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Since this story was split into two “books”, we might as well take advantage of the intermission curtain to do a preliminary processing of what's been crammed down our gullet so far. So now, it's the Waters That Pass Away Halftime Report! Brought to you by Galbraith Ale: made from the choicest barley and real human tears!

Questions for discussion:

1. As promised, we start with my theory about Alexander Galbraith: I've had a lot of fun so far yammering on about how Alexander Galbraith is dying from Movie Of The Week Disease (and I'm sure as hell not about to stop now), but it occurred to me in the last recap that he was dying of nothing more than self-pity and broken pride. Now, I've never heard of anyone dropping dead from a broken spirit outside of books like these, but obviously a man with a strong moral compass (as we've been assured at excruciating length Galbraith does) isn't going to rig up a shotgun to disconnect his brain. Is it possible that brooding in his cottage all day, wasting away, staring out at the nature that drove him to such heights without actually engaging in it—that's his subconscious forcing a slow suicide? It feels pretty obvious that some gremlin in the back of his head said “Okay, we're done” after he lost his hands, but many people have lived as hermits for decades without dropping dead, as we're constantly assured Alex is. But we've also been assured that Alex is a strong man of strong will. He tells himself “I am going to be a great artist,” exerts Herculean effort to get it done, and almost makes it there. Could the gremlin be whispering in the back of his head “You've done everything else you've set your mind to do. Now let's set it to die.”?

Keep in mind the reason all of the above is up for grabs: none of it is alluded to anywhere in the book, and everywhere else every possible motivation for each character is spelled out in flaming letters viewable from space. We're given so little about what has driven him to death's door, so it could be my wishful thinking to find any fatal flaw in the simon-pure protagonists, or stitching together my own narrative out of the rags of the one I've been given. God forbid I make the book sound like any less of a chore than it is.

Since there's no reading ahead, I'm also not discounting the idea that the author might cross us up and let Alex die of old age. And if that's what actually happens, you'll never hear the end of it.

2. I still can't shake that last scene from Chapter 8. The whole thing smacks of a seduction scene in a 1930s Production Code era Hollywood movie where everything fades to black during the clinch and you're left to imagine what happens in the dark...or if anything happens in the dark. Of course, in this case one of the people in the clinch fades to black before the scene does, so we're left guessing. What the hell happened in those missing two hours? Did they play Old Maid? Did he teach her to juggle?

3. We've set up Westmore as an obsessive-stalker-with-gobs-of-money type. We've also set up Tompson as a scorned-and-vengeful type. Are these two destined to butt heads over their crossed purposes, or would that require something to actually happen more often than every 50 pages?

This book is putting my “make your own kind of fun if the book doesn't provide it” edict to the acid test, but literature students, pay attention: even though it's true that I'm fighting these florid flourishes all the way, I'm still fully engaged with the text, even though we're doing it on my terms and not the author's. This project is an obligation made to no one but myself, but I refuse to let this book be my Ivan Drago...unless I get to be Rocky Balboa instead of Apollo Creed.


Next: Book 2...Reader 0! See you there, my riders of the purple prose...

We rejoin our miserable couple in the middle of February (and in Book 1, Chapter 8)...well, actually we first rejoin Alex Galbraith, who once again finds himself alone in the Jersey cottage, since it was now necessary for Helen to be at the newspaper offices all day for at least one day a week. On some of those days, Alex was attended to by Andrew, but on the day in question he was alone apart from an occasional check-in from Jane (whom we've never been properly introduced to, but since she's entirely invisible for story purposes, I'm not going to sweat it). In what would definitely be a bad sign in any other story, but is just part of the chapter checklist in this one, Alex is thinking of his life in retrospective. Yet since his nobility of suffering is rising to an alarming degree, we can be assured he's as good as dead.

Take a deep breath now, because even at 150 pages in, our author can't stop compulsively devoting endless pages to introducing us to the awesomeness of Alexander Galbraith as if for the first time...

[...]Galbraith's splendid head was bowed low, his boldly proportioned chin resting on his bosom, and against the firelight his profile stood out like those of the Lotos-Eaters.

Galbraith's figure was now very drooping, but still retained, despite its mutilation, much of its original magnificence of design; it altogether still appeared so noble and powerful, that even thus, he seemed a man in whom Michel Angelo (sic) might have delighted. His physical charm was less, of course, than it had been in the perfect, strong days of his youth. There were heavy lines about the heavy, clean shaven, sensitive mouth; and the lofty, massive brow, once so smooth and marblelike, cut in fact with the fine sweeping lines of Greek art, had become somewhat shrunken and furrowed by the constant thought of pain that passed there. However, youth and beauty had not altogether disappeared from Galbraith, and his lustrous brown eyes were full yet of a dreamy light, and able still to flash with sudden fire. It was not difficult to infer from his appearance what kind of a man he was—how earnest, and noble, and large-spirited. True, he had his limitations; a strong individuality cannot cannot escape the reactionary force of its own nature. But everything about a man like Galbraith is important and suggestive. Body and face, in his case, were both more than ordinarily so. Physically he had been truly grand when in perfect health; yet he seemed still grander as he sat in his exile patiently mastering the agonies of a great suffering. In his countenance was to be seen the rare combination of sweetness with intellectual vigor. Never was carved a finer head or more imaginative brow.

As to character, Galbraith's friends found that the nearer they came to him, the more they saw in him to consider and honor. If on a slight acquaintance a certain restlessness in him made itself felt, a closer acquaintance showed that restlessness to be of a kind which may be called godlike, since it signifies that the human soul in which it dwells is capable of growth[.](pp. 150-1)

And “godlike” is where I draw the line regarding this dollop of drivel. Not only is he godlike, he was Christlike earlier in the book (complete with a metaphorical crown of thorns)...when is he going to die so he can be the Holy Ghost, too? Of course, all of this has been told to us at relentless length throughout the book so far, so while his thoughts drift to works done and undone, you'll have to forgive me if I blow off the whole ridiculous section with a few Let's-Just-Get-This-Over-With bullet points:

  • “His ideal of work had not been to paint so much what the public wanted, but what he wanted[.]” Yes, you already mentioned that. Can we move on to something new, please?

  • “More than is usual with artists, he had aimed to make his intellect broad, to feed it on the holy things of this earth, in order that the revelations of nature and of the spiritual world might flow through it as their rightful channel. To accomplish this he acquainted himself with the best in literature as well as art.” Astounding! Some artists know how to be well-rounded people and think about things besides art! This is another signifier that he's extra-special, forgetting for a moment that a significant number of paintings from the previous centuries were inspired by literature and myth (that's even true if you don't count the Bible as literature). Not all of them, granted, but enough of them to be meaningful. (Apropos-of-nothing sidebar: It's mentioned that he had a “very personal grief” for the death of Tennyson “during the past few months,” which (for the anal-retentive lit geeks) would place this part of the narrative at the beginning of 1893. Not that it makes any difference. It just feels like filigree for its own sake.)

  • Thinking back to the death of Ernest Renan—in the same month as Tennyson, but again, that won't bail you out at all—he pondered how Renan lacked the “sincere moral earnestness which for Galbraith was so essential to every man,” and that he didn't possess the character "to interpret the moral and spiritual life of man." Since Renan was a notorious antisemite with some pungent views on race, this proclamation is one of the easier ones for a modern reader to take, but does all of this really feed the narrative or the general atmosphere? Or is it, as I suspect, a case of "Blah blah blah I know stuff and things! You want to know what I'm talking about, get an encyclopedia..."?

And finally, we drift back to Helen.

Poor Helen! He almost spoke the words aloud, so distinctly did they repeat themselves in his own mind. What cares, what disappointments had his affliction brought to her! The thought of this give him more pain than any of his disappointments had ever done. He loved her as he had never loved any other human being; his love for her had entirely possessed him as nothing else had ever done. From the very first, love was the one influence which had purified and rescued him from all selfish desire, and led him out into a large, free, exalted state of existence. It had given him faith and courage when everything else failed to do so. He knew beyond questioning that Love is the one great thing—the great need of despairing, hopeless, erring human lives—that it above all other possessions signifies vitality and strength—and is the measure of a man's real life. (pp. 156-7)

Which is pretty high-minded talk from a man who hasn't left the house for three years just because he had his arms amputated, and is content to quietly atrophy in his sitting room because it's all too much for him. Seriously, do we have any indicator that Galbraith is dying from anything other than self-pity and broken pride? Because God forbid the author actually tells us something useful instead of burning off another eight or nine pages telling us what a noble victim of the fates he is...again. I have a theory about what might be going on, but I'll save it for the halftime report.

