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Behold me–a Sophomore!
I came up last Friday, sorry to leave Lock Willow, but glad to see the campus again. It is a pleasant sensation to come back to something familiar. I am beginning to feel at home in college, and in command of the situation; I am beginning, in fact, to feel at home in the world–as though I really belonged to it and had not just crept in on sufferance.
I don’t suppose you understand in the least what I am trying to say. A person important enough to be a Trustee can’t appreciate the feelings of a person unimportant enough to be a foundling.
And now, Daddy, listen to this. Whom do you think I am rooming with? Sallie McBride and Julia Rutledge Pendleton. It’s the truth. We have a study and three little bedrooms–VOILA!
Sallie and I decided last spring that we should like to room together, and Julia made up her mind to stay with Sallie–why, I can’t imagine, for they are not a bit alike; but the Pendletons are naturally conservative and inimical (fine word!) to change. Anyway, here we are. Think of Jerusha Abbott, late of the John Grier Home for Orphans, rooming with a Pendleton. This is a democratic country.
Sallie is running for class president, and unless all signs fail, she is going to be elected. Such an atmosphere of intrigue you should see what politicians we are! Oh, I tell you, Daddy, when we women get our rights, you men will have to look alive in order to keep yours. Election comes next Saturday, and we’re going to have a torchlight procession in the evening, no matter who wins.
I am beginning chemistry, a most unusual study. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Molecules and Atoms are the material employed, but I’ll be in a position to discuss them more definitely next month.
I am also taking argumentation and logic.
Also history of the whole world.
Also plays of William Shakespeare.
If this keeps up many years longer, I shall become quite intelligent.
I should rather have elected economics than French, but I didn’t dare, because I was afraid that unless I re-elected French, the Professor would not let me pass–as it was, I just managed to squeeze through the June examination. But I will say that my high-school preparation was not very adequate.
There’s one girl in the class who chatters away in French as fast as she does in English. She went abroad with her parents when she was a child, and spent three years in a convent school. You can imagine how bright she is compared with the rest of us–irregular verbs are mere playthings. I wish my parents had chucked me into a French convent when I was little instead of a foundling asylum. Oh no, I don’t either! Because then maybe I should never have known you. I’d rather know you than French.
Goodbye, Daddy. I must call on Harriet Martin now, and, having discussed the chemical situation, casually drop a few thoughts on the subject of our next president. Yours in politics, J. Abbott 17th October
Supposing the swimming tank in the gymnasium were filled full of lemon jelly, could a person trying to swim manage to keep on top or would he sink?
We were having lemon jelly for dessert when the question came up. We discussed it heatedly for half an hour and it’s still unsettled. Sallie thinks that she could swim in it, but I am perfectly sure that the best swimmer in the world would sink. Wouldn’t it be funny to be drowned in lemon jelly?
Two other problems are engaging the attention of our table.
1st. What shape are the rooms in an octagon house? Some of the girls insist that they’re square; but I think they’d have to be shaped like a piece of pie. Don’t you?
2nd. Suppose there were a great big hollow sphere made of looking-glass and you were sitting inside. Where would it stop reflecting your face and begin reflecting your back? The more one thinks about this problem, the more puzzling it becomes. You can see with what deep philosophical reflection we engage our leisure!
Did I ever tell you about the election? It happened three weeks ago, but so fast do we live, that three weeks is ancient history. Sallie was elected, and we had a torchlight parade with transparencies saying, `McBride for Ever,’ and a band consisting of fourteen pieces (three mouth organs and eleven combs).
We’re very important persons now in `258.’ Julia and I come in for a great deal of reflected glory. It’s quite a social strain to be living in the same house with a president.
Bonne nuit, cher Daddy. Acceptez mez compliments, Tres respectueux, je suis, Votre Judy
We beat the Freshmen at basket ball yesterday. Of course we’re pleased–but oh, if we could only beat the juniors! I’d be willing to be black and blue all over and stay in bed a week in a witch-hazel compress.
Sallie has invited me to spend the Christmas vacation with her. She lives in Worcester,
Massachusetts. Wasn’t it nice of her? I shall love to go. I’ve never been in a private family in my life, except at Lock Willow, and the Semples were grown-up and old and don’t count. But the McBrides have a houseful of children (anyway two or three) and a mother and father and grandmother, and an Angora cat. It’s a perfectly complete family! Packing your trunk and going away is more fun than staying behind. I am terribly excited at the prospect.
