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时间:2019-12-13 15:35:27 作者:闪闪宝石 浏览量:63855

Chapter 26That evening, after dinner, George sat with his mother and his Aunt Fanny upon the veranda. In former summers, when they sat outdoors in the evening, they had customarily used an open terrace at the side of the house, looking toward the Major's, but that more private retreat now afforded too blank and abrupt a view of the nearest of the new houses; so, without consultation, they had abandoned it for the Romanesque stone structure in front, an oppressive place. Its oppression seemed congenial to George; he sat upon the copestone of the stone parapet, his back against a stone pilaster; his attitude not comfortable, but rigid, and his silence not comfortable, either, but heavy. However, to the eyes of his mother and his aunt, who occupied wicker chairs at a little distance, he was almost indistinguishable except for the stiff white shield of his evening frontage. "It's so nice of you always to dress in the evening, Georgie," his mother said, her glance resting upon this surface. "Your Uncle George always used to, and so did father, for years; but they both stopped quite a long time ago. Unless there's some special occasion, it seems to me we don't see it done any more, except on the stage and in the magazines." He made no response, and Isabel, after waiting a little while, as if she expected one, appeared to acquiesce in his mood for silence, and turned her head to gaze thoughtfully out at the street. There, in the highway, the evening life of the Midland city had begun. A rising moon was bright upon the tops of the shade trees, where their branches met overhead, arching across the street, but only filtered splashings of moonlight reached the block pavement below; and through this darkness flashed the firefly lights of silent bicycles gliding by in pairs and trios鈥攐r sometimes a dozen at a time might come, and not so silent, striking their little bells; the riders' voices calling and laughing; while now and then a pair of invisible experts would pass, playing mandolin and guitar as if handle-bars were of no account in the world鈥攖heir music would come swiftly, and then too swiftly die away. Surreys rumbled lightly by, with the plod-plod of honest old horses, and frequently there was the glitter of whizzing spokes from a runabout or a sporting buggy, and the sharp, decisive hoof-beats of a trotter. Then, like a cowboy shooting up a peaceful camp, a frantic devil would hurtle out of the distance, bellowing, exhaust racketing like a machine gun gone amuck鈥攁nd at these horrid sounds the surreys and buggies would hug the curbstone, and the bicycles scatter to cover, cursing; while children rushed from the sidewalks to drag pet dogs from the street. The thing would roar by, leaving a long wake of turbulence; then the indignant street would quiet down for a few minutes鈥攖ill another came. "There are a great many more than there used to be," Miss Fanny observed, in her lifeless voice, as the lull fell after one of these visitations. "Eugene is right about that; there seem to be at least three or four times as many as there were last summer, and you never hear the ragamuffins shouting 'Get a horse!' nowadays; but I think he may be mistaken about their going on increasing after this. I don't believe we'll see so many next summer as we do now." "Why?" asked Isabel. "Because I've begun to agree with George about their being more a fad than anything else, and I think it must be the height of the fad just now. You know how roller-skating came in鈥攅verybody in the world seemed to be crowding to the rinks鈥攁nd now only a few children use rollers for getting to school. Besides, people won't permit the automobiles to be used. Really, I think they'll make laws against them. You see how they spoil the bicycling and the driving; people just seem to hate them! They'll never stand it鈥攏ever in the world! Of course I'd be sorry to see such a thing happen to Eugene, but I shouldn't be really surprised to see a law passed forbidding the sale of automobiles, just the way there is with concealed weapons." "Fanny!" exclaimed her sister-in-law. "You're not in earnest?" "I am, though!" Isabel's sweet-toned laugh came out of the dusk where she sat. "Then you didn't mean it when you told Eugene you'd enjoyed the drive this afternoon?" "I didn't say it so very enthusiastically, did I?" "Perhaps not, but he certainly thought he'd pleased you." "I don't think I gave him any right to think he'd pleased me" Fanny said slowly. "Why not? Why shouldn't you, Fanny?" Fanny did not reply at once, and when she did, her voice was almost inaudible, but much more reproachful than plaintive. "I hardly think I'd want any one to get the notion he'd pleased me just now. It hardly seems time, yet鈥攖o me." Isabel made no response, and for a time the only sound upon the dark veranda was the creaking of the wicker rocking-chair in which Fanny sat鈥攁 creaking which seemed to denote content and placidity on the part of the chair's occupant, though at this juncture a series of human shrieks could have been little more eloquent of emotional disturbance. However, the creaking gave its hearer one great advantage: it could be ignored. "Have you given up smoking, George?" Isabel asked presently. "No." "I hoped perhaps you had, because you've not smoked since dinner. We shan't mind if you care to." "No, thanks." There was silence again, except for the creaking of the rocking-chair; then a low, clear whistle, singularly musical, was heard softly rendering an old air from "Fra Diavolo." The creaking stopped. "Is that you, George?" Fanny asked abruptly. "Is that me what?" "Whistling 'On Yonder Rock Reclining'?" "It's I," said Isabel. "Oh," Fanny said dryly. "Does it disturb you?" "Not at all. I had an idea George was depressed about something, and merely wondered if he could be making such a cheerful sound." And Fanny resumed her creaking. "Is she right, George?" his mother asked quickly, leaning forward in her chair to peer at him through the dusk. "You didn't eat a very hearty dinner, but I thought it was probably because of the warm weather. Are you troubled about anything?" "No!" he said angrily. "That's good. I thought we had such a nice day, didn't you?" "I suppose so," he muttered, and, satisfied, she leaned back in her chair; but "Fra Diavolo" was not revived. After a time she rose, went to the steps, and stood for several minutes looking across the street. Then her laughter was faintly heard. "Are you laughing about something?" Fanny inquired. "Pardon?" Isabel did not turn, but continued her observation of what had interested her upon the opposite side of the street. "I asked: Were you laughing at something?" "Yes, I was!" And she laughed again. "It's that funny, fat old Mrs. Johnson. She has a habit of sitting at her bedroom window with a pair of opera-glasses." "Really!" "Really. You can see the window through the place that was left when we had the dead walnut tree cut down. She looks up and down the street, but mostly at father's and over here. Sometimes she forgets to put out the light in her room, and there she is, spying away for all the world to see!" However, Fanny made no effort to observe this spectacle, but continued her creaking. "I've always thought her a very good woman," she said primly. "So she is," Isabel agreed. "She's a good, friendly old thing, a little too intimate in her manner, sometimes, and if her poor old opera-glasses afford her the quiet happiness of knowing what sort of young man our new cook is walking out with, I'm the last to begrudge it to her! Don't you want to come and look at her, George?" "What? I beg your pardon. I hadn't noticed what you were talking about." "It's nothing," she laughed. "Only a funny old lady鈥攁nd she's gone now. I'm going, too鈥攁t least, I'm going indoors to read. It's cooler in the house, but the heat's really not bad anywhere, since nightfall. Summer's dying. How quickly it goes, once it begins to die." When she had gone into the house, Fanny stopped rocking, and, leaning forward, drew her black gauze wrap about her shoulders and shivered. "Isn't it queer," she said drearily, "how your mother can use such words?" "What words are you talking about?" George asked. "Words like 'die' and 'dying.' I don't see how she can bear to use them so soon after your poor father鈥" She shivered again. "It's almost a year," George said absently, and he added: "It seems to me you're using them yourself." "I? Never!" "Yes, you did." "When?" "Just this minute." "Oh!" said Fanny. "You mean when I repeated what she said? That's hardly the same thing, George." He was not enough interested to argue the point. "I don't think you'll convince anybody that mother's unfeeling," he said indifferently. "I'm not trying to convince anybody. I mean merely that in my opinion 鈥攚ell, perhaps it may be just as wise for me to keep my opinions to myself." She paused expectantly, but her possible anticipation that George would urge her to discard wisdom and reveal her opinion was not fulfilled. His back was toward her, and he occupied himself with opinions of his own about other matters. Fanny may have felt some disappointment as she rose to withdraw. However, at the last moment she halted with her hand upon the latch of the screen door. "There's one thing I hope," she said. "I hope at least she won't leave off her full mourning on the very anniversary of Wilbur's death!" The light door clanged behind her, and the sound annoyed her nephew. He had no idea why she thus used inoffensive wood and wire to dramatize her departure from the veranda, the impression remaining with him being that she was critical of his mother upon some point of funeral millinery. Throughout the desultory conversation he had been profoundly concerned with his own disturbing affairs, and now was preoccupied with a dialogue taking place (in his mind) between himself and Miss Lucy Morgan. As he beheld the vision, Lucy had just thrown herself at his feet. "George, you must forgive me!" she cried. "Papa was utterly wrong! I have told him so, and the truth is that I have come to rather dislike him as you do, and as you always have, in your heart of hearts. George, I understand you: thy people shall be my people and thy gods my gods. George, won't you take me back?" "Lucy, are you sure you understand me?" And in the darkness George's bodily lips moved in unison with those which uttered the words in his imaginary rendering of this scene. An eavesdropper, concealed behind the column, could have heard the whispered word "sure," the emphasis put upon it in the vision was so poignant. "You say you understand me, but are you sure?" Weeping, her head bowed almost to her waist, the ethereal Lucy made reply: "Oh, so sure! I will never listen to father's opinions again. I do not even care if I never see him again!" "Then I pardon you," he said gently. This softened mood lasted for several moments鈥攗ntil he realized that it had been brought about by processes strikingly lacking in substance. Abruptly he swung his feet down from the copestone to the floor of the veranda. "Pardon nothing!" No meek Lucy had thrown herself in remorse at his feet; and now he pictured her as she probably really was at this moment: sitting on the white steps of her own front porch in the moonlight, with red-headed Fred Kinney and silly Charlie Johnson and four or five others鈥攁ll of them laughing, most likely, and some idiot playing the guitar! George spoke aloud: "Riffraff!" And because of an impish but all too natural reaction of the mind, he could see Lucy with much greater distinctness in this vision than in his former pleasing one. For a moment she was miraculously real before him, every line and colour of her. He saw the moonlight shimmering in the chiffon of her skirts brightest on her crossed knee and the tip of her slipper; saw the blue curve of the characteristic shadow behind her, as she leaned back against the white step; saw the watery twinkling of sequins in the gauze wrap over her white shoulders as she moved, and the faint, symmetrical lights in her black hair鈥攁nd not one alluring, exasperating twentieth-of-an-inch of her laughing profile was spared him as she seemed to turn to the infernal Kinney鈥 "Riffraff!" And George began furiously to pace the stone floor. "Riffraff!" By this hard term鈥攁 favourite with him since childhood's scornful hour鈥攈e meant to indicate, not Lucy, but the young gentlemen who, in his vision, surrounded her. "Riffraff!" he said again, aloud, and again: "Riffraff!" At that moment, as it happened, Lucy was playing chess with her father; and her heart, though not remorseful, was as heavy as George could have wished. But she did not let Eugene see that she was troubled, and he was pleased when he won three games of her. Usually she beat him.The Honourable George Amberson was a congressman who led cotillions鈥 the sort of congressman an Amberson would be. He did it negligently, tonight, yet with infallible dexterity, now and then glancing humorously at the spectators, people of his own age. They were seated in a tropical grove at one end of the room whither they had retired at the beginning of the cotillion, which they surrendered entirely to the twenties and the late 'teens. And here, grouped with that stately pair, Sydney and Amelia Amberson, sat Isabel with Fanny, while Eugene Morgan appeared to bestow an amiable devotion impartially upon the three sisters-in-law. Fanny watched his face eagerly, laughing at everything he said; Amelia smiled blandly, but rather because of graciousness than because of interest; while Isabel, looking out at the dancers, rhythmically moved a great fan of blue ostrich feathers, listened to Eugene thoughtfully, yet all the while kept her shining eyes on Georgie. Georgie had carried out his rehearsed projects with precision, he had given Miss Morgan a nod studied into perfection during his lengthy toilet before dinner. "Oh, yes, I do seem to remember that curious little outsider!" this nod seemed to say. Thereafter, all cognizance of her evaporated: the curious little outsider was permitted no further existence worth the struggle. Nevertheless, she flashed in the corner of his eye too often. He was aware of her dancing demurely, and of her viciously flirtatious habit of never looking up at her partner, but keeping her eyes concealed beneath downcast lashes; and he had over-sufficient consciousness of her between the dances, though it was not possible to see her at these times, even if he had cared to look frankly in her direction鈥攕he was invisible in a thicket of young dresscoats. The black thicket moved as she moved and her location was hatefully apparent, even if he had not heard her voice laughing from the thicket. It was annoying how her voice, though never loud, pursued him. No matter how vociferous were other voices, all about, he seemed unable to prevent himself from constantly recognizing hers. It had a quaver in it, not pathetic鈥攔ather humorous than pathetic鈥攁 quality which annoyed him to the point of rage, because it was so difficult to get away from. She seemed to be having a "wonderful time!" An unbearable soreness accumulated in his chest: his dislike of the girl and her conduct increased until he thought of leaving this sickening Assembly and going home to bed. That would show her! But just then he heard her laughing, and decided that it wouldn't show her. So he remained. When the young couples seated themselves in chairs against the walls, round three sides of the room, for the cotillion, George joined a brazen-faced group clustering about the doorway鈥攜ouths with no partners, yet eligible to be "called out" and favoured. He marked that his uncle placed the infernal Kinney and Miss Morgan, as the leading couple, in the first chairs at the head of the line upon the leader's right; and this disloyalty on the part of Uncle George was inexcusable, for in the family circle the nephew had often expressed his opinion of Fred Kinney. In his bitterness, George uttered a significant monosyllable. The music flourished; whereupon Mr. Kinney, Miss Morgan, and six of their neighbours rose and waltzed knowingly. Mr. Amberson's whistle blew;' then the eight young people went to the favour-table and were given toys and trinkets wherewith to delight the new partners it was now their privilege to select. Around the walls, the seated non-participants in this ceremony looked rather conscious; some chattered, endeavouring not to appear expectant; some tried not to look wistful; and others were frankly solemn. It was a trying moment; and whoever secured a favour, this very first shot, might consider the portents happy for a successful evening. Holding their twinkling gewgaws in their hands, those about to bestow honour came toward the seated lines, where expressions became feverish. Two of the approaching girls seemed to wander, not finding a predetermined object in sight; and these two were Janie Sharon, and her cousin, Lucy. At this, George Amberson Minafer, conceiving that he had little to anticipate from either, turned a proud back upon the room and affected to converse with his friend, Mr. Charlie Johnson. The next moment a quick little figure intervened between the two. It was Lucy, gaily offering a silver sleighbell decked with white ribbon. "I almost couldn't find you!" she cried. George stared, took her hand, led her forth in silence, danced with her. She seemed content not to talk; but as the whistle blew, signalling that this episode was concluded, and he conducted her to her seat, she lifted the little bell toward him. "You haven't taken your favour. You're supposed to pin it on your coat," she said. "Don't you want it?" "If you insist!" said George stiffly. And he bowed her into her chair; then turned and walked away, dropping the sleighbell haughtily into his trousers' pocket. The figure proceeded to its conclusion, and George was given other sleighbells, which he easily consented to wear upon his lapel; but, as the next figure 'began, he strolled with a bored air to the tropical grove, where sat his elders, and seated himself beside his Uncle Sydney. His mother leaned across Miss Fanny, raising her voice over the music to speak to him. "Georgie, nobody will be able to see you here. You'll not be favoured. You ought to be where you can dance." "Don't care to," he returned. "Bore!" "But you ought鈥" She stopped and laughed, waving her fan to direct his attention behind him. "Look! Over your shoulder!" He turned, and discovered Miss Lucy Morgan in the act of offering him a purple toy balloon. "I found you!" she laughed. George was startled. "Well鈥" he said. "Would you rather 'sit it out?'" Lucy asked quickly, as he did not move. "I don't care to dance if you鈥" "No," he said, rising. "It would be better to dance." His tone was solemn, and solemnly he departed with her from the grove. Solemnly he danced with her. Four times, with not the slightest encouragement, she brought him a favour: 'four times in succession. When the fourth came, "Look here!" said George huskily. "You going to keep this up all' night? What do you mean by it?" For an instant she seemed confused. "That's what cotillions are for, aren't they?" she murmured. "What do you mean: what they're for?" "So that a girl can dance with a person she wants to?" George's huskiness increased. "Well, do you mean you鈥攜ou want to dance with me all the time鈥攁ll evening?" "Well, this much of it鈥攅vidently!" she laughed. "Is it because you thought I tried to keep you from getting hurt this afternoon when we upset?" She shook her head. "Was it because you want to even things up for making me angry鈥擨 mean, for hurting my feelings on the way home?" With her eyes averted鈥攆or girls of nineteen can be as shy as boys, sometimes鈥攕he said, "Well鈥攜ou only got angry because I couldn't dance the cotillion with you. I鈥擨 didn't feel terribly hurt with you for getting angry about that!" "Was there any other reason? Did my telling you I liked you have anything to do with it?" She looked up gently, and, as George met her eyes, something exquisitely touching, yet queerly delightful, gave him a catch in the throat. She looked instantly away, and, turning, ran out from the palm grove, where they stood, to the dancing-floor. "Come on!" she cried. "Let's dance!" He followed her. "See here鈥擨鈥擨鈥" he stammered. "You mean鈥擠o you鈥" "No, no!" she laughed. "Let's dance!" He put his arm about her almost tremulously, and they began to waltz. It was a happy dance for both of them. Christmas day is the children's, but the holidays are youth's dancing-time. The holidays belong to the early twenties and the 'teens, home from school and college. These years possess the holidays for a little while, then possess them only in smiling, wistful memories of holly and twinkling lights and dance-music, and charming faces all aglow. It is the liveliest time in life, the happiest of the irresponsible times in life. Mothers echo its happiness鈥攏othing is like a mother who has a son home from college, except another mother with a son home from college. Bloom does actually come upon these mothers; it is a visible thing; and they run like girls, walk like athletes, laugh like sycophants. Yet they give up their sons to the daughters of other mothers, and find it proud rapture enough to be allowed to sit and watch. Thus Isabel watched George and Lucy dancing, as together they danced away the holidays of that year into the past. "They seem to get along better than they did at first, those two children," Fanny Minafer said sitting beside her at the Sharons' dance, a week after the Assembly. "They seemed to be always having little quarrels of some sort, at first. At least George did: he seemed to be continually pecking at that lovely, dainty, little Lucy, and being cross with her over nothing." "Pecking?" Isabel laughed. "What a word to use about Georgie! I think I never knew a more angelically amiable disposition in my life!" Miss Fanny echoed her sister-in-law's laugh, but it was a rueful echo, and not sweet. "He's amiable to you!" she said. "That's all the side of him you ever happen to see. And why wouldn't he be amiable to anybody that simply fell down and worshipped him every minute of her life? Most of us would!" "Isn't he worth worshipping? Just look at him! Isn't he charming with Lucy! See how hard he ran to get it when she dropped her handkerchief back there." "Oh, I'm not going to argue with you about George!" said Miss Fanny. "I'm fond enough of him, for that matter. He can be charming, and he's certainly stunning looking, if only鈥" "Let the 'if only' go, dear," Isabel suggested good-naturedly. "Let's talk about that dinner you thought I should鈥" "I?" Miss Fanny interrupted quickly. "Didn't you want to give it yourself?" "Indeed, I did, my dear!" said Isabel heartily. "I only meant that unless you had proposed it, perhaps I wouldn't鈥" But here Eugene came for her to dance, and she left the sentence uncompleted. Holiday dances can be happy for youth renewed as well as for youth in bud鈥攁nd yet it was not with the air of a rival that Miss Fanny watched her brother's wife dancing with the widower. Miss Fanny's eyes narrowed a little, but only as if her mind engaged in a hopeful calculation. She looked pleased.

