Chapter 9: O Canada

“Mr. Hemingway, in the latter half of 1923 you and your wife left Paris, planning to spend a year in Canada. Why was that?”

“We wanted Hadley to have better childbirth facilities than she would get in France.”

“Mr. Hemingway, I know that is the story you are accustomed to telling yourself, but I ask you now to go beyond automatic responses and remember. When, and why, did you begin to plan to return to North America?”

The impulse was to lash out and say, “I just told you.” Instead, he suspended thought and waited for memories to well up. “Huh! I guess we actually started thinking about it in our first few months in Paris. We thought, we’ll give this another year, and then go to Toronto if I can get on salary there, and save our money and then come back to Paris and be able to work full-time at becoming a writer, instead of always having to interrupt my work to dig up some feature story, or cover some conference.”

“So really it didn’t have anything to do with Hadley becoming pregnant.”

“No, I guess it didn’t.”

“So in August, 1923, you and Hadley moved to Canada and you went to work as a salaried news reporter for the daily Star instead of feature writer for the weekly. How did that work out?”

“You know how it worked out! Everybody does. Instead of John Bone, I had that goddamned Hindmarsh on my ass, making my life hell from the first day.”

“Harry Hindmarsh being the editor of the daily.”

“Editor and son-in-law of the owner and son of a bitch. Ran the place like a feudal estate, with him the baron and the rest of us the peasants. And he had it in for me. He’d give me three or four chicken-shit assignments in t he same day, running me here, there, and everywhere.”

“Your honor, perhaps we could ask Mr. Hindmarsh to take the stand.”

“You may proceed.”

“Will I get to tell the bastard what I think of him?”

“I think he knows, Mr. Hemingway.”

.2.

Hindmarsh was sworn in, looking much as he had in 1923.

“Mr. Hindmarsh, in your own summing-up process, your interaction with the defendant will have had its part, even if a somewhat peripheral part. You recall reliving those scenes?”

“Yes I do, how they looked to me at the time and how they looked to the others involved. Not the most comfortable experience, I must say. I didn’t then realize how I appeared to my employees, so I can now understand, a little better, their reactions. But I still say I was not wrong. I was building up a great newspaper in the only way I knew how, and it was a great responsibility. Their livelihood depended upon my succeeding, and I did succeed.”

“Would you tell the court how your relationship to the defendant appeared to you?”

“Hemingway was one of John Bone’s protégés, and before he even set foot in the place, I figured he would have to be taken down a peg. Bone was a good man, and he got good work out of his people, but in my view he gave them too much independence, and the natural result was that his horses rode in all directions. That’s all well and good for a weekly paper; he could juggle the output of his various prima donnas and come up with a viable result. You couldn’t run a daily newspaper that way. A daily requires juggling of a very different sort. You can’t be juggling egos when you are juggling events to be covered. Egos come a long way second.”

“Yours certainly didn’t!”

“Mr. Hindmarsh, the defendant alleges that your treatment of him was harsh, vindictive, and unfair. How would you respond to those charges?”

“I would say that is exactly the view you would expect from someone so self-centered, self-righteous and prone to self-pity. I treated Hemingway the way I treated all my employees. The fact that he didn’t like it doesn’t make my treatment of him unfair. He came into the Star newsroom thinking, perhaps, that because John Bone had been printing his stories from Europe for a year and a half, he had earned special consideration. Well, he hadn’t. Not as far as I was concerned. I saw a man whose newsroom experience consisted of a few months as a cub reporter, and the fact that he left after six months made me question his stability. The only way I knew to determine if he could be a team player was to see if he would work in harness. Events demonstrated that he would not. In Kansas City he lasted six months. In Toronto, he lasted four.”

The prosecutor turned to the defense attorney. “Your witness.”

The defense attorney said, “Mr. Hindmarsh, if you had been the manager of the New York Yankees and you had had Babe Ruth on your roster, would you have treated him as just another member of the team, or would you have given him special consideration?”

“I was not the manager of the New York Yankees. I was the man responsible for producing a great newspaper on a daily basis. And if it was Babe Ruth’s first month on the roster, and the previous month he had been playing in the minor-leagues – why should he expect special consideration? Special consideration should be earned, not bestowed.”

“Says the owner’s son-in-law.”

“Mr. Hindmarsh, in Europe, the defendant had covered various economic conferences as news stories. He was accepted by experienced and well-known journalists in the foreign-correspondent community. Shouldn’t that have lifted him, in your eyes, beyond cub-reporter status?”

“It seems that my point has eluded you as it eluded Hemingway. We knew he could write. We would not have brought him on to the staff if that had been in doubt. The question to be determined was not whether he knew how to write, but whether he could play on a team. In my own past-life review I concluded again, as I had concluded in life, that the best interests of the Star and the best interests of Ernest Hemingway did not lie in the same direction, and it was better for both that they parted when and as they did. Nothing in the record persuades me that it would have gotten better over time.”

“And did you consider that you made me miss the birth of my son by sending me to New York to cover Lloyd George’s visit, and then chewed me out for going to the hospital instead of to the newspaper, when I heard of his birth on my way back?”

“Yes, Mr. Hemingway, I considered that. I do regret that you missed the birth of your son, although I believe he arrived several days earlier than expected. But if you had ever run a newspaper, you would have understood that the needs of the organization have to come before the convenience of any one individual.”

