سوم اکتبرکتاب: بابا لنگ دراز / فصل 8
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Back at college and a Senior–also editor of the Monthly. It doesn’t seem possible, does it, that so sophisticated a person, just four years ago, was an inmate of the John Grier Home? We do arrive fast in America!
What do you think of this? A note from Master Jervie directed to Lock Willow and forwarded here. He’s sorry, but he finds that he can’t get up there this autumn; he has accepted an invitation to go yachting with some friends. Hopes I’ve had a nice summer and am enjoying the country.
And he knew all the time that I was with the McBrides, for Julia told him so! You men ought to leave intrigue to women; you haven’t a light enough touch.
Julia has a trunkful of the most ravishing new clothes–an evening gown of rainbow Liberty crepe that would be fitting raiment for the angels in Paradise. And I thought that my own clothes this year were unprecedentedly (is there such a word?) beautiful. I copied Mrs. Paterson’s wardrobe with the aid of a cheap dressmaker, and though the gowns didn’t turn out quite twins of the originals, I was entirely happy until Julia unpacked. But now–I live to see Paris!
Dear Daddy, aren’t you glad you’re not a girl? I suppose you think that the fuss we make over clothes is too absolutely silly? It is. No doubt about it. But it’s entirely your fault.
Did you ever hear about the learned Herr Professor who regarded unnecessary adornment with contempt and favoured sensible, utilitarian clothes for women? His wife, who was an obliging creature, adopted `dress reform.’ And what do you think he did? He eloped with a chorus girl.
Yours ever, Judy
PS. The chamber-maid in our corridor wears blue checked gingham aprons. I am going to get her some brown ones instead, and sink the blue ones in the bottom of the lake. I have a reminiscent chill every time I look at them.
Such a blight has fallen over my literary career. I don’t know whether to tell you or not, but I would like some sympathy–silent sympathy, please; don’t re-open the wound by referring to it in your next letter.
I’ve been writing a book, all last winter in the evenings, and all the summer when I wasn’t teaching Latin to my two stupid children. I just finished it before college opened and sent it to a publisher. He kept it two months, and I was certain he was going to take it; but yesterday morning an express parcel came (thirty cents due) and there it was back again with a letter from the publisher, a very nice, fatherly letter–but frank! He said he saw from the address that I was still at college, and if I would accept some advice, he would suggest that I put all of my energy into my lessons and wait until I graduated before beginning to write. He enclosed his reader’s opinion. Here it is: `Plot highly improbable. Characterization exaggerated. Conversation unnatural. A good deal of humour but not always in the best of taste. Tell her to keep on trying, and in time she may produce a real book.’
Not on the whole flattering, is it, Daddy? And I thought I was making a notable addition to American literature. I did truly. I was planning to surprise you by writing a great novel before I graduated. I collected the material for it while I was at Julia’s last Christmas. But I dare say the editor is right. Probably two weeks was not enough in which to observe the manners and customs of a great city.
I took it walking with me yesterday afternoon, and when I came to the gas house, I went in and asked the engineer if I might borrow his furnace. He politely opened the door, and with my own hands I chucked it in. I felt as though I had cremated my only child!
I went to bed last night utterly dejected; I thought I was never going to amount to anything, and that you had thrown away your money for nothing. But what do you think? I woke up this morning with a beautiful new plot in my head, and I’ve been going about all day planning my characters, just as happy as I could be. No one can ever accuse me of being a pessimist! If I had a husband and twelve children swallowed by an earthquake one day, I’d bob up smilingly the next morning and commence to look for another set. Affectionately, Judy 14th December
I dreamed the funniest dream last night. I thought I went into a book store and the clerk brought me a new book named The Life and Letters of Judy Abbott. I could see it perfectly plainly–red cloth binding with a picture of the John Grier Home on the cover, and my portrait for a frontispiece with, `Very truly yours, Judy Abbott,’ written below. But just as I was turning to the end to read the inscription on my tombstone, I woke up. It was very annoying! I almost found out whom I’m going to marry and when I’m going to die.
Don’t you think it would be interesting if you really could read the story of your life–written perfectly truthfully by an omniscient author? And suppose you could only read it on this condition: that you would never forget it, but would have to go through life knowing ahead of time exactly how everything you did would turn out, and foreseeing to the exact hour the time when you would die. How many people do you suppose would have the courage to read it then? or how many could suppress their curiosity sufficiently to escape from reading it, even at the price of having to live without hope and without surprises?