Having finished some errands downtown, the next afternoon, George Amberson Minafer was walking up National Avenue on his homeward way when he saw in the distance, coming toward him, upon the same side of the street, the figure of a young lady鈥攁 figure just under the middle height, comely indeed, and to be mistaken for none other in the world 鈥攅ven at two hundred yards. To his sharp discomfiture his heart immediately forced upon him the consciousness of its acceleration; a sudden warmth about his neck made him aware that he had turned red, and then, departing, left him pale. For a panicky moment he thought of facing about in actual flight; he had little doubt that Lucy would meet him with no token of recognition, and all at once this probability struck him as unendurable. And if she did not speak, was it the proper part of chivalry to lift his hat and take the cut bareheaded? Or should the finer gentleman acquiesce in the lady's desire for no further acquaintance, and pass her with stony mien and eyes constrained forward? George was a young man badly flustered. But the girl approaching him was unaware of his trepidation, being perhaps somewhat preoccupied with her own. She saw only that he was pale, and that his eyes were darkly circled. But here he was advantaged with her, for the finest touch to his good looks was given by this toning down; neither pallor nor dark circles detracting from them, but rather adding to them a melancholy favour of distinction. George had retained his mourning, a tribute completed down to the final details of black gloves and a polished ebony cane (which he would have been pained to name otherwise than as a "walking-stick") and in the aura of this sombre elegance his straight figure and drawn face were not without a tristful and appealing dignity. In everything outward he was cause enough for a girl's cheek to flush, her heart to beat faster, and her eyes to warm with the soft light that came into Lucy's now, whether she would or no. If his spirit had been what his looks proclaimed it, she would have rejoiced to let the light glow forth which now shone in spite of her. For a long time, thinking of that spirit of his, and what she felt it should be, she had a persistent sense: "It must be there!" but she had determined to believe this folly no longer. Nevertheless, when she met him at the Sharons', she had been far less calm than she seemed. People speaking casually of Lucy were apt to define her as "a little beauty," a definition short of the mark. She was "a little beauty," but an independent, masterful, sell-reliant little American, of whom her father's earlier gipsyings and her own sturdiness had made a woman ever since she was fifteen. But though she was the mistress of her own ways and no slave to any lamp save that of her own conscience, she had a weakness: she had fallen in love with George Amberson Minafer at first sight, and no matter how she disciplined herself, she had never been able to climb out. The thing had happened to her; that was all. George had looked just the way she had always wanted someone to look鈥 the riskiest of all the moonshine ambushes wherein tricky romance snares credulous young love. But what was fatal to Lucy was that this thing having happened to her, she could not change it. No matter what she discovered in George's nature she was unable to take away what she had given him; and though she could think differently about him, she could not feel differently about him, for she was one of those too faithful victims of glamour. When she managed to keep the picture of George away from her mind's eye, she did well enough; but when she let him become visible, she could not choose but love what she disdained. She was a little angel who had fallen in love with high-handed Lucifer; quite an experience, and not apt to be soon succeeded by any falling in love with a tamer party鈥攁nd the unhappy truth was that George did make better men seem tame. But though she was a victim, she was a heroic one, anything but helpless. As they drew nearer, George tried to prepare himself to meet her with some remnants of aplomb. He decided that he would keep on looking straight ahead, and lift his hand toward his hat at the very last moment when it would be possible for her to see him out of the corner of her eye: then when she thought it over later, she would not be sure whether he had saluted her or merely rubbed his forehead. And there was the added benefit that any third person who might chance to look from a window, or from a passing carriage, would not think that he was receiving a snub, because he did not intend to lift his hat, but, timing the gesture properly, would in fact actually rub his forehead. These were the hasty plans which occupied his thoughts until he was within about fifty feet of her鈥攚hen he ceased to have either plans or thoughts, he had kept his eyes from looking full at her until then, and as he saw her, thus close at hand, and coming nearer, a regret that was dumfounding took possession of him. For the first time he had the sense of having lost something of overwhelming importance. Lucy did not keep to the right, but came straight to meet him, smiling, and with her hand offered to him. "Why鈥攜ou鈥" he stammered, as he took it. "Haven't you鈥" What he meant to say was, "Haven't you heard?" "Haven't I what?" she asked; and he saw that Eugene had not yet told her. "Nothing!" he gasped. "May I鈥攎ay I turn and walk with you a little way?" "Yes, indeed!" she said cordially. He would not have altered what had been done: he was satisfied with all that鈥攕atisfied that it was right, and that his own course was right. But he began to perceive a striking inaccuracy in some remarks he had made to his mother. Now when he had put matters in such shape that even by the relinquishment of his "ideals of life" he could not have Lucy, knew that he could never have her, and knew that when Eugene told her the history of yesterday he could not have a glance or word even friendly from her鈥攏ow when he must in good truth "give up all idea of Lucy," he was amazed that he could have used such words as "no particular sacrifice," and believed them when he said them! She had looked never in his life so bewitchingly pretty as she did today; and as he walked beside her he was sure that she was the most exquisite thing in the world. "Lucy," he said huskily, "I want to tell you something. Something that matters." "I hope it's a lively something then," she said; and laughed. "Papa's been so glum to-day he's scarcely spoken to me. Your Uncle George Amberson came to see him an hour ago and they shut themselves up in the library, and your uncle looked as glum as papa. I'd be glad if you'll tell me a funny story, George." "Well, it may seem one to you," he said bitterly, "Just to begin with: when you went away you didn't let me know; not even a word鈥攏ot a line鈥" Her manner persisted in being inconsequent. "Why, no," she said. "I just trotted off for some visits." "Well, at least you might have鈥" "Why, no," she said again briskly. "Don't you remember, George? We'd had a grand quarrel, and didn't speak to each other all the way home from a long, long drive! So, as we couldn't play together like good children, of course it was plain that we oughtn't to play at all." "Play!" he cried. "Yes. What I mean is that we'd come to the point where it was time to quit playing鈥攚ell, what we were playing." "At being lovers, you mean, don't you?" "Something like that," she said lightly. "For us two, playing at being lovers was just the same as playing at cross-purposes. I had all the purposes, and that gave you all the crossness: things weren't getting along at all. It was absurd!" "Well, have it your own way," he said. "It needn't have been absurd." "No, it couldn't help but be!" she informed him cheerfully. "The way I am and the way you are, it couldn't ever be anything else. So what was the use?" "I don't know," he sighed, and his sigh was abysmal. "But what I wanted to tell you is this: when you went away, you didn't let me know and didn't care how or when I heard it, but I'm not like that with you. This time, I'm going away. That's what I wanted to tell you. I'm going away tomorrow night鈥攊ndefinitely." She nodded sunnily. "That's nice for you. I hope you'll have ever so jolly a time, George." "I don't expect to have a particularly jolly time." "Well, then," she laughed, "if I were you I don't think I'd go." It seemed impossible to impress this distracting creature, to make her serious. "Lucy," he said desperately, "this is our last walk together." "Evidently!" she said, "if you're going away tomorrow night." "Lucy鈥攖his may be the last time I'll see you鈥攅ver鈥攅ver in my life." At that she looked at him quickly, across her shoulder, but she smiled as brightly as before, and with the same cordial inconsequence: "Oh, I can hardly think that!" she said. "And of course I'd be awfully sorry to think it. You're not moving away, are you, to live?" "No." "And even if you were, of course you'd be coming back to visit your relatives every now and then." "I don't know when I'm coming back. Mother and I are starting tomorrow night for a trip around the world." At this she did look thoughtful. "Your mother is going with you?" "Good heavens!" he groaned. "Lucy, doesn't it make any difference to you that I am going?" At this her cordial smile instantly appeared again. "Yes, of course," she said. "I'm sure I'll miss you ever so much. Are you to be gone long?" He stared at her wanly. "I told you indefinitely," he said. "We've made no plans鈥攁t all鈥攆or coming back." "That does sound like a long trip!" she exclaimed admiringly. "Do you plan to be travelling all the time, or will you stay in some one place the greater part of it? I think it would be lovely to鈥" "Lucy!" He halted; and she stopped with him. They had come to a corner at the edge of the "business section" of the city, and people were everywhere about them, brushing against them, sometimes, in passing. "I can't stand this," George said, in a low voice. "I'm just about ready to go in this drug-store here, and ask the clerk for something to keep me from dying in my tracks! It's quite a shock, you see, Lucy!" "What is?" "To find out certainly, at last, how deeply you've cared for me! To see how much difference this makes to you! By Jove, I have mattered to you!" Her cordial smile was tempered now with good-nature. "George!" She laughed indulgently. "Surely you don't want me to do pathos on a downtown corner!" "You wouldn't 'do pathos' anywhere!" "Well鈥攄on't you think pathos is generally rather fooling?" "I can't stand this any longer," he said. "I can't! Good-bye, Lucy!" He took her hand. "It's good-bye鈥擨 think it's good-bye for good, Lucy!" "Good-bye! I do hope you'll have the most splendid trip." She gave his hand a cordial little grip, then released it lightly. "Give my love to your mother. Good-bye!" He turned heavily away, and a moment later glanced back over his shoulder. She had not gone on, but stood watching him, that same casual, cordial smile on her face to the very last; and now, as he looked back, she emphasized her friendly unconcern by waving her small hand to him cheerily, though perhaps with the slightest hint of preoccupation, as if she had begun to think of the errand that brought her downtown. In his mind, George had already explained her to his own poignant dissatisfaction鈥攕ome blond pup, probably, whom she had met during that "perfectly gorgeous time!" And he strode savagely onward, not looking back again. But Lucy remained where she was until he was out of sight. Then she went slowly into the drugstore which had struck George as a possible source of stimulant for himself. "Please let me have a few drops of aromatic spirits of ammonia in a glass of water," she said, with the utmost composure. "Yes, ma'am!" said the impressionable clerk, who had been looking at her through the display window as she stood on the corner. But a moment later, as he turned from the shelves of glass jars against the wall, with the potion she had asked for in his hand, he uttered an exclamation: "For goshes' sake, Miss!" And, describing this adventure to his fellow-boarders, that evening, "Sagged pretty near to the counter, she was," he said. "If I hadn't been a bright, quick, ready-for-anything young fella she'd 'a' flummixed plum! I was watchin' her out the win-dow鈥攖alkin' to some young s'iety fella, and she was all right then. She was all right when she come in the store, too. Yes, sir; the prettiest girl that ever walked in our place and took one good look at me. I reckon it must be the truth what some you town wags say about my face!"名流整形 Until he reached the age of twelve, Georgie's education was a domestic process; tutors came to the house; and those citizens who yearned for his taking down often said: "Just wait till he has to go to public school; then he'll get it!" But at twelve Georgie was sent to a private school in the town, and there came from this small and dependent institution no report, or even rumour, of Georgie's getting anything that he was thought to deserve; therefore the yearning still persisted, though growing gaunt with feeding upon itself. For, although Georgie's pomposities and impudence in the little school were often almost unbearable, the teachers were fascinated by him. They did not like him鈥攈e was too arrogant for that鈥攂ut he kept them in such a state of emotion that they thought more about him than they did about all of the other ten pupils. The emotion he kept them in was usually one resulting from injured self-respect, but sometimes it was dazzled admiration. So far as their conscientious observation went, he "studied" his lessons sparingly; but sometimes, in class, he flashed an admirable answer, with a comprehension not often shown by the pupils they taught; and he passed his examinations easily. In all, without discernible effort, he acquired at this school some rudiments of a liberal education and learned nothing whatever about himself. The yearners were still yearning when Georgie, at sixteen, was sent away to a great "Prep School." "Now," they said brightly, "he'll get it! He'll find himself among boys just as important in their home towns as he is, and they'll knock the stuffing out of him when he puts on his airs with them! Oh, but that would be worth something to see!" They were mistaken, it appeared, for when Georgie returned, a few months later, he still seemed to have the same stuffing. He had been deported by the authorities, the offense being stated as "insolence and profanity"; in fact, he had given the principal of the school instructions almost identical with those formerly objected to by the Reverend Malloch Smith. But he had not got his come-upance, and those who counted upon it were embittered by his appearance upon the down-town streets driving a dog-cart at criminal speed, making pedestrians retreat from the crossings, and behaving generally as if he "owned the earth." A disgusted hardware dealer of middle age, one of those who hungered for Georgie's downfall, was thus driven back upon the sidewalk to avoid being run over, and so far forgot himself as to make use of the pet street insult of the year: "Got 'ny sense! See here, bub, does your mother know you're out?" Georgie, without even seeming to look at him, flicked the long lash of his whip dexterously, and a little spurt of dust came from the hardware man's trousers, not far below the waist. He was not made of hardware: he raved, looking for a missile; then, finding none, commanded himself sufficiently to shout after the rapid dog-cart: "Turn down your pants, you would-be dude! Raining in dear ole Lunnon! Git off the earth!" Georgie gave him no encouragement to think that he was heard. The dog-cart turned the next corner, causing indignation there, likewise, and, having proceeded some distance farther, halted in front of the "Amberson Block"鈥攁n old-fashioned four-story brick warren of lawyers offices, insurance and realestate offices, with a "drygoods store" occupying the ground floor. Georgie tied his lathered trotter to a telegraph pole, and stood for a moment looking at the building critically: it seemed shabby, and he thought his grandfather ought to replace it with a fourteen-story skyscraper, or even a higher one, such as he had lately seen in New York鈥攚hen he stopped there for a few days of recreation and rest on his way home from the bereaved school. About the entryway to the stairs were various tin signs, announcing the occupation and location of upper-floor tenants, and Georgie decided to take some of these with him if he should ever go to college. However, he did not stop to collect them at this time, but climbed the worn stairs鈥攖here was no elevator鈥攖o the fourth floor, went down a dark corridor, and rapped three times upon a door. It was a mysterious door, its upper half, of opaque glass, bearing no sign to state the business or profession of the occupants within; but overhead, upon the lintel, four letters had been smearingly inscribed, partly with purple ink and partly with a soft lead pencil, "F. O. T. A." and upon the plaster wall, above the lintel, there was a drawing dear to male adolescence: a skull and crossbones. Three raps, similar to Georgie's, sounded from within the room. Georgie then rapped four times the rapper within the room rapped twice, and Georgie rapped seven times. This ended precautionary measures; and a well-dressed boy of sixteen opened the door; whereupon Georgie entered quickly, and the door was closed behind him. Seven boys of congenial age were seated in a semicircular row of damaged office chairs, facing a platform whereon stood a solemn, red-haired young personage with a table before him. At one end of the room there was a battered sideboard, and upon it were some empty beer bottles, a tobacco can about two-thirds full, with a web of mold over the surface of the tobacco, a dusty cabinet photograph (not inscribed) of Miss Lillian Russell, several withered old pickles, a caseknife, and a half-petrified section of icing-cake on a sooty plate. At the other end of the room were two rickety card-tables and a stand of bookshelves where were displayed under dust four or five small volumes of M. Guy de Maupassant's stories, "Robinson Crusoe," "Sappho," "Mr. Barnes of New York," a work by Giovanni Boccaccio, a Bible, "The Arabian Nights' Entertainment," "Studies of the Human Form Divine," "The Little Minister," and a clutter of monthly magazines and illustrated weeklies of about that crispness one finds in such articles upon a doctor's ante-room table. Upon the wall, above the sideboard, was an old framed lithograph of Miss Della Fox in "Wang"; over the bookshelves there was another lithograph purporting to represent Mr. John L. Sullivan in a boxing costume, and beside it a halftone reproduction of "A Reading From Horner." The final decoration consisted of damaged papiermache鈥攁 round shield with two battle-axes and two cross-hilted swords, upon the wall over the little platform where stood the red-haired presiding officer. He addressed Georgie in a serious voice: "Welcome, Friend of the Ace." "Welcome, Friend of the Ace," Georgie responded, and all of the other boys repeated the words, "Welcome, Friend of the Ace." "Take your seat in the secret semicircle," said the presiding officer. "We will now proceed to鈥" But Georgie was disposed to be informal. He interrupted, turning to the boy who had admitted him: "Look here, Charlie Johnson, what's Fred Kinney doing in the president's chair? That's my place, isn't it? What you men been up to here, anyhow? Didn't you all agree I was to be president just the same, even if I was away at school?" "Well鈥" said Charlie Johnson uneasily. "Listen! I didn't have much to do with it. Some of the other members thought that long as you weren't in town or anything, and Fred gave the sideboard, why鈥" Mr. Kinney, presiding, held in his hand, in lieu of a gavel, and considered much more impressive, a Civil War relic known as a "horse-pistol." He rapped loudly for order. "All Friends of the Ace will take their seats!" he said sharply. "I'm president of the F. O. T. A. now, George Minafer, and don't you forget it! You and Charlie Johnson sit down, because I was elected perfectly fair, and we're goin' to hold a meeting here." "Oh, you are, are you?" said George skeptically. Charlie Johnson thought to mollify him. "Well, didn't we call this meeting just especially because you told us to? You said yourself we ought to have a kind of celebration because you've got back to town, George, and that's what we're here for now, and everything. What do you care about being president? All it amounts to is just calling the roll and鈥" The president de facto hammered the table. "This meeting will now proceed to鈥" "No, it won't," said George, and he advanced to the desk, laughing contemptuously. "Get off that platform." "This meeting will come to order!" Mr. Kinney commanded fiercely. "You put down that gavel," said George. "Whose is it, I'd like to know? It belongs to my grandfather, and you quit hammering it that way or you'll break it, and I'll have to knock your head off." "This meeting will come to order! I was legally elected here, and I'm not going to be bulldozed!" "All right," said Georgie. "You're president. Now we'll hold another election." "We will not!" Fred Kinney shouted. "We'll have our reg'lar meeting, and then we'll play euchre & nickel a corner, what we're here for. This meeting will now come to ord鈥" Georgie addressed the members. "I'd like to know who got up this thing in the first place," he said. "Who's the founder of the F.O.T.A., if you please? Who got this room rent free? Who got the janitor to let us have most of this furniture? You suppose you could keep this clubroom a minute if I told my grandfather I didn't want it for a literary club any more? I'd like to say a word on how you members been acting, too! When I went away I said I didn't care if you had a vice-president or something while I was gone, but here I hardly turned my back and you had to go and elect Fred Kinney president! Well, if that's what you want, you can have it. I was going to have a little celebration down here some night pretty soon, and bring some port wine, like we drink at school in our crowd there, and I was going to get my grandfather to give the club an extra room across the hall, and prob'ly I could get my Uncle George to give us his old billiard table, because he's got a new one, and the club could put it in the other room. Well, you got a new president now!" Here Georgie moved toward the door and his tone became plaintive, though undeniably there was disdain beneath his sorrow. "I guess all I better do is鈥攔esign!" And he opened the door, apparently intending to withdraw. "All in favour of having a new election," Charlie Johnson shouted hastily, "say, 'Aye'!" "Aye" was said by everyone present except Mr. Kinney, who began a hot protest, but it was immediately smothered. "All in favour of me being president instead of Fred Kinney," shouted Georgie, "say 'Aye.' The 'Ayes' have it!" "I resign," said the red-headed boy, gulping as he descended from the platform. "I resign from the club!" Hot-eyed, he found his hat and departed, jeers echoing after him as he plunged down the corridor. Georgie stepped upon the platform, and took up the emblem of office. "Ole red-head Fred'll be around next week," said the new chairman. "He'll be around boot-lickin' to get us to take him back in again, but I guess we don't want him: that fellow always was a trouble-maker. We will now proceed with our meeting. Well, fellows, I suppose you want to hear from your president. I don't know that I have much to say, as I have already seen most of you a few times since I got back. I had a good time at the old school, back East, but had a little trouble with the faculty and came on home. My family stood by me as well as I could ask, and I expect to stay right here in the old town until whenever I decide to enter college. Now, I don't suppose there's any more business before the meeting. I guess we might as well play cards. Anybody that's game for a little quarter-limit poker or any limit they say, why I'd like to have 'em sit at the president's card- table." When the diversions of the Friends of the Ace were concluded for that afternoon, Georgie invited his chief supporter, Mr. Charlie Johnson, to drive home with him to dinner, and as they jingled up National Avenue in the dog-cart, Charlie asked: "What sort of men did you run up against at that school, George?" "Best crowd there: finest set of men I ever met." "How'd you get in with 'em?" Georgie laughed. "I let them get in with me, Charlie," he said in a tone of gentle explanation. "It's vulgar to do any other way. Did I tell you the nickname they gave me鈥'King'? That was what they called me at that school, 'King Minafer." "How'd they happen to do that?" his friend asked innocently. "Oh, different things," George answered lightly. "Of course, any of 'em that came from anywhere out in this part the country knew about the family and all that, and so I suppose it was a good deal on account of鈥攐h, on account of the family and the way I do things, most likely."白金会白金会Chapter 2白金会白金会He went to his room, threw off his coat, waistcoat, collar, and tie, letting them lie where they chanced to fall, and then, having violently enveloped himself in a black velvet dressing-gown, continued this action by lying down with a vehemence that brought a wheeze of protest from his bed. His repose was only a momentary semblance, however, for it lasted no longer than the time it took him to groan "Riffraff!" between his teeth. Then he sat up, swung his feet to the floor, rose, and began to pace up and down the large room. He had just been consciously rude to his mother for the first time in his life; for, with all his riding down of populace and riffraff, he had never before been either deliberately or impulsively disregardful of her. When he had hurt her it had been accidental; and his remorse for such an accident was always adequate compensation鈥攁nd more鈥攖o Isabel. But now he had done a rough thing to her; and he did not repent; rather he was the more irritated with her. And when he heard her presently go by his door with a light step, singing cheerfully to herself as she went to her room, he perceived that she had mistaken his intention altogether, or, indeed, had failed to perceive that he had any intention at all. Evidently she had concluded that he refused to speak to her and Morgan out of sheer absent-mindedness, supposing him so immersed in some preoccupation that he had not seen them or heard her calling to him. Therefore there was nothing of which to repent, even if he had been so minded; and probably Eugene himself was unaware that any disapproval had recently been expressed. George snorted. What sort of a dreamy loon did they take him to be? There came a delicate, eager tapping at his door, not done with a knuckle but with the tip of a fingernail, which was instantly clarified to George's mind's eye as plainly as if he saw it: the long and polished white-mooned pink shield on the end of his Aunt Fanny's right forefinger. But George was in no mood for human communications, and even when things went well he had little pleasure in Fanny's society. Therefore it is not surprising that at the sound of her tapping, instead of bidding her enter, he immediately crossed the room with the intention of locking the door to keep her out. Fanny was too eager, and, opening the door before he reached it, came quickly in, and closed it behind her. She was in a street dress and a black hat, with a black umbrella in her black-gloved hand鈥攆or Fanny's heavy mourning, at least, was nowhere tempered with a glimpse of white, though the anniversary of Wilbur's death had passed. An infinitesimal perspiration gleamed upon her pale skin; she breathed fast, as if she had run up the stairs; and excitement was sharp in her widened eyes. Her look was that of a person who had just seen something extraordinary or heard thrilling news. "Now, what on earth do you want?" her chilling nephew demanded. "George," she said hurriedly, "I saw what you did when you wouldn't speak to them. I was sitting with Mrs. Johnson at her front window, across the street, and I saw it all." "Well, what of it?" "You did right!" Fanny said with a vehemence not the less spirited because she suppressed her voice almost to a whisper. "You did exactly right! You're behaving splendidly about the whole thing, and I want to tell you I know your father would thank you if he could see what you're doing." "My Lord!" George broke out at her. "You make me dizzy! For heaven's sake quit the mysterious detective business鈥攁t least do quit it around me! Go and try it on somebody else, if you like; but I don't want to hear it!" She began to tremble, regarding him with a fixed gaze. "You don't care to hear then," she said huskily, "that I approve of what you're doing?" "Certainly not! Since I haven't the faintest idea what you think I'm 'doing,' naturally I don't care whether you approve of it or not. All I'd like, if you please, is to be alone. I'm not giving a tea here, this afternoon, if you'll permit me to mention it!" Fanny's gaze wavered; she began to blink; then suddenly she sank into a chair and wept silently, but with a terrible desolation. "Oh, for the Lord's sake!" he moaned. "What in the world is wrong with you?" "You're always picking on me," she quavered wretchedly, her voice indistinct with the wetness that bubbled into it from her tears. "You do鈥攜ou always pick on me! You've always done it鈥攁lways鈥攅ver since you were a little boy! Whenever anything goes wrong with you, you take it out on me! You do! You always鈥" George flung to heaven a gesture of despair; it seemed to him the last straw that Fanny should have chosen this particular time to come and sob in his room over his mistreatment of her! "Oh, my Lord!" he whispered; then, with a great effort, addressed her in a reasonable tone: "Look here, Aunt Fanny; I don't see what you're making all this fuss about. Of course I know I've teased you sometimes, but鈥" "Teased' me?" she wailed. "Teased' me! Oh, it does seem too hard, sometimes鈥攖his mean old life of mine does seem too hard! I don't think I can stand it! Honestly, I don't think I can! I came in here just to show you I sympathized with you鈥攋ust to say something pleasant to you, and you treat me as if I were鈥攐h, no, you wouldn't treat a servant the way you treat me! You wouldn't treat anybody in the world like this except old Fanny! 'Old Fanny' you say. 'It's nobody but old Fanny, so I'll kick her鈥攏obody will resent it. I'll kick her all I want to!' You do! That's how you think of me-I know it! And you're right: I haven't got anything in the world, since my brother died鈥攏obody鈥攏othing鈥攏othing!" "Oh my Lord!" George groaned. Fanny spread out her small, soaked handkerchief, and shook it in the air to dry it a little, crying as damply and as wretchedly during this operation' as before鈥攁 sight which gave George a curious shock to add to his other agitations, it seemed so strange. "I ought not to have come," she went on, "because I might have known it would only give you an excuse to pick on me again! I'm sorry enough I came, I can tell you! I didn't mean to speak of it again to you, at all; and I wouldn't have, but I saw how you treated them, and I guess I got excited about it, and couldn't help following the impulse鈥攂ut I'll know better next time, I can tell you! I'll keep my mouth shut as I meant to, and as I would have, if I hadn't got excited and if I hadn't felt sorry for you. But what does it matter to anybody if I'm sorry for them? I'm only old Fanny!" "Oh, good gracious! How can it matter to me who's sorry for me when I don't know what they're sorry about!" "You're so proud," she quavered, "and so hard! I tell you I didn't mean to speak of it to you, and I never, never in the world would have told you about it, nor have made the faintest reference to it, if I hadn't seen that somebody else had told you, or you'd found out for yourself some way. I鈥" In despair of her intelligence, and in some doubt of his own, George struck the palms of his hands together. "Somebody else had told me what? I'd found what out for myself?" "How people are talking about your mother." Except for the incidental teariness of her voice, her tone was casual, as though she mentioned a subject previously discussed and understood; for Fanny had no doubt that George had only pretended to be mystified because, in his pride, he would not in words admit that he knew what he knew. "What did you say?" he asked incredulously. "Of course I understood what you were doing," Fanny went on, drying her handkerchief again. "It puzzled other people when you began to be rude to Eugene, because they couldn't see how you could treat him as you did when you were so interested in Lucy. But I remembered how you came to me, that other time when there was so much talk about Isabel; and I knew you'd give Lucy up in a minute, if it came to a question of your mother's reputation, because you said then that鈥" "Look here," George interrupted in a shaking voice. "Look here, I'd like鈥" He stopped, unable to go on, his agitation was so great. His chest heaved as from hard running, and his complexion, pallid at first, had become mottled; fiery splotches appearing at his temples and cheeks. "What do you mean by telling me鈥攖elling me there's talk about鈥攁bout鈥" He gulped, and began again: "What do you mean by using such words as 'reputation'? What do you mean, speaking of a 'question' of my鈥攎y mother's reputation?" Fanny looked up at him woefully over the handkerchief which she now applied to her reddened nose. "God knows I'm sorry for you, George," she murmured. "I wanted to say so, but it's only old Fanny, so whatever she says鈥攅ven when it's sympathy鈥攑ick on her for it! Hammer her!" She sobbed. "Hammer her! It's only poor old lonely Fanny!" "You look here!" George said harshly. "When I spoke to my Uncle George after that rotten thing I heard Aunt Amelia say about my mother, he said if there was any gossip it was about you! He said people might be laughing about the way you ran after Morgan, but that was all." Fanny lifted her hands, clenched them, and struck them upon her knees. "Yes; it's always Fanny!" she sobbed. "Ridiculous old Fanny鈥攁lways, always!" "You listen!" George said. "After I'd talked to Uncle George I saw you; and you said I had a mean little mind for thinking there might be truth in what Aunt Amelia said about people talking. You denied it. And that wasn't the only time; you'd attacked me before then, because I intimated that Morgan might be coming here too often. You made me believe that mother let him come entirely on your account, and now you say鈥" "I think he did," Fanny interrupted desolately. "I think he did come as much to see me as anything鈥攆or a while it looked like it. Anyhow, he liked to dance with me. He danced with me as much as he danced with her, and he acted as if he came on my account at least as much as he did on hers. He did act a good deal that way鈥攁nd if Wilbur hadn't died鈥" "You told me there wasn't any talk." "I didn't think there was much, then," Fanny protested. "I didn't know how much there was." "What!" "People don't come and tell such things to a person's family, you know. You don't suppose anybody was going to say to George Amber-son that his sister was getting herself talked about, do you? Or that they were going to say much to me?" "You told me," said George, fiercely, "that mother never saw him except when she was chaperoning you." "They weren't much alone together, then," Fanny returned. "Hardly ever, before Wilbur died. But you don't suppose that stops people from talking, do you? Your father never went anywhere, and people saw Eugene with her everywhere she went鈥攁nd though I was with them people just thought"鈥攕he choked鈥"they just thought I didn't count! 'Only old Fanny Minafer,' I suppose they'd say! Besides, everybody knew that he'd been engaged to her鈥" "What's that?" George cried. "Everybody knows it. Don't you remember your grandfather speaking of it at the Sunday dinner one night?" "He didn't say they were engaged or鈥" "Well, they were! Everybody knows it; and she broke it off on account of that serenade when Eugene didn't know what he was doing. He drank when he was a young man, and she wouldn't stand it, but everybody in this town knows that Isabel has never really cared for any other man in her life! Poor Wilbur! He was the only soul alive that didn't know it!" Nightmare had descended upon the unfortunate George; he leaned back against the foot-board of his bed, gazing wildly at his aunt. "I believe I'm going crazy," he said. "You mean when you told me there wasn't any talk, you told me a falsehood?" "No!" Fanny gasped. "You did!" "I tell you I didn't know how much talk there was, and it wouldn't have amounted to much if Wilbur had lived." And Fanny completed this with a fatal admission: "I didn't want you to interfere." George overlooked the admission; his mind was not now occupied with analysis. "What do you mean," he asked, "when you say that if father had lived, the talk wouldn't have amounted to anything?" "Things might have been鈥攖hey might have been different." "You mean Morgan might have married you?" Fanny gulped. "No. Because I don't know that I'd have accepted him." She had ceased to weep, and now she sat up stiffly. "I certainly didn't care enough about him to marry him; I wouldn't have let myself care that much until he showed that he wished to marry me. I'm not that sort of person!" The poor lady paid her vanity this piteous little tribute. "What I mean is, if Wilbur hadn't died, people wouldn't have had it proved before their very eyes that what they'd been talking about was true!" "You say鈥攜ou say that people believe鈥" George shuddered, then forced himself to continue, in a sick voice: "They believe my mother is鈥攊s in love with that man?" "Of course!" "And because he comes here鈥攁nd they see her with him driving鈥攁nd all that鈥攖hey think they were right when they said she was in鈥攊n love with him before鈥攂efore my father died?" She looked at him gravely with her eyes now dry between their reddened lids. "Why, George," she said, gently, "don't you know that's what they say? You must know that everybody in town thinks they're going to be married very soon." George uttered an incoherent cry; and sections of him appeared to writhe. He was upon the verge of actual nausea. "You know it!" Fanny cried, getting up. "You don't think I'd have spoken of it to you unless I was sure you knew it?" Her voice was wholly genuine, as it had been throughout the wretched interview: Fanny's sincerity was unquestionable. "George, I wouldn't have told you, if you didn't know. What other reason could you have for treating Eugene as you did, or for refusing to speak to them like that a while ago in the yard? Somebody must have told you?" "Who told you?" he said. "What?" "Who told you there was talk? Where is this talk? Where does it come from? Who does it?" "Why, I suppose pretty much everybody," she said. "I know it must be pretty general." "Who said so?" "What?" George stepped close to her. "You say people don't speak to a person of gossip about that person's family. Well, how did you hear it, then? How did you get hold of it? Answer me!" Fanny looked thoughtful. "Well, of course nobody not one's most intimate friends would speak to them about such things, and then only in the kindest, most considerate way." "Who's spoken of it to you in any way at all?" George demanded. "Why鈥" Fanny hesitated. "You answer me!" "I hardly think it would be fair to give names." "Look here," said George. "One of your most intimate friends is that mother of Charlie Johnson's, for instance. Has she ever mentioned this to you? You say everybody is talking. Is she one?" "Oh, she may have intimated鈥" "I'm asking you: Has she ever spoken of it to you?" "She's a very kind, discreet woman, George; but she may have intimated鈥" George had a sudden intuition, as there flickered into his mind the picture of a street-crossing and two absorbed ladies almost run down by a fast horse. "You and she have been talking about it to-day!" he cried. "You were talking about it with her not two hours ago. Do you deny it?" "I鈥" "Do you deny it?" "No!" "All right," said George. "That's enough!" She caught at his arm as he turned away. "What are you going to do, George?" "I'll not talk about it, now," he said heavily. "I think you've done a good deal for one day, Aunt Fanny!" And Fanny, seeing the passion in his face, began to be alarmed. She tried to retain possession of the black velvet sleeve which her fingers had clutched, and he suffered her to do so, but used this leverage to urge her to the door. "George, you know I'm sorry for you, whether you care or not," she whimpered. "I never in the world would have spoken of it, if I hadn't thought you knew all about it. I wouldn't have鈥" But he had opened the door with his free hand. "Never mind!" he said, and she was obliged to pass out into the hall, the door closing quickly behind her.白金会白金会

