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Post a Comment. Perea, Amazon Reviewer. Hello Digital Book Today readers. The Book Buzz segment today features a book with over , downloads on Kindles. A pretty bold statement that is backed up by Amazon book reviewers. Breaking TWIG is currently rated 4. She threw up roadblocks, consciously and unconsciously, to frustrate pursuit. During her own lifetime she managed her image rather successfully by writing biographical sketches of herself and telling interviewers what she wanted printed about her.

She changed her birth date; she altered details of her life; she exaggerated many events; she revised her opinions. She made no effort to be accurate in recalling facts, and it is hard sometimes to tell where the reality leaves off and the fiction begins.

A Hope Revealed Prescott Pioneers Book 4

The biographer continually has to separate the fact from the fantasy, and he never can be sure he has succeeded completely. To make matters still more difficult, Lewis's memoir of her friend also tries to manage the image, and one has to use her data with caution. If he can successfully negotiate the minefields, the biographer of Cather has a great deal of autobiographical fiction to help in his task.

She turned her own life and experiences into literature to a degree uncommon among writers. I have used many passages from her fiction to document her life, keeping in mind constantly the need for caution. There are, fortunately, enough letters and contemporary documents, such as interviews and reminiscences of friends, to corroborate many events in her life that have passed through the crucible of her imagination to emerge in her stories and novels. My notes make it clear when I am working from letters and when I am drawing on her fiction.

Sir Isaac Newton in a letter to his rival scientist Robert Hooke wrote in that "if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. I have built on the work of many scholars, as my notes will indicate, and without their pioneering this book could not have been written.

Mildred Bennett, the first of the Cather scholars, wrote an invaluable study of places and people important in Cather's work in The World of Willa Cather She was on the scene in Red Cloud and able to interview old friends and relatives. Lewis's memoir, which was prepared for the use of E. Brown, is, of course, of immense assistance, as it was the work of a friend of more than forty years. Brown's biography is the pioneering life, and when he died before completing his book, the very able Leon Edel finished it for him.

The ROX LIVING Interview: Melissa Ruffner - Prescott LIVING Magazine

Bernice Slote at the University of Nebraska was indefatigable in recovering and organizing Cather's fugitive essays, editing her poems and stories, and writing about her. Virginia Faulkner and the University of Nebraska Press carried out a large publishing venture in making Cather's early work available, and William Curtin, editor of The World and the Parish , two volumes of Cather's journalistic writings, is the benefactor of all Cather scholars.

Elizabeth Sergeant's memoir of her long friendship with Cather is another important contribution to Cather studies, as are the reminiscences of Ferris Greenslet, Alfred Knopf, and many others who knew her. I came to my interest in Cather in or when I was invited to contribute a brief critical biography to a series brought out by the nowdefunct publisher Pegasus.

My book, Willa Cather: Her Life and Art , appeared in and was based on much primary material that had not been available to Brown. I was able to correct errors and add details, but my record was far from complete, and it also contained its own errors. I never planned to write another biography of Cather, but after the death in of Bernice Slote, who had spent nearly a lifetime gathering material for the definitive biography, I decided to return to the project, and I have been able to use her papers.

My present view of Cather does not change in any basic way the image of her contained in my earlier book. I have found no skeletons in the closet or sensational data to titillate the reader. There are, however, hundreds of new details, much fuller accounts of events in her life, new and expanded critical examinations of her works, and details of her reception.

I have tried hard to get all the facts right. I have changed many of my opinions about her life and work over the past twenty years, and these are reflected in the portrait that emerges. I also have dealt with the issues of lesbianism and sexual orientation, which interest many contemporary readers, and taken into account recent feminist criticism. I have gone into her personality, beliefs, prejudices, aspirations, loves, and hates in considerable detail.

In the past two decades a large and impressive body of criticism has grown up about Cather's fiction, and any biography that ignores this work cannot lay claim to much significance. The person who moves through these pages is an extraordinarily gifted woman. From her Virginia childhood and Nebraska adolescence she made her way through the world with energy and dedication. She went from college journalism to professional journalism, then to magazine writing and editing, pushing steadily towards her artistic objective.

Her progress was slow, however, and she did not publish her first novel until she was thirty-eight. The official face she presented to the public in her collected works was only the one-tenth of the iceberg that appears above the surface, for when she reached the top of her profession, she wanted the apprentice work forgotten.

