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- The Letters of Franklin K. Lane - 80/86 -


I'd like to join you. ... I am stronger and look very well, but my damn pains are about as frequent and crunching as ever. ... No one can say that I have not fought a good fight and stood a lot of punishment. Good luck, dear Aleck.

F. K. L.

To James S. Harlan

Pasadena, March 5, [1921]

MY DEAR JIM,--That was a fine long letter in your old-time style, and I am doing the unprecedented thing of answering it promptly. To this I am prompted by the near-by presence of a very handsome young woman formerly named Wyncoop, now Mays, who knows Mrs. Harlan well, having been much at the Crater Club. ... Who would have thought such a thing possible--that here as I lie on a couch in a doctor's office with a rubber tube in my mouth, I should attract the curiosity of a baby who came to see the "funny tube," and that she should be followed by a nice-looking, blue-eyed, bright-cheeked girl who says, "I believe I saw you once at Lake Champlain. You know Mrs. Harlan."

Well now, as George Harvey might say--"One day After!" I want to help in any way I can to make this administration a success. ... If Hoover can work with Harding, or the latter with him, all will be well. But I fear the politicians--especially ... [those] ambitious for a great political machine. The country will be generous for a time to Harding. ... But it will turn against him with anger unbounded if he turns the country over to the men who want office and the men who want privilege and favor. The politicians and the profiteers may be his undoing. I hope not!

... I cannot close without a special word to that most gracious, tender, and charming Lady who is your "sweet-heart." As I wander and see many, I find no limitation, no reservation, or modification to put to that declaration of admiration and devotion, which I made to Her now some fifteen years ago, nearly. Tell her that this old, sick troubled man thinks nice things about her often. My affectionate regards to you, dear Jim.

LANE

To Adolph C. Miller

Morgan Hill, March 9, [1921]

When my eyes opened this morning they looked out upon a hillside of vivid green, like the tops of Monterey cypress, flecked with bits of darker green embroiderings, and behind this was green, too, but very dark, and it had great splashes of a green so dark that they looked black--and my heart was glad. It was a common scene, nothing rarely beautiful about it. Fog enclosed the earth. There was no sky. But I had known it as a boy, this same kind of a picture, and it went to this poor tired heart of mine and was like balsam to a wound. By Jove, it is balsam! These hills are for the healing of men. I have been here three days and have taken more exercise than in three months--walking and climbing; beside the creek lined with great sycamores--alluvial soil, crumbles in your hand, and with our friend the gopher in it; and climbed up through a bit of manzanita--big fellows, twenty feet high some of them-- and such a rich brown, near-burgundy red! I barked a bit of the bole to get that green beneath, spring green, great contrast!

And above the grove of manzanita was a flat top to the hill, from which I could see three ways, and all ending in cloud-wrapped mountains, that had shape and were blue of some kind, as far as you could see. Ah man, this is a glorious land--even the people! Along the road I talked to Lundgren, who used to be a ship- carpenter, but he had a prune orchard here "since the fire." I must "see his horses," great snuzzling monsters that he had raised himself (sold one of them once, and sneaked off and bought it back) and his calves, twins out of a three-year-old--and she had had one before. Oh shades of Teddy Roosevelt, there's your ideal! (Do you remember Kipling's line in the Mary Gloster, "And she carried her freight each trip"?)

And next to Lungren was the Frenchman--far up on the hill cultivating his grapes, for which he got $110 per ton last year-- and this year he puts out five acres more. The Frenchman has indigestion and lives alone ... that hillside of vines gives him something to love.

When we come to the turn in the road, where you cross the creek to climb the hill, there the "Portugee" lives. He always has lived there. He was found just there when the Padres came. And his name was Silva. John Silva, of Stevenson's Treasure Island--born in the Azores, of course--there are no other Portuguese in America.

