Chapter 6: Chicago

Katy! Katy, as she was when they were still friends, and half in love. Those green eyes, once innocently joyful and not without mischief, in a young girl’s face.

“Mrs. Dos Passos, you knew the defendant long before he went off to war. Please tell the court where and how you became acquainted.”

“My aunt used to take my brothers and me to spend our summers in Horton’s Bay, in Michigan. That wasn’t far from the Hemingway cottage, and our families naturally got to know each other. I was eight years older than Ernest, but in the summer of 1915, Ernest and my younger brother Bill began to pal around, and so he became a friend of the family.”

“Please tell the court how it came about that you were the one who brought the defendant together with Hadley Richardson.”

“Hadley and I were best friends for our whole eight years at the Mary Institute, which was a private school for girls in St. Louis. After we graduated in 1910, we stayed close. I knew all about her home life, so when–”

“What do you mean, `all about her home life’? Would you elaborate on that, please?”

Shortly, almost curtly: “Her mother and her sister. They ganged up on her, and treated her like an invalid, and did everything they could to destroy her self-confidence. If it hadn’t been for them, she might have become a concert pianist. She at least would have finished at Bryn Mawr, instead of leaving after her first year! Hadley spent months nursing her mother in her final illness, and when, in the autumn of 1920, I heard that her mother had died, I wanted to get her out of St. Louis before her sister could get to work on her. I immediately invited her to come up to Chicago and spend a couple of weeks with me. My older brother Y.K. and his wife were letting me live with them in this  big apartment, and there was room for her and they were all for it.

“So in October, she came to visit, and in some ways it went perfectly. The night she got there, I threw a party for her. I wanted her to meet young people, alive, after all those half-dead years in St. Louis. Everybody who met her always loved Hadley, and our crowd scooped her up as if she’d been one of us for years, and instead of feeling left out, she was right in the center of things. I wanted her to have fun that night, and she did. She really did. She had that gorgeous red hair, and she could play the piano like nobody’s business, and she was friendly. She was a hit.”

Her glance flicked over to him. “Especially with Ernest. He couldn’t take his eyes off her, and of course she couldn’t help respond.  Ernest had this way of giving you his full attention that was hypnotic. I never saw anybody else who had it.”

“Would you say that this was a trick he employed?”

She stopped to consider. “A trick? Well, it wasn’t something you could pretend. But it was something he knew how to use, like a woman might use her hair.”

“Or her green eyes.”

She flushed in annoyance, but waited for the prosecutor’s next question.

“And so Hadley Richardson fell under the defendant’s spell.”

He could see her making the effort to be fair. “They fell under each other’s spell. They fascinated each other. They spent hours together, every day of her visit, and when she went home they started writing to each other. Long letters every day. Some days two letters, even three. In those days, long-distance telephone calls between Chicago and St. Louis were harder to make, and would have been too expensive, certainly for him. So they wrote.” She sighed. “I don’t know, maybe it was all for the best, all things considered, even in the long run.”

“I recognize that this may be a sensitive subject, but tell us please, what was your relationship with the defendant at the time he and your best friend met? Were you lovers?”

“That’s what everybody wondered at the time, but it was none of their business then and I don’t see that it’s anybody’s business now. We’re past all that.”

“You are aware that the defendant –”

“You can’t believe anything Ernest ever said about his love life.” There was that edge in her voice, an edge he had gotten used to in their later years. “He was always making up stories. In 1921, he and I were half in love, or something. I don’t know how to define it. We’d known each other so many years, and we were very fond of each other at the time. Maybe it was just sexual attraction.”

“At this point in his life, did the defendant have a reputation as a seducer of women?”

She took her bottom lip between her teeth. “He wasn’t very careful. Especially after he came back from the war. You could lose your reputation, going out with him.” She gazed at him, a steady unwavering gaze. “You could lose your reputation even if you didn’t do anything. He liked to brag. I know girls who weren’t careful enough around him. An Indian girl named Prudence, for one. Marjorie Bump, for another. And I could easily have been a third, if I hadn’t been more careful than they were.”

“Did this result from malice on the defendant’s part, do you think?”

“More like carelessness. He was conceited and self-absorbed and careless.”

“So even though you consented to be a bridesmaid at the wedding, you weren’t entirely happy to see your best friend marrying him.”

He watched her narrowly.

“I suppose I had mixed feelings. It was so good to see Hadley that happy and alive. She glowed! But I didn’t want to see her get hurt, and I thought that’s what was likely to happen, because I knew Ernest. But I wasn’t going to stand in the way of whatever Hadley wanted, even if she had been in a mood to listen. She was already 30, and who knew if she would ever have a better chance? And, they were very much in love, it was obvious. I wished her well and hoped it would work out better than I thought it would.”

“Thank you. No further questions. Your honor, the prosecution calls Yeremya Kenley Smith, known as Y.K. Smith.”