Seventh hour–I must run to rehearsal. I’m to be in the Thanksgiving theatricals. A prince in a tower with a velvet tunic and yellow curls. Isn’t that a lark? Yours, J. A.
Do you want to know what I look like? Here’s a photograph of all three that Leonora Fenton took.
The light one who is laughing is Sallie, and the tall one with her nose in the air is Julia, and the little one with the hair blowing across her face is Judy–she is really more beautiful than that, but the sun was in her eyes.
`STONE GATE’, WORCESTER, MASS., 31st December
I meant to write to you before and thank you for your Christmas cheque, but life in the McBride household is very absorbing, and I don’t seem able to find two consecutive minutes to spend at a desk.
I bought a new gown–one that I didn’t need, but just wanted. My Christmas present this year is from Daddy-Long-Legs; my family just sent love.
I’ve been having the most beautiful vacation visiting Sallie. She lives in a big old-fashioned brick house with white trimmings set back from the street–exactly the kind of house that I used to look at so curiously when I was in the John Grier Home, and wonder what it could be like inside. I never expected to see with my own eyes–but here I am! Everything is so comfortable and restful and homelike; I walk from room to room and drink in the furnishings.
It is the most perfect house for children to be brought up in; with shadowy nooks for hide and seek, and open fire places for pop-corn, and an attic to romp in on rainy days and slippery banisters with a comfortable flat knob at the bottom, and a great big sunny kitchen, and a nice, fat, sunny cook who has lived in the family thirteen years and always saves out a piece of dough for the children to bake. Just the sight of such a house makes you want to be a child all over again.
And as for families! I never dreamed they could be so nice. Sallie has a father and mother and grandmother, and the sweetest three-year-old baby sister all over curls, and a medium-sized brother who always forgets to wipe his feet, and a big, good-looking brother named Jimmie, who is a junior at Princeton.
We have the jolliest times at the table–everybody laughs and jokes and talks at once, and we don’t have to say grace beforehand. It’s a relief not having to thank Somebody for every mouthful you eat. (I dare say I’m blasphemous; but you’d be, too, if you’d offered as much obligatory thanks as I have.) Such a lot of things we’ve done–I can’t begin to tell you about them. Mr. McBride owns a factory and Christmas eve he had a tree for the employees’ children. It was in the long packing-room which was decorated with evergreens and holly. Jimmie McBride was dressed as Santa Claus and Sallie and I helped him distribute the presents.
Dear me, Daddy, but it was a funny sensation! I felt as benevolent as a Trustee of the John Grier home. I kissed one sweet, sticky little boy–but I don’t think I patted any of them on the head!
And two days after Christmas, they gave a dance at their own house for ME.
It was the first really true ball I ever attended–college doesn’t count where we dance with girls. I had a new white evening gown (your Christmas present–many thanks) and long white gloves and white satin slippers. The only drawback to my perfect, utter, absolute happiness was the fact that Mrs. Lippett couldn’t see me leading the cotillion with Jimmie McBride. Tell her about it, please, the next time you visit the J. G. H. Yours ever, Judy Abbott PS. Would you be terribly displeased, Daddy, if I didn’t turn out to be a Great Author after all, but just a Plain Girl?
We started to walk to town today, but mercy! how it poured. I like winter to be winter with snow instead of rain.
Julia’s desirable uncle called again this afternoon–and brought a five-pound box of chocolates. There are advantages, you see, about rooming with Julia.
Our innocent prattle appeared to amuse him and he waited for a later train in order to take tea in the study. We had an awful lot of trouble getting permission. It’s hard enough entertaining fathers and grandfathers, but uncles are a step worse; and as for brothers and cousins, they are next to impossible. Julia had to swear that he was her uncle before a notary public and then have the county clerk’s certificate attached. (Don’t I know a lot of law?) And even then I doubt if we could have had our tea if the Dean had chanced to see how youngish and good-looking Uncle Jervis is.
