Part 18 out of 78
of men to interfere with trotting like that. At the end
of the heat Lapham drew her in, and turned off on a side
street into Brookline.
"Tell you what, Pert," he said, as if they had been quietly
jogging along, with time for uninterrupted thought since he
last spoke, "I've about made up my mind to build on that lot."
"All right, Silas," said Mrs. Lapham; "I suppose you
know what you're about. Don't build on it for me,
When she stood in the hall at home, taking off her things,
she said to the girls, who were helping her, "Some day
your father will get killed with that mare."
"Did he speed her?" asked Penelope, the elder.
She was named after her grandmother, who had in her turn
inherited from another ancestress the name of the Homeric
matron whose peculiar merits won her a place even among
the Puritan Faiths, Hopes, Temperances, and Prudences.
Penelope was the girl whose odd serious face had struck
Bartley Hubbard in the photograph of the family group Lapham
showed him on the day of the interview. Her large eyes,
like her hair, were brown; they had the peculiar look of
near-sighted eyes which is called mooning; her complexion
was of a dark pallor.
Her mother did not reply to a question which might be
considered already answered. "He says he's going to build
on that lot of his," she net remarked, unwinding the long
veil which she had tied round her neck to hold her
bonnet on. She put her hat and cloak on the hall table,
to be carried upstairs later, and they all went in to tea:
creamed oysters, birds, hot biscuit, two kinds of cake,
and dishes of stewed and canned fruit and honey.
The women dined alone at one, and the Colonel at the same
hour down-town. But he liked a good hot meal when he
got home in the evening. The house flared with gas;
and the Colonel, before he sat down, went about shutting
the registers, through which a welding heat came voluming
up from the furnace.
"I'll be the death of that darkey YET," he said,
"if he don't stop making on such a fire. The only way
to get any comfort out of your furnace is to take care
of it yourself."
"Well," answered his wife from behind the teapot, as he
sat down at table with this threat, "there's nothing
to prevent you, Si. And you can shovel the snow too,
if you want to--till you get over to Beacon Street, anyway."
"I guess I can keep my own sidewalk on Beacon Street clean,
if I take the notion."
"I should like to see you at it," retorted his wife.
"Well, you keep a sharp lookout, and may be you will."
Their taunts were really expressions of affectionate pride
in each other. They liked to have it, give and take,
that way, as they would have said, right along.
"A man can be a man on Beacon Street as well as anywhere,
"Well, I'll do the wash, as I used to in Lumberville,"
said Mrs. Lapham. "I presume you'll let me have
set tubs, Si. You know I ain't so young any more."
She passed Irene a cup of Oolong tea,--none of them
had a sufficiently cultivated palate for Sou-chong,--and
the girl handed it to her father. "Papa," she asked,
"you don't really mean that you're going to build over there?"
"Don't I? You wait and see," said the Colonel, stirring his tea.
"I don't believe you do," pursued the girl.
"Is that so? I presume you'd hate to have me.
Your mother does." He said DOOS, of course.
Penelope took the word. "I go in for it. I don't see
any use in not enjoying money, if you've got it to enjoy.
That's what it's for, I suppose; though you mightn't
always think so." She had a slow, quaint way of talking,
that seemed a pleasant personal modification of some
ancestral Yankee drawl, and her voice was low and cozy,
and so far from being nasal that it was a little hoarse.
"I guess the ayes has it, Pen," said her father.
"How would it do to let Irene and your mother stick
in the old place here, and us go into the new house?"
At times the Colonel's grammar failed him.
The matter dropped, and the Laphams lived on as before,
with joking recurrences to the house on the water side
of Beacon. The Colonel seemed less in earnest than any
of them about it; but that was his way, his girls said;
you never could tell when he really meant a thing.
TOWARD the end of the winter there came a newspaper,
addressed to Miss Irene Lapham; it proved to be a
Texas newspaper, with a complimentary account of the ranch
of the Hon. Loring G. Stanton, which the representative
of the journal had visited.
"It must be his friend," said Mrs. Lapham, to whom her
daughter brought the paper; "the one he's staying with."
The girl did not say anything, but she carried the
paper to her room, where she scanned every line of it
for another name. She did not find it, but she cut
the notice out and stuck it into the side of her mirror,
where she could read it every morning when she brushed
her hair, and the last thing at night when she looked
at herself in the glass just before turning off the gas.
Her sister often read it aloud, standing behind her
and rendering it with elocutionary effects.
"The first time I ever heard of a love-letter in the form
of a puff to a cattle-ranch. But perhaps that's the style
on the Hill."
Mrs. Lapham told her husband of the arrival of the paper,
treating the fact with an importance that he refused to see
"How do you know the fellow sent it, anyway?" he demanded.
"Oh, I know he did."
"I don't see why he couldn't write to 'Rene, if he really
"Well, I guess that wouldn't be their way," said Mrs. Lapham;
she did not at all know what their way would be.
When the spring opened Colonel Lapham showed that he had
been in earnest about building on the New Land. His idea
of a house was a brown-stone front, four stories high,
and a French roof with an air-chamber above. Inside,
there was to be a reception-room on the street and a
dining-room back. The parlours were to be on the second floor,
and finished in black walnut or party-coloured paint.
The chambers were to be on the three floors above,
front and rear, with side-rooms over the front door.
Black walnut was to be used everywhere except in the attic,
which was to be painted and grained to look like
black walnut. The whole was to be very high-studded,
and there were to be handsome cornices and elaborate
centre-pieces throughout, except, again, in the attic.
These ideas he had formed from the inspection of many
new buildings which he had seen going up, and which he
had a passion for looking into. He was confirmed in his
ideas by a master builder who had put up a great many
houses on the Back Bay as a speculation, and who told
him that if he wanted to have a house in the style,
that was the way to have it.
The beginnings of the process by which Lapham escaped
from the master builder and ended in the hands of an
architect are so obscure that it would be almost impossible
to trace them. But it all happened, and Lapham promptly
developed his ideas of black walnut finish, high studding,
and cornices. The architect was able to conceal the shudder
which they must have sent through him. He was skilful,
as nearly all architects are, in playing upon that simple
instrument Man. He began to touch Colonel Lapham's stops.
"Oh, certainly, have the parlours high-studded. But you've
seen some of those pretty old-fashioned country-houses,
haven't you, where the entrance-story is very low-studded?"
"Yes," Lapham assented.
"Well, don't you think something of that kind would have
a very nice effect? Have the entrance-story low-studded,
and your parlours on the next floor as high as you please.
Put your little reception-room here beside the door, and get
the whole width of your house frontage for a square hall,
and an easy low-tread staircase running up three sides of it.
I'm sure Mrs. Lapham would find it much pleasanter."
The architect caught toward him a scrap of paper lying on
the table at which they were sitting and sketched his idea.
"Then have your dining-room behind the hall, looking on
He glanced at Mrs. Lapham, who said, "Of course,"
and the architect went on--
"That gets you rid of one of those long, straight, ugly
staircases,"--until that moment Lapham had thought a long,
straight staircase the chief ornament of a house,--"and
gives you an effect of amplitude and space."
"That's so!" said Mrs. Lapham. Her husband merely made
a noise in his throat.
"Then, were you thinking of having your parlours together,
connected by folding doors?" asked the architect deferentially.
"Yes, of course," said Lapham. "They're always so,
"Well, nearly," said the architect. "I was wondering
how would it do to make one large square room at the front,
taking the whole breadth of the house, and, with this
hall-space between, have a music-room back for the
Lapham looked helplessly at his wife, whose quicker
apprehension had followed the architect's pencil
with instant sympathy. "First-rate!" she cried.
The Colonel gave way. "I guess that would do.
It'll be kind of odd, won't it?"
"Well, I don't know," said the architect. "Not so odd,
I hope, as the other thing will be a few years from now."
He went on to plan the rest of the house, and he showed
himself such a master in regard to all the practical
details that Mrs. Lapham began to feel a motherly affection
for the young man, and her husband could not deny in his
heart that the fellow seemed to understand his business.
He stopped walking about the room, as he had begun to
do when the architect and Mrs. Lapham entered into the
particulars of closets, drainage, kitchen arrangements,
and all that, and came back to the table. "I presume,"
he said, "you'll have the drawing-room finished in
"Well, yes," replied the architect, "if you like.
But some less expensive wood can be made just as effective
with paint. Of course you can paint black walnut too."
"Paint it?" gasped the Colonel.
"Yes," said the architect quietly. "White, or a little
Lapham dropped the plan he had picked up from the table.
