How did your secretary come to know about Lock Willow? (That isn't a rhetorical question. I am awfully curious to know.) For listen to this: Mr. Jervis Pendleton used to own this farm, but now he has given it to Mrs. Semple who was his old nurse. Did you ever hear of such a funny coincidence? She still calls him 'Master Jervie' and talks about what a sweet little boy he used to be. She has one of his baby curls put away in a box, and it is red--or at least reddish!
Since she discovered that I know him, I have risen very much in her opinion. Knowing a member of the Pendleton family is the best introduction one can have at Lock Willow. And the cream of the whole family is Master Jervis--I am pleased to say that Julia belongs to an inferior branch.
The farm gets more and more entertaining. I rode on a hay wagon yesterday. We have three big pigs and nine little piglets, and you should see them eat. They are pigs! We've oceans of little baby chickens and ducks and turkeys and guinea fowls. You must be mad to live in a city when you might live on a farm.
It is my daily business to hunt the eggs. I fell off a beam in the barn loft yesterday, while I was trying to crawl over to a nest that the black hen has stolen. And when I came in with a scratched knee, Mrs. Semple bound it up with witch-hazel, murmuring all the time, 'Dear! Dear! It seems only yesterday that Master Jervie fell off that very same beam and scratched this very same knee.'
The scenery around here is perfectly beautiful. There's a valley and a river and a lot of wooded hills, and way in the distance a tall blue mountain that simply melts in your mouth.
We churn twice a week; and we keep the cream in the spring house which is made of stone with the brook running underneath. Some of the farmers around here have a separator, but we don't care for these new-fashioned ideas. It may be a little harder to separate the cream in pans, but it's sufficiently better to pay. We have six calves; and I've chosen the names for all of them.
1. Sylvia, because she was born in the woods.
2. Lesbia, after the Lesbia in Catullus.
4. Julia--a spotted, nondescript animal.
5. Judy, after me.
6. Daddy-Long-Legs. You don't mind, do you, Daddy? He's pure Jersey and has a sweet disposition. He looks like this--you can see howappropriate the name is.
I haven't had time yet to begin my immortal novel; the farm keeps me too busy.
PS. I've learned to make doughnuts.
PS. (2) If you are thinking of raising chickens, let me recommend Buff Orpingtons. They haven't any pin feathers.
PS. (3) I wish I could send you a pat of the nice, fresh butter I churned yesterday. I'm a fine dairy-maid!
PS. (4) This is a picture of Miss Jerusha Abbott, the future great author, driving home the cows.
Isn't it funny? I started to write to you yesterday afternoon, but as far as I got was the heading, 'Dear Daddy-Long-Legs', and then I remembered I'd promised to pick some blackberries for supper, so I went off and left the sheet lying on the table, and when I came back today, what do you think I found sitting in the middle of the page? A real true Daddy-Long-Legs!
I picked him up very gently by one leg, and dropped him out of the window. I wouldn' t hurt one of them for the world. They always remind me of you.
We hitched up the spring wagon this morning and drove to the Centre to church. It's a sweet little white frame church with a spire and three Doric columns in front (or maybe Ionic--I always get them mixed).
A nice sleepy sermon with everybody drowsily waving palm-leaf fans, and the only sound, aside from the minister, the buzzing of locusts in the trees outside. I didn't wake up till I found myself on my feet singing the hymn, and then I was awfully sorry I hadn't listened to the sermon; I should like to know more of the psychology of a man who would pick out such a hymn. This was it:
Come, leave your sports and earthly toys And join me in celestial joys. Or else, dear friend, a long farewell. I leave you now to sink to hell.
I find that it isn't safe to discuss religion with the Semples. Their God (whom they have inherited intact from their remote Puritan ancestors) is a narrow, irrational, unjust, mean, revengeful, bigoted Person. Thank heaven I don't inherit God from anybody! I am free to make mine up as I wish Him. He's kind and sympathetic and imaginative and forgiving and understanding--and He has a sense of humour.
I like the Semples immensely; their practice is so superior to their theory. They are better than their own God. I told them so--and they are horribly troubled. They think I am blasphemous--and I think they are! We've dropped theology from our conversation.
This is Sunday afternoon.
Amasai (hired man) in a purple tie and some bright yellow buckskin gloves, very red and shaved, has just driven off with Carrie (hired girl) in a big hat trimmed with red roses and a blue muslin dress and her hair curled as tight as it will curl. Amasai spent all the morning washing the buggy; and Carrie stayed home from church ostensibly to cook the dinner, but really to iron the muslin dress.
In two minutes more when this letter is finished I am going to settle down to a book which I found in the attic. It's entitled, On the Trail, and sprawled across the front page in a funny little-boy hand:
Jervis Pendleton if this book should ever roam, Box its ears and send it home.
He spent the summer here once after he had been ill, when he was about eleven years old; and he left On the Trail behind. It looks well read--the marks of his grimy little hands are frequent! Also in a corner of the attic there is a water wheel and a windmill and some bows and arrows. Mrs. Semple talks so constantly about him that I begin to believe he really lives--not a grown man with a silk hat and walking stick, but a nice, dirty, tousle-headed boy who clatters up the stairs with an awful racket, and leaves the screen doors open, and is always asking for cookies. (And getting them, too, if I know Mrs. Semple!) He seems to have been an adventurous little soul--and brave and truthful. I'm sorry to think he is a Pendleton; he was meant for something better.
We're going to begin threshing oats tomorrow; a steam engine is coming and three extra men.
It grieves me to tell you that Buttercup (the spotted cow with one horn, Mother of Lesbia) has done a disgraceful thing. She got into the orchard Friday evening and ate apples under the trees, and ate and ate until they went to her head. For two days she has been perfectly dead drunk! That is the truth I am telling. Did you ever hear anything so scandalous?
Your affectionate orphan,
PS. Indians in the first chapter and highwaymen in the second. I hold my breath. What can the third contain? 'Red Hawk leapt twenty feet in the air and bit the dust.' That is the subject of the frontispiece. Aren't Judy and Jervie havingfun?