THE LETTERS TO CHARLIE DELAY
April and May went by in a novel-editing blur thanks to a fantastic conversation with an editor from a major publishing house, facilitated by my super-cool agent. The editor was spot on with her ideas to improve the manuscript, and while there are no guarantees, I’m thrilled with the edit. After a month and a half pounding away at keys, I have emerged from my 1952 motorcycle adventure and hit send.
Now for round two of waiting.
While we wait, let’s dive back into 1908, and find out what’s going on with Dora and her Letters to Charlie.
A month has passed since Dora’s last letter, where we learned about the fashion of 1908, and Dora’s continued insecurity. There was also a hint about her not being well, along with an amusing anecdote about Dora helping Mrs. Eastman with a renegade cow. A man named John was mentioned, who Dora feared would be upset if he learned she sent Charlie a photo. Perhaps another suitor?
You’ll remember from Letter #2 that both Dora and Charlie are telephone operators in two small New England towns, employed by Dr. and Mrs. Eastman. I found another tidbit in my latest search (from a book about the history of Woodsville) that showed Dr. Eastman’s Citizen phone company actually operated out of his house.
In addition to the letters, Dora and Charlie communicate over the line, which might explain how Dora unwittingly fell for a teenager eight years her junior. Perhaps she didn’t know the age difference when these letters began.
And here we get to the next in the series.
LETTER #4 of Letters to Charlie
This one is a bit jumbled, not so fluidly written, and a bit confusing. There’s little substance. A misunderstanding perhaps. The ever-present tone of insecurity and jealousy. Dora’s neediness for Charlie’s affection. Let’s set the scene:
Dora, alone in the office, picks up the line during a moment of quietness, desperately needing to hear Charlie’s voice.
She’s been upset with him, thinking he intentionally shunned her. Charlie has written, explaining things, but Dora is still unsure. She now sits patiently waiting for him to answer a question she has asked, heart pounding, gripping the handset to her ear… but the line remains silent.
[su_box title=”August 28, 1908″ style=”soft” box_color=”#c46e54″ radius=”10 “]
My dear Charles:-
I have known of a time when you would not leave the line when I began to ask a question. I only waited about 15 minutes for you to answer and then decided that you did not intend to, so I left.
I only wanted to know what you were going to do Wednesday. I did want you to come up, for the folks were all gone except Clara and I, but then I guess you had a better time than you would have if you came here.
Will be so glad when you get back to work. I don’t like to work with the new operator. I for one can appreciate you. Of course, you are happy with Bertha there.
Am very sorry to keep you waiting so long for an answer to your letter, but I could not help it. I did think you were on the line but would not answer me and I thought it was awfully mean of you, but I feel different toward you now, so you will forgive me, I know, for feeling like that.
You will come back before long, won’t you dear?
Dora has switched from her usual sign off of, “Lovingly Dora” to “With love” which says something about the growth of her feelings. I hate to see her grovel for forgiveness, especially if he truly was mean to her.
Because so little happens in this letter, shall we open another? I think so…
LETTER #5 of Letters to Charlie
The next one arrives in Woodsville February 5, 1909, six months later. Was that because they were at odds? Or was Charlie still away? Or are the letters in between simply missing? Hard to say, but judging by the content, much has happened. Clearly, they had some kind of disagreement that has put Dora in a funk.
Let’s read on…
[su_box title=”February 5, 1909″ style=”soft” box_color=”#c46e54″ radius=”10 “]Dear Charles :-
Am wondering if you feel as mean as I do to-day. I am awfully tired, cross, and ugly, so you see I am bad off. It’s lucky for me Mrs. Eastman is away.
I know you will laugh at me when I tell you something, but I’ll tell you just the same. Last night before we parted I was too proud to let you know that I was crying, but I was, just because you made a remark that I did not like.
It hurt, and I thought of it for a long time after I went to bed.
In regard to Mr. Bailey, I have his last letter and I will tell you just what he thinks of me. This is what he wrote: “A friend at anyone’s face ought to be the same at anyone’s back although I see by actions you disagree. If anyone should have told me a short period ago you were deceitful I should have considered it false. People of that style generally pay dearly for it. But have a good social talk with that better half of yours and tell him all your trials and he will be a comforter to you.”
Now you have it just as he wrote me–and I would like your opinion of the affair. I did not intend to be deceitful to him. He let me take my choice and I took the one that I had rather have. What more could I do? Now if you prove false to me, what shall I do? Take up Mr. Arthur if I can get him. I will trust you for a while anyway and please dear, don’t deceive me will you?
Don’t you think I am selfish to want you all the time and am not willing to give you up to somebody else?
Don’t you believe now that I am just the same as I used to be although I may not act the same over the line? You surely ought to know why I have not, and I guess it’s a good thing for us that we haven’t been the same. Sometimes I don’t know what to do. I know I ought not care for you but I just can’t help it. I wish you would advise me what to do. I can’t forget you no matter how hard I try and I don’t want to anyway.
Clara has been as good as gold to me today. I don’t know what is going to happen.
If I can’t talk with you I hope you will write for I love to get letters from you.
I shall think of you while I am up home and I shall trust you to do as I think you know the way that I want you to do.
Is the Mr.Bailey referenced John from Letter #3 or someone else? Maybe Raymond Bailey, a man I found in my research, who was 20 in 1909, and worked as a telephone operator for the B&M railroad in Woodsville. Either way it doesn’t really matter considering Dora burned that bridge by being deceiptful.
Of course, Dora could always “take up Mr. Arthur” if Charlie denies her, although I doubt she can let go of her obsession with Charlie.
I’ve got to say, I’m disappointed in Dora. I want her to be happy, and that’s not going to happen with Charlie, not with the constant weight of guilt and him always making her unhappy. I’m guessing she knows Charlie’s age, considering this line, “I know I ought not care for you but I just can’t help it…” And yet, even when faced with an interested adult man, Dora chooses Charlie over Mr. Bailey. I’m sure deep down she knows a relationship with Charlie is doomed, but the heart wants what it wants, I suppose, even if that’s an immature, hurtful young man who makes her cry.
Until next time,
If you’re new to the Letter’s to Charlie series, here are some links to catch up: