Letter to A.D.R., October 13, 1930

Old No. 620
October 13 [1930]

M’dear Mate:

I am taking advantage of this unfathomable holiday (Columbus Day, I think) to write to you. The last few days (extending from last Monday to last Saturday) have been as momentous as any days have been for a long time–in fact, so momentous that I haven’t recovered from their effects yet–not by a long shot. However, lest you die of suspense, let me proceed.

Monday, when I came home from school (this was a week ago exactly) I was informed by Helen that I had been solicited for a job, that she had accepted with alacrity for me (wise woman!) and that I was to go to work Tuesday afternoon, for half-time work indefinitely, along with school, you see. The office is the Personnel Research Federation, and the boss is an old friend (more or less) of the family.

So Tuesday afternoon (that’s enough excitement for one paragraph, don’t you think? that’s why I’m changing!) I wandered into this office with my school-bag in my hand and my only hat in (on, rather) my head. That hat was dug up in the New Haven panic, and is at least eight years old, but it was a twelve-dollar felt hat, and one advantage of them is that they LAST. (I don’t know why I put that in.) As soon as I entered the office I was asked whether I took dictation–and how glad I was to be able to say “yes.”

My job is that of any ordinary stenographer (and I am almost equal to it!), and I am enjoying it hugely, and getting twelve dollars a week for half-time, and promise of a full-time position as soon as I finish school; and I have a desk of my own and a large old Remington Noiseless, and it’s a great life and New York’s a pretty good place. There!

But, my dear, that’s a mere fraction!–a puny, putrid, infinitessimal fraction. Don’t faint away. I know one shouldn’t put so much vital material into one short letter, but that’s the way things happen–they drag on forever and ever and ever, and then pile all on top of each other in a rush. I guess you know what has happened.

By the time last Saturday came (that was day before yesterday) I was very tired indeed, and when I left the office Saturday noon I had a curious pain in the region of the solar plexus, which increased, until I was fairly hobbling down Sixth Avenue. I got home all right, but it was a hard job, and I couldn’t think what was wrong with me. When I came stumbling into the corridor at 620, I felt a little better–the worst of it seemed to be over. Then I came into the dining-room, and on the table was your last letter with the delectable headlines, and the explanation of “hunger’s bloated ghost.” (But what about the hopi bean and the baby lima???)

I read your letter, sitting in the brown rocker beside the front window, and I laughed so hard that it was real torture, for laughing hurt where the pain still lingered, and that seemed to me so comical that I laughed still harder and it hurt still worse…. Then your letter was finished…. I leaned forward to lay it down upon the windowsill.

… And upon the windowsill….

I saw…..

 

 

 

 

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I can’t say this dramatically, so I won’t….

I saw there that very familiar pencilled air-mail envelope, Seattle-post-marked, and flavored with Camels and oakum.

Helen had played that windowsill stunt on me, and damn foolish of her it was. The truth must be told. It was more of a shock than anything else. Of course I had expected it for weeks, but my expectations were always naturally ended as soon as I came into the house from school and saw whatever mail there was. This time it had been your letter–a glorious treat. I wasn’t ready for this that followed. It was like a terrific earthquake.

The result was that–having answered the little note–I relapsed on the dining-room day-bed, and didn’t move the rest of the day nor Sunday morning, wondering what the hell was wrong, and what I should do about it, and what I managed to do to myself. I lay there grinning but in very real physical pain.

The pain is all gone now, and I know what was wrong, and it was nothing serious–I’m not going to die or anything exciting at all, so that’s all right. And I’ve recovered, more or less, and I feel merely buoyant and ready to tackle New York with fresh vigor for another new week, beginning this afternoon, in the office of the P. R. F.

You can imagine, of course, how disorganized the poor man is. It was only a tiny note, just saying he had arrived. It was dated September 7–instead of October 7. That’s a good enough illustration of what a long voyage of that sort does to one. He hinted, in a way that made my blood run cold–“the breeze of wind you suggested turned out to be a man-sized affair, and it threatened not to be all right for a while.”

O God, these wild people of the sea!

Of course I can’t believe it yet. It’s been a terrible gulf. It will be a long time before things can be as they were. I had half expected that the threads would just pick up again where they broke, but threads don’t do that. There have been too many vital changes. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m still stunned. And I still hear that “man-sized affair” howling about split spars and streaming rags of sail. I know!

When he gets more or less organized again–not before–I shall gently hint that we would both like to see him this winter. I have a good idea that he’ll take the hint. It’s very easy to ship coastwise, especially in the winter, and it’s rather hard to ship anywhere else except offshore. I feel somehow as though we should have to talk and laugh before balance can be recaptured. I am all up in the air now. I have concentrated all my faculties on trying to believe that that little letter is genuine, and not some ghostly aberration come to haunt me. I felt as though I were writing to a ghost, Saturday afternoon.

Stunned but happy, happy but stunned….

Well, was I right? Will you admit that last week was a momentous one? If you don’t, I’ll make you eat your words!

We’re all coming out to California next summer, so beware!

Then here’s to the day you and I can do dishes once more, in our incomparable and sublime manner!

Your mate,
Barbara.

Letter to A.D.R., October 4, 1930

620 West 122nd Street
New York City
October 4, 1930

My dear Mate:

Your letter arrived here on Wednesday, the 24th of September. I remember that, because it was sent on the 22nd, and I remember my delight and amazement, and my admiration, too, for this world of wonders. A letter across the continent in two days? What next?!

I sat down at once and wrote an answer to it–yes, the very day I received it, mind you. Then, on reading my letter, it seemed too puny and putrid to exist, and hopelessly inadequate, so I tucked both your letter and my embryonic one away in a drawer. Then came the week-end–a week ago, and I firmly intended to answer you then. You see, Saturdays and Sundays are my only real days, and so I save up everything all week to do then, with the result that I get about half of the things done.

Well, I thought so very much about your letter, and my answer to it, that I thought myself into a state of believing that I had answered it, and it didn’t really occur to me until this morning that I hadn’t, and that my embryo was still lying in a drawer. You don’t know (yes, I guess you do, though) what a day–a week–is like in New York C I T Y (as our friend Leo Meyette always writes it on envelopes!).

Now whatever I was going to say has entirely slipped me, so I’ll begin over, having all day to do it in–that is, if I neglect my washing, and the meals, and my week-end home-work, etc., etc., etc., which I intend to do if I desire.

Your headlines are very juicy. Of the four I deciphered one–the one about the icy doom stilling the heart, don’t you know, and the record thrust within clothing. I suppose that was eventually intelligible to me only because I have been following, off and on, the tragic discoveries in the Arctic. Speaking of the Arctic: the other day my red hair was made to rise stiffly on end (like quills, etc.) by seeing a little piece in the Tribune about an air-plane which effected a rescue of the crew of a trading-ship somewhere north of Alaska–a ship owned by the Seattle Fur Trading Company. My high pitch of excitement (to put it mildly) did not abate even when I learned that the ship was a motorship, with a name which not even a newspaper reporter could have confused with my C. S. Holmes.

