SIR: I address you from the second crotch in the willow tree by the pool in the pasture. There's a frog croaking underneath, a locust singing overhead and two little 'devil downheads' darting up and down the trunk. I've been here for an hour; it's a very comfortable crotch, especially after being upholstered with two sofa cushions. I came up with a pen and tablet hoping to write an immortal short story, but I've been having a dreadful time with my heroine — I can't make her behave as I want her to behave; so I've abandoned her for the moment, and am writing to you. (Not much relief though, for I can't make you behave as I want you to, either.)
If you are in that dreadful New York, I wish I could send you some of this lovely, breezy, sunshiny outlook. The country is Heaven after a week of rain.
Speaking of Heaven — do you remember Mr. Kellogg that I told you about last summer? — the minister of the little white church at the Corners. Well, the poor old soul is dead — last winter of pneumonia. I went half a dozen times to hear him preach and got very well acquainted with his theology. He believed to the end exactly the same things he started with. It seems to me that a man who can think straight along for forty-seven years without changing a single idea ought to be kept in a cabinet as a curiosity. I hope he is enjoying his harp and golden crown; he was so perfectly sure of finding them! There's a new young man, very consequential, in his place. The congregation is pretty dubious, especially the faction led by Deacon Cummings. It looks as though there was going to be an awful split in the church. We don't care for innovations in religion in this neighbourhood.
During our week of rain I sat up in the attic and had an orgy of reading — Stevenson, mostly. He himself is more entertaining than any of the characters in his books; I dare say he made himself into the kind of hero that would look well in print. Don't you think it was perfect of him to spend all the ten thousand dollars his father left, for a yacht, and go sailing off to the South Seas? He lived up to his adventurous creed. If my father had left me ten thousand dollars, I'd do it, too. The thought of Vailima makes me wild. I want to see the tropics. I want to see the whole world. I am going to be a great author, or artist, or actress, or playwright — or whatever sort of a great person I turn out to be. I have a terrible wanderthirst; the very sight of a map makes me want to put on my hat and take an umbrella and start. 'I shall see before I die the palms and temples of the South.'
Thursday evening at twilight,
sitting on the doorstep.
Very hard to get any news into this letter! Judy is becoming so philosophical of late, that she wishes to discourse largely of the world in general, instead of descending to the trivial details of daily life. But if you MUST have news, here it is:
Our nine young pigs waded across the brook and ran away last Tuesday, and only eight came back. We don't want to accuse anyone unjustly, but we suspect that Widow Dowd has one more than she ought to have.
Mr. Weaver has painted his barn and his two silos a bright pumpkin yellow — a very ugly colour, but he says it will wear.
The Brewers have company this week; Mrs. Brewer's sister and two nieces from Ohio.
One of our Rhode Island Reds only brought off three chicks out of fifteen eggs. We can't imagine what was the trouble. Rhode island Reds, in my opinion, are a very inferior breed. I prefer Buff Orpingtons.
The new clerk in the post office at Bonnyrigg Four Corners drank every drop of Jamaica ginger they had in stock — seven dollars' worth — before he was discovered.
Old Ira Hatch has rheumatism and can't work any more; he never saved his money when he was earning good wages, so now he has to live on the town.
There's to be an ice-cream social at the schoolhouse next Saturday evening. Come and bring your families.
I have a new hat that I bought for twenty-five cents at the post office. This is my latest portrait, on my way to rake the hay.
It's getting too dark to see; anyway, the news is all used up.
Good morning! Here is some news! What do you think? You'd never, never, never guess who's coming to Lock Willow. A letter to Mrs. Semple from Mr. Pendleton. He's motoring through the Berkshires, and is tired and wants to rest on a nice quiet farm — if he climbs out at her doorstep some night will she have a room ready for him? Maybe he'll stay one week, or maybe two, or maybe three; he'll see how restful it is when he gets here.
Such a flutter as we are in! The whole house is being cleaned and all the curtains washed. I am driving to the Corners this morning to get some new oilcloth for the entry, and two cans of brown floor paint for the hall and back stairs. Mrs. Dowd is engaged to come tomorrow to wash the windows (in the exigency of the moment, we waive our suspicions in regard to the piglet). You might think, from this account of our activities, that the house was not already immaculate; but I assure you it was! Whatever Mrs. Semple's limitations, she is a HOUSEKEEPER.
But isn't it just like a man, Daddy? He doesn't give the remotest hint as to whether he will land on the doorstep today, or two weeks from today. We shall live in a perpetual breathlessness until he comes — and if he doesn't hurry, the cleaning may all have to be done over again.
There's Amasai waiting below with the buckboard and Grover. I drive alone — but if you could see old Grove, you wouldn't be worried as to my safety.
With my hand on my heart — farewell.
PS. Isn't that a nice ending? I got it out of Stevenson's letters.
Good morning again! I didn't get this enveloped yesterday before the postman came, so I'll add some more. We have one mail a day at twelve o'clock. Rural delivery is a blessing to the farmers! Our postman not only delivers letters, but he runs errands for us in town, at five cents an errand. Yesterday he brought me some shoe-strings and a jar of cold cream (I sunburned all the skin off my nose before I got my new hat) and a blue Windsor tie and a bottle of blacking all for ten cents. That was an unusual bargain, owing to the largeness of my order.
Also he tells us what is happening in the Great World. Several people on the route take daily papers, and he reads them as he jogs along, and repeats the news to the ones who don't subscribe. So in case a war breaks out between the United States and Japan, or the president is assassinated, or Mr. Rockefeller leaves a million dollars to the John Grier Home, you needn't bother to write; I'll hear it anyway.
No sign yet of Master Jervie. But you should see how clean our house is — and with what anxiety we wipe our feet before we step in!
I hope he'll come soon; I am longing for someone to talk to. Mrs. Semple, to tell you the truth, gets rather monotonous. She never lets ideas interrupt the easy flow of her conversation. It's a funny thing about the people here. Their world is just this single hilltop. They are not a bit universal, if you know what I mean. It's exactly the same as at the John Grier Home. Our ideas there were bounded by the four sides of the iron fence, only I didn't mind it so much because I was younger, and was so awfully busy. By the time I'd got all my beds made and my babies' faces washed and had gone to school and come home and had washed their faces again and darned their stockings and mended Freddie Perkins's trousers (he tore them every day of his life) and learned my lessons in between — I was ready to go to bed, and I didn't notice any lack of social intercourse. But after two years in a conversational college, I do miss it; and I shall be glad to see somebody who speaks my language.
I really believe I've finished, Daddy. Nothing else occurs to me at the moment — I'll try to write a longer letter next time.
PS. The lettuce hasn't done at all well this year. It was so dry early in the season.
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