白金会白金会Chapter 17白金会白金会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鈥攚hy鈥" she stammered; but she knew what he was going to say, and that was why she had been more and more nervous. "Hadn't鈥攑erhaps鈥 perhaps we'd better get the鈥攖he things moved to the little new home first, George. Let's鈥" 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鈥 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鈥" 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鈥" 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鈥攊n 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鈥攅ighteen dollars鈥擨'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鈥" she said feebly. "I'd be paying鈥" "Certainly you would. You'd be using more of your money than鈥" "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鈥" 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 advice." "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鈥攐h, it seemed such a sure way to make a real fortune out of a little鈥攁nd I thought I could do something for you, George, if you ever came to need it鈥攁nd it all looked so bright I just thought I'd put it all in. I did鈥攅very cent except my last interest payment鈥攁nd 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鈥攈e's been at me so much about not putting more in than I could afford to lose, and said he considered he had my鈥攎y 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鈥攏ot 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鈥攜ou did so! Later, you've tried to be kinder to me, but you don't want me around鈥 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鈥攂ut 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鈥擨 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鈥擨 tried to be practical鈥攖o look after your interests鈥攖o make things as nice for you as I could鈥擨 walked my heels down looking for a place for us to live鈥擨 walked and walked over this town鈥擨 didn't ride one block on a street-car鈥擨 wouldn't use five cents no matter how tired I鈥擮h!" She sobbed uncontrollably. "Oh! and now鈥攜ou don't want鈥攜ou want鈥攜ou want to leave me in the lurch! You鈥" 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鈥" "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, George." "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 you've selected." Fanny continued to brighten. "I'm sure it's the most practical plan we could possibly have worked out, George鈥攁nd 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鈥" "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鈥" 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鈥" "Oh, longer!" she exclaimed. "So you see鈥" "I see that forty-five and thirty-six make eighty-one," he said. "At the lowest, we need a hundred dollars a month鈥攁nd I'm going to make thirty-two." "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 soon." "I don't see any prospect of it鈥攏ot 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 than鈥" "Faster?" George echoed gravely. "We've got to have more than that to start with." "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鈥" "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鈥" "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 place鈥" "Still," she interrupted, "we have paid the first month's rent in advance, and it does seem to be the most practical鈥" 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鈥" "I wanted to say鈥" 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鈥攚ell, 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鈥攁nd 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鈥" 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." "What?" "I've come to tell you, I've got to find something that's quicker. I can't鈥" Old Frank got a little red. "Let's sit down," he said. "What's the trouble?" 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鈥攂etter 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鈥攑robably 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鈥攁s 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鈥攖o whom I would. It's struck me that, as I couldn't, I might be a little decent to somebody else, perhaps鈥攊f 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鈥擨 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鈥攊f she was disposed to take it that way." "But 'up to now' is the important thing," George said. "Now is now鈥 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, you see." "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鈥 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 he said, but amazed that he did mean it, he added: "You certainly are the most practical young man I ever met!"Chapter 12白金会白金会

Another citizen said an eloquent thing about Miss Isabel Amberson's looks. This was Mrs. Henry Franklin Foster, the foremost literary authority and intellectual leader of the community鈥-for both the daily newspapers thus described Mrs. Foster when she founded the Women's Tennyson Club; and her word upon art, letters, and the drama was accepted more as law than as opinion. Naturally, when "Hazel Kirke" finally reached the town, after its long triumph in larger places, many people waited to hear what Mrs. Henry Franklin Foster thought of it before they felt warranted in expressing any estimate of the play. In fact, some of them waited in the lobby of the theatre, as they came out, and formed an inquiring group about her. "I didn't see the play," she informed them. "What! Why, we saw you, right in the middle of the fourth row!" "Yes," she said, smiling, "but I was sitting just behind Isabelle Amber-son. I couldn't look at anything except her wavy brown hair and the wonderful back of her neck." The ineligible young men of the town (they were all ineligible) were unable to content themselves with the view that had so charmed Mrs. Henry Franklin Foster: they spent their time struggling to keep Miss Amberson's face turned toward them. She turned it most often, observers said, toward two: one excelling in the general struggle by his sparkle, and the other by that winning if not winsome old trait, persistence. The sparkling gentleman "led germans" with her, and sent sonnets to her with his bouquets鈥攕onnets lacking neither music nor wit. He was generous, poor, well-dressed, and his amazing persuasiveness was one reason why he was always in debt. No one doubted that he would be able to persuade Isabel, but he unfortunately joined too merry a party one night, and, during a moonlight serenade upon the lawn before the Amberson Mansion, was easily identified from the windows as the person who stepped through the bass viol and had to be assisted to a waiting carriage. One of Miss Amberson's brothers was among the serenaders, and, when the party had dispersed, remained propped against the front door in a state of helpless liveliness; the Major going down in a dressing-gown and slippers to bring him in, and scolding mildly, while imperfectly concealing strong impulses to laughter. Miss Amberson also laughed at this brother, the next day, but for the suitor it was a different matter: she refused to see him when he called to apologize. "You seem to care a great deal about bass viols!" he wrote her. "I promise never to break another." She made no response to the note, unless it was an answer, two weeks later, when her engagement was announced. She took the persistent one, Wilbur Minafer, no breaker of bass viols or of hearts, no serenader at all. A few people, who always foresaw everything, claimed that they were not surprised, because though Wilbur Minafer "might not be an Apollo, as it were," he was "a steady young business man, and a good churchgoer," and Isabel Amberson was "pretty sensible鈥攆or such a showy girl." But the engagement astounded the young people, and most of their fathers and mothers, too; and as a topic it supplanted literature at the next meeting of the "Women's Tennyson Club." "Wilbur Minafer!" a member cried, her inflection seeming to imply that Wilbur's crime was explained by his surname. "Wilbur Minafer! It's the queerest thing I ever heard! To think of her taking Wilbur Minafer, just because a man any woman would like a thousand times better was a little wild one night at a serenade!" "No," said Mrs. Henry Franklin Foster. "It isn't that. It isn't even because she's afraid he'd be a dissipated husband and she wants to be safe. It isn't because she's religious or hates wildness; it isn't even because she hates wildness in him." "Well, but look how she's thrown him over for it." "No, that wasn't her reason," said the wise Mrs. Henry Franklin Foster. "If men only knew it鈥攁nd it's a good thing they don't鈥攁 woman doesn't really care much about whether a man's wild or not, if it doesn't affect herself, and Isabel Amberson doesn't care a thing!" "Mrs. Foster!" "No, she doesn't. What she minds is his making a clown of himself in her front yard! It made her think he didn't care much about her. She's probably mistaken, but that's what she thinks, and it's too late for her to think anything else now, because she's going to be married right away鈥攖he invitations will be out next week. It'll be a big Ambersonstyle thing, raw oysters floating in scooped-out blocks of ice and a band from out-of-town鈥攃hampagne, showy presents; a colossal present from the Major. Then Wilbur will take Isabel on the carefulest little wedding trip he can manage, and she'll be a good wife to him, but they'll have the worst spoiled lot of children this town will ever see." "How on earth do you make that out, Mrs. Foster?" "She couldn't love Wilbur, could she?" Mrs. Foster demanded, with no challengers. "Well, it will all go to her children, and she'll ruin 'em!" The prophetess proved to be mistaken in a single detail merely: except for that, her foresight was accurate. The wedding was of Ambersonian magnificence, even to the floating oysters; and the Major's colossal present was a set of architect's designs for a house almost as elaborate and impressive as the Mansion, the house to be built in Amberson Addition by the Major. The orchestra was certainly not that local one which had suffered the loss of a bass viol; the musicians came, according to the prophecy and next morning's paper, from afar; and at midnight the bride was still being toasted in champagne, though she had departed upon her wedding journey at ten. Four days later the pair had returned to town, which promptness seemed fairly to demonstrate that Wilbur had indeed taken Isabel upon the carefulest little trip he could manage. According to every report, she was from the start "a good wife to him," but here in a final detail the prophecy proved inaccurate. Wilbur and Isabel did not have children; they had only one. "Only one," Mrs. Henry Franklin Foster admitted. "But I'd like to know if he isn't spoiled enough for a whole carload!" Again she found none to challenge her. At the age of nine, George Amberson Minafer, the Major's one grandchild, was a princely terror, dreaded not only in Amberson Addition but in many other quarters through which he galloped on his white pony. "By golly, I guess you think you own this town!" an embittered labourer complained, one day, as Georgie rode the pony straight through a pile of sand the man was sieving. "I will when I grow up," the undisturbed child replied. "I guess my grandpa owns it now, you bet!" And the baffled workman, having no means to controvert what seemed a mere exaggeration of the facts could only mutter "Oh, pull down your vest!" "Don't haf to! Doctor says it ain't healthy!" the boy returned promptly. "But I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll pull down my vest if you'll wipe off your chin!" This was stock and stencil: the accustomed argot of street badinage of the period; and in such matters Georgie was an expert. He had no vest to pull down; the incongruous fact was that a fringed sash girdled the juncture of his velvet blouse and breeches, for the Fauntleroy period had set in, and Georgie's mother had so poor an eye for appropriate things, where Georgie was concerned, that she dressed him according to the doctrine of that school in boy decoration. Not only did he wear a silk sash, and silk stockings, and a broad lace collar, with his little black velvet suit: he had long brown curls, and often came home with burrs in them. Except upon the surface (which was not his own work, but his mother's) Georgie bore no vivid resemblance to the fabulous little Cedric. The storied boy's famous "Lean on me, grandfather," would have been difficult to imagine upon the lips of Georgie. A month after his ninth birthday anniversary, when the Major gave him his pony, he had already become acquainted with the toughest boys in various distant parts of the town, and had convinced them that the toughness of a rich little boy with long curls might be considered in many respects superior to their own. He fought them, learning how to go berserk at a certain point in a fight, bursting into tears of anger, reaching for rocks, uttering wailed threats of murder and attempting to fulfil them. Fights often led to intimacies, and he acquired the art of saying things more exciting than "Don't haf to!" and "Doctor says it ain't healthy!" Thus, on a summer afternoon, a strange boy, sitting bored upon the gate-post of the Reverend Malloch Smith, beheld George Amberson Minafer rapidly approaching on his white pony, and was impelled by bitterness to shout: "Shoot the ole jackass! Look at the girly curls! Say, bub, where'd you steal your mother's ole sash!" "Your sister stole it for me!" Georgie instantly replied, checking the pony. "She stole it off our clo'es-line an' gave it to me." "You go get your hair cut!" said the stranger hotly. "Yah! I haven't got any sister!" "I know you haven't at home," Georgie responded. "I mean the one that's in jail." "I dare you to get down off that pony!" Georgie jumped to the ground, and the other boy descended from the Reverend Mr. Smith's gatepost鈥攂ut he descended inside the gate. "I dare you outside that gate," said Georgie. "Yah! I dare you half way here. I dare you鈥" But these were luckless challenges, for Georgie immediately vaulted the fence鈥攁nd four minutes later Mrs. Malloch Smith, hearing strange noises, looked forth from a window; then screamed, and dashed for the pastor's study. Mr. Malloch Smith, that grim-bearded Methodist, came to the front yard and found his visiting nephew being rapidly prepared by Master Minafer to serve as a principal figure in a pageant of massacre. It was with great physical difficulty that Mr. Smith managed to give his nephew a chance to escape into the house, for Georgie was hard and quick, and, in such matters, remarkably intense; but the minister, after a grotesque tussle, got him separated from his opponent, and shook him. "You stop that, you!" Georgie cried fiercely; and wrenched himself away. "I guess you don't know who I am!" "Yes, I do know!" the angered Mr. Smith retorted. "I know who you are, and you're a disgrace to your mother! Your mother ought to be ashamed of herself to allow鈥" "Shut up about my mother bein' ashamed of herself!" Mr. Smith, exasperated, was unable to close the dialogue with dignity. "She ought to be ashamed," he repeated. "A woman that lets a bad boy like you鈥" But Georgie had reached his pony and mounted. Before setting off at his accustomed gallop, he paused to interrupt the Reverend Malloch Smith again. "You pull down your vest, you ole Billygoat, you!" he shouted, distinctly. "Pull down your vest, wipe off your chin鈥攁n' go to hell!" Such precocity is less unusual, even in children of the Rich, than most grown people imagine. However, it was a new experience for the Reverend Malloch Smith, and left him in a state of excitement. He at once wrote a note to Georgie's mother, describing the crime according to his nephew's testimony; and the note reached Mrs. Minafer before Georgie did. When he got home she read it to him sorrowfully. Dear Madam: Your son has caused a painful distress in my household. He made an unprovoked attack upon a little nephew of mine who is visiting in my household, insulted him by calling him vicious names and falsehoods, stating that ladies of his family were in jail. He then tried to make his pony kick him, and when the child, who is only eleven years old, while your son is much older and stronger, endeavoured to avoid his indignities and withdraw quietly, he pursued him into the enclosure of my property and brutally assaulted him. When I appeared upon this scene he deliberately called insulting words to me, concluding with profanity, such as "go to hell," which was heard not only by myself but by my wife and the lady who lives next door. I trust such a state of undisciplined behaviour may be remedied for the sake of the reputation for propriety, if nothing higher, of the family to which this unruly child belongs. Georgie had muttered various interruptions, and as she concluded the reading he said: "He's an ole liar!" "Georgie, you mustn't say 'liar.' Isn't this letter the truth?" "Well," said Georgie, "how old am I?" "Ten." "Well, look how he says I'm older than a boy eleven years old." "That's true," said Isabel. "He does. But isn't some of it true, Georgie?" Georgie felt himself to be in a difficulty here, and he was silent. "Georgie, did you say what he says you did?" "Which one?" "Did you tell him to鈥攖o鈥擠id you say, 'Go to hell?" Georgie looked worried for a moment longer; then he brightened. "Listen here, mamma; grandpa wouldn't wipe his shoe on that ole storyteller, would he?" "Georgie, you mustn't鈥" "I mean: none of the Ambersons wouldn't have anything to do with him, would they? He doesn't even know you, does he, mamma?" "That hasn't anything to do with it." "Yes, it has! I mean: none of the Amberson family go to see him, and they never have him come in their house; they wouldn't ask him to, and they prob'ly wouldn't even let him." "That isn't what we're talking about." "I bet," said Georgie emphatically, "I bet if he wanted to see any of 'em, he'd haf to go around to the side door!" "No, dear, they鈥" "Yes, they would, mamma! So what does it matter if I did say somep'm' to him he didn't like? That kind o' people, I don't see why you can't say anything you want to, to 'em!" "No, Georgie. And you haven't answered me whether you said that dreadful thing he says you did." "Well鈥" said Georgie. "Anyway, he said somep'm' to me that made me mad." And upon this point he offered no further details; he would not explain to his mother that what had made him "mad" was Mr. Smith's hasty condemnation of herself: "Your mother ought to be ashamed," and, "A woman that lets a bad boy like you鈥" Georgie did not even consider excusing himself by quoting these insolences. Isabel stroked his head. "They were terrible words for you to use, dear. From his letter he doesn't seem a very tactful person, but鈥" "He's just riffraff," said Georgie. "You mustn't say so," his mother gently agreed "Where did you learn those bad words he speaks of? Where did you hear any one use them?" "Well, I've heard 'em several places. I guess Uncle George Amberson was the first I ever heard say 'em. Uncle George Amberson said 'em to papa once. Papa didn't like it, but Uncle George was just laughin' at papa, an' then he said 'em while he was laughin'." "That was wrong of him," she said, but almost instinctively he detected the lack of conviction in her tone. It was Isabel's great failing that whatever an Amberson did seemed right to her, especially if the Amber-son was either her brother George, or her son George. She knew that she should be more severe with the latter now, but severity with him was beyond her power; and the Reverend Malloch Smith had succeeded only in rousing her resentment against himself. Georgie's symmetrical face鈥攁ltogether an Amberson face鈥攈ad looked never more beautiful to her. It always looked unusually beautiful when she tried to be severe with him. "You must promise me," she said feebly, "never to use those bad words again." "I promise not to," he said promptly鈥攁nd he whispered an immediate codicil under his breath: "Unless I get mad at somebody!" This satisfied a code according to which, in his own sincere belief, he never told lies. "That's a good boy," she said, and he ran out to the yard, his punishment over. Some admiring friends were gathered there; they had heard of his adventure, knew of the note, and were waiting to see what was going to "happen" to him. They hoped for an account of things, and also that he would allow them to "take turns" riding his pony to the end of the alley and back. They were really his henchmen: Georgie was a lord among boys. In fact, he was a personage among certain sorts of grown people, and was often fawned upon; the alley negroes delighted in him, chuckled over him, flattered him slavishly. For that matter, he often heard well-dressed people speaking of him admiringly: a group of ladies once gathered about him on the pavement where he was spinning a top. "I know this is Georgie!" one exclaimed, and turned to the others with the impressiveness of a showman. "Major Amberson's only grandchild!" The others said, "It is?" and made clicking sounds with their mouths; two of them loudly whispering, "So handsome!" Georgie, annoyed because they kept standing upon the circle he had chalked for his top, looked at them coldly and offered a suggestion: "Oh, go hire a hall!" As an Amberson, he was already a public character, and the story of his adventure in the Reverend Malloch Smith's front yard became a town topic. Many people glanced at him with great distaste, thereafter, when they chanced to encounter him, which meant nothing to Georgie, because he innocently believed most grown people to be necessarily cross-looking as a normal phenomenon resulting from the adult state; and he failed to comprehend that the distasteful glances had any personal bearing upon himself. If he had perceived such a bearing, he would have been affected only so far, probably, as to mutter, "Riffraff!" Possibly he would have shouted it; and, certainly, most people believed a story that went round the town just after Mrs. Amberson's funeral, when Georgie was eleven. Georgie was reported to have differed with the undertaker about the seating of the family; his indignant voice had become audible: "Well, who is the most important person at my own grandmother's funeral?" And later he had projected his head from the window of the foremost mourners' carriage, as the undertaker happened to pass. "Riffraff!" There were people鈥攇rown people they were鈥攚ho expressed themselves longingly: they did hope to live to see the day, they said, when that boy would get his come-upance! (They used that honest word, so much better than "deserts," and not until many years later to be more clumsily rendered as "what is coming to him.") Something was bound to take him down, some day, and they only wanted to be there! But Georgie heard nothing of this, and the yearners for his taking down went unsatisfied, while their yearning grew the greater as the happy day of fulfilment was longer and longer postponed. His grandeur was not diminished by the Malloch Smith story; the rather it was increased, and among other children (especially among little girls) there was added to the prestige of his gilded position that diabolical glamour which must inevitably attend a boy who has told a minister to go to hell.白金会白金会Chapter 22白金会白金会