It is the task of the biographer, however, to search among the shards to discover the abandoned designs and the crudities later perfected. The themes and subjects that she treated so luminously in her mature work all appeared in her earliest efforts. She was a Romantic and a primitive from the start, but it was not until she was in her forties that she was able to utilize effectively her own experiences to weave the myths of the American past into the magical fabric of her best fiction. There was much trial and error in her apprenticeship, but the outlines were all present by the time she was twenty.

Although Cather wrote an old friend in that she never had been very ambitious, the truth was just the opposite. Her career down to the publication of O Pioneers! She did what she had to do to make a living and was not above writing potboilers and doing hackwork. Yet she had all the while a single-minded dedication to the pursuit of art.

During the years of struggle, moreover, her attachment to family, old friends, and home remained strong, and after settling permanently in the East, she returned to Lincoln and Red Cloud frequently to renew her sources. Her feeling for Nebraska, however, was ambivalent until she had been away for about fifteen years; then the post-pioneer period of her childhood became the epic material of her romances and led her still deeper into the past.

She went through a period in the twenties when she felt alienated from American life but produced her greatest novels in that era. In the thirties she lived a very private life and continued to write well but with diminishing vitality. Her old age is not sad, like the blackness of Mark Twain's final pessimism, though her health began to break down in her last years. She hated many things about the world that rotated outside her self-imposed isolation in the forties, but she did not become embittered at the end. She had achieved most of the things she wanted from life and knew that her career had been a success.

She did not have to write, as Howells did to James, that she had become a dead cult with her statues cut down and grass growing over them in the moonlight. Her literary reputation was secure, and that was what really mattered. The critics usually have treated Cather very well, though she often thought otherwise. From H. Mencken's delighted discovery of her first novels to the latest international bibliography published by the Modern Language Association, she has been regarded as an important writer. And people have continued reading her work, despite her strenuous efforts to keep her books from being dramatized, anthologized, and reprinted in inexpensive editions.

A writer of lesser stature might well have consigned herself to oblivion by such tactics. I know of no other American writer of this century who is more likely to go on being read than Cather. The statement she made in her preface to the stories of Sarah Orne Jewett in is prophetic: " If I were asked to name three American books which have the possibility of a long, long life, I would say at once: The Scarlet Letter , Huckleberry Finn , and The Country of the Pointed Firs.


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I can think of no others that confront time and change so serenely. Lenk, Colby College Library, both of whom were helpful in my obtaining copies of letters. Paulson and the Morgan Library, Andrea I. Sheehy and the Newberry Library, John A. In addition, I wish to thank Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Koshland for supplying me with photos of Alfred Knopf and for permission to quote from Blanche Knopf's letters to Cather; the Lilly Library for permission to quote from S. My final debts are to the Research Committee of the University of California at Davis for grants that speeded and facilitated the preparation of this book; to Delfina Redfield for many kindnesses; to Diana Dulaney, who put the entire opus into the word processor, promptly, efficiently, enthusiastically; to Roberta Woodress, who has been a scholar's ideal companion for nearly half a century.

Pittsburgh passengers waiting to board a train for Chicago at the Union Station one day in early April might have noticed among their ranks a handsome woman , perhaps even beautiful, whose bearing and composure suggested a person of some importance. Though she was no longer young, she had a sturdy build and a clear complexion. Her skin was off-white, perhaps creamy,"rather like the outside of any well-washed plate. Weighing pounds and standing five feet six, she had eyes of a distinct blue, and when she looked at one, her glance was open and direct.

Her hair, what one could see under a large hat, was straight and dark brown, combed back simply and parted slightly offcenter. Her lashes were dark, her eyebrows strongly marked. Her other features were regular and pleasant to look at, her mouth was generous and good-humored, and her hands were broad and strong. She looked like a person used to getting things done, someone accustomed to giving orders; maybe she was, a rarity in those days, a successful business woman.

The more observant passengers would have detected an air of keen anticipation in her manner as she stood with her luggage watching the train pull into the station. This was Willa Cather, thirty-eight years old, recently managing editor of the spectacularly successful McClure's Magazine , on leave from her job, en route to Arizona to visit her brother, and at a critical juncture in her career. For nearly six years she had been editing, dealing with contributors, reading other people's manuscripts, curbing the half-baked impulses of her boss, Sam McClure. She had become one of the most important women editors in magazine journalism, but those six years had kept her marking time in her own literary career.

A few months before, she finally had broken away from the grind of putting out a monthly magazine, taken a leave of absence, and gone to upstate New York for rest, recuperation, and writing. Now she was ready to strike out in a new direction, and as it turned out, she was never again to return to the office routine at McClure's. Although she had managed to write her first novel while she still worked for McClure, it was a novel she later wanted to disown. Although she also had published a few stories during those years, none did she ever think worth reprinting.

