The first Wednesday in every month was a Perfectly Awful Day–a day to be awaited with dread, endured with courage and forgotten with haste. Every floor must be spotless, every chair dustless, and every bed without a wrinkle. Ninety-seven squirming little orphans must be scrubbed and combed and buttoned into freshly starched ginghams; and all ninety-seven reminded of their manners, and told to say, `Yes, sir,’ `No, sir,’ whenever a Trustee spoke.
It was a distressing time; and poor Jerusha Abbott, being the oldest orphan, had to bear the brunt of it. But this particular first Wednesday, like its predecessors, finally dragged itself to a close. Jerusha escaped from the pantry where she had been making sandwiches for the asylum’s guests, and turned upstairs to accomplish her regular work. Her special care was room F, where eleven little tots, from four to seven, occupied eleven little cots set in a row. Jerusha assembled her charges, straightened their rumpled frocks, wiped their noses, and started them in an orderly and willing line towards the dining-room to engage themselves for a blessed half hour with bread and milk and prune pudding.
Then she dropped down on the window seat and leaned throbbing temples against the cool glass. She had been on her feet since five that morning, doing everybody’s bidding, scolded and hurried by a nervous matron. Mrs. Lippett, behind the scenes, did not always maintain that calm and pompous dignity with which she faced an audience of Trustees and lady visitors. Jerusha gazed out across a broad stretch of frozen lawn, beyond the tall iron paling that marked the confines of the asylum, down undulating ridges sprinkled with country estates, to the spires of the village rising from the midst of bare trees.
The day was ended–quite successfully, so far as she knew. The Trustees and the visiting committee had made their rounds, and read their reports, and drunk their tea, and now were hurrying home to their own cheerful firesides, to forget their bothersome little charges for another month. Jerusha leaned forward watching with curiosity–and a touch of wistfulness–the stream of carriages and automobiles that rolled out of the asylum gates. In imagination she followed first one equipage, then another, to the big houses dotted along the hillside. She pictured herself in a fur coat and a velvet hat trimmed with feathers leaning back in the seat and nonchalantly murmuring `Home’ to the driver. But on the door-sill of her home the picture grew blurred.
Jerusha had an imagination–an imagination, Mrs. Lippett told her, that would get her into trouble if she didn’t take care–but keen as it was, it could not carry her beyond the front porch of the houses she would enter. Poor, eager, adventurous little Jerusha, in all her seventeen years, had never stepped inside an ordinary house; she could not picture the daily routine of those other human beings who carried on their lives undiscommoded by orphans.
You are wan-ted
In the of-fice,
And I think you’d
Better hurry up!
Tommy Dillon, who had joined the choir, came singing up the stairs and down the corridor, his chant growing louder as he approached room F. Jerusha wrenched herself from the window and refaced the troubles of life.
`Who wants me?’ she cut into Tommy’s chant with a note of sharp anxiety.
Mrs. Lippett in the office,
And I think she’s mad.
Tommy piously intoned, but his accent was not entirely malicious. Even the most hardened little orphan felt sympathy for an erring sister who was summoned to the office to face an annoyed matron; and Tommy liked Jerusha even if she did sometimes jerk him by the arm and nearly scrub his nose off.
Jerusha went without comment, but with two parallel lines on her brow. What could have gone wrong, she wondered. Were the sandwiches not thin enough? Were there shells in the nut cakes? Had a lady visitor seen the hole in Susie Hawthorn’s stocking? Had–O horrors!– one of the cherubic little babes in her own room F `sauced’ a Trustee?
The long lower hall had not been lighted, and as she came downstairs, a last Trustee stood, on the point of departure, in the open door that led to the porte-cochere. Jerusha caught only a fleeting impression of the man–and the impression consisted entirely of tallness. He was waving his arm towards an automobile waiting in the curved drive. As it sprang into motion and approached, head on for an instant, the glaring headlights threw his shadow sharply against the wall inside. The shadow pictured grotesquely elongated legs and arms that ran along the floor and up the wall of the corridor. It looked, for all the world, like a huge, wavering daddy-long-legs.
Jerusha’s anxious frown gave place to quick laughter. She was by nature a sunny soul, and had always snatched the tiniest excuse to be amused. If one could derive any sort of entertainment out of the oppressive fact of a Trustee, it was something unexpected to the good. She advanced to the office quite cheered by the tiny episode, and presented a smiling face to Mrs. Lippett. To her surprise the matron was also, if not exactly smiling, at least appreciably affable; she wore an expression almost as pleasant as the one she donned for visitors.
`Sit down, Jerusha, I have something to say to you.’ Jerusha dropped into the nearest chair and waited with a touch of breathlessness. An automobile flashed past the window; Mrs. Lippett glanced after it.
`Did you notice the gentleman who has just gone?’
`I saw his back.’
`He is one of our most affluential Trustees, and has given large sums of money towards the asylum’s support. I am not at liberty to mention his name; he expressly stipulated that he was to remain unknown.’
Jerusha’s eyes widened slightly; she was not accustomed to being summoned to the office to discuss the eccentricities of Trustees with the matron.
`This gentleman has taken an interest in several of our boys. You remember Charles Benton and Henry Freize? They were both sent through college by Mr.–er–this Trustee, and both have repaid with hard work and success the money that was so generously expended. Other payment the gentleman does not wish. Heretofore his philanthropies have been directed solely towards the boys; I have never been able to interest him in the slightest degree in any of the girls in the institution, no matter how deserving. He does not, I may tell you, care for girls.’
`No, ma’am,’ Jerusha murmured, since some reply seemed to be expected at this point.
`To-day at the regular meeting, the question of your future was brought up.’
Mrs. Lippett allowed a moment of silence to fall, then resumed in a slow, placid manner extremely trying to her hearer’s suddenly tightened nerves.
`Usually, as you know, the children are not kept after they are sixteen, but an exception was made in your case. You had finished our school at fourteen, and having done so well in your studies–not always, I must say, in your conduct–it was determined to let you go on in the village high school. Now you are finishing that, and of course the asylum cannot be responsible any longer for your support. As it is, you have had two years more than most.’
Mrs. Lippett overlooked the fact that Jerusha had worked hard for her board during those two years, that the convenience of the asylum had come first and her education second; that on days like the present she was kept at home to scrub.
`As I say, the question of your future was brought up and your record was discussed–thoroughly discussed.’
Mrs. Lippett brought accusing eyes to bear upon the prisoner in the dock, and the prisoner looked guilty because it seemed to be expected– not because she could remember any strikingly black pages in her record.
`Of course the usual disposition of one in your place would be to put you in a position where you could begin to work, but you have done well in school in certain branches; it seems that your work in English has even been brilliant. Miss Pritchard, who is on our visiting committee, is also on the school board; she has been talking with your rhetoric teacher, and made a speech in your favour. She also read aloud an essay that you had written entitled, “Blue Wednesday”.’
Jerusha’s guilty expression this time was not assumed.
`It seemed to me that you showed little gratitude in holding up to ridicule the institution that has done so much for you. Had you not managed to be funny I doubt if you would have been forgiven. But fortunately for you, Mr.–, that is, the gentleman who has just gone–appears to have an immoderate sense of humour. On the strength of that impertinent paper, he has offered to send you to college.’
`To college?’ Jerusha’s eyes grew big. Mrs. Lippett nodded.
