BUT Hemingway’s privately printed Three Mountain Press edition of In Our Time, just the short paragraphs, had come out Each day I looked through the reviews for some notice of the work. Finally I found one of those shorter notices in H. L Mencken’s American Mercury. The note said: … written in the bold bod manner of the Cafe Dome. This derisive little notice enraged me. “Who told Mencken to print those stories of Anderson’s I wonder?” I said jeeringly to Loretto. “Someone must have told him. Left to himself, Mencken obviously has no feeling for what is new and good.”
Summer came, and I was back on the Star. When I wrote a story called “A Girl With Ambition” and sent it to Paris, Hemingway answered at once. A first class story, he said, and he urged me to do more and let him see them. Boni and Live-right were bringing out a trade edition of In Our Time which would have some longer stories between the short paragraphs I had seen, he wrote. I sent him another story called, “Last Spring They Came Over,” and he wrote me that he had known at the beginning I would do such stories. Let him see anything else I did and he would keep on passing the word around about me. In these letters he would tell me little about what he ’was doing himself. I seemed to be writing more stories than he was. Imagine my pride when he wrote me that Tolstoy couldn’t have done my “Wedding Dress” story any better! I was always elated, always excited in, those days. Whenever I got one of these letters from him I would go down to the Weekly and see my friend Greg Clark or some of the other older newsmen. They couldn’t figure out why Hemingway was writing to me from Paris. My friend Greg had made some comment on one of my stories and when I told it to Ernest he wrote me that Greg was the “most wonderful guy in the world,” but I was never to let him tell me about anything. Each letter, each passing month, seemed to take me a little closer to Paris where my friend now had my stories.
Sometimes at night, after leaving Loretto, I would go home to my parents’ house, read Tolstoy in bed for an hour, then begin to dream that there would be a letter from Paris in the morning telling me that some distinguished editor, having spent the night reading all my stories, wanted to hear from me.
When Hemingway’s book In Our Time came out in New York, I remember picking up a copy of the Saturday Review of Literature in which there was a review by the editor, Henry Seidel Canby, with the heading, “Art On Its Last Legs.” I threw it down in disgust.
Writing to Ernest I told him I had got a piddling little six-inch notice of the book in a local paper. Avoid reviewing books, he wrote me. It was all right to talk about a writer if you had to, but always remember that you can’t run with the hares and hunt with the hounds.
At the end of that second summer on the Star, Mr. Hindmarsh called me into his office. “All right, Callaghan, now that you are to be on the permanent staff—” he began.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Hindmarsh,” I said meekly. “I have another year to go at college before I graduate.”
“What do you mean? You failed your year?”
“No, I got through all right”
“You assured me last year you had one year more.”
“I said I had to go back. Nobody ever asked me what year I was in at any time.”
I had put him in the position I had put Mr. Johnston in; it was intolerable to him and he regarded me sourly. Johnston would laugh. Then fairly enough he may have recalled that he, too, had forgotten to ask me what year I had been in at college. Never had I met a man who had such a devastating scowl. But he finally grunted at me, “Are you now definitely in your graduating year at college?”
“I am, Mr. Hindmarsh.”
“When you go back this time we won’t pay you any salary. We’ll pay you space rates. You can come down here three times a week to get your assignment.” After thanking him, I got away quickly.
I had a good year at college, going to Pittsburgh with the debating-team. But Hemingway, hearing of it, wrote me that I should leave debating to men like Main Johnston, a Star editorial writer. But then, as I knew, Hemingway himself often seemed to have a little stutter, and I smiled to myself. Having finished my final examination, I reported to Mr. Hindmarsh, who was sitting at the city desk. Turning to me he said with too much grim satisfaction, “All right, Callaghan. You’re on the permanent staff now. Well, you need discipline, the routine assignments. Now I’m going to put you to harness.”
He might just as well have grabbed me by the arm, shouting, “I’ve got you now, you little bastard. You’ve no place else to go.” And I retreated, muttering to myself, “If that guy thinks he’s putting me in his damned harness he’s crazy.”
A comical period on the Star had begun for me. Trying on the harness for size, I went to the summer courts at Osgoode Hall. In summer, of course, the courts were hardly in session. It was a nothing job. Nothing to do but wait around until judgments were handed down. The other court reporters, older men enjoying the quiet life, took turns sleeping on the table in the reporters’ room or playing checkers. In this company, as Mr. Hindmarsh saw it, I was supposed to bite my nails, dream of being restored to his imperial favour, dream of great assignments. Well, instead I dreamt of Paris. In my exile I sat at the typewriter working on stories to send to Paris. Even the legal judgments handed down in the summer I read as if they were case books on human nature. I would come back to the city room quietly, hoping I wouldn’t be noticed, and with hardly a glance at Mr. Hindmarsh, slip away. If he gave me a small story of another kind to do, a piece of reporting, I would take great pains with the writing, practising my own prose, trying to be exact and get a certain rhythm. Of course to do this I had to avoid all the bright showy gestures that were supposed to mark the work of an ambitious young reporter anxious to attract the attention of Mr. Hindmarsh.