The trip to the Southwest that began on a spring day in was to leave an indelible impression on her and to mark the turning point in her career. The successful magazine executive who left Pittsburgh that April morning returned the novelist that we know. The Pennsylvania, Burlington, and Santa Fe railroads, which carried her from Pennsylvania to Arizona, transported her from one life to another.

After changing trains in Chicago, she boarded the Burlington and headed west. As she crossed the Mississippi, she again experienced the tightness in her chest and a bit of the fright she had felt as a child when she was taken to Nebraska at the age of nine. The West always paralyzed her a little, she wrote, but when she was away from it, she remembered only the tang on the tongue. Though she had lived in the East a long time by , she still had trouble letting herself go with the current when she reached the wide, rolling prairies of Nebraska. She felt like a person who could not swim when dropped into the water.

There were just so many, many miles of the West. When she was a child growing up in Nebraska, she had been sure that she would never, get away and that she would die in a cornfield. Now that she had escaped, she no longer had that fear, though she still got attacks of fright. But after a few days in Red Cloud visiting her parents and old friends, she was ready to push on farther west, and she boarded another Burlington train, this time for Denver.

Colorado and the Rocky Mountains were familiar territory for her, as her oldest brother, Roscoe, lived in Wyoming and she had visited him on a number of occasions. Once she left Colorado, however, she was seeing new and exciting country. From Trinidad to Albuquerque the land was utterly splendid, she wrote. The Valley of the Rhone was nothing to it.

All the way from Trinidad, Colorado, to Las Vegas, New Mexico, she wrote her good friend Elsie Sergeant, there was a continuous purple mountain that tuned one up. Albuquerque delighted her, though she stayed only a few days before continuing on to Arizona. There was a strong pull about the place, something Spanish in the air that teased one. She had known Mexicans during her Red Cloud adolescence, but Albuquerque far exceeded her expectations.

Such color! The Lord had set the stage splendidly there. It was the most beautiful country she had seen anywhere, even more brilliant than the French Riviera. She caught sight of some of the most wonderful Indian villages, each one built close about its church, and there were abandoned villages, too, she marveled, that had been Spanish missions during the time of Queen Elizabeth.

She wanted to return later with her brother Douglass for a longer visit. On April 19 she arrived in Winslow, a little desert town on the Santa Fe where Douglass, who worked for the railroad, made his headquarters. He immediately began showing her about the pueblo towns and taking her to see ancient cliff dwellings nearby. They planned to visit an Indian snake dance and projected a trip to Old Mexico. How splendid this part of the world is, she wrote McClure. But then there was a letdown.

Douglass had to go off with his construction crew for three days, leaving Willa alone in his little eggshell of a house with his roommate, a brakeman named Tooker. Staying alone with Tooker, she wrote, was quite in accord with the proprieties of Winslow, but even Tooker had been off on his run for the past two nights, and then she had no protector except the drunken London cockney whom Douglass had picked up to do his cooking and housekeeping. He was no protection at all.

She did not mind being left alone, however, because Tooker was a great bore. Life, she thought, was nothing but a poor imitation of art. Tooker was simply encrusted with information gleaned from millions of magazines, and though he was one of nature's noblemen with a square jaw and bold carriage, she did not know how long she could stand either his nobleness or his information.

She was doing target practice with a pistol and might let drive at Tooker, she wrote. He never permitted himself an action in one syllable. He "arrived" and he "removed" his hat, and he "reflected" that when the wind blew it "retarded" his train. The cockney Englishman was great fun, but he was reeling drunk all the time and had to be sat upon and sent away. He once had worked in a stable in Paris and spoke a queer kind of fluent French, and when he was the drunkest, he always wept and began reciting the same sentimental verses.

When Cather looked about outside, she found that Winslow was an ugly little western town. It had been founded some thirty years before as a division point on the Santa Fe, and there was no one there but railroad people. The only excitement occurred when the trains stopped and passengers got off to eat at the Fred Harvey hotel, La Posada.

Although the desert was very fine, one had to cross two miles of tin cans and old shoes to get to it. There were bright red sunsets, like brick dust, but the sandstorms were a terror and often stopped the trains. If she had arrived two months earlier, there would have been plenty of excitement, for on Valentine's Day , President Taft in Washington had signed the proclamation admitting Arizona to the Union as the forty-eighth state. For the first time in history movie cameras had photographed a president signing a law, and when the news had been telegraphed to Arizona, there was wild celebrating everywhere.