His wife made a little move toward him of consolation
"Of course," resumed the architect, I know there has been
a great craze for black walnut. But it's an ugly wood;
and for a drawing-room there is really nothing like
white paint. We should want to introduce a little gold
here and there. Perhaps we might run a painted frieze round
under the cornice--garlands of roses on a gold ground;
it would tell wonderfully in a white room."
The Colonel returned less courageously to the charge.
"I presume you'll want Eastlake mantel-shelves and tiles?"
He meant this for a sarcastic thrust at a prevailing foible
of the profession.
"Well, no," gently answered the architect. "I was
thinking perhaps a white marble chimney-piece, treated
in the refined Empire style, would be the thing for that room."
"White marble!" exclaimed the Colonel. "I thought
that had gone out long ago."
"Really beautiful things can't go out. They may
disappear for a little while, but they must come back.
It's only the ugly things that stay out after they've
had their day."
Lapham could only venture very modestly, "Hard-wood floors?"
"In the music-room, of course," consented the architect.
"And in the drawing-room?"
"Carpet. Some sort of moquette, I should say. But I
should prefer to consult Mrs. Lapham's taste in that matter."
"And in the other rooms?"
"Oh, carpets, of course."
"And what about the stairs?"
"Carpet. And I should have the rail and banisters
white--banisters turned or twisted."
The Colonel said under his breath, "Well, I'm dumned!"
but he gave no utterance to his astonishment in the
architect's presence. When he went at last,--the session
did not end till eleven o'clock,--Lapham said, "Well, Pert,
I guess that fellow's fifty years behind, or ten years ahead.
I wonder what the Ongpeer style is?"
"I don't know. I hated to ask. But he seemed to
understand what he was talking about. I declare, he knows
what a woman wants in a house better than she does herself."
"And a man's simply nowhere in comparison," said Lapham.
But he respected a fellow who could beat him at every point,
and have a reason ready, as this architect had;
and when he recovered from the daze into which the complete
upheaval of all his preconceived notions had left him,
he was in a fit state to swear by the architect.
It seemed to him that he had discovered the fellow (as
he always called him) and owned him now, and the fellow
did nothing to disturb this impression. He entered
into that brief but intense intimacy with the Laphams
which the sympathetic architect holds with his clients.
He was privy to all their differences of opinion
and all their disputes about the house. He knew just
where to insist upon his own ideas, and where to yield.
He was really building several other houses, but he
gave the Laphams the impression that he was doing none
The work was not begun till the frost was thoroughly
out of the ground, which that year was not before the end
of April. Even then it did not proceed very rapidly.
Lapham said they might as well take their time to it;
if they got the walls up and the thing closed in before
the snow flew, they could be working at it all winter.
It was found necessary to dig for the kitchen; at that
point the original salt-marsh lay near the surface,
and before they began to put in the piles for the foundation
they had to pump. The neighbourhood smelt like the hold
of a ship after a three years' voyage. People who had
cast their fortunes with the New Land went by professing
not to notice it; people who still "hung on to the Hill"
put their handkerchiefs to their noses, and told each other
the old terrible stories of the material used in filling up
the Back Bay.
Nothing gave Lapham so much satisfaction in the whole
construction of his house as the pile-driving. When
this began, early in the summer, he took Mrs. Lapham
every day in his buggy and drove round to look at it;
stopping the mare in front of the lot, and watching
the operation with even keener interest than the little
loafing Irish boys who superintended it in force.
It pleased him to hear the portable engine chuckle
out a hundred thin whiffs of steam in carrying the big
iron weight to the top of the framework above the pile,
then seem to hesitate, and cough once or twice in
pressing the weight against the detaching apparatus.
There was a moment in which the weight had the effect
of poising before it fell; then it dropped with a mighty
whack on the iron-bound head of the pile, and drove it
a foot into the earth.
"By gracious!" he would say, "there ain't anything
like that in THIS world for BUSINESS, Persis!"
Mrs. Lapham suffered him to enjoy the sight twenty
or thirty times before she said, "Well, now drive on, Si."
By the time the foundation was in and the brick walls had begun
to go up, there were so few people left in the neighbourhood
that she might indulge with impunity her husband's passion
for having her clamber over the floor-timbers and the
skeleton stair-cases with him. Many of the householders
had boarded up their front doors before the buds had
begun to swell and the assessor to appear in early May;
others had followed soon; and Mrs. Lapham was as safe from
remark as if she had been in the depth of the country.
Ordinarily she and her girls left town early in July,
going to one of the hotels at Nantasket, where it was
convenient for the Colonel to get to and from his business
by the boat. But this summer they were all lingering a few
weeks later, under the novel fascination of the new house,
as they called it, as if there were no other in the world.
Lapham drove there with his wife after he had set
Bartley Hubbard down at the Events office, but on this
day something happened that interfered with the solid
pleasure they usually took in going over the house.
As the Colonel turned from casting anchor at the mare's head
with the hitching-weight, after helping his wife to alight,
he encountered a man to whom he could not help speaking,
though the man seemed to share his hesitation if not his
reluctance at the necessity. He was a tallish, thin man,
with a dust-coloured face, and a dead, clerical air,
which somehow suggested at once feebleness and tenacity.
Mrs. Lapham held out her hand to him.
"Why, Mr. Rogers!" she exclaimed; and then, turning toward
her husband, seemed to refer the two men to each other.
They shook hands, but Lapham did not speak. "I didn't know
you were in Boston," pursued Mrs. Lapham. "Is Mrs. Rogers
"No," said Mr. Rogers, with a voice which had the flat,
succinct sound of two pieces of wood clapped together.
"Mrs. Rogers is still in Chicago"
A little silence followed, and then Mrs Lapham said--
"I presume you are quite settled out there."
"No; we have left Chicago. Mrs. Rogers has merely
remained to finish up a little packing."
"Oh, indeed! Are you coming back to Boston?"
"I cannot say as yet. We some think of so doing.
Lapham turned away and looked up at the building.
His wife pulled a little at her glove, as if embarrassed,
or even pained. She tried to make a diversion.
"We are building a house," she said, with a meaningless laugh.
"Oh, indeed," said Mr. Rogers, looking up at it.
Then no one spoke again, and she said helplessly--
"If you come to Boston, I hope I shall see Mrs. Rogers."
"She will be happy to have you call," said Mr Rogers.
He touched his hat-brim, and made a bow forward rather
than in Mrs. Lapham's direction.
She mounted the planking that led into the shelter of
the bare brick walls, and her husband slowly followed.
When she turned her face toward him her cheeks were burning,
and tears that looked hot stood in her eyes.
"You left it all to me!" she cried. "Why couldn't you
speak a word?"
"I hadn't anything to say to him," replied Lapham sullenly.
They stood a while, without looking at the work which they
had come to enjoy, and without speaking to each other.
"I suppose we might as well go on," said Mrs. Lapham
at last, as they returned to the buggy. The Colonel drove
recklessly toward the Milldam. His wife kept her veil
down and her face turned from him. After a time she put
her handkerchief up under her veil and wiped her eyes,
and he set his teeth and squared his jaw.
"I don't see how he always manages to appear just at the
moment when he seems to have gone fairly out of our lives,
and blight everything," she whimpered.
"I supposed he was dead," said Lapham.
"Oh, don't SAY such a thing! It sounds as if you wished it."
"Why do you mind it? What do you let him blight everything for?"
"I can't help it, and I don't believe I ever shall.
I don't know as his being dead would help it any.
I can't ever see him without feeling just as I did
"I tell you," said Lapham, "it was a perfectly square thing.
And I wish, once for all, you would quit bothering about it.
My conscience is easy as far as he is concerned, and it
"And I can't look at him without feeling as if you'd
ruined him, Silas."
"Don't look at him, then," said her husband, with a scowl.
"I want you should recollect in the first place, Persis,
that I never wanted a partner."
"If he hadn't put his money in when he did, you'd 'a'
"Well, he got his money out again, and more, too,"
said the Colonel, with a sulky weariness.
"He didn't want to take it out."
"I gave him his choice: buy out or go out."
"You know he couldn't buy out then. It was no choice
"It was a business chance."
"No; you had better face the truth, Silas. It was no chance
at all. You crowded him out. A man that had saved you! No,
you had got greedy, Silas. You had made your paint your god,
and you couldn't bear to let anybody else share in its blessings."
"I tell you he was a drag and a brake on me from the word go.
You say he saved me. Well, if I hadn't got him out he'd
'a' ruined me sooner or later. So it's an even thing,
as far forth as that goes."
"No, it ain't an even thing, and you know it, Silas. Oh, if I
could only get you once to acknowledge that you did
wrong about it, then I should have some hope. I don't
say you meant wrong exactly, but you took an advantage.
Yes, you took an advantage! You had him where he couldn't
help himself, and then you wouldn't show him any mercy."
