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As the officers kicked up their heels over freedom from pulling doorbells, MacArthur took advantage of his own order to cloister himself in his quarters. Off duty he would walk straight there, and would not ordinarily accept an invitation to dine or take part in social activities. He attended an initial reception for himself in Cullum Hall, so as to meet and shake hands with the officers. But a quick hand-pumping was as much contact as most officers had. He did not attend the Post parties, hops or informal teas. He did not appear for a drink at the Club or hobnob with any group.
The sweeping changes he was making, the controversies he was arousing, his young, handsome appearance from afar and the rumors of his fetching personality gave the dwellers in the garrison an unusually keen and growing desire to met and talk with him.
There arose rumblings that he was a snob, thought himself better than anyone else, and was ambitiously selfish. Different ones complained to me on the sidewalk, in my quarters and even in the office. I tried to contradict them, as the rest of his loyal staff, but all I could say was that I knew at heart he was kindness itself and treated everyone alike. I contended he regarded no officer or anyone else beneath him or ordinary. I gave examples. If they doubted, let them go in and see how they'd be received.
They'd answer, "When? I'll be dead before he'll send for me. And imagine my barging in on him when I've nothing to take up!"
I was more and more on a spot. His aloofness was a fact that couldn't be gainsaid by any oral defense. It pained me, too, that there was some ground for the picture they were getting of him.
Although he had not hinted to me anything of the sort, I p142 was certain from some of his actions and remarks that anything boresome was acute distress. Small talk, banalities, front-teeth smiles and vain ritual were peculiarly harrowing. He avoided them as a plague, and was perpetually sulphidic. In the intervals between his distressing problems, he would not relax into a funny story or light observations but bring up national or international affairs.
Particularly, I remember his continual discussion of the campaign to put Leonard Wood into the Presidency. He would pace and go over every move the managers were making, criticizing every detail. The fact that the candidate was a personal friend made him act as if he himself were charged with the responsibility of nomination and election. In his quarters he avidly studied important events in newspapers and solid magazines. He gave me the impression that there was so much of high value in the world that one life couldn't cover it all, and he must do his best to get as much he could. There was no time for the trite.
Yet how could I use such an argument to the accusers? It would only fortify their stand that he felt they were trite, if not tripe. I was sure, too, he had some sound explanation he was not telling. For some time I felt I'd be obtrusive to suggest he ought to dine out and attend parties when he had officially indicated such affairs were no one else's business.
As time went on, and the criticisms went from disparagement to bitterness, I felt it an increasing duty to urge his egress from his retreat. As tactfully as I could, I let him know the reactions of the Post to his seclusion, and that the gossip and enmity aroused could do his reputation little good. Would he please attend a few parties and mix with the people?
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History of West Point
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Page updated: 20 Jun 16