Chapter 8白金会白金会George went driving the next afternoon alone, and, encountering Lucy and her father on the road, in one of Morgan's cars, lifted his hat, but nowise relaxed his formal countenance as they passed. Eugene waved a cordial hand quickly returned to the steering-wheel; but Lucy only nodded gravely and smiled no more than George did. Nor did she accompany Eugene to the Major's for dinner, the following Sunday evening, though both were bidden to attend that feast, which was already reduced in numbers and gayety by the absence of George Amberson. Eugene explained to his host that Lucy had gone away to visit a schoolfriend. The information, delivered in the library, just before old Sam's appearance to announce dinner, set Miss Minafer in quite a flutter. "Why, George!" she said, turning to her nephew. "How does it happen you didn't tell us?" And with both hands opening, as if to express her innocence of some conspiracy, she exclaimed to the others, "He's never said one word to us about Lucy's planning to go away!" "Probably afraid to," the Major suggested. "Didn't know but he might break down and cry if he tried to speak of it!" He clapped his grandson on the shoulder, inquiring jocularly, "That it, Georgie?" Georgie made no reply, but he was red enough to justify the Major's developing a chuckle into laughter; though Miss Fanny, observing her nephew keenly, got an impression that this fiery blush was in truth more fiery than tender. She caught a glint in his eye less like confusion than resentment, and saw a dilation of his nostrils which might have indicated not so much a sweet agitation as an inaudible snort. Fanny had never been lacking in curiosity, and, since her brother's death, this quality was more than ever alert. The fact that George had spent all the evenings of the past week at home had not been lost upon her, nor had she failed to ascertain, by diplomatic inquiries, that since the day of the visit to Eugene's shops George had gone driving alone. At the dinner-table she continued to observe him, sidelong; and toward the conclusion of the meal she was not startled by an episode which brought discomfort to the others. After the arrival of coffee the Major was rallying Eugene upon some rival automobile shops lately built in a suburb, and already promising to flourish. "I suppose they'll either drive you out of the business," said the old gentleman, "or else the two of you'll drive all the rest of us off the streets." "If we do, we'll even things up by making the streets five or ten times as long as they are now," Eugene returned. "How do you propose to do that?" "It isn't the distance from the center of a town that counts," said Eugene; "it's the time it takes to get there. This town's already spreading; bicycles and trolleys have been doing their share, but the automobile is going to carry city streets clear out to the county line." The Major was skeptical. "Dream on, fair son!" he said. "It's lucky for us that you're only dreaming; because if people go to moving that far, real estate values in the old residence part of town are going to be stretched pretty thin." "I'm afraid so," Eugene assented. "Unless you keep things so bright and clean that the old section will stay more attractive than the new ones." "Not very likely! How are things going to be kept 'bright and clean' with soft coal, and our kind of city government?" "They aren't," Eugene replied quickly. "There's no hope of it, and already the boarding-house is marching up National Avenue. There are two in the next block below here, and there are a dozen in the half-mile below that. My relatives, the Sharons, have sold their house and are building in the country鈥攁t least, they call it 'the country.' It will be city in two or three years." "Good gracious!" the Major exclaimed, affecting 'dismay. "So your little shops are going to ruin all your old friends, Eugene!" "Unless my old friends take warning in time, or abolish smoke and get a new kind of city government. I should say the best chance is to take Warning." "Well, well!" the Major laughed. "You have enough faith in miracles, Eugene鈥攇ranting that trolleys and bicycles and automobiles are miracles. So you think they're to change the face of the land, do you?" "They're already doing it, Major; and it can't be stopped. Automobiles鈥" At this point he was interrupted. George was the interrupter. He had said nothing since entering the dining room, but now he spoke in a loud and peremptory voice, using the tone of one in authority who checks idle prattle and settles a matter forever. "Automobiles are a useless nuisance," he said. There fell a moment's silence. Isabel gazed incredulously at George, colour slowly heightening upon her cheeks and temples, while Fanny watched him with a quick eagerness, her eyes alert and bright. But Eugene seemed merely quizzical, as if not taking this brusquerie to himself. The Major was seriously disturbed. "What did you say, George?" he asked, though George had spoken but too distinctly. "I said all automobiles were a nuisance," George answered, repeating not only the words but the tone in which he had uttered them. And he added, "They'll never amount to anything but a nuisance. They had no business to be invented." The Major frowned. "Of course you forget that Mr. Morgan makes them, and also did his share in inventing them. If you weren't so thoughtless he might think you rather offensive." "That would be too bad," said George coolly. "I don't think I could survive it." Again there was a silence, while the Major stared at his grandson, aghast. But Eugene began to laugh cheerfully. "I'm not sure he's wrong about automobiles," he said. "With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization鈥攖hat is, in spiritual civilization. It may be that they will not add to the beauty of the world, nor to the life of men's souls. I am not sure. But automobiles have come, and they bring a greater change in our life than most of us suspect. They are here, and almost all outward things are going to be different because of what they bring. They are going to alter war, and they are going to alter peace. I think men's minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles; just how, though, I could hardly guess. But you can't have the immense outward changes that they will cause without some inward ones, and it may be that George is right, and that the spiritual alteration will be bad for us. Perhaps, ten or twenty years from now, if we can see the inward change in men by that time, I shouldn't be able to defend the gasoline engine, but would have to agree with him that automobiles 'had no business to be invented.'" He laughed good-naturedly, and looking at his watch, apologized for having an engagement which made his departure necessary when he would so much prefer to linger. Then he shook hands with the Major, and bade Isabel, George, and Fanny a cheerful good-night鈥攁 collective farewell cordially addressed to all three of them together鈥攁nd left them at the table. Isabel turned wondering, hurt eyes upon her son. "George, dear!" she said. "What did you mean?" "Just what I said," he returned, lighting one of the Major's cigars, and his manner was imperturbable enough to warrant the definition (sometimes merited by imperturbability) of stubbornness. Isabel's hand, pale and slender, upon the tablecloth, touched one of the fine silver candlesticks aimlessly: the fingers were seen to tremble. "Oh, he was hurt!" she murmured. "I don't see why he should be," George said. "I didn't say anything about him. He didn't seem to me to be hurt鈥攕eemed perfectly cheerful. What made you think he was hurt?" "I know him!" was all of her reply, half whispered. The Major stared hard at George from under his white eyebrows. "You didn't mean 'him,' you say, George? I suppose if we had a clergyman as a guest here you'd expect him not to be offended, and to understand that your remarks were neither personal nor untactful, if you said the church was a nuisance and ought never to have been invented. By Jove, but you're a puzzle!" "In what way, may I ask, sir?" "We seem to have a new kind of young people these days," the old gentleman returned, shaking his head. "It's a new style of courting a pretty girl, certainly, for a young fellow to go deliberately out of his way to try and make an enemy of her father by attacking his business! By Jove! That's a new way to win a woman!" George flushed angrily and seemed about to offer a retort, but held his breath for a moment; and then held his peace. It was Isabel who responded to the Major. "Oh, no!" she said. "Eugene would never be anybody's enemy鈥攈e couldn't!鈥攁nd last of all Georgie's. I'm afraid he was hurt, but I don't fear his not having understood that George spoke without thinking of what he was saying鈥擨 mean, with-out realizing its bearing on Eugene." Again George seemed upon the point of speech, and again controlled the impulse. He thrust his hands in his pockets, leaned back in his chair, and smoked, staring inflexibly at the ceiling. "Well, well," said his grandfather, rising. "It wasn't a very successful little dinner!" Thereupon he offered his arm to his daughter, who took it fondly, and they left the room, Isabel assuring him that all his little dinners were pleasant, and that this one was no exception. George did not move, and Fanny, following the other two, came round the table, and paused close beside his chair; but George remained posed in his great imperturbability, cigar between teeth, eyes upon ceiling, and paid no attention to her. Fanny waited until the sound of Isabel's and the Major's voices became inaudible in the hall. Then she said quickly, and in a low voice so eager that it was unsteady: "George, you've struck just the treatment to adopt: you're doing the right thing!" She hurried out, scurrying after the others with a faint rustling of her black skirts, leaving George mystified but incurious. He did not understand why she should bestow her approbation upon him in the matter, and cared so little whether she did or not that he spared himself even the trouble of being puzzled about it. In truth, however, he was neither so comfortable nor so imperturbable as he appeared. He felt some gratification: he had done a little to put the man in his place鈥攖hat man whose influence upon his daughter was precisely the same thing as a contemptuous criticism of George Amberson Minafer, and of George Amberson Minafer's "ideals of life." Lucy's going away without a word was intended, he supposed, as a bit of punishment. Well, he wasn't the sort of man that people were allowed to punish: he could demonstrate that to them鈥攕ince they started it! It appeared to him as almost a kind of insolence, this abrupt departure鈥攏ot even telephoning! Probably she wondered how he would take it; she even might have supposed he would show some betraying chagrin when he heard of it. He had no idea that this was just what he had shown; and he was satisfied with his evening's performance. Nevertheless, he was not comfortable in his mind; though he could not have explained his inward perturbations, for he was convinced, without any confirmation from his Aunt Fanny, that he had done "just the right thing."白金会白金会Chapter 13

When the great Amberson Estate went into court for settlement, "there wasn't any," George Amberson said鈥攖hat is, when the settlement was concluded there was no estate. "I guessed it," Amberson went on. "As an expert on prosperity, my career is disreputable, but as a prophet of calamity I deserve a testimonial banquet." He reproached himself 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鈥 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鈥攁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鈥攖hat part of it will be like home鈥攁nd I'll manage to send you fifty dollars every now and then, after I once get settled. So much for me! But you鈥攐f 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鈥攁h鈥攗nder the circumstances鈥" "Never!" George exclaimed, growing red. "I can't imagine one of the family鈥" 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 鈥攁nd 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 late. "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鈥攗ntil 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鈥攐nly 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鈥攁nd she stood here crying. Well, I don't even know where she lives now, or if she is living鈥攁nd 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鈥 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鈥攐r what the devil we did with 'em! But I believe I'll say now 鈥攚hile there isn't much time left for either of us to get embarrassed about it鈥擨 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鈥攖his isn't very 'tactful,' of course鈥 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鈥攁nd 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鈥攁nd you've taken them pretty quietly and鈥攚ell, 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鈥攂ut 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鈥攆ond of you, I mean, no matter how much it seemed you ought to be hanged. You might try鈥 Hello, I must run. I'll send back the money as fast as they pay me鈥 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鈥攁ll 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鈥攁nd 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;鈥攊n 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 blackand-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 Amber-son 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 he 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: Riffraff! 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鈥攂ut 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鈥攊n a twinkling, it seemed, now that it was indeed so utterly vanished. 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鈥攈is only token of recognition. On this last homeward walk of his, when George reached the entrance to Amberson Addition鈥攖hat is, when he came to where the entrance had formerly been鈥攈e 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鈥攃ertainly 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 after dark. 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鈥攅lderly 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 "threeroom 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鈥攑eople 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 right." "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鈥" she hesitated鈥"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鈥攊f it could be true鈥攁nd 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 whispering. 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鈥攁 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鈥攁nd 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!"la mer面霜 When George regained some measure of his presence of mind, Miss Lucy Morgan's cheek, snowy and cold, was pressing his nose slightly to one side; his right arm was firmly about her neck; and a monstrous amount of her fur boa seemed to mingle with an equally unplausible quantity of snow in his mouth. He was confused, but conscious of no objection to any of these juxtapositions. She was apparently uninjured, for she sat up, hatless, her hair down, and said mildly: "Good heavens!" Though her father had been under his machine when they passed, he was the first to reach them. He threw himself on his knees beside his daughter, but found her already laughing, and was reassured. "They're all right," he called to Isabel, who was running toward them, ahead of her brother and Fanny Minafer. "This snowbank's a feather bed鈥 nothing the matter with them at all. Don't look so pale!" "Georgie!" she gasped. "Georgie!" Georgie was on his feet, snow all over him. "Don't make a fuss, mother! Nothing's the matter. That darned silly horse鈥" Sudden tears stood in Isabel's eyes. "To see you down underneath鈥 dragging鈥攐h鈥" Then with shaking hands she began to brush the snow from him. "Let me alone," he protested. "You'll ruin your gloves. You're getting snow all over you, and鈥" "No, no!" she cried. "You'll catch cold; you mustn't catch cold!" And she continued to brush him. Amberson had brought Lucy's hat; Miss Fanny acted as lady's-maid; and both victims of the accident were presently restored to about their usual appearance and condition of apparel. In fact, encouraged by the two older gentlemen, the entire party, with one exception, decided that the episode was after all a merry one, and began to laugh about it. But George was glummer than the December twilight now swiftly closing in. "That darned horse!" he said. "I wouldn't bother about Pendennis, Georgie," said his uncle. "You can send a man out for what's left of the cutter tomorrow, and Pendennis will gallop straight home to his stable: he'll be there a long while before we will, because all we've got to depend on to get us home is Gene Morgan's broken-down chafing-dish yonder." They were approaching the machine as he spoke, and his friend, again underneath it, heard him. He emerged, smiling. "She'll go," he said. "What!" "All aboard!" He offered his hand to Isabel. She was smiling but still pale, and her eyes, in spite of the smile, kept upon George in a shocked anxiety. Miss Fanny had already mounted to the rear seat, and George, after helping Lucy Morgan to climb up beside his aunt, was following. Isabel saw that his shoes were light things of patent leather, and that snow was clinging to them. She made a little rush toward him, and, as one of his feet rested on the iron step of the machine, in mounting, she began to clean the snow from his shoe with her almost aerial lace handkerchief. "You mustn't catch cold!" she cried. "Stop that!" George shouted, and furiously withdrew his foot. "Then stamp the snow off," she begged. "You mustn't ride with wet feet." "They're not!" George roared, thoroughly outraged. "For heaven's sake get in! You're standing in the snow yourself. Get in!" Isabel consented, turning to Morgan, whose habitual expression of apprehensiveness was somewhat accentuated. He climbed up after her, George Amberson having gone to the other side. "You're the same Isabel I used to know!" he said in a low voice. "You're a divinely ridiculous woman." "Am I, Eugene?" she said, not displeased. "'Divinely' and 'ridiculous' just counterbalance each other, don't they? Plus one and minus one equal nothing; so you mean I'm nothing in particular?" "No," he answered, tugging at a lever. "That doesn't seem to be precisely what I meant. There!" This exclamation referred to the subterranean machinery, for dismaying sounds came from beneath the floor, and the vehicle plunged, then rolled noisily forward. "Behold!" George Amberson exclaimed. "She does move! It must be another accident." "Accident?" Morgan shouted over the din. "No! She breathes, she stirs; she seems to feel a thrill of life along her keel!" And he began to sing "The Star Spangled Banner." Amberson joined him lustily, and sang on when Morgan stopped. The twilight sky cleared, discovering a round moon already risen; and the musical congressman hailed this bright presence with the complete text and melody of "The Danube River." His nephew, behind, was gloomy. He had overheard his mother's conversation with the inventor: it seemed curious to him that this Morgan, of whom he had never heard until last night, should be using the name "Isabel" so easily; and George felt that it was not just the thing for his mother to call Morgan "Eugene;" the resentment of the previous night came upon George again. Meanwhile, his mother and Morgan continued their talk; but he could no longer hear what they said; the noise of the car and his uncle's songful mood prevented. He marked how animated Isabel seemed; it was not strange to see his mother so gay, but it was strange that a man not of the family should be the cause of her gaiety. And George sat frowning. Fanny Minafer had begun to talk to Lucy. "Your father wanted to prove that his horseless carriage would run, even in the snow," she said. "It really does, too." "Of course!" "It's so interesting! He's been telling us how he's going to change it. He says he's going to have wheels all made of rubber and blown up with air. I don't understand what he means at all; I should think they'd explode鈥攂ut Eugene seems to be very confident. He always was confident, though. It seems so like old times to hear him talk!" She became thoughtful, and Lucy turned to George. "You tried to swing underneath me and break the fall for me when we went over," she said. "I knew you were doing that, and鈥攊t was nice of you." "Wasn't any fall to speak of," he returned brusquely. "Couldn't have hurt either of us." "Still it was friendly of you鈥攁nd awfully quick, too. I'll not鈥擨'll not forget it!" Her voice had a sound of genuineness, very pleasant; and George began to forget his annoyance with her father. This annoyance of his had not been alleviated by the circumstance that neither of the seats of the old sewing-machine was designed for three people, but when his neighbour spoke thus gratefully, he no longer minded the crowding鈥攊n fact, it pleased him so much that he began to wish the old sewing-machine would go even slower. And she had spoken no word of blame for his letting that darned horse get the cutter into the ditch. George presently addressed her hurriedly, almost tremulously, speaking close to her ear: "I forgot to tell you something: you're pretty nice! I thought so the first second I saw you last night. I'll come for you tonight and take you to the Assembly at the Amberson Hotel. You're going, aren't you?" "Yes, but I'm going with papa and the Sharons I'll see you there." "Looks to me as if you were awfully conventional," George grumbled; and his disappointment was deeper than he was willing to let her see鈥 though she probably did see. "Well, we'll dance the cotillion together, anyhow." "I'm afraid not. I promised Mr. Kinney." "What!" George's tone was shocked, as at incredible news. "Well, you could break that engagement, I guess, if you wanted to! Girls always can get out of things when they want to. Won't you?" "I don't think so." "Why not?" "Because I promised him. Several days ago." George gulped, and lowered his pride, "I don't鈥攐h, look here! I only want to go to that thing tonight to get to see something of you; and if you don't dance the cotillion with me, how can I? I'll only be here two weeks, and the others have got all the rest of your visit to see you. Won't you do it, please?" "I couldn't." "See here!" said the stricken George. "If you're going to decline to dance that cotillion with me simply because you've promised a鈥攁鈥攁 miserable red-headed outsider like Fred Kinney, why we might as well quit!" "Quit what?" "You know perfectly well what I mean," he said huskily. "I don't." "Well, you ought to!" "But I don't at all!" George, thoroughly hurt, and not a little embittered, expressed himself in a short outburst of laughter: "Well, I ought to have seen it!" "Seen what?" "That you might turn out to be a girl who'd like a fellow of the redheaded Kinney sort. I ought to have seen it from the first!" Lucy bore her disgrace lightly. "Oh, dancing a cotillion with a person doesn't mean that you like him鈥攂ut I don't see anything in particular the matter with Mr. Kinney. What is?" "If you don't see anything the matter with him for yourself," George responded, icily, "I don't think pointing it out would help you. You probably wouldn't understand." "You might try," she suggested. "Of course I'm a stranger here, and if people have done anything wrong or have something unpleasant about them, I wouldn't have any way of knowing it, just at first. If poor Mr. Kinney鈥" "I prefer not to discuss it," said George curtly. "He's an enemy of mine." "Why?" "I prefer not to discuss it." "Well, but鈥" "I prefer not to discuss it!" "Very well." She began to hum the air of the song which Mr. George Amberson was now discoursing, "O moon of my delight that knows no wane"鈥攁nd there was no further conversation on the back seat. They had entered Amberson Addition, and the moon of Mr. Amberson's delight was overlaid by a slender Gothic filagree; the branches that sprang from the shade trees lining the street. Through the windows of many of the houses rosy lights were flickering; and silver tinsel and evergreen wreaths and brilliant little glass globes of silver and wine colour could be seen, and glimpses were caught of Christmas trees, with people decking them by firelight鈥攔eminders that this was Christmas Eve. The ride-stealers had disappeared from the highway, though now and then, over the gasping and howling of the horseless carriage, there came a shrill jeer from some young passer-by upon the sidewalk: "Mister, fer heaven's sake go an' git a hoss! Git a hoss! Git a hoss!" The contrivance stopped with a heart-shaking jerk before Isabel's house. The gentlemen jumped down, helping Isabel and Fanny to descend; there were friendly leavetakings鈥攁nd one that was not precisely friendly. "It's 'au revoir,' till to-night, isn't it?" Lucy asked, laughing. "Good afternoon!" said George, and he did not wait, as his relatives did, to see the old sewing machine start briskly down the street, toward the Sharons'; its lighter load consisting now of only Mr. Morgan and his daughter. George went into the house at once. He found his father reading the evening paper in the library. "Where are your mother and your Aunt Fanny?" Mr. Minafer inquired, not looking up. "They're coming," said his son; and, casting himself heavily into a chair, stared at the fire. His prediction was verified a few moments later; the two ladies came in cheerfully, unfastening their fur cloaks. "It's all right, Georgie," said Isabel. "Your Uncle George called to us that Pendennis got home safely. Put your shoes close to the fire, dear, or else go and change them." She went to her husband and patted him lightly on the shoulder, an action which George watched with sombre moodiness. "You might dress before long," she suggested. "We're all going to the Assembly, after dinner, aren't we? Brother George said he'd go with us." "Look here," said George abruptly. "How about this man Morgan and his old sewing-machine? Doesn't he want to get grandfather to put money into it? Isn't he trying to work Uncle George for that? Isn't that what he's up to?" It was Miss Fanny who responded. "You little silly!" she cried, with surprising sharpness. "What on earth are you talking about? Eugene Morgan's perfectly able to finance his own inventions these days." "I'll bet he borrows money of Uncle George," the nephew insisted. Isabel looked at him in grave perplexity. "Why do you say such a thing, George?" she asked. "He strikes me as that sort of man," he answered doggedly. "Isn't he, father?" Minafer set down his paper for the moment. "He was a fairly wild young fellow twenty years ago," he said, glancing at his wife absently. "He was like you in one thing, Georgie; he spent too much money鈥攐nly he didn't have any mother to get money out of a grandfather for him, so he was usually in debt. But I believe I've heard he's done fairly well of late years. No, I can't say I think he's a swindler, and I doubt if he needs anybody else's money to back his horseless carriage." "Well, what's he brought the old thing here for, then? People that own elephants don't take them elephants around with 'em when they go visiting. What's he got it here for?" "I'm sure I don't know," said Mr. Minafer, resuming his paper. "You might ask him." Isabel laughed, and patted her husband's shoulder again. "Aren't you going to dress? Aren't we all going to the dance?" He groaned faintly. "Aren't your brother and Georgie escorts enough for you and Fanny?" "Wouldn't you enjoy it at all?" "You know I don't." Isabel let her hand remain upon his shoulder a moment longer; she stood behind him, looking into the fire, and George, watching her broodingly, thought there was more colour in her face than the reflection of the flames accounted for. "Well, then," she said indulgently, "stay at home and be happy. We won't urge you if you'd really rather not." "I really wouldn't," he said contentedly. Half an hour later, George was passing through the upper hall, in a bath-robe stage of preparation for the evening's' gaieties, when he encountered his Aunt Fanny. He stopped her. "Look here!" he said. "What in the world is the matter with you?" she demanded, regarding him with little amiability. "You look as if you were rehearsing for a villain in a play. Do change your expression!" His expression gave no sign of yielding to the request; on the contrary, its somberness deepened. "I suppose you don't know why father doesn't want to go tonight," he said solemnly. "You're his only sister, and yet you don't know!" "He never wants to go anywhere that I ever heard of," said Fanny. "What is the matter with you?" "He doesn't want to go because he doesn't like this man Morgan." "Good gracious!" Fanny cried impatiently. "Eugene Morgan isn't in your father's thoughts at all, one way or the other. Why should he be?" George hesitated. "Well鈥攊t strikes me鈥擫ook here, what makes you and 鈥攁nd everybody鈥攕o excited over him?" "Excited!" she jeered. "Can't people be glad to see an old friend without silly children like you having to make a to-do about it? I've just been in your mother's room suggesting that she might give a little dinner for them鈥" "For who?" "For whom, Georgie! For Mr. Morgan and his daughter." "Look here!" George said quickly. "Don't do that! Mother mustn't do that. It wouldn't look well." "Wouldn't look well!" Fanny mocked him; and her suppressed vehemence betrayed a surprising acerbity. "See here, Georgie Minafer, I suggest that you just march straight on into your room and finish your dressing! Sometimes you say things that show you have a pretty mean little mind!" George was so astounded by this outburst that his indignation was delayed by his curiosity. "Why, what upsets you this way?" he inquired. "I know what you mean," she said, her voice still lowered, but not decreasing in sharpness. "You're trying to insinuate that I'd get your mother to invite Eugene Morgan here on my account because he's a widower!" "I am?" George gasped, nonplussed. "I'm trying to insinuate that you're setting your cap at him and getting mother to help you? Is that what you mean?" Beyond a doubt that was what Miss Fanny meant. She gave him a white-hot look. "You attend to your own affairs!" she whispered fiercely, and swept away. George, dumfounded, returned to his room for meditation. He had lived for years in the same house with his Aunt Fanny, and it now appeared that during all those years he had been thus intimately associating with a total stranger. Never before had he met the passionate lady with whom he had just held a conversation in the hall. So she wanted to get married! And wanted George's mother to help her with this horseless-carriage widower! "Well, I will be shot!" he muttered aloud. "I will鈥擨 certainly will be shot!" And he began' to laugh. "Lord 'lmighty!" But presently, at the thought of the horseless-carriage widower's daughter, his grimness returned, and he resolved upon a line of conduct for the evening. He would nod to her carelessly when he first saw her; and, after that, he would notice her no more: he would not dance with her; he would not favour her in the cotillion鈥攈e would not go near her! He descended to dinner upon the third urgent summons of a coloured butler, having spent two hours dressing鈥攁nd rehearsing.白金会白金会Chapter 2白金会白金会Chapter 2

