Field Day last Saturday. It was a very spectacular occasion. First we had a parade of all the classes, with everybody dressed in white linen, the Seniors carrying blue and gold Japanese umbrellas, and the juniors white and yellow banners. Our class had crimson balloons--very fetching, especially as they were always getting loose and floating off--and the Freshmen wore green tissue-paper hats with long streamers. Also we had a band in blue uniforms hired from town. Also about a dozen funny people, like clowns in a circus, to keep the spectators entertained between events.
Julia was dressed as a fat country man with a linen duster and whiskers and baggy umbrella. Patsy Moriarty (Patrici really. Did you ever hear such a name? Mrs. Lippett couldn't have done better) who is tall and thin was Julia's wife in a absurd green bonnet over one ear. Waves of laughter followed them the whole length of the course. Julia played the part extremely well. I never dreamed that a Pendleton could display so much comedy spirit--begging Master Jervie' pardon; I don't consider him a true Pendleton though, any more than I consider you a true Trustee.
Sallie and I weren't in the parade because we were entered for the events. And what do you think? We both won! At least in something. We tried for the running broad jump and lost; but Sallie won the pole-vaulting (seven feet three inches) and I won the fifty-yard sprint (eight seconds).
I was pretty panting at the end, but it was great fun, with the whole class waving balloons and cheering and yelling:
What's the matter with Judy Abbott? She's all right. Who's all right? Judy Ab-bott!
That, Daddy, is true fame. Then trotting back to the dressing tent and being rubbed down with alcohol and having a lemon to suck. You see we're very professional. It's a fine thing to win an event for your class, because the class that wins the most gets the athletic cup for the year. The Seniors won it this year, with seven events to their credit. The athletic association gave a dinner in the gymnasium to all of the winners. We had fried soft-shell crabs, and chocolate ice-cream moulded in the shape of basket balls.
I sat up half of last night reading Jane Eyre. Are you old enough, Daddy, to remember sixty years ago? And, if so, did people talk that way?
The haughty Lady Blanche says to the footman, 'Stop your chattering, knave, and do my bidding.' Mr. Rochester talks about the metal welkin when he means the sky; and as for the mad woman who laughs like a hyena and sets fire to bed curtains and tears up wedding veils and BITES--it's melodrama of the purest, but just the same, you read and read and read. I can't see how any girl could have written such a book, especially any girl who was brought up in a churchyard. There's something about those Brontes that fascinates me. Their books, their lives, their spirit. Where did they get it? When I was reading about little Jane's troubles in the charity school, I got so angry that I had to go out and take a walk. I understood exactly how she felt. Having known Mrs. Lippett, I could see Mr. Brocklehurst.
Don't be outraged, Daddy. I am not intimating that the John Grier Home was like the Lowood Institute. We had plenty to eat and plenty to wear, sufficient water to wash in, and a furnace in the cellar. But there was one deadly likeness. Our lives were absolutely monotonous and uneventful. Nothing nice ever happened, except ice-cream on Sundays, and even that was regular. In all the eighteen years I was there I only had one adventure--when the woodshed burned. We had to get up in the night and dress so as to be ready in case the house should catch. But it didn't catch and we went back to bed.
Everybody likes a few surprises; it's a perfectly natural human craving. But I never had one until Mrs. Lippett called me to the office to tell me that Mr. John Smith was going to send me to college. And then she broke the news so gradually that it just barely shocked me.
You know, Daddy, I think that the most necessary quality for any person to have is imagination. It makes people able to put themselves in other people's places. It makes them kind and sympathetic and understanding. It ought to be cultivated in children. But the John Grier Home instantly stamped out the slightest flicker that appeared. Duty was the one quality that was encouraged. I don't think children ought to know the meaning of the word; it's odious, detestable. They ought to do everything from love.
Wait until you see the orphan asylum that I am going to be the head of! It's my favourite play at night before I go to sleep. I plan it out to the littlest detail--the meals and clothes and study and amusements and punishments; for even my superior orphans are sometimes bad.
But anyway, they are going to be happy. I think that every one, no matter how many troubles he may have when he grows up, ought to have a happy childhood to look back upon. And if I ever have any children of my own, no matter how unhappy I may be, I am not going to let them have any cares until they grow up.
(There goes the chapel bell--I'll finish this letter sometime).
When I came in from laboratory this afternoon, I found a squirrel sitting on the tea table helping himself to almonds. These are the kind of callers we entertain now that warm weather has come and the windows stay open--
Perhaps you think, last night being Friday, with no classes today, that I passed a nice quiet, readable evening with the set of Stevenson that I bought with my prize money? But if so, you've never attended a girls' college, Daddy dear. Six friends dropped in to make fudge, and one of them dropped the fudge--while it was still liquid--right in the middle of our best rug. We shall never be able to clean up the mess.
I haven't mentioned any lessons of late; but we are still having them every day. It's sort of a relief though, to get away from them and discuss life in the large--rather one-sided discussions that you and I hold, but that's your own fault. You are welcome to answer back any time you choose.
I've been writing this letter off and on for three days, and I fear by now vous etes bien bored!
Goodbye, nice Mr. Man,