Part 6 out of 6
bitterly for not having long ago discovered that his father had never
given Isabel a deed to her house. "And those pigs, Sydney and
Amelia!" he added, for this was another thing he was bitter about.
"They won't do anything. I'm sorry I gave them the opportunity of
making a polished refusal. Amelia's letter was about half in Italian;
she couldn't remember enough ways of saying no in English. One has to
live quite a long while to realize there are people like that! The
estate was badly crippled, even before they took out their 'third,'
and the 'third' they took was the only good part of the rotten apple.
Well, I didn't ask them for restitution on my own account, and at
least it will save you some trouble, young George. Never waste any
time writing to them; you mustn't count on them."
"I don't," George said quietly. "I don't count on anything."
"Oh, we'll not feel that things are quite desperate," Amberson
laughed, but not with great cheerfulness. "We'll survive, Georgie--
you will, especially. For my part I'm a little too old and too
accustomed to fall back on somebody else for supplies to start a big
fight with life: I'll be content with just surviving, and I can do it
on an eighteen-hundred-dollar--a-year consulship. An ex-congressman
can always be pretty sure of getting some such job, and I hear from
Washington the matter's about settled. I'll live pleasantly enough
with a pitcher of ice under a palm tree, and black folks to wait on
me--that part of it will be like home--and I'll manage to send you
fifty dollars every now and then, after I once get settled. So much
for me! But you--of course you've had a poor training for making your
own way, but you're only a boy after all, and the stuff of the old
stock is in you. It'll come out and do something. I'll never forgive
myself about that deed: it would have given you something substantial
to start with. Still, you have a little tiny bit, and you'll have a
little tiny salary, too; and of course your Aunt Fanny's here, and
she's got something you can fall back on if you get too pinched, until
I can begin to send you a dribble now and then."
George's "little tiny bit" was six hundred dollars which had come to
him from the sale of his mother's furniture; and the "little tiny
salary" was eight dollars a week which old Frank Bronson was to pay
him for services as a clerk and student-at-law. Old Frank would have
offered more to the Major's grandson, but since the death of that best
of clients and his own experience with automobile headlights, he was
not certain of being able to pay more and at the same time settle his
own small bills for board and lodging. George had accepted haughtily,
and thereby removed a burden from his uncle's mind.
Amberson himself, however, had not even a "tiny bit"; though he got
his consular appointment; and to take him to his post he found it
necessary to borrow two hundred of his nephew's six hundred dollars.
"It makes me sick, George," he said. "But I'd better get there and
get that salary started. Of course Eugene would do anything in the
world, and the fact is he wanted to, but I felt that--ah--under the
"Never!" George exclaimed, growing red. "I can't imagine one of the
family--" He paused, not finding it necessary to explain that "the
family" shouldn't turn a man from the door and then accept favours
from him. "I wish you'd take more."
Amberson declined. "One thing I'll say for you, young George; you
haven't a stingy bone in your body. That's the Amberson stock in you
--and I like it!"
He added something to this praise of his nephew on the day he left for
Washington. He was not to return, but to set forth from the capital
on the long journey to his post. George went with him to the station,
and their farewell was lengthened by the train's being several minutes
"I may not see you again, Georgie," Amberson said; and his voice was a
little husky as he set a kind hand on the young man's shoulder. "It's
quite probable that from this time on we'll only know each other by
letter--until you're notified as my next of kin that there's an old
valise to be forwarded to you, and perhaps some dusty curios from the
consulate mantelpiece. Well, it's an odd way for us to be saying
good-bye: one wouldn't have thought it, even a few years ago, but here
we are, two gentlemen of elegant appearance in a state of bustitude.
We can't ever tell what will happen at all, can we? Once I stood
where we're standing now, to say good-bye to a pretty girl--only it
was in the old station before this was built, and we called it the
'depot.' She'd been visiting your mother, before Isabel was married,
and I was wild about her, and she admitted she didn't mind that. In
fact, we decided we couldn't live without each other, and we were to
be married. But she had to go abroad first with her father, and when
we came to say good-bye we knew we wouldn't see each other again for
almost a year. I thought I couldn't live through it--and she stood
here crying. Well, I don't even know where she lives now, or if she
is living--and I only happen to think of her sometimes when I'm here
at the station waiting for a train. If she ever thinks of me she
probably imagines I'm still dancing in the ballroom at the Amberson
Mansion, and she probably thinks of the Mansion as still beautiful--
still the finest house in town. Life and money both behave like loose
quicksilver in a nest of cracks. And when they're gone we can't tell
where--or what the devil we did with 'em! But I believe I'll say now
--while there isn't much time left for either of us to get embarrassed
about it--I believe I'll say that I've always been fond of you,
Georgie, but I can't say that I always liked you. Sometimes I've felt
you were distinctly not an acquired taste. Until lately, one had to
be fond of you just naturally--this isn't very 'tactful,' of course--
for if he didn't, well, he wouldn't! We all spoiled you terribly when
you were a little boy and let you grow up en prince--and I must say
you took to it! But you've received a pretty heavy jolt, and I had
enough of your disposition, myself, at your age, to understand a
little of what cocksure youth has to go through inside when it finds
that it can make terrible mistakes. Poor old fellow! You get both
kinds of jolts together, spiritual and material--and you've taken them
pretty quietly and--well, with my train coming into the shed, you'll
forgive me for saying that there have been times when I thought you
ought to be hanged--but I've always been fond of you, and now I like
you! And just for a last word: there may be somebody else in this
town who's always felt about you like that--fond of you, I mean, no
matter how much it seemed you ought to be hanged. You might try--
Hello, I must run. I'll send back the money as fast as they pay me--
so, good-bye and God bless you, Georgie!"
He passed through the gates, waved his hat cheerily from the other
side of the iron screen, and was lost from sight in the hurrying
crowd. And as he disappeared, an unexpected poignant loneliness fell
upon his nephew so heavily and so suddenly that he had no energy to
recoil from the shock. It seemed to him that the last fragment of his
familiar world had disappeared, leaving him all alone forever.
He walked homeward slowly through what appeared to be the strange
streets of a strange city; and, as a matter of fact, the city was
strange to him. He had seen little of it during his years in college,
and then had followed the long absence and his tragic return. Since
that he had been "scarcely outdoors at all," as Fanny complained,
warning him that his health would suffer, and he had been downtown
only in a closed carriage. He had not realized the great change.
The streets were thunderous; a vast energy heaved under the universal
coating of dinginess. George walked through the begrimed crowds of
hurrying strangers and saw no face that he remembered. Great numbers
of the faces were even of a kind he did not remember ever to have
seen; they were partly like the old type that his boyhood knew, and
partly like types he knew abroad. He saw German eyes with American
wrinkles at their corners; he saw Irish eyes and Neapolitan eyes,
Roman eyes, Tuscan eyes, eyes of Lombardy, of Savoy, Hungarian eyes,
Balkan eyes, Scandinavian eyes--all with a queer American look in
them. He saw Jews who had been German Jews, Jews who had been Russian
Jews, Jews who had been Polish Jews but were no longer German or
Russian or Polish Jews. All the people were soiled by the smoke-mist
through which they hurried, under the heavy sky that hung close upon
the new skyscrapers; and nearly all seemed harried by something
impending, though here and there a women with bundles would be
laughing to a companion about some adventure of the department stores,
or perhaps an escape from the charging traffic of the streets--and not
infrequently a girl, or a free-and-easy young matron, found time to
throw an encouraging look to George.
He took no note of these, and, leaving the crowded sidewalks, turned
north into National Avenue, and presently reached the quieter but no
less begrimed region of smaller shops and old-fashioned houses. Those
latter had been the homes of his boyhood playmates; old friends of his
grandfather had lived here;--in this alley he had fought with two boys
at the same time, and whipped them; in that front yard he had been
successfully teased into temporary insanity by a. Sunday-school class
of pinky little girls. On that sagging porch a laughing woman had fed
him and other boys with doughnuts and gingerbread; yonder he saw the
staggered relics of the iron picket fence he had made his white pony
jump, on a dare, and in the shabby, stone-faced house behind the fence
he had gone to children's parties, and, when he was a little older he
had danced there often, and fallen in love with Mary Sharon, and
kissed her, apparently by force, under the stairs in the hall. The
double front doors, of meaninglessly carved walnut, once so glossily
varnished, had been painted smoke gray, but the smoke grime showed
repulsively, even on the smoke gray; and over the doors a smoked sign
proclaimed the place to be a "Stag Hotel."
Other houses had become boarding-houses too genteel for signs, but
many were franker, some offering "board by the day, week or meal," and
some, more laconic, contenting themselves with the label: "Rooms."
One, having torn out part of an old stone-trimmed bay window for
purposes of commercial display, showed forth two suspended petticoats
and a pair of oyster-coloured flannel trousers to prove the claims of
its black-and-gilt sign: "French Cleaning and Dye House." Its next
neighbour also sported a remodelled front and permitted no doubt that
its mission in life was to attend cosily upon death: "J. M. Rolsener.
Caskets. The Funeral Home." And beyond that, a plain old honest
four-square gray-painted brick house was flamboyantly decorated with a
great gilt scroll on the railing of the old-fashioned veranda:
"Mutual Benev't Order Cavaliers and Dames of Purity." This was the
old Minafer house.
George passed it without perceptibly wincing; in fact, he held his
head up, and except for his gravity of countenance and the prison
pallor he had acquired by too constantly remaining indoors, there was
little to warn an acquaintance that he was not precisely the same
George Amberson Minafer known aforetime. He was still so magnificent,
indeed, that there came to his ears a waft of comment from a passing
automobile. This was a fearsome red car, glittering in brass, with
half-a-dozen young people in it whose motorism had reached an extreme
manifestation in dress. The ladies of this party were favourably
affected at sight of the pedestrian upon the sidewalk, and, as the
machine was moving slowly, and close to the curb, they had time to
observe him in detail, which they did with a frankness not pleasing to
the object of their attentions. "One sees so many nice-looking people
one doesn't know nowadays," said the youngest of the young ladies.