.2.

Oops. Well, he should have figured on this.

“Mr. Smith, you and the defendant were good enough friends, despite the fact that you were so many years his senior, that you invited him to stay in your apartment without paying rent.”

A shrug. “It was a big place, more than my wife Doodles and I needed, and he was a veteran, looking for a job, wanting to be a writer, trying to get by. Even after he found a job, he didn’t have a lot of money. And he and Bill and Katy had been friends for years.”

“Did the two of you like each other?”

“Oh yeah, while it lasted. He was quick and lively and he could be fun.”

“And he fit in among your friends?”

A slight, ironic smile. “They found him entertaining. Hemingway liked to think of himself as a man of the world, seen everything, experienced everything, but he was still a kid, with a kid’s illusions. Most of his stories about what had happened to him were bu- were made up fairy-tales, like riding the rails, or making his living as a pro fighter’s sparring partner. Pretty good stories, some of them, and if you kept your eyes half-shut you could believe them, for a while. If he’d just minded his own business, we would have been okay.”

“You are referring to his talking about your wife’s affairs.”

“He thought his few months in Italy had left him all grown up and disillusioned, but he didn’t really know anything except Oak Park, which includes Oak Park’s ideas of what you did or didn’t do in a marriage. Hemingway found out that Doodles was carrying on with other men, and, being Hemingway, he had to talk about it. And I told him to mind his own godd – uh, mind his own business. I more or less knew what Doodles was doing, and she more or less knew what I was doing, and it suited us. What business was it of his to talk about her to other people? Particularly, what business was it of his to take it on himself to warn me?”

“I was just trying to help.”

Y.K. looked at him, their first direct contact in forty years. “Yes, trying to help. That’s the busybodies’ theme song. Well, you didn’t help. How can you help when you don’t know what’s going on?”

“And when your mistress took a shot at Doodles a couple of years, later, how did that work out?”

The prosecutor said, quickly, “You need not respond to that, Mr. Smith.”

“No, but you see, that’s exactly what I was talking about. And apparently he hasn’t changed.”

“Mr. Smith, before the breach between you, is it not true that the defendant first met the famous writer Sherwood Anderson through you, at your apartment?”

Smith nodded. “He met lots of writers at my place. Anderson and I were working together as ad men at the same place.”

“Anderson had just published Winesburg, Ohio?”

“That’s right, his first big hit.”

“And the defendant made it a point to cultivate him as a successful, published writer.”

A pause, as Smith weighed reactions. “It wasn’t just opportunism, if that’s what you mean. Hemingway was serious about writing, and Anderson was a middle-aged writer who maybe enjoyed having a protégé.”

“One final thing, then, Mr. Smith. How did this – ah, disagreement between you and the defendant affect your relationship?”

“Until then, we were planning on Hemingway and Hadley living in our apartment with us for a while after they got married. But that put the kibosh on that. And then he told me I wasn’t welcome at the wedding or the reception.”

“This, after you had let him live rent-free in your apartment.”

“I didn’t care about that part of it, I just didn’t like being read out of his life when I wasn’t even the one to blame.”

“Thank you, Mr. Smith. No further questions, your honor.”

“The defense waives cross-examination, your honor.”

“The prosecution calls Sherwood Anderson to the stand.”

.3.

Anderson looked as he had in 1920, when they had met, Sherwood Anderson, the successful author in his middle age, and Ernest Hemingway, the would-be author, in his early twenties.

“Mr. Anderson, please tell the court when and where you met the defendant.”

“It was at a party some time in 1920, at Y.K.’s place, in the summer, I think. Y.K. and I were working at the same advertising agency, and Ernest had an editing job with the Cooperative Commonwealth. He wanted to be a writer, and that’s all he wanted. It was like looking at a younger version of myself.”

“Please tell the court a little about your background up to that time.”

“I was born in Ohio in 1876, quit school at 14, moved to Chicago , and supported myself by manual labor until the Spanish-American War broke out. I enlisted, and after the war I went to college, and then I worked at this and that, and got married and had children. But in 1912, in my mid-thirties, I chucked it all, career and family both.”

“Why was that, Mr. Anderson?”

“I couldn’t take any more of that life. I didn’t want to manage businesses, I wanted to write.”

“You became part of the literary movement known as the Chicago Renaissance.”

“That’s right. Floyd Dell, Vachel Lindsay, Edgar Lee Masters, Carl Sandburg, Ben Hecht, all of them. But by the time I met Hemingway, pretty much everybody except Ben Hecht and me had already moved east. And I wasn’t exactly famous. I was still writing advertising copy for a living.”

“Still, you had published Winesburg, Ohio, your first collection of short stories, and it had attracted more attention than anything you had published previously.”

“That’s right.”

“So when you and the defendant met, it was very much a meeting of a young unknown with an established author, was it not?”