Yes, when he lingers on her, a poem (a truncated stanza from Tennyson's “Maud”) bubbles up from his subconscious, and yes, I have to include it:

The long continued silence of the room was broken by a faint musical sound, almost monotonous at first in its measured chanting; then a voice, soft and low, broke and fell like the sobbing of waves on the beach, intoning the words—

“Comfort her, comfort her, all things good,
While I am over the sea!
Let me and my passionate love go by,
But speak to her all things holy and high,
Whatever happen to me!
Me and my harmful love go by;
But come to her waking, find here asleep,
Powers of the height, Powers of the deep,
And comfort her tho' I die.” (p. 157)

Which would be a suitably melodramatic death scene...if he had the dignity to get it over with and die just then. Instead, we're told “the beginning of the end was here,” which means absolutely nothing, since the beginning of the end has been anticipated since shortly after Chapter 1.

And with a heavy sigh of relief mingled with dread, it's back to Mrs. Galbraith in New York, where through the courtesy of Westmore—to the mild surprise of Mr. Elliott—Helen has been provided a small furnished room in the newspaper building to rest and recharge during the day. Mrs. Elliott, who has become a fast friend, is a frequent visitor, and Mr. Elliott occasionally sticks his nose in when some editorial business requires it. Helen's only other visitor is Westmore himself, and while he seems to have changed his nature, it's merely a change in strategy.

His visits had been made very regularly, though he had not remained very long at one time. He generally chose the hour when he knew Helen would be preparing for her homeward trip, in order that he might go with her part of the way, and so prolong his own pleasure. It is very doubtful whether he thought or cared about Helen's feelings in the matter. She had not been able to entirely overcome her natural dislike of him, yet, despite her coldness and indifference, he continued so universally thoughtful of her, that she could not disregard him. He had in the past few months done so many kind things for her, and in so delicate a way, that it was only natural she should come to look upon him as an unusual man, and even at times to value the attentions and the regard which he bestowed upon her. This could not have been the case, however, had not Westmore controlled himself in the most remarkable manner. Realizing that at first he had made his admiration of Helen too plain for her, he set himself to work to correct this mistake, and did it so well that now he stood on just the natural ground with her which he desired. He came to her retreat whenever he knew she was there; he openly brought her flowers; he talked with her freely of his own plans and schemes; he gave her to understand that he was a restless, unhappy, dissatisfied man; in short, he did everything to arouse her interest in him, and to appeal to her sympathy. One thing only remained to him to do; to get her to accept the fact that she and she only was essential, indispensable to his happiness. What, he sometimes asked himself, if he failed in this? He would not fail, though! He was not the kind of man to fail at the supreme moment. (pp. 160-1)

On the night in question, Helen's desire to flee to the waiting mercies of her husband was overruled by sheer exhaustion, and soon she plopped down on the couch for ten minutes' rest. That was when Westmore, with a “peculiar, glad smile” when he saw her (and a creepy, stalkerly swagger in his step, I'm sure), let himself in and, by way of a solitaire game of musical chairs, cautiously approached his sleeping angel.

For some minutes he sat there, again very still, yet near enough to touch her had he but reached forth in his hand. Then he remained watching the sleeper, whose even breathing was the only sound to be heard in the room. At last the sleeper herself stirred; just a little, as one in a dream. Mr. Westmore left his chair and crept to the side of the couch, kneeling over it, breathless. She stirred again, this time reaching upward her right arm. The man kneeling over her caught the extended arm between both of his hands, holding it tightly for a moment against his breast.

“Darling!” He whispered the word, leaning towards her. Again the sleeper stirred, and again the word was whispered over her, yet more intensely. Then, as a woman often does in her sleep, when she has the habit of holding some loved one in her embrace, Helen lifted her arms and placed them about the man by her side.

Somehow, two or more hours later, Helen got back to the cottage in Jersey; but she could never remember just how she had come, or who came with her. The only thing that lingered in her memory of that night's journey was the impression that the meadows below the cottage were all mist and music. The frogs seemed to have set up a general chorus. As the February moon shown forth, she remembered to have thought, that winter, no doubt, was well-nigh over—that this was the promise of a change. Yes, the beginning of the end. (p. 163)

Um, it was just a hug she gave him, wasn't it? In her sleep? The disconnect of a century's divide must be working against me, since I read this passage several times and I'm still having a little trouble decoding what Miss Winston's flipping out about here. I'm sure all will be discreetly explained once I work up the nerve to start the second half.

“The beginning of the end”? No, we don't get that lucky this time. This is only the end of the beginning. Hoo. Ray.

Next: The Waters That Pass Away Halftime Report! Don't miss it! If you do, it'll happen anyway! Only you'll be somewhere else, and I'll be laughing behind your back!

Like a lot of effete old-money snobs, Chapter 7 of Book 1 tells us, Andrew still lived in the family home on Twentieth Street with his mother, and they stayed out of each other's way so well that it wasn't that bad of an arrangement for either of them. Andrew had converted the third floor of the family home into a swinging bachelor pad!...if you define “swinging” as “smoking and reading a lot when you're not traveling.” If you leave out the smoking and traveling, that means I'm a swinger. And that's not right! So let's drop the whole thing before it makes me any more depressed.

As we follow Tompson to his Club, let's follow the leaky logic that led Tompson to assume nothing but the worst: There are rumors of “marital discontent” and “moral irregularities” (that's on top of the “strange manipulations” on the stock market), and also a story of a divorcée who had made her fortune solely from Westmore's tender attentions. Add to that his ownership of the paper where Helen worked, and the obvious result is that Helen is giving Westmore “special friendship” status that she refused Tompson. Friendship with benefits. And since this is all strictly genteel, we can assume thebenefits include a solid dental plan.

And here I call authorial shenanigans: Let's forget for a moment that he's making a loose morals call on a woman he's known for years, who married a man he's known even longer. For that matter, let's forget that he's somehow forgotten everything he's ever known about her personal character, because that's probably the only way to make this scenario work. Regardless, he has pledged himself, under the weight his wounded rich boy vanity, to revenge, which at least is plausible.

After two irrelevant (there's that word again) pages of out-of-nowhere “New York is better than Paris” talk, he arrives on his errand, to seek out George Clayton, a man who he never seeks without a bit of favor-asking in mind. The man knows everyone's stories and is always willing to share, which is why Tompson decided to prime his pump for some noise about the Westmores.

Tompson now joined the group gathered about Clayton, who was telling in his best manner the last misdemeanor on the part of a prominent married woman, who, having lived quietly and contentedly for ten years as a model wife and mother, had lately surprised society by breaking her bonds and plunging into the wildest gaieties. As a rule Clayton's stories were received only with approbation. This evening, however, one young man, evidently more simply constructed than the rest of the listeners, dared to raise a protesting voice against what seemed to him outrageous conduct on the part of the lady in question.

“Why, it is the plainest thing in the world!” insisted Clayton. “You could expect nothing else. The woman was bored to death. A perfectly adoring husband—perfectly arranged house—perfectly charming children! Far too easy and monotonous an existence for a woman of any spirit. Take my word for it, boys, the best way to lose your wife is by being too good to her!” The narrator's face wore a radiant expression as he gave out this warning, undoubtedly convinced that he had solved the whole problem of marital infelicity.

“You are an advocate, Mr. Clayton, are you not, of the old theory—a woman, a dog, and a walnut tree, the more you beat them the better they be?” asked Tompson.

“Not quite so bad as that, Mr. Tompson, not quite so bad!” protested Clayton midly, evidently pleased at having attracted the newcomer's attention. Tompson represented the most exclusive set in the Club, and a man like Clayton, who went everywhere and knew everybody, appreciated the distinction which attached to being admitted to anything like the intimacy with that set.

“We all recognize the fact, though, I think,” continued Clayton, “that the best woman in the world will break away from a dead monotony when it becomes tolerable to her—and this, it seems to me, is a satisfactory explanation of our friend's conduct.” (pp. 136-7)

This new line of talk had the desired effect on Tompson's part of driving away Clayton's audience, and once he had the older man to himself (Clayton is 60, as if that makes any difference), Tompson cut straight to the day's business, which was to ask for an introduction to the Westmore household. Clayton, thinking the younger man had an eye for one of the Westmore daughters (and marrying into their money), readily agreed.

Once they hit the Westmore house—“very massive and pretentious”—the aesthetic snob in Tompson wasted little time in silently passing judgement on the “impossible” Mrs. Westmore, “red of face, coarse of body,” extremely unrefined, but with a generous heart that Tompson chose to ignore in his calculations. It turns out that while they had grown apart in many ways, Mr. and Mrs. Westmore were still united in making sure their daughters received a satisfactory dose of life's opportunities. To that effect, the eldest married well (“well” in this case meaning “sensible with the money that Mr. Westmore supplied him with,” and not a family embarassment), and the second in line wound up with an aspiring young clergyman who was expected to make bishop someday. Daughter Number 3 is the supposed object of Tompson's entry into the house, a girl as physically plain as her mother, but a warmth that won her a large circle of friends. Too bad they're hot friends, since our lad's penchant for pretty things overrules his desire to stick to the frickin' script, and soon he's chatting up a different young lady instead. Don't think the Missus doesn't notice this, as soon she is tapping the shoulder of a young man whom she believes will know the score on this new punk.