Anyway, we had it, with brown bread Swiss cheese sandwiches. He helped make them and then ate four. I told him that I had spent last summer at Lock Willow, and we had a beautiful gossipy time about the Semples, and the horses and cows and chickens. All the horses that he used to know are dead, except Grover, who was a baby colt at the time of his last visit–and poor Grove now is so old he can just limp about the pasture.
He asked if they still kept doughnuts in a yellow crock with a blue plate over it on the bottom shelf of the pantry–and they do! He wanted to know if there was still a woodchuck’s hole under the pile of rocks in the night pasture–and there is! Amasai caught a big, fat, grey one there this summer, the twenty-fifth great-grandson of the one Master Jervis caught when he was a little boy.
I called him
Master Jervie' to his face, but he didn't appear to be insulted. Julia says she has never seen him so amiable; he's usually pretty unapproachable. But Julia hasn't a bit of tact; and men, I find, require a great deal. They purr if you rub them the right way and spit if you don't. (That isn't a very elegant metaphor. I mean it figuratively.) We're reading Marie Bashkirtseff's journal. Isn't it amazing? Listen to this: Last night I was seized by a fit of despair that found utterance in moans, and that finally drove me to throw the dining-room clock into the sea.’
It makes me almost hope I’m not a genius; they must be very wearing to have about–and awfully destructive to the furniture.
Mercy! how it keeps Pouring. We shall have to swim to chapel tonight. Yours ever, Judy
Did you ever have a sweet baby girl who was stolen from the cradle in infancy?
Maybe I am she! If we were in a novel, that would be the denouement, wouldn’t it?
It’s really awfully queer not to know what one is–sort of exciting and romantic. There are such a lot of possibilities. Maybe I’m not American; lots of people aren’t. I may be straight descended from the ancient Romans, or I may be a Viking’s daughter, or I may be the child of a Russian exile and belong by rights in a Siberian prison, or maybe I’m a Gipsy–I think perhaps I am. I have a very WANDERING spirit, though I haven’t as yet had much chance to develop it.
Do you know about that one scandalous blot in my career the time I ran away from the asylum because they punished me for stealing cookies? It’s down in the books free for any Trustee to read. But really, Daddy, what could you expect? When you put a hungry little nine-year girl in the pantry scouring knives, with the cookie jar at her elbow, and go off and leave her alone; and then suddenly pop in again, wouldn’t you expect to find her a bit crumby? And then when you jerk her by the elbow and box her ears, and make her leave the table when the pudding comes, and tell all the other children that it’s because she’s a thief, wouldn’t you expect her to run away?
I only ran four miles. They caught me and brought me back; and every day for a week I was tied, like a naughty puppy, to a stake in the back yard while the other children were out at recess.
Oh, dear! There’s the chapel bell, and after chapel I have a committee meeting. I’m sorry because I meant to write you a very entertaining letter this time. Auf wiedersehen Cher Daddy, Pax tibi! Judy PS. There’s one thing I’m perfectly sure of I’m not a Chinaman.
Jimmie McBride has sent me a Princeton banner as big as one end of the room; I am very grateful to him for remembering me, but I don’t know what on earth to do with it. Sallie and Julia won’t let me hang it up; our room this year is furnished in red, and you can imagine what an effect we’d have if I added orange and black. But it’s such nice, warm, thick felt, I hate to waste it. Would it be very improper to have it made into a bath robe? My old one shrank when it was washed.
I’ve entirely omitted of late telling you what I am learning, but though you might not imagine it from my letters, my time is exclusively occupied with study. It’s a very bewildering matter to get educated in five branches at once.
The test of true scholarship,' says Chemistry Professor, is a painstaking passion for detail.’
Be careful not to keep your eyes glued to detail,' says History Professor. Stand far enough away to get a perspective of the whole.’
You can see with what nicety we have to trim our sails between chemistry and history. I like the historical method best. If I say that William the Conqueror came over in 1492, and Columbus discovered America in 1100 or 1066 or whenever it was, that’s a mere detail that the Professor overlooks. It gives a feeling of security and restfulness to the history recitation, that is entirely lacking in chemistry.
Sixth-hour bell–I must go to the laboratory and look into a little matter of acids and salts and alkalis. I’ve burned a hole as big as a plate in the front of my chemistry apron, with hydrochloric acid. If the theory worked, I ought to be able to neutralize that hole with good strong ammonia, oughtn’t I?
