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You will never guess the nice thing that has happened.
The McBrides have asked me to spend the summer at their camp in the Adirondacks! They belong to a sort of club on a lovely little lake in the middle of the woods. The different members have houses made of logs dotted about among the trees, and they go canoeing on the lake, and take long walks through trails to other camps, and have dances once a week in the club house–Jimmie McBride is going to have a college friend visiting him part of the summer, so you see we shall have plenty of men to dance with.
Wasn’t it sweet of Mrs. McBride to ask me? It appears that she liked me when I was there for Christmas.
Please excuse this being short. It isn’t a real letter; it’s just to let you know that I’m disposed of for the summer. Yours, In a VERY contented frame of mind, Judy
Your secretary man has just written to me saying that Mr. Smith prefers that I should not accept Mrs. McBride’s invitation, but should return to Lock Willow the same as last summer.
Why, why, WHY, Daddy?
You don’t understand about it. Mrs. McBride does want me, really and truly. I’m not the least bit of trouble in the house. I’m a help. They don’t take up many servants, and Sallie an I can do lots of useful things. It’s a fine chance for me to learn housekeeping. Every woman ought to understand it, an I only know asylum-keeping.
There aren’t any girls our age at the camp, and Mrs. McBride wants me for a companion for Sallie. We are planning to do a lot of reading together. We are going to read all of the books for next year’s English and sociology. The Professor said it would be a great help if we would get our reading finished in the summer; and it’s so much easier to remember it if we read together and talk it over.
Just to live in the same house with Sallie’s mother is an education. She’s the most interesting, entertaining, companionable, charming woman in the world; she knows everything. Think how many summers I’ve spent with Mrs. Lippett and how I’ll appreciate the contrast. You needn’t be afraid that I’ll be crowding them, for their house is made of rubber. When they have a lot of company, they just sprinkle tents about in the woods and turn the boys outside. It’s going to be such a nice, healthy summer exercising out of doors every minute. Jimmie McBride is going to teach me how to ride horseback and paddle a canoe, and how to shoot and–oh, lots of things I ought to know. It’s the kind of nice, jolly, care-free time that I’ve never had; and I think every girl deserves it once in her life. Of course I’ll do exactly as you say, but please, PLEASE let me go, Daddy. I’ve never wanted anything so much.
This isn’t Jerusha Abbott, the future great author, writing to you. It’s just Judy–a girl.
Mr. John Smith,
SIR: Yours of the 7th inst. at hand. In compliance with the instructions received through your secretary, I leave on Friday next to spend the summer at Lock Willow Farm.
I hope always to remain, (Miss) Jerusha Abbott
LOCK WILLOW FARM, 3rd August
It has been nearly two months since I wrote, which wasn’t nice of me, I know, but I haven’t loved you much this summer–you see I’m being frank!
You can’t imagine how disappointed I was at having to give up the McBrides’ camp. Of course I know that you’re my guardian, and that I have to regard your wishes in all matters, but I couldn’t see any REASON. It was so distinctly the best thing that could have happened to me. If I had been Daddy, and you had been Judy, I should have said, Bless yo my child, run along and have a good time; see lots of new people and learn lots of new things; live out of doors, and get strong and well and rested for a year of hard work.’
But not at all! Just a curt line from your secretary ordering me to Lock Willow.
It’s the impersonality of your commands that hurts my feelings. It seems as though, if you felt the tiniest little bit for me the way I feel for you, you’d sometimes send me a message that you’d written with your own hand, instead of those beastly typewritten secretary’s notes. If there were the slightest hint that you cared, I’d do anything on earth to please you.
I know that I was to write nice, long, detailed letters without ever expecting any answer. You’re living up to your side of the bargain–I’m being educated–and I suppose you’re thinking I’m not living up to mine!
But, Daddy, it is a hard bargain. It is, really. I’m so awfully lonely. You are the only person I have to care for, and you are so shadowy. You’re just an imaginary man that I’ve made up–and probably the real YOU isn’t a bit like my imaginary YOU. But you did once, when I was ill in the infirmary, send me a message, and now, when I am feeling awfully forgotten, I get out your card and read it over.
I don’t think I am telling you at all what I started to say, which was this:
Although my feelings are still hurt, for it is very humiliating to be picked up and moved about by an arbitrary, peremptory, unreasonable, omnipotent, invisible Providence, still, when a man has been as kind and generous and thoughtful as you have heretofore been towards me, I suppose he has a right to be an arbitrary, peremptory, unreasonable, invisible Providence if he chooses, and so–I’ll forgive you and be cheerful again. But I still don’t enjoy getting Sallie’s letters about the good times they are having in camp!
However–we will draw a veil over that and begin again.
