Spring, summer and fall came and went with Eugene and Angela first i_lexandria and then in Blackwood. In suffering this nervous breakdown an_eing compelled to leave New York, Eugene missed some of the finest fruits o_is artistic efforts, for M. Charles, as well as a number of other people,
were interested in him and were prepared to entertain him in an interestin_nd conspicuous way. He could have gone out a great deal, but his mental stat_as such that he was poor company for anyone. He was exceedingly morbid,
inclined to discuss gloomy subjects, to look on life as exceedingly sad and t_elieve that people generally were evil. Lust, dishonesty, selfishness, envy,
inanity—these and death and decay occupied his thoughts. There was no ligh_nywhere. Only a storm of evil and death. These ideas coupled with hi_roubles with Angela, the fact that he could not work, the fact that he fel_e had made a matrimonial mistake, the fact that he feared he might die or g_razy, made a terrible and agonizing winter for him.
Angela's attitude, while sympathetic enough, once the first storm of feelin_as over, was nevertheless involved with a substratum of criticism. While sh_aid nothing, agreed that she would forget, Eugene had the consciousness al_he while that she wasn't forgetting, that she was secretly reproaching hi_nd that she was looking for new manifestations of weakness in this direction,
expecting them and on the alert to prevent them.
The spring-time in Alexandria, opening as it did shortly after they reache_here, was in a way a source of relief to Eugene. He had decided for the tim_eing to give up trying to work, to give up his idea of going either to Londo_r Chicago, and merely rest. Perhaps it was true that he was tired. He didn'_eel that way. He couldn't sleep and he couldn't work, but he felt bris_nough. It was only because he couldn't work that he was miserable. Still h_ecided to try sheer idleness. Perhaps that would revive his wonderful art fo_im. Meantime he speculated ceaselessly on the time he was losing, th_elebrities he was missing, the places he was not seeing. Oh, London, London!
If he could only do that.
Mr. and Mrs. Witla were immensely pleased to have their boy back with the_gain. Being in their way simple, unsophisticated people, they could no_nderstand how their son's health could have undergone such a sudden reverse.
"I never saw Gene looking so bad in all his life," observed Witla pére to hi_ife the day Eugene arrived. "His eyes are so sunken. What in the world do yo_uppose is ailing him?"
"How should I know?" replied his wife, who was greatly distressed over he_oy. "I suppose he's just tired out, that's all. He'll probably be all righ_fter he rests awhile. Don't let on that you think he's looking out of sorts.
Just pretend that he's all right. What do you think of his wife?"
"She appears to be a very nice little woman," replied Witla. "She's certainl_evoted to him. I never thought Eugene would marry just that type, but he'_he judge. I suppose people thought that I would never marry anybody like you,
either," he added jokingly.
"Yes, you did make a terrible mistake," jested his wife in return. "You worke_wfully hard to make it."
"I was young! I was young! You want to remember that," retorted Witla. "_idn't know much in those days."
"You don't appear to know much better yet," she replied, "do you?"
He smiled and patted her on the back. "Well, anyhow I'll have to make the bes_f it, won't I? It's too late now."
"It certainly is," replied his wife.
Eugene and Angela were given his old room on the second floor, commanding _ice view of the yard and the street corner, and they settled down to spen_hat the Witla parents hoped would be months of peaceful days. It was _urious sensation to Eugene to find himself back here in Alexandria lookin_ut upon the peaceful neighborhood in which he had been raised, the trees, th_awn, the hammock replaced several times since he had left, but still in it_ccustomed place. The thought of the little lakes and the small creek windin_bout the town were a comfort to him. He could go fishing now and boating, an_here were some interesting walks here and there. He began to amuse himself b_oing fishing the first week, but it was still a little cold, and he decided,
for the time being, to confine himself to walking.
Days of this kind grow as a rule quickly monotonous. To a man of Eugene's tur_f mind there was so little in Alexandria to entertain him. After London an_aris, Chicago and New York, the quiet streets of his old home town were _oke. He visited the office of the _Appeal_ but both Jonas Lyle and Cale_illiams had gone, the former to St. Louis, the latter to Bloomington. Ol_enjamin Burgess, his sister's husband's father, was unchanged except in th_atter of years. He told Eugene that he was thinking of running for Congres_n the next campaign—the Republican organization owed it to him. His so_enry, Sylvia's husband, had become a treasurer of the local bank. He wa_orking as patiently and quietly as ever, going to church Sundays, going t_hicago occasionally on business, consulting with farmers and business me_bout small loans. He was a close student of the several banking journals o_he country, and seemed to be doing very well financially. Sylvia had littl_o say of how he was getting along. Having lived with him for eleven years,
she had become somewhat close-mouthed like himself. Eugene could not hel_miling at the lean, slippered subtlety of the man, young as he was. He was s_uiet, so conservative, so intent on all the little things which make _onventionally successful life. Like a cabinet maker, he was busy inlaying th_ittle pieces which would eventually make the perfect whole.
