The Cure

After taking an honors degree at Oxford, ALLAN SEAGERwas an editor ofVANITY FAIRmagazine under Frank Crowninshield. Now professor of English at the University of Michigan. Mr. Seager has published about eighty short stories and Jive novels, the latest beingAMOS BERRY, HILDA MANNING,and.DEATH OF ANGER. The following story is included in A FRIEZE OF GIRLS, being published this month by McGraw-Hill.

A Story


ONE grim March morning I decided not to get up. It was not the soft implacable discouragement the day offered that held me bedfast, for it was a day like any other at this season. A cold fog would hang in the quads until noon, when perhaps the gloom would weaken and you could spot the quarterhearted sun, pale, remote, fuzzy. I never wanted to get up on days like this, but unless I did, and by nine, my servant was empowered by the rules of the college to call a doctor. It seemed like a good idea.

When he came into the sitting room and found my breakfast uneaten, I could feel his disapproval seeping through the wall. Thought I had a hangover probably. He knocked at the bedroom door.

“Come in, Haines,” I called.

He came in, clucked like an old hen, and said reproachfully, “A long lie, sir.”


“You didn’t eat your breakfast.”

“I think you’d better call a doctor. I’m not well.” In any dialogue with Haines I had long since cast myself in the role of the young master, because it impressed him and squeezed from him phrases I had seen only in novels.

“Very good, sir. Touch of flu?”

“Probably.” I felt hot and languid.

The doctor agreed. He was a red-faced little man with a bushy mustache and a D.S.O. ribbon in his lapel. He examined me deftly and quickly. “Touch of flu,” he said. “Stay in bed over the weekend.” He put the stethoscope in his bag, snapped it to, and was on his way out the door. I coughed once.

As if I had shot at him, he whirled and performed what every doctor has told me since was a brilliant piece of diagnosis. “Any sputum?”

“Yes,” I said.

He whipped two little oblong pieces of glass out of his bag and took a sample. As one knows vague disconnected facts like the capital of Iceland, I knew that sputum samples were connected with the diagnosis of tuberculosis, but cases of TB, like arson and heartbreak, were things that happened to other people, not to me, and I turned over and went back to sleep.

An hour later the doctor came stamping back into my room, “You’ve got tuberculosis. Where do you want to go, Switzerland or the States?”

Half-asleep and feverish, I sat up. “How bad is it?”

“I can’t tell yet. Take a taxi this afternoon, come to my office, and I’ll take an X ray of your chest.”

“Oh, I can walk.”

“You won’t be walking much from now on.”

“Can’t you give me some idea, just a conjecture?”

“I can’t be sure, but from the look of those slides I’d say a year and a half in bed.”

I did not believe this. I had once been flung sixty feet through the air from an auto wreck, landed on my head, knocked my upper teeth horizontal, and I had not gone to bed at all. “I think I’d better go home.”

“I’ll just stop in and tell your dean. Two o’clock, don’t forget,” he said, and went out.

AFTER the X ray the doctor informed me that I was a far-advanced case and I could very probably look forward to a cure lasting two years if everything went well. This still did not make sense. Lie down for two years?

Back in bed I became pretty gloomy. I seemed to have been betrayed, but by whom? I should have to ask my body, “Why didn’t you let me know?” But of course, it had let me know. In December I had swum in a meet, and afterward in the Junior Common Room I couldn’t get warm in front of a roaring fire. For weeks I had been so tired that if my cigarettes were across the room, instead of getting up automatically and getting them, I would become conscious of their location as a problem and ask myself. “Do you really want a cigarette badly enough to go all that way to get them?” And I had had this cough, infrequent but persistent.

I also resented what I took to be the doctor’s jaunty attitude when he asked where I wanted to go, Switzerland or the States. I had no choice. I had fourteen pounds in the bank. If I were going anywhere, it would have to be home. It was 1933. I was certain my father couldn’t pay for two years in a sanitarium. It was degrading to throw myself on charity, and I didn’t know how to make the throw in any case.

I lay on my sofa drowsily worrying. Every now and then the coal would clink as it shifted in the fireplace. Fourteen pounds would take me about two thirds of the way across the Atlantic. Although I didn’t really think they would let me board in the first place, I could see the ship putting me off in a jolly boat about seven hundred miles east of Ambrose Light with some iron rations and a flask of water. I would row myself in, the water black, the ice forming on the oars, my cough stifled in the bitter wind. The picture was a nineteenth-century engraving of a pitiful subject, but it seemed to symbolize my plight, and I rowed away most of the afternoon.

