She writes from Davenport, Iowa, probably in 1926.
My dear Mr. Francis;
I am leaving tomorrow for New York, and then Miss Huffaker and I are coming at once to Provincetown, to open our house. She will be there with me for a week or two. I am writing to ask you if you will have them turn on the water. We will arrive Thursday or Friday.
Would it be possible for women to go in a day or two this week, and clean and air the house? I know you often have women working in your houses at this time of year, and thought if they were engaged for people who are not coming until a little later, perhaps they could do our house first, so I could begin putting things away as soon as I arrive. This would be a great help to me, if it is possible. I would have written about it sooner, but did not know until yesterday that I was coming this week. If closets and bureau drawers could be cleaned, beds aired, and a fire in the range for a day or two, to take out the dampness, that of course would make it much easier when we arrive. I hope I am not putting you to too much trouble in suggesting this, and of course do not let it worry you at all, if it is not possible to arrange. I know I am not leaving much time.
Also I am anxious to get a girl for the summer. Would you inquire among the people who come in the store, and perhaps there would be some one in the neighborhood. My work will not be at all hard, but I am hoping I can get some one at once, as I am not very well, and have much work of my own to do.
I had a letter from Mr. Bianco, a relative of Mrs. O’Neill’s asking about Rice Cottage. If these other people did not rent it, will you let him know—Mr. Francesco Bianco, No. 7 Macdougal Alley, New York City.
I am sending some things to Provincetown by express. Would you be so kind as to call the express office for me, telling them if the trunk, etc. should arrive before I, to hold things for me, as I will be there the last of the week.
Thanking you for these many favors,
Susan Glaspell Cook
Then—she thinks to add still another task to his burden.
If the Advocate comes out Thursday or Friday, would you put this ad in for me: Wanted: Girl for general housework. Inquire Saturday, or thereafter, at 564 Commercial st.
Susan Glaspell Cook
Gaspell’s signature takes on a peculiar significance since, according to Linda Ben-Zvi, Glaspell’s most recent biographer, the only time Susan Glaspell referred to herself as Mrs. “Cook” was when writing or speaking to John Francis.
Glaspell, too, put Francis into a play (though not on stage). “The Outside” is set in “the old Peaked Hill Life-Saving Station.” “I was in Bill Joseph’s grocery store, one day last November,” says Bradford (“a life-saver”)—
when in she comes—Mrs Patrick, from New York. ‘I’ve come to take the old life-saving station,’ says she. ‘I’m going to sleep over there tonight!’ Huh! Bill is used to queer ways—he deals with summer folks, but that got him. November—an empty house, a buried house, you might say—off here on the outside shore—way across the sand from man or beast. … Bill had men hauling things till after dark—bed, stove, coal. And then she wanted somebody to work for her.
For “Bill Joseph” read John Francis and for “Mrs Patrick” read Mabel Dodge.
Then there was Agnes Boulton, whose marriage to O’Neill took place in Provincetown. Here is what I suspect is a typical set of requests while the O’Neill family occupied the Peaked Hill Bars Station. Agnes write to John Francis, probably in 1924::
Dear Mr Francis—
I wonder if you would be good enough to put up an order for us, and then telephone Pete Carr—and arrange to have him take it across the dunes after supper on this coming Friday evening?
The order is: five or ten gal. Kerosene.
1 salt. 1 olive oil.
10 sugar. 1 vinegar.
2 butter. 1 cheese.
4 bread. 2 macaroni.
i orange P. tea. 2 cans tomatoes.
2 lbs best coffee. 2 cans string beans.
1 Baker’s chocolate. 2 Ivory Soap.
4 condensed milk. 4 kitchen soap.
4 evaporated milk. 1 gold dust.
1 pepper. Doz safety matches.
2 lbs mixed cookies. 4 new wicks for kerosene
doz bananas. stove purchased last year
1 peanut butter. from John Francis.
doz best eggs. i doz candles.
2 jars bacon. some fresh vegetables if
2 cans Pork& beans. you have any.
5 flour Apples or fruit if you have any.
2 cream wheat. 1 canned pineapple.
2 oatmeal. 2 lbs prunes.
i corned beef. 1 new broom.
1 box dates.
Mr O’Neill says that he is afraid that he will not get in in time Friday night, so will you ask Carr if he can go about ten o’clock on Saturday morning? If he has to make it earlier in the morning, tell him to be sure and stop at Mrs [blank] and get Mr O’Neill’s suitcase, etc. He will spend the night there.
If you have not got the above list of things, could you hand it to Burch, please? or if there are any items that you haven’t got, if you will phone Burch to send them to your store I am sure he will do so.
I am wiring Capt Gracie to leave the key of the house with you, so that Mr Carr can get it before he goes out.
Thanking you, and with all best wishes,
The particulars of O’Neill’s dependence upon Francis, and the comfortable way he called upon him, is too well-known to rehearse here. Everyone knows them: providing cheap rents and loans, brokering the deal for the Peaked Hill Bars Station, or indulging O’Neill when he painted slogans on the walls of his rented rooms in Francis’s Flats.
One thing is certain. Francis’s loyalty to O’Neill remained strong. When O’Neill was accused of plagiarizing his innovative play Strange Interlude, in a letter dated July 8, 1929, Francis offered his own opinion in words that were meant to comfort the beleaguered playwright: “We had discussed that thing in the office here several times and everyone that knows you know that you have brains enough to write your own plays without stealing them from a woman of that kind who likes to be in the public eye I hope it will come out all right but you can never tell what the lawyers will do when they think a man has a bank account.”
In conclusion, I shall take up, briefly, two other matters: the disappearance of the Peaked Hill Bars house and the critic Edmund Wilson’s acquaintanceship with John Francis.
Even after the O’Neills left Peaked Hill Bars for Ridgefield, Connecticut, first, and then Bermuda, they still counted on the loyal John Francis not only to rent the Peaked Hill Bars house for them but—in what surely must have been at best an annoyance—to monitor its use by strangers, not all of whom, it seems, were O’Neill’s friends. “The place has been occupied several times,” Francis informed O’Neill’s lawyer, Harry Weinberger, on April 25, 1929, “but the tenants have always told me they were friends of Genes and it always seemed to me there was no rent paid or a very small one.” He doubted, in fact, that O’Neill would want to rent the place “as it would take a good part possible all of the rent to put it in order the house is so hard to get to it is almost impossible to get any one to clean it and put it in order.” As it turned out, however, the Peaked Hill Bars house had seen its last tenant.