Imagine Phoebe studying punctuation and grammar! The funny part of that is that I, also, am studying punctuation and grammar. At the commercial school whose walls enfold me half of every week-day, they require one to take a little subject known as “business correspondence”–more briefly, “correspondence.” This embraces spelling  (such words as “separate” and “February,” and others that Anderson would laugh at), also grammar (such things as the “can” and “may” hitch, etc.). Apart from this it is quite interesting, and I think I am getting something out of it–although some of my friends would doubtless say that what I mostly need is not a correspondence course, but a hush-up course.

But this is a mere digression. What I started to say in the paragraph above this one is that Phoebe is a brick of the best no. A1 material. Isn’t it disgusting–how Things Are? Degrees and credits——bah! To sweat for one’s shelter, clothing, and bread! Ye Gods, let’s go to Tahiti. I like, and I don’t like, to think of Phoebe in school. It isn’t right, and yet it’s marvellous of her to be attacking her dragon by the hind legs and pinning him down.

There is school, and there is school. Sabra seems to be enjoying hers terrifically. She is happy as can be–comes out at one o’clock hopping and prancing and singing. She learns cooking, and handicraft, including carpentry, painting, etc.–really they show a great deal of imagination and skill down there. The children mess around with smocks on, make as much noise as they like (within reasonable bounds, of course), do more or less what they like. As you perhaps know, this Lincoln School is a so-called “progressive school.” That means that children are not “sat on” or “squshed,” or boomeranged with “mustn’ts” and “don’ts” and “be quiets.” Which is an extremely good plan–for that tender age, at least.

“Green Pastures” is easily the most tremendous thing, in a dramatic line, that I’ve ever seen or heard of. I think it beats–for effect and appeal to one’s innermost vitals–Hamlet, or R. and J., or any of the old stand-bys. Is this a literary sacrilege? Well, I can’t help it if it is. When Jehovah (a kindly, fatherly old preacher in a frock-coat) produced the firmament in a terrific thunder-clap, I wept and wept. I don’t know why. They have staged it to perfection. The thunder shakes the theatre. They have a real sea for the Ark, and a long sandy stretch of road along which God walks for miles, it seems, while bushes and trees and houses float past. It is a rolling platform, of course, but one gets the effect of walking forever and ever, and before the end of it comes everyone aches from head to foot, so real it is. I suppose someday the play will leave New York, don’t you? If it ever gets within reach of you ——— well, I guess you don’t need any advice on the subject.

Such things are—-what’s the plural of oasis?—-oases, I suppose, though it doesn’t look right. They are—-that—-in a desert of grindstones, inhabited only by dragons with scalesome, flailsome tails. Isn’t that a picture? I bet Phoebe could draw it admirably. Get her to try her hand at it, if it appeals to her. The dragons would be something like Kipling’s Bi-Colored-Python-Rock-Snake, I imagine.

I have set aside a few days around the middle of this month–marked them off mentally with red ink–for the days during which I may hear from my wandering sailor. Of course one can’t tell–I might hear tomorrow, or I might never at all. Rather uncomfortable suspense. I don’t know quite what would happen to me in that case, and I don’t care to speculate. If I don’t hear before November, I shall be worried. I haven’t many bulwarks. My family isn’t a bulwark at all. You are, and he is. He is so simple at heart that he would be laughed at by some of this world, and distrusted by most of the rest–my farents, for example–my fermenting farents. He is the soul and essence of the sea. He can sit on a schooner’s taffrail at night and become so utterly a part of the ship and the sea and the night that it makes you cease your breathing for awe. He is rugged and uncut, and, though so far above the standard of most sea-farers, he still falls far short, in some ways, of the shore-world’s standards. He is ignorant–of the little things that don’t matter. But he is so real that he puts to shame thousands of people who probably would consider themselves far “above” him.

And he answered a need of mine that nothing and no one else could answer, by knowing how to laugh, and by being serene and tranquil and deep as the trade-wind Pacific. Bulwark, oasis, anchor–what-you-will. Mysterious, too, in his comings and goings, as the sea with its tide. A romantic soul. “Sure. Don’t I know? Haven’t I sat on deck in the moonlight and let fancy put on its seven-league boots and go roaming among the stars?”

He and Conrad would have hit it off grandly.

Forgive my “uplift” trend (as old M’Andrew would have said), but one does get a bit romantic and poetic over the week-ends. At last I know what the week-end really means to the hordes and hundreds! Helen and I stand by the front windows and watch the pantomimes across the street and in the park opposite–you have no idea how interesting it all is, to see these hundreds of human figures, young and old and medium, gesticulating and running and arguing and laughing–like a puppet-show, don’t you know. It is excruciatingly funny, and excruciatingly sad–sometimes we laugh at it, sometimes we weep. Always we feel about three centuries old–in comparison to Sabra, for instance, who is so full of energy that she quite appalls both of us.

Well, what’s one to do? Here we are, all of us, kicking and straining and growing black in the face to keep up to some invisible, tyrannical Mark. I don’t know, but I’m in the fight. The shorthand? I don’t know how much longer, but I know that I can’t afford it forever. I think about a month more, and then I shall get a little job out here in Columbia. I have made some important friends, got them interested in me, and built for myself a reputation which I probably can’t live up to. More struggling–to keep up with that. There is nothing very Iridescent in sight. Helen has no job, and neither the MS nor the house is sold. Cheerful! Ja gewis. Fox Film Corp. has given up all outside readers. So farewell to the putrid novels–farewell, also, to that handy little twelve or eighteen dollars a week!

What more shall I say? I don’t wish to end this in a minor key. You are NOT to think I’m discouraged, or despondent, or anything, because that would be disobeying orders, and at sea we respect orders from mates. And anything can be shattered with a laugh. Remember what dear old Satan said about that, in The Mysterious Stranger? “Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution–these can lift at a colossal humbug–push it a little–weaken it a little, century by century; but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”

Besides, it’s Good to be alive and healthy and young, wherever you are, or whatever you’re doing; and there are wonderful things even in the newspapers. In the last Herald Tribune Magazine there were a couple of pictures which an astronomer-artist-engineer had painted of the planet Mars, viewed form one of its own moons. Could anything be more glamorous than that?

Yours for fair winds,

Barbara.

Letter to A.D.R., August 29, 1930

620 Etc
August 29 [1930]

Dear Mate:

Having allowed the dentist to put a gold inlay into a tooth, having written, delivered, and been paid for three synopses, having seen Helen off for New Haven again (thereby making three trips back and forth from here to town in the course of the day, via that devastating subway), and having, alone and in peace at last, partaken of my bowl of soup and crust of bread–having done all this, and being still quite alive, I will now proceed (oh, luxury!) to sit down and quietly, and in leisurely fashion, write a letter to you.

How I have chuckled over your contributions from Pasadena headline English! I would answer in kind, but I scan the papers in vain. New York headlinists don’t seem to have that ingenious knack of balling things up; in fact, for the most part they are altogether too lucid to be interesting. DRIVE CAR DEATH LEAP TIES UP TRAFFIC, is the best I can do, for the time being.