"This old town of ours is really getting enormous. I shouldn't mind
knowing who he is."
"I don't know," the youth beside her said, loudly enough to be heard
at a considerable distance. "I don't know who he is, but from his
looks I know who he thinks be is: he thinks he's the Grand Duke
Cuthbert!" There was a burst of tittering as the car gathered speed
and rolled away, with the girl continuing to look back until her
scandalized companions forced her to turn by pulling her hood over her
face. She made an impression upon George, so deep a one, in fact,
that he unconsciously put his emotion into a muttered word:
This was the last "walk home" he was ever to take by the route he was
now following: up National Avenue to Amberson Addition and the two big
old houses at the foot of Amberson Boulevard; for tonight would be the
last night that he and Fanny were to spend in the house which the
Major had forgotten to deed to Isabel. To-morrow they were to "move
out," and George was to begin his work in Bronson's office. He had
not come to this collapse without a fierce struggle--but the struggle
was inward, and the rolling world was not agitated by it, and rolled
calmly on. For of all the "ideals of life" which the world, in its
rolling, inconsiderately flattens out to nothingness, the least likely
to retain a profile is that ideal which depends upon inheriting money.
George Amberson, in spite of his record of failures in business, had
spoken shrewdly when he realized at last that money, like life, was
"like quicksilver in a nest of cracks." And his nephew had the
awakening experience of seeing the great Amberson Estate vanishing
into such a nest--in a twinkling, it seemed, now that it was indeed so
His uncle had suggested that he might write to college friends;
perhaps they could help him to something better than the prospect
offered by Bronson's office; but George flushed and shook his head,
without explaining. In that small and quietly superior "crowd" of his
he had too emphatically supported the ideal of being rather than
doing. He could not appeal to one of its members now to help him to a
job. Besides, they were not precisely the warmest-hearted crew in the
world, and he had long ago dropped the last affectation of a
correspondence with any of them. He was as aloof from any survival of
intimacy with his boyhood friends in the city, and, in truth, had lost
track of most of them. "The Friends of the Ace," once bound by oath
to succour one another in peril or poverty, were long ago dispersed;
one or two had died; one or two had gone to live elsewhere; the others
were disappeared into the smoky bigness of the heavy city. Of the
brethren, there remained within his present cognizance only his old
enemy, the red-haired Kinney, now married to Janie Sharon, and Charlie
Johnson, who, out of deference to his mother's memory, had passed the
Amberson Mansion one day, when George stood upon the front steps, and,
looking in fiercely, had looked away with continued fierceness--his
only token of recognition.
On this last homeward walk of his, when George reached the entrance
to Amberson Addition--that is, when he came to where the entrance had
formerly been--he gave a little start, and halted for a moment to
stare. This was the first time he had noticed that the stone pillars,
marking the entrance, had been removed. Then he realized that for a
long time he had been conscious of a queerness about this corner
without being aware of what made the difference. National Avenue met
Amberson Boulevard here at an obtuse angle, and the removal of the
pillars made the Boulevard seem a cross-street of no overpowering
importance--certainly it did not seem to be a boulevard!
At the next corner Neptune's Fountain remained, and one could still
determine with accuracy what its designer's intentions had been. It
stood in sore need of just one last kindness; and if the thing had
possessed any friends they would have done that doleful shovelling
George did not let his eyes linger upon the relic; nor did he look
steadfastly at the Amberson Mansion. Massive as the old house was, it
managed to look gaunt: its windows stared with the skull emptiness of
all windows in empty houses that are to be lived in no more. Of
course the rowdy boys of the neighbourhood had been at work: many of
these haggard windows were broken; the front door stood ajar, forced
open; and idiot salacity, in white chalk, was smeared everywhere upon
the pillars and stonework of the verandas.
George walked by the Mansion hurriedly, and came home to his mother's
house for the last time.
Emptiness was there, too, and the closing of the door resounded
through bare rooms; for downstairs there was no furniture in the house
except a kitchen table in the dining room, which Fanny had kept "for
dinner," she said, though as she was to cook and serve that meal
herself George had his doubts about her name for it. Upstairs, she
had retained her own furniture, and George had been living in his
mother's room, having sent everything from his own to the auction.
Isabel's room was still as it had been, but the furniture would be
moved with Fanny's to new quarters in the morning. Fanny had made
plans for her nephew as well as herself; she had found a three-room
"kitchenette apartment" in an apartment house where several old friends
of hers had established themselves--elderly widows of citizens once
"prominent" and other retired gentry. People used their own
"kitchenettes" for breakfast and lunch, but there was a table-d'hote
arrangement for dinner on the ground floor; and after dinner bridge
was played all evening, an attraction powerful with Fanny. She had
"made all the arrangements," she reported, and nervously appealed for
approval, asking if she hadn't shown herself "pretty practical" in
such matters. George acquiesced absent-mindedly, not thinking of what
she said and not realizing to what it committed him.
He began to realize it now, as he wandered about the dismantled house;
he was far from sure that he was willing to go and live in a "three-
room apartment" with Fanny and eat breakfast and lunch with her
(prepared by herself in the "kitchenette") and dinner at the table
d'hote in "such a pretty Colonial dining room" (so Fanny described it)
at a little round table they would have all to themselves in the midst
of a dozen little round tables which other relics of disrupted
families would have all to themselves. For the first time, now that
the change was imminent, George began to develop before his mind's eye
pictures of what he was in for; and they appalled him. He decided
that such a life verged upon the sheerly unbearable, and that after
all there were some things left that he just couldn't stand. So he
made up his mind to speak to his aunt about it at "dinner," and tell
her that he preferred to ask Bronson to let him put a sofa-bed, a
trunk, and a folding rubber bathtub behind a screen in the dark rear
room of the office. George felt that this would be infinitely more
tolerable; and he could eat at restaurants, especially as about all he
ever wanted nowadays was coffee.
But at "dinner" he decided to put off telling Fanny of his plan until
later: she was so nervous, and so distressed about the failure of her
efforts with sweetbreads and macaroni; and she was so eager in her
talk of how comfortable they would be "by this time to-morrow night."
She fluttered on, her nervousness increasing, saying how "nice" it
would be for him, when he came from work in the evenings, to be among
"nice people--people who know who we are," and to have a pleasant game
of bridge with "people who are really old friends of the family?"
When they stopped probing among the scorched fragments she had set
forth, George lingered downstairs, waiting for a better opportunity to
introduce his own subject, but when he heard dismaying sounds from the
kitchen he gave up. There was a crash, then a shower of crashes;
falling tin clamoured to be heard above the shattering of porcelain;
and over all rose Fanny's wail of lamentation for the treasures saved
from the sale, but now lost forever to the "kitchenette." Fanny was
nervous indeed; so nervous that she could not trust her hands.
For a moment George thought she might have been injured, but, before
he reached the kitchen, he heard her sweeping at the fragments, and
turned back. He put off speaking to Fanny until morning.
Things more insistent than his vague plans for a sofa-bed in Bronson's
office had possession of his mind as he went upstairs, moving his hand
slowly along the smooth walnut railing of the balustrade. Half way to
the landing he stopped, turned, and stood looking down at the heavy
doors masking the black emptiness that had been the library. Here he
had stood on what he now knew was the worst day of his life; here he
had stood when his mother passed through that doorway, hand-in-hand
with her brother, to learn what her son had done.
He went on more heavily, more slowly; and, more heavily and slowly
still, entered Isabel's room and shut the door. He did not come forth
again, and bade Fanny good-night through the closed door when she
stopped outside it later.
"I've put all the lights out, George," she said. "Everything's all
"Very well," he called. "Good-night."
She did not go. "I'm sure we're going to enjoy the new little home,
George," she said timidly. "I'll try hard to make things nice for
you, and the people really are lovely. You mustn't feel as if things
are altogether gloomy, George. I know everything's going to turn out
all right. You're young and strong and you have a good mind and I'm
sure--" she hesitated--"I'm sure your mother's watching over you,
Georgie. Good-night, dear."
"Good-night, Aunt Fanny."
His voice had a strangled sound in spite of him; but she seemed not to
notice it, and he heard her go to her own room and lock herself in
with bolt and key against burglars. She had said the one thing she
should not have said just then: "I'm sure your mother's watching over
you, Georgie." She had meant to be kind, but it destroyed his last
chance for sleep that night. He would have slept little if she had
not said it, but since she had said it, he could not sleep at all.
For he knew that it was true--if it could be true--and that his
mother, if she still lived in spirit, would be weeping on the other
side of the wall of silence, weeping and seeking for some gate to let
her through so that she could come and "watch over him."
He felt that if there were such gates they were surely barred: they
were like those awful library doors downstairs, which had shut her in
to begin the suffering to which he had consigned her.
The room was still Isabel's. Nothing had been changed: even the
photographs of George, of the Major, and of "brother George" still
stood on her dressing-table, and in a drawer of her desk was an old
picture of Eugene and Lucy, taken together, which George had found,
but had slowly closed away again from sight, not touching it. To-
morrow everything would be gone; and he had heard there was not long
to wait before the house itself would be demolished. The very space
which tonight was still Isabel's room would be cut into new shapes by
new walls and floors and ceilings; yet the room would always live, for
it could not die out of George's memory. It would live as long as he
did, and it would always be murmurous with a tragic, wistful
And if space itself can be haunted, as memory is haunted, then some
time, when the space that was Isabel's room came to be made into the
small bedrooms and "kitchenettes" already designed as its destiny,
that space might well be haunted and the new occupants come to feel
that some seemingly causeless depression hung about it--a wraith of
the passion that filled it throughout the last night that George
Minafer spent there.
Whatever remnants of the old high-handed arrogance were still within
him, he did penance for his deepest sin that night--and it may be that
to this day some impressionable, overworked woman in a "kitchenette,"
after turning out the light will seem to see a young man kneeling in
the darkness, shaking convulsively, and, with arms outstretched
through the wall, clutching at the covers of a shadowy bed. It may
seem to her that she hears the faint cry, over and over:
"Mother, forgive me! God, forgive me!"
