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Hey, it's the evening of the day from the last chapter! (Book 2, Chapter 2) Hey, it's Tompson, and he's at the club! And before he embarks on a fresh round of self-centered evil, he's telling us about what a drag it is to be able to travel.

“Possibly to be a cosmopolite is not such an ideal existence as you imagine,” replied Tompson, lighting a fresh cigarette and commencing to pace anxiously up and down.

“I should think to be a cosmopolite the happiest existence in the world,” said young Andrews, thinking somewhat ruefully of his own clipped wings, as contrasted with the very free ones of Tompson.”

“I can assure you, it is a baleful spirit to be inflicted with, that of the cosmopolite,” replied Tompson, pausing and seeming to consider the qualities of his cigarette, as he continued: “To move about the world from one country to another, is to lose, to a great degree, the sense of the sanctity of home and of the absoluteness of the habits and customs of one's countrymen. [...]

Some modern readers wouldn't view that as a bad thing, really, the idea you receive from a proper trip overseas that your inviolable social tenets are nothing more than local customs, many of which are ignored past the border. But let's see how far he's willing to chase the rabbit down this hole.

[“]While one loses this—and the loss is more than you would imagine—one ends usually by finding all places more or less provincial. In travel you form the habit of comparing things, which gives you a sense of being very broad, but which really means that you come to find life insipid and flat in every country.”

“Then you think that the men who remain at home, learning how to be content on a bone, are not such unlucky dogs after all?” asked the Colonel, seeming, in the enjoyment with which he puffed away at a good Havana, to be a most happy reply to his own question.

“Certainly Paris, I should think, with its unequaled brilliancy, could never tire a man of the world like yourself, Mr. Tompson,” protested young Andrews.

“Possibly no,” replied Tompson, “should I always remain in Paris, and so maintain from one end of the year to the other a purely Parisian point of view. But you see, for instance, after living for awhile in London, upon returning to Paris one feels the contrast, and naturally falls back upon the habit of comparing things. In this way, the enjoyment of all places is lessened for the man who travels extensively and observes intelligently.”

“But how delightful, how charming to be able to make these comparisons!” insisted young Andrews, not in the least convinced.

“I have no doubt, Andrews,” replied Tompson, speaking in a tone which an older and more experienced man of the world often uses with a younger and less experienced one, “that you get more out of life here, with a week or two at Bar Harbor in the summer, than I do out of the whole of Europe.” (pp. 186-7)

I recognize the effect that's being reached for here—Tompson is a jaded wanderer who, by going everywhere, recognizes he's losing his roots to anywhere. It's an idea that means more in the modern culture than it might have then, so it's a damn shame this will probably be tossed on the rubbish pile in the mad rush to the next thwarted love scene. It's also a damn shame that it's couched in yet another “America! Hell yeah!” discourse. All this home-grown-over-European noise has popped up far too much and from the mouths of far too many disparate characters to be just a coincidence, and not a deeply-held belief that the author can't keep down. “You will find that it all comes down to what I have said—that even Paris, the meeting point of the nations, is essentially provincial.” Let's see what the American Heritage Dictionary has to say about that word “provincial”:

  1. Of or relating to a province.
  2. Of or characteristic of people from the provinces; not fashionable or sophisticated: "Well-educated professional women ... made me feel uncomfortably provincial" (J.R. Salamanca).

  3. Limited in perspective; narrow and self-centered.

Yep, that's our Tompson, all right. That's the whole world view of the book, really. The overall impression I've taken away so far is that the author believed Helen Galbraith would've been much happier if her universe began with a stew in the oven and stopped at the far end of her garden path.

It's too bad that Andrew is spouting all that “stay in your own backyard” doggerel, since his mom has been feeling really crowded in recent days and would like him to take one of those trips. However, he has to stick around. Cunning plans don't come to fruition on their own, bub. “He believed that he had found a means by which he could, in a measure, control Helen Galbraith and bend her—possibly—to his own purposes. She might, if she was so determined, continue to refuse his love and assistance, but she could no longer restrain him from baffling her in any other course she might decide upon!” (pp. 188-9) Since he felt her sins were bigger than his, any means would justify his end in his eyes. Which means that once again, it's time for him to drink a bit of liquid courage as we travel ahead of him across the state line to visit the Martyr Family!

As we land in the cottage, Helen is trying to talk Alex into actually going outside for a change, but apparently even talking about walking makes him weary beyond recall—obviously wheelchairs are also beyond the Galbraiths' universe—so she leaves him alone yet again. Helen's whole sick-o'-livin'-and-fear'd-o'-dyin' stance has progressed to the point where even her monumentally self-involved husband can't ignore it.

How painfully conscious he was of these changes in her he scarcely dared to consider; for he felt that it was anxiety and work for him that had brought them to her. Poor, devoted Helen! Little did he realize the strain under which she was living. Nevertheless he understood the situation sufficiently to see that she endured much labor and suffered greatly at times; and to see these things and yet to be compelled to sit there in entire helplessness, unable to alter them, was terrible indeed for him. Nothing which he could now do could lift, even temporarily, the burden which rested upon her young life. (p. 192)

Hey, here's a thought...start with “Honey, is everything okay? Did anybody try to take possession of you at work today? My friend over there wasn't trying to get his freak on with you, was he?” But no, that would mean making it about somebody else. And remember Rule #1: she can tell nobody about her agony, because there's no story if there's no agony.

