Part 2 out of 6
grizzled gentleman lounging in solitary possession.
"'Gene Morgan!" this person exclaimed, rising with great heartiness.
"I'd heard you were in town--I don't believe you know me!"
"Yes, I do, Fred Kinney!" Mr. Morgan returned with equal
friendliness. "Your real face-the one I used to know--it's just
underneath the one you're masquerading in to-night. You ought to have
changed it more if you wanted a disguise."
"Twenty years!" said Mr. Kinney. "It makes some difference in faces,
but more in behaviour!"
"It does sot" his friend agreed with explosive emphasis. "My own
behaviour began to be different about that long ago--quite suddenly."
"I remember," said Mr. Kinney sympathetically, Well, life's odd enough
as we look back."
"Probably it's going to be odder still--if we could look forward."
They sat and smoked.
"However," Mr. Morgan remarked presently, "I still dance like an
Indian. Don't you?"
"No. I leave that to my boy Fred. He does the dancing for the
"I suppose he's upstairs hard at it?"
"No, he's not here." Mr. Kinney glanced toward the open door and
lowered his voice. "He wouldn't come. It seems that a couple of years
or so ago he had a row with young Georgie Minafer. Fred was president
of a literary club they had, and he said this young Georgie got
himself elected instead, in an overbearing sort of way. Fred's red-
headed, you know--I suppose you remember his mother? You were at the
"I remember the wedding," said Mr. Morgan. 'And I remember your
bachelor dinner--most of it, that is."
"Well, my boy Fred's as red-headed now," Mr. Kinney went on, "as his
mother was then, and he's very bitter about his row with Georgie
Minafer. He says he'd rather burn his foot off than set it inside any
Amberson house or any place else where young Georgie is. Fact is, the
boy seemed to have so much feeling over it I had my doubts about
coming myself, but my wife said it was all nonsense; we mustn't
humour Fred in a grudge over such a little thing, and while she
despised that Georgie Minafer, herself, as much as any one else did,
she wasn't going to miss a big Amberson show just on account of a
boys' rumpus, and so on and so on; and so we came."
"Do people dislike young Minafer generally?"
"I don't know about 'generally.' I guess he gets plenty of toadying;
but there's certainly a lot of people that are glad to express their
opinions about him."
"What's the matter with him?"
"Too much Amberson, I suppose, for one thing. And for another, his
mother just fell down and worshipped him from the day he was born
That's what beats me! I don't have to tell you what Isabel Amberson
is, Eugene Morgan. She's got a touch of the Amberson high stuff about
her, but you can't get anybody that ever knew her to deny that she's
just about the finest woman in the world."
"No," said Eugene Morgan. "You can't get anybody to deny that."
"Then I can't see how she doesn't see the truth about that boy. He
thinks he's a little tin god on wheels--and honestly, it makes some
people weak and sick just to think about him! Yet that high-spirited,
intelligent woman, Isabel Amberson, actually sits and worships him!
You can hear it in her voice when she speaks to him or speaks of him.
You can see it in her eyes when she looks at him. My Lord! What does
she see when she looks at him?"
Morgan's odd expression of genial apprehension deepened whimsically,
though it denoted no actual apprehension whatever, and cleared away
from his face altogether when he smiled; he became surprisingly
winning and persuasive when he smiled. He smiled now, after a moment,
at this question of his old friend. "She sees something that we don't
see," he said.
"What does she see?"
Kinney laughed aloud. "Well, if she sees an angel when she looks at
Georgie Minafer, she's a funnier woman than I thought she was!"
"Perhaps she is," said Morgan. "But that's what she sees."
"My Lord! It's easy to see you've only known him an hour or so. In
that time have you looked at Georgie and seen an angel?"
"No. All I saw was a remarkably good-looking fool-boy with the pride
of Satan and a set of nice new drawing-room manners that he probably
couldn't use more than half an hour at a time without busting."
"Mothers are right," said Morgan. "Do you think this young George is
the same sort of creature when he's with his mother that he is when
he's bulldozing your boy Fred? Mothers see the angel in us because
the angel is there. If it's shown to the mother, the son has got an
angel to show, hasn't he? When a son cuts somebody's throat the
mother only sees it's possible for a misguided angel to act like a
devil--and she's entirely right about that!"
Kinney laughed, and put his hand on his friend's shoulder. "I
remember what a fellow you always were to argue," he said. "You mean
Georgie Minafer is as much of an angel as any murderer is, and that
Georgie's mother is always right."
"I'm afraid she always has been," Morgan said lightly.
The friendly hand remained upon his shoulder. "She was wrong once,
old fellow. At least, so it seemed to me."
"No," said Morgan, a little awkwardly. "No--"
Kinney relieved the slight embarrassment that had come upon both of
them: he laughed again. "Wait till you know young Georgie a little
better," he said. "Something tells me you're going to change your
mind about his having an angel to show, if you see anything of him!"
"You mean beauty's in the eye of the beholder, and the angel is all in
the eye of the mother. If you were a painter, Fred, you'd paint
mothers with angels' eyes holding imps in their laps. Me. I'll stick
to the Old Masters and the cherubs."
Mr. Kinney looked at him musingly. "Somebody's eyes must have been
pretty angelic," he said, "if they've been persuading you that Georgie
Minnafer is a cherub!"
"They are," said Morgan heartily. "They're more angelic than ever."
And as a new flourish of music sounded overhead he threw away his
cigarette, and jumped up briskly. "Good-bye, I've got this dance with
The grizzled Mr. Kinney affected to rub his eyes. "It startles me,
your jumping up like that to go and dance with Isabel Amberson!
Twenty years seem to have passed--but have they? Tell me, have you
danced with poor old Fanny, too, this evening?"
"My Lord!" Kinney groaned, half in earnest. "Old times starting all
over again! My Lord!"
"Old times?" Morgan laughed gaily from the doorway. "Not a bit!
There aren't any old times. When times are gone they're not old,
they're dead! There aren't any times but new times!"
And he vanished in such a manner that he seemed already to have begun
The appearance of Miss Lucy Morgan the next day, as she sat in
George's fast cutter, proved so charming that her escort was stricken
to soft words instantly, and failed to control a poetic impulse. Her
rich little hat was trimmed with black fur; her hair was almost as
dark as the fur; a great boa of black fur was about her shoulders; her
hands were vanished into a black muff; and George's laprobe was black.
"You look like--" he said. "Your face looks like--it looks like a
snowflake on a lump of coal. I mean a--a snowflake that would be a
"Perhaps you'd better look at the reins," she returned. "We almost
upset just then."
George declined to heed this advice. "Because there's too much pink
in your cheeks for a snowflake," he continued. "What's that fairy
story about snow-white and rose-red--"
"We're going pretty fast, Mr. Minafer!"
"Well, you see, I'm only here for two weeks."
"I mean the sleigh!" she explained. "We're not the only people on the
street, you know."
"Oh, they'll keep out of the way."
"That's very patrician charioteering, but it seems to me a horse like
this needs guidance. I'm sure he's going almost twenty miles an
"That's nothing," said George; but he consented to look forward again.
"He can trot under three minutes, all right." He laughed. "I suppose
your father thinks he can build a horseless carriage to go that fast!"
"They go that fast already, sometimes."
"Yes," said George; "they do--for about a hundred feet! Then they
give a yell and burn up."
Evidently she decided not to defend her father's faith in horseless
carriages, for she laughed, and said nothing. The cold air was polka-
dotted with snowflakes, and trembled to the loud, continuous jingling
of sleighbells. Boys and girls, all aglow and panting jets of vapour,
darted at the passing sleighs to ride on the runners, or sought to
rope their sleds to any vehicle whatever, but the fleetest no more
than just touched the flying cutter, though a hundred soggy mittens
grasped for it, then reeled and whirled till sometimes the wearers of
those daring mittens plunged flat in the snow and lay a-sprawl,
reflecting. For this was the holiday time, and all the boys and girls
in town were out, most of them on National Avenue.
But there came panting and chugging up that flat thoroughfare a thing
which some day was to spoil all their sleigh-time merriment--save for
the rashest and most disobedient. It was vaguely like a topless
surry, but cumbrous with unwholesome excrescences fore and aft, while
underneath were spinning leather belts and something that whirred and
howled and seemed to stagger. The ride-stealers made no attempt to
fasten their sleds to a contrivance so nonsensical and yet so
fearsome. Instead, they gave over their sport and concentrated all
their energies in their lungs, so that up and down the street the one
cry shrilled increasingly: "Git a hoss! Git a hoss! Git a hoss!
Mister, why don't you git a hoss?" But the mahout in charge, sitting
solitary on the front seat, was unconcerned--he laughed, and now and
then ducked a snowball without losing any of his good-nature. It was
Mr. Eugene Morgan who exhibited so cheerful a countenance between the
forward visor of a deer-stalker cap and the collar of a fuzzy gray
ulster. "Git a hoss!" the children shrieked, and gruffer voices
joined them. "Git a hoss! Git a hoss! Git a hoss!"
George Minafer was correct thus far: the twelve miles an hour of such
a machine would never over-take George's trotter. The cutter was
already scurrying between the stone pillars at the entrance to
"That's my grandfather's," said George, nodding toward the Amberson
"I ought to know that!" Lucy exclaimed. "We stayed there late enough
last night: papa and I were almost the last to go. He and your mother
and Miss Fanny Minafer got the musicians to play another waltz when
everybody else had gone downstairs and the fiddles were being put away
in their cases. Papa danced part of it with Miss Minafer and the rest
with your mother. Miss Minafer's your aunt, isn't she?"
