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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?


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