Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Part 19 out of 78
reconciled to philosophy in the place of business,
but accepting it as he must.
"Well," said the Colonel, "I don't suppose it was meant we
should know what was in each other's minds. It would take
a man out of his own hands. As long as he's in his own hands,
there's some hopes of his doing something with himself;
but if a fellow has been found out--even if he hasn't been
found out to be so very bad--it's pretty much all up with him.
No, sir. I don't want to know people through and through."
The greater part of the crowd on board--and, of course,
the boat was crowded--looked as if they might not only
be easily but safely known. There was little style
and no distinction among them; they were people who were
going down to the beach for the fun or the relief of it,
and were able to afford it. In face they were commonplace,
with nothing but the American poetry of vivid purpose
to light them up, where they did not wholly lack fire.
But they were nearly all shrewd and friendly-looking,
with an apparent readiness for the humorous intimacy
native to us all. The women were dandified in dress,
according to their means and taste, and the men differed
from each other in degrees of indifference to it.
To a straw-hatted population, such as ours is in summer,
no sort of personal dignity is possible. We have not even
the power over observers which comes from the fantasticality
of an Englishman when he discards the conventional dress.
In our straw hats and our serge or flannel sacks we are no
more imposing than a crowd of boys.
"Some day," said Lapham, rising as the boat drew near
the wharf of the final landing, "there s going to be
an awful accident on these boats. Just look at that jam."
He meant the people thickly packed on the pier, and under
strong restraint of locks and gates, to prevent them
from rushing on board the boat and possessing her for the
return trip before she had landed her Nantasket passengers.
"Overload 'em every time," he continued, with a sort
of dry, impersonal concern at the impending calamity,
as if it could not possibly include him. "They take
about twice as many as they ought to carry, and about ten
times as many as they could save if anything happened.
Yes, sir, it's bound to come. Hello! There's my girl!"
He took out his folded newspaper and waved it toward a group
of phaetons and barouches drawn up on the pier a little
apart from the pack of people, and a lady in one of them
answered with a flourish of her parasol.
When he had made his way with his guest through the crowd,
she began to speak to her father before she noticed Corey.
"Well, Colonel, you've improved your last chance.
We've been coming to every boat since four o'clock,--or
Jerry has,--and I told mother that I would come myself once,
and see if I couldn't fetch you; and if I failed, you could
walk next time. You're getting perfectly spoiled."
The Colonel enjoyed letting her scold him to the end
before he said, with a twinkle of pride in his guest
and satisfaction in her probably being able to hold her
own against any discomfiture, "I've brought Mr. Corey
down for the night with me, and I was showing him things
all the way, and it took time."
The young fellow was at the side of the open beach-wagon,
making a quick bow, and Penelope Lapham was cozily drawling,
"Oh, how do you do, Mr. Corey?" before the Colonel had
finished his explanation.
"Get right in there, alongside of Miss Lapham, Mr. Corey,"
he said, pulling himself up into the place beside the driver.
"No, no," he had added quickly, at some signs of polite
protest in the young man, "I don't give up the best place
to anybody. Jerry, suppose you let me have hold of the
leathers a minute."
This was his way of taking the reins from the driver;
and in half the time he specified, he had skilfully
turned the vehicle on the pier, among the crooked lines
and groups of foot-passengers, and was spinning up the road
toward the stretch of verandaed hotels and restaurants
in the sand along the shore. "Pretty gay down here,"
he said, indicating all this with a turn of his whip, as he
left it behind him. "But I've got about sick of hotels;
and this summer I made up my mind that I'd take a cottage.
Well, Pen, how are the folks?" He looked half-way round
for her answer, and with the eye thus brought to bear upon
her he was able to give her a wink of supreme content.
The Colonel, with no sort of ulterior design, and nothing
but his triumph over Mrs. Lapham definitely in his mind,
was feeling, as he would have said, about right.
The girl smiled a daughter's amusement at her
father's boyishness. "I don't think there's much change
since morning. Did Irene have a headache when you left?"
"No," said the Colonel.
"Well, then, there's that to report."
"Pshaw!" said the Colonel with vexation in his tone.
"I'm sorry Miss Irene isn't well," said Corey politely.
"I think she must have got it from walking too long
on the beach. The air is so cool here that you forget
how hot the sun is."
"Yes, that's true," assented Corey.
"A good night's rest will make it all right," suggested the Colonel,
without looking round. "But you girls have got to look out."
"If you're fond of walking," said Corey, "I suppose you
find the beach a temptation."
"Oh, it isn't so much that," returned the girl.
"You keep walking on and on because it's so smooth and
straight before you. We've been here so often that we
know it all by heart--just how it looks at high tide,
and how it looks at low tide, and how it looks after
a storm. We're as well acquainted with the crabs and
stranded jelly-fish as we are with the children digging
in the sand and the people sitting under umbrellas.
I think they're always the same, all of them."
The Colonel left the talk to the young people.
When he spoke next it was to say, "Well, here we are!"
and he turned from the highway and drove up in front
of a brown cottage with a vermilion roof, and a group
of geraniums clutching the rock that cropped up in the loop
formed by the road. It was treeless and bare all round,
and the ocean, unnecessarily vast, weltered away a little
more than a stone's-cast from the cottage. A hospitable
smell of supper filled the air, and Mrs. Lapham was on
the veranda, with that demand in her eyes for her belated
husband's excuses, which she was obliged to check on her
tongue at sight of Corey.
THE exultant Colonel swung himself lightly down from his seat.
"I've brought Mr. Corey with me," he nonchalantly explained.
Mrs. Lapham made their guest welcome, and the Colonel showed
him to his room, briefly assuring himself that there was
nothing wanting there. Then he went to wash his own hands,
carelessly ignoring the eagerness with which his wife
pursued him to their chamber.
"What gave Irene a headache?" he asked, making himself
a fine lather for his hairy paws.
"Never you mind Irene," promptly retorted his wife.
"How came he to come? Did you press him? If you DID,
I'll never forgive you, Silas!"
The Colonel laughed, and his wife shook him by the
shoulder to make him laugh lower. "'Sh!" she whispered.
"Do you want him to hear EVERY thing? DID you urge him?"
The Colonel laughed the more. He was going to get
all the good out of this. "No, I didn't urge him.
Seemed to want to come."
"I don't believe it. Where did you meet him?"
"At the office."
"Nonsense! What was he doing there?"
"Oh, nothing much."
"What did he come for?" "Come for? Oh! he SAID he wanted
to go into the mineral paint business."
Mrs. Lapham dropped into a chair, and watched his bulk
shaken with smothered laughter. "Silas Lapham," she gasped,
"if you try to get off any more of those things on me----"
The Colonel applied himself to the towel. "Had a notion
he could work it in South America. I don't know what he's
"Never mind!" cried his wife. "I'll get even with you YET."
"So I told him he had better come down and talk it over,"
continued the Colonel, in well-affected simplicity.
"I knew he wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole."
"Go on!" threatened Mrs. Lapham.
"Right thing to do, wa'n't it?"
A tap was heard at the door, and Mrs. Lapham answered it.
A maid announced supper. "Very well," she said, "come to
tea now. But I'll make you pay for this, Silas."
Penelope had gone to her sister's room as soon as she
entered the house.
"Is your head any better, 'Rene?" she asked.
"Yes, a little," came a voice from the pillows.
"But I shall not come to tea. I don't want anything.
If I keep still, I shall be all right by morning."
"Well, I'm sorry," said the elder sister. "He's come
down with father."
"He hasn't! Who?" cried Irene, starting up in simultaneous
denial and demand.
"Oh, well, if you say he hasn't, what's the use of my
telling you who?"
"Oh, how can you treat me so!" moaned the sufferer.
"What do you mean, Pen?"
"I guess I'd better not tell you," said Penelope,
watching her like a cat playing with a mouse. "If you're
not coming to tea, it would just excite you for nothing."
The mouse moaned and writhed upon the bed.
"Oh, I wouldn't treat YOU so!"
The cat seated herself across the room, and asked quietly--
"Well, what could you do if it WAS Mr. Corey? You
couldn't come to tea, you say. But HE'LL excuse you.
I've told him you had a headache. Why, of course you
can't come! It would be too barefaced But you needn't
be troubled, Irene; I'll do my best to make the time pass
pleasantly for him." Here the cat gave a low titter,
and the mouse girded itself up with a momentary courage
"I should think you would be ashamed to come here
and tease me so."
"I don't see why you shouldn't believe me," argued Penelope.