"I'm sick of this," said Lapham. "If you'll 'tend
to the house, I'll manage my business without your help."
"You were very glad of my help once."
"Well, I'm tired of it now. Don't meddle."
"I WILL meddle. When I see you hardening yourself in a
wrong thing, it's time for me to meddle, as you call it,
and I will. I can't ever get you to own up the least
bit about Rogers, and I feel as if it was hurting you
all the while."
"What do you want I should own up about a thing for when I
don't feel wrong? I tell you Rogers hain't got anything
to complain of, and that's what I told you from the start.
It's a thing that's done every day. I was loaded up
with a partner that didn't know anything, and couldn't
do anything, and I unloaded; that's all."
"You unloaded just at the time when you knew that your paint
was going to be worth about twice what it ever had been;
and you wanted all the advantage for yourself."
"I had a right to it. I made the success."
"Yes, you made it with Rogers's money; and when you'd
made it you took his share of it. I guess you thought
of that when you saw him, and that's why you couldn't
look him in the face."
At these words Lapham lost his temper.
"I guess you don't want to ride with me any more to-day,"
he said, turning the mare abruptly round.
"I'm as ready to go back as what you are," replied his wife.
"And don't you ask me to go to that house with you any more.
You can sell it, for all me. I sha'n't live in it.
There's blood on it."
THE silken texture of the marriage tie bears a daily strain
of wrong and insult to which no other human relation can
be subjected without lesion; and sometimes the strength
that knits society together might appear to the eye of
faltering faith the curse of those immediately bound by it.
Two people by no means reckless of each other's rights
and feelings, but even tender of them for the most part,
may tear at each other's heart-strings in this sacred
bond with perfect impunity; though if they were any
other two they would not speak or look at each other
again after the outrages they exchange. It is certainly
a curious spectacle, and doubtless it ought to convince
an observer of the divinity of the institution.
If the husband and wife are blunt, outspoken people
like the Laphams, they do not weigh their words;
if they are more refined, they weigh them very carefully,
and know accurately just how far they will carry, and in
what most sensitive spot they may be planted with most effect.
Lapham was proud of his wife, and when he married her it
had been a rise in life for him. For a while he stood
in awe of his good fortune, but this could not last,
and he simply remained supremely satisfied with it.
The girl who had taught school with a clear head and a strong
hand was not afraid of work; she encouraged and helped him
from the first, and bore her full share of the common burden.
She had health, and she did not worry his life out with
peevish complaints and vagaries; she had sense and principle,
and in their simple lot she did what was wise and right.
Their marriage was hallowed by an early sorrow: they
lost their boy, and it was years before they could look
each other in the face and speak of him. No one gave up
more than they when they gave up each other and Lapham
went to the war. When he came back and began to work,
her zeal and courage formed the spring of his enterprise.
In that affair of the partnership she had tried to be
his conscience, but perhaps she would have defended him
if he had accused himself; it was one of those things
in this life which seem destined to await justice,
or at least judgment, in the next. As he said, Lapham had
dealt fairly by his partner in money; he had let Rogers
take more money out of the business than he put into it;
he had, as he said, simply forced out of it a timid
and inefficient participant in advantages which he
had created. But Lapham had not created them all.
He had been dependent at one time on his partner's capital.
It was a moment of terrible trial. Happy is the man
for ever after who can choose the ideal, the unselfish
part in such an exigency! Lapham could not rise to it.
He did what he could maintain to be perfectly fair.
The wrong, if any, seemed to be condoned to him,
except when from time to time his wife brought it up.
Then all the question stung and burned anew, and had
to be reasoned out and put away once more. It seemed
to have an inextinguishable vitality. It slept, but it did
His course did not shake Mrs. Lapham's faith in him.
It astonished her at first, and it always grieved
her that he could not see that he was acting solely
in his own interest. But she found excuses for him,
which at times she made reproaches. She vaguely perceived
that his paint was something more than business to him;
it was a sentiment, almost a passion. He could not
share its management and its profit with another without
a measure of self-sacrifice far beyond that which he must
make with something less personal to him. It was the
poetry of that nature, otherwise so intensely prosaic;
and she understood this, and for the most part forbore.
She knew him good and true and blameless in all his life,
except for this wrong, if it were a wrong; and it was only
when her nerves tingled intolerably with some chance renewal
of the pain she had suffered, that she shared her anguish
with him in true wifely fashion.
With those two there was never anything like an
explicit reconciliation. They simply ignored a quarrel;
and Mrs. Lapham had only to say a few days after
at breakfast, "I guess the girls would like to go round
with you this afternoon, and look at the new house,"
in order to make her husband grumble out as he looked
down into his coffee-cup. "I guess we better all go, hadn't we?"
"Well, I'll see," she said.
There was not really a great deal to look at when Lapham
arrived on the ground in his four-seated beach-wagon.
But the walls were up, and the studding had already
given skeleton shape to the interior. The floors were
roughly boarded over, and the stairways were in place,
with provisional treads rudely laid. They had not begun
to lath and plaster yet, but the clean, fresh smell of the
mortar in the walls mingling with the pungent fragrance
of the pine shavings neutralised the Venetian odour that
drew in over the water. It was pleasantly shady there,
though for the matter of that the heat of the morning had
all been washed out of the atmosphere by a tide of east
wind setting in at noon, and the thrilling, delicious cool
of a Boston summer afternoon bathed every nerve.
The foreman went about with Mrs. Lapham, showing her
where the doors were to be; but Lapham soon tired
of this, and having found a pine stick of perfect grain,
he abandoned himself to the pleasure of whittling it
in what was to be the reception-room, where he sat looking
out on the street from what was to be the bay-window. Here
he was presently joined by his girls, who, after locating
their own room on the water side above the music-room,
had no more wish to enter into details than their father.
"Come and take a seat in the bay-window, ladies,"
be called out to them, as they looked in at him through
the ribs of the wall. He jocosely made room for them
on the trestle on which he sat.
They came gingerly and vaguely forward, as young ladies
do when they wish not to seem to be going to do a thing
they have made up their minds to do. When they had
taken their places on their trestle, they could not help
laughing with scorn, open and acceptable to their father;
and Irene curled her chin up, in a little way she had,
and said, "How ridiculous!" to her sister.
"Well, I can tell you what," said the Colonel, in fond
enjoyment of their young ladyishness, "your mother wa'n't
ashamed to sit with me on a trestle when I called her out
to look at the first coat of my paint that I ever tried on a house."
"Yes; we've heard that story," said Penelope, with easy
security of her father's liking what she said.
"We were brought up on that story."
"Well, it's a good story," said her father.
At that moment a young man came suddenly in range, who began
to look up at the signs of building as he approached.
He dropped his eyes in coming abreast of the bay-window,
where Lapham sat with his girls, and then his face lightened,
and he took off his hat and bowed to Irene. She rose
mechanically from the trestle, and her face lightened too.
She was a very pretty figure of a girl, after our
fashion of girls, round and slim and flexible,
and her face was admirably regular. But her great
beauty--and it was very great--was in her colouring.
This was of an effect for which there is no word
but delicious, as we use it of fruit or flowers.
She had red hair, like her father in his earlier days,
and the tints of her cheeks and temples were such as
suggested May-flowers and apple-blossoms and peaches.
Instead of the grey that often dulls this complexion,
her eyes were of a blue at once intense and tender,
and they seemed to burn on what they looked at with a soft,
lambent flame. It was well understood by her sister
and mother that her eyes always expressed a great deal
more than Irene ever thought or felt; but this is not
saying that she was not a very sensible girl and very honest.
The young man faltered perceptibly, and Irene came
a little forward, and then there gushed from them
both a smiling exchange of greeting, of which the sum
was that he supposed she was out of town, and that she
had not known that he had got back. A pause ensued,
and flushing again in her uncertainty as to whether
she ought or ought not to do it, she said, "My father,
Mr. Corey; and my sister."
The young man took off his hat again, showing his
shapely head, with a line of wholesome sunburn ceasing
where the recently and closely clipped hair began.
He was dressed in a fine summer check, with a blue white-
dotted neckerchief, and he had a white hat, in which he
looked very well when he put it back on his head.
His whole dress seemed very fresh and new, and in fact he
had cast aside his Texan habiliments only the day before.
"How do you do, sir?" said the Colonel, stepping to the window,
and reaching out of it the hand which the young man
advanced to take. "Won't you come in? We're at home here.
House I'm building."
"Oh, indeed?" returned the young man; and he came promptly
up the steps, and through its ribs into the reception-room.
"Have a trestle?" asked the Colonel, while the girls
exchanged little shocks of terror and amusement at the eyes.
"Thank you," said the young man simply, and sat down.
