The last three Letters to Charlie have come from Helen, a nineteen-year-old teacher whom Charlie had corresponded with for a short time in 1907. Charlie had even shared a letter and photo of Helen with Dora, which she didn’t care much for. At some point before we joined the party in August 1907, Helen had stopped writing.
According to her…
I really don’t know how I did happen to stop corresponding with you, just forgot you I guess.
I love Helen’s bluntness.
Clearly, something reignited their interest and got them talking again two years later… although I wonder for how long.
In the last letter, I got the impression Helen was at the end of her patience with Charlie, annoyed with his games and antics and immature revelations of “love being blind.”
Love is blind you say, I don’t know I’m sure. How knowest thou? Seems to me you talk from experience.
Seems as if Helen is well aware of Charlie’s relationship with Dora.
Speaking of Dora, she has remained silent over the last six weeks. Until now.
Yes, Dora is back.
And waxing quite poetic in this letter. We haven’t heard from her since June 1st, when she wrote from Woodsville (where she works) and talked of small things like baseball and a prize speaking program and jumping out of a burning car. She also referred to a time of unpleasantness between them.
Here’s the interesting thing that struck me about this letter. It comes from Benton New Hampshire, a small mountain town sixty miles south of Canada, thirteen miles from Dora’s home in Lisbon, and about double the elevation.
For a while now, Dora has mentioned not feeling well and has had bouts of not being able to work. It seems her condition has worsened. Perhaps the family sent her to Benton for the cool mountain air. Or the medical attention. Or perhaps Benton was simply a better place for bed rest, like the woman in this Carl Larsson painting.
Dora’s mother is in Benton with her, and her employers, Dr. and Mrs. Eastman have come to visit. The Carrie mentioned is also employed by the Eastmans as a telephone operator in the Bradford office where Charlie works.
Dora being ill puts a slightly different filter on the letter, at least it did for me. See what you think.
Letters to Charlie #12
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July 18, 1909
My darling boy:-
Sunday again and oh dear such a long day, although I’ve had quite a little company this after-noon. Dr. O.D. and Mrs. E. came to see me. And I tell you I was glad to see them. I don’t know as the Dr. thought I was any better or not. I didn’t dare to ask. I know I feel better anyway.
We are having a hard shower here to-night. Just enough to keep me from sleeping out of doors. It’s lots of fun to sleep out doors. Better try it. I heard a bear one night.
Has Carrie returned from Lyndonville yet? I had a letter from her Monday. She never mentioned your name this time. I have reveived this last week eighteen letters and post-cards. I didn’t suppose I had as many friends and they were all from the girls except your letter. I don’t know where my gentlemen friends are. Guess I haven’t any.
They have eight boarders now, and there is one dear old lady here. I guess she likes me pretty well for she has given me a nice white tie and forty-eight post cards. She thought perhaps I would like to send them away. My Aunt sent me half dozen pinks and I had a box of fruit from the Eastern Star Order. Everyone is so good to me.
Dr. Spear, our home doctor was out to see me Thursday and he told me first as soon as I could climb the mountain I could go home. If it wasn’t for my poor knee I would surprise them a little. If you go up the mountain again this summer and come down on this side you had better come while I am here.
Wouldn’t I like to see you, though I’ve so much to tell you…
I guess I could talk all night.
I will leave you to answer Carrie’s question about the stamps. You can explain as well as I, don’t you think?
Mamma is here with me. I hope you don’t think I would stay out here without her.
You know better than to ask me if I ever thought of you now. I could not forget you. What do you suppose I think of nights where I go to bed and look into the heavens at the stars? Are my thoughts of you or some one else? You might be surprised if you knew how many times a day I took you for a walk. I am building air castles all the time. Someday I expect they will fall.
Really Charlie I took your letters and post-cards with me. About every thing else I have is in Woodsville. What would I do without your picture? I am glad you didn’t beat me there but am a little afraid you may yet.
Am glad you get along alright with Mrs E. Be good to the new operator. Poor Bernice. I am sorry for her. She really ought to have Central but Mrs. E thinks she is not capable of tending it so she is going to have a new girl. How I wish I could work. I have nothing to do now.
I hope Mr. Gleason was glad to see you the day you were there. Did you see Minnie?
How I wish I could talk with you tonight. But I can’t. You don’t care if I do think of you, do you?
Goodness, Dora has it bad, doesn’t she? I didn’t understand what she meant by: “I am glad you didn’t beat me there but am a little afraid you may yet.” How about you? Any clue what this means? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
I’m also curious about Mr. Gleason, who is frequently mentioned. Without a first name, though, I’ve had no luck digging into archives.
So many moments in this letter pained me, Dora’s loneliness, her feelings of being useless, her insecurity about how Charlie feels. And of course the most heartbreaking line of all…
I am building air castles all the time. Someday I expect they will fall.
Until the next letter on July 24th…
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UP TO SPEED WITH THE LETTERS
New to the Letter’s to Charlie series? Here are links to the preceding letters to catch up: