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The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

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"Well, I'm glad he's out," George said. "Politics is a dirty business
for a gentleman, and Uncle George would tell you that himself. Lucy,
let's not talk any more about it. Let me tell mother when I get home
that we're engaged. Won't you, dear?"

She shook her head.

"Is it because--"

For a fleeting instant she touched to her cheek the hand that held
hers. "No," she said, and gave him a sudden little look of renewed
gayety. "Let's let it stay 'almost'."

"Because your father--"

"Oh, because it's better!"

George's voice shook. "Isn't it your father?"

"It's his ideals I'm thinking of--yes."

George dropped her hand abruptly and anger narrowed his eyes. "I know
what you mean," he said. "I dare say I don't care for your father's
ideals any more than he does for mine!"

He tightened the reins, Pendennis quickening eagerly to the trot; and
when George jumped out of the runabout before Lucy's gate, and
assisted her to descend, the silence in which they parted was the same
that had begun when Fendennis began to trot.

Chapter XVIII

That evening, after dinner, George sat with his mother and his Aunt
Fanny upon the veranda. In former summers, when they sat outdoors in
the evening, they had customarily used an open terrace at the side of
the house, looking toward the Major's, but that more private retreat
now afforded too blank and abrupt a view of the nearest of the new
houses; so, without consultation, they had abandoned it for the
Romanesque stone structure in front, an oppressive place.

Its oppression seemed congenial to George; he sat upon the copestone
of the stone parapet, his back against a stone pilaster; his attitude
not comfortable, but rigid, and his silence not comfortable, either,
but heavy. However, to the eyes of his mother and his aunt, who
occupied wicker chairs at a little distance, he was almost
indistinguishable except for the stiff white shield of his evening

"It's so nice of you always to dress in the evening, Georgie," his
mother said, her glance resting upon this surface. "Your Uncle George
always used to, and so did father, for years; but they both stopped
quite a long time ago. Unless there's some special occasion, it seems
to me we don't see it done any more, except on the stage and in the

He made no response, and Isabel, after waiting a little while, as if
she expected one, appeared to acquiesce in his mood for silence, and
turned her head to gaze thoughtfully out at the street.

There, in the highway, the evening life of the Midland city had begun.
A rising moon was bright upon the tops of the shade trees, where their
branches met overhead, arching across the street, but only filtered
splashings of moonlight reached the block pavement below; and through
this darkness flashed the firefly lights of silent bicycles gliding by
in pairs and trios--or sometimes a dozen at a time might come, and not
so silent, striking their little bells; the riders' voices calling and
laughing; while now and then a pair of invisible experts would pass,
playing mandolin and guitar as if handle-bars were of no account in
the world--their music would come swiftly, and then too swiftly die
away. Surreys rumbled lightly by, with the plod-plod of honest old
horses, and frequently there was the glitter of whizzing spokes from a
runabout or a sporting buggy, and the sharp, decisive hoof-beats of a
trotter. Then, like a cowboy shooting up a peaceful camp, a frantic
devil would hurtle out of the distance, bellowing, exhaust racketing
like a machine gun gone amuck--and at these horrid sounds the surreys
and buggies would hug the curbstone, and the bicycles scatter to
cover, cursing; while children rushed from the sidewalks to drag pet
dogs from the street. The thing would roar by, leaving a long wake of
turbulence; then the indignant street would quiet down for a few
minutes--till another came.

"There are a great many more than there used to be," Miss Fanny
observed, in her lifeless voice, as the lull fell after one of these
visitations. "Eugene is right about that; there seem to be at least
three or four times as many as there were last summer, and you never
hear the ragamuffins shouting 'Get a horse!' nowadays; but I think he
may be mistaken about their going on increasing after this. I don't
believe we'll see so many next summer as we do now."

"Why?" asked Isabel.

"Because I've begun to agree with George about their being more a fad
than anything else, and I think it must be the height of the fad just
now. You know how roller-skating came in--everybody in the world
seemed to be crowding to the rinks--and now only a few children use
rollers for getting to school. Besides, people won't permit the
automobiles to be used. Really, I think they'll make laws against
them. You see how they spoil the bicycling and the driving; people
just seem to hate them! They'll never stand it--never in the world!
Of course I'd be sorry to see such a thing happen to Eugene, but I
shouldn't be really surprised to see a law passed forbidding the sale
of automobiles, just the way there is with concealed weapons."

"Fanny!" exclaimed her sister-in-law. "You're not in earnest?"

"I am, though!"

Isabel's sweet-toned laugh came out of the dusk where she sat. "Then
you didn't mean it when you told Eugene you'd enjoyed the drive this

"I didn't say it so very enthusiastically, did I?"

"Perhaps not, but he certainly thought he'd pleased you."

"I don't think I gave him any right to think he'd pleased me" Fanny
said slowly.

"Why not? Why shouldn't you, Fanny?"

Fanny did not reply at once, and when she did, her voice was almost
inaudible, but much more reproachful than plaintive. "I hardly think
I'd want any one to get the notion he'd pleased me just now. It
hardly seems time, yet--to me."

Isabel made no response, and for a time the only sound upon the dark
veranda was the creaking of the wicker rocking-chair in which Fanny
sat--a creaking which seemed to denote content and placidity on the
part of the chair's occupant, though at this juncture a series of
human shrieks could have been little more eloquent of emotional
disturbance. However, the creaking gave its hearer one great
advantage: it could be ignored.

"Have you given up smoking, George?" Isabel asked presently.


"I hoped perhaps you had, because you've not smoked since dinner. We
shan't mind if you care to."

"No, thanks."

There was silence again, except for the creaking of the rocking-chair;
then a low, clear whistle, singularly musical, was heard softly
rendering an old air from "Fra Diavolo." The creaking stopped.

"Is that you, George?" Fanny asked abruptly.

"Is that me what?"

"Whistling 'On Yonder Rock Reclining'?"

"It's I," said Isabel.

"Oh," Fanny said dryly.

"Does it disturb you?"

"Not at all. I had an idea George was depressed about something, and
merely wondered if he could be making such a cheerful sound." And
Fanny resumed her creaking.

"Is she right, George?" his mother asked quickly, leaning forward in
her chair to peer at him through the dusk. "You didn't eat a very
hearty dinner, but I thought it was probably because of the warm
weather. Are you troubled about anything?"

"No!" he said angrily.

"That's good. I thought we had such a nice day, didn't you?"

"I suppose so," he muttered, and, satisfied, she leaned back in her
chair; but "Fra Diavolo" was not revived. After a time she rose, went
to the steps, and stood for several minutes looking across the street.
Then her laughter was faintly heard.

"Are you laughing about something?" Fanny inquired.

"Pardon?" Isabel did not turn, but continued her observation of what
had interested her upon the opposite side of the street.

"I asked: Were you laughing at something?"

"Yes, I was!" And she laughed again. "It's that funny, fat old Mrs.
Johnson. She has a habit of sitting at her bedroom window with a pair
of opera-glasses."


"Really. You can see the window through the place that was left when
we had the dead walnut tree cut down. She looks up and down the
street, but mostly at father's and over here. Sometimes she forgets
to put out the light in her room, and there she is, spying away for
all the world to see!"

However, Fanny made no effort to observe this spectacle, but continued
her creaking. "I've always thought her a very good woman," she said

"So she is," Isabel agreed. "She's a good, friendly old thing, a
little too intimate in her manner, sometimes, and if her poor old
opera-glasses afford her the quiet happiness of knowing what sort of
young man our new cook is walking out with, I'm the last to begrudge
it to her! Don't you want to come and look at her, George?"

"What? I beg your pardon. I hadn't noticed what you were talking

"It's nothing," she laughed. "Only a funny old lady--and she's gone
now. I'm going, too--at least, I'm going indoors to read. It's
cooler in the house, but the heat's really not bad anywhere, since
nightfall. Summer's dying. How quickly it goes, once it begins to

When she had gone into the house, Fanny stopped rocking, and, leaning
forward, drew her black gauze wrap about her shoulders and shivered.
"Isn't it queer," she said drearily, "how your mother can use such

"What words are you talking about?" George asked.

"Words like 'die' and 'dying.' I don't see how she can bear to use
them so soon after your poor father--" She shivered again.

"It's almost a year," George said absently, and he added: "It seems
to me you're using them yourself."

"I? Never!"

"Yes, you did."


"Just this minute."

"Oh!" said Fanny. "You mean when I repeated what she said? That's
hardly the same thing, George."

He was not enough interested to argue the point. "I don't think
you'll convince anybody that mother's unfeeling," he said

"I'm not trying to convince anybody. I mean merely that in my opinion
--well, perhaps it may be just as wise for me to keep my opinions to

She paused expectantly, but her possible anticipation that George
would urge her to discard wisdom and reveal her opinion was not
fulfilled. His back was toward her, and he occupied himself with
opinions of his own about other matters. Fanny may have felt some
disappointment as she rose to withdraw.

However, at the last moment she halted with her hand upon the latch of
the screen door.

"There's one thing I hope," she said. "I hope at least she won't
leave off her full mourning on the very anniversary of Wilbur's

The light door clanged behind her, and the sound annoyed her nephew.
He had no idea why she thus used inoffensive wood and wire to
dramatize her departure from the veranda, the impression remaining
with him being that she was critical of his mother upon some point of
funeral millinery. Throughout the desultory conversation he had been
profoundly concerned with his own disturbing affairs, and now was
preoccupied with a dialogue taking place (in his mind) between himself
and Miss Lucy Morgan. As he beheld the vision, Lucy had just thrown
herself at his feet. "George, you must forgive me!" she cried. "Papa
was utterly wrong! I have told him so, and the truth is that I have
come to rather dislike him as you do, and as you always have, in your
heart of hearts. George, I understand you: thy people shall be my
people and thy gods my gods. George, won't you take me back?"