I he next day I was the beneficiary of a gratuitously kind act. This is rare, and I have never forgotten it. John Philips from West Virginia, who was at Christ Church across the street, came in to see me. He had heard rumors. I corrected them.

“I’m going to see the Rhodes Trust. They’ve got a lot of money,” he said. “They own De Beers.”

John’s mind worked with a beautiful, simple directness. There was money there. He went and asked them for some. It would never have occurred to me, but he came back with a check for two hundred pounds made out in my name. For an hour it was incredible.

With nearly a thousand dollars in hand I grew more cheerful. I knew next to nothing about tuberculosis. I had the childlike faith ol the uninitiated in all doctors. Now that I had some money to pay them with, I was sure they would cure me if I were obedient.

My English friends packed me up and bought me passage on the Olympic, an old Cunarder now long out of service. I had stopped worrying because I was filled with the excitement of going on a journey. In my room I held an auction of personal effects. Any lurking notion that I had a mortal disease was smothered by these preparations, and when an ambulance came and the bearers got stuck going down the winding staircase from my room, it all seemed hilarious. The dean came out of his rooms, shook hands, and wished me luck while the bearers were pulling and hauling. Finally I was carried across the quadrangles in the mist. I made my last good-byes. They shoved me into the ambulance, and away we went to Southampton.

A friend of mine, John Durkin of Queen’s, had volunteered to accompany me and see me aboard the Olympic. He knew no more of tuberculosis than I, but the ambulance made it seem serious, so he courteously carried on a bright conversation to cheer me up. He stopped the ambulance two or three times at pubs and brought me sustaining pints of mild and bitter. The doctor had forbidden me cigarettes, but he had said nothing about beer, which is well known to be nourishing. Once when we passed a clump of people at a narrow turn in a village street, John stuck his head out the back door of the ambulance and yelled, “Take off your hats, damn you. We’ve got a dead man in here.” And they took off their hats. On the whole it was a pleasant journey.

I remember nothing ol going aboard, but I can remember waking up in the ship’s hospital. It was clean, but there were so few amenities that it suggested the Cunard Line frowned on sickness, a willful refusal to come to grips with life, and believed that if you went sick at sea, you deserved nothing better. The wall was the simple hull of the ship, studded with lines of heavy rivets, and while I knew that the North Atlantic was only an inch or two away from my hand, I felt safe and snug. The ship’s surgeon, a Mr. Somebody, visited me, an Irishman with a shattered face, knobbed and seamed in a sullen red. He was very kind, brought me cigarettes after meals, and spent literally hours beside my berth talking about everything under the sun. Only later did it occur to me that he had nothing else to do. I was the only person in hospital, and it must have been dull for him to sit alone in his surgery, reading. It was also later that someone told me that ship’s surgeons were men under clouds, chronic drunks, unfortunates who had inadvertently removed both kidneys, mistaken cyanide for aspirin. From his color and his unfailing garrulity, I think Mr. Somebody was the first of these.

Another pleasant feature of the voyage was the food. True, it was English food, but it was English food striving to impress foreigners, the tourists, and while I doubt if the Line was so slack as to hire an actual Frenchman as chef, somebody in the galley had heard about French cuisine, and the food tasted good. I ate like a wolf. Before each meal I would be given a vast chart to select from; and I remember breakfasts of bacon and eggs. York ham, creamed codfish, grilled kidneys, small steaks, two-rib mutton chops, and other kickshaws. I would eat them all, turn over, and go to sleep until the steward shook me gently and offered me the program for lunch. Mr. Somebody was assiduous at taking my temperature and weighing me. During the seven days my temperature went down to normal and I gained seven pounds. I knew that these were very good signs. It was a rough crossing, March, and Mr. Somebody told me that most of the passengers kept to their berths, felled by seasickness. It did not affect me. I felt fine.

We docked late at night in a blizzard. I had cabled my friend Frank Adams, and he met me. I dressed, and I felt so good I walked off the ship. We took a taxi to the Biltmore, and I went to bed. I had barely waked the next morning when Frank was back. He had half a dozen nickel hamburgers in a sack, with onion. “I knew this place was too expensive for you to eat and sleep here both,” he said. There is nothing like sickness to bring out the kindness of friends.