At least, it may be claimed for George that his last night in the
house where he had been born was not occupied with his own
disheartening future, but with sorrow for what sacrifices his pride
and youth had demanded of others. And early in the morning he came
downstairs and tried to help Fanny make coffee on the kitchen range.
"There was something I wanted to say to you last night, Aunt Fanny,"
he said, as she finally discovered that an amber fluid, more like tea
than coffee, was as near ready to be taken into the human system as it
would ever be. "I think I'd better do it now."
She set the coffee-pot back upon the stove with a little crash, and,
looking at him in a desperate anxiety, began to twist her dainty apron
between her fingers without any consciousness of what she was doing.
"Why--why--" she stammered; but she knew what he was going to say, and
that was why she had been more and more nervous. "Hadn't--perhaps--
perhaps we'd better get the--the things moved to the little new home
first, George. Let's--"
He interrupted quietly, though at her phrase, "the little new home,"
his pungent impulse was to utter one loud shout and run. "It was
about this new place that I wanted to speak. I've been thinking it
over, and I've decided. I want you to take all the things from
mother's room and use them and keep them for me, and I'm sure the
little apartment will be just what you like; and with the extra
bedroom probably you could find some woman friend to come and live
there, and share the expense with you. But I've decided on another
arrangement for myself, and so I'm not going with you. I don't
suppose you'll mind much, and I don't see why you should mind--
particularly, that is. I'm not very lively company these days, or any
days, for that matter. I can't imagine you, or any one else, being
much attached to me, so--"
He stopped in amazement: no chair had been left in the kitchen, but
Fanny gave .a despairing glance around her, in search of one, then
sank abruptly, and sat flat upon the floor.
"You're going to leave me in the lurch!" she gasped.
"What on earth--" George sprang to her. "Get up, Aunt Fanny!"
"I can't. I'm too weak. Let me alone, George!" And as he released
the wrist he had seized to help her, she repeated the dismal prophecy
which for days she had been matching against her hopes: "You're going
to leave me--in the lurch!"
"Why no, Aunt Fanny!" he protested. "At first I'd have been something
of a burden on you. I'm to get eight dollars a week; about thirty-two
a month. The rent's thirty-six dollars a month, and the table-d'hote
dinner runs up to over twenty-two dollars apiece, so with my half of
the rent--eighteen dollars--I'd have less than nothing left out of my
salary to pay my share of the groceries for all the breakfasts and
luncheons. You see you'd not only be doing all the housework and
cooking, but you'd be paying more of the expenses than I would."
She stared at him with such a forlorn blankness as he had never seen.
"I'd be paying--" she said feebly. "I'd be paying--"
"Certainly you would. You'd be using more of your money than--"
"My money!" Fanny's chin drooped upon her thin chest, and she laughed
miserably. "I've got twenty-eight dollars. That's all."
"You mean until the interest is due again?"
"I mean that's all," Fanny said. "I mean that's all there is. There
won't be any more interest because there isn't any principal."
"Why, you told--"
She shook. her head. "No, I haven't told you anything."
"Then it was Uncle George. He told me you had enough to fall back on.
That's just what he said: 'to fall back on.' He said you'd lost more
than you should, in the headlight company, but he'd insisted that you
should hold out enough to live on, and you'd very wisely followed his
"I know," she said weakly. "I told him so. He didn't know, or else
he'd forgotten, how much Wilbur's insurance amounted to, and I--oh, it
seemed such a sure way to make a real fortune out of a little--and I
thought I could do something for you, George, if you ever came to need
it--and it all looked so bright I just thought I'd put it all in. I
did--every cent except my last interest payment--and it's gone."
"Good Lord!" George began to pace up and down on the worn planks of
the bare floor. "Why on earth did you wait till now to tell such a
thing as this?"
"I couldn't tell till I had to," she said piteously. "I couldn't till
George Amberson went away. He couldn't do anything to help, anyhow,
and I just didn't want him to talk to me about it--he's been at me so
much about not putting more in than I could afford to lose, and said
he considered he had my--my word I wasn't putting more than that in
it. So I thought: What was the use? What was the use of going over
it all with him and having him reproach me, and probably reproach
himself? It wouldn't do any good--not any good on earth." She got
out her lace handkerchief and began to cry. "Nothing does any good, I
guess, in this old world. Oh, how tired of this old world I am! I
didn't know what to do. I just tried to go ahead and be as practical
as I could, and arrange some way for us to live. Oh, I knew you
didn't want me, George! You always teased me and berated me whenever
you had a chance from the time you were a little boy--you did so!
Later, you've tried to be kinder to me, but you don't want me around--
oh, I can see that much! You don't suppose I want to thrust myself on
you, do you? It isn't very pleasant to be thrusting yourself on a
person you know doesn't want you--but I knew you oughtn't to be left
all alone in the world; it isn't good. I knew your mother'd want me
to watch over you and try to have something like a home for you--I
know she'd want me to do what I tried to do!" Fanny's tears were
bitter now, and her voice, hoarse and wet, was tragically sincere. "I
tried--I tried to be practical--to look after your interests--to make
things as nice for you as I could--I walked my heels down looking for
a place for us to live--I walked and walked over this town--I didn't
ride one block on a street-car--I wouldn't use five cents no matter
how tired I--Oh!" She sobbed uncontrollably. "Oh! and now--you don't
want--you want--you want to leave me in the lurch! You--"
George stopped walking. "In God's name, Aunt Fanny," he said, "quit
spreading out your handkerchief and drying it and then getting it all
wet again! I mean stop crying! Do! And for heaven's sake, get up.
Don't sit there with your back against the boiler and--"
"It's not hot," Fanny sniffled. "It's cold; the; plumbers
disconnected it. I wouldn't mind if they hadn't. I wouldn't mind if
it burned me, George."
"Oh, my Lord!" He went to her, and lifted her. "For God's sake, get
up! Come, let's take the coffee into the other room, and see what's
to be done."
He got her to her feet; she leaned upon him, already somewhat
comforted, and, with his arm about her, he conducted her to the dining
room and seated her in one of the two kitchen chairs which had been
placed at the rough table. "There!" he said, "get over it!" Then he
brought the coffee-pot, some lumps of sugar in a tin pan, and, finding
that all the coffee-cups were broken, set water glasses upon the
table, and poured some of the pale coffee into them. By this time
Fanny's spirits had revived appreciably: she looked up with a
plaintive eagerness. "I had bought all my fall clothes, George," she
said; "and I paid every bill I owed. I don't owe a cent for clothes,
"That's good," he said wanly, and he had a moment of physical
dizziness that decided him to sit down quickly. For an instant it
seemed to him that he was not Fanny's nephew, but married to her. He
passed his pale hand over his paler forehead. "Well, let's see where
we stand," he said feebly. "Let's see if we can afford this place
Fanny continued to brighten. "I'm sure it's the most practical plan
we could possibly have worked out, George--and it is a comfort to be
among nice people. I think we'll both enjoy it, because the truth is
we've been keeping too much to ourselves for a long while. It isn't
good for people."
"I was thinking about the money, Aunt Fanny. You see--"
"I'm sure we can manage it," she interrupted quickly. "There really
isn't a cheaper place in town that we could actually live in and be--"
Here she interrupted herself. "Oh! There's one great economy I forgot
to tell you, and it's especially an economy for you, because you're
always too generous about such things: they don't allow any tipping.
They have signs that prohibit it."
"That's good," he said grimly. "But the rent is thirty-six dollars a
month; the dinner is twenty-two and a half for each of us, and we've
got to have some provision for other food. We won't need any clothes
for a year, perhaps--"
"Oh, longer!" she exclaimed. "So you see--"
"I see that forty-five and thirty-six make eighty-one," he said. "At
the lowest, we need a hundred dollars a month--and I'm going to make
"I thought of that, George," she said confidently, "and I'm sure it
will be all right. You'll be earning a great deal more than that very
"I don't see any prospect of it--not till I'm admitted to the bar, and
that will be two years at the earliest."
Fanny's confidence was not shaken. "I know you'll be getting on
"Faster?" George echoed gravely. "We've got to have more than that to
"Well, there's the six hundred dollars from the sale. Six hundred and
twelve dollars it was."
"It isn't six hundred and twelve now," said George. "It's about one
hundred and sixty."
Fanny showed a momentary dismay. "Why, how--"
"I lent Uncle George two hundred; I gave fifty apiece to old Sam and
those two other old darkies that worked for grandfather so long, and
ten to each of the servants here--"
"And you gave me thirty-six," she said thoughtfully, "for the first
month's rent, in advance."
"Did I? I'd forgotten. Well, with about a hundred and sixty in bank
and our expenses a hundred a month, it doesn't seem as if this new
"Still," she interrupted, "we have paid the first month's rent in
advance, and it does seem to be the most practical--"
George rose. "See here, Aunt Fanny," he said decisively. "You stay
here and look after the moving. Old Frank doesn't expect me until
afternoon, this first day, but I'll go and see him now."
It was early, and old Frank, just established at his big, flat-topped
desk, was surprised when his prospective assistant and pupil walked
in. He was pleased, as well as surprised, however, and rose, offering
a cordial old hand. "The real flare!" he said. "The real flare for
the law. That's right! Couldn't wait till afternoon to begin! I'm
delighted that you--"
"I wanted to say--" George began, but his patron cut him off.
"Wait just a minute, my boy. I've prepared a little speech of
welcome, and even though you're five hours ahead of time, I mean to
deliver it. First of all, your grandfather was my old war-comrade and
my best client; for years I prospered through my connection with his
business, and his grandson is welcome in my office and to my best
efforts in his behalf. But I want to confess, Georgie, that during
your earlier youth I may have had some slight feeling of--well,
prejudice, not altogether in your favour; but whatever slight feeling
it was, it began to vanish on that afternoon, a good while ago, when
you stood up to your Aunt Amelia Amberson as you did in the Major's
library, and talked to her as a man and a gentleman should. I saw
then what good stuff was in you--and I always wanted to mention it.