“Now tell me, Mr. Anderson, who is that Mr. Tompson?” The young man addressed turned suddenly about as Mrs. Westmore administered her harmless, if familiar, tap to his shoulder. Placing his hand discreetly over his lip he replied:

“That man is Andrew Tompson. Quite exclusive, you know—belongs to the old set—prides himself, I believe, on his aristocratic blood and his culture, and thinks himself privileged to snub most people unmercifully when he chooses to do so.” Evidently this young man had received no favors at Tompson's hands.

“Well, I declare!” exclaimed Mrs. Westmore. “Now, that's too bad! He seems so quiet and nice.” She looked across the room regretfully at Tompson, and in her honest, genuine heart she felt truly sorry for him.”

“There you are mistaken, Mrs. Westmore,” replied the young man. “It is just the kind of thing most people like immensely—they feel so flattered, you know, when he condescends to them.”

“Well, I declare!” again exclaimed Mrs. Westmore. “You don't mean to tell me that such a quiet little man as he is feels himself that superior!” After which Mrs. Westmore, inspired by perfect simplicity of purpose, put her glass to her eye and deliberately inspected her guest from tip to toe. This act on the part of his hostess did not escape Tompson, though he continued to converse with the pretty girl who had delivered him from Miss Westmore. No doubt he would have been somewhat shaken had he known the impression he was making upon the robust lady who seemed so vulgar and material to him. He was a vain man who thought a great deal of his personal appearance, and he liked to appear well even before people who were of little consequence to him.

“He's rather fragile, I should say,” remarked Mrs. Westmore to Mr. Anderson, “but I can see that he is a true aristocrat; but a man with those delicate hands isn't likely to be much else.” Mrs. Westmore at times made some surprisingly just distinctions. For a few minutes she continued to survey Tompson through her glass, then rising, crossed the room to where he sat. Her thought as she did so was—

“That young man is ill and run down!” What she said was the same thought put in another form.

“Come, my dear,” speaking to the dark, handsome girl by Tompson's side, “take Mr. Tompson into the other room, and give him some punch. I am sure he is tired out.” Tompson looked up at Mrs. Westmore with surprise expressed upon his face. He was not accustomed to be taken on such familiar terms upon so short an acquaintance. (pp. 142-3)

Obviously Mrs. Westmore is a good judge of long as it's pointed out to her first. And if it's not her husband, I suppose...but I'm sure we'll hit that point eventually.

And speak of the devil, not long after he was escorted away from the main crowd, Tompson lays eyes on the master of the house himself, fresh off of the street. They pass a few idle words before Westmore leaves for his private rooms. Showing what kind of quick study he is, Mr.Westmore says to himself “That young man is deep! But he has a wily old fox to outwit this time!” And then he started thinking back to Helen Galbraith...maybe he even fantasized about seeing her ankle.

Having accomplished the superficial recon mission he set out to do, Tompson made a motion to leave. Being on his own again, he began once again to add up what he had discovered during the day, and as with his previous social arithmetic, Tompson's abacus is missing a few beads.

Certainly he had satisfied himself of one thing: her association with Westomre was, beyond doubt, a personal one. The manner in which Westmore had taken possession of her that afternoon at the gallery and carried her off settled this point for Tompson convincingly. As he thought of it, another thing too was now settled for him. He perfectly understood how the pursuit of pretty women had, as the world said, become a fixed passion with Westmore. No man who possessed a taste for the dignified niceties of life—and Tompson took it for granted that Westmore did possess some taste for these things—could be expected to submit quietly, without compensation of some kind, to the vulgarities expressed in the person and manner of Mrs. Westmore. To a man of Andrew Tompson's fastidious nature Westmore's life seemed nothing less than a daily torture, a continual crucifixion of every ideal. Himself under the spell of Helen Galbraith's charms, he understood, even while he resented it fiercely, how Westmore might turn to her simply to feed his soul and aesthetic sense upon. She was far away from him, far away indeed, Tompson knew now, but as he thought of her his ordinarily cold heart leaped with the warmth and throb of passion. Never had she seemed to him so desirable! The less approachable he found her the more he longed to make her his own! These thoughts almost maddened him. He was violently angry with himself that he had no power to resist this spell which was upon him; he was tenfold more angry with Helen, who had so innocently produced it. As he walked nervously down the avenue, some unrelenting demon seemed to reveal to him in the clearest outlines the situation just as it was. Helen Galbraith would ever remain unattainable to him—even in the event of Galbraith's death. There was no power in him which could ever awaken her emotions. He was convinced that for her he would ever continue an insufficient person, unequal to any of the greater demands of her life.

He knew that these things were true—true and unalterable. He had always been a cold, self-possessed man, one exercising absolute control over the conditions of his own life. This storm of passion which now shook him he would subdue, would make subservient to his purposes, as he had made other things! Yes, he too would play his cards, and by all the powers of Heaven and Hell, he would play them effectually! If Helen Galbraith felt him to be insufficient for her needs and scorned his love, he would by his own methods undermine the very ground on which she stood, and convince her, against all odds, that there was force of some kind in him! (pp. 145-6)

Convincing himself that when the time came to pay the piper, she wasn't going to short him a farthing, he continued on to do an Evil Thing, and the author does yet another evil thing to me: “It is useless, and would be degrading, even if not uninteresting, to follow Andrew Tompson into this house, and to listen to the exact conversation which he held there with one who should not, under any conditions, ever have touched his life.” I can't help but marvel at the concentrated gall, because the “degrading” conversation was with a private detective whom Andrew hires to shadow Helen, and whom we can assume doesn't give a damn whose life he ruins as long as the money's good. It would be exciting and add to the atmosphere, and in the process also satisfy the 21st century lit wonks who make “show, don't tell” a mantra for our times. So of course, I wouldn't be interested in that conversation at all, but this high-minded treacle will make a dandy replacement:

Alas! for such a nature there are no possible exaltations in life—no loveliness of the spirit. The Vision and the Splendor and the Glory too, which may belong to Love, are not for such as Andrew Tompson. That charmed life, that life of Love out of which are evoked “the nobler harmonies,” had no meaning for this man, whose sensitiveness was pure, unadulterated selfishness, and who recognized no higher quality in life than that of personal happiness. (p. 148)

Oh yes, that's much better. Who wants to go out for a big, juicy steak when there's a dessicated hunk of beef jerky right in front of you?

Next: The beginning of the end of Alex Galbraith, and the end of the beginning of Waters That Pass Away. But for us, only the halfway mark. Excuse me while I drive this nail into my forehead...

When Helen arrives at the newspaper office at the beginning of Book 1, Chapter 6, she receives a message to meet Mr. Elliott at his home in Grammercy Park. She's still fuming about the Andrew Tompson situation, but is keeping it properly suppressed, because what kind of crappy martyr would she be if she could actually vent her spleen to someone? Anyway, her life was only partly cloudy now, since thanks to their recent collaborations Alex had caught a renewed spark of vitality, and “a certain vanished brightness had, in part, been restored to the intercourse of Alex and herself.”

Soon Helen was waiting in the library of the Elliott house, and of course, it's just perfect. That is to say it's put together with an absence of gaudy, flash-in-the-pan interior design effects.

Money in its modern uses had apparently had little to do with creating the atmosphere pervading these apartments, for little in them, except some of the books, seemed new, or in any way related to the fashion and ideas of the day. The impression which Helen obtained as she looked about her was one of complete harmony; the colors used were soft and acceptable to the eye, the furnishings were characterized by an old-time dignity and comfort. Distinctly this was a place to live and move in, a place neither barren nor overcrowded, as simple, substantial, and individual as the man who was master there. A large bowl of roses stood upon the library table, and from them and the surrounding rooms there seemed to come a delightful, unspeakable aroma, suggestive of other times and other places.