"Lucy, are you sure you understand me?" And in the darkness George's
bodily lips moved in unison with those which uttered the words in his
imaginary rendering of this scene. An eavesdropper, concealed behind
the column, could have heard the whispered word "sure," the emphasis
put upon it in the vision was so poignant. "You say you understand
me, but are you sure?"

Weeping, her head bowed almost to her waist, the ethereal Lucy made
reply: "Oh, so sure! I will never listen to father's opinions again.
I do not even care if I never see him again!"

"Then I pardon you," he said gently.

This softened mood lasted for several moments--until he realized that
it had been brought about by processes strikingly lacking in
substance. Abruptly he swung his feet down from the copestone to the
floor of the veranda. "Pardon nothing!" No meek Lucy had thrown
herself in remorse at his feet; and now he pictured her as she
probably really was at this moment: sitting on the white steps of her
own front porch in the moonlight, with red-headed Fred Kinney and
silly Charlie Johnson and four or five others--all of them laughing,
most likely, and some idiot playing the guitar!

George spoke aloud: "Riffraff!"

And because of an impish but all too natural reaction of the mind, he
could see Lucy with much greater distinctness in this vision than in
his former pleasing one. For a moment she was miraculously real
before him, every line and colour of her. He saw the moonlight
shimmering in the chiffon of her skirts brightest on her crossed knee
and the tip of her slipper; saw the blue curve of the characteristic
shadow behind her, as she leaned back against the white step; saw the
watery twinkling of sequins in the gauze wrap over her white shoulders
as she moved, and the faint, symmetrical lights in her black hair--and
not one alluring, exasperating twentieth-of-an-inch of her laughing
profile was spared him as she seemed to turn to the infernal Kinney--

"Riffraff!" And George began furiously to pace the stone floor.
"Riffraff!" By this hard term--a favourite with him since childhood's
scornful hour--he meant to indicate, not Lucy, but the young gentlemen
who, in his vision, surrounded her. "Riffraff!" he said again, aloud,
and again:


At that moment, as it happened, Lucy was playing chess with her
father; and her heart, though not remorseful, was as heavy as George
could have wished. But she did not let Eugene see that she was
troubled, and he was pleased when he won three games of her. Usually
she beat him.

Chapter XIX

George went driving the next afternoon alone, and, encountering Lucy
and her father on the road, in one of Morgan's cars, lifted his hat,
but nowise relaxed his formal countenance as they passed. Eugene
waved a cordial hand quickly returned to the steering-wheel; but Lucy
only nodded gravely and smiled no more than George did. Nor did she
accompany Eugene to the Major's for dinner, the following Sunday
evening, though both were bidden to attend that feast, which was
already reduced in numbers and gayety by the absence of George
Amberson. Eugene explained to his host that Lucy had gone away to
visit a school-friend.

The information, delivered in the library, just before old Sam's
appearance to announce dinner, set Miss Minafer in quite a flutter.
"Why, George!" she said, turning to her nephew. "How does it happen
you didn't tell us?" And with both hands opening, as if to express
her innocence of some conspiracy, she exclaimed to the others, "He's
never said one word to us about Lucy's planning to go away!"

"Probably afraid to," the Major suggested. "Didn't know but he might
break down and cry if he tried to speak of it!" He clapped his
grandson on the shoulder, inquiring jocularly, "That it, Georgie?"

Georgie made no reply, but he was red enough to justify the Major's
developing a chuckle into laughter; though Miss Fanny, observing her
nephew keenly, got an impression that this fiery blush was in truth
more fiery than tender. She caught a glint in his eye less like
confusion than resentment, and saw a dilation of his nostrils which
might have indicated not so much a sweet agitation as an inaudible
snort. Fanny had never been lacking in curiosity, and, since her
brother's death, this quality was more than ever alert. The fact that
George had spent all the evenings of the past week at home had not
been lost upon her, nor had she failed to ascertain, by diplomatic
inquiries, that since the day of the visit to Eugene's shops George
had gone driving alone.

At the dinner-table she continued to observe him, sidelong; and toward
the conclusion of the meal she was not startled by an episode which
brought discomfort to the others. After the arrival of coffee the
Major was rallying Eugene upon some rival automobile shops lately
built in a suburb, and already promising to flourish.

"I suppose they'll either drive you out of the business," said the old
gentleman, "or else the two of you'll drive all the rest of us off the

"If we do, we'll even things up by making the streets five or ten
times as long as they are now," Eugene returned.

"How do you propose to do that?"

"It isn't the distance from the center of a town that counts," said
Eugene; "it's the time it takes to get there. This town's already
spreading; bicycles and trolleys have been doing their share, but the
automobile is going to carry city streets clear out to the county

The Major was skeptical. "Dream on, fair son!" he said. "It's lucky
for us that you're only dreaming; because if people go to moving that
far, real estate values in the old residence part of town are going to
be stretched pretty thin."

"I'm afraid so," Eugene assented. "Unless you keep things so bright
and clean that the old section will stay more attractive than the new

"Not very likely! How are things going to be kept 'bright and clean'
with soft coal, and our kind of city government?"

"They aren't," Eugene replied quickly. "There's no hope of it, and
already the boarding-house is marching up National Avenue. There are
two in the next block below here, and there are a dozen in the half-
mile below that. My relatives, the Sharons, have sold their house and
are building in the country--at least, they call it 'the country.' It
will be city in two or three years."

"Good gracious!" the Major exclaimed, affecting 'dismay. "So your
little shops are going to ruin all your old friends, Eugene!"

"Unless my old friends take warning in time, or abolish smoke and get
a new kind of city government. I should say the best chance is to
take Warning."

"Well, well!" the Major laughed. "You have enough faith in miracles,
Eugene--granting that trolleys and bicycles and automobiles are
miracles. So you think they're to change the face of the land, do

"They're already doing it, Major; and it can't be stopped.

At this point he was interrupted. George was the interrupter. He had
said nothing since entering the dining room, but now he spoke in a
loud and peremptory voice, using the tone of one in authority who
checks idle prattle and settles a matter forever.

"Automobiles are a useless nuisance," he said.

There fell a moment's silence.

Isabel gazed incredulously at George, colour slowly heightening upon
her cheeks and temples, while Fanny watched him with a quick
eagerness, her eyes alert and bright. But Eugene seemed merely
quizzical, as if not taking this brusquerie to himself. The Major was
seriously disturbed.

"What did you say, George?" he asked, though George had spoken but too

"I said all automobiles were a nuisance," George answered, repeating
not only the words but the tone in which he had uttered them. And he
added, "They'll never amount to anything but a nuisance. They had no
business to be invented."

The Major frowned. "Of course you forget that Mr. Morgan makes them,
and also did his share in inventing them. If you weren't so
thoughtless he might think you rather offensive."

"That would be too bad," said George coolly. "I don't think I could
survive it."

Again there was a silence, while the Major stared at his grandson,
aghast. But Eugene began to laugh cheerfully.

"I'm not sure he's wrong about automobiles," he said. "With all their
speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization--that is, in
spiritual civilization. It may be that they will not add to the
beauty of the world, nor to the life of men's souls. I am not sure.
But automobiles have come, and they bring a greater change in our life
than most of us suspect. They are here, and almost all outward things
are going to be different because of what they bring. They are going
to alter war, and they are going to alter peace. I think men's minds
are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles; just
how, though, I could hardly guess. But you can't have the immense
outward changes that they will cause without some inward ones, and it
may be that George is right, and that the spiritual alteration will be
bad for us. Perhaps, ten or twenty years from now, if we can see the
inward change in men by that time, I shouldn't be able to defend the
gasoline engine, but would have to agree with him that automobiles
'had no business to be invented.'" He laughed good-naturedly, and
looking at his watch, apologized for having an engagement which made
his departure necessary when he would so much prefer to linger. Then
he shook hands with the Major, and bade Isabel, George, and Fanny a
cheerful good-night--a collective farewell cordially addressed to all
three of them together--and left them at the table.

Isabel turned wondering, hurt eyes upon her son. "George, dear!" she
said. "What did you mean?"

"Just what I said," he returned, lighting one of the Major's cigars,
and his manner was imperturbable enough to warrant the definition
(sometimes merited by imperturbability) of stubbornness.

Isabel's hand, pale and slender, upon the tablecloth, touched one of
the fine silver candlesticks aimlessly: the fingers were seen to
tremble. "Oh, he was hurt!" she murmured.

"I don't see why he should be," George said. "I didn't say anything
about him. He didn't seem to me to be hurt--seemed perfectly
cheerful. What made you think he was hurt?"

"I know him!" was all of her reply, half whispered.

The Major stared hard at George from under his white eyebrows. "You
didn't mean 'him,' you say, George? I suppose if we had a clergyman
as a guest here you'd expect him not to be offended, and to understand
that your remarks were neither personal nor untactful, if you said the
church was a nuisance and ought never to have been invented. By Jove,
but you're a puzzle!"

"In what way, may I ask, sir?"

"We seem to have a new kind of young people these days," the old
gentleman returned, shaking his head. "It's a new style of courting a
pretty girl, certainly, for a young fellow to go deliberately out of
his way to try and make an enemy of her father by attacking his
business! By Jove! That's a new way to win a woman!"

George flushed angrily and seemed about to offer a retort, but held
his breath for a moment; and then held his peace. It was Isabel who
responded to the Major. "Oh, no!" she said. "Eugene would never be
anybody's enemy--he couldn't!--and last of all Georgie's. I'm afraid
he was hurt, but I don't fear his not having understood that George
spoke without thinking of what he was saying--I mean, with-out
realizing its bearing on Eugene."