If my prejudice hadn't altogether vanished after that, the last
vestiges disappeared during these trying times that have come upon you
this past year, when I have been a witness to the depth of feeling
you've shown and your quiet consideration for your grandfather and for
everyone else around you. I just want to add that I think you'll find
an honest pleasure now in industry and frugality that wouldn't have
come to you in a more frivolous career. The law is a jealous mistress
and a stern mistress, but a--"
George had stood before him in great and increasing embarrassment; and
he was unable to allow the address to proceed to its conclusion.
"I can't do it!" he burst out. "I can't take her for my mistress."
"I've come to tell you, I've got to find something that's quicker. I
Old Frank got a little red. "Let's sit down," he said. "What's the
George told him.
The old gentleman listened sympathetically, only murmuring: "Well,
well!" from time to time, and nodding acquiescence.
"You see she's set her mind on this apartment," George explained.
"She's got some old cronies there, and I guess she's been looking
forward to the games of bridge and the kind of harmless gossip that
goes on in such places. Really, it's a life she'd like better than
anything else--better than that she's lived at home, I really believe.
It struck me she's just about got to have it, and after all she could
hardly have anything less."
"This comes pretty heavily upon me, you know," said old Frank. "I got
her into that headlight company, and she fooled me about her resources
as much as she did your Uncle George. I was never your father's
adviser, if you remember, and when the insurance was turned over to
her some other lawyer arranged it--probably your father's. But it
comes pretty heavily on me, and I feel a certain responsibility."
"Not at all. I'm taking the responsibility."
And George smiled with one corner of his mouth. "She's not your aunt,
you know, sir."
"Well, I'm unable to see, even if she's yours, that a young man is
morally called upon to give up a career at the law to provide his aunt
with a favourable opportunity to play bridge whist!"
"No," George agreed. "But I haven't begun my 'career at the law' so
it can't be said I'm making any considerable sacrifice. I'll tell you
how it is, sir." He flushed, and, looking out of the streaked and
smoky window beside which he was sitting, spoke with difficulty. "I
feel as if--as if perhaps I had one or two pretty important things in
my life to make up for. Well, I can't. I can't make them up to--to
whom I would. It's struck me that, as I couldn't, I might be a little
decent to somebody else, perhaps--if I could manage it! I never have
been particularly decent to poor old Aunt Fanny."
"Oh, I don't know: I shouldn't say that. A little youthful teasing--I
doubt if she's minded so much. She felt your father's death
terrifically, of course, but it seems to me she's had a fairly
comfortable life-up to now--if she was disposed to take it that way."
"But 'up to now' is the important thing," George said. "Now is now--
and you see I can't wait two years to be admitted to the bar and begin
to practice. I've got to start in at something else that pays from
the start, and that's what I've come to you about. I have an idea,
"Well, I'm glad of that!" said old Frank, smiling. "I can't think of
anything just at this minute that pays from the start."
"I only know of one thing, myself."
"What is it?"
George flushed again, but managed to laugh at his own embarrassment.
"I suppose I'm about as ignorant of business as anybody in the world,"
he said. "But I've heard they pay very high wages to people in
dangerous trades; I've always heard they did, and I'm sure it must be
true. I mean people that handle touchy chemicals or high explosives--
men in dynamite factories, or who take things of that sort about the
country in wagons, and shoot oil wells. I thought I'd see if you
couldn't tell me something more about it, or else introduce me to
someone who could, and then I thought I'd see if I couldn't get
something of the kind to do as soon as possible. My nerves are good;
I'm muscular, and I've got a steady hand; it seemed to me that this
was about the only line of work in the world that I'm fitted for. I
wanted to get started to-day if I could."
Old Frank gave him a long stare. At first this scrutiny was sharply
incredulous; then it was grave; finally it developed into a threat of
overwhelming laughter; a forked vein in his forehead became more
visible and his eyes seemed about to protrude.
But he controlled his impulse; and, rising, took up his hat and
overcoat. "All right," he said. "If you'll promise not to get blown
up, I'll go with you to see if we can find the job." Then, meaning
what be said, but amazed that he did mean it, he added: "You certainly
are the most practical young man I ever met!"
They found the job. It needed an apprenticeship of only six weeks,
during which period George was to receive fifteen dollars a week;
after that he would get twenty-eight. This settled the apartment
question, and Fanny was presently established in a greater contentment
than she had known for a long time. Early every morning she made
something she called (and believed to be) coffee for George, and he
was gallant enough not to undeceive her. She lunched alone in her
"kitchenette," for George's place of employment was ten miles out of
town on an interurban trolley-line, and he seldom returned before
seven. Fanny found partners for bridge by two o'clock almost every
afternoon, and she played until about six. Then she got George's
"dinner clothes" out for him--he maintained this habit--and she
changed her own dress. When he arrived he usually denied that he was
tired, though he sometimes looked tired, particularly during the first
few months; and he explained to her frequently--looking bored enough
with her insistence--that his work was "fairly light, and fairly
congenial, too." Fanny had the foggiest idea of what it was, though
she noticed that it roughened his hands and stained them. "Something
in those new chemical works," she explained to casual inquirers. It
was not more definite in her own mind.
Respect for George undoubtedly increased within her, however, and she
told him she'd always had a feeling he might "turn out to be a
mechanical genius, or something." George assented with a nod, as the
easiest course open to him. He did not take a hand at bridge after
dinner: his provisions' for Fanny's happiness refused to extend that
far, and at the table d'hote he was a rather discouraging boarder. He
was considered "affected" and absurdly "up-stage" by the one or two
young men, and the three or four young women, who enlivened the
elderly retreat; and was possibly less popular there than he had been
elsewhere during his life, though he was now nothing worse than a
coldly polite young man who kept to himself. After dinner he would
escort his aunt from the table in some state (not wholly unaccompanied
by a leerish wink or two from the wags of the place) and he would
leave her at the door of the communal parlours and card rooms, with a
formality in his bow of farewell which afforded an amusing contrast to
Fanny's always voluble protests. (She never failed to urge loudly
that he really must come and play, just this once, and not go hiding
from everybody in his room every evening like this!) At least some of
the other inhabitants found the contrast amusing, for sometimes, as he
departed stiffly toward the elevator, leaving her still entreating in
the doorway (though with one eye already on her table, to see that it
was not seized) a titter would follow him which he was no doubt meant
to hear. He did not care whether they laughed or not.
And once, as he passed the one or two young men of the place
entertaining the three or four young women, who were elbowing and
jerking on a settee in the lobby, he heard a voice inquiring quickly,
as he passed:
"What makes people tired?"
"Well, what's the answer?"
Then, with an intentional outbreak of mirth, the answer was given by
two loudly whispering voices together:
"A stuck-up boarder!"
George didn't care.
On Sunday mornings Fanny went to church and George took long walks.
He explored the new city, and found it hideous, especially in the
early spring, before the leaves of the shade trees were out. Then the
town was fagged with the long winter and blacked with the heavier
smoke that had been held close to the earth by the smoke-fog it bred.
Every-thing was damply streaked with the soot: the walls of the
houses, inside and out, the gray curtains at the windows, the windows
themselves, the dirty cement and unswept asphalt underfoot, the very
sky overhead. Throughout this murky season he continued his
explorations, never seeing a face he knew--for, on Sunday, those whom
he remembered, or who might remember him, were not apt to be found
within the limits of the town, but were congenially occupied with the
new outdoor life which had come to be the mode since his boyhood. He
and Fanny were pretty thoroughly buried away within the bigness of the
One of his Sunday walks, that spring, he made into a sour pilgrimage.
It was a misty morning of belated snow slush, and suited him to a
perfection of miserableness, as he stood before the great dripping
department store which now occupied the big plot of ground where once
had stood both the Amberson Hotel and the Amberson Opera House. From
there he drifted to the old "Amberson Block," but this was fallen into
a back-water; business had stagnated here. The old structure had not
been replaced, but a cavernous entryway for trucks had been torn in
its front, and upon the cornice, where the old separate metal letters
had spelt "Amberson Block," there was a long billboard sign: "Doogan
To spare himself nothing, he went out National Avenue and saw the
piles of slush-covered wreckage where the Mansion and his mother's
house had been, and where the Major's ill-fated five "new" houses had
stood; for these were down, too, to make room for the great tenement
already shaped in unending lines of foundation. But the Fountain of
Neptune was gone at last--and George was glad that it was!
He turned away from the devastated site, thinking bitterly that the
only Amberson mark still left upon the town was the name of the
boulevard--Amberson Boulevard. But he had reckoned without the city
council of the new order, and by an unpleasant coincidence, while the
thought was still in his mind, his eye fell upon a metal oblong sign
upon the lamppost at the corner. There were two of these little signs
upon the lamp-post, at an obtuse angle to each other, one to give
passers-by the name of National Avenue, the other to acquaint them
with Amberson Boulevard. But the one upon which should have been
stenciled "Amberson Boulevard" exhibited the words "Tenth Street."
George stared at it hard. Then he walked quickly along the boulevard
to the next corner and looked at the little sign there. "Tenth
It had begun to rain, but George stood unheeding, staring at the
little sign. "Damn them!" he said finally, and, turning up his coat-
collar, plodded back through the soggy streets toward "home."
The utilitarian impudence of the city authorities put a thought into
his mind. A week earlier he had happened to stroll into the large
parlour of the apartment house, finding it empty, and on the
center table he noticed a large, red-bound, gilt-edged book, newly
printed, bearing the title: "A Civic History," and beneath the title,
the rubric, "Biographies of the 500 Most Prominent Citizens and
Families in the History of the City." He had glanced at it absently,
merely noticing the title and sub-title, and wandered out of the room,
thinking of other things and feeling no curiosity about the book. But
he had thought of it several times since with a faint, vague
uneasiness; and now when he entered the lobby he walked directly into
the parlour where he had seen the book. The room was empty, as it
always was on Sunday mornings, and the flamboyant volume was still
upon the table--evidently a fixture as a sort of local Almanach de
Gotha, or Burke, for the enlightenment of tenants and boarders.