"Yes; she lives with us. I tease her a good deal."
"Oh, anything handy--whatever's easy to tease an old maid about."
"Doesn't she mind?"
"She usually has sort of a grouch on me," laughed George. "Nothing
much. That's our house just beyond grandfather's." He waved a
sealskin gaunt let to indicate the house Major Amberson had built for
Isabel as a wedding gift. "It's almost the same as grandfather's,
only not as large and hasn't got a regular ballroom. We gave the
dance, last night, at grandfather's on account of the ballroom, and
because I'm the only grandchild, you know. Of course, some day
that'll be my house, though I expect my mother will most likely go on
living where she does now, with father and Aunt Fanny. I suppose I'll
probably build a country house, too--somewhere East, I guess." He
stopped speaking, and frowned as they passed a closed carriage and
pair. The body of this comfortable vehicle sagged slightly to one
side; the paint was old and seamed with hundreds of minute cracks like
little rivers on a black map; the coachman, a fat and elderly darky,
seemed to drowse upon the box; but the open window afforded the
occupants of the cutter a glimpse of a tired, fine old face, a silk
hat, a pearl tie, and an astrachan collar, evidently out to take the
"There's your grandfather now," said Lucy. "Isn't it?"
George's frown was not relaxed. "Yes, it is; and he ought to give
that rat-trap away and sell those old horses. They're a disgrace, all
shaggy--not even clipped. I suppose he doesn't notice it--people get
awful funny when they get old; they seem to lose their self-respect,
"He seemed a real Brummell to me," she said.
"Oh, he keeps up about what he wears, well enough, but--well, look at
that!" He pointed to a statue of Minerva, one of the cast-iron
sculptures Major Amberson had set up in opening the Addition years
before. Minerva was intact, but a blackish streak descended
unpleasantly from her forehead to the point of her straight nose, and
a few other streaks were sketched in a repellent dinge upon the folds
of her drapery.
"That must be from soot," said Lucy. "There are so many houses around
"Anyhow, somebody ought to see that these statues are kept clean. My
grandfather owns a good many of these houses, I guess, for renting.
Of course, he sold most of the lots--there aren't any vacant ones, and
there used to be heaps of 'em when I was a boy. Another thing I don't
think he ought to allow a good many of these people bought big lots
and they built houses on 'em; then the price of the land kept getting
higher, and they'd sell part of their yards and let the people that
bought it build houses on it to live in, till they haven't hardly any
of 'em got big, open yards any more, and it's getting all too much
built up. The way it used to be, it was like a gentleman's country
estate, and that's the way my grandfather ought to keep it. He lets
these people take too many liberties: they do anything they want to."
"But how could he stop them?" Lucy asked, surely with reason. "If he
sold them the land, it's theirs, isn't it?"
George remained serene in the face of this apparently difficult
question. "He ought to have all the trades-people boycott the
families that sell part of their yards that way. All he'd have to do
would be to tell the trades-people they wouldn't get any more orders
from the family if they didn't do it."
"From 'the family'? What family?"
"Our family," said George, unperturbed. "The Ambersons."
"I see!" she murmured, and evidently she did see something that he did
not, for, as she lifted her muff to her face, he asked:
"What are you laughing at now?"
"You always seem to have some little secret of your own to get happy
"Always!" she exclaimed. "What a big word when we only met last
"That's another case of it," he said, with obvious sincerity. "One of
the reasons I don't like you--much!--is you've got that way of seeming
quietly superior to everybody else."
"I!" she cried. "I have?"
"Oh, you think you keep it sort of confidential to yourself, but it's
plain enough! I don't believe in that kind of thing."
"No," said George emphatically . "Not with me! I think the world's
like this: there's a few people that their birth and position, and so
on, puts them at the top, and they ought to treat each other entirely
as equals." His voice betrayed a little emotion as he added, "I
wouldn't speak like this to everybody."
"You mean you're confiding your deepest creed--or code, whatever it
"Go on, make fun of it, then!" George said bitterly. "You do think
you're terribly clever! It makes me tired!"
"Well, as you don't like my seeming 'quietly superior,' after this
I'll be noisily superior," she returned cheerfully. "We aim to
"I had a notion before I came for you today that we were going to
quarrel," he said.
"No, we won't; it takes two!" She laughed and waved her muff toward a
new house, not quite completed, standing in a field upon their right.
They had passed beyond Amberson Addition, and were leaving the
northern fringes of the town for the open country. "Isn't that a
beautiful house!" she exclaimed. "Papa and I call it our Beautiful
George was not pleased. "Does it belong to you?"
"Of course not! Papa brought me out here the other day, driving in
his machine, and we both loved it. It's so spacious and dignified and
"Yes, it's plain enough!" George grunted.
"Yet it's lovely; the gray-green roof and shutters give just enough
colour, with the trees, for the long white walls. It seems to me the
finest house I've seen in this part of the country."
George was outraged by an enthusiasm so ignorant--not ten minutes ago
they had passed the Amberson Mansion. "Is that a sample of your taste
in architecture?" he asked.
"Because it strikes me you better go somewhere and study the subject a
Lucy looked puzzled. "What makes you have so much feeling about it?
Have I offended you?"
"Offended' nothing!" George returned brusquely. "Girls usually think
they know it all as soon as they've learned to dance and dress and
flirt a little. They never know anything about things like
architecture, for instance. That house is about as bum a house as any
house I ever saw!"
"Why?" George repeated. "Did you ask me why?"
"Well, for one thing--" he paused--"for one thing--well, just look at
it! I shouldn't think you'd have to do any more than look at it if
you'd ever given any attention to architecture."
"What is the matter with its architecture, Mr. Minafer?"
"Well, it's this way," said George. "It's like this. Well, for
instance, that house--well, it was built like a town house." He spoke
of it in the past tense, because they had now left it far behind them
--a human habit of curious significance. "It was like a house meant
for a street in the city. What kind of a house was that for people of
any taste to build out here in the country?"
"But papa says it's built that way on purpose. There are a lot of
other houses being built in this direction, and papa says the city's
coming out this way; and in a year or two that house will be right in
"It was a bum house, anyhow," said George crossly. "I don't even know
the people that are building it. They say a lot of riffraff come to
town every year nowadays and there's other riffraff that have always
lived here, and have made a little money, and act as if they owned the
place. Uncle Sydney was talking about it yesterday: he says he and
some of his friends are organizing a country club, and already some of
these riffraff are worming into it--people he never heard of at all!
Anyhow, I guess it's pretty clear you don't know a great deal about
She demonstrated the completeness of her amiability by laughing.
"I'll know something about the North Pole before long," she said, "if
we keep going much farther in this direction!"
At this he was remorseful. "All right, we'll turn, and drive south
awhile till you get warmed up again. I expect we have been going
against the wind about long enough. Indeed, I'm sorry!"
He said, "Indeed, I'm sorry," in a nice way, and looked very
strikingly handsome when he said it, she thought. No doubt it is true
that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repented than
over all the saints who consistently remain holy, and the rare, sudden
gentlenesses of arrogant people have infinitely more effect than the
continual gentleness of gentle people. Arrogance turned gentle melts
the heart; and Lucy gave her companion a little sidelong, sunny nod of
acknowledgment. George was dazzled by the quick glow of her eyes, and
found himself at a loss for something to say.
Having turned about, he kept his horse to a walk, and at this gait the
sleighbells tinkled but intermittently. Gleaming wanly through the
whitish vapour that kept rising from the trotter's body and flanks,
they were like tiny fog-bells, and made the only sounds in a great
winter silence. The white road ran between lonesome rail fences; and
frozen barnyards beyond the fences showed sometimes a harrow left to
rust, with its iron seat half filled with stiffened snow, and
sometimes an old dead buggy, it's wheels forever set, it seemed, in
the solid ice of deep ruts. Chickens scratched the metallic earth
with an air of protest, and a masterless ragged colt looked up in
sudden horror at the mild tinkle of the passing bells, then blew
fierce clouds of steam at the sleigh. The snow no longer fell, and
far ahead, in a grayish cloud that lay upon the land, was the town.
Lucy looked at this distant thickening reflection. "When we get this
far out we can see there must be quite a little smoke hanging over the
town," she said. "I suppose that's because it's growing. As it grows
bigger it seems to get ashamed of itself, so it makes this cloud and
hides in it. Papa says it used to be a bit nicer when he lived here:
he always speaks of it differently--he always has a gentle look, a
particular tone of voice, I've noticed. He must have been very fond
of it. It must have been a lovely place: everybody must have been so
jolly. From the way he talks, you'd think life here then was just one
long midsummer serenade. He declares it was always sunshine, that the
air wasn't like the air anywhere else--that, as he remembers it, there
always seemed to be gold-dust in the air. I doubt it! I think it
doesn't seem to be duller air to him now just on account of having a
little soot in it sometimes, but probably because he was twenty years
younger then. It seems to me the gold-dust he thinks was here is just
his being young that he remembers. I think it was just youth. It is
pretty pleasant to be young, isn't it?" She laughed absently, then
appeared to become wistful. "I wonder if we really do enjoy it as
much as we'll look back and think we did! I don't suppose so.
Anyhow, for my part I feel as if I must be missing something about it,
somehow, because I don't ever seem to be thinking about what's
happening at the present moment; I'm always looking forward to
something--thinking about things that will happen when I'm older."