Dash it all, now that I’ve really sat down–after three days of trying to–there doesn’t seem to be anything more to say than there was last time or the time before, and one shouldn’t repeat oneself. School begins again next Tuesday. Thank God I can pay for it–the whole thing. I can also pay my own dentist bills, and buy my own clothes, and my own amusements and necessities. That’s more than I was ever able to do before; and I can tell you, it makes me feel quite uppity when I go sailing into that Fox office on Broadway and receive my weekly pay envelope!

Helen is rather desperate. I don’t know what to do about her, at all, at all. It makes her feel rather badly to think that I have a job and she hasn’t; it struck her hard that her MS didn’t sell with a bang; and as for finances–well, I don’t know where the rent comes from. She is always so secretive about those things, and she’s such a fool, really, when it comes to money and Practical Things. When I say “Fool,” I don’t mean it harshly, you understand. I guess you know what I mean as well as I do, anyway.

She has gone down to New Haven now, to mull over the house, and get it ready for renting. She is kind of wild here, because there’s a steam-derrick half a block away going all day, and making a fearsome racket. My typewriter goes too much for her nerves, too; but I don’t see how that can be helped. I’m hoping she’ll find some quiet in New Haven for a few days now, just as I’m finding peace here alone. When she comes again, Sabra will be with her.

Well, what next? I’m fairly contented, and have a rather pleasant sort of curiosity about the future. It can’t fail to be interesting! I think the masculine farent should be whanged on the head and wake up to find himself shanghaied to sea; and I think the feminine farent should tackle the first job she can light on. He isn’t what you’d call a Man. He isn’t half the man that some of the Dago workmen are down the street. He isn’t halfway the man that Mate Bill is, or Cap’n Colbeth, or Anderson. He should go to work and do some hard physical labor, under someone who can’t be talked back to, and who doesn’t care a damn for all the long words. Nothing could be better for him than to take a trip in the Vigilant, under old Captain Peasley, and first mate Jacobsen. Jove! He’d “yump” around then, all right!

Yes! I have some news for you. I went and saw The Green Pastures. It is the loveliest, and most real, and simple, touching, glorious play I ever knew. Marc Connelly’s negro play, you know. It interprets the negro’s simple belief and religion. Lord God Jehovah is exactly like some kindly old white-haired preacher: he has a little office up in Heaven, and every morning two angels, with dust-covers over their wings, come in and dust it.  The whole story is there from the beginning–Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, Moses, the pilgrims on their way to Canaan; and all through it the choir sings negro spirituals, most of them familiar–and you get to the point before long when you just want to lie down and weep.

Speaking of weeping: the steam-derrick which makes such a racket down the street here is doing a job for a company which calls itself The House-Wrecking Company. If that ain’t the limit!…

Yours,
B.

[in pen] I just received a letter from Detroit, enclosing E.’s masterpiece. Oh, I do so hope you’ll all manage to get away together on some gorgeous Exposition before long!

B.

Letter to A.D.R., August 18, 1930

620 West 122nd Street
August 18 [1930]

Splice the main-brace, ahoy!

All congratulations on your latest entries in the unofficial log. It arrived this morning, and so you see I am SETTING YOU AN EXAMPLE. In fact, I wrote you a letter before this one, but tore it up. It contains too much really Tough Language, and all That Sort of Thing! I suppose I picked it up form the Unmentionable Movie Trash which I Read For a Living–anyhow, where-ever I picked it up, it certainly is NOT the proper thing to send in a letter to one who is writing Healthy Young Men for a Living.

My dear, don’t you ever yearn to spit in their faces, and to create for a change some perfectly Horrible and Gritty young men who would hammer and mash and batter and whang up all the healthy-minded maidens?  I suppose, were a list of detailed rules for healthy stories written out, they would look something like this: “No kisses of more than two second’s duration,” and that sort of thing. Wouldn’t they?

Well, anyhow! Dang it all, I’d like to see all you Russells together. It’s not right for people to have half-continents and such trash shoved whang into their faces, between them and those they love, is it? We are just Victims, that’s all. There are half a dozen or so great Wheels grinding around toward each other all the time, interlocking on the rims, and if we happen to get caught between them—–we just get mashed.

Many red devils ran from my heart
And out upon the page,
They were so tiny
The pen could mash them,
And many struggled in the ink.
It was strange
To write in this red muck
Of things from my heart.
                    Stephen Crane.

Tough going at times, my beloved mate!

I wish I had some GOOD news for you! Alas! I am fairly busy over my eighteen-a-week (more-or-less). I have a fairly regular round of housework, synopsisses, tipe-riting, an’ a’ that. My sole pastime, so far, consists of walking along the river-bank park in the evenings after dark–“to mark, wi’ envy in my gaze, the couples kittlin’ in the dark between the funnel-stays.” (If only there were some funnel-stays! Alas!) Helen’s Manuscript is less and less sold all the time. Sabra is still at camp. Finances become lower and lower. You can’t live–here–on my salary–though I daresay I could alone. And to think that I’m the only one of the family who has a “yob!” That tickles my sense of humor fine!

My sense of humor has had more and more heavy responsibilities of late. I really need fuel for it–fresh fuel from the outside. However, I can say very truthfully that it has never yet failed me, and it isn’t going to either . . . . Leo Mayette (have I told you anything of him?) and his wife, and his brother, and his sister, have all been here for a while, but now they have departed for New Hampshire and the old home-farm again. It was a delight to have them here. Leo, in particular, is really one of the greatest persons in the world, as well as one of the very simplest and humblest.

Have you Seen or Heard anything of the Farents? I confess to a mild sort of curiosity. I suppose I should write to them, but–oh my, oh my! You see, I feel that if I can stick out this particular present-minute, present-place situation, and get on top of it, and yammer at it, and smash it, and domineer over it, and be Snooty and Disagreeable to it, and Awe it, and just make it Cringe–why, then, I guess I’m doing all I have room for. And I am doing just that. So picture yourself an Amazon, mounted upon a Bucking Elephant, and hammering that elephant over the head with a Fijian war-club.

Anyway, there’s a picture of Joseph Conrad over this table ….

And NOTHING can daunt me!

“I got a home in-a dat rock.”

Wings! I have ’em!

And Joseph Conrad sent me his blessing and his love. Not so very long ago.

And Anderson comes home in October.

Well!

Lots of things have Occurred to Me, anyhow. I think I’m ready to live a much happier sort of life from now on–I mean, to make the best of circumstances and of myself, and get a lot of pleasure and fun out of anything and everything. I wish poor Helen could do that as effectively as I have learned to do it. She hasn’t. She’s under water. God! And I can’t rescue her. I do forty-nine fiftieths of everything that is done at No. 122, as it is; and I sing as I do it: “I got a home in-a dat rock, Don’t you see?”

And in October, Anderson comes home. And I’ll have that fresh fuel for my S. of H. Besides, I may earn a whang on the back from him, and that’s worth anything.