`He waited to discuss the terms with me. They are unusual. The gentleman, I may say, is erratic. He believes that you have originality, and he is planning to educate you to become a writer.’
`A writer?’ Jerusha’s mind was numbed. She could only repeat Mrs. Lippett’s words.
`That is his wish. Whether anything will come of it, the future will show. He is giving you a very liberal allowance, almost, for a girl who has never had any experience in taking care of money, too liberal. But he planned the matter in detail, and I did not feel free to make any suggestions. You are to remain here through the summer, and Miss Pritchard has kindly offered to superintend your outfit. Your board and tuition will be paid directly to the college, and you will receive in addition during the four years you are there, an allowance of thirty-five dollars a month. This will enable you to enter on the same standing as the other students. The money will be sent to you by the gentleman’s private secretary once a month, and in return, you will write a letter of acknowledgment once a month. That is–you are not to thank him for the money; he doesn’t care to have that mentioned, but you are to write a letter telling of the progress in your studies and the details of your daily life. Just such a letter as you would write to your parents if they were living.
`These letters will be addressed to Mr. John Smith and will be sent in care of the secretary. The gentleman’s name is not John Smith, but he prefers to remain unknown. To you he will never be anything but John Smith. His reason in requiring the letters is that he thinks nothing so fosters facility in literary expression as letter-writing. Since you have no family with whom to correspond, he desires you to write in this way; also, he wishes to keep track of your progress. He will never answer your letters, nor in the slightest particular take any notice of them. He detests letter-writing and does not wish you to become a burden. If any point should ever arise where an answer would seem to be imperative–such as in the event of your being expelled, which I trust will not occur–you may correspond with Mr. Griggs, his secretary. These monthly letters are absolutely obligatory on your part; they are the only payment that Mr. Smith requires, so you must be as punctilious in sending them as though it were a bill that you were paying. I hope that they will always be respectful in tone and will reflect credit on your training. You must remember that you are writing to a Trustee of the John Grier Home.’
Jerusha’s eyes longingly sought the door. Her head was in a whirl of excitement, and she wished only to escape from Mrs. Lippett’s platitudes and think. She rose and took a tentative step backwards. Mrs. Lippett detained her with a gesture; it was an oratorical opportunity not to be slighted.
`I trust that you are properly grateful for this very rare good fortune that has befallen you? Not many girls in your position ever have such an opportunity to rise in the world. You must always remember–‘
`I–yes, ma’am, thank you. I think, if that’s all, I must go and sew a patch on Freddie Perkins’s trousers.’
The door closed behind her, and Mrs. Lippett watched it with dropped jaw, her peroration in mid-air.
The Letters of
Miss Jerusha Abbott
Mr. Daddy-Long-Legs Smith
215 FERGUSSEN HALL
Here I am! I travelled yesterday for four hours in a train. It’s a funny sensation, isn’t it? I never rode in one before.
College is the biggest, most bewildering place–I get lost whenever I leave my room. I will write you a description later when I’m feeling less muddled; also I will tell you about my lessons. Classes don’t begin until Monday morning, and this is Saturday night. But I wanted to write a letter first just to get acquainted.
It seems queer to be writing letters to somebody you don’t know. It seems queer for me to be writing letters at all–I’ve never written more than three or four in my life, so please overlook it if these are not a model kind.
Before leaving yesterday morning, Mrs. Lippett and I had a very serious talk. She told me how to behave all the rest of my life, and especially how to behave towards the kind gentleman who is doing so much for me. I must take care to be Very Respectful.
But how can one be very respectful to a person who wishes to be called John Smith? Why couldn’t you have picked out a name with a little personality? I might as well write letters to Dear Hitching-Post or Dear Clothes-Prop.
I have been thinking about you a great deal this summer; having somebody take an interest in me after all these years makes me feel as though I had found a sort of family. It seems as though I belonged to somebody now, and it’s a very comfortable sensation. I must say, however, that when I think about you, my imagination has very little to work upon. There are just three things that I know:
I. You are tall.
II. You are rich.
III. You hate girls.
I suppose I might call you Dear Mr. Girl-Hater. Only that’s rather insulting to me. Or Dear Mr. Rich-Man, but that’s insulting to you, as though money were the only important thing about you. Besides, being rich is such a very external quality. Maybe you won’t stay rich all your life; lots of very clever men get smashed up in Wall Street. But at least you will stay tall all your life! So I’ve decided to call you Dear Daddy-Long-Legs. I hope you won’t mind. It’s just a private pet name we won’t tell Mrs. Lippett.
The ten o’clock bell is going to ring in two minutes. Our day is divided into sections by bells. We eat and sleep and study by bells. It’s very enlivening; I feel like a fire horse all of the time. There it goes! Lights out. Good night.
Observe with what precision I obey rules–due to my training in the John Grier Home.
Yours most respectfully,
To Mr. Daddy-Long-Legs Smith
I love college and I love you for sending me–I’m very, very happy, and so excited every moment of the time that I can scarcely sleep. You can’t imagine how different it is from the John Grier Home. I never dreamed there was such a place in the world. I’m feeling sorry for everybody who isn’t a girl and who can’t come here; I am sure the college you attended when you were a boy couldn’t have been so nice.
My room is up in a tower that used to be the contagious ward before they built the new infirmary. There are three other girls on the same floor of the tower–a Senior who wears spectacles and is always asking us please to be a little more quiet, and two Freshmen named Sallie McBride and Julia Rutledge Pendleton. Sallie has red hair and a turn-up nose and is quite friendly; Julia comes from one of the first families in New York and hasn’t noticed me yet. They room together and the Senior and I have singles. Usually Freshmen can’t get singles; they are very scarce, but I got one without even asking. I suppose the registrar didn’t think it would be right to ask a properly brought-up girl to room with a foundling. You see there are advantages!
My room is on the north-west corner with two windows and a view. After you’ve lived in a ward for eighteen years with twenty room-mates, it is restful to be alone. This is the first chance I’ve ever had to get acquainted with Jerusha Abbott. I think I’m going to like her.
Do you think you are?
They are organizing the Freshman basket-ball team and there’s just a chance that I shall get in it. I’m little of course, but terribly quick and wiry and tough. While the others are hopping about in the air, I can dodge under their feet and grab the ball. It’s loads of fun practising–out in the athletic field in the afternoon with the trees all red and yellow and the air full of the smell of burning leaves, and everybody laughing and shouting. These are the happiest girls I ever saw–and I am the happiest of all!
I meant to write a long letter and tell you all the things I’m learning (Mrs. Lippett said you wanted to know), but 7th hour has just rung, and in ten minutes I’m due at the athletic field in gymnasium clothes. Don’t you hope I’ll get in the team?
PS. (9 o’clock.)
Sallie McBride just poked her head in at my door. This is what she said:
`I’m so homesick that I simply can’t stand it. Do you feel that way?’
I smiled a little and said no; I thought I could pull through. At least homesickness is one disease that I’ve escaped! I never heard of anybody being asylum-sick, did you?
Did you ever hear of Michael Angelo?
He was a famous artist who lived in Italy in the Middle Ages. Everybody in English Literature seemed to know about him, and the whole class laughed because I thought he was an archangel. He sounds like an archangel, doesn’t he? The trouble with college is that you are expected to know such a lot of things you’ve never learned. It’s very embarrassing at times. But now, when the girls talk about things that I never heard of, I just keep still and look them up in the encyclopedia.