“Oh yes. He wanted to know everything I knew. Not only the mechanics and the day-to-day reality, but all the literary gossip. He loved literary gossip, I think it made him feel like there was less of an abyss between published authors and himself. We met several times that winter, and we had some great talks. He was extremely young and bright, and in those days he was well aware of how much he had to learn – and he wanted to learn it all. He was curious about everything, very focused. He asked for advice on his career, and he listened to it.”

“What kind of advice did you give him?”

“I told him to be an American writer. That’s what the Chicago Renaissance was all about. All the literature he had been fed growing up was Englishmen and a few Americans who might as well have been Englishmen. Maybe the most important thing I did was show him the difference between real, serious fiction and the dishonest slop that appeared in the slick magazines. I pointed him toward certain writers he should read, Russians like Turgenev, for instance.”

“In April of that year, you took a trip to Paris, and met several important writers and painters.”

“Yes. I was extremely fortunate. Sylvia Beach, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Picasso, others. When I got back to Chicago in November, I learned that Ernest and Hadley had gotten married, and they were planning to live in Italy while he became a writer. I told them that Paris was the place, not Italy, and I gave him letters of introduction to the people I had just met.”

“Mr. Anderson, we will have to discuss your later relations with the defendant at the proper time, but that’s all for the moment.” The prosecutor turned to the defense attorney. “Cross examination?”

“Mr. Anderson, would you describe the last time you met the defendant in Chicago?”

“Do you mean when he and Hadley were leaving for Europe?”

“That’s right, in late November, 1921.”

Anderson smiled. “I was in my apartment and I heard Hemingway clomping up the stairs, shouting for me. I opened the door and there he was with a knapsack full of canned goods. He and Hadley were cleaning out their place, heading off to New York, and they were giving me the food they had left over. I didn’t care about the canned goods, but he’d made the trip across town just to bring them. And all that energy and boyish enthusiasm.” Wistfully: “That was the Hemingway people loved. Back before he became a success.”

It made him squirm, and it made him sad. Anderson noticed, but said nothing.

“No further questions, your honor.”

“Very well. Mr. Prosecutor, your next witness?”

“The prosecution recalls Hadley Hemingway Mowrer to the stand.”

.4.

Hadley was dressed as she had been on September 3, 1921.

“Mrs. Mowrer, your wedding day. You were 30 years old, married now to a boy of 22. Any second thoughts at the time?”

“None, Mr. Prosecutor. I was looking forward.”

“And, in the next few days?”

“I was still very happy.”

“Mrs. Mowrer, the court recognizes that you never lost your affection for the defendant, and nobody is asking you to go out of your way to paint him in an unfavorable light, but, after all, this proceeding is designed to establish the whole truth. Would you tell the court, please, what happened when you and he traveled to the nearby town of Petosky, while you were still staying at your honeymoon cottage?”

“You mean the other girls, I suppose. Ernest took me around to meet several of his former girlfriends. He said he wanted me to see what he had passed up in my favor. It was supposed to enhance his desirability in my eyes, I suppose. I can laugh about it now. As a matter of fact, I was already laughing about it not long after he and I split up. It was just like when he got drunk and drove the motorboat back from town, not realizing that he was towing part of the dock, because he had forgotten to unmoor one of the lines. It showed me, right away, that Ernest was still immature in a lot of ways, and I would have to make allowances.”

“Not a promising start to a marriage.”

“We were young, we were in love, and we had all the world ahead of us. I knew he was special, and I knew he loved me. He didn’t have to be perfect.”

“Your honor, in the interest of continuity, I should like to ask the defendant one question, then continue with Mrs. Mowrer.”

“Objection? No? Proceed.”

“Mr. Hemingway, within two months of your wedding day, you and your wife were on your way to live in Paris. Mrs. Mowrer has testified that you intended to earn your daily bread by selling feature articles to the Toronto Weekly Star, while you taught yourself to write. Would you please tell the court how this arrangement came about?”

“I was spending a few months living in the Connable house, in Toronto, acting as a companion for the Connable boy while his parents and sister were in Florida. I had Mr. Connable get me an introduction to the staff at the Toronto Weekly Star, and I started hanging around the office, and finally Greg Clark, the weekly’s features editor, offered me a job writing feature articles at space rates. Couldn’t make a living at it, but I liked doing it, and they liked my stuff and ran it pretty regularly until I left in May for one more summer at the lake. So when Hadley and I started thinking about living in Europe, I made the same deal with John Bone, the weekly editor. I would scare up stories, and they’d pay me space rates plus expenses for anything  he accepted. I figured it would help pay the bills while I learned to write. Soon enough they started sending me to economic conferences, to find human-interest slants on the front-page news. It worked all right.”

“Thank you. Now, Mrs. Mowrer, let’s discuss Paris as you experienced it.”

 

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