"Why shouldn't he come down with father, if father
asked him? and he'd be sure to if he thought of it.
I don't see any p'ints about that frog that's any better
than any other frog."
The sense of her sister's helplessness was too much for
the tease; she broke down in a fit of smothered laughter,
which convinced her victim that it was nothing but an
"Well, Pen, I wouldn't use you so," she whimpered.
Penelope threw herself on the bed beside her.
"Oh, poor Irene! He IS here. It's a solemn fact."
And she caressed and soothed her sister, while she
choked with laughter. "You must get up and come out.
I don't know what brought him here, but here he is."
"It's too late now," said Irene desolately. Then she added,
with a wilder despair: "What a fool I was to take that walk!"
"Well," coaxed her sister, "come out and get some tea.
The tea will do you good."
"No, no; I can't come. But send me a cup here."
"Yes, and then perhaps you can see him later in the evening."
"I shall not see him at all."
An hour after Penelope came back to her sister's room
and found her before her glass. "You might as well have
kept still, and been well by morning, 'Rene," she said.
"As soon as we were done father said, 'Well, Mr. Corey
and I have got to talk over a little matter of business,
and we'll excuse you, ladies.' Ho looked at mother in a
way that I guess was pretty hard to bear. 'Rene, you
ought to have heard the Colonel swelling at supper.
It would have made you feel that all he said the other day
Mrs. Lapham suddenly opened the door.
"Now, see here, Pen," she said, as she closed it behind her,
"I've had just as much as I can stand from your father,
and if you don't tell me this instant what it all means----"
She left the consequences to imagination, and Penelope
replied with her mock soberness--
"Well, the Colonel does seem to be on his high horse,
ma'am. But you mustn't ask me what his business with
Mr. Corey is, for I don't know. All that I know is
that I met them at the landing, and that they conversed
all the way down--on literary topics."
"Nonsense! What do you think it is?"
"Well, if you want my candid opinion, I think this
talk about business is nothing but a blind. It seems
a pity Irene shouldn't have been up to receive him,"
Irene cast a mute look of imploring at her mother,
who was too much preoccupied to afford her the protection
"Your father said he wanted to go into the business
Irene's look changed to a stare of astonishment
and mystification, but Penelope preserved her imperturbability.
"Well, it's a lucrative business, I believe."
"Well, I don't believe a word of it!" cried Mrs. Lapham.
"And so I told your father."
"Did it seem to convince him?" inquired Penelope.
Her mother did not reply. "I know one thing," she said.
"He's got to tell me every word, or there'll be no sleep
for him THIS night."
"Well, ma'am," said Penelope, breaking down in one
of her queer laughs, "I shouldn't be a bit surprised
if you were right."
"Go on and dress, Irene," ordered her mother, "and then
you and Pen come out into the parlour. They can have just
two hours for business, and then we must all be there
to receive him. You haven't got headache enough to hurt you."
"Oh, it's all gone now," said the girl.
At the end of the limit she had given the Colonel,
Mrs. Lapham looked into the dining-room, which she found
blue with his smoke.
"I think you gentlemen will find the parlour pleasanter now,
and we can give it up to you."
"Oh no, you needn't," said her husband. "We've got
about through." Corey was already standing, and Lapham
rose too. "I guess we can join the ladies now.
We can leave that little point till to-morrow."
Both of the young ladies were in the parlour when Corey
entered with their father, and both were frankly indifferent
to the few books and the many newspapers scattered
about on the table where the large lamp was placed.
But after Corey had greeted Irene he glanced at the novel
under his eye, and said, in the dearth that sometimes befalls
people at such times: "I see you're reading Middlemarch.
Do you like George Eliot?"
"Who?" asked the girl.
Penelope interposed. "I don't believe Irene's read
it yet. I've just got it out of the library; I heard
so much talk about it. I wish she would let you find
out a little about the people for yourself," she added.
But here her father struck in--
"I can't get the time for books. It's as much as I can
do to keep up with the newspapers; and when night comes,
I'm tired, and I'd rather go out to the theatre, or a lecture,
if they've got a good stereopticon to give you views of
the places. But I guess we all like a play better than 'most
anything else. I want something that'll make me laugh.
I don't believe in tragedy. I think there's enough
of that in real life without putting it on the stage.
Seen 'Joshua Whitcomb'?"
The whole family joined in the discussion, and it appeared
that they all had their opinions of the plays and actors.
Mrs. Lapham brought the talk back to literature. "I guess
Penelope does most of our reading."
"Now, mother, you're not going to put it all on me!"
said the girl, in comic protest.
Her mother laughed, and then added, with a sigh: "I used
to like to get hold of a good book when I was a girl;
but we weren't allowed to read many novels in those days.
My mother called them all LIES. And I guess she wasn't so
very far wrong about some of them."
"They're certainly fictions," said Corey, smiling.
"Well, we do buy a good many books, first and last,"
said the Colonel, who probably had in mind the costly
volumes which they presented to one another on birthdays
and holidays. "But I get about all the reading I want
in the newspapers. And when the girls want a novel,
I tell 'em to get it out of the library. That's what the
library's for. Phew!" he panted, blowing away the whole
unprofitable subject. "How close you women-folks like
to keep a room! You go down to the sea-side or up to the
mountains for a change of air, and then you cork yourselves
into a room so tight you don't have any air at all.
Here! You girls get on your bonnets, and go and show
Mr. Corey the view of the hotels from the rocks."
Corey said that he should be delighted. The girls exchanged
looks with each other, and then with their mother.
Irene curved her pretty chin in comment upon her
father's incorrigibility, and Penelope made a droll mouth,
but the Colonel remained serenely content with his finesse.
"I got 'em out of the way," he said, as soon as they
were gone, and before his wife had time to fall upon him,
"because I've got through my talk with him, and now I want
to talk with YOU. It's just as I said, Persis; he wants
to go into the business with me."
"It's lucky for you," said his wife, meaning that now he
would not be made to suffer for attempting to hoax her.
But she was too intensely interested to pursue that
matter further. "What in the world do you suppose he
means by it?"
"Well, I should judge by his talk that he had been trying
a good many different things since he left college,
and he hain't found just the thing he likes--or the thing
that likes him. It ain't so easy. And now he's got an idea
that he can take hold of the paint and push it in other
countries--push it in Mexico and push it in South America.
He's a splendid Spanish scholar,"--this was Lapham's version
of Corey's modest claim to a smattering of the language,--"and
he's been among the natives enough to know their ways.
And he believes in the paint," added the Colonel.
"I guess he believes in something else besides the paint,"
said Mrs. Lapham.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Silas Lapham, if you can't see NOW that he's
after Irene, I don't know what ever CAN open your eyes.
The Colonel pretended to give the idea silent consideration,
as if it had not occurred to him before. "Well, then,
all I've got to say is, that he's going a good way round.
I don't say you're wrong, but if it's Irene, I don't see
why he should want to go off to South America to get her.
And that's what he proposes to do. I guess there's
some paint about it too, Persis. He says he believes
in it,"--the Colonel devoutly lowered his voice,--"and he's
willing to take the agency on his own account down there,
and run it for a commission on what he can sell."
"Of course! He isn't going to take hold of it any way
so as to feel beholden to you. He's got too much pride
"He ain't going to take hold of it at all, if he don't
mean paint in the first place and Irene afterward.
I don't object to him, as I know, either way, but the two
things won't mix; and I don't propose he shall pull the wool
over my eyes--or anybody else. But, as far as heard from,
up to date, he means paint first, last, and all the time.
At any rate, I'm going to take him on that basis.
He's got some pretty good ideas about it, and he's been
stirred up by this talk, just now, about getting our
manufactures into the foreign markets. There's an overstock
in everything, and we've got to get rid of it, or we've
got to shut down till the home demand begins again.
We've had two or three such flurries before now,
and they didn't amount to much. They say we can't extend
our commerce under the high tariff system we've got now,
because there ain't any sort of reciprocity on our side,--we
want to have the other fellows show all the reciprocity,--and
the English have got the advantage of us every time.
I don't know whether it's so or not; but I don't see
why it should apply to my paint. Anyway, he wants
to try it, and I've about made up my mind to let him.
Of course I ain't going to let him take all the risk.
I believe in the paint TOO, and I shall pay his expenses
"So you want another partner after all?" Mrs. Lapham
could not forbear saying.
"Yes, if that's your idea of a partner. It isn't mine,"
returned her husband dryly.
"Well, if you've made up your mind, Si, I suppose you're
ready for advice," said Mrs. Lapham.