I made an awful mistake the first day. Somebody mentioned Maurice Maeterlinck, and I asked if she was a Freshman. That joke has gone all over college. But anyway, I’m just as bright in class as any of the others–and brighter than some of them!
Do you care to know how I’ve furnished my room? It’s a symphony in brown and yellow. The wall was tinted buff, and I’ve bought yellow denim curtains and cushions and a mahogany desk (second hand for three dollars) and a rattan chair and a brown rug with an ink spot in the middle. I stand the chair over the spot.
The windows are up high; you can’t look out from an ordinary seat. But I unscrewed the looking-glass from the back of the bureau, upholstered the top and moved it up against the window. It’s just the right height for a window seat. You pull out the drawers like steps and walk up. Very comfortable!
Sallie McBride helped me choose the things at the Senior auction. She has lived in a house all her life and knows about furnishing. You can’t imagine what fun it is to shop and pay with a real five-dollar bill and get some change–when you’ve never had more than a few cents in your life. I assure you, Daddy dear, I do appreciate that allowance.
Sallie is the most entertaining person in the world–and Julia Rutledge Pendleton the least so. It’s queer what a mixture the registrar can make in the matter of room-mates. Sallie thinks everything is funny–even flunking–and Julia is bored at everything. She never makes the slightest effort to be amiable. She believes that if you are a Pendleton, that fact alone admits you to heaven without any further examination. Julia and I were born to be enemies.
And now I suppose you’ve been waiting very impatiently to hear what I am learning?
I. Latin: Second Punic war. Hannibal and his forces pitched camp at Lake Trasimenus last night. They prepared an ambuscade for the Romans, and a battle took place at the fourth watch this morning. Romans in retreat.
II. French: 24 pages of the Three Musketeers and third conjugation, irregular verbs.
III. Geometry: Finished cylinders; now doing cones.
IV. English: Studying exposition. My style improves daily in clearness and brevity.
V. Physiology: Reached the digestive system. Bile and the pancreas next time. Yours, on the way to being educated, Jerusha Abbott
PS. I hope you never touch alcohol, Daddy? It does dreadful things to your liver.
I’ve changed my name.
I’m still `Jerusha’ in the catalogue, but I’m `Judy’ everywhere else. It’s really too bad, isn’t it, to have to give yourself the only pet name you ever had? I didn’t quite make up the Judy though. That’s what Freddy Perkins used to call me before he could talk plainly.
I wish Mrs. Lippett would use a little more ingenuity about choosing babies’ names. She gets the last names out of the telephone book– you’ll find Abbott on the first page–and she picks the Christian names up anywhere; she got Jerusha from a tombstone. I’ve always hated it; but I rather like Judy. It’s such a silly name. It belongs to the kind of girl I’m not–a sweet little blue-eyed thing, petted and spoiled by all the family, who romps her way through life without any cares. Wouldn’t it be nice to be like that? Whatever faults I may have, no one can ever accuse me of having been spoiled by my family! But it’s great fun to pretend I’ve been. In the future please always address me as Judy.
Do you want to know something? I have three pairs of kid gloves. I’ve had kid mittens before from the Christmas tree, but never real kid gloves with five fingers. I take them out and try them on every little while. It’s all I can do not to wear them to classes.
(Dinner bell. Goodbye.)
What do you think, Daddy? The English instructor said that my last paper shows an unusual amount of originality. She did, truly. Those were her words. It doesn’t seem possible, does it, considering the eighteen years of training that I’ve had? The aim of the John Grier Home (as you doubtless know and heartily approve of) is to turn the ninety-seven orphans into ninety-seven twins.
The unusual artistic ability which I exhibit was developed at an early age through drawing chalk pictures of Mrs. Lippett on the woodshed door.
I hope that I don’t hurt your feelings when I criticize the home of my youth? But you have the upper hand, you know, for if I become too impertinent, you can always stop payment of your cheques. That isn’t a very polite thing to say–but you can’t expect me to have any manners; a foundling asylum isn’t a young ladies’ finishing school.
You know, Daddy, it isn’t the work that is going to be hard in college. It’s the play. Half the time I don’t know what the girls are talking about; their jokes seem to relate to a past that every one but me has shared. I’m a foreigner in the world and I don’t understand the language. It’s a miserable feeling. I’ve had it all my life. At the high school the girls would stand in groups and just look at me. I was queer and different and everybody knew it. I could FEEL `John Grier Home’ written on my face. And then a few charitable ones would make a point of coming up and saying something polite. I HATED EVERY ONE OF THEM–the charitable ones most of all.
Nobody here knows that I was brought up in an asylum. I told Sallie McBride that my mother and father were dead, and that a kind old gentleman was sending me to college which is entirely true so far as it goes. I don’t want you to think I am a coward, but I do want to be like the other girls, and that Dreadful Home looming over my childhood is the one great big difference. If I can turn my back on that and shut out the remembrance, I think, I might be just as desirable as any other girl. I don’t believe there’s any real, underneath difference, do you?
Anyway, Sallie McBride likes me!
I’ve just been reading this letter over and it sounds pretty un-cheerful. But can’t you guess that I have a special topic due Monday morning and a review in geometry and a very sneezy cold?
I forgot to post this yesterday, so I will add an indignant postscript. We had a bishop this morning, and WHAT DO YOU THINK HE SAID?
`The most beneficent promise made us in the Bible is this, “The poor ye have always with you.” They were put here in order to keep us charitable.’
The poor, please observe, being a sort of useful domestic animal. If I hadn’t grown into such a perfect lady, I should have gone up after service and told him what I thought.
I’m in the basket-ball team and you ought to see the bruise on my left shoulder. It’s blue and mahogany with little streaks of orange. Julia Pendleton tried for the team, but she didn’t get in. Hooray!
You see what a mean disposition I have.
College gets nicer and nicer. I like the girls and the teachers and the classes and the campus and the things to eat. We have ice-cream twice a week and we never have corn-meal mush.
You only wanted to hear from me once a month, didn’t you? And I’ve been peppering you with letters every few days! But I’ve been so excited about all these new adventures that I MUST talk to somebody; and you’re the only one I know. Please excuse my exuberance; I’ll settle pretty soon. If my letters bore you, you can always toss them into the wastebasket. I promise not to write another till the middle of November.
Yours most loquaciously,
Listen to what I’ve learned to-day.
The area of the convex surface of the frustum of a regular pyramid is half the product of the sum of the perimeters of its bases by the altitude of either of its trapezoids.
It doesn’t sound true, but it is–I can prove it!
You’ve never heard about my clothes, have you, Daddy? Six dresses, all new and beautiful and bought for me–not handed down from somebody bigger. Perhaps you don’t realize what a climax that marks in the career of an orphan? You gave them to me, and I am very, very, VERY much obliged. It’s a fine thing to be educated–but nothing compared to the dizzying experience of owning six new dresses. Miss Pritchard, who is on the visiting committee, picked them out– not Mrs. Lippett, thank goodness. I have an evening dress, pink mull over silk (I’m perfectly beautiful in that), and a blue church dress, and a dinner dress of red veiling with Oriental trimming (makes me look like a Gipsy), and another of rose-coloured challis, and a grey street suit, and an every-day dress for classes. That wouldn’t be an awfully big wardrobe for Julia Rutledge Pendleton, perhaps, but for Jerusha Abbott–Oh, my!