"Mrs. Lapham is upstairs interviewing the carpenter,
but she'll be down in a minute."
"I hope she's quite well," said Corey. "I supposed--I
was afraid she might be out of town."
"Well, we are off to Nantasket next week. The house kept
us in town pretty late."
"It must be very exciting, building a house," said Corey
to the elder sister.
"Yes, it is," she assented, loyally refusing in Irene's
interest the opportunity of saying anything more.
Corey turned to the latter. "I suppose you've all helped
to plan it?"
"Oh no; the architect and mamma did that."
"But they allowed the rest of us to agree, when we were good,"
Corey looked at her, and saw that she was shorter than
her sister, and had a dark complexion.
"It's very exciting," said Irene.
"Come up," said the Colonel, rising, "and look round
if you'd like to."
"I should like to, very much," said the young man.
He helped the young ladies over crevasses of carpentry
and along narrow paths of planking, on which they had
made their way unassisted before. The elder sister left
the younger to profit solely by these offices as much
as possible. She walked between them and her father,
who went before, lecturing on each apartment, and taking
the credit of the whole affair more and more as he
"There!" he said, "we're going to throw out a bay-
window here, so as get the water all the way up and down.
This is my girls' room," he added, looking proudly at
It seemed terribly intimate. Irene blushed deeply
and turned her head away.
But the young man took it all, apparently, as simply
as their father. "What a lovely lookout!" he said.
The Back Bay spread its glassy sheet before them,
empty but for a few small boats and a large schooner,
with her sails close-furled and dripping like snow from
her spars, which a tug was rapidly towing toward Cambridge.
The carpentry of that city, embanked and embowered
in foliage, shared the picturesqueness of Charlestown in
"Yes," said Lapham, "I go in for using the best rooms
in your house yourself. If people come to stay with you,
they can put up with the second best. Though we don't
intend to have any second best. There ain't going to be
an unpleasant room in the whole house, from top to bottom."
"Oh, I wish papa wouldn't brag so!" breathed Irene to her sister,
where they stood, a little apart, looking away together.
The Colonel went on. "No, sir," he swelled out, "I have
gone in for making a regular job of it. I've got the best
architect in Boston, and I'm building a house to suit myself.
And if money can do it, guess I'm going to be suited."
"It seems very delightful," said Corey, "and very original."
"Yes, sir. That fellow hadn't talked five minutes
before I saw that he knew what he was about every time."
"I wish mamma would come!" breathed Irene again.
"I shall certainly go through the floor if papa says
"They are making a great many very pretty houses nowadays,"
said the young man. "It's very different from the
"Well," said the Colonel, with a large toleration of tone
and a deep breath that expanded his ample chest, "we spend
more on our houses nowadays. I started out to build
a forty-thousand-dollar house. Well, sir! that fellow
has got me in for more than sixty thousand already,
and I doubt if I get out of it much under a hundred.
You can't have a nice house for nothing. It's just like
ordering a picture of a painter. You pay him enough,
and he can afford to paint you a first-class picture;
and if you don't, he can't. That's all there is of it.
Why, they tell me that A. T. Stewart gave one of those
French fellows sixty thousand dollars for a little
seven-by-nine picture the other day. Yes, sir, give an
architect money enough, and he'll give you a nice house
"I've heard that they're sharp at getting money to realise
their ideas," assented the young man, with a laugh.
"Well, I should say so!" exclaimed the Colonel.
"They come to you with an improvement that you can't resist.
It has good looks and common-sense and everything in
its favour, and it's like throwing money away to refuse.
And they always manage to get you when your wife is around,
and then you're helpless."
The Colonel himself set the example of laughing at this joke,
and the young man joined him less obstreperously.
The girls turned, and he said, "I don't think I ever saw
this view to better advantage. It s surprising how well
the Memorial Hall and the Cambridge spires work up,
over there. And the sunsets must be magnificent."
Lapham did not wait for them to reply.
"Yes, sir, it's about the sightliest view I know of.
I always did like the water side of Beacon. Long before I
owned property here, or ever expected to, m'wife and I used
to ride down this way, and stop the buggy to get this view
over the water. When people talk to me about the Hill,
I can understand 'em. It's snug, and it's old-fashioned,
and it's where they've always lived. But when they talk
about Commonwealth Avenue, I don't know what they mean.
It don't hold a candle to the water side of Beacon.
You've got just as much wind over there, and you've got just
as much dust, and all the view you've got is the view across
the street. No, sir! when you come to the Back Bay at all,
give me the water side of Beacon."
"Oh, I think you're quite right," said the young man.
"The view here is everything."
Irene looked "I wonder what papa is going to say next!"
at her sister, when their mother's voice was heard overhead,
approaching the opening in the floor where the stairs were
to be; and she presently appeared, with one substantial
foot a long way ahead. She was followed by the carpenter,
with his rule sticking out of his overalls pocket, and she
was still talking to him about some measurements they had
been taking, when they reached the bottom, so that Irene
had to say, "Mamma, Mr. Corey," before Mrs. Lapham was
aware of him.
He came forward with as much grace and speed as the
uncertain footing would allow, and Mrs. Lapham gave
him a stout squeeze of her comfortable hand.
"Why, Mr. Corey! When did you get back?"
"Yesterday. It hardly seems as if I HAD got back.
I didn't expect to find you in a new house."
"Well, you are our first caller. I presume you won't
expect I should make excuses for the state you find it in.
Has the Colonel been doing the honours?"
"Oh yes. And I've seen more of your house than I ever
shall again, I suppose."
"Well, I hope not," said Lapham. "There'll be several
chances to see us in the old one yet, before we leave."
He probably thought this a neat, off-hand way of making
the invitation, for he looked at his woman-kind as if he
might expect their admiration.
"Oh yes, indeed!" said his wife. "We shall be very glad
to see Mr. Corey, any time."
"Thank you; I shall be glad to come."
He and the Colonel went before, and helped the ladies
down the difficult descent. Irene seemed less sure-
footed than the others; she clung to the young man's
hand an imperceptible moment longer than need be,
or else he detained her. He found opportunity of saying,
"It's so pleasant seeing you again," adding, "all of you."
"Thank you," said the girl. "They must all be glad
to have you at home again."
"Well, I suppose they would be, if they were at home
to have me. But the fact is, there's nobody in the house
but my father and myself, and I'm only on my way to Bar Harbour."
"Oh! Are they there?"
"Yes; it seems to be the only place where my mother
can get just the combination of sea and mountain air
that she wants."
"We go to Nantasket--it's convenient for papa; and I
don't believe we shall go anywhere else this summer,
mamma's so taken up with building. We do nothing
but talk house; and Pen says we eat and sleep house.
She says it would be a sort of relief to go and live
in tents for a while."
"She seems to have a good deal of humour," the young
man ventured, upon the slender evidence.
The others had gone to the back of the house a moment,
to look at some suggested change. Irene and Corey were
left standing in the doorway. A lovely light of happiness
played over her face and etherealised its delicious beauty.
She had some ado to keep herself from smiling outright,
and the effort deepened the dimples in her cheeks;
she trembled a little, and the pendants shook in the tips
of her pretty ears.
The others came back directly, and they all descended
the front steps together. The Colonel was about to renew
his invitation, but he caught his wife's eye, and,
without being able to interpret its warning exactly,
was able to arrest himself, and went about gathering
up the hitching-weight, while the young man handed
the ladies into the phaeton. Then he lifted his hat,
and the ladies all bowed, and the Laphams drove off,
Irene's blue ribbons fluttering backward from her hat,
as if they were her clinging thoughts.
"So that's young Corey, is it?" said the Colonel,
letting the stately stepping, tall coupe horse make
his way homeward at will with the beach-wagon. "Well,
he ain't a bad-looking fellow, and he's got a good,
fair and square, honest eye. But I don't see how a fellow
like that, that's had every advantage in this world,
can hang round home and let his father support him.
Seems to me, if I had his health and his education,
I should want to strike out and do something for myself."
The girls on the back seat had hold of each other's hands,
and they exchanged electrical pressures at the different
points their father made.
"I presume," said Mrs. Lapham, "that he was down in Texas
looking after something"
"He's come back without finding it, I guess."
"Well, if his father has the money to support him,
and don't complain of the burden, I don't see why WE should."
"Oh, I know it's none of my business, but I don't like
the principle. I like to see a man ACT like a man.
I don't like to see him taken care of like a young lady.
Now, I suppose that fellow belongs to two or three clubs,
and hangs around 'em all day, lookin' out the window,--I've
seen 'em,--instead of tryin' to hunt up something to do
for an honest livin'."
"If I was a young man," Penelope struck in, "I would belong
to twenty clubs, if I could find them and I would hang
around them all, and look out the window till I dropped."