Again George seemed upon the point of speech, and again controlled the
impulse. He thrust his hands in his pockets, leaned back in his
chair, and smoked, staring inflexibly at the ceiling.

"Well, well," said his grandfather, rising. "It wasn't a very
successful little dinner!"

Thereupon he offered his arm to his daughter, who took it fondly, and
they left the room, Isabel assuring him that all his little dinners
were pleasant, and that this one was no exception.

George did not move, and Fanny, following the other two, came round
the table, and paused close beside his chair; but George remained
posed in his great imperturbability, cigar between teeth, eyes upon
ceiling, and paid no attention to her. Fanny waited until the sound
of Isabel's and the Major's voices became inaudible in the hall. Then
she said quickly, and in a low voice so eager that it was unsteady:

"George, you've struck just the treatment to adopt: you're doing the
right thing!"

She hurried out, scurrying after the others with a faint rustling of
her black skirts, leaving George mystified but incurious. He did not
understand why she should bestow her approbation upon him in the
matter, and cared so little whether she did or not that he spared
himself even the trouble of being puzzled about it.

In truth, however, he was neither so comfortable nor so imperturbable
as he appeared. He felt some gratification: he had done a little to
put the man in his place--that man whose influence upon his daughter
was precisely the same thing as a contemptuous criticism of George
Amberson Minafer, and of George Amberson Minafer's "ideals of life."
Lucy's going away without a word was intended, he supposed, as a bit
of punishment. Well, he wasn't the sort of man that people were
allowed to punish: he could demonstrate that to them--since they
started it!

It appeared to him as almost a kind of insolence, this abrupt
departure--not even telephoning! Probably she wondered how he would
take it; she even might have supposed he would show some betraying
chagrin when he heard of it.

He had no idea that this was just what he had shown; and he was
satisfied with his evening's performance. Nevertheless, he was not
comfortable in his mind; though he could not have explained his inward
perturbations, for he was convinced, without any confirmation from his
Aunt Fanny, that he had done "just the right thing."

Chapter XX

Isabel came to George's door that night, and when she had kissed him
good-night she remained in the open doorway with her hand upon his
shoulder and her eyes thoughtfully lowered, so that her wish to say
something more than good-night was evident. Not less obvious was her
perplexity about the manner of saying it; and George, divining her
thought, amiably made an opening for her.

"Well, old lady," he said indulgently, "you needn't look so worried.
I won't be tactless with Morgan again. After this I'll just keep out
of his way."

Isabel looked up, searching his face with the fond puzzlement which
her eyes sometimes showed when they rested upon him; then she glanced
down the hall toward Fanny's room, and, after another moment of
hesitation, came quickly in, and closed the door.

"Dear," she said, "I wish you'd tell me something: Why don't you like

"Oh, I like him well enough," George returned, with a short laugh, as
he sat down and began to unlace his shoes. "I like him well enough--
in his place."

"No, dear," she said hurriedly. "I've had a feeling from the very
first that you didn't really like him--that you really never liked
him. Sometimes you've seemed to be friendly with him, and you'd laugh
with him over something in a jolly, companionable way, and I'd think I
was wrong, and that you really did like him, after all; but to-night
I'm sure my other feeling was the right one: you don't like him. I
can't understand it, dear; I don't see what can be the matter."

"Nothing's the matter."

This easy declaration naturally failed to carry great weight, and
Isabel went on, in her troubled voice, "It seems so queer, especially
when you feel as you do about his daughter."

At this, George stopped unlacing his shoes abruptly, and sat up. "How
do I feel about his daughter?" he demanded.

"Well, it's seemed--as if--as if--" Isabel began timidly. "It did
seem--At least, you haven't looked at any other girl, ever since they
came here and--and certainly you've seemed very much interested in
her. Certainly you've been very great friends?"

"Well, what of that?"

"It's only that I'm like your grandfather: I can't see how you could
be so much interested in a girl and--and not feel very pleasantly
toward her father."

"Well, I'll tell you something," George said slowly; and a frown of
concentration could be seen upon his brow, as from a profound effort
at self-examination. "I haven't ever thought much on that particular
point, but I admit there may be a little something in what you say.
The truth is, I don't believe I've ever thought of the two together,
exactly--at least, not until lately. I've always thought of Lucy just
as Lucy, and of Morgan just as Morgan. I've always thought of her as
a person herself, not as anybody's daughter. I don't see what's very
extraordinary about that. You've. probably got plenty of friends, for
instance, that don't care much about your son--"

"No, indeed!" she protested quickly. "And if I knew anybody who felt
like that, I wouldn't--"

"Never mind," he interrupted. "I'll try to explain a little more. If
I have a friend, I don't see that it's incumbent upon me to like that
friend's relatives. If I didn't like them, and pretended to, I'd be a
hypocrite. If that friend likes me and wants to stay my friend 'he'll
have to stand my not liking his relatives, or else he can quit. I
decline to be a hypocrite about it; that's all. Now, suppose I have
certain ideas or ideals which I have chosen for the regulation of my
own conduct in life. Suppose some friend of mine has a relative with
ideals directly the opposite of mine, and my friend believes more in
the relative's ideals than in mine: Do you think I ought to give up
my own just to please a person who's taken up ideals that I really

"No, dear; of course people can't give up their ideals; but I don't
see what this has to do with dear little Lucy and--"

"I didn't say it had anything to do with them," he interrupted. "I
was merely putting a case to show how a person would be justified in
being a friend of one member of a family, and feeling anything but
friendly toward another. I don't say, though, that I feel unfriendly
to Mr. Morgan. I don't say that I feel friendly to him, and I don't
say that I feel unfriendly; but if you really think that I was rude to
him to-night--"

"Just thoughtless, dear. You didn't see that what you said to-night--"

"Well, I'll not say anything of that sort again where he can hear it.
There, isn't that enough?"

This question, delivered with large indulgence, met with no response;
for Isabel, still searching his face with her troubled and perplexed
gaze, seemed not to have heard it. On that account, George repeated
it, and rising, went to her and patted her reassuringly upon the
shoulder. "There, old lady, you needn't fear my tactlessness will
worry you again. I can't quite promise to like people I don't care
about one way or another, but you can be sure I'll be careful, after
this, not to let them see it. It's all right, and you'd better toddle
along to bed, because I want to undress."

"But, George," she said earnestly, "you would like him, if you'd just
let yourself. You say you don't dislike him. Why don't you like him?
I can't understand at all. What is it that you don't--"

"There, there!" he said. "It's all right, and you toddle along."

"But, George, dear--"

"Now, now! I really do want to get into bed. Good-night, old lady."

"Good-night, dear. But--"

"Let's not talk of it any more," he said. "It's all right, and
nothing in the world to worry about. So good-night, old lady. I'll
be polite enough to him, never fear--if we happen to be thrown
together. So good-night!"

"But, George, dear--"

"I'm going to bed, old lady; so good-night."'

Thus the interview closed perforce. She kissed him again before going
slowly to her own room, her perplexity evidently not dispersed; but
the subject was not renewed between them the next day or subsequently.
Nor did Fanny make any allusion to the cryptic approbation she had
bestowed upon her nephew after the Major's "not very successful little
dinner"; though she annoyed George by looking at him oftener and
longer than he cared to be looked at by an aunt. He could not glance
her way, it seemed, without finding her red-rimmed eyes fixed upon him
eagerly, with an alert and hopeful calculation in them which he
declared would send a nervous man, into fits. For thus, one day, he
broke out, in protest:

"It would!" he repeated vehemently. "Given time it would--straight
into fits! What do you find the matter with me? Is my tie always
slipping up behind? Can't you look at something else? My Lord! We'd
better buy a cat for you to stare at, Aunt Fanny! A cat could stand
it, maybe. What in the name of goodness do you expect to see?"

But Fanny laughed good-naturedly, and was not offended. "It's more as
if I expected you to see something, isn't it?" she said quietly, still

"Now, what do you mean by that?"

"Never mind!"

"All right, I don't. But for heaven's sake stare at somebody else
awhile. Try it on the house-maid!"

"Well, well," Fanny said indulgently, and then chose to be more
obscure in her meaning than ever, for she adopted a tone of deep
sympathy for her final remark, as she left him: "I don't wonder
you're nervous these days, poor boy!"

And George indignantly supposed that she referred to the ordeal of
Lucy's continued absence. During this period he successfully avoided
contact with Lucy's father, though Eugene came frequently to the
house, and spent several evenings with Isabel and Fanny; and sometimes
persuaded them and the Major to go for an afternoon's motoring. He
did not, however, come again to the Major's Sunday evening dinner,
even when George Amberson returned. Sunday evening was the time, he
explained, for going over the week's work with his factory managers.

When Lucy came home the autumn was far enough advanced to smell of
burning leaves, and for the annual editorials, in the papers, on the
purple haze, the golden branches, the ruddy fruit, and the pleasure of
long tramps in the brown forest. George had not heard of her arrival,
and he met her, on the afternoon following that event, at the
Sharons', where he had gone in the secret hope that he might hear
something about her. Janie Sharon had just begun to tell him that
she heard Lucy was expected home soon, after having "a perfectly
gorgeous time"--information which George received with no responsive
enthusiasm--when Lucy came demurely in, a proper little autumn figure
in green and brown.

Her cheeks were flushed, and her dark eyes were bright indeed;
evidences, as George supposed, of the excitement incidental to the
perfectly gorgeous time just concluded; though Janie and Mary Sharon
both thought they were the effect of Lucy's having seen George's
runabout in front of the house as she came in. George took on colour,
himself, as, he rose and nodded indifferently; and the hot suffusion
to which he became subject extended its area to include his neck and
ears. Nothing could have made him much more indignant than his
consciousness of these symptoms of the icy indifference which it was
his purpose not only to show but to feel.