It was a long while since Helen had permitted herself the luxury of entering anyone's home, and the sensations produced upon her now almost overcame her. Some of the places with which she had been familiar in her girlhood, in the quiet, unprogressive old town where her own home had been, came back to her as she sat there, her eyes lingering upon the many things which pleased her fancy. A small number, if any, of those old homes now remained, she reflected, as she had known them; and this home was probably, with a few others perhaps, exceptional, in the great, rushing world of New York, where nothing seems to last but for a day. How it was, she found herself asking, that modern life, always professing to seek the best, so often succeeded only in spoiling things, in destroying the realities to make place for ephemeral, unimportant effects? (pp. 112-3)

And while she was pondering this, Mr. Elliott arrived to usher her into his private den—an “editor's ideal workshop”—which took up the entire back half of the second floor and was dominated by a series of overstuffed bookshelves running along the side walls. He was very pleased that she was drawn to the books, and they passed a few minutes pulling down favorites and rare editions, but oddly enough—maybe the author realized we might get the wrong idea—we're informed that Mr. Elliott was “never the man to lose his balance about a beautiful woman—to allow his emotions to become intoxicated by her charms. [...] He looked upon women as the pleasing, lovable beings of life, who were to be protected and encouraged by the hand stronger than their own.” What, like Muppets? So much for sexual can you have sexual tension with a Muppet? And yes, I know that the only correct answer is “Ask Charles Grodin.”

After half an hour lost in the shelves, we meet Mrs. Elliott. And of course, she's flawless...well, relatively speaking.

Helen was startled for a moment by the woman's appearance. While not beautiful in the accepted sense, her face, her person, and her manner held something far more attractive than mere beauty can ever express.

This sounds dangerously close to “She's just gorgeous, as far as ugly women go,” but I'm sure our author wouldn't cross us up that way. Let us proceed...

She was tall and slender, with a very dark complexion lighted up splendidly radiant eyes. Her hair, commencing to show an occasional gray lock, helped to emphasize at once the darkness and the radiance. Helen was not aware that she also took Mrs. Elliott by surprise. Her husband had in a measure prepared for her for the appearance of their visitor, but Helen's beauty was of a kind which no description could make quite comprehensible. Helen had about her that something which is indeed rare—the quality of charm. It is a magical gift, this quality of personal charm, born with one, not acquired. In most cases, no doubt, we are inclined to over-rate the power of intellectual sympathies in the formation of human friendships. Those small personal traits which we can rarely describe are after all the most effective things in bringing people together. “Men talk of morals,” says Emerson, “but it is manners that associate us.” This quality of charm caused Mrs. Elliott upon a first acquaintance to take Helen to her heart; in a few moments the two women felt each a certain kinship to the other. (pp. 116-7)

It is Mrs. Elliott who is the facilitator of this unusual meeting: the three are going to attend a retrospective showing by the Society of American Artists in the Fine Arts Building. Helen, keeping her home obligations in mind, tries mightily to beg off, but the Elliotts aren't taking no for an answer. Mr. Elliott helps Helen put things into perspective.

“You will find need, Mrs. Galbraith,” said he, “for certain outside influences, and they will help you in your work far more than you can now realize. Achievements are not solely the result of conscious labor. Many other things enter into them; and chief among these is the claim which humanity presses upon us. Did you ever hear the legend of Friar Jerome and the Beautiful Book?” He was standing in front of her as he spoke, and his manly strength delighted her as Galbraith's had once done.

“No, I think not.”

“It illustrates so happily the point I wish to make, that I will tell it to you. Friar Jerome was absorbed in his work on the Beautiful Book, but, against his will, he was forced to leave it to minister to human needs. He found on returning that an angel had stood at his desk and wrought at his task during his absence.”

“I see,” said Helen thoughtfully, and her smile showed him that she understood. (p. 119)

And from here, we get a history of the National Academy of Design and the creeping conservatism that led to the creation of the Society of American Artists, the group who presented the showing in question. It's fascinating stuff, but even though it's presented at great length, it's probably beside the point. The art conversation the rest of the chapter is drenched in is another matter, and we just can't let it pass without at least a sample.

“Here is something I like very much,” said Mr. Elliott, stopping in front of an exceedingly interesting portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson.

“If there is one modern writer whom all men could be said to admire above another,” said Helen, “I think Stevenson is that man. Yes, this is good,” she added, then moving away, and leading the others unconsciously along, she soon found herself standing before an old, familiar friend, one which brought back many pleasant memories to her.

“How glad I am to see this! Mr. Chase's Ready for a Ride!” she exclaimed. Helen had naturally imbibed much of Galbraith's ideal opinion of Mr. Chase, and she experienced now a genuine thrill of pleasure in coming unexpectedly across so fine a piece of work by him.

“Do you know,” she said, turning from the picture to Mr. and Mrs. Elliott, “that I am really ashamed when I remember what, after all, more than anything else has made me so familiar with this picture? A Parisian manufacturer took a great fancy to it, and stamped it boldly upon the big pottery plaques which he made. At one time these were to be seen everywhere in the Paris shops. But my husband, I am sure, would be very much discouraged concerning my art education, should I tell him how at home I feel with this picture, just because I recall so vividly those perfectly horrible big plaques.”

“I have seen somewhere,” said Mr. Elliott, “something which Mrs. Van Rensselaer has to say about this picture. Mr. Chase, according to her account, sent it home from Munich before he came himself, and sold it to a dealer who very soon sold it to the Union League Club. What the club paid for it, Mrs. Van Rensselaer says she does not know, but she does say a friend of Mr. Chase's told her that all he received for it was a hundred dollars. Rather interesting, is it not, in the light of what a Chase canvas, fresh from the studio, brings today?” (pp. 123-4)

Not too long after this, Andrew Tompson, who apparently knows the Elliotts, joins the group briefly, and Helen accepts his small-talk with a somewhat icy reserve before he's sidetracked by a pressing need to impress his coterie of hangers-on. When he finally catches up with them again in the tearoom, the threesome has expanded to four, as Mr. Westmore, millionaire stalker (but, of course, not a stalker of millionaires), has tracked down the party under the pretense of “emergency business.” Whatever mellow Andrew was carrying with him was effectively harshed by the presence of Westmore, which means soon he's bubbling over with Bad Ideas. Bad Ideas fostered by devious investigation, as it turns out.

Tompson's mind was filled with many ugly suspicions, and waiting in moody silence, he worked himself into a quite dangerous frenzy. During the past two weeks he had made a point of obtaining information in regard to Mr. Westmore, and the things which he learned concerning this prominent citizen in no way inspired Tompson with confidence in his character. Had Andrew Tompson been a genuine friend, or even a man capable of an unselfish act, he would very easily have found a way to speak candidly to Alex Galbraith or even to Helen of the facts he had learned concerning Mr. Westmore. Being neither of these things, he preferred to let matters alone, disregardful of results. Possibly this would prove the surest way of getting his own revenge for the scorn which Helen Galbraith had not long not before heaped upon him. Averse as Helen was to Andrew Tompson, she yet had no suspicion of the vital falseness of his character—a falseness which had its roots and branch in pure selfishness.

Y'know, there's a difference between “foreshadowing” and “flatly and artlessly telling us what's probably going to happen.” But to continue...

With all his refinements and artistic tastes, he could never see beyond himself; and it was especially characteristic of him that in his estimate of people he often mistook culture for goodness, distinction of manner for integrity of character, and grace of person for that more exalted grace of heart which is not always to be perceived at once in the individual. (p. 127)

The discussion seems to be going very well without him, thank you very much, and even Westmore is contributing to the pleasant art talk. Of course, "pleasant" and "Westmore" aren't allowed to exist in the same space for too long, because when Helen said her goodnights and made a move toward the train station, Mr. Westmore not only insisted on accompanying her all the way to the Galbraith cottage in spite of her protests, but forced his attentions on her all the way home...apparently to prove that whatever he wants will be done without question and on his terms, and there will be Hell to pay for anyone who stands in opposition to him. (One last definitive Trump!) And here it's demonstrated that the Elliotts, unlike the supposedly mystically observant artistic man Helen married, are wizards at actually seeing and perceiving what's in front of them.

“I wish he would let her go alone!” said Mrs. Elliott, turning to her husband.

“It was very evident that she did not wish his company,” replied Mr. Elliott.

“Yes, I am sure she does not like him.”

“There is something that I do not understand about it. Westmore spoke to me of her as his dear, personal friend. Yet from her manner, I should say, she does not look upon him in that light.”

“She is such a beautiful, charming creature,” continued Mrs. Elliott, “that I do wish he played no part in her affairs. Do you think,” she asked earnestly, “that he really wants to befriend her, or may there be some other motive?”

“I cannot tell, my dear. Perhaps Westmore could not be the right sort of friend to any very beautiful woman. I sometimes think this of him—yet it may be an injustice. In this case, let us hope that it is!”

“Yes, let us hope so,” echoed Mrs. Elliott, “and also let us be good friends to the girl ourselves, which I am sure is the best way.”

“Without doubt it is,” said Mr. Elliott. (p. 130)

Hey, she has friends now! It's about time!

Next: More of Andrew being Andrew! Aren't you thrilled?