I suppose you’re thinking now what a frivolous, shallow little beast she is, and what a waste of money to educate a girl?
But, Daddy, if you’d been dressed in checked ginghams all your life, you’d appreciate how I feel. And when I started to the high school, I entered upon another period even worse than the checked ginghams.
The poor box.
You can’t know how I dreaded appearing in school in those miserable poor-box dresses. I was perfectly sure to be put down in class next to the girl who first owned my dress, and she would whisper and giggle and point it out to the others. The bitterness of wearing your enemies’ cast-off clothes eats into your soul. If I wore silk stockings for the rest of my life, I don’t believe I could obliterate the scar.
LATEST WAR BULLETIN!
News from the Scene of Action.
At the fourth watch on Thursday the 13th of November, Hannibal routed the advance guard of the Romans and led the Carthaginian forces over the mountains into the plains of Casilinum. A cohort of light armed Numidians engaged the infantry of Quintus Fabius Maximus. Two battles and light skirmishing. Romans repulsed with heavy losses. I have the honour of being, Your special correspondent from the front, J. Abbott
PS. I know I’m not to expect any letters in return, and I’ve been warned not to bother you with questions, but tell me, Daddy, just this once–are you awfully old or just a little old? And are you perfectly bald or just a little bald? It is very difficult thinking about you in the abstract like a theorem in geometry.
Given a tall rich man who hates girls, but is very generous to one quite impertinent girl, what does he look like?
You never answered my question and it was very important.
ARE YOU BALD?
I have it planned exactly what you look like–very satisfactorily– until I reach the top of your head, and then I AM stuck. I can’t decide whether you have white hair or black hair or sort of sprinkly grey hair or maybe none at all.
Here is your portrait:
But the problem is, shall I add some hair?
Would you like to know what colour your eyes are? They’re grey, and your eyebrows stick out like a porch roof (beetling, they’re called in novels), and your mouth is a straight line with a tendency to turn down at the corners. Oh, you see, I know! You’re a snappy old thing with a temper.
I have a new unbreakable rule: never, never to study at night no matter how many written reviews are coming in the morning. Instead, I read just plain books–I have to, you know, because there are eighteen blank years behind me. You wouldn’t believe, Daddy, what an abyss of ignorance my mind is; I am just realizing the depths myself. The things that most girls with a properly assorted family and a home and friends and a library know by absorption, I have never heard of. For example:
I never read Mother Goose or David Copperfield or Ivanhoe or Cinderella or Blue Beard or Robinson Crusoe or Jane Eyre or Alice in Wonderland or a word of Rudyard Kipling. I didn’t know that Henry the Eighth was married more than once or that Shelley was a poet. I didn’t know that people used to be monkeys and that the Garden of Eden was a beautiful myth. I didn’t know that R. L. S. stood for Robert Louis Stevenson or that George Eliot was a lady. I had never seen a picture of the `Mona Lisa’ and (it’s true but you won’t believe it) I had never heard of Sherlock Holmes.
Now, I know all of these things and a lot of others besides, but you can see how much I need to catch up. And oh, but it’s fun! I look forward all day to evening, and then I put an `engaged’ on the door and get into my nice red bath robe and furry slippers and pile all the cushions behind me on the couch, and light the brass student lamp at my elbow, and read and read and read one book isn’t enough. I have four going at once. Just now, they’re Tennyson’s poems and Vanity Fair and Kipling’s Plain Tales and–don’t laugh–Little Women. I find that I am the only girl in college who wasn’t brought up on Little Women. I haven’t told anybody though (that WOULD stamp me as queer). I just quietly went and bought it with $1.12 of my last month’s allowance; and the next time somebody mentions pickled limes, I’ll know what she is talking about!
(Ten o’clock bell. This is a very interrupted letter.)
I have the honour to report fresh explorations in the field of geometry. On Friday last we abandoned our former works in parallelopipeds and proceeded to truncated prisms. We are finding the road rough and very uphill.
The Christmas holidays begin next week and the trunks are up. The corridors are so filled up that you can hardly get through, and everybody is so bubbling over with excitement that studying is getting left out. I’m going to have a beautiful time in vacation; there’s another Freshman who lives in Texas staying behind, and we are planning to take long walks and if there’s any ice– learn to skate. Then there is still the whole library to be read– and three empty weeks to do it in!
Goodbye, Daddy, I hope that you are feeling as happy as am. Yours ever,
PS. Don’t forget to answer my question. If you don’t want the trouble of writing, have your secretary telegraph. He can
Mr. Smith is quite bald,
Mr. Smith is not bald,
Mr. Smith has white hair.
And you can deduct the twenty-five cents out of my allowance.
Goodbye till January–and a merry Christmas!
Towards the end of the Christmas vacation. Exact date unknown
Is it snowing where you are? All the world that I see from my tower is draped in white and the flakes are coming down as big as pop-corns. It’s late afternoon–the sun is just setting (a cold yellow colour) behind some colder violet hills, and I am up in my window seat using the last light to write to you.
Your five gold pieces were a surprise! I’m not used to receiving Christmas presents. You have already given me such lots of things– everything I have, you know–that I don’t quite feel that I deserve extras. But I like them just the same. Do you want to know what I bought with my money?
I. A silver watch in a leather case to wear on my wrist and get me to recitations in time.
II. Matthew Arnold’s poems.
III. A hot water bottle.
IV. A steamer rug. (My tower is cold.)
V. Five hundred sheets of yellow manuscript paper. (I’m going to commence being an author pretty soon.)
VI. A dictionary of synonyms. (To enlarge the author’s vocabulary.)
VII. (I don’t much like to confess this last item, but I will.) A pair of silk stockings.
And now, Daddy, never say I don’t tell all!
It was a very low motive, if you must know it, that prompted the silk stockings. Julia Pendleton comes into my room to do geometry, and she sits cross-legged on the couch and wears silk stockings every night. But just wait–as soon as she gets back from vacation I shall go in and sit on her couch in my silk stockings. You see, Daddy, the miserable creature that I am but at least I’m honest; and you knew already, from my asylum record, that I wasn’t perfect, didn’t you?
To recapitulate (that’s the way the English instructor begins every other sentence), I am very much obliged for my seven presents. I’m pretending to myself that they came in a box from my family in California. The watch is from father, the rug from mother, the hot water bottle from grandmother who is always worrying for fear I shall catch cold in this climate–and the yellow paper from my little brother Harry. My sister Isabel gave me the silk stockings, and Aunt Susan the Matthew Arnold poems; Uncle Harry (little Harry is named after him) gave me the dictionary. He wanted to send chocolates, but I insisted on synonyms.
You don’t object, do you, to playing the part of a composite family?
And now, shall I tell you about my vacation, or are you only interested in my education as such? I hope you appreciate the delicate shade of meaning in `as such’. It is the latest addition to my vocabulary.
The girl from Texas is named Leonora Fenton. (Almost as funny as Jerusha, isn’t it?) I like her, but not so much as Sallie McBride; I shall never like any one so much as Sallie–except you. I must always like you the best of all, because you’re my whole family rolled into one. Leonora and I and two Sophomores have walked ‘cross country every pleasant day and explored the whole neighbourhood, dressed in short skirts and knit jackets and caps, and carrying shiny sticks to whack things with. Once we walked into town–four miles– and stopped at a restaurant where the college girls go for dinner. Broiled lobster (35 cents), and for dessert, buckwheat cakes and maple syrup (15 cents). Nourishing and cheap.
