LONG CIRCUITS AND SHORT
James Randolph was a native Chicagoan, but his father, an intelligent and prosperous physician, with a general practise in one of the northern suburbs, afterward annexed to the city, did not belong to the old before-the-fire aristocracy that Rodney and Frederica, and Martin Whitney, the Crawfords and Violet Williamson were born into. The medical tradition carried itself along to the third generation, when James made a profession of it, and in him, it flowered really into genius. From the beginning his bent toward the psychological aspect of it was marked and his father was sympathetic enough to give it free sway. After graduating from one of the Chicago medical colleges he went to Johns Hopkins, and after that to Vienna, where he worked mostly under Professor Freud.
It was in Vienna that he met Eleanor Blair. She, too, was a native of Illinois, but this fact cut a very different figure in her life from that which it cut in his. Her grandfather, a pioneer, forceful, thrifty and probably rather unscrupulous, had settled on the wonderfully fertile land at a time when one had almost to drive the Indians off it. He had accumulated it steadily to the day of his death and died in possession of about thirty thousand acres of it. It was in much this fashion that a feudal adventurer became the founder of a line of landed nobility, but the centrifugal force of American life caused the thing to work out differently. His son had an eastern college education, got elected to Congress, as a preliminary step in a political career, went to Washington, fell in love with and married the beautiful daughter of an unreconstructed and impoverished southern gentleman. She detested the North, and as her love for the South found its expression in passionate laments over its ruin, uncomplicated by any desire to live there, she spent more and more of her time—her husband’s faint wishes becoming less and less operative with her until they ceased altogether—in one after another of the European capitals.
So Eleanor, two generations away from the fertile soil of central Illinois, was as exotic to it as an orchid would be in a New England garden. Two or three brief perfunctory visits to the land her income came from, and to the relatives who still lived upon it, became the substitute for what, in an older and stabler civilization, would have been the dominant tradition in her life.
She must have been a source of profound satisfaction to large numbers of French, Italian, Austrian and English persons, to whose eminent social circles her mother’s wealth and breeding gained admittance, by embodying for them, with perfect authenticity, their notion of the American girl. She was rich, beautiful, clever in a rather shallow, “American” way, she had a will of her own, and was indulged by her mother with an astounding amount of liberty; she was audacious, yet with a tempering admixture of cool shrewdness, which kept her out of the difficulties she was always on the brink of.