Since there's not a whole lot of information about the author of our current book in the free-and-clear webspace (that is, not hidden behind a wall of dollar signs), that means I have to be a bit more clever. Starting with this snippet of genealogy from the Daughters of the American Revolution Lineage Book (1897):

-- National DAR membership #1797
Born in Virginia

  • Descendant of Lieut. James Meriwether and William Bobby Winston, of Virginia.
  • Daughter of James Blair Winston and Julia A. Lumpkin, his wife.
  • Granddaughter of James Meriwether Winston and Mary Ann Hemingway, his wife.
  • Great-granddaughter of William Bobby Winston and Ann Meriwether, his wife.
  • Great-great-granddaughter of James Meriwether and Elizabeth Pollard, his wife.
  • James Meriwether was one of four brothers in the Continental service. He rose to the rank of lieutenant and served through the war.
  • William Bobby Winston was a soldier from 1778 to the close of the Revolution.
We've established this Miss Winston was a member of the Old Dominion DAR chapter, and (as I just found out) "our" Miss Winston later followed up this book's success (which tells us that somebody responded to the book back in the day, even if I don't now) with The Grace of Orders (1902), which a contemporary review tells us is set in "Virginia as it was before the great cataclysm, and as it is now," which has to be more than a coincidence. You'll also notice that the Times didn't make the "Mr. Winston" mistake twice.

Keep in mind that all of the above is strictly circumstantial evidence, and considering some of the things I've said about the book so far, I post this information with a great deal of trepidation in case the author's estate puts a hit out on me. Still, it might be interesting to put a life to the name on the title page. Consider this a combination action item/plea for mercy.

The period immediately following Helen's hiring passed without even a small speck of disharmony—how wonderful for them, how disheartening for me—but as Book 1, Chapter 5 opens, it becomes clear that while his affliction is a double amputation, what's really killing Alex Galbraith is (ha! I called it!) the Movie-Of-The-Week Disease.

Living as Galbraith did in a perpetual nearness to suffering, liable at any moment to acute physical or mental pain, all that delicacy of feeling, all that fineness of sense which had given him his supreme conception of the artist's vocation, seemed now to deepen and intensify the fervor of his soul. Helen saw with the passage of each day, how he was more moved for others—more filled with an intense human sympathy. Nor could his state of health fail to increase the habitual seriousness of thought, the tendency to look at the inner life of things, which had always been so distinctive a quality of his noble, strong nature. An abiding, deep, yet gentle sadness took possession of his spirit, and filled it with a yearning for the things that are not of this life. It was under such conditions that Helen lived in the closest union with her husband. (p. 92)

Helen's new task turned out to be a continuation of the work that she and Alex had been attempting all along, and it was still more or less divided along the lines of Alex providing the insight and experience, which Helen “had the good taste to utilize in a pleasant acceptable manner”. The trial piece was on the topic of the art schools of Paris, which was written in “a pleasant, almost conversational style”—a phrase which I stared at incredulously for a long time, considering that “conversational” implies a chatty informality that was a universe apart from the book in front of me. Very fortunately, the author leaves it to our imagination what Helen's “conversational style” represents in print, since that would prove whether Ms. Winston was up to the challenge or not. Stick to your strengths...whatever those are.

Back to the subject at hand, not only did the article deliver what Mr. Elliott was looking for, but the work was a slight tonic to Galbraith's energy—not enough to get him out of the house, but enough to not be walking death at every waking moment—which lightened Helen's misery-suffused heart immensely. The second week brought a book to review, a challenge which they attacked so meticulously that Elliott published the review without changing a word.

Which brings us to the Saturday afternoon that marks the end of her two weeks' trial. As we join the Galbraiths, Alex is sitting at the west window, observing nature and watching Helen walk up and down a deserted old roadway, communing with nature but always within earshot of Alex. Well, actually she was communing with nature and ruminating on the subject of Mr. Elliott. And—aw hell—just being all tragic and overwhelmed with gushing torrents of powerful emotion about nothing at all.

Possibly, after all, she might have found another way; Mr. Westmore's personal intercession might not have been a necessary factor in the game, had she only known what manner of man Mr. Elliott was. And yet how could she have known? Even in her most imaginative moments it would have been hard for her to conceive the idea of such a man as Mr. Elliott appeared to be. Whom had she ever seen like him—a man surrounded by the most absorbing practical affairs, yet so strongly, so sufficient in the midst of them, so resolved only upon the best and highest aims? Such a man represented the most effective spiritual-mindedness which “is life and peace.” Surely she could have spoken to him on her own behalf at their first acquaintance, could have told him everything; nor did she doubt that he would then have made a contract with her on a purely business basis. What a relief this would have been to her. The more she thought of it, the more she hated the personal element which had brought about her relationship with him, which was the result purely of Mr. Westmore's influence, and now she knew, beyond a peradventure, that Mr. Westmore, by what he had done in her behalf, had gained an undeniable claim upon her. With this consciousness in her mind it was very hard to obtain the calm and quiet spirit, the peace for which she longed. Still, she resolved to strive earnestly for it, trusting to find it, perchance in some way she could not now forsee. For the present she would deliver her mind from all thoughts of these things! This afternoon should be hers—hers to delight in—hers to walk forth freely in—hers in which to use in a satisfying sense her physical and mental life which signified so aptly genuine freshness and vigor.

A belated cardinal flew into a locust tree above Helen's head. He gave a swift, sweet call, but finding no response, flew quickly away. Helen paused in her walk to notice the bird's actions. What a brilliant thing he was, all alone there, and how his unanswered call had gone to her heart! Tears came to her eyes, for the soaring bird, a solitary figure seeking happiness elsewhere, seemed to represent her own life—a thing apart, separate from that of others, left alone to find a way through this great, perplexing world of human experience. But no! She turned and wiped her tears away; for there at the window within the sound of her own voice was Alex, the anchor, the safeguard of her soul; that solitary, belated cardinal a-wing after companionship and happiness could not be typical of her life! Yet the memory of the bird remained, and for all her reasoning there seemed to be something personal in the appeal he had made to her heart. (pp. 98-9)

This reverie on birds and their missing mates is interrupted by the hurried approach of Andrew Tompson, who joins her on her walk. You'll remember Helen had a dislike of him that she couldn't quite trace to its source. “She felt that he was either a much better man or a much worse one than he appeared to be.” Maybe it's because he's a dilettante who never had to try for anything or feel any type of want. Maybe it's because he's a sawed-off runt, since she was a half a head taller than he was. Anyway, if she didn't have a real reason to be alarmed by him before, Andrew was about to give her one.

As the sun set, Helen sighed that she always liked to be by Alex's side during this “holy hour”, as she would for every waking moment “if he did not literally drive me forth into the fresh air.” Tompson replies that Alex is right, that she shouldn't let her “splendid physical strength” waste away.

“What would you have me do? Sacrifice Alex's happiness to my splendid physical strength, as you call it? You know well enough that the time is short.” As she spoke, the sun, a resplendent ball of light, sank behind the woods, and disappeared. At that moment, Tompson was conscious of a suppressed sigh mingling itself with the gloom that fell suddenly over the landscape; but the woman by his side held herself erect and aloof. Then for once he lost consciousness of self. Bending toward Helen, he laid his almost effeminate hand upon her arm. But his grasp was surprisingly strong, as it closed over her own firm flesh.

Point of order: Not only is she taller than he is, he's softer and weaker than her, too? Talk about stacking the deck against a guy. Please don't tell me she shaves more often than he does, or that his shorts are lacier than her bloomers...

“Mrs. Galbraith! Helen! I know—the time is short—but you have a friend—remember! Next to Alex you must rely on me.” It was entirely unlike Tompson to speak in such broken words, to labor so in giving expression to his thought. This man of the world, thirty-eight years in age, was now swayed by the first great emotion that had ever possessed him. His grasp tightened upon Helen's arm, and a steadfast expression settled upon his cold, unsympathetic face. His compressed lips came very near to touching the fair, white skin of Helen's temple. In a firm tone, such as a man uses when he is thoroughly conscious of the full meaning of his words and is willing to abide by them, he said, looking straight into her eyes:

“Helen—I love you!” She tried to withdraw her arm, but he held it in his determined grasp.

“Please do not! Please! I beg of you!” Helen's tone was personal enough now—personal in a way that would have controlled most men; it was a prayer for release or deliverance. Tompson did not heed it; he went on to the end he had appointed for himself.

“Give me the right to love you—that is all I ask. I will be faithful to trust. I have been faithful to Alex, have I not” Absolute scorn was stamped upon her white face. For a moment he thought that the light in her eyes would strike him to the earth; save for her beauty, which rose now to the superb, she would have been dreadful to look upon, so great was her anger. (pp. 102-3)

Of course she's angry, because as she rightly points out, “faithful” is a ridiculously high-minded word for someone to use in the process of declaring his undying love to his dying best friend's wife. But if it's the only strong emotion you've ever had, ya gotta tell somebody.