It was such a lark! Especially for me, because it was so awfully different from the asylum–I feel like an escaped convict every time I leave the campus. Before I thought, I started to tell the others what an experience I was having. The cat was almost out of the bag when I grabbed it by its tail and pulled it back. It’s awfully hard for me not to tell everything I know. I’m a very confiding soul by nature; if I didn’t have you to tell things to, I’d burst.
We had a molasses candy pull last Friday evening, given by the house matron of Fergussen to the left-behinds in the other halls. There were twenty-two of us altogether, Freshmen and Sophomores and juniors and Seniors all united in amicable accord. The kitchen is huge, with copper pots and kettles hanging in rows on the stone wall– the littlest casserole among them about the size of a wash boiler. Four hundred girls live in Fergussen. The chef, in a white cap and apron, fetched out twenty-two other white caps and aprons– I can’t imagine where he got so many–and we all turned ourselves into cooks.
It was great fun, though I have seen better candy. When it was finally finished, and ourselves and the kitchen and the door-knobs all thoroughly sticky, we organized a procession and still in our caps and aprons, each carrying a big fork or spoon or frying pan, we marched through the empty corridors to the officers’ parlour, where half-a-dozen professors and instructors were passing a tranquil evening. We serenaded them with college songs and offered refreshments. They accepted politely but dubiously. We left them sucking chunks of molasses candy, sticky and speechless.
So you see, Daddy, my education progresses!
Don’t you really think that I ought to be an artist instead of an author?
Vacation will be over in two days and I shall be glad to see the girls again. My tower is just a trifle lonely; when nine people occupy a house that was built for four hundred, they do rattle around a bit.
Eleven pages–poor Daddy, you must be tired! I meant this to be just a short little thank-you note–but when I get started I seem to have a ready pen.
Goodbye, and thank you for thinking of me–I should be perfectly happy except for one little threatening cloud on the horizon. Examinations come in February.
Yours with love,
PS. Maybe it isn’t proper to send love? If it isn’t, please excuse. But I must love somebody and there’s only you and Mrs. Lippett to choose between, so you see–you’ll HAVE to put up with it, Daddy dear, because I can’t love her.
On the Eve
You should see the way this college is studying! We’ve forgotten we ever had a vacation. Fifty-seven irregular verbs have I introduced to my brain in the past four days–I’m only hoping they’ll stay till after examinations.
Some of the girls sell their text-books when they’re through with them, but I intend to keep mine. Then after I’ve graduated I shall have my whole education in a row in the bookcase, and when I need to use any detail, I can turn to it without the slightest hesitation. So much easier and more accurate than trying to keep it in your head.
Julia Pendleton dropped in this evening to pay a social call, and stayed a solid hour. She got started on the subject of family, and I COULDN’T switch her off. She wanted to know what my mother’s maiden name was–did you ever hear such an impertinent question to ask of a person from a foundling asylum? I didn’t have the courage to say I didn’t know, so I just miserably plumped on the first name I could think of, and that was Montgomery. Then she wanted to know whether I belonged to the Massachusetts Montgomerys or the Virginia Montgomerys.
Her mother was a Rutherford. The family came over in the ark, and were connected by marriage with Henry the VIII. On her father’s side they date back further than Adam. On the topmost branches of her family tree there’s a superior breed of monkeys with very fine silky hair and extra long tails.
I meant to write you a nice, cheerful, entertaining letter tonight, but I’m too sleepy–and scared. The Freshman’s lot is not a happy one. Yours, about to be examined,
I have some awful, awful, awful news to tell you, but I won’t begin with it; I’ll try to get you in a good humour first.
Jerusha Abbott has commenced to be an author. A poem entitled, `From my Tower’, appears in the February Monthly–on the first page, which is a very great honour for a Freshman. My English instructor stopped me on the way out from chapel last night, and said it was a charming piece of work except for the sixth line, which had too many feet. I will send you a copy in case you care to read it.
Let me see if I can’t think of something else pleasant– Oh, yes! I’m learning to skate, and can glide about quite respectably all by myself. Also I’ve learned how to slide down a rope from the roof of the gymnasium, and I can vault a bar three feet and six inches high–I hope shortly to pull up to four feet.
We had a very inspiring sermon this morning preached by the Bishop of Alabama. His text was: `Judge not that ye be not judged.’ It was about the necessity of overlooking mistakes in others, and not discouraging people by harsh judgments. I wish you might have heard it.
This is the sunniest, most blinding winter afternoon, with icicles dripping from the fir trees and all the world bending under a weight of snow–except me, and I’m bending under a weight of sorrow.
Now for the news–courage, Judy!–you must tell.
Are you SURELY in a good humour? I failed in mathematics and Latin prose. I am tutoring in them, and will take another examination next month. I’m sorry if you’re disappointed, but otherwise I don’t care a bit because I’ve learned such a lot of things not mentioned in the catalogue. I’ve read seventeen novels and bushels of poetry– really necessary novels like Vanity Fair and Richard Feverel and Alice in Wonderland. Also Emerson’s Essays and Lockhart’s Life of Scott and the first volume of Gibbon’s Roman Empire and half of Benvenuto Cellini’s Life–wasn’t he entertaining? He used to saunter out and casually kill a man before breakfast.
So you see, Daddy, I’m much more intelligent than if I’d just stuck to Latin. Will you forgive me this once if I promise never to fail again? Yours in sackcloth,
This is an extra letter in the middle of the month because I’m rather lonely tonight. It’s awfully stormy. All the lights are out on the campus, but I drank black coffee and I can’t go to sleep.
I had a supper party this evening consisting of Sallie and Julia and Leonora Fenton–and sardines and toasted muffins and salad and fudge and coffee. Julia said she’d had a good time, but Sallie stayed to help wash the dishes.
I might, very usefully, put some time on Latin tonight but, there’s no doubt about it, I’m a very languid Latin scholar. We’ve finished Livy and De Senectute and are now engaged with De Amicitia (pronounced Damn Icitia).
Should you mind, just for a little while, pretending you are my grandmother? Sallie has one and Julia and Leonora each two, and they were all comparing them tonight. I can’t think of anything I’d rather have; it’s such a respectable relationship. So, if you really don’t object–When I went into town yesterday, I saw the sweetest cap of Cluny lace trimmed with lavender ribbon. I am going to make you a present of it on your eighty-third birthday.
! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
That’s the clock in the chapel tower striking twelve. I believe I am sleepy after all.
Good night, Granny.
I love you dearly.
The Ides of March
I am studying Latin prose composition. I have been studying it. I shall be studying it. I shall be about to have been studying it. My re-examination comes the 7th hour next Tuesday, and I am going to pass or BUST. So you may expect to hear from me next, whole and happy and free from conditions, or in fragments.
I will write a respectable letter when it’s over. Tonight I have a pressing engagement with the Ablative Absolute. Yours–in evident haste
Mr. D.-L.-L. Smith,
SIR: You never answer any questions; you never show the slightest interest in anything I do. You are probably the horridest one of all those horrid Trustees, and the reason you are educating me is, not because you care a bit about me, but from a sense of Duty.
