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Sycamore©

– Chapter 9, cont.

Sycamore, written by Constance Wagner and published in 1950 by Alfred A. Knopf, is the story of a sophisticated New York girl who marries a boy from Arkansas. The Wagners and their daughter lived in Eureka Springs while the novel was written. In addition to five novels, Constance Wagner wrote numerous articles and stories published in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly and Collier’s.

I

t was hard to take her altered position in Sycamore, however. She could not help feeling like an abandoned wife. At home, Dory sat darkly brooding over the turn of events, and showed a tendency to blame Clytie for it. “You sure must have done something,” she would say suddenly, out of a long, black silence. “I didn’t,” Clytie replied in a voice of tired apathy. “It was just like I told you. Found out about his father and blew his top.” “That,” Dory said, “don’t make no sense.” On an afternoon in September, Clytie rode into town to see Mrs. Knowles. Somehow, she had not wanted to see Walter’s mother since he’d left, though Mrs. Knowles had written twice, cordially, asking her to call. Now, with Walter gone for a month, it seemed that she must do something, take action of some sort, so she went to see Mrs. Knowles. Agnes came down the steps to welcome her, while she was tethering her horse. “Dear Clytie,” she said, holding out both hands. “So good to see you. What made you stay away so long?” Clytie let herself be herded into the house, dumbly. At times, she didn’t know quite what tone to take with Walter’s

mother, and the Hollywood language did not seem to fit. Mrs. Knowles, though, from the beginning, built up a cozy intimacy between them. “Have you heard from Walter?” she asked, smiling at Clytie over the silver coffee service as she poured. “Yes,” said Clytie, her mouth sullen and discontented. “He writes every day.” “Ah. Of course.” Mrs. Knowles proffered wedges of snow-white cake on a plate of opaque blue glass. She slipped two lumps of sugar into her cup and sat back in her chair, wholly at her ease. Clytie, shrinking in a corner of the Victorian sofa, speculated as to the source of this inviolable self-possession, traced it to the simple fact that Agnes Perry had always had plenty of money, had been born with it, had not for an instant of her life known the gnawing anxiety of the poor. At that moment, Clytie’s envy and rancor were almost more than she could bear. She would have liked to fling the blue glass plate against the brick chimney-piece, but she was defeated by the wise, cool smile of Mrs. Knowles, who said over her cup: “Imagine Walter working as a bus boy in a hotel!” Clytie sat forward, begging for a ray of light. “You don’t think,” she said

urgently, “that Walter will keep on with this – this –” Agnes Knowles drew her head back abruptly and sat eying Clytie in compassionate surprise, years wiser, years sadder than she. “My dear child…” She set down her cup as if it were a hindrance to her. “Have you really been thinking that Walter would give in and come back? Ah – then you don’t know Walter. The most stubborn, the most determined – No, my dear. You can imagine how it makes my heart ache, but I assure you, Walter will never capitulate.” Clytie had wilted down again in the corner of the sofa. “It doesn’t make sense,” she said dully, in an unconscious paraphrase of her mother. “Only,” said Mrs. Knowles with that toss of the head that gave her more than ever the look of a well-bred horse, “only if you realize that Walter suffered a severe shock to his illusions. It was wrong of him to speak to his father as he did, of course. But if I could –” She stopped, biting her lip. “Roger,” she said then, with her usual control, “will never forgive him. He is fully as obstinate as Walter. An irresistible force against – ” “And what about me?” Clytie asked bleakly. The world for her, had never

NOTES from the HOLLOW

F

ollowing the Second World War, US Army Staff Sergeant Claude Bingaman returned to his native Eureka Springs and went to work at the Eureka Bakery. At the time, it was owned by the German-born Al Neumann. Besides serving the general public, they delivered rolls and pies to area restaurants. In about 1962, Claude and his younger brother, Don, purchased the bakery from Mr. Neumann. There are three things I’ve always

heard about the popular Eureka Bakery (or sometimes referred to as the Bingaman Bakery). First is the beautiful aroma produced by the bakery that permeated that portion of Spring Street. Claude’s daughter, Ellen Bingaman Summers, says aroma was the best advertising the bakery had. She said, “It was interesting there was an exhaust fan that was always on and it blew the smell of whatever he was cooking out into the street. People would come in and

HICC Ladies Fellowship Sept. 15 Holiday Island Community Church (188 Stateline Drive, Holiday Island) Ladies Fellowship will meet Monday, Sept. 15, at 10 a.m. Guest speaker will be Betsy Porter, assisting priest for Saint James Episcopal Church in Eureka Springs, who will speak on her spiritual journey. Refreshments will be served. Contact Linda Bartlett at (479) 244-5961 or Eula Jean McKee at (479) 253-8021 for further information.

extended far beyond the solid CONSTANCE boundaries of WAGNER herself. Mrs. Knowles leaned toward her, attentive. “My dear child,” she said impressively, “the only answer I see for you, is to go to Walter. He will need you. Think what it would mean to him! It would be hard for you – let’s face that. You’d have to find work, yourself, to make ends meet – a waitress or clerk, perhaps. And live quite modestly – say, a furnished room with some sort of cooking facilities. But how little all that would matter, when you’re both so young and so in love!” Clytie moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue. The inside of her mouth felt dry, too, and she wondered if she would be able to bring out words even supposing she had any. The I-can-take-it line was not at all apt, at this juncture. She sat staring desperately at a red-and-blue medallion in the rug, and her fingers moved rapidly up and down the creases of her jeans. At last she said: “My mother would never let me go away like that. She needs me. Just the other day, Doctor Totten told us her heart was bad and she mustn’t do any more of the heavy work. I wouldn’t feel right…”

by Steve Weems

say they just couldn’t resist the smell.” Second, people still talk about how fresh and delicious everything was at the bakery. I’ve asked several about what item was best and the usual answer is the donuts, followed by the brownies. My mother voted for the pies, especially the cherry. And during the right time of year, the wellliked pecan pies would be displayed in the front window. The last thing I’ve heard is that running a successful small-town bakery like the Eureka Bakery is hard work, with long stressful hours. The workday began at 4 a.m. or earlier to bake the day’s offerings. Stephanie Stodden, director of operations at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum, told me that her grandfather Claude would work all day and come home for dinner and a nap. After the nap, he’d return to the bakery and work until

midnight. After a few hours of sleep, the cycle began again. Before the war, Claude Bingaman and his bride, Mozelle, resided in Rogers where he was employed by the Harris Baking Company. In 1984, after a lifetime in the bakery business, Claude was forced to close the Eureka Bakery due to ill health. He passed away in 1986 and is buried in the Eureka Springs Cemetery.

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