AT THE University Hospital in Ann Arbor I was checked, examined, and tested all over again. I weighed on entry 147 pounds at six feet, one and a half inches. I had cavitation, two holes in my left lung, and infiltration, a spot as big as a half dollar in my right. My fever had begun again, a low nagging heat that made it tiring to read for more than a quarter hour at a time because my eyes got so hot. An affair with needles, not acupuncture but artificial pneumothorax, was successfully begun to collapse my left lung, and complete rest was ordered. I was bored nearly out of my mind.

I had some cards engraved and sent them to my friends:

Mr. Allan Seager
At Home
University Hospital

No Cocktails

No Dancing

This brought me a great many visitors, some of whom tried to smuggle me drinks of bad whiskey. The nurses didn’t like them. They forbade them these simple corporal works of mercy, and for the next four months I lay there making what I could out of the cracks in the ceiling. At night I got up and walked around the room a little so I wouldn’t lose the use of my legs.

Toward the first of July the doctors told me there was a vacancy coming up at Trudeau Sanitarium at Saranac. At Trudeau you had to be ambulant. The doctors at Ann Arbor said I could start sitting up on the edge of the bed with my feet hanging for twenty minutes a day. Next would be sitting in a chair; then, presumably, a few tottering steps around the room. I didn’t dare tell them I could walk all right, so I solemnly went through their routine for three days. The first day 1 was allowed to walk, I decided to take a tub bath. I left my room and walked down the middle of the corridor without hanging on to anything. The nurses came like a flight of birds. They settled on me, twittering and clucking, trying to get me to let them bear me up, but I said. “Beat it, ladies. I’m all right.” I walked on to the bathroom, drew my bath, and lay in it. It felt good after all those months of wet washrags.

The day I left, the head nurse told me that the Travelers Aid would meet the train in Detroit to see that I was wheeled safely to the train for Saranac. I said I didn’t believe I needed a wheelchair, but the head nurse, wrinkled by duty, said that I must have one. A friend of mine, a girl, came with me as far as Detroit. She had thoughtfully brought along a pint of Golden Wedding, the favored label among the local bootleggers. I took a compartment for privacy, and we drank the frightful whiskey with water from paper cups and laughed the whole way. I was feeling my freedom. The countryside looked fresh and new, and so did the girl. We had a wonderful time.

As the train slowed down in the Detroit station, I saw a tiny old lady pushing one of those high wooden wheelchairs alongside the train. She wore a cloth hat with a label sewn to the front with TRAVELERS AID on it. If I didn’t get in that wheelchair nobody would, and she would have come all that way for nothing. But if I did get into it. could she push me? I had shot up to a hundred and eighty pounds. The train stopped. If I seemed to stagger as I got off, it was not from the weakness of my malady. I said good-bye to the girl and walked as circumspectly as I could over to the old lady. “Were you expecting a TB patient from Ann Arbor, madam?”

“Yes, I was,” she said. I could tell she was tough and conscientious.

“I really don’t need the wheelchair.”

“It was ordered for you. Get in,“ she commanded.

I got in. It was embarrassing enough as it was, this little woman bending to the task of rolling a big healthy-looking guy around a railroad station, but I must have assumed what I can only describe as a roistering pose in the chair, for a well-dressed woman passed, and I heard her say to her escort, “I didn’t know they did that for lushes.”

THE Trudeau Sanitarium is now obsolete, its services discontinued, and its buildings house a high-level project having to do, I believe, with the theory of games. In my day, living there was rather like living in a fraternity. The men and women were separated and assigned to cottages, each with space for twelve or fifteen people. You had a dressing room and a screened porch where you slept.

My porchmate was a Swiss who said he was a “mechanical” dentist. This seemed to mean that his trade was making dentures, and, apparently to keep his hand in, there were always a few loose teeth scattered on the table in his dressing room. Meals were served in a central dining hall, and after each one you returned to your porch to cure. Curing was lying still, breathing the fresh mountain air, and sleeping if possible. I couldn’t do this because of Karl’s problem. He had not only chest TB but also some kind of hyperthyroidism, and he couldn’t sit still. He paced up and down ceaselessly and meaninglessly all day, like a big cat in a zoo.

In October, when the snow came, he nearly prevented me from sleeping at night, too. I was persuaded to buy one of the early electric blankets, warm but fairly primitive affairs, which shorted on a couple of my friends, who were wakened in the dead of night by little rings of flame dancing on the bedclothes. Karl, however, had so many wool blankets on his bed that he used a bookmark pinched from the library to tell where to insert himself. About eight o’clock at night he would start to prepare for bed. He would pull on the pants to a sweat suit over a pair of flannel pajamas, tie the ankles, crumple the New York Times and Herald Tribune and stuff them down into the legs until he looked like a tackling dummy; then he would tie the waist and stuff the top, put on a knitted cap, two pairs of wool socks, a pair of gauntlets, and he would get into bed and rustle. This is enough to deter if not entirely prevent sleep. It was often forty degrees below at night, and for two weeks it did not get above twelve degrees below at noon. Usually you slept on your back with two pillows crisscrossed over your face, the Adirondack Pack. You pulled the blankets up to the base of the nose, leaving only it exposed and greasing it beforehand so it wouldn’t freeze to the pillow.

