Robin — October 6, 1908

Oct 6, 1908

Kelowna, B. C.

My dearest Kathleen,

I am certainly getting a model letter-writer.  I only posted a letter to you today [i. e. Robin–October 4, 1908] and here I am at it again.  I doubt if I shall finish this or get it posted for some days, but it’s a good start anyway.  I said in my letter that I expected an extra long one from you and certainly I got it.  [Kathleen–September 18, 1908.]  Geoff is a truly remarkable youth.  He doesn’t seem to care for anything at all.  I should think if he spent about a year travelling around it would do him lots of good, but if he chucks the army, what on earth is he going to do with himself from one year to another.  I should think he is sure to change his mind about letting Kitebrook.  It seems to me absolutely incredible that a man should turn his sister out of a house because he wanted to let it.  I don’t really think he will when he comes to consider the matter a bit.  I could write whole heaps on this subject but I hardly like to, as Geoff is your brother and I believe you have one or two rather peppery uncles who can express my sentiments fairly adequately.  Geoff simply must let you stay on for another year.  (Whether I let you or not is quite another matter!!!)  I should think that even his friends would have nothing to do with him if he didn’t.

Judging from your scores rifle shooting, I don’t think you will need to practise much before you have a match with me.  With our rifles (.22 calibre) we seldom if ever shoot at a proper target.  Sometimes when the fit strikes me I put on old tobacco tin on a post and shoot at that, but chiefly I use a rifle when I want roast chicken.  I prefer that way to summary execution with an axe, and a chicken’s head when it’s walking makes very pretty shooting, too pretty sometimes.  I waste about 50 cartridges and then go for the rest of the bird.  We used to shoot a lot in camp.  There is a certain bird called a hell-diver (presumably because it dives down very deep in the lake) which swims around the shore and is quite indifferent to bullets as long as it isn’t hit; and the appearance of one of these within range always meant the production of the rifle, so that in the middle of meals sometimes you would see the rifle being passed round (in lieu of wine in England) and everybody firing in turn.  Nearly always the diver quite unconsciously swam out of range before it was hit.  It never seemed to know it was an object of interest, even when a bullet would splash just in front of its nose.  [The hell-diver is a grebe, in this case probably the Eared Grebe or the Red-necked Grebe.]

What does a man do when his best girl writes that she thinks she might be rather glad of him sometimes, as it would be rather nice to have some one to polish knives, black boots, and carry coals.  Retaliate, I suppose by saying that I have had cold meat three days running and wish you were here now so that you could turn it into a hash or something which is beyond my culinary powers.

I believe this has been a great year for the wheat growers in the prairies, but I doubt if fortunes are picked up by farming out here any more than they are in England.  The main idea of a wheat grower in Manitoba or the North West is to make enough money to get out into some other part that isn’t cursed with five months very cold winter and an intolerably hot summer where a man has to work like a slave from spring till autumn to do any good at all.  We don’t make too much of a burden of work down here but neither do we make any fortunes.  If the latter seemed possible or even probable, I suppose we should get the money fever and work sixteen hours a day and never take a holiday, but as it is most people take things fairly easily and lead very comfortable lives.  I shall sell about £400 worth of stuff off this place and by the time I have deducted wages and living expenses I shan’t have an awful lot to put by, as you may imagine.  I doubt if this farm will ever produce much more than that, but as I said above, fortunes are not made by farming.  A man gets his chance in this country by being on the spot where things are always moving ahead.  In England now everything has already moved and is at a standstill, but this country is just opening up and you never can really say when your chance may come.  I think if one lived in England it never would.  

I wonder if all this sounds very hopeless to you.  I think your relations made some impression on my mind when they said that with the amount of money I had I ought never to have asked you to marry me; and I have thought over the matter quite a lot at one time or another and I am perfectly convinced in my own mind that I did nothing that I wasn’t perfectly justified in doing.  Of course I knew you had some money but honestly, I did not think you had as much as I have, and even if you had had nothing I could have made you perfectly comfortable out here.  [Robin’s annual income was £250, Kathleen’s £1000.]  I thought you had probably about two hundred a year (I only had a very slender basis built up of chance words and odd remarks to go on) and with that we could have got along finely and gone home more often than if I was buying both tickets, for that really would be an item.  I don’t know what started me on this subject, I suppose the thought of Kitebrook being let or sold, for in that case we shall neither of us have a home in England and that made me wish I had lots of money so that we could have a nice country place somewhere, for after all that is the ideal existence.  Only one must have lots of money so as not to live as so many people do who have nice country houses, everlastingly scraping away so as to keep up appearances, the silliest way of passing one’s life I can imagine.  I wish Quar Wood had been left to me.  I don’t think I should ever have sold it, though I can quite understand Tom selling it as it was quite a white elephant to him, seeing that country life, horses, etc. don’t appeal to him at all.  It was really an ideal place.

24 hours later:  I have been hanging pictures this evening.  Nearly all my pictures and photographs appear in the photograph I sent you of my sitting room, so it was rather a problem to scatter them over my new room without making them look lost.  I devoted most of my available material to the mantelpiece and its environments, seeing that I chiefly sit facing the fire, not being partial to being roasted all round in turns like you are.  [There is an ink-blot on the manuscript here, with the marginal notation, “please excuse fountain pen”.]  Your photograph looks perfectly charming in the middle of the mantelpiece and is a constant source of joy to me.  (Bye-the-bye, did you, Kathleen?  I do want an answer to that question I asked about two letters back.)  Your other photograph is also on the mantelpiece and it only wants you on the hearth to complete the picture.

I was interested to get your account of the events leading up to Mr. Hewitt’s engagement.  Somehow it didn’t occur to me to have come about like that at all.  I am beginning to wonder what Miss Johnes may be like.  I expect as a matter of fact that Mr. Hewitt has a “way with him” that doesn’t appear except on special occasions.

I hear Mr. Eustace has sold Miss Lawrence that horse that he thought would suit Daphne.  How is that affair progressing?  I wonder if it will come to anything and will poor Lawry have to take six mile walks every day after hunting as Mr. Eustace always does.  

I think three pages is my limit.  I begin to talk drivel if I go on any longer, but if I eliminated everything in my letters that wasn’t either sense or news, they would be parlous short, wouldn’t they?

I expect by the end of your stay in Yorkshire you got so expert at cleaning knives, blacking boots (which I don’t suppose you ever did), and carrying coals (station-master’s son did that too) that you would have had no use for me at all.  If I only had you here now I would take my revenge in quite a different way (however much you might object) and I would go on taking it untill I made you confess that you would have liked me to be there even though the knives had been cleaned, boots blacked, and coals carried.

I wish you were here, Kathleen.

Ever yours,



Kathleen’s Thread

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