The Colonel enjoyed this. "Yes, I am. What have you
got to say against it?"
"I don't know as I've got anything. I'm satisfied
if you are."
"When is he going to start for South America?"
"I shall take him into the office a while. He'll get
off some time in the winter. But he's got to know
the business first."
"Oh, indeed! Are you going to take him to board in the family?"
"What are you after, Persis?"
"Oh, nothing! I presume he will feel free to visit
in the family, even if he don't board with us."
"I presume he will."
"And if he don't use his privileges, do you think he'll
be a fit person to manage your paint in South America?"
The Colonel reddened consciously. "I'm not taking him
on that basis."
"Oh yes, you are! You may pretend you ain't to yourself,
but you mustn't pretend so to me. Because I know you."
The Colonel laughed. "Pshaw!" he said.
Mrs. Lapham continued: " I don't see any harm in
hoping that he'll take a fancy to her. But if you
really think it won't do to mix the two things,
I advise you not to take Mr. Corey into the business.
It will do all very well if he DOES take a fancy to her;
but if he don't, you know how you'll feel about it.
And I know you well enough, Silas, to know that you can't
do him justice if that happens. And I don't think it's
right you should take this step unless you're pretty sure.
I can see that you've set your heart on this thing"
"I haven't set my heart on it at all," protested Lapham.
"And if you can't bring it about, you're going to feel
unhappy over it," pursued his wife, regardless of his protest.
"Oh, very well," he said. "If you know more about
what's in my mind than I do, there's no use arguing,
as I can see."
He got up, to carry off his consciousness, and sauntered
out of the door on to his piazza. He could see the
young people down on the rocks, and his heart swelled
in his breast. He had always said that he did not care
what a man's family was, but the presence of young Corey
as an applicant to him for employment, as his guest,
as the possible suitor of his daughter, was one of the
sweetest flavours that he had yet tasted in his success.
He knew who the Coreys were very well, and, in his simple,
brutal way, he had long hated their name as a symbol
of splendour which, unless he should live to see at
least three generations of his descendants gilded with
mineral paint, he could not hope to realise in his own.
He was acquainted in a business way with the tradition
of old Phillips Corey, and he had heard a great many
things about the Corey who had spent his youth abroad
and his father's money everywhere, and done nothing
but say smart things. Lapham could not see the smartness
of some of them which had been repeated to him. Once he
had encountered the fellow, and it seemed to Lapham that
the tall, slim, white-moustached man, with the slight stoop,
was everything that was offensively aristocratic.
He had bristled up aggressively at the name when his wife
told how she had made the acquaintance of the fellow's
family the summer before, and he had treated the notion
of young Corey's caring for Irene with the contempt
which such a ridiculous superstition deserved.
He had made up his mind about young Corey beforehand;
yet when he met him he felt an instant liking for him,
which he frankly acknowledged, and he had begun to assume
the burden of his wife's superstition, of which she seemed
now ready to accuse him of being the inventor.
Nothing had moved his thick imagination like this day's
events since the girl who taught him spelling and grammar
in the school at Lumberville had said she would have him
for her husband.
The dark figures, stationary on the rocks, began to move,
and he could see that they were coming toward the house.
He went indoors, so as not to appear to have been
A WEEK after she had parted with her son at Bar Harbour,
Mrs. Corey suddenly walked in upon her husband in their
house in Boston. He was at breakfast, and he gave her
the patronising welcome with which the husband who has
been staying in town all summer receives his wife when she
drops down upon him from the mountains or the sea-side. For
a little moment she feels herself strange in the house,
and suffers herself to be treated like a guest, before envy
of his comfort vexes her back into possession and authority.
Mrs. Corey was a lady, and she did not let her envy take
the form of open reproach.
"Well, Anna, you find me here in the luxury you left me to.
How did you leave the girls?"
"The girls were well," said Mrs. Corey, looking absently at
her husband's brown velvet coat, in which he was so handsome.
No man had ever grown grey more beautifully. His hair,
while not remaining dark enough to form a theatrical
contrast with his moustache, was yet some shades darker,
and, in becoming a little thinner, it had become a little
more gracefully wavy. His skin had the pearly tint
which that of elderly men sometimes assumes, and the lines
which time had traced upon it were too delicate for the
name of wrinkles. He had never had any personal vanity,
and there was no consciousness in his good looks now.
"I am glad of that. The boy I have with me," he returned;
"that is, when he IS with me."
"Why, where is he?" demanded the mother.
"Probably carousing with the boon Lapham somewhere.
He left me yesterday afternoon to go and offer his
allegiance to the Mineral Paint King, and I haven't seen
"Bromfield!" cried Mrs. Corey. "Why didn't you stop him?"
"Well, my dear, I'm not sure that it isn't a very good thing."
"A good thing? It's horrid!"
"No, I don't think so. It's decent. Tom had found
out--without consulting the landscape, which I believe
proclaims it everywhere----"
"That it's really a good thing; and he thinks that he has
some ideas in regard to its dissemination in the parts
"Why shouldn't he go into something else?" lamented the mother.
"I believe he has gone into nearly everything else
and come out of it. So there is a chance of his coming
out of this. But as I had nothing to suggest in place
of it, I thought it best not to interfere. In fact,
what good would my telling him that mineral paint was
nasty have done? I dare say YOU told him it was nasty."
"Yes! I did."
"And you see with what effect, though he values
your opinion three times as much as he values mine.
Perhaps you came up to tell him again that it was nasty?"
"I feel very unhappy about it. He is throwing himself away.
Yes, I should like to prevent it if I could!"
The father shook his head.
"If Lapham hasn't prevented it, I fancy it's too late.
But there may be some hopes of Lapham. As for Tom's
throwing himself away, I don't know. There's no question
but he is one of the best fellows under the sun.
He's tremendously energetic, and he has plenty of the kind
of sense which we call horse; but he isn't brilliant.
No, Tom is not brilliant. I don't think he would get
on in a profession, and he's instinctively kept out of
everything of the kind. But he has got to do something.
What shall he do? He says mineral paint, and really
I don't see why he shouldn't. If money is fairly and
honestly earned, why should we pretend to care what it
comes out of, when we don't really care? That superstition
is exploded everywhere."
"Oh, it isn't the paint alone," said Mrs. Corey; and then
she perceptibly arrested herself, and made a diversion
in continuing: "I wish he had married some one."
"With money?" suggested her husband. "From time to time
I have attempted Tom's corruption from that side, but I
suspect Tom has a conscience against it, and I rather
like him for it. I married for love myself," said Corey,
looking across the table at his wife.
She returned his look tolerantly, though she felt it
right to say, "What nonsense!"
"Besides," continued her husband, "if you come to money,
there is the paint princess. She will have plenty."
"Ah, that's the worst of it," sighed the mother.
"I suppose I could get on with the paint----"
"But not with the princess? I thought you said she was
a very pretty, well-behaved girl?"
"She is very pretty, and she is well-behaved; but there
is nothing of her. She is insipid; she is very insipid."
"But Tom seemed to like her flavour, such as it was?"
"How can I tell? We were under a terrible obligation
to them, and I naturally wished him to be polite to them.
In fact, I asked him to be so."
"And he was too polite"
"I can't say that he was. But there is no doubt that
the child is extremely pretty."
"Tom says there are two of them. Perhaps they will
neutralise each other."
"Yes, there is another daughter," assented Mrs. Corey.
"I don't see how you can joke about such things, Bromfield,"
"Well, I don't either, my dear, to tell you the truth.
My hardihood surprises me. Here is a son of mine whom I
see reduced to making his living by a shrinkage in values.
It's very odd," interjected Corey, "that some values should
have this peculiarity of shrinking. You never hear of values
in a picture shrinking; but rents, stocks, real estate--all
those values shrink abominably. Perhaps it might be
argued that one should put all his values into pictures;
I've got a good many of mine there."
"Tom needn't earn his living," said Mrs. Corey, refusing her
husband's jest. "There's still enough for all of us."
"That is what I have sometimes urged upon Tom. I have proved
to him that with economy, and strict attention to business,
he need do nothing as long as he lives. Of course he
would be somewhat restricted, and it would cramp the rest
of us; but it is a world of sacrifices and compromises.
He couldn't agree with me, and he was not in the least
moved by the example of persons of quality in Europe,
which I alleged in support of the life of idleness.
It appears that he wishes to do something--to do something
for himself. I am afraid that Tom is selfish."
