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At last Westmore graces our narrative with his presence once again (Book 2, Chapter 5), and as far as he's concerned, the past six months have been especially kind to his life, both in the business and in personal spheres. Although the narrator warns him of hubris, he sees his life as going from victory to victory, with the word “fail” being an impossibility. And of course, when he thinks of the personal joys, he doesn't think of his family (“there was really a good deal to be said on his side concerning his domestic discontent”). He thinks of Helen Galbraith.

Looking over the extensive horizon of his individual world, nothing brought him the satisfaction, the deep sense of personal gratification and pride, that his thoughts of Helen brought him. He felt that he was indeed an extremely fortunate man. Helen in every way filled his senses with delight. She was his perfect ideal of a woman made into real flesh and blood. Her dignity, her modesty, even the spirit which she repulsed him at times, all these were enchanting to him. Had she been willing to permit it, he would gladly have surrounded her life with every condition of beauty and comfort—would have lavished upon her every kind of luxury. As he thought of her now, he felt inexpressibly annoyed and troubled that she was willing to accept so little from him—and even that little with apparent unhappiness and discontent.

Mr. Westmore was not oblivious of the fact that Helen had altered very much in personal appearance during the past year. [...] That this something was a truly tragic greatness, because behind all of Helen's conduct there had been the most supreme spirit of self-sacrifice—this Mr. Westmore did not quite perceive. In fact, in no event could he have rightly perceived this kind of thing. Such perception was denied to him by nature [...] He wanted very much to bring into her life some kind of joy and brightness; and he looked forward anxiously to the time when he thought this might be possible. So far as he could see, with Galbraith dead, there could exist no reason why Helen should not look out upon a new life, and take it up with hope and happiness. (pp. 244-5)

Well, there is the small matter that she thinks you're evil incarnate, but every relationship has these minor hurdles to clear. Also, there's that pesky lack of anything resembling conventional morality, which, of course, is told to us as flatly as possible so we don't have to figure anything out for ourselves.

The great point was to get her to view the situation as he viewed it—to believe that, when fate has denied one a legitimate happiness, no moral law should have the power to hold one back from seizing upon whatever chance happiness life may lay at one's feet. This Westmore considered an entirely sensible view of life; and he thought that if Helen could only be induced to look upon it with favor, there would then exist no reason whatever for her not accepting his love on natural terms, as he wished her to do.

“Why must people have so many moral ifs?” Mr. Westmore asked himself aloud. “They are but the obstacles to success—even to happiness,” he continued. After a few moments he added, again in an audible tone: “Had I been so scrupulous as she, I should never have got my fortune out of Wall Street as I have done.” (p. 246)

Yes, I'm rushing through yet another one of these lengthy meditations at a mad gallop, but dammit, something actually happens in this chapter! We leave Westmore for the moment confident that “the rights of the master in this situation, as in all others, it would seem, [remain] with him.” Such a pity that Helen, fresh out of the carriage from her art-inspired spiritual rebirth, is busying herself cutting ties with him. After spending an hour writing a lengthy letter to Mr. Elliott in her workroom at the newspaper, she went about the business of destroying all of her personal papers left in the little office and hopped another coach to deliver the “bad news” to Westmore in person.

Without doubt the way lay plainly before her. The higher demands of her own soul pointed alone in one direction—she must not now shrink from inflicting pain, for to do so was to spare herself the most necessary part of her retribution—was to seek her own will, was to yield to her own weakness. Yield she would not! Her own will should go—should be surrendered. She would submit herself unflinchingly to the conditions of regeneration which had been revealed to her—a purified heart, subject to the will of God. (p. 251)

Westmore, still dreaming lazy dreams of the day Helen's husband drops dead, is pleasantly surprised to see her show up unannounced...until she starts talking.

