Letter to A.D.R., February 24, 1931

620 West 122nd Street
New York City
February 24, 1931

Dear A.D.R.:

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. Still romance in the world, eh, what? I like the idea of cutting down trees for masts–in 1931! Seems too good to be true.

Even at the office, things were deadly, as the Director had to go out West to a big meeting, to deliver a couple of addresses, etc., and when he’s away there’s hardly anything to do down there; and if there’s anything I hate, it’s keeping up a semblance of having something to do when in reality I’m not. The time hangs awfully heavy at such times. Now, however, Helen is well, A. is back, the Director came back today; also a deluge of proof for the technical Journal came in in the morning’s mail, and my down-town desk is loaded!

I have other exciting news. The other week, in pursuing through the Shipping News, I came upon an item about my old schooner, the Frederick H.–that is, of course, the Norman D. It seems she had gone ashore off Mount Desert (Maine) in a gale o’ wind, and damaged her rudder. (Follett would know about Mount Desert.) Well, that set me thinking. I got to thinking about that “worthy mariner” (as Anderson calls him), Mate Bill, and how he was, and how Mrs. Mate Bill was, who wrote me once; and whether the schooner was badly knocked up, and whether Bill still remembered at all the little red-headed girl who kicked about the decks of the Frederick H. so long ago, when she was only about up to her own shoulder, or less!

So I typed off a letter to Mate Bill.

And in reply:

Port Greville
Feb. 12. 1931

Dear Barbara
we got your letter O K and was
glad to here form you again.
Bill is not home so he got me to
drope you a line Bill was in
Frederick last summer and this
summer to he left hur about 3
weeks befour she went ashore she
is in river now not hurt much. we
was tacking about you about a
week befour Bill got your letter
he was useing knife you give him
and sed I like to no ware Barbara
is now he though he would never
here form you again Bill sed he
would make you a boat like
Frederick and take it up to you
in summer.

2/
if you think you could fine him
he would let you no Bill ofen
speek about that man that came
down in Frederick and would love
to see him I am send you some
snaps of Frederick H. now Barbara
I will Close for this time Please
write soon again form Mrs
McClelland

       Bill working in woods about
16 mile form home he diden have
aney chance to write he in a
camp with about 28 men so you see
he would have no place to write
please excuse him

—————————————–

Real honest-to-God sterling people? Yes! And what difference does it make whether they can spell or not? Not a sand-small bit–though of course it’s preferable, I think, to have, as a steady correspondent, someone who can spell and punctuate and form good Anglo-Saxon sentences and paragraphs!

Well, I was overjoyed. So it seems I may be seeing Mate Bill this summer, “if I can fine him” that is, which I think I can do, even among the dingy, complicated, disgusting wharves of New York. If I do, there will be a story. And yet–I confess I have a vague fear when it comes to seeing Bill again. Bill remembers me as a little kid. I’ve put on so much stature, etc., I’m afraid he may be rather flabbergasted. However, I don’t see that I could have done anything about it; though I do think it would be nice to have some magic gift by which one could become twelve or thirteen years old at will. Don’t you?

Other news I have none, I guess. Helen’s manuscript is battling for dear life. There are three very powerful ropes out now, and any number of smaller fish-lines. Some of it is in the hands of St. Nicholas, which has so far reacted favorably. Helen, with the help of a new-found actress friend, is dramatizing it with radiostic ambitions, as perhaps I’ve told you. And then the Junior Literary Guild. One of the three ought to happen. I should think, anyway! If all of them happen–but that isn’t to be expected. But if any one of them happens, it will help the other two!

She herself is working like an Injun most of the time. I, on the other hand, ain’t working no more than I have ter!

Sometimes, still, I spend week-ends at that quiet, timid little house in Pelham, with the elderly poet and his elderly wife. I spent this last week-end on holiday with them, reading Sherlock Holmes and Sat. Eve. Post stories, and in general having a good relaxation. I also did some writing. I find it rather difficult to get all the writing done here that I might like to do. It’s rather thick at times!

Have you heard anything, or seen anything, or felt anything, of Follett? Or of The Other? I wonder, I wonder, what they can be doing, and how they are, etc. How’s that “menial job” which Follett said he had?