She kissed her cousins, gave George her hand, said "How d'you do," and
took a chair beside Janie with a composure which augmented George's

"How d'you do," he said. "I trust that ah--I trust--I do trust--"

He stopped, for it seemed to him that the word "trust" sounded
idiotic. Then, to cover his awkwardness, he coughed, and even to his
own rosy ears his cough was ostentatiously a false one. Whereupon,
seeking to be plausible, he coughed again, and instantly hated
himself: the sound he made was an atrocity. Meanwhile, Lucy sat
silent, and the two Sharon girls leaned forward, staring at him with
strained eyes, their lips tightly compressed; and both were but too
easily diagnosed as subject to an agitation which threatened their
self-control. He began again.

"I er--I hope you have had a--a pleasant time. I er--I hope you are
well. I hope you are extremely--I hope extremely--extremely--" And
again he stopped in the midst of his floundering, not knowing how to
progress beyond "extremely," and unable to understand why the infernal
word kept getting into his mouth.

"I beg your pardon?" Lucy said.

George was never more furious; he felt that he was "making a spectacle
of himself"; and no young gentleman in the world was more loath than
George Amberson Minafer to look a figure of fun. And while he stood
there, undeniably such a figure, with Janie and Mary Sharon
threatening to burst at any moment, if laughter were longer denied
them. Lucy sat looking at him with her eyebrows delicately lifted in
casual, polite inquiry. Her own complete composure was what most
galled him.

"Nothing of the slightest importance!" he managed to say. "I was just
leaving. Good afternoon!" And with long strides he reached the door
and hastened through the hall; but before he closed the front door he
heard from Janie and Mary Sharon the outburst of wild, irrepressible
emotion which his performance had inspired.

He drove home in a tumultuous mood, and almost ran down two ladies who
were engaged in absorbing conversation at a crossing. They were his
Aunt Fanny and the stout Mrs. Johnson; a jerk of the reins at the last
instant saved them by a few inches; but their conversation was so
interesting that they were unaware of their danger, and did not notice
the runabout, nor how close it came to them. George was so furious
with himself and with the girl whose unexpected coming into a room
could make him look such a fool, that it might have soothed him a
little if he had actually run over the two absorbed ladies without
injuring them beyond repair. At least, he said to himself that he
wished he had; it might have taken his mind off of himself for a few
minutes. For, in truth, to be ridiculous (and know it) was one of
several things that George was unable to endure. He was savage.

He drove into the Major's stable too fast, the sagacious Pendennis
saving himself from going through a partition by a swerve which
splintered a shaft of the runabout and almost threw the driver to the
floor. George swore, and then swore again at the fat old darkey, Tom,
for giggling at his swearing.

"Hoopee!" said old Tom. "Mus' been some white lady use Mist' Jawge
mighty bad! White lady say, 'No, suh, I ain' go'n out ridin' 'ith
Mist' Jawge no mo'!' Mist' Jawge drive in. 'Dam de dam worl'! Dam
de dam hoss! Dam de dam nigga'! Dam de dam dam!' Hoopee!"

"That'll do!" George said sternly.


George strode from the stable, crossed the Major's back yard, then
passed behind the new houses, on his way home. These structures were
now approaching completion, but still in a state of rawness hideous to
George--though, for that matter, they were never to be anything except
hideous to him. Behind them, stray planks, bricks, refuse of plaster
and lath, shingles, straw, empty barrels, strips of twisted tin and
broken tiles were strewn everywhere over the dried and pitted gray mud
where once the suave lawn had lain like a green lake around those
stately islands, the two Amberson houses. And George's state of mind
was not improved by his present view of this repulsive area, nor by
his sensations when he kicked an uptilted shingle only to discover
that what uptilted it was a brickbat on the other side of it. After
that, the whole world seemed to be one solid conspiracy of

In this temper he emerged from behind the house nearest to his own,
and, glancing toward the street, saw his mother standing with Eugene
Morgan upon the cement path that led to the front gate. She was
bareheaded, and Eugene held his hat and stick in his hand; evidently
he had been calling upon her, and she had come from the house with
him, continuing their conversation and delaying their parting.

They had paused in their slow walk from the front door to the gate,
yet still stood side by side, their shoulders almost touching, as
though neither Isabel nor Eugene quite realized that their feet had
ceased to bear them forward; and they were not looking at each other,
but at some indefinite point before them, as people do who consider
together thoughtfully and in harmony. The conversation was evidently
serious; his head was bent, and Isabel's lifted left hand rested
against her cheek; but all the significances of their thoughtful
attitude denoted companionableness and a shared understanding. Yet, a
stranger, passing, would not have thought them married: somewhere
about Eugene, not quite to be located, there was a romantic gravity;
and Isabel, tall and graceful, with high colour and absorbed eyes, was
visibly no wife walking down to the gate with her husband.

George stared at them. A hot dislike struck him at the sight of
Eugene; and a vague revulsion, like a strange, unpleasant taste in his
mouth, came over him as he looked at his mother: her manner was
eloquent of so much thought about her companion and of such reliance
upon him. And the picture the two thus made was a vivid one indeed,
to George, whose angry eyes, for some reason, fixed themselves most
intently upon Isabel's lifted hand, upon the white ruffle at her
wrist, bordering the graceful black sleeve, and upon the little
indentations in her cheek where the tips of her fingers rested. She
should not have worn white at her wrist, or at the throat either,
George felt; and then, strangely, his resentment concentrated upon
those tiny indentations at the tips of her fingers--actual changes,
however slight and fleeting, in his mother's face, made because of Mr.
Eugene Morgan. For the moment, it seemed to George that Morgan might
have claimed the ownership of a face that changed for him. . It was as
if he owned Isabel.

The two began to walk on toward the gate, where they stopped again,
turning to face each other, and Isabel's glance, passing Eugene, fell
upon George. Instantly she smiled and waved her hand to him; while
Eugene turned and nodded; but George, standing as in some rigid
trance, and staring straight at them, gave these signals of greeting
no sign of recognition whatever. Upon this, Isabel called to him,
waving her hand again.

"Georgie!" she called, laughing. "Wake up, dear! Georgie, hello!"

George turned away as if he had neither seen nor heard, and stalked
into the house by the side door.

Chapter XXI

He went to his room, threw off his coat, waistcoat, collar, and tie,
letting them lie where they chanced to fall, and then, having
violently enveloped himself in a black velvet dressing-gown, continued
this action by lying down with a vehemence that brought a wheeze of
protest from his bed. His repose was only a momentary semblance,
however, for it lasted no longer than the time it took him to groan
"Riffraff!" between his teeth. Then he sat up, swung his feet to the
floor, rose, and began to pace up and down the large room.

He had just been consciously rude to his mother for the first time in
his life; for, with all his riding down of populace and riffraff, he
had never before been either deliberately or impulsively disregardful
of her. When he had hurt her it had been accidental; and his remorse
for such an accident was always adequate compensation--and more--to
Isabel. But now he had done a rough thing to her; and he did not
repent; rather he was the more irritated with her. And when he heard
her presently go by his door with a light step, singing cheerfully to
herself as she went to her room, he perceived that she had mistaken
his intention altogether, or, indeed, had failed to perceive that he
had any intention at all. Evidently she had concluded that he refused
to speak to her and Morgan out of sheer absent-mindedness, supposing
him so immersed in some preoccupation that he had not seen them or
heard her calling to him. Therefore there was nothing of which to
repent, even if he had been so minded; and probably Eugene himself was
unaware that any disapproval had recently been expressed. George
snorted. What sort of a dreamy loon did they take him to be?

There came a delicate, eager tapping at his door, not done with a
knuckle but with the tip of a fingernail, which was instantly
clarified to George's mind's eye as plainly as if he saw it: the long
and polished white-mooned pink shield on the end of his Aunt Fanny's
right forefinger. But George was in no mood for human communications,
and even when things went well he had little pleasure in Fanny's
society. Therefore it is not surprising that at the sound of her
tapping, instead of bidding her enter, he immediately crossed the room
with the intention of locking the door to keep her out.

Fanny was too eager, and, opening the door before he reached it, came
quickly in, and closed it behind her. She was in a street dress and a
black hat, with a black umbrella in her black-gloved hand--for Fanny's
heavy mourning, at least, was nowhere tempered with a glimpse of
white, though the anniversary of Wilbur's death had passed. An
infinitesimal perspiration gleamed upon her pale skin; she breathed
fast, as if she had run up the stairs; and excitement was sharp in her
widened eyes. Her look was that of a person who had just seen
something extraordinary or heard thrilling news.

"Now, what on earth do you want?" her chilling nephew demanded.

"George," she said hurriedly, "I saw what you did when you wouldn't
speak to them. I was sitting with Mrs. Johnson at her front window,
across the street, and I saw it all."

"Well, what of it?"

"You did right!" Fanny said with a vehemence not the less spirited
because she suppressed her voice almost to a whisper. "You did
exactly right! You're behaving splendidly about the whole thing, and
I want to tell you I know your father would thank you if he could see
what you're doing."

"My Lord!" George broke out at her. "You make me dizzy! For
heaven's sake quit the mysterious detective business--at least do quit
it around me! Go and try it on somebody else, if you like; but I
don't want to hear it!"

