This is the hardest letter I ever wrote, but I have decided what I must do, and there isn't going to be any turning back. It is very sweet and generous and dear of you to wish to send me to Europe this summer--for the moment I was intoxicated by the idea; but sober second thoughts said no. It would be rather illogical of me to refuse to take your money for college, and then use it instead just for amusement! You mustn't get me used to too many luxuries. One doesn't miss what one has never had; but it's awfully hard going without things after one has commenced thinking they are his--hers (English language needs another pronoun) by natural right. Living with Sallie and Julia is an awful strain on my stoical philosophy. They have both had things from the time they were babies; they accept happiness as a matter of course. The World, they think, owes them everything they want. Maybe the World does--in any case, it seems to acknowledge the debt and pay up. But as for me, it owes me nothing, and distinctly told me so in the beginning. I have no right to borrow on credit, for there will come a time when the World will repudiate my claim.
I seem to be floundering in a sea of metaphor--but I hope you grasp my meaning? Anyway, I have a very strong feeling that the only honest thing for me to do is to teach this summer and begin to support myself.
Four days later
I'd got just that much written, when--what do you think happened? The maid arrived with Master Jervie's card. He is going abroad too this summer; not with Julia and her family, but entirely by himself. I told him that you had invited me to go with a lady who is chaperoning a party of girls. He knows about you, Daddy. That is, he knows that my father and mother are dead, and that a kind gentleman is sending me to college; I simply didn't have the courage to tell him about the John Grier Home and all the rest. He thinks that you are my guardian and a perfectly legitimate old family friend. I have never told him that I didn't know you--that would seem too queer!
Anyway, he insisted on my going to Europe. He said that it was a necessary part of my education and that I mustn't think of refusing. Also, that he would be in Paris at the same time, and that we would run away from the chaperon occasionally and have dinner together at nice, funny, foreign restaurants.
Well, Daddy, it did appeal to me! I almost weakened; if he hadn't been so dictatorial, maybe I should have entirely weakened. I can be enticed step by step, but I WON'T be forced. He said I was a silly, foolish, irrational, quixotic, idiotic, stubborn child (those are a few of his abusive adjectives; the rest escape me), and that I didn't know what was good for me; I ought to let older people judge. We almost quarrelled--I am not sure but that we entirely did!
In any case, I packed my trunk fast and came up here. I thought I'd better see my bridges in flames behind me before I finished writing to you. They are entirely reduced to ashes now. Here I am at Cliff Top (the name of Mrs. Paterson's cottage) with my trunk unpacked and Florence (the little one) already struggling with first declension nouns. And it bids fair to be a struggle! She is a most uncommonly spoiled child; I shall have to teach her first how to study--she has never in her life concentrated on anything more difficult than ice-cream soda water.
We use a quiet corner of the cliffs for a schoolroom--Mrs. Paterson wishes me to keep them out of doors--and I will say that I find it difficult to concentrate with the blue sea before me and ships a-sailing by! And when I think I might be on one, sailing off to foreign lands--but I WON'T let myself think of anything but Latin Grammar.
The prepositions a or ab, absque, coram, cum, de e or ex, prae, pro, sine, tenus, in, subter, sub and super govern the ablative.
So you see, Daddy, I am already plunged into work with my eyes persistently set against temptation. Don't be cross with me, please, and don't think that I do not appreciate your kindness, for I do--always--always. The only way I can ever repay you is by turning out a Very Useful Citizen (Are women citizens? I don't suppose they are.) Anyway, a Very Useful Person. And when you look at me you can say, 'I gave that Very Useful Person to the world.'
That sounds well, doesn't it, Daddy? But I don't wish to mislead you. The feeling often comes over me that I am not at all remarkable; it is fun to plan a career, but in all probability I shan't turn out a bit different from any other ordinary person. I may end by marrying an undertaker and being an inspiration to him in his work.