Helen, “unable to endure this torture” (yeah, tell me about it), tears away from him and darts for the back door of the cottage, while Andrew asserts his claim as this book's Designated Upper-Class Twit by pondering the fact that she ran away from his very reasonable offer of love and support without even thanking him. But keeping in mind that the person who keeps his head in matters of the heart usually comes out on top, he collects himself and walks through the front gate, entering through the front door as if nothing had happened.

Betraying a friend's wedding vows is obviously hungry work for a man, as Andrew has a much healthier appetite than Helen does. However, she's not so distracted that she doesn't notice a fragrance that wasn't there before she left. And no, that not a setup for a fart joke. Alex points out a box that a delivery boy left during her conversation with under the locust trees.

“Flowers!” exclaimed Tompson, and turning he lifted the cover. “American Beauties too! and such splendid ones,” he continued, holding the box so that Alex could look at its contents.

“What a handsome and sweet flower it is!” said Alex, pressing his nostrils against the large, luxurious blossoms. “But somehow,” he added, “Helen does not seem to admire them as much as I do.”

“I do admire them, dear,” she said. “In themselves, they are the sweetest, most satisfactory things in the world; but I do not like anonymous gifts. That is my only objection in this case.”

“I believe Tompson sends them,” said Alex, looking at his friend in a questioning way. Tompson cleared his throat and gave a quick, apprehensive look at Helen. She did not speak, her lips were closed tightly together, and her eyes met his not so much with defiance, as with a protest against anything he might do or say. She knew well enough that Tompson had not sent the flowers, and she felt that he knew as well as she did from whom they came. She recalled what he had said to her, less than an hour ago, about turning to others for advice and help; and she perceived distinctly now, from the look he gave her, that in some way he had informed himself concerning Mr. Westmore. Tompson, however, was discreet enough to assume an amused air as he replied evasively:

“It is not permitted a man, you know, to accuse himself.” But the look he permitted himself to give Helen told her plainly that he understood the situation. (pp. 106-7)

This reminded Andrew that he had picked up a bit of mail for the Galbraiths at the station, which turned out to be a warm note of appreciation from Mr. Elliott, asking Helen to come to the office on the following Monday.

After Andrew departs, Helen turns the topic of conversation to the interloper himself, and when asked why she never really cared for Andrew, Helen comes up with “(H)e always gives me the impression of being a man who could play with other people's feelings much as he plays with art and literature.” Alex reminds her that Andrew has never had any “deep, personal passion to develop in him a higher knowledge of what human relations can be.” Helen asks if Alex really thinks Andrew could develop into a more “humanly comprehensive” man if he found that deep, personal passion, and Alex's response has to be quietly alarming to her, considering the events of the day: “Why, yes, dear, if he could only love some holy, God-given woman like yourself: but in no other way could he learn.” She has the strongest doubts about that, too, but she decides to let it rest for the moment and stop the discussion with kisses, while Alex dwells on "the power and glory of her love".

For a guy who is supposedly so sympatico with his wife, Alex is sure taking his sweet-ass time to figure out what's really bugging her. His marvelous sense of artistic observation and that oh-my-soul delicacy of feeling obviously doesn't give him a finely-tuned sense of intuition.

Next: A day trip with Mr. Elliott. My GOD, the excitement...

Welcome to Book 1, Chapter 4, and no, Helen didn't tell Alex about the whole sordid Westmore situation. She felt that if he was filled in on the whole situation, he'd put his foot down, then they'd come over all destitute and he'd die in a charity hospital while she just wished she was dead. Better to bite her astoundingly gorgeous lip and take a hit for the team. And under the stress of the waiting during the next week, her love for Alex became invested with even more strength and purity and joy and all that crap.

Alex was a bit more of a problem case, since he could see that the prospect of opening up to the big wide world may steer her away from the “right relation” to matters of life. To settle her nerves, and probably his own, Alex advises her one afternoon of the importance of “keep(ing) our theory of life rational[...] (W)e must never allow mere enthusiasm to set up false images.” And thereby hangs a tale.

“Did I ever tell you, dear,” he continued, “my story of the old Paris sculptor, who saved his statue at the cost of his life? He was a famous sculptor, this old man, and his great work, for which he gave his life, stands to-day in the Beaux Arts. He was very poor, as most of his brethren have been, and he lived in Paris in a small garret. This garret was his workshop, his studio, and his bedroom. The great statue, which stands now in the Beaux Arts, was almost finished in clay, when one night a sudden frost fell over Paris. The old sculptor lay in his bed, with the statue before him in the center of the fireless room. As the chill of the night became great, he saw that if the cold got more intense, the water in the interstices of clay would freeze, so he rose and heaped his few bedclothes upon the statue. In the morning when his friends came in, they found him dead—but his great work was there, saved—whole! He himself was gone, but the ideal for which he had lived had been preserved.” (pp. 73-4)

Or as Roy Blount Jr. once put it, sometimes it's better to be good and over than awful and still going on. (I knew I'd find a decent tag for that one...)

Finally, at the end of the week, Helen received a letter from the editor of Westmore's paper requesting her presence in the following day. She arrived at the time-worn offices, filled with gentlemanly and courteous staffers, and passed through to the “editorial sanctum” to meet editor-in-chief Sherman Elliott.

Do you remember the Donald Trump/Rupert Murdoch game I was playing with the Westmore description in Chapter 2? Well, we can authoritatively eliminate Murdoch from that description now and forever (my stress here):

To a certain extent Mr. Elliott had to refer to all important matters to Mr. Westmore who, with his fortune, was necessarily the backbone of the great paper. Westmore, however was a man of unlimited worldly wisdom, and while it was a matter of infinite pride with him that he was able to maintain and, in a measure, control so important a factor in the life of the great city as an old-established and trusted journal, he realized as intelligently as did his aid, Mr. Elliott, or as did any of his opponents in either the financial or the editorial world, that he was fitted only to direct the business policy of the paper. All matters political, religious, or social he wisely left to men of broader culture and wider experience than his own.

Actually, that might kick Trump out, too. Damn you and your perfectly sound sense of your own limitations, Westmore! Anyway, back to the quote bomb...

In nothing had he ever so illustrated the truth of this assertion as in his selection of Mr. Sherman Elliott to be editor-in-chief of his great paper. Mr. Elliott was a typical New England man of the best class, who had come years before to New York, and having thoroughly identified himself with the life of the city, had risen in his profession until no man could surpass, or perhaps equal him in editorial work. He brought to the management of his paper the same coolness, the same supreme self-control, which Westmore brought to the manipulation of the money market; but he brought much more than this: a liberal culture; a ready wealth of learning concerning men and affairs, governments and institutions, countries and civilizations; beside a great store of wisdom born of close observation and wide personal experiences. To these things he united a true spirit of humanitarianism, which, while making him the better man and the better editor, had prevented him from becoming a man of wealth. (pp. 75-7)

As mentioned, Westmore normally kept his management of the paper strictly hands-off, but in the case of Mrs. Galbraith he felt compelled to make an exception. While Elliott would decide what function Helen would play with the paper, Westmore insisted that Elliott find something for her. In spite of “not (being) greatly in favor of increasing his woman force”, Mr. Elliott agreed with an unexpected lack of fuss...under the condition that she submit to an personal interview.

Very quietly and gravely she entered the room. At sight of her Mr. Elliott forgot his usual manner, and arose, coming forward a step or two to greet her. Her extreme beauty and grace almost startled him, as she exchanged greetings with him. If he was struck by Helen's appearance, she was none the less impressed by his.

“What a companion,” was her immediate thought, “in physical strength, in intellectual expression of face, and in manly bearing for Alex, had it not been for that terrible accident!” (p. 78)

“And he's obviously had hundreds of girlfriends. Oh, Tek Jansen...I mean Sherman Elliott! Oh, drat...”

And with that instant attraction established, we move on to the matter of how a God among men goes about running a newspaper. That's right, it's time for another position statement! I've fallen back on the “make your own kind of fun” form of self-defense when it comes to staying engaged with this book, and since our author puts so many of these in the mouths of “superior individuals”, it's probably safe to assume they're sock-puppeting her own views on these topics—sort of an Ayn Rand without the evil. And unfortunately with roughly the same lack of humor.

“You may have observed,” continued Mr. Elliott, resting his arm upon his table, his brow placed thoughtfully against the palm of his hand, “that we are not conducting a strictly up-to-date newspaper. We leave that to some of our neighbors, and to the many others who have adopted the modern newspaper methods so popular at present in America. I do not mean to criticise any one. Every man is entitled to do his own work according to his own best conception of that work. Simply, I do not accept for myself or for my staff the policy pursued by most of my brother editors. You may have noticed this. I presume you see our paper.”