Examinations next week, but who’s afraid? Yours ever, Judy
There is a March wind blowing, and the sky is filled with heavy, black moving clouds. The crows in the pine trees are making such a clamour! It’s an intoxicating, exhilarating, CALLING noise. You want to close your books and be off over the hills to race with the wind.
We had a paper chase last Saturday over five miles of squashy ‘cross country. The fox (composed of three girls and a bushel or so of confetti) started half an hour before the twenty-seven hunters. I was one of the twenty-seven; eight dropped by the wayside; we ended nineteen. The trail led over a hill, through a cornfield, and into a swamp where we had to leap lightly from hummock to hummock. of course half of us went in ankle deep. We kept losing the trail, and we wasted twenty-five minutes over that swamp. Then up a hill through some woods and in at a barn window! The barn doors were all locked and the window was up high and pretty small. I don’t call that fair, do you?
But we didn’t go through; we circumnavigated the barn and picked up the trail where it issued by way of a low shed roof on to the top of a fence. The fox thought he had us there, but we fooled him. Then straight away over two miles of rolling meadow, and awfully hard to follow, for the confetti was getting sparse. The rule is that it must be at the most six feet apart, but they were the longest six feet I ever saw. Finally, after two hours of steady trotting, we tracked Monsieur Fox into the kitchen of Crystal Spring (that’s a farm where the girls go in bob sleighs and hay wagons for chicken and waffle suppers) and we found the three foxes placidly eating milk and honey and biscuits. They hadn’t thought we would get that far; they were expecting us to stick in the barn window.
Both sides insist that they won. I think we did, don’t you? Because we caught them before they got back to the campus. Anyway, all nineteen of us settled like locusts over the furniture and clamoured for honey. There wasn’t enough to go round, but Mrs. Crystal Spring (that’s our pet name for her; she’s by rights a Johnson) brought up a jar of strawberry jam and a can of maple syrup–just made last week–and three loaves of brown bread.
We didn’t get back to college till half-past six–half an hour late for dinner–and we went straight in without dressing, and with perfectly unimpaired appetites! Then we all cut evening chapel, the state of our boots being enough of an excuse.
I never told you about examinations. I passed everything with the utmost ease–I know the secret now, and am never going to fail again. I shan’t be able to graduate with honours though, because of that beastly Latin prose and geometry Freshman year. But I don’t care. Wot’s the hodds so long as you’re ‘appy? (That’s a quotation. I’ve been reading the English classics.) Speaking of classics, have you ever read Hamlet? If you haven’t, do it right off. It’s
PERFECTLY CORKING. I’ve been hearing about Shakespeare all my life, but I had no idea he really wrote so well; I always suspected him of going largely on his reputation.
I have a beautiful play that I invented a long time ago when I first learned to read. I put myself to sleep every night by pretending I’m the person (the most important person) in the book I’m reading at the moment.
At present I’m Ophelia–and such a sensible Ophelia! I keep Hamlet amused all the time, and pet him and scold him and make him wrap up his throat when he has a cold. I’ve entirely cured him of being melancholy. The King and Queen are both dead–an accident at sea; no funeral necessary–so Hamlet and I are ruling in Denmark without any bother. We have the kingdom working beautifully. He takes care of the governing, and I look after the charities. I have just founded some first-class orphan asylums. If you or any of the other Trustees would like to visit them, I shall be pleased to show you through. I think you might find a great many helpful suggestions. I remain, sir, Yours most graciously, OPHELIA, Queen of Denmark.
24th March, maybe the 25th
I don’t believe I can be going to Heaven–I am getting such a lot of good things here; it wouldn’t be fair to get them hereafter too. Listen to what has happened.
Jerusha Abbott has won the short-story contest (a twenty-five dollar prize) that the Monthly holds every year. And she’s a Sophomore! The contestants are mostly Seniors. When I saw my name posted, I couldn’t quite believe it was true. Maybe I am going to be an author after all. I wish Mrs. Lippett hadn’t given me such a silly name–it sounds like an author-ess, doesn’t it?
Also I have been chosen for the spring dramatics–As You Like It out of doors. I am going to be Celia, own cousin to Rosalind.
