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Chapter 12

  • 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,
  • hypocrisy, slander, hate, theft, adultery, murder, dementia, insanity,
  • 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.