Mrs. Corey smiled wanly. Thirty years before, she had
married the rich young painter in Rome, who said so much
better things than he painted--charming things, just the
things to please the fancy of a girl who was disposed
to take life a little too seriously and practically.
She saw him in a different light when she got him home
to Boston; but he had kept on saying the charming things,
and he had not done much else. In fact, he had fulfilled
the promise of his youth. It was a good trait in him
that he was not actively but only passively extravagant.
He was not adventurous with his money; his tastes were
as simple as an Italian's; he had no expensive habits.
In the process of time he had grown to lead a more and
more secluded life. It was hard to get him out anywhere,
even to dinner. His patience with their narrowing
circumstances had a pathos which she felt the more
the more she came into charge of their joint life.
At times it seemed too bad that the children and
their education and pleasures should cost so much.
She knew, besides, that if it had not been for them
she would have gone back to Rome with him, and lived
princely there for less than it took to live respectably
"Tom hasn't consulted me," continued his father, "but he
has consulted other people. And he has arrived at the
conclusion that mineral paint is a good thing to go into.
He has found out all about it, and about its founder
or inventor. It's quite impressive to hear him talk.
And if he must do something for himself, I don't see why
his egotism shouldn't as well take that form as another.
Combined with the paint princess, it isn't so agreeable;
but that's only a remote possibility, for which your
principal ground is your motherly solicitude.
But even if it were probable and imminent, what could
you do? The chief consolation that we American parents
have in these matters is that we can do nothing.
If we were Europeans, even English, we should take some
cognisance of our children's love affairs, and in some
measure teach their young affections how to shoot.
But it is our custom to ignore them until they have shot,
and then they ignore us. We are altogether too delicate
to arrange the marriages of our children; and when they
have arranged them we don't like to say anything,
for fear we should only make bad worse. The right
way is for us to school ourselves to indifference.
That is what the young people have to do elsewhere,
and that is the only logical result of our position here.
It is absurd for us to have any feeling about what we don't
"Oh, people do interfere with their children's marriages
very often," said Mrs. Corey.
"Yes, but only in a half-hearted way, so as not to make
it disagreeable for themselves if the marriages go on in
spite of them, as they're pretty apt to do. Now, my idea
is that I ought to cut Tom off with a shilling.
That would be very simple, and it would be economical.
But you would never consent, and Tom wouldn't mind it."
"I think our whole conduct in regard to such things
is wrong," said Mrs. Corey.
"Oh, very likely. But our whole civilisation is based upon it.
And who is going to make a beginning? To which father
in our acquaintance shall I go and propose an alliance
for Tom with his daughter? I should feel like an ass.
And will you go to some mother, and ask her sons in
marriage for our daughters? You would feel like a goose.
No; the only motto for us is, Hands off altogether."
"I shall certainly speak to Tom when the time comes,"
said Mrs. Corey.
"And I shall ask leave to be absent from your discomfiture,
my dear," answered her husband.
The son returned that afternoon, and confessed his
surprise at finding his mother in Boston. He was so
frank that she had not quite the courage to confess
in turn why she had come, but trumped up an excuse.
"Well, mother," he said promptly, "I have made an engagement
with Mr. Lapham."
"Have you, Tom?" she asked faintly.
"Yes. For the present I am going to have charge of his
foreign correspondence, and if I see my way to the
advantage I expect to find in it, I am going out to manage
that side of his business in South America and Mexico.
He's behaved very handsomely about it. He says that if it
appears for our common interest, he shall pay me a salary
as well as a commission. I've talked with Uncle Jim,
and he thinks it's a good opening."
"Your Uncle Jim does?" queried Mrs. Corey in amaze.
"Yes; I consulted him the whole way through, and I've
acted on his advice."
This seemed an incomprehensible treachery on her brother's part.
"Yes; I thought you would like to have me. And besides,
I couldn't possibly have gone to any one so well fitted
to advise me."
His mother said nothing. In fact, the mineral paint business,
however painful its interest, was, for the moment,
superseded by a more poignant anxiety. She began to feel
her way cautiously toward this.
"Have you been talking about your business with Mr. Lapham
"Well, pretty much," said her son, with a guiltless laugh.
"I went to see him yesterday afternoon, after I had gone
over the whole ground with Uncle Jim, and Mr. Lapham asked
me to go down with him and finish up."
"Down?" repeated Mrs. Corey. "Yes, to Nantasket.
He has a cottage down there."
"At Nantasket?" Mrs. Corey knitted her brows a little.
"What in the world can a cottage at Nantasket be like?"
"Oh, very much like a 'cottage' anywhere. It has the
usual allowance of red roof and veranda. There are the
regulation rocks by the sea; and the big hotels on the
beach about a mile off, flaring away with electric lights
and roman-candles at night. We didn't have them at Nahant."
"No," said his mother. "Is Mrs. Lapham well? And
"Yes, I think so," said the young man. "The young ladies
walked me down to the rocks in the usual way after dinner,
and then I came back and talked paint with Mr. Lapham
till midnight. We didn't settle anything till this
morning coming up on the boat."
"What sort of people do they seem to be at home?"
"What sort? Well, I don't know that I noticed." Mrs. Corey
permitted herself the first part of a sigh of relief;
and her son laughed, but apparently not at her.
"They're just reading Middlemarch. They say there's so much
talk about it. Oh, I suppose they're very good people.
They seemed to be on very good terms with each other."
"I suppose it's the plain sister who's reading Middlemarch."
"Plain? Is she plain?" asked the young man, as if
searching his consciousness. "Yes, it's the older one
who does the reading, apparently. But I don't believe
that even she overdoes it. They like to talk better.
They reminded me of Southern people in that." The young
man smiled, as if amused by some of his impressions
of the Lapham family. "The living, as the country
people call it, is tremendously good. The Colonel--he's
a colonel--talked of the coffee as his wife's coffee,
as if she had personally made it in the kitchen,
though I believe it was merely inspired by her.
And there was everything in the house that money could buy.
But money has its limitations."
This was a fact which Mrs. Corey was beginning to realise more
and more unpleasantly in her own life; but it seemed to bring
her a certain comfort in its application to the Laphams.
"Yes, there is a point where taste has to begin," she said.
"They seemed to want to apologise to me for not having
more books," said Corey. "I don't know why they should.
The Colonel said they bought a good many books, first and last;
but apparently they don't take them to the sea-side."
"I dare say they NEVER buy a NEW book. I've met some
of these moneyed people lately, and they lavish on every
conceivable luxury, and then borrow books, and get them
in the cheap paper editions."
"I fancy that's the way with the Lapham family," said the
young man, smilingly. "But they are very good people.
The other daughter is humorous."
"Humorous?" Mrs. Corey knitted her brows in some perplexity.
"Do you mean like Mrs. Sayre?" she asked, naming the lady
whose name must come into every Boston mind when humour
"Oh no; nothing like that. She never says anything
that you can remember; nothing in flashes or ripples;
nothing the least literary. But it's a sort of droll
way of looking at things; or a droll medium through
which things present themselves. I don't know.
She tells what she's seen, and mimics a little."
"Oh," said Mrs. Corey coldly. After a moment she asked:
"And is Miss Irene as pretty as ever?"
"She's a wonderful complexion," said the son unsatisfactorily.
"I shall want to be by when father and Colonel Lapham meet,"
he added, with a smile.
"Ah, yes, your father!" said the mother, in that way
in which a wife at once compassionates and censures
her husband to their children.
"Do you think it's really going to be a trial to him?"
asked the young man quickly.
"No, no, I can't say it is. But I confess I wish it
was some other business, Tom."
"Well, mother, I don't see why. The principal thing
looked at now is the amount of money; and while I
would rather starve than touch a dollar that was dirty
with any sort of dishonesty----"
"Of course you would, my son!" interposed his mother proudly.
"I shouldn't at all mind its having a little mineral paint
on it. I'll use my influence with Colonel Lapham--if I
ever have any--to have his paint scraped off the landscape."
"I suppose you won't begin till the autumn."
"Oh yes, I shall," said the son, laughing at his mother's
simple ignorance of business. "I shall begin to-morrow morning."
"Yes. I've had my desk appointed already, and I shall
be down there at nine in the morning to take possession."
"Tom" cried his mother, "why do you think Mr. Lapham has
taken you into business so readily? I've always heard
that it was so hard for young men to get in."
"And do you think I found it easy with him? We had about
twelve hours' solid talk."
"And you don't suppose it was any sort of--personal consideration?"
"Why, I don't know exactly what you mean, mother.
I suppose he likes me."
