At six, well before the rest of the family woke, Jordan Groves left his bed. He shaved and dressed for work in loose, paint-spattered dungarees and sweatshirt and came down the wide front stairs to the living room and went into the kitchen and let the dogs out and the cats in. Most days he carried a chunk of cheese and some bread directly to his studio and made a pot of coffee there and sat contemplatively for an hour in front of yesterday’s picture before setting to work on it. It was the best time of the day for him, best for thinking, best for work. Today, however, he lingered at the house. He built a fire in the kitchen stove, let the two dogs back inside and fed them and the four cats, and reloaded the wood-box—normally Alicia’s and the boys’ morning chores—and waited for the others to come down.
Around seven-thirty Wolf, still in pajamas, padded down the back stairs from the children’s wing and headed straight to the ice box for milk, when he realized that his father sat in the rocker by the bay window, looking out. Characteristically somber, the boy said good morning, and Jordan Groves smiled, said, “Hello, son,” and, continuing to look out the window, resumed his thoughts. He was replaying the events of the previous evening, trying to recall exactly what was said and done and by whom and why. He was pretty sure he understood Dr. Cole and knew what his intentions and needs were. And the others he didn’t linger over: they were all pretty much who and what they seemed to be. The girl, though, Vanessa Von Heidenstamm, was pretty much a mystery to him. She was not who and what she seemed. But the one who was most mysterious to him, the one whose intentions and needs and behavior he understood not at all, was the man himself, Jordan Groves. Why had he taken her up in his airplane and let her fly it so dangerously close to the mountains at night? And why had he left her there at the pond, left her to walk alone back to her family’s camp at the Second Lake?
The view from the window gave onto the Tamarack River where it swerved away from the house and grounds into a broad ox-bow and widened and ran north for three hundred yards of smooth, slow-running, deep water—more a pond here than a river. Directly in the artist’s line of sight was the wooden riverside hangar he built the summer he bought his airplane. Four years later, he still liked the sturdy, wide, four-square look of the structure. He had come in last night by moonlight reflected off the river. He had winched the airplane out of the water onto the ramp and into the boathouse, and by the time he got up to the house, Alicia and the boys were already in bed asleep. Jordan stayed downstairs in his study for a while and read the new Steinbeck, In Dubious Battle, and, as was his habit, didn’t come up to bed himself until midnight, and when he slid in next to her, Alicia did not appear to waken, which relieved him.
Wolf was the younger of the boys, just turned six. His brother, whose name was Bear, was eight. When his sons were born Jordan had insisted on naming them for animals he admired—despite considerable resistance from their mother and her Austrian family, who said it might be all right for red Indians to name their children after animals, but not for white people. If Bear had been a girl, Jordan would have named her Puma. Wolf he would have named Peregrine. He said he wanted his children to be inspired all their lives to live up to what they were called, and since he was a devout atheist he wasn’t going to name them after saints. “No Christian names,” he declared, and no family names. Aside from Jordan himself and Alicia, there was no one in either family worth emulating. If when they became adults his sons wished to go by their middle names, which as a compromise had been drawn from Alicia’s and his genealogies, that would be all right with him. But he was sure it wouldn’t happen. By then they will have become their names, he said. Just as, for better or worse, he had become Jordan, and their mother had become Alicia.
Wolf drank from the chilled jug of milk, put it back in the ice box, and crossed the large, open kitchen and climbed onto his father’s lap. He nuzzled against Jordan’s chest and inhaled deeply the familiar smell of turpentine and paint and chemicals from the studio, his father’s own smell, as comforting to the boy as his father’s face and voice. Jordan wrapped his arms around his son and held him there.
“Did you see the fireworks, Papa?” Wolf asked in a far-away voice.
“I saw them from the air. On my way home.”
“That must have been great, to see them from the airplane.”
“Yes. It was. I’m sorry I couldn’t get back in time for you to see the fireworks,” Jordan said. “I got talked into giving someone a flying lesson.”
“Oh. That’s okay. We had fun anyhow.”
Jordan eased the boy off his lap and set about making breakfast for him. A few minutes later Bear made his way down the steep, narrow back-stairway to the kitchen. He gave his father a friendly wave and made for the ice-box and like his brother slurped milk straight from the jug. Kittens, Jordan thought. Cubs. They know exactly what they want, and it’s the same as what they need.
“Hey, how come you’re making breakfast, Papa?” Bear asked.
“How come you’re not?” Jordan answered and smiled.
“I don’t know.”