Helen takes a slightly longer route than her usual walks, which gives Andrew Tompson the perfect opportunity to creep up on her unannounced. And since no detail is too small to steal from the the last time we saw this scene, there are birds prominently featured here, too.

“Yes I was absorbed for the moment in those swallows. I was thinking of how direct and swift they are—and yet how silent.”

“Swallows have no song, you know,” he said, “but they have little clinking notes which some people, I believe, find not unmusical.”

“They must possess much feeling and much energy to fly as they do,” she said, looking up the slope in the direction which the birds had taken. “I should think that swallows, with that dashing flight of theirs, were less in need of song than most other birds.”

“Why do you say that?” asked Tompson.

“Because,” she answered, “their flight must express, even better than song can, any strong emotions which they may have.”

“Then you believe more in actions than in words?” he asked, eager to think it so, in the hope that his own persistent silence of late, enforced by his tireless activity, might have what he considered its just reward.

“Of course I do,” she said positively, looking at him with one of her penetrating gazes before which he could not stand without a slight wincing.

“Have I ever talked much about all the things which have befallen me?” she asked, looking even more searchingly, as she put these words to him, in his clear-cut, cynical face.

“No, I only wish that you had!” he replied. (pp. 195-6)

Before he loses his courage again, Andrew then proceeds with what passes for his “masterstroke” and tells her what passes for “everything he's found out.” In this book that means that he knows her “secret and immoral connections with Mr. Westmore.” There's a hostile edge in his voice as he gives her a combination of a dressing-down for immorality and—yet again—a question as to why she wasn't immoral with him.

“Westmore is a married man,” he continued, “and any hold you have on him will avail you very little. Now, Helen—“ has he spoke her name his voice fell, becoming almost soft. To be just to him, this love which Tompson had for Helen was the best kind of love which he had ever known, and in its behalf he felt that he was now about to make a splendid sacrifice of himself. “Now, Helen,” he repeated gently, if not tenderly, “I can look into your future, and it is very dark, very gloomy. But I love you—yes—I love you—despite everything.” He paused again, but she said nothing, only continuing to look steadily at him, so he went on. “I want you to get out of this—to get out of it at once. Let Westmore and the Elliotts and journalism and the whole complications go—let them go to the ends of the earth—only you get out of it—and—“ he paused again—he had only now come to his main point—he was about to play his highest trump—as he spoke he looked squarely into Helen's face, meeting unflinchingly her own steady gaze. “And,” he continued, “let them go—then come to me!” Another pause. “And after awhile, when everything is over, I will marry you!” As he finished speaking, he congratulated himself that he had played a very magnanimous part, and that no man could rise above him in the sacrifice he was willing to make of himself. His former fears of failure receded, and he became quite hopeful of the final success of his plan. Why should it not be so? Certainly he had not believed that Helen would ever stand still as she had done and listen, without a word of protest, to what he had just said to her. (pp. 199-200)

Jeez, for a “jaded” man, he sure is unspeakably naive. And really, “any hold she has on Westmore”? What did that ridiculous offstage detective tell him? Because this so-called bombshell sounds exactly like what he'd decided before he hired the man. Did the gumshoe actually do any work, or did he just itemize his bar tab when Tompson came back and fed him whatever noise he wanted to hear? Now that's a story I'd actually like to read. More's the pity...

Considering the gambit that he was so proud of is exactly the same thing he tried earlier (only this time with the zesty flavor of blackmail!), it shouldn't be surprising at all that Helen's reaction is exactly the same, only more so. She gives him a look of “living fire” as she shuts him down a second time.

“And you, Andrew Tompson! You have called yourself the friend of Alex Galbraith! You, who spy upon his wife, the wife whom you pretend to love! You find that for motives of her own—I will not say what these motives were—she has ruinously sacrificed herself—and you come to her to save her, as you say! In doing so, you not only tell her that you are an abominable traitor, but you even more fully reveal yourself, by offering to still further degrade her; and then—as if you had not already heaped scorn upon scorn—you insinuate that when her husband, your friend—the friend of many years! the one for whom she has in deep, mistaken devotion sacrificed herself—that when he is dead and well out of the way, you will make everything all right for everybody concerned by marrying the poor wife that is left!”

Of course she's not going to tell her motivations, because that would actually change things, and to change would mean to make an effort. As if the way this played out before wasn't humiliating enough, get a load of how this one ends.

“Helen! Helen!” he piteously cried. “Do you not see that I love you? That I condescend to anything that I may save you, that I may call you my own?” A fierceness seized him and springing forward he sought a second time to obtain hold of Helen's hands. She drew aside quickly, but as she did so, Tompson fell forward, striking his palms against a pile of stones heaped together in the fields. Though somewhat hurt and considerably shaken Tompson pulled himself up speedily; but in the meantime his anger had risen, and the reply which Helen now gave him seemed only to increase it in a large degree.

“I can only see,” she said, “that you are a mean, contemptible, false man, who beneath a cultured exterior, conceals a thoroughly narrow and selfish soul. And had not my poor husband been guilelessly honest and pure, he would have seen the same long ago.” (pp. 201-2)

After making it clear this is a refusal “now and for all time,” Andrew warns her that she'll live to regret her decision. “There are many ways by which a determined man may reach his end.” And without even making a motion to visit his friend, he shows himself out of the woods. Well, at least she doesn't have to make dinner for the insufferable twerp this time...

Next: Well, here's something new...the Elliotts meet Mr. Galbraith. Guess at whose house?


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