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"Why He Married Her" from Green Book

by Ellis Parker Butler
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from Green Book
Why He Married Her
by Ellis Parker Butler

Perhaps something like eight thousand individuals, meeting Mrs. Jack Haddon in the last three or four years, have asked with amazement: "How in the world did Jack Haddon ever come to marry that!" I know why he married her, and so it is no mystery to me; but it is not strange that those who do not know should wonder why Haddon -- brilliant novelist, keen mind, deep thinker -- married Adelia Bunce.

If I sought three words to describe Adelia Haddon (as she is now), I would say she was The Human Platitude. I include "The" in the three words because Adelia is not merely "a" human platitude; she is preeminently The Human Platitude. So far as I am aware, -- and I have known her since she was a small girl, -- she has never uttered one bright phrase or said one original thing. In the classification of talkers she would be listed as an Explainer, and the Explainers are the most deadly wearisome of all talkers.

The Romance of a Master Mind

In appearance Adelia Bunce was such that, at first glance, you would immediately mutter: "Heavens! there's a bore!" Her face was flat, -- the flattest face I remember seeing, -- and she had a stupid, good-natured smile that was enough to warn any man. She was a "sitter," too, -- a natural wallflower, -- one of the girls who are a little stouter than the fashion and who, once in a comfortable chair, are willing to sit there until driven home.

Her gowns were always too flounced and a little crude in color, but what made her a terror to us all was her talk. I can compare her with nothing more similar than one of those musical atrocities known as musical albums, musical inkstands and so on, which, when set down anywhere, immediately begin to play, regardless of whether you want them to play, whether you like their tune or whether you listen or not. That was how Adelia talked. Squat her in a chair, and she would begin her stupid talking, and she would never stop.

Jack Haddon was as unlike Adelia as possible. He was as tall and thin as she was short and dumpy; his face was narrow and keen; his eyes were like deep wells in which were stored all his wide and wonderful knowledge of the world. He was usually rather pale, and about the time he met Adelia at the Furness, his face was beginning to be drawn into lines that suggested pain, and his eyes held the look of those of a suffering hound or an overdriven horse. He was at work then on that wonderful novel that appeared two years later and that fairly tore open the American soul and showed us its miserable, earthy workings -- his and America's fictional masterpiece.

Haddon never cared for social affairs. He was almost a recluse from society. He avoided studio teas and all that sort of thing -- hated them. He had his circle of friends, some forty or fifty, perhaps, composed of minds able to cope to some extent with his own. I think he is our greatest mind; I rank him with Voltaire, Goethe, the Goncourts.

Furness met him at two o'clock in the morning of a misty night, hat pulled over his eyes, shoulders bent, trudging along the walk under the iron fence of Gramercy Square. When Furness greeted him, Haddon looked up, and the awful misery in Haddon's eyes went to the artist's heart. "Haddon! What the devil!" Furness exclaimed.

"I can't sleep!" Haddon moaned. "I can't sleep, Furness! My brain is a sheet of molten metal, and my thoughts are waves of the sea. I can't stop them; one by one they roll into my brain and shatter on it, seething -- spray and seething steam! Nothing worthwhile! I can't stop thinking, and the thoughts are worthless. I can't get anywhere. I can't sleep!"

Furness linked his arm in Haddon's.

"See here, old man," he said affectionately, "this won't do! Why, man, you're talking insanity. How long have you been unable to sleep?"

"A month -- I don't know -- it is ages!" groaned Haddon, running his thin hand across his forehead. "I feel as if I had never slept -- as if I would never sleep again. You don't know what torture is unless you know what I am suffering, Furness. For thirty nights I have walked the street. I can't sleep! Furness, I can't sleep!"

The words were the cry of a tortured soul. Furness thrilled with horror. It would have been bad enough to find any friend suffering as Haddon was suffering, but Haddon! -- Haddon, the finest mind we could boast -- Haddon, from whom we expected greater things than he had ever done -- Haddon, the master mind!

Furness said the first thing that came to his mind:

"Overwork! You've been at it too hard, Haddon! You must let up; you must get out and forget your work awhile. Come up to my studio tomorrow night; the wife is giving a shindig -- lot of good fellows and dames -- and Morowsky! Morowsky the violinist! I'll have him play something to soothe your soul."

He looked back after he left Haddon and saw him plodding doggedly along the iron fence, head bent, shoulders stooped.

"Gad! he's gone!" he said. "Too much brain -- too much work! He'll be in a madhouse in a month!"

It was this Haddon feared, too, and perhaps it was to have a last evening with us that he came to the Furness studio the next night. He looked like a ghost. Furness tried to get him interested in things -- introduced him to a couple of new girls who could talk well. Haddon stood there, with his suffering eyes, and hardly heard them. He was irritated by their brightness. We all irritated him; his sleepless nerves were on edge. He tried to be decent to us, but it was plain to see we annoyed him and he dropped into a deep chair and stared into vacancy like a lost soul.