It was Karl who challenged George Kelly to a duel, implementing the challenge with a case of pistols with beautiful long blue barrels. I knew by this time that worry and confinement could make people strange, but when I heard that Karl wanted George to go up the mountain, with seconds, that they would stand back to back and take ten paces forward, turn, and fire, all as in a novel, I didn’t believe it. I asked Karl to show me the pistols, and he did, but he wouldn’t say how George had insulted him.

It was certain that George had said or done something Karl could take as an insult. George was a big, shrewd, reel-faced, knowledgeable Irishman. The year before, he had been playing tackle for Manhattan College. Somebody threw a block on him, and he coughed half a pint of blood on the field. They tried to get him to a doctor, but he waved them away — “I’ll just finish the season.” He played four more games, let a doctor examine him, and was sent posthaste to Saranac. He knew what he had all the time. His parents had died of it.

He was a bad patient because he treated the disease with scorn. It was ridiculous to be felled by Lilliputian bugs, fifty thousand of which, we were told, could pass through the eye of a needle without touching the sides or one another. George made elaborate jokes about it that set the whole sanitarium laughing. He took the common plight, contemptuously turned it upside down, inside out, and for all but the butts of them, his jokes wore away the endemic fear that seemed to hover in the spruce trees at night when the wind kept you awake. In a sanitarium everyone is passive, waiting hopefully. George was active.

There was a man there from the Long Island City fire department. I forget his name because we called him Chief. The Chief was a friendly round little guy, and he was just short of what in the South they call blood simple. He did not have tuberculosis. He had osteomyelitis on his ribs — “Sorta like moss,” he said. He had to have an operation to remove the affected parts. Since it was similar, perhaps identical to the operation for removal of ribs in tuberculosis, the thoracoplasty, he had been sent up here. He did not have to cure, and he had the run of the place at all hours. One day George Kelly got hold of him.

“How long before they give you the rib. Chief?”

“Oh, three, four days. Thursday, I guess.”

George looked at the floor and said, “Uh-huh.” Then he said, “Feeling pretty good?”

“Oh, yeah, George. Nothing to do. Eat good. Sleep. You know.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” George said, frowning. “I mean, mentally.”

“Mentally?” An expression of wonder came over the Chief’s face. Nobody had ever asked him that before, apparently, “How do I feel in my mind? Wonderful. Never better.”

“You sound as though you’re looking forward to it.” This, sourly.

“It’s coming. I gotta. What else?”

“Yeah, sure.” George looked at him now. “Back in Long Island City when the fire bell rings, you slide down the pole —”

“I ain’t always in bed when the bell rings. Sometimes I’m playing checkers.”

“OK, OK. So you jump up or slide down and get on the truck and you zoom off to the fire and you run up ladders and wrastle the hose — ”

“Oh. it’s more tetnical than that, George.

“But, goddamn it, that’s what you do, isn’t it?” George roared.

“Well, gee, yeah, but—”

“All I’m asking you is, do you think you’ll be able to do it after the operation?”

“Sure. They said —”

“They said.” George spat right on the floor, a grave offense here. “Look, Chief, you know Doc Speidel, first assistant surgeon?”


“You know how he limps when he walks, kind of pushes with his right leg?”

“Bone TB,” the Chief said confidently. '’He had his knee scraped, they said.'

“They said.”

“Well — ”

“Speidel had the rib, too, didn t he?


“Well, the reason he keeps pushing with that right leg when he walks is to keep him going in a straight line. See, Chief, what they don t tell you when you get the rib. it destroys your sense of direction. You walk round in circles.”

The Chief stared at George maybe fifteen seconds. “Honest?" he said.

“Look at Speidel. He’s smart. He worked it out. He pushes, but I don’t know about you getting up on a ladder. How do you walk in circles on a ladder?”

The Chief listened no more. He spun around and ran out of the cottage. You were supposed to walk at two and a half miles an hour, but the Chief ran like a whitehead. Dr. Speidel was with a patient, but the Chief burst into his office, waving his arms and shouting, “Oh, no. You can t do this to me. Oh, no. I know all about you, Doc. No, sir. You can’t do this. I ain’t gonna letcha.”

