a new book out this fall. They are disappointed, and so am I. There is a great deal that’s good in the new story, but I have not gone at it right, somehow, and I'm going to quit it for awhile and do some short stories9 to build up my bank account.

Did you know that Kipling10's only son, John11, who was the Dan of the Puck stories12, was lost in the war, and they don't even know how or where. They have not heard of him for over a year and have given up hoping. Mr. Greenslet13, of Houghton Mifflin, just back from England14, told me last night that the old man is all broken up and sees nobody. Life has gone pretty hard with him, and he has given so much pleasure in this world.

Edith15 has been pretty well this winter. I bluez-stone her eyes for her every week, which saves occultists' bills, and time, too. We are going down to Washington16 tonight for a few days. But the magazine business is cramped and made harder by the war. High cost of ink and paper take all the profits and shut down advertising.

I have been to a lot of very gay musical parties with the Hamburgs17, and I had such a joyful dinner party for Framstad18 and her new husband19. Everything went just right and I never saw her enjoy herself so much. I wrote mother all about it, and she probably sent you my letter.

People connected with the British war office tell me that they don't hope to end the war under two years.20 Even at the best London hotels Greenslet could get only two courses for each meal, and a miserable bit of boiled beef three days a week, no other meat at all. he was uncomfortable hungry for the two months he was there, and hotels and public buildings were unheated all winter. The papers give no idea of what the submarines have really done. If America21 had not gone in22, the allies would have been beaten, that is the grim truth. The submarines have cut off all chance of feeding the army. The food situation is much worse in England and northern France23 than it is in Germany24. If we can build boats fast enough to keep the Allied armies going, and if we can reinforce their numbers with men, it may be over in two years. If we don't do this, we will have to be Prussians in the end. Russia25 is helpless26. Unless the allies can keep the whole German army busy on the French front, the Germans will take St. Petersburg27, and enough Russian grain and farm land to enable them to go on forever. The United States has never had such a chance before; no country ever has. We can literally save Democracy--- or lose it--- for the whole world. And by nice guide28 on the Mesa Verde29 writes me that the war is "considered a joke" out there. We are a good deal like Russia; so big and unorganized. Take it from me, Bobbie, the next year is going to be a black one.

Now I must stop for this time, dear girl. I’ll try to do better hereafter, if you forgive me.

With heaps of love to you Willie