白金会白金会Breakfast was brought to him in his room, as usual; but he did not make his normal healthy raid upon the dainty tray: the food remained untouched, and he sustained himself upon coffee鈥攆our cups of it, which left nothing of value inside the glistening little percolator. During this process he heard his mother being summoned to the telephone in the hall, not far from his door, and then her voice responding: "Yes? Oh, it's you! Indeed I should! 鈥 Of course鈥 . Then I'll expect you about three鈥 Yes. Good-bye till then." A few minutes later he heard her speaking to someone beneath his window and, looking out, saw her directing the removal of plants from a small garden bed to the Major's conservatory for the winter. There was an air of briskness about her; as she turned away to go into the house, she laughed gaily with the Major's gardener over something he said, and this unconcerned cheerfulness of her was terrible to her son. He went to his desk, and, searching the jumbled contents of a drawer, brought forth a large, unframed photograph of his father, upon which he gazed long and piteously, till at last hot tears stood in his eyes. It was strange how the inconsequent face of Wilbur seemed to increase in high significance during this belated interview between father and son; and how it seemed to take on a reproachful nobility鈥攁nd yet, under the circumstances, nothing could have been more natural than that George, having paid but the slightest attention to his father in life, should begin to deify him, now that he was dead. "Poor, poor father!" the son whispered brokenly. "Poor man, I'm glad you didn't know!" He wrapped the picture in a sheet of newspaper, put it under his arm, and, leaving the house hurriedly and stealthily, went downtown to the shop of a silversmith, where he spent sixty dollars on a resplendently festooned silver frame for the picture. Having lunched upon more coffee, he returned to the house at two o'clock, carrying the framed photograph with him, and placed it upon the centre-table in the library, the room most used by Isabel and Fanny and himself. Then he went to a front window of the long "reception room," and sat looking out through the lace curtains. The house was quiet, though once or twice he heard his mother and Fanny moving about upstairs, and a ripple of song in the voice of Isabel鈥攁 fragment from the romantic ballad of Lord Bateman. "Lord Bateman was a noble lord, A noble lord of high degree; And he sailed West and he sailed East, Far countries for to see鈥 ." The words became indistinct; the air was hummed absently; the humming shifted to a whistle, then drifted out of hearing, and the place was still again. George looked often at his watch, but his vigil did not last an hour. At ten minutes of three, peering through the curtain, he saw an automobile stop in front of the house and Eugene Morgan jump lightly down from it. The car was of a new pattern, low and long, with an ample seat in the tonneau, facing forward; and a professional driver sat at the wheel, a strange figure in leather, goggled out of all personality and seemingly part of the mechanism. Eugene himself, as he came up the cement path to the house, was a figure of the new era which was in time to be so disastrous to stiff hats and skirted coats; and his appearance afforded a debonair contrast to that of the queer-looking duck capering: at the Amberson Ball in an old dress coat, and chugging up National Avenue through the snow in his nightmare of a sewing-machine. Eugene, this afternoon, was richly in the new outdoor mode: motoring coat was soft gray fur; his cap and gloves were of gray suede; and though Lucy's hand may have shown itself in the selection of these garnitures, he wore them easily, even with becoming hint of jauntiness. Some change might be his face, too, for a successful man is seldom to be mistaken, especially if his temper be genial. Eugene had begun to look like a millionaire. But above everything else, what was most evident about him, as he came up the path, was confidence in the happiness promised by his errand; the anticipation in his eyes could have been read by a stranger. His look at the door of Isabel's house was the look of a man who is quite certain that the next moment will reveal something ineffably charming, inexpressibly dear. When the bell rang, George waited at the entrance of the "reception room" until a housemaid came through the hall on her way to answer the summons. "You needn't mind, Mary," he told her. "I'll see who it is and what they want. Probably it's only a pedlar." "Thank you, sir, Mister George," said Mary; and returned to the rear of the house. George went slowly to the front door, and halted, regarding the misty silhouette of the caller upon the ornamental frosted glass. After a minute of waiting, this silhouette changed outline so that an arm could be distinguished鈥攁n arm outstretched toward the bell, as if the gentleman outside doubted whether or not it had sounded, and were minded to try again. But before the gesture was completed George abruptly threw open the door, and stepped squarely upon the middle of the threshold. A slight change shadowed the face of Eugene; his look of happy anticipation gave way to something formal and polite. "How do you do, George," he said. "Mrs. Minafer expects to go driving with me, I believe鈥攊f you'll be so kind as to send her word that I'm here." George made not the slightest movement. "No," he said. Eugene was incredulous, even when his second glance revealed how hot of eye was the haggard young man before him. "I beg your pardon. I said鈥" "I heard you," said George. "You said you had an engagement with my mother, and I told you, No!" Eugene gave him a steady look, and then he quietly: "What is the鈥攖he difficulty?" George kept his own voice quiet enough, but that, did not mitigate the vibrant fury of it. "My鈥攎other will have no interest in knowing that you came her to-day," he said. "Or any other day!" Eugene continued to look at him with a scrutiny in which began to gleam a profound anger, none less powerful because it was so quiet. "I am afraid I do not understand you." "I doubt if I could make it much plainer," George said, raising his voice slightly, "but I'll try. You're not wanted in this house, Mr. Morgan, now or at any other time. Perhaps you'll understand鈥攖his!" And with the last word he closed the door in Eugene's face. Then, not moving away, he stood just inside door, and noted that the misty silhouette remained upon the frosted glass for several moments, as if the forbidden gentleman debated in his mind what course to pursue. "Let him ring again!" George thought grimly. "Or try the side door鈥攐r the kitchen!" But Eugene made no further attempt; the silhouette disappeared; footsteps could be heard withdrawing across the floor of the veranda; and George, returning to the window in the "reception room," was rewarded by the sight of an automobile manufacturer in baffled retreat, with all his wooing furs and fineries mocking him. Eugene got into his car slowly, not looking back at the house which had just taught him such a lesson; and it was easily visible鈥攅ven from a window seventy feet distant鈥攖hat he was not the same light suitor who had jumped so gallantly from the car only a few minutes earlier. Observing the heaviness of his movements as he climbed into the tonneau, George indulged in a sickish throat rumble which bore a distant cousinship to mirth. The car was quicker than its owner; it shot away as soon as he had sunk into his seat; and George, having watched its impetuous disappearance from his field of vision, ceased to haunt the window. He went to the library, and, seating himself beside the table whereon he had placed the photograph of his father, picked up a book, and pretended to been engaged in reading it. Presently Isabel's buoyant step was heard descending the stairs, and her low, sweet whistling, renewing the air of "Lord Bateman." She came into the library, still whistling thoughtfully, a fur coat over her arm, ready to put on, and two veils round her small black hat, her right hand engaged in buttoning the glove upon her left; and, as the large room contained too many pieces of heavy furniture, and the inside shutters excluded most of the light of day, she did not at once perceive George's presence. Instead, she went to the bay window at the end of the room, which afforded a view of the street, and glanced out expectantly; then bent her attention upon her glove; after that, looked out toward the street again, ceased to whistle, and turned toward the interior of the room. "Why, Georgie!" She came, leaned over from behind him, and there was a faint, exquisite odour as from distant apple blossoms as she kissed his cheek. "Dear, I waited lunch almost an hour for you, but you didn't come! Did you lunch out somewhere?" "Yes." He did not look up from the book. "Did you have plenty to eat?" "Yes." "Are you sure? Wouldn't you like to have Maggie get you something now in the dining room? Or they could bring it to you here, if you think it would be cozier. Shan't I鈥" A tinkling bell was audible, and she moved to the doorway into the hall. "I'm going out driving, dear. I鈥" She interrupted herself to address the housemaid, who was passing through the hall: "I think it's Mr. Morgan, Mary. Tell him I'll be there at once." "Yes, ma'am." Mary returned. "Twas a pedlar, ma'am." "Another one?" Isabel said, surprised. "I thought you said it was a pedlar when the bell rang a little while ago." "Mister George said it was, ma'am; he went to the door," Mary informed her, disappearing. "There seem to be a great many of them," Isabel mused. "What did yours want to sell, George?" "He didn't say." "You must have cut him off short!" she laughed; and then, still standing in the doorway, she noticed the big silver frame upon the table beside him. "Gracious, Georgie!" she exclaimed. "You have been investing!" and as she came across the room for a closer view, "Is it 鈥攊s it Lucy?" she asked half timidly, half archly. But the next instant she saw whose likeness was thus set forth in elegiac splendour鈥攁nd she was silent, except for a long, just-audible "Oh!" He neither looked up nor moved. "That was nice of you, Georgie," she said, in a low voice presently. "I ought to have had it framed, myself, when I gave it to you." He said nothing, and, standing beside him, she put her hand gently upon his shoulder, then as gently withdrew it, and went out of the room. But she did not go upstairs; he heard the faint rustle of her dress in the hall, and then the sound of her footsteps in the "reception room." After a time, silence succeeded even these slight tokens of her presence; whereupon George rose and went warily into the hall, taking care to make no noise, and he obtained an oblique view of her through the open double doors of the "reception room." She was sitting in the chair which he had occupied so long; and she was looking out of the window expectantly鈥攁 little troubled. He went back to the library, waited an interminable half hour, then returned noiselessly to the same position in the hall, where he could see her. She was still sitting patiently by the window. Waiting for that man, was she? Well, it might be quite a long wait! And the grim George silently ascended the stairs to his own room, and began to pace his suffering floor.Chapter 6Chapter 30

When Mr. George Amberson Minafer came home for the holidays at Christmastide, in his sophomore year, probably no great change had taken place inside him, but his exterior was visibly altered. Nothing about him encouraged any hope that he had received his come-upance; on the contrary, the yearners for that stroke of justice must yearn even more itchingly: the gilded youth's manner had become polite, but his politeness was of a kind which democratic people found hard to bear. In a word, M. le Due had returned from the gay life of the capital to show himself for a week among the loyal peasants belonging to the old chateau, and their quaint habits and costumes afforded him a mild amusement. Cards were out for a ball in his honour, and this pageant of the tenantry was held in the ballroom of the Amberson Mansion the night after his arrival. It was, as Mrs. Henry Franklin Foster said of Isabel's wedding, "a big Amberson-style thing," though that wise Mrs. Henry Franklin Foster had long ago gone the way of all wisdom, having stepped out of the Midland town, unquestionably into heaven鈥攁 long step, but not beyond her powers. She had successors, but no successor; the town having grown too large to confess that it was intellectually led and literarily authoritated by one person; and some of these successors were not invited to the ball, for dimensions were now so metropolitan that intellectual leaders and literary authorities loomed in outlying regions unfamiliar to the Ambersons. However, all "old citizens" recognizable as gentry received cards, and of course so did their dancing descendants. The orchestra and the caterer were brought from away, in the Amber-son manner, though this was really a gesture鈥攑erhaps one more of habit than of ostentation鈥攆or servitors of gaiety as proficient as these importations were nowadays to be found in the town. Even flowers and plants and roped vines were brought from afar鈥攏ot, however, until the stock of the local florists proved insufficient to obliterate the interior structure of the big house, in the Amberson way. It was the last of the great, long remembered dances that "everybody talked about"鈥攖here were getting to be so many people in town that no later than the next year there were too many for "everybody" to hear of even such a ball as the Ambersons'. George, white-gloved, with a gardenia in his buttonhole, stood with his mother and the Major, embowered in the big red and gold drawing room downstairs, to "receive" the guests; and, standing thus together, the trio offered a picturesque example of good looks persistent through three generations. The Major, his daughter, and his grandson were of a type all Amberson: tall, straight, and regular, with dark eyes, short noses, good chins; and the grandfather's expression, no less than the grandson's, was one of faintly amused condescension. There was a difference, however. The grandson's unlined young face had nothing to offer except this condescension; the grandfather's had other things to say. It was a handsome, worldly old face, conscious of its importance, but persuasive rather than arrogant, and not without tokens of sufferings withstood. The Major's short white hair was parted in the middle, like his grandson's, and in all he stood as briskly equipped to the fashion as exquisite young George. Isabel, standing between her father and her son caused a vague amazement in the mind of the latter. Her age, just under forty, was for George a thought of something as remote as the moons of Jupiter: he could not possibly have conceived such an age ever coming to be his own: five years was the limit of his thinking in time. Five years ago he had been a child not yet fourteen; and those five years were an abyss. Five years hence he would be almost twenty-four; what the girls he knew called "one of the older men." He could imagine himself at twenty-four, but beyond that, his powers staggered and refused the task. He saw little essential difference between thirty-eight and eighty-eight, and his mother was to him not a woman but wholly a mother. He had no perception of her other than as an adjunct to himself, his mother; nor could he imagine her thinking or doing anything鈥攆alling in love, walking with a friend, or reading a book鈥 as a woman, and not as his mother. The woman, Isabel, was a stranger to her son; as completely a stranger as if he had never in his life seen her or heard her voice. And it was to-night, while he stood with her, "receiving," that he caught a disquieting glimpse of this stranger whom he thus fleetingly encountered for the first time. Youth cannot imagine romance apart from youth. That is why the roles of the heroes and heroines of plays are given by the managers to the most youthful actors they can find among the competent. Both middle-aged people and young people enjoy a play about young lovers; but only middle-aged people will tolerate a play about middle-aged lovers; young people will not come to see such a play, because, for them, middle-aged lovers are a joke鈥攏ot a very funny one. Therefore, to bring both the middle-aged people and the young people into his house, the manager makes his romance as young as he can. Youth will indeed be served, and its profound instinct is to be not only scornfully amused but vaguely angered by middle-age romance. So, standing beside his mother, George was disturbed by a sudden impression, corning upon him out of nowhere, so far as he could detect, that her eyes were brilliant, that she was graceful and youthful鈥攊n a word, that she was romantically lovely. He had one of those curious moments that seem to have neither a cause nor any connection with actual things. While it lasted, he was disquieted not by thoughts鈥攆or he had no definite thoughts鈥攂ut by a slight emotion like that caused in a dream by the presence of something invisible soundless, and yet fantastic. There was nothing different or new about his mother, except her new black and silver dress: she was standing there beside him, bending her head a little in her greetings, smiling the same smile she had worn for the half-hour that people had been passing the "receiving" group. Her face was flushed, but the room was warm; and shaking hands with so many people easily accounted for the pretty glow that was upon her. At any time she could have "passed" for twenty-five or twenty-six鈥攁 man of fifty would have honestly guessed her to be about thirty but possibly two or three years younger鈥攁nd though extraordinary in this, she had been extraordinary in it for years. There was nothing in either her looks or her manner to explain George's uncomfortable feeling; and yet it increased, becoming suddenly a vague resentment, as if she had done something unmotherly to him. The fantastic moment passed; and even while it lasted, he was doing his duty, greeting two pretty girls with whom he had grown up, as people say, and warmly assuring them that he remembered them very well鈥攁n assurance which might have surprised them "in anybody but Georgie Minafer!" It seemed unnecessary, since he had spent many hours with them no longer ago than the preceding August, They had with them their parents and an uncle from out of town; and George negligently gave the parents the same assurance he had given the daughters, but murmured another form of greeting to the out-of-town uncle, whom he had never seen before. This person George absently took note of as a "queer-looking duck." Undergraduates had not yet adopted "bird." It was a period previous to that in which a sophomore would have thought of the Sharon girls' uncle as a "queer-looking bird," or, perhaps a "funnyface bird." In George's time, every human male was to be defined, at pleasure, as a "duck"; but "duck" was not spoken with admiring affection, as in its former feminine use to signify a "dear"鈥攐n the contrary, "duck" implied the speaker's personal detachment and humorous superiority. An indifferent amusement was what George felt when his mother, with a gentle emphasis, interrupted his interchange of courtesies with the nieces to present him to the queer-looking duck their uncle. This emphasis of Isabel's, though slight, enabled George to perceive that she considered the queer-looking duck a person of some importance; but it was far from enabling him to understand why. The duck parted his thick and longish black hair on the side; his tie was a forgetful looking thing, and his coat, though it fitted a good enough middle-aged figure, no product of this year, or of last year either. One of his eyebrows was noticeably higher than the other; and there were whimsical lines between them, which gave him an apprehensive expression; but his apprehensions were evidently more humorous than profound, for his prevailing look was that of a genial man of affairs, not much afraid of anything whatever Nevertheless, observing only his unfashionable hair, his eyebrows, his preoccupied tie and his old coat, the olympic George set him down as a queer-looking duck, and having thus completed his portrait, took no interest in him. The Sharon girls passed on, taking the queer-looking duck with them, and George became pink with mortification as his mother called his attention to a white-bearded guest waiting to shake his hand. This was George's great-uncle, old John Minafer: it was old John's boast that in spite of his connection by marriage with the Ambersons, he never had worn and never would wear a swaller-tail coat. Members of his family had exerted their influence uselessly鈥攁t eighty-nine conservative people seldom form radical new habits, and old John wore his "Sunday suit" of black broadcloth to the Amberson ball. The coat was square, with skirts to the knees; old John called it a "Prince Albert" and was well enough pleased with it, but his great-nephew considered it the next thing to an insult. George's purpose had been to ignore the man, but he had to take his hand for a moment; whereupon old John began to tell George that he was looking well, though there had been a time, during his fourth month, when he was so puny that nobody thought he would live. The great-nephew, in a fury of blushes, dropped old John's hand with some vigour, and seized that of the next person in the line. "Member you v'ry well 'ndeed!" he said fiercely. The large room had filled, and so had the broad hall and the rooms on the other side of the hall, where there were tables for whist. The imported orchestra waited in the ballroom on the third floor, but a local harp, 'cello, violin, and flute were playing airs from "The Fencing Master" in the hall, and people were shouting over the music. Old John Minafer's voice was louder and more penetrating than any other, because he had been troubled with deafness for twenty-five years, heard his own voice but faintly, and liked to hear it. "Smell o' flowers like this always puts me in mind o' funerals," he kept telling his niece, Fanny Minafer, who was with him; and he seemed to get a great deal of satisfaction out of this reminder. His tremulous yet strident voice cut through the voluminous sound that filled the room, and he was heard everywhere: "Always got to think o' funerals when I smell so many flowers!" And, as the pressure of people forced Fanny and himself against the white marble mantelpiece, he pursued this train of cheery thought, shouting, "Right here's where the Major's wife was laid out at her funeral. They had her in a good light from that big bow window." He paused to chuckle mournfully. "I s'pose that's where they'll put the Major when his time comes." Presently George's mortification was increased to hear this sawmill droning harshly from the midst of the thickening crowd: "Ain't the dancin' broke out yet, Fanny? Hoopla! Le's push through and go see the young women-folks crack their heels! Start the circus! Hoopse-daisy!" Miss Fanny Minafer, in charge of the lively veteran, was almost as distressed as her nephew George, but she did her duty and managed to get old John through the press and out to the broad stairway, which numbers of young people were now ascending to the ballroom. And here the sawmill voice still rose over all others: "Solid black walnut every inch of it, balustrades and all. Sixty thousand dollars' worth o' carved woodwork in the house! Like water! Spent money like water! Always did! Still do! Like water! God knows where it all comes from!" He continued the ascent, barking and coughing among the gleaming young heads, white shoulders, jewels, and chiffon, like an old dog slowly swimming up the rapids of a sparkling river; while down below, in the drawing room, George began to recover from the degradation into which this relic of early settler days had dragged him. What restored him completely was a dark-eyed little beauty of nineteen, very knowing in lustrous blue and jet; at sight of this dashing advent in the line of guests before him, George was fully an Amberson again. "Remember you very well indeed!" he said, his graciousness more earnest than any he had heretofore displayed. Isabel heard him and laughed. "But you don't, George!" she said. "You don't remember her yet, though of course you will! Miss Morgan is from out of town, and I'm afraid this is the first time you've ever seen her. You might take her up to the dancing; I think you've pretty well done your duty here." "Be d'lighted," George responded formally, and offered his arm, not with a flourish, certainly, but with an impressiveness inspired partly by the appearance of the person to whom he offered it, partly by his being the hero of this fete, and partly by his youthfulness鈥攆or when manners are new they are apt to be elaborate. The little beauty entrusted her gloved fingers to his coat-sleeve, and they moved away together. Their progress was necessarily slow, and to George's mind it did not lack stateliness. How could it? Musicians, hired especially for him, were sitting in a grove of palms in the hall and now tenderly playing "Oh, Promise Me" for his pleasuring; dozens and scores of flowers had been brought to life and tended to this hour that they might sweeten the air for him while they died; and the evanescent power that music and floral scents hold over youth stirred his appreciation of strange, beautiful qualities within his own bosom: he seemed to himself to be mysteriously angelic, and about to do something which would overwhelm the beautiful young stranger upon his arm. Elderly people and middle-aged people moved away to let him pass with his honoured fair beside him. Worthy middle-class creatures, they seemed, leading dull lives but appreciative of better things when they saw them鈥攁nd George's bosom was fleetingly touched with a pitying kindness. And since the primordial day when caste or heritage first set one person, in his own esteem, above his fellow-beings, it is to be doubted if anybody ever felt more illustrious, or more negligently grand, than George Amberson Minafer felt at this party. As he conducted Miss Morgan through the hall, toward the stairway, they passed the open double doors of a card room, where some squadrons of older people were preparing for action, and, leaning gracefully upon the mantelpiece of this room, a tall man, handsome, high-mannered, and sparklingly point-device, held laughing converse with that queer-looking duck, the Sharon girls' uncle. The tall gentleman waved a gracious salutation to George, and Miss Morgan's curiosity was stirred. "Who is that?" "I didn't catch his name when my mother presented him to me," said George. "You mean the queer-looking duck." "I mean the aristocratic duck." "That's my Uncle George Honourable George Amberson. I thought everybody knew him." "He looks as though everybody ought to know him," she said. "It seems to run in your family." If she had any sly intention, it skipped over George harmlessly. "Well, of course, I suppose most everybody does," he admitted鈥"out in this part of the country especially. Besides, Uncle George is in Congress; the family like to have someone there." "Why?" "Well, it's sort of a good thing in one way. For instance, my Uncle Sydney Amberson and his wife, Aunt Amelia, they haven't got much of anything to do with themselves鈥攇et bored to death around here, of course. Well, probably Uncle George'll have Uncle Sydney appointed minister or ambassador, or something like that, to Russia or Italy or somewhere, and that'll make it pleasant when any of the rest of the family go travelling, or things like that. I expect to do a good deal of travel-ling myself when I get out of college." On the stairway he pointed out this prospective ambassadorial couple, Sydney and Amelia. They were coming down, fronting the ascending tide, and as conspicuous over it as a king and queen in a play. Moreover, as the clear-eyed Miss Morgan remarked, the very least they looked was ambassadorial. Sydney was an Amberson exaggerated, more pompous than gracious; too portly, flushed, starched to a shine, his stately jowl furnished with an Edward the Seventh beard. Amelia, likewise full-bodied, showed glittering blond hair exuberantly dressed; a pink, fat face cold under a white-hot tiara; a solid, cold bosom under a white-hot necklace; great, cold, gloved arms, and the rest of her beautifully upholstered. Amelia was an Amberson born, herself, Sydney's second-cousin: they had no children, and Sydney was without a business or a profession; thus both found a great deal of time to think about the appropriateness of their becoming Excellencies. And as George ascended the broad stairway, they were precisely the aunt and uncle he was most pleased to point out, to a girl from out of town, as his appurtenances in the way of relatives. At sight of them the grandeur of the Amberson family was instantly conspicuous as a permanent thing: it was impossible to doubt that the Ambersons were entrenched, in their nobility and riches, behind polished and glittering barriers which were as solid as they were brilliant, and would last.白金会白金会白金会白金会Chapter 1白金会白金会