Life is monotonous enough at best; you have to eat and sleep about so often. But imagine how DEADLY monotonous it would be if nothing unexpected could happen between meals. Mercy! Daddy, there’s a blot, but I’m on the third page and I can’t begin a new sheet.
I’m going on with biology again this year–very interesting subject; we’re studying the alimentary system at present. You should see how sweet a cross-section of the duodenum of a cat is under the microscope.
Also we’ve arrived at philosophy–interesting but evanescent. I prefer biology where you can pin the subject under discussion to a board. There’s another! And another! This pen is weeping copiously. Please excuse its tears.
Do you believe in free will? I do–unreservedly. I don’t agree at all with the philosophers who think that every action is the absolutely inevitable and automatic resultant of an aggregation of remote causes. That’s the most immoral doctrine I ever heard–nobody would be to blame for anything. If a man believed in fatalism, he would naturally just sit down and say, `The Lord’s will be done,’ and continue to sit until he fell over dead.
I believe absolutely in my own free will and my own power to accomplish–and that is the belief that moves mountains. You watch me become a great author! I have four chapters of my new book finished and five more drafted.
This is a very abstruse letter–does your head ache, Daddy? I think we’ll stop now and make some fudge. I’m sorry I can’t send you a piece; it will be unusually good, for we’re going to make it with real cream and three butter balls. Yours affectionately, Judy PS. We’re having fancy dancing in gymnasium class. You can see by the accompanying picture how much we look like a real ballet. The one at the end accomplishing a graceful pirouette is me–I mean I.
My Dear, Dear, Daddy,
Haven’t you any sense? Don’t you KNOW that you mustn’t give one girl seventeen Christmas presents? I’m a Socialist, please remember; do you wish to turn me into a Plutocrat?
Think how embarrassing it would be if we should ever quarrel! I should have to engage a moving-van to return your gifts.
I am sorry that the necktie I sent was so wobbly; I knit it with my own hands (as you doubtless discovered from internal evidence). You will have to wear it on cold days and keep your coat buttoned up tight.
Thank you, Daddy, a thousand times. I think you’re the sweetest man that ever lived–and the foolishest! Judy
Here’s a four-leaf clover from Camp McBride to bring you good luck for the New Year.
Do you wish to do something, Daddy, that will ensure your eternal salvation? There is a family here who are in awfully desperate straits. A mother and father and four visible children–the two older boys have disappeared into the world to make their fortune and have not sent any of it back. The father worked in a glass factory and got consumption–it’s awfully unhealthy work–and now has been sent away to a hospital. That took all their savings, and the support of the family falls upon the oldest daughter, who is twenty-four. She dressmakes for $1.50 a day (when she can get it) and embroiders centrepieces in the evening. The mother isn’t very strong and is extremely ineffectual and pious. She sits with her hands folded, a picture of patient resignation, while the daughter kills herself with overwork and responsibility and worry; she doesn’t see how they are going to get through the rest of the winter–and I don’t either. One hundred dollars would buy some coal and some shoes for three children so that they could go to school, and give a little margin so that she needn’t worry herself to death when a few days pass and she doesn’t get work.
You are the richest man I know. Don’t you suppose you could spare one hundred dollars? That girl deserves help a lot more than I ever did. I wouldn’t ask it except for the girl; I don’t care much what happens to the mother–she is such a jelly-fish.
The way people are for ever rolling their eyes to heaven and saying, `Perhaps it’s all for the best,’ when they are perfectly dead sure it’s not, makes me enraged. Humility or resignation or whatever you choose to call it, is simply impotent inertia. I’m for a more militant religion!
We are getting the most dreadful lessons in philosophy–all of Schopenhauer for tomorrow. The professor doesn’t seem to realize that we are taking any other subject. He’s a queer old duck; he goes about with his head in the clouds and blinks dazedly when occasionally he strikes solid earth. He tries to lighten his lectures with an occasional witticism–and we do our best to smile, but I assure you his jokes are no laughing matter. He spends his entire time between classes in trying to figure out whether matter really exists or whether he only thinks it exists.
I’m sure my sewing girl hasn’t any doubt but that it exists!
