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ONE COAT OF WHITE




LANGUAGE FOCUS

 

by H. A. Smith

SMITH, HARRY ALLEN (1907 – 1976), American newspaper man and humorist, who gained national prominence with the publica­tion in 1941 of "Low Man on a Totem Pole", a diverting collection of autobiographical articles and interviews. Harry Alien Smith was born in McLeansboro, Ill., on Dec. 19. 1907. A series of moves during his childhood took the family to Huntington, Ind., where at the age of 15 he began his newspaper career. For more than a dozen years afterward he traveled around the country, working on newspapers. In 1929 he went to New York City, where he was a feature writer for the United Press (1929 - 1935) and the World-Telegram (1936 - 1941). The success of "Low Man on a Totem Pole" led to other books generally in the same uninhibited anecdotal vein, including "Lost in the Horse Latitudes" (1944), "Rhubarb" (1946), and "To Hell in a Handbasket "(1962). He died in San Francisco, Calif, on Feb. 24, 1976.

 

Everybody knows by this time that we first met Lautisse1 on shipboard, but few people know that in the beginning Betsy2 and I had no idea who he was.

We were on the Queen Elizabeth3, coming back from our first trip to Europe. It was on the second day that I ran into him sitting in a quiet corner on deck4. He gave me a nasty look. I started to back away mumbling an apology and then his expression changed.

"Wait!" he called out. "You are an American?"

His English was good, and he asked me if I had a moment to help him with a small problem. He wanted to know the name of some United States Senator5 for the ship's daily crossword puzzle. I sat down and puzzled over the thing. The definition was, "Senator who crosses a river". I thought of Senator Ford, but there were no Fords on the passenger list, and then I got it – Senator Bridges. There was a Miss Ethelyn Bridges on board.

I didn't see him until next day, just before lunch, when he came into the main lounge, caught me by the arm, and whispered "Look!" In his big hand he was holding a man's wallet made of pigskin. "The prize!" he said. "See what I've won! But for you, though, I would have never solved the puzzle. Come and have a cocktail with me."

I went with him to his state-room6, and he got out a bottle of brandy.

He introduced himself as Monsieur Roland and kept thanking me for my help with the puzzle. Then he began asking me some questions about myself and my business, and I told him I sold oil-burners.

We sat there talking, and finally he asked me if I could keep a secret, and then he said, "I am Lautisse."

I told Betsy all about it, so after lunch we went up and talked to the ship's librarian, asked him a few innocent questions and then dropped the name of Lautisse. We were greatly impressed by what we heard. We found out that my new friend was probably the world's greatest living painter, that he had given up painting and was heard to say that he would never touch another brush as long as he lived. Betsy talked me into sending a note to his cabin, asking him around for a drink.

Well, we got to be real friendly. He planned to spend a month in New York, and it was Betsy who suggested that he came up to our place for a weekend.

Lautisse arrived on the noon train Saturday and I met him at the station. We had promised him that we wouldn't invite any people in and that we wouldn't try to talk art to him. Driving out from the station I asked him if he wanted to do anything in particular, like play croquet or go for a swim or a walk in the woods, and he said that he just wanted to sit and relax. So we sat around all afternoon, and Lautisse looked at a ball game7 on television for about five minutes, and couldn't understand it, and I took him to my shop and showed him an oil-burner and he couldn't understand that either. Mostly we sat around and talked.

I was up at seven-thirty the next morning and when I was having break­fast I remembered a job I'd been putting off for some time. Our vegetable garden has a white fence which I built with my own hands five years ago.

That garden fence is my pride and joy, and now that it needed a fresh coat of paint, I wanted to do the job. I got out a bucket half full of white paint and a brush. While I was getting things ready, I heard footsteps and there stood Lautisse. I said I had been getting ready to paint the fence but now that he was up, I'd postpone it. He protested. I took up the brush but he seized it from my hand and said, "First, I show you!"

I'm no Tom Sawyer — I wasn't looking for anybody to paint that fence. I let him finish two sides of the post and then interrupted.

"I'll take it from here," I said, reaching for the brush.