“Mr. Westmore, I have come here to tell you something which I preferred not to write to you; because, had I written, you might have concluded that I was not strong enough to stand face to face with the consequences of my own deeds.” She paused, but as he made no reply she continued:

“Be patient a few moments and I will have done. I am coming to my point. It is useless for me to go back to the things which have brought about the relationship which has existed between us. On my side, there is only one thing to be said; and I do not wish you to doubt for a moment the absolute truth of this statement. I have never thought of you in any other light, except as the person who could obtain for me a paying position, as you have done; and who, by your continued favor, could retain me in it. Beyond such power as this, I have sought in no way to influence you—though enough power to procure this for myself did I seek to gain over you. And to gain this and render it profitable to myself I have been willing, as you too well know, to make any kind of personal sacrifice. I feel sure that you understand why I did this. You must know that it was for love of my husband; that I might save him from domestic discomfort, from privations during the short time his life is to last. Of cthis I cannoth speak further, and I feel that it is not necessary, for I believe even you have been able to understand somewhat the kind of love mine has been.” Again she paused, but he remained silent, standing erect and looking fixedly at her. She went on:

“There is another point I cannot dwell upon; but I must mention it. The suffering which has come to me out of this sin I have committed has been far greater than I could ever hope to make you understand. [...]

Really convenient of her to mention this, since apparently Westmore doesn't even understand the concept of sin. But hush, this is her glory moment...

[“]I should not even attempt to make you understand it, for it would be impossible to you, I know. To say that this suffering has been an hourly agony of the soul is hardly to give a suggestion of what it has meant to me. But the important thing is, that this suffering has revealed to me what a thoroughly false moral view I possessed, and how absolutely impossible it is for wrong ever to lead to right, or for evil to produce good. Though I have sacrificed myself in love for the comfort and support of my husband, I see now that I have done him the greatest wrong, the greatest injustice that I could possibly have done him. It would have been kinder to let him die from any kind of privation, than to have subjected myself, as I have done, to a course which his beautiful soul would look upon as worse than death. I think when I came to you for help I must have been insane with despair—this is my only defense. Still, I recognize the fact that there was something morally wrong, something morally weak about me, of which I was ignorant; otherwise I should have known from the first how to distinguish correctly between sin and goodness—between falseness and honesty.” (pp. 253-4), girl?

She has only one more confession for him: she was going to play along until Alex was safely beyond the mortal coil and stop all of this nonsense cold, but the events of the day had made that type of deception utterly impossible. Therefore, she had to walk away from him completely, and today was the day.

Westmore, thoroughly unprepared for this eventuality, listened to all this gobbledygook patiently, and a part of him felt that she had broken the bonds and “freed herself over from the power he once had over her.” But come on, Westmore isn't gonna get beaten by a girl! His argument: What about my needs? “I love you. You are necessary to my happiness, and I cannot allow you to withdraw yourself from my life.” And when she remains insistent, he starts losing his cool, rapidly shifting into full-boil melodrama mode.

“But I insist upon your discussing it,” he replied. I insist upon the point I have made—that you should consider me in this matter. If you hold my happiness entirely in your hands, I take it that you owe me a debt—that you have no right to withdraw yourself from me—to rob me of the only true pleasure life holds me, simply to test a theory of yours—to work out something you choose to look upon as a moral regeneration. I tell you it is all nonsense!” he said sternly, drawing nearer to Helen. “You owe me a certain debt. I have the right to demand its payment of you. If you think so much of justice, there are more accounts to settle than the on you are keeping with your husband!” A note of scorn was in his tone; drawing nearer to her, standing so that he could easily touch or grasp her hand, he continued: “You belong to me! You belong to me!” he threw the words fiercely into her very face. “You yielded yourself to me when you were in need, because you found that I could come to your rescue—and now that you weary of the bargain, and when you have become essential to me—you think to take the matter wholly into your own hands, and go your own gait to please yourself. But I will not permit it. No, no, Mrs. Galbraith,” said Westmore with a piercing laugh, “the old fox is far too wily for that kind of a game!” (p. 256)

The only thing missing is “Mwah-ha-ha, me proud beauty!” Maybe he'll tie her to a log in the sawmill before we reach the end.

