"Here, take your pineapple juice," gently persuaded Koppel, the male nurse.
"Nope!" grunted Collis P.Ellsworth.
"But it's good for you, sir."
"It's doctor's orders."
Koppel heard the front door bell and was glad to leave the room. He found Doctor Caswell in the hall downstairs. "I can't do a thing with him," he told the doctor. "He won’t take his pineapple juice. He doesn't want me to read to him. He hates the radio. He doesn't like anything!"
Doctor Caswell received the information with his usual professional calm. He had done some constructive thinking since his last visit. This was no ordinary case. The old gentleman was in pretty good shape for a man of seventy-six. But he had to be kept from buying things. He had suffered his last heart attack after his disastrous purchase of that jerkwater railroad out in Iowa. All his purchases of recent years had to be liquidated at a great sacrifice both to his health and his pocketbook.
The doctor drew up a chair and sat down close to the old man. "I've got a proposition for you," he said quietly.
Old Ellsworth looked suspiciously over his spectacles.
"How'd you like to take up art?" The doctor had his stethoscope ready in case the abruptness of the suggestion proved too much for the patient's heart.
But the old gentleman's answer was a vigorous "Rot!"
"I don't mean seriously," said the doctor, relieved that disaster had been averted. "Just fool around with chalk and crayons. It'll be fun."
"All right." The doctor stood up. "I just suggested it, that's all."
"But, Caswell, how do I start playing with the chalk — that is, if I'm foolish enough to start?"
"I've thought of that, too. I can get a student from one of the art schools to come here once a week and show you."
Doctor Caswell went to his friend, Judson Livingston, head of the Atlantic Art Institute, and explained the situation. Livingston had just the young man — Frank Swain, eighteen years old and a promising student. He needed the money. Ran an elevator at night to pay tuition. How much would he get? Five dollars a visit. Fine.
Next afternoon young Swain was shown into the big living room. Collis P. Ellsworth looked at him appraisingly.
"Sir, I'm not an artist yet," answered the young man.
Swain arranged some paper and crayons on the table. “Let's try and draw that vase over there on the mantelpiece," he suggested. "Try it, Mister Ellsworth, please."
"Umph!" The old man took a piece of crayon in a shaky hand and made a scrawl. He made another scrawl and connected the two with a couple of crude lines. "There it is, young man," he snapped with a grunt of satisfaction. "Such foolishness. Poppycock!"
Frank Swain was patient. He needed the five dollars. "If you want to draw you will have to look at what you're drawing, sir."
Old Ellsworth squinted and looked. "By gum, it's kinda pretty, I never noticed it before."
When the art student came the following week there was a drawing on the table that had a slight resemblance to the vase.
The wrinkles deepened at the corners of the old gentleman's eyes as he asked
elfishly, "Well, what do you think of it?"
"Not bad, sir," answered Swain. "But it's a bit lopsided."
"By gum," Old Ellsworth chuckled. "I see. The halves don't match." He added a
few lines with a palsied hand and colored the open spaces blue like a child playing with a picture book. Then he looked towards the door. "Listen, young man," he whispered, "I want to ask you something before old pineapple juice comes back."
"Yes, sir," responded Swain respectively.
"I was thinking could you spare the time to come twice a week or perhaps three times?"
"Sure, Mister Ellsworth."
"Good. Let's make it Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Four o'clock."
As the weeks went by Swain's visits grew more frequent. He brought the old man a box of water-colors and some tubes of oils.
When Doctor Caswell called Ellsworth would talk about the graceful lines of the andirons. He would dwell on the rich variety of color in a bowl of fruit. He proudly displayed the variegated smears of paint on his heavy silk dressing gown. He would not allow his valet to send it to the cleaner's. He wanted to show the doctor how hard he'd been working.
The treatment was working perfectly. No more trips downtown to become involved in purchases of enterprises of doubtful solvency.
The doctor thought it safe to allow Ellsworth to visit the Metropolitan, the Museum of Modern Art 13 and other exhibits with Swain. An entirely new world opened up its charming mysteries. The old man displayed an insatiable curiosity about the galleries and the painters who exhibited in them. How were the galleries run? Who selected the canvases for the exhibitions? An idea was forming in his brain.