One day he called me to the city desk. “I know what’s the matter with you,” he said sourly. “You’re sore, aren’t you?”
“You’re wrong, Mr. Hindmarsh. I’m not sore. What am I supposed to be sore about?”
“I’m not wrong,” he said sharply. “Don’t tell me I’m wrong. You’re sore because I have you over there in Osgoode Hall. You think you should be getting sixty dollars a week and writing all the big stories on the paper. Well, I’m breaking you in. You’ll get into harness just like anybody else. You might as well get used to it.”
It was his custom, when coming in in the morning, to walk the length of all the desks on his way to his office. On the way he would smile and nod to each reporter, who would say brightly, “Good morning, Mr. Hindmarsh.” All the quick, bright alert “good morning, Mr. Hindmarshes” would ring in his ears as he moved heavily into his office. One morning his secretary, Ernie, came to me. “Mr. Hindmarsh wants to see you,” he said. The big fellow, lonely and brooding, was slumped in his chair. Finally I seemed to come under his eyes, but he waited till I grew embarrassed, then snapped at me, “What’s the matter with you, Callaghan? There’s something the matter with you.”
“You’re wrong, Mr. Hindmarsh.”
“Don’t contradict me,” he said petulantly. “When I come in in the morning I expect a cheerful good morning from the men. What do I get from you?” he asked bitterly. “Every morning when I come in I have to look at your sullen face.” My sullen face troubling such a dominating figure? What a man.
He sounded so much like a petulant boy it was embarrassing. Then he went on, “I’m tired of your sullen face.”
“That’s all wrong, Mr. Hindmarsh…” I began.
“Don’t you stand here in my own office telling me I’m wrong,” he shouted. “Get out of here. You’re fired!”
Startled, mute, I backed away from him, but when I got to the door he seemed to relent. “Just a minute,” he said and I remember I had to wait as he got up and stood looking out the window. His face showed anger, concern, resentment; he looked like a hurt boy. “You present a problem to me, Callaghan,” he said finally, now like a wounded father. “You present the whole problem of the university man.”
Dumbfounded, I went to tell him again he was wrong. Yet look how worried he was. Since it was a fact he had been good to me. I listened attentively. He, being a varsity graduate himself, wanted to have other university men on the paper, he explained. In the beginning he had been sure I was one who was cut out for newspaper work. Why then did I resist the discipline? Why should a university man grow resentful if told to toe the line? Caught off balance by his troubled honest tone, I was overwhelmed. Me, embodying the problem of the university man! “Tell me,” he went on in a kindly tone, “do you smoke too much?” No. Then did I run around with girls and not get enough sleep? As I assured him I had the most temperate habits, I had a grudging respect for his insight. Now at his fatherly best, he was shrewd enough to see that something was going on in me. Paris? Joyce? Pound? My friend Hemingway? No. How could any of this enter his head? I was supposed to be feeling belittled, exiled in the courts. I assured him that from now on I would call out cheerfully, “Good morning, Mr. Hindmarsh,” and not spoil his day.
If I would only put my nose to the grindstone I would be a good reporter, he had said, but I could have told him he was wrong about this too. On two or three occasions I had known I wasn’t cut out to be a hardboiled old-fashioned reporter. Little things had happened that put me off. A fire at a Muskoka resort hotel took the lives of many guests. All the Star men who could be mustered had been taken north on a special train. We had come back and worked all night sorting out the names of those who had been saved and those who had died. Having handed in my story, I found myself standing at the city desk beside my Mr. Johnston, who had in front of him a list of names of those who had died. The telephone kept ringing. I answered, and a woman, giving me her name, asked if there was any word about her daughter. Harry Johnston, running his finger down the list, came to the girl’s name among the dead, and whispered to me to tell the mother we had no word that her daughter had died, so could she let us have the girl’s picture? The poor mother sounded immensely relieved. She would look for a picture; certainly we could send for it. I hated myself.
On another occasion I was sent to Lake Simcoe to cover a drowning. A storm, coming up suddenly on the lake, had overturned a boy’s canoe. All night long a search had been conducted for the boy’s body. Late that night I had gone to the cottage of the boy’s mother. The weeping woman could hardly hear me asking her for a picture of her son. Like so many other people, the distracted woman seemed to believe that she was under some obligation to the rapacious press. “Oh please,” she begged me, “if I could just be left alone,” and I knew I had no dignity and her grief had no dignity if I insisted she keep on looking around the cottage for a picture of her drowned boy. The silly front page I The unreality of its importance tormented me. I told her not to be concerned about the picture; just promise not to let any other newspaperman bother her. She promised. I went away. But the next day, of course, a photograph of the drowned boy appeared in the rival newspaper, the Telegram.