She began to tremble, regarding him with a fixed gaze. "You don't
care to hear then," she said huskily, "that I approve of what you're

"Certainly not! Since I haven't the faintest idea what you think I'm
'doing,' naturally I don't care whether you approve of it or not. All
I'd like, if you please, is to be alone. I'm not giving a tea here,
this afternoon, if you'll permit me to mention it!"

Fanny's gaze wavered; she began to blink; then suddenly she sank into
a chair and wept silently, but with a terrible desolation.

"Oh, for the Lord's sake!" he moaned. "What in the world is wrong
with you?"

"You're always picking on me," she quavered wretchedly, her voice
indistinct with the wetness that bubbled into it from her tears. "You
do--you always pick on me! You've always done it--always--ever since
you were a little boy! Whenever anything goes wrong with you, you
take it out on me! You do! You always--"

George flung to heaven a gesture of despair; it seemed to him the last
straw that Fanny should have chosen this particular time to come and
sob in his room over his mistreatment of her!

"Oh, my Lord!" he whispered; then, with a great effort, addressed her
in a reasonable tone: "Look here, Aunt Fanny; I don't see what you're
making all this fuss about. Of course I know I've teased you
sometimes, but--"

"Teased' me?" she wailed. "Teased' me! Oh, it does seem too hard,
sometimes--this mean old life of mine does seem too hard! I don't
think I can stand it! Honestly, I don't think I can! I came in here
just to show you I sympathized with you--just to say something
pleasant to you, and you treat me as if I were--oh, no, you wouldn't
treat a servant the way you treat me! You wouldn't treat anybody in
the world like this except old Fanny! 'Old Fanny' you say. 'It's
nobody but old Fanny, so I'll kick her--nobody will resent it. I'll
kick her all I want to!' You do! That's how you think of me-I know
it! And you're right: I haven't got anything in the world, since my
brother died--nobody--nothing--nothing!"

"Oh my Lord!" George groaned.

Fanny spread out her small, soaked handkerchief, and shook it in the
air to dry it a little, crying as damply and as wretchedly during this
operation' as before--a sight which gave George a curious shock to add
to his other agitations, it seemed so strange. "I ought not to have
come," she went on, "because I might have known it would only give you
an excuse to pick on me again! I'm sorry enough I came, I can tell
you! I didn't mean to speak of it again to you, at all; and I wouldn't
have, but I saw how you treated them, and I guess I got excited about
it, and couldn't help following the impulse--but I'll know better next
time, I can tell you! I'll keep my mouth shut as I meant to, and as I
would have, if I hadn't got excited and if I hadn't felt sorry for
you. But what does it matter to anybody if I'm sorry for them? I'm
only old Fanny!"

"Oh, good gracious! How can it matter to me who's sorry for me when I
don't know what they're sorry about!"

"You're so proud," she quavered, "and so hard! I tell you I didn't
mean to speak of it to you, and I never, never in the world would have
told you about it, nor have made the faintest reference to it, if I
hadn't seen that somebody else had told you, or you'd found out for
yourself some way. I--"

In despair of her intelligence, and in some doubt of his own, George
struck the palms of his hands together. "Somebody else had told me
what? I'd found what out for myself?"

"How people are talking about your mother."

Except for the incidental teariness of her voice, her tone was casual,
as though she mentioned a subject previously discussed and understood;
for Fanny had no doubt that George had only pretended to be mystified
because, in his pride, he would not in words admit that he knew what
he knew.

"What did you say?" he asked incredulously.

"Of course I understood what you were doing," Fanny went on, drying
her handkerchief again. "It puzzled other people when you began to be
rude to Eugene, because they couldn't see how you could treat him as
you did when you were so interested in Lucy. But I remembered how you
came to me, that other time when there was so much talk about Isabel;
and I knew you'd give Lucy up in a minute, if it came to a question of
your mother's reputation, because you said then that--"

"Look here," George interrupted in a shaking voice. "Look here, I'd
like--" He stopped, unable to go on, his agitation was so great. His
chest heaved as from hard running, and his complexion, pallid at
first, had become mottled; fiery splotches appearing at his temples
and cheeks. "What do you mean by telling me--telling me there's talk
about--about--" He gulped, and began again: "What do you mean by
using such words as 'reputation'? What do you mean, speaking of a
'question' of my--my mother's reputation?"

Fanny looked up at him woefully over the handkerchief which she now
applied to her reddened nose. "God knows I'm sorry for you, George,"
she murmured. "I wanted to say so, but it's only old Fanny, so
whatever she says--even when it's sympathy--pick on her for it!
Hammer her!" She sobbed. "Hammer her! It's only poor old lonely

"You look here!" George said harshly. "When I spoke to my Uncle
George after that rotten thing I heard Aunt Amelia say about my
mother, he said if there was any gossip it was about you! He said
people might be laughing about the way you ran after Morgan, but that
was all."

Fanny lifted her hands, clenched them, and struck them upon her knees.
"Yes; it's always Fanny!" she sobbed. "Ridiculous old Fanny--always,

"You listen!" George said. "After I'd talked to Uncle George I saw
you; and you said I had a mean little mind for thinking there might be
truth in what Aunt Amelia said about people talking. You denied it.
And that wasn't the only time; you'd attacked me before then, because
I intimated that Morgan might be coming here too often. You made me
believe that mother let him come entirely on your account, and now you

"I think he did," Fanny interrupted desolately. "I think he did come
as much to see me as anything--for a while it looked like it. Anyhow,
he liked to dance with me. He danced with me as much as he danced
with her, and he acted as if he came on my account at least as much as
he did on hers. He did act a good deal that way--and if Wilbur hadn't

"You told me there wasn't any talk."

"I didn't think there was much, then," Fanny protested. "I didn't
know how much there was."


"People don't come and tell such things to a person's family, you
know. You don't suppose anybody was going to say to George Amberson
that his sister was getting herself talked about, do you? Or that
they were going to say much to me?"

"You told me," said George, fiercely, "that mother never saw him
except when she was chaperoning you."

"They weren't much alone together, then," Fanny returned. "Hardly
ever, before Wilbur died. But you don't suppose that stops people
from talking, do you? Your father never went anywhere, and people saw
Eugene with her everywhere she went--and though I was with them people
just thought"--she choked--"they just thought I didn't count! 'Only
old Fanny Minafer,' I suppose they'd say! Besides, everybody knew
that he'd been engaged to her--"

"What's that?" George cried.

"Everybody knows it. Don't you remember your grandfather speaking of
it at the Sunday dinner one night?"

"He didn't say they were engaged or--"

"Well, they were! Everybody knows it; and she broke it off on account
of that serenade when Eugene didn't know what he was doing. He drank
when he was a young man, and she wouldn't stand it, but everybody in
this town knows that Isabel has never really cared for any other man
in her life! Poor Wilbur! He was the only soul alive that didn't
know it!"

Nightmare had descended upon the unfortunate George; he leaned back
against the foot-board of his bed, gazing wildly at his aunt. "I
believe I'm going crazy," he said. "You mean when you told me there
wasn't any talk, you told me a falsehood?"

"No!" Fanny gasped.

"You did!"

"I tell you I didn't know how much talk there was, and it wouldn't
have amounted to much if Wilbur had lived." And Fanny completed this
with a fatal admission: "I didn't want you to interfere."

George overlooked the admission; his mind was not now occupied with
analysis. "What do you mean," he asked, "when you say that if father
had lived, the talk wouldn't have amounted to anything?"

"Things might have been--they might have been different."

"You mean Morgan might have married you?"

Fanny gulped. "No. Because I don't know that I'd have accepted him."
She had ceased to weep, and now she sat up stiffly. "I certainly
didn't care enough about him to marry him; I wouldn't have let myself
care that much until he showed that he wished to marry me. I'm not
that sort of person!" The poor lady paid her vanity this piteous
little tribute. "What I mean is, if Wilbur hadn't died, people
wouldn't have had it proved before their very eyes that what they'd
been talking about was true!"

"You say--you say that people believe--" George shuddered, then
forced himself to continue, in a sick voice: "They believe my mother
is--is in love with that man?"

"Of course!"

"And because he comes here--and they see her with him driving--and all
that--they think they were right when they said she was in--in love
with him before--before my father died?"

She looked at him gravely with her eyes now dry between their reddened
lids. "Why, George," she said, gently, "don't you know that's what
they say? You must know that everybody in town thinks they're going
to be married very soon."

George uttered an incoherent cry; and sections of him appeared to
writhe. He was upon the verge of actual nausea.

"You know it!" Fanny cried, getting up. "You don't think I'd have
spoken of it to you unless I was sure you knew it?" Her voice was
wholly genuine, as it had been throughout the wretched interview:
Fanny's sincerity was unquestionable. "George, I wouldn't have told
you, if you didn't know. What other reason could you have for
treating Eugene as you did, or for refusing to speak to them like that
a while ago in the yard? Somebody must have told you?"

"Who told you?" he said.


"Who told you there was talk? Where is this talk? Where does it come
from? Who does it?"

"Why, I suppose pretty much everybody," she said. "I know it must be
pretty general."

"Who said so?"


George stepped close to her. "You say people don't speak to a person
of gossip about that person's family. Well, how did you hear it,
then? How did you get hold of it? Answer me!"

Fanny looked thoughtful. "Well, of course nobody not one's most
intimate friends would speak to them about such things, and then only
in the kindest, most considerate way."

"Who's spoken of it to you in any way at all?" George demanded.

"Why--" Fanny hesitated.

"You answer me!"

"I hardly think it would be fair to give names."

"Look here," said George. "One of your most intimate friends is that
mother of Charlie Johnson's, for instance. Has she ever mentioned
this to you? You say everybody is talking. Is she one?"

"Oh, she may have intimated--"

"I'm asking you: Has she ever spoken of it to you?"