"You're a funny girl," George said gently. "But your voice sounds
pretty nice when you think and talk along together like that!"
The horse shook himself all over, and the impatient sleighbells made
his wish audible. Accordingly, George tightened the reins, and the
cutter was off again at a three-minute trot, no despicable rate of
speed. It was not long before they were again passing Lucy's
Beautiful House, and here George thought fit to put an appendix to his
remark. "You're a funny girl, and you know a lot--but I don't believe
you know much about architecture!"
Coming toward them, black against the snowy road, was a strange
silhouette. It approached moderately and without visible means of
progression, so the matter seemed from a distance; but as the cutter
shortened the distance, the silhouette was revealed to be Mr. Morgan's
horseless carriage, conveying four people atop: Mr. Morgan with
George's mother beside him, and, in the rear seat, Miss Fanny Minafer
and the Honorable George Amberson. All four seemed to be in the
liveliest humour, like high-spirited people upon a new adventure; and
Isabel waved her handkerchief dashingly as the cutter flashed by them.
"For the Lord's sake!" George gasped.
"Your mother's a dear," said Lucy. "And she does wear the most
bewitching things! She looked like a Russian princess, though I doubt
if they're that handsome."
George said nothing; he drove on till they had crossed Amberson
Addition and reached the stone pillars at the head of National Avenue.
There he turned.
"Let's go back and take another look at that old sewing-machine," he
said. "It certainly is the weirdest, craziest--"
He left the sentence unfinished, and presently they were again in
sight of the old sewing-machine. George shouted mockingly.
Alas! three figures stood in the road, and a pair of legs, with the
toes turned up, indicated that a fourth figure lay upon its back in
the snow, beneath a horseless carriage that had decided to need a
George became vociferous with laughter, and coming up at his trotter's
best gait, snow spraying from runners and every hoof, swerved to the
side of the road and shot by, shouting, "Git a hoss! Git a hoss! Git a
Three hundred yards away he turned and came back, racing; leaning out
as he passed, to wave jeeringly at the group about the disabled
machine: "Git a hoss! Git a hoss! Git a--"
The trotter had broken into a gallop, and Lucy cried a warning: "Be
careful!" she said. "Look where you're driving! There's a ditch on
that side. Look--"
George turned too late; the cutter's right runner went into the ditch
and snapped off; the little sleigh upset, and, after dragging its
occupants some fifteen yards, left them lying together in a bank of
snow. Then the vigorous young horse kicked himself free of all
annoyances, and disappeared down the road, galloping cheerfully.
When George regained some measure of his presence of mind, Miss Lucy
Morgan's cheek, snowy and cold, was pressing his nose slightly to one
side; his right arm was firmly about her neck; and a monstrous amount
of her fur boa seemed to mingle with an equally unplausible quantity
of snow in his mouth. He was confused, but conscious of no objection
to any of these juxtapositions. She was apparently uninjured, for she
sat up, hatless, her hair down, and said mildly:
Though her father had been under his machine when they passed, he was
the first to reach them. He threw himself on his knees beside his
daughter, but found her already laughing, and was reassured. "They're
all right," he called to Isabel, who was running toward them, ahead of
her brother and Fanny Minafer. "This snowbank's a feather bed--
nothing the matter with them at all. Don't look so pale!"
"Georgie!" she gasped. "Georgie!"
Georgie was on his feet, snow all over him.
"Don't make a fuss, mother! Nothing's the matter. That darned silly
Sudden tears stood in Isabel's eyes. "To see you down underneath--
dragging--oh--" Then with shaking hands she began to brush the snow
"Let me alone," he protested. "You'll ruin your gloves. You're
getting snow all over you, and--"
"No, no!" she cried. "You'll catch cold; you mustn't catch cold!"
And she continued to brush him.
Amberson had brought Lucy's hat; Miss Fanny acted as lady's-maid; and
both victims of the accident were presently restored to about their
usual appearance and condition of apparel. In fact, encouraged by the
two older gentlemen, the entire party, with one exception, decided
that the episode was after all a merry one, and began to laugh about
it. But George was glummer than the December twilight now swiftly
"That darned horse!" he said.
"I wouldn't bother about Pendennis, Georgie," said his uncle. "You
can send a man out for what's left of the cutter tomorrow, and
Pendennis will gallop straight home to his stable: he'll be there a
long while before we will, because all we've got to depend on to get
us home is Gene Morgan's broken-down chafing-dish yonder."
They were approaching the machine as he spoke, and his friend, again
underneath it, heard him. He emerged, smiling. "She'll go," he said.
He offered his hand to Isabel. She was smiling but still pale, and
her eyes, in spite of the smile, kept upon George in a shocked
anxiety. Miss Fanny had already mounted to the rear seat, and George,
after helping Lucy Morgan to climb up beside his aunt, was following.
Isabel saw that his shoes were light things of patent leather, and
that snow was clinging to them. She made a little rush toward him,
and, as one of his feet rested on the iron step of the machine, in
mounting, she began to clean the snow from his shoe with her almost
aerial lace handkerchief. "You mustn't catch cold!" she cried.
"Stop that!" George shouted, and furiously withdrew his foot.
"Then stamp the snow off," she begged. "You mustn't ride with wet
"They're not!" George roared, thoroughly outraged. "For heaven's
sake get in! You're standing in the snow yourself. Get in!"
Isabel consented, turning to Morgan, whose habitual expression of
apprehensiveness was somewhat accentuated. He climbed up after her,
George Amberson having gone to the other side. "You're the same
Isabel I used to know!" he said in a low voice. "You're a divinely
"Am I, Eugene?" she said, not displeased. "'Divinely' and 'ridiculous'
just counterbalance each other, don't they? Plus one and minus one
equal nothing; so you mean I'm nothing in particular?"
"No," he answered, tugging at a lever. "That doesn't seem to be
precisely what I meant. There!" This exclamation referred to the
subterranean machinery, for dismaying sounds came from beneath the
floor, and the vehicle plunged, then rolled noisily forward.
"Behold!" George Amberson exclaimed. "She does move! It must be
"Accident?" Morgan shouted over the din. "No! She breathes, she
stirs; she seems to feel a thrill of life along her keel!" And he
began to sing "The Star Spangled Banner."
Amberson joined him lustily, and sang on when Morgan stopped. The
twilight sky cleared, discovering a round moon already risen; and the
musical congressman hailed this bright presence with the complete text
and melody of "The Danube River."
His nephew, behind, was gloomy. He had overheard his mother's
conversation with the inventor: it seemed curious to him that this
Morgan, of whom be had never heard until last night, should be using
the name "Isabel" so easily; and George felt that it was not just the
thing for his mother to call Morgan "Eugene;" the resentment of the
previous night came upon George again. Meanwhile, his mother and
Morgan continued their talk; but he could no longer hear what they
said; the noise of the car and his uncle's songful mood prevented. He
marked how animated Isabel seemed; it was not strange to see his
mother so gay, but it was strange that a man not of the family should
be the cause of her gaiety. And George sat frowning.
Fanny Minafer had begun to talk to Lucy. "Your father wanted to prove
that his horseless carriage would run, even in the snow," she said.
"It really does, too."
"It's so interesting! He's been telling us how he's going to change
it. He says he's going to have wheels all made of rubber and blown up
with air. I don't understand what he means at all; I should think
they'd explode--but Eugene seems to be very confident. He always was
confident, though. It seems so like old times to hear him talk!"
She became thoughtful, and Lucy turned to George. "You tried to swing
underneath me and break the fall for me when we went over," she said.
"I knew you were doing that, and--it was nice of you."
"Wasn't any fall to speak of," he returned brusquely. "Couldn't have
hurt either of us."
"Still it was friendly of you--and awfully quick, too. I'll not--I'll
not forget it!"
Her voice had a sound of genuineness, very pleasant; and George began
to forget his annoyance with her father. This annoyance of his had
not been alleviated by the circumstance that neither of the seats of
the old sewing-machine was designed for three people, but when his
neighbour spoke thus gratefully, he no longer minded the crowding--in
fact, it pleased him so much that he began to wish the old sewing-
machine would go even slower. And she had spoken no word of blame for
his letting that darned horse get the cutter into the ditch. George
presently addressed her hurriedly, almost tremulously, speaking close
to her ear:
"I forgot to tell you something: you're pretty nice! I thought so the
first second I saw you last night. I'll come for you tonight and take
you to the Assembly at the Amberson Hotel. You're going, aren't you?"
"Yes, but I'm going with papa and the Sharons I'll see you there."
"Looks to me as if you were awfully conventional," George grumbled;
and his disappointment was deeper than he was willing to let her see--
though she probably did see. "Well, we'll dance the cotillion
"I'm afraid not. I promised Mr. Kinney."
"What!" George's tone was shocked, as at incredible news. "Well, you
could break that engagement, I guess, if you wanted to! Girls always
can get out of things when they want to. Won't you?"
"I don't think so."
"Because I promised him. Several days ago."
George gulped, and lowered his pride, "I don't--oh, look here! I only
want to go to that thing tonight to get to see something of you; and
if you don't dance the cotillion with me, how can I? I'll only be
here two weeks, and the others have got all the rest of your visit to
see you. Won't you do it, please?"
"See here!" said the stricken George. "If you're going to decline to
dance that cotillion with me simply because you've promised a--a--a
miserable red-headed outsider like Fred Kinney, why we might as well
"You know perfectly well what I mean," he said huskily.
"Well, you ought to!"
"But I don't at all!"
