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We now return to Chapter 1 of The Rough Riders, which is already in progress. Don't panic, we still haven't made it to Cuba yet.

“The only organized bodies” (that is, regular army) they were allowed to accept were from the Four Territories, “that is, from the lands that have been most recently won over to white civilization, and in which the conditions of life are nearest those that obtained on the frontier when there still was a frontier.” (I'm still really shaky on my history here, but since the mustering-places were New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Indian Territory (which had by this time been whittled down to what's now eastern Oklahoma), those are the four he means.) However, their original allotment of 780 men was raised to 1,000, which allowed for recruitment of volunteers outside the Southwest, and since you must love them to love their war, their colorful stories make up the next part of the chapter.

First up: the college boys, social clubs, “and from among the men who belonged neither to club nor to college, but in whose veins the blood stirred with the same impulse which once sent the Vikings over sea.” Were there a lot of Viking raiders in the social set? Is that why T.R. the Prez was a trust buster, fearing the rise of overmonied raiders sailing down the Hudson in massive boats rowed by child labor? “The Morgan mansion is mine this day!” one would shout, holding his battle axe high over his head, ragged bands of accountants kneeling at his feet checking the latest stock tickers. Yes, we have done the Devil's work this day, but look at the spoils, my friends! Now make poses with me, my doughy plutocratic bretheren!

Pardon me, I went on a little trip there. Anyway, the college guys...

Harvard being my own college, I had such a swarm of applications from it that I could not take one in ten. What particularly pleased me, not only in the Harvard but the Yale and Princeton men, and, indeed, in these recruits from the older States generally, was that they did not ask for commissions. With hardly an exception they entered upon their duties as troopers in the spirit which they held to the end, merely endeavoring to show that no work could be too hard, too disagreeable, or too dangerous for them to perform, and neither asking nor receiving any reward in the way of promotion or consideration.

And what did you do with your summer break, punk? Backpacked around Europe? Bah. I snark in your general direction. And no, I never served, so you know what kind of jackass that makes me. Moving on...

The Harvard contingent was practically raised by Guy Murchie, of Maine. He saw all the fighting and did his duty with the utmost gallantry, and then left the service as he had entered it, a trooper, entirely satisfied to have done his duty—and no man did it better. So it was with Dudley Dean, perhaps the best quarterback who ever played on a Harvard Eleven; and so with Bob Wrenn, a quarterback whose feats rivalled those of Dean's, and who, in addition, was the champion tennis player of America, and had, on two different years, saved this championship from going to an Englishman. So it was with Yale men like Waller, the high jumper, and Garrison and Girard; and with Princeton men like Devereux and Channing, the foot-ball players; with Larned, the tennis player; with Craig Wadsworth, the steeple-chase rider; with Joe Stevens, the crack polo player; with Hamilton Fish, the ex-captain of the Columbia crew, and with scores of others whose names are quite as worthy of mention as any of those I have given. Indeed, they all sought entry into the ranks of the Rough Riders as eagerly as if it meant something widely different from hard work, rough fare, and the possibility of death; and the reason why they turned out to be such good soldiers lay largely in the fact that they were men who had thoroughly counted the cost before entering, and who went into the regiment because they believed that this offered their best chance for seeing hard and dangerous service. Mason Mitchell, of New York, who had been a chief of scouts in the Riel Rebellion, travelled all the way to San Antonio to enlist; and others came there from distances as great. (pp. 10-12)

Seriously, I know we're talking 110 years' distance, but this is almost like a university from another dimension. I know a few college guys who don't even “thoroughly count the cost” of choosing a cellphone carrier or posting their contact information on an Internet forum. Who knows from life or death?

The Colonel also made room for his own friends, including Harvard classmate Woodbury Kane (“All he desired was the chance to do whatever work he was put to do well, and to get to the front; and he enlisted as a trooper.”) and “ranch partner” Robert Munro Ferguson. Some of the recruits from Virginia, Maryland and the Northeastern states got a “facts of life” talk before they were sworn in that yes, there was danger and blood and bullets ahead, but there was also exhausting work ahead too, sometimes tedious but always necessary, and you were expected to face them equally. “I warned them that work that was merely irksome and disagreeable must be faced as readily as work that was dangerous, and that no complaint of any kind must be made; and I told them that they were entirely at liberty not to go, but that after they had once signed there could then be no backing out. Not a man of them backed out; not one of them failed to do his whole duty.”

The bulk of the regiment was strictly Four Territories, and you can tell Roosevelt really loved those guys. And since, as I mentioned, you must love them too, here comes the romance of the barely tamed Southwest.

They were a splendid set of men, these Southwesterners—tall and sinewy, with resolute, weather-beaten faces, and eyes that looked a man straight in the face without flinching. They included in their ranks men of every occupation; but the three types were those of the cow-boy, the hunter, and the mining prospector—the man who wandered hither and thither, killing game for a living, and spending his life in the quest for metal wealth.

In all the world there could be no better material for soldiers than that afforded by these grim hunters of the mountains, these wild rough riders of the plains. They were accustomed to handling wild and savage horses; they were accustomed to following the chase with the rifle, both for sport and as a means of livelihood. Varied though their occupations had been, almost all had, at one time or another, herded cattle and hunted big game. They were hardened to life in the open, and to shifting for themselves under adverse circumstances. They were used, for all their lawless freedom, to the rough discipline of the round-up and the mining company. Some of them came from the small frontier towns; but most were from the wilderness, having left their lonely hunters' cabins and shifting cow-camps to seek new and more stirring adventures beyond the sea. (pp. 15-16)

From here, T.R. makes the case for the officers and works his way backwards to the enlisted men.

The Captains and Lieutenants were sometimes men who had campaigned in the regular army against Apache, Ute, and Cheyenne, and who, on completing their term of service, had shown their energy by settling in the new communities and growing up to be men of mark. In other cases they were sheriffs, marshals, deputy-sheriffs, and deputy-marshals—men who had fought Indians, and still more often had waged relentless war upon the bands of white desperadoes. There was Bucky O'Neill, of Arizona, Captain of Troop A, the Mayor of Prescott, a famous sheriff throughout the West for his feats of victorious warfare against the Apache, no less than against the white road-agents and man-killers. His father had fought in Meagher's Brigade in the Civil War; and he was himself a born soldier, a born leader of men. He was a wild, reckless fellow, soft spoken, and of dauntless courage and boundless ambition; he was stanchly loyal to his friends, and cared for his men in every way. There was Captain Llewellen, of New Mexico, a good citizen, a political leader, and one of the most noted peace-officers of the country; he had been shot four times in pitched fights with red marauders and white outlaws. There was Lieutenant Ballard, who had broken up the Black Jack gang of ill-omened notoriety, and his Captain, Curry, another New Mexican sheriff of fame. The officers from the Indian Territory had almost all served as marshals and deputy-marshals; and in the Indian Territory, service as a deputy-marshal meant capacity to fight stand-up battles with the gangs of outlaws. (pp. 16-17)

The ranks were mostly made up of young men, “yet some were past their first youth,” some of whom didn't have a last name, just a first preceded by a colorful adjective suitable for a Time-Life book (Cherokee Bill, Happy Jack, Smoky Moore). There were also Indians (or Native Americans, if you'd prefer), who we're assured were treated as equals, although only a very few were actually pure-blooded. “The others shaded off until they were absolutely indistinguishable from their white comrades,” and the majority of them were schooled “at one of those admirable Indian schools which have added so much to the total of the small credit account with which the White race balances the very unpleasant debit account of its dealings with the Red.” One of the best of the lot was Pollock, a full-blooded Pawnee.

Pollock was a silent, solitary fellow—an excellent penman, much given to drawing pictures. When we got down to Santiago he developed into the regimental clerk. I never suspected him of having a sense of humor until one day, at the end of our stay in Cuba, as he was sitting in the Adjutant's tent working over the returns, there turned up a trooper of the First who had been acting as barber. Eying him with immovable face Pollock asked, in a guttural voice: "Do you cut hair?" The man answered "Yes"; and Pollock continued, “Then you'd better cut mine," muttering, in an explanatory soliloquy: "Don't want to wear my hair long like a wild Indian when I'm in civilized warfare.” (p. 21)

We're running a little long again, so let's pick one more to represent the whole.

