Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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 Chapter 22


Stan Hawthorne was very near desperation. The faculty meeting was three weeks away, in early March, and, he had almost no hope of excluding Speech from the requirement. Even some members of the English department were going to vote against him.

It was unfair, of course. The real philosophy courses they gave were solid and respectable, with a strong historical bent. That last was a matter of gentlemanly modesty. There weren't any brilliantly imaginative people in the department, so, instead of sounding off with their own theories, they taught the great philosophers from Plato to Whitehead. There was nothing wrong in that, nothing at all. The trouble was all with that damnable beginning logic class. Jones had curbed some of the worst abuses, but it was still the subject of jokes to be heard in the corridor. Stan's best friend in the English department, Staples Newcomb, was supportive, but realistic. He asked,

"What will be the immediate consequences if you lose the vote?"

"It's already been made clear to us that everything depends on our enrollment. If it dips sharply, as it surely would in competition with Speech, Roger Ennis will be let go when he comes up for re-appointment. And we'll probably lose another position in the next year or so."

"You'll have to do something very quickly, Stan."

"I can't imagine what."

"How about the Garfield committee?"

Stan suddenly saw a sliver of redemption. The Garfields, descended from president Garfield, stood above all other Cincinnati families in social reputation. They were also no laggards in the matter of wealth. Some time ago, they had established a large fund to support a number of departments at the university. These were English, history, philosophy, mathematics, and physics. Biology hadn't been included because a gentleman would't want to sully his hands with the remains of dead animals. Chemistry produced odd odors, and psychology might probe in places which shouldn't be probed. All this was in keeping with the fact that the family had also produced a Secretary of State who vetoed the setting up of an American spy service with the words, "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail." It went without saying that sociology, geography, and engineering weren't included. If the founders had known that there would ever be such a thing as a department of Speech, they would have drafted some extra exclusionary rules of a specific nature.

The descendants of the founders had changed little in their attitudes. They didn't ordinarily send their own young people to the university, but they retained a strong interest in it. A prominent lawyer or philanthropist was likely to begin a conversation with someone from the hilltop by asking how things were going at the university. It would turn out that he really cared and wanted to know. In fact, these people were willing to make time to attend, almost without fail, the monthly meetings of the committee. It was also possible to bring urgent matters to their attention in between meetings.

As Stan considered the matter, Staples said,

"I think I know Howard Garfield well enough to get an emergency meeting. If he and his family and friends think philosophy is about to go under, and be replaced with speech, they'll take action."

"What would they think of our beginning logic course?"

"They won't have heard anything about it. Their young people don't come here. But they all love Wilson Adams."

"He might even come to the meeting to help us out."

"If he did, that would just about do it. You could say that, in the aftermath of his sudden retirement, you're having a difficult time. They'll understand that. You can then say that you're confident of getting the problems solved soon."

"What if they ask what those problems are?"

"You say quietly that the students now at the university tend to prefer to learn the techniques taught in Speech courses, useful enough in certain situations, to the eternal principles of logic."

"If only Adams will come! I don't even know if he's in town."

Stan hadn't called Adams since the latter's retirement, and really hadn't expected to. He was, in fact, glad that Adams was gone. Still, there had never been any unpleasantness, and Adams actually sounded pleased to hear from him. He, too, wondered "how things are going at the university." Stan was moderately evasive, but reminded Adams of the perennial threat from Speech, now coming to the forefront. Adams approved an approach to the Garfields, saying,

"Don't even bother with the committee. I'll invite Howard Garfield over here in the evening. Will you bring anyone along from the department?"

"Perhaps Roger Ennis. You might privately let Mr. Garfield know that he stands to lose his job."

"Yes, I think that could be done tactfully. I'll make sure that Jones is here. We want Howard to meet our young men."

Stan almost choked, but he found himself agreeing in a pleasant tone. Obviously, Adams could invite anyone he wanted to his home. Stan hoped that it wouldn't be to dinner. One couldn't say what Jones' table manners might be like.