Mrs. Corey could not say just what she meant. She answered,
"Yes. You wouldn't like it to be a favour, would you?"
"I think he's a man who may be trusted to look after his
own interest. But I don't mind his beginning by liking me.
It'll be my own fault if I don't make myself essential
"Yes," said Mrs. Corey.
"Well, demanded her husband, at their first meeting after
her interview with their son, "what did you say to Tom?"
"Very little, if anything. I found him with his mind
made up, and it would only have distressed him if I
had tried to change it."
"That is precisely what I said, my dear."
"Besides, he had talked the matter over fully with James,
and seems to have been advised by him. I can't understand James."
"Oh! it's in regard to the paint, and not the princess,
that he's made up his mind. Well, I think you were wise
to let him alone, Anna. We represent a faded tradition.
We don't really care what business a man is in, so it is
large enough, and he doesn't advertise offensively; but we
think it fine to affect reluctance."
"Do you really feel so, Bromfield?" asked his wife seriously.
"Certainly I do. There was a long time in my misguided
youth when I supposed myself some sort of porcelain;
but it's a relief to be of the common clay, after all,
and to know it. If I get broken, I can be easily replaced."
"If Tom must go into such a business," said Mrs. Corey,
"I'm glad James approves of it."
"I'm afraid it wouldn't matter to Tom if he didn't;
and I don't know that I should care," said Corey,
betraying the fact that he had perhaps had a good deal
of his brother-in-law's judgment in the course of his life.
"You had better consult him in regard to Tom's marrying
"There is no necessity at present for that," said Mrs. Corey,
with dignity. After a moment, she asked, "Should you feel
quite so easy if it were a question of that, Bromfield?"
"It would be a little more personal."
"You feel about it as I do. Of course, we have both
lived too long, and seen too much of the world,
to suppose we can control such things. The child is good,
I haven't the least doubt, and all those things can
be managed so that they wouldn't disgrace us. But she
has had a certain sort of bringing up. I should prefer
Tom to marry a girl with another sort, and this business
venture of his increases the chances that he won't. That's all."
"''Tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door,
but 'twill serve.'"
"I shouldn't like it."
"Well, it hasn't happened yet."
"Ah, you never can realise anything beforehand."
"Perhaps that has saved me some suffering. But you
have at least the consolation of two anxieties at once.
I always find that a great advantage. You can play one off
against the other."
Mrs. Corey drew a long breath as if she did not experience
the suggested consolation; and she arranged to quit,
the following afternoon, the scene of her defeat,
which she had not had the courage to make a battlefield.
Her son went down to see her off on the boat, after
spending his first day at his desk in Lapham's office.
He was in a gay humour, and she departed in a reflected
gleam of his good spirits. He told her all about it,
as he sat talking with her at the stern of the boat,
lingering till the last moment, and then stepping ashore,
with as little waste of time as Lapham himself, on the
gang-plank which the deck-hands had laid hold of.
He touched his hat to her from the wharf to reassure
her of his escape from being carried away with her,
and the next moment his smiling face hid itself in
He walked on smiling up the long wharf, encumbered with
trucks and hacks and piles of freight, and, taking his way
through the deserted business streets beyond this bustle,
made a point of passing the door of Lapham's warehouse,
on the jambs of which his name and paint were lettered in
black on a square ground of white. The door was still open,
and Corey loitered a moment before it, tempted to go
upstairs and fetch away some foreign letters which he
had left on his desk, and which he thought he might finish
up at home. He was in love with his work, and he felt
the enthusiasm for it which nothing but the work we can
do well inspires in us. He believed that he had found
his place in the world, after a good deal of looking,
and he had the relief, the repose, of fitting into it.
Every little incident of the momentous, uneventful day
was a pleasure in his mind, from his sitting down
at his desk, to which Lapham's boy brought him the
foreign letters, till his rising from it an hour ago.
Lapham had been in view within his own office, but he
had given Corey no formal reception, and had, in fact,
not spoken to him till toward the end of the forenoon,
when he suddenly came out of his den with some more
letters in his hand, and after a brief "How d'ye do?"
had spoken a few words about them, and left them with him.
He was in his shirt-sleeves again, and his sanguine person
seemed to radiate the heat with which he suffered.
He did not go out to lunch, but had it brought to him
in his office, where Corey saw him eating it before he
left his own desk to go out and perch on a swinging seat
before the long counter of a down-town restaurant.
He observed that all the others lunched at twelve, and he
resolved to anticipate his usual hour. When he returned,
the pretty girl who had been clicking away at a type-writer
all the morning was neatly putting out of sight the
evidences of pie from the table where her machine stood,
and was preparing to go on with her copying. In his office
Lapham lay asleep in his arm-chair, with a newspaper over
Now, while Corey lingered at the entrance to the stairway,
these two came down the stairs together, and he heard
Lapham saying, "Well, then, you better get a divorce."
He looked red and excited, and the girl's face, which she
veiled at sight of Corey, showed traces of tears.
She slipped round him into the street.
But Lapham stopped, and said, with the show of no feeling
but surprise: "Hello, Corey! Did you want to go up?"
"Yes; there were some letters I hadn't quite got through with."
"You'll find Dennis up there. But I guess you better let
them go till to-morrow. I always make it a rule to stop
work when I'm done."
"Perhaps you're right," said Corey, yielding.
"Come along down as far as the boat with me. There's a
little matter I want to talk over with you."
It was a business matter, and related to Corey's proposed
connection with the house.
The next day the head book-keeper, who lunched at the long
counter of the same restaurant with Corey, began to talk
with him about Lapham. Walker had not apparently got
his place by seniority; though with his forehead, bald far
up toward the crown, and his round smooth face, one might
have taken him for a plump elder, if he had not looked
equally like a robust infant. The thick drabbish yellow
moustache was what arrested decision in either direction,
and the prompt vigour of all his movements was that of
a young man of thirty, which was really Walker's age.
He knew, of course, who Corey was, and he had waited
for a man who might look down on him socially to make
the overtures toward something more than business
acquaintance; but, these made, he was readily responsive,
and drew freely on his philosophy of Lapham and his affairs.
"I think about the only difference between people in
this world is that some know what they want, and some
don't. Well, now," said Walker, beating the bottom of his
salt-box to make the salt come out, "the old man knows
what he wants every time. And generally he gets it.
Yes, sir, he generally gets it. He knows what he's about,
but I'll be blessed if the rest of us do half the time.
Anyway, we don't till he's ready to let us. You take
my position in most business houses. It's confidential.
The head book-keeper knows right along pretty much
everything the house has got in hand. I'll give you
my word I don't. He may open up to you a little more
in your department, but, as far as the rest of us go,
he don't open up any more than an oyster on a hot brick.
They say he had a partner once; I guess he's dead.
I wouldn't like to be the old man's partner. Well,
you see, this paint of his is like his heart's blood.
Better not try to joke him about it. I've seen people
come in occasionally and try it. They didn't get much
fun out of it."
While he talked, Walker was plucking up morsels from his plate,
tearing off pieces of French bread from the long loaf,
and feeding them into his mouth in an impersonal way,
as if he were firing up an engine.
"I suppose he thinks," suggested Corey, "that if he
doesn't tell, nobody else will."
Walker took a draught of beer from his glass, and wiped
the foam from his moustache.
"Oh, but he carries it too far! It's a weakness with him.
He's just so about everything. Look at the way he keeps
it up about that type-writer girl of his. You'd think
she was some princess travelling incognito. There isn't
one of us knows who she is, or where she came from,
or who she belongs to. He brought her and her machine
into the office one morning, and set 'em down at a table,
and that's all there is about it, as far as we're concerned.
It's pretty hard on the girl, for I guess she'd like
to talk; and to any one that didn't know the old man----"
Walker broke off and drained his glass of what was left
Corey thought of the words he had overheard from Lapham
to the girl. But he said, "She seems to be kept pretty busy."
"Oh yes," said Walker; "there ain't much loafing round
the place, in any of the departments, from the old man's down.
That's just what I say. He's got to work just twice as hard,
if he wants to keep everything in his own mind. But he
ain't afraid of work. That's one good thing about him.
And Miss Dewey has to keep step with the rest of us.
But she don't look like one that would take to it naturally.
Such a pretty girl as that generally thinks she does enough
when she looks her prettiest."
"She's a pretty girl," said Corey, non-committally. "But I
suppose a great many pretty girls have to earn their living."
"Don't any of 'em like to do it," returned the book-keeper.
"They think it's a hardship, and I don't blame 'em. They have
got a right to get married, and they ought to have the chance.