Your story, I regret to say, hasn’t sold yet. I’m going to take it down to Ethel Kelley next week-end, and read it aloud to her. She is a very precious friend of both Helen and me, you know; and is well up in literary things, and knows a lot about possible markets, etc., even if she has been flat on her back for three or four years.

The only other bit of news is that my German friend, the young and fair-haired second mate of my last steamer, the Marsodek, came for a “wisit” with me the other week or so. I came home from work and found him sitting at the table with Helen, laughing, and looking quite like himself. We had a very jolly time. He went out and bought two immense porterhouse steaks about three inches thick, and a dozen pastries with whipped cream in them. Lord-a-mercy! when these sailors get ashore! That’s one thing I like about A: he doesn’t force fanciful boxes of candy upon one at every corner. But the German mate was very entertaining, as usual: he spun yarns till nearly midnight. It seems his ship, the Marsodek, is laid up in Baltimore: he got transferred to another of the company’s ships, which just came into New York. He was shivering, however, and talked a great deal about California, and his favorite town, San Francisco.

The weather has been rather beastly, though not half so bad as I expected. It’s been alternately cold and warm, cold and warm, all winter long. There’s been real northerly spice in the air, and quite a lot of snow; and there have been some of those clear, cold, north N. E. (that stands for New England!) days that make one feel very virile and full of life and energy. These last three days, on the other hand, have been gloriously like spring itself.

In your last letter you commented with great, great enthusiasm, on N by E. Funny that our tastes in literature should clash, even a little, isn’t it? I can’t praise the book with the whole-hearted eagerness that you do. You say that Rockwell Kent is a Man and a Seaman. I don’t think he is quite either. There are some gorgeous bits in the book, and I love some of the pictures; but damn it! there’s too much Rockwell Kent at every turn! I have a feeling, also, that there’s affectation in the book–it doesn’t quite ring, to me, with the genuine wholesome sound that it ought to have. It can’t be said that I am prejudiced, either, because I started out with the feeling that I should certainly admire and love the book straight through. But it doesn’t seem to me the book that his earlier one, Wilderness, is. (Pardon this atrocious sentence!)

Another thing that doesn’t ring with me is the breaking up of the little party.

Another thing that’s out of place is the episode of the Greenland girl.

I’ll tell you, though, of one really gigantic piece of writing that has come to light. It’s in the February issue of Harper’s Magazine; and it’s William McFee’s article, “Engine Room Stuff.” Now on the whole I have had occasion to be hugely disappointed with McFee’s writing. But this one piece is epic, cosmic. It’s without doubt one of the best short pieces of writing I’ve read for a long time. It has, in fact, only one bad line in it–which one can skip when reading it aloud to friends, as I do. I suggest that you dig it up. It’s far more than worth the trouble.

My love to the fambly. I suppose B. R. is in Washington, now. Alas! These continental separations! Atrocious, aren’t they? If you will give me his address, I think I’ll write to him again shortly. How’s Phoebe? The House Beautiful covers are GRAND!

There are lots of things I should have said that I haven’t, I’m sure. Yet this is, at least, a starter, isn’t it? I hope you don’t feel too thoroughly exasperated with

Yours ever,
Barbara

Letter to A.D.R. – March 12, 1931

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.

Yours,
Barbara

Letter to A.D.R. – June 1, 1931

150 Claremont Avenue, New York. Photo taken in March, 2012.

 

150 Claremont Avenue
New York
June 1, 1931

Dearest A.D.R.:

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! It is too grand to be true that someone is going to see somebody they want to see. I envy you and rejoice with you all at once.

We have some rather good developments of late. Helen’s book is TAKEN!!!!!!!!!! By Louise Seaman, of Macmillan. Furthermore, it seems that now it’s been accepted, and a generous advance offer made, certain other publishers in N. Y. are on its trail–which is flattering, you know. Well, the joke’s on them.

Now, I don’t want this to be mentioned. It’s a great secret, for the time being. You must share it only with Phoebe. Helen is very anxious to have it a surprise to W. F., and for that reason I think it would be better not to tell even the Deserters. Furthermore, the Contract isn’t actually signed, nor the Check received; but it’s as good as done, and I don’t think it can really go wrong now.