"No, no!" he said, with an impatient wave of the brush.

I argued with him but he wouldn't even look up from his work. I went back to the Sunday papers but every now and then I'd get up and go out and watch him for a couple of minutes. He spent three hours at it and finished the fence, all four sections of it. You should have seen him when he walked around the house to the terrace where I was sitting — he had paint all over him.

Some time during the afternoon he asked me if we were anywhere near Chappaqua, and I said it was the next town, and he wanted to know if we had ever heard of Gerston, the sculptor. We had heard, of him, of course, and Lautisse said he had once known Gerston in Paris, and would it be possible to get in touch with him? I got Gerston on the telephone for him, but he talked in French, and I have no idea what the conversation was about.

He went back to town on the 9.03 that evening and at the station shook my hand and said I was a fine fellow and that he hadn't enjoyed himself so much in years, and that he wanted Betsy and me to come to New York and have dinner with him some night.

We didn't hear anything from him or about him for ten days. Then the New York papers got hold of the story. In the interview which Lautisse gave there were a few lines about the weekend he had spent with Mr. and Mrs. Gregg.

The day after the story a reporter appeared and a photographer from one of the papers arrived at our place. Besides taking pictures of Betsy and me, as well as of the house, they asked for every single detail of the great man's visit, and Betsy told them of course about the garden fence. They took more pictures of the fence, the paint bucket and the brush and the next morning the paper had quite a story. The headline said: LAUTISSE PAINTS AGAIN.

It gave us a sort of funny feeling, all this publicity8, but we didn't have much time to think about it. People started arriving in large num­bers. They all wanted my garden fence, because it had been painted by the great Lautisse.

"Look, gentlemen." I said. "I'm a businessman, I don't know anything about painting, I mean painting pictures. But I do know a thing or two about painting a fence. A mule could have held a paint brush in his teeth and done almost as good a job on that fence as Lautisse did."

In their turn they asked me if I knew that a single painting by Lautisse was worth as much as a quarter of a million dollars and whether I realized that my garden fence was a genuine Lautisse. I told them I'd make my decision in the next few days.

Those next few days were bedlam. We had to have the telephone discon­nected — there were calls from all over the country. At least another dozen art galleries and museums sent people. By the end of the second day I was being offered twenty-five thousand. The next day fifty.

When on the fourth day Gerston came in. I immediately took up the subject of the fence. He advised me not to sell the fence yet — and let the Palmer Museum in New York exhibit it for several weeks. He also explained what all the excitement was about. He said one reason was that Lautisse had never before used a bit of white paint.

The fence was taken to New York. I went down myself to have a look, and I couldn't keep from laughing when I saw my fence — it had a fence around it.

The exhibition was to end on a Saturday, and Gerston phoned that day and asked if I would meet him at the museum on Sunday.

He led me to the room where my fence had been exhibited, and I did get a shock when we walked in. The fence had been cut up into sections.

"Don't get excited," said Gerston. "Let me show you something." He pointed to a word in black paint at the bottom corner. It took me a few seconds to recognize it. It was the signature of Lautisse.

"But ... but I don't get it" I stammered. "Why ... what ... where is he?"

"Lautisse sailed for home early this morning," said Gerston. "But last night he came over here, got down on his hands and knees, and signed each of the thirty sections. Now you've got something to sell."

And indeed I did have. Twenty-nine sections of the thirty sections were sold within a month's time at 10,000 each. I kept the thirtieth, it's hanging now in our living-room.

After it was all over, I went to see Gerston.

"Lautisse was genuinely fond of you and Mrs. Gregg," he said. "He had no idea, when he painted your fence, that it would make such a noise. But when it did, he got a good laugh out of it. And it was his idea to have the fence cut into sections. Then he got down to work and signed each one."