"Oh, you would, would you?" demanded her father,
delighted with her defiance, and twisting his fat head
around over his shoulder to look at her. "Well, you
wouldn't do it on my money, if you were a son of MINE,
"Oh, you wait and see," retorted the girl.
This made them all laugh. But the Colonel recurred
seriously to the subject that night, as he was winding
up his watch preparatory to putting it under his pillow.
"I could make a man of that fellow, if I had him in the
business with me. There's stuff in him. But I spoke
up the way I did because I didn't choose Irene should
think I would stand any kind of a loafer 'round--I don't
care who he is, or how well educated or brought up.
And I guess, from the way Pen spoke up, that 'Rene saw
what I was driving at."
The girl, apparently, was less anxious about her
father's ideas and principles than about the impression
which he had made upon the young man. She had talked
it over and over with her sister before they went
to bed, and she asked in despair, as she stood looking
at Penelope brushing out her hair before the glass--
"Do you suppose he'll think papa always talks in that
"He'll be right if he does," answered her sister.
"It's the way father always does talk. You never noticed
it so much, that's all. And I guess if he can't make
allowance for father's bragging, he'll be a little too good.
I enjoyed hearing the Colonel go on."
"I know you did," returned Irene in distress.
Then she sighed. "Didn't you think he looked very nice?"
"Who? The Colonel?" Penelope had caught up the habit
of calling her father so from her mother, and she used
his title in all her jocose and perverse moods.
"You know very well I don't mean papa," pouted Irene.
"Oh! Mr. Corey! Why didn't you say Mr. Corey if you meant
Mr. Corey? If I meant Mr. Corey, I should say Mr. Corey.
It isn't swearing! Corey, Corey, Co----"
Her sister clapped her hand over her mouth "Will you HUSH,
you wretched thing?" she whimpered. "The whole house can
"Oh yes, they can hear me all over the square.
Well, I think he looked well enough for a plain youth,
who hadn't taken his hair out of curl-papers for some time."
"It WAS clipped pretty close," Irene admitted; and they
both laughed at the drab effect of Mr. Corey's skull,
as they remembered it. "Did you like his nose?"
asked Irene timorously.
"Ah, now you're COMING to something," said Penelope.
"I don't know whether, if I had so much of a nose,
I should want it all Roman."
"I don't see how you can expect to have a nose part
one kind and part another," argued Irene.
"Oh, I do. Look at mine!" She turned aside her face,
so as to get a three-quarters view of her nose in the glass,
and crossing her hands, with the brush in one of them,
before her, regarded it judicially. "Now, my nose
started Grecian, but changed its mind before it got over
the bridge, and concluded to be snub the rest of the way."
"You've got a very pretty nose, Pen," said Irene,
joining in the contemplation of its reflex in the glass.
"Don't say that in hopes of getting me to compliment HIS,
Mrs."--she stopped, and then added deliberately--"C.!"
Irene also had her hair-brush in her hand, and now
she sprang at her sister and beat her very softly on
the shoulder with the flat of it. "You mean thing!"
she cried, between her shut teeth, blushing hotly.
"Well, D., then," said Penelope. "You've nothing to say
against D.? Though I think C. is just as nice an initial."
"Oh!" cried the younger, for all expression of unspeakable things.
"I think he has very good eyes," admitted Penelope.
"Oh, he HAS! And didn't you like the way his sackcoat
set? So close to him, and yet free--kind of peeling away
at the lapels?"
"Yes, I should say he was a young man of great judgment.
He knows how to choose his tailor."
Irene sat down on the edge of a chair. "It was so nice
of you, Pen, to come in, that way, about clubs."
"Oh, I didn't mean anything by it except opposition,"
said Penelope. "I couldn't have father swelling on so,
without saying something."
"How he did swell!" sighed Irene. "Wasn't it a relief
to have mamma come down, even if she did seem to be all
stocking at first?"
The girls broke into a wild giggle, and hid their faces
in each other's necks. "I thought I SHOULD die,"
"'It's just like ordering a painting,'" said Penelope,
recalling her father's talk, with an effect of dreamy
absent-mindedness. "'You give the painter money enough,
and he can afford to paint you a first-class picture.
Give an architect money enough, and he'll give you a
first-class house, every time.'"
"Oh, wasn't it awful!" moaned her sister. "No one would
ever have supposed that he had fought the very idea
of an architect for weeks, before he gave in."
Penelope went on. "'I always did like the water side
of Beacon,--long before I owned property there.
When you come to the Back Bay at all, give me the water
side of Beacon.'"
"Ow-w-w-w!" shrieked Irene. "DO stop!"
The door of their mother's chamber opened below,
and the voice of the real Colonel called, "What are you
doing up there, girls? Why don't you go to bed?"
This extorted nervous shrieks from both of them.
The Colonel heard a sound of scurrying feet, whisking drapery,
and slamming doors. Then he heard one of the doors
opened again, and Penelope said, "I was only repeating
something you said when you talked to Mr. Corey."
"Very well, now," answered the Colonel. "You postpone
the rest of it till to-morrow at breakfast, and see
that you're up in time to let ME hear it."
AT the same moment young Corey let himself in at his own door
with his latch-key, and went to the library, where he found
his father turning the last leaves of a story in the Revue
des Deux Mondes. He was a white-moustached old gentleman,
who had never been able to abandon his pince-nez for the
superior comfort of spectacles, even in the privacy of his
own library. He knocked the glasses off as his son came
in and looked up at him with lazy fondness, rubbing the
two red marks that they always leave on the side of the nose.
"Tom," he said, "where did you get such good clothes?"
"I stopped over a day in New York," replied the son,
finding himself a chair. "I'm glad you like them."
"Yes, I always do like your clothes, Tom," returned the
father thoughtfully, swinging his glasses, "But I don't
see how you can afford 'em, I can't."
"Well, sir," said the son, who dropped the "sir" into
his speech with his father, now and then, in an old-
fashioned way that was rather charming, "you see,
I have an indulgent parent."
"Smoke?" suggested the father, pushing toward his son
a box of cigarettes, from which he had taken one.
"No, thank you," said the son. "I've dropped that."
"Ah, is that so?" The father began to feel about on the
table for matches, in the purblind fashion of elderly men.
His son rose, lighted one, and handed it to him.
"Well,--oh, thank you, Tom!--I believe some statisticians
prove that if you will give up smoking you can dress
very well on the money your tobacco costs, even if you
haven't got an indulgent parent. But I'm too old to try.
Though, I confess, I should rather like the clothes.
Whom did you find at the club?"
"There were a lot of fellows there," said young Corey,
watching the accomplished fumigation of his father in an
"It's astonishing what a hardy breed the young club-men are,"
observed his father. "All summer through, in weather
that sends the sturdiest female flying to the sea-shore,
you find the clubs filled with young men, who don't seem
to mind the heat in the least."
"Boston isn't a bad place, at the worst, in summer,"
said the son, declining to take up the matter in its
"I dare say it isn't, compared with Texas," returned the
father, smoking tranquilly on. "But I don't suppose
you find many of your friends in town outside of the club."
"No; you're requested to ring at the rear door, all the
way down Beacon Street and up Commonwealth Avenue.
It's rather a blank reception for the returning prodigal."
"Ah, the prodigal must take his chance if he comes back
out of season. But I'm glad to have you back, Tom,
even as it is, and I hope you're not going to hurry away.
You must give your energies a rest."
"I'm sure you never had to reproach me with abnormal activity,"
suggested the son, taking his father's jokes in good part.
"No, I don't know that I have," admitted the elder.
"You've always shown a fair degree of moderation, after all.
What do you think of taking up next? I mean after you
have embraced your mother and sisters at Mount Desert.
Real estate? It seems to me that it is about time for you
to open out as a real-estate broker. Or did you ever think
"Well, not just in that way, sir," said the young man.
"I shouldn't quite like to regard it as a career,
"No, no. I understand that. And I quite agree with you.
But you know I've always contended that the affections
could be made to combine pleasure and profit. I wouldn't
have a man marry for money,--that would be rather bad,--but
I don't see why, when it comes to falling in love,
a man shouldn't fall in love with a rich girl as easily
as a poor one. Some of the rich girls are very nice,
and I should say that the chances of a quiet life with them
were rather greater. They've always had everything,
and they wouldn't be so ambitious and uneasy. Don't you
"It would depend," said the son, "upon whether a girl's
people had been rich long enough to have given her position
before she married. If they hadn't, I don't see how she
would be any better than a poor girl in that respect."
"Yes, there's sense in that. But the suddenly rich
are on a level with any of us nowadays. Money buys
position at once. I don't say that it isn't all right.