There is still more editorial work to be done on it. It was accepted on faith, so to speak. Helen has gorgeously revised the first four chapters, and the faith is that the rest of the book will be pulled up to the high standard of those four. That will be done this summer. The book will doubtless be out next spring.

Helen says she’s going to get that book serialized before it’s published, then accepted by the Junior Guild, then published, then radioized, and perhaps a few odd chapters accepted by Harper’s Magazine in payment of the Debt! Well, SOME of those things ought to come through!

Other things have happened. One sad one. A. has gone, of course–which leaves the corner in my time which I was speaking about before. I’m glad to have the corner, of course, and yet — It was more of a jolt than I had anticipated. I feel quite nebulous, not quite sure of whether I’m here.

Other things have happened. We’re moving, as you can see by the heading. Just an apartment round the corner, because this building is to be torn down, beginning tomorrow, supposedly. The new place is bigger and airier and sunnier and expensiver, with a grand view of the New Jersey hills, Grant’s Tomb, and the rear of the statue of Butterfield.

Other things have happened. I’m to have a two months’ vacation, and we’re moving up to Hanover to spend them in a little cabin in the woods, just across the river from our old and dear friends the Meserveys. Really in the woods. Wood-thrushes and crickets and pine trees. Oh, my God! And stars, and smells, and green grass. A little log cabin, all furnished, facing Mt. Ascutney, for $20.00 a month. Not too extravagant, eh what? I shall climb mountains and tear around. Just the worst two months here in the city. What luck! July and August.

Other things have happened. I’m writing a book. A good book. The one about wings. The first chapter is done, and the second is well under way. The plot is mapped out rather clearly–in my head. It begins rather dismally, but soon acquires some sun. There will be sea (naturally), and a romance (?), and a satisfactory amount of misery. The plot is exceedingly old and trite, but it’s going to be handled in a new way. It’s about a shipwreck, an island, and so on. But it doesn’t turn out very well. It leaves you a little poised in mid-air.

Well, I think that’s all that has happened, summed up in brief. I think you’d better move east next winter. It’s going to be a good winter. I’m to have the same job, “with added responsibilities and an increased stipend.” The last clause is particularly inducive, I think. “Increased stipend” has a pleasant ring, has it not? Someday I’ll buy an island yet! Or a boat. Or both.

As I said, it’s going to be a really good winter. Helen’s book will be on its exciting trip through the press, I shall be working up mine, plus a few articles for Harper (say I lightly!). We’ll have a little more breathing-space, too. Why, I shall even have a room all to myself, which I haven’t had for ever and ever so long. And how I shall work!

I was going to say a lot about your comments on college. But that is so long past that I’m quite out of the mood at present. I saw your points at the time, I believe; in fact, they were obvious points. But somehow I don’t believe it will happen. Everything can’t happen, you know. I’d rather cut it out than some of the other things. One has to choose. The point is, weed your garden, don’t you know?

What are you doing, and planning to do? Damn, damn, it’s a long time since I’ve seen you. Come east next winter. It looks as if I shouldn’t go west for some time yet. Got to stick at the wheel and weed my garden. But it’s really awful how all my best friends are thousands of miles away. It’s as if I had a cursed circle around me that my friends can’t get into. A geographical circle, I mean. The only real friend I have in New York is Ethel Kelley, and she’s too sick to see me at all most of the time. When I want her most, she’s invariably too sick. Also, she’s trying to write a book too, and giving all her spare energy to that. The only other person who is at all in reach is Norman D. of New Haven, who comes down to N. Y. once in a while on business. Otherwise, I’m damned alone, if you want to know.

But that doesn’t matter, and isn’t interesting anyway.

This style of writing of mine sounds rather curt in a letter, doesn’t it? It’s a new development. I think I rather like it. The novel is more or less written in that style. Some sentences which aren’t really sentences, you know; and no long, involved ones. W. F. wouldn’t approve of that, I suppose, he being the champeen sentence-twister and wordsmith of the generation! Incidentally, any news of him? And don’t forget! He’s not to know about Helen’s book.