My sense of reality was often being offended, I say, and besides, with the summer passing, I was having more preposterously comical quarrels with Mr. Hindmarsh. Honestly, I tried to be subdued and respectful to him. Yet whenever he growled at me as he growled at others too, my lip must have curled. We had a showdown over a strange disaster in our town. In a heavy fog a lake boat, bound for the harbour, had crashed into the Breakwater two miles away. In the morning I was sent down to the harbour to see the harbour master, a nice man who showed me a map of the place and the lakefront. Moving red pins around on the map, he indicated where the ship should have been and how far it had got off its course. Back in the office I wrote the interview which came on the street at noon. An hour later a note was put in my box; it was a note to Mr. Hindmarsh from Joseph Atkinson the owner; it was a very curt note. The harbour master, a friend of Mr. Atkinson’s, had assured Mr. Atkinson it was the duty of a commission, which would be appointed, to determine whether the ship had been off its course. He, the harbour master, would not be so presumptuous as to make such a decision himself. He asked for a retraction and an apology.
White-faced I hurried into Mr. Hindmarsh’s office. “An apology in this case is ridiculous, Mr. Hindmarsh,” I said. Jerking back in his chair he glared at me. “Don’t tell me what is ridiculous,” he said furiously. “The harbour master insists that he said no such thing to you.”
Looking back on it now, I wonder if he wasn’t furious because he hated to have to print a ridiculous retraction. Where was the ship if it wasn’t off its course? I went on belligerently. That harbour master was calling me a liar. Did he think I made up the story? In his own grim sullen style Hindmarsh repeated that the harbour master denied to Mr. Atkinson that he had made such a statement. That was all there was to it. Oh, no, not on your life, it certainly wasn’t all there was to it, I said angrily. We’d see. I rushed out.
“Come back here,” he yelled. “What do you think you’re going to do?”
“I’m going right down to that man’s office. I’ll tell him how he moved those pins around—”
“You’ll do no such thing,” he roared, and he jumped up, slapping both his big palms down on his desk. “You’ll do what you’re told, do you hear? Now you think you’re running this paper.” When I said, “You’re wrong, Mr. Hindmarsh,” his face got so red I thought he would burst a blood vessel.
“Again you tell me I’m wrong. In my own office you keep telling me I’m wrong. Get out of this office. You’re fired!”
What do you do when you’re fired from a job? Go down to the cashier or work out the week? In the morning I came in to see if my name was on the assignment book. Yes, there it was. Evidently one departed when one picked up one’s salary envelop. But on payday, when I opened my envelope, it held no formal dismissal notice, just my salary. Again I was in a quandary. Next morning I kept out of sight, then sneaked a look at the assignment book. My name was there again. So Mr. Hindmarsh, too, was ignoring the fact that I was fired. Good.
But I began to wish fervently I would hear some encouraging news from Paris. What had happened to all my stories? What could Hemingway be doing with them? I wondered. What I overlooked was that my friend, at that time, was fighting desperately for recognition himself. In my mind he might be a big figure in modern literature, but in America he had won the approval of only a small coterie. His beautiful book of stories, In Our Time, had been a commercial failure. Deciding to take some action myself, I sent my story, “The Wedding Dress,” the story Hemingway had said Tolstoy couldn’t have done any better, to Harper’s Magazine. It bounced back fast without even a word of comment. Either the editor didn’t know about Tolstoy or couldn’t read, I thought. If I was ever to receive any good news about my work, I seemed to know that it had to come from Paris.
It did not seem to be comical that I was not thinking of France as the place where I might go to cultivate my mind, become aware of the currents of French literature, see Gide, talk to Cocteau, sneer at the naughty boys, Breton and Aragon, expose myself to the marvellously quick French intelligence. No, I thought of Paris as some kind of magical milieu where there would be a vast number of nameless perceptive men who would appreciate my own stories. In the meantime, rather than go on duelling with the ineffable Mr. Hindmarsh, I would study law and pray that within the three years needed for the law course I might get established as a writer. Others had done it by the time they were twenty-five. Scott Fitzgerald had done it.
Remembering how I had talked to Hemingway about Fitzgerald, I wondered if they were now friends. I would find myself looking again at Fitzgerald’s early books. This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned. The elegant men and girls in these books did not seem to belong to my generation. What did it matter? Fitzgerald had had his own strong talent, as I was sure I had had mine; and in his case an editor, one editor, then the world had suddenly reached out for him. I looked at many pictures of Fitzgerald and I read about his beautiful Zelda. I brought him into my own Toronto world. I couldn’t imagine he would like my work, but his early success was always in the back of my mind, giving me faith and hope that soon there would be great news from Paris.
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