"She's a very kind, discreet woman, George; but she may have

George had a sudden intuition, as there flickered into his mind the
picture of a street-crossing and two absorbed ladies almost run down
by a fast horse. "You and she have been talking about it to-day!" he
cried. "You were talking about it with her not two hours ago. Do you
deny it?"


"Do you deny it?"


"All right," said George. "That's enough!"

She caught at his arm as he turned away. "What are you going to do,

"I'll not talk about it, now," he said heavily. "I think you've done
a good deal for one day, Aunt Fanny!"

And Fanny, seeing the passion in his face, began to be alarmed. She
tried to retain possession of the black velvet sleeve which her
fingers had clutched, and he suffered her to do so, but used this
leverage to urge her to the door. "George, you know I'm sorry for
you, whether you care or not," she whimpered. "I never in the world
would have spoken of it, if I hadn't thought you knew all about it. I
wouldn't have--"

But he had opened the door with his free hand. "Never mind!" he said,
and she was obliged to pass out into the hall, the door closing
quickly behind her.

Chapter XXII

George took off his dressing-gown and put on a collar and a tie, his
fingers shaking so that the tie was not his usual success; then he
picked up his coat and waistcoat, and left the room while still in
process of donning them, fastening the buttons, as he ran down the
front stairs to the door. It was not until he reached the middle of
the street that he realized that he had forgotten his hat; and he
paused for an irresolute moment, during which his eye wandered, for no
reason, to the Fountain of Neptune. This castiron replica of too
elaborate sculpture stood at the next corner, where the Major had
placed it when the Addition was laid out so long ago. The street
corners had been shaped to conform with the great octagonal basin,
which was no great inconvenience for horse-drawn vehicles, but a
nuisance to speeding automobiles; and, even as George looked, one of
the latter, coming too fast, saved itself only by a dangerous skid as
it rounded the fountain. This skid was to George's liking, though he
would have been more pleased to see the car go over, for he was
wishing grief and destruction, just then, upon all the automobiles in
the world.

His eyes rested a second or two longer upon the Fountain of Neptune,
not an enlivening sight even in the shielding haze of autumn twilight.
For more than a year no water had run in the fountain: the connections
had been broken, and the Major was evasive about restorations, even
when reminded by his grandson that a dry fountain is as gay as a dry
fish. Soot streaks and a thousand pits gave Neptune the distinction,
at least, of leprosy, which the mermaids associated with him had been
consistent in catching; and his trident had been so deeply affected as
to drop its prongs. Altogether, this heavy work of heavy art, smoked
dry, hugely scabbed, cracked, and crumbling, was a dismal sight to the
distracted eye of George Amberson Minafer, and its present condition
of craziness may have added a mite to his own. His own was
sufficient, with no additions, however, as he stood looking at the
Johnsons' house and those houses on both sides of it--that row of
riffraff dwellings he had thought so damnable, the day when he stood
in his grandfather's yard, staring at them, after hearing what his
Aunt Amelia said of the "talk" about his mother.

He decided that he needed no hat for the sort of call he intended to
make, and went forward hurriedly. Mrs. Johnson was at home, the Irish
girl who came to the door informed him, and he was left to await the
lady, in a room like an elegant well--the Johnsons' "reception room":
floor space, nothing to mention; walls, blue calcimined; ceiling,
twelve feet from the floor; inside shutters and gray lace curtains;
five gilt chairs, a brocaded sofa, soiled, and an inlaid walnut table,
supporting two tall alabaster vases; a palm, with two leaves, dying in
a corner.

Mrs. Johnson came in, breathing noticeably; and her round head,
smoothly but economically decorated with the hair of an honest woman,
seemed to be lingering far in the background of the Alpine bosom which
took precedence of the rest of her everywhere; but when she was all in
the room, it was to be seen that her breathing was the result of
hospitable haste to greet the visitor, and her hand, not so dry as
Neptune's Fountain, suggested that she had paused for only the
briefest ablutions. George accepted this cold, damp lump

"Mr. Amberson--I mean Mr. Minafer!" she exclaimed. "I'm really
delighted: I understood you asked for me. Mr. Johnson's out of the
city, but Charlie's downtown and I'm looking for him at any minute,
now, and he'll be so pleased that you--"

"I didn't want to see Charlie," George said. "I want"

"Do sit down," the hospitable lady urged him, seating herself upon the
sofa. "Do sit down."

"No, I thank you. I wish--"

"Surely you're not going to run away again, when you've just come. Do
sit down, Mr. Minafer. I hope you're all well at your house and at
the dear old Major's, too. He's looking--"

"Mrs. Johnson" George said, in a strained loud voice which arrested
her attention immediately, so that she was abruptly silent, leaving
her surprised mouth open. She had already been concealing some
astonishment at this unexampled visit, however, and the condition of
George's ordinarily smooth hair (for he had overlooked more than his
hat) had not alleviated her perplexity. "Mrs. Johnson," he said, "I
have come to ask you a few questions which I would like you to answer,
if you please."

She became grave at once. "Certainly, Mr. Minafer. Anything I can--"

He interrupted sternly, yet his voice shook in spite of its sternness.
"You were talking with my Aunt Fanny about my mother this afternoon."

At this Mrs. Johnson uttered an involuntary gasp, but she recovered
herself. "Then I'm sure our conversation was a very pleasant one, if
we were talking of your mother, because--"

Again he interrupted. "My aunt has told me what the conversation
virtually was, and I don't mean to waste any time, Mrs. Johnson. You
were talking about a--" George's shoulders suddenly heaved
uncontrollably; but he went fiercely on: "You were discussing a
scandal that involved my mother's name."

"Mr. Minafer!"

"Isn't that the truth?"

"I don't feel called upon to answer, Mr. Minafer," she said with
visible agitation. "I do not consider that you have any right--"

"My aunt told me you repeated this scandal to her."

"I don't think your aunt can have said that," Mrs. Johnson returned
sharply. "I did not repeat a scandal of any kind to your aunt and I
think you are mistaken in saying she told you I did. We may, have
discussed some matters that have been a topic of comment about town--"

"Yes!" George cried. "I think you may have! That's what I'm here
about, and what I intend to--"

"Don't tell me what you intend, please," Mrs. Johnson interrupted
crisply. "And I should prefer that you would not make your voice
quite so loud in this house, which I happen to own. Your aunt may
have told you--though I think it would have been very unwise in her if
she did, and not very considerate of me--she may have told you that we
discussed some such topic as I have mentioned, and possibly that would
have been true. If I talked it over with her, you may be sure I spoke
in the most charitable spirit, and without sharing in other peopie's
disposition to put an evil interpretation on what may, be nothing more
than unfortunate appearances and--"

"My God!" said George. "I can't stand this!"

"You have the option of dropping the subject," Mrs. Johnson suggested
tartly, and she added: "Or of leaving the house."

"I'll do that soon enough, but first I mean to know--"

"I am perfectly willing to tell you anything you wish if you will
remember to ask it quietly. I'll also take the liberty of reminding
you that I had a perfect right to discuss the subject with your aunt.
Other people may be less considerate in not confining their discussion
of it, as I have, to charitable views expressed only to a member of
the family. Other people--"

"Other people!" the unhappy George repeated viciously. "That's what I
want to know about--these other people!"

"I beg your pardon."

"I want to ask you about them. You say you know of other people who
talk about this."

"I presume they do."

"How many?"


"I want to know how many other people talk about it?"

"Dear, dear!" she protested. "How should I know that?"

"Haven't you heard anybody mention it?"

"I presume so."

"Well, how many have you heard?"

Mrs. Johnson was becoming more annoyed than apprehensive, and she
showed it. "Really, this isn't a court-room," she said. "And I'm not
a defendant in a libel-suit, either!"

The unfortunate young man lost what remained of his balance. "You may
be!" he cried. "I intend to know just who's dared to say these
things, if I have to force my way into every house in town, and I'm
going to make them take every word of it back! I mean to know the
name of every slanderer that's spoken of this matter to you and of
every tattler you've passed it on to yourself. I mean to know--"

"You'll know something pretty quick!" she said, rising with
difficulty; and her voice was thick with the sense of insult. "You'll
know that you're out in the street. Please to leave my house!"

George stiffened sharply. Then he bowed, and strode out of the door.

Three minutes later, disheveled and perspiring, but cold all over, he
burst into his Uncle George's room at the Major's without knocking.
Amberson was dressing.

"Good gracious, Georgie!" he exclaimed. "What's up?"

"I've just come from Mrs. Johnson's--across the street," George

"You have your own tastes!" was Amberson's comment. "But curious as
they are, you ought to do something better with your hair, and button
your waistcoat to the right buttons--even for Mrs. Johnson! What were
you doing over there?"

"She told me to leave the house," George said desperately. "I went
there because Aunt Fanny told me the whole town was talking about my
mother and that man Morgan--that they say my mother is going to marry
him and that proves she was too fond of him before my father died--she
said this Mrs. Johnson was one that talked about it, and I went to her
to ask who were the others."

Amberson's jaw fell in dismay. "Don't tell me you did that!" he said,
in a low voice; and then, seeing that it was true, "Oh, now you have
done it!"

Chapter XXIII

"I've 'done it'?" George cried. "What do you mean: I've done it? And
what have I done?"

Amberson had collapsed into an easy chair beside his dressing-table,
the white evening tie he had been about to put on dangling from his
hand, which had fallen limply on the arm of the chair. The tie
dropped to the floor before he replied; and the hand that had held it
was lifted to stroke his graying hair reflectively. "By Jove!" he
muttered. "That is too bad!"

