Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to His Children. 1919.

A President as Cook

White House, June 11, 1905.

Mother and I have just come home from a lovely trip to “Pine Knot.” It is really a perfectly delightful little place; the nicest little place of the kind you can imagine. Mother is a great deal more pleased with it than any child with any toy I ever saw. She went down the day before, Thursday, and I followed on Friday morning. Good Mr. Joe Wilmer met me at the station and we rode on horseback to “Round Top,” where we met Mother and Mr. Willie Wilmer. We all had tea there and then drove to “Plain Dealing,” where we had dinner. Of course I loved both “Round Top” and “Plain Dealing,” and as for the two Mr. Wilmers, they are the most generous, thoughtful, self-effacing friends that any one could wish to see. After dinner we went over to “Pine Knot,” put everything to order and went to bed. Next day we spent all by ourselves at “Pine Knot.” In the morning I fried bacon and eggs, while Mother boiled the kettle for tea and laid the table. Breakfast was most successful, and then Mother washed the dishes and did most of the work, while I did odd jobs. Then we walked about the place, which is fifteen acres in all, saw the lovely spring, admired the pine trees and the oak trees, and then Mother lay in the hammock while I cut away some trees to give us a better view from the piazza. The piazza is the real feature of the house. It is broad and runs along the whole length and the roof is high near the wall, for it is a continuation of the roof of the house. It was lovely to sit there in the rocking-chairs and hear all the birds by daytime and at night the whippoorwills and owls and little forest folk.

Inside the house is just a bare wall with one big room below, which is nice now, and will be still nicer when the chimneys are up and there is a fireplace in each end. A rough flight of stairs leads above, where there are two rooms, separated by a passageway. We did everything for ourselves, but all the food we had was sent over to us by the dear Wilmers, together with milk. We cooked it ourselves, so there was no one around the house to bother us at all. As we found that cleaning dishes took up an awful time we only took two meals a day, which was all we wanted. On Saturday evening I fried two chickens for dinner, while Mother boiled the tea, and we had cherries and wild strawberries, as well as biscuits and cornbread. To my pleasure Mother greatly enjoyed the fried chicken and admitted that what you children had said of the way I fried chicken was all true. In the evening we sat out a long time on the piazza, and then read indoors and then went to bed. Sunday morning we did not get up until nine. Then I fried Mother some beefsteak and some eggs in two frying-pans, and she liked them both very much. We went to church at the dear little church where the Wilmers’ father and mother had been married, dined soon after two at “Plain Dealing,” and then were driven over to the station to go back to Washington. I rode the big black stallion—Chief—and enjoyed it thoroughly. Altogether we had a very nice holiday.

I was lucky to be able to get it, for during the past fortnight, and indeed for a considerable time before, I have been carrying on negotiations with both Russia and Japan, together with side negotiations with Germany, France and England, to try to get the present war stopped. With infinite labor and by the exercise of a good deal of tact and judgment—if I do say it myself—I have finally gotten the Japanese and Russians to agree to meet to discuss the terms of peace. Whether they will be able to come to an agreement or not I can’t say. But it is worth while to have obtained the chance of peace, and the only possible way to get this chance was to secure such an agreement of the two powers that they would meet and discuss the terms direct. Of course Japan will want to ask more than she ought to ask, and Russia to give less than she ought to give. Perhaps both sides will prove impracticable. Perhaps one will. But there is the chance that they will prove sensible, and make a peace, which will really be for the interest of each as things are now. At any rate the experiment was worth trying. I have kept the secret very successfully, and my dealings with the Japanese in particular have been known to no one, so that the result is in the nature of a surprise.