Notes:

1. Lautisse[ʹlotis]

2. Betsy— the short for Elizabeth

3. the "Queen Elizabeth"— an ocean-going liner

4. to be on deck (at sea, on board (a ship))— remember that there are no articles in these word-combinations

5. Senator— a member of the Senate, the upper house in US Congress

6. state-room— a private cabin on a steamer

7. ball gamehere: baseball, the national game of the US

8. publicity— public notice or attention

 

VOCABULARY

 

idea(n) 1. thought; picture in the mind   This book gives you a good ideaof life in ancient Greece. 1. мысль, представление // думка, уявлення Эта книга дает хорошее представление о жизни в древней Греции. // Ця книжка дає добре уявлення про життя у давній Греції.
2. plan; scheme; design; purpose That man is full of new ideas. 2. идея (план), схема, проект, цель // ідея (план), схема, проект, мета Этот человек полон новых идей (планов). // Ця людина сповнена нових ідей (планів).
3. opinion You should not force your ideason other people. 3. мнение // думка Вам не следует навязывать свое мнение другим людям.// Вам не слід нав’язувати іншим людям свою думку.
4. conception What ideacan a man who is blind from birth have of colour? You can have no idea(of) how anxious we have been.   4. представление, понятие // уявлення, гадка Какое представление может иметь о цвете человек слепой от рождения? // Яке уявлення про колір може мати людина сліпа від народження? Вы и понятия не имеете о том, как мы беспокоились. // Ви й гадки не маєте про те, як ми турбувалися.
nasty(adj) 1. dirty; disgusting; unpleasant The medicine was with a nastysmell and a nastier taste. 1. грязный, отвратительный, неприятный // бридкий, огидний У лекарства был неприятный запах и еще более неприятный вкус. // Ліки мали огидний запах і ще огидніший смак.
2. dangerous; threatening There was a nastylook in his eye. 2. опасный, угрожающий // небезпечний, погрозливий У него был угрожающий взгляд. // В нього був погрозливий погляд.
mumble(v) say smth, speak one's words indistinctly The old man was mumblingaway to himself.   бормотать // бурмотіти   Старик что-то бормотал себе под нос. // Старий щось бурмотів собі під ніс.
apology(n)statement of regret (for doing wrong, being impolite, hurting smb's feelings) offer (make, accept) an apology; make an apologyto smb for smth.   If you offend a person you should offer an apology.   извинения // вибачення     принести кому-л. (принять) извинения // вибачитись (прийняти вибачення) принести кому-л. извинения за что-то // вибачитись перед кимось за щось. Если вы обижаете человека, вам следует извиниться.
puzzle(n) 1. question or problem difficult to understand or answer His unexpected disappearance was a puzzleto everybody. 1. загадка // загадка Его неожиданное исчезновение было загадкой для всех. // Його несподіване зникнення було загадкою для усіх.
2. problem or toy designed to test person's knowledge, skill, patience or temper a crossword puzzle. I have always admired people who make uppuzzles. 2. проблема, пазл // проблема, пазл   кроссворд // кросворд Я всегда восторгался людьми, которые составляют кроссворды. // Я завжди захоплювався людьми, які створюють кросворди.
puzzle(v) cause (smb) to be perplexed; make hard thought necessary This letter puzzledme. He puzzled his brains to find the answer. озадачить кого-л., приводить в замешательство, напрягать мозг // cпантеличити когось, збентежити когось, напружувати мозок Письмо озадачило меня. // Лист мене спантеличив. Он напряг мозг, чтобы найти ответ. // Він напружував мозок щоб знайти відповідь.
puzzle over smththink deeply about smth to puzzle overa problem He puzzled over a problem. размышлять над чем-л, задаваться каким-л. вопросом // розмірковувати над чимось, ставити собі запитання розмірковувати над проблемою Он размышлял над проблемой // Він розмірковував над проблемою.
puzzle smth out(try to) find the answer or solution by hard thought. I have been tryingto puzzle out this math problem for five hours. разрешить проблему (загадку) // розв’язати загадку Я пытаюсь разрешить эту математическую проблему уже пять часов // Я намагаюся розв’язати цю математичну проблему вже п’ять годин.