But I want all the Russells to be together. And why must Phoebe go to school, with her scientific father to superintend her? I think school is really and primarily a place for children whose parents are banging each other over the head with rolling-pins, or whose parents are absolute morons, and whose parents are both slaving at outside work for a living, or for children reared in utter poverty and misery. (This is not supposed to cast any reflections of any kind upon the Russells, I hope you understand!) But rainbows shouldn’t be stuffed into sofa-cushions, should they?

I love you, A.D.R.

Yours ever,
Barbara.

Letter to A.D.R., August 1, 1930

620 West 122nd Street, New York. Photo taken from Sakura Park in March, 2012.

620 West 122nd Street
New York City
August 1, 1930

My Deah:

Well! Here we am, as you might say. It really has become a rather usual occurrence, all this moving around, yet still, it has not lost a certain spice. This is really a grand little apartment of three rooms, and we have our own old furniture, and a whole bookcase full of books (the pick of the flock) and a little kitchen which is concealed behind two vast doors; and I can’t imagine a better place for us to live in———-that is, all things considered, and seeing things as they are, my boy, as Chester used to say to Marlow.

You mustn’t feel sorry for me at all, though. I really am quite happy, because I am so busy from morning till night that I haven’t time for anything else. I’m good in school–in fact, one of the best in the shorthand class, now–and Fox Film likes my work for them, and they hand me out a bit of praise almost every time I come into the office, which is about three times a week, and they pay me in cash in sealed pay-envelopes (can you imagine anything more pleasant?) and so I can pay the school and my car-fare and all my odds and ends, and feel quite independent. There’s nothing better than that. Of course I simply detest the work I do for them–it’s enough to give a rhinoceros the ear-ache, let alone me–but the getting paid more than compensates for that.

So I’m in good shape, and find time passing swiftly. Our old, old, old friend Leo Meyette (who used to be the grocery boy in the little one-horse New Hampshire town where we spent the summers, and who is one of the grandest persons in the world) is here, with his wife and his younger brother; and his antics in the great City keep Helen and me laughing. Then, too, it won’t be so very long before Anderson is home, and I believe I could go through anything with an occasional letter from him to keep me going. I never realized before how he and I had gotten to depend on each other’s support. We each have had such ghastly times! It’s quite beautiful, I think–two hungry souls beating their wings desperately and finding such joy and strength in one another.

I really think it is grand for Phoebe to be off–though be sure that I can sympathize with you. It must be like being wrapped in an unlighted cloud, to be alone after having such an iridescent creature with one for so long. I want to see all the Russells together. I’m damned sick of seeing people who are starved for each other separated by circumstances–especially such petty materialistic circumstances–finances, for instance! Bah!

Sabra is a great little thing. She is not with us now. I think that is a mercy for all of us. School begins late in September, and she would be miserable here unless she were busy. She is now at a camp in Lyme, Connecticut, which is run by a grand woman who is an old friend of hers. All the children are about Sabra’s age, and she is a gregarious little thing, so it suits her to a t. Furthermore, this is a rather unusual sort of camp. It is excessively informal and care-free and happy-go-lucky. For one thing, most of the children wear–not a single blessed shred of any kind! Nothing could be better, in that glorious sunshine and fresh country air. They are brown as Polynesians, and just as happy, and so deliciously unconscious of themselves that it is a rare pleasure to watch them playing.

I’ll never forget Sabra’s eyes when she first saw them [“us,” I think she intended to say]. We drove up in the camp truck, and they stood around us in a semi-circle, motionless, staring, and naked, just as the South Sea babies run out from a native house to stare at strangers. She was quite taken aback, and amazed. So were we; it was somewhat unexpected! About half of them are little boys–S.’s first experience, you see. But she was entirely acclimated in half an hour or so, and now she is having the time of her life. I think it’s the best thing that could possibly happen, both for her and for us. It will put her, for one thing, in corking physical shape for a winter in New York. She needs all the reserve strength and health that sunshine and the country can give her.

God knows my own health is standing me in good stead. I don’t know where I’d be without it. Those subways at eight-fifteen A. M., when the masses and millions are tearing in to work. . . .  . . . . . . . . . . ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !      Does that give you any idea?

Well, news seems to be consistently lacking here. I give the best of myself to everything I do–no man can do more than that. I work like a dog, sleep like a pig, tear around like a deer, eat like a wolf, laugh like a hyena (sometimes), spit like a cat (other times), shut up like an oyster (for a change), and pull long juicy worms out of the ground, like an early bird. There. Doesn’t that give you a picture? Someone who can draw caricatures (Phoebe, for instance) ought to take the matter up.

Your mate, in foul or fair,
Bar.

Letter to A.D.R., July 18, 1930

16 Young Avenue
Pelham, New York
July 18, 1930

Dear Mate:

CUBS HAMMER MOSS, SCORING ON ROBINS. How’s that, my dear?

Well, ‘ere I ham, as one might say. Your letter arrived a rather shocking long time ago (it’s make my heart beating like a earth shocking), and I would be ‘shamed if I weren’t so almighty damn-fired hell-bent busy. You see, I am no longer begging for work, I am in work up to my ears, and over them at times. Yes, I have bearded New York in its lair. I find it not so appalling, in fact I rather like it, as one likes some colossal piece of machinery; and struggling into the sardine-packed express “L” at quarter to nine in the morning is almost exhilarating. It thrills me to see all those millions of faces, all going to their respective puny jobs, and all so tense and rushed. I don’t know, but New York has so far done me much more good than harm. I feel more of a sympathy and understanding for People In General than ever in my life before, because I am One Of Them, which I never was in my life before. I find myself buying my chewing-gum from a cripple in the street, rather than in a drug-store.

Yes, I long and long and long for the sea, and woods, and quiet, and more sunshine, and the wind, and a little more room, please, and not so many people on my feet, if you don’t mind. And there are times when I feel my heart beginning to curl up just a little at the edges–the first step, the warning symptom, to its sickening and dwindling. I keep holding out my arms–I mean my spiritual arms–like an amoeba or sumthin. A ceaseless need. Sometimes I think it’s the sea, and sometimes I think it’s Anderson’s correspondence, and sometimes I think it’s just space I need, and the wild. And I can’t have ’em!

You see, I am now taking a course at the Packard Commercial School, and studying shorthand with might and main. Already I have caught up to the class which started two weeks ahead of me, and I’ve only been there five days! You see, a really good and intelligent stenographer and typist can always get some sort of a job, while there’s damn little chance for an inexperienced nothing-in-particular, as I am. I really am having a fine time at the school. The teachers are good souls, both of them, and it is as fine a bunch of young womanhood as I ever set eyes on–those girls.

I am also writing synopses for Fox, at six dollars apiece, which is fun. Then, too, occasionally someone drops a bulky MS into my lap and says: “Here! I’ll give you five dollars for your opinion on this, expressed in two pages.” That’s a tribute to one’s critical sense, ain’t it? Furthermore, it’s pin-money–lunches and stockings and tooth-paste and what-not.