She simply says “If you prefer to misunderstand me, I have nothing further to say,” and pulls the key to the little room at the newspaper out of her coat pocket, which he promptly slaps out of her hand. She makes a move for the door, with a few dozen words about how she intends to lock him out of her life forever, but as her hand touches the doorknob Westmore springs forward and grabs her violently by the shoulders. “Woman! Woman! What are you doing! Do you not know that I mean what I say, that you are essential to me!” She shakes herself loose and he whips out his trump card, but honestly, if you didn't see what followed coming the moment she sealed that envelope to Elliott, you're just hopeless.

“Go then!” he said. “But you will never hoodwink Sherman Elliott as you have done me! That position on the paper ends with to-day!” This he felt to be his strongest card, and he had reserved it for the end; he though that if anything would bring her back to him, this would. The violence of the thrust which he had given her unsteadied her for a moment, but she recovered herself quickly, and she seemed very tall and thin and white, as she replied:

“That position on the paper is already ended. An hour before coming here I wrote to Mr. Elliott. And I told him everything. I withdrew myself absolutely from his employ, and begged of him not to seek me out—to let me go in peace.”

“You told him everything, did you!” exclaimed Westmore with horror, thinking only of the part he was to play in this revelation.

“Yes,” she replied. “I regretted to have to bring you in to anything of this kind, but it was unavoidable. I could not explain the matter without telling just how I had procured the place with him—but I insisted that the sin connected with it had all been my fault—all my own weakness. I also asked him especially, for the sake of what he and his wife represent to me—for they represent perfect justice and wisdom and love—not to let what I had told him affect severely his judgment of you. I don not think you need fear any injustice from Mr. Elliott.”

“Then you have done your worst!” said Mr. Westmore, sinking into the nearest chair, and giving himself up to despair. He recognized that he was beaten, and beaten in a horrible manner, which he had never thought of as possible. Westmore had no scruples against dishonest conduct; but to have the true inwardness of such conduct laid bare to others—to be made for them a subject of discussion, of this he had a complete, unutterable horror.

“You have ruined me, you have completely ruined me!” cried Westmore from his collapsed position. (pp. 259-60)

Westmore was picturing an unsealable rift between himself and Elliott, although Helen assured him that she asked for clemency from the editor's terrible swift sword of righteous indignation. Nevertheless, the old man felt totally defeated and utterly helpless. As befits someone who has been positioned as a saintly goddess made flesh, her victory is flawless, although she mercifully refrained from ripping his spine out and holding it over her head in defiance. On the contrary, it is especially flawless because it wasn't tinged with even the faintest hint of malice, which would at least give Westmore something to cling to. And of course, you can tell he learned the wrong lesson: “For the first time the thought came to him that he was getting to be a weak, old man, with whom a beautiful woman might play at her pleasure.” Of course it's impossible for him to learn a lesson, because how can he be pure, concentrated evil if he has the capacity to change?

The only thing left to him is a pitifully transparent level of damage control:

What a fool he had been! As he thought of his affairs he saw how it would be impossible at present for him to run away merely upon a few hours notice. His many important investments could not be left as they now stood. Plainly, there was nothing for him to do but remain, to face Sherman Elliott and his indignation, and to save himself as far as possible by representing Helen as a conscienceless tempter from whom no man she sought to ensnare could possibly escape. Men, he felt, should understand and sympathize with one another in such matters; and he thought with some scorn of a man like Sherman Elliott, possessed of the finest physical strength and robustness, going about the world with that aloofness of his and making of himself a genuine Sir Galahad. Such a man was incomprehensible to him, an suggested only weakness and hypocrisy. Yet he knew in his heart that he feared Elliott's judgment, and that he was not worthy to stand beside him in any of the great matters which make true, manly life. (pp. 262-3, my emphasis)

Well, that was easy. One evil monster down, one to go...

Next: The return of Andrew Tompson and his vindictive spirit!


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