And Miss Dewey's smart, too. She's as bright as a biscuit.
I guess she's had trouble. I shouldn't be much more than
half surprised if Miss Dewey wasn't Miss Dewey, or hadn't
always been. Yes, sir," continued the book-keeper,
who prolonged the talk as they walked back to Lapham's
warehouse together, "I don't know exactly what it is,--it
isn't any one thing in particular,--but I should say that
girl had been married. I wouldn't speak so freely to any
of the rest, Mr. Corey,--I want you to understand that,--and
it isn't any of my business, anyway; but that's my opinion."
Corey made no reply, as he walked beside the book-keeper,
"It's curious what a difference marriage makes in people.
Now, I know that I don't look any more like a bachelor
of my age than I do like the man in the moon, and yet I
couldn't say where the difference came in, to save me.
And it's just so with a woman. The minute you catch
sight of her face, there's something in it that tells
you whether she's married or not. What do you suppose
"I'm sure I don't know," said Corey, willing to laugh away
the topic. "And from what I read occasionally of some
people who go about repeating their happiness, I shouldn't
say that the intangible evidences were always unmistakable."
"Oh, of course," admitted Walker, easily surrendering
his position. "All signs fail in dry weather.
Hello! What's that?" He caught Corey by the arm,
and they both stopped.
At a corner, half a block ahead of them, the summer noon
solitude of the place was broken by a bit of drama.
A man and woman issued from the intersecting street,
and at the moment of coming into sight the man, who looked
like a sailor, caught the woman by the arm, as if to
detain her. A brief struggle ensued, the woman trying
to free herself, and the man half coaxing, half scolding.
The spectators could now see that he was drunk;
but before they could decide whether it was a case for
their interference or not, the woman suddenly set both
hands against the man's breast and gave him a quick push.
He lost his footing and tumbled into a heap in the gutter.
The woman faltered an instant, as if to see whether he was
seriously hurt, and then turned and ran.
When Corey and the book-keeper re-entered the office,
Miss Dewey had finished her lunch, and was putting a sheet
of paper into her type-writer. She looked up at them with
her eyes of turquoise blue, under her low white forehead,
with the hair neatly rippled over it, and then began
to beat the keys of her machine.
LAPHAM had the pride which comes of self-making, and he
would not openly lower his crest to the young fellow he
had taken into his business. He was going to be obviously
master in his own place to every one; and during the hours
of business he did nothing to distinguish Corey from the
half-dozen other clerks and book-keepers in the outer office,
but he was not silent about the fact that Bromfield
Corey's son had taken a fancy to come to him. "Did you
notice that fellow at the desk facing my type-writer
girl? Well, sir, that's the son of Bromfield Corey--old
Phillips Corey's grandson. And I'll say this for him,
that there isn't a man in the office that looks after his
work better. There isn't anything he's too good for.
He's right here at nine every morning, before the clock
gets in the word. I guess it's his grandfather coming out
in him. He's got charge of the foreign correspondence.
We're pushing the paint everywhere." He flattered himself
that he did not lug the matter in. He had been warned
against that by his wife, but he had the right to do
Corey justice, and his brag took the form of illustration.
"Talk about training for business--I tell you it's all
in the man himself! I used to believe in what old Horace
Greeley said about college graduates being the poorest
kind of horned cattle; but I've changed my mind a little.
You take that fellow Corey. He's been through Harvard,
and he's had about every advantage that a fellow could have.
Been everywhere, and talks half a dozen languages
like English. I suppose he's got money enough to live
without lifting a hand, any more than his father does;
son of Bromfield Corey, you know. But the thing was in him.
He's a natural-born business man; and I've had many
a fellow with me that had come up out of the street,
and worked hard all his life, without ever losing his
original opposition to the thing. But Corey likes it.
I believe the fellow would like to stick at that desk
of his night and day. I don't know where he got it.
I guess it must be his grandfather, old Phillips Corey;
it often skips a generation, you know. But what I say is,
a thing has got to be born in a man; and if it ain't born
in him, all the privations in the world won't put it there,
and if it is, all the college training won't take it
Sometimes Lapham advanced these ideas at his own table,
to a guest whom he had brought to Nantasket for the night.
Then he suffered exposure and ridicule at the hands of
his wife, when opportunity offered. She would not let him
bring Corey down to Nantasket at all.
"No, indeed!" she said. "I am not going to have them
think we're running after him. If he wants to see Irene,
he can find out ways of doing it for himself."
"Who wants him to see Irene?" retorted the Colonel angrily.
"I do," said Mrs. Lapham. "And I want him to see
her without any of your connivance, Silas. I'm not
going to have it said that I put my girls at anybody.
Why don't you invite some of your other clerks?"
"He ain't just like the other clerks. He's going to take
charge of a part of the business. It's quite another thing."
"Oh, indeed!" said Mrs. Lapham vexatiously. "Then you
ARE going to take a partner."
"I shall ask him down if I choose!" returned the Colonel,
disdaining her insinuation.
His wife laughed with the fearlessness of a woman
who knows her husband.
"But you won't choose when you've thought it over, Si."
Then she applied an emollient to his chafed surface.
"Don't you suppose I feel as you do about it? I know
just how proud you are, and I'm not going to have you
do anything that will make you feel meeching afterward.
You just let things take their course. If he wants Irene,
he's going to find out some way of seeing her; and if he
don't, all the plotting and planning in the world isn't going
to make him."
"Who's plotting?" again retorted the Colonel, shuddering at
the utterance of hopes and ambitions which a man hides
with shame, but a woman talks over as freely and coolly
as if they were items of a milliner's bill.
"Oh, not you!" exulted his wife. "I understand what
you want. You want to get this fellow, who is neither
partner nor clerk, down here to talk business with him.
Well, now, you just talk business with him at the office."
The only social attention which Lapham succeeded in
offering Corey was to take him in his buggy, now and then,
for a spin out over the Mill-dam. He kept the mare in town,
and on a pleasant afternoon he liked to knock off early,
as he phrased it, and let the mare out a little.
Corey understood something about horses, though in a
passionless way, and he would have preferred to talk
business when obliged to talk horse. But he deferred to his
business superior with the sense of discipline which is
innate in the apparently insubordinate American nature.
If Corey could hardly have helped feeling the social
difference between Lapham and himself, in his presence he
silenced his traditions, and showed him all the respect
that he could have exacted from any of his clerks.
He talked horse with him, and when the Colonel wished he
talked house. Besides himself and his paint Lapham had
not many other topics; and if he had a choice between the
mare and the edifice on the water side of Beacon Street,
it was just now the latter. Sometimes, in driving in or out,
he stopped at the house, and made Corey his guest there,
if he might not at Nantasket; and one day it happened
that the young man met Irene there again. She had come
up with her mother alone, and they were in the house,
interviewing the carpenter as before, when the Colonel
jumped out of his buggy and cast anchor at the pavement.
More exactly, Mrs. Lapham was interviewing the carpenter,
and Irene was sitting in the bow-window on a trestle,
and looking out at the driving. She saw him come up
with her father, and bowed and blushed. Her father went
on up-stairs to find her mother, and Corey pulled up another
trestle which he found in the back part of the room.
The first floorings had been laid throughout the house,
and the partitions had been lathed so that one could realise the
shape of the interior.
"I suppose you will sit at this window a good deal,"
said the young man.
"Yes, I think it will be very nice. There's so much
more going on than there is in the Square."
"It must be very interesting to you to see the house grow."
"It is. Only it doesn't seem to grow so fast as I expected."
"Why, I'm amazed at the progress your carpenter has made
every time I come."
The girl looked down, and then lifting her eyes she said,
with a sort of timorous appeal--
"I've been reading that book since you were down at Nantasket."
"Book?" repeated Corey, while she reddened with disappointment.
"Oh yes. Middlemarch. Did you like it?"
"I haven't got through with it yet. Pen has finished it."
"What does she think of it?"
"Oh, I think she likes it very well. I haven't heard
her talk about it much. Do you like it?"
"Yes; I liked it immensely. But it's several years
since I read it."
"I didn't know it was so old. It's just got into
the Seaside Library," she urged, with a little sense
of injury in her tone.
"Oh, it hasn't been out such a very great while,"
said Corey politely. "It came a little before DANIEL DERONDA."
The girl was again silent. She followed the curl
of a shaving on the floor with the point of her parasol.
"Do you like that Rosamond Vincy?" she asked, without looking up.
Corey smiled in his kind way.