“Go get washed up and dressed, boys. Then come back and eat. We’ll do something special together today,” he said, and the boys quickly disappeared up the stairs.
The boys’ wing of the house—a shared bedroom, bathroom, and playroom—was separated from their parents’ private quarters by a long, railed walkway that looked over the vast two-storey living room below, where an entire wall was taken up by a stone fireplace and hearth and an oversize cast-iron wood-stove. Between the two second floor wings were a pair of guestrooms and a guest bath. Below, adjacent to the kitchen, was the dining room, where floor-to-ceiling windows and French doors gave onto a large brookstone terrace that Jordan had constructed around a hundred-year-old oak tree and a head-high, three-ton, gray chunk of glacial rock with a deep split in it. Off the dining room was Jordan’s study, which resembled the library of a gentleman’s private club that he had once visited in London—a male sanctuary reserved for reading, drinking fifty-year-old cognac, and smoking Cuban cigars. At least that was its intended use. The center of the house, the room most used by the family together, was the kitchen, designed after the large open country-kitchens Jordan had admired long ago in Brittany. From the kitchen a narrow, roofed-over breezeway led to Jordan’s studio. The breezeway was open to the elements, and in winter, to get from the house to the studio, he had to wear a coat and boots and kept them on until the fire in the studio stove got the building warm. It was a minor discomfort, but an inconvenience that Jordan liked, as if it were a daily test and proof of his willingness to work.
The house was an attractive, sprawling, physically comfortable, but essentially masculine structure. Jordan had designed it, in consultation with Alicia, naturally, and had done most of the construction himself, in the process teaching himself basic plumbing, wiring, and masonry. Carpentry had been his father’s trade, and Jordan, an only child, had learned it working alongside him as an adolescent and, briefly, after he came home from the War. The unconventional layout of the house and the strict use of local materials and even the fine details of the interior—bannister rails made from interwoven deer antlers, yellow birch cabinets with birchbark glued to the facing, hidden dressers built into the walls, and elaborately contrived storage units, with no clutter anywhere and minimal furniture—reflected almost entirely Jordan’s taste and requirements, not Alicia’s. None of the windows had curtains or drapes or even shades to block the light, and during the daytime the house seemed almost to be a part of the forest that surrounded it. And at night the darkness outside rushed in. On every wall of the house, framed prints and paintings and drawings by Jordan Groves mingled indiscriminately with pictures and small sculptures and carvings on shelves and tables that had been given to him over the years by fellow-artists—John Curry, Tom Benton, and Ed Hopper, and a Lake George landscape by Georgia O’Keefe—usually in exchange for a work of his. Jordan believed that an artist should not have to purchase art. Exchanging art works with your fellow-artists was a way of honoring and being honored by your peers.
Jordan had purchased the land—three hundred forested acres with a small mountain of its own and a half-mile of frontage on the Tamarack—the year they were married, when his pictures and illustrations had begun to sell for large sums of money. He built the studio first, and they had lived in it for two years, until Bear was born and the house was ready to receive them. Then he put up a shed large enough to store his Studebaker truck and the Ford sedan and his tools and building supplies, and a few years later built the boathouse for his floatplane. Alicia had wanted to give their home a name and tried Asgaard on him and Valhalla, but Jordan said no, too pretentious. She tried northcountry names like Rivermede, Shadowbrook, and Splitrock. He shook his head no and grew impatient with her. The only people who gave names to their homes and put up fancy signs at the gate, he explained, were rich people with aristocratic pretensions. Summer people. People who wanted to distance themselves from the peasants. No one local gave a name to his house. “And all indications to the contrary,” he said, “we’re locals.”
When the boys returned to the kitchen washed and dressed for the day, Alicia came down with them. At the sight of Jordan standing at the stove cooking bacon and eggs, she raised her eyebrows in mild surprise, filled a mug with coffee, and sat at the long table and watched him. Bear and Wolf slid into the bench at their usual places and waited.
“You want some bacon and eggs, too?” Jordan asked his wife without turning from the stove. “There’s plenty.”
“Coffee’s enough. I’ll eat later.”
They were silent for a moment. The boys looked from one parent to the other and remained silent also.
Her voice rising slightly, Alicia said, “When did you come home, Jordan?”
“Around ten. You were asleep already, so I didn’t wake you.”
“We waited for you, and then it was too late.”
“You should’ve gone without me. I got talked into giving someone a flying lesson. Over at the Reserve. Cole’s daughter,” he said and served the boys their food. “That famous socialite. Or debutante. You know the one.”
