"Art For Heart's Sake" by Reuben Goldberg_
"Here, take your juice," said Koppel, Mr. Ellsworth's servant and nurse.
"No," said Collis P. Ellsworth.
"But it's for you, sir!"
"The doctor insists on it."
Koppel heard the front door bell and was glad to leave the room. He found Doctor Caswell in the hall down-stairs.
"I can't do a thing with him," he told the doctor." He doesn't want to take his juice. I can't persuade him to take his medicine. He doesn't want me to read to him. He hates TV. He doesn't like anything!"
Doctor Caswell took the information with his usual professional calm. This was not an ordinary case. The old gentleman was in pretty good health for a man of seventy. But it was necessary to keep him from buying things. His financial transactions always ended in failure, which was bad for his health.
"How are you this morning? Feeling better?" asked the doctor. "I hear you haven't been obeying my orders."
The doctor drew up a chair and sat down close to the old man. He had to do his duty. "I'd like to make a suggestion," he said quietly. He didn't want to argue with the old man.
Old Ellsworth looked at him over his glasses. The way Doctor Caswell said it made him suspicios. "What is it, more medicine, more automobile rides to keep me away from the office?" the old man asked with suspicion. "Not at all," said the doctor. "I've been thinking of something different. As a matter of fact I'd like to suggest that you should take up art. I don't mean seriously of course," said the doctor, "just try. You'll like it."
Much to his surprise the old man agreed. He only asked who was going to teach him drawing. "I've thought of that too," said the doctor. "I know a student from an art school who can come round once a week. If you don't like it, after a little while you can throw him out." The person he had in mind and promised to bring over was a certain Frank Swain, eighteen years old and a capable student. Like most students he needed money, doctor Caswell kept his promise.
He got in touch with Frank Swain and the lessons began. The old man liked it so much that when at the end of the first lesson Koppel came in and apologized to him for interrupting the lesson, as the old man needed a rest, Ellsworth looked disappointed.
When the art student came the following week, he saw a drawing on the table. It was a vase. But something was definitely wrong with it.
"Well, what do you think of it?" asked the old man stepping aside.
"I don't mean to hurt you, sir…", began Swain.
"I see," the old man interrupted, "the halves don't match. I can't say I am good at drawing. Listen, young man," he whispered. "I want to ask you something before Old Juice comes again. I don't want to speak in his presence."
"Yes, sir," said Swain with respect.
"I've been thinking… Could you come twice a week or perhaps three times?"
"Sure, Mr. Ellsworth," the student said respectfully.
"When shall I come?"
They arranged to meet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
As the weeks went by, Swain's visits grew more frequent. The old man drank his juice obediently. Doctor Caswell hoped that business had been forgotten forever.
When spring came, Ellsworth painted a picture which he called "Trees Dressed in White." The picture was awful. The trees in it looked like salad thrown up against the wall. Then he announced that he was going to display it at the Summer Show at the Lathrop Gallery. Doctor Caswell and Swain didn't believe it. They thought the old man was joking.
The summer show at the Lathrop Gallery was the biggest exhibition of the year. All outstanding artists in the United States dreamt of winning a Lathrop prize.
To the astonishment of all "Trees Dressed in White" was accepted for the Show.
Young Swain went to the exhibition one afternoon and blushed when he saw "Trees Dressed in White" hanging on the wall. As two visitors stopped in front of the strange picture, Swain rushed out. He was ashamed that a picture like that had been accepted for the show.
However Swain did not give up teaching the old man. Every time Koppel entered the room he found the old man painting something. Koppel even thought of hiding the brush from him. The old man seldom mentioned his picture and was usually cheerful.
Two days before the close of the exhibition Ellsworth received a letter. Koppel brought it when Swain and the doctor were in the room. "Read it to me," asked the old man putting aside the brush he was holding in his hand. "My eyes are tired from painting." The letter said: "It gives the Lathrop Gallery pleasure to announce that Collis P. Ellsworth has been awarded the First Landscape Prize of ten thousand dollars for his painting "Trees Dressed in White".
Swain became dumb with astonishment. Koppel dropped the glass with juice he was about to give Ellsworth. Doctor Caswell managed to keep calm. "Congratulations, Mr. Ellsworth," said the doctor. "Fine, fine… Frankly, I didn't expect that your picture would more satisfying than business."
"Art is nothing. I bought the Lathrop Gallery," said the old man highly pleased with the effect of his deception.
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