“What’s the matter, Chief?” Dr. Speidel said.

“You cut out my ribs? No, sir. I ake away my job? No. 1 know all about you, Doc. No, sir, you can’t do it,” the Chief babbled. “The rest of my life walking round in circles? Nix.”

Patients blow their tops not infrequently, because of the confinement and the strict regimen, worry about money, worry about death, and Speidel was used to this, but he also recognized a sinister foreign richness of invention in the Chief’s outburst. “Who’ve you been talking to. George Kelly?”

“You bet. He’s the only friend I got here.”

Wearily, Dr. Speidel went to work cleaning up after Kelly. It took about an hour to calm down the Chief and settle him for the operation. Later he chewed George out, but halfheartedly, because I think he realized obscurely that George was on his side, deviously, obliquely on the side of life.

The sanitarium’s conscientious efforts to inform its ignorant population about their disease spread misconceptions that floated like thistledown at random among the patients. One day after a lecture Jake, the upholsterer, sidled up to George and asked. “George, have I got a lesion? What the hell’s a lesion?”

George was always ready to go. “You go downtown to the movies once a week.”


“You seen these kids playing in the alley beside the theater, huh?” George always assumed his hearer’s diction, a gambit to solicit plausibility.

“Sure. Playing marbles.”

“Uh-huh. You’re sure it’s marbles they’re playing.”

“Sure I’m sure. I used to play when I was a kid. We drew a big ring and — ”

“But you never went and picked up one of them marbles.”

“Kids don’t like you to bother ‘em when — ”

“ Those things ain’t marbles, Jake. I hem’re little round stones, not perfectly round but round enough to play with. Them’re your lesions.”

Jake was a little smarter than the Chief and he knew George. “OK. So these are the lesions of tuberculosis. How come the kids’re playing marbles with ‘em?”

In a wonderfully neglige manner George shrugged and said. “You’ve heard of gallstones. Calcium.”

Conviction began to cramp Jake’s hamlike face. “Yeah, but how do the kids — ?”

“How many sanitariums are there m Saranac? Fifteen, twenty? I dunno. Somebody must be getting the rib every day. Every time they open you up, they find lesions. Why, hell, they took about a pint of’em out of old Mrs. Underwood.”

“But how do the kids — ?”

“Out of the trash barrels.”

“You mean they throw our lesions into trash barrels?”

“So they’re pearls or something? What you want they should do with ‘em? Put ‘em in a bottle and give ‘em to you? Let the kids have some fun, Jake.”

“But these are colored. They look like marbles.”

“So you never had any colored crayons when you were a kid? Where’d you come from — Green Point? Red Hook?”

TIME had taught the authorities that the puritanic regimen so beneficial to the disease could not be maintained without any breaks. It sent people up the wall. With no offical announcement, merely by the seepage of custom, new patients learned that the week between Christmas and New Year’s was a licensed Saturnalia. If you didn’t fall on your face before the head, you could carouse, and visiting between the men’s and women’s cottages was winked at.

Preparations began as early as October. With childlike glee, as if they were breaking the rules at a boarding school, the men began to make dates with the women for the Christmas holiday. The marriage tie did not seem to hold. It was a saying that you left your spouse behind at Utica. There were half a dozen patients who had been divorced by their husbands or wives as soon as the tuberculosis was diagnosed. The staff lectures taught us to be selfish, to watch ourselves, to take care of ourselves, to listen to ourselves. We were selfish.

I had done very well, eating, lying in the open air, walking a little. My fever had gone. My weight stayed put. I was cheerful. About the first of December I was allowed full exercise, two hours of walking a day, the caloric equivalent, they said, of eight hours’ sedentary work. One hour was to be walked in the morning, another in the afternoon, with rest between. Conscientious people owned pedometers and paced off their miles exactly. I did my walking with George Kelly, and we were more casual. (It was better to walk in pairs. One could watch the other’s cheeks and warn him if they began to freeze. It was cold.) George had heard it was exactly two and a half miles to Peck’s Corners, a grocery store under a big oak tree, and we began to walk our five miles at one whack, there and back. Then we timed ourselves: two hours at first, then an hour and a half, and finally we did our best time, mostly at a dogtrot, forty-eight minutes. After a fortnight of this, my fluoroscopes and X rays looked so good that Dr. Speidel told me I could leave after the first of the year. Let me hasten to add that I think the improvement ran parallel to me on those long stumbling runs across the mountains but was not necessarily caused by them, although it may have been. We breathed a lot of fresh air.

