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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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