George, thoroughly hurt, and not a little embittered, expressed
himself in a short outburst of laughter: "Well, I ought to have seen
"That you might turn out to be a girl who'd like a fellow of the red-
headed Kinney sort. I ought to have seen it from the first!"
Lucy bore her disgrace lightly. "Oh, dancing a cotillion with a
person doesn't mean that you like him--but I don't see anything in
particular the matter with Mr. Kinney. What is?"
"If you don't see anything the matter with him for yourself," George
responded, icily, "I don't think pointing it out would help you. You
probably wouldn't understand."
"You might try," she suggested. "Of course I'm a stranger here, and
if people have done anything wrong or have something unpleasant about
them, I wouldn't have any way of knowing it, just at first. If poor
"I prefer not to discuss it," said George curtly. "He's an enemy of
"I prefer not to discuss it."
"I prefer not to discuss it!"
"Very well." She began to hum the air of the song which Mr. George
Amberson was now discoursing, "O moon of my delight that knows no
wane"--and there was no further conversation on the back seat.
They had entered Amberson Addition, and the moon of Mr. Amberson's
delight was overlaid by a slender Gothic filagree; the branches that
sprang from the shade trees lining the street. Through the windows of
many of the houses rosy lights were flickering; and silver tinsel and
evergreen wreaths and brilliant little glass globes of silver and wine
colour could be seen, and glimpses were caught of Christmas trees,
with people decking them by firelight--reminders that this was
Christmas Eve. The ride-stealers had disappeared from the highway,
though now and then, over the gasping and howling of the horseless
carriage, there came a shrill jeer from some young passer-by upon the
"Mister, fer heaven's sake go an' git a hoss! Git a hoss! Git a
The contrivance stopped with a heart-shaking jerk before Isabel's
house. The gentlemen jumped down, helping Isabel and Fanny to
descend; there were friendly leavetakings--and one that was not
"It's 'au revoir,' till to-night, isn't it?" Lucy asked, laughing.
"Good afternoon!" said George, and he did not wait, as his relatives
did, to see the old sewing machine start briskly down the street,
toward the Sharons'; its lighter load consisting now of only Mr.
Morgan and his daughter. George went into the house at once.
He found his father reading the evening paper in the library. "Where
are your mother and your Aunt Fanny?" Mr. Minafer inquired, not
"They're coming," said his son; and, casting himself heavily into a
chair, stared at the fire.
His prediction was verified a few moments later; the two ladies came
in cheerfully, unfastening their fur cloaks. "It's all right,
Georgie," said Isabel. "Your Uncle George called to us that Pendennis
got home safely. Put your shoes close to the fire, dear, or else go
and change them." She went to her husband and patted him lightly on
the shoulder, an action which George watched with sombre moodiness.
"You might dress before long," she suggested. "We're all going to the
Assembly, after dinner, aren't we? Brother George said he'd go with
"Look here," said George abruptly. "How about this man Morgan and his
old sewing-machine? Doesn't he want to get grandfather to put money
into it? Isn't he trying to work Uncle George for that? Isn't that
what he's up to?"
It was Miss Fanny who responded. "You little silly!" she cried, with
surprising sharpness. "What on earth are you talking about? Eugene
Morgan's perfectly able to finance his own inventions these days."
"I'll bet he borrows money of Uncle George," the nephew insisted.
Isabel looked at him in grave perplexity. "Why do you say such a
thing, George?" she asked.
"He strikes me as that sort of man," he answered doggedly. "Isn't he,
Minafer set down his paper for the moment. "He was a fairly wild
young fellow twenty years ago," he said, glancing at his wife
absently. "He was like you in one thing, Georgie; he spent too much
money--only he didn't have any mother to get money out of a
grandfather for him, so he was usually in debt. But I believe I've
heard he's done fairly well of late years. No, I can't say I think
he's a swindler, and I doubt if he needs anybody else's money to back
his horseless carriage."
"Well, what's he brought the old thing here for, then? People that
own elephants don't take them elephants around with 'em when they go
visiting. What's he got it here for?"
"I'm sure I don't know," said Mr. Minafer, resuming his paper. "You
might ask him."
Isabel laughed, and patted her husband's shoulder again. "Aren't you
going to dress? Aren't we all going to the dance?"
He groaned faintly. "Aren't your brother and Georgie escorts enough
for you and Fanny?"
"Wouldn't you enjoy it at all?"
"You know I don't."
Isabel let her hand remain upon his shoulder a moment longer; she
stood behind him, looking into the fire, and George, watching her
broodingly, thought there was more colour in her face than the
reflection of the flames accounted for. "Well, then," she said
indulgently, "stay at home and be happy. We won't urge you if you'd
really rather not."
"I really wouldn't," he said contentedly.
Half an hour later, George was passing through the upper hall, in a
bath-robe stage of preparation for the evening's' gaieties, when he
encountered his Aunt Fanny. He stopped her. "Look here!" he said.
"What in the world is the matter with you?" she demanded, regarding
him with little amiability. "You look as if you were rehearsing for a
villain in a play. Do change your expression!"
His expression gave no sign of yielding to the request; on the
contrary, its somberness deepened. "I suppose you don't know why
father doesn't want to go tonight," he said solemnly. "You're his
only sister, and yet you don't know!"
"He never wants to go anywhere that I ever heard of," said Fanny.
"What is the matter with you?"
"He doesn't want to go because he doesn't like this man Morgan."
"Good gracious!" Fanny cried impatiently. "Eugene Morgan isn't in
your father's thoughts at all, one way or the other. Why should he
George hesitated. "Well--it strikes me--Look here, what makes you and
--and everybody--so excited over him?"
"Excited!" she jeered. "Can't people be glad to see an old friend
without silly children like you having to make a to-do about it? I've
just been in your mother's room suggesting that she might give a
little dinner for them--"
"For whom, Georgie! For Mr. Morgan and his daughter."
"Look here!" George said quickly. "Don't do that! Mother mustn't do
that. It wouldn't look well."
"Wouldn't look well!" Fanny mocked him; and her suppressed vehemence
betrayed a surprising acerbity. "See here, Georgie Minafer, I suggest
that you just march straight on into your room and finish your
dressing! Sometimes you say things that show you have a pretty mean
George was so astounded by this outburst that his indignation was
delayed by his curiosity. "Why, what upsets you this way?" he
"I know what you mean," she said, her voice still lowered, but not
decreasing in sharpness. "You're trying to insinuate that I'd get
your mother to invite Eugene Morgan here on my account because he's a
"I am?" George gasped, nonplussed. "I'm trying to insinuate that
you're setting your cap at him and getting mother to help you? Is
that what you mean?"
Beyond a doubt that was what Miss Fanny meant. She gave him a white-
hot look. "You attend to your own affairs!" she whispered fiercely,
and swept away.
George, dumfounded, returned to his room for meditation.
He had lived for years in the same house with his Aunt Fanny, and it
now appeared that during all those years he had been thus intimately
associating with a total stranger. Never before had he met the
passionate lady with whom he had just held a conversation in the hall.
So she wanted to get married! And wanted George's mother to help her
with this horseless-carriage widower!
"Well, I will be shot!" he muttered aloud. "I will--I certainly will
be shot!" And he began' to laugh. "Lord 'lmighty!"
But presently, at the thought of the horseless-carriage widower's
daughter, his grimness returned, and he resolved upon a line of
conduct for the evening. He would nod to her carelessly when he
first saw her; and, after that, he would notice her no more: he would
not dance with her; he would not favour her in the cotillion--he would
not go near her!
He descended to dinner upon the third urgent summons of a coloured
butler, having spent two hours dressing--and rehearsing.
The Honourable George Amberson was a congressman who led cotillions--
the sort of congressman an Amberson would be. He did it negligently,
tonight, yet with infallible dexterity, now and then glancing
humorously at the spectators, people of his own age. They were seated
in a tropical grove at one end of the room whither they had retired at
the beginning of the cotillion, which they surrendered entirely to the
twenties and the late 'teens. And here, grouped with that stately
pair, Sydney and Amelia Amberson, sat Isabel with Fanny, while Eugene
Morgan appeared to bestow an amiable devotion impartially upon the
three sisters-in-law. Fanny watched his face eagerly, laughing at
everything he said; Amelia smiled blandly, but rather because of
graciousness than because of interest; while Isabel, looking out at
the dancers, rhythmically moved a great fan of blue ostrich feathers,
listened to Eugene thoughtfully, yet all the while kept her shining
eyes on Georgie.
Georgie had carried out his rehearsed projects with precision, he had
given Miss Morgan a nod studied into perfection during his lengthy
toilet before dinner. "Oh, yes, I do seem to remember that curious
little outsider!" this nod seemed to say. Thereafter, all cognizance
of her evaporated: the curious little outsider was permitted no
further existence worth the struggle. Nevertheless, she flashed in
the corner of his eye too often. He was aware of her dancing
demurely, and of her viciously flirtatious habit of never looking up
at her partner, but keeping her eyes concealed beneath downcast
lashes; and he had over-sufficient consciousness of her between the
dances, though it was not possible to see her at these times, even if
he had cared to look frankly in her direction--she was invisible in a
thicket of young dresscoats. The black thicket moved as she moved and
her location was hatefully apparent, even if he had not heard her
voice laughing from the thicket. It was annoying how her voice,
though never loud, pursued him. No matter how vociferous were other
voices, all about, he seemed unable to prevent himself from constantly
recognizing hers. It had a quaver in it, not pathetic--rather
humorous than pathetic--a quality which annoyed him to the point of
rage, because it was so difficult to get away from. She seemed to be
having a "wonderful time!"
