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. In his quaint English he expressed the opinion that it was a “poor world.” The other was from a half-caste girl whom I knew I Samoa, and came to like very much. I thought she had by far the most personality–as we measure personality–of anyone I met down in those outlandish parts. At that time there was something in the air about her marrying a white man–a wireless operator aboard one of the Navy ships, I believe. That was two years ago. I was interested to hear this time that it was still in the air–in fact, she is to be married in April. I am a little distressed of course, because I don’t like inter-racial marriages, and can’t help having doubts about the man. She has great dreams of coming to live in the States. Poor child! A Polynesian is a “nigger” here, you know. If only one could say those things. But no–you have to be silent.
It does seem to bad to let Phoebe grow up. I know you won’t try to prevent it, though, for of course you realize that that is misery-making. Oh, Mate, I can give you all sorts of sage advice on those points! I remember certain things so very well, you see–things that have grown a little less real and vivid, perhaps, to an older person. I think growing up could be a most glorious experience. But, oh, it can be so ghastly.
Incidentally, I wish Phoebe would write to me someday when she feels like it. I wrote to her two or three times, and hoped for a brief word sometime. I got the impression that perhaps she was very much disappointed with me–and I honestly don’t blame her. She started out with the idea that I was such a romantic character, you know, and of course I wasn’t. I felt at the time that perhaps she had built up something around me that was too iridescent and fragile and beautiful for any mere mortal to live up to. Oh, I know…. Butterfly wings …. Touch them, and the powder comes off on your hand….
I have been meditating a good deal the last few weeks on the rather abstract problem of whether or not I should go to college–that is, of course, assuming I could get in, which I doubt. I don’t feel the faintest ray of desire or enthusiasm–in fact, I feel a decided antipathy. But I do believe it to be an asset, if you can display your A.B. or B.A.. or whatever it is, when applying for a job. I have decided to get the opinions of several of my friends, on the subject. That doesn’t mean that I will promise to follow their opinions, of course, even should they all turn out to be “for” it–it just means that I am interested to see what they think.
I am not only vague in the extreme on that point, but I am also vague about the immediate future–this summer, I mean. The building we are living in is to come down in June, at least our lease ends in June. Helen wants to go away somewhere. I do, too, but if the job holds I intend to cling to it with might and main. I don’t believe it will hold all summer, as the Federation goes very slowly from June to about September. If Anderson were going to be here I should certainly make some sort of effort to see him, but he is going up North again, as perhaps I told you. Not such a long trip, he says, but I feel rather bleak about it. He is going because he wants the money and is saving it–For A Purpose. Also, times are so damned hard, he thinks quite rightly that he had better stick while the sticking’s good! So with him away, I don’t care much where I go, but I certainly want to go somewhere. Anywhere Helen decides on will be agreeable to me, I guess. We’ll probably hunt up a schooner and sail to the coast of Maine, or maybe to Nova Scotia–or maybe in another direction entirely, toward the West Indies. All things hang on two “ifs”–if my job doesn’t hold, and if the book goes. Otherwise I guess we stay here–(Heaven help us!)
I’m writing a preface (trying to, I mean) for the book. They think it will give it the punch of authority and genuineness, if you know what I mean. I’m hoping to be able to pull off six or seven good pages, but have produced so far only a bit of garbage. You know. When it’s done I’ll send you a copy for criticism. I’m also sending out two or three other copies to my friends–when it’s done. That’s the way Dr. Bingham, Director of the Federation, always writes an article, and I think it’s a good scheme.
Well, I guess that’s about enough dribble for this time, isn’t it, Mate? Anyway, you can see that I’m at least making quite an effort to take my life and put it up on a peak where–alas!–it isn’t. I’m happy in the effort. And I love you. You and Anderson are the two best friends in the world.