Later that same day, Stan returned to the English department. The thirty odd members of that department fought each other continually, sometimes savagely, but they could generally unite against an outsider. Stan, half an insider by this time, didn't always inspire unity. He got a variety of glances, only one really hostile, as he floated unostentatiously along the corridor and sidled through the open door of Staples Newcomb's office.

Staples was leaning back in his chair and gazing upwards with a funny pained expression, perhaps imagining his recently divorced wife in the arms of her present lover, another member of the department. Stan installed himself in the black leather visitor's chair and announced,

"Some good news. Adams is arranging a meeting with Howard Garfield at his home."

"That's good. I was actually wondering whether it would be presumptuous of me to try to arrange such a meeting."

"Thank you for thinking of it, Staples. I imagine it's really Janet Adams who's doing the arranging. Wives will be present."

"Yes. These sorts of people like having their wives there when they pull strings. It's bourgeois or worse for the boys to gather in the back room and do a deal."

"Adams is also inviting Jones. What about that?"

"Won't he just sit there quietly?"

"Adams won't allow that. He'll be introduced to Garfield as the man who sank the Japanese battleship, and so on."

"That's not good. I don't think any Garfield participated in the war to any extent, no more than ourselves. Battleship sinkers tend to make us feel rather small, even if they're modest."

"Jones is that. He doesn't seem to trumpet any of his successes."

"Good. Roger Ennis and his wife, and you and your wife, will all make good impressions. When you get to have your say, all you need do is speak to the importance of having a vibrant philosophy department in a university. Adams will privately let Garfield know Speech is trying to horn in on the mathematics-logic requirement."

"Adams didn't tell me that he'd do that."

"He'll almost have to. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any point to the meeting. Garfield's not stupid. He'll understand."

Mrs. Blakey-Fenton was amused. She said,

"You're certainly scaling the social heights, Jones. Howard Garfield doesn't like Reggie, and we aren't invited to the elite gatherings in the city. Even if he did like Reggie, we wouldn't be invited because of my background."

"But Reggie's related to all sorts of English noblemen, isn't he?"

"Upper-class Americans are anglophiles in theory, but they don't like the genuine articles when they meet them. Reggie's much too rough with them, and he says things they consider tactless."

"I think I can imagine that. Anyhow, Wilson wants me there to meet these people. I plan to be mostly silent."

"Silent or not, we'll have to get you better clothes quickly. You're about Reggie's height, but you're bigger, and I don't think his things would fit you. There isn't time to go to a tailor, so it'll have to be Dunlap's downtown."

"Is that necessary? I've been wearing this suit for teaching, and no one's objected."

"It isn't the right kind of suit. You have no idea how trivial these people can be."

"Apparently, the main issue isn't even going to come up at the dinner. Wilson is going to have a few quiet words with this Garfield man, and that's supposed to be it."

"Only in Cincinnati! When one of the Garfield nieces got arrested for shoplifting, one family member called the police chief and had the charges dropped. If they can spring someone from jail, I guess they can defend philosophy from Speech."

"I'm beginning to learn about different kinds of power, both here and in Washington. Could Reggie also defend philosophy?"

"Probably not. Money always speaks, and he's given to the university, but he hasn't bothered to cultivate local ties. That would mean putting up with boring people. Reggie doesn't do that."

"On the other hand, he may influence British policy toward America."

"Yes. That's possible. Howard Garfield probably counts for nothing outside Cincinnati, but, here in town, he's more influential than the mayor and the university president put together. His wife runs everything having to do with culture and the arts. Also, the gardening club."

"Do you have aspirations in that area?"

"No. I'd rather edit and publish journals. They can have an international impact. Roses, petunias, and symphony luncheons don't."

"It sounds as if this Garfield is a small-town big shot."

"Pretty much. Cincinnati is a bit more than a farming village, but it hardly ever gets into the New York or Washington newspapers."

Jones had often dropped in at the Adams' house for coffee, and, this time, he was bidden to come early before the other guests. He was sitting with Wilson in the living room when Janet entered, all dressed for the evening. She was surprisingly glamorous for a woman her age, and she had a way of subordinating a roomful of people just by looking around and making a few offhand remarks. Jones remembered that Wilson had once said to him,

"If you're with a certain kind of woman, you can let her take charge of all the details and have things exactly the way she wants them. Then, she'll set about providing for your own comfort and pleasure better than you could have done on your own.