The world generally knows what it's about, and knows
how to drive a bargain. I dare say it makes the new rich
pay too much. But there's no doubt but money is to the
fore now. It is the romance, the poetry of our age.
It's the thing that chiefly strikes the imagination.
The Englishmen who come here are more curious about the
great new millionaires than about any one else, and they
respect them more. It's all very well. I don't complain
"And you would like a rich daughter-in-law, quite regardless, then?"
"Oh, not quite so bad as that, Tom," said his father.
"A little youth, a little beauty, a little good sense
and pretty behaviour--one mustn't object to those things;
and they go just as often with money as without it. And I
suppose I should like her people to be rather grammatical."
"It seems to me that you're exacting, sir," said the son.
"How can you expect people who have been strictly devoted
to business to be grammatical? Isn't that rather too much?"
"Perhaps it is. Perhaps you're right. But I understood
your mother to say that those benefactors of hers,
whom you met last summer, were very passably grammatical."
"The father isn't."
The elder, who had been smoking with his profile toward
his son, now turned his face full upon him. "I didn't
know you had seen him?"
"I hadn't until to-day," said young Corey, with a little
heightening of his colour. "But I was walking down street
this afternoon, and happened to look round at a new house
some one was putting up, and I saw the whole family
in the window. It appears that Mr. Lapham is building
The elder Corey knocked the ash of his cigarette into
the holder at his elbow. "I am more and more convinced,
the longer I know you, Tom, that we are descended from
Giles Corey. The gift of holding one's tongue seems
to have skipped me, but you have it in full force.
I can't say just how you would behave under peine forte
et dure, but under ordinary pressure you are certainly
able to keep your own counsel. Why didn't you mention
this encounter at dinner? You weren't asked to plead
to an accusation of witchcraft."
"No, not exactly," said the young man. "But I didn't
quite see my way to speaking of it. We had a good many
other things before us."
"Yes, that's true. I suppose you wouldn't have mentioned
it now if I hadn't led up to it, would you?"
"I don't know, sir. It was rather on my mind to do so.
Perhaps it was I who led up to it."
His father laughed. "Perhaps you did, Tom; perhaps you did.
Your mother would have known you were leading up to something,
but I'll confess that I didn't. What is it?"
"Nothing very definite. But do you know that in spite
of his syntax I rather liked him?"
The father looked keenly at the son; but unless the boy's full
confidence was offered, Corey was not the man to ask it.
"Well?" was all that he said.
"I suppose that in a new country one gets to looking
at people a little out of our tradition; and I dare
say that if I hadn't passed a winter in Texas I might
have found Colonel Lapham rather too much."
"You mean that there are worse things in Texas?"
"Not that exactly. I mean that I saw it wouldn't be quite
fair to test him by our standards."
"This comes of the error which I have often deprecated,"
said the elder Corey. "In fact I am always saying
that the Bostonian ought never to leave Boston.
Then he knows--and then only--that there can BE no standard
but ours. But we are constantly going away, and coming
back with our convictions shaken to their foundations.
One man goes to England, and returns with the conception
of a grander social life; another comes home from Germany
with the notion of a more searching intellectual activity;
a fellow just back from Paris has the absurdest ideas
of art and literature; and you revert to us from the
cowboys of Texas, and tell us to our faces that we ought
to try Papa Lapham by a jury of his peers. It ought
to be stopped--it ought, really. The Bostonian who leaves
Boston ought to be condemned to perpetual exile."
The son suffered the father to reach his climax with
smiling patience. When he asked finally, "What are
the characteristics of Papa Lapham that place him beyond
our jurisdiction?" the younger Corey crossed his long legs,
and leaned forward to take one of his knees between his hands.
"Well, sir, he bragged, rather."
"Oh, I don't know that bragging should exempt him from
the ordinary processes. I've heard other people brag
"Ah, not just in that personal way--not about money."
"No, that was certainly different."
"I don't mean," said the young fellow, with the scrupulosity
which people could not help observing and liking in him,
"that it was more than an indirect expression of satisfaction
in the ability to spend."
"No. I should be glad to express something of the kind myself,
if the facts would justify me."
The son smiled tolerantly again. "But if he was enjoying
his money in that way, I didn't see why he shouldn't show
his pleasure in it. It might have been vulgar, but it
wasn't sordid. And I don't know that it was vulgar.
Perhaps his successful strokes of business were the romance
of his life----"
The father interrupted with a laugh. "The girl must
be uncommonly pretty. What did she seem to think
of her father's brag?"
"There were two of them," answered the son evasively.
"Oh, two! And is the sister pretty too?"
"Not pretty, but rather interesting. She is like her mother."
"Then the pretty one isn't the father's pet?"
"I can't say, sir. I don't believe," added the young fellow,
"that I can make you see Colonel Lapham just as I did.
He struck me as very simple-hearted and rather wholesome.
Of course he could be tiresome; we all can; and I suppose
his range of ideas is limited. But he is a force, and not
a bad one. If he hasn't got over being surprised at the
effect of rubbing his lamp"
"Oh, one could make out a case. I suppose you know
what you are about, Tom. But remember that we are Essex
County people, and that in savour we are just a little
beyond the salt of the earth. I will tell you plainly
that I don't like the notion of a man who has rivalled the
hues of nature in her wildest haunts with the tints of his
mineral paint; but I don't say there are not worse men.
He isn't to my taste, though he might be ever so much
to my conscience."
"I suppose," said the son, "that there is nothing really
to be ashamed of in mineral paint. People go into all
sorts of things."
His father took his cigarette from his mouth and once
more looked his son full in the face. "Oh, is THAT it?"
"It has crossed my mind," admitted the son. "I must
do something. I've wasted time and money enough.
I've seen much younger men all through the West
and South-west taking care of themselves. I don't
think I was particularly fit for anything out there,
but I am ashamed to come back and live upon you, sir."
His father shook his head with an ironical sigh.
"Ah, we shall never have a real aristocracy while this
plebeian reluctance to live upon a parent or a wife
continues the animating spirit of our youth.
It strikes at the root of the whole feudal system.
I really think you owe me an apology, Tom. I supposed
you wished to marry the girl's money, and here you are,
basely seeking to go into business with her father."
Young Corey laughed again like a son who perceives that
his father is a little antiquated, but keeps a filial
faith in his wit. "I don't know that it's quite so bad
as that; but the thing had certainly crossed my mind.
I don't know how it's to be approached, and I don't know
that it's at all possible. But I confess that I 'took to'
Colonel Lapham from the moment I saw him. He looked
as if he 'meant business,' and I mean business too."
The father smoked thoughtfully. "Of course people do
go into all sorts of things, as you say, and I don't
know that one thing is more ignoble than another,
if it's decent and large enough. In my time you would
have gone into the China trade or the India trade--though
I didn't; and a little later cotton would have been
your manifest destiny--though it wasn't mine; but now
a man may do almost anything. The real-estate business
is pretty full. Yes, if you have a deep inward vocation
for it, I don't see why mineral paint shouldn't do.
I fancy it's easy enough approaching the matter. We will
invite Papa Lapham to dinner, and talk it over with him."
"Oh, I don't think that would be exactly the way, sir,"
said the son, smiling at his father's patrician unworldliness.
"No? Why not?"
"I'm afraid it would be a bad start. I don't think it
would strike him as business-like."
"I don't see why he should be punctilious, if we're not."
"Ah, we might say that if he were making the advances."
"Well, perhaps you are right, Tom. What is your idea?"
"I haven't a very clear one. It seems to me I ought
to get some business friend of ours, whose judgment he
would respect, to speak a good word for me."
"Give you a character?"
"Yes. And of course I must go to Colonel Lapham.
My notion would be to inquire pretty thoroughly about him,
and then, if I liked the look of things, to go right down
to Republic Street and let him see what he could do with me,
"That sounds tremendously practical to me, Tom, though it
may be just the wrong way. When are you going down
to Mount Desert?"
"To-morrow, I think, sir," said the young man. "I shall
turn it over in my mind while I'm off."
The father rose, showing something more than his son's height,
with a very slight stoop, which the son's figure had not.
"Well," he said, whimsically, "I admire your spirit,
and I don't deny that it is justified by necessity.
It's a consolation to think that while I've been spending
and enjoying, I have been preparing the noblest future
for you--a future of industry and self-reliance. You never
could draw, but this scheme of going into the mineral-paint
business shows that you have inherited something of my
feeling for colour."
The son laughed once more, and waiting till his father
was well on his way upstairs, turned out the gas and then
hurried after him and preceded him into his chamber.
He glanced over it to see that everything was there,
to his father's hand. Then he said, "Good night, sir,"
and the elder responded, "Good night, my son," and the son
went to his own room.
