Chapter 8 is a short one and takes place at the Greves’ house. Here we get a look at the people that work at the Bar JR (Lily’s ranch).
It starts out at twenty minutes past 5 on Saturday with Wolfe, Archie, Emmett Lake, and Pete Ingalls, in the front room. Carol Greve and Flora Eaton are in the kitchen preparing the real Montana trout deal which is scheduled for 6.
Emmett is an old farm hand, whereas Pete is doing his postgraduate work in paleontology at the University of California, Berkeley, and is enjoying his third summer working at the ranch.
They are soon joined by Mel Fox who has been out with a horse that had a problem.
Wolfe explains that he has already been there for three days and had waited that long to talk with them because of the report that Archie had given him on them. He then tells them:
“I am here in the forlorn hope that one of you knows something, unwittingly, that will supply a suggestion. To try to uncover it by asking you questions would take day. Instead I ask you to talk. Mr Fox, you first. Talk about Philip Brodell and his death.”
Did Wolfe ever use the line “forlorn hope” before? Just curious. Seems a bit out of line for him unless he is really grasping at straws.
Anyway back to the story. Mel tells Wolfe that he didn’t speak 20 words to Brodell and then explains what, where, and when. Also implies he would have liked to talk to him after finding out that he was the father of Alma’s baby but that he wasn’t around at the time.
“Then perhaps you should be suspected.”
“Yea, go ahead. The sheriff did a little.”
“Why did he stop?”
“Because Harvey was just as good as me or better, and he’s got it in for Harvey. And Harvey was out alone that afternoon, and I wasn’t. Emmett Lake was with me right through, and Pete Ingalls too part of the time. The sheriff knew Emmett wouldn’t lie for me because he thinks he ought to have my job.”
“Balls,” Emmett said.
He was ignored.
Fox goes on to tell about the 3 of them talking about what to do about Brodell and Alma but:
“Like every argument I ever had a part of, nobody changed anybody.”
He goes on to say that they talked about it the next night and that he and Pete were standing out by the corral talking about it:
“on Thursday after supper, out by the big corral, right at the time he was laying on that boulder with two holes through him. It showed me once more, when I heard about it Friday, that you don’t always know what you’re talking about.”
To which Wolfe answers:
“How could you? Not only ignorance. Man’s brain enlarged fortuitously, invented words in an ambitious effort to learn how to think, only to have them usurped by his emotions. But we still try. Please continue.”
Mel says there is no where else to go, but does cover a few other things. Asks about Gil Haight and Archie tells him that he was out of the picture and then tells him they have no one and that’s why they are there to try to find something.
Wolfe moves on to Emmett.
This is the part about the four page letter from the woman in Wichita, Kansas. If you don’t read anything else in the book take a look at it. Page 102 in my copy which is a 1973 Bantam 5th printing.
Emmett cusses. A lot. But we get the idea that he didn’t like Brodell. 😉
Wolfe stops him with:
“Thank you, Mr Lake, for illustrating so well what I said about words.”
And then turns his attention to Pete Ingalls.
Pete starts off with a speech about Harvey and what a good man he is which Wolfe stops and asks about his association with Brodell last summer.
Pete tells Wolfe that Brodell looked up to him because he “broke loose” from his fathers business and had interests of his own. He and Wolfe have a good exchange of words which is worth reading of it’s own. He tells Wolfe that he thinks that Brodell was a dull man and goes on to say:
“I had a thought about him the day after he died: I doubt that he ever stirred anybody. He was thirty-five years old. It took him perhaps one minute to die, or even less, but he probably stirred more people, he caused more excitement, in that one minute of dying than in all his thirty-five years of living. That’s a dismal thought either about life or about him. I figured it. There are eighteen million, three hundred and ninety-six thousand minutes in thirty-five years. You told us to talk about Philip Brodell and his death. Well, if I tried all day I couldn’t say anything truer about him than that. That’s a hell of an obituary.”
I like that paragraph. And Wolfe’s answer:
“And surely not deserved,”
Wolfe remarks that Brodell must have stirred Miss Greve or she him. Pete concedes this is a point and goes on discussing Alma until she enters to tell them that supper is ready.
Mel goes to wash up and the rest go to the table.
Archie tells us a bit about the room and they sit to eat. When the trout is brought out, Wolfe’s is the biggest, a 15 inch rainbow that Lily had caught. Archie had already told him to just open the foil and eat, which he did:
He used his knife and fork on it expertly, conveyed a bite to his mouth, chewed, swallowed, and said, “Remarkable.”
That settled it; I would have to hit him for a raise. If redeeming me was worth that, I was being underpaid.
In some ways I think this is one of the best scenes in the book and I realize that it has already been discussed a bit, but – It’s subtle enough that after reading it several times, I’m still not sure. Was the trout good or bad? I lean toward good one time and bad the next.
Whichever it was, that’s it for chapter 8. I don’t think that Wolfe got much of anything except some background and a little more on peoples locations at the time of the murder. And hopefully full. 😉
Comments, corrections, criticism requested.