He opened it, finding a few painful steel engravings of placid, chin-
bearded faces, some of which he remembered dimly; but much more
numerous, and also more unfamiliar to him, were the pictures of neat,
aggressive men, with clipped short hair and clipped short moustaches--
almost all of them strangers to him. He delayed not long with these,
but turned to the index where the names of the five hundred Most
Prominent Citizens and Families in the History of the City were
arranged in alphabetical order, and ran his finger down the column of
George's eyes remained for some time fixed on the thin space between
the names "Allen" and "Ambrose." Then he closed the book quietly, and
went up to his own room, agreeing with the elevator boy, on the way,
that it was getting to be a mighty nasty wet and windy day outside.
The elevator boy noticed nothing unusual about him and neither did
Fanny, when she came in from church with her hat ruined, an hour
later. And yet something had happened--a thing which, years ago, had
been the eagerest hope of many, many good citizens of the town. They
had thought of it, longed for it, hoping acutely that they might live
to see the day when it would come to pass. And now it had happened at
last: Georgie Minafer had got his come-upance.
He had got it three times filled and running over. The city had
rolled over his heart, burying it under, as it rolled over the Major's
and buried it under. The city had rolled over the Ambersons and
buried them under to the last vestige; and it mattered little that
George guessed easily enough that most of the five hundred Most
Prominent had paid something substantial "to defray the cost of steel
engraving, etc."--the Five Hundred had heaved the final shovelful of
soot upon that heap of obscurity wherein the Ambersons were lost
forever from sight and history. "Quicksilver in a nest of cracks!"
Georgie Minafer had got his come-upance, but the people who had so
longed for it were not there to see it, and they never knew it. Those
who were still living had forgotten all about it and all about him.
There was one border section of the city which George never explored
in his Sunday morning excursions. This was far out to the north where
lay the new Elysian Fields of the millionaires, though he once went as
far in that direction as the white house which Lucy had so admired
long ago--her "Beautiful House." George looked at it briefly and
turned back, rumbling with an interior laugh of some grimness. The
house was white no longer; nothing could be white which the town had
reached, and the town reached far beyond the beautiful white house
now. The owners had given up and painted it a despairing chocolate,
suitable to the freight-yard life it was called upon to endure.
George did not again risk going even so far as that, in the direction
of the millionaires, although their settlement began at least two
miles farther out. His thought of Lucy and her father was more a
sensation than a thought, and may be compared to that of a convicted
cashier beset by recollections of the bank he had pillaged--there are
some thoughts to which one closes the mind. George had seen Eugene
only once since their calamitous encounter. They had passed on
opposite sides of the street, downtown; each had been aware of the
other, and each had been aware that the other was aware of him, and
yet each kept his eyes straight forward, and neither had shown a
perceptible alteration of countenance. It seemed to George that he
felt emanating from the outwardly imperturbable person of his mother's
old friend a hate that was like a hot wind.
At his mother's funeral and at the Major's he had been conscious that
Eugene was there: though he had afterward no recollection of seeing
him, and, while certain of his presence, was uncertain how he knew of
it. Fanny had not told him, for she understood George well enough not
to speak to him of Eugene or Lucy. Nowadays Fanny almost never saw
either of them and seldom thought of them--so sly is the way of time
with life. She was passing middle age, when old intensities and
longings grow thin and flatten out, as Fanny herself was thinning and
flattening out; and she was settling down contentedly to her apartment
house intimacies. She was precisely suited by the table-d'hote life,
with its bridge, its variable alliances and shifting feuds, and the
long whisperings of elderly ladies at corridor corners--those eager
but suppressed conversations, all sibilance, of which the elevator boy
declared he heard the words "she said" a million times and the word
"she," five million. The apartment house suited Fanny and swallowed
The city was so big, now, that people disappeared into it unnoticed,
and the disappearance of Fanny and her nephew was not exceptional.
People no longer knew their neighbours as a matter of course; one
lived for years next door to strangers--that sharpest of all the
changes since the old days--and a friend would lose sight of a friend
for a year, and not know it.
One May day George thought he had a glimpse of Lucy. He was not
certain, but he was sufficiently disturbed, in spite of his
uncertainty. A promotion in his work now frequently took him out of
town for a week, or longer, and it was upon his return from one of
these absences that he had the strange experience. He had walked home
from the station, and as he turned the corner which brought him in
sight of the apartment house entrance, though two blocks distant from
it, he saw a charming little figure come out, get into a shiny
landaulet automobile, and drive away. Even at that distance no one
could have any doubt that the little figure was charming; and the
height, the quickness and decision of motion, even the swift gesture
of a white glove toward the chauffeur--all were characteristic of
Lucy. George was instantly subjected to a shock of indefinable
nature, yet definitely a shock: he did not know what he felt--but he
knew that he felt. Heat surged over him: probably he would not have
come face to face with her if the restoration of all the ancient
Amberson magnificence could have been his reward. He went on slowly,
his knees shaky.
But he found Fanny not at home; she had been out all afternoon; and
there was no record of any caller--and he began to wonder, then to
doubt if the small lady he had seen in the distance was Lucy. It
might as well have been, he said to himself--since any one who looked
like her could give him "a jolt like that!"
Lucy had not left a card. She never left one when she called on
Fanny; though she did not give her reasons a quite definite form in
her own mind. She came seldom; this was but the third time that year,
and, when she did come, George was not mentioned either by her hostess
or by herself--an oddity contrived between the two ladies without
either of them realizing how odd it was. For, naturally, while Fanny
was with Lucy, Fanny thought of George, and what time Lucy had
George's aunt before her eyes she could not well avoid the thought of
him. Consequently, both looked absent-minded as they talked, and each
often gave a wrong answer which the other consistently failed to
At other times Lucy's thoughts of George were anything but continuous,
and weeks went by when he was not consciously in her mind at all. Her
life was a busy one: she had the big house "to keep up"; she had a
garden to keep up, too, a large and beautiful garden; she represented
her father as a director for half a dozen public charity
organizations, and did private charity work of her own, being a proxy
mother of several large families; and she had "danced down," as she
said, groups from eight or nine classes of new graduates returned from
the universities, without marrying any of them, but she still danced--
and still did not marry.
Her father, observing this circumstance happily, yet with some
hypocritical concern, spoke of it to her one day as they stood in her
garden. "I suppose I'd want to shoot him," he said, with attempted
lightness. "But I mustn't be an old pig. I'd build you a beautiful
house close by--just over yonder."
"No, no! That would be like--" she began impulsively; then checked
herself. George Amberson's comparison of the Georgian house to the
Amberson Mansion had come into her mind, and she thought that another
new house, built close by for her, would be like the house the Major
built for Isabel.
"Nothing." She looked serious, and when he reverted to his idea of
"some day" grudgingly surrendering her up to a suitor, she invented a
legend. "Did you ever hear the Indian name for that little grove of
beech trees on the other side of the house?" she asked him.
"No--and you never did either!" he laughed.
"Don't be so sure! I read a great deal more than I used to--getting
ready for my bookish days when I'll have to do something solid in the
evenings and won't be asked to dance any more, even by the very
youngest boys who think it's a sporting event to dance with the oldest
of the 'older girls'. The name of the grove was 'Loma-Nashah' and it
"Doesn't sound like it."
"Indian names don't. There was a bad Indian chief lived in the grove
before the white settlers came. He was the worst Indian that ever
lived, and his name was--it was 'Vendonah.' That means 'Rides-Down-
"His name was Vendonah, the same thing as Rides-Down-Everything."
"I see," said Eugene thoughtfully. He gave her a quick look and then
fixed his eyes upon the end of the garden path. Go on."
"Vendonah was an unspeakable case," Lucy continued. "He was so proud
that he wore iron shoes and he walked over people's faces with them.
he was always killing people that way, and so at last the tribe
decided that it wasn't a good enough excuse for him that he was young
and inexperienced--he'd have to go. They took him down to the river,
and put him in a canoe, and pushed him out from shore; and then they
ran along the bank and wouldn't let him land, until at last the
current carried the canoe out into the middle, and then on down to the
ocean, and he never got back. They didn't want him back, of course,
and if he'd been able to manage it, they'd have put him in another
canoe and shoved him out into the river again. But still, they didn't
elect another chief in his place. Other tribes thought that was
curious, and wondered about it a lot, but finally they came to the
conclusion that the beech grove people were afraid a new chief might
turn out to be a bad Indian, too, and wear iron shoes like Vendonah.
But they were wrong, because the real reason was that the tribe had
led such an exciting life under Vendonah that they couldn't settle
down to anything tamer. He was awful, but he always kept things
happening--terrible things, of course. They bated him, but they
weren't able to discover any other warrior that they wanted to make
chief in his place. I suppose it was a little like drinking a glass
of too strong wine and then trying to take the taste out of your mouth
with barley water. They couldn't help feeling that way."
"I see," said Eugene. "So that's why they named the place 'They-
"It must have been."
"And so you're going to stay here in your garden," he said musingly.
"You think it's better to keep on walking these sunshiny gravel paths
between your flower-beds, and growing to look like a pensive garden
lady in a Victorian engraving."
"I suppose I'm like the tribe that lived here, papa. I had too much
unpleasant excitement. It was unpleasant--but it was excitement. I
don't want any more; in fact, I don't want anything but you."
"You don't?" He looked at her keenly, and she laughed and shook her
head; but he seemed perplexed, rather doubtful. "What was the name of
the grove?" he asked. "The Indian name, I mean."
"No, it wasn't; that wasn't the name you said."
"I see you have," he said, his look of perplexity remaining. "Perhaps
you remember the chief's name better."
She shook her head again. "I don't!"
At this he laughed, but not very heartily, and walked slowly to the
house, leaving her bending over a rose-bush, and a shade more pensive
than the most pensive garden lady in any Victorian engraving.