When the late spring sun began to cloak the fields and gardens with color, Ellsworth executed a god-awful smudge which he called "Trees Dressed in White". Then he made a startling announcement. He was going to exhibit it in the Summer show at the Lathrop Gallery!
For the Summer show at the Lathrop Gallery was the biggest art exhibit of the
year in quality, if not in size. The lifetime dream of every mature artist in
the United States was a Lathrop prize. Upon this distinguished group Ellsworth
was going to foist his "Trees Dressed in White", which resembled a gob of salad dressing thrown violently up against the side of a house!
"If the papers get hold of this, Mister Ellsworth will become a laughing-stock. We've got to stop him," groaned Koppel.
“No," admonished the doctor. "We can't interfere with him now and take a chance of spoiling all the good work that we've accomplished."
To the utter astonishment of all three — and especially Swain — "Trees Dressed in White" was accepted for the Lathrop show.
Fortunately, the painting was hung in an inconspicuous place where it could not excite any noticeable comment. Young Swain sneaked into the Gallery one afternoon and blushed to the top of his ears when he saw "Trees Dressed in White", a loud, raucous splash on the wall. As two giggling students stopped
before the strange anomaly Swain fled in terror. He could not bear to hear what they had to say.
During the course of the exhibition the old man kept on taking his lessons, seldom mentioning his entry in the exhibit. He was unusually cheerful.
Two days before the close of the exhibition a special messenger brought a long official-looking envelope to Mister Ellsworth while Swain, Koppel and the doctor were in the room. "Read it to me," requested the old man. "My eyes are tired from painting."
"It gives the Lathrop Gallery pleasure to announce that the First Landscape Prize of $1,000 has been awarded to Collis P.Ellsworth - for
his painting, "Trees Dressed in White"."
Swain and Koppel uttered a series of inarticulate gurgles. Doctor Caswell, exercising his professional self-control with a supreme effort, said: "Congratulations, Mister Ellsworth. Fine, fine ... See, see ... Of course, I didn't expect such great news. But, but — well, now, you'll have to admit that art is much more satisfying than business."
"Art's nothing," snapped the old man. "I bought the Lathrop Gallery last month."
1. jerkwater (Am. colloq.): small, unimportant.
2. railroad (Am.): railway. The lexical differences between the British and American English are not great in number but they are considerable enough to make the mixture of the two variants sound strange and unnatural. A student of English should bear in mind that different words are used for the same objects, such as can, candy, truck, mailbox, subway instead of tin, sweets, lorry, pillar-box (or letter-box), underground.
3. Iowa [ ˈaɪəwə ]: a north central state of the USA. The noun is derived from the name of an Indian tribe. Quite a number of states, towns, rivers and the like in America are named by Indian words, e. g. Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Michigan.
4. rot (sl.
): foolish remarks or ideas.
5. bosh (sl.
): empty talk, nonsense.
6. umph: an interjection expressing uncertainty or suspicion.
7. poppycock: foolish nonsense.
8. by gum (dial.): by God.
9. kinda: the spelling fixes contraction of the preposition ‘of and its assimilation with the preceding noun which is a characteristic trait of American pronunciation.
10. elfish: (becoming rare) (of people or behaviour) having the quality or habit of playing tricks on people like an elf; mischievous.
11. colored: the American spelling is somewhat simpler than its British counterpart. The suffix -our is spelled -or.
12. the Metropolitan Museum of Art: the leading museum in America, was founded in 1870. Its collections cover a period of 5,000 years, representing the cultures of the Ancient world and Near and Far East as well as the arts of Europe and America. Among the collections are the paintings, which include oils, pastels, water-colours, miniatures and drawings. There are over 5,000 exhibits, among which are the works of Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Flemish, German, French , English and American artists.
13. the Museum of Modem Art: a repository of art peculiar to the twentieth century, was opened in 1929. It has several departments among which are the department of architecture and design, the department of painting and sculpture, the department of photography.
14. gob (si.); a mass of smth. sticky.
15. admonish: to scold or warn gently.