About Sabra. Please don’t let your imagination go running away with you, or I’ll die. You know, after all, she is only a little, little girl. It was almost a terrible experience, if you want the real truth. I rushed to her with my heart wide open, and my soul ready for the balm I felt she’d give–and the beautiful dream melted, and I found a little child–a darling little child, to be sure–who took all I could give, and gave almost nothing in return, because she could not, of course, and I was ridiculous to expect it of her, but expect it I did. She could not fill any need of mine–not the need I thought she could fill, that is, but something entirely different that hasn’t got oriented yet; and the other need, the greater one, is still hungry. And it’s dying now. You can’t keep anything hungry forever, without eventually just starving it to its death. There is a limit.

Well, just what will happen I don’t know. I have been in New Haven a good deal, slaving away in the attic of No. 176. It’s fascinating! Sorting out books, and junk–amazing junk! I’ve pretty well worked things out. You know, we’ve rented an apartment in the city, and we’re moving into it the first of August, and we stay there until June, 1931, at least. At that date the building is going to be torn down, so I suppose we may just conceivably have to clear out. And I think it’s lucky. Otherwise we might become appallingly rooted there.

So far my life seems to be nothing better than a mess, so far as the future is concerned. I have to work, that’s certain, and if I get a regular job I’ll have to stay with it, and that means–well, it means just what I’m having now, more or less. I have to heave a sigh at times. Sometimes I even get very morbid and decide that I’ll marry the first person who offers a chance to get out of it. And then sometimes I change my mind. I don’t know. Anderson informs me that dreams have to be put away on the shelf occasionally–usually, he should have said! New York, New York.  Two weeks vacation. Slaving for your salt and matches and tooth-paste, and your cup of soup and crumb of hard-tack. I always swore I would never get into the “mood” about it all, but I seem to at times in spite of myself.

But don’t mistake me. When I’m busy–and I am busy–I am really happy, you know. I don’t have much tie to sit down and think, and I guess that’s lucky. I haven’t any time but for the ten-of-eight train in the morning, the 3rd Avenue express, the Packard School, lunch, afternoon business, the trains again, supper, Amos ‘n’ Andy, work, bed, and the ten-of-eight in the morning again. I meant to go down to New Haven over this week-end, but the prospect of two quiet days in the “timid little house” was too tempting to resist. I meant to go down to Baltimore when the Marsodak came in last trip, but didn’t. I mean to go to N. H. next week, but probably shan’t. I also mean to go to Baltimore next trip, but really I can’t possibly. I also meant to write and do Farksoo, but somehow I keep missing the mark. My nose is shackled to the grindstone! I never can lift my head to get a peek at the blue sky!

And you–you are a grand, gorgeous soul, and I am with you more than you know. And I’m glad you agree with me about the cocked hats.

Yours ever,
Barbara.

P. S. The house is getting ready to be sold now. Helen and Sabra are living there. I was to stay there too until August 1, but joined the school instead. You can imagine how that flabbergasted Helen, who had counted on my staying down there and helping out. But I figgered that I would be a coward either way, and so I took what I guess was the severest course after all!

Russian looks to me worse than Gregg shorthand, and not nearly so convenient!

B.

Letter to A.D.R., June 26, 1930

16 Young Avenue
Pelham, New York
June 26, 1930

Dear First Officer:

How do you do? How are your dreams today?

Mine somewhat materialized last Monday–that is, the puny coined, earthly little dream somewhat materialized–when I got a sort of a job. I was in Pelham until Sunday noon, then I suddenly became very tired of sitting like a fisherman at his lines, with nothing biting at any one of them. And I decided I’d have to change and be like a Tahitian fisherman who taked spear in hand and dives after his prey, instead of waiting for it.

No sooner thought than accomplished. The tears of horror stood silverly in my een as I left the house, and increased with nearness to the City, but I turned not back, Skipper, I turned not back. That was Sunday night. I stayed at the Y. W. C. A. (Ugh!) and Monday morning I—–went to work! Who can boast of such a thing as that?

It happened when I was on the roof garden Sunday night, gazing o’er the colossal brow of the etc., etc., etc., and there was also on the roof garden an old lady. It transpired, after friendly conversation, that she ran an employment agency for domestic service, and that she needed some typewriting done, and could use me for “an hour or two in the morning.” I went, stayed all day, all Tuesday, all Wednesday, and half of today, receiving fourteen dollars and much praise.

The Great Trouble, though, is that I am now “laid off”–oh, the horror of those two words!–for the regular girl, who had been out, comes back next week. So that’s that. Now I’m going back to Pelham to spend the week-end; and that’s always my mail address, for they will forward anything anywhere.

I’ve read all of Barrie’s plays, now, and wish there were hundreds more. But “Dear Brutus” is more gorgeous than the island one, “Mary Rose.”

I haven’t seen a picture of Masefield for a long time, and I don’t know whether you’re right or not. I’ll look it up someday.

Follett did something about the house, I don’t know just what. It belongs to Helen now, debts and all. She’s been in N. H., seen Sabra, slept in the house, had a Hell of a time, and pulled through very well, in spite of a horrible row with Dr. Tyler which was humiliating and irritating to all of us. I shall see Sabra next Monday. Helen is going to bring her to New York to have her see someone at the Lincoln School. We want to get an unfurnished apartment near the school, move down some of our stuff, and Get Settled. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yes, I know it does.

The Farents can g- t- H—, if you know what I mean; I won’t think about them yet awhile. You have my devoted sympathy, however, as you know; and you have it every time you see them–so when you do see them, remember that my sympathy is floating around somewhere in the atmosphere. I’ll lay up a “special fund” of it for that very purpose.

I wish one of you were Here, so that I’d have a real kindred spirit close by. I need one! Correspondence is as inadequate as clouds are to a parched country longing for rain–I mean, when the clouds just drift away overhead and perform nothing! I wish Anderson were around, failing yourself. However, it is doubtless magnificent training for me not to have the people I want and care for, but to be forced to stand on my own pins, mentally and emotionally speaking.

Helen’s MS is in the hands of agent who talk a great deal. Via them it is in the hands of Collier’s. I’d like to report a two-thousand-dollar check–but, alas, am unable to do so at this sitting! Helen’s address is many and various. The best guess, I reckon, is c/o Dr. Margaret Tyler, 75 Mansfield St., New Haven, Conn. I don’t guarantee it, though. By the way, Helen says she wants you more than she ever has, and she sends you her greatest love. That woman is–well, what she is going through isn’t even printable, and only a deep-sea sailor could even begin to hint at it.

You ask slyly and subtly and cautiously about Dr. Paul. You’ve asked so very cautiously, in fact, that I don’t exactly understand what it is you’re asking about him. You needn’t be so Extremely Reserved with me, you know! I don’t give a puff of wind for Dr. Paul, one way or another, if that’s what you want to know. Helen got banged up, some, but she’s getting over it. Her knowledge of his attentions to me (which are probably lighter than thistle-down, I’m not sure) has waked her up with a whang to what sort of a juggler he really is. So I guess that’s all right, especially as he’s going to Spitsbergen or Lapadaeczvia or somewhere, and can’t be even written to for a year.

