CATHER, Willa Siebert (1873-1947). Three typescripts of the story "Two Friends," published in Woman's Home Companion, (July 1932) and one of the three stories published in Obscure Destinies: Three New Stories of the West (New York: Knopf, 1932), with numerous revisions, deletions and emendations. datelined at end "Pasadena, 1931."
Three typescripts: 1) carbon typescript, pp.1-25, author's revisions in some 280 lines; 2) ribbon typescript, pp.6-23, revisions in some 160 lines; 3) ribbon typescript, pp.1-5, 11, 15, 24, 25, revisions in some 108 lines. Each 11 x 8½in. Typescript no.4 boldly titled by Cather at head of page 1, interlinear revisions in pencil, a few in black ink. [With:] CATHER. Autograph note to "Dear Miss Bloom" (a typist?), in pencil on blue paper: "Please copy this Chapter as soon as you can, make two carbons, send one carbon, first copy, and my revised version and one carbon back to me registered mail."
THE GENESIS OF "TWO FRIENDS" FROM "OBSCURE DESTINIES" (1932). Working typescripts--with layers of careful authorial revisions--of a significant mature work, a story based on Cather's deeply personal recollection of two neighbors, from her childhood in Red Cloud, Nebraska. The story was written in Fall 1931, not long after the death of Cather's mother. When "Two Freinds" was submitted to her publisher, Alfred Knopf, Cather termed it "the best story" she had ever written. t remains--if perhaps not the apogee--a standout among Cather's few mature stories, a work one critic termed "one of her most concentrated autobiographical stories." The three stories in Obscure Destinies mark Cather's return to familiar settings--the Great Plains--and the well of memory she drew from in some of her earlier and most successful novels.
The unnamed narrator, a young girl, hovers about the evening checker games of two friends--one a banker and one a store-owner-closely following their murmured conversations. "Wonderful things do happen even in the dullest places--in the cornfields and the wheat-fields. Sitting there on the edge of the sidewalk one summer night, my feet hanging in the warm dust, I saw a transit of Venus. Only the three of us were there. It was a hot ight, and the clerks had closed the store and gone home. Mr. Dillon and Mr. trueman waited on a little while to watch. It was a very blue night, breathless and clear, not the smallest cloud from horizon to horizon. Everything up there overhead seemed as usual, it was the familiar face of a summer-night sky. But persnetly we saw one bright star moving. Mr. Dillon called to me; told me to watch what was going to happen, as I might never chance to see it again in my lifetime." When the long-term friendship of the two main characters ends in alienation and bitterness, fueled by political differences, Cather writes, "The breaking-up of that friendship between two men who scarcely noticed my existence, was a real loss to me, and has ever since been a regret..."