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Chapter 20Chapter 11

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Chapter 2George choked. For an instant he was on the point of breaking down, but he commanded himself, bravely dismissing the self-pity roused by her compassion. "How can I help but be?" he said. "No, no." She soothed him. "You mustn't. You mustn't be troubled, no matter what happens." "That's easy enough to say!" he protested; and he moved as if to rise. "Just let's stay like this a little while, dear. Just a minute or two. I want to tell you: brother George has been here, and he told me everything about鈥攁bout how unhappy you'd been鈥攁nd how you went so gallantly to that old woman with the operaglasses." Isabel gave a sad little laugh. "What a terrible old woman she is! What a really terrible thing a vulgar old woman can be!" "Mother, I鈥" And again he moved to rise. "Must you? It seemed to me such a comfortable way to talk. Well鈥" She yielded; he rose, helped her to her feet, and pressed the light into being. As the room took life from the sudden lines of fire within the bulbs Isabel made a deprecatory gesture, and, with a faint laugh of apologetic protest, turned quickly away from George. What she meant was: "You mustn't see my face until I've made it nicer for you." Then she turned again to him, her eyes downcast, but no sign of tears in them, and she contrived to show him that there was the semblance of a smile upon her lips. She still wore her hat, and in her unsteady fingers she held a white envelope, somewhat crumpled. "Now, mother鈥" "Wait, dearest," she said; and though he stood stone cold, she lifted her arms, put them round him again, and pressed her cheek lightly to his. "Oh, you do look so troubled, poor dear! One thing you couldn't doubt, beloved boy: you know I could never care for anything in the world as I care for you鈥攏ever, never!" "Now, mother鈥" She released him, and stepped back. "Just a moment more, dearest. I want you to read this first. We can get at things better." She pressed into his hand the envelope she had brought with her, and as he opened it, and began to read the long enclosure, she walked slowly to the other end of the room; then stood there, with her back to him, and her head drooping a little, until he had finished. The sheets of paper were covered with Eugene's handwriting. George Amberson will bring you this, dear Isabel. He is waiting while I write. He and I have talked things over, and before he gives this to you he will tell you what has happened. Of course I'm rather confused, and haven't had time to think matters out very definitely, and yet I believe I should have been better prepared for what took place to-day鈥擨 ought to have known it was coming, because I have understood for quite a long time that young George was getting to dislike me more and more. Somehow, I've never been able to get his friendship; he's always had a latent distrust of me鈥攐r something like distrust鈥攁nd perhaps that's made me sometimes a little awkward and diffident with him. I think it may be he felt from the first that I cared a great deal about you, and he naturally resented it. I think perhaps he felt this even during all the time when I was so careful鈥 at least I thought I was鈥攏ot to show, even to you, how immensely I did care. And he may have feared that you were thinking too much about me鈥攅ven when you weren't and only liked me as an old friend. It's perfectly comprehensible to me, also, that at his age one gets excited about gossip. Dear Isabel, what I'm trying to get at, in my confused way, is that you and I don't care about this nonsensical gossip, ourselves, at all. Yesterday I thought the time had come when I could ask you to marry me, and you were dear enough to tell me "sometime it might come to that." Well, you and I, left to ourselves, and knowing what we have been and what we are, we'd pay as much attention to "talk" as we would to any other kind of old cats' mewing! We'd not be very apt to let such things keep us from the plenty of life we have left to us for making up to ourselves for old unhappinesses and mistakes. But now we're faced with鈥攏ot the slander and not our own fear of it, because we haven't any, but someone else's fear of it鈥攜our son's. And, oh, dearest woman in the world, I know what your son is to you, and it frightens me! Let me explain a little: I don't think he'll change鈥攁t twenty-one or twenty-two so many things appear solid and permanent and terrible which forty sees are nothing but disappearing miasma. Forty can't tell twenty about this; that's the pity of it! Twenty can find out only by getting to be forty. And so we come to this, dear: Will you live your own life your way, or George's way? I'm going a little further, because it would be fatal not to be wholly frank now. George will act toward you only as your long worship of him, your sacrifices鈥攁ll the unseen little ones every day since he was born鈥攚ill make him act. Dear, it breaks my heart for you, but what you have to oppose now is the history of your own selfless and perfect motherhood. I remember saying once that what you worshipped in your son was the angel you saw in him鈥攁nd I still believe that is true of every mother. But in a mother's worship she may not see that the Will in her son should not always be offered incense along with the angel. I grow sick with fear for you鈥攆or both you and me鈥攚hen I think how the Will against us two has grown strong through the love you have given the angel鈥攁nd how long your own sweet Will has served that other. Are you strong enough, Isabel? Can you make the fight? I promise you that if you will take heart for it, you will find so quickly that it has all amounted to nothing. You shall have happiness, and, in a little while, only happiness. You need only to write me a line鈥擨 can't come to your house鈥攁nd tell me where you will meet me. We will come back in a month, and the angel in your son will bring him to you; I promise it. What is good in him will grow so fine, once you have beaten the turbulent Will鈥攂ut it must be beaten! Your brother, that good friend, is waiting with such patience; I should not keep him longer鈥攁nd I am saying too much for wisdom, I fear. But, oh, my dear, won't you be strong鈥攕uch a little short strength it would need! Don't strike my life down twice, dear鈥攖his time I've not deserved it. Eugene. Concluding this missive, George tossed it abruptly from him so that one sheet fell upon his bed and the others upon the floor; and at the faint noise of their falling Isabel came, and, kneeling, began to gather them up. "Did you read it, dear?" George's face was pale no longer, but pink with fury. "Yes, I did." "All of it?" she asked gently, as she rose. "Certainly!" She did not look at him, but kept her eyes downcast upon the letter in her hands, tremulously rearranging the sheets in order as she spoke鈥 and though she smiled, her smile was as tremulous as her hands. Nervousness and an irresistible timidity possessed her. "I鈥擨 wanted to say, George," she faltered. "I felt that if鈥攊f some day it should happen鈥擨 mean, if you came to feel differently about it, and Eugene and I鈥攖hat is if we found that it seemed the most sensible thing to do鈥擨 was afraid you might think it would be a little queer about鈥 Lucy, I mean if鈥攊f she were your step-sister. Of course, she'd not be even legally related to you, and if you鈥攊f you cared for her鈥" Thus far she got stumblingly with what she wanted to say, while George watched her with a gaze that grew harder and hotter; but here he cut her off. "I have already given up all idea of Lucy," he said. "Naturally, I couldn't have treated her father as I deliberately did treat him鈥擨 could hardly have done that and expected his daughter ever to speak to me again." Isabel gave a quick cry of compassion, but he allowed her no opportunity to speak. "You needn't think I'm making any particular sacrifice," he said sharply, "though I would, quickly enough, if I thought it necessary in a matter of honour like this. I was interested in her, and I could even say I did care for her; but she proved pretty satisfactorily that she cared little enough about me! She went away right in the midst of a鈥攐f a difference of opinion we were having; she didn't even let me know she was going, and never wrote a line to me, and then came back telling everybody she'd had 'a perfectly gorgeous time!' That's quite enough for me. I'm not precisely the sort to arrange for that kind of thing to be done to me more than once! The truth is, we're not congenial and we'd found that much out, at least, before she left. We should never have been happy; she was 'superior' all the time, and critical of me鈥攏ot very pleasant, that! I was disappointed in her, and I might as well say it. I don't think she has the very deepest nature in the world, and鈥" But Isabel put her hand timidly on his arm. "Georgie, dear, this is only a quarrel: all young people have them before they get adjusted, and you mustn't let鈥" "If you please!" he said emphatically, moving back from her. "This isn't that kind. It's all over, and I don't care to speak of it again. It's settled. Don't you understand?" "But, dear鈥" "No. I want to talk to you about this letter of her father's." "Yes, dear, that's why鈥" "It's simply the most offensive piece of writing that I've ever held in my hands!" She stepped back from him, startled. "But, dear, I thought鈥" "I can't understand your even showing me such a thing!" he cried. "How did you happen to bring it to me?" "Your uncle thought I'd better. He thought it was the simplest thing to do, and he said that he'd suggested it to Eugene, and Eugene had agreed. They thought鈥" "Yes!" George said bitterly. "I should like to hear what they thought!" "They thought it would be the most straightforward thing." George drew a long breath. "Well, what do you think, mother?" "I thought it would be the simplest and most straightforward thing; I thought they were right." "Very well! We'll agree it was simple and straightforward. Now, what do you think of that letter itself?" She hesitated, looking away. "I鈥攐f course I don't agree with him in the way he speaks of you, dear鈥攅xcept about the angel! I don't agree with some of the things he implies. You've always been unselfish鈥 nobody knows that better than your mother. When Fanny was left with nothing, you were so quick and generous to give up what really should have come to you, and鈥" "And yet," George broke in, "you see what he implies about me. Don't you think, really, that this was a pretty insulting letter for that man to be asking you to hand your son?" "Oh, no!" she cried. "You can see how fair he means to be, and he didn't ask for me to give it to you. It was brother George who鈥" "Never mind that, now! You say he tries to be fair, and yet do you suppose it ever occurs to him that I'm doing my simple duty? That I'm doing what my father would do if he were alive? That I'm doing what my father would ask me to do if he could speak from his grave out yonder? Do you suppose it ever occurs to that man for one minute that I'm protecting my mother?" George raised his voice, advancing upon the helpless lady fiercely; and she could only bend her head before him. "He talks about my 'Will'鈥攈ow it must be beaten down; yes, and he asks my mother to do that little thing to please him! What for? Why does he want me 'beaten' by my mother? Because I'm trying to protect her name! He's got my mother's name bandied up and down the streets of this town till I can't step in those streets without wondering what every soul I meet is thinking of me and of my family, and now he wants you to marry him so that every gossip in town will say 'There! What did I tell you? I guess that proves it's true!' You can't get away from it; that's exactly what they'd say, and this man pretends he cares for you, and yet asks you to marry him and give them the right to say it. He says he and you don't care what they say, but I know better! He may not care-probably he's that kind鈥攂ut you do. There never was an Amberson yet that would let the Amberson name go trailing in the dust like that! It's the proudest name in this town and it's going to stay the proudest; and I tell you that's the deepest thing in my nature-not that I'd expect Eugene Morgan to understand鈥攖he very deepest thing in my nature is to protect that name, and to fight for it to the last breath when danger threatens it, as it does now鈥攖hrough my mother!" He turned from her, striding up and down and tossing his arms about, in a tumult of gesture. "I can't believe it of you, that you'd think of such a sacrilege! That's what it would be鈥攕acrilege! When he talks about your unselfishness toward me, he's right鈥攜ou have been unselfish and you have been a perfect mother. But what about him? Is it unselfish of him to want you to throw away your good name just to please him? That's all he asks of you鈥攁nd to quit being my mother! Do you think I can believe you really care for him? I don't! You are my mother and you're an Amberson鈥攁nd I believe you're too proud! You're too proud to care for a man who could write such a letter as that!" He stopped, faced her, and spoke with more self-control: "Well, what are you going to do about it, mother?" George was right about his mother's being proud. And even when she laughed with a negro gardener, or even those few times in her life when people saw her weep, Isabel had a proud look鈥攕omething that was independent and graceful and strong. But she did not have it now: she leaned against the wall, beside his dressing-table, and seemed beset with humility and with weakness. Her head drooped. "What answer are you going to make to such a letter?" George demanded, like a judge on the bench. "I鈥擨 don't quite know, dear," she murmured. "Wait," she begged him. "I'm so鈥攃onfused." "I want to know what you're going to write him. Do you think if you did what he wants you to I could bear to stay another day in this town, mother? Do you think I could ever bear even to see you again if you married him? I'd want to, but you surely know I just鈥攃ouldn't!" She made a futile gesture, and seemed to breathe with difficulty. "I鈥擨 wasn't鈥攓uite sure," she faltered, "about鈥攁bout it's being wise for us to be married鈥攅ven before knowing how you feel about it. I wasn't even sure it was quite fair to鈥攖o Eugene. I have鈥擨 seem to have that family trouble鈥攍ike father's鈥攖hat I spoke to you about once." She managed a deprecatory little dry laugh. "Not that it amounts to much, but I wasn't at all sure that it would be fair to him. Marrying doesn't mean so much, after all鈥攏ot at my age. It's enough to know that鈥攖hat people think of you鈥攁nd to see them. I thought we were all鈥攐h, pretty happy the way things were, and I don't think it would mean giving up a great deal for him or me, either, if we just went on as we have been. I鈥擨 see him almost every day, and鈥" "Mother!" George's voice was loud and stern. "Do you think you could go on seeing him after this!" She had been talking helplessly enough before; her tone was little more broken now. "Not鈥攏ot even鈥攕ee him?" "How could you?" George cried. "Mother, it seems to me that if he ever set foot in this house again鈥攐h! I can't speak of it! Could you see him, knowing what talk it makes every time he turns into this street, and knowing what that means to me? Oh, I don't understand all this鈥擨 don't! If you'd told me, a year ago, that such things were going to happen, I'd have thought you were insane鈥攁nd now I believe I am!" Then, after a preliminary gesture of despair, as though he meant harm to the ceiling, he flung himself heavily, face downward, upon the bed. his anguish was none the less real for its vehemence; and the stricken lady came to him instantly and bent over him, once more enfolding him in her arms. She said nothing, but suddenly her tears fell upon his head; she saw them, and seemed to be startled. "Oh, this won't do!" she said. "I've never let you see me cry before, except when your father died. I mustn't!" And she ran from the room. 鈥 A little while after she had gone, George rose and began solemnly to dress for dinner. At one stage of these conscientious proceedings he put on, temporarily, his long black velvet dressing-gown, and, happening to catch sight in his pier glass of the picturesque and medieval figure thus presented, he paused to regard it; and something profoundly theatrical in his nature came to the surface. His lips moved; he whispered, half-aloud, some famous fragments: "Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother, Nor customary suits of solemn black 鈥 " For, in truth, the mirrored princely image, with hair dishevelled on the white brow, and the long tragic fall of black velvet from the shoulders, had brought about (in his thought at least) some comparisons of his own times, so out of joint, with those of that other gentle prince and heir whose widowed mother was minded to marry again. "But I have that within which passeth show; These but the trappings and the suits of Woe." Not less like Hamlet did he feel and look as he sat gauntly at the dinner table with Fanny to partake of a meal throughout which neither spoke. Isabel had sent word "not to wait" for her, an injunction it was as well they obeyed, for she did not come at all. But with the renewal of sustenance furnished to his system, some relaxation must have occurred within the high-strung George. Dinner was not quite finished when, without warning, sleep hit him hard. His burning eyes could no longer restrain the lids above them; his head sagged beyond control; and he got to his feet, and went lurching upstairs, yawning with exhaustion. From the door of his room, which he closed mechanically, with his eyes shut, he went blindly to his bed, fell upon it soddenly, and slept鈥攚ith his face full upturned to the light. It was after midnight when he woke, and the room was dark. He had not dreamed, but he woke with the sense that somebody or something had been with him while he slept鈥攕omebody or something infinitely compassionate; somebody or something infinitely protective, that would let him come to no harm and to no grief. He got up, and pressed the light on. Pinned to the cover of his dressing-table was a square envelope, with the words, "For you, dear," written in pencil upon it. But the message inside was in ink, a little smudged here and there. I have been out to the mail-box, darling, with a letter I've written to Eugene, and he'll have it in the morning. It would be unfair not to let him know at once, and my decision could not change if I waited. It would always be the same. I think it, is a little better for me to write to you, like this, instead of waiting till you wake up and then telling you, because I'm foolish and might cry again, and I took a vow once, long ago, that you should never see me cry. Not that I'll feel like crying when we talk things over tomorrow. I'll be "all right and fine" (as you say so often) by that time鈥攄on't fear. I think what makes me most ready to cry now is the thought of the terrible suffering in your poor face, and the unhappy knowledge that it is I, your mother who put it there. It shall never come again! I love you better than anything and everything else on earth. God gave you to me鈥攁nd oh! how thankful I have been every day of my life for that sacred gift鈥攁nd nothing can ever come between me and God's gift. I cannot hurt you, and I cannot let you stay hurt as you have been鈥攏ot another instant after you wake up, my darling boy! It is beyond my power. And Eugene was right鈥擨 know you couldn't change about this. Your suffering shows how deep-seated the feeling is within you. So I've written him just about what I think you would like me to鈥攖hough I told him I would always be fond of him and always his best friend, and I hoped his dearest friend. He'll understand about not seeing him. He'll understand that, though I didn't say it in so many words. You mustn't trouble about that鈥攈e'll understand. Good-night, my darling, my beloved, my beloved! You mustn't be troubled. I think I shouldn't mind anything very much so long as I have you "all to myself"鈥攁s people say鈥攖o make up for your long years away from me at college. We'll talk of what's best to do in the morning, shan't we? And for all this pain you'll forgive your loving and devoted mother. Isabel.

珠宝贷款

"Let her" was correct; but the time came鈥攁nd it came in the spring of the next year when it was no longer a question of George's letting his mother come home. He had to bring her, and to bring her quickly if she was to see her father again; and Amberson had been right: her danger of never seeing him again lay not in the Major's feebleness of heart but in her own. As it was, George telegraphed his uncle to have a wheeled chair at the station, for the journey had been disasterous, and to this hybrid vehicle, placed close to the platform, her son carried her in his arms when she arrived. She was unable to speak, but patted her brother's and Fanny's hands and looked "very sweet," Fanny found the desperate courage to tell her. She was lifted from the chair into a carriage, and seemed a little stronger as they drove home; for once she took her hand from George's, and waved it feebly toward the carriage window. "Changed," she whispered. "So changed." "You mean the town," Amberson said. "You mean the old place is changed, don't you, dear?" She smiled and moved her lips: "Yes." "It'll change to a happier place, old dear," he said, "now that you're back in it, and going to get well again." But she only looked at him wistfully, her eyes a little frightened. When the carriage stopped, her son carried her into the house, and up the stairs to her own room, where a nurse was waiting; and he came out a moment later, as the doctor went in. At the end of the hall a stricken group was clustered: Amberson, and Fanny, and the Major. George, deathly pale and speechless, took his grandfather's hand, but the old gentleman did not seem to notice his action. "When are they going to let me see my daughter?" he asked querulously. "They told me to keep out of the way while they carried her in, because it might upset her. I wish they'd let me go in and speak to my daughter. I think she wants to see me." He was right鈥攑resently the doctor came out and beckoned to him; and the Major shuffled forward, leaning on a shaking cane; his figure, after all its Years of proud soldierliness, had grown stooping at last, and his untrimmed white hair straggled over the back of his collar. He looked old鈥攐ld and divested of the world鈥攁s he crept toward his daughter's room. Her voice was stronger, for the waiting group heard a low cry of tenderness and welcome as the old man reached the open doorway. Then the door was closed. Fanny touched her nephew's arm. "George, you must need something to eat鈥擨 know she'd want you to. I've had things ready: I knew she'd want me to. You'd better go down to the dining room: there's plenty on the table, waiting for you. She'd want you to eat something." He turned a ghastly face to her, it was so panic-stricken. "I don't want anything to eat!" he said savagely. And he began to pace the floor, taking care not to go near Isabel's door, and that his footsteps were muffled by the long, thick hall rug. After a while he went to where Amberson, with folded arms and bowed head, had seated himself near the front window. "Uncle George," he said hoarsely. "I didn't鈥" "Well?" "Oh, my God, I didn't think this thing the matter with her could ever be serious! I鈥" He gasped. "When that doctor I had meet us at the boat鈥" He could not go on. Amberson only nodded his head, and did not otherwise change his attitude. Isabel lived through the night. At eleven O'clock Fanny came timidly to George in his room. "Eugene is here," she whispered. "He's downstairs. He wants鈥" She gulped. "He wants to know if he can't see her. I didn't know what to say. I said I'd see. I didn't know鈥 the doctor said鈥" "The doctor said we 'must keep her peaceful,'" George said sharply. "Do you think that man's coming would be very soothing? My God! if it hadn't been for him this mightn't have happened: we could have gone on living here quietly, and鈥攚hy, it would be like taking a stranger into her room! She hasn't even spoken of him more than twice in all the time we've been away. Doesn't he know how sick she is? You tell him the doctor said she had to be quiet and peaceful. That's what he did say, isn't it?" Fanny acquiesced tearfully. "I'll tell him. I'll tell him the doctor said she was to be kept very quiet. I鈥擨 didn't know鈥" And she pottered out. An hour later the nurse appeared in George's doorway; she came noiselessly, and his back was toward her; but he jumped as if he had been shot, and his jaw fell, he so feared what she was going to say. "She wants to see you." The terrified mouth shut with a click; and he nodded and followed her; but she remained outside his mother's room while he went in. Isabel's eyes were closed, and she did not open them or move her head, but she smiled and edged her hand toward him as he sat on a stool beside the bed. He took that slender, cold hand, and put it to his cheek. "Darling, did you鈥攇et something to eat?" She could only whisper, slowly and with difficulty. It was as if Isabel herself were far away, and only able to signal what she wanted to say. "Yes, mother." "All you鈥攏eeded?" "Yes, mother." She did not speak again for a time; then, "Are you sure you didn't鈥 didn't catch cold coming home?" "I'm all right, mother." "That's good. It's sweet鈥攊t's sweet鈥" "What is, mother darling?" "To feel鈥攎y hand on your cheek. I鈥擨 can feel it." But this frightened him horribly鈥攖hat she seemed so glad she could feel it, like a child proud of some miraculous seeming thing accomplished. It frightened him so that he could not speak, and he feared that she would know how he trembled; but she was unaware, and again was silent. Finally she spoke again: "I wonder if鈥攊f Eugene and Lucy know that we've come鈥攈ome." "I'm sure they do." "Has he鈥攁sked about me?" "Yes, he was here." "Has he鈥攇one?" "Yes, mother." She sighed faintly. "I'd like鈥" "What, mother?" "I'd like to have鈥攕een him." It was just audible, this little regretful murmur. Several minutes passed before there was another. "Just鈥攋ust once," she whispered, and then was still. She seemed to have fallen asleep, and George moved to go, but a faint pressure upon his fingers detained him, and he remained, with her hand still pressed against his cheek. After a while he made sure she was asleep, and moved again, to let the nurse come in, and this time there was no pressure of the fingers to keep him. She was not asleep, but thinking that if he went he might get some rest, and be better prepared for what she knew was coming, she commanded those longing fingers of hers鈥攁nd let him go. He found the doctor standing with the nurse in the hall; and, telling them that his mother was drowsing now, George went back to his own room, where he was startled to find his grandfather lying on the bed, and his uncle leaning against the wall. They had gone home two hours before, and he did not know they had returned. "The doctor thought we'd better come over," Amberson said, then was silent, and George, shaking violently, sat down on the edge of the bed. His shaking continued, and from time to time he wiped heavy sweat from his forehead. The hours passed, and sometimes the old man upon the bed would snore a little, stop suddenly, and move as if to rise, but George Amber-son would set a hand upon his shoulder, and murmur a reassuring word or two. Now and then, either uncle or nephew would tiptoe into the hall and look toward Isabel's room, then come tiptoeing back, the other watching him haggardly. Once George gasped defiantly: "That doctor in New York said she might get better! Don't you know he did? Don't you know he said she might?" Amberson made no answer. Dawn had been murking through the smoky windows, growing stronger for half an hour, when both men started violently at a sound in the hall; and the Major sat up on the bed, unchecked. It was the voice of the nurse speaking to Fanny Minafer, and the next moment, Fanny appeared in the doorway, making contorted efforts to speak. Amberson said weakly: "Does she want us鈥攖o come in?" But Fanny found her voice, and uttered a long, loud cry. She threw her arms about George, and sobbed in an agony of loss and compassion: "She loved you!" she wailed. "She loved you! She loved you! Oh, how she did love you!" Isabel had just left them.Chapter 35