Whistles shrieked at mines, church bells rang, schools and businesses closed, and parades surged through the streets. Even William Jennings Bryan came west to make a two hour speech in the state capital at Phoenix. Life was very quiet for the first two weeks. Then things began to happen so fast that she had no time to write letters. She did manage a postcard to Sergeant on May 12, reporting that she had caught step at last and was very happy.

She had been on a trip with the local priest, Father Connolly , a friend of Douglass's, who had taken her to visit some of the missions. They had talked about the country and the people, and he had filled her full of Spanish and Indian legends. He was the first of many Catholic missionary priests she came to know in the Southwest, and like a sponge she soaked up the land, the people, and the culture for future use. Her letters from this trip west reveal an intoxicating sense of discovery. The Southwest became one of the passions of her life.

Even more exciting was the appearance one day of four Mexicans who came to serenade her: two section hands, a bartender who played divinely, and a boy of unearthly beauty who sang. The last reminded her of a statue she had seen in Naples of Antinous, who was loved and deified after his death by Emperor Hadrian. This boy was simply Antinous come to life. The Mexican trio returned night after night, and Cather was captivated by the singer, whose name turned out to be Julio pronounced Hulio , she explained to Sergeant. Her letters for the next several months were filled with Julio. He was too beautiful to be true and utterly different from anyone she ever had met.

He was from Vera Cruz, knew a great many Mexican and Spanish songs, and he was won-der-ful, she wrote Sergeant, as she enclosed the translation she had made of one of his songs. After singing to her nightly, Julio took her off to visit the Painted Desert, and it took her days to get over that expedition. Julio was without beginning and without end. He had a personal elegance, the like of which she had never known, and a grace of expression that simply caught one up.

He wasn't soft and sunny like an Italian; he was indifferent and opaque.

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He had the long, strong upper lip seen in Aztec sculpture, somber eyes filled with lots of old trouble, and the pale yellow skin of very old gold and old races. Talking to him was like learning a new language because he spoke so directly. He would drive any number of miles to see flowers or running water, but she could not get him the least bit interested in the ancient cliff dwellers. Why, he said, raising his brows, was she interested in los muertos?

We are living. It was fitting to say masses for the dead, but that was the end of it. Further attention was a waste of time. But he did tell her one memorable story of ancient times, the tale of an Aztec Cleopatra,"The Forty Lovers of the Queen. Afterwards Sergeant remembered that when someone asked how Mabel Dodge could have married Tony Luhan, an Indian, Cather replied, "How could she help it?

Cather never found occasion in her later career to put Julio into a novel, unless there is a bit of him in Spanish Johnny in The Song of the Lark , but she remembered the story of the Aztec Cleopatra. At the time she heard it, she said she was going to write it up when she visited the place where it happened, but she never got to Old Mexico. She also thought she remembered reading the tale in Prescott's Conquest of Mexico , but Julio's account was much more alive. He never had read anything but prayer books and had no stale ideas, in fact not many ideas at all.

The story, a brutal tale of forty secret lovers, each killed after the queen tired of them, appears in Cather's story "Coming, Aphrodite! This dance may well have been the source for the Mexican dance scene in The Song of the Lark , for it made a strong impression. Such dancing! There was in particular a curious pantomime waltz in which a man danced with two women, the prettiest dance she ever had seen.

Cather's feeling in the novel for the natural grace of the Mexicans, their love of music are very much of a piece with her letters from this trip to the Southwest: "The Mexican dance was soft and quiet. There was no calling, the conversation was very low, the rhythm of the music was smooth and engaging, the men were graceful and courteous. But Cather had other things to do with her life than idle away the days with a beautiful Mexican boy, no matter how captivating he was.

She finally severed what she called Julio's strong Egyptian fetters, went to Albuquerque, and then back to Nebraska. He was wonderful but could not take the place of a whole civilization. However, after returning to Red Cloud she wrote that she might still go back for Julio. He would look lovely in Boston at Mrs. Fields's house, but then Mrs. Isabella Gardner would sweep him up and take him to Fenway Court, which he would like better than her apartment.

Earlier she had thought that she must get him to New York, where he could make an easy living as an artist's model. Artists would fight for him. In August, after returning to Pittsburgh, she was still talking about Julio, but after that he disappears from her letters completely. In between outings with Julio, Cather had plenty to occupy her time. On Douglass's next three days off they went out with Tooker on daily excursions to nearby canyons: Clear Creek, Chevelon, and Jack's, all gorges carved by tributaries of the Little Colorado River.