Another Indian came from Texas. He was a brakeman on the Southern Pacific, and wrote telling me he was an American Indian, and that he wanted to enlist. His name was Colbert, which at once attracted my attention; for I was familiar with the history of the Cherokees and Chickasaws during the eighteenth century, when they lived east of the Mississippi. Early in that century various traders, chiefly Scotchmen, settled among them, and the half-breed descendants of one named Colbert became the most noted chiefs of the Chickasaws. I summoned the applicant before me, and found that he was an excellent man, and, as I had supposed, a descendant of the old Chickasaw chiefs. (pp. 21-2)

Well heck, not a lot you can do with that, maybe an inappropriate reference to that Cher song or...wait, did he say Colbert?


Is this part of our continuing series “Better Know a Regiment!”? This week: The 1st Volunteer Cavalry. THE FIGHTIN' FIRST!

No no, it was probably this guy from Troop F, the only Colbert on the muster-out roll. I doubt there's a real connection, unless the Choctaw Nation was infiltrated by Irish Catholics at some point (not entirely impossible, y'know). There's just something in the eyes that makes me want to know how he pronounced his last name. As to why Roosevelt calls him a Chickasaw and his picture is in a modern book about the Choctaws...well, most of the letters are the same. Cut a legend-in-the-making some slack, Jack.

We're also assured that while there were some “wild Indians,” it was a wildness like the cowboys with which they hung out, and a bit of “rough discipline” brought the hardest of them around. A taste of the lash? A big stick, maybe? Wouldn't that be cheaply ironic...

From Texas, they tapped the ranks of the famous Texas Rangers, which gave them Nolan Ryan, Gaylord Perry, and...oh wait. Chuck Norris? No? Aw hell, let me start again.

From Texas, they tapped the ranks of the famous Texas Rangers, which gave them disciplined frontier fighters who didn't need much to get up to speed. “They were accustomed to living in the open, to enduring great fatigue and hardship, and to encountering all kinds of danger.” Many of the recruits from Arizona and New Mexico were fresh (if that's the word for it) from Apache fighting, but they weren't exactly the standard from those territories.

As a rule, the men were more apt, however, to have had experience in warring against white desperadoes and law-breakers than against Indians. Some of our best recruits came from Colorado. One, a very large, hawk-eyed man, Benjamin Franklin Daniels, had been Marshal of Dodge City when that pleasing town was probably the toughest abode of civilized man to be found anywhere on the continent. In the course of the exercise of his rather lurid functions as peace-officer he had lost half of one ear—"bitten off," it was explained to me. Naturally, he viewed the dangers of battle with philosophic calm. Such a man was, in reality, a veteran even in his first fight, and was a tower of strength to the recruits in his part of the line. With him there came into the regiment a deputy marshal from Cripple Creek named Sherman Bell. Bell had a hernia, but he was so excellent a man that we decided to take him. I do not think I ever saw greater resolution than Bell displayed throughout the campaign. In Cuba the great exertions which he was forced to make, again and again opened the hernia, and the surgeons insisted that he must return to the United States; but he simply would not go. (pp. 25-6)

All terribly exciting, and the part of Daniels' personal legend which T.R. didn't cover is red-blooded enough to make even John McCain look like he's wearing a dress, yet I'm sad to say that my first question was if he came before or after Marshall Dillon. And if that's where Chester Goode went after season eight.

“The temptation is great,” the Colonel tells us, “to go on enumerating man after man who stood pre-eminent, whether as a killer of game, a tamer of horses, or a queller of disorder among his people, or who, mayhap, stood out with a more evil prominence as himself a dangerous man—one given to the taking of life on small provocation, or one who was ready to earn his living outside the law if the occasion demanded it.” Yeah, tell me about it. So that we won't be here all day, let's concede this point that yes, they were awesome men (and did I mention you must love them? Our whole foreign policy depends on it!), but the trick was to make them into a unified fighting force. We'll have to deal with in the next post.

Next: Basic training, which might actually be a shorter post for a change. Dammit, we still haven't made it out of Chapter 1! Why must your yarn intrigue me so, o great and powerful T.R.?

Before we launch this campaign, one caveat: it's pretty safe to assume this isn't the whole story of the war, or even of the Rough Riders themselves. What we're presented with here is most likely the version of the story considered noble enough for public consumption, and to reassure the homefront that yes, this was a decent war fought for decent reasons by gallant soldiers, the bulk of which were still alive at press time and ready to kick your sorry pansy ass if you decided to split hairs with them. However, this is a first-generation document, and you ignore it at your own peril. (makes “spooky” fingers at the reader)

As a curtain jerker for the main show (Chapter 1, “Raising the Regiment”), the first three stanzas of a Bret Harte poem:

Hark! I hear the tramp of thousands,
And of armed men the hum;
Lo! a nation's hosts have gathered
Round the quick-alarming drum—
Saying, "Come,
Freemen, come!
Ere your heritage be wasted," said the quick-alarming drum.

"Let me of my heart take counsel:
War is not of Life the sum;
Who shall stay and reap the harvest
When the autumn days shall come?"
But the drum
Echoed, "Come!
Death shall reap the braver harvest," said the solemn-sounding drum.

"But when won the coming battle,
What of profit springs therefrom?
What if conquest, subjugation,
Even greater ills become?"
But the drum
Answered, "Come!
You must do the sum to prove it," said the Yankee-answering drum. (p. xii)

If you didn't click the link, the poem's called “The Reveille,” disappointing those of you who were expecting it to be called “Stop Being A Pussy And Enlist Already.” And yes, this poem is also posted somewhere on the Stormfront site, but you can't blame Harte or Roosevelt for that.

(You really expected me to link to Stormfront? No, don't answer that. Yikes.)

As far as launching the story, T.R. doesn't futz around. From the first paragraph: “During the year preceding the outbreak of the Spanish War I was Assistant Secretary of the Navy. While my party was in opposition, I had preached, with all the fervor and zeal I possessed, our duty to intervene in Cuba, and to take this opportunity of driving the Spaniard from the Western World. Now that my party had come to power, I felt it incumbent on me, by word and deed, to do all I could to secure the carrying out of the policy in which I so heartily believed; and from the beginning I had determined that, if a war came, somehow or other, I was going to the front.”

Since there wasn't a war just yet—a minor point soon to be solved—he busied himself getting the navy up to snuff, while finding sympathizers to his point of view in the naval officers, certain Senators, and House members, “particularly those from the West, where the feeling for war was strongest.” But alas, Congress came and went with the seasons, some of them drying up, falling off the tree, and crunching under your feet as you raked them off your lawn. Roosevelt found in Dr. Leonard Wood, an army surgeon and medical advisor to the president, a friend who didn't split town when school let out, but Wood (and I'm sorry to throw this into the pot) is dangerously close to being built up as the lost Galbraith brother before the Colonel comes to his senses.

He had served in General Miles's inconceivably harassing campaigns against the Apaches, where he had displayed such courage that he won that most coveted of distinctions—the Medal of Honor; such extraordinary physical strength and endurance that he grew to be recognized as one of the two or three white men who could stand fatigue and hardship as well as an Apache; and such judgment that toward the close of the campaigns he was given, though a surgeon, the actual command of more than one expedition against the bands of renegade Indians. Like so many of the gallant fighters with whom it was later my good fortune to serve, he combined, in a very high degree, the qualities of entire manliness with entire uprightness and cleanliness of character. It was a pleasure to deal with a man of high ideals, who scorned everything mean and base, and who also possessed those robust and hardy qualities of body and mind, for the lack of which no merely negative virtue can ever atone. He was by nature a soldier of the highest type, and, like most natural soldiers, he was, of course, born with a keen longing for adventure; and, though an excellent doctor, what he really desired was the chance to lead men in some kind of hazard. To every possibility of such adventure he paid quick attention. For instance, he had a great desire to get me to go with him on an expedition into the Klondike in mid-winter, at the time when it was thought that a relief party would have to be sent there to help the starving miners. (pp. 3-4)

Well now, some of that reads like an unprocessed man-crush. I was this close to saying “get a room,” but buddy, a Medal of Honor's nothing to sneeze at. Oh, wait, there's more...