George folded his arms bitterly. "Will you kindly answer my question?
What have I done that wasn't honourable and right? Do you think these
riffraff can go about bandying my mother's name--"

"They can now," said Amberson. "I don't know if they could before,
but they certainly can now!"

"What do you mean by that?"

His uncle sighed profoundly, picked up his tie and, preoccupied with
despondency, twisted the strip of white lawn till it became
unwearable. Meanwhile, he tried to enlighten his nephew. "Gossip is
never fatal, Georgie," he said, "until it is denied. Gossip goes on
about every human being alive and about all the dead that are alive
enough to be remembered, and yet almost never does any harm until some
defender makes a controversy. Gossip's a nasty thing, but it's
sickly, and if people of good intentions will let it entirely alone,
it will die, ninety-nine times out of a hundred."

"See here," George said: "I didn't come to listen to any generalizing
dose of philosophy! I ask you--"

"You asked me what you've done, and I'm telling you." Amberson gave
him a melancholy smile, continuing: "Suffer me to do it in my own way.
Fanny says there's been talk about your mother, and that Mrs. Johnson
does some of it. I don't know, because naturally nobody would come to
me with such stuff or mention it before me; but it's presumably true--
I suppose it is. I've seen Fanny with Mrs. Johnson quite a lot; and
that old lady is a notorious gossip, and that's why she ordered you
out of her house when you pinned her down that she'd been gossiping.
I have a suspicion Mrs. Johnson has been quite a comfort to Fanny in
their long talks; but she'll probably quit speaking to her over this,
because Fanny told you. I suppose it's true that the 'whole town,' a
lot of others, that is, do share in the gossip. In this town,
naturally, anything about any Amberson has always been a stone dropped
into the centre of a pond, and a lie would send the ripples as far as
a truth would. I've been on a steamer when the story went all over
the boat, the second day out,' that the prettiest girl on board didn't
have any ears; and you can take it as a rule that when a woman's past
thirty-five the prettier her hair is, the more certain you are to meet
somebody with reliable information that it's a wig. You can be sure
that for many years there's been more gossip in this place about the
Ambersons than about any other family. I dare say it isn't so much so
now as it used to be, because the town got too big long ago, but it's
the truth that the more prominent you are the more gossip there is
about you, and the more people would like to pull you down. Well,
they can't do it as long as you refuse to know what gossip there is
about you. But the minute you notice it, it's got you! I'm not
speaking of certain kinds of slander that sometimes people have got to
take to the courts; I'm talking of the wretched buzzing the Mrs. John-
sons do--the thing you seem to have such a horror of--people
'talking'--the kind of thing that has assailed your mother. People
who have repeated a slander either get ashamed or forget it, if
they're let alone. Challenge them, and in self-defense they believe
everything they've said: they'd rather believe you a sinner than
believe themselves liars, naturally. Submit to gossip and you kill
it; fight it and you make it strong. People will forget almost any
slander except one that's been fought."

"Is that all?" George asked.

"I suppose so," his uncle murmured sadly.

"Well, then, may I ask what you'd have done, in my place?"

"I'm not sure, Georgie. When I was your age I was like you in many
ways, especially in not being very cool-headed, so I can't say. Youth
can't be trusted for much, except asserting itself and fighting and
making love."

"Indeed!" George snorted. "May I ask what you think I ought to have


"'Nothing?" George echoed, mocking bitterly "I suppose you think I
mean to let my mother's good name--"

"Your mother's good name!" Amberson cut him off impatiently. "Nobody
has a good name in a bad mouth. Nobody has a good name in a silly
mouth, either. Well, your mother's name was in some silly mouths, and
all you've done was to go and have a scene with the worst old woman
gossip in the town--a scene that's going to make her into a partisan
against your mother, whereas she was a mere prattler before. Don't
you suppose she'll be all over town with this to-morrow? To-morrow?
Why, she'll have her telephone going to-night as long as any of her
friends are up! People that never heard anything about this are going
to bear it all now, with embellishments. And she'll see to it that
everybody who's hinted anything about poor Isabel will know that
you're on the warpath; and that will put them on the defensive and
make them vicious. The story will grow as it spreads and--"

George unfolded his arms to strike his right fist into his left palm.
"But do you suppose I'm going to tolerate such things?" he shouted.
"What do you suppose I'll be doing?"

"Nothing helpful."

"Oh, you think so, do you?"

"You can do absolutely nothing," said Amberson. "Nothing of any use.
The more you do the more harm you'll do."

"You'll see! I'm going to stop this thing if I have to force my way
into every house on National Avenue and Amberson Boulevard!"

His uncle laughed rather sourly, but made no other comment.

"Well, what do you propose to do?" George demanded. "Do you propose
to sit there--"


"--and let this riffraff bandy my mother's good name back and forth
among them? Is that what you propose to do?"

"It's all I can do," Amberson returned. "It's all any of us can do
now: just sit still and hope that the thing may die down in time, in
spite of your stirring up that awful old woman."

George drew a long breath, then advanced and stood close before his
uncle. "Didn't you understand me when I told you that people are
saying my mother means to marry this man?"

"Yes, I understood you."

"You say that my going over there has made matters worse," George went
on. "How about it if such a--such an unspeakable marriage did take
place? Do you think that would make people believe they'd been wrong
in saying--you know what they say."

"No," said Amberson deliberately; "I don't believe it would. There'd
be more badness in the bad mouths and more silliness in the silly
mouths, I dare say. But it wouldn't hurt Isabel and Eugene, if they
never heard of it; and if they did hear of it, then they could take
their choice between placating gossip or living for their own
happiness. If they have decided to marry--"

George almost staggered. "Good God!" he gasped. "You speak of it

Amberson looked up at him inquiringly. "Why shouldn't they marry if
they want to?" he asked. "It's their own affair."

"Why shouldn't they?" George echoed. "Why shouldn't they?"

"Yes. Why shouldn't they? I don't see anything precisely monstrous
about two people getting married when they're both free and care about
each other. What's the matter with their marrying?"

"It would be monstrous!" George shouted. "Monstrous even if this
horrible thing hadn't happened, but now in the face of this--oh, that
you can sit there and even speak of it! Your own sister! O God!
Oh--" He became incoherent, swinging away from Amberson and making for
the door, wildly gesturing.

"For heaven's sake, don't be so theatrical!" said his uncle, and then,
seeing that George was leaving the room: "Come back here. You mustn't
speak to your mother of this!"

"Don't 'tend to," George said indistinctly; and he plunged out into
the big dimly lit hall. He passed his grandfather's room on the way
to the stairs; and the Major was visible within, his white head
brightly illumined by a lamp, as he bent low over a ledger upon his
roll-top desk. He did not look up, and his grandson strode by the
door, not really conscious of the old figure stooping at its tremulous
work with long additions and subtractions that refused to balance as
they used to. George went home and got a hat and overcoat without
seeing either his mother or Fanny. Then he left word that he would be
out for dinner, and hurried away from the house.

He walked the dark streets of Amberson Addition for an hour, then went
downtown and got coffee at a restaurant. After that he walked through
the lighted parts of the town until ten o'clock, when he turned north
and came back to the purlieus of the Addition. He strode through the
length and breadth of it again, his hat pulled down over his forehead,
his overcoat collar turned up behind. He walked fiercely, though his
feet ached, but by and by he turned homeward, and, when he reached the
Major's, went in and sat upon the steps of the huge stone veranda in
front--an obscure figure in that lonely and repellent place. All
lights were out at the Major's, and finally, after twelve, he saw his
mother's window darken at home.

He waited half an hour longer, then crossed the front yards of the new
houses and let himself noiselessly in the front door. The light in
the hall had been left burning, and another in his own room, as he
discovered when he got there. He locked the door quickly and without
noise, but his fingers were still upon the key when there was a quick
footfall in the hall outside.

"Georgie, dear?"

He went to the other end of the room before replying.


"I'd been wondering where you were, dear."

"Had you?"

There was a pause; then she said timidly: "Wherever it was, I hope
you had a pleasant evening."

After a silence, "Thank you," he said, without expression.

Another silence followed before she spoke again.

"You wouldn't care to be kissed good-night, I suppose?" And with a
little flurry of placative laughter, she added: "At your age, of

"I'm going to bed, now," he said. "Goodnight."

Another silence seemed blanker than those which had preceded it, and
finally her voice came--it was blank, too.


After he was in bed his thoughts became more tumultuous than ever;
while among all the inchoate and fragmentary sketches of this dreadful
day, now rising before him, the clearest was of his uncle collapsed in
a big chair with a white tie dangling from his hand; and one
conviction, following upon that picture, became definite in George's
mind: that his Uncle George Amberson was a hopeless dreamer from whom
no help need be expected, an amiable imbecile lacking in normal
impulses, and wholly useless in a struggle which required honour to be
defended by a man of action.

Then would return a vision of Mrs. Johnson's furious round head, set
behind her great bosom like the sun far sunk on the horizon of a
mountain plateau--and her crackling, asthmatic voice. . . "Without
sharing in other people's disposition to put an evil interpretation on
what may be nothing more than unfortunate appearances." . . . "Other
people may be less considerate in not confirming their discussion of
it, as I have, to charitable views." . . . "you'll know something pretty
quick! You'll know you're out in the street." . . . And then George
would get up again--and again--and pace the floor in his bare feet.

That was what the tormented young man was doing when daylight came
gauntly in at his window--pacing the floor, rubbing his head in his
hands, and muttering:

"It can't be true: this can't be happening to me!"