Where do you think my new novel is? In the waste-basket. I can see myself that it’s no good on earth, and when a loving author realizes that, what WOULD be the judgment of a critical public?
I address you, Daddy, from a bed of pain. For two days I’ve been laid up with swollen tonsils; I can just swallow hot milk, and that is all. `What were your parents thinking of not to have those tonsils out when you were a baby?’ the doctor wished to know. I’m sure I haven’t an idea, but I doubt if they were thinking much about me. Yours, J. A.
I just read this over before sealing it. I don’t know WHY I cast such a misty atmosphere over life. I hasten to assure you that I am young and happy and exuberant; and I trust you are the same. Youth has nothing to do with birthdays, only with ALIVEDNESS of spirit, so even if your hair is grey, Daddy, you can still be a boy. Affectionately, Judy 12th Jan.
Dear Mr. Philanthropist,
Your cheque for my family came yesterday. Thank you so much! I cut gymnasium and took it down to them right after luncheon, and you should have seen the girl’s face! She was so surprised and happy and relieved that she looked almost young; and she’s only twenty-four. Isn’t it pitiful?
Anyway, she feels now as though all the good things were coming together. She has steady work ahead for two months–someone’s getting married, and there’s a trousseau to make.
`Thank the good Lord!’ cried the mother, when she grasped the fact that that small piece of paper was one hundred dollars.
It wasn't the good Lord at all,' said I, it was Daddy-Long-Legs.’ (Mr. Smith, I called you.)
`But it was the good Lord who put it in his mind,’ said she.
`Not at all! I put it in his mind myself,’ said I.
But anyway, Daddy, I trust the good Lord will reward you suitably. You deserve ten thousand years out of purgatory.
Yours most gratefully, Judy Abbott
May it please Your Most Excellent Majesty:
This morning I did eat my breakfast upon a cold turkey pie and a goose, and I did send for a cup of tee (a china drink) of which I had never drank before.
Don’t be nervous, Daddy–I haven’t lost my mind; I’m merely quoting Sam’l Pepys. We’re reading him in connection with English History, original sources. Sallie and Julia and I converse now in the language of 1660. Listen to this:
I went to Charing Cross to see Major Harrison hanged, drawn and quartered: he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition.' And this: Dined with my lady who is in handsome mourning for her brother who died yesterday of spotted fever.’
Seems a little early to commence entertaining, doesn’t it? A friend of Pepys devised a very cunning manner whereby the king might pay his debts out of the sale to poor people of old decayed provisions. What do you, a reformer, think of that? I don’t believe we’re so bad today as the newspapers make out.
Samuel was as excited about his clothes as any girl; he spent five times as much on dress as his wife–that appears to have been the Golden Age of husbands. Isn’t this a touching entry? You see he really was honest. `Today came home my fine Camlett cloak with gold buttons, which cost me much money, and I pray God to make me able to pay for it.’
Excuse me for being so full of Pepys; I’m writing a special topic on him.
What do you think, Daddy? The Self-Government Association has abolished the ten o’clock rule. We can keep our lights all night if we choose, the only requirement being that we do not disturb others–we are not supposed to entertain on a large scale. The result is a beautiful commentary on human nature. Now that we may stay up as long as we choose, we no longer choose. Our heads begin to nod at nine o’clock, and by nine-thirty the pen drops from our nerveless grasp. It’s nine-thirty now. Good night.
Just back from church–preacher from Georgia. We must take care, he says, not to develop our intellects at the expense of our emotional natures–but methought it was a poor, dry sermon (Pepys again). It doesn’t matter what part of the United States or Canada they come from, or what denomination they are, we always get the same sermon. Why on earth don’t they go to men’s colleges and urge the students not to allow their manly natures to be crushed out by too much mental application?
It’s a beautiful day–frozen and icy and clear. As soon as dinner is over, Sallie and Julia and Marty Keene and Eleanor Pratt (friends of mine, but you don’t know them) and I are going to put on short skirts and walk ‘cross country to Crystal Spring Farm and have a fried chicken and waffle supper, and then have Mr. Crystal Spring drive us home in his buckboard. We are supposed to be inside the campus at seven, but we are going to stretch a point tonight and make it eight.