“Yes, I see it often,” Helen replied, “and the difference in its tone—its superiority, if you will permit me to use so positive an expression—has impressed both my husband and myself most forcibly.”

“I suppose I may infer from what you say that you quite agree with my position,” said Mr. Elliott. “Yet I assure you, Mrs. Galbraith, I get a great deal more abuse than sympathy from my fellow-workers. And then I find it extremely difficult to procure men and women to carry on our work sufficiently equipped in practical matters, who are at the same time strong enough to ignore the clamor raised by popular leaders, to join in with the chosen few who strive to purify the public taste, and to create, if possible, in the public heart a desire for plain, simple truths. Such an aim sounds easy enough of an accomplishment: the road leading to it would seem to be so direct; but I can assure you I have found it the straight and narrow way—a thorny path indeed—in which few walk any distance without losing heart.” (pp. 80-1)

So we can assume he doesn't run the Post...but wait, there's more...

[...]”We have come,” he went on, fully alive now to the interests of the subject which he had opened, “into an age of cheap, quick work, where the eye does not cast itself beyond the results of to-day. It is useless to deny this condition of things. It is the same in all the departments of labor—gigantic, quick effects that surprise and dazzle, these are what are demanded on every hand; and the typical American paper is, without doubt, the special exponent of this degenerate tendency. No one is in a better position to know this than am I.” For a moment Mr. Elliott paused, but seeing that Helen maintained a listening attitude, he continued:

“Instead of aiming to create a purer taste, to raise the standard of everyday thought and everyday living, this typical newspaper of which I speak seems to be inspired by but one idea, and that is to come down to the level of the most ordinary man, to pander to his weaknesses, even, in many instances, to foster in him greater ones than those he already possesses. This, without doubt, is discouraging in the extreme to those who are in the thick of the fight, and who see the battle going against them at nearly every turn.” Mr. Elliott's face deepened into an expression of anxious concern as he spoke these words. As Helen watched him she thought of the story her husband had told her of the poor dying sculptor.

“The difficulties are great, I can see,” she said, “but for that one need not yield. One has always the privilege of holding on to his ideal, even if he is swept away in making the effort.”

“That is true—gloriously true,” replied Mr. Elliott with enthusiasm. Such words as these from that beautiful, queenlike woman stirred his strongest emotions (pp. 81-2)

Keep in mind this story follows hot on the heels of the rise of yellow journalism that was directly responsible for America's involvement in the previous year's Spanish-American War, so we can assume that Elliott's paper took the high road during that sensationalistic nonsense. Since that was extremely popular sensationalistic nonsense, we can also assume that his paper, while grudgingly respected, isn't a circulation leader.

Helen pays rapt attention to Elliott, and Elliott is...oh hell, let's just put it out there in a lump: “Westmore in speaking of her had simply said that she was young and handsome, and so she had burst upon Mr. Elliott as a sunbeam bursts forth from a clouded sky. Looking at her now, he felt, as if he had been brought suddenly into the presence of a perfect work of art.” While I know this is setting up yet another potential source of sexual tension, all this perfection is getting on my last nerve. We need a doofus to break up the monotony. Can't somebody at least drop a pencil?

Anyway, with these powerful tides set into motion, we get to the main point of the visit. Since Mrs. Galbraith is best equipped to deal in artistic and literary matters, those are the topics she will be called upon to write about. There is one caveat: “You will readily see from what I have said that we do not attempt to destroy the baneful influence of the immoral in literature or the inglorious in art by airing it extensively in our columns. Silence, we think, in most of these cases, is quite effectual, quite as apt to carry through our purpose, as ardent condemnation would be.” This is known as the “la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you” school of criticism.

And with this “manly, simple purpose” fresh in memory, Helen takes her leave, asking herself “Why cannot all men be like that—and like Alex?” As she makes her way to the ferry, it's Sherman Elliott this and Sherman Elliott that...he has properly wound her spring in the way only one other man in her life could. Weary and yet excited, she made her way to the forward deck of the ferry, when who should show up to kill her buzz but Mr. Westmore, who makes his presence known by touching her arm (the blackguard!). She did her best to be coldly cordial, but their previous encounter still chafes her memory, and once they reached Jersey City things came to a head.

Her manner now gave to Mr. Westmore a very distinct idea of the extent of her indignation towards him. He was deeply chagrined at her treatment of him—yet he restrained his outward composure and walked on undaunted by her side. Into the station together they went; but once there, no longer able to repress her resentment, Helen turned upon him.

“Why do you seek me now?” she asked, her tone indignant, and her proud head thrown back in righteous defiance.

“I saw you on the boat and only desired to speak with you,” he replied, using the blandest of tones.

“You know that is not true, Mr. Westmore!” Helen exclaimed, moving back a step or two as she spoke, and defying him with her own dignity and honesty of thought.

“Then, if not that, what?” he asked in the coolest, most provoking manner possible. As he put this question, he stroked his heavy black mustache in the manner so characteristic of him.

“Why you followed me!” she replied, fairly hurling her words at him, forgetting entirely that they stood in a public place.

“And if I did, are we not friends, Mrs. Galbraith?” He lingered over these words, scrutinizing her with the keenest gaze as he uttered them.

For a moment her eyes closed. She bowed her beautiful proud head. Yes they were friends, these two! He knew the most intimate things of her life—she herself had told him; and he had assisted her to what she desired—had reached out a helping hand to her in her time of direst need—and she had accepted it—had taken it for her support. Truly, she had no right to scorn him, to hate him as she was beginning to do. She might dislike his manner, might disdain his attitude toward her, yet she should show her appreciation of his deed, should convey to him her consciousness of the obligation which rested upon her. In a modified voice she said:

“Then, if we are friends, you should not follow me and watch me, as I feel you have done this afternoon.”

“I have not followed you. I have not watched you, Mrs. Galbraith,” replied Mr. Westmore in the gravest tone. “I was coming this way—I saw you—I spoke to you, because if I may say it, I like always, when I can, to be in your presence.”

Then he touched his hat and was gone before she could reply. (pp. 89-90)

She knew that he was a lousy stinking liar, but she was prepared to let it slide. After all, Westmore was acting creepy and stalker-like, but he was her creepy, stalker-like employer now.

As it happens, Westmore wasn't the only man watching her with covetous eyes that day: “Just as she passed through the gate to the train, Andrew Tompson turned abruptly away from a near point of observation and twirling his cane nervously, as was his habit, started back to New York with the determination of drinking a bottle of wine over what he had just witnessed, and of seeing then what his sharpened wits might do in this matter.”

Next: Tompson drinks enough courage to make his move. Well, I did say we needed a doofus to break up the monotony...

A quick note before getting back to Waters That Pass Their Torture Away To The 1899 Blogger: I'd like to offer the good folks at a hearty "Köszönöm!" (I think that's what I was going for, anyway) for linking to my Hungarian Nabob posts. To show that my heart's in the right place, here's a Mór Jókai biographical magazine article written in 1904 by his nephew, Alexander Hegedüs, Jr. Hope you'll stick around to see what I do with something closer to home...

Book 1, Chapter 3 takes us back to the little Jersey cottage, because I know you were dying to see what Galbraith and Tompson were up to. In agonizing detail.

The topic of conversation, of course, is art, and these sessions are useful for both Galbraith, since it gives him a chance to hold forth on a topic that is still the pole star of his life, and Tompson, who not only has a keen interest in the arts but is grateful to be in a situation where he only has to be a sounding board. They met in college, drawn together by a love of art, then found each other again in Europe, where Galbraith's connections opened many doors for least the ones where simply being a man of means would not.

The launching point is a quote from Goethe: “Fortunate is he who at an early age knows what Art is.”

“Yes, I remember it well,” he replied at last, “and it is an sentence implying much. It would be interesting to know just what ground Goethe meant to cover by that remark.” Having rolled his cigarette to his satisfaction and lighted it, he took a seat near Galbraith, who was half reclining in a cushioned chair, which had been placed so that his gaze could fall easily upon the burning logs as well as upon the miscellaneous books and papers strewn over the center-table.

“The art of which Goethe spoke would extend, you may be sure, to many things believed to lie outside of art. The general view of art is so very narrow, you must remember—sickeningly so, born of obtuseness and ignorance. Think, for instance, of how long the opinion has prevailed, and among people highly educated concerning other matters, that art is to be found nowhere but in Europe. Think of the absurdity: that art is the product only of the most rich and civilized nations; a thing born and bred solely beneath academical influences.” Galbraith rose to a sitting posture as he spoke; a fine fire of enthusiasm commenced to show itself upon his splendidly-shaped, impressive face. “It was a desire, no doubt,” he continued, “to correct this superficial view of a deep, far-reaching subject, that prompted Goethe to pen that sentence I have just quoted.”