“Yes. I know the one.”
Alicia had met Jordan in New York City when she was nineteen and had come to America to study art curatorship at the Pratt Institute and he had been teaching a course in printmaking. Ten years older than she, long divorced, and a onetime student of the famous Charles Henri, he was broke and unknown. Alicia was the only child of a wealthy Viennese manufacturer of glassware and his doting wife. The girl was nearly six feet tall, with a creamy complexion, blue eyes that were strikingly blue, the eyes of an Alpine goddess, Jordan had thought, and white-blond hair cut fashionably short like a flapper’s. She was the most beautiful girl at the Institute, perhaps the most beautiful girl Jordan had ever met, and her accented English was like lieder to him. Halfway into Alicia’s second year at Pratt, Jordan held his first one-man show at the Knoedler Gallery, and at the crowded opening, with nearly every picture in the show already sold, he asked her to sleep with him. When she refused, he at once proposed marriage to her. Certain he was joking, she accepted his proposal, and later that same night, drunk on champagne and Jordan’s new celebrity, Alicia went with him to his Greenwich Village studio and slept with him. The next day he quit his job at Pratt. To the consternation of her parents, Alicia dropped out of school and moved in with him, and three months later, to their dismay, she and Jordan eloped to Edinburgh, where it was easy for a divorced American man to marry again and where he had long wanted to make pictures of the scoured landscapes and winter skies of the ancient Gaelic north.
Jordan brought his own plate from the stove and sat opposite the boys and, head down, began to eat. He hated these morning-after conversations, when he felt judged and convicted of a minor crime, but couldn’t name exactly the thing that he had done wrong and therefore could not properly apologize and get it behind them. He was good at apologizing, as long as he knew what for, and thus he almost welcomed accusations. But he was rarely given the chance. Over the years there were times, indeed many times, when he had committed minor crimes against her, but he was almost never accused of these. He was not even sure they were crimes. Nearly everything he had done that ended up hurting or depriving her, he had done with her permission and full knowledge, and therefore he could not apologize for it. The months alone in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland; his solo excursions to Cuba and the Andes; his trip to Louisiana and Mississippi; his long stays in Manhattan, London, and Paris: for his work, he insisted. On these expeditions and trips he took care not to fall in love with other women. Therefore he did not believe that he should feel guilty—except for having drunk too much, for talking too loosely to people he regarded as fools and knaves, and for indulging himself in what he regarded as harmless flirtations and brief sexual liaisons that never went anywhere dangerous. These were minor crimes, yes, but only against himself, he felt, not her. They did not threaten the status quo. They did not oblige him to feel guilty. Ashamed, perhaps, but not guilty.
“You’re not working today, I take it,” she said. She rolled a cigarette, a practice she’d borrowed from him years ago, and lighted it.
“No, not this morning. I’ve got a package of materials from Sonnelier that’s waiting at Shay’s in town. Thought I’d drive in with the boys and pick it up and maybe go swimming with the dogs at Wappinger’s Falls. Make up for last night,” he added weakly.
“Feel like joining us?”
“No,” she said, a little too quickly. “So what did you think of the famous socialite?”
“A spoiled bitch.”
”A beautiful spoiled bitch?”
“You could say that.”
“And her father’s paintings? The Heldons? Were they beautiful, too?”
“Not really. Little altars,” he said. “Altars to nature. Not nature itself.”
She nodded and looked away. “Nature itself” was what Jordan painted and drew. He rarely made pictures of scenery, however, and never without evidence of the dynamic presence of human beings. To Jordan, history and politics and economics were all parts of nature. Sex, work, play: it didn’t matter. To him, human beings were no less a part of the natural world than the mountains and lakes and skies that enveloped them.
“What’s on your program today?” he asked.
“I want to walk,” she said. “And work in the garden. And I want to think, Jordan. I need some fresh thoughts. You know what I mean?”
He didn’t answer. He did know what she meant. Her thoughts—and his, too—were growing old fast. Something big was coming their way. Something uninvited and unwanted was silently approaching them. Something unavoidable. And though they didn’t know what it was, they both knew it was coming. The boys had finished their breakfast and stood at the soapstone sink rinsing their dishes under the pump. Jordan told them to meet him at the car as soon as they were done and got up from the table. He called the dogs and, without touching his wife or saying anything more to her, went outside.