At the time, it seemed to Jones that he could himself never follow such a prescription. However, Wilson had obviously had Janet in mind when he so spoke, and it was interesting to see how things worked out in practice. On this occasion, she said to Jones,

"Wilson was bad today. Jane Phelps was over earlier with endless pictures of her grandchildren, so he pulled out pictures of some of the plants he has at our summer place and showed them to her."

Wilson denied having any ulterior motive, but neither his wife nor Jones believed him. He then changed the subject,

"Quite a little to-do we're having tonight. I'm supposed to seize the opportunity to corner Howard Garfield and say all sorts of important things to him. Fancy that!"

"And you'll do it very nicely, dear. You're one of few people he feels safe with."

Jones asked,

"Why doesn't he feel safe with other people?"

"You'll see for yourself tonight. Incidentally, you're looking quite distinguished, Jones."

"Tensy Blakey took me downtown to Dunlap's and got me what she called a journal editor's medium formal evening outfit."

"I like Tensy! She makes a game of social climbing and laughs at herself the whole time."

"She says that this Mr. Garfield doesn't like Reggie."

"Certainly not. He'd be suicidal after twenty minutes with Reggie. I'd never invite them at the same time."

Just then, the Hawthorne and Ennis party arrived. Octavia Ennis looked extraordinary, but was much quieter than she had been at their previous meeting. Jones hadn't seen Mrs. Hawthorne before. Quite attractive and vivacious, she didn't seem inclined to hold herself back in front of Janet Adams. It seemed to Jones that she might turn out to be more interesting than Stan.

Howard Garfield was a pudgy little guy with a funny atmosphere about him that Jones couldn't place. He looked fifty or so, and he smiled only at Wilson Adams. His wife was taller, a bit younger, and had dramatic mannerisms. She seemed impressed with Roger and Octavia Ennis, and fluttered at them with her hands as she gushed in moderation.

During the standing-up wine and cocktail drinking phase of the party, Janet Adams took Jones gently by the sleeve and led him off to the side, saying quietly,

"You'll have to be satisfied with me for a bit, but I'll protect you from Vanessa Garfield."

Jones, much surprised, replied only incoherently. Janet said,

"Come on, Jones, I'm sure lots of women have draped themselves over you in the past."

"Well, a few. But I can't imagine it happening here."

"She has quite an eye for young men, particularly single ones. It wouldn't lead to anything, but it would make Howard very jealous and mess up our plans."

"Okay. Anyhow, it looks as if she likes Roger."

"Yes. But both Hawthornes are there to chaperon him. That leaves Octavia Ennis free to do her work with Howard."

Octavia, managing her full skirt prettily, was, in fact, approaching Garfield and Adams. Jones objected,

"Can she do much with Wilson right there?"

"Oh yes. Howard won't leave Wilson's side all evening. Octavia has been informed of that, and she can still charm and flatter quite effectively in a well-bred way. Howard won't be frightened with Wilson right beside him, and he'll eat it up."

"I had no idea things were planned to this extent."

"They usually aren't. Tonight is special. I'll call Octavia away at the right moment, and Wilson can suggest to Howard that it would be a pity if she and her husband were let go."

"Is that all it takes?"

"Yes. Look at Octavia now. It's clever of her to sit on the arm of that chair to bring her head down below Howard's. I hope the chair doesn't break."

"Is it likely to?"

"It's antique and fragile, and Octavia, slim as she is, isn't a small woman. I guess we're taking what you navy people call a calculated risk."

"I was never comfortable with those kinds of risks. Anyhow, she certainly is good-looking."

"That's an understatement. See how she's touching Howard on his arm. He's thrilled, but he's still looking to Wilson for reassurance."

"Is it time, yet?"

"Not quite. Pleasure is too valuable to be cut short unnecessarily."

"Yes, he's happy. It also looks as if he wants to please Wilson."

"Everyone wants to please Wilson. It gives him great power that he doesn't use much."

"I know."

"The trouble with Howard is that he was supposed to be at least a senator, but he's hardly done anything with his life."