And lastly: Julia and Sallie and I are going to New York next Friday to do some spring shopping and stay all night and go to the theatre the next day with `Master Jervie.’ He invited us. Julia is going to stay at home with her family, but Sallie and I are going to stop at the Martha Washington Hotel. Did you ever hear of anything so exciting? I’ve never been in a hotel in my life, nor in a theatre; except once when the Catholic Church had a festival and invited the orphans, but that wasn’t a real play and it doesn’t count.
And what do you think we’re going to see? Hamlet. Think of that! We studied it for four weeks in Shakespeare class and I know it by heart.
I am so excited over all these prospects that I can scarcely sleep.
This is a very entertaining world. Yours ever, Judy
PS. I’ve just looked at the calendar. It’s the 28th.
I saw a street car conductor today with one brown eye and one blue. Wouldn’t he make a nice villain for a detective story?
Mercy! Isn’t New York big? Worcester is nothing to it. Do you mean to tell me that you actually live in all that confusion? I don’t believe that I shall recover for months from the bewildering effect of two days of it. I can’t begin to tell you all the amazing things I’ve seen; I suppose you know, though, since you live there yourself.
But aren’t the streets entertaining? And the people? And the shops? I never saw such lovely things as there are in the windows. It makes you want to devote your life to wearing clothes.
Sallie and Julia and I went shopping together Saturday morning. Julia went into the very most gorgeous place I ever saw, white and gold walls and blue carpets and blue silk curtains and gilt chairs. A perfectly beautiful lady with yellow hair and a long black silk trailing gown came to meet us with a welcoming smile. I thought we were paying a social call, and started to shake hands, but it seems we were only buying hats–at least Julia was. She sat down in front of a mirror and tried on a dozen, each lovelier than the last, and bought the two loveliest of all.
I can’t imagine any joy in life greater than sitting down in front of a mirror and buying any hat you choose without having first to consider the price! There’s no doubt about it, Daddy; New York would rapidly undermine this fine stoical character which the John Grier Home so patiently built up.
And after we’d finished our shopping, we met Master Jervie at Sherry’s. I suppose you’ve been in Sherry’s? Picture that, then picture the dining-room of the John Grier Home with its oilcloth-covered tables, and white crockery that you CAN’T break, and wooden-handled knives and forks; and fancy the way I felt!
I ate my fish with the wrong fork, but the waiter very kindly gave me another so that nobody noticed.
And after luncheon we went to the theatre–it was dazzling, marvellous, unbelievable–I dream about it every night.
Isn’t Shakespeare wonderful?
Hamlet is so much better on the stage than when we analyze it in class; I appreciated it before, but now, clear me!
I think, if you don’t mind, that I’d rather be an actress than a writer. Wouldn’t you like me to leave college and go into a dramatic school? And then I’ll send you a box for all my performances, and smile at you across the footlights. Only wear a red rose in your buttonhole, please, so I’ll surely smile at the right man. It would be an awfully embarrassing mistake if I picked out the wrong one.
We came back Saturday night and had our dinner in the train, at little tables with pink lamps and negro waiters. I never heard of meals being served in trains before, and I inadvertently said so.
`Where on earth were you brought up?’ said Julia to me.
`In a village,’ said I meekly, to Julia.
`But didn’t you ever travel?’ said she to me.
`Not till I came to college, and then it was only a hundred and sixty miles and we didn’t eat,’ said I to her.
She’s getting quite interested in me, because I say such funny things. I try hard not to, but they do pop out when I’m surprised–and I’m surprised most of the time. It’s a dizzying experience, Daddy, to pass eighteen years in the John Grier Home, and then suddenly to be plunged into the WORLD.
But I’m getting acclimated. I don’t make such awful mistakes as I did; and I don’t feel uncomfortable any more with the other girls. I used to squirm whenever people looked at me. I felt as though they saw right through my sham new clothes to the checked ginghams underneath. But I’m not letting the ginghams bother me any more. Sufficient unto yesterday is the evil thereof.
I forgot to tell you about our flowers. Master Jervie gave us each a big bunch of violets and lilies-of-the-valley. Wasn’t that sweet of him? I never used to care much for men–judging by Trustees–but I’m changing my mind.