In the summer he and I took long walks together through the beautiful broken country surrounding Washington.

Steaaaaaaaady now...

So they bonded by kicking the football around and other sports, but the conversation didn't stray very far from the Spanish problem. “We both felt very strongly that such a war would be as righteous as it would be advantageous to the honor and the interests of the nation; and after the blowing up of the Maine, we felt that it was inevitable. We then at once began to try to see that we had our share in it.” What that share would consist of was another matter altogether—although both men being tight with the White House gave them a tactical advantage. Nevertheless, there were ten men for every single opportunity, which didn't bode well for a couple of guys (even well-connected guys) who wanted to get right in the thick of the scrap.

All this was solved when Congress authorized three cavalry regiments drawn from the men of the Rockies and the Great Plains. Roosevelt was offered the command of one of the regiments, but realized that in the time it would take for him to get up to speed on finding out how to equip that type of outfit, the war might be over, and that wouldn't be cool at all. “Fortunately, I was wise enough to tell the Secretary that while I believed I could learn to command the regiment in a month, yet that it was just this very month which I could not afford to spare, and that therefore I would be quite content to go as Lieutenant-Colonel, if he would make Wood Colonel.” This was fine and dandy with the Prez and the Secretary, so they were commissioned in the First United States Volunteer Cavalry, dubbed the “Rough Riders” by da peeple! The Colonel actually didn't care for it all that much, but by the time “Rough Riders” started turning up in official communications, it was too late to call that boat back to shore. He probably didn't trademark it, either.

While war fever was so hot that “[w]ithout the slightest trouble, so far as men went, we could have raised a brigade or even a division,” getting the men trained and supplied was something else again. You're not going to send those boys against the Spanish army with pocketknives and slingshots, are you? Well, you might, but that's why you're reading a blog instead of being a hero to the nation. (Unless, of course, you're busy doing both. Sometimes heroes of the nation get a day off.) Apparently, the American army of the time was really hurting for slingshots and etc. etc., which is where Wood's knowledge of red tape (and well-placed, well-timed pestering) came in handy. “To a man who knew the ground as Wood did, and who was entirely aware of our national unpreparedness, it was evident that the ordnance and quartermaster's bureaus could not meet, for some time to come, one-tenth of the demands that would be made upon them; and it was all-important to get in first with our demands.” Wood even managed to get the Krag-Jorgensen carbine used by the regular cavalry (the career soldiers...M*A*S*H hasn't steered me wrong yet on terminology). Sure, they could've waited for everything to make it through channels, but T.R. assures us that thanks to that extra bit of speed, “no other volunteer regiment saw anything like the fighting which we did.” Remember, Teddy Roosevelt was Batman, and Batman ain't no sideline sitter, buddy.

Doggonnit, it just occurred to me that we're within spitting distance of my recent post lengths and I haven't even covered a third of the chapter. Teddy's get-to-the-point, all-meat-no-gristle style so far is fresh air and clear skies after the endless rambling of Waters That Pass Away, but after last month's ordeal, it's also like buying one of those things at the dollar store that looks like a Technicolor hockey puck and watching it turn into a beach towel when you get it wet. Seriously, the best part of the chapter is yet to come, so let's draw a line here to avoid a TL;DR situation and come back in an hour (or maybe a day).

Next: Get to know the Rough Riders! And yeah, I chickened out and used the spoiler tag anyway. Some men can't be proud about these types of things.

Our next selection was originally filed by our anonymous NYT editor under “History, Biography, and Memoirs,” and it's a real humdinger, buddy...

The Rough Riders. Theodore Roosevelt, Colonel First Volunteers, United States Army. New York: Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons. 8vo. $2.

It is unnecessary to recapitulate the reasons why this is the most interesting account of the American Invasion of Cuba, for no one aware of that achievement is ignorant of the part taken by the present Governor of New York and the regiment of which the close of the war found him commander. What no one can know without reading it is the extraordinary skill with which the narrator eludes the danger of being ostentatiously modest and of boasting either on his own behalf or on his men's, and writes as the infant talked to Eustace Cleaver, “telling this thing just as it was,” because he feels that his country desires to know it. The book is illustrated with forty full-page pictures from photographs, and has two portraits of the author. The other pictures, excellent though they are, will not be needed by those who fight the battles o'er again under Col. Roosevelt's command. Complete lists of the officers and men of the regiment are to be found in the appendices, also some much needed corrections of the narratives given by civilians, and comment by officers present in Cuba, and the text contains some matter not published in Scribner's Magazine, where the book first appeared.

The Rough Riders is our first brush with recognizable (then-) current events in the Project, and brings to the signature event of not only the previous year but possibly of America's post-Civil War foreign policy up to that point. We also hit an anniversary I could've tied this to if I hadn't been so busy with the misery porn of Waters That Pass Away. On August 12, 1898, 110 years ago this month, hostilities were halted in the Spanish-American War, the so-called “splendid little war” that effectively marked the end of the Spanish Empire and warmed up the band for the American Century. (You can safely assume that all I know about this conflict is what I saw on the History Channel, by the way.) The problem here is that, with it still being so fresh, we have more than a few non-fiction books on the list that touch on the conflict in one way or another, even a history of the recently claimed territories with the not too reassuring title of Our Island Empire. So what am I supposed to do? Read the background first or throw ourselves into events? I'm an American, Jack, so the answer is obvious: throw myself into the conquest first and then figure out what the hell's been conquered (and why) later.

In Roosevelt, we finally have an author who truly needs no introduction, so I'll just remind you that in the years immediately leading up to the events in the book he was busy living a life that befits a legend-in-the-making and being Batman. Theodore R. had recently topped off a blockbuster return to public life after spending several years getting his head together out west, first by becoming president of the board of New York City Police Commissioners and bringing a zealous spirit of reform to the NYPD, even going so far as to walk late-night and early morning beats to be sure the patrolmen were actually on duty. He followed this up with an appointment as William McKinley's Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and helped build up the country's sea power on the theory that a nation with global interests needed a modern navy. (Also on his personal belief that we probably needed a war to prevent cranking out a rising generation of callow wimps (you can look it up), but that's just a sidebar to the main show.)

Since I assume you already know how this story ends, I don't feel as compelled to use the spoiler tag. Not that anyone's paying attention to those, of course... I also probably won't be obsessively recapping every section this time, just touching on the points that jumped out at me. Or maybe I will go nuts again. We'll feel it out as we go along. Whatever keeps things moving...

As for the text itself, there are so many options here:

  • Google Books has multiple options for PDF and page-scan fans, and as usual, the page numbers will be from the Scribner's first US edition (complete with fancy-schmancy photographs).

  • Project Gutenberg only gives us a plain ASCII and PDA-compatible version this time, so for a shiny HTML edition (with the aforementioned fancy-schmancy photos), you have to go to

In a perfect world, I'd also be able to link to the serialized version that started in the January 1899 edition of Scribner's Magazine, but for some reason, the otherwise excellent Making of America archive at Cornell comes up a few years short, so you'll just have to settle for Charles Dana Gibson's manly and rugged portrait that accompanied the first installment. Poor you.

(Edit @ 11:24pm: Spoke too soon, because Google has my back on this one, too. Here are the installments from January, February, March, April (which is marred by The Monkey's, scanner's hand...on a few pages. Don't make a wish on it, just to be safe....), May, and June 1899. Regardless, I'm still working from the book for the "exclusive" material.)

Stay tuned, lit fans...we're charging the hill soon.

And once again, links to the Chapter Recaps (chock full of spoilers, links go live as they're posted): Chapters 1 (parts 1, 2, 3) , 2 (parts 1, 2), 3 (parts 1, 2, 3), 4 (parts 1, 2, 3), 5 (part 1, 2, 3), 6 (part 1, 2), and post-game.

