mad in pursuit: letters from james & orpha, summer of '26

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Orpha has written a note in top margin: "This is a horrible letter – do not read it if you think you cannot restrain a sneer after you’ve finished." Yes, she's freaking out. But remember that even the most sophisticated young women are prone to freak outs when they are about to get married. Even when you're trying to be oh-so-casual, there is no getting around the pressure of the occasion. Brides feel responsible for everything and everyone. She's also slightly embarrassed at the shabbiness of her family's house on this grand occasion.

Postmarked Monday, 8.23.26, from Orpha in Glens Falls NY

Sunday evening

My hand is trembling – thus the scratching. There are two reasons – one, that it’s beastly cold – the other, that I’m frightened at having to answer your last letter, frightened at its tone. I do not want you to write or speak to me so. I do not understand how you could so misinterpret my hurried correction to your perfectly natural ignorance of our plans and thus of the appropriate accessories. And for you to suggest that I included your mother in my “scathing arraignment” shows that you are either pitilessly unsympathetic or pathetically blind – unsympathetic because you have disliked at all times my pleas for just a bit of wedding ceremony, none of which in my wildest dreams could begin to assume the startling proportions you described them as possessing; blind to so misread a frail attempt to show you that we are not without some few fragments of intelligence and delicacy, all of which we’ve called to the fore to assist us in arranging this in as refined and dignified a manner as possible. If my letter seemed to cast any reflection of slur in the direction of your mother, I am on my knees – James, you know that to me she is a noble, beautiful being – as your progenitor, and apart from you, in the loveliness of her own individuality.

It was a foolhardy mistake for me to write to you when I did. I was horribly out of sorts. My throat was constantly paining me excruciatingly – so much so that I was weakly crying -- and in exasperation had hoped – to Mom – that if the pain didn’t cease – my life would.

Borrowing $8000 from your father isn’t at all what I’d prefer us to do. I suggested once ago that we stop rather than prove a drain on your family’s coffers as well as dependent upon them for food. I am so helpless that my insignificance is appalling to me. I must help you materially.

I am so helpless that my insignificance is appalling to me.

Last night Polly gave a shower for me. We’ve now a Pyrex pie dish with a nickel standard, a casserole, 6 linen napkins, 2 cut glass tinted dishes, towels, glass candy and butter jars – less to buy than before last night. This week Elda and Nick are each entertaining for me, and next week Lil and Pauline are doing their bit. It’s fortunate I’ve so many kind friends – they’ve sprung up quite suddenly. Though I’ve urged them not to, they’re determined to do it – apparently they enjoy it.

My ring is 5-1/4 – it’s dangerously large now, but won’t remain so long. I’m “doctoring” and resting to regain the eight pounds I’ve lost. I’m not really well yet. My throat still bothers, and I’m still wobbly.

Vicky Lansing has been rather seriously ill and may not return to school. Dottie Miner’s having her appendix out; Helen Fuher’s living in the House next year. Barb Jacobus and June Cook are to be married the 11th of September, Paddy Tabor the 14th.

We’re hoping to get the invitations off Tuesday – after that there’ll be nothing to worry or excite us till Sept. 7th. We’ve decided 8 in the evening is best. Since you didn’t direct me as to that, I arranged it to suit our convenience. I thought, too, that it would give more time, if you didn’t wish to come till that day. You understand our congested condition. We’d gladly have you all come here – but you will know why we can’t. We shall, however, have rooms outside where there’ll be convenient space for guests. (You, of course, may always claim the bumpy bed in the parlor.) Let me know when you’ll come. I hope it will be dark when you come with your family – darkness hides the paintlessness and shabbiness of our humble domicile – that’s why I preferred 8 – and for other reasons. Tell me of the Castle.





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