It was a cool, cloudless morning, the air so dry it felt like all the moisture had been wrung from it—what Jordan enjoyed calling a perfect Adirondack day, referring not to the season or the temperature, but to the brilliant light. Winter or summer, on days like this, under a cobalt blue sky, everything in his sight was sharply detailed, as if etched with acid, making him feel he could see and touch each and every leaf on each and every tree, every patch of lichen on every rock, every boulder glistening in the stream. He drove the Ford over Balsam Hill and down the long slope to the grassy pastures of Tunbridge below, and his vision felt microscopic. Who needs the forest, when you can see the individual leaves of the individual trees? he said to himself. Who needs the mountains, when you can see the very rocks that make them? In light this clear and bright, it was all there, the entire universe, no matter where in it he looked.
Now that he was out of the house and away from Alicia’s hard gaze and driving to town in the rowdy company of his sons and the dogs, he felt exhilarated—he felt restored to himself. He told the boys to crank down the rear windows and let the dogs put their heads in the wind. They were Irish setters, litter-mates he’d bought as pups three years ago from a breeder of champion show-dogs in Saratoga Springs. The boys had been begging for a dog for months, and one spring night when he came back from a week in the city, he showed up at the door with a pair of dark red male puppies in his arms, which, during the solitary three-hour train ride north from Saratoga Springs, he’d named himself. They were to be called Dayga and Gogan, named after two of his favorite artists, Degas and Gaugin, he explained to his sons.
He pulled in at Shay’s, the combined general store and post office at the center of the village, and went inside, followed by his sons, who ran to examine the jars of penny candy.
“Good morning, Darby,” Jordan said. “You’ve got a package from France for me?”
The man behind the counter, Darby Shay, was both storekeeper and postmaster, a balding, middle-aged man with a face pointed like a fox’s and a blotched, rust-colored complexion to match. He nodded and cast a cold glance at the boys at the candy counter, as if to urge the father to keep a suspicious eye on them while he was away from the counter, then ambled into the little room at the back of the cluttered store where the mail got sorted and distributed. He lugged the carton up to the counter and set it in front of Jordan and had him sign for it. “What’ve you got in there? French cheese?” Darby asked.
“Americans must make good art supplies, I’d think.”
“They do. Just not as good as the French.” Jordan slid a dime across the glass and said, “Give ’em each a nickel’s worth of what they want.”
“Gumballs! The red ones! Make mine all red ones!” Bear said.
“What about you?” Darby said to Wolf.
“Half licorice sticks and half gumballs. Any color.”
“That’s four for a penny, y’ know,” Darby said. “Ten cents of candy. That’s quite a lot for just two.”
“It’ll last a while, I guess,” Jordan said.
The storekeeper bagged the candy slowly, as if reluctant to sell it, and passed the sacks to the boys. Without looking at Jordan, he said, “Heard you flew that seaplane of yours into the Second Lake last night.”
“You did?” Jordan said. “Well, news gets around fast, I guess.”
“How’d you hear it?”
“Bunch of fellows from town had to go up there and bring out Dr. Cole from his camp.”
“One of his friends that was staying with him, the man come all the way out in the dark by himself to get help. Lucky most of the volunteer boys was already up to the Tamarack Club with the fire truck, on account of having to run the fireworks. So they got into the lake pretty quick. Not that it made much difference.”
“What the hell happened?”
“Heart attack, I guess. He was a goner by the time they got out to the camp. The daughter, Countess whatzername, they come up on her walking in from the clubhouse just when they got the old man back down from their camp. She didn’t know about her father yet, so they had to tell her. For a while there they thought they was going to have to haul her over to the hospital instead of the old man, the way she was carrying on. But like I said, he was a goner. She was the one told about you flying in,” he added. “The daughter. Claimed you set her down and left her up at Bream Pond,” he said and chuckled.
“That’s only about half right,” Jordan said.
“I expect so. Say, is she really a countess? I mean, do you get to keep the title and all after you divorce the count?”
“I don’t know,” Jordan answered. He asked Darby if Dr. Cole’s daughter and wife were still at the Clubhouse, but Darby wasn’t sure. The doctor’s body had been taken over to Clarkson’s Funeral Home in Sam Dent, ten miles away, so he thought maybe they were still staying close by, either at the Moose Head Inn in Sam Dent or over here at the Tamarack Club. “You know, to make preparations and all, for getting the body back down to New York City. For the funeral and all. That’s where they come from, isn’t it?”
