A mile or so outside the village of Far Hills, N.J. you come on a small, sedate white sign with blue lettering: UNITED STATES GOLF ASSOCIATION. Do not drive too fast or you will miss it.
Before you have gone 50 feet along the winding blacktop entrance road, you will suddenly have the feeling everything is going to be all right after all. You will not think this, just sense it. Somehow you have stumbled upon a place where there is no evil. No dentists. No lawyers. No prognosticators of the economy, no nuclear physicists, no patrolmen's benevolent associations or campaign managers or computer experts.
Here are quiet vistas you have seen before, somewhere, in better days. Grass everywhere, not long enough for snakes and not short enough to worry about keeping neat.
Pines and spruces and birches. Maple. Oaks. Dogwood and Chinese elm. An ancient sprawling apple tree for lying under. Not a computerized apple tree with straight branches scientifically designed for maximum pulp yield during prime bearing years. This is a real apple tree. If you lie under it long enough and look up through the branches, every cloud in the world will eventually pass before your eyes.
Off to the right is the next-door neighbor's house. It looks very big and rich, like a house Gatsby might rent for the summer. The house belongs to a man named Cyrus Vance. Or once did, or he slept there, or one of his relatives used it as a ski chalet. Something like that—Cyrus Vance is connected with that house in some way. I am not quite sure who Cyrus Vance is, or was, but I know he is a famous person, one whose name every schoolboy remembers. When I was a schoolboy I remembered it. But now I have him vaguely associated with the man who invented the reaper, and that is probably wrong.
You drive on—slowly, for there is no hurry—past shrubbery planted more than half a century ago. Largely untended in recent years, it is exuberantly unkempt. Enormous magnolias, rhododendrons 12 feet tall and more, lilac and flowering quince, boxwood you would not believe even if I showed you a picture. After a while you come to an enormous edifice of brick. It is apparently an orphan asylum imported from England. But it is a benevolent orphan asylum, not a sinister place. The man who runs it is stern, perhaps, but he is not cruel.
Instead of a front door there is a massive entranceway. Four enormous pillars support a portico—pseudo-Greek or pseudo-Roman, it doesn't matter. The slate roof weighs a million tons and will last forever. Two gigantic chimneys at each end of the main building supply draft for the countless fireplaces such a house contains.
It is hard to imagine that this place is really a house. Right now it is called Golf House, but once it was meant for a family to live in. The children came home from school and left the door to the great hall open so the flies got in. In the winter the father went down to the basement and banged on the furnace and swore. (The basement is like the engine room of an ocean liner. There are enormous boilers, big enough to live in. There are hundreds and thousands and millions of pipes and valves and dials. There is massive iron machinery apparently designed for shoeing elephants.)
The main difference between this house and the ones you and I live in is that ours were not designed on purpose. They were just sort of built, by a carpenter who made up the plan as he went along, depending on what kind of boards his brother-in-law happened to have in stock. This house was created by an architect, John Russell Pope.
A man with three names like that did not design just one house and then quit. He designed many other buildings, some of which are famous: the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., which looks pretty much the way a building full of archives is supposed to look; the Jefferson Memorial, also in Washington, which looks all right if they can keep it from sinking into a swamp; the American Battle Monument in France, which I have never seen but can make a fairly good guess about.