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Mary sister in law
Oct 13th 1833
Fort William Friday October 13th 1833
My Dear Mary
I owe you a letter of more than a year standing, and I know not now but I had better allow interest to accumulate than attempt to liquidate the debt. In fact there is so little in this country that could prove interesting to you (I know your taste is not Savage) that it is not without reluctance I take up my pen; and but for one consideration I would procrastinate a little longer -- Namely that it brings fresh to my recollection the pleasant evenings I passed with you in December and January last; and I can now indulge the delusive idea that I am seated in your room in Walnut Street enjoying the agreeable society it always contained, and looking on the only Brother and Sister that inhabit the same continent with myself. Can you imagine to yourself how agreeable such dreams are? No, 'tis impossible. We can only know pleasure by contrast and you who have no alloy to mix with pure happiness cannot possibly appreciate the feelings of one whose whole life is bustle and anxiety without a companion (I don't mean a wife) to share it. To fancy myself transported from fifteen hundred miles beyond the bounds of civilization, leaving all my cares behind, and entering the most agreeable and acceptable society that I can imagine, produces a sensation that it beggars words to describe; just call to mind the happiest moments of your life, then that twice told, can enable you to form some idea of what I should feel if I could pass one evening with you at this time, and what I now experience in writing you notwithstanding the immense distance we are apart --
[Pg. Break] As I write volumes to Hugh you probably have a pretty good knowledge of what a person sacrifices who embarks in this life, and yet I might say to you it is not without some enjoyment
" -- this our life exempt from public haunt
"Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
"Sermons in stones, and good in every thing"
Roam in what direction we may, nature in all her beauties (and some of her deformities) meets our eye and should our solitude be interrupted, it is only by a son of nature who affords quite as good a subject for contemplation as the scenery he contributes to diversify; and I can assure you there are times when such are my feelings that I would scarce exchange a walk in the vicinity of Fort William with an unsophisticated Son of the Prairie that I might haply meet, and with whom I could only "talk by signs", for a promenade in Chesnut Street on a fine sunny day when all the fashion and beauty of the city are on the move. My taste you will say is barbarous -- I confess it, else I would not now be writing you from the Mouth of the Yellow Stone
I could tell you so many excellent stories in praise of the Indians that you would be led to admire them, but for our trust in their character (and sorry I am to record it) for which I cannot offer an excuse; and that is their barbarous treatment of the [Red?] sex. Fashion it as I may I cannot palliate their offense: to one who has been accustomed to see our pretty Girls in the States waited on from the time they become marriageable until they get a husband, and if they manage him properly ever after, it is hard to look at the poor creatures in this country -- Youth, Beauty -- I had almost said refinement but they posses neither that nor intelligence -- nothing can exempt them from drudgery. Even the daughter of a chief if she wishes to get a husband (and they all do) must show that she is capable of dressing Buffalo Robes -- packing wood and if occasion requires packing a heavy burden a days march whilst the detestable men step ahead encumbered only by their gun and bow and arrows
[Pg. Break] I have frequently had the Indians boast to me that they were not poor for they had two, three or four wives (tell it not in Goth) who could dress Buffalo Robes to purchase what they might require. A Nabob in the Old Dominion could not speak of his human stock with more indifference than an Indian does of his wives; nor is this all - they will dispose of their daughters for a gun or Horse or any other article they may require without regard to their feelings, but I must add the Lady, like a true daughter of Eve will have her own way, and if her Father's choice does not please her, she seldom fails to choose for herself afterwards in which she is justified by the Customs of her Nation
I intend the first leisure to smoke several pipes of Tobacco - (I am indebted to Knickerbacker for the plan) explaining, at the risk of being laughed at, the difference between our treatment of the sex and theirs
You perceive the bad example daily set before me operates as it ought, in producing the greatest veneration for the ladies I have the misfortune to be so far removed from. The more I see of these Savages the more glaring appears the injustice -- No danger that like vice.
"Seen too oft, familiar with the face
We first endure, then pity, then embrace"
But if some husbands had a precedent such as I could furnish them, Lord help their wives -- therefore the less they know of Indian usage the better.
I hope you have been able to entertain my friend Sublette as agreeably as you did last season, I trust however your fair friends are not as fascinating as they thus were, or I shall expect an additional partner in our concern
When I left St Louis your sisters spoke of the two of them going to Phila, but all being anxious to live with "Sister Mary" they had not determined whose should be the happy lot -- please present my respects to them
Is it not provoking to be placed so as to not expect a letter before June or July next -- this is indeed one of the greatest grievances I find in this country -- Could I expect to hear from you and Hugh and a few of my other friends once a month, then would I be the happiest amongst the self-exiled -- as that is denied me, I shall do myself the pleasure of subscribing myself Your most sincere and most devoted friend and Brother