Do you remember that beautifully involved sentence in the introductory sketch to The Scarlet Letter? It begins “In my native town of Salem….” and ends, halfway down the page, “there stands a spacious edifice of brick.” Words to that effect. In between those two clauses, which are the complete structure of the sentence, he describes the whole town of Salem, I should say, with dashes and comma-dashes and semicolons galore. Incidentally, it was my first reading of the book, just yesterday. I never could plough through Hawthorne before. I used to get snowed under before I could find out what it was all about. But I got such a tremendous kick out of that book that I had an attack of hysteria or sumthin very like it. The suspense is crushing, and the whole structure is built up magnificently. I didn’t know he wrote like that!

That’s all I’ve read for months. Except galley proof, of course. There’s always lots of galley proof to read, when a good eye is available. I read just about all the proof that comes into the office, and am getting quite famous for not passing up errors. Very uninteresting material, though, for the most part. Scientific and technical and deadly dull! Scientists can’t write a good English sentence, somehow.

Anyway, I still think Lord Jim is the greatest book in English, and a point above Nostromo. Tell W. F. that when you see him. Then he’ll know I still disagree with him!

I suppose California is getting hot. We’ve been fried and frizzled the last three days. Helen and I have been carting basketloads of books across the street to the other apartment, and we’re about done up. I think S. F. would be grand about now. But not so good as little old Hanover!

I hope you’ll condescend so far as to forgive the long silence and write me. I’ll try to make up for it; but my tryings never seem to amount to very much. Letter-writing is a delicate matter. It has all sorts of strange bumps and valleys. It’s a quicksand affair. But even quicksand serves to pave a river with.

Yours with love,
Barbara

Letter to A.D.R. – July 4, 1931

July 4, 1931

Dearest A.D.R.:

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. I am having a good deal of fun wrestling with it.

I think it’s swell that The American Girl has been chasing you for material. That is about the highest compliment a writer can have, isn’t it? And you must find time to do the work. If I think of a rip-snorting Idea I’ll let you know. But maybe you already have plenty of Ideas. Apparently that is the easiest part! It seems to be with me.

There are no further developments on Helen’s book. I imagine it will be out next spring sometime. They are casting about right now for an illustration—a “tropical bird” preferably, as H. says. Whether it will work out I don’t know. Also, we are still revising the MS. One can revise till Doomsday, it seems. We probably will!

Alaska is a Hell of a long way off! No mail until October. But that’s something to anticipate. He is such a faithful soul. Two letters a week, and sometimes three, form the time he landed last fall till the schooner sailed this spring. He’ll come back. I have an idea that he’s unbreakable and eternal.

Oh, A. D. R., I don’t know what to say, but I’m sure you should come east. The bus costs only $55. Could you stand the bus? If it’s lack of ready cash, I could remedy that—yes, even I, incredible as it may seem. And oh, how I’d love to see you myself! Of course, there will not be that old California glamor—that subtle, fleeting thing that surrounded us before. It might be a little unreal. I haven’t carried over much of that atmosphere. But we could have cocoa and graham crackers even here, and I could whirl you around. How about next fall?

Next fall looks just a little dreary to me anyway. To be sure, I’l have that same job again, and probably it will be a bigger one. My employer has industrial ideals—that your job is your own property, so to speak. But oh, oh, in N. Y. the moths feed on the wings of your soul. This is probably an unhealthy attitude, I know. But I do think the world is rather horrid. Most of my dearest friends seem to be in deep trouble, and I can’t do anything about it.

Perhaps that’s why I cling for dear life to A. He, with no tools and no material, has nevertheless made something most beautiful and real out of life. I don’t know just how. But he is a rock and a shelter. I’ll never forget or forgive WF’s attitude toward him. That was mainly what caused the sharp and sudden break between him and me. It was unwarranted and ridiculous and mean. My respect for WF did its loudest blowing-up over that…. A. is a treasure.

Anyway, you come East this fall—or sooner. One can get to the point where one doesn’t know what to do and consequently does nothing, whereas an outsider, acquainted suddenly with the true situation, at once forms rather definite opinions. Of course, this outsider isn’t pretending to be God! But I know how easily one can let Money rule one—especially if Money is thought of at every step. Soon one ceases to take steps. I know!

