March 2, 1957 87 Love Dies Slowly (Continued from Page 26) “ It’s almost a year, Maggie.” “I know, darling, but let's wait until summer. We’ll invite all your new friends to come and see us and I promise to be very gay.” Chip studied me in silence and then he washed down his thoughts with the bottle of pop. “O.K.,” he said, “but I wish summer would hurry.” “You know what 1 wish? I wish you’d stop drinking out of a bottle.” “Why?” “Because it’s so unaesthetic. Nice people don’t drink out of bottles.” “Around here they do. Everyone at school does, and so do the guys at the gas station. Why, even Eddie Fisher drinks out of a bottle on television.” I couldn’t argue the point because, presumably, these were nice people. “How about the great Mr. O’Toole?” I asked. Chip grinned. “Y’got me there, Maggie,” he said. “You really got me. I don’t think Mr. O’Toole drinks out of a bottle. He has a mother too.” “So I’ve discovered. His mother called me today.” “Did she invite you to tea?" “Yes.” Chip whistled shrilly through his front teeth. “That means I’m in some kind of trouble,” he said thoughtfully. “I got that impression too. Have you any idea what kind of trouble?” Chip’s eyes widened anxiously. “No, Maggie, I haven't,” he said. “What did you say to her?” “I thanked her, but I regretted. I asked her to have Mr. O’Toole call me.” “And did he?” “Hecalled and I invited him to dinner.” “Well, hallelujah!” my son exclaimed. “Will she let him come?” “Who is she?” “Macushla, his mother. They say she won't let him out after dark.” “Chip,” I said incredulously, “didn’t you tell me that Mr. O'Toole is over six feet tall, weighs almost two hundred pounds, and won all kinds of medals for shooting down planes over Europe?” “ Roger. What's for food?” 1 couldn’t help smiling, although 1 knew this \w.:>n’t a celebration. There was, as my son said, some kind of trouble ahead. But Chip's eyes were so bright and his cowlicks so unruly that 1 put my arms around him and gave him a kiss of confidence. “Your favorite menu, darling,” I said, “and I think you told me it was also a favorite of Mr. O’Toole’s. Steak and apple pie.” Mr. O’Toole is not only the current authority in our home on everything from Bach to Buchmanism, he is also the headmaster of Bolton, a small private school for boys. It is an old and venerable institution— my father is an alumnus—with a granite façade and disciplinary ideas that are as rock-ribbed as the New England town whose name it bears. It is not a school 1 would have chosen for my son— mainly, I think, because father is one of the trustees—but when Jeff was killed, father took my affairs in hand, enrolled Chip in Bolton and, because I refused to be separated from him, installed us in this old house which was once the family’s summer home. Mr. O’Toole was, as my son had so accurately reported, very tall, unemaciated and well-mannered. I was sure he did not drink out of a bottle. He greeted me gravely, hung up his coat in the hall closet and followed me into the long. low-ceilinged living room that looked out through many windows to the river. There was a fire sputtering on the hearth and Mr. O’Toole crossed the room and stood in front of it. He studied me silently for a second or two and then he said, “I've been waiting a long time for this moment.” It was a provocative opening, but I chose to ignore it. “Chip talks about you constantly,” 1 said. “You're one of his real heroes.” “Before I knew who you were,” Mr. O'Toole continued, “ I noticed you driving around the village in an open car. When 1 inquired about you, I learned that you were an artist and that you were married.” 1 couldn’t think of any reply, so 1 didn’t try to make one. If he had discovered that 1 was married, he must know that Jeff was a journalist and that we were out of the country most of the time. We never settled down, we never had a home, but we always came back to Bolton. We both liked the old town and the old house, and that was why father thought I would be happier here than anywhere else. “When your husband was killed,” said Mr. O’Toole, almost inaudibly, “I wanted to write to you, but I was afraid you might think it intrusive. Grief is a very personal thing.” It was well spoken and hard to say, and I tried to smile my thanks. “It’s an emotion that can’t be shared,” I said. “1 guess that’s why I haven’t been able to face people. You're the first guest since the accident.” “ I’m honored.” “And I’m grateful,” I said, “for all you’ve done to help my son.” “Your son,” said Mr. O’Toole, with a rather shy smile, “is a very unusual ten- year-old. I’ve learned a great deal from him.” “He’s led an unusual life.” “It’s been a rewarding one for him in many ways. He's impressionabL and he has a remarkable memory. But you can understand that his background has made it rather difficult for him to adjust to a normal life with boys of more routine interests.” I knew this was educational double talk, and while I had no doubt that it was sound, 1 had little patience with it. If I have a blind spot, it is for my son. I think he’s exceptional. 1 know that he's honest, kind and courageous. If the boys of Bolton School found it difficult to get along with him, the fault must be theirs. But I didn't want any trouble. It would bring my father to town on the run, and father is a man of action. He is also fanatically proud of Chip, who so closely resembles him that even strangers remark upon it. “ I don't know what the problem is,” I said, “but I was thinking today that if Jeff were alive he would say the net result of normal living, in Chip’s case, is that he's learned to drink out of a bottle.” Mr. O’Toole smiled. “I'll have to confess that it’s normal,” he said, “but it’s only a phase. There is a serious problem that I must talk over with you, and I thought we might set up a meeting with the faculty on Saturday, if that day is convenient for you. We can get together in my office and discuss things informally.” “A serious problem? Has Chip done something dreadful?” “Not at all,” said Mr. O’Toole. His voice had a soothing quality that was very reassuring. “It's an educational hurdle that we can’t seem to solve. It has nothing to do with discipline. Believe me, Mrs. Hillyer, I’m very fond of your son. By the way, where is he?” “ In the pantry. 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1957_03_02--026_SP [Love Dies Slowly]
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