Over the mantel in the elder Corey's room hung a portrait
which he had painted of his own father, and now he stood
a moment and looked at this as if struck by something
novel in it. The resemblance between his son and the old
India merchant, who had followed the trade from Salem to
Boston when the larger city drew it away from the smaller,
must have been what struck him. Grandfather and grandson had
both the Roman nose which appears to have flourished chiefly
at the formative period of the republic, and which occurs
more rarely in the descendants of the conscript fathers,
though it still characterises the profiles of a good many
Boston ladies. Bromfield Corey had not inherited it,
and he had made his straight nose his defence when the
old merchant accused him of a want of energy. He said,
"What could a man do whose unnatural father had left his
own nose away from him?" This amused but did not satisfy
the merchant. "You must do something," he said; "and it's
for you to choose. If you don't like the India trade,
go into something else. Or, take up law or medicine.
No Corey yet ever proposed to do nothing." "Ah, then,
it's quite time one of us made a beginning," urged the man
who was then young, and who was now old, looking into
the somewhat fierce eyes of his father's portrait.
He had inherited as little of the fierceness as of the nose,
and there was nothing predatory in his son either,
though the aquiline beak had come down to him in such force.
Bromfield Corey liked his son Tom for the gentleness which
tempered his energy.
"Well let us compromise," he seemed to be saying to his
father's portrait. "I will travel." "Travel? How long?"
the keen eyes demanded. "Oh, indefinitely. I won't
be hard with you, father." He could see the eyes soften,
and the smile of yielding come over his father's face;
the merchant could not resist a son who was so much
like his dead mother. There was some vague understanding
between them that Bromfield Corey was to come back
and go into business after a time, but he never did so.
He travelled about over Europe, and travelled handsomely,
frequenting good society everywhere, and getting himself
presented at several courts, at a period when it
was a distinction to do so. He had always sketched,
and with his father's leave he fixed himself at Rome,
where he remained studying art and rounding the being
inherited from his Yankee progenitors, till there
was very little left of the ancestral angularities.
After ten years he came home and painted that portrait
of his father. It was very good, if a little amateurish,
and he might have made himself a name as a painter
of portraits if he had not had so much money. But he
had plenty of money, though by this time he was married
and beginning to have a family. It was absurd for him
to paint portraits for pay, and ridiculous to paint
them for nothing; so he did not paint them at all.
He continued a dilettante, never quite abandoning his art,
but working at it fitfully, and talking more about it
than working at it. He had his theory of Titian's method;
and now and then a Bostonian insisted upon buying a
picture of him. After a while he hung it more and more
inconspicuously, and said apologetically, "Oh yes! that's
one of Bromfield Corey's things. It has nice qualities,
but it's amateurish."
In process of time the money seemed less abundant.
There were shrinkages of one kind and another,
and living had grown much more expensive and luxurious.
For many years he talked about going back to Rome, but he
never went, and his children grew up in the usual way.
Before he knew it his son had him out to his class-day
spread at Harvard, and then he had his son on his hands.
The son made various unsuccessful provisions for himself,
and still continued upon his father's hands, to their
common dissatisfaction, though it was chiefly the younger
who repined. He had the Roman nose and the energy without
the opportunity, and at one of the reversions his father
said to him, "You ought not to have that nose, Tom;
then you would do very well. You would go and travel,
as I did."
LAPHAM and his wife continued talking after he had
quelled the disturbance in his daughters' room overhead;
and their talk was not altogether of the new house.
"I tell you," he said, "if I had that fellow in the
business with me I would make a man of him."
"Well, Silas Lapham," returned his wife, "I do believe
you've got mineral paint on the brain. Do you suppose
a fellow like young Corey, brought up the way he's been,
would touch mineral paint with a ten-foot pole?"
"Why not?" haughtily asked the Colonel.
"Well, if you don't know already, there's no use trying
to tell you."
THE Coreys had always had a house at Nahant, but after
letting it for a season or two they found they could
get on without it, and sold it at the son's instance,
who foresaw that if things went on as they were going,
the family would be straitened to the point of changing
their mode of life altogether. They began to be
of the people of whom it was said that they stayed
in town very late; and when the ladies did go away,
it was for a brief summering in this place and that.
The father remained at home altogether; and the son joined
them in the intervals of his enterprises, which occurred
only too often.
At Bar Harbour, where he now went to find them,
after his winter in Texas, he confessed to his mother
that there seemed no very good opening there for him.
He might do as well as Loring Stanton, but he doubted
if Stanton was doing very well. Then he mentioned
the new project which he had been thinking over.
She did not deny that there was something in it,
but she could not think of any young man who had gone
into such a business as that, and it appeared to her that
he might as well go into a patent medicine or a stove-polish.
"There was one of his hideous advertisements," she said,
"painted on a reef that we saw as we came down."
Corey smiled. "Well, I suppose, if it was in a good state
of preservation, that is proof positive of the efficacy
of the paint on the hulls of vessels."
"It's very distasteful to me, Tom," said his mother;
and if there was something else in her mind, she did
not speak more plainly of it than to add: "It's not only
the kind of business, but the kind of people you would
be mixed up with."
"I thought you didn't find them so very bad," suggested Corey.
"I hadn't seen them in Nankeen Square then."
"You can see them on the water side of Beacon Street
when you go back."
Then he told of his encounter with the Lapham family
in their new house. At the end his mother merely said,
"It is getting very common down there," and she did not
try to oppose anything further to his scheme.
The young man went to see Colonel Lapham shortly after his
return to Boston. He paid his visit at Lapham's office,
and if he had studied simplicity in his summer dress
he could not have presented himself in a figure more
to the mind of a practical man. His hands and neck
still kept the brown of the Texan suns and winds,
and he looked as business-like as Lapham himself.
He spoke up promptly and briskly in the outer office,
and caused the pretty girl to look away from her copying
at him. "Is Mr. Lapham in?" he asked; and after that
moment for reflection which an array of book-keepers
so addressed likes to give the inquirer, a head was lifted
from a ledger and nodded toward the inner office.
Lapham had recognised the voice, and he was standing,
in considerable perplexity, to receive Corey, when the young
man opened his painted glass door. It was a hot afternoon,
and Lapham was in his shirt sleeves. Scarcely a trace
of the boastful hospitality with which he had welcomed
Corey to his house a few days before lingered in his
present address. He looked at the young man's face,
as if he expected him to despatch whatever unimaginable
affair he had come upon.
"Won't you sit down? How are you? You'll excuse me,"
he added, in brief allusion to the shirt-sleeves. "I'm
Corey laughed. "I wish you'd let me take off MY coat."
"Why, TAKE it off!" cried the Colonel, with instant pleasure.
There is something in human nature which causes the man
in his shirt-sleeves to wish all other men to appear
in the same deshabille.
"I will, if you ask me after I've talked with you two minutes,"
said the young fellow, companionably pulling up the chair offered
him toward the desk where Lapham had again seated himself.
"But perhaps you haven't got two minutes to give me?"
"Oh yes, I have," said the Colonel. "I was just going
to knock off. I can give you twenty, and then I shall
have fifteen minutes to catch the boat."
"All right," said Corey. "I want you to take me into
the mineral paint business."
The Colonel sat dumb. He twisted his thick neck,
and looked round at the door to see if it was shut.
He would not have liked to have any of those fellows
outside hear him, but there is no saying what sum of money
he would not have given if his wife had been there to hear
what Corey had just said.
"I suppose," continued the young man, "I could have got
several people whose names you know to back my industry
and sobriety, and say a word for my business capacity.
But I thought I wouldn't trouble anybody for certificates
till I found whether there was a chance, or the ghost of one,
of your wanting me. So I came straight to you."
Lapham gathered himself together as well as he could.
He had not yet forgiven Corey for Mrs. Lapham's insinuation
that he would feel himself too good for the mineral
paint business; and though he was dispersed by that
astounding shot at first, he was not going to let any one
even hypothetically despise his paint with impunity.
"How do you think I am going to take you on?" They took
on hands at the works; and Lapham put it as if Corey
were a hand coming to him for employment. Whether he
satisfied himself by this or not, he reddened a little
after he had said it.
Corey answered, ignorant of the offence: "I haven't
a very clear idea, I'm afraid; but I've been looking
a little into the matter from the outside"
"I hope you hain't been paying any attention to that
fellow's stuff in the Events?" Lapham interrupted.
Since Bartley's interview had appeared, Lapham had
regarded it with very mixed feelings. At first it
gave him a glow of secret pleasure, blended with doubt
as to how his wife would like the use Bartley had made
of her in it. But she had not seemed to notice it much,
and Lapham had experienced the gratitude of the man
who escapes. Then his girls had begun to make fun of it;
and though he did not mind Penelope's jokes much, he did
not like to see that Irene's gentility was wounded.
