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.

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., 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.