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The Voyage of Phipps Piper
Gerald Holland
October 02, 1967
Mother gave him permission for his daring journey—but how could she know he would encounter a sea monster?
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October 02, 1967

The Voyage Of Phipps Piper

Mother gave him permission for his daring journey—but how could she know he would encounter a sea monster?

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Bayard Ashcroft, Harvard '14
Louisburg Square
Boston, Mass.,
ZIP 02108

My dear Bayard:

I must agree that your pilgrimage to the Delaware Water Gap via the famous flyer of the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad, namely The Phoebe Snow express, made my own journey to Atlantic City by high-speed bus seem rather "tame" by comparison. However, when you have finished this letter perhaps you will concede that "the shoe is on the other foot," so to speak.

Before I reveal the details of my own latest adventure, I feel that I owe you an explanation. You warned me that your last letter (SI, July 5, 1965) was to be considered "top secret," because it contained the text of a communication from the White House acknowledging your support of President L.B.J.'s SAF (See America First) program and the receipt of your picture postcard of the Delaware Water Gap. Although I cannot see that such a letter quite merits your description of it as "classified information," I respected your wishes as far as the chaps at the Harvard Club were concerned and showed the letter to no one. At home, through no fault of mine, it was another story.

To come directly to the point, Mother found your letter in going through Father's suits, which I have been wearing since he was mortally injured in a fall from a 42nd Street trolley car some 30 years ago. Father left an enormous wardrobe and, as a result, I have not had a new suit of my own since our senior year at Harvard. I often brought up the matter of a new suit for myself over the years (I so wanted one with the modern zippered trousers), but Mother insists that Father's things become me very well. She periodically inspects them for signs of wear, and it was while thus engaged that she came upon your letter.

Understandably, I think, she was furious when she read your disparaging remarks about Atlantic City and your sister Lodge's reference to me as "a pip-squeak." I have never seen Mother so agitated. Seated on a sofa in the drawing room, she lashed out angrily with her cane, leading me to marvel anew at the vigor of the woman at age 95.

"Bayard Ashcroft," she said icily, "is a muddleheaded fuddy-duddy, and his sister Lodge is one of those insufferable know-it-all Radcliffe types who go through life seeking to trade on their field-hockey reputations." (Mother, as you must remember, Bayard, is Vassar '91. She excelled at volley ball.)

I sought to placate her.

"Granted that what you say is true, Mother," I said, leaning forward from my vantage point on the footstool, "still one must admit that Bayard's idea of turning his trip to the D.W. Gap into an SAF mission in support of L.B.J, was rather a stroke of genius. And he does have his letter from the White House, which I am sure he will leave to the Harvard Library in his will."

"Rubbish," said Mother. She was silent for a moment. Then she unscrewed the top of her cane and tilted its glass vial of brandy, which Dr. Japes prescribed for use in the event that she ever felt faint while rowing on the lake in Central Park. Almost immediately the color returned to her cheeks. She took up your letter and glanced through it again. Then she said slowly:

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