May 10, 1908
Kelowna, B. C.
My dearest Kathleen,
I think I was rather rash to tell you how rough we had it coming over. I should have enlarged on the beauties of the boat and forgotten all about the weather except that I could find nothing nice about the boat except the grapes of which I eat quantities and it was quite impossible to forget the weather.
So Mrs. Barnsley gave you good advice too, did she? Wait till you meet somebody who knows this place and my own farm in particular and then listen to them. It isn’t so bad really.
I am afraid you will have started on your travels before you get this and it will have to chase you over half the continent and I shall have to wait longer for an answer. I hope you will enjoy yourself. You ought to with Norah and Miss Wiggin to keep you company. [References in the first three paragraphs are to Kathleen — May 15, 1908.]
I went to a dance last week and am going to two more next week which I believe is what is called being very gay, but if I get as little pleasure at the next two as I did at the last one the gaiety will be nothing to boast about. It isn’t so bad when they don’t play dances I know but when they stumble through the “Merry Widow” it is rather trying. In the first place a tune like that makes me want to be home again to dance with you and in the next place it’s a pity to murder a good tune by playing it badly at the most funereal pace so that one can hardly get enough momentum on to get round.
I am really very rash, I never write to you without giving the show away somehow. I should have said that the dance was splendid, music excellent, and the crowd charming, and supper unexcelled. As a matter of fact the cup of coffee and piece of cake I got for supper wasn’t bad at all, but the crowd was three parts asleep most of the time. I believe a Stow Ball would be the same if everybody had coffee for supper which doesn’t say much for the natural high spirits of the average Englishman. I haven’t heard a word from Daphne since I left so I sent her a blank sheet of paper last week. If I know anything of Daphne it is a good thing that I shall be out of reach when she gets it for she will be very angry but then she should have written ages ago.
The last time I wrote to you it was pouring with rain and so it is now but then we have had none in between and certainly we didn’t have snow at Easter. [This reference to rain and another below to a new sofa derive from a letter of Robin’s which is not extant. It must have been written in late April or early May.] I moved out into a tent last week which is much nicer than sleeping in the house but has its drawbacks, one being that my pup invariably takes all boots and shoes that are lying about inside and partially eats them so that we are hardly on speaking terms now.
Congratulations on getting second prize in that stupendous effort of perseverance. It is to be hoped that you won’t remember half the new words you discovered, for it would be rather trying if I couldn’t understand what you were talking about. Do you always return your prizes? I wouldn’t mind giving some at that rate. I will give a prize for the best letter from a girl to a man she is going to marry. Only one winner, no second or third. Prize can only be given in person and it is hoped as the competition is for a charitable purpose that such prize will be returned with some small addition if thought fit. Puzzle–guess what the prize is.
I hope the concert at Chastleton went off all right. I shall be interested to hear about it. I hope your vis-à-vis, partner, or opponent (or whatever the person who takes the other part in a dualogue is called) got along satisfactorily. It must be so hard to act with someone who is rather bad.
The last time I wrote to you we were busy making a sofa which is now finished and really the result is rather good. It is a sort of show piece in the house now, the sort of thing one takes visitors to see and admire like they do in England to see some oak panelling. Harry who uses my sitting room as a spare room when he stays here declares it to be most comfortable. By turning it round so that its blank side is against the wall to prevent tumbling out it makes an excellent bed.
My essays on the manners and customs of the “West” don’t seem to materialize somehow. The easiest way to acquire knowlege is to ask questions, therefore in your next letter be sure and ask questions on any points on which you are doubtful. This is very cunning as it takes all responsibility off my shoulders as now when you accuse me (that is to say, exclaim delightedly), “Why, you never told me that!” I can say, “Well, you never asked.”
I think imagination will help you quite a lot. Imagine yourself planted in a small house. Think how you would furnish a room which is morning room, study, drawing room and (subject of course to your permission) smoking room all in one with a view to its greatest comfort and you have a pretty good idea as to what our sitting room will be like. I have an idea that a room fulfills its purpose when it is both comfortable and good to look at and out here we do not keep rooms solely for ornament or fill them up with ancient and valuable chairs that no one would sit on if they could get anything else. Also, the more unnecessary things one puts in a room, the more dusting there is to do and that is a consideration, as I have found out. I have one of those roll-top desks out here and naturally use the top for photographs, calendars, etc. which all have to be moved every time I want to dust the top. Consequently, the dust gets mighty thick sometimes but of course if the dust is on my desk it can’t be anywhere else so it’s a pity to disturb it.
I have been puzzling my brain as to where to put an open fire place and it certainly seems an awkward sort of house to put one in at all; but there shall surely be one, otherwise I shall feel I have brought you out under false pretences, for I always said you should have a fireplace and a rug to sit on if you don’t get anything else. Also I distinctly approve of your squatting on a rug if I am in an arm chair just behind you–but to get back to our subject. I think I have shown how by imagination you can get at what the inside of the house will be like and as it will be your job to choose the furniture when I come home (for I shall get it in England, or most of it) you know as much about that part of it as I do.
As regards what you will do all day, your friends and relations will answer that for you by telling you that if you intend to do the house work and cooking your day will be pretty well taken up; but as a matter of fact I will give you an afternoon off every now and then when I am busy and want help outside; and sometimes I will let you go to town and get the mail and provisions, but that will only be when you are particularly good.
Why did they make us wait a year, Kathleen? You might have been here now. We would have got along all right even though the house is a bit rocky in places. All the fruit trees round here are in full blossom now and it looks like being an exceptionally good fruit year. It will make a lot of difference to this place if it is and people will come streaming in from the prairies, land will go up in price, the town will boom, and there will be high old times for the farmers, but unless the right kind of English people come in I doubt if it will be much of an improvement.
I think I have come to an end now so it only remains for you to answer this. You can try for that prize I mentioned earlier in my letter at the same time if you like.
Yours as ever,