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Quince Quarternight to Arabella Wentworth, 4. 24. 1924


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From: Arthur Quarternight

Quarternight Metals

160 North Stetson Avenue

Chicago, IL

24th April 1924

 

To: Miss Arabella Wentworth

c/o WIOD Radio

329 Old Fashioned Way

Coconut Grove

Miami, FLA

 

Dear Miss Wentworth

 

Please find enclosed the old photograph that you asked about. I am very glad to hear that you and your, as you call him, ‘ghost writer’ enjoyed the tale of how I earned the sobriquet of ‘Quince’ Quarternight. Apart from having no real place in your autobiography, I am afraid that it would not be believed by many of the younger ‘Charleston’ generation of today, who treat any reminiscences of a childhood spent in the ‘Wild West’ of the last century as a ‘tall tale’, as you yourself have probably discovered. I found your story of how you chose the stage name ‘Wentworth’ funny but, I am not ashamed to admit, also sad enough to bring a slight moistness to this sentimental old fool’s eye!

 

In your last you asked about the Wigfall Twins, which I will now try and answer, from what I recall of the events of the late 60s and early 70s when I attended Mrs Orr’s class in the little schoolhouse close by the bank and what was even then the ‘Stardust’. I must first say that it is still incredible to me that I left Kalispell, never to return, the fall of ’75 and that you arrived that winter. We knew exactly the same streets, the same houses, the same people, the same view of the mountains, yet were destined never to meet. I discount having seen you on stage in ‘Springtime’ on Broadway in ’97 as ‘having met’!

 

Anyway, to the Wigfalls. They were the most unlike pair of twins I ever encountered. Heck Wigfall was an unpleasant boy in many ways, with a caustic turn of phrase which was funny until it headed your way, but certainly intelligent and talented: he vied with my pal Jake Lutz for ‘top of the class’ whilst I languished in the doldrums. His sister though, whom you reminded me was called Jemima, was dull, morose, plain in looks and quite stupid, always bottom of the class, and bullied quite horribly, usually by a gang led by Heck. She also happened to occasion the only fight I ever had with Jake.

 

What happened was this, there was a nice pond or lake out near the Sidwell place, and the gang from school walked up there one Sunday after church to go swimming, they said. I can’t remember why I was late, but when I got there the sight that met my eyes was a far from edifying one. Somehow, they had tricked poor Jemima into getting undressed completely while they remained fully clothed. That girl had the most hirsute body I have ever seen on a human being, to my eyes at the time she seemed more primate than human, and the other kids were not only laughing and hollering names at her, but had started to pelt her with mud and even stones.

 

The thing had clearly been engineered by the odious Heck, for brother and sister hated each other vehemently, but what made me see red was that Jake had joined in, as I came into sight he picked up a stone and threw it at the poor creature. Possessed by a strange fury that comes back to me after all these years, and makes my hand tremble even as I write, I marched right over to my best friend  and ‘switched him a good one in the kisser’ as they say. I suffered a good deal of teasing afterward, of course, ‘Quince loves Jemima’ being a regular chant in the schoolyard for the next two years of school, but I never regretted the action; in fact, despite a few good success in many areas of business, it is probably the one thing I am most proud of doing in my life.

 

On the other hand, reflection upon what he had done, brought home to roost by the ‘furious flying fists’ of yours truly, threw Jake into a frenzy of depression. That is when he first became thoughtful and started writing the poetry you mentioned. We soon made up, as boys are wont to do, but his attention to Jemima after that was an odd and painful thing to behold. It was so awkward that even the usual bullies, Heck and the teacher’s daughter Anathesia [sic] left them both well enough alone. Everybody felt that if anyone was mean to the poor ‘ape girl’, Jake would literally tear them to pieces. Ah, Miss Wentworth, the power of guilt! She became an obsession and a torture to him.

 

I do not know if this helps any with your book, but perhaps it might go someway to explaining some of the events that you have described to me following Jake’s marriage to the young lady you mentioned in your last to me.  

 

I will close now in the hope of catching the post. Please let me know if you have any more questions about those times, and I will oil up the cogs of my memory.

 

Yours sincerely,

                                       Arthur Quarternight (‘Quince’!)

 

P.S. Good luck with the wireless programme.

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