Here now, as threatened in one of my earliest posts, is the complete version of “Hammockuity” by J. Ashby-Sterry, partly because this is the last week of summer before Labor Day weekend, but mostly because I'm still smarting from book #3. Some people deal with pain by sublimating...I deal with mine by sharing.

If you swing in a hammock the Summer day through,
And you dream with profound assiduity,
A new phase of content it will give unto you,
Which philosophers call “hammockuity.”

All through the lazy afternoon
Beneath the sycamore,
I listen to the distant Lune,
Or slumber to its roar;
'Tis sweet to muse, to sleep or sing,
When talk is superfluity;
'Tis sweet beneath the trees to swing,
And practise hammockuity.

Forgotten here, I would forget
The destiny fate weaves,
The while I smoke a cigarette
To music of the leaves;
I wish my present lazy life
A lengthy continuity;
Away from trouble, care, and strife,
In happy hammockuity!

While others work, while others play,
Or love, or laugh, or weep;
I watch the smoke rights curl away,
And almost fall asleep!
I'd give up thoughts of future fame—
Despite such incongruity—
I'd forfeit riches, power, name,
For blissful hammockuity!

I hate the booming busy bee,
Who dares to wake me up—
I wonder if it's time for tea,
Or grateful cyder-cup?
I would I could, beneath the trees,
Repose in perpetuity,
And swing, and swing, and take mine ease,
In lasting hammockuity!

    And I reiterate: Hammockuity. Ugh.

    Book #4 is on the way, I promise. Just give me a moment to catch my breath...

    Caution: This post-game rant is going to be a sprawling, rambling mess, so seat yourselves comfortably. And once again, here are the links to the spoiler-laden chapter recaps for the latecomers:
    Book I: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. (with a Halftime Report)
    Book II: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

    I have a dog whom we didn't train very well as a puppy. She's a great companion, but she won't fetch, she snarls at not only strangers but people who shouldn't be strangers anymore, and does all kinds of ridiculous things to the sofa pillows. But the one thing that confuses me above all is what she does when you point to something, because she'd rather look at your finger than the place where the finger's pointing.

    That in a nutshell is one of the insurmountable issues I had with Waters That Pass Away. Nannie Winston is my dog and she wrote a 300+ page story about my finger.

    To illustrate, let's go back for a moment to Book 1, Chapter 7, which focuses on the disgraceful deeds of Andrew Tompson. When I approached this chapter in the play-by-play, I mentioned the modern critic's favorite mantra: show, don't tell. With those words in mind, I want you to have a look at what's going on at the very end of this chapter, especially in light of what came immediately before.

    We have just burnt several pages, with prose so deeply purple it might as well have been navy blue, dealing with the white hot passion Tompson holds for Helen Galbraith. Everything we've learned about the man so far is (once again) spelled out in big bold letters. We've read maybe the second or third redundant account of his overheated emotions and how she will bend to his will...oh yes, she will (arches eyebrow). We've been told, flatly and rather artlessly, what we're expected to think of him, rather than just letting his creepy, stalkerly actions speak for themselves. But when it comes time for something to actually happen, for the man to act decisively for once in his life...well, you tell me...

    With this purpose clearly defined in his mind, Tompson walked on at an unprecedented pace, heeding no one who passed him by. Reaching Madison Square he still walked on, down Fifth Avenue. At Eighteenth Street he paused a moment, looked about at the numbers of the houses in that vicinity, then facing towards the east, crossed over to Broadway, and continuing east from this point he finally disappeared into a house which appeared to possess the double character of a residence and place of business.

    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, never have touched his life. It is sufficient to say that when, at an early hour of the morning, Tompson turned into his own home, he was perfectly aware that he had been guilty of a dastardly act. He had placed the matter of Helen Galbraith and Mr. Westmore into the hands of a skilled detective! The truth he must have. The events of the future must come within his knowledge, so that he could deal with them according to his own purposes. This was his excuse, and so entirely had he yielded to the promptings of his lower nature, that he honestly felt himself justified in adopting any course which might realize the end he had in view. (pp. 147-8, my emphasis)

    So to summarize, we've been told in excruciating detail the state of mind that led him to the decision to hire a private detective, complete with extensive editorializing. We've been shown what he was doing in the hours immediately before his fateful decision. We've been told of the immediate aftermath of the detective decision. We're even given a turn-by-turn Google Maps-esque narrative of the moments before he entered the man's office. The only thing we're not privy to is the actual meeting this case, we're not even given a frustratingly vague summary from the narrator. In fact, we're told it's not even worth talking about. Don't give it another thought.

    The whole episode is infuriating, all the more so because it happens over and over again. We're told the sad story of Marie Levier and her bastard child through a third party, which is followed by a “what is to be done” debate by Mrs. Elliott's League of Busybodies, but Helen's visit to the girl, which we're assured was long and exhausting, is dismissed in one desultory sentence, and the whole episode is never mentioned again. Forget about showing adultery (seriously, that was too much to ask), it's hard to accept Helen as a woman being befouled when the author can't even bring herself to use the word “adultery.” Even worse, Westmore vanishes from the story for the entire length of their affair. After the initial “darling” at the end of Book 1, he only shows up again once it's time to dismantle the evil that he's done, and not a second sooner.

    The whole narrative is maddening like that, circling around key events from an extreme distance without actually landing on them. I understand that the author was probably a genuinely pious woman, and didn't set out to write anything other than a sincere corrective, but if you're going to write a story about sin, you're going to have to write about the sin at some point. That's not what we get.

    What we do get—in spades—are a number of rambling conversations, apparently about whatever the the author was thinking about at the time and usually completely superfluous to the story. We're also given an exhaustive history of Alexander Galbraith, telling us—again, not showing us—how godlike and imposing he was when he was operating at full-power (and with all his limbs), but he doesn't actually do anything in the present-day story but stare out the window and slowly waste away. It's an amazing amount of space wasted on a character who was utterly incidental to the plot.

    And so many Mary Sues! Would it have killed Ms. Winston to introduce a flawed but sympathetic character? The wrong decisions and the delusions were reserved almost solely for the selfish, evil antagonists. And yes, Helen Galbraith was a sinner, but you convince me that she was genuinely flawed. Her major grievous mistake had a lovingly crafted element of perfection, since she was coerced into a liason so she could keep the job that kept her husband from dying of starvation. Once you realize what type of characters the story has been populated with and where they line up on the moral axis (and none of that was left to guesswork, since it was spelled out at every juncture) nothing that happens (or nothing that you've been told just happened) really surprises you.

    Did I mention that I couldn't stand this book? This is the one time I missed having a hard copy version so that I could have the joy of throwing it across the room after I finished the last page. That's not to say there's nothing you can take away from the book, since Pliny the Elder said that even a bad book can teach you something. The digressions give you a quick trip through the attitudes of the times, and the book itself is an extreme example of sentimental style of writing that, let's face it, just doesn't work today, but was deemed Quite Worthy in 1899. In that way, it's educational...just not particularly entertaining.

    MVP Of The Book: I was very close to declaring myself the MVP, just for finishing it without pulling my hair or eyes out, but in the end I have to hand it to Sherman Elliott, so rugged and manly that his sweat smelled like Old Spice before anybody knew that was what Old Spice smelled like, for delivering in the final chapter the one monologue that felt like it had flesh and blood behind it, rather than reaching for the mechanical effects of leaden melodrama that dominate the text.

    One of the many textual games I play to keep myself engaged is to find the messages that actually speak across the chasm to us, and the last paragraph of Mr. Elliott's homily seemed to be staring holes in The Way Things Are Now—both in 1899 and 2008. When he says “Those that crave great positions, rather than true greatness—those who undertake tremendous labor for the fame attached to it rather than for the sake of adding a finer and more enduring quality to human labor—these become often popular heroes—but also only for a time,” he might as well be talking to you, buddy. It also served to open up the whole “sit still and suffer” concept as more than a callous turn of phrase (although let's be honest, it strikes modern eyes in a very different way). You can tell this is where the author's real emotional investment lies, and she puts those words into the mouth of Sherman Elliott. It's a shame Ms. Winston didn't come through until the end was in sight, and even then was only able to hold it together for two pages.

