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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #91

[Marise Crittenden reflects on the influence of Vincent Marsh, a man who had desired her and tried to seduce her into an extramarital affair with him.] Would Vincent come back at all? Marise had wondered so often. Not Vincent in the flesh; that last angry bewildered gesture had finality in it. He had given her up then, totally. But would he come back to haunt her in those inevitable moments of flat ebb-tide in life, when what should be moist and living, withered and crisped in the merciless drought of drudgery and routine? She feared it, frankly dreaded it at first, and tried to think how to brace herself against it. But it was not then that he came, not when she was toiling with dishes to wash, or vegetables to pare, or the endless care of the children’s never-in-order clothes. Instead she found in those moments, which had been arid before, a curious new savour, a salt without which life would seem insipid, something which gave her appetite for the rest. “This is all Tolstoyan nonsense and sentimentality,” she told herself mockingly, “there is nothing sacred about scrubbing the floor.” [...] Once she said to herself, “It’s ballast, to a person like me,” although she did not know exactly what this meant. And another time she said, “Perhaps it’s that I’m making an honest effort to do my share.” But it was true and real, the fact that after such work the reading of the day’s news of the world brought her a less oppressive sense of guilt. And stranger than this, music had greater vitality for her. She felt it a deeper, richer soil than any she had dreamed of, and struck her roots profoundly into depths which kept her whole complicated organism poised, steady, and upright. And here it was that Vincent came back. Not the Vincent of the hawk-like imperious face, or burning eyes of desire, which had seemed to him his realest self. But the Vincent who had come in from the porch that day in March when she had first played to him, who had smiled at her, the good, grateful, peaceful smile, and had said to her music, “Go on, go on.” It was the same Vincent of the afternoon in Cousin Hetty’s garden when the vulture of the desire to possess had left him for a moment in peace. Often and often he came thus as she played and leaned back his head and said, “Go on.” And thus Marise knew he would always come. And thus she welcomed him. This was what was left of him in the house he had so filled with his smoky, flaming brilliance. Dorothy Canfield, The Brimming Cup (1919), pp. 311-312

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