I don’t know a single thing about you. I don’t even know your name. It is very uninspiring writing to a Thing. I haven’t a doubt but that you throw my letters into the waste-basket without reading them. Hereafter I shall write only about work.
My re-examinations in Latin and geometry came last week. I passed them both and am now free from conditions. Yours truly,
I am a BEAST.
Please forget about that dreadful letter I sent you last week– I was feeling terribly lonely and miserable and sore-throaty the night I wrote. I didn’t know it, but I was just sickening for tonsillitis and grippe and lots of things mixed. I’m in the infirmary now, and have been here for six days; this is the first time they would let me sit up and have a pen and paper. The head nurse is very bossy. But I’ve been thinking about it all the time and I shan’t get well until you forgive me.
Here is a picture of the way I look, with a bandage tied around my head in rabbit’s ears.
Doesn’t that arouse your sympathy? I am having sublingual gland swelling. And I’ve been studying physiology all the year without ever hearing of sublingual glands. How futile a thing is education!
I can’t write any more; I get rather shaky when I sit up too long. Please forgive me for being impertinent and ungrateful. I was badly brought up.
Yours with love,
4th April Dearest Daddy-Long-Legs,
Yesterday evening just towards dark, when I was sitting up in bed looking out at the rain and feeling awfully bored with life in a great institution, the nurse appeared with a long white box addressed to me, and filled with the LOVELIEST pink rosebuds. And much nicer still, it contained a card with a very polite message written in a funny little uphill back hand (but one which shows a great deal of character). Thank you, Daddy, a thousand times. Your flowers make the first real, true present I ever received in my life. If you want to know what a baby I am I lay down and cried because I was so happy.
Now that I am sure you read my letters, I’ll make them much more interesting, so they’ll be worth keeping in a safe with red tape around them–only please take out that dreadful one and burn it up. I’d hate to think that you ever read it over.
Thank you for making a very sick, cross, miserable Freshman cheerful. Probably you have lots of loving family and friends, and you don’t know what it feels like to be alone. But I do.
Goodbye–I’ll promise never to be horrid again, because now I know you’re a real person; also I’ll promise never to bother you with any more questions.
Do you still hate girls?
Yours for ever,
8th hour, Monday
I hope you aren’t the Trustee who sat on the toad? It went off– I was told–with quite a pop, so probably he was a fatter Trustee.
Do you remember the little dugout places with gratings over them by the laundry windows in the John Grier Home? Every spring when the hoptoad season opened we used to form a collection of toads and keep them in those window holes; and occasionally they would spill over into the laundry, causing a very pleasurable commotion on wash days. We were severely punished for our activities in this direction, but in spite of all discouragement the toads would collect.
And one day–well, I won’t bore you with particulars–but somehow, one of the fattest, biggest, JUCIEST toads got into one of those big leather arm chairs in the Trustees’ room, and that afternoon at the Trustees’ meeting–But I dare say you were there and recall the rest?
Looking back dispassionately after a period of time, I will say that punishment was merited, and–if I remember rightly–adequate.
I don’t know why I am in such a reminiscent mood except that spring and the reappearance of toads always awakens the old acquisitive instinct. The only thing that keeps me from starting a collection is the fact that no rule exists against it.
After chapel, Thursday
What do you think is my favourite book? Just now, I mean; I change every three days. Wuthering Heights. Emily Bronte was quite young when she wrote it, and had never been outside of Haworth churchyard. She had never known any men in her life; how COULD she imagine a man like Heathcliffe?
I couldn’t do it, and I’m quite young and never outside the John Grier Asylum–I’ve had every chance in the world. Sometimes a dreadful fear comes over me that I’m not a genius. Will you be awfully disappointed, Daddy, if I don’t turn out to be a great author? In the spring when everything is so beautiful and green and budding, I feel like turning my back on lessons, and running away to play with the weather. There are such lots of adventures out in the fields! It’s much more entertaining to live books than to write them.
Ow ! ! ! ! ! !
That was a shriek which brought Sallie and Julia and (for a disgusted moment) the Senior from across the hall. It was caused by a centipede like this: only worse. Just as I had finished the last sentence and was thinking what to say next–plump!–it fell off the ceiling and landed at my side. I tipped two cups off the tea table in trying to get away. Sallie whacked it with the back of my hair brush–which I shall never be able to use again–and killed the front end, but the rear fifty feet ran under the bureau and escaped.
This dormitory, owing to its age and ivy-covered walls, is full of centipedes. They are dreadful creatures. I’d rather find a tiger under the bed.
Friday, 9.30 p.m.
Such a lot of troubles! I didn’t hear the rising bell this morning, then I broke my shoestring while I was hurrying to dress and dropped my collar button down my neck. I was late for breakfast and also for first-hour recitation. I forgot to take any blotting paper and my fountain pen leaked. In trigonometry the Professor and I had a disagreement touching a little matter of logarithms. On looking it up, I find that she was right. We had mutton stew and pie-plant for lunch–hate ’em both; they taste like the asylum. The post brought me nothing but bills (though I must say that I never do get anything else; my family are not the kind that write). In English class this afternoon we had an unexpected written lesson. This was it:
I asked no other thing,
No other was denied.
I offered Being for it;
The mighty merchant smiled.
Brazil? He twirled a button
Without a glance my way:
But, madam, is there nothing else That we can show today?
That is a poem. I don’t know who wrote it or what it means. It was simply printed out on the blackboard when we arrived and we were ordered to comment upon it. When I read the first verse I thought I had an idea–The Mighty Merchant was a divinity who distributes blessings in return for virtuous deeds– but when I got to the second verse and found him twirling a button, it seemed a blasphemous supposition, and I hastily changed my mind. The rest of the class was in the same predicament; and there we sat for three-quarters of an hour with blank paper and equally blank minds. Getting an education is an awfully wearing process!
But this didn’t end the day. There’s worse to come.
It rained so we couldn’t play golf, but had to go to gymnasium instead. The girl next to me banged my elbow with an Indian club. I got home to find that the box with my new blue spring dress had come, and the skirt was so tight that I couldn’t sit down. Friday is sweeping day, and the maid had mixed all the papers on my desk. We had tombstone for dessert (milk and gelatin flavoured with vanilla). We were kept in chapel twenty minutes later than usual to listen to a speech about womanly women. And then–just as I was settling down with a sigh of well-earned relief to The Portrait of a Lady, a girl named Ackerly, a dough-faced, deadly, unintermittently stupid girl, who sits next to me in Latin because her name begins with A (I wish Mrs. Lippett had named me Zabriski), came to ask if Monday’s lesson commenced at paragraph 69 or 70, and stayed ONE HOUR. She has just gone.
Did you ever hear of such a discouraging series of events? It isn’t the big troubles in life that require character. Anybody can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh–I really think that requires SPIRIT.
It’s the kind of character that I am going to develop. I am going to pretend that all life is just a game which I must play as skilfully and fairly as I can. If I lose, I am going to shrug my shoulders and laugh–also if I win.
Anyway, I am going to be a sport. You will never hear me complain again, Daddy dear, because Julia wears silk stockings and centipedes drop off the wall.
DEAR SIR: I am in receipt of a letter from Mrs. Lippett. She hopes that I am doing well in deportment and studies. Since I probably have no place to go this summer, she will let me come back to the asylum and work for my board until college opens.
I HATE THE JOHN GRIER HOME.
I’d rather die than go back.
Yours most truthfully,
Vous etes un brick!