He sat there, hunched down, his long legs bringing his knees as high as his chest, and his head drooping, and we left him alone, wide-eyed, sleepless, miserable. A chair stood near, facing him, and before Haddon had sat there a minute Adelia Bunce, in a green silk affair with brick-red trimmings, -- the ultimate horror! -- slid into the vacant chair. She wore her inane smile of good nature.

"Oh, you're Mr. Haddon, aren't you!" she said.

Haddon looked up at her and said nothing, but Adelia Bunce did not mind that. She fixed her eyes on his chin, or on a spot just below his chin, as was her custom when she prepared to talk, and her jaw began to wag:

"I love your books. I read all of them I can get hold of. I think they're lovely -- there are such lovely things in them. I don't see how you can write them, but I suppose it is easy when you know how. I like books to have happy endings, don't you? Some of yours have such lovely endings. I don't see how you can get them to end so lovely. Literature must be a lovely profession: you meet so many lovely people. I'd love to be literary, but Mother thinks I'd better get married. Don't you think woman's place is in the home? I do. Some people's home life is so lovely, but of course suffrage is a splendid thing. I know some of the loveliest suffrage ladies. And it's the same way with Christian Science. No matter what you think of Christian Science, I think you always have to admit that some of the ladies in it are perfectly lovely. But the world is full of lovely things if we just think so, don't you think so? Like New York -- you never know how lovely New York is until you have been here -- the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and everything! It is so refining to see so much art in one place at one time. Rosa Bonheur's 'Horse Fair' and everything! I love art. I think the artistic profession must be just lovely: you meet so many lovely people. I'd love to be artistic, but Mother says --"

Poor Haddon sighed deeply and cast his eyes from side to side, but Adelia kept right on:

"-- but Mother says she thinks I'd better get married. She thinks woman's place is in the home, although it is certainly sure that some of the finest characters are among our opera singers -- Nordica and -- and Nordica -- and Carmen. No, Carmen isn't a singer, is she -- she's a character or whatever they call her. I'd love to be a singer, or a musician, for I do think the musical profession is just lovely: you meet so many lovely people. I'd love to be musical that way, but Mother says --"

It was an hour later, while Adelia was still talking with deadly fluency, that Haddon's head lolled sideways on his shoulder. Adelia still talked.

Haddon groaned. He sunk his chin in his chest and groaned! That did not bother Adelia. She did not pause:

"-- but Mother says she thinks woman's place is in the home, and it sounds reasonable, doesn't it, because if there were no women in the homes there wouldn't be any homes, would there? 'What is home without a mother?' don't you think so? I think it's a lovely sentiment. I love to think of the mother in the home, and the hand that rocks the cradle. Although the best physicians say you shouldn't rock the cradle. But I really would like to be a woman physician and do a noble work in the world, or a Red Cross nurse. I think the medical profession is just lovely: you meet so many lovely people. I'd love to be medical, but Mother says --"

Haddon stretched out his lank legs and dug his hands into his pockets.

"-- but Mother says I'd better get married, because, after all, woman's place is in the home, isn't it ? I think the novelists bring that out so strongly in some of their books. Didn't I read something like that in one of your books? Or was it one of somebody else's books? It was one or the other, I'm almost sure. It was a novel about a girl who took up the law. She became a lawyer. I think it would be lovely to be a lawyer. The profession of law must be lovely: you meet so many lovely people in it. The only trouble is you have to have an office somewhere and go to the courts and everything, and that takes you away from home so much, and, as Mother always says, woman's place, after all, is in the --"

She did not stop there. It was an hour later, while Adelia was still talking with deadly fluency, that Haddon's head lolled sideways on his shoulder. Adelia still talked. Half an hour after that Furness remembered Haddon. The guests were all gone, and he was preparing to extinguish the studio lights.

"But of course," Adelia was saying, "the home isn't the whole of life, but I often think: 'If you did take up literature, what would you do with your husband and children?' I think some one expressed that so well in some novel I read some time --"

One glance showed Furness that Haddon was sleeping. He tiptoed to Adelia and touched her on the shoulder.

"Come!" he said. "He's asleep!"

Then, for the first time since she had begun her flood of words, Adelia looked at Haddon's face.

"How rude!" she exclaimed.

"Don't waken him," Furness cautioned, and tiptoed away. He had to take Adelia home to her hotel. When he returned, Haddon was still sleeping, and Furness put a screen around him and let him sleep. Haddon slept thirty-seven hours.

It was fully two months later that Haddon visited Furness' studio. His face was haggard again, and his eyes sleepless as they had been before. Furness, palette and brushes in hand, opened the door to him.

"Where's that girl, Furness? he asked. "You know which I mean -- Benz or Huntz or whatever she was -- that infernal long-winded bore I met here."

"Bunce?" said Furness. "Adelia Bunce? She's from Trenton, New Jersey. She's gone back home, I think."

"I've got to have sleep," groaned Haddon. "I'm going there, Furness. I must have sleep or go insane."

Oh, yes! Haddon's all right now. He married his sleep-maker. She frequents the studio teas and the salons des artists and talks and talks and talks. Haddon's all right -- he gets all the sleep he needs now. It is the rest of us who are going insane.



Saturday, October 07 at 1:21:38am USA Central
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