. . . Next day, it happened that this same "Vendonah" or "Rides-Down-
Everything" became the subject of a chance conversation between Eugene
and his old friend Kinney, father of the fire-topped Fred. The two
gentlemen found themselves smoking in neighbouring leather chairs
beside a broad window at the club, after lunch.
Mr. Kinney had remarked that he expected to get his family established
at the seashore by the Fourth of July, and, following a train of
thought, he paused and chuckled. "Fourth of July reminds me," he
said. "Have you heard what that Georgie Minafer is doing?"
"No, I haven't," said Eugene, and his friend failed to notice the
crispness of the utterance.
"Well, sir," Kinney chuckled again, "it beats the devil! My boy Fred
told me about it yesterday. He's a friend of this young Henry Akers,
son of F. P. Akers of the Akers Chemical Company. It seems this young
Akers asked Fred if he knew a fellow named Minafer, because he knew
Fred had always lived here, and young Akers had heard some way that
Minafer used to be an old family name here, and was sort of curious
about it. Well, sir, you remember this young Georgie sort of
disappeared, after his grandfather's death, and nobody seemed to know
much what had become of him--though I did hear, once or twice, that he
was still around somewhere. Well, sir, he's working for the Akers
Chemical Company, out at their plant on the Thomasvile Road."
He paused, seeming to reserve something to be delivered only upon
inquiry, and Eugene offered him the expected question, but only after
a cold glance through the nose-glasses he had lately found it
necessary to adopt. "What does he do?"
Kinney laughed and slapped the arm of his chair.
"He's a nitroglycerin expert!"
He was gratified to see that Eugene was surprised, if not, indeed, a
"He's an expert on nitroglycerin. Doesn't that beat the devil! Yes,
sir! Young Akers told Fred that this George Minafer had worked like a
houn'-dog ever since he got started out at the works. They have a
special plant for nitroglycerin, way off from the main plant, o'
course--in the woods somewhere--and George Minafer's been working
there, and lately they put him in charge of it. He oversees shooting
oil-wells, too, and shoots 'em himself, sometimes. They aren't
allowed to carry it on the railroads, you know--have to team it.
Young Akers says George rides around over the bumpy roads, sitting on
as much as three hundred quarts of nitroglycerin! My Lord! Talk
about romantic tumbles! If he gets blown sky-high some day he won't
have a bigger drop, when he comes down, than he's already had! Don't
it beat the devil! Young Akers said he's got all the nerve there is
in the world. Well, he always did have plenty of that--from the time
he used to ride around here on his white pony and fight all the Irish
boys in Can-Town, with his long curls all handy to be pulled out.
Akers says he gets a fair salary, and I should think he ought to!
Seems to me I've heard the average life in that sort of work is
somewhere around four years, and agents don't write any insurance at
all for nitroglycerin experts. Hardly!"
"No," said Eugene. "I suppose not."
Kinney rose to go. "Well, it's a pretty funny thing--pretty odd, I
mean--and I suppose it would be pass-around-the-hat for old Fanny
Minafer if he blew up. Fred told me that they're living in some
apartment house, and said Georgie supports her. He was going to study
law, but couldn't earn enough that way to take care of Fanny, so he
gave it up. Fred's wife told him all this. Says Fanny doesn't do
anything but play bridge these days. Got to playing too high for
awhile and lost more than she wanted to tell Georgie about, and
borrowed a little from old Frank Bronson. Paid him back, though.
Don't know how Fred's wife heard it. Women do' hear the darndest
"They do," Eugene agreed.
"I thought you'd probably heard about it--thought most likely Fred's
wife might have said something to your daughter, especially as they're
"I think not."
"Well, I'm off to the store," said Mr. Kinney briskly; yet he
lingered. "I suppose we'll all have to club in and keep old Fanny out
of the poorhouse if he does blow up. From all I hear it's usually
only a question of time. They say she hasn't got anything else to
"I suppose not."
"Well--I wondered--" Kinney hesitated. "I was wondering why you
hadn't thought of finding something around your works for him. They
say he's an all-fired worker and he certainly does seem to have hid
some decent stuff in him under all his damfoolishness. And you used
to be such a tremendous friend of the family--I thought perhaps you--
of course I know he's a queer lot--I know--"
"Yes, I think he is," said Eugene. "No. I haven't anything to offer
"I suppose not," Kinney returned thoughtfully, as he went out. "I
don't know that I would myself. Well, we'll probably see his name in
the papers some day if he stays with that job!"
However, the nitroglycerin expert of whom they spoke did not get into
the papers as a consequence of being blown up, although his daily life
was certainly a continuous exposure to that risk. Destiny has a
constant passion for the incongruous, and it was George's lot to
manipulate wholesale quantities of terrific and volatile explosives in
safety, and to be laid low by an accident so commonplace and
inconsequent that it was a comedy. Fate had reserved for him the
final insult of riding him down under the wheels of one of those
juggernauts at which he had once shouted "Git a hoss!" Nevertheless,
Fate's ironic choice for Georgie's undoing was not a big and swift and
momentous car, such as Eugene manufactured; it was a specimen of the
hustling little type that was flooding the country, the cheapest,
commonest, hardiest little car ever made.
The accident took place upon a Sunday morning, on a downtown crossing,
with the streets almost empty, and no reason in the world for such a
thing to happen. He had gone out for his Sunday morning walk, and he
was thinking of an automobile at the very moment when the little car
struck him; he was thinking of a shiny landaulet and a charming figure
stepping into it, and of the quick gesture of a white glove toward the
chauffeur, motioning him to go on. George heard a shout but did not
look up, for he could not imagine anybody's shouting at him, and he
was too engrossed in the question "Was it Lucy?" He could not decide,
and his lack of decision in this matter probably superinduced a lack
of decision in another, more pressingly vital. At the second and
louder shout he did look up; and the car was almost on him; but he
could not make up his mind if the charming little figure he had seen
was Lucy's and he could not make up his mind whether to go backward or
forward: these questions became entangled in his mind. Then, still
not being able to decide which of two ways to go, he tried to go both
--and the little car ran him down. It was not moving very rapidly, but
it went all the way over George.
He was conscious of gigantic violence; of roaring and jolting and
concussion; of choking clouds of dust, shot with lightning, about his
head; he heard snapping sounds as loud as shots from a small pistol,
and was stabbed by excruciating pains in his legs. Then he became
aware that the machine was being lifted off of him. People were
gathering in a circle round him, gabbling.
His forehead was bedewed with the sweat of anguish, and he tried to
wipe off this dampness, but failed. He could not get his arm that
"Nev' mind," a policeman said; and George could see above his eyes the
skirts of the blue coat, covered with dust and sunshine. "Amb'lance
be here in a minute. Nev' mind tryin' to move any. You want 'em to
send for some special doctor?"
"No." George's lips formed the word.
"Or to take you to some private hospital?"
"Tell them to take me," he said faintly, "to the City Hospital."
A smallish young man in a duster fidgeted among the crowd, explaining
and protesting, and a strident voiced girl, his companion, supported
his argument, declaring to everyone her willingness to offer testimony
in any court of law that every blessed word he said was the God's
"It's the fella that hit you," the policeman said, looking down on
George. "I guess he's right; you must of been thinkin' about somep'm'
or other. It's wunnerful the damage them little machines can do--
you'd never think it--but I guess they ain't much case ag'in this
fella that was drivin' it."
"You bet your life they ain't no case on me!" the young man in the
duster agreed, with great bitterness. He came and stood at George's
feet, addressing him heatedly: "I'm sorry fer you all right, and I
don't say I ain't. I hold nothin' against you, but it wasn't any more
my fault than the statehouse! You run into me, much as I run into
you, and if you get well you ain't goin' to get not one single cent
out o' me! This lady here was settin' with me and we both yelled at
you. Wasn't goin' a step over eight mile an hour! I'm perfectly
willing to say I'm sorry for you though, and so's the lady with me.
We're both willing to say that much, but that's all, understand!"
George's drawn eyelids twitched; his misted glance rested fleetingly
upon the two protesting motorists, and the old imperious spirit within
him flickered up in a single word. Lying on his back in the middle of
the street, where he was regarded an increasing public as an
unpleasant curiosity, he spoke this word clearly from a mouth filled
with dust, and from lips smeared with blood.
It was a word which interested the policeman. When the ambulance
clanged away, he turned to a fellow patrolman who had joined him.
"Funny what he says to the little cuss that done the damage. That's
all he did call him--'nothin' else at all--and the cuss had broke both
his legs fer him and God-knows-what-all!"
"I wasn't here then. What was it?"
Eugene's feeling about George had not been altered by his talk with
Kinney in the club window, though he was somewhat disturbed. He was
not disturbed by Kinney's hint that Fanny Minafer might be left on the
hands of her friends through her nephew's present dealings with
nitroglycerin, but he was surprised that Kinney had "led up" with
intentional tact to the suggestion that a position might be made for
George in the Morgan factory. Eugene did not care to have any
suggestions about Georgie Minafer made to him. Kinney had represented
Georgie as a new Georgie--at least in spots--a Georgie who was proving
that decent stuff had been hid in him; in fact, a Georgie who was
doing rather a handsome thing in taking a risky job for the sake of
his aunt, poor old silly Fanny Minafer! Eugene didn't care what risks
Georgie took, or how much decent stuff he had in him: nothing that
Georgie would ever do in this world or the next could change Eugene
Morgan's feeling toward him.
If Eugene could possibly have brought himself to offer Georgie a
position in the automobile business, he knew full well the proud devil
wouldn't have taken it from him; though Georgie's proud reason would
not have been the one attributed to him by Eugene. George would never
reach the point where he could accept anything material from Eugene
and preserve the self-respect he had begun to regain.
But if Eugene had wished, he could easily have taken George out of the
nitroglycerin branch of the chemical works. Always interested in
apparent impossibilities of invention, Eugene had encouraged many
experiments in such gropings as those for the discovery of substitutes
for gasoline and rubber; and, though his mood had withheld the
information from Kinney, he had recently bought from the elder Akers a
substantial quantity of stock on the condition that the chemical
company should establish an experimental laboratory. He intended to
buy more; Akers was anxious to please him; and a word from Eugene
would have placed George almost anywhere in the chemical works.