Eleven pages–this is a letter! Have courage. I’m going to stop. Yours always, Judy
Dear Mr. Rich-Man,
Here’s your cheque for fifty dollars. Thank you very much, but I do not feel that I can keep it. My allowance is sufficient to afford all of the hats that I need. I am sorry that I wrote all that silly stuff about the millinery shop; it’s just that I had never seen anything like it before.
However, I wasn’t begging! And I would rather not accept any more charity than I have to. Sincerely yours, Jerusha Abbott
Will you please forgive me for the letter I wrote you yesterday? After I posted it I was sorry, and tried to get it back, but that beastly mail clerk wouldn’t give it back to me.
It’s the middle of the night now; I’ve been awake for hours thinking what a Worm I am–what a Thousand-legged Worm–and that’s the worst I can say! I’ve closed the door very softly into the study so as not to wake Julia and Sallie, and am sitting up in bed writing to you on paper torn out of my history note-book.
I just wanted to tell you that I am sorry I was so impolite about your cheque. I know you meant it kindly, and I think you’re an old dear to take so much trouble for such a silly thing as a hat. I ought to have returned it very much more graciously.
But in any case, I had to return it. It’s different with me than with other girls. They can take things naturally from people. They have fathers and brothers and aunts and uncles; but I can’t be on any such relations with any one. I like to pretend that you belong to me, just to play with the idea, but of course I know you don’t. I’m alone, really–with my back to the wall fighting the world–and I get sort of gaspy when I think about it. I put it out of my mind, and keep on pretending; but don’t you see, Daddy? I can’t accept any more money than I have to, because some day I shall be wanting to pay it back, and even as great an author as I intend to be won’t be able to face a PERFECTLY TREMENDOUS debt.
I’d love pretty hats and things, but I mustn’t mortgage the future to pay for them.
You’ll forgive me, won’t you, for being so rude? I have an awful habit of writing impulsively when I first think things, and then posting the letter beyond recall. But if I sometimes seem thoughtless and ungrateful, I never mean it. In my heart I thank you always for the life and freedom and independence that you have given me. My childhood was just a long, sullen stretch of revolt, and now I am so happy every moment of the day that I can’t believe it’s true. I feel like a made-up heroine in a story-book.
It’s a quarter past two. I’m going to tiptoe out to post this off now. You’ll receive it in the next mail after the other; so you won’t have a very long time to think bad of me. Good night, Daddy, I love you always, Judy 4th May
Field Day last Saturday. It was a very spectacular occasion. First we had a parade of all the classes, with everybody dressed in white linen, the Seniors carrying blue and gold Japanese umbrellas, and the juniors white and yellow banners. Our class had crimson balloons–very fetching, especially as they were always getting loose and floating off–and the Freshmen wore green tissue-paper hats with long streamers. Also we had a band in blue uniforms hired from town. Also about a dozen funny people, like downs in a circus, to keep the spectators entertained between events.
Julia was dressed as a fat country man with a linen duster and whiskers and baggy umbrella. Patsy Moriarty (Patrici really. Did you ever hear such a name? Mrs. Lippett couldn’t have done better) who is tall and thin was Julia’s wife in a absurd green bonnet over one ear. Waves of laughter followed them the whole length of the course. Julia played the part extremely well. I never dreamed that a Pendleton could display so much comedy spirit–begging Master Jervie’ pardon; I don’t consider him a true Pendleton though, an more than I consider you a true Trustee.
Sallie and I weren’t in the parade because we were entered for the events. And what do you think? We both won! At least in something. We tried for the running broad jump and lost; but Sallie won the pole-vaulting (seven feet three inches) and I won the fifty-yard sprint (eight seconds).
I was pretty panting at the end, but it was great fun, with the whole class waving balloons and cheering and yelling:
What’s the matter with Judy Abbott? She’s all right. Who’s all right? Judy Ab-bott!
That, Daddy, is true fame. Then trotting back to the dressing tent and being rubbed down with alcohol and having a lemon to suck. You see we’re very professional. It’s a fine thing to win an event for your class, because the class that wins the most gets the athletic cup for the year. The Seniors won it this year, with seven events to their credit. The athletic association gave a dinner in the gymnasium to all of the winners. We had fried soft-shell crabs, and chocolate ice-cream moulded in the shape of basket balls.
I sat up half of last night reading Jane Eyre. Are you old enough, Daddy, to remember sixty years ago? And, if so, did people talk that way?