The more I see of everybody in general, the more I know that there are a few simple, quiet souls (like Anderson) who unconsciously and entirely unmaliciously knock everyone else into so many bedraggled cocked hats.

Yours for aye,
Barbara.

Letter to A.D.R., June 16, 1930

16 Young Avenue
Pelham, New York
June 16, 1930

Dear Shipmatey;

You know, I really am a wonderful person. Three different makes of typewriter in three days. This is Mr. Bryan’s Remington Portable–my own is in dry-dock at present, as one might say, if one were nautically inclined.

It is glorious, in more ways than one, to have this really private address. I wish Anderson were here–correspondence would be very enjoyable–no restrictions, as one might say. Well, we’ll make the most of this opportunity, won’t we.

There’s so much to say, my dear, that, to put it very tritely and very truly, “I don’t know where to begin.” About the Farents. I know nothing about them, and I really don’t care a damn now. I only care in so much as I sympathize deeply with the situation confronting you and E. when they came trooping up to the desert. It was—-well, it was one of those Grand Accidents that Occur Occasionally. I don’t particularly want to think about them. I tried sincerely to get myself to write, but failed of course. They don’t seem quite of my world at present. I am truly very happy now, and I want to keep to this particular circle, for the time being at least. You see what I mean? And don’t you think I’m right?

The only thing that makes me unhappy now is that my dreams are going through their death-flurries. I thought they were all safely buried, but sometimes they stir in their grave, making my heart-strings twinge. I mean no particular dream, you understand, but the whole radiant flock of them together–with their rainbow wings, iridescent, bright, soaring, glorious, sublime. They are dying before the steel javelins and arrows of a world of Time and Money. I am happy the whole live-long day–happy as a bird–but when night comes and I settle down in bed for a night’s sleep, then my tortures begin. I don’t know when I’ve had a night’s sleep without a prelude consisting of an hour or so of writhing! By day I think it’s a grand old adventure; by night I think it’s Hell, and double Hell.

I am seeking a Yob. Yobs are (as the Naturalist said, speaking of the “big game” in the West Indies) few and far between. I have several lines out, and something may bite someday. It must. I can stay here as long as I like, and I have forty-five dollars, earned from Dr. Paul, and he owes me about ten dollars more–that will pay carfare to N. Y. for some time to come. (G.D! how I hate this machine)

The MS may sell. Harper has rejected it. Helen is in the hands of two female agents, who seem to be very influential people around here. They make lavish promises, and Helen believes; Barbara, the skeptic, says: “A bird in the hand, etc.” Anyway, Collier’s, American, the Companion, and Good Housekeeping, are all interested, and will all have a shot at it–and, as I said, these two ladies seem to be influential. Someone telephoned their office about it while I was there talking, and one of them said: “Oh, but you’ll have to stand in line, you know.”  Which delighted Helen beyond measure, naturally.

Oh, I wish, and WISH Mr. R. and Phoebe could go to Russia alone. I think it would be the best thing that could possibly happen, for both of ’em. Meanwhile, you and I will hold down the continent of North America until they come back, in the very distant future–or, perhaps, until you follow them over. In all events, they should go alone for a while, and you and I should be together somewhere, with our cocoa cups.

You and I could have the most excellent laugh about these people right here, for instance. I told you a little about them when I was out there. They have become even worse. They never go out of the house at all. If Mrs. Bryan has to go down to the village on some little errand, Mr. Bryan stands by the window and peers anxiously forth until she returns. At night every bolt and lock and key in the whole house is drawn or turned; the chain bolt on the front door, both locks, the knob on the screen-door, the key on the inner door, and all the windows fastidiously bolted. I never saw such terribly, appallingly fastidious people in all my days. They’re worse than Mrs. Hayball. There re two “objects” in the kitchen, and neither is ever used at all. The “swamp angels” are fastidiously removed and put outdoors at once.  The say that those two objects are merely for use in the winter, when it is too snowy or dripping to go outside. It seems strange, when one considers all this, that Mr. B. doesn’t keep the type of his Remington in better shape.

Mrs. B. never does any house-work at all, except for very superficial “picking-up” and dusting around. Every Saturday she has  man come to clean house. The Two themselves do nothing but sit, first in one chair and then in another. They don’t know what to do or think about–and the result is 0. They listen to the same things every night on the radio, and go to bed in the same way. But it amuses me infinitely. I enjoy it, I have to say. I am more private than I’ve had the privilege of being for a long time. I josh them good-naturedly, and they seem to like it–but they don’t know what to make of me. You can readily imagine what  vague, scandalous, unaccountable, phenomenal sort of Thing I am to them!

What are you going to do about the pot-boiler? Take out the fox-meat? It’s somewhat ironical that the market you scorned should have dumped you, isn’t it? That’s what comes of being snotty, even if it’s only mental. Well, good luck to it (damn this ribbon!) I think, as always, that the whole great Thing we call Life is one huge practical joke, anyhow. If we take it as such, it is instantly powerless, and we may with impunity exult. THEN–the old Joke treats us Well for a change, and we begin to forget that it is a Joke–with the result that we are unprepared for the next battering. Then is heard the rumbling, ironical Laughter of the Gods. I think a good, sound, healthy pessimism is a Wise and Noble Thing.

Don’t be so humble and modest. You’re a wonderful safety-valve; and I damn well hate to think that you were nothing but that (Oh, the language which is going on inside me about this ribbon!)–a safety-valve? No, no–you’re about the best friend anyone ever had, or ever imagined. To be a safety-valve is just a small item which is an automatic and natural part of a Friend, don’t you think so? As for Anderson, he has served my needs a whole year now, and a rest will do both of us good, I suppose–though it is a little strange not to be able to anticipate those pencilled, air-mail envelopes! I shall hear from him–barring accidents–about the first week in October. I expect he will show up on this coast shortly afterwards. It would be like him to do so. Besides, I flatter myself a little that perhaps my friendship did something for him, too. I think we were mutually very good for each other–let the Farents say what they may!

Do you realize that a year ago yesterday I set sail from Honolulu harbor in my beloved Vigilant? I was rather glum all yesterday thinking of it. It hurt. I suppose it will be years before I go to sea again, and I may never even see that schooner. I suppose that I spent about the happiest month of my life during that sea-trip in her. and it lasted even during that week in port, when I took over the cabin-boy’s job, and when Helen, Anderson, and I had cherry- and ice-cream-parties in the cabin after everyone had gone ashore, and when we used to walk up into that virgin forest two miles up the road, and eat salmon-berries. Life was beautiful then. This doesn’t seem like the same era. Here the beauty consists of great stone towers against the sunset–sublime, symbolic, but away above the plane of us poor ants that hustle along the swarming streets at their feet, so engrossed in ourselves that we never even see a fellow-mortal, but bump into him with a bang, and then hurray and hurry on.

Oh, my God, my God!

It makes one’s heart and soul suffer–it stabs them to the quick. Oh, for wings, for wings!

Wings!

That is, in general, the theme not only of my own heart, but of the book I’m going to write. I ought to be able to write it–I live it constantly. My heart is the field of a thousand battles every day.