If you will come, you know that you could stay here with us—we have plenty of space now, and anything we have is yours. Helen longs to see you, too. You would be quite close to B. R. and could run down to Washington often by bus. I feel sure that everyone concerned would be happier for it. You could rent the house; and if Phoebe couldn’t come too I know she would understand, and would be glad to carry on for a while. And oh, we would welcome you so! So do think of it seriously.

This is a nice, cool, comfortable apartment, with lots of light and plenty of good tables to work on. You could get a lot of writing done. We would all be writing together. Wouldn’t it be fun? Also, we live right near the Hudson River, which is really beautiful at night–dreamy, promising. There is a nice park—a public spoonery, to be sure, but still very nice. I think we could have a grand time.

This is the great 4th of July. It seems strange and incongruous somehow, to hear the snapping of toy pistols and firecrackers. Silly. It makes H. and me a little depressed. Seems so utterly futile.

One very nice thing did happen this week. The Chief wrote to me — at last. H. had been to Boston, and his boat was in. She went down to pay a friendly visit. The letter is more or less the result of that, but that fact doesn’t make it any less pleasing. It’s just the kind of letter that was needed to square that account. It has relieved me more that I imagined, and given me a freedom from that vague and horrid sense of guilt and discomfort. Until now there was still something pending—waiting to be settled. Not it’s all definitely fixed, somehow—the account has been cleared, and well cleared. Until now I had vague feelings of sadness on the subject, which have completely vanished now.

Now for the woods! I am looking forward to sunlight and trees — the Earth. Except for a curious and indefinable loneliness, which I have experienced a good deal of late without exactly knowing why—except for that, I think the next two months will be glorious. One does get lonely in the springtime somehow, when the wind is warm on your face and the grass is green.

I need you a great deal. I know we each have a lot to discuss and propound which we wouldn’t by mail. At any rate, mere quiet companionship would be very soul-satisfying.

Do give our love to the “fambly.” I am holding my thumbs for you, my dear, and I do want and hope and long for things to be better. I won’t say “pray,” because whatever small part of God I may once have believed in, I don’t believe in any more. But I believe in love.

Yours,
B.

August 20, 1931 – letter to A.D.R.

Norwich, Vermont
August 20, 1931

Dear A.D.R.:

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.

You want to know Things. I should say it was you who had the Things to relate. Helen says that she would write to you, only she can’t think of anything to say, because there is too much to say. She feels for you quite tremendously, I am sure of that. Her revision is all finished now, except for a few details. She is now working on a new prospect, a rather vague one as yet, in connection with radio broadcasting.

We haven’t gone back to New York yet. I may not for nearly two weeks yet. I haven’t gotten very brown, and I’ve worked pretty nearly all the time, but I’ve enjoyed myself a good deal. Somehow I can’t make this summer a parallel with the one of yours that you told me about. I am a bit depressed, and anyway the hermit-thrushes have stopped singing now. But the goldenrod is glorious. I console myself at times by indulging in long conversations with an ancient farmer who has friendly blue eyes and an immense white moustache behind which he smiles secretly.

The Harper article fizzled, because I couldn’t, if you know what I mean. The book may just possibly escape fizzling. I have nearly finished the sixth chapter now. That is about half of it, I should say, because they are long chapters—fifteen pages each. I still hold to my opinion that it’s a pretty good book.

I think it was grand that you got that Thanksgiving story off. I don’t know how you managed it, with all your sixteen worries, each one being plenty for one person at a time. I get thrown all off the track myself by reading in the newspaper some little item about the ice being bad up Point Barrow way.

The thing I have been gladdest of this summer, I think, is that I have been working on Farksoo again, after a long spell during which it rested in a drawer untouched.

I am lonesome as hell, and wish I could see you. It was partly for selfish reasons that I suggested that you come east this winter. The invitation still holds good, in fact, it always holds good. If I ever come to live out west, you’ll come to see me sometimes, won’t you? We can have cocoa and discuss the events of the world. I believe I shall come, someday.

I guess that’s about all. I feel miserable because I can’t do anything, for you or myself or the ice or anything. I think impotence is about the worst sort of curse. If ever there is anything I can do, you’ll let me know, won’t you? And if anything does happen that makes you change your mind about coming east, remember that we want you.

Anderson—God willing—will be back toward the end of September.

As ever,
B.

