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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...


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