Those were lovely days with all the advantages of a camping trip and none of the disadvantages. They started off each morning with a wagon and light camping gear, canteens, coffee, bacon, fruit, cream, and so forth; and each night they returned to town, where they had hot baths and beds to sleep in. Cather had canvas shoes with red rubber soles that she had bought in Boston, and with them, she said, she could walk up a forty-five-degree rock surface.

One day they went down a cliff for feet, using handholds to descend. The experience was exhilarating. Tooker, a great bore in town, turned out to be a splendid companion on the trail. All his miserable information fell away, Cather wrote Sergeant, like a boy dropping his clothes to go swimming.

The real Tooker, who had worked in the sheep camps and the mines, was strong, active, and resourceful.

Authors 'Round the South

He was full of interesting stories, she found, once one got through the sediment deposited by the magazine articles. Tooker later turns up very sympathetically portrayed as Ray Kennedy, the brakeman, in The Song of the Lark. These expeditions were a prelude to the Grand Canyon, where Cather went on May She was properly impressed with this "wonder," and agreed it was indeed wonderful, but she thought that not even this marvel, which had only a geologic history, could be interesting for more than a limited time.

But besides the great spectacle of the canyon, there was wonderful walking and riding, and one day she accompanied some English visitors down to the Halfway House in the canyon. It was an awful pull, she wrote, but she was always a good walker, and her climbs around Winslow had been good conditioning. She was pleased to find that the canyon was still completely unspoiled, not one shop. A visitor couldn't even buy an orange, and there was not one civilized amusement.

It was still seven years before the Grand Canyon would become a national park. There were two hotels, however, one magnificent and one excellent, set down in the immense pine forest, and there were modest lodgings at Bright Angel Camp. She stayed at the last, which was comfortable, simple, and only cost her three dollars a day. It was the only reasonable place she could find. Everything was very expensive, and all the places one wanted to see were off the railroad. To get to them it was necessary to hire a horse for two-fifty a day or a team and open wagon for five dollars.

The scenery was worth it, however, and she urged Sergeant to come and see for herself. As soon as she left the Grand Canyon, she retraced her steps to Flagstaff, where she met her brother.


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  • They were going to explore more cliff dwellings. Walnut Canyon, now a national monument, was only a few miles outside of Flagstaff, and there she could see a spectacular collection of some three hundred cliff dwellings about one thousand years old. These houses, which were built into the limestone walls of the canyon, had been abandoned probably because of a prolonged drought in the twelfth century.

    But they had remained largely intact, preserved by the dry desert air, as though in a time capsule, a silent, ghostly city. They are a smaller version of the cliff dwellings now protected within the boundaries of Mesa Verde National Park, which Cather visited three years later. As she and Douglass drove by wagon out of Flagstaff, they could see the blue slopes and snowy summit of San Francisco Mountain to the north.

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    Willa Cather: A Literary Life

    They then entered the first great forest she had ever seen, magnificent stands of huge ponderosa pines spaced well apart. The wagon road dipped lower, falling away from the high plateau on which Flagstaff sat, and soon the forest closed behind them and the mountain disappeared. Then they left the forest, the sparse growth of pinon pine and scrub began, and the country broke into open, stony clearings. It was "like a thousand others β€”one of those abrupt fissures with which the earth in the Southwest is riddled; so abrupt that you might walk over the edge of any one of them on a dark night and never know what had happened to you.

    The effect was that of a gentler canon within a wilder one. The dead city lay at the point where the perpendicular outer wall ceased and the V-shaped inner gorge began. There a stratum of rock, softer than those above, had been hollowed out by the action of time until it was like a deep groove running along the sides of the canon. In this hollow like a great fold in the rock the Ancient People had built their houses of yellowish stone and mortar.

    The overhanging cliff above made a roof two hundred feet thick. The hard stratum below was like an everlasting floor. The houses stood along in a row, like the buildings in a city block, or like a barracks. Although Cather's surviving letters do not report the visit to Walnut Canyon, she was deeply moved by the experience.

    In her first fictional setting in the Southwest her memories of Walnut Canyon inform an important section of The Song of the Lark , written three years later. The canyon is the scene of a pivotal decision in the career of Thea Kronborg, its protagonist. Thea leaves Chicago for Arizona to rest, recuperate, and think. She has been ill during the previous winter and needs the dry desert air of the Southwest.