I’ve been writing and writing this summer; four short stories finished and sent to four different magazines. So you see I’m trying to be an author. I have a workroom fixed in a corner of the attic where Master Jervie used to have his rainy-day playroom. It’s in a cool, breezy corner with two dormer windows, and shaded by a maple tree with a family of red squirrels living in a hole.
I’ll write a nicer letter in a few days and tell you all the farm news.
We need rain. Yours as ever, Judy
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 night, Judy
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. Judy
PS. Isn’t that a nice ending? I got it out of Stevenson’s letters.
Saturday 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. Yours always, Judy
PS. The lettuce hasn’t done at all well this year. It was so dry early in the season.
Well, Daddy, Master Jervie’s here. And such a nice time as we’re having! At least I am, and I think he is, too–he has been here ten days and he doesn’t show any signs of going. The way Mrs. Semple pampers that man is scandalous. If she indulged him as much when he was a baby, I don’t know how he ever turned out so well.
He and I eat at a little table set on the side porch, or sometimes under the trees, or–when it rains or is cold–in the best parlour. He just picks out the spot he wants to eat in and Carrie trots after him with the table. Then if it has been an awful nuisance, and she has had to carry the dishes very far, she finds a dollar under the sugar bowl.
He is an awfully companionable sort of man, though you would never believe it to see him casually; he looks at first glance like a true Pendleton, but he isn’t in the least. He is just as simple and unaffected and sweet as he can be–that seems a funny way to describe a man, but it’s true. He’s extremely nice with the farmers around here; he meets them in a sort of man-to-man fashion that disarms them immediately. They were very suspicious at first. They didn’t care for his clothes! And I will say that his clothes are rather amazing. He wears knickerbockers and pleated jackets and white flannels and riding clothes with puffed trousers. Whenever he comes down in anything new, Mrs. Semple, beaming with pride, walks around and views him from every angle, and urges him to be careful where he sits down; she is so afraid he will pick up some dust. It bores him dreadfully. He’s always saying to her: Run along, Lizzie, and tend to your work. You can’t boss me any longer. I’ve grown up.’
It’s awfully funny to think of that great big, long-legged man (he’s nearly as long-legged as you, Daddy) ever sitting in Mrs. Semple’s lap and having his face washed. Particularly funny when you see her lap! She has two laps now, and three chins. But he says that once she was thin and wiry and spry and could run faster than he.
Such a lot of adventures we’re having! We’ve explored the country for miles, and I’ve learned to fish with funny little flies made of feathers. Also to shoot with a rifle and a revolver. Also to ride horseback–there’s an astonishing amount of life in old Grove. We fed him on oats for three days, and he shied at a calf and almost ran away with me.
We climbed Sky Hill Monday afternoon. That’s a mountain near here; not an awfully high mountain, perhaps–no snow on the summit–but at least you are pretty breathless when you reach the top. The lower slopes are covered with woods, but the top is just piled rocks and open moor.
We stayed up for the sunset and built a fire and cooked our supper. Master Jervie did the cooking; he said he knew how better than me and he did, too, because he’s used to camping. Then we came down by moonlight, and, when we reached the wood trail where it was dark, by the light of an electric bulb that he had in his pocket. It was such fun! He laughed and joked all the way and talked about interesting things. He’s read all the books I’ve ever read, and a lot of others besides. It’s astonishing how many different things he knows.
We went for a long tramp this morning and got caught in a storm. Our clothes were drenched before we reached home but our spirits not even damp. You should have seen Mrs. Semple’s face when we dripped into her kitchen.
Oh, Master Jervie–Miss Judy! You are soaked through. Dear! Dear! What shall I do? That nice new coat is perfectly ruined.’
She was awfully funny; you would have thought that we were ten years old, and she a distracted mother. I was afraid for a while that we weren’t going to get any jam for tea.
I started this letter ages ago, but I haven’t had a second to finish it.
Isn’t this a nice thought from Stevenson?
The world is so full of a number of things, I am sure we should all be as happy as kings.
It’s true, you know. The world is full of happiness, and plenty to go round, if you are only willing to take the kind that comes your way. The whole secret is in being PLIABLE. In the country, especially, there are such a lot of entertaining things. I can walk over everybody’s land, and look at everybody’s view, and dabble in everybody’s brook; and enjoy it just as much as though I owned the land–and with no taxes to pay!
It’s Sunday night now, about eleven o’clock, and I am supposed to be getting some beauty sleep, but I had black coffee for dinner, so–no beauty sleep for me!
This morning, said Mrs. Semple to Mr. Pendleton, with a very determined accent:
We have to leave here at a quarter past ten in order to get to church by eleven.’