Farewell, kind Sir. I have the honour of subscribing myself, Your most loyall, dutifull, faithfull and obedient servant, J. Abbott
Dear Mr. Trustee,
Tomorrow is the first Wednesday in the month–a weary day for the John Grier Home. How relieved they’ll be when five o’clock comes and you pat them on the head and take yourselves off! Did you (individually) ever pat me on the head, Daddy? I don’t believe so–my memory seems to be concerned only with fat Trustees.
Give the Home my love, please–my TRULY love. I have quite a feeling of tenderness for it as I look back through a haze of four years. When I first came to college I felt quite resentful because I’d been robbed of the normal kind of childhood that the other girls had had; but now, I don’t feel that way in the least. I regard it as a very unusual adventure. It gives me a sort of vantage point from which to stand aside and look at life. Emerging full grown, I get a perspective on the world, that other people who have been brought up in the thick of things entirely lack.
I know lots of girls (Julia, for instance) who never know that they are happy. They are so accustomed to the feeling that their senses are deadened to it; but as for me–I am perfectly sure every moment of my life that I am happy. And I’m going to keep on being, no matter what unpleasant things turn up. I’m going to regard them (even toothaches) as interesting experiences, and be glad to know what they feel like. `Whatever sky’s above me, I’ve a heart for any fate.’
However, Daddy, don’t take this new affection for the J.G.H. too literally. If I have five children, like Rousseau, I shan’t leave them on the steps of a foundling asylum in order to insure their being brought up simply.
Give my kindest regards to Mrs. Lippett (that, I think, is truthful; love would be a little strong) and don’t forget to tell her what a beautiful nature I’ve developed. Affectionately, Judy
LOCK WILLOW, 4th April Dear Daddy,
Do you observe the postmark? Sallie and I are embellishing Lock Willow with our presence during the Easter Vacation. We decided that the best thing we could do with our ten days was to come where it is quiet. Our nerves had got to the point where they wouldn’t stand another meal in Fergussen. Dining in a room with four hundred girls is an ordeal when you are tired. There is so much noise that you can’t hear the girls across the table speak unless they make their hands into a megaphone and shout. That is the truth.
We are tramping over the hills and reading and writing, and having a nice, restful time. We climbed to the top of `Sky Hill’ this morning where Master Jervie and I once cooked supper–it doesn’t seem possible that it was nearly two years ago. I could still see the place where the smoke of our fire blackened the rock. It is funny how certain places get connected with certain people, and you never go back without thinking of them. I was quite lonely without him–for two minutes.
What do you think is my latest activity, Daddy? You will begin to believe that I am incorrigible–I am writing a book. I started it three weeks ago and am eating it up in chunks. I’ve caught the secret. Master Jervie and that editor man were right; you are most convincing when you write about the things you know. And this time it is about something that I do know–exhaustively. Guess where it’s laid? In the John Grier Home! And it’s good, Daddy, I actually believe it is–just about the tiny little things that happened every day. I’m a realist now. I’ve abandoned romanticism; I shall go back to it later though, when my own adventurous future begins.
This new book is going to get itself finished–and published! You see if it doesn’t. If you just want a thing hard enough and keep on trying, you do get it in the end. I’ve been trying for four years to get a letter from you–and I haven’t given up hope yet.
Goodbye, Daddy dear,
(I like to call you Daddy dear; it’s so alliterative.) Affectionately, Judy
PS. I forgot to tell you the farm news, but it’s very distressing. Skip this postscript if you don’t want your sensibilities all wrought up.
Poor old Grove is dead. He got so that he couldn’t chew and they had to shoot him.
Nine chickens were killed by a weasel or a skunk or a rat last week.
One of the cows is sick, and we had to have the veterinary surgeon out from Bonnyrigg Four Corners. Amasai stayed up all night to give her linseed oil and whisky. But we have an awful suspicion that the poor sick cow got nothing but linseed oil.
Sentimental Tommy (the tortoise-shell cat) has disappeared; we are afraid he has been caught in a trap.
There are lots of troubles in the world!
This is going to be extremely short because my shoulder aches at the sight of a pen. Lecture notes all day, immortal novel all evening, make too much writing.
Commencement three weeks from next Wednesday. I think you might come and make my acquaintance–I shall hate you if you don’t! Julia’s inviting Master Jervie, he being her family, and Sallie’s inviting Jimmie McB., he being her family, but who is there for me to invite? Just you and Lippett, and I don’t want her. Please come.
Yours, with love and writer’s cramp. Judy
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