He was not a very complicated man, and he was married to a woman who did not search for complexities in him. They lived, moreover, in a time when the headshrinker was a South American Indian who had mastered the art of reducing the size of a human skull, posthumously. Gladys Tompkins Rainsford was the well-educated granddaughter of an English immigrant who had established one of the great American fortunes. Her father had gone to Princeton, taken a degree, and was easily persuaded to stay out of the way while Tompkins Iron & Steel was operated by an efficient regency, headed by an uncle. Tommy Tompkins sent his daughter to Foxcroft, and she chose to go on to Bryn Mawr and then chose to resign in the summer before her senior year, when she met Hugo Rainsford. Her mother was a lumpy little woman who traveled to Palm Beach and Bar Harbor by private car, was seldom without her parasol, and paid considerable sums in a hopeless effort to improve her negligible skill at auction bridge. She said that champagne made her acid, but she drank it anyhow. Gladys loved her ineffectual father and from a distance could pity her vulgar, lonely mother; but her feeling for the positive young man with the football reputation and the hinted-at notoriety was never in doubt. He was to be hers on any terms that were necessary, and it happened that he wanted her too. They were very nearly asked to leave the dude ranch where they met, and all parties were greatly relieved when Gladys, on the last night of a pack trip, announced their engagement.
Through the early years of their marriage Gladys frequently observed Hugo's indifferent attitude toward football, which she put down to boredom. He had played it well, but since he could no longer play it, he had lost interest; he was the victim of bores who wanted to talk about something he had graduated from; he wanted to get away from football and make a career for himself in the financial district. But she was not convinced that she had come upon the true reason for his increasingly perfunctory attention to the devotees of the game and the game itself. After his first show of petulance on the Piping Rock golf course she commenced to wonder how important his antipathy to the game had become. His subsequent experience with the Cleveland interview revealed—or so Gladys believed—a sardonic and deep disgust with the game or some aspect of it.
It took patience, but she finally got the story, and like everything else about him, it was simple enough. "You're wrong about my not liking the game," he said. "I loved it, and I still do. If I had to do over again I wouldn't take back a minute of the playing, or the business of learning the plays, or getting hurt. I didn't like getting my teeth knocked out, but I honestly didn't feel that till the half was over. You don't very much. You should have seen my leg when that son of a bitch jumped on me. The skin damn near came off with my stocking. But don't forget, I was dishing it out, not just taking it. A lot of fellows will tell you that they get the lump before the game starts, and they're all right after the first scrimmage. I don't think I ever did. The only thing I was afraid of was doing something stupid, made to look silly by the opposing end, for instance. And that happened more than once. But the physical part didn't bother me, because I figured I was pretty strong and at least an even match for most of the fellows on the opposing teams. Also, generally speaking, a tackle is more out in the open than the guards and the centers, and he's usually pretty big, so he's easier to keep an eye on. That means he can't get away with as much dirty stuff as some of the others, and I never liked to play dirty. Oh, a little holding, maybe, but that wasn't dirty. If you get away with it, fine. If not, 15 yards. And if you got away with it too often the other team'd run a couple of plays at you to keep you honest. That was how I lost my front teeth. 'Let's get Rainsford,' they said. And they did. Their end, their tackle, and their fullback hit me all at once. Two straight plays. I must have been pretty groggy, but I can remember that referee looking at me. O'Ryan, his name was, and he was a dentist. Little fellow with a mustache, from Tufts. I realized later that he was looking at me professionally. My mouth. Oh, it was a lot of fun, and some of the guys I know through football will be friends of mine for the rest of my life.
"But not all.
"A name you never heard me mention was George Carr. I only mention his name now because I have to. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to understand how I feel about football. I haven't mentioned George Can's name since the year you and I were married. He was a classmate of mine, both at St. Bartholomew's and Harvard. He came from Philadelphia. His father was and probably still is a corporation lawyer, one of those Philadelphia Club-Fish House-Rabbit Club types, and a Harvard man himself. He was very anxious to have George become a good football player, but George never quite made it. He played in prep school, but at Harvard he didn't get his freshman numerals, and in sophomore year he was dropped from the squad before the first game. I suppose that was a great disappointment to his old man, and George took it out on all athletes, but particularly football players and most of all, me. I didn't sweat over that. He bothered me about as much as a gnat, a flea. Athletes were guys with strong backs and weak minds, and I was the prime example. Well, after we were married and I went to work downtown someone repeated a remark that George made. He told somebody that I'd do very well in Wall Street as long as I wore my sweater with the H on it. But that if I had to depend on my brains, I'd soon be like your father—sponging off Tompkins Iron & Steel.
"Now you know how I've always felt about your father. A very sweet man, who couldn't possibly duplicate what your grandfather'd done. In a way, your father was licked from the start. If he went out and made a pile of money on his own, people would still say he hadn't made it on his own. That he had fifty million to begin with. On the other hand, if he made a botch of it, he'd be blamed worse than a man that started with nothing. So your father did what he did and let your uncle take over, and I've never known a nicer man than your father. Therefore, when George Carr made that crack I called him up and told him I wanted to see him. He suggested having lunch, but I said I preferred to call on him at his apartment, which I did. Much to my surprise he had another fellow with him. His lawyer, he said, but if he was a lawyer he must have earned his way through law school by prizefighting, judging by his appearance. He looked plenty tough. His name was Sherman. I said I didn't think it was necessary to have Sherman hear what I had to say, but George insisted that it was. So I asked him if the cracks I heard were accurately quoted, and he said they were. He repeated them, and included what he'd said about your father. 'All right,' I said. 'I just wanted to make sure. Now do I take on Mr. Sherman first, or both of you two at a time?' Sherman said I'd better not start anything, and while he was still saying it I hit him. I went at him as hard as I ever hit anybody. He was used to getting punched, not to being tackled. I drove him against the wall, so he got it both ways. The impact of the tackle, and the impact of the wall. Then I did hit him with my fist and he went down, all the fight was out of him. Then I went to work on George, with my fists, and I said 'See how your brains get you out of this.' You know, I'd been used to that kind of mixing it. Sixty minutes a game, and this wasn't Marquis of Queensberry rules. We wrecked some furniture, but I came through practically unscathed, and when I saw that the game was over for that day, I put on my hat and coat and went down to the Harvard Club and had a shower and a rubdown and a few drinks. Nothing ever came of it. Obviously George Carr wasn't going to go around town and tell people that I'd beaten up him and his bodyguard singlehanded. And I didn't tell anybody either."
"That must have been the first time you didn't show up for dinner," said Gladys.
"It was. I don't remember what excuse I gave, but you accepted it," said Hugo.
"But why did it turn you against football? I don't quite see that," said Gladys.
"I never did turn against football," he said. "But I wanted to get away from football, and people wouldn't let me. In other words, I didn't want George Carr to be right. You know I've never worn my sweaters."