Business friends met him with the kind of knowing smile
about it that implied their sense of the fraudulent
character of its praise--the smile of men who had been
there and who knew how it was themselves. Lapham had his
misgivings as to how his clerks and underlings looked at it;
he treated them with stately severity for a while after it
came out, and he ended by feeling rather sore about it.
He took it for granted that everybody had read it.
"I don't know what you mean," replied Corey, "I don't
see the Events regularly."
"Oh, it was nothing. They sent a fellow down here to
interview me, and he got everything about as twisted
as he could."
"I believe they always do," said Corey. "I hadn't seen it.
Perhaps it came out before I got home."
"Perhaps it did."
"My notion of making myself useful to you was based
on a hint I got from one of your own circulars."
Lapham was proud of those circulars; he thought they read
very well. "What was that?"
"I could put a little capital into the business," said Corey,
with the tentative accent of a man who chances a thing.
"I've got a little money, but I didn't imagine you cared
for anything of that kind."
"No, sir, I don't," returned the Colonel bluntly.
"I've had one partner, and one's enough."
"Yes," assented the young man, who doubtless had his own
ideas as to eventualities--or perhaps rather had the vague
hopes of youth. "I didn't come to propose a partnership.
But I see that you are introducing your paint into the
foreign markets, and there I really thought I might be
of use to you, and to myself too."
"How?" asked the Colonel scantly.
"Well, I know two or three languages pretty well.
I know French, and I know German, and I've got a pretty
fair sprinkling of Spanish."
"You mean that you can talk them?" asked the Colonel,
with the mingled awe and slight that such a man feels
for such accomplishments. "Yes; and I can write
an intelligible letter in either of them."
Lapham rubbed his nose. "It's easy enough to get all
the letters we want translated."
"Well," pursued Corey, not showing his discouragement
if he felt any, "I know the countries where you want
to introduce this paint of yours. I've been there.
I've been in Germany and France and I've been in South
America and Mexico; I've been in Italy, of course.
I believe I could go to any of those countries and place it
Lapham had listened with a trace of persuasion in his face,
but now he shook his head.
"It's placing itself as fast as there's any call for it.
It wouldn't pay us to send anybody out to look after it.
Your salary and expenses would eat up about all we should make
"Yes," returned the young man intrepidly, "if you had
to pay me any salary and expenses."
"You don't propose to work for nothing?"
"I propose to work for a commission." The Colonel was
beginning to shake his head again, but Corey hurried on.
"I haven't come to you without making some inquiries about
the paint, and I know how it stands with those who know best.
I believe in it."
Lapham lifted his head and looked at the young man,
"It's the best paint in God's universe," he said with
the solemnity of prayer.
"It's the best in the market," said Corey; and he repeated,
"I believe in it."
"You believe in it," began the Colonel, and then he stopped.
If there had really been any purchasing power in money, a year's
income would have bought Mrs. Lapham's instant presence.
He warmed and softened to the young man in every way,
not only because he must do so to any one who believed
in his paint, but because he had done this innocent person
the wrong of listening to a defamation of his instinct
and good sense, and had been willing to see him suffer
for a purely supposititious offence.
"You mustn't let me outstay my twenty minutes," he said,
taking out his watch. "I don't expect you to give a
decided answer on the spot. All that I ask is that you'll
consider my proposition."
"Don't hurry," said Lapham. "Sit still! I want to tell
you about this paint," he added, in a voice husky
with the feeling that his hearer could not divine.
"I want to tell you ALL about it."
"I could walk with you to the boat," suggested the young man.
"Never mind the boat! I can take the next one. Look here!"
The Colonel pulled open a drawer, as Corey sat down again,
and took out a photograph of the locality of the mine.
"Here's where we get it. This photograph don't half
do the place justice," he said, as if the imperfect
art had slighted the features of a beloved face.
"It's one of the sightliest places in the country,
and here's the very spot "--he covered it with his huge
forefinger--"where my father found that paint, more than
forty--years--ago. Yes, sir!"
He went on, and told the story in unsparing detail,
while his chance for the boat passed unheeded, and the
clerks in the outer office hung up their linen office coats
and put on their seersucker or flannel street coats.
The young lady went too, and nobody was left but the porter,
who made from time to time a noisy demonstration of
fastening a distant blind, or putting something in place.
At last the Colonel roused himself from the autobiographical
delight of the history of his paint. "Well, sir,
that's the story."
"It's an interesting story," said Corey, with a long breath,
as they rose together, and Lapham put on his coat.
"That's what it is," said the Colonel. "Well!" he added,
"I don't see but what we've got to have another talk
about this thing. It's a surprise to me, and I don't see
exactly how you're going to make it pay."
"I'm willing to take the chances," answered Corey. "As I said,
I believe in it. I should try South America first.
I should try Chili."
"Look here!" said Lapham, with his watch in his hand.
"I like to get things over. We've just got time for
the six o'clock boat. Why don't you come down with me
to Nantasket? I can give you a bed as well as not.
And then we can finish up."
The impatience of youth in Corey responded to the
impatience of temperament in his elder. "Why, I don't
see why I shouldn't," he allowed himself to say.
"I confess I should like to have it finished up myself,
if it could be finished up in the right way."
"Well, we'll see. Dennis!" Lapham called to the remote
porter, and the man came. "Want to send any word home?"
he asked Corey.
"No; my father and I go and come as we like, without
keeping account of each other. If I don't come home,
he knows that I'm not there. That's all."
"Well, that's convenient. You'll find you can't do that
when you're married. Never mind, Dennis," said the Colonel.
He had time to buy two newspapers on the wharf
before he jumped on board the steam-boat with Corey.
"Just made it," he said; "and that's what I like to do.
I can't stand it to be aboard much more than a minute
before she shoves out." He gave one of the newspapers
to Corey as he spoke, and set him the example of catching
up a camp-stool on their way to that point on the boat
which his experience had taught him was the best.
He opened his paper at once and began to run over its news,
while the young man watched the spectacular recession
of the city, and was vaguely conscious of the people
about him, and of the gay life of the water round the boat.
The air freshened; the craft thinned in number; they met
larger sail, lagging slowly inward in the afternoon light;
the islands of the bay waxed and waned as the steamer
approached and left them behind.
"I hate to see them stirring up those Southern fellows again,"
said the Colonel, speaking into the paper on his lap.
"Seems to me it's time to let those old issues go."
"Yes," said the young man. "What are they doing now?"
"Oh, stirring up the Confederate brigadiers in Congress.
I don't like it. Seems to me, if our party hain't got any
other stock-in-trade, we better shut up shop altogether."
Lapham went on, as he scanned his newspaper, to give
his ideas of public questions, in a fragmentary way,
while Corey listened patiently, and waited for him to
come back to business. He folded up his paper at last,
and stuffed it into his coat pocket. "There's one thing I
always make it a rule to do," he said, "and that is to give
my mind a complete rest from business while I'm going down
on the boat. I like to get the fresh air all through me,
soul and body. I believe a man can give his mind a rest,
just the same as he can give his legs a rest, or his back.
All he's got to do is to use his will-power. Why, I suppose,
if I hadn't adopted some such rule, with the strain I've
had on me for the last ten years, I should 'a' been
a dead man long ago. That's the reason I like a horse.
You've got to give your mind to the horse; you can't help it,
unless you want to break your neck; but a boat's different,
and there you got to use your will-power. You got
to take your mind right up and put it where you want it.
I make it a rule to read the paper on the boat----Hold on!"
he interrupted himself to prevent Corey from paying
his fare to the man who had come round for it.
"I've got tickets. And when I get through the paper,
I try to get somebody to talk to, or I watch the people.
It's an astonishing thing to me where they all come from.
I've been riding up and down on these boats for six or
seven years, and I don't know but very few of the faces
I see on board. Seems to be a perfectly fresh lot
every time. Well, of course! Town's full of strangers
in the summer season, anyway, and folks keep coming
down from the country. They think it's a great thing
to get down to the beach, and they've all heard of the
electric light on the water, and they want to see it.
But you take faces now! The astonishing thing to me
is not what a face tells, but what it don't tell.
When you think of what a man is, or a woman is, and what
most of 'em have been through before they get to be thirty,
it seems as if their experience would burn right through.
But it don't. I like to watch the couples, and try to make
out which are engaged, or going to be, and which are married,
or better be. But half the time I can't make any sort
of guess. Of course, where they're young and kittenish,
you can tell; but where they're anyways on, you can't.
"Yes, I think you're right," said Corey, not perfectly