Jordan nodded without answering. He grabbed the carton and hustled the boys out of the store to the car. From town he drove south on the road to the Reserve and turned up the steep incline at the entrance to the Tamarack Club grounds and pulled in behind a tan Packard sedan parked in the oval driveway in front of the wide clubhouse veranda. Several other cars were parked there also, all with their motors running, their cloth-capped drivers—men Jordan recognized as out-of-work local men hired for the occasion, his neighbors—loading suitcases and golf bags and specially encased, custom-made fly rods and tackle boxes, or standing idly by, waiting to carry their passengers to the train at Westport. On the veranda Jordan saw Vanessa and her mother and some of the people he had met the night before. He recognized the Tinsdales and the Armstrongs, but couldn’t remember their names.
Russell Kendall, the manager of the club, a small, almost delicate-looking man wearing a seersucker suit and bow tie and white shoes, was talking to the group with large gestures and exaggerated facial expressions, as if in a stage play. Jordan knew Kendall only vaguely, having seen him a few times at the open-house cocktail parties that summer people tossed at their summer homes, parties attended by nearly everyone not considered strictly local. He’d also caught him having a recreational drink alone at the bar of the Moose Head Inn in Sam Dent. Slumming, as it seemed to Jordan. He had large red lips half-covered by a drooping blond moustache, and Jordan believed that he was a homosexual. Each time they met, Jordan Groves had to be freshly introduced to Kendall, which irritated the artist.
Although the artist knew that he would enjoy the facilities of the Tamarack Club—the tennis courts, the dining fit for a luxury cruise ship, the comfortable bar with a bartender from Ireland who made a first-class martini, the golf course, and the hiking trails and trout-filled lakes and streams that ran through the vast holdings of the Reserve—Jordan was not a member, nor had he ever wanted to join. One night a few years ago he’d ended up drinking late at the Moose Head with a pair of members wearing dinner jackets, flush-faced fellows his age who’d undone their ties and gone into town after the Club bar had closed, and they had naively offered to put him up for membership. He was a celebrity, after all. Known for being somewhat eccentric and temperamental and thought to be politically suspect, Jordan Groves was nonetheless a famous artist. He could obviously afford the fees, and he held his liquor like a gentleman. He had said, “No, thanks, fellows. I don’t want to be the first Jewish member of the Tamarack Club.” His sponsors said they hadn’t realized he was Jewish. “I’d also be the first Negro member,” he added, and they saw that he was joking and knew not to press him any further on the subject. His visit to Dr. Cole’s camp yesterday was the first time that he’d actually set foot on the Reserve, and today was the first time he’d parked his car in the clubhouse driveway.
He shut off the motor and sat there for a few seconds and watched Vanessa. She was in a group of perhaps ten people, but he saw no one else. She wore a calf-length black skirt and a dark gray silk blouse with billowing sleeves and over her broad shoulders a black crocheted shawl, and she looked even more beautiful to Jordan today than when he saw her yesterday in the fading, late afternoon sunlight standing alone by the shore of the Second Lake. She had on bright red, almost scarlet lipstick and mascara, and though she was pale and her face full of sorrow, she was luminous to him, enveloped by a light that seemed to emanate from inside her. He did not think that he had ever seen a woman with a visible field of light surrounding her like that, a gleaming halo wrapped around her entire body.
He told the boys to wait for him and got out of the car and walked towards the veranda. As he approached the group, the people ceased speaking and looked at him and then, except for Vanessa, abruptly turned away. Russell Kendall took Evelyn Cole gently by the arm and led her along the veranda towards the steps at the far end of the long, open structure, past the Adirondack chairs and wicker settees and gliders, and the others followed, although Vanessa did not. She waited with a puzzled expression on her face, as if Jordan Groves were only a vaguely remembered acquaintance approaching.
He said to her, “I just now heard about your father. I want to say I’m sorry.”
“Why don’t you, then?”
“Say that you’re sorry.”
“I’m sorry. I am.”
He was filled with an unfamiliar longing. He wanted to reach up and touch her and realized that not once yesterday had he actually touched her skin. Though she had whispered in his ear, their cheeks had not brushed. He remembered extending his hand to help her when she stepped from the water to the airplane and a few seconds later, when she got into the cockpit, reaching again to assist her, but she had ignored his offers and not even their fingertips had touched. He had only seen and heard her.
“Yes, well, you have much to be sorry for,” she said, her voice almost a whisper. She knew without looking that at the far end of the veranda her mother and Mr. Kendall and the others had turned and were watching her. She could see over Jordan’s shoulder that even the drivers were watching her. She decided not to slap him, although she wanted to, and he deserved it. But a slap would not create a scene so much as end one. No one could hear them, but everyone could see them, and she didn’t want the scene to end just yet.