George need never have known it, for Eugene's purchases of stock were
always quiet ones: the transaction remained, so far, between him and
Akers, and could be kept between them.
The possibility just edged itself into Eugene's mind; that is, he let
it become part of his perceptions long enough for it to prove to him
that it was actually a possibility. Then he half started with disgust
that he should be even idly considering such a thing over his last
cigar for the night, in his library. "No!" And he threw the cigar
into the empty fireplace and went to bed.
His bitterness for himself might have worn away, but never his
bitterness for Isabel. He took that thought to bed with him--and it
was true that nothing George could do would ever change this
bitterness of Eugene. Only George's mother could have changed it.
And as Eugene fell asleep that night, thinking thus bitterly of
Georgie, Georgie in the hospital was thinking of Eugene. He had come
"out of ether" with no great nausea, and had fallen into a reverie,
though now and then a white sailboat staggered foolishly into the
small ward where he lay. After a time he discovered that this
happened only when he tried to open his eyes and look about him; so he
kept his eyes shut, and his thoughts were clearer.
He thought of Eugene Morgan and of the Major; they seemed to be the
same person for awhile, but he managed to disentangle them and even to
understand why he had confused them. Long ago his grandfather had
been the most striking figure of success in the town: "As rich as
Major Amberson!" they used to say. Now it was Eugene. "If I had
Eugene Morgan's money," he would hear the workmen day-dreaming at the
chemical works; or, "If Eugene Morgan had hold of this place you'd see
things hum!" And the boarders at the table d'hote spoke of "the
Morgan Place" as an eighteenth-century Frenchman spoke of Versailles.
Like his uncle, George had perceived that the "Morgan Place" was the
new Amberson Mansion. His reverie went back to the palatial days of
the Mansion, in his boyhood, when he would gallop his pony up the
driveway and order the darkey stable-men about, while they whooped and
obeyed, and his grandfather, observing from a window, would laugh and
call out to him, "That's right, Georgie. Make those lazy rascals
jump!" He remembered his gay young uncles, and how the town was eager
concerning everything about them, and about himself. What a clean,
pretty town it had been! And in his reverie be saw like a pageant
before him the magnificence of the Ambersons--its passing, and the
passing of the Ambersons themselves. They had been slowly engulfed
without knowing how to prevent it, and almost without knowing what was
happening to them. The family lot, in the shabby older quarter, out
at the cemetery, held most of them now; and the name was swept
altogether from the new city. But the new great people who had taken
their places--the Morgans and Akerses and Sheridans--they would go,
too. George saw that. They would pass, as the Ambersons had passed,
and though some of them might do better than the Major and leave the
letters that spelled a name on a hospital or a street, it would be
only a word and it would not stay forever. Nothing stays or holds or
keeps where there is growth, he somehow perceived vaguely but truly.
Great Caesar dead and turned to clay stopped no hole to keep the wind
away dead Caesar was nothing but a tiresome bit of print in a book
that schoolboys study for awhile and then forget. The Ambersons had
passed, and the new people would pass, and the new people that came
after them, and then the next new ones, and the next--and the next--
He had begun to murmur, and the man on duty as night nurse for the
ward came and bent over him.
"Did you want something?"
"There's nothing in this family business," George told him
confidentially. "Even George Washington is only something in a book."
Eugene read a report of the accident in the next morning's paper. He
was on the train, having just left for New York, on business, and with
less leisure would probably have overlooked the obscure item:
G. A. Minafer, an employee of the Akers Chemical Co., was run down by
an automobile yesterday at the corner of Tennessee and Main and had
both legs broken. Minafer was to blame for the accident according to
patrolman F. A. Kax, who witnessed the affair. The automobile was a
small one driven by Herbert Cottleman of 9173 Noble Avenue who stated
that he was making less than 4 miles an hour. Minafer is said to
belong to a family formerly of considerable prominence in the city.
He was taken to the City Hospital where physicians stated later that
he was suffering from internal injuries besides the fracture of his
legs but might recover.
Eugene read the item twice, then tossed the paper upon the opposite
seat of his compartment, and sat looking out of the window. His
feeling toward Georgie was changed not a jot by his human pity for
Georgie's human pain and injury. He thought of Georgie's tall and
graceful figure, and he shivered, but his bitterness was untouched.
He had never blamed Isabel for the weakness which had cost them the
few years of happiness they might have had together; he had put the
blame all on the son, and it stayed there.
He began to think poignantly of Isabel: he had seldom been able to
"see" her more clearly than as be sat looking out of his compartment
window, after reading the account of this accident. She might have
been just on the other side of the glass, looking in at him--and then
he thought of her as the pale figure of a woman, seen yet unseen,
flying through the air, beside the train, over the fields of
springtime green and through the woods that were just sprouting out
their little leaves. He closed his eyes and saw her as she had been
long ago. He saw the brown-eyed, brown-haired, proud, gentle,
laughing girl he had known when first he came to town, a boy just out
of the State College. He remembered--as he had remembered ten
thousand times before--the look she gave him when her brother George
introduced him to her at a picnic; it was "like hazel starlight" he
had written her, in a poem, afterward. He remembered his first call
at the Amberson Mansion, and what a great personage she seemed, at
home in that magnificence; and yet so gay and friendly. He remembered
the first time he had danced with her--and the old waltz song began to
beat in his ears and in his heart. They laughed and sang it together
as they danced to it:
"Oh, love for a year, a week, a day,
But alas for the love that lasts always--"
Most plainly of all he could see her dancing; and he became articulate
in the mourning whisper: "So graceful--oh, so graceful--"
All the way to New York it seemed to him that Isabel was near him, and
he wrote of her to Lucy from his hotel the next night:
I saw an account of the accident to George Minafer. I'm sorry, though
the paper states that it was plainly his own fault. I suppose it may
have been as a result of my attention falling upon the item that I
thought of his mother a great deal on the way here. It seemed to me
that I had never seen her more distinctly or so constantly, but, as
you know, thinking of his mother is not very apt to make me admire
him! Of course, however, he has my best wishes for his recovery.
He posted the letter, and by the morning's mail he received one from
Lucy written a few hours after his departure from home. She enclosed
the item he had read on the train.
I thought you might not see it.
I have seen Miss Fanny and she has got him put into a room by himself.
Oh, poor Rides-Down-Everything I have been thinking so constantly of
his mother and it seemed to me that I have never seen her more
distinctly. How lovely she was--and how she loved him!
If Lucy had not written this letter Eugene might not have done the odd
thing he did that day. Nothing could have been more natural than that
both he and Lucy should have thought intently of Isabel after reading
the account of George's accident, but the fact that Lucy's letter had
crossed his own made Eugene begin to wonder if a phenomenon of
telepathy might not be in question, rather than a chance coincidence.
The reference to Isabel in the two letters was almost identical: he
and Lucy, it appeared, had been thinking of Isabel at the same time--
both said "constantly" thinking of her--and neither had ever "seen her
more distinctly." He remembered these phrases in his own letter
Reflection upon the circumstance stirred a queer spot in Eugene's
brain--he had one. He was an adventurer; if he had lived in the
sixteenth century he would have sailed the unknown new seas, but
having been born in the latter part of the nineteenth, when geography
was a fairly well-settled matter, he had become an explorer in
mechanics. But the fact that he was a "hard-headed business man" as
well as an adventurer did not keep him from having a queer spot in his
brain, because hard-headed business men are as susceptible to such
spots as adventurers are. Some of them are secretly troubled when
they do not see the new moon over the lucky shoulder; some of them
have strange, secret incredulities--they do not believe in geology,
for instance; and some of them think they have had supernatural
experiences. "Of course there was nothing in it--still it was queer!"
Two weeks after Isabel's death, Eugene had come to New York on urgent
business and found that the delayed arrival of a steamer gave him a
day with nothing to do. His room at the hotel had become intolerable;
outdoors was intolerable; everything was intolerable. It seemed to
him that he must see Isabel once more, hear her voice once more; that
he must find some way to her, or lose his mind. Under this pressure
he had gone, with complete scepticism, to a "trance-medium" of whom be
had heard, wild accounts from the wife of a business acquaintance. He
thought despairingly that at least such an excursion would be "trying
to do something!" He remembered the woman's name; found it in the
telephone book, and made an appointment.
The experience had been grotesque, and he came away with an
encouraging message from his father, who had failed to identify
himself satisfactorily, but declared that everything was "on a higher
plane" in his present state of being, and that all life was
"continuous and progressive." Mrs. Horner spoke of herself as a
"psychic"; but otherwise she seemed oddly unpretentious and matter-of-
fact; and Eugene had no doubt at all of her sincerity. He was sure
that she was not an intentional fraud, and though he departed in a
state of annoyance with himself, he came to the conclusion that if any
credulity were played upon by Mrs. Horner's exhibitions, it was her
Nevertheless, his queer spot having been stimulated to action by the
coincidence of the letters, he went to Mrs. Horner's after his
directors' meeting today. He used the telephone booth in the
directors' room to make the appointment; and he laughed feebly at
himself, and wondered what the group of men in that mahogany apartment
would think if they knew what he was doing. Mrs. Horner had changed
her address, but he found the new one, and somebody purporting to be a
niece of hers talked to him and made an appointment for a "sitting" at
five o'clock. He was prompt, and the niece, a dull-faced fat girl
with a magazine under her arm, admitted him to Mrs. Horner's
apartment, which smelt of camphor; and showed him into a room with
gray painted walls, no rug on the floor and no furniture except a
table (with nothing on it) and two chairs: one a leather easy-chair
and the other a stiff little brute with a wooden seat. There was one
window with the shade pulled down to the sill, but the sun was bright
outside, and the room had light enough.
Mrs. Horner appeared in the doorway, a wan and unenterprising looking
woman in brown, with thin hair artificially waved--but not recently--
and parted in the middle over a bluish forehead. Her eyes were small
and seemed weak, but she recognized the visitor.