And John has--how many children? Give you three guesses. All by one wife, too, and she is in evidence, and a native daughter. I saw her with my own eyes, black hair, dark skin, slight figure, voluble, smiling, large-knuckled hands and a flashy eye, oh! a long way from being uninteresting to John yet, or a merely "good woman." Well, how many children did they have, right there by the road?--eleven. Eight boys and three girls--and four dead, too. Fine boys and girls, one I saw plowing or cultivating straight up and down the vineyard, a sixty degree hill, I should say. I was struggling with a cane to get one foot before another on the sloping road and he was outdoing a horse, that he drove with his neck and shoulders, while with his hands he guided the little plow straight up toward the sky. I am not envious of such youth. I never had it. I was always lazy. But it is a real joy for me to be near such youth--just to know that such things can be done--by angels from the Azores. You remember Anne's story, "In future it is prohibited to refer to our beloved Allies as 'the God-damned Portuguese'"? Well, I feel the same way.

Yes, this land of yours is good. (All land is good, I believe.) And the stillness, and the birds, and the flowers! The simplicity of these two dear hearts--George and his wife--the little they need! A paper once a day for five minutes, a song to break day with, and a round of songs and piano pieces to end the day, every act one of consideration, and each word spoken with a tender look, a gay lilt to the voice, even in asking to pass the salt. "Better a dinner of herbs where love is," etc. Well, they have it, herbs and all,--beet tops and mustard leaves. ... Good luck to you.

F. K. L.

P. S. You don't deserve this--you stingy, skimpy mollusk!

To Lathrop Brown

Morgan Hill, [March] 16, [1921]

MY DEAR LATHROP,--I wish I could be with you just to laugh away that cynical mood. I know that I do not see the world undressed, naked, in the raw, as you youngsters do. Illusions and delusions, let them be! I shall cherish them. For whatever it is inside of me that I call soul seems to grow on these things that seem so contrary to the results of experience. "If a lie works, it's the truth," says Dooley. So say I, in my pragmatism. I have "become" in the eyes of men and I want to "become" in the eyes of my better self, that ego must be gratified at least by an effort. And to "become" requires that there shall be some faith. We don't accomplish by disbelieving. That is your Mother's religion. It is my philosophy. She has capacity for faith which I have not, because she climbs, while I stand still.

Of course the inauguration business was commonplace. That is Ohio statesmanship, somehow. But good may come of it, and you and I want to help it, so far as it wants national food, to bear fruit. Damn all your politics and partisanship! Humbug--twaddle--fiddle- dee-dee, made for lazy louts who want jobs and bosses who want power. Well, we are out now for a long time, and we might as well forget bitterness, or rather submerge it in the bigger call of the nation. All of which you characterize as sentimentalism--so says Burleson, too.

I am beginning to despair of doctors and to say to myself, "Better get back to work, and go it as long as you can, then quit and live on rolled oats and buttermilk until the light goes out." ... Well, goodnight, dear chap.

F. K. L.

To John G. Gekring

[March] 21, [1921]

And how are you, Padre? Do you find that there are those who can probe into the secrets within you and tell more than you as patient can tell yourself? Has a physician who follows the biblical advice, "Heal thyself," a Fool for a Doctor? What has been taught you in the ill-smelling center of darkness, dreariness and torture, where there is more need for beauty than in any other place, and less of it, more need for gaiety, and less of it, more need for wholesome suggestion and less of it? ... All hospitals should have bright paper on the walls, or bright pictures. To hell with the microbe theory! There are worse things than microbes. All nurses should be good-looking. They should paint and pad, if necessary, to give an imitation of good looks. Now, honestly, do you not agree? And they should not have doors open, nor ask perfunctory silly questions, such as "Well, how are we today?"

On examination nurses should be rated largely for things that don't count--looks, cheerfulness, silliness, sympathy, softness of hand, willingness to listen to the victim-patient! ...

I am going to Rochester, ... my brother is going with me. Bless him! He'd be glad to take you back, and he can give you wood to chop, and a black-headed grosbeak to sing for you. Ever hear one? Better than Caruso.

May the Lord make his light to shine upon you and give you peace.

F. K. L.

To John H. Wigmore


The Letters of Franklin K. Lane - 80/86

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