    Would you recommend it to a friend? Oh, God no. I can't think of anybody I've ever known who would appreciate this story as straight entertainment, and if they're looking for a so-called “problem novel,” they don't have to go here.

    Is this (still) a summer book? Definitely not. The book was well enough regarded in its day—but not, as I found out, well enough regarded to avoid being retitled when it was reissued a few years later—but for modern audiences, it's the exact opposite of a light read. Waters That Pass Away is the type of book that the stereotypical view of 19th century popular reading was built around. It was an ordeal to finish (it took a whole frickin' month, want me to go faster on the penalty rounds, start paying me), and I've been told that even my recaps were rough sledding; that's only because I want you to hurt like I do. Unfortunately, that doesn't bode well for the rest of the list, since for a style to become a stereotype, there obviously has to be more than one book like this on the list. My heart is overcome with terror...

    Before I let it drop, it's also worth mentioning that to go directly from The Hooligan Nights, where any morality was suggested by a character's actions but judgment was left to the reader, to Waters That Pass Away, where every page tells you at length what you're supposed to think, makes me realize what a vegetable feels like when it's being blanched.

    No nagging question this time. Let's just get this over with...

    Coming soon: The long-awaited Round 4! I've got an idea of my own, but as always, I'm open to suggestions.

    (If some of this Waters recap seems a bit hurried, that's because finally I can see the end in sight! Take me home!)

    As we reach Book 2, Chapter 8, the final step in our long ordeal, Sherman Elliott has finally noticed that envelope on his desk, the one that has “Important—to be read at once” written across it. He opens it, reads it, puts it down, and asks his private secretary to summon Westmore immediately. Oh, you couldn't possibly think we were done with the concentrated evil of Old Man Westmore? The evil so monumental that the author can't even bear to talk about it? And since Helen left him, he'd managed to regain some of his old hubris in the interim.

    Westmore would have gladly have delayed this meeting as long as possible. Yet he did not apprehend any great difficulty; Mr. Elliott could not afford to break with him and create a scandal, having his family and his editorial position to maintain, and no money of any consequence. The first rude shock, when Helen had imparted the condition of things to him, had stunned him terribly—making him fear that his reputation and great power were hopelessly lost. However, he had spent several hours considering the matter, and had decided that through its financial side he would be able to settle the whole thing satisfactorily and finally. Bracing himself, therefore, for the unpleasant interview which he could not avoid, he presented himself in the private office of the editor about eleven o'clock at night.

    “He will die game!” Mr. Elliott commented mentally, when he saw Westmore. The two men sat down opposite one another. (pp. 302-3)

    Elliot cuts to the point immediately, that Helen has spilled the beans on everything, and when Westmore tries his “that wily temptress” gambit for the first time (“I suppose you think, Elliott, that a man is to remain immaculate before every kind of temptation.”), the editor lowers the boom. “I do not believe for a moment that Mrs Galbraith tempted you. Nothing you say will make me believe it.” In addition, he makes it clear that he's become increasingly aware of the whiff of brimstone that Westmore's character puts out when the wind is right. The fate of Helen Galbraith was just the cherry on the cow chip sundae.

    Well, what is to be done? Elliott has that decided, too; the present business associations between the two men must come to an end. Although he puts up a token fight, he seems perfectly fine with it, if that's the bullheaded direction his associate wants to go. Get on your bike and pedal your overprincipled ass out of here, Sherman. Oh, but Elliott isn't planning on going anywhere.

    Wait, what?

    “I am going to speak to you very plainly, Mr. Westmore,” said Mr. Elliott, “and I do not wish to be misunderstood. The association must end, but you are the one who must go. You have no right to hold the place you hold. Your character in no way justifies the influence you can exert whenever you wish to do so. This paper is a great paper—its power is unlimited—it should be in the hands of true-hearted men who will exercise their power at all times as it should be exercised. When I came to you I did not know what kind of man you were; but now that I know, I consider myself bound so far as I can to restrict your power—to force you to retire from the situation. You must accept the terms I have to offer—for I intend to remain.”

    “I do not understand you—what do you mean?—what are you aiming at?” asked Mr. Westmore anxiously, beginning to fear that after all he might be beaten.

    “I mean this,” replied Mr. Elliott, still speaking quietly. “There was a time when I could not have commanded capital; but to-day that is different—no man in New York can command it more readily than I can, and from a high class of men. I propose to buy this paper, and run it entirely myself. You can put your own price upon it—but all the world knows what its stock is worth.”

    “But suppose I do not consent to sell,” Westmore stood directly before Mr. Elliott—he spoke as quietly as the later had done,—but it could be seen that he was furiously angry.

    “Then your whole character is revealed to the town.”

    “And you would also expose your dear friend, Mrs. Galbraith?” he asked contemptuously.

    “I do not need this last piece of wickedness to undo you; the reputation of Mrs. Galbraith is safe in my hands. That deal of last fall in connection with those western mines—that, you know, would be sufficient.” Mr. Elliott spoke very slowly watching the effect of his words. The effect was instantaneous. Westmore started, his face turning very pale. (pp. 306-7)

    Well, since you put it that way...

    As Helen before him, Mr. Elliott makes it clear that he didn't do this out of spite or personal interest. In fact, in doing this, he anticipated taking on a debt that he'd never live to completely pay off, but when you're the editor of a great metropolitan newspaper, you have a moral obligation to do the right thing. (Are you listening, New York Post? Oh sorry, that was “great metropolitan newspaper.” And I see I already did a Post snipe during this book, so never mind.) With that, the matter was settled, although Westmore, unreflective to the bitter bloody end, never forgave Helen Galbraith for her part in his ignominious fall from influence.

    The next morning, fully recharged from his chore, Mr. Elliott shares Helen's letter with the missus, who is so shaken that she reads the sorry history twice. Obviously something must be done, so Sherman sets out alone to make it clear that the Elliotts have her back. He arrives not a moment too soon, as there's now a dead body in the parlor. Gradually, Helen unburdens herself completely, and in response, Elliott gives her a small sampling of Eternal Truths. This is what the author has been building to through the whole book, so we might as well take it at full blast...

    “'Expect a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit.' This, it seems to me,” he said, “is what you must learn. You started forth in life confident of the promise of eternal youth, of eternal success. But this is never to be in any life. Youth must go—success must give way—we must learn to die to our own ambitions—even to what often seem to be our aspirations. We may try to escape a personal knowledge of the deeper truths, of the more searching and awful lessons of life; but if it be necessary for our own development that we learn them, God will surely bring us face to face with them—will instruct us, if even by severe methods, where we need instruction. There is no food which the soul needs but truth, and when once it is fed upon truth, all that is material, all that is physical will fade away, and the spiritual will come into our lives with clear and compelling dedication. I know, Mrs. Galbraith, that these things are true.

    “One must often wait long,” he continued, “for the hour that he is strong enough to grapple with and master the weakness, or the wilfulness, or the rebelliousness, of his own nature. But when that hour is come, as will surely be the case, if one is not 'disobedient unto the heavenly vision,' there will come a transformation like the descent of the heavens upon the earth, and the whole world will not be fuller of unspeakable splendors than is the human soul that has endured, and pressed forward, and achieved the entire conquest of self.”

    He saw that Helen followed his words with attention, and that they seemed to bring some kind of help, or light to her.