An unbearable soreness accumulated in his chest: his dislike of the
girl and her conduct increased until he thought of leaving this
sickening Assembly and going home to bed. That would show her! But
just then he heard her laughing, and decided that it wouldn't show
her. So he remained.
When the young couples seated themselves in chairs against the walls,
round three sides of the room, for the cotillion, George joined a
brazen-faced group clustering about the doorway--youths with no
partners, yet eligible to be "called out" and favoured. He marked
that his uncle placed the infernal Kinney and Miss Morgan, as the
leading couple, in the first chairs at the head of the line upon the
leader's right; and this disloyalty on the part of Uncle George was
inexcusable, for in the family circle the nephew had often expressed
his opinion of Fred Kinney. In his bitterness, George uttered a
The music flourished; whereupon Mr. Kinney, Miss Morgan, and six of
their neighbours rose and waltzed knowingly. Mr. Amberson's whistle
blew;' then the eight young people went to the favour-table and were
given toys and trinkets wherewith to delight the new partners it was
now their privilege to select. Around the walls, the seated non-
participants in this ceremony looked rather conscious; some chattered,
endeavouring not to appear expectant; some tried not to look wistful;
and others were frankly solemn. It was a trying moment; and whoever
secured a favour, this very first shot, might consider the portents
happy for a successful evening.
Holding their twinkling gewgaws in their hands, those about to bestow
honour came toward the seated lines, where expressions became
feverish. Two of the approaching girls seemed to wander, not finding
a predetermined object in sight; and these two were Janie Sharon, and
her cousin, Lucy. At this, George Amberson Minafer, conceiving that
he had little to anticipate from either, turned a proud back upon the
room and affected to converse with his friend, Mr. Charlie Johnson.
The next moment a quick little figure intervened between the two. It
was Lucy, gaily offering a silver sleighbell decked with white ribbon.
"I almost couldn't find you!" she cried.
George stared, took her hand, led her forth in silence, danced with
her. She seemed content not to talk; but as the whistle blew,
signalling that this episode was concluded, and he conducted her to
her seat, she lifted the little bell toward him. "You haven't taken
your favour. You're supposed to pin it on your coat," she said.
"Don't you want it?"
"If you insist!" said George stiffly. And he bowed her into her
chair; then turned and walked away, dropping the sleighbell haughtily
into his trousers' pocket.
The figure proceeded to its conclusion, and George was given other
sleighbells, which he easily consented to wear upon his lapel; but, as
the next figure 'began, he strolled with a bored air to the tropical
grove, where sat his elders, and seated himself beside his Uncle
Sydney. His mother leaned across Miss Fanny, raising her voice over
the music to speak to him.
"Georgie, nobody will be able to see you here. You'll not be
favoured. You ought to be where you can dance."
"Don't care to," he returned. "Bore!
"But you ought--" She stopped and laughed, waving her fan to direct
his attention behind him. "Look! Over your shoulder!"
He turned, and discovered Miss Lucy Morgan in the act of offering him
a purple toy balloon.
"I found you!" she laughed.
George was startled. "Well--" he said.
"Would you rather 'sit it out?'" Lucy asked quickly, as he did not
move. "I don't care to dance if you--"
"No," he said, rising. "It would be better to dance." His tone was
solemn, and solemnly he departed with her from the grove. Solemnly he
danced with her.
Four times, with not the slightest encouragement, she brought him a
favour: 'four times in succession. When the fourth came, "Look here!"
said George huskily. "You going to keep this up all' night? What do
you mean by it?"
For an instant she seemed confused. "That's what cotillions are for,
aren't they?" she murmured.
"What do you mean: what they're for?"
"So that a girl can dance with a person she wants to?"
George's huskiness increased. "Well, do you mean you--you want to
dance with me all the time--all evening?"
"Well, this much of it--evidently!" she laughed.
"Is it because you thought I tried to keep you from getting hurt this
afternoon when we upset?"
She shook her head.
"Was it because you want to even things up for making me angry--I
mean, for hurting my feelings on the way home?"
With her eyes averted--for girls of nineteen can be as shy as boys,
sometimes--she said, "Well--you only got angry because I couldn't
dance the cotillion with you. I--I didn't feel terribly hurt with you
for getting angry about that!"
"Was there any other reason? Did my telling you I liked you have
anything to do with it?"
She looked up gently, and, as George met her eyes, something
exquisitely touching, yet queerly delightful, gave him a catch in the
throat. She looked instantly away, and, turning, ran out from the
palm grove, where they stood, to the dancing-floor.
"Come on!" she cried. "Let's dance!"
He followed her.
"See here--I--I--" he stammered. "You mean--Do you--"
"No, no!" she laughed. "Let's dance!"
He put his arm about her almost tremulously, and they began to waltz.
It was a happy dance for both of them.
Christmas day is the children's, but the holidays are youth's dancing-
time. The holidays belong to the early twenties and the 'teens, home
from school and college. These years possess the holidays for a
little while, then possess them only in smiling, wistful memories of
holly and twinkling lights and dance-music, and charming faces all
aglow. It is the liveliest time in life, the happiest of the
irresponsible times in life. Mothers echo its happiness--nothing is
like a mother who has a son home from college, except another mother
with a son home from college. Bloom does actually come upon these
mothers; it is a visible thing; and they run like girls, walk like
athletes, laugh like sycophants. Yet they give up their sons to the
daughters of other mothers, and find it proud rapture enough to be
allowed to sit and watch.
Thus Isabel watched George and Lucy dancing, as together they danced
away the holidays of that year into the past.
"They seem to get along better than they did at first, those two
children," Fanny Minafer said sitting beside her at the Sharons'
dance, a week after the Assembly. "They seemed to be always having
little quarrels of some sort, at first. At least George did: he
seemed to be continually pecking at that lovely, dainty, little Lucy,
and being cross with her over nothing."
"Pecking?" Isabel laughed. "What a word to use about Georgie! I
think I never knew a more angelically amiable disposition in my life!"
Miss Fanny echoed her sister-in-law's laugh, but it was a rueful echo,
and not sweet. "He's amiable to you!" she said. "That's all the side
of him you ever happen to see. And why wouldn't he be amiable to
anybody that simply fell down and worshipped him every minute of her
life? Most of us would!"
"Isn't he worth worshipping? Just look at him! Isn't he charming
with Lucy! See how hard he ran to get it when she dropped her
handkerchief back there."
"Oh, I'm not going to argue with you about George!" said Miss Fanny.
"I'm fond enough of him, for that matter. He can be charming, and
he's certainly stunning looking, if only--"
"Let the 'if only' go, dear," Isabel suggested good-naturedly. "Let's
talk about that dinner you thought I should--"
"I?" Miss Fanny interrupted quickly. "Didn't you want to give it
"Indeed, I did, my dear!" said Isabel heartily. "I only meant that
unless you had proposed it, perhaps I wouldn't--"
But here Eugene came for her to dance, and she left the sentence
uncompleted. Holiday dances can be happy for youth renewed as well as
for youth in bud--and yet it was not with the air of a rival that Miss
Fanny watched her brother's wife dancing with the widower. Miss
Fanny's eyes narrowed a little, but only as if her mind engaged in a
hopeful calculation. She looked pleased.
A few days after George's return to the university it became evident
that not quite everybody had gazed with complete benevolence upon the
various young collegians at their holiday sports. The Sunday edition
of the principal morning paper even expressed some bitterness under
the heading, "Gilded Youths of the Fin-de-Siecle"--this was considered
the knowing phrase of the time, especially for Sunday supplements--and
there is no doubt that from certain references in this bit of writing
some people drew the conclusion that Mr. George Amberson Minafer had
not yet got his comeupance, a postponement still irritating.
Undeniably, Fanny Minafer was one of the people who drew this
conclusion, for she cut the article out and enclosed it in a letter to
her nephew, having written on the border of the clipping, "I wonder
whom it can mean!"
George read part of it.
We debate sometimes what is to be the future of this nation when we
think that in a few years public affairs may be in the hands of the
fin-de-siecle gilded youths we see about us during the Christmas
holidays. Such foppery, such luxury, such insolence, was surely never
practised by the scented, overbearing patricians of the Palatine, even
in Rome's most decadent epoch. In all the wild orgy of wastefulness
and luxury with which the nineteenth century reaches its close, the
gilded youth has been surely the worst symptom. With his airs of
young milord, his fast horses, his gold and silver cigarette-cases,
his clothes from a New York tailor, his recklessness of money showered
upon him by indulgent mothers or doting grandfathers, he respects
nothing and nobody. He is blase if you please. Watch him at a social
function how condescendingly he deigns to select a partner for the
popular waltz or two step how carelessly he shoulders older people out
of his way, with what a blank stare he returns the salutation of some
old acquaintance whom he may choose in his royal whim to forget! The
unpleasant part of all this is that the young women he so
condescendingly selects as partners for the dance greet him with
seeming rapture, though in their hearts they must feel humiliated by
his languid hauteur, and many older people beam upon him almost
fawningly if he unbends so far as to throw them a careless, disdainful
One wonders what has come over the new generation. Of such as these
the Republic was not made. Let us pray that the future of our country
is not in the hands of these fin-de-siecle gilded youths, but rather
in the calloused palms of young men yet unknown, labouring upon the
farms of the land. When we compare the young manhood of Abraham
Lincoln with the specimens we are now producing, we see too well that
it bodes ill for the twentieth century--
George yawned, and tossed the clipping into his waste-basket,
wondering why his aunt thought such dull nonsense worth the sending.
