FIRST LETTER—ON THE WAY
In this day and generation, when everybody goes to Europe, it is difficult to discover the only person who never has been there. But I am that one, and therefore the stir it occasioned in the bosom of my amiable family when I announced that I, too, was about to join the vast majority, is not easy to imagine. But if you think that I at once became a person of importance it only goes to show that you do not know the family. My mother, to be sure, hovered around me the way she does when she thinks I am going into typhoid fever. I never have had typhoid fever, but she is always on the watch for it, and if it ever comes it will not catch her napping. She will meet it half-way. And lest it elude her watchfulness, she minutely questions every pain which assails any one of us, for fear, it may be her dreaded foe. Yet when my sister’s blessed lamb baby had it before he was a year old, and after he had got well and I was not afraid he would be struck dead for my wickedness, I said to her, “Well, mamma, you must have taken solid comfort out of the first real chance you ever had at your pet fever,” she said I ought to be ashamed of myself.
My father began to explain international banking to me as his share in my preparations, but I utterly discouraged him by asking the difference between a check and a note. He said I reminded him of the juryman who asked the difference between plaintiff and defendant. I soothed him by assuring him that I knew I would always find somebody to go to the bank with me.
“Most likely ’twill be Providence, then, as He watches over children and fools,” said my cousin, with what George Eliot calls “the brutal candor of a near relation.”
My brother-in-law lent me ten Baedekers, and offered his hampers and French trunks to me with such reckless generosity that I had to get my sister to stop him so that I wouldn’t hurt his feelings by refusing.
My sister said, “I am perfectly sure, mamma, that if I don’t go with her, she will go about with an ecstatic smile on her face, and let herself get cheated and lost, and she would just as soon as not tell everybody that she had never been abroad before. She has no pride.”
“Then you had better come along and take care of me and see that I don’t disgrace you,” I urged.
“Really, mamma, I do think I had better go,” said my sister. So she actually consented to leave husband and baby in order to go and take care of me. I do assure you, however, that I have bought all the tickets, and carried the common purse, and got her through the custom-houses, and arranged prices thus far. But she does pack my trunks and make out the laundry lists—I will say that for her.
My brother’s contribution to my comfort was in this wise: He said, “You must have a few more lessons on your wheel before you go, and I’ll take you out for a lesson to-morrow if you’ll get up and go at six o’clock in the morning—that is, if you’ll wear gloves. But you mortify me half to death riding without gloves.”