Very well, Lizzie,’ said Master Jervie, you have the buggy ready, and if I’m not dressed, just go on without waiting.’ ‘We’ll wait,’ said she.
As you please,’ said he, only don’t keep the horses standing too long.’
Then while she was dressing, he told Carrie to pack up a lunch, and he told me to scramble into my walking clothes; and we slipped out the back way and went fishing.
It discommoded the household dreadfully, because Lock Willow of a Sunday dines at two. But he ordered dinner at seven–he orders meals whenever he chooses; you would think the place were a restaurant–and that kept Carrie and Amasai from going driving. But he said it was all the better because it wasn’t proper for them to go driving without a chaperon; and anyway, he wanted the horses himself to take me driving. Did you ever hear anything so funny?
And poor Mrs. Semple believes that people who go fishing on Sundays go afterwards to a sizzling hot hell! She is awfully troubled to think that she didn’t train him better when he was small and helpless and she had the chance. Besides–she wished to show him off in church.
Anyway, we had our fishing (he caught four little ones) and we cooked them on a camp-fire for lunch. They kept falling off our spiked sticks into the fire, so they tasted a little ashy, but we ate them. We got home at four and went driving at five and had dinner at seven, and at ten I was sent to bed and here I am, writing to you.
I am getting a little sleepy, though. Good night.
Here is a picture of the one fish I caught.
Ship Ahoy, Cap’n Long-Legs!
Avast! Belay! Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum. Guess what I’m reading? Our conversation these past two days has been nautical and piratical. Isn’t Treasure Island fun? Did you ever read it, or wasn’t it written when you were a boy? Stevenson only got thirty pounds for the serial rights–I don’t believe it pays to be a great author. Maybe I’ll be a school-teacher.
Excuse me for filling my letters so full of Stevenson; my mind is very much engaged with him at present. He comprises Lock Willow’s library.
I’ve been writing this letter for two weeks, and I think it’s about long enough. Never say, Daddy, that I don’t give details. I wish you were here, too; we’d all have such a jolly time together. I like my different friends to know each other. I wanted to ask Mr. Pendleton if he knew you in New York–I should think he might; you must move in about the same exalted social circles, and you are both interested in reforms and things–but I couldn’t, for I don’t know your real name.
It’s the silliest thing I ever heard of, not to know your name. Mrs. Lippett warned me that you were eccentric. I should think so! Affectionately, Judy
PS. On reading this over, I find that it isn’t all Stevenson. There are one or two glancing references to Master Jervie.
He has gone, and we are missing him! When you get accustomed to people or places or ways of living, and then have them snatched away, it does leave an awfully empty, gnawing sort of sensation. I’m finding Mrs. Semple’s conversation pretty unseasoned food.
College opens in two weeks and I shall be glad to begin work again. I have worked quite a lot this summer though–six short stories and seven poems. Those I sent to the magazines all came back with the most courteous promptitude. But I don’t mind. It’s good practice. Master Jervie read them–he brought in the post, so I couldn’t help his knowing–and he said they were DREADFUL. They showed that I didn’t have the slightest idea of what I was talking about. (Master Jervie doesn’t let politeness interfere with truth.) But the last one I did–just a little sketch laid in college–he said wasn’t bad; and he had it typewritten, and I sent it to a magazine. They’ve had it two weeks; maybe they’re thinking it over.
You should see the sky! There’s the queerest orange-coloured light over everything. We’re going to have a storm.
It commenced just that moment with tremendously big drops and all the shutters banging. I had to run to close the windows, while Carrie flew to the attic with an armful of milk pans to put under the places where the roof leaks and then, just as I was resuming my pen, I remembered that I’d left a cushion and rug and hat and Matthew Arnold’s poems under a tree in the orchard, so I dashed out to get them, all quite soaked. The red cover of the poems had run into the inside; Dover Beach in the future will be washed by pink waves.
A storm is awfully disturbing in the country. You are always having to think of so many things that are out of doors and getting spoiled.
Daddy! Daddy! What do you think? The postman has just come with two letters.
1st. My story is accepted. $50.
ALORS! I’m an AUTHOR.
2nd. A letter from the college secretary. I’m to have a scholarship for two years that will cover board and tuition. It was founded for marked proficiency in English with general excellency in other lines.’ And I’ve won it! I applied for it before I left, but I didn’t have an idea I’d get it, on account of my Freshman bad work in maths and Latin. But it seems I’ve made it up. I am awfully glad, Daddy, because now I won’t be such a burden to you. The monthly allowance will be all I’ll need, and maybe I can earn that with writing or tutoring or something.
I’m LONGING to go back and begin work. Yours ever, Jerusha Abbott,
Author of When the Sophomores Won the Game. For sale at all news stands, price ten cents.
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