But I’m happy, really–you understand that, don’t you? And I’m coming up, and up. Not a day passes but that I myself climb a little–somewhere. I am getting gradually to a point where I can trust myself, put faith in myself. Gradually, and cautiously. Once I tried it before I was ready, and the cargo spilled. But I’m Building, always. If I can put unbounded faith in myself, I don’t care what happens. And I can, as time goes on.

Your shore-bound mate,
Barbara.

P. S. Dr. Paul spends time and postage writing me love-letters! He also sends me now and then a batch of stuff to edit and typewrite. This is Well–it means Cheques!

B.

Letter to A.D.R., May 29, 1930

Washington, D. C.
May 29. [1930]

Dear A. D. R.:

The MS is nearly FINISHED!!!!! The heart’s blood has all been shed, and nothing is left now to do but to add a few finishing touches. We’ve been here two months now, and our rent expires, so we are going out into one of those delightful little one-horse villages in the Virginia backwoods, to spend a week of sheer rest, walks, and finishing touches, before we sail for New York. We’ve earned it, don’t you think? At least, Helen has.

My job goes out to the back-woods with me. You see, I am now a full-fledged Editor. I edit, and suggest, and copy for that certain medical and scientific gentleman whom you have heard of. This, incidentally, is the typewriter I use  for him–I use it myself to keep in practice with it! And that certain gentleman rewards my distinguished efforts at frequent intervals with one of those succulent tid-bits knows as Wages. In fact, I get paid fifteen whole cents for every single page; and since this type is large, the pages count up mighty fast.

Well, what I mainly wanted to say is already said–about going off into the back-woods. They are going to hold mail here until we get back to Washington, in about a week from now, or perhaps a little more. Then–New York! Helen has a friend there with whom she can stay for nothing, and I am going to stay with my Strange-Marriage Family, which I told you about, in Pelham, twenty minutes from New York. Thus we shall be SEPARATED–which will be good for us both. Furthermore, she can transact her business in N. Y. alone–just as she wants.

Then I’m going after a job. I made a definite determination that by June 15th I was either going to have one or a definite prospect for one. I have a vague feeling that Harper may land me in his Bookshop–especially if he likes the MS. Then there is Percy Waxman, Helen’s friend at Pictorial, and there is always A. A. Knopf. I am one of his authors, and he is almost bound to do something for me if necessary, though that is the last resource–as I despise the place, the chilly, rapid-fire efficient business money-atmosphere of the place. There is also a Jew by name Goldsilver or something of the sort, a friend of a friend of ours, a wealthy and influential person, who might help.

I’ve been into the Civil Service Commission here, but that’s definitely out. If I live to be forty-nine, and am still an old maid, I’ll consider it–not until then! Anyway, I have a fancy that New York will do something, it being so tremendous and–oh, well, there’s no adjective for it. In New York, the first few days, it takes the whole set of a human being’s faculties just to keep his head through the uproar. But one improves with a little time.

Anderson sailed on the 16th, as per schedule, sailed right out into space. Look up Point Barrow on a map of the Arctic regions–that’s the end of the route–then they turn around again and circle Alaska toward home–if they don’t encounter a nor’-easter, or an iceberg, or the pack-ice. Before they sailed he sent off one dashing letter, or quite a different tone from what you’d expect of a person embarking on such a mean voyage. He described his own particular position aboard, half-way between sailor and engineer (there are four gasoline engines for sails and cargo, you see); and then he wrote several ages in mocking echo of the “tourist literature” on Seattle, concerning statistics and what-not. And then he seemed to run out of material, and said “Well, goodbye!” or words to that effect. A person like that sort of takes one’s breath away, seems to me. Very startling and over-powering.

Farksoo progresseth, even with everything else that is on hand. I improve it every time I take out the MS and breathe gently on it. Sometimes I arise at six in the morning and gloat triumphantly over it. I’ve combined the two vocabularys (ies, I mean!) into one, Farksoo and English all mixed. It’s much better that way; and the Grammar develops magnifiquement.

How is The Exception? And the Devil’s Limb? And the Other One? And Thyself? It seems a very long time–almost a kickworthy long time–since I heard from you! Maybe there’ll be a Royal-typed letter awaiting me when I come back our retreat in the woods.

We have seen the Pratts, and spent a most glorious day at Capitol View with them. I think those woods are too beautiful to be true–oh, how well they satisfy the hunger of one who has spent a year and a half away from New England! Pinkish bronze oaks, gold-green maples in the sunlight, dogwood and red-bud flowering…. And I saw the quarry pool, and the daffodils growing wild on your lawn, Shipmate. And the apples and lilacs were flowering, then, and there were violets and spring beauties everywhere. And Phoebe’s bench is still up there in the branches of the enormous old cherry-tree.

But this won’t do, in this curious old world of ours! Anyway, here’s a whole steamer’s cargo of love to you.

Your matey,
Barbara.

Letter to A.D.R., April 28, 1930

Alice Dyer Russell, born in 1881, was an author from Pasadena, California and an old friend of the Follett family. She was married to Bert Russell (1874-1933), a patent lawyer, and they had two daughters: Elisabeth and Phoebe. (A third daughter, Mary, died the year Barbara was born, having lived only two years.) Barbara wrote regularly to A.D.R. between her return east in March, 1930, until her disappearance in 1939. They are simply wonderful letters, and I’ll be posting all the ones I have, in chronological order, starting with this on, describing work on Helen’s “Magic Portholes.”

Washington, D. C.
April 28, 1930

Dear A. D. R.:

Still here, and working like fiends. The writing becomes more magnificent every second; it really is grand, and it really must “go,” I think. There is no longer the faintest trace of a “narrative style” about it; the whole thing has split itself into little episodes, each one a complete little entity, with a definite climax and a definite “point.” Some of them are screamingly funny, others quite sad and wistful. These episodes are split from each other by little section-marks consisting of a triangle of dots. There isn’t even any attempt at strict chronological truth any more. The imagination has come into its own.

These episodes are not even uniform in length–they are just as long or as short as they want to be. Some are eight or nine pages, others half a page. The whole book, every line in it, is entertaining and thoroughly charming, I think. There’s not the repetition of an idea; and even the sea-stuff is varied to an extreme. The characters are uproarious, picturesque, consistent. Negro characters, nautical characters, scientific characters, and ourselves–anyone who knows us would find our self-portraits just true enough to be very humorous.

But it is heart’s blood, believe me! I wish I could draw an accurate graph of Helen writing an episode. One one side of such a graph would be the progress of the episode; on the site at right angles to it would be Helen’s corresponding state of temper, in which high would mean very bad. Thus, the beginning of the episode would be very high, where she realizes that it’s got to be written. The temper remains about the same while she flounders around–then she gets an idea, and the temper drops abruptly to a very happy frame of mind, near the bottom of the scale; there it remains a short time–then difficulties galore are encountered, and the temper line shoots to the very peak of the scale, and the apartment is an accurate representation of the nether regions, for a while, varying in length from half an hour to two days; then the difficulties are worked out; and with another abrupt drop the temper-line returns to a frame of mind in which the universe seems to be her special oyster, and a very nice one.