As for her insinuation, pencilled upon the border, he supposed she
meant to joke--a supposition which neither surprised him nor altered
his lifelong opinion of her wit.
He read her letter with more interest:
The dinner your mother gave for the Morgans was a lovely affair. It
was last Monday evening, just ten days after you left. It was
peculiarly appropriate that your mother should give this dinner,
because her brother George, your uncle, was Mr. Morgan's most intimate
friend before he left here a number of years ago, and it was a
pleasant occasion for the formal announcement of some news which you
heard from Lucy Morgan before you returned to college. At least she
told me she had told you the night before you left that her father had
decided to return here to live. It was appropriate that your mother,
herself an old friend, should assemble a representative selection of
Mr. Morgan's old friends around him at such a time. He was in great
spirits and most entertaining. As your time was so charmingly taken
up during your visit home with a younger member of his family, you
probably overlooked opportunities of hearing him talk, and do not know
what an interesting man he can be.
He will soon begin to build his factory here for the manufacture of
automobiles, which he says is a term he prefers to "horseless
carriages." Your Uncle George told me he would like to invest in this
factory, as George thinks there is a future for automobiles; perhaps
not for general use, but as an interesting novelty, which people with
sufficient means would like to own for their amusement and the sake of
variety. However, he said Mr. Morgan laughingly declined his offer,
as Mr. M. was fully able to finance this venture, though not starting
in a very large way. Your uncle said other people are manufacturing
automobiles in different parts of the country with success. Your
father is not very well, though he is not actually ill, and the doctor
tells him he ought not to be so much at his office, as the long years
of application indoors with no exercise are beginning to affect him
unfavourably, but I believe your father would die if he had to give up
his work, which is all that has ever interested him outside of his
family. I never could understand it. Mr. Morgan took your mother and
me with Lucy to see Modjeska in "Twelfth Night" yesterday evening, and
Lucy said she thought the Duke looked rather like you, only much more
democratic in his manner. I suppose you will think I have written a
great deal about the Morgans in this letter, but thought you would be
interested because of your interest in a younger member of his family.
Hoping that you are finding college still as attractive as ever,
George read one sentence in this letter several times. Then he
dropped the missive in his wastebasket to join the clipping, and
strolled down the corridor of his dormitory to borrow a copy of
"Twelfth Night." Having secured one, he returned to his study and
refreshed his memory of the play--but received no enlightenment that
enabled him to comprehend Lucy's strange remark. However, he found
himself impelled in the direction of correspondence, and presently
wrote a letter--not a reply to his Aunt Fanny.
No doubt you will be surprised at hearing from me so soon again,
especially as this makes two in answer to the one received from you
since getting back to the old place. I hear you have been making
comments about me at the theatre, that some actor was more democratic
in his manners than I am, which I do not understand. You know my
theory of life because I explained it to you on our first drive
together, when I told you I would not talk to everybody about things I
feel like the way I spoke to you of my theory of life. I believe
those who are able should have a true theory of life, and I developed
my theory of life long, long ago.
Well, here I sit smoking my faithful briar pipe, indulging in the
fragrance of my tobacco as I look out on the campus from my many-paned
window, and things are different with me from the way they were way
back in Freshman year. I can see now how boyish in many ways I was
then. I believe what has changed me as much as anything was my visit
home at the time I met you. So I sit here with my faithful briar and
dream the old dreams over as it were, dreaming of the waltzes we
waltzed together and of that last night before we parted, and you told
me the good news you were going to live there, and I would find my
friend waiting for me, when I get home next summer.
I will be glad my friend will be waiting for me. I am not capable of
friendship except for the very few, and, looking back over my life, I
remember there were times when I doubted if I could feel a great
friendship for anybody--especially girls. I do not take a great
interest in many people, as you know, for I find most of them shallow.
Here in the old place I do not believe in being hail-fellow-well-met
with every Tom, Dick, and Harry just because he happens to be a
classmate, any more than I do at home, where I have always been
careful who I was seen with, largely on account of the family, but
also because my disposition ever since my boyhood has been to
encourage real intimacy from but the few.
What are you reading now? I have finished both "Henry Esmond" and
"The Virginians." I like Thackeray because he is not trashy, and
because he writes principally of nice people. My theory of literature
is an author who does not indulge in trashiness--writes about people
you could introduce into your own home. I agree with my Uncle Sydney,
as I once heard him say he did not care to read a book or go to a play
about people he would not care to meet at his own dinner table. I
believe we should live by certain standards and ideals, as you know
from my telling you my theory of life.
Well, a letter is no place for deep discussions, so I will not go into
the subject. From several letters from my mother, and one from Aunt
Fanny, I hear you are seeing a good deal of the family since I left.
I hope sometimes you think of the member who is absent. I got a
silver frame for your photograph in New York, and I keep it on my
desk. It is the only girl's photograph I ever took the trouble to
have framed, though, as I told you frankly, I have had any number of
other girls' photographs, yet all were only passing fancies, and
oftentimes I have questioned in years past if I was capable of much
friendship toward the feminine sex, which I usually found shallow
until our own friendship began. When I look at your photograph, I say
to myself, "At last, at last here is one that will not prove shallow."
My faithful briar has gone out. I will have to rise and fill it, then
once more in the fragrance of My Lady Nicotine, I will sit and dream
the old dreams over, and think, too, of the true friend at home
awaiting my return in June for the summer vacation.
Friend, this is from your friend,
George's anticipations were not disappointed. When he came home in
June his friend was awaiting him; at least, she was so pleased to see
him again that for a few minutes after their first encounter she was a
little breathless, and a great deal glowing, and quiet withal. Their
sentimental friendship continued, though sometimes he was irritated by
her making it less sentimental than be did, and sometimes by what he
called her "air of superiority." Her air was usually, in truth, that
of a fond but amused older sister; and George did not believe such an
attitude was warranted by her eight months of seniority.
Lucy and her father were living at the Amberson Hotel, while Morgan
got his small machine-shops built in a western outskirt of the town;
and George grumbled about the shabbiness and the old-fashioned look of
the hotel, though it was "still the best in the place, of course." He
remonstrated with his grandfather, declaring that the whole Amberson
Estate would be getting "run-down and out-at-heel, if things weren't
taken in hand pretty soon." He urged the general need of rebuilding,
renovating, varnishing, and lawsuits. But the Major, declining to
hear him out, interrupted querulously, saying that he had enough to
bother him without any advice from George; and retired to his library,
going so far as to lock the door audibly.
"Second childhood!" George muttered, shaking his head; and he thought
sadly that the Major had not long to live. However, this surmise
depressed him for only a moment or so. Of course, people couldn't be
expected to live forever, and it would be a good thing to have someone
in charge of the Estate who wouldn't let it get to looking so rusty
that riffraff dared to make fun of it. For George had lately
undergone the annoyance of calling upon the Morgans, in the rather
stuffy red velours and gilt parlour of their apartment at the hotel,
one evening when Mr. Frederick Kinney also was a caller, and Mr.
Kinney had not been tactful. In fact, though he adopted a humorous
tone of voice, in expressing his, sympathy for people who, through the
city's poverty in hotels, were obliged to stay at the Amberson, Mr.
Kinney's intention was interpreted by the other visitor as not at all
humorous, but, on the contrary, personal and offensive.
George rose abruptly, his face the colour of wrath. "Good-night, Miss
Morgan. Good-night, Mr. Morgan," he said. "I shall take pleasure in
calling at some other time when a more courteous sort of people may be
"Look here!" the hot-headed Fred burst out. "Don't you try to make me
out a boor, George Minafer! I wasn't hinting anything at you; I
simply forgot all about your grandfather owning this old building.
Don't you try to put me in the light of a boor! I won't--"
But George walked out in the very course of this vehement protest, and
it was necessarily left unfinished.
Mr. Kinney remained only a few moments after George's departure; and
as the door closed upon him, the distressed Lucy turned to her father.
She was plaintively surprised to find him in a condition of immoderate
"I didn't--I didn't think I could hold out!" he gasped, and, after
choking until tears came to his eyes, felt blindly for the chair from
which be had risen to wish Mr. Kinney an indistinct good-night. His
hand found the arm of the chair; he collapsed feebly, and sat uttering
"It brings things back so!" he managed to explain, "This very Fred
Kinney's father and young George's father, Wilbur Minafer, used to do
just such things when they were at that age--and, for that matter, so
did George Amberson and I, and all the rest of us!" And, in spite of
his exhaustion, he began to imitate: "Don't you try to put me in the
light of a boor!" "I shall take pleasure in calling at some time when
a more courteous sort of people--" He was unable to go on.
There is a mirth for every age, and Lucy failed to comprehend her
father's, but tolerated it a little ruefully.
"Papa, I think they were shocking. Weren't they awful!"
"Just--just boys!" he moaned, wiping his eyes. But Lucy could not
smile at all; she was beginning to look indignant. "I can forgive
that poor Fred Kinney," she said. "He's just blundering--but George--
oh, George behaved outrageously!"
"It's a difficult age," her father observed, his calmness somewhat
restored. "Girls don't seem to have to pass through it quite as boys
do, or their savoir faire is instinctive--or something!" And he gave
away to a return of his convulsion.
She came and sat upon the arm of his chair. "Papa, why should George
behave like that?"