Chapter XXIV

Breakfast was brought to him in his room, as usual; but he did not
make his normal healthy raid upon the dainty tray: the food remained
untouched, and he sustained himself upon coffee--four cups of it,
which left nothing of value inside the glistening little percolator.
During this process he heard his mother being summoned to the
telephone in the hall, not far from his door, and then her voice
responding: "Yes? Oh, it's you! Indeed I should! . . . Of course. .
. . Then I'll expect you about three. . . Yes. Good-bye till then."
A few minutes later he heard her speaking to someone beneath his
window and, looking out, saw her directing the removal of plants from
a small garden bed to the Major's conservatory for the winter. There
was an air of briskness about her; as she turned away to go into the
house, she laughed gaily with the Major's gardener over something he
said, and this unconcerned cheerfulness of her was terrible to her

He went to his desk, and, searching the jumbled contents of a drawer,
brought forth a large, unframed photograph of his father, upon which
he gazed long and piteously, till at last hot tears stood in his eyes.
It was strange how the inconsequent face of Wilbur seemed to increase
in high significance during this belated interview between father and
son; and how it seemed to take on a reproachful nobility--and yet,
under the circumstances, nothing could have been more natural than
that George, having paid but the slightest attention to his father in
life, should begin to deify him, now that he was dead. "Poor, poor
father!" the son whispered brokenly. "Poor man, I'm glad you didn't

He wrapped the picture in a sheet of newspaper, put it under his arm,
and, leaving the house hurriedly and stealthily, went downtown to the.
shop of a silversmith, where he spent sixty dollars on a resplendently
festooned silver frame for the picture. Having lunched upon more
coffee, he returned to the house at two o'clock, carrying the framed
photograph with him, and placed it upon the centre-table in the
library, the room most used by Isabel and Fanny and himself. Then he
went to a front window of the long "reception room," and sat looking
out through the lace curtains.

The house was quiet, though once or twice he heard his mother and
Fanny moving about upstairs, and a ripple of song in the voice of
Isabel--a fragment from the romantic ballad of Lord Bateman.

"Lord Bateman was a noble lord,
A noble lord of high degree;
And he sailed West and he sailed East,
Far countries for to see. . . ."

The words became indistinct; the air was hummed absently; the humming
shifted to a whistle, then drifted out of hearing, and the place was
still again.

George looked often at his watch, but his vigil did not last an hour.
At ten minutes of three, peering through the curtain, he saw an
automobile stop in front of the house and Eugene Morgan jump lightly
down from it. The car was of a new pattern, low and long, with an
ample seat in the tonneau, facing forward; and a professional driver
sat at the wheel, a strange figure in leather, goggled out of all
personality and seemingly part of the mechanism.

Eugene himself, as he came up the cement path to the house, was a
figure of the new era which was in time to be so disastrous to stiff
hats and skirted coats; and his appearance afforded a debonair
contrast to that of the queer-looking duck capering: at the Amberson
Ball in an old dress coat, and chugging up National Avenue through the
snow in his nightmare of a sewing-machine. Eugene, this afternoon,
was richly in the new outdoor mode: motoring coat was soft gray fur;
his cap and gloves were of gray suede; and though Lucy's hand may have
shown itself in the selection of these garnitures, he wore them
easily, even with becoming hint of jauntiness. Some change might be
his face, too, for a successful man is seldom to be mistaken,
especially if his temper be genial. Eugene had begun to look like a

But above everything else, what was most evident about him, as he came
up the path, was confidence in the happiness promised by his errand;
the anticipation in his eyes could have been read by a stranger. His
look at the door of Isabel's house was the look of a man who is quite
certain that the next moment will reveal something ineffably charming,
inexpressibly dear.

When the bell rang, George waited at the entrance of the "reception
room" until a housemaid came through the hall on her way to answer the

"You needn't mind, Mary," he told her. "I'll see who it is and what
they want. Probably it's only a pedlar."

"Thank you, sir, Mister George," said Mary; and returned to the rear
of the house.

George went slowly to the front door, and halted, regarding the misty
silhouette of the caller upon the ornamental frosted glass. After a
minute of waiting, this silhouette changed outline so that an arm
could be distinguished--an arm outstretched toward the bell, as if the
gentleman outside doubted whether or not it had sounded, and were
minded to try again. But before the gesture was completed George
abruptly threw open the door, and stepped squarely upon the middle of
the threshold.

A slight change shadowed the face of Eugene; his look of happy
anticipation gave way to something formal and polite. "How do you do,
George," he said. "Mrs. Minafer expects to go driving with me, I
believe--if you'll be so kind as to send her word that I'm here."

George made not the slightest movement.

"No," he said.

Eugene was incredulous, even when his second glance revealed how hot
of eye was the haggard young man before him. "I beg your pardon. I

"I heard you," said George. "You said you had an engagement with my
mother, and I told you, No!"

Eugene gave him a steady look, and then he quietly: "What is the--the

George kept his own voice quiet enough, but that, did not mitigate the
vibrant fury of it. "My--mother will have no interest in knowing that
you came her to-day," he said. "Or any other day!"

Eugene continued to look at him with a scrutiny in which began to
gleam a profound anger, none less powerful because it was so quiet.
"I am afraid I do not understand you."

"I doubt if I could make it much plainer," George said, raising his
voice slightly, "but I'll try. You're not wanted in this house, Mr.
Morgan, now or at any other time. Perhaps you'll understand--this!"

And with the last word he closed the Eugene's face.

Then, not moving away, he stood just inside door, and noted that the
misty silhouette remained upon the frosted glass for several moments,
as if the forbidden gentleman debated in his mind what course to
pursue. "Let him ring again!" George thought grimly. "Or try the
side door--or the kitchen!"

But Eugene made no further attempt; the silhouette disappeared;
footsteps could be heard withdrawing across the floor of the veranda;
and George, returning to the window in the "reception room," was
rewarded by the sight of an automobile manufacturer in baffled
retreat, with all his wooing furs and fineries mocking him. Eugene
got into his car slowly, not looking back at the house which had just
taught him such a lesson; and it was easily visible--even from a
window seventy feet distant--that he was not the same light suitor who
had jumped so gallantly from the car only a few minutes earlier.
Observing the heaviness of his movements as he climbed into the
tonneau, George indulged in a sickish throat rumble which bore a
distant cousinship to mirth.

The car was quicker than its owner; it shot away as soon as he had
sunk into his seat; and George, having watched its impetuous
disappearance from his field of vision, ceased to haunt the window.
He went to the library, and, seating himself beside the table whereon
he had placed the photograph of his father, picked up a book, and
pretended to been engaged in reading it.

Presently Isabel's buoyant step was heard descending the stairs, and
her low, sweet whistling, renewing the air of "Lord Bateman." She
came into the library, still whistling thoughtfully, a fur coat over
her arm, ready to put on, and two veils round her small black hat, her
right hand engaged in buttoning the glove upon her left; and, as the
large room contained too many pieces of heavy furniture, and the
inside shutters excluded most of the light of day, she did not at once
perceive George's presence. Instead, she went to the bay window at
the end of the room, which afforded a view of the street, and glanced
out expectantly; then bent her attention upon her glove; after that,
looked out toward the street again, ceased to whistle, and turned
toward the interior of the room.

"Why, Georgie!"

She came, leaned over from behind him, and there was a faint,
exquisite odour as from distant apple blossoms as she kissed his
cheek. "Dear, I waited lunch almost an hour for you, but you didn't
come! Did you lunch out somewhere?"

"Yes." He did not look up from the book.

"Did you have plenty to eat?"


"Are you sure? Wouldn't you like to have Maggie get you something now
in the dining room? Or they could bring it to you here, if you think
it would be cozier. Shan't I--"

A tinkling bell was audible, and she moved to the doorway into the
hall. "I'm going out driving, dear. I--" She interrupted herself to
address the housemaid, who was passing through the hall: "I think it's
Mr. Morgan, Mary. Tell him I'll be there at once."

"Yes, ma'am."

Mary returned. "Twas a pedlar, ma'am."

"Another one?" Isabel said, surprised. "I thought you said it was a
pedlar when the bell rang a little while ago."

"Mister George said it was, ma'am; he went to the door," Mary informed
her, disappearing.

"There seem to be a great many of them," Isabel mused. "What did
yours want to sell, George?"

"He didn't say."

"You must have cut him off short!" she laughed; and then, still
standing in the doorway, she noticed the big silver frame upon the
table beside him. "Gracious, Georgie!" she exclaimed. "You have been
investing!" and as she came across the room for a closer view, "Is it-
--is it Lucy?" she asked half timidly, half archly. But the next
instant she saw whose likeness was thus set forth in elegiac
splendour--and she was silent, except for a long, just-audible "Oh!"

He neither looked up nor moved.

"That was nice of you, Georgie," she said, in a low voice presently.
"I ought to have had it framed, myself, when I gave it to you."

He said nothing, and, standing beside him, she put her hand gently
upon his shoulder, then as gently withdrew it, and went out of the
room. But she did not go upstairs; he heard the faint rustle of her
dress in the hall, and then the sound of her footsteps in the
"reception room." After a time, silence succeeded even these slight
tokens of her presence; whereupon George rose and went warily into the
hall, taking care to make no noise, and he obtained an oblique view of
her through the open double doors of the "reception room." She was
sitting in the chair which he had occupied so long; and she was
looking out of the window expectantly--a little troubled.

He went back to the library, waited an interminable half hour, then
returned noiselessly to the same position in the hall, where he could
see her. She was still sitting patiently by the window.

Waiting for that man, was she? Well, it might be quite a long wait!
And the grim George silently ascended the stairs to his own room, and
began to pace his suffering floor.

Chapter XXV

He left his door open, however, and when he heard the front door-bell
ring, by and by, he went half way down the stairs and stood to listen.
He was not much afraid that Morgan would return, but he wished to make

Mary appeared in the hall below him, but, after a glance toward the

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