    “Possibly,” he went on, feeling that something concerning his own experience might draw her nearer to him, and add impressiveness and value to what he had already said, “possibly, no man comes closer to the heart of a people in modern life than does the editor of a great daily in a city like New York. In such a position a man stands shoulder to shoulder with all the great movements of his time, and with all the men who are behind these movements. If the editor will observe closely he will see that one great law works through every grade and every development of life. For a time, often, men, who are purely self-seeking, who aim to lift themselves by means of association with a great cause, seem to succeed, but only for a time. Those that crave great positions, rather than true greatness—those who undertake tremendous labor for the fame attached to it rather than for the sake of adding a finer and more enduring quality to human labor—these become often popular heroes—but also only for a time. I have seen it repeat itself over and over. My own career has taught me that the only men who, at the final count, are the winners in public life, as in private life, are those who learn to seek other things than the gratification of their own ambitions, or their own wills. In saying this, I am not seeking to point you to a state of self-abnegation where life is barren and cold and fruitless. Such, however, would not be the result of the kind of self-surrender of which I am speaking. The life which I have in my thoughts is one filled with labor and righteousness and the pursuit of truth—and you will find in it what you will find in no other life—no matter what has seemed its promise at the start—you will find in it happiness and eternal hope.” (pp. 313-5)

    Oddly enough, this was the first passage in the book that I could genuinely get behind, because finally we've reached a section that doesn't feel as artificial as a wind-up toy, even if it is still a trifle stiff. I'll touch on this fully in the post-game report, since it deserves revisiting, but for the moment I'll say this excerpt deserves to be in a far better book than this one. It definitely hammers home the Book of Job vibe I got from all that “sit still and suffer” talk.

    On Mr. Elliott's pledge that friendship is a sacred bond (“not even love is more sacred than friendship”...oooooo-kay), Mrs. Elliott soon takes charge of the household for the duration of the funeral preparations. Eventually the Elliotts remove Helen from her cottage completely, allowing her to finally catch her breath and mend body and soul. Turns out she really needed it, because after Alex is buried in his hometown, she slides into an exhausted torpor.

    After several weeks of recharging, she becomes conscious of a desire: “Yes, I want the sea! that is it!” Obviously the sea wasn't coming to Grammercy Park any time soon—global warming hadn't even been invented yet. So they make the arrangements for a quiet cottage on White Island in the Isles of Shoals, which seems to do the trick in spades.

    Alone now, except for the eternal sound of the sea, Helen gave herself up to the welcome loneliness and freedom of her life. During these days she seemed to be always awake and out of doors, and the sunrise became as familiar to her as the sunset. She began to feel that for the first time in her life she was brought face to face with the vast powers of nature, and that she was gaining a new sense of the relations of man to his Creator. Often in the soft, moonlit summer nights, while she was leading this sea-bound, solitary life, she would go alone down to the water's edge and sit there in silent awe and wonder at the majesty of the solemn sea and of the great forces of the universe. At such times as these, the mingled mysteries of human pain and human grief were unfolded to her vision; and then it was she began to feel that the future might yet hold sacred duties for her. The thought of Galbraith was always with her; but principally as he had been in his young manhood, stretching forth his strong, willing hands towards the work which he longed to do. At times the thought of him in that different life—bereft of his arms, succumbing day by day to the miseries and agonies of a slow death—this thought would come; and when it came she felt it was more than she could bear in her solitude. But as the days went by, and the influence of sky and sea wrought upon her, the lesson which all of this was meant to teach commenced to be learned by her; and the life of which Mr. Elliott had spoken—the life filled with labor and righteousness and the pursuit of truth—this life commenced to seem possible to her.

    [...]Now she saw that up to this time, even in those days of fiercest battle before Galbraith's death when she sought to surrender entirely her own will, that up to this time, through all the past, her life had been but a struggling, rebellious one. Never had she been willing to sit still and suffer, never submissive to accept what had come to her; but always fighting to alter the condition of things, always striving to find a way of her own. (pp. 318-9)

    Not long after, the Elliotts made an unannounced visit to see how Helen was coming along, and in their conversation by the shore, Helen makes clear that she's ready to go back, to find that world of “labor and righteousness and the pursuit of truth.”

    [“]My aim now is to redeem the time—to find again the way which I have lost—in fact, so to live that I may prove myself worthy to have been the chosen companion of so large and beneficent a soul as was Alex Galbraith's.”

    “Then you are ready to go back with us?” asked Mrs. Elliott, gathering Helen's hands in her own as she spoke, and pressing them against her heart.

    “Yes, my friend, if you will have me,” Helen replied.

    “Now and always,” said Mrs. Elliott. “We need you—your work needs you—no woman in the world has a place more ready for her than you have.”

    “You are too good! You are too good!” Helen's tears could no longer be held in check.

    “We are not good, dear; we only love you,” said Mrs. Elliott, putting her arms about Helen's shoulders and drawing her closely to herself. (pp. 320-21)

    “Then, I have a plan, dear,” said Mrs. Elliott. “There are my girls on the East Side. Some one must help me about them.”

    “And I—am I to be that one?” Helen asked eagerly.

    “Yes, my dear, if you will.”

    “Ah, I thank you, that is what I want—it will bring me what I seek.”

    “Then the future has hope in it already,” said Mr. Elliott.

    And so it came to pass that to-day there goes in and out among the homes of sin and degradation in New York city a tall, pale woman of wonderful grace and beauty, who, clad in a simple robe of black, is looked upon by many weary, fainting souls as their Vierge Consolatrice. The sympathies and merciful kindnesses of this woman knows no limitations. Her life is dedicated—the seal of a great cause has been put upon it—and at last she walks steadily onward, her heart purified and subject to the will of God. (p. 322)

    Sure, that makes it sound like she became a non-Catholic version of an nun, but nothing can kill this moment for me. The glory shines all around my keyboard, not just because Helen Galbraith has discovered redemption through helping others, but because this dire, interminable book has finally ended! Huzzah!

    Next: Post-game or post-mortem? Either way, once again I try to make sense of it all. Say a prayer, light a candle...

    We rejoin Mrs. Galbraith (Book 2, Chapter 8) with the advanced state of distress we were expecting already in progress. She finds out in short order that Mr. Galbraith has been unconscious since Mr. Tompson left, and that Jane was hesitant to disturb him. “I do not believe you could have disturbed him,” Helen answers portentously. Duhn-duhn-duhnnnnnnnnnn.

    “Alex! Alex!” She put her lips close to his ear as she spoke these words. She commenced to rub different parts of his body, but the only sign which he gave was to breathe a little more heavily, as if a dim consciousness stirred in him.

    “Alex! Alex!” But the faint echo of her own words died away without response.

    “There is nothing we can do, Jane. Go for William Johnston and send him at once into Newark for a doctor, the best one he can find.

    When Helen was left alone she paused for the first time since coming into the house to give herself some attention. She took off her hat and coat and threw them upon the center-table; in doing so she noticed several ends of cigarettes in the ash receiver, evidently left there by Tompson that afternoon. He smoked them so incessantly, especially when he was talking with Galbraith, that the mere sight and odor of them seemed to bring his bodily presence before her. She turned away in disgust, and going over to Galbraith kneeled beside him. Removing his shoes, she commenced to stroke his feet, which seemed to her cold and lifeless beyond all restoration.

    “So Andrew Tompson was here!” she said reflectively. “He and Alex talked a great deal—had hard words over something.” (pp. 287-8)

    And as she is left alone, we are reminded that she spent the day cutting ties with her old life so she could return to her older life, the one that's disintegrating in front of her at the moment. “She was part of no one's life and no one was a part of hers.” Well, except for Jane, but seriously, are we counting the hired help in that number now? I mean come on, we might as well count the parlor piano or the hall tree if we're counting the maid! Right?

    Into the midst of this lovingly hand-crafted misery comes a messenger boy with a note from Evil Andrew, unapologetic as ever, but really, what happened to that rolling boil he was working up? The letter sounds like a pitiful attempt at reconciliation. “[W]hile I condemn heartily the course you have chosen to pursue, especially since a very different course was open to you, I still have a full confidence in your large powers of perception and penetration. I believe in time you will be able to do me justice, and to look upon me in the light of the true friend I have aimed to be, both to you and Galbraith.” Our boy Tompson, unafraid of his conduct and unreflecting on its consequences, is making a supreme sacrifice by hanging behind in the “abominable” resort of Atlantic City so that if the Galbraiths came to their senses—fat chance of that happening now, bub—they can come down to the Boardwalk. But one week is all he can bear to wait with all those grubby middle class tourists and their sticky hands. Naturally, Helen tells the messenger boy “no answer.”

    Saying aloud to no one in particular that Andrew killed her husband triggers another breathtaking streak of self-flagellation. Gird your spirit and have your sackcloth and ashes ready.