"I didn't suppose she was expected to have any friends.
I can't say I liked her. But I don't think I disliked
her so much as the author does. She's pretty hard on her
good-looking"--he was going to say girls, but as if that
might have been rather personal, he said--"people."
"Yes, that's what Pen says. She says she doesn't give
her any chance to be good. She says she should have been
just as bad as Rosamond if she had been in her place."
The young man laughed. "Your sister is very satirical,
"I don't know," said Irene, still intent upon the
convolutions of the shaving. "She keeps us laughing.
Papa thinks there's nobody that can talk like her."
She gave the shaving a little toss from her, and took
the parasol up across her lap. The unworldliness
of the Lapham girls did not extend to their dress;
Irene's costume was very stylish, and she governed her
head and shoulders stylishly. "We are going to have
the back room upstairs for a music-room and library,"
she said abruptly.
"Yes?" returned Corey. "I should think that would
"We expected to have book-cases, but the architect wants
to build the shelves in."
The fact seemed to be referred to Corey for his comment.
"It seems to me that would be the best way. They'll look
like part of the room then. You can make them low,
and hang your pictures above them."
"Yes, that's what he said." The girl looked out of
the window in adding, "I presume with nice bindings
it will look very well."
"Oh, nothing furnishes a room like books."
"No. There will have to be a good many of them."
"That depends upon the size of your room and the number
of your shelves."
"Oh, of course! I presume," said Irene, thoughtfully,
"we shall have to have Gibbon."
"If you want to read him," said Corey, with a laugh
of sympathy for an imaginable joke.
"We had a great deal about him at school. I believe we
had one of his books. Mine's lost, but Pen will remember."
The young man looked at her, and then said, seriously,
"You'll want Greene, of course, and Motley, and Parkman."
"Yes. What kind of writers are they?"
"They're historians too."
"Oh yes; I remember now. That's what Gibbon was.
Is it Gibbon or Gibbons?"
The young man decided the point with apparently
superfluous delicacy. "Gibbon, I think."
"There used to be so many of them," said Irene gaily.
"I used to get them mixed up with each other, and I
couldn't tell them from the poets. Should you want to
"Yes; I suppose some edition of the English poets."
"We don't any of us like poetry. Do you like it?"
"I'm afraid I don't very much," Corey owned.
"But, of course, there was a time when Tennyson
was a great deal more to me than he is now."
"We had something about him at school too. I think I remember
the name. I think we ought to have ALL the American poets."
"Well, not all. Five or six of the best: you want Longfellow
and Bryant and Whittier and Holmes and Emerson and Lowell."
The girl listened attentively, as if making mental note
of the names.
"And Shakespeare," she added. "Don't you like Shakespeare's plays?"
"Oh yes, very much."
"I used to be perfectly crazy about his plays.
Don't you think 'Hamlet' is splendid? We had ever so much
about Shakespeare. Weren't you perfectly astonished
when you found out how many other plays of his there
were? I always thought there was nothing but 'Hamlet'
and 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Macbeth' and 'Richard III.'
and 'King Lear,' and that one that Robeson and Crane
have--oh yes! 'Comedy of Errors.'"
"Those are the ones they usually play," said Corey.
"I presume we shall have to have Scott's works," said Irene,
returning to the question of books.
"One of the girls used to think he was GREAT. She was
always talking about Scott." Irene made a pretty little
amiably contemptuous mouth. "He isn't American, though?"
"No," said Corey; "he's Scotch, I believe."
Irene passed her glove over her forehead. "I always get
him mixed up with Cooper. Well, papa has got to get them.
If we have a library, we have got to have books in it.
Pen says it's perfectly ridiculous having one. But papa
thinks whatever the architect says is right. He fought
him hard enough at first. I don't see how any one can
keep the poets and the historians and novelists separate
in their mind. Of course papa will buy them if we say so.
But I don't see how I'm ever going to tell him which ones."
The joyous light faded out of her face and left
"Why, if you like," said the young man, taking out his pencil,
"I'll put down the names we've been talking about."
He clapped himself on his breast pockets to detect some
lurking scrap of paper.
"Will you?" she cried delightedly. "Here! take one of my cards,"
and she pulled out her card-case. "The carpenter writes
on a three-cornered block and puts it into his pocket,
and it's so uncomfortable he can't help remembering it.
Pen says she's going to adopt the three-cornered-block
plan with papa."
"Thank you," said Corey. "I believe I'll use your card."
He crossed over to her, and after a moment sat down on the
trestle beside her. She looked over the card as he wrote.
"Those are the ones we mentioned, but perhaps I'd better
add a few others."
"Oh, thank you," she said, when he had written the card
full on both sides. "He has got to get them in the
nicest binding, too. I shall tell him about their
helping to furnish the room, and then he can't object."
She remained with the card, looking at it rather wistfully.
Perhaps Corey divined her trouble of mind. "If he will
take that to any bookseller, and tell him what bindings
he wants, he will fill the order for him." jdh -
spell-checked to this point "Oh, thank you very much,"
she said, and put the card back into her card-case with
great apparent relief. Then she turned her lovely face
toward the young man, beaming with the triumph a woman
feels in any bit of successful manoeuvring, and began
to talk with recovered gaiety of other things, as if,
having got rid of a matter annoying out of all proportion
to its importance, she was now going to indemnify herself.
Corey did not return to his own trestle. She found another
shaving within reach of her parasol, and began poking
that with it, and trying to follow it through its folds.
Corey watched her a while.
"You seem to have a great passion for playing with shavings,"
he said. "Is it a new one?"
"I don't know," she said, dropping her eyelids, and keeping
on with her effort. She looked shyly aslant at him.
"Perhaps you don't approve of playing with shavings?"
"Oh yes, I do. I admire it very much. But it seems
rather difficult. I've a great ambition to put my foot
on the shaving's tail and hold it for you."
"Well," said the girl.
"Thank you," said the young man. He did so, and now she
ran her parasol point easily through it. They looked
at each other and laughed. "That was wonderful.
Would you like to try another?" he asked.
"No, I thank you," she replied. "I think one will do."
They both laughed again, for whatever reason or no reason,
and then the young girl became sober. To a girl everything
a young man does is of significance; and if he holds
a shaving down with his foot while she pokes through it
with her parasol, she must ask herself what he means
"They seem to be having rather a long interview with the
carpenter to-day," said Irene, looking vaguely toward
the ceiling. She turned with polite ceremony to Corey.
"I'm afraid you're letting them keep you. You mustn't."
"Oh no. You're letting me stay," he returned.
She bridled and bit her lip for pleasure. "I presume
they will be down before a great while. Don't you
like the smell of the wood and the mortar? It's so fresh."
"Yes, it's delicious." He bent forward and picked up from
the floor the shaving with which they had been playing,
and put it to his nose. "It's like a flower. May I offer
it to you?" he asked, as if it had been one.
"Oh, thank you, thank you!" She took it from him and put
it into her belt, and then they both laughed once more.
Steps were heard descending. When the elder people
reached the floor where they were sitting, Corey rose
and presently took his leave.
"What makes you so solemn, 'Rene?" asked Mrs. Lapham.
"Solemn?" echoed the girl. "I'm not a BIT solemn.
What CAN you mean?"
Corey dined at home that evening, and as he sat looking
across the table at his father, he said, "I wonder
what the average literature of non-cultivated people is."
"Ah," said the elder, "I suspect the average is pretty
low even with cultivated people. You don't read a great
many books yourself, Tom."
"No, I don't," the young man confessed. "I read more books
when I was with Stanton, last winter, than I had since I was
a boy. But I read them because I must--there was nothing
else to do. It wasn't because I was fond of reading.
Still I think I read with some sense of literature and
the difference between authors. I don't suppose that
people generally do that; I have met people who had read
books without troubling themselves to find out even the
author's name, much less trying to decide upon his quality.
I suppose that's the way the vast majority of people read."
"Yes. If authors were not almost necessarily recluses,
and ignorant of the ignorance about them, I don't see
how they could endure it. Of course they are fated to be
overwhelmed by oblivion at last, poor fellows; but to see
it weltering all round them while they are in the very act
of achieving immortality must be tremendously discouraging.
I don't suppose that we who have the habit of reading,
and at least a nodding acquaintance with literature,
can imagine the bestial darkness of the great mass of
people--even people whose houses are rich and whose linen
is purple and fine. But occasionally we get glimpses of it.
I suppose you found the latest publications lying all about
in Lapham cottage when you were down there?"
Young Corey laughed. "It wasn't exactly cumbered with them."