Somebody went up the mountain, cut down a spruce, and fitted it into a tub in the living room of our cottage. Nobody could remember to buy decorations in Saranac. A few people tossed cigarette foil into the branches, and that was all our Christmas decoration. It was not all our preparation however. What people did remember when they went into Saranac was to dicker with bootleggers. After long bargaining, all the men in the cottage made up a pot and sent Jake, the upholsterer, to buy a five-gallon can of alcohol from the man who had set the best price.

Christmas Eve I went to a party in another cottage, and I didn’t drink any of this alcohol. As I was dressing Christmas morning three men came into my room and said, “Can you do this?” as they lifted their arms from the elbows.

“Sure,” I said, and did it.

“We can hardly do it,” they said.

“What do you mean?”

“It’s hard. We think there was something in the alcohol.”

“Can you see all right?”

“Yes, but it’s hard to lift our arms.”

“Is everybody like this?”

“All but Pops.” Pops was a Latvian shoemaker. All he did was play checkers. He had told us Christmas Eve we were swine to drink.

I looked around the cottage. Everybody but Pops was trying to lift his arms, and Pops was laughing. It is rare to see an occasion when clean living clearly pays off, and he was enjoying it. At last someone went and pulled a resident chemist away from his tree and his gifts and persuaded him to do an analysis on the alcohol. A deputation from our cottage stood and watched.

“It’s full of pyridine,” he said finally. “You go on drinking that stuff and you’ll be paralyzed.”

It was then that McGinley took over. He was a young lawyer from the Bronx, a protégé of Ed Flynn’s. He was often visited by the bishop of the diocese, and that good old man always left him a bottle of line episcopal rye whiskey. McGinley was a light case. He looked a little like Adolph Menjou, and that was a sinister way to look in those days. In a snap-brim hat and a camel’s-hair overcoat, he went downtown to see the bootlegger who had sold us the liquor.

In a side pocket of his overcoat, McGinley clenched his fist and extended a stiff forefinger. He said, “Look, Mac, I come up from the city for Christmas to see some friends of mine. They’re up at the Trudeau Sanitarium, you know?”


“These friends of mine, they got the con, see? They’re sick.”

“They all got the con at Trudeau.”

“That’s right. Now these friends of mine, they’re sick, it’s Christmas. Maybe they don’t see another Christmas. I want ‘em to have a good time, see?” As he spoke, McGinley would occasionally thrust the muzzle of his forefinger against the cloth of his pocket. “So I give ‘em a little dough to buy some alcohol. A little Christmas cheer, you unnastand.”


“They bought that alcohol from you, Mac.”


“So this, they’re lying up there half-paralyzed.”

“So it’s my fault they get stinko and —”

Softly, McGinley said, “This ain’t stinko paralyzed. This is nerve paralyzed. That alcohol was full of pyridine, Mac. That’s poison. They had it analyzed by a chemist in a laboratory. These guys, they ain’t got enough trouble being eaten away with the tuberculosis, no. You got to sell ‘em some pyridine so they can be paralyzed, too.”

By this time the bootlegger had begun to sweat the big drop. “Honest to God, I didn’t know. I just get the stuff off a truck that comes through. I didn’t — ”

“Now, how’s it going to be, Mac? You want to make it right with my friends? Or” — McGinley let it hang a moment and then finished in a low slow ominous voice — “maybe you want a little trouble for y’self.” And he gave the side of his pocket a last poke.

Fluttering with terror, the bootlegger pressed the original purchase price, seventy-five dollars, on McGinley and gave him a new five-gallon can of alcohol he swore was pure. He would drink it himself. McGinley grudgingly accepted the money and the can, leaped into a taxi, and came back up the mountain. It was a nice stroke of work.

On the day I left, George Kelly, McGinley, and Jake, the upholsterer, came down to Saranac to see me off. The Rhodes Trust had told me I could resume my scholarship, and I was going to stay with a friend in Virginia until I sailed for England.

I felt there was a certain arrogance in my departure, in having plans beyond these mountains, in leaving at all because I left these friends behind. As we waited on the station platform for the train, feeling the involved ironies of each other’s good wishes, it was George who loosened us up with the gallows humor we were used to. “Well, you won’t be going alone,” he said as he pointed to two long pine boxes stacked one on top of the other at the end of the platform. It was funny then, desperate, but funny, yet only now do I see how courteous it was.