Every month during the winter a letter had come to our literary society in care of the secretary, who was my sister-in-law, Louisa Field. Louisa was always secretary because she was a school-teacher and was thought to have her hand in at that sort of work. Mrs. Jameson wrote a very kind, if it was a somewhat patronizing, sort of letter. She extended to us her very best wishes for our improvement and the widening of our spheres, and made numerous suggestions which she judged calculated to advance us in those respects. She recommended selections from Robert Browning to be read at our meetings, and she sent us some copies of explanatory and critical essays to be used in connection with them. She also in March sent us a copy of another lecture about the modern drama which she had herself written and delivered before her current literature club. With that she sent us some works of Ibsen and the Belgian writer, Maeterlinck, with the recommendation that we devote ourselves to the study of them at once, they being eminently calculated for the widening of our spheres.
Flora Clark, who is the president of the society; Mrs. Peter Jones, who is the vice-president; Louisa, and I, who am the treasurer, though there is nothing whatever to treasure, held a council over the books. We all agreed that while we were interested in them ourselves, though they were a strange savor to our mental palates, yet we would not read Mrs. Jameson’s letter concerning them to the society, nor advise the study of them.
“I, for one, don’t like to take the responsibility of giving the women of this village such reading,” said Flora Clark. “It may be improving and widening, and it certainly is interesting, and there are fine things in it, but it does not seem to me that it would be wise to take it into the society when I consider some of the members. I would just as soon think of asking them to tea and giving them nothing but olives and Russian caviare, which, I understand, hardly anybody likes at first. I never tasted them myself. We know what the favorite diet of this village is; and as long as we can eat it ourselves it seems to me it is safer than to try something which we may like and everybody else starve on, and I guess we haven’t exhausted some of the older, simpler things, and that there is some nourishment to be gotten out of them yet for all of us. It is better for us all to eat bread and butter and pie than for two or three of us to eat the olives and caviare, and the rest to have to sit gnawing their forks and spoons.”
Mrs. Peter Jones, who is sometimes thought of for the president instead of Flora, bridled a little. “I suppose you think that these books are above the ladies of this village,” said she.
“I don’t know as I think they are so much above as too far to one side,” said Flora. “Sometimes it’s longitude, and sometimes it’s latitude that separates people. I don’t know but we are just as far from Ibsen and Maeterlinck as they are from us.”