“Yes, you’re right,” he said. “I do. I do have much to be sorry for. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking.”
“I’m afraid that I do.”
“Then tell me, please,” he said, and meant it. He wanted to know what he had been thinking last night when he left her up there at Bream Pond, and he believed her, believed that she knew what he had been thinking.
“You wanted to make love to me. And couldn’t.”
He inhaled sharply. She stepped down from the veranda and walked towards him, and as she swept past he smelled her perfume, the faint odor of a rose. He had seen her and heard her, and now he had smelled her. But he still hadn’t touched her. “Wait,” he said and reached out and took her left hand into his.
“Excuse me,” she said, “but I have to leave. I have to arrange for my father’s funeral.”
She tried to pull her hand free. He wouldn’t release it. He held it tightly, but carefully, as if her hand were a small, captured bird, terrified and fragile, struggling to escape his powerful grip without injuring itself. He felt the delicate bones and tendons turning beneath the cool, smooth skin of her hand.
“You may be right,” he said. “About what I was thinking.”
She looked up at him. “Well, it doesn’t matter now. Does it?”
“Yes, it matters. A lot. It matters to me.”
He could not help himself, and meant no disrespect or mockery: he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it lightly and released the bird into the air.
For a split second Vanessa glared at him, as if he had indeed mocked her. Then she turned and quickly strode towards the tan sedan parked in front of his Ford. She called her mother sharply to come along and got into the rear seat of the car. The driver—a man Jordan knew, Ben Kernhold, who had once owned a now defunct machine shop over in Tamarack Forks and had made polished aluminum picture frames for him—closed the car door, cast a quick glance at Jordan, and went around to the other side, where he waited for Vanessa’s mother. One by one, Evelyn Cole and the others came down the far steps of the veranda and got into their vehicles.
Slowly, like a cortege, the vehicles pulled out of the clubhouse driveway in a line and departed. Jordan stood by his car and watched them go over the hill and down, until they had disappeared from sight. Finally, he turned and, startled, saw that the manager of the club, Russell Kendall, was standing next to him.
“Oh, hello, Kendall,” he said.
“Mr. Groves, you should leave now.”
“So you remember my name after all.”
“Yes. And I know all about last night. You and your airplane at the Second Lake. You are not welcome here, sir. You should leave at once.”
“I should leave at once, eh?” He could hear his blood roaring in his ears and knew that trouble was coming. “Well, you know, I’m not sure I’m quite ready to leave yet. I’ve got my two little boys here, and I was thinking of showing them this grand historic structure and taking a good look at it myself. I’ve never been up here before. I might want to become a member someday, you know.” He swung open the rear door of his car and said to his sons, “C’mon out, boys. We’re going to take the tour.”
The boys, sensing something wrong in their father’s voice, hesitated. The dogs, Dayga and Gogan, did not. They scrambled over the boys’ laps, leapt from the car, and happily took off across the broad lawn. Like hounds in wild pursuit of a fox, they galloped in ever-widening, intersecting loops through flowerbeds, across the manicured bowling green, and onto the adjacent eighth fairway of the golf course, where last night half the town had sat on the grass waiting to watch the fireworks when Vanessa flew Jordan’s airplane across the night sky above and aimed it at Sentinel Mountain and Goliath.
Kendall shouted at Jordan, “Call those dogs! We can’t have unleashed dogs!”
Jordan gazed at the sky, as if half-expecting to see his airplane return. What a pretty sight it must have been from here, he thought. He wished he could keep thinking about that and could ignore what was happening here. He wished he could somehow avoid what he knew was about to happen.
“Mr. Groves, call those dogs!”
“Daddy, we’ll get them,” Bear said and got out of the car. He called, “C’mon, Wolf!” and his younger brother followed, and the two boys ran up the slope of the fairway after the dogs. A party of golfers waved angrily at the dogs and the boys and shouted at them and sent their caddies loping over the grassy bluffs after them, which only kept the dogs happily running in more elaborate and widening circles. On the veranda a half-dozen of the clubhouse staff—waiters and the two desk clerks—had stepped outside to see what was happening, several with barely concealed smiles on their faces, cheered by the slightest sign of disorder. A groundsman came around from the rear of the building, stopped, folded his arms, and took in the scene.
Jordan recognized most of the crew—local folks. Friends of his, neighbors. And they recognized him. It was the artist, Jordan Groves, from over in Petersburg, in a row with Mr. Kendall. They liked the sight of the artist towering over the manager, seeming cool and calm and apparently unfazed by the little man’s rage. They were used to Kendall’s tirades. The artist they believed was a good man and meant well. But he was a troublemaker and didn’t seem to be aware of it. They hoped he wasn’t trying to organize some kind of workers’ union again, not here at the Tamarack Club, like he did a year ago at the paper mill in Tamarack Forks. It was Roosevelt’s Wagner Act that had given him the idea that it was legal. Two months later the mill closed its doors and moved to one of those states down South. The Tamarack Club was practically the only private employer left in the region, and if you got hired here for the summer—despite the low wages, the long hours, and rough treatment by the members and management—you counted yourself lucky. Except for the eight weeks of July and August when the Club was open, most people in town, unless they were able to hook onto one of the WPA projects or the Civilian Conservation Corps, stayed unemployed year-round and, as much as you could in this climate, lived off the land.
Kendall turned to his staff and ordered them to catch those damned dogs, and a pair of busboys and a waiter obeyed, jogging across the lawn onto the golf course. Then, a moment later, Jordan’s sons came over the rise, each boy leading a dog by its collar, with the three club employees and the golfers’ caddies trooping along behind. The boys led the dogs to the car, opened the door on the far side and put them into it, and got in themselves.
Jordan, still standing a few feet from the manager, put a feeble smile on his face and tried to appear amused by the whole thing. But he was not amused. He was very angry. He could not quite say yet what had angered him, however. Not Vanessa, certainly. And not the dogs. And not even Kendall, who was only doing his job, enforcing the rules of the Reserve.
“If you don’t leave the grounds at once,” Kendall said to Jordan, “I’ll have you physically restrained. I’ll have you arrested.”
“For what? I’m not doing anything illegal.”
Jordan leaned in on him. “I’m not sure you can have me physically restrained. Not you, certainly, and not these fellows here, whom I know. These men are friends of mine. But for the sake of argument, let’s say you somehow manage to have me restrained. Then you’d be holding me against my will, and I’d hardly be guilty of trespassing. No, I’ll leave in my own good time.”
Kendall turned to the waiters and the groundsman, who stood a few feet behind him, listening. They were unsure what was expected of them. They were only waiters and a groundsman, after all, not security officers or bouncers. “Put him in his car,” Kendall ordered. “I’m going inside to call the sheriff.” He turned and stalked up the wide veranda steps and disappeared into the clubhouse, leaving four men and a teenaged boy to face Jordan Groves, who gave no sign of moving.
The groundsman, Murray Bigelow, said, “Prob’ly oughta do like he says, Groves. We got nothing against you, but …” He shrugged helplessly and shoved his hands into his pockets and looked away, as if embarrassed. Bigelow was a ruddy, ex-lumberjack in his fifties who had worked all his life for the Brown Paper Company. Three years ago the company had sold most of its eastern Adirondack holdings to the Reserve, and Bigelow had come in from the woods and gone to work for the Club.
“When Kendall goes off like that, he makes it hell for the rest of us, Jordan,” a second man, Buddy Eastman, said. He was one of the waiters and had once been a plumber and five years ago had helped the artist put in his well. “Do us a favor and go home.”
“Fellows, there’s no way I’m going to let Kendall or anyone else talk to me that way.”
“That’s just how he is,” Eastman said. “He talks to everyone that way.”
“I doubt it,” the artist said. “Look, if out of ignorance I broke one of his club rules by landing my plane on his goddamn lake water, or my dogs got loose and ran across his goddamn golf course, then I’ll say sorry and pay the fine or whatever. But that’s it. It doesn’t give him the right to talk to me like I’m a bum and put me off the place. You agree with that?”
“Yeah, I suppose I do. But, hell, Jordan, give us a break here,” Eastman said.
The artist leaned back against the fender of his car and folded his arms across his chest. A number of members and guests had gathered on the veranda to watch, and more were coming from the dining room and from the tennis courts, as word of the quarrel spread.
Inside the car, Bear moved close to the open window and said, “Papa, can we go now?”
“In a few minutes. I’ve got to settle something first.”
“In a few minutes, I said.”
Kendall came back out of the clubhouse and stood glowering at the top of the steps. “You men!” he called to them. “I told you men to put him in his car!”