"To tell the truth, I don't suppose they ever buy books.
The young ladies get novels that they hear talked of out
of the circulating library."
"Had they knowledge enough to be ashamed of their ignorance?"
"Yes, in certain ways--to a certain degree."
"It's a curious thing, this thing we call civilisation,"
said the elder musingly. "We think it is an affair of epochs
and of nations. It's really an affair of individuals.
One brother will be civilised and the other a barbarian.
I've occasionally met young girls who were so brutally,
insolently, wilfully indifferent to the arts which make
civilisation that they ought to have been clothed in the
skins of wild beasts and gone about barefoot with clubs
over their shoulders. Yet they were of polite origin,
and their parents were at least respectful of the things
that these young animals despised."
"I don't think that is exactly the case with the
Lapham family," said the son, smiling. "The father
and mother rather apologised about not getting
time to read, and the young ladies by no means scorned it."
"They are quite advanced!"
"They are going to have a library in their Beacon
"Oh, poor things! How are they ever going to get
the books together?"
"Well, sir," said the son, colouring a little, "I have
been indirectly applied to for help."
"You, Tom!" His father dropped back in his chair and laughed.
"I recommended the standard authors," said the son.
"Oh, I never supposed your PRUDENCE would be at fault, Tom!"
"But seriously," said the young man, generously smiling
in sympathy with his father's enjoyment, "they're not
unintelligent people. They are very quick, and they
are shrewd and sensible."
"I have no doubt that some of the Sioux are so. But that
is not saying that they are civilised. All civilisation
comes through literature now, especially in our country.
A Greek got his civilisation by talking and looking,
and in some measure a Parisian may still do it. But we,
who live remote from history and monuments, we must read or we
must barbarise. Once we were softened, if not polished,
by religion; but I suspect that the pulpit counts for much
less now in civilising."
"They're enormous devourers of newspapers, and theatre-goers;
and they go a great deal to lectures. The Colonel
prefers them with the stereopticon."
"They might get a something in that way," said the elder
thoughtfully. "Yes, I suppose one must take those things
into account--especially the newspapers and the lectures.
I doubt if the theatre is a factor in civilisation among us.
I dare say it doesn't deprave a great deal, but from what I've
seen of it I should say that it was intellectually degrading.
Perhaps they might get some sort of lift from it;
I don't know. Tom!" he added, after a moment's reflection.
"I really think I ought to see this patron of yours.
Don't you think it would be rather decent in me to make
"Well, if you have the fancy, sir," said the young man.
"But there's no sort of obligation. Colonel Lapham would
be the last man in the world to want to give our relation
any sort of social character. The meeting will come about
in the natural course of things."
"Ah, I didn't intend to propose anything immediate,"
said the father. "One can't do anything in the summer,
and I should prefer your mother's superintendence.
Still, I can't rid myself of the idea of a dinner.
It appears to me that there ought to be a dinner."
"Oh, pray don't feel that there's any necessity."
"Well," said the elder, with easy resignation, "there's at
least no hurry."
"There is one thing I don't like," said Lapham,
in the course of one of those talks which came up
between his wife and himself concerning Corey, "or at
least I don't understand it; and that's the way his
father behaves. I don't want to force myself on any man;
but it seems to me pretty queer the way he holds off.
I should think he would take enough interest in his
son to want to know something about his business.
What is he afraid of?" demanded Lapham angrily. "Does he
think I'm going to jump at a chance to get in with him,
if he gives me one? He's mightily mistaken if he does.
I don't want to know him."
"Silas," said his wife, making a wife's free version
of her husband's words, and replying to their spirit
rather than their letter, "I hope you never said a word
to Mr. Corey to let him know the way you feel."
"I never mentioned his father to him!" roared the Colonel.
"That's the way I feel about it!"
"Because it would spoil everything. I wouldn't have
them think we cared the least thing in the world for
their acquaintance. We shouldn't be a bit better off.
We don't know the same people they do, and we don't care
for the same kind of things."
Lapham was breathless with resentment of his wife's implication.
"Don't I tell you," he gasped, "that I don't want to know
them? Who began it? They're friends of yours if they're anybody's."
"They're distant acquaintances of mine," returned Mrs. Lapham
quietly; "and this young Corey is a clerk of yours. And I
want we should hold ourselves so that when they get ready
to make the advances we can meet them half-way or not,
just as we choose."
"That's what grinds me," cried her husband.
"Why should we wait for them to make the advances? Why
shouldn't we make 'em? Are they any better than we are?
My note of hand would be worth ten times what Bromfield
Corey's is on the street to-day. And I made MY money.
I haven't loafed my life away."
"Oh, it isn't what you've got, and it isn't what you've
done exactly. It's what you are."
"Well, then, what's the difference?"
"None that really amounts to anything, or that need give
you any trouble, if you don't think of it. But he's
been all his life in society, and he knows just what to
say and what to do, and he can talk about the things
that society people like to talk about, and you--can't."
Lapham gave a furious snort. "And does that make him
"No. But it puts him where he can make the advances
without demeaning himself, and it puts you where you
can't. Now, look here, Silas Lapham! You understand this
thing as well as I do. You know that I appreciate you,
and that I'd sooner die than have you humble yourself
to a living soul. But I'm not going to have you coming
to me, and pretending that you can meet Bromfield Corey
as an equal on his own ground. You can't. He's got
a better education than you, and if he hasn't got more
brains than you, he's got different. And he and his wife,
and their fathers and grandfathers before 'em, have always
had a high position, and you can't help it. If you want
to know them, you've got to let them make the advances.
If you don't, all well and good."
"I guess," said the chafed and vanquished Colonel,
after a moment for swallowing the pill, "that they'd
have been in a pretty fix if you'd waited to let them
make the advances last summer."
"That was a different thing altogether. I didn't
know who they were, or may be I should have waited.
But all I say now is that if you've got young Corey
into business with you, in hopes of our getting into
society with his father, you better ship him at once.
For I ain't going to have it on that basis."
"Who wants to have it on that basis?" retorted her husband.
"Nobody, if you don't," said Mrs. Lapham tranquilly.
Irene had come home with the shaving in her belt,
unnoticed by her father, and unquestioned by her mother.
But her sister saw it at once, and asked her what she was
doing with it.
"Oh, nothing," said Irene, with a joyful smile
of self-betrayal, taking the shaving carefully out,
and laying it among the laces and ribbons in her drawer.
"Hadn't you better put it in water, 'Rene? It'll be all
wilted by morning," said Pen.
"You mean thing!" cried the happy girl. "It isn't a flower!"
"Oh, I thought it was a whole bouquet. Who gave it to you?"
"I shan't tell you," said Irene saucily.
"Oh, well, never mind. Did you know Mr. Corey had been
down here this afternoon, walking on the beach with me?"
"He wasn't--he wasn't at all! He was at the house with ME.
There! I've caught you fairly."
"Is that so?" drawled Penelope. "Then I never could
guess who gave you that precious shaving."
"No, you couldn't!" said Irene, flushing beautifully.
"And you may guess, and you may guess, and you may guess!"
With her lovely eyes she coaxed her sister to keep on
teasing her, and Penelope continued the comedy with the
patience that women have for such things.
"Well, I'm not going to try, if it's no use. But I
didn't know it had got to be the fashion to give shavings
instead of flowers. But there's some sense in it.
They can be used for kindlings when they get old, and you
can't do anything with old flowers. Perhaps he'll get
to sending 'em by the barrel."
Irene laughed for pleasure in this tormenting. "O Pen,
I want to tell you how it all happened."
"Oh, he DID give it to you, then? Well, I guess I don't
care to hear."
"You shall, and you've got to!" Irene ran and caught
her sister, who feigned to be going out of the room,
and pushed her into a chair. "There, now!" She pulled up
another chair, and hemmed her in with it. "He came over,
and sat down on the trestle alongside of me----"
"What? As close as you are to me now?"
"You wretch! I will GIVE it to you! No, at a proper distance.
And here was this shaving on the floor, that I'd been
poking with my parasol----"
"To hide your embarrassment."
"Pshaw! I wasn't a bit embarrassed. I was just as much at
my ease! And then he asked me to let him hold the shaving
down with his foot, while I went on with my poking.
And I said yes he might----"
"What a bold girl! You said he might hold a shaving
down for you?"
"And then--and then----" continued Irene, lifting her eyes
absently, and losing herself in the beatific recollection,
"and then----Oh yes! Then I asked him if he didn't like
the smell of pine shavings. And then he picked it up,
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