Identifier

MSS.2.16

Publication Date

12-15-1917

Document Type

Letter

Transcription

491 Avenue Joffre
Shanghai, China
15 December 1917

[headnote]
Please pass
this around!
This is a personal
letter to each: so
all answer
P.D.Q.

My dearest Kidlets:

Yum, yum, how I wish all of you
were here for me to tell you how inexpressibly
pleased I am with the Kodak book you
sent me. I really feel that you are not far
off, and that Wellesley is just next door. I
need not tell you how the book brings
back all the memories of the last four
years, - and of you all. Dad last night
told me this: "Daughter, I am thankful that
you have such good friends, and I am
sure that if you had gotten nothing except
good friends during your college days, they
are worth the four years." He was so
pleased to get a "live view" as he expressed
it, - of my friends. He said for me to
write you all that nothing would please him
more than have the whole bunch come
for a "Summer End" party. I thought to myself [page break]
that in all probability, we could have a
pretty good time here. I know you would
love to ride in the rickshaws except that
perhaps Betty would feel as safe in one as
she did when I steered her and the sled
into a tree at the back of the Wood Hill.

I have written to each of you since
I came home, and you have an idea of
what I am doing here. In the mornings,
I study Chinese with a tutor who has been
teaching some member or another of our family
for the past fifteen years. He taught me when
I was eight years old, and if I remember
correctly, he administered the stick on my
palm once when he found out that I had
been eating candy all the time pretending that
it was the "foreign devils" cough drops. Now
however he is so polite to me that I could
write a whole Arthurian Romance a la
Malary and Miss Scudder on the gallant [page break]
phraseologies he showers on me when he
politely invites me to hold my quill pen
"comme il faut." You know, the conventional and
polite form of Chinese conversation is nothing
if not digressive and flowery. You kids
use to scream at the way I handed out
bouquets to Mrs. Miller - but mibi credite,
beside the Chinese here at home, I sound
like one of Dickey's 79cts bargain hats minus
Dickey's air of wearing it a la Rue de la
Paix. (For heaven's sake, don't let any of you
let this out to Dickey) As I write this her
picture on my desk seems to have suddenly
assumed a censoring air.

Well, after my Chinese lesson (and since be-
ginning to tell you this, you see I have di-
gressed properly according to Chinese method of
politeness), I practice on the piano. I
bang, and trill, hammer and tickle the
keys in the proper fashion. Then twice a
week, I go for my music lesson. Yea, "go
for" is the proper expression, because I usually [page break]
am kept waiting in the cold, cruel outside
until my teacher's "boy" (i.e. not son, but the
[garcon]) sees fit to shuffle me in with a
blushing "Mawning, Missie." Then I give a
dive up the stairs lest the garcon should
fall asleep while in my presence, and
go into the Studio. Here a finely formed,
i.e. buxom formed a la Dickens' Peggotty,
snuggly fitted, quadrupled chin lady
greets me and says (this is absolutely inevitable)
"And now ze seales, - ok, you haf
got them right? no?".

After an hour during which I am made
to feel the utter uselessness and stupidity of
my ten digits while hers (stubby as they are)
fly and twinkle like
"Twinkle, twinkle little star,"
I am once more ushered out to the front door,
where if the garcon has had his usual quota
of some vile strong-smelling stuff, he offers to
open the door for me. Should he however be in
a "purple" humor, minus the cheerful red
glow, I wrestle and struggle with the burglar's [page break]
lock-proof catch until I am ready to buy
a burglar's jimmy myself.

When I get home, it is about luncheon time,
and usually, I find some petticoats (I mean
skirts) for women here wear long trousers under
their skirts, to tiffin. Usually the company
is either my uncle's wife's second cousins
or my Mother's uncle's grand-daughter, -
or some equally complicated and distant
relatives. We exchange the polite
disagreeableness of the day: i.e. talking
about weather and health, and of course
I answer the usual number of inquiries
regarding the ways and manners of the
"foreign devils" among whom I have been
residing the last ten years. I wonder
if that is the reason why I feel so "devil-
ish" since I came home! Is it, Ted?

After luncheon, I usually practice a couple
of hours more. And then I teach my little brother
for an hour. Really, I have learnt more about
Geography and Afghanistan and Burma
teaching him than taking History 15 in spite [page break]
of all the cramming I did during the
Finals. After teaching him, there is usually
some kind of Committee meeting to go to -
either for censoring pictures or see about
subscriptions for the famine sufferers or even
Red-Cross. Yes, the bandage rolling
craze has even reach Ah - Shanghai
the Mecca of China - according to
Higgins. The afternoon usually rounds
up with a tea somewhere or tea
at home.

And if we don't go out somewhere to
dine with friends, and if one of the cooks
is not ill, or has to go home to see how
his wife's newest baby is getting along, we
stay at home and dine. Sometimes
my brother brings home somebody to dinner
or some friend or aunties drops in. After
dinner, we usually go for a spin
in the car and carriage, or else take [page break]
a walk, or go to the theatre. The
"theater" in Shanghai means either the
"Movies" which has the dignified name
of "Cinema Performance" or else some
show by a travelling company. Or
it may mean the Chinese theatre.
If that is what it means you will
hear first
"Bang, Bang, Thum, Tum, Rang!"
And then some arpeggio trilling
and finally some more brassy in-
struments while the actors implore
each other with "tooth and nail"
cries in their voices. Then
some more bang bang! If you
can, remember the sort of noises
we made when Reno made her
"temperance speech" last fall. Well,
the music in the Chinese theatres [page break]
is of close kindred to the beatings of
the chafing dish tops.

You must, however, take a grain
of salt in reading what I have written
here, for the family says that I am not
at all musical, having absorbed the
Western ideas regarding that matter.

Now this letter, I know, Best Beloveds,
is as crazy as the March hare in "Alice
in Wonderland." In other words, I have
not yet assimilated to the things Eastern
and Oriental. When I have, you
will once more hear from "The
Mecca of China."

Goodby, and do not forget me,
and remember that I love you
all - even to "Ting Ting Bubble."

Mayling.

Hope you have all
received the souvenirs I sent you.

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