October 19, 1931 – letter to A.D.R.

150 Claremont Ave.
October 19 [1931]

Dear ADR:

Just a vibration from yours in New York, to let you know that I’m still quite alive, strange as it may seem.

I’ve been doing some thinking about Phoebe’s poem. Would you like me to try peddling it around a bit? Have you, for instance, sent it to Harper’s? I think it’s gorgeous, and she might make a small handful of pebbles out of it. It’s worth trying, I think; though I’ve never had any luck in that way myself.

The only development here in New York of any great interest is pertaining to Helen’s manuscript, which is trying hard to put itself across on the radio. I think it may. If it does———! Oh, but I’ll talk about that when it happens—and IF.

Another development there is that she’s put salt on the tail of a perfectly magnificent illustrator—a shy little man who has been down to the tropics himself, and knows, who has an adorable sense of humor, and who can play the ukulele and sing Tahitian songs in a simple sweet way which makes me weep—me! He’s caught, I think, better than anyone else could have done, the spirit of our trip—its gaiety, its colors. You wait till you see!

“Lost Island” cometh along. I’ve nine whole chapters now—considerably more than half, for they’re long chapters.

I’d love to hear from you—about you, and P. and E. and M., and B.R. Are they all still in trouble? Is everything still just as wrong as it has been, which is, I should say, as wrong as possible? I’ve thought of you much and deeply, ADR, thought I’ve been dour and uncommunicative. I’ve a great deal of personal faith in you. I’d feel that the world was even wronger than it is, if it kept on banging you over the head.

It seems that someone by the name of M.W. has gotten out a book—the story of a midwestern family, “The Kirbys.” Is it the M.W.? I thought her projected novel was a Maine coast story.

Best of luck and love to all of you.

Your Barbara.

P.S. Does this envelope suggest anything?

March 1932 – letter to A.D.R.

Saturday
March 1932

Dear A.D.R.:

You really needn’t feel so ashamed of yourself in the matter of correspondence, since you surely didn’t owe me much of a letter, judging by my last two or three!

You are right when you surmise that I have been rushed and busy—more so than ever, since the beginning of 1932. My life is getting almost crowded, in fact. The job, of course, takes eight hours a day straight out, and everything else has to be jammed into the fringes. Since I can’t satisfy mind, soul, or body with the job, I have to jam into the fringes almost as much as another person would put into an entire day.

You want TALK. Well, I’ll try my best, and as there are a few more news items now than usual, maybe I can fill the bill a bit.

First, Helen’s book is getting to that thrilling point. She has received proof of the illustrations—great illustrations they are, looking like very clever woodcuts—and Macmillan has done a surprisingly good job of the reproductions. But since she will doubtless tell you all about this herself, maybe I’d better concentrate on other things.

The more important thing I have to contribute is that Lost Island creepeth onward, in spite of God and the Devil (represented by various personages, of course!). In fact, I’ve gotten to that delectable point where there remains only about a chapter and a half—or possibly two chapters and a half—to be written. That will complete the first draft. Then to sail into a good thorough revision, editing, chopping, piecing, cross-hatching, weaving, repairing, tearing, rending, boiling, steaming, and general subjection to energy. I think I can have it in Mr. Saxton’s hands—willing or unwilling hands—by June 1 at the latest. That’s what I’m aiming for, anyhow. And I still have faith in the old thing, which is quite a point, you know.

When all this energy is accomplished, I’m going to bat out about three copies, of which two will be passed around among a few individuals. You are going to be one of the fortunate (?) recipients. I shall want your criticism—I mean, if you are willing, and want to give it—rigorous and stern and unsparing. There will be four or five other people, who will probably all contradict each other. Then it will fall to my lot to Think It Over, and do some more pounding. Among these selected critics, I’m going to pick out at least two entirely impersonal ones. For instance, a Professor of English at Dartmouth whom I encountered last summer.

After that job is all completely finished, and the black spring binder reposes under Mr. Saxton’s nose, I’m going to sail into another job I have in mind—not such a lovely job, but an even more important one, because my entire existence rests upon it. It will the introductory material for another book—a book about an adventure I think I shall have this summer. Woods and mountains. A. D. R., I’m going to tell you about it, and you must rise to the occasion, because I’m terrifically excited over the whole thing.

I’ve gotten together a party of four congenial brave souls—of which I am one (I hope)—and we may add two more members. Then, starting about the middle of July, we’re going to Maine—Ktaadn—Thoreau’s country—and from there we’re going down the Appalachian trail, two thousand miles, Maine to Georgia, camping out, and carrying upon our sturdy backs the necessities of life. It will take between three and four months, and be the greatest release imaginable.

Well, I’ve even higher ambitions than that. I’m not just going to take money out of the bank, leaving a hole, to indulge my pleasure. I’m going to struggle to make the thing pay for itself, and the only way I know how to do that is to write about it. And as I said I’ve some ideas for the introductory materials which can be put into words before ever the adventure takes place. And that’s what I’m going to do after Lost Island is carefully finished. All four of us are very much together on this. We’re going to cooperate to the nth degree, and I think that among us all we’ll succeed. You couldn’t imagine a more congenial party. We are getting together this spring for house-parties at intervals, during which we paw over hundreds of maps, draw up provision lists, talk, laugh, anticipate, and in general have a grand time.

The party consists of an amiable lad with occasional unsuspected depths whom I met last summer when H. and I were living in the Vermont cabin; a pal of his, who has a remarkably good head on young shoulders; and a girl who is really a grand scout, with whom I get along quite beautifully. In fact, we all get along with each other beautifully. No friction anywhere, as far as we have been able to discover. There may be two others aded to the Grand Expedition, as I said; and we would like of course to have an elderly leader, than whom no finer could be imagined than Meservey of Hanover—only I’m afraid Meservey of Hanover is tied up.

Well, that’s the general idea. It may crash completely. Nothing is certain about it. But we’re all hoping, and pulling together. We’re all slightly rebels against civilization, and we want to go out into the woods and sweat honestly and shiver honestly and satisfy our souls by looking at mountains, smelling pine trees, and feeling the sky and the earth.

We went up to Bear Mountain this last week-end, for the Appalachian Trail strikes through there, and we explored ten or fifteen miles of that section of it. It gave us a tremendous thrill. I can’t tell you what it meant to our world-weary souls to have our feet on that narrow, bumpy, winding footpath that goes clear from Maine to Georgia, marked out by little silver monograms on the trees, which change to yellow-painted arrows over rocks and ledges. Over Easter we’re all gathering the clan again, for another expedition somewhere. These short trips help us to get personally adjusted and strengthen the congeniality still more. It also helps to give us an idea of what we need by way of food and clothes, and also puts us in training, more or less.

It will be a terrific trip, of course. There will be times when we’ll probably be cold and wet and uncomfortable and grumpy. But we’re ready for that—almost covet it in fact. Pitting one’s strength and personality against the wilds—the greatest sort of opportunity on earth…. Well, there it is. My room is plastered with trail maps even now!

All this time I haven’t so much as mentioned A., have I? Well, I’ve had him in the back of my mind—in reserve, so to speak. Luckily, the C. S. Holmes job holds. I guess he’ll be going north again next summer—the third time. There really isn’t anything else to do, with conditions as they are all over the world, especially along the waterfront. His life is odd and stern—verging on tragic, at times. He feels that now and then, and has down-spells, during which I am hard put to it to be cheerful and cheering. I am pretty sure, though, that next fall we shall actually be together, and discuss everything from moths to meteors, including money and mice and merriment and misery and—but that almost exhausts the m’s I can think of at this Moment. That discussion will doubtless decide a good many points about this universe and the nature thereof. Right now he is a little sad, and alternates between letters about the futility of life with humorous epistles about politics in Seattle and other things.

As for being eighteen—well, I don’t think there is anything especially momentous about that. It doesn’t thrill me a bit.

Your mention of spring makes my mouth water. There hasn’t been much around these parts. In fact, Bear Mountain was covered with snow last week-end, and there was driving mist and it was pretty dern cold. However, one can’t stop the seasons, so I have hopes.

I’m so glad to hear the good news about Elizabeth. What an ordeal—or rather, what a series of ordeals—she has plowed through. Phoebe is apparently still toeing the mark, with her nose much to the grindstone. Darn these grindstones—I mean, damn them. And so B. R. is actually going west in the summer—actually, this time? He west, A. north, I Appalachian Trail. Funny world, isn’t it?

You know, I’m ashamed of myself, but it took me several seconds of puzzle to figure out “Miller.” Then I remembered. Wonderful creature that he was! Supercilious, spruce, disdainful creature!

Thanks for letting me see the two pictures of you and P. in the desert. I return them herewith. They are sweet.

TALK? Will these pages do at all? If it’s egocentric talk you were looking for, I should think maybe this would be slight over-dose! On the other hand, you are so devoted and the lapse has been so long, that maybe it will be endurable this time. You know, I’m still hoping to see you sometime. I have a philosophy of life—one which has been evolving for many years, but which has suffered interruptions and repressions and smashes. Now it has taken root again—or, rather, I realize that its root are not dead, but just beginning to be powerful. If it grows and thrives and survives the vile climate of trouble and difficulty and set-back, it may take me to almost any part of the old earth where I want to go. What is this philosophy, you ask? Well, I’m testing it warily, leaning on it cautiously, exploring it tenderly, thinking about it profoundly; and if I come to the conclusion that it’s any good, I’ll tell you sometime. Not until it has proved itself a little, though. I’ve lost faith in a number of things—or, rather, I’ve withdrawn from them the crushing weight of my faith. My philosophy aims now to stand upright. Tree-like….

I expect the next year to decide a number of important points. Beginning this summer. I think this summer will tell me a good deal. Being in the woods, standing on mountain-peaks—time to meditate and dram and get a perspective on life. There is nothing more soul-cleansing than to stand on a mountain, when you are inclined to feel hopelessly sure that the world is 99 100ths mankind, and see that vast tracts of it are blankets of forest and trees, after all!  Mountains affect inward matters in the same way—reassure one about inward things in the same way as they do the visible things. So I expect to find out several things during the Appalachian Trail expedition—assuming and praying that it works.

Then, coming back from that to this—the complete contrast, the need for instantaneous adaption, and the fresh perspective on this—these things are also going to tell me a good deal. I mean, I shall be ready then to make certain decisions, about philosophy and about life.

Then I’ll remedy the inner workings of the universe!

My love to you and all the Russell clan.

Yours,
B.

May 23, 1932 – letter to A.D.R.

150 Claremont Avenue
New York
May 23, 1932

Dear A.D.R.:

There has been a terrific long gulf, hasn’t there? It is hard,when all’s said and done, to keep in touch with people who live thousands of miles away, no matter how much you love them. I do want ever so much to know the news—whether anything is wrong, or anything right, or whatever there is and has been.

Spring! That means leaves and fragrances and warm winds and—an Arctic-bound schooner.

The only really exciting piece of news is that this summer I and three very good genial friends are going to tramp down the Appalachian Trail, which runs over mountains clear from Maine to Georgia, a matter of twelve or fifteen hundred miles. Maybe I told you about that before, though. I can’t seem to remember—it’s all been so deathly long, anyhow.

Helen’s book comes out on June 7; mine is in second draft form at last, and I hope to thrust it bodily under Mr. Saxton’s nose sometime in June. It will be interesting to watch the reaction. It may turn straight up in the air—the nose, I mean.

I have decided that there are a good many big and fundamental things wrong with the world, and that nothing can be done about it; furthermore, that one must revolve quietly along with the world instead of trying vainly to buck it. If you compromise enough—to outward appearances, at least—and if you fully realize what a messy world it is, and are reconciled to certain facts, such as continual change and permanence in nothing—why, then you can have a surprisingly good time. That’s what I’ve discovered anyway. I’m having a better time of it these days than I’ve had for ages—almost approaching gaiety sometimes, in fact.

But I confess to being a bit worried about you and yours. Things seemed so rather shaky and precarious for you anyway—always have, in fact. Do let me know if there’s anything wrong. Not that I could do anything. I may be seeing you before the year is up. Quien sabe? It’s a mysterious life.

I’m going to Delaware Water Gap over this coming Memorial Day week-end—at least, I think I am. In which event I’ll convey your greetings to the general countryside. Oh, the beauty of that country in spring! How is spring you your way now?

My love to everyone, but specially to you.

Your Barbara

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