"Rather! But why is he? He does anything he likes to, without any
regard for what people think. Then why should he mind so furiously
when the least little thing reflects upon him, or on anything or
anybody connected with him?"
Eugene patted her hand. "That's one of the greatest puzzles of human
vanity, dear; and I don't pretend to know the answer. In all my life,
the most arrogant people that I've known have been the most sensitive.
The, people who have done the most in contempt of other people's
opinion, and who consider themselves the highest above it, have been
the most furious if it went against them. Arrogant and domineering
people can't stand the least, lightest, faintest breath of criticism.
It just kills them."
"Papa, do you think George is arrogant and domineering?"
"Oh, he's still only a boy," said Eugene consolingly. "There's plenty
of fine stuff in him--can't help but be, because he's Isabel
Lucy stroked his hair, which was still almost as dark as her own.
"You liked her pretty well once, I guess, papa."
"I do still," he said quietly.
"She's lovely--lovely! Papa--" she paused, then continued--"I wonder
"I wonder just how she happened to marry Mr. Minafer."
"Oh, Minafer's all right," said Eugene. "He's a quiet sort of man,
but he's a good man and a kind man. He always was, and those things
"But in a way--well, I've heard people say there wasn't anything to
him at all except business and saving money. Miss Fanny Minafer
herself told me that everything George and his mother have of their
own--that is, just to spend as they like--she says it has always come
from Major Amberson."
"Thrift, Horatio!" said Eugene lightly. "Thrift's an inheritance, and
a common enough one here. The people who settled the country had to
save, so making and saving were taught as virtues, and the people, to
the third generation, haven't found out that making and saving are
only means to an end. Minafer doesn't believe in money being spent.
He believes God made it to be invested and saved."
"But George isn't saving. He's reckless, and even if he is arrogant
and conceited and bad-tempered, he's awfully generous."
"Oh, he's an Amberson," said her father. "The Ambersons aren't
saving. They're too much the other way, most of them."
"I don't think I should have called George bad-tempered," Lucy said
thoughtfully. "No. I don't think he is."
"Only when he's cross about something?" Morgan suggested, with a
semblance of sympathetic gravity.
"Yes," she said brightly, not perceiving that his intention was
humorous. "All the rest of the time he's really very amiable. Of
course, he's much more a perfect child, the whole time, than he
realizes! He certainly behaved awfully to-night." She jumped up, her
indignation returning. "He did, indeed, and it won't do to encourage
him in it. I think he'll find me pretty cool--for a week or so!"
Whereupon her father suffered a renewal of his attack of uproarious
In the matter of coolness, George met Lucy upon her own predetermined
ground; in fact, he was there first, and, at their next encounter,
proved loftier and more formal than she did. Their estrangement
lasted three weeks, and then disappeared without any preliminary
treaty: it had worn itself out, and they forgot it.
At times, however, George found other disturbances to the friendship.
Lucy was "too much the village belle," he complained; and took a
satiric attitude toward his competitors, referring to them as her
"local swains and bumpkins," sulking for an afternoon when she
reminded him that he, too, was at least "local." She was a belle with
older people as well; Isabel and Fanny were continually taking her
driving, bringing her home with them to lunch or dinner, and making a
hundred little engagements with her, and the Major had taken a great
fancy to her, insisting upon her presence and her father's at the
Amberson family dinner at the Mansion every Sunday evening. She knew
how to flirt with old people, he said, as she sat next him at the
table on one of these Sunday occasions; and he had always liked her
father, even when Eugene was a "terror" long ago. "Oh, yes, he was!"
the Major laughed, when she remonstrated. "He came up here with my
son George and some others for a serenade one night, and Eugene
stepped into a bass fiddle, and the poor musicians just gave up! I
had a pretty half-hour getting my son George upstairs. I remember! It
was the last time Eugene ever touched a drop--but he'd touched plenty
before that, young lady, and he daren't deny it! Well, well; there's
another thing that's changed: hardly anybody drinks nowadays. Perhaps
it's just as well, but things used to be livelier. That serenade was
just before Isabel was married--and don't you fret, Miss Lucy: your
father remembers it well enough!" The old gentleman burst into
laughter, and shook his finger at Eugene across the table. "The fact
is," the Major went on hilariously, "I believe if Eugene hadn't broken
that bass fiddle and given himself away, Isabel would never have taken
Wilbur! I shouldn't be surprised if that was about all the reason
that Wilbur got her! What do you think. Wilbur?
"I shouldn't be surprised," said Wilbur placidly. "If your notion is
right, I'm glad 'Gene broke the fiddle. He was giving me a hard run!"
The Major always drank three glasses of champagne at his Sunday
dinner, and he was finishing the third. "What do you say about it,
Isabel? By Jove!" he cried, pounding the table. "She's blushing!"
Isabel did blush, but she laughed. "Who wouldn't blush!" she cried,
and her sister-in-law came to her assistance.
"The important thing," said Fanny jovially, "is that Wilbur did get
her, and not only got her, but kept her!"
Eugene was as pink as Isabel, but he laughed without any sign of
embarrassment other than his heightened colour. "There's another
important thing--that is, for me," he said. "It's the only thing that
makes me forgive that bass viol for getting in my way."
"What is it?" the Major asked.
"Lucy," said Morgan gently.
Isabel gave him a quick glance, all warm approval, and there was a
murmur of friendliness round the table.
George was not one of those who joined in this applause. He
considered his grandfather's nonsense indelicate, even for second
childhood, and he thought that the sooner the subject was dropped the
better. However, he had only a slight recurrence of the resentment
which had assailed him during the winter at every sign of his mother's
interest in Morgan; though he was still ashamed of his aunt sometimes,
when it seemed to him that Fanny was almost publicly throwing herself
at the widower's head. Fanny and he had one or two arguments in which
her fierceness again astonished and amused him.
"You drop your criticisms of your relatives," she bade him, hotly, one
day, "and begin thinking a little about your own behaviour! You say
people will 'talk' about my--about my merely being pleasant to an old
friend! What do I care how they talk? I guess if people are talking
about anybody in this family they're talking about the impertinent
little snippet that hasn't any respect for anything, and doesn't even
know enough to attend to his own affairs!"
"Snippet,' Aunt Fanny!" George laughed. "How elegant! And 'little
snippet'--when I'm over five-feet-eleven?"
"I said it!" she snapped, departing. "I don't see how Lucy can stand
"You'd make an amiable stepmother-in-law!" he called after her. "I'll
be careful about proposing to Lucy!"
These were but roughish spots in a summer that glided by evenly and
quickly enough, for the most part, and, at the end, seemed to fly. On
the last night before George went back to be a Junior, his mother
asked him confidently if it had not been a happy summer.
He hadn't thought about it, he answered. "Oh,' I suppose so. Why?"
"I just thought it would be: nice to hear you say so," she said,
smiling. "I mean, it's pleasant for people of my age to know that
people of your age realize that they're happy."
"People of your age!" he repeated. "You know you don't look precisely
like an old woman, mother. Not precisely!"
"No," she said. "And I suppose I feel about as young as you do,
inside, but it won't be many years before I must begin to look old.
It does come!" She sighed, still smiling. "It's seemed to me that,
it must have been a happy summer for you--a real 'summer of roses and
wine'--without the wine, perhaps. 'Gather ye roses while ye may'--or
was it primroses? Time does really fly, or perhaps it's more like the
George was puzzled. "What do you mean: time being like the sky and
"I mean the things that we have and that we think are so solid--
they're like smoke, and time is like the sky that the smoke disappears
into. You know how wreath of smoke goes up from a chimney, and seems
all thick and black and busy against the sky, as if it were going to
do such important things and last forever, and you see it getting
thinner and thinner--and then, in such a little while, it isn't there
at all; nothing is left but the sky, and the sky keeps on being just
the same forever."
"It strikes me you're getting mixed up," said George cheerfully. "I
don't see much resemblance between time and the sky, or between things
and smoke-wreaths; but I do see one reason you like 'Lucy Morgan so
much. She talks that same kind of wistful, moony way sometimes--I
don't mean to say I mind it in either of you, because I rather like to
listen to it, and you've got a very good voice, mother. It's nice to
listen to, no matter how much smoke and sky, and so on, you talk.
So's Lucy's for that matter; and I see why you're congenial. She
talks that way to her father, too; and he's right there with the same
kind of guff. Well, it's all right with me!" He laughed, teasingly,
and allowed her to retain his hand, which she had fondly seized.
"I've got plenty to think about when people drool along!"
She pressed his hand to her cheek, and a tear made a tiny warm streak
across one of his knuckles.
"For heaven's sake!" he said. "What's the matter? Isn't everything
"You're going away!"
"Well, I'm coming back, don't you suppose? Is that all that worries
She cheered up, and smiled again, but shook her head. "I never can
bear to see you go--that's the most of it. I'm a little bothered
about your father, too."
It seems to me he looks so badly. Everybody thinks so."
"What nonsense!" George laughed. "He's been looking that way all
summer. He isn't much different from the way he's looked all his
life, that I can see. What's the matter with him?"
"He never talks much about his business to me but I think he's been
worrying about some investments he made last year. I think his worry
has affected his health."
"What investments?" George demanded. "He hasn't gone into Mr.
Morgan's automobile concern, has he?"
"No," Isabel smiled. "The 'automobile concern' is all Eugene's, and
it's so small I understand it's taken hardly anything. No; your
father has always prided himself on making only the most absolutely
safe investments, but two or three years ago he and your Uncle George
both put a great deal--pretty much everything they could get together,
I think--into the stock of rolling-mills some friends of theirs owned,
and I'm afraid the mills haven't been doing well."