list(n) number of names (of persons, items, things, etc.) written or printed     a shopping list; Haven’t you left the shopping list? список имен (людей, пунктов, вещей), написанный от руки либо напечатанный // список імен (людей, пунктів, речей), рукописний або надрукований список покупок // список покупок Ты не забыла список покупок? // Ти не забула список покупок?
put smb's name on (take his name off) the list Have you put on the list the names of the new students? вписать чье-л. имя в список, убрать из списка // внести чиєсь ім’я до списку, видалити зі списку Вы вписали в список имена новых студентов? // Ви внесли до списку імена нових студентів?
get(v) (colloquial) understand I don't getyou (don't get your meaning).   (разговорн.) понимать // розуміти Я не понимаю, о чем Вы. // Я не розумію про що Ви.
keep(v) 1. possess; own and look after keepa shop (an inn); Hekeeps a bookshop and a hotel.   1. держать что-л. (= владеть) // утримувати щось утримувати магазин (готель) Он держит книжный магазин и гостиницу. // Він утримує книжковий магазин і готель.
2. be faithful to keepa promise (a word) (a treaty);   This man always keeps his promise. 2. быть верным чему-л. // бути відданим держать слово (придерживаться договора) // дотримуватись свого слова (дотримуватись договору) Этот человек всегда держит слово. // Ця людина завжди дотримується свого слова.
3. not let people know, conceal Can you keepa secret?   3. хранить секрет, скрывать что-л. // зберігати таємницю, приховувати Вы умеете хранить секреты? // Ви вмієте зберігати таємниці? (Ви вмієте тримати секрети?)
She can keepnothing from her friends (= has no secrets from them). Она ничто не держит в тайне от своих друзей (у нее нет от них секретов) // Вона ніщо не тримає в таємниці від своїх друзей (в неї немає від них таємниць).
4. continue to be, remain in a special condition or relation Please keepquiet/silent. 4. продолжать пребывать в каком-л. состоянии, сохранять что-л. // продовжувати перебувати у певному стані, зберігати певний стан щось Пожалуйста, сохраняйте молчание. // Будь ласка, зберігайте мовчання.
5. keep (smb) doing smthcontinue doing smth or cause smth to be continued He keptsmiling. I'm sorry I keptyou waiting. 5. продолжать что-либо делать // продовжувати щось робити Он продолжал улыбаться. // Він продовжував посміхатись. Простите, что заставил Вас ждать. // Вибачте, що я змусив вас чекати.
keep smth in mindremember, not to forget You should keep in mindthat he is not as strong as he used to be. помнить, хранить в памяти // пам’ятати, тримати у пам’яті Вам следует помнить, что он не так силен, как прежде. // Вам слід пам’ятати про те, що він не такий міцний, яким був раніше.
keep one's tempernot to get angry, excited or nervous; keep cool Try to keep your temperwhen you speak to him. сохранять самообладание, не выходить из себя // не втрачати витримку (самовладання) Постарайтесь не выходить из себя, когда будете разговаривать с ним. // Намагайтесь не втрачати витримку, коли будете розмовляти із ним.
keep an eye on smb or smthwatch smb, guard Keep an eye on the milk, otherwise it will boil over. приглядывать за чем-л. // наглядати за кимось, спостерігати з кимось, чимось Приглядывайте за молоком, иначе оно убежит. // Наглядайте за молоком, інакше воно втече.
keep one's headremain calm during some emergency She kept her headand called the fire department immediately. сохранять спокойствие (присутствие духа) // зберігати спокій (не втрачати самовладу) Она сохраняла спокойствие и немедленно вызвала пожарных. // Вона зберігала спокій і миттєво викликала пожежників.
to keep houseto do the usual work of running a home, cooking, cleaning, etc. Mother keeps housebut we all help her, of course. вести хозяйство // господарювати   Мама ведет хозяйство, но мы все ей, конечно же, помогаем. //Мати господарює, але ми всі їй, безумовно, допомагаємо.
keep early (good, late, etc.) hoursbe habitually early (or) late in getting up, returning home at night or in going to bed keep regular hours Schoolchildren should keep early (good) hours. рано (поздно) вставать (ложиться спать) // рано (пізно) вставати / лягати спати   приходить в одно и то же время // приходити в той самий час Школьникам следует рано ложиться (рано вставать). // Школярам слід рано лягати спати (рано вставати).