Je suis tres heureuse about the farm, parceque je n’ai jamais been on a farm dans ma vie and I’d hate to retoumer chez John Grier, et wash dishes tout l’ete. There would be danger of quelque chose affreuse happening, parceque j’ai perdue ma humilite d’autre fois et j’ai peur that I would just break out quelque jour et smash every cup and saucer dans la maison.
Pardon brievete et paper. Je ne peux pas send des mes nouvelles parceque je suis dans French class et j’ai peur que Monsieur le Professeur is going to call on me tout de suite.
je vous aime beaucoup. Judy
Did you ever see this campus? (That is merely a rhetorical question. Don’t let it annoy you.) It is a heavenly spot in May. All the shrubs are in blossom and the trees are the loveliest young green– even the old pines look fresh and new. The grass is dotted with yellow dandelions and hundreds of girls in blue and white and pink dresses. Everybody is joyous and carefree, for vacation’s coming, and with that to look forward to, examinations don’t count.
Isn’t that a happy frame of mind to be in? And oh, Daddy! I’m the happiest of all! Because I’m not in the asylum any more; and I’m not anybody’s nursemaid or typewriter or bookkeeper (I should have been, you know, except for you).
I’m sorry now for all my past badnesses.
I’m sorry I was ever impertinent to Mrs. Lippett.
I’m sorry I ever slapped Freddie Perkins.
I’m sorry I ever filled the sugar bowl with salt.
I’m sorry I ever made faces behind the Trustees’ backs.
I’m going to be good and sweet and kind to everybody because I’m so happy. And this summer I’m going to write and write and write and begin to be a great author. Isn’t that an exalted stand to take? Oh, I’m developing a beautiful character! It droops a bit under cold and frost, but it does grow fast when the sun shines.
That’s the way with everybody. I don’t agree with the theory that adversity and sorrow and disappointment develop moral strength. The happy people are the ones who are bubbling over with kindliness. I have no faith in misanthropes. (Fine word! Just learned it.) You are not a misanthrope are you, Daddy?
I started to tell you about the campus. I wish you’d come for a little visit and let me walk you about and say:
`That is the library. This is the gas plant, Daddy dear. The Gothic building on your left is the gymnasium, and the Tudor Romanesque beside it is the new infirmary.’
Oh, I’m fine at showing people about. I’ve done it all my life at the asylum, and I’ve been doing it all day here. I have honestly.
And a Man, too!
That’s a great experience. I never talked to a man before (except occasional Trustees, and they don’t count). Pardon, Daddy, I don’t mean to hurt your feelings when I abuse Trustees. I don’t consider that you really belong among them. You just tumbled on to the Board by chance. The Trustee, as such, is fat and pompous and benevolent. He pats one on the head and wears a gold watch chain.
That looks like a June bug, but is meant to be a portrait of any Trustee except you.
I have been walking and talking and having tea with a man. And with a very superior man–with Mr. Jervis Pendleton of the House of Julia; her uncle, in short (in long, perhaps I ought to say; he’s as tall as you.) Being in town on business, he decided to run out to the college and call on his niece. He’s her father’s youngest brother, but she doesn’t know him very intimately. It seems he glanced at her when she was a baby, decided he didn’t like her, and has never noticed her since.
Anyway, there he was, sitting in the reception room very proper with his hat and stick and gloves beside him; and Julia and Sallie with seventh-hour recitations that they couldn’t cut. So Julia dashed into my room and begged me to walk him about the campus and then deliver him to her when the seventh hour was over. I said I would, obligingly but unenthusiastically, because I don’t care much for Pendletons.
But he turned out to be a sweet lamb. He’s a real human being– not a Pendleton at all. We had a beautiful time; I’ve longed for an uncle ever since. Do you mind pretending you’re my uncle? I believe they’re superior to grandmothers.
Mr. Pendleton reminded me a little of you, Daddy, as you were twenty years ago. You see I know you intimately, even if we haven’t ever met!
He’s tall and thinnish with a dark face all over lines, and the funniest underneath smile that never quite comes through but just wrinkles up the corners of his mouth. And he has a way of making you feel right off as though you’d known him a long time. He’s very companionable.
We walked all over the campus from the quadrangle to the athletic grounds; then he said he felt weak and must have some tea. He proposed that we go to College Inn–it’s just off the campus by the pine walk. I said we ought to go back for Julia and Sallie, but he said he didn’t like to have his nieces drink too much tea; it made them nervous. So we just ran away and had tea and muffins and marmalade and ice-cream and cake at a nice little table out on the balcony. The inn was quite conveniently empty, this being the end of the month and allowances low.
We had the jolliest time! But he had to run for his train the minute he got back and he barely saw Julia at all. She was furious with me for taking him off; it seems he’s an unusually rich and desirable uncle. It relieved my mind to find he was rich, for the tea and things cost sixty cents apiece.
This morning (it’s Monday now) three boxes of chocolates came by express for Julia and Sallie and me. What do you think of that? To be getting candy from a man!
I begin to feel like a girl instead of a foundling.
I wish you’d come and have tea some day and let me see if I like you. But wouldn’t it be dreadful if I didn’t? However, I know I should.
Bien! I make you my compliments.
`Jamais je ne t’oublierai.’ Judy
PS. I looked in the glass this morning and found a perfectly new dimple that I’d never seen before. It’s very curious. Where do you suppose it came from?
Happy day! I’ve just finished my last examination Physiology. And now:
Three months on a farm!
I don’t know what kind of a thing a farm is. I’ve never been on one in my life. I’ve never even looked at one (except from the car window), but I know I’m going to love it, and I’m going to love being FREE.
I am not used even yet to being outside the John Grier Home. Whenever I think of it excited little thrills chase up and down my back. I feel as though I must run faster and faster and keep looking over my shoulder to make sure that Mrs. Lippett isn’t after me with her arm stretched out to grab me back.
I don’t have to mind any one this summer, do I?
Your nominal authority doesn’t annoy me in the least; you are too far away to do any harm. Mrs. Lippett is dead for ever, so far as I am concerned, and the Semples aren’t expected to overlook my moral welfare, are they? No, I am sure not. I am entirely grown up. Hooray!
I leave you now to pack a trunk, and three boxes of teakettles and dishes and sofa cushions and books.
PS. Here is my physiology exam. Do you think you could have passed?
LOCK WILLOW FARM,
Saturday night Dearest Daddy-Long-Legs,
I’ve only just come and I’m not unpacked, but I can’t wait to tell you how much I like farms. This is a heavenly, heavenly, HEAVENLY spot! The house is square like this: And OLD. A hundred years or so. It has a veranda on the side which I can’t draw and a sweet porch in front. The picture really doesn’t do it justice–those things that look like feather dusters are maple trees, and the prickly ones that border the drive are murmuring pines and hemlocks. It stands on the top of a hill and looks way off over miles of green meadows to another line of hills.
That is the way Connecticut goes, in a series of Marcelle waves; and Lock Willow Farm is just on the crest of one wave. The barns used to be across the road where they obstructed the view, but a kind flash of lightning came from heaven and burnt them down.
The people are Mr. and Mrs. Semple and a hired girl and two hired men. The hired people eat in the kitchen, and the Semples and Judy in the dining-room. We had ham and eggs and biscuits and honey and jelly-cake and pie and pickles and cheese and tea for supper– and a great deal of conversation. I have never been so entertaining in my life; everything I say appears to be funny. I suppose it is, because I’ve never been in the country before, and my questions are backed by an all-inclusive ignorance.