Murray Bigelow stepped close to the artist and in a lowered voice said, “Look, Groves, this is getting complicated. Make it easier on all of us by just letting it go. It ain’t worth it, fighting with Kendall. Let it go. Believe me, we know what he’s like when he’s crossed.”
“I’m not afraid of crossing him,” Jordan said.
“You don’t work for him,” the groundsman said.
“C’mon, Jordan,” Eastman said, and he took the artist’s arm. The artist shoved the man’s hand away and gave him a hard look. The others came forward then and surrounded Jordan Groves—Murray Bigelow and Rob Whitney, another of the waiters, a man Jordan’s age who had lost his dairy farm to the bank, and Carl James, a onetime traveling salesman, soft and pink and in his early sixties, and the teenaged boy, Kenny Shay, the skinny blond son of the storekeeper, Darby Shay. By their squared, open stance and their hands held loosely at their sides they made it clear that they weren’t physically threatening the artist so much as trying merely to herd him peacefully into his car.
Jordan Groves looked from one to the other and said, “Don’t do this, fellows.”
From the veranda Russell Kendall shouted, “I can’t reach the sheriff, so you’ll have to put him off the property!”
Carl James turned and said, “That’s not really our job, Mr. Kendall.”
“If you want a job, you’ll do what I tell you!”
“Be reasonable, Jordan,” Buddy Eastman said. “You ain’t helping anybody this way. We got no choice but to do what he says.”
The artist looked from one to the other—the three waiters, the groundsman, and the teenaged boy—and slowly shook his head. “Then I’m afraid you’re going to have to do what he says. If you’re able.”
Buddy Eastman grabbed Jordan by his left wrist and pulled him forward and threw an arm around his neck, and Murray Bigelow and the others jumped in. They wrestled Jordan around to the front of the car, cursing at him, while he cursed back and struggled to get free. He managed a sharp headbutt across Bigelow’s face, sending him staggering backwards, blood spurting from his nostrils, and he disabled Rob Whitney by kneeing him hard in the groin. Whitney grabbed his crotch, let out a howl of pain, and sat on the ground like a sack of potatoes. The teenaged boy, Kenny Shay, let go of Jordan and quickly danced away. Fighting with a very large, very angry, grown man was not something the boy was ready for.
That left Buddy Eastman and the remaining waiter, Carl James, to handle Jordan Groves alone, and they were not up to it. The artist got one arm free of Carl James’s grip and shoved the man off him. He threw two quick punches that landed on James’s ear and throat, and the man, nearly falling, backed away, dropped his hands to his sides, and watched from a safe distance. Taller and heavier than his remaining opponent, the artist swung Buddy Eastman around and got his other arm free. He moved into a trained boxer’s stance and said, “I’ll take you apart, Buddy, if I have to!”
Eastman put up his fists for a second, glared at Jordan Groves, then lowered his hands and said, “Groves, for Christ’s sake, get some sense! Go home!”
Both men were panting and red faced. Slowly the artist brought his fists down. He walked around the front of his car and opened the driver’s door. For a few seconds he stood there and looked across the broad, mint-green lawn to the clubhouse veranda, crowded now with gaping spectators, and he saw what a foolish, harmful thing he had done to these men, four men and a boy who were his neighbors and whom he regarded as friends. What kind of man was he? A common brawler? Fighting with men who were his friends and neighbors in front of his sons. It was a shameful thing to have done. He blamed the woman, Vanessa Von Heidenstamm, for it. It was her fault. He blamed what she had said to him and what she thought she knew about him. Most of all he blamed her because she had turned her back on him. That was what had made him act this way.
He got into the car and started the motor. Then he drove slowly away from the clubhouse. Halfway down the hill to the main road, he looked into the rear-view mirror and saw the ashen faces of his sons in the back seat, both of them sucking furiously on candy. He said, “Let’s go swimming at Wappinger’s Falls, boys.”
“That’s okay, Papa,” Bear said. “We want to go home now.”
“Home? Okay, we can go swimming at home instead.”
“We don’t need to go swimming or anything, Papa. We just want to go home.”
“What about you, Wolf?”
“Yes. Let’s go home,” Wolf said.
Jordan sighed. “All right.” Then, after a few seconds, he said to his sons, “What happened back there, it was bad, I know. Really bad. I’m sorry you had to see it. But when a person insults you, you can’t put your tail between your legs and act like you deserve it.”
“I know, Papa,” Bear said.
“So I can’t promise you that it won’t happen again.”
“I know, Papa,” the boy repeated.