talk(v) say things; speak to give information, discuss smth   He was talkingto a friend. What are they talkingabout/of? разговаривать, сообщать информацию // розмовляти, повідомляти інформацію   Он разговаривал с другом. // Він розмовляв із другом. О чем они разговаривают? // Про що вони розмовляють?
talk smb into/out of (doing) smthpersuade smb by talking to do/not to do smth See if you can talkFather intolending us the car tomorrow. уговорить кого-л. сделать что-л. // вмовити когось зробити щось Посмотри, сможешь ли ты уговорить отца одолжить нам машину завтра. // Подивись, чи зможеш ти вмовити батька позичити нам машину завтра.
talk art (business, politics, sports, shop, etc.)discuss art (business, politics, sports, professional questions/work, etc.) Stop talkingshop at home. говорить об искусстве, политике, спорте, на профессиональные темы // говорити про мистецтво, політику, спорт, розмовляти на професійні теми Перестань говорить на профессиональные темы дома. // Припини розмовляти на професійні теми двома.
touch(n) communication: to be (keep) in touch with smbto bein (not in)* regular communication (with), to be out of touch with smb having (not having) information about   We still keep in touch with our childhood friends. общение с кем-л., поддерживать связь с кем-л., // спілкування із кимось, підтримувати зв'язок із кимось,   потерять связь с кем-л. // втратити зв'язок із кимось   Мы все еще поддерживаем связь с друзьями детства // Ми все ще підтримуємо зв'язок із друзями дитинства.
keep in touch withold friends;   be out of touchwith the political situation. поддерживать связь со старыми друзьями // підтримувати зв'язок зі старими друзями не следить за политическими событиями // не слідкувати за політичними подіями
lose touch(with) be out of touch (with) If we correspond regularly we won’t lose touch.   терять связь // втрачати зв'язок Если мы будем регулярно переписываться, мы не потеряем связь. // Якщо ми будемо регулярно листуватись, ми не втратимо зв'язок.
detail(n) small, particular fact or item Please give me all the details. Every detailof her dress was perfect. деталь // деталь Пожалуйста, расскажите детально. // Будь ласка, розповідайте детально. Каждая деталь ее наряда была идеальна. // Кожна деталь її вбрання була ідеальною.
in detailproviding all the small points of fact to explain smth in detail Would you explain this rule to me in detail? в деталях // детально   объяснить детально // пояснити детально Не могли бы Вы объяснить мне это правило более детально? // Чи не могли б Ви мені пояснити це правило детальніше?
to go (enter) into details уходить/углубляться в детали // поглиблюватись у деталі
take up(v) 1. proceed to deal with (a matter); give one's attention to □ I will takethe matter up with the Ministry (= speak or write to them (to inquire, protest, etc.)). 1. заняться чем-л, обсудить что-л. с кем-л. // зайнятися чимось, обговорювати щось із кимось Я буду обсуждать этот вопрос в министерстве. // Я буду обговорювати це питання у міністерстві.
2. pursue further; begin afresh (smth left off, smth begun by smb else) Harry tookup the tale at the point where John had left off. 2. продолжить что-л. // продовжити щось Гарри продолжил сказку с того момента, на котором остановился Джон. // Гаррі продовжував казку з того момента, де зупинився Джон
3. interest oneself in; engage in smth (as a hobby, business, etc.) take upphotography (gardening).     I have always dreamt to take up photography professionally.   3. заинтересоваться чем-л., заняться чем-л. // зацікавитись чимось, зайнятися чимось. заинтересоваться фотографией (садоводством) // зацікавитися фотографією, садівництвом Я всегда мечтал заняться фотографией профессионально // Я завжди мріяв зайнятися фотографією професійно.
stammer(v) speak haltingly with a tendency to repeat rapidly the same sound or syllable (as in "G-g-g-ive me that b-b-book") I stammeredbut still managed to explain everything to the detective.   заикаться // заїкатися     Я заикался, но все же мне удалось объяснить все детективу // Я заїкався, але все ж таки мені вдалося пояснити все детективові.

 







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