"Even Wilson can't remedy that, can he?"

"No, but Wilson's feeling that he's exactly what he should be rubs off on someone like Howard. You're a welcome relief to Wilson because he doesn't have to lend you sustenance."

"I guess I didn't realize that he goes around lending support to people."

"He only sub-consciously realizes it himself. Now! Wait here til I get back."

With that, Janet Adams rushed up to Octavia Ennis and embraced her. At the same time, Janet moved her deftly off the arm of the chair. With Octavia entirely taken up by Janet, Jones could see Wilson speaking quietly to Howard Garfield.

When Janet eventually returned to Jones, she said to him,

"I'm going to substitute you for Roger Ennis in the other group. Roger has to have a session with Wilson and Howard."

"Becuase Garfield would be embarrassed to intervene in his favor if he can't even say that he knows him?"

"I do believe that there's hope for you, Jones. It doesn't have to be, and shouldn't be, a very deep interaction. But Roger knows how to talk to provincial aristocrats, and he'll say the right things. Wilson will spin it out for a decent length of time."

"If Garfield won't leave Wilson, all Roger has to do is stay with Wilson."

"Yes. Now, see if you can't keep one of the Hawthornes or Octavia between yourself and Vanessa. I'd like to get this all done before we eat. We can then better enjoy our food."

Roger Ennis exited his conversational group with agility, backing while still talking, and then, half turning with a smile, he was led away by Janet. As Jones moved between the Hawthornes, as per instructions, he noticed that Janet was apparently going to stay with Wilson, Ennis, and Garfield. She had evidently decided that a few feminine touches wouldn't be injurious to the necessary meeting of the minds between Garfield and Ennis. It did occur to Jones that Garfield might not have a mind, thus necessitating the substitution of some other sort of communication.

For his part, Jones found himself something of a social lion. He had dallied with some fairly sophisticated divorced and married women, but there had always been some tension, and they hadn't usually thought that they needed to charm him. This was a different sort of experience, and he found that he enjoyed it. There was, nevertheless, a feeling in the back of his mind that he had best be careful. Indeed, for the rest of the evening, he kept to the sidelines as much as possible. Since most of those present were intent on seeing that Howard Garfield was happy, this wasn't difficult.

During the next week, nothing happened. The meeting to consider amending the math-logic requirement loomed ever closer, and Stan Hawthorne confided to Jones,

"I thought things went well at the Adams' house. In fact, Janet told me that they had. But I haven't heard anything from the dean or anyone else."

"No one knows less than I. But, from what I saw of Mr. Garfield, it doesn't seem too likely that he'll be very energetic and active."

"Well, he's not too much more than the titular head of the family. The idea is that he'll tell the others. Then the more aggressive members of the family will do something."

"That might take some time."

"The meeting's in ten days. If a vote is taken then, and we lose, it'll be almost impossible to undo."

The members of the philosophy department looked rather like sacrificial lambs to Jones as they filed into the large room for the college faculty meeting. There was other business, and it seemed to take hours before the dean raised the issue of the requirement. He then spoke in favor of extending the option to include a Speech course before calling for general discussion.

Stan Hawthorne spoke, really quite badly for such an articulate man. There was a pointed, almost vicious, attack on the philosophy department by a man in sociology Jones hadn't seen before. Their position was described as self- serving and motivated only by a desire to hold on to an undeservedly large portion of the university budget. No member of the department rose to rebut these charges.

The dean called for the vote, and Jones was embarrassed to raise his hand as one of the few nays. There was, mercifully, no need to count the votes.

As the meeting broke up, Jones noticed that several members of the English department were consoling Hawthorne. The other members of the philosophy department were hustling along with their heads down, except for Roger Ennis. He had looked strange all during the meeting, and now turned out to be euphoric. Leading Jones well off to the side, he whispered,

"I've just been promoted to associate professor and given tenure. I found out just before the meeting started."

Jones found himself genuinely pleased as he offered congratulations. Roger replied,

"We're celebrating tonight. Come over for dinner."

"Don't you want to be alone with Octavia?"

"We'll do that as soon as I get home. Come over about seven or so."

Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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