丹和

A few days after George's return to the university it became evident that not quite everybody had gazed with complete benevolence upon the various young collegians at their holiday sports. The Sunday edition of the principal morning paper even expressed some bitterness under the heading, "Gilded Youths of the Fin-de-Siecle"鈥攖his was considered the knowing phrase of the time, especially for Sunday supplements鈥攁nd there is no doubt that from certain references in this bit of writing some people drew the conclusion that Mr. George Amberson Minafer had not yet got his comeuppance, a postponement still irritating. Undeniably, Fanny Minafer was one of the people who drew this conclusion, for she cut the article out and enclosed it in a letter to her nephew, having written on the border of the clipping, "I wonder whom it can mean!" George read part of it. We debate sometimes what is to be the future of this nation when we think that in a few years public affairs may be in the hands of the fin-desiecle gilded youths we see about us during the Christmas holidays. Such foppery, such luxury, such insolence, was surely never practised by the scented, overbearing patricians of the Palatine, even in Rome's most decadent epoch. In all the wild orgy of wastefulness and luxury with which the nineteenth century reaches its close, the gilded youth has been surely the worst symptom. With his airs of young milord, his fast horses, his gold and silver cigarette-cases, his clothes from a New York tailor, his recklessness of money showered upon him by indulgent mothers or doting grandfathers, he respects nothing and nobody. He is blase if you please. Watch him at a social function how condescendingly he deigns to select a partner for the popular waltz or two step how carelessly he shoulders older people out of his way, with what a blank stare he returns the salutation of some old acquaintance whom he may choose in his royal whim to forget! The unpleasant part of all this is that the young women he so condescendingly selects as partners for the dance greet him with seeming rapture, though in their hearts they must feel humiliated by his languid hauteur, and many older people beam upon him almost fawningly if he unbends so far as to throw them a careless, disdainful word! One wonders what has come over the new generation. Of such as these the Republic was not made. Let us pray that the future of our country is not in the hands of these fin-de-siecle gilded youths, but rather in the calloused palms of young men yet unknown, labouring upon the farms of the land. When we compare the young manhood of Abraham Lincoln with the specimens we are now producing, we see too well that it bodes ill for the twentieth century鈥 George yawned, and tossed the clipping into his waste-basket, wondering why his aunt thought such dull nonsense worth the sending. As for her insinuation, pencilled upon the border, he supposed she meant to joke鈥攁 supposition which neither surprised him nor altered his lifelong opinion of her wit. He read her letter with more interest: The dinner your mother gave for the Morgans was a lovely affair. It was last Monday evening, just ten days after you left. It was peculiarly appropriate that your mother should give this dinner, because her brother George, your uncle, was Mr. Morgan's most intimate friend before he left here a number of years ago, and it was a pleasant occasion for the formal announcement of some news which you heard from Lucy Morgan before you returned to college. At least she told me she had told you the night before you left that her father had decided to return here to live. It was appropriate that your mother, herself an old friend, should assemble a representative selection of Mr. Morgan's old friends around him at such a time. He was in great spirits and most entertaining. As your time was so charmingly taken up during your visit home with a younger member of his family, you probably overlooked opportunities of hearing him talk, and do not know what an interesting man he can be. He will soon begin to build his factory here for the manufacture of automobiles, which he says is a term he prefers to "horseless carriages." Your Uncle George told me he would like to invest in this factory, as George thinks there is a future for automobiles; perhaps not for general use, but as an interesting novelty, which people with sufficient means would like to own for their amusement and the sake of variety. However, he said Mr. Morgan laughingly declined his offer, as Mr. M. was fully able to finance this venture, though not starting in a very large way. Your uncle said other people are manufacturing automobiles in different parts of the country with success. Your father is not very well, though he is not actually ill, and the doctor tells him he ought not to be so much at his office, as the long years of application indoors with no exercise are beginning to affect him unfavourably, but I believe your father would die if he had to give up his work, which is all that has ever interested him outside of his family. I never could understand it. Mr. Morgan took your mother and me with Lucy to see Modjeska in "Twelfth Night" yesterday evening, and Lucy said she thought the Duke looked rather like you, only much more democratic in his manner. I suppose you will think I have written a great deal about the Morgans in this letter, but thought you would be interested because of your interest in a younger member of his family. Hoping that you are finding college still as attractive as ever, Affectionately, Aunt Fanny. George read one sentence in this letter several times. Then he dropped the missive in his wastebasket to join the clipping, and strolled down the corridor of his dormitory to borrow a copy of "Twelfth Night." Having secured one, he returned to his study and refreshed his memory of the play鈥攂ut received no enlightenment that enabled him to comprehend Lucy's strange remark. However, he found himself impelled in the direction of correspondence, and presently wrote a letter鈥攏ot a reply to his Aunt Fanny. Dear Lucy: No doubt you will be surprised at hearing from me so soon again, especially as this makes two in answer to the one received from you since getting back to the old place. I hear you have been making comments about me at the theatre, that some actor was more democratic in his manners than I am, which I do not understand. You know my theory of life because I explained it to you on our first drive together, when I told you I would not talk to everybody about things I feel like the way I spoke to you of my theory of life. I believe those who are able should have a true theory of life, and I developed my theory of life long, long ago. Well, here I sit smoking my faithful briar pipe, indulging in the fragrance of my tobacco as I look out on the campus from my many-paned window, and things are different with me from the way they were way back in Freshman year. I can see now how boyish in many ways I was then. I believe what has changed me as much as anything was my visit home at the time I met you. So I sit here with my faithful briar and dream the old dreams over as it were, dreaming of the waltzes we waltzed together and of that last night before we parted, and you told me the good news you were going to live there, and I would find my friend waiting for me, when I get home next summer. I will be glad my friend will be waiting for me. I am not capable of friendship except for the very few, and, looking back over my life, I remember there were times when I doubted if I could feel a great friendship for anybody鈥攅specially girls. I do not take a great interest in many people, as you know, for I find most of them shallow. Here in the old place I do not believe in being hail-fellow-well-met with every Tom, Dick, and Harry just because he happens to be a classmate, any more than I do at home, where I have always been careful who I was seen with, largely on account of the family, but also because my disposition ever since my boyhood has been to encourage real intimacy from but the few. What are you reading now? I have finished both "Henry Esmond" and "The Virginians." I like Thackeray because he is not trashy, and because he writes principally of nice people. My theory of literature is an author who does not indulge in trashiness鈥攚rites about people you could introduce into your own home. I agree with my Uncle Sydney, as I once heard him say he did not care to read a book or go to a play about people he would not care to meet at his own dinner table. I believe we should live by certain standards and ideals, as you know from my telling you my theory of life. Well, a letter is no place for deep discussions, so I will not go into the subject. From several letters from my mother, and one from Aunt Fanny, I hear you are seeing a good deal of the family since I left. I hope sometimes you think of the member who is absent. I got a silver frame for your photograph in New York, and I keep it on my desk. It is the only girl's photograph I ever took the trouble to have framed, though, as I told you frankly, I have had any number of other girls' photographs, yet all were only passing fancies, and oftentimes I have questioned in years past if I was capable of much friendship toward the feminine sex, which I usually found shallow until our own friendship began. When I look at your photograph, I say to myself, "At last, at last here is one that will not prove shallow." My faithful briar has gone out. I will have to rise and fill it, then once more in the fragrance of My Lady Nicotine, I will sit and dream the old dreams over, and think, too, of the true friend at home awaiting my return in June for the summer vacation. Friend, this is from your friend, G.A.M. George's anticipations were not disappointed. When he came home in June his friend was awaiting him; at least, she was so pleased to see him again that for a few minutes after their first encounter she was a little breathless, and a great deal glowing, and quiet withal. Their sentimental friendship continued, though sometimes he was irritated by her making it less sentimental than he did, and sometimes by what he called her "air of superiority." Her air was usually, in truth, that of a fond but amused older sister; and George did not believe such an attitude was warranted by her eight months of seniority. Lucy and her father were living at the Amberson Hotel, while Morgan got his small machine-shops built in a western outskirt of the town; and George grumbled about the shabbiness and the old-fashioned look of the hotel, though it was "still the best in the place, of course." He remonstrated with his grandfather, declaring that the whole Amberson Estate would be getting "run-down and out-at-heel, if things weren't taken in hand pretty soon." He urged the general need of rebuilding, renovating, varnishing, and lawsuits. But the Major, declining to hear him out, interrupted querulously, saying that he had enough to bother him without any advice from George; and retired to his library, going so far as to lock the door audibly. "Second childhood!" George muttered, shaking his head; and he thought sadly that the Major had not long to live. However, this surmise depressed him for only a moment or so. Of course, people couldn't be expected to live forever, and it would be a good thing to have someone in charge of the Estate who wouldn't let it get to looking so rusty that riffraff dared to make fun of it. For George had lately undergone the annoyance of calling upon the Morgans, in the rather stuffy red velours and gilt parlour of their apartment at the hotel, one evening when Mr. Frederick Kinney also was a caller, and Mr. Kinney had not been tactful. In fact, though he adopted a humorous tone of voice, in expressing his, sympathy for people who, through the city's poverty in hotels, were obliged to stay at the Amberson, Mr. Kinney's intention was interpreted by the other visitor as not at all humorous, but, on the contrary, personal and offensive. George rose abruptly, his face the colour of wrath. "Good-night, Miss Morgan. Good-night, Mr. Morgan," he said. "I shall take pleasure in calling at some other time when a more courteous sort of people may be present." "Look here!" the hot-headed Fred burst out. "Don't you try to make me out a boor, George Minafer! I wasn't hinting anything at you; I simply forgot all about your grandfather owning this old building. Don't you try to put me in the light of a boor! I won't鈥" But George walked out in the very course of this vehement protest, and it was necessarily left unfinished. Mr. Kinney remained only a few moments after George's departure; and as the door closed upon him, the distressed Lucy turned to her father. She was plaintively surprised to find him in a condition of immoderate laughter. "I didn't鈥擨 didn't think I could hold out!" he gasped, and, after choking until tears came to his eyes, felt blindly for the chair from which he had risen to wish Mr. Kinney an indistinct good-night. His hand found the arm of the chair; he collapsed feebly, and sat uttering incoherent sounds. "Papa!" "It brings things back so!" he managed to explain, "This very Fred Kinney's father and young George's father, Wilbur Minafer, used to do just such things when they were at that age鈥攁nd, for that matter, so did George Amberson and I, and all the rest of us!" And, in spite of his exhaustion, he began to imitate: "Don't you try to put me in the light of a boor!" "I shall take pleasure in calling at some time when a more courteous sort of people鈥" He was unable to go on. There is a mirth for every age, and Lucy failed to comprehend her father's, but tolerated it a little ruefully. "Papa, I think they were shocking. Weren't they awful!" "Just鈥攋ust boys!" he moaned, wiping his eyes. But Lucy could not smile at all; she was beginning to look indignant. "I can forgive that poor Fred Kinney," she said. "He's just blundering鈥攂ut George鈥 oh, George behaved outrageously!" "It's a difficult age," her father observed, his calmness somewhat restored. "Girls don't seem to have to pass through it quite as boys do, or their savoir faire is instinctive鈥攐r something!" And he gave away to a return of his convulsion. She came and sat upon the arm of his chair. "Papa, why should George behave like that?" "He's sensitive." "Rather! But why is he? He does anything he likes to, without any regard for what people think. Then why should he mind so furiously when the least little thing reflects upon him, or on anything or anybody connected with him?" Eugene patted her hand. "That's one of the greatest puzzles of human vanity, dear; and I don't pretend to know the answer. In all my life, the most arrogant people that I've known have been the most sensitive. The people who have done the most in contempt of other people's opinion, and who consider themselves the highest above it, have been the most furious if it went against them. Arrogant and domineering people can't stand the least, lightest, faintest breath of criticism. It just kills them." "Papa, do you think George is arrogant and domineering?" "Oh, he's still only a boy," said Eugene consolingly. "There's plenty of fine stuff in him鈥攃an't help but be, because he's Isabel Amberson's son." Lucy stroked his hair, which was still almost as dark as her own. "You liked her pretty well once, I guess, papa." "I do still," he said quietly. "She's lovely鈥攍ovely! Papa鈥" she paused, then continued鈥"I wonder sometimes鈥" "What?" "I wonder just how she happened to marry Mr. Minafer." "Oh, Minafer's all right," said Eugene. "He's a quiet sort of man, but he's a good man and a kind man. He always was, and those things count." "But in a way鈥攚ell, I've heard people say there wasn't anything to him at all except business and saving money. Miss Fanny Minafer herself told me that everything George and his mother have of their own鈥攖hat is, just to spend as they like鈥攕he says it has always come from Major Amberson." "Thrift, Horatio!" said Eugene lightly. "Thrift's an inheritance, and a common enough one here. The people who settled the country had to save, so making and saving were taught as virtues, and the people, to the third generation, haven't found out that making and saving are only means to an end. Minafer doesn't believe in money being spent. He believes God made it to be invested and saved." "But George isn't saving. He's reckless, and even if he is arrogant and conceited and bad-tempered, he's awfully generous." "Oh, he's an Amberson," said her father. "The Ambersons aren't saving. They're too much the other way, most of them." "I don't think I should have called George bad-tempered," Lucy said thoughtfully. "No. I don't think he is." "Only when he's cross about something?" Morgan suggested, with a semblance of sympathetic gravity. "Yes," she said brightly, not perceiving that his intention was humorous. "All the rest of the time he's really very amiable. Of course, he's much more a perfect child, the whole time, than he realizes! He certainly behaved awfully to-night." She jumped up, her indignation returning. "He did, indeed, and it won't do to encourage him in it. I think he'll find me pretty cool鈥攆or a week or so!" Whereupon her father suffered a renewal of his attack of uproarious laughter.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鈥攁t least in spots鈥攁 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鈥攁nd 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'h.te 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鈥攊ts 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鈥攖he Morgans and Akerses and Sheridans鈥攖hey 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鈥攁nd the next鈥 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: LEGS BROKEN 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 he 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鈥攁nd 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鈥攁s he had remembered ten thousand times before鈥攖he 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鈥攁nd 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鈥" Most plainly of all he could see her dancing; and he became articulate in the mourning whisper: "So graceful鈥攐h, so graceful鈥" 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鈥攁nd 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鈥 both said "constantly" thinking of her鈥攁nd neither had ever "seen her more distinctly." He remembered these phrases in his own letter accurately. Reflection upon the circumstance stirred a queer spot in Eugene's brain鈥攈e 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鈥攖hey do not believe in geology, for instance; and some of them think they have had supernatural experiences. "Of course there was nothing in it鈥攕till it was queer!" they say. 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 he 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 own. 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鈥攂ut not recently鈥 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鈥攁nd 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鈥" "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鈥" 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鈥攐r 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 churchgoing men, sound citizens鈥攁nd 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 indistinguishable mutterings. 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鈥攂ut 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 remembers." "Yes鈥攕o 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鈥攏o, he says 'father.' He's your father." "What's his appearance?" "How?" "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鈥攙ery anxious. Very fond of you; very anxious to talk to you. Very glad you came here鈥攐h, very, glad!" "What is her name?" "Name," the voice repeated, and seemed to ruminate. "Name hard to get鈥攁lways 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鈥攐h, 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鈥攊t's a light colour and you can see through it." "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鈥攕he is troubled. Oh鈥攁 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 鈥攐h, yes, she wants you to be鈥攖o be kind! That's what she says. That's it. To be kind." "Does she鈥" "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鈥" "I don't want to speak to any one else," said Eugene quickly. "I want鈥" "This man who has come says that he is a friend of yours. He says鈥" 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鈥" 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 interesting." 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 reality? 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鈥攅ntreating 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鈥攐h, indeed her very soul!鈥攃alled 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鈥攁n ethereal figure flying beside the train, but now it seemed to him that she kept her face toward his window with an infinite wistfulness. "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"鈥攖o 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." "She did?" "Yes, sir." 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鈥攁nd 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鈥攖o 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鈥攇ently!" 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 more.

romen

Isabel's uneasiness about her husbands health鈥攕ometimes reflected in her letters to George during the winter that followed鈥攈ad not been alleviated when the accredited Senior returned for his next summer vacation, and she confided to him in his room, soon after his arrival, that "something" the doctor had said to her lately had made her more uneasy than ever. "Still worrying over his rolling-mills investments?" George asked, not seriously impressed. "I'm afraid it's past that stage from what Dr Rainey says. His worries only aggravate his condition now. Dr. Rainey says we ought to get him away." "Well, let's do it, then." "He won't go." "He's a man awfully set in his ways; that's true," said George. "I don't think there's anything much the matter with him, though, and he looks just the same to me. Have you seen Lucy lately? How is she?" "Hasn't she written you?" "Oh, about once a month," he answered carelessly. "Never says much about herself. How's she look?" "She looks鈥攑retty!" said Isabel. "I suppose she wrote you they've moved?" "Yes; I've got her address. She said they were building." "They did. It's all finished, and they've been in it a month. Lucy is so capable; she keeps house exquisitely. It's small, but oh, such a pretty little house!" "Well, that's fortunate," George said. "One thing I've always felt they didn't know a great deal about is architecture." "Don't they?" asked Isabel, surprised. "Anyhow, their house is charming. It's way out beyond the end of Amberson Boulevard; it's quite near that big white house with a gray-green roof somebody built out there a year or so ago. There are any number of houses going up, out that way; and the trolley-line runs within a block of them now, on the next street, and the traction people are laying tracks more than three miles beyond. I suppose you'll be driving out to see Lucy to- morrow." "I thought鈥" George hesitated. "I thought perhaps I'd go after dinner this evening." At this his mother laughed, not astonished. "It was only my feeble joke about 'to-morrow,' Georgie! I was pretty sure you couldn't wait that long. Did Lucy write you about the factory?" "No. What factory?" "The automobile shops. They had rather a dubious time at first, I'm afraid, and some of Eugene's experiments turned out badly, but this spring they've finished eight automobiles and sold them all, and they've got twelve more almost finished, and they're sold already! Eugene's so gay over it!" "What do his old sewing-machines look like? Like that first one he had when they came here?" "No, indeed! These have rubber tires blown up with air鈥攑neumatic! And they aren't so high; they're very easy to get into, and the engine's in front鈥擡ugene thinks that's a great improvement. They're very interesting to look at; behind the driver's seat there's a sort of box where four people can sit, with a step and a little door in the rear, and鈥" "I know all about it," said George. "I've seen any number like that, East. You can see all you want of 'em, if you stand on Fifth Avenue half an hour, any afternoon. I've seen half-a-dozen go by almost at the same time鈥攚ithin a few minutes, anyhow; and of course electric hansoms are a common sight there any day. I hired one, myself, the last time I was there. How fast do Mr. Morgan's machines go?" "Much too fast! It's very exhilarating鈥攂ut rather frightening; and they do make a fearful uproar. He says, though, he thinks he sees a way to get around the noisiness in time." "I don't mind the noise," said George. "Give me a horse, for mine, though, any day. I must get up a race with one of these things: Pendennis'll leave it one mile behind in a two-mile run. How's grandfather?" "He looks well, but he complains sometimes of his heart: I suppose that's natural at his age鈥攁nd it's an Amberson trouble." Having mentioned this, she looked anxious instantly. "Did you ever feel any weakness there, Georgie?" "No!" he laughed. "Are you sure, dear?" "No!" And he laughed again. "Did you?" "Oh, I think not鈥攁t least, the doctor told me he thought my heart was about all right. He said I needn't be alarmed." "I should think not! Women do seem to be always talking about health: I suppose they haven't got enough else to think of!" "That must be it," she said gayly. "We're an idle lot!" George had taken off his coat. "I don't like to hint to a lady," he said, "but I do want to dress before dinner." "Don't be long; I've got to do a lot of looking at you, dear!" She kissed him and ran away singing. But his Aunt Fanny was not so fond; and at the dinner-table there came a spark of liveliness into her eye when George patronizingly asked her what was the news in her own "particular line of sport." "What do you mean, Georgie?" she asked quietly. "Oh I mean: What's the news in the fast set generally? You been causing any divorces lately?" "No," said Fanny, the spark in her eye getting brighter. "I haven't been causing anything." "Well, what's the gossip? You usually hear pretty much everything that goes on around the nooks and crannies in this town, I hear. What's the last from the gossips' corner, auntie?" Fanny dropped her eyes, and the spark was concealed, but a movement of her lower lip betokened a tendency to laugh, as she replied. "There hasn't been much gossip lately, except the report that Lucy Morgan and Fred Kinney are engaged鈥攁nd that's quite old, by this time." Undeniably, this bit of mischief was entirely successful, for there was a clatter upon George's plate. "What鈥攚hat do you think you're talking about?" he gasped. Miss Fanny looked up innocently. "About the report of Lucy Morgan's engagement to Fred Kinney." George turned dumbly to his mother, and Isabel shook her head reassuringly. "People are always starting rumours," she said. "I haven't paid any attention to this one." "But you鈥攜ou've heard it?" he stammered. "Oh, one hears all sorts of nonsense, dear. I haven't the slightest idea that it's true." "Then you have heard it!" "I wouldn't let it take my appetite," his father suggested drily. "There are plenty of girls in the world!" George turned pale. "Eat your dinner, Georgie," his aunt said sweetly. "Food will do you good. I didn't say I knew this rumour was true. I only said I'd heard it." "When? When did you hear it!" "Oh, months ago!" And Fanny found any further postponement of laughter impossible. "Fanny, you're a hard-hearted creature," Isabel said gently. "You really are. Don't pay any attention to her, George. Fred Kinney's only a clerk in his uncle's hardware place: he couldn't marry for ages鈥攅ven if anybody would accept him!" George breathed tumultuously. "I don't care anything about 'ages'! What's that got to do with it?" he said, his thoughts appearing to be somewhat disconnected. "Ages,' don't mean anything! I only want to know鈥擨 want to know鈥擨 want鈥" He stopped. "What do you want?" his father asked crossly. "Why don't you say it? Don't make such a fuss." "I'm not鈥攏ot at all," George declared, pushing his chair back from the table. "You must finish your dinner, dear," his mother urged. "Don't鈥" "I have finished. I've eaten all I want. I don't want any more than I wanted. I don't want鈥擨鈥" He rose, still incoherent. "I prefer鈥 I want鈥擯lease excuse me!" He left the room, and a moment later the screens outside the open front door were heard to slam: "Fanny! You shouldn't鈥" "Isabel, don't reproach me, he did have plenty of dinner, and I only told the truth: everybody has been saying鈥" "But there isn't any truth in it." "We don't actually know there isn't," Miss Fanny insisted, giggling. "We've never asked Lucy." "I wouldn't ask her anything so absurd!" "George would," George's father remarked. "That's what he's gone to do." Mr. Minafer was not mistaken: that was what his son had gone to do. Lucy and her father were just rising from their dinner table when the stirred youth arrived at the front door of the new house. It was a cottage, however, rather than a house; and Lucy had taken a free hand with the architect, achieving results in white and green, outside, and white and blue, inside, to such effect of youth and daintiness that her father complained of "too much spring-time!" The whole place, including his own bedroom, was a young damsel's boudoir, he said, so that nowhere could he smoke a cigar without feeling like a ruffian. However, he was smoking when George arrived, and he encouraged George to join him in the pastime, but the caller, whose air was both tense and preoccupied, declined with something like agitation. "I never smoke鈥攖hat is, I'm seldom鈥擨 mean, no thanks," he said. "I mean not at all. I'd rather not." "Aren't you well, George?" Eugene asked, looking at him in perplexity. "Have you been overworking at college? You do look rather pa鈥" "I don't work," said George. "I mean I don't work. I think, but I don't work. I only work at the end of the term. There isn't much to do." Eugene's perplexity was little decreased, and a tinkle of the door-bell afforded him obvious relief. "It's my foreman," he said, looking at his watch. "I'll take him out in the yard to talk. This is no place for a foreman." And he departed, leaving the "living room" to Lucy and George. It was a pretty room, white panelled and blue curtained鈥攁nd no place for a foreman, as Eugene said. There was a grand piano, and Lucy stood leaning back against it, looking intently at George, while her fingers, behind her, absently struck a chord or two. And her dress was the dress for that room, being of blue and white, too; and the high colour in her cheeks was far from interfering with the general harmony of things鈥擥eorge saw with dismay that she was prettier than ever, and naturally he missed the reassurance he might have felt had he been able to guess that Lucy, on her part, was finding him better looking than ever. For, however unusual the scope of George's pride, vanity of beauty was not included; he did not think about his looks. "What's wrong, George?" she asked softly. "What do you mean: 'What's wrong?" "You're awfully upset about something. Didn't you get though your examination all right?" "Certainly I did. What makes you think anything's 'wrong' with me?" "You do look pale, as papa said, and it seemed to me that the way you talked sounded鈥攚ell, a little confused." "Confused'! I said I didn't care to smoke. What in the world is confused about that?" "Nothing. But鈥" "See here!" George stepped close to her. "Are you glad to see me?" "You needn't be so fierce about it!" Lucy protested, laughing at his dramatic intensity. "Of course I am! How long have I been looking forward to it?" "I don't know," he said sharply, abating nothing of his fierceness. "How long have you?" "Why鈥攅ver since you went away!" "Is that true? Lucy, is that true?" "You are funny!" she said. "Of course it's true. Do tell me what's the matter with you, George!" "I will!" he exclaimed. "I was a boy when I saw you last. I see that now, though I didn't then. Well, I'm not a boy any longer. I'm a man, and a man has a right to demand a totally different treatment." "Why has he?" "What?" "I don't seem to be able to understand you at all, George. Why shouldn't a boy be treated just as well as a man?" George seemed to find himself at a loss. "Why shouldn't鈥擶ell, he shouldn't, because a man has a right to certain explanations." "What explanations?" "Whether he's been made a toy of!" George almost shouted. "That's what I want to know!" Lucy shook her head despairingly. "You are the queerest person! You say you're a man now, but you talk more like a boy than ever. What does make you so excited?" "'Excited!'" he stormed. "Do you dare to stand there and call me 'excited'? I tell you, I never have been more calm or calmer in my life! I don't know that a person needs to be called 'excited' because he demands explanations that are his simple due!" "What in the world do you want me to explain?" "Your conduct with Fred Kinney!" George shouted. Lucy uttered a sudden cry of laughter; she was delighted. "It's been awful!" she said. "I don't know that I ever heard of worse misbehaviour! Papa and I have been twice to dinner with his family, and I've been three times to church with Fred鈥攁nd once to the circus! I don't know when they'll be here to arrest me!" "Stop that!" George commanded fiercely. "I want to know just one thing, and I mean to know it, too!" "Whether I enjoyed the circus?" "I want to know if you're engaged to him!" "No!" she cried and lifting her face close to his for the shortest instant possible, she gave him a look half merry, half defiant, but all fond. It was an adorable look. "Lucy!" he said huskily. But she turned quickly from him, and ran to the other end of the room. He followed awkwardly, stammering: "Lucy, I want鈥擨 want to ask you. Will you鈥攚ill you鈥攚ill you be engaged to me?" She stood at a window, seeming to look out into the summer darkness, her back to him. "Will you, Lucy?" "No," she murmured, just audibly. "Why not?" "I'm older than you." "Eight months!" "You're too young." "Is that鈥" he said, gulping鈥"is that the only reason you won't?" She did not answer. As she stood, persistently staring out of the window, with her back to him, she did not see how humble his attitude had become; but his voice was low, and it shook so that she could have no doubt of his emotion. "Lucy, please forgive me for making such a row," he said, thus gently. "I've been鈥擨've been terribly upset鈥攖erribly! You know how I feel about you, and always have felt about you. I've shown it in every single thing I've done since the first time I met you, and I know you know it. Don't you?" Still she did not move or speak. "Is the only reason you won't be engaged to me you think I'm too young, Lucy?" "It's鈥攊t's reason enough," she said faintly. At that he caught one of her hands, and she turned to him: there were tears in her eyes, tears which he did not understand at all. "Lucy, you little dear!" he cried. "I knew you鈥" "No, no!" she said, and she pushed him away, withdrawing her hand. "George, let's not talk of solemn things." "Solemn things!' Like what?" "Like鈥攂eing engaged." But George had become altogether jubilant, and he laughed triumphantly. "Good gracious, that isn't solemn!" "It is, too!" she said, wiping her eyes. "It's too solemn for us." "No, it isn't! I鈥" "Let's sit down and be sensible, dear," she said. "You sit over there鈥" "I will if you'll call me, 'dear' again." "No," she said. "I'll only call you that once again this summer鈥攖he night before you go away." "That will have to do, then," he laughed, "so long as I know we're engaged." "But we're not!" she protested. "And we never will be, if you don't promise not to speak of it again until鈥攗ntil I tell you to!" "I won't promise that," said the happy George. "I'll only promise not to speak of it till the next time you call me 'dear'; and you've promised to call me that the night before I leave for my senior year." "Oh, but I didn't!" she said earnestly, then hesitated. "Did I?" "Didn't you?" "I don't think I meant it," she murmured, her wet lashes flickering above troubled eyes. "I know one thing about you," he said gayly, his triumph increasing. "You never went back on anything you said, yet, and I'm not afraid of this being the first time!" "But we mustn't let鈥" she faltered; then went on tremulously, "George, we've got on so well together, we won't let this make a difference between us, will we?" And she joined in his laughter. "It will all depend on what you tell me the night before I go away. You agree we're going to settle things then, don't you, Lucy?" "I don't promise." "Yes, you do! Don't you?" "Well鈥"Chapter 20