Angela took up the household work, which Mrs. Witla grudgingly consented t_hare with her, with a will. She liked to work and would put the house i_rder while Mrs. Witla was washing the dishes after breakfast. She would mak_pecial pies and cakes for Eugene when she could without giving offense, an_he tried to conduct herself so that Mrs. Witla would like her. She did no_hink so much of the Witla household. It wasn't so much better than he_wn—hardly as good. Still it was Eugene's birthplace and for that reaso_mportant. There was a slight divergence of view-point though, between hi_other and herself, over the nature of life and how to live it. Mrs. Witla wa_f an easier, more friendly outlook on life than Angela. She liked to tak_hings as they came without much worry, while Angela was of a naturall_orrying disposition. The two had one very human failing in common—they coul_ot work with anyone else at anything. Each preferred to do all that was to b_one rather than share it at all. Both being so anxious to be conciliatory fo_ugene's sake and for permanent peace in the family, there was small chanc_or any disagreement, for neither was without tact. But there was just a vagu_int of something in the air—that Angela was a little hard and selfish, o_rs. Witla's part; that Mrs. Witla was just the least bit secretive, or shy o_istant—from Angela's point of view. All was serene and lovely on the surface,
however, with many won't-you-let-me's and please-do-now's on both sides. Mrs.
Witla, being so much older, was, of course, calmer and in the family seat o_ignity and peace.
To be able to sit about in a chair, lie in a hammock, stroll in the woods an_ountry fields and be perfectly happy in idle contemplation and loneliness,
requires an exceptional talent for just that sort of thing. Eugene onc_ancied he had it, as did his parents, but since he had heard the call of fam_e could never be still any more. And just at this time he was not in need o_olitude and idle contemplation but of diversion and entertainment. He neede_ompanionship of the right sort, gayety, sympathy, enthusiasm. Angela had som_f this, when she was not troubled about anything, his parents, his sister,
his old acquaintances had a little more to offer. They could not, however, b_orever talking to him or paying him attention, and beyond them there wa_othing. The town had no resources. Eugene would walk the long country road_ith Angela or go boating or fishing sometimes, but still he was lonely. H_ould sit on the porch or in the hammock and think of what he had seen i_ondon and Paris—how he might be at work. St. Paul's in a mist, the Thame_mbankment, Piccadilly, Blackfriars Bridge, the muck of Whitechapel and th_ast End—how he wished he was out of all this and painting them. If he coul_nly paint. He rigged up a studio in his father's barn, using a north lof_oor for light and essayed certain things from memory, but there was no makin_nything come out right. He had this fixed belief, which was a notion purely,
that there was always something wrong. Angela, his mother, his father, whom h_ccasionally asked for an opinion, might protest that it was beautiful o_onderful, but he did not believe it. After a few altering ideas of this kind,
under the influences of which he would change and change and change things, h_ould find himself becoming wild in his feelings, enraged at his condition,
intensely despondent and sorry for himself.
"Well," he would say, throwing down his brush, "I shall simply have to wai_ntil I come out of this. I can't do anything this way." Then he would walk o_ead or row on the lakes or play solitaire, or listen to Angela playing on th_iano that his father had installed for Myrtle long since. All the time thoug_e was thinking of his condition, what he was missing, how the gay world wa_urging on rapidly elsewhere, how long it would be before he got well, i_ver. He talked of going to Chicago and trying his hand at scenes there, bu_ngela persuaded him to rest for a while longer. In June she promised him the_ould go to Blackwood for the summer, coming back here in the fall if h_ished, or going on to New York or staying in Chicago, just as he felt abou_t. Now he needed rest.
"Eugene will probably be all right by then," Angela volunteered to his mother,
"and he can make up his mind whether he wants to go to Chicago or London."
She was very proud of her ability to talk of where they would go and what the_ould do.