Free Air (Chapter 2, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 2

Claire Boltwood lived on the Heights, Brooklyn. Persons from New York
and other parts of the Middlewest have been known to believe that
Brooklyn is somehow humorous. In newspaper jokes and vaudeville it is so
presented that people who are willing to take their philosophy from
those sources believe that the leading citizens of Brooklyn are all
deacons, undertakers, and obstetricians. The fact is that North
Washington Square, at its reddest and whitest and fanlightedest,
Gramercy Park at its most ivied, are not so aristocratic as the section
of Brooklyn called the Heights. Here preached Henry Ward Beecher. Here,
in mansions like mausoleums, on the ridge above docks where the good
ships came sailing in from Sourabaya and Singapore, ruled the lords of a
thousand sails. And still is it a place of wealth too solid to emulate
the nimble self-advertising of Fifth Avenue. Here dwell the
fifth-generation possessors of blocks of foundries and shipyards. Here,
in a big brick house of much dignity, much ugliness, and much
conservatory, lived Claire Boltwood, with her widower father.

Henry B. Boltwood was vice-president of a firm dealing in railway
supplies. He was neither wealthy nor at all poor. Every summer, despite
Claire's delicate hints, they took the same cottage on the Jersey Coast,
and Mr. Boltwood came down for Sunday. Claire had gone to a good school
out of Philadelphia, on the Main Line. She was used to gracious leisure,
attractive uselessness, nut-center chocolates, and a certain wonder as
to why she was alive.

She wanted to travel, but her father could not get away. He consistently
spent his days in overworking, and his evenings in wishing he hadn't
overworked. He was attractive, fresh, pink-cheeked, white-mustached, and
nerve-twitching with years of detail.

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