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吸脂大腿

In the matter of coolness, George met Lucy upon her own predetermined ground; in fact, he was there first, and, at their next encounter, proved loftier and more formal than she did. Their estrangement lasted three weeks, and then disappeared without any preliminary treaty: it had worn itself out, and they forgot it. At times, however, George found other disturbances to the friendship. Lucy was "too much the village belle," he complained; and took a satiric attitude toward his competitors, referring to them as her "local swains and bumpkins," sulking for an afternoon when she reminded him that he, too, was at least "local." She was a belle with older people as well; Isabel and Fanny were continually taking her driving, bringing her home with them to lunch or dinner, and making a hundred little engagements with her, and the Major had taken a great fancy to her, insisting upon her presence and her father's at the Amberson family dinner at the Mansion every Sunday evening. She knew how to flirt with old people, he said, as she sat next him at the table on one of these Sunday occasions; and he had always liked her father, even when Eugene was a "terror" long ago. "Oh, yes, he was!" the Major laughed, when she remonstrated. "He came up here with my son George and some others for a serenade one night, and Eugene stepped into a bass fiddle, and the poor musicians just gave up! I had a pretty half-hour getting my son George upstairs. I remember! It was the last time Eugene ever touched a drop鈥攂ut he'd touched plenty before that, young lady, and he daren't deny it! Well, well; there's another thing that's changed: hardly anybody drinks nowadays. Perhaps it's just as well, but things used to be livelier. That serenade was just before Isabel was married鈥攁nd don't you fret, Miss Lucy: your father remembers it well enough!" The old gentleman burst into laughter, and shook his finger at Eugene across the table. "The fact is," the Major went on hilariously, "I believe if Eugene hadn't broken that bass fiddle and given himself away, Isabel would never have taken Wilbur! I shouldn't be surprised if that was about all the reason that Wilbur got her! What do you think. Wilbur?" "I shouldn't be surprised," said Wilbur placidly. "If your notion is right, I'm glad 'Gene broke the fiddle. He was giving me a hard run!" The Major always drank three glasses of champagne at his Sunday dinner, and he was finishing the third. "What do you say about it, Isabel? By Jove!" he cried, pounding the table. "She's blushing!" Isabel did blush, but she laughed. "Who wouldn't blush!" she cried, and her sister-in-law came to her assistance. "The important thing," said Fanny jovially, "is that Wilbur did get her, and not only got her, but kept her!" Eugene was as pink as Isabel, but he laughed without any sign of embarrassment other than his heightened colour. "There's another important thing鈥攖hat is, for me," he said. "It's the only thing that makes me forgive that bass viol for getting in my way." "What is it?" the Major asked. "Lucy," said Morgan gently. Isabel gave him a quick glance, all warm approval, and there was a murmur of friendliness round the table. George was not one of those who joined in this applause. He considered his grandfather's nonsense indelicate, even for second childhood, and he thought that the sooner the subject was dropped the better. However, he had only a slight recurrence of the resentment which had assailed him during the winter at every sign of his mother's interest in Morgan; though he was still ashamed of his aunt sometimes, when it seemed to him that Fanny was almost publicly throwing herself at the widower's head. Fanny and he had one or two arguments in which her fierceness again astonished and amused him. "You drop your criticisms of your relatives," she bade him, hotly, one day, "and begin thinking a little about your own behaviour! You say people will 'talk' about my鈥攁bout my merely being pleasant to an old friend! What do I care how they talk? I guess if people are talking about anybody in this family they're talking about the impertinent little snippet that hasn't any respect for anything, and doesn't even know enough to attend to his own affairs!" "Snippet,' Aunt Fanny!" George laughed. "How elegant! And 'little snippet'鈥攚hen I'm over five-feet-eleven?" "I said it!" she snapped, departing. "I don't see how Lucy can stand you!" "You'd make an amiable stepmother-in-law!" he called after her. "I'll be careful about proposing to Lucy!" These were but roughish spots in a summer that glided by evenly and quickly enough, for the most part, and, at the end, seemed to fly. On the last night before George went back to be a Junior, his mother asked him confidently if it had not been a happy summer. He hadn't thought about it, he answered. "Oh,' I suppose so. Why?" "I just thought it would be: nice to hear you say so," she said, smiling. "I mean, it's pleasant for people of my age to know that people of your age realize that they're happy." "People of your age!" he repeated. "You know you don't look precisely like an old woman, mother. Not precisely!" "No," she said. "And I suppose I feel about as young as you do, inside, but it won't be many years before I must begin to look old. It does come!" She sighed, still smiling. "It's seemed to me that, it must have been a happy summer for you鈥攁 real 'summer of roses and wine'鈥攚ithout the wine, perhaps. 'Gather ye roses while ye may'鈥攐r was it primroses? Time does really fly, or perhaps it's more like the sky鈥攁nd smoke鈥" George was puzzled. "What do you mean: time being like the sky and smoke?" "I mean the things that we have and that we think are so solid鈥 they're like smoke, and time is like the sky that the smoke disappears into. You know how wreath of smoke goes up from a chimney, and seems all thick and black and busy against the sky, as if it were going to do such important things and last forever, and you see it getting thinner and thinner鈥攁nd then, in such a little while, it isn't there at all; nothing is left but the sky, and the sky keeps on being just the same forever." "It strikes me you're getting mixed up," said George cheerfully. "I don't see much resemblance between time and the sky, or between things and smoke-wreaths; but I do see one reason you like 'Lucy Morgan so much. She talks that same kind of wistful, moony way sometimes鈥擨 don't mean to say I mind it in either of you, because I rather like to listen to it, and you've got a very good voice, mother. It's nice to listen to, no matter how much smoke and sky, and so on, you talk. So's Lucy's for that matter; and I see why you're congenial. She talks that way to her father, too; and he's right there with the same kind of guff. Well, it's all right with me!" He laughed, teasingly, and allowed her to retain his hand, which she had fondly seized. "I've got plenty to think about when people drool along!" She pressed his hand to her cheek, and a tear made a tiny warm streak across one of his knuckles. "For heaven's sake!" he said. "What's the matter? Isn't everything all right?" "You're going away!" "Well, I'm coming back, don't you suppose? Is that all that worries you?" She cheered up, and smiled again, but shook her head. "I never can bear to see you go鈥攖hat's the most of it. I'm a little bothered about your father, too." "Why?" "It seems to me he looks so badly. Everybody thinks so." "What nonsense!" George laughed. "He's been looking that way all summer. He isn't much different from the way he's looked all his life, that I can see. What's the matter with him?" "He never talks much about his business to me but I think he's been worrying about some investments he made last year. I think his worry has affected his health." "What investments?" George demanded. "He hasn't gone into Mr. Morgan's automobile concern, has he?" "No," Isabel smiled. "The 'automobile concern' is all Eugene's, and it's so small I understand it's taken hardly anything. No; your father has always prided himself on making only the most absolutely safe investments, but two or three years ago he and your Uncle George both put a great deal鈥攑retty much everything they could get together, I think鈥攊nto the stock of rolling-mills some friends of theirs owned, and I'm afraid the mills haven't been doing well." "What of that? Father needn't worry. You and I could take care of him the rest of his life on what grandfather鈥" "Of course," she agreed. "But your father's always lived so for his business and taken such pride in his sound investments; it's a passion with him. I鈥" "Pshaw! He needn't worry! You tell him we'll look after him: we'll build him a little stone bank in the backyard, if he busts up, and he can go and put his pennies in it every morning. That'll keep him just as happy as he ever was!" He kissed her. "Good-night, I'm going to tell Lucy good-bye. Don't sit up for me." She walked to the front gate with him, still holding his hand, and he told her again not to "sit up" for him. "Yes, I will," she laughed. "You won't be very late." "Well鈥攊t's my last night." "But I know Lucy, and she knows I want to see you, too, your last night. You'll see: she'll send you home promptly at eleven!" But she was mistaken: Lucy sent him home promptly at ten.Having finished some errands downtown, the next afternoon, George Amberson Minafer was walking up National Avenue on his homeward way when he saw in the distance, coming toward him, upon the same side of the street, the figure of a young lady鈥攁 figure just under the middle height, comely indeed, and to be mistaken for none other in the world 鈥攅ven at two hundred yards. To his sharp discomfiture his heart immediately forced upon him the consciousness of its acceleration; a sudden warmth about his neck made him aware that he had turned red, and then, departing, left him pale. For a panicky moment he thought of facing about in actual flight; he had little doubt that Lucy would meet him with no token of recognition, and all at once this probability struck him as unendurable. And if she did not speak, was it the proper part of chivalry to lift his hat and take the cut bareheaded? Or should the finer gentleman acquiesce in the lady's desire for no further acquaintance, and pass her with stony mien and eyes constrained forward? George was a young man badly flustered. But the girl approaching him was unaware of his trepidation, being perhaps somewhat preoccupied with her own. She saw only that he was pale, and that his eyes were darkly circled. But here he was advantaged with her, for the finest touch to his good looks was given by this toning down; neither pallor nor dark circles detracting from them, but rather adding to them a melancholy favour of distinction. George had retained his mourning, a tribute completed down to the final details of black gloves and a polished ebony cane (which he would have been pained to name otherwise than as a "walking-stick") and in the aura of this sombre elegance his straight figure and drawn face were not without a tristful and appealing dignity. In everything outward he was cause enough for a girl's cheek to flush, her heart to beat faster, and her eyes to warm with the soft light that came into Lucy's now, whether she would or no. If his spirit had been what his looks proclaimed it, she would have rejoiced to let the light glow forth which now shone in spite of her. For a long time, thinking of that spirit of his, and what she felt it should be, she had a persistent sense: "It must be there!" but she had determined to believe this folly no longer. Nevertheless, when she met him at the Sharons', she had been far less calm than she seemed. People speaking casually of Lucy were apt to define her as "a little beauty," a definition short of the mark. She was "a little beauty," but an independent, masterful, sell-reliant little American, of whom her father's earlier gipsyings and her own sturdiness had made a woman ever since she was fifteen. But though she was the mistress of her own ways and no slave to any lamp save that of her own conscience, she had a weakness: she had fallen in love with George Amberson Minafer at first sight, and no matter how she disciplined herself, she had never been able to climb out. The thing had happened to her; that was all. George had looked just the way she had always wanted someone to look鈥 the riskiest of all the moonshine ambushes wherein tricky romance snares credulous young love. But what was fatal to Lucy was that this thing having happened to her, she could not change it. No matter what she discovered in George's nature she was unable to take away what she had given him; and though she could think differently about him, she could not feel differently about him, for she was one of those too faithful victims of glamour. When she managed to keep the picture of George away from her mind's eye, she did well enough; but when she let him become visible, she could not choose but love what she disdained. She was a little angel who had fallen in love with high-handed Lucifer; quite an experience, and not apt to be soon succeeded by any falling in love with a tamer party鈥攁nd the unhappy truth was that George did make better men seem tame. But though she was a victim, she was a heroic one, anything but helpless. As they drew nearer, George tried to prepare himself to meet her with some remnants of aplomb. He decided that he would keep on looking straight ahead, and lift his hand toward his hat at the very last moment when it would be possible for her to see him out of the corner of her eye: then when she thought it over later, she would not be sure whether he had saluted her or merely rubbed his forehead. And there was the added benefit that any third person who might chance to look from a window, or from a passing carriage, would not think that he was receiving a snub, because he did not intend to lift his hat, but, timing the gesture properly, would in fact actually rub his forehead. These were the hasty plans which occupied his thoughts until he was within about fifty feet of her鈥攚hen he ceased to have either plans or thoughts, he had kept his eyes from looking full at her until then, and as he saw her, thus close at hand, and coming nearer, a regret that was dumfounding took possession of him. For the first time he had the sense of having lost something of overwhelming importance. Lucy did not keep to the right, but came straight to meet him, smiling, and with her hand offered to him. "Why鈥攜ou鈥" he stammered, as he took it. "Haven't you鈥" What he meant to say was, "Haven't you heard?" "Haven't I what?" she asked; and he saw that Eugene had not yet told her. "Nothing!" he gasped. "May I鈥攎ay I turn and walk with you a little way?" "Yes, indeed!" she said cordially. He would not have altered what had been done: he was satisfied with all that鈥攕atisfied that it was right, and that his own course was right. But he began to perceive a striking inaccuracy in some remarks he had made to his mother. Now when he had put matters in such shape that even by the relinquishment of his "ideals of life" he could not have Lucy, knew that he could never have her, and knew that when Eugene told her the history of yesterday he could not have a glance or word even friendly from her鈥攏ow when he must in good truth "give up all idea of Lucy," he was amazed that he could have used such words as "no particular sacrifice," and believed them when he said them! She had looked never in his life so bewitchingly pretty as she did today; and as he walked beside her he was sure that she was the most exquisite thing in the world. "Lucy," he said huskily, "I want to tell you something. Something that matters." "I hope it's a lively something then," she said; and laughed. "Papa's been so glum to-day he's scarcely spoken to me. Your Uncle George Amberson came to see him an hour ago and they shut themselves up in the library, and your uncle looked as glum as papa. I'd be glad if you'll tell me a funny story, George." "Well, it may seem one to you," he said bitterly, "Just to begin with: when you went away you didn't let me know; not even a word鈥攏ot a line鈥" Her manner persisted in being inconsequent. "Why, no," she said. "I just trotted off for some visits." "Well, at least you might have鈥" "Why, no," she said again briskly. "Don't you remember, George? We'd had a grand quarrel, and didn't speak to each other all the way home from a long, long drive! So, as we couldn't play together like good children, of course it was plain that we oughtn't to play at all." "Play!" he cried. "Yes. What I mean is that we'd come to the point where it was time to quit playing鈥攚ell, what we were playing." "At being lovers, you mean, don't you?" "Something like that," she said lightly. "For us two, playing at being lovers was just the same as playing at cross-purposes. I had all the purposes, and that gave you all the crossness: things weren't getting along at all. It was absurd!" "Well, have it your own way," he said. "It needn't have been absurd." "No, it couldn't help but be!" she informed him cheerfully. "The way I am and the way you are, it couldn't ever be anything else. So what was the use?" "I don't know," he sighed, and his sigh was abysmal. "But what I wanted to tell you is this: when you went away, you didn't let me know and didn't care how or when I heard it, but I'm not like that with you. This time, I'm going away. That's what I wanted to tell you. I'm going away tomorrow night鈥攊ndefinitely." She nodded sunnily. "That's nice for you. I hope you'll have ever so jolly a time, George." "I don't expect to have a particularly jolly time." "Well, then," she laughed, "if I were you I don't think I'd go." It seemed impossible to impress this distracting creature, to make her serious. "Lucy," he said desperately, "this is our last walk together." "Evidently!" she said, "if you're going away tomorrow night." "Lucy鈥攖his may be the last time I'll see you鈥攅ver鈥攅ver in my life." At that she looked at him quickly, across her shoulder, but she smiled as brightly as before, and with the same cordial inconsequence: "Oh, I can hardly think that!" she said. "And of course I'd be awfully sorry to think it. You're not moving away, are you, to live?" "No." "And even if you were, of course you'd be coming back to visit your relatives every now and then." "I don't know when I'm coming back. Mother and I are starting tomorrow night for a trip around the world." At this she did look thoughtful. "Your mother is going with you?" "Good heavens!" he groaned. "Lucy, doesn't it make any difference to you that I am going?" At this her cordial smile instantly appeared again. "Yes, of course," she said. "I'm sure I'll miss you ever so much. Are you to be gone long?" He stared at her wanly. "I told you indefinitely," he said. "We've made no plans鈥攁t all鈥攆or coming back." "That does sound like a long trip!" she exclaimed admiringly. "Do you plan to be travelling all the time, or will you stay in some one place the greater part of it? I think it would be lovely to鈥" "Lucy!" He halted; and she stopped with him. They had come to a corner at the edge of the "business section" of the city, and people were everywhere about them, brushing against them, sometimes, in passing. "I can't stand this," George said, in a low voice. "I'm just about ready to go in this drug-store here, and ask the clerk for something to keep me from dying in my tracks! It's quite a shock, you see, Lucy!" "What is?" "To find out certainly, at last, how deeply you've cared for me! To see how much difference this makes to you! By Jove, I have mattered to you!" Her cordial smile was tempered now with good-nature. "George!" She laughed indulgently. "Surely you don't want me to do pathos on a downtown corner!" "You wouldn't 'do pathos' anywhere!" "Well鈥攄on't you think pathos is generally rather fooling?" "I can't stand this any longer," he said. "I can't! Good-bye, Lucy!" He took her hand. "It's good-bye鈥擨 think it's good-bye for good, Lucy!" "Good-bye! I do hope you'll have the most splendid trip." She gave his hand a cordial little grip, then released it lightly. "Give my love to your mother. Good-bye!" He turned heavily away, and a moment later glanced back over his shoulder. She had not gone on, but stood watching him, that same casual, cordial smile on her face to the very last; and now, as he looked back, she emphasized her friendly unconcern by waving her small hand to him cheerily, though perhaps with the slightest hint of preoccupation, as if she had begun to think of the errand that brought her downtown. In his mind, George had already explained her to his own poignant dissatisfaction鈥攕ome blond pup, probably, whom she had met during that "perfectly gorgeous time!" And he strode savagely onward, not looking back again. But Lucy remained where she was until he was out of sight. Then she went slowly into the drugstore which had struck George as a possible source of stimulant for himself. "Please let me have a few drops of aromatic spirits of ammonia in a glass of water," she said, with the utmost composure. "Yes, ma'am!" said the impressionable clerk, who had been looking at her through the display window as she stood on the corner. But a moment later, as he turned from the shelves of glass jars against the wall, with the potion she had asked for in his hand, he uttered an exclamation: "For goshes' sake, Miss!" And, describing this adventure to his fellow-boarders, that evening, "Sagged pretty near to the counter, she was," he said. "If I hadn't been a bright, quick, ready-for-anything young fella she'd 'a' flummixed plum! I was watchin' her out the win-dow鈥攖alkin' to some young s'iety fella, and she was all right then. She was all right when she come in the store, too. Yes, sir; the prettiest girl that ever walked in our place and took one good look at me. I reckon it must be the truth what some you town wags say about my face!"

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The Honourable George Amberson was a congressman who led cotillions鈥 the sort of congressman an Amberson would be. He did it negligently, tonight, yet with infallible dexterity, now and then glancing humorously at the spectators, people of his own age. They were seated in a tropical grove at one end of the room whither they had retired at the beginning of the cotillion, which they surrendered entirely to the twenties and the late 'teens. And here, grouped with that stately pair, Sydney and Amelia Amberson, sat Isabel with Fanny, while Eugene Morgan appeared to bestow an amiable devotion impartially upon the three sisters-in-law. Fanny watched his face eagerly, laughing at everything he said; Amelia smiled blandly, but rather because of graciousness than because of interest; while Isabel, looking out at the dancers, rhythmically moved a great fan of blue ostrich feathers, listened to Eugene thoughtfully, yet all the while kept her shining eyes on Georgie. Georgie had carried out his rehearsed projects with precision, he had given Miss Morgan a nod studied into perfection during his lengthy toilet before dinner. "Oh, yes, I do seem to remember that curious little outsider!" this nod seemed to say. Thereafter, all cognizance of her evaporated: the curious little outsider was permitted no further existence worth the struggle. Nevertheless, she flashed in the corner of his eye too often. He was aware of her dancing demurely, and of her viciously flirtatious habit of never looking up at her partner, but keeping her eyes concealed beneath downcast lashes; and he had over-sufficient consciousness of her between the dances, though it was not possible to see her at these times, even if he had cared to look frankly in her direction鈥攕he was invisible in a thicket of young dresscoats. The black thicket moved as she moved and her location was hatefully apparent, even if he had not heard her voice laughing from the thicket. It was annoying how her voice, though never loud, pursued him. No matter how vociferous were other voices, all about, he seemed unable to prevent himself from constantly recognizing hers. It had a quaver in it, not pathetic鈥攔ather humorous than pathetic鈥攁 quality which annoyed him to the point of rage, because it was so difficult to get away from. She seemed to be having a "wonderful time!" An unbearable soreness accumulated in his chest: his dislike of the girl and her conduct increased until he thought of leaving this sickening Assembly and going home to bed. That would show her! But just then he heard her laughing, and decided that it wouldn't show her. So he remained. When the young couples seated themselves in chairs against the walls, round three sides of the room, for the cotillion, George joined a brazen-faced group clustering about the doorway鈥攜ouths with no partners, yet eligible to be "called out" and favoured. He marked that his uncle placed the infernal Kinney and Miss Morgan, as the leading couple, in the first chairs at the head of the line upon the leader's right; and this disloyalty on the part of Uncle George was inexcusable, for in the family circle the nephew had often expressed his opinion of Fred Kinney. In his bitterness, George uttered a significant monosyllable. The music flourished; whereupon Mr. Kinney, Miss Morgan, and six of their neighbours rose and waltzed knowingly. Mr. Amberson's whistle blew;' then the eight young people went to the favour-table and were given toys and trinkets wherewith to delight the new partners it was now their privilege to select. Around the walls, the seated non-participants in this ceremony looked rather conscious; some chattered, endeavouring not to appear expectant; some tried not to look wistful; and others were frankly solemn. It was a trying moment; and whoever secured a favour, this very first shot, might consider the portents happy for a successful evening. Holding their twinkling gewgaws in their hands, those about to bestow honour came toward the seated lines, where expressions became feverish. Two of the approaching girls seemed to wander, not finding a predetermined object in sight; and these two were Janie Sharon, and her cousin, Lucy. At this, George Amberson Minafer, conceiving that he had little to anticipate from either, turned a proud back upon the room and affected to converse with his friend, Mr. Charlie Johnson. The next moment a quick little figure intervened between the two. It was Lucy, gaily offering a silver sleighbell decked with white ribbon. "I almost couldn't find you!" she cried. George stared, took her hand, led her forth in silence, danced with her. She seemed content not to talk; but as the whistle blew, signalling that this episode was concluded, and he conducted her to her seat, she lifted the little bell toward him. "You haven't taken your favour. You're supposed to pin it on your coat," she said. "Don't you want it?" "If you insist!" said George stiffly. And he bowed her into her chair; then turned and walked away, dropping the sleighbell haughtily into his trousers' pocket. The figure proceeded to its conclusion, and George was given other sleighbells, which he easily consented to wear upon his lapel; but, as the next figure 'began, he strolled with a bored air to the tropical grove, where sat his elders, and seated himself beside his Uncle Sydney. His mother leaned across Miss Fanny, raising her voice over the music to speak to him. "Georgie, nobody will be able to see you here. You'll not be favoured. You ought to be where you can dance." "Don't care to," he returned. "Bore!" "But you ought鈥" She stopped and laughed, waving her fan to direct his attention behind him. "Look! Over your shoulder!" He turned, and discovered Miss Lucy Morgan in the act of offering him a purple toy balloon. "I found you!" she laughed. George was startled. "Well鈥" he said. "Would you rather 'sit it out?'" Lucy asked quickly, as he did not move. "I don't care to dance if you鈥" "No," he said, rising. "It would be better to dance." His tone was solemn, and solemnly he departed with her from the grove. Solemnly he danced with her. Four times, with not the slightest encouragement, she brought him a favour: 'four times in succession. When the fourth came, "Look here!" said George huskily. "You going to keep this up all' night? What do you mean by it?" For an instant she seemed confused. "That's what cotillions are for, aren't they?" she murmured. "What do you mean: what they're for?" "So that a girl can dance with a person she wants to?" George's huskiness increased. "Well, do you mean you鈥攜ou want to dance with me all the time鈥攁ll evening?" "Well, this much of it鈥攅vidently!" she laughed. "Is it because you thought I tried to keep you from getting hurt this afternoon when we upset?" She shook her head. "Was it because you want to even things up for making me angry鈥擨 mean, for hurting my feelings on the way home?" With her eyes averted鈥攆or girls of nineteen can be as shy as boys, sometimes鈥攕he said, "Well鈥攜ou only got angry because I couldn't dance the cotillion with you. I鈥擨 didn't feel terribly hurt with you for getting angry about that!" "Was there any other reason? Did my telling you I liked you have anything to do with it?" She looked up gently, and, as George met her eyes, something exquisitely touching, yet queerly delightful, gave him a catch in the throat. She looked instantly away, and, turning, ran out from the palm grove, where they stood, to the dancing-floor. "Come on!" she cried. "Let's dance!" He followed her. "See here鈥擨鈥擨鈥" he stammered. "You mean鈥擠o you鈥" "No, no!" she laughed. "Let's dance!" He put his arm about her almost tremulously, and they began to waltz. It was a happy dance for both of them. Christmas day is the children's, but the holidays are youth's dancing-time. The holidays belong to the early twenties and the 'teens, home from school and college. These years possess the holidays for a little while, then possess them only in smiling, wistful memories of holly and twinkling lights and dance-music, and charming faces all aglow. It is the liveliest time in life, the happiest of the irresponsible times in life. Mothers echo its happiness鈥攏othing is like a mother who has a son home from college, except another mother with a son home from college. Bloom does actually come upon these mothers; it is a visible thing; and they run like girls, walk like athletes, laugh like sycophants. Yet they give up their sons to the daughters of other mothers, and find it proud rapture enough to be allowed to sit and watch. Thus Isabel watched George and Lucy dancing, as together they danced away the holidays of that year into the past. "They seem to get along better than they did at first, those two children," Fanny Minafer said sitting beside her at the Sharons' dance, a week after the Assembly. "They seemed to be always having little quarrels of some sort, at first. At least George did: he seemed to be continually pecking at that lovely, dainty, little Lucy, and being cross with her over nothing." "Pecking?" Isabel laughed. "What a word to use about Georgie! I think I never knew a more angelically amiable disposition in my life!" Miss Fanny echoed her sister-in-law's laugh, but it was a rueful echo, and not sweet. "He's amiable to you!" she said. "That's all the side of him you ever happen to see. And why wouldn't he be amiable to anybody that simply fell down and worshipped him every minute of her life? Most of us would!" "Isn't he worth worshipping? Just look at him! Isn't he charming with Lucy! See how hard he ran to get it when she dropped her handkerchief back there." "Oh, I'm not going to argue with you about George!" said Miss Fanny. "I'm fond enough of him, for that matter. He can be charming, and he's certainly stunning looking, if only鈥" "Let the 'if only' go, dear," Isabel suggested good-naturedly. "Let's talk about that dinner you thought I should鈥" "I?" Miss Fanny interrupted quickly. "Didn't you want to give it yourself?" "Indeed, I did, my dear!" said Isabel heartily. "I only meant that unless you had proposed it, perhaps I wouldn't鈥" But here Eugene came for her to dance, and she left the sentence uncompleted. Holiday dances can be happy for youth renewed as well as for youth in bud鈥攁nd yet it was not with the air of a rival that Miss Fanny watched her brother's wife dancing with the widower. Miss Fanny's eyes narrowed a little, but only as if her mind engaged in a hopeful calculation. She looked pleased.That evening, after dinner, George sat with his mother and his Aunt Fanny upon the veranda. In former summers, when they sat outdoors in the evening, they had customarily used an open terrace at the side of the house, looking toward the Major's, but that more private retreat now afforded too blank and abrupt a view of the nearest of the new houses; so, without consultation, they had abandoned it for the Romanesque stone structure in front, an oppressive place. Its oppression seemed congenial to George; he sat upon the copestone of the stone parapet, his back against a stone pilaster; his attitude not comfortable, but rigid, and his silence not comfortable, either, but heavy. However, to the eyes of his mother and his aunt, who occupied wicker chairs at a little distance, he was almost indistinguishable except for the stiff white shield of his evening frontage. "It's so nice of you always to dress in the evening, Georgie," his mother said, her glance resting upon this surface. "Your Uncle