620 West 122nd Street New York City November 2, 1930
I heard from your own particular Mate just before your letter arrived, in which he remarked that he had been handing you a “raw deal”–that was how he expressed it. But if, as you say, he is to be happier and healthier because of the change, I don’t call it a “raw deal” at all. That’s just what you would want, isn’t it? I mean, let me quickly say, Under the Circumstances. Of course it is not, NOT as it should be to have a part of oneself drifting about on the other side of the continent from one, is it? But I should think that Washington would be immeasurably more pleasant to live in then Detroitmich, as we write it in shorthand. And Air Mail across is remarkably rapid, though, of course, not rapid enough.
Don’t allow your feelings to be too much mixed about my job. You see, I really am having quite a good time. Don’t imagine that it’s a desperate struggle, or anything of that sort. Taking letters in shorthand is still quite a glamorous proceeding to me; though the last few days I have been addressing fifteen hundred envelopes–invitations to the very formal banquet of the Annual Fall Conference!… Read more
A thousand thanks for your Christmas gift, which was a very happy thought indeed, and which I shall read with the greatest of pleasure–and wistfulness, too, I guess. I can’t forget the torment of Wuthering Heights. It’s a haunting thing to me.
I don’t think it was so very terrible of you to open It before Christmas. It was quite my fault. Then, too, as you know, I am somewhat of an atheist; and to tell the truth quite despise the mercenary thing Christmas has become! The real thing goes far deeper than that.
We enjoyed all your gifts ever so much, including every scrap of gilt ribbon, even! The “edibles” were quite ambrosian (speaking of ambrosia!) The soap-Santa-Claus made such a hit that it hasn’t been used yet! It’s one of those sad problems: “You cannot eat your cake and have it too.”
We had a three-foot Christmas tree and a lot of fun buying things for Sabra, mostly from Mr. Woolworth. That’s about all.
Well, to tell the truth, the graham crackers which you so subtly allude to, Matey Mine, are somewhat more chocolate-covered than before–not to say “gilt-edged,” which doesn’t seem to fit the metaphor so well!… Read more
In September 1924, ten-year-old Barbara climbed Mt. Chocorua with her father. It was (I think) her first White Mountain peak. Eighty-eight years later (who knows—perhaps to the day?) I climbed the same mountain and shot this video, which will be pretty much the same as Barbara’s view from the top.
Here’s an excerpt from a letter she wrote to her friend Mr. St. John on October 5, describing her trip.
The next morning we had breakfast, fairly late, and broke camp, together with something additional—packing our packs for the spend-the-night. Three blankets were all we could conveniently carry for bed-clothes, only Daddy planned to keep a noble fire going all night. Then off we drove for Clement Inn, at the foot of Chocorua. When we got there, we left the car, put on our packs, and started up the Piper Trail. It was not steep at all at first, indeed it was almost level, but up above Chocorua Brook a slight change began. Still farther there was quite an abrupt change, and the hard climbing began. Then we were I think about half a mile from the cabins. We began to get tired, and our discomforting packs pulled back our shoulders, and tried their best to make our feet fly out from under us.… Read more
620 West 122nd Street New York City February 24, 1931
I hardly dare to write to you at all now! Oh, I admit it, I admit it, my dear, it is simply horridiferous of me to have neglected no. 2001 so very long. I know–I don’t have to be told so, or mercilessly scolded, or kicked, or shaken!
Human nature, I’ve decided, is a very ornery sort of thing, when all’s said and done. In spite of my inward resolution to make no excuses for my long, dastardly silence, I am going to proceed at once to make some! To begin with, Helen has been down and out with the “flu.” She’s been up for some time now, but for several days the place was pandemonium, and there was no doing anything save just dragging along from one hour to the next. Everything seemed as wrong as possible. Even Anderson, the unfailing standby, was summoned up-sound with the owner of the ship, with the result that I didn’t have any word from him for over two weeks, which was uncomfortable. I learned afterwards that the two of them had been cutting down a tree for a new mast for the schooner.… Read more
620 West 122nd Street New York City March 12, 1931
My dear mate:
How glad I am that our last letters crossed in the mail! I had a genuine feeling of shame when I received that little admonishing letter of yours–but think what that feeling would have been had I not been secure in the knowledge that my letter was on its way to you as fast as the faithful little plane could take it. Just think! Only three days from me to you, clear across this old continent–two days if you happen to hit the mail just right! How many months did it take in olden times?
Well, anyway…. Everything is going well here. Helen’s book is, I believe, on the very threshold…. Oh, I know, it’s been on that threshold a very long time! The job holds. Anderson is marvellous. Honestly, I don’t see how I could possibly get along without his twice- and sometimes thrice-weekly communications: all done in the best Andersonian manner, and never less than two pages in length. He is–a rock.