    “No, he did not do it!” a voice spoke to her. “Andrew Tompson did not do it. You did it! You, his wife,you, Helen Galbraith!”

    “But he came here,” protested Helen, “and talked to Alex in such a way that he could only see my sin, but not my suffering. Ah, my sin is nothing, nothing to the suffering I have endured! If there is any power in the agony of a soul to wipe away guilt, mine should be wiped away!” She turned toward her dying husband, and throwing herself at his feet, all pride, all scorn went out of her. Her dejection and her humiliation became complete.

    “My poor boy! My poor boy!” She stroked his limbs with hands which had become almost as cold and rigid as his own feet. “I was so mistaken, sweetheart! I have loved you so much! To keep you with me and make you comfortable and happy during your last days, no sacrifice seemed too great! This has been my only wish—this has been all!”

    Her head fell upon his body. For a long while, it seemed to her, she remained thus, unable to rise, or to protest further. As she lay there, she could feel distinctly each beat of his heart, and every moment the beats became fewer and fewer, fainter and fainter. Had she possessed the whole world, she would have given it to bring him back to consciousness, if only for one hour, that she might pour out her heart to him and make him understand. It was useless to upbraid or hate Tompson. No matter how contemptible his conduct had been, it lessened in no way her own responsibility; and the voice speaking in her, resting the sin principally upon her, was right and truthful, she knew. Yes, she had done it—had killed Galbraith—and she alone! It was foolish to cry out against fate. This cup of bitterness she had prepared for herself, and she had no right to ask that it should pass from her. To drink it to the very dregs was now all that remained to her, and to do this submissively rested upon her as a final and supreme obligation! To lie still and suffer—to accept the uttermost justice of God's wrath—to achieve a supreme renunciation of self—these things now alone remained to her. (pp. 293-4)

    “To lie still and suffer.” At no point is the book of Job epigram that gives the book its title more appropriate, because there's a dark, vengeful, fatalistic Old Testament tone to that phrase that I just couldn't get on board with. Maybe my understanding of redemption through Christ is a bit off, but I thought that was something you do to avoid God's wrath, not to wallow in it. It's a jarring enough transition from “lie still and suffer” to modern mainstream Protestantism, but try going from there to Prosperity Gospel and see if you don't get spiritual whiplash.

    (Of course, that was my second thought on “lie still and suffer.” I'm sad to say that my first thought was "A guy looks for a phrase that perfectly describes his experience with a book and the moment he gives up looking, one hits him square in the face...")

    And from here, we spend a few pages working Helen's misery into a high froth, but frankly I'm so disgusted with the process that you'll have to forgive me if I mow all of that down to get to The Main Point of all this.

    “Fair and pure spirit! Fair and pure spirit!”

    Something moved her to repeat the words.

    “Fair and pure spirit!”

    Earnestly she looked a Galbraith, still holding his face in her hands. Oh, that he could open his eyes, only once again, and looking into her face with full consciousness, could read there her entire love for him! Oh, that he might be able to listen, only once again, to her words, as she made to him that full confession which she so longed to make! Her hands clasped themselves more firmly about Galbraith's brow. Her lips touched his.

    The solemn stillness of his beautiful features seemed to bring some kind of peace to her troubled spirit. Her thoughts went back to the events of the morning just passed. She stood again face to face with the vast possibilities of womanhood. She saw again to what heights it may rise—to what perfections it may attain, provided the heart be pure and subject to the law which must be obeyed. (pp. 297-8)

    At last the doctor arrives, whose suggestions for Mrs. Galbraith's comfort are ignored. She's there until the bitter end, which we're assured won't be long now. Helen is also told that last window of consciousness she was hoping for, to make a clean breast of everything, isn't going to happen, either. The doctor gradually leads her into conversation, and she gives him at least a taste of their history, “the beauty and the charm, and also the sadness and the tragedy.” He figures if he can't do anything for the husband, he can do at least that for her.

    At dawn, Galbraith's breathing becomes very faint, and when Helen realizes this, her voice breaks the silence.

    “Alex! Alex! do you hear me? It is I—Helen. Look at me—speak to me—one word only! Can you not, my love, can you not? Alex! Tell me in some way, that you understand—that you know—that you forgive me! I have loved you only! Alex! do you not hear me?”

    The features of the dying man moved—moved for the first time since he had been stricken. Slowly a subdued form of life seemed to come over them. Once again his features moved—then his eyes opened—the light of the new-born day came through the window and shone full upon his noble face. For a moment he looked into the eyes of his wife who in response could only cry “Alex!” His countenance relaxed, a smile played about his lips, and in a moment he was gone.

    A sob of anguish, then a cry of despair. The doctor sprang to his feet. Helen lay upon the floor. The doctor moved forward to lift her; as he did so his glance fell upon Galbraith, and he was astonished at the radiant expression upon the dead man's face.

    Without a divine miracle had been wrought. The glory of the sun spread a mantle of royal splendor over the fields, the meadows, and the woods. The atmosphere was luminous with serenity and a limpid clearness. It was the first day of summer, and the whole earth seemed to have been made anew under the cover of night. Surrounded by the darkness one had felt the world to be sorrowful and worn and dull; but now that a new day had touched it, hope returned to it as the tide returns to the shore, and out of the unseen depths a new life appeared to break. (pp. 300-1)

    Next: Something resembling atonement, I'm sure, since it's the last chapter. Something resembling a resolution? I'm not quite as sure about that...

    Obviously there's a first time for everything. As Book 2, Chapter 6 opens, Andrew Tompson's mother decides to actually try being maternal after she noticed the “vindictive spirit” which had overtaken her boy. She obviously is a bit rusty at it...

    “It is rather late, is it not, to have made no plans for your summer?” Mrs. Tompson had just poured her son a second cup of coffee, and while administering to it the one lump of sugar which he invariably took, she asked her question, not very sure, however, of the wisdom of doing so.

    “Well, yes, possibly,” Tompson replied, employing himself in breaking apart a piece of dry toast, and without looking up. Certainly, the conversation had not opened propitiously; but Mrs. Tompson was emboldened to pursue it a little further, as she observed the very anxious and absorbed manner of her son.

    “I should like to go away this week, if I felt sure about you,” she continued. In making her plans his mother very seldom waited for him, and it surprised Tompson now to learn that she was doing so. He looked up and was annoyed to see an expression of anxiety stamped upon her usually serene face. For a moment he watched her, continuing at the same time to drink his coffee, and when he had finished it and put down his cup, he replied, somewhat impatiently:

    “Now, my dear mother, that is all nonsense. Just make your own plans as usual, and leave me to do the same.”

    “But I feel that you are not well this year, Andrew,” protested Mrs. Tompson, using now a more positive tone with her son that she was in the habit of doing.

    “I am quite well, I assure you, mother. I have only had an abominably dull winter, that is all.”

    “Then, why not try a change?”

    “Oh, I will! Possibly I'll go to Norway a little later” And with this reply it was evident Tompson meant to close the conversation; for he rose abruptly from the table, without excusing himself, and going over to a rear window in the dining-room, commenced to look out upon the well-arranged flower-garden into which his mother had transformed their back premises. (pp. 265-6)

    Let's face it, “Get out of my country, you're freaking me out over here!” isn't the type of advice I look forward to hearing from my mom...unless she's buying the ticket. Nevertheless, she insists that he make some type of arrangement before the week is out, and he agrees.

    Interestingly enough, we're still covering the same day as the last two chapters, so it's quite the coincidence (Wait, what's that other word? Oh yes, “plot contrivance.”) that Andrew decides to spill his guts to Galbraith—a “genuinely friendly service,” he had convinced himself. And of course, here's how you're supposed to feel about it: “What was to become of Galbraith, the poor, dying, armless artist, his faith in his wife destroyed for him by his best friend, he did not ask himself. If Tompson cared about this—and he must have cared, if only a little, for he was not a monster, mere a cold, selfish, revengeful man—he did not permit himself to think of it from this standpoint.”