    But more important, she needs to get " out of the stream of meaningless activity and undirected effort. But on the ranch she visits near Flagstaff "the personality of which she was so tired seemed to let go of her," and as she climbs into her big German feather bed the first night, she feels a complete sense of release from the struggles and anxieties of her former life. Day after day while she is at the ranch, which adjoins Panther Canyon, she takes her lunch basket and descends to one of the cliff houses, where she lies lazily in the sun high above the bottom of the canyon.

    All her life "she had been hurrying and sputtering, as if she had been born behind time and had been trying to catch up. At the end of her stay at Panther Canyon, Thea makes up her mind to go to Germany to continue her musical education. This is the turning point in her career. She finally knows what she wants out of life and goes on to become a great Wagnerian soprano. The Song of the Lark is heavily autobiographical in its early books, as it details the life of the young singer-heroine. Cather herself was at a crossroads in her career when she went to the Southwest for the first time.

    She had been ill during the previous winter and needed the bracing air of Arizona and New Mexico. She too was tired and felt unfulfilled in her journalistic career. She too had been a little drudge hurrying from one task to another. Undecided about her future when she left the East, she was planning to return to McClure's Magazine as a staff writer, though she had resigned already as managing editor, but during her weeks in the Southwest she saw clearly that she had been frittering away her life in the editorial routine.

    It was time to get out completely. She gathered her courage and struck out in a new direction. This time of rest, recuperation, and thought gave her a clear vision of where she wanted to go in the future. There is a difference, however, between Thea's decision, which is concentrated dramatically in the Panther Canyon episode, and Cather's, because life is often less dramatic than fiction. Cather's departure from the magazine was aided by a change in ownership and a shake-up in staff, but when she returned to New York, she felt obliged to give the magazine some of her time in the balance of and in before severing all connections.

    And she also had a good start on her rest and rehabilitation during the autumn of at Cherry Valley, New York, where she did some important writing. But the trip to the Southwest, nonetheless, was a watershed in her career. After she visited Flagstaff, she returned to Winslow briefly; then she and her brother continued on to Albuquerque at the end of May. Ten days later she wrote McClure that she was just back from a long and delightful horseback trip into the desert. She was then at Lamy, the nearest town to Santa Fe on the main line of the railroad, and about to leave for Red Cloud.

    She went roundabout through El Paso, where she caught a Southern Pacific train that took her back into the Middle West. By June 12 she was home and writing to McClure about his problems. But she also summarized her stay in the Southwest. She had not written a line since leaving the East, but she had returned with such a head full of stories that she was dreaming about them at night.

    She had ridden and driven hundreds of miles in Arizona and New Mexico, and McClure would not recognize her, she was so dark-skinned and good-humored. She urged McClure to forget how cranky she used to be when she was tired. She could not bear to be remembered that way, and she resolved never to get fussy like that again. She was now happier than she had been since she was a youngster. Those weeks off in the desert with her big, handsome brother were weeks that she would never forget. They took all the kinks and crinkles out, and she felt as if her mind had been freshly washed and ironed and made ready for a new life.

    She felt somehow confident, as if she had gotten her second wind. In describing her return to civilization to Sergeant she put it another way. The Southwest had been so big and so consuming that she was now glad to be back in the East, where she could slowly come to herself without that swift, yellow excitement to think of. Before she left, the real meaning came to her of a sentence she once had carelessly read in Balzac: "Dans le desert, voyezvous, il y a tout et il n'y rien; Dieu sans les hommes" "In the desert, you see, there is everything and nothing; God without men".

    That sentence really means a great deal, she wrote. She was sitting mournfully beside the Rio Grande one day, just outside a beautiful Indian village, Santo Domingo, when she looked up and saw that sentence written in the sand. It explained what was the matter with her. One could play with the desert, love it, and go hard night and day and be full of it and quite tipsy with it, and then there came a moment when one must kiss it goodby and go, go bleeding, but go.

    Back Creek Valley in Frederick County, Virginia, at the end of was a thinly settled district on the Northwest Turnpike linking Winchester and Romney, some thirty miles to the west. The farms in that part of the Shenandoah Valley, which lies some fifty miles west-northwest of the national capital, were mostly hilly, and their thin, rocky soil was not well suited to agriculture.

    The farmers would have been poor even if marauding soldiers had not destroyed their crops, driven off their stock, and burned their barns during the Civil War. Because the land was poor, field hands were not needed there as on the richer plantations farther east. No family had owned more than a few slaves before the war, and many settlers who did not believe in slavery owned none and worked their slatey acres with their own sweat.

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