To be entirely fair, I own that my own temper-line would have to be marked in such a graph, along with hers; and I think the curves would be more or less similar, though not quite so exaggerated… Well, maybe I’ll work this out sometime. If I do I’ll send you a copy!

The other job seems a bit indefinite; though I’ve already hauled in a good deal of pocket-money from Dr. P. Helen now tells me that I’m absolutely indispensable to her, and must go north with her, and help clear out the house, and so on. But if I see the prospects of landing a job here, nothing shall daunt me!

The job performed by the Russells in Pasadena, on Saturday afternoon, was a nobel job. The hair started curling up tight as soon as it was set free; it doesn’t bare the faintest resemblance to what it was then. It has a wave in it that hardly anyone will believe is natural! And it is really the best thing that ever happened. While I’m on that subject, I believe I will quote from Anderson’s latest. I wrote to him from Baltimore, sitting at the saloon table of my beloved Marsodak, asking what would happen to me if I should cut my hair off (tactfully not saying that it had been done, you see!) And here is what I got back:

“It seems that I am called upon to remark upon two matters of some importance, if one can consider the matter of a haircut of any importance. As you are probably bobbed, and even possibly shingled by this time, there’s nothing to do but yield with good grace, and submit a word of commendation upon good sense, and convenience, in place of an approving glance. Bobbed hair is really charming, you know, when it doesn’t hang straight down like rope-yarn from an Irish pennant. As you assure me that yours is wavy and inclined to curl, we may count the tresses well lost.”

In the next breath he springs the Arctic adventure, the absolute out-of-touchness with the world for four months, and the element of risk and danger–all quite unconcernedly, and in the same somewhat humorous and heavy literary style. He then professed great concern for my personal welfare. At that time there had been quite a tempest, financially and otherwise, and I sort of expected I should have to walk the streets any minute for any kind of labor I could find. During this crisis, I wrote to Anderson. And he came back with putting his worldly fortune at my disposal, at any time, and with expressing great grief and concern over it.

“I only pray,” he says, “it doesn’t cast you into the day-laboring class. I’ve been in it long enough to know what it amounts to, and what it’s probably end is. The sort of existence that leaves a woman a slattern at forty, and a man a dolt. Or if they have some perception, leaves them with a sort of misanthropic cynicism, bereft of ideals and appreciation of life…. This must all seem very serious and dull, coming from me.”

Maybe I’m prejudiced somehow, but I think knowing a person like that is a great adventure.

I could also quote ad infinitum from the letter which arrived just before the last one, in which he remarks that there i one thing I have in common with my father–“the tendency, or ability, to dream.” Then he said that my dreams were “beautiful and sane,” instead of being “distorted, perhaps through long suppression, who knows?” Then he became somewhat grandfatherly, saying that dreams would have to be put on the shelf for the present, under these entirely practical conditions. Then he charitably said: “Sure! Don’t I know? Haven’t I sat on deck in the moonlight, and let fancy put on it seven league boots, and go roaming?”

Well, enough of this! This takes me too far away from the immediate present, which I’ve got to set my mind on pretty hard. I keep busy now from getting-up to going-to-bed, and time whizzes. I am happy, one the whole. Not ecstatically so, one couldn’t be; but sort-of at zero, if you know what I mean. Not definitely one thing or another. I am hardly a person right now-I am more like a machine. Typewriting, typewriting, editing, editing, cooking, sweeping, mopping …. That sort of thing. And busy as the devil, every minute, though not about the same things! (I hope.) I want to remain that busy until about next January, when I think I’ll take a vacation of some sort–if not materially, at least mentally and spiritually–come down to Baltimore and look at a ship again, or lock my door (wherever my door will be then!) for a week or so and work on Farksoo and think; or take a train up to New Hampshire and look at the winter woods; or climb Monadnock and sing a song.

Dr. Tyler, who is taking care of Sabra, came down a few days ago, on her way south with some friends; and she dropped in to spend the night. It was very nice to see her, but made us all feel a little queer, if you can imagine it. She talked a lot about Sabra, and made us all very homesick–made me want to send a telegram to Follett and say: “Drop it, you poor fool–and come HOME!” Helen hopes to have money enough this summer to take the cottage in the New Hampshire woods. Then I could have the woods again, and Sabra. I think that is a gorgeous scheme; and I only hope there will be money–though God knows where it is to come from. If we went up there I should still keep busy. More physically than mentally. I should climb hills and swim lakes, and sail my boat, and play around with my little sister (that will be some job, for Tyler says she is a positive “whirlwind.”)  I’ll entertain her, and keep her busy, by building her a little shack in the woods, and making a wild-flower garden, and that sort of thing. And I should hope to do some writing, too.

In fact, wherever I am, and whoever I am with, I am going to keep very busy until about next January. And by that time, if I’ve controlled my temper at all the crucial moments, and my tears at all the appalling ones, and my patience at all the nervous ones, and my sense of beauty at all the hideous ones, and a degree of common-sense at all the flurried ones, and prevent myself from becoming hard and bitter during those damn-fiendish ones that tear your vitals–whey, then, I think I shall have earned a vacation, by about next January.

The cherry-blossoms are over now. We have seen Mrs. Pratt just once–tomorrow she is coming to take us out to Capitol View, and to drive us about a little. She seems like an extremely nice person; and we all sat and talked about the Russells, and old times, and it was very jolly. She described the Russells’ flurried and hasty departure for California, and the two tea-kettles left over; and it sounded so much like the Folletts that we laughed until the tears ran down our cheeks.

Even if I don’t get a regular and permanent sort of job here, I think we shall stay here about a month longer. We are not needed in New Haven till August, and Helen yearns to get as much as humanly possible of the book finished. She works altogether too hard, of course; but by Jove what writing! We hope to get the book completed, and the final copy made, up to Tahiti, before going home. That should be half of it at least. That will be enough to exhibit the King of England himself. There is a good deal of work about the beginning to do–you see, she improved so vastly that she found the beginning positively rotten by contrast, an worthy of the garbage can; so she has rewritten the whole beginning. And it’s infinitely better than anything you’ve seen of hers. I had no idea she could pull off anything of the kind. It’s full of light-hearted, humorous conversation, beautiful little patches of description, not too much; and–oh, well, there’s just no use talking about it, that’s all! It makes my own stuff sound dull, and heavy, and think, and formidable, and sluggish, and thoroughly awkward and ridiculous.

Speaking of writing: I hope the pot-boiler and the whole-hearted young man (God! how I yearn to spit at these whole-hearted young men!) sells with a bang; and I don’t doubt it will–that sort always does. But I always think of your writing as being the other kind–the soul-mauling kind.

Well, I can see that I shall have to stop. This won’t go into an ordinary envelope, if I don’t stop soon–I can see that. Anderson wrote me a ten-page letter once, quite a long time ago, and wound up with: “If I write any more, I’ll have to send it by parcel post!”

Your shipmate eternally,
Barbara