By Rube Goldberg
"Here, take your pineapple juice," gently persuaded Koppel, the male nurse.
"No!" said Collis P. Ellsworth firmly.
"But itís good your you, sir."
"Itís the doctorís orders."
Koppel heard the front door bell and was glad to leave the room. He found Doctor Caswell in the hall downstairs. "I canít do a thing with him," he told the doctor. "He wonít take his pineapple juice. He doesnít want me to read to him. He hates the radio. He doesnít like anything."
Doctor Caswell received the information with his usual professional calm. He had done some thinking since his last visit. This was no ordinary case. The old gentleman was in pretty good shape for a man of seventy-six years. But he had to be prevented from buying things. He had suffered his last heart attack after his disastrous purchase of that small railroad out in Iowa. The attack before that came from the excitement caused by the failure of the chain of grocery stores which he had previously bought at a very high price. All of his purchases of recent years had to be liquidated at a great sacrifice both to his health and his pocketbook. Though he was still very wealthy, his health had begun to show serious effects from these various business operations.
Collis P. Ellsworth sat in a huge armchair by the window. He looked around as Doctor Caswell asked, "Well, howís the young man today?"
"Umph!" said the figure in the chair in a rather disagreeable tone.
"I hear that you havenít been obeying orders," the doctor said.
"Whoís giving me orders at my time of life?"
The doctor drew up his chair and sat down close to the old man. "Iíve got a suggestion for you," he said quietly.
Old Ellsworth looked suspiciously over his eyeglasses. "What is it, more medicine, more automobile rides, more foolishness to keep me away from my office?"
"How would you like to take up art?" The doctor had his stethoscope ready in case the suddenness of the suggestion proved too much for the patientís heart.
But the old manís answer as a strong "Foolishness!"
"I donít mean seriously," said the doctor, relieved that nothing had happened. "Just play around with chalk and crayons. Itíll be fun."
"All right." The doctor stood up. "I just suggested it, thatís all."
Collis P. paused a moment. The wrinkles in his forehead deepened a little. "Whereíd you get this crazy idea, anyway?"
"Well, itís only a suggestion--"
"But, Caswell, how do I start playing with the chalkóthat is, if Iím foolish enough to start?"
"Iíve thought of that, too. I can get a student from one of the art schools to come here once a week and show you. If you donít like it after a while, you can throw him out."
Doctor Caswell went to his friend, Judson Livingston, head of the Atlantic Art Institute, and explained the situation. Livingston had just the young manóFrank Swain, eighteen years old and an excellent student. He needed the money. He ran an elevator at night to pay for his schooling. How much would he get?" Five dollars a visit. Fine.
The next afternoon young Swain was shown into the big living room. Collis P. Ellsworth looked at him suspiciously. "Letís try and draw that vase over there on the table," he suggested.
"What for? Itís only a bowl with some blue stains on it. Or are they green?"
"Try it, Mr. Ellsworth, please."
"Umph!" The old man took a piece of crayon in a shaky hand and drew several lines. He drew several more and then connected these crudely. "There it is, young man," he said with a tone of satisfaction. "Such foolishness!" Frank Swain was patient. He needed the five dollars. "If you want to draw you will have to look at what youíre drawing, sir."
Ellsworth looked. "Gosh, itís rather pretty. I never noticed it before."
Koppel came in with the announcement that his patient had done enough for the first lesson.
"Oh, itís pineapple juice again," Ellsworth said. Swain left.
When the art student came the following week, there was a drawing on the table that had a slight resemblance to a vase. The wrinkles deepened at the corners of the old gentlemanís eyes as he asked, "Well, what do you think of it?"
"Not bad, sir," answered Swain. "But itís not quite straight."
"Gosh," old Ellsworth smiled, "I see. The halves donít match." He added a few lines with a shaking hand and colored the open spaces blue like a child playing with a picture book. The he looked towards the door. "Listen, young man," he whispered, "I want to ask you something before old pineapple juice comes back."
"Sure, Mr. Ellsworth."
"Good. Letís make it Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Four oíclock."
Kopple entered and was gently surprised when his patient took his pineapple juice without protest.
As the weeks went by Swainís visit grew more frequent. He brought the old man a box of water colors and some tubes of oils.
When Doctor Caswell called, Ellsworth would talk about the graceful lines of the chimney. He would mention something about the rich variety of color in a bowl of fruit. He proudly showed the various stains of paint on his dressing gown. He would not allow his servant to send it to the cleanerís. He wanted to show the doctor how hard heíd been working.
The treatment was working perfectly. No more trips downtown to his office for the purpose of buying some business that was to fail later. No more crazy financial plans to try the strength of his tried old heart. Art was a complete cure for him.
The doctor thought it safe to allow Ellsworth to visit the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and other exhibitions with Swain. An entirely new world opened up its mysteries to him. The old man showed a tremendous curiosity in the art galleries and in the painters who exhibited in them. How were the galleries run? Who selected the pictures for the exhibitions? An idea was forming in his brain.
When the late spring began to cover the fields and gardens with color Ellsworth painted a simply horrible picture of which he called, "Trees Dressed in White." Then he made a surprising announcement. He was going to exhibit the picture in the summer show at the Lathrop Gallery.
For the summer show at the Lathrop Gallery was the biggest art exhibition of the yearóin quality, if not in size. The lifetime dream of every important artist in the United States was a prize for this exhibition. Among the paintings of this distinguished group of artists Ellsworth was now going to place his "Trees Dressed in White," which resembled a handful of salad dressing thrown violently against the side of the house.
"If the newspapers hear about this, everyone in town will be laughing at Mr. Ellsworth. Weíve got to stop him," said Kopple.
"No," warned the doctor. "We canít interfere with him now and take a chance of ruining all the good work which we have done."
To the complete surprise of all threeóand especially Swainó"Trees Dressed in White" was accepted for the Lathrop show. Not only was Mr. Ellsworth crazy, thought Koppel, but the Lathrop Gallery was crazy, too.
Fortunately the painting was hung in an inconspicuous place where it did not draw any special notice or comment. Young Swain slipped into the museum one afternoon and blushed to the top of his ears when he saw "Trees Dressed in White," a loud, ugly picture on a wall otherwise covered with paintings of beauty and harmony. As two laughing students stopped before a strange picture Swain left hurriedly. He could not bear to hear what they had to say.
During the course of the exhibition the old man kept on taking lessons, seldom mentioning his picture in the exhibition. He was unusually cheerful. Every time Swain entered the room he found Ellsworth laughing to himself. Maybe Koppel was right. The old man was crazy. But it seemed equally strange that the Lathrop committee should encourage his craziness by accepting his picture.
Two days before the close of the exhibition a special messenger brought a long official-looking envelope to Collis P. Ellsworth while Swain, Kopple, and the doctor were in the room. "Read it to me," said the old man. "My eyes are tired from painting."
It gives the Lathrop Gallery great pleasure to announce that the First Prize of $1,000 had been awarded to Collis P. Ellsworth for his painting, "Trees Dresses in White."
Swain and Kopple were so surprised that they could not say a word. Doctor Caswell, exercising his professional self-control with a supreme effort, said: Congratulations, Mr. Ellsworth. Fine, fineÖ.Of course, I didnít expect such great news. But, butówell, now, youíll have to admit that art is much more satisfying than business."
"Art has nothing to do with it," said the old man sharply. "I bought the Lathrop Gallery last month."