“I suppose I should thank you for one thing: You saved me from wasting a year in Canada. Gertrude was right, another year of journalism would have ruined me as a writer.”

“You are welcome. You will notice that the Star did manage to survive and prosper even without you.”

“No further questions for Mr. Hindmarsh, your honor. May I suggest, if the prosecution doesn’t object, that finish with Canada, by hearing from Morley Callaghan? Mr. Callaghan would be a defense witness, of course.”

“The prosecution has no objection, your honor.”

“Very well.”

.3.

Hadn’t seen Morley since the summer of 1929, because of that literary squabble over the boxing match. But that hadn’t been Morley’s fault, and he had thought of him fondly over the years. He’d been a serious writer, a good thinker, a good friend. Looked like he’d picked up quite a bit of weight since then, though!

The defense attorney was smiling, and so was Callaghan. Eavesdropping, so to speak, while Callaghan was getting sworn in.

“Mr. Callaghan, the world knows you as one of Canada’s distinguished authors. But I’d like you to go back to your youth and tell the court what you were doing when you met the defendant.”

“In 1923, I was a 20 year old college boy. I had talked my way onto the staff of the Star as a summer replacement.” Still that distinctive voice, that clear Canadian pronunciation.

“Were you hoping to make journalism a career?”

Callaghan laughed, a well-remembered laugh, long forgotten till now. “No, I assumed I would have to make my living as an attorney. I went after the newspaper job because I was a pitcher on a local baseball team, and two weeks of shifting timber at a local lumberyard had taken the speed off my fastball.”

“Mr. Callaghan, did you find Mr. Hindmarsh harsh and tyrannical, as the defendant did?”

A hesitation, as he weighed his contradictory feelings. “He certainly could be. He was a ruthless, hard-driving newsmen of the old school.”

“Who happened to marry the owner’s daughter.”

“Well, yes, he did, Ernest, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have ability. And he could be kind, too, particularly to people who were down on their luck. He would help them.”

“I never noticed that!”

“I saw him a lot more than you did, and a lot longer. I never hated him the way you did.”

“Mr. Callaghan, you became friends with the defendant. Tell the court how that came about.”

“I had heard of Ernest as our European correspondent, and I couldn’t understand why they had him doing trivial assignments, running him ragged, when he had been was obviously able to do better things. The only thing I knew of him was that my friend Jimmy Cowan, who was one of the deskmen – one of the editors – called him a good newspaperman. Jimmy lent me a copy of Three Stories and Ten Poems to read overnight, and I knew right away, here is a great writer. Nobody in the newsroom agreed with me, but I knew. And this wasn’t loyalty to a friend, you understand. I hadn’t even spoken to him at that point. I think he was there a month before we said our first words to each other.”

“So when did you meet?”

“It was in the early fall. I was back in school, coming into the office three times a week for assignments and writing them up in the Star’s library, and one Wednesday I looked up and he was sitting across the table, and we started to talk.”

“Did you initiate the conversation, Mr. Callaghan?”

“Oh no, I wouldn’t have done that. I was just a college kid. I didn’t know why he wanted to talk to me at all. Still don’t, for that matter.”

“Did he complain about his situation at the Star?”

“He did talk about his disappointment with the way things had worked out. He said he couldn’t write in Toronto, and he could not wait to return to Paris. And of course, from there we got to talking about writing, had I read this, had I read that, and what did I think of this and that. And then he wanted to know if I wrote any fiction, and I said I did, a bit. He wanted to see something I had written, and I said I would bring it to him on Friday. But on Friday I was out of the office, on assignment, so I didn’t see him again until the following Monday.”

“And when he saw you, what did he say to you?”

A reminiscent, rueful smile. “He said why hadn’t I brought the story to read, and he said he just wanted to see if I was another goddamned phony. I said I was retyping it, and I’d bring it next time I was in, and he said, `We’ll see.’ It was extraordinary, really. He had me feeling guilty, for nothing at all.”

“And did you, in fact, bring the defendant a story to read?”

“I did. And he had brought the page proofs for in our time, and said I could read them while he read my story.”

“And what did you think of what you were reading?”

“It could not have been clearer to me, he was a great writer, with a great career in prospect.”

“And what did he say about your story?”

Looking over at him now: “He said, and I’ll never forget it, `You’re a real writer. You write big-time stuff. All you have to do is keep on writing.’ And he said it with such authority, I knew he was right. It was the kind of affirmation everybody needs. He was only there a few more weeks, but every so often I’d come across him in the library and we would talk writers and books. He was so serious about his art, so dedicated. He told me once, a real artist had to feel the same way about his work that a priest did, and I knew he meant it. I could feel it. He gave me a copy of Three Stories and Ten Poems and inscribed it to me `with best luck and predictions,’ and he told me to send stuff as I wrote it. Then he was off to Paris, out of my life until the summer of 1929 when my wife and I went to Paris.”

“Thank you, Mr. Callaghan. I have no further questions at the moment, your honor.”

“Cross-examination? No? That will be all, Mr. Callaghan. Prosecution?”

“No questions, your honor. We come back to Paris, this time, 1924. The prosecution recalls Mrs. Mowrer.”

 

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