I have had two other bits of mail lately that have been interesting, besides the letter from Mrs. McClelland. One came from my dark suitor in the Tonga Islands.… Read more
I am really almost afraid to write to you at all. I feel quite dastardly, and all that. But I’ve been endeavoring to do sixteen different major things at once, and you know what that is like. Furthermore, the scheme of the universe was just about as full as I could manage, and I had to keep going pretty tight to keep up with it at that. Now there is one extra corner. You can have it!
Your last letter was really a very grand one. Maybe it will help a little for you to know that I answered it twice, or started to, but the answers never got finished! Also I never received the headlines which you enclosed in it. They had a tragedy. You see, I opened the letter as I was on my way from the house to the subway station, and so they blew away! I chased them a little, but there was quite a wind, and they eluded me. Of course, knowing your habits, I should have been prepared.
The best thing that letter contained was your news about B. R., and yet YOU merely appended it in ink, as an after-thought!… Read more
I wonder, wonder, wonder. IS anything wrong with the R’s? I’m rather worried. I’d hate to think so. Or HAVE I done anything wrong—other than not writing for a long, long time?
Sometime I’ll tell you why that long break occurred. It was horrid of me, I know, but I was in a snowdrift and could not get out, and didn’t care much.
Or maybe that last letter of mine went wrong—in which I told you about Helen’s book and Macmillan’s acceptance of it; and also of my projected book, of which three chapters are now in existence. Maybe that letter smashed in an airplane or sumthin.
Anyway, I do want to hear from you — ever so. About how you all are. I suppose B. R. has been west by this time, hasn’t he? Or did something slip up there? I am rather worried. I do hope that everything’s well with you and yours.
My love and Helen’s to Phoebe, et al., and plenty left over for yourself.
Yours, B. F.
P.S. If it is true that that letter didn’t reach you, please don’t say a word about this to anyone.… Read more
Your letter came just in time—I leave tomorrow morning early for the month, and Helen follows in a few days. The address will be: ℅ A. B. Meservey, 24 Occam Ridge, Hanover, New Hampshire.
Oh, I am so sorry that things are going so rottenly for you. There is no justice in Heaven or Earth, it seems. Really, I cried over your letter—as if that would help any! How I wish I could do something! My heart would tell you to pack up and go to B. R. at once. But there’s poor E. So I would compromise. I would go to him as soon as ever her need of you is abated a little. I don’t believe it’s a case of Money, A. D. R. … But then, of course I am probably all wrong. Only you mustn’t say that about not seeing him again. You mustn’t even contemplate such a thing. There is a limit to what the gods can do, you know.
There are three chapters of my book in existence now—pretty fairly good I think. Its title so far has been “Lost Island.” Does that sound intriguing? The few persons whom I have so far confided in have liked it—also have been enthusiastic over the outline of the story.… Read more
The Meserveys brought over your letter yesterday, and I was very glad to have it, even if it was a rather sad sort of letter. Although I still doubt whether the gods are “equal to anything,” I know they are equal to a hell of a lot, and I’ve been worrying about “you-all” a great deal. I’m awfully glad that E. is getting better. Doctors, I think, are generally pessimistic. They are rather interested in their infernal fees, and they are quite pleased when somebody springs a strange new disease or combination of diseases that nobody has ever heard of before.
I do hope Phoebe won’t crash up next. Or you. I don’t see how you manage to avoid it, with all the mental and physical stress you must be under. Of course, if one can keep from losing one’s head, that’s the main thing.
I suppose you are right about B. R., if he really is that way. I hadn’t thought of it in just that light before. Still, I think he’s wrong; but if that’s how he is he can’t help it of course. I wish, for the sake of all the R.’s,… Read more
I was glad to have heard from you at last. Of course, I realized that you couldn’t be writing letters; the only trouble being that I worry about you.
After reading your letter three or four times, I felt pretty sure that you were feeling better about B.R. You didn’t dare to say so in so many words, and I don’t blame you—but still, there it is, isn’t it? I was also awfully glad to realize, by your quotations from his letters, that he still has plenty of his own sense of humor, and that nothing can alter that.
As for you, you don’t have to worry about old ladies’ almshouses, or anything of that sort!
When I turned the page of your letter and read the “further happenings of this horrible summer,” I said to myself: “This is more than the limit. It can’t be true.” And I laughed a little, it seemed so utterly far-fetched, if you know what I mean. Well, what can I say? Ye Gods!
Thanks for the clippings. Yes, I sympathize very much with that poor chap who wanted to be let alone and to have a row-boat.… Read more