The room marked with a cross is not where the murder was committed, but the one that I occupy. It’s big and square and empty, with adorable old-fashioned furniture and windows that have to be propped up on sticks and green shades trimmed with gold that fall down if you touch them. And a big square mahogany table– I’m going to spend the summer with my elbows spread out on it, writing a novel.
Oh, Daddy, I’m so excited! I can’t wait till daylight to explore. It’s 8.30 now, and I am about to blow out my candle and try to go to sleep. We rise at five. Did you ever know such fun? I can’t believe this is really Judy. You and the Good Lord give me more than I deserve. I must be a very, very, VERY good person to pay. I’m going to be. You’ll see.
PS. You should hear the frogs sing and the little pigs squeal and you should see the new moon! I saw it over my right shoulder.
12th July Dear Daddy-Long-Legs,
How did your secretary come to know about Lock Willow? (That isn’t a rhetorical question. I am awfully curious to know.) For listen to this: Mr. Jervis Pendleton used to own this farm, but now he has given it to Mrs. Semple who was his old nurse. Did you ever hear of such a funny coincidence? She still calls him `Master Jervie’ and talks about what a sweet little boy he used to be. She has one of his baby curls put away in a box, and it is red– or at least reddish!
Since she discovered that I know him, I have risen very much in her opinion. Knowing a member of the Pendleton family is the best introduction one can have at Lock Willow. And the cream of the whole family is Master Jervis– I am pleased to say that Julia belongs to an inferior branch.
The farm gets more and more entertaining. I rode on a hay wagon yesterday. We have three big pigs and nine little piglets, and you should see them eat. They are pigs! We’ve oceans of little baby chickens and ducks and turkeys and guinea fowls. You must be mad to live in a city when you might live on a farm.
It is my daily business to hunt the eggs. I fell off a beam in the barn loft yesterday, while I was trying to crawl over to a nest that the black hen has stolen. And when I came in with a scratched knee, Mrs. Semple bound it up with witch-hazel, murmuring all the time, `Dear! Dear! It seems only yesterday that Master Jervie fell off that very same beam and scratched this very same knee.’
The scenery around here is perfectly beautiful. There’s a valley and a river and a lot of wooded hills, and way in the distance a tall blue mountain that simply melts in your mouth.
We churn twice a week; and we keep the cream in the spring house which is made of stone with the brook running underneath. Some of the farmers around here have a separator, but we don’t care for these new-fashioned ideas. It may be a little harder to separate the cream in pans, but it’s sufficiently better to pay. We have six calves; and I’ve chosen the names for all of them.
1. Sylvia, because she was born in the woods.
2. Lesbia, after the Lesbia in Catullus.
4. Julia–a spotted, nondescript animal.
5. Judy, after me.
6. Daddy-Long-Legs. You don’t mind, do you, Daddy? He’s pure Jersey and has a sweet disposition. He looks like this–you can see how appropriate the name is.
I haven’t had time yet to begin my immortal novel; the farm keeps me too busy.
PS. I’ve learned to make doughnuts.
PS. (2) If you are thinking of raising chickens, let me recommend Buff Orpingtons. They haven’t any pin feathers.
PS. (3) I wish I could send you a pat of the nice, fresh butter I churned yesterday. I’m a fine dairy-maid!
PS. (4) This is a picture of Miss Jerusha Abbott, the future great author, driving home the cows.
Isn’t it funny? I started to write to you yesterday afternoon, but as far as I got was the heading, `Dear Daddy-Long-Legs’, and then I remembered I’d promised to pick some blackberries for supper, so I went off and left the sheet lying on the table, and when I came back today, what do you think I found sitting in the middle of the page? A real true Daddy-Long-Legs!
I picked him up very gently by one leg, and dropped him out of the window. I wouldn’t hurt one of them for the world. They always remind me of you.
We hitched up the spring wagon this morning and drove to the Centre to church. It’s a sweet little white frame church with a spire and three Doric columns in front (or maybe Ionic–I always get them mixed).
A nice sleepy sermon with everybody drowsily waving palm-leaf fans, and the only sound, aside from the minister, the buzzing of locusts in the trees outside. I didn’t wake up till I found myself on my feet singing the hymn, and then I was awfully sorry I hadn’t listened to the sermon; I should like to know more of the psychology of a man who would pick out such a hymn. This was it:
Come, leave your sports and earthly toys And join me in celestial joys.
Or else, dear friend, a long farewell. I leave you now to sink to hell.
I find that it isn’t safe to discuss religion with the Semples. Their God (whom they have inherited intact from their remote Puritan ancestors) is a narrow, irrational, unjust, mean, revengeful, bigoted Person. Thank heaven I don’t inherit God from anybody! I am free to make mine up as I wish Him. He’s kind and sympathetic and imaginative and forgiving and understanding–and He has a sense of humour.
I like the Semples immensely; their practice is so superior to their theory. They are better than their own God. I told them so– and they are horribly troubled. They think I am blasphemous– and I think they are! We’ve dropped theology from our conversation.
This is Sunday afternoon.
Amasai (hired man) in a purple tie and some bright yellow buckskin gloves, very red and shaved, has just driven off with Carrie (hired girl) in a big hat trimmed with red roses and a blue muslin dress and her hair curled as tight as it will curl. Amasai spent all the morning washing the buggy; and Carrie stayed home from church ostensibly to cook the dinner, but really to iron the muslin dress.
In two minutes more when this letter is finished I am going to settle down to a book which I found in the attic. It’s entitled, On the Trail, and sprawled across the front page in a funny little-boy hand:
if this book should ever roam, Box its ears and send it home.
He spent the summer here once after he had been ill, when he was about eleven years old; and he left On the Trail behind. It looks well read–the marks of his grimy little hands are frequent! Also in a corner of the attic there is a water wheel and a windmill and some bows and arrows. Mrs. Semple talks so constantly about him that I begin to believe he really lives–not a grown man with a silk hat and walking stick, but a nice, dirty, tousle-headed boy who clatters up the stairs with an awful racket, and leaves the screen doors open, and is always asking for cookies. (And getting them, too, if I know Mrs. Semple!) He seems to have been an adventurous little soul– and brave and truthful. I’m sorry to think he is a Pendleton; he was meant for something better.
We’re going to begin threshing oats tomorrow; a steam engine is coming and three extra men.
It grieves me to tell you that Buttercup (the spotted cow with one horn, Mother of Lesbia) has done a disgraceful thing. She got into the orchard Friday evening and ate apples under the trees, and ate and ate until they went to her head. For two days she has been perfectly dead drunk! That is the truth I am telling. Did you ever hear anything so scandalous? Sir,
Your affectionate orphan, Judy Abbott
PS. Indians in the first chapter and highwaymen in the second. I hold my breath. What can the third contain? `Red Hawk leapt twenty feet in the air and bit the dust.’ That is the subject of the frontispiece. Aren’t Judy and Jervie having fun?
15th September Dear Daddy,
I was weighed yesterday on the flour scales in the general store at the Comers. I’ve gained nine pounds! Let me recommend Lock Willow as a health resort.
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,
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,
12th November Dear Daddy-Long-Legs,
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,
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.
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,
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,
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.