    Alex and Andrew pass a bit of time chatting about the travel plans, and here's a twist you wouldn't see coming from miles away: Galbraith thinks Andrew should spend his time discovering America, tramping around the woods and the riversides. Being a pretentious snob who, in a previous century, would be wearing powdered wigs and dabbing his pale face with dainty lace hankies, this horrifies Tompson.

    “Now, Tompson,” said Galbraith falling into something like his old-time, enthusiastic form of speech, “that is simply because you do not really know what it is to be wrought upon by the spiritual side of nature. If you talk about companionable things, what is so intensely human, so companionable among all inanimate things as a river, with a life and character and voice of its own?”

    “I admit there is much charm in rivers, but we, I am sure, are viewing them from different points of observation. I like to sail upon them—to watch their ebb and flow—under comfortable circumstances. You like to scramble along their banks, to get into the most intimate relation with what I might call, for want of a better term, their domestic side.”

    “You have summed it up very well—very well indeed,” responded Galbraith with a low, amused laugh. “Yes, that is it, the only way to discover the hidden, finest beauties of nature is to get behind the scenes.”

    “Possibly,” replied Tompson, “But I am not much of a person for that kind of thing, so I suppose I am not capable of judging. I am not a bit interested in the processes of development either in art, or nature or human life. Results—final, complete results—interest me; for these I have a taste.” (p. 271)

    It's not too long after this exchange that Galbraith notices that something's up his friend's butt and asks him about it. Tompson has a last-minute bout of cold feet, but decides that revenge is more important than friendship. After Galbraith assures his friend that if a man knows “something without a knowledge of which [a friend's] manhood would suffer,” he is under obligation to spill the beans, Andrew does exactly that. Of course, true to our author's form, we're not made privy to even the slightest detail of the “whole, hideous story” which Andrew proceeds to tell, just that his courage builds during the telling and Galbraith believes that Tompson has lost his frickin' mind. Afterwards he even asks Andrew if he's lost his frickin' mind. “I am prepared to give you actual proof of all I charge, if you will permit me,” he responds. And although he's physically incapable of giving Tompson the beatdown he's finally realized his “friend” so richly deserved, he's more than up to the task of putting a metaphorical boot up the jerk's ass.

    “And you have done all of this—you have doubted my wife and spied upon her—and created a story of hideous guilt concerning her—all of this you have done for love of me, I am to understand, am I?” said Galbraith. He rose as he spoke, and his manner and tone became so menacing that Tompson instinctively retreated a step or two.

    “You, yourself, gave me permission to speak,” he stammered, for Galbraith's words placed his conduct in a light which did not attract him.

    “Yes, to be sure—from your standpoint,” replied Galbraith, “but that piece of deceit is like the rest which seems to have distinguished you in this matter.”

    “Certainly,” protested Tompson, “the long years of friendship between us made me owe you much.”

    “Yes—much!—much!” cried Galbraith, taking the very word out of his mouth, and he stepped forward a few paces. His armless body seemed now no longer shrunken and worn, as he threw himself back to the fulness of his fine height. The fire of a splendid scorn, of a boundless contempt, shone from every feature of his strong face, as his excitement rose. Indeed, so like an avenging god did he seem, as he advanced upon Tompson, that the latter retreated step by step before him.

    “You owe me much indeed!” continued Galbraith.—“Much indeed! You owe me loyalty, and faith, and truthfulness—and in all of these you have failed! I shall not reproach you—a man who can be guilty of such conduct as yours is, I consider, impervious to reproach. Some day you will find your own punishment. Were I not armless I might strike you to the earth, and so build about you a still greater monument of guilt. However, I am spared this sin by my own condition. It occurs to me that you might not have dared to come to me with the kind of story you have brought, had I possessed the physical powers to deal with you as men in a case of this sort deal with one another. This is just the kind of cowardice one naturally expects from a man who would do the things you have done. But I shall not speak of revenge. I am a man too near the grave for that—I shall leave the settlement of that to a higher power. But,” he continued in a voice of such force and violence, that Tompson withdrew still further from him, “there is something I can settle!—Something I can do!—You shall promise me,” as he spoke he had followed Tompson, who was now crouching against the wall upon which hung the compy of Bouguereau's La Vierge Consolatrice, which so resembled Helen—“You shall promise me,” repeated Galbraith, “that this is the last time, as you say it is the first, this story is to be told to a human ear! If you do not promise, there will be found those to avenge who will not spare you! Do you hear me and do you promise?” Galbraith thundered the words into Tompson's ears, pressing him violently against the wall as he made his demand.

    “Yes, oh, yes! I promise! I promise!” So great had Galbraith's wrath become, that Tompson feared, despite his opponent's armless condition, he might yet find some means of breaking his head, then and there, did he not commit himself to the promise required of him. (pp. 275-7)

    After this explosion, there were only two other things Galbraith wanted Andrew to understand: he didn't believe a single word of what he had just been told, and he was never to darken the Galbraith cottage with his presence again.

    Flawless victory? Not exactly, because the strain of Galbraith's explosive anger had taken more out of his energy reserve than his inner nature was comfortable giving up, so once the source of that anger had passed, Galbraith passed out. After he started to come around again, it took a while for him to recollect where he was, let alone what had just happened in the past hour.

    [H]e remembered that Tompson had gone away in obedience to his own orders, and that he had looked at him sorrowfully and appealingly as he had passed out of the room. Perhaps, it occurred to him, Tompson might not be far distant yet; if he could but go to the front door, he might call him back, and send him away less dejected. Poor Tompson! he would call him back, and try to show him better things than those he had fed his mind upon! In order to realize his wish Galbraith attempted to rise from his chair, but something seemed to bind him to it. For some reason he could not move his legs, and his shoulders seemed pressed back and fastened to the cushions against which they rested. He made a movement as if to stretch out his arms, and get hold of a straight-backed chair in front of him, which he thought would support him, if he could but reach it. But, strange thing! his arms were useless too—and besides, they seemed so numb and dead! What had happened to his arms! And his whole body, why was that so powerless, why did every limb seem bound by cords which he could not break? Nothing about him was alive and active [...] (pp. 279-80)

    Forgetting that he doesn't have arms anymore is what they call in the medical profession a baaaaaaaad sign,” and the Campbell's Condensed Cream of Pastoral that follows (which, to be perfectly honest, I don't have the guts to quote, even though it actually works in this context) makes it sound like his life is flashing before his eyes. Uh-oh.

    While all this is going on, Helen is on her way home, and she still has the joy (joy joy joy) down in her heart.

    The strain of the day had been very great, and Helen was grateful for the hour which her journey home required. What a load was lifted from her shoulders! Once again she had the right to look out towards the future. Once again it was permitted her to return to Galbraith in honesty and sincerity. In some way, she believed, she would be able to provide for him. Some path would open before her—some work be given her to do.

    “Why! why!” she could not refrain from asking herself, “had she not been able months ago to exercise such faith as this—why had she then so mistaken her way and laid up to her account all the guild of the past?” Of course, there was still much bitterness in such questions as these. She was too fresh from the strife for this not to be so. But now she was free! free! and she had delivered herself by the strength of her own hand! What joy, what gladness, what hope this meant, none but those who have been bound can know! (pp. 282-3)

    There is just one more task to make the day of atonement complete: she has to come clean with her husband, giving him a much fuller accounting than she gave to Mr. Elliott. Which is only fair, since he'd be salty as hell if she told Sherman Elliott more than she told her husband. Of course, since he's busy dying at the moment, these are all theoretical points, so instead, let's enjoy Helen's last moment on her mighty clouds of joy before the rug is pulled out from under her one more time.

    The sky, bare from horizon to horizon, with its infinite depths of color, its sublime serenity, its profound silence, seemed a true symbol of God's greatness and power. For a moment she stood looking above and beyond. A spirit of worship filled her soul. Something told her—something which she dare not question—that she was absolved; and that, after all, great suffering was worth the while. Then turning away from the glorious promise of summer which the whole earth seemed to express—from the radiant splendor of the air, hoping great things, believing great things, convinced of the complete surrender of her own will, she passed into the cottage. (pp. 284-5)

    Next: The death scene! And this time I mean it!

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