From Miss Helen Jelliffe to Miss Jane Van Zandt
Dear Aunt Jennie:
Harry Lawrence was telling me one day that the proper study of man is girl, and vice versa. It is his modification of the ancient and mossy saw.
Daddy is doing very well, and now that he is asleep through the hypnotic virtues of a best seller which I have read to him in large doses, I resume my correspondence with you, and, incidentally, my study of man. He is really very interesting, Aunt Jennie, with the tiniest bit of secretiveness as to his own purposes in life which, of course, makes one more curious about him. In a frock coat, with gardenia in his button hole, he would make an ideal usher at a fashionable wedding. A few days ago, when we took that trip to Will’s Island, I observed that he has capable limbs, properly clean-cut features and a general appearance of energetic efficiency. There are scores just like him, that we meet on golf links and tennis courts, and, in spite of his rough garb, he really is a most presentable young man.
I received your letter yesterday, and of course my own Auntie Jennie could not have foreborne to say that there is no island so deserted that I would not find a nice young man in it. I consider this statement as merely displaying the most ordinary and even superficial acquaintance with the laws of gravitation.
By this time I am naturally entirely at home in the social circles of Sweetapple Cove. The ancient dames grin at me, most toothlessly and pleasantly, and since I recklessly distributed all my stock of Maillard’s among the urchins I have a large following among the juvenile population. To guard against the impending famine I have obtained from St. John’s some most substantial and highly colored candies at very little a pound which are just now quite as popular to an undiscriminating taste. I wish I had not been so prodigal with the other ones.
I have foregathered with Mrs. Barnett a great deal and have simply fallen in love with her. Aunt Jennie, dear, she is a lady to her poor needle-pricked fingers’ ends. She is one of the numerous offspring of an English parson who was the seventh or eighth son of an inpecunious baronet, I believe. Her husband starved as a curate in the most genteel fashion, for some years, and suddenly announced that he was coming here. We don’t know whether Ruth was quite so subservient after the wedding was over, for I understand that some brides change to some extent after marriage. Mrs. Barnett was a Ruth before and remained one ever since.
She quietly packed up her trunks and her infants and doubtless bought the tickets, as Mr. Barnett was probably writing a sermon or visiting old ladies up to the last moment. Then she found herself here and immediately made the best of it, and that best is a thing to marvel at. She is a beautiful, tired-looking thing in dreadful clothes who wears an aureola of hair that is a perfect wonder. Her back is beautifully straight and she is capable of a smile I wish I could imitate.