"Oh, you been here before," she said, in a thin voice, not unmusical.
"I recollect you. Quite a time ago, wa'n't it?"
"Yes, quite a long time."
"I recollect because I recollect you was disappointed. Anyway, you
was kind of cross." She laughed faintly.
"I'm sorry if I seemed so," Eugene said. "Do you happen to have found
out my name?"
She looked surprised and a little reproachful. "Why, no. I never try
to find out people's name. Why should I? I don't claim anything for
the power; I only know I have it--and some ways it ain't always such a
blessing, neither, I can tell you!"
Eugene did not press an investigation of her meaning, but said
vaguely, "I suppose not. Shall we--"
"All right," she assented, dropping into the leather chair, with her
back to the shaded window. "You better set down, too, I reckon. I
hope you'll get something this time so you won't feel cross, but I
dunno. I can't never tell what they'll do. Well--"
She sighed, closed her eyes, and was silent, while Eugene, seated in
the stiff chair across the table from her, watched her profile,
thought himself an idiot, and called himself that and other names.
And as the silence continued, and the impassive woman in the easy-
chair remained impassive, he began to wonder what had led him to be
such a fool. It became clear to him that the similarity of his letter
and Lucy's needed no explanation involving telepathy, and was not even
an extraordinary coincidence. What, then, had brought him back to
this absurd place and caused him to be watching this absurd woman
taking a nap in a chair? In brief: What the devil did he mean by it?
He had not the slightest interest in Mrs. Horner's naps--or in her
teeth, which were being slightly revealed by the unconscious parting
of her lips, as her breathing became heavier. If the vagaries of his
own mind had brought him into such a grotesquerie as this, into what
did the vagaries of other men's minds take them? Confident that he
was ordinarily saner than most people, he perceived that since he was
capable of doing a thing like this, other men did even more idiotic
things, in secret. And he had a fleeting vision of sober-looking
bankers and manufacturers and lawyers, well-dressed church-going men,
sound citizens--and all as queer as the deuce inside!
How long was he going to sit here presiding over this unknown woman's
slumbers? It struck him that to make the picture complete he ought to
be shooing flies away from her with a palm-leaf fan.
Mrs. Horner's parted lips closed again abruptly, and became
compressed; her shoulders moved a little, then jerked repeatedly; her
small chest heaved; she gasped, and the compressed lips relaxed to a
slight contortion, then began to move, whispering and bringing forth
Suddenly she spoke in a loud, husky voice:
"Lopa is here!"
"Yes," Eugene said dryly. "That's what you said last time. I
remember 'Lopa.' She's your 'control' I think you said."
"I'm Lopa," said the husky voice. "I'm Lopa herself."
"You mean I'm to suppose you're not Mrs. Horner now?"
"Never was Mrs. Horner!" the voice declared, speaking undeniably from
Mrs. Horner's lips--but with such conviction that Eugene, in spite of
everything, began to feel himself in the presence of a third party,
who was none the less an individual, even though she might be another
edition of the apparently somnambulistic Mrs. Horner. "Never was Mrs.
Horner or anybody but just Lopa. Guide."
"You mean you're Mrs. Horner's guide?" he asked.
"Your guide now," said the voice with emphasis, to which was
incongruously added a low laugh. "You came here once before. Lopa
"Yes--so did Mrs. Horner."
Lopa overlooked his implication, and continued, quickly: "You build.
Build things that go. You came here once and old gentleman on this
side, he spoke to you. Same old gentleman here now. He tell Lopa
he's your grandfather--no, he says 'father.' He's your father."
"What's his appearance?"
"What does he look like?"
"Very fine! White beard, but not long beard. He says someone else
wants to speak to you. See here. Lady. Not his wife, though. No.
Very fine lady! Fine lady, fine lady!"
"Is it my sister?" Eugene asked.
"Sister? No. She is shaking her head. She has pretty brown hair.
She is fond of you. She is someone who knows you very well but she is
not your sister. She is very anxious to say something to you--very
anxious. Very fond of you; very anxious to talk to you. Very glad
you came here--oh, very, glad!"
"What is her name?"
"Name," the voice repeated, and seemed to ruminate. "Name hard to
get--always very hard for Lopa. Name. She wants to tell me her name
to tell you. She wants you to understand names are hard to make. She
says you must think of something that makes a sound." Here the voice
seemed to put a question to an invisible presence and to receive an
answer. "A little sound or a big sound? She says it might be a
little sound or a big sound. She says a ring--oh, Lopa knows! She
means a bell! That's it, a bell."
Eugene looked grave. "Does she mean her name is Belle?"
"Not quite. Her name is longer."
"Perhaps," he suggested, "she means that she was a belle."
"No. She says she thinks you know what she means. She says you must
think of a colour. What colour?" Again Lopa addressed the unknown,
but this time seemed to wait for an answer.
"Perhaps she means the colour of her eyes," said Eugene.
"No. She says her colour is light--it's a light colour and you can see
"Amber?" he said, and was startled, for Mrs. Horner, with her eyes
still closed, clapped her hands, and the voice cried out in delight:
"Yes! She says you know who she is from amber. Amber! Amber!
That's it! She says you understand what her name is from a bell and
from amber. She is laughing and waving a lace handkerchief at me
because she is pleased. She says I have made you know who it is."
This was the strangest moment of Eugene's life, because, while it
lasted, he believed that Isabel Amberson, who was dead, had found
means to speak to him. Though within ten minutes he doubted it, he
believed it then.
His elbows pressed hard upon the table, and, his head between his
hands, he leaned forward, staring at the commonplace figure in the
easy-chair. "What does she wish to say to me?"
"She is happy because you know her. No--she is troubled. Oh--a great
trouble! Something she wants to tell you. She wants so much to tell
you. She wants Lopa to tell you. This is a great trouble. She says
--oh, yes, she wants you to be--to be kind! That's what she says.
That's it. To be kind."
"She wants you to be kind," said the voice. "She nods when I tell you
this. Yes; it must be right. She is a very fine lady. Very pretty.
She is so anxious for you to understand. She hopes and hopes you
will. Someone else wants to speak to you. This is a man. He says--"
"I don't want to speak to any one else," said Eugene quickly. "I
"This man who has come says that he is a friend of yours. He says--"
Eugene struck the table with his fist. "I don't want to speak to any
one else, I tell you!" he cried passionately. "If she is there I--"
He caught his breath sharply, checked himself, and sat in amazement.
Could his mind so easily accept so stupendous a thing as true?
Evidently it could!
Mrs. Horner spoke languidly in her own voice: "Did you get anything
satisfactory?" she asked. "I certainly hope it wasn't like that other
time when you was cross because they couldn't get anything for you."
"No, no," he said hastily. "This was different It was very
He paid her, went to his hotel, and thence to his train for home.
Never did he so seem to move through a world of dream-stuff: for he
knew that, he was not more credulous than other men, and. if he could
believe what he had believed, though he had believed it for no longer
than a moment or two, what hold had he or any other human being on
His credulity vanished (or so he thought) with his recollection that
it was he, and not the alleged "Lopa," who had suggested the word
"amber." Going over the mortifying, plain facts of his experience, he
found that Mrs. Horner, or the subdivision of Mrs. Horner known as
"Lopa," had told him to think of a bell and of a colour, and that
being furnished with these scientific data, he had leaped to the
conclusion that he spoke with Isabel Amberson!
For a moment he had believed that Isabel was there, believed that she
was close to him, entreating him--entreating him "to be kind." But
with this recollection a strange agitation came upon him. After all,
had she not spoken to him? If his own unknown consciousness had told
the "psychic's" unknown consciousness how to make the picture of the
pretty brown-haired, brown-eyed lady, hadn't the picture been a true
one? And hadn't the true Isabel--oh, indeed her very soul!--called to
him out of his own true memory of her?
And as the train roared through the darkened evening he looked out
beyond his window, and saw her as he had seen her on his journey, a
few days ago--an ethereal figure flying beside the train, but now it
seemed to him that she kept her face toward his window with an
"To be kind!" If it had been Isabel, was that what she would have
said? If she were anywhere, and could come to him through the
invisible wall, what would be the first thing she would say to him?
Ah, well enough, and perhaps bitterly enough, he knew the answer to
that question! "To be kind"--to Georgie!
A red-cap at the station, when he arrived, leaped for his bag,
abandoning another which the Pullman porter had handed him. "Yessuh,
Mist' Morgan. Yessuh. You' car waitin' front the station fer you,
Mist' Morgan, suh!"
And people in the crowd about the gates turned to stare, as he passed
through, whispering, "That's Morgan."
Outside, the neat chauffeur stood at the door of the touring-car like
a soldier in whip-cord.
"I'll not go home now, Harry," said Eugene, when he had got in.
"Drive to the City Hospital."
"Yes, sir," the man returned. "Miss Lucy's 'there. She said she
expected you'd come there before you went home"
Eugene stared. "I suppose Mr. Minafer must be pretty bad," he said.
"Yes, sir. I understand he's liable to get well, though, sir." He
moved his lever into high speed, and the car went through the heavy
traffic like some fast, faithful beast that knew its way about, and
knew its master's need of haste. Eugene did not speak again until
they reached the hospital.
Fanny met him in the upper corridor, and took him to an open door.
He stopped on the threshold, startled; for, from the waxen face on the
pillow, almost it seemed the eyes of Isabel herself were looking at
him: never before had the resemblance between mother and son been so
strong--and Eugene knew that now he had once seen it thus startlingly,
he need divest himself of no bitterness "to be kind" to Georgie.
George was startled, too. He lifted a white hand in a queer gesture,
half forbidding, half imploring, and then let his arm fall back upon
the coverlet. "You must have thought my mother wanted you to come,"
he said, "so that I could ask you to--to forgive me."
But Lucy, who sat beside him, lifted ineffable eyes from him to her
father, and shook her head. "No, just to take his hand--gently!"
She was radiant.
But for Eugene another radiance filled the room. He knew that he had
been true at last to his true love, and that through him she had
brought her boy under shelter again. Her eyes would look wistful no