The haughty Lady Blanche says to the footman, `Stop your chattering, knave, and do my bidding.’ Mr. Rochester talks about the metal welkin when he means the sky; and as for the mad woman who laughs like a hyena and sets fire to bed curtains and tears up wedding veils and BITES–it’s melodrama of the purest, but just the same, you read and read and read. I can’t see how any girl could have written such a book, especially any girl who was brought up in a churchyard. There’s something about those Brontes that fascinates me. Their books, their lives, their spirit. Where did they get it? When I was reading about little Jane’s troubles in the charity school, I got so angry that I had to go out and take a walk. I understood exactly how she felt. Having known Mrs. Lippett, I could see Mr. Brocklehurst.
Don’t be outraged, Daddy. I am not intimating that the John Grier Home was like the Lowood Institute. We had plenty to eat and plenty to wear, sufficient water to wash in, and a furnace in the cellar. But there was one deadly likeness. Our lives were absolutely monotonous and uneventful. Nothing nice ever happened, except ice-cream on Sundays, and even that was regular. In all the eighteen years I was there I only had one adventure–when the woodshed burned. We had to get up in the night and dress so as to be ready in case the house should catch. But it didn’t catch and we went back to bed.
Everybody likes a few surprises; it’s a perfectly natural human craving. But I never had one until Mrs. Lippett called me to the office to tell me that Mr. John Smith was going to send me to college. And then she broke the news so gradually that it just barely shocked me.
You know, Daddy, I think that the most necessary quality for any person to have is imagination.
It makes people able to put themselves in other people’s places. It makes them kind and sympathetic and understanding. It ought to be cultivated in children. But the John Grier Home instantly stamped out the slightest flicker that appeared. Duty was the one quality that was encouraged. I don’t think children ought to know the meaning of the word; it’s odious, detestable. They ought to do everything from love.
Wait until you see the orphan asylum that I am going to be the head of! It’s my favourite play at night before I go to sleep. I plan it out to the littlest detail–the meals and clothes and study and amusements and punishments; for even my superior orphans are sometimes bad.
But anyway, they are going to be happy. I think that every one, no matter how many troubles he may have when he grows up, ought to have a happy childhood to look back upon. And if I ever have any children of my own, no matter how unhappy I may be, I am not going to let them have any cares until they grow up.
(There goes the chapel bell–I’ll finish this letter sometime).
When I came in from laboratory this afternoon, I found a squirrel sitting on the tea table helping himself to almonds. These are the kind of callers we entertain now that warm weather has come and the windows stay openSaturday morning
Perhaps you think, last night being Friday, with no classes today, that I passed a nice quiet, readable evening with the set of Stevenson that I bought with my prize money? But if so, you’ve never attended a girls’ college, Daddy dear. Six friends dropped in to make fudge, and one of them dropped the fudge–while it was still liquid–right in the middle of our best rug. We shall never be able to clean up the mess.
I haven’t mentioned any lessons of late; but we are still having them every day. It’s sort of a relief though, to get away from them and discuss life in the large–rather one-sided discussions that you and I hold, but that’s your own fault. You are welcome to answer back any time you choose.
I’ve been writing this letter off and on for three days, and I fear by now vous etes bien bored!
Goodbye, nice Mr. Man, Judy
Mr. Daddy-Long-Legs Smith,
SIR: Having completed the study of argumentation and the science of dividing a thesis into heads, I have decided to adopt the following form for letter-writing. It contains all necessary facts, but no unnecessary verbiage.
I. We had written examinations this week in: A. Chemistry. B. History.
II. A new dormitory is being built. A. Its material is: (a) red brick. (b) grey stone. B. Its capacitywill be: (a) one dean, five instructors. (b) two hundred girls. (c) one housekeeper, three cooks, twenty waitresses, twenty chambermaids.
III. We had junket for dessert tonight.
IV. I am writing a special topic upon the Sources of Shakespeare’s Plays.
V. Lou McMahon slipped and fell this afternoon at basket ball, and she: A. Dislocated hershoulder. B. Bruised her knee.
VI. I have a new hat trimmed with: A. Blue velvet ribbon. B. Two blue quills. C. Three redpompoms.
VII. It is half past nine.
VIII. Good night. Judy
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