"What of that? Father needn't worry. You and I could take care of
him the rest of his life on what grandfather--"
"Of course," she agreed. "But your father's always lived so for his
business and taken such pride in his sound investments; it's a passion
with him. I--"
"Pshaw! He needn't worry! You tell him we'll look after him: we'll
build him a little stone bank in the backyard, if he busts up, and he
can go and put his pennies in it every morning. That'll keep him just
as happy as he ever was!" He kissed her. "Good-night, I'm going to
tell Lucy good-bye. Don't sit up for me."
She walked to the front gate with him, still holding his hand, and he
told her again not to "sit up" for him.
"Yes, I will," she laughed. "You won't be very late."
"Well--it's my last night."
"But I know Lucy, and she knows I want to see you, too, your last
night. You'll see: she'll send you home promptly at eleven!"
But she was mistaken: Lucy sent him home promptly at ten.
Isabel's uneasiness about her husbands health--sometimes reflected in
her letters to George during the winter that followed--had not been
alleviated when the accredited Senior returned for his next summer
vacation, and she confided to him in his room, soon after his arrival,
that "something" the doctor had said to her lately had made her more
uneasy than ever.
"Still worrying over his rolling-mills investments? George asked, not
"I'm afraid it's past that stage from what Dr Rainey says. His
worries only aggravate his condition now. Dr. Rainey says we ought to
get him away."
"Well, let's do it, then."
"He won't go."
"He's a man awfully set in his ways; that's true," said George. "I
don't think there's anything much the matter with him, though, and he
looks just the same to me. Have you seen Lucy lately? How is she?"
"Hasn't she written you?"
"Oh, about once a month," he answered carelessly. "Never says much
about herself. How's she look?"
"She looks--pretty!" said Isabel. "I suppose she wrote you they've
"Yes; I've got her address. She said they were building."
"They did. It's all finished, and they've been in it a month. Lucy is
so capable; she keeps house exquisitely. It's small, but oh, such a
pretty little house!"
"Well, that's fortunate," George said. "One thing I've always felt
they didn't know a great deal about is architecture."
"Don't they?" asked Isabel, surprised. "Anyhow, their house is
charming. It's way out beyond the end of Amberson Boulevard; it's
quite near that big white house with a gray-green roof somebody built
out there a year or so ago. There are any number of houses going up,
out that way; and the trolley-line runs within a block of them now, on
the next street, and the traction people are laying tracks more than
three miles beyond. I suppose you'll be driving out to see Lucy to-
"I thought--" George hesitated. "I thought perhaps I'd go after dinner
At this his mother laughed, not astonished. "It was only my feeble
joke about 'to-morrow,' Georgie! I was pretty sure you couldn't wait
that long. Did Lucy write you about the factory?"
"No. What factory?"
"The automobile shops. They had rather a dubious time at first, I'm
afraid, and some of Eugene's experiments turned out badly, but this
spring they've finished eight automobiles and sold them all, and
they've got twelve more almost finished, and they're sold already!
Eugene's so gay over it!"
"What do his old sewing-machines look like? Like that first one he
had when they came here?"
"No, indeed! These have rubber tires blown up with air--pneumatic!
And they aren't so high; they're very easy to get into, and the
engine's in front--Eugene thinks that's a great improvement. They're
very interesting to look at; behind the driver's seat there's a sort
of box where four people can sit, with a step and a little door in the
"I know all about it," said George. "I've seen any number like that,
East. You can see all you want of 'em, if you stand on Fifth Avenue
half an hour, any afternoon. I've seen half-a-dozen go by almost at
the same time--within a few minutes, anyhow; and of course electric
hansoms are a common sight there any day. I hired one, myself, the
last time I was there. How fast do Mr. Morgan's machines go?"
"Much too fast! It's very exhilarating--but rather frightening; and
they do make a fearful uproar. He says, though, he thinks he sees a
way to get around the noisiness in time."
"I don't mind the noise," said George. "Give me a horse, for mine,
though, any day. I must get up a race with one of these things:
Pendennis'll leave it one mile behind in a two-mile run. How's
"He looks well, but he complains sometimes of his heart: I suppose
that's natural at his age--and it's an Amberson trouble." Having
mentioned this, she looked anxious instantly. "Did you ever feel any
weakness there, Georgie?"
"No!" he laughed.
"Are you sure, dear?"
"No!" And he laughed again. "Did you?"
"Oh, I think not--at least, the doctor told me he thought my heart was
about all right. He said I needn't be alarmed."
"I should think not! Women do seem to be always talking about health:
I suppose they haven't got enough else to think of!"
"That must be it," she said gayly. "We're an idle lot!"
George had taken off his coat. "I don't like to hint to a lady," he
said, "but I do want to dress before dinner."
"Don't be long; I've got to do a lot of looking at you, dear!" She
kissed him and ran away singing.
But his Aunt Fanny was not so fond; and at the dinner-table there came
a spark of liveliness into her eye when George patronizingly asked her
what was the news in her own "particular line of sport."
"What do you mean, Georgie?" she asked quietly.
"Oh I mean: What's the news in the fast set generally? You been
causing any divorces lately?"
"No," said Fanny, the spark in her eye getting brighter. "I haven't
been causing anything."
"Well, what's the gossip? You usually hear pretty much everything
that goes on around the nooks and crannies in this town, I hear.
What's the last from the gossips' corner, auntie?"
Fanny dropped her eyes, and the spark was concealed, but a movement of
her lower lip betokened a tendency to laugh, as she replied. "There
hasn't been much gossip lately, except the report that Lucy Morgan and
Fred Kinney are engaged--and that's quite old, by this time."
Undeniably, this bit of mischief was entirely successful, for there
was a clatter upon George's plate. "What--what do you think you're
talking about?" he gasped.
Miss Fanny looked up innocently. "About the report of Lucy Morgan's
engagement to Fred Kinney."
George turned dumbly to his mother, and Isabel shook her head
reassuringly. "People are always starting rumours," she said. "I
haven't paid any attention to this one."
"But you--you've heard it?" he stammered.
"Oh, one hears all sorts of nonsense, dear. I haven't the slightest
idea that it's true."
"Then you have heard it!"
"I wouldn't let it take my appetite," his father suggested drily.
"There are plenty of girls in the world!"
George turned pale.
"Eat your dinner, Georgie," his aunt said sweetly. "Food will do you
good. I didn't say I knew this rumour was true. I only said I'd heard
"When? When did you hear it!"
"Oh, months ago!" And Fanny found any further postponement of
"Fanny, you're a hard-hearted creature," Isabel said gently. "You
really are. Don't pay any attention to her, George. Fred Kinney's
only a clerk in his uncle's hardware place: he couldn't marry for
ages--even if anybody would accept him!"
George breathed tumultuously. "I don't care anything about 'ages'!
What's that got to do with it?" he said, his thoughts appearing to be
somewhat disconnected. "Ages,' don't mean anything! I only want to
know--I want to know--I want--" He stopped.
"What do you want?" his father asked crossly.
"Why don't you say it? Don't make such a fuss."
"I'm not--not at all," George declared, pushing his chair back from
"You must finish your dinner, dear," his mother urged. "Don't--"
"I have finished. I've eaten all I want. I don't want any more than
I wanted. I don't want--I--" He rose, still incoherent. "I prefer--
I want--Please excuse me!"
He left the room, and a moment later the screens outside the open
front door were heard to slam:
"Fanny! You shouldn't--"
"Isabel, don't reproach me, he did have plenty of dinner, and I only
told the truth: everybody has been saying--"
"But there isn't any truth in it."
"We don't actually know there isn't," Miss Fanny insisted, giggling.
"We've never asked Lucy."
"I wouldn't ask her anything so absurd!"
"George would," George's father remarked. "That's what he's gone to
Mr. Minafer was not mistaken: that was what his son had gone to do.
Lucy and her father were just rising from their dinner table when the
stirred youth arrived at the front door of the new house. It was a
cottage, however, rather than a house; and Lucy had taken a free hand
with the architect, achieving results in white and green, outside, and
white and blue, inside, to such effect of youth and daintiness that
her father complained of "too much spring-time!" The whole place,
including his own bedroom, was a young damsel's boudoir, he said, so
that nowhere could he smoke a cigar without feeling like a ruffian.
However, he was smoking when George arrived, and he encouraged George
to join him in the pastime, but the caller, whose air was both tense
and preoccupied, declined with something like agitation.
"I never smoke--that is, I'm seldom--I mean, no thanks," he said. "I
mean not at all. I'd rather not."
"Aren't you well, George?" Eugene asked, looking at him in
perplexity. "Have you been overworking at college? You do look rather
"I don't work," said George. "I mean I don't work. I think, but I
don't work. I only work at the end of the term. There isn't much to
Eugene's perplexity was little decreased, and a tinkle of the door-
bell afforded him obvious relief. "It's my foreman," he said, looking
at his watch. "I'll take him out in the yard to talk. This is no
place for a foreman." And he departed, leaving the "living room" to
Lucy and George. It was a pretty room, white panelled and blue
curtained--and no place for a foreman, as Eugene said. There was a
grand piano, and Lucy stood leaning back against it, looking intently
at George, while her fingers, behind her, absently struck a chord or
two. And her dress was the dress for that room, being of blue and
white, too; and the high colour in her cheeks was far from interfering