Interlude: In Search of Artists

A couple meet a famous writer while tourists roam the streets of a seaside town, looking for artists.

An excerpt:

"Happy birthday," Pam said suddenly.

Craigie smiled at her. "It is, isn't it? I'd forgotten. So had everyone else, I think. That's the first time anyone's mentioned it tonight. Well, Alice, where's the champagne?"

"Oh, yes. I was going to bring it out before—"

"I know you were. But not when the public is here."

"I suppose we ought to—" Art began, but Craigie cut him off.

"No, no. You are not the public, thanks to your charming wife. The public never admits it hasn't read Moby Dick. Not my public, anyway."

Miss Marcoux had fluttered away and now she fluttered hack with a bottle of pink champagne.

"Geritol would be more like it, I suppose," Craigie said, taking the bottle, "but champagne fulfills the convention. Young man, would you like to do me the honor of uncorking it?"

"Certainly." Art took the bottle nervously, peeled the foil off, and began working at the cork. He thought it would never come out but finally it exploded, the cork sailed toward a corner, and Miss Marcoux got a glass under the bottle to catch the bubbling overflow. Then she filled the five glasses.

"I suppose you're a writer?" Mrs. Craigie said suddenly.

Art had almost forgotten about her. She looked considerably younger than Craigie. Black eyes sparkled—ironically?—at him.

"He writes a lot at home," Pam said. "He's a very good writer. But I can never get him to send anything anywhere. He writes stories and now and then a poem, and he's finished one novel and started another one, but he never submits anything."

"That's not true. I've submitted several things, but postage costs money and I'm getting tired of rejection slips."

"Don't worry," Craigie said to Pam. "The time will come when he'll submit things. And sell them. But let the time come. Let him write for his own delight as long as he wants to. Eventually, of course, the writer needs an audience or he dies. But let him wait until that time comes."

Pam nodded.

"You must come visit us sometime," Mrs. Craigie said. She had a husky, sincere voice. "I mean that. Andy likes you. We live about twelve miles from here. It's secluded, not easy to get to. But write and we'll give you directions."

"Yes, write," Craigie said, taking a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. He scribbled on it and handed it to Art. "That's the address. Send me a clipping of your story. I'll be your audience for the time being. Well, of course, for that you have an audience already, don't you? But perhaps I'll be a bit more perceptive than they. And I'll drop you a line and tell you how to find the place and you'll have to come and drink some gin and tonics with us."

"We ought to drink a toast," Miss Marcoux said. The champagne glasses wore almost empty now.

"Any more in that bottle?" Craigie asked.

"No, I used it all. Oh, dear, I should have bought more."

"That's all right."

"To Andrew Craigie," Miss Marcoux said, raising her glass, "our greatest living writer."

"Thank you, my dear, for your insincerity," Craigie said, and drained his glass. "And don't argue. It was damned nice insincerity and you'll just spoi1 things if you insist it was all true. I'm afraid we'd best be going. Old men should be in bed by now."

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