“Well, yes,” replied Tompson, “no doubt that was his desire; but it is difficult to induce people to take so broad a view of any subject, especially when they have concentrated all their mental powers upon one side of the question—and you know it is generally one side of it only that can be seen or understood by them.”

“There,” said Galbraith, rising from his chair and standing above Tompson--”there is just the point I have been thinking of in connection with my own case. The younger artists and art critics here in New York censure me because, as they say, I insist too much on knowledge. Many of them seem to think a color-box and brushes are all that are necessary to make a painter. They contend that most of the great geniuses of art cared very little for knowledge, and did little to acquire it.”

“But is that true?” asked Tompson.

“No, of course it is not true, not in the sense these men mean it. To accept it is true is to destroy every chance of getting fine work done. [...](pp. 50-2)

And so we march on into a lengthy, especially stiff dialogue exchange/lecture which I anticipate is here mainly to prove the two men's artistic bona-fides. So you'll hopefully forgive me if I render it into a tincture of the original.

Basically, Galbraith's hobby-horse at the moment is a need for a truly American art, the way Emerson argued for an American-born religion (and no, I don't think he meant Mormonism), and if American artists are to be recognized as distinct from the European masters, instead of poor copies of them, they need to stop riding Europe's jock so hard and keep their inspirations and sense of identity tied to the home country. He recognizes that it's going to be a chore, however, since the continent is so damn awesome.

“But is it not very difficult for a man, who has received all his technique in either Paris or Munich, and has at the same time acquired a French or German point of view, to get again into sympathy with things purely American, and to give to them the native touch?”

“Of course it is difficult,” replied Galbraith, “possibly the most difficult thing any generation of artists was ever called upon to do. Educated in the capitals of Europe where art influences are dominant, it is natural that our young men should look upon life here as a kind of exile. Most of them have so surrendered their imaginations to the pictorial effects everywhere to be found in Europe, that the love of their own country has been very nearly effaced from their hearts. When they come back to America they can see nothing but the esthetic barrenness of our people, and the paucity of our art treasures. Some of them go so far as to insist that our wonderful American scenery is devoid of artistic effects.”

“But so long as our young men cannot get in this country just the kind of training and influences that combine to fit an artist thoroughly for his work, what is to be done about it?” asked Tompson, laying down the book which had attracted him, in order to look at Galbraith while he talked.

“It seems to me,” said Galbraith, “that there is only one solution of this problem which is puzzling every one deeply interested in American art. The young artist while studying abroad should strive never to lose sight of the fact that he is an American and that his future is to be wholly identified with American art. This is difficult, as you say; only the men who have fought this fight know how difficult—but it is the only way to protect the American artist's sympathies from becoming biased by his foreign experiences.” (pp. 59-60)

Biases like telling a young man that he can't expect to get a proper art education in America? Walt Whitman would kick your ass if he heard you talking like that, Galbraith. He'd sing the body electric as he did it, too, because the beating he gave you would contain multitudes. (Insert a few lines of "O Captain, My Captain!" over a scene of Tarantino-style violence, just to beat the joke into the ground.)

Something that stuck in my throat about this passage--and the whole exchange, really--is that like a lot of visionaries (and politicians, for that matter), his grand vision is communicated in sweeping generalities. It's a grand vista, to be sure, but when Galbraith talks about “the American touch” in art, the readers aren't given a home base regarding what the American touch would mean to him as an artist, except that if you put something in front of him—Tompson holds up a book of photographs that fit the bill, for instance—he could say “yes” or “no”. We're left to assume that if his brilliant career hadn't ground to a halt, he would've been able to show us what his concept of Americanism in art would look like, instead of just running through his position statement.

At the risk of repeating myself, we also have an unfair advantage over Galbraith of knowing that the coming century would be overloaded with the American touch. I doubt Galbraith, as a conservative impressionist, would be entirely happy with how that concept manifested itself over the next hundred years. Warhol and Lichtenstein would probably make his head explode.

Tompson also mentions in passing a Mr. Chase—he made a big impression with the American students the two friends ran into in Europe, but didn't actually make Galbraith's acquaintance until his New York period—had commented favorably on one of Galbraith's article in the Art Review (which shows that Galbraith can scrape together an article, just not often enough to keep bread on the table). It's a bittersweet ego stroke when Tompson continues with Chase's contention that if he had been able to stick with his art Galbraith would've cast a long shadow over the American art scene.

And oh, I just can't help myself...this snippet was too good to keep.

Tompson had always liked the pleasant things of life, and Alexander Galbraith represented them to him in one form. For this reason, chiefly, had Tompson followed up and maintained his friendship with Galbraith. The same inclinations made him a regular visitor at the Galbraith cottage, for, though very simple, its arrangement and furnishings were a kind to please an esthetic eye. Every piece of furniture, every rug, every bit of china, every print upon the wall, thought inexpensive, had been chosen for some artistic reason, and were so placed as entirely to satisfy an artistic taste. With Helen as mistress of this delightfully arranged retreat, and with Galbraith there as a sort of dying prophet, speaking burning, vital words upon his beloved theme of art, Tompson's visits to the cottage gave him an exquisite sense of pleasure, and always brought to his observation something of new and personal interest. (pp. 57-8, my emphasis)

Hell, he already has a crown of thorns, why not put a glowing, bedazzled halo on him as well?

Finally (finally!(!!!)), Helen returns from her distasteful errand in the city and the mood of the room brightens...but only for a moment. Although Tompson doesn't ask, he knows these people well enough to pick up at least a whiff of the plot. He recognizes there's a strain in the household and feels certain it's over money, but Tompson, though wealthy, isn't the type who would open his wallet without being asked first. After some idle flattery, Galbraith notices his wife is somewhat out of sorts. “For some moments she sat looking into the fire, her thoughts evidently busy with some serious matter, while Galbraith and Tompson referred again to their conversation of the afternoon, closing it with a few inconsequent remarks.” They eat a small supper in silence with “an unexpressed sense of depression” before Tompson excuses himself to leave...and get bad ideas. Very special, very twisty, and yet very familiar bad ideas.

If any outsider, he reflected, was to take a hand in her affairs, he unquestionably was the man to do so, both by right of his long and intimate friendship with Galbraith, and by that higher right which his love for Helen gave him. Tompson knew full well how Helen loved Galbraith, and up to this time he had always respected her love and her position. Next to Galbraith, however he was determined to stand; and whoever else should aspire to that place would have to contest it with him. By the time he reached the railway station these thoughts had become very clearly defined in his mind, and because he was a man who made no confidences, but lived shut in by his own quiet reserve, they were much more likely to become thoughts fraught with a dangerous power of execution, should the necessity for action ever arise. Thus it came about that without any real intention of malice, influenced solely by the dictates of his selfish love, Tompson, utterly unconscious of overstepping the proprieties of true gentlemanly conduct, set himself to the task, if not of watching Helen Galbraith, at least, of informing himself, without her consent, about her personal matters. Unjustifiable as such a course is, it need not have been a necessarily dangerous one to pursue, except for the fact that Tompson had allowed himself to become so deeply interested in Helen that he had, at times, even permitted himself to speculate upon the consequences of Alex's death. However, it must be admitted, at such times he had always called himself up with a halt, never allowing his imagination to run away with his common-sense. (pp. 67-8)

So is it “dying prophet” or “hurry up and die, you prophet”? Make up your mind, already. Either way, it's safe to say that we've found the city limits of Friendshipville (population: Andrew Tompson). “I really like my friend, but sometimes I wish he was dead so I could hook up with his wife...the one who doesn't seem to like me. Maybe if I follow her around the next time I see her in town, I'll find out something that'll make him drop dead! That's be great! I mean sad! Aw hell, I need to buy a notebook for these brilliant ideas...”

Now that the Galbraiths were finally alone, Helen felt free to break down into bitter sobs from the strain of her day's adventure. Alex, who knows when not to push his lady love, keeps the questions to a minimum, extracting a promise that she'll tell him all about it tomorrow.

A certain fear, an undefined premonition of many things to come, swept through her at the recollection of Westmore and of his manner to her. She shrank from revealing this to Alex; it was the first thing affecting her deeply that she had ever kept from him. Late at night, when her tears had spent themselves, she fell asleep, troubled and restless, her arms clasped tightly about Alex's neck. In her dreams she called his name frequently, and clung to him, as if for protection; and no woman, tossing in a disturbed sleep, was ever guarded by a greater and a tenderer love than that which watched that night over her. (p. 70)

Next: Off to work, where she'll really find something to cry about, I'm sure...

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