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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...


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