“Oh, Johnny, do you think we’re too late?”
The ship was coming into the harbor, and Linda and her husband stopped talking to watch the Statue of Liberty as she seemed to float past them.
“Nick and Susan have been looking in on him.”
“Looking after him, more like,” Linda said. “They’ve always been so good to you and now to Neddy. They remind me that people can be real.”
“Rich people are just as real as poor.” Johnny patted her hand. He was used to his wife’s prejudices.
“That’s true. I’ve known some real bastards and some real angels among our set, and you can’t get more real than that, but my family...”
“Tinsel on top of chrome.”
Linda chuckled. “That’s exactly it. Chrome can be beautiful,” she gestured at the Chrysler building, “but no one should be told that it’s sterling silver.”
“It’s much shinier for one thing.” He kissed Linda’s temple. “You don’t see the shine anymore, do you?”
“I’m not certain I ever did. The things I miss aren’t things. They’re people. And a few animals.”
Johnny’s eyes twinkled. “Based on that one ex-beau of yours, I’m certain there’s a lot of overlap.”
Linda matched his brash good humor and said, “And I’ve told you before, Todd was never a beau.”
Nick and Susan were waiting for them at the quay. As soon as they passed through customs, there were hugs and chatter all around. Johnny made arrangements for the trunks to be delivered to their apartment in Tudor City, and Nick and Susan came along to admire the empty apartment.
“It isn’t big, but it’s enough for us.” Linda said.
Susan looked at her appraisingly. “Happy?”
“Ecstatic. Or I would be if the world were a better place. We had to leave Germany when we did. If we hadn’t, Johnny would have been in jail at best.”
Susan nodded. “We’d wondered why you’d gone to London early.”
“War’s coming. In some ways your letter about Ned came at the best time. Johnny understands how precious Ned is to me. I’m not certain he understands how precious he is to me.”
“I’m sure he does. But he also understands that you love his spirit, and he wouldn’t be the man I know if he didn’t fight for things he thinks are worth his time and energy.”
Linda touched her hand. “You’re right, of course.” She listened to her husband and Nick talking in the next room about the changes in Europe for a moment, then said, “Tell me about Neddy.”
“Things go in waves with him. Your father is not only no help, he’s positively vicious about Ned sometimes. I wish I could say Julia was better.”
Linda went quiet. “I know. I thought she was different, but...”
“If she had more depth, she’d be shallow,” said Susan. “Ned had a bad lapse right after we got your telegram that you were coming home.”
“Oh. Is he...?”
“Your father tried to disown him.”
“I’ll bet Father found out just how much of that Seton money is tied up in trusts.”
Susan smiled a little grimly. “He did indeed.” She looked around the room.
“Yes, I paid for the flat, but only because I had money in New York. Johnny’s paid for everything else, and he’s got two different books coming out from our travels. He can explain things clearly when others can’t. And he’s engineered a few little doohickeys that will help our war effort. And make no mistake, Susan, war is coming.”
“I thought so. Ned sees it, too. I spoke to my friend, Lisa Vale, when I realized Ned was getting bad, and she recommended a Doctor Jacquith and his work at Cascades.”
Linda put her hand to her mouth. “Oh, no. He’s in a sanitarium?”
“Ned went voluntarily, and, look, Nick and I talked about getting the car out tomorrow and driving you and Johnny up to Cascades to see Ned. He’s been transformed just talking to Doctor Jacquith. And Linda, he’s given up drinking. That’s why he needed Cascades. He’s seeing the world clearly for the first time in years, and he needs to understand how to soften the edges.”
Linda said, “Has he found a girl? A woman that could see him through?”
Susan closed her eyes. “I don’t think Ned will carry on the Seton name.”
“As long as he finds someone to share his life, I don’t care. He’s like me. He’ll be happier when he’s needed.”
Susan said, “You’re a wise woman, my dear.”
Cascades proved to be a beautiful place in Connecticut. Doctor Jacquith was very clear about Ned’s prospects. “As long as he finds a way to engage with life, he doesn’t need to drink. But once he starts to drink, he’s never going to find a tie to the world. He’s gotten stronger here, and when you take him back to New York, you need to help him find his place in the world and keep up his routine.”
Johnny asked, “What routine is that, Doctor?”
“A daily walk, at least twenty minutes worth, but I’d prefer an hour. Healthy food is important, but not too much sugar because his body treats it like alcohol at this point. And a passion for something, it can be cockfighting for all I care. Although, I think Ned is far too sensitive for that to be likely, but a man without a passion...”
Johnny finished the thought, “Is not really living. Life needs a dream and a dream provides passion.”
“I must say,” Doctor Jacquith said, “You and your wife seem to have a much greater understanding of Ned than his father and sister do.”
Linda said, “Is he playing the piano? Drawing?”
“Yes. He’s also analyzing problems, and coming up with solutions.”
“Drawing the solutions?” Linda asked.
“That’s my Neddy. Father thought his artistic and musical talents were a waste in a son. But he’s good isn’t he?”
“In my amateur opinion, he’s excellent.”
Johnny said, “Is it all right if we see Ned now? You said a routine was important.”
“So are surprises,” Doctor Jacquith said with a smile.
Ned was thrilled to see all of them, but he and Linda left the others sitting in the park as they went on a hike from one end of Cascades' town to the other.
“I’m sorry Father was such a stinker,” Linda said.
“We’ve known that for a long time.”
“I shouldn’t have left you alone in that house.”
Ned stopped and turned to her. “Don’t you dare. You escaped, and that gave me hope. I toasted you and Johnny the moment I heard the front door shut behind you. I just have this weakness.”
“And the world is unkind to weakness.”
“It is, but I have been unkind to myself in indulging my weakness. I love to play the piano still, but I don’t know if it would have been my calling. And with war coming … It is coming, isn’t it.?”
Linda said, “Yes, Neddy, it is.”
“Nick told me Johnny’s been writing -- preparing all of us for what’s to come.”
“Yes. He’s good at explaining the reasons we have to fight it. Even people who don’t like some of the ethnics the Chancellor doesn’t like should be able to understand why his approach is wrong.”
Ned looked at her. “I would be a terrible officer and a worse soldier, but I might be good at inventing better ways to get from here to there -- wherever there might happen to be.”
“Johnny’s had some ideas... Look, Ned, promise me that the minute Doctor Jacquith says you’re able you’ll come to Johnny and me. There’s a one bedroom apartment available on our floor. We’d all have our own space, but we could all be together when we wanted to be. I can help you keep your routine, and you and Johnny can work on your ideas -- together, separately, with me, whatever will keep us going.”
They started back to the others and ran into Johnny and Nick arguing over Hemingway on the terrace.
“Stay to dinner tonight,” Ned said to Johnny. “Nick will tell you the food here is excellent, and Linda’s had some good suggestions for our future.”
Johnny pulled his brother-in-law to him for a hug. “I think you’ll be a terrific neighbor. You know, I never had a brother.”
Susan came up quietly and took Nick’s arm. “He’ll be all right, won’t he?”
“Ned?” He looked after the trio who were walking in step with their arms around each others’ waists. “Linda and Johnny will get him started. It’s up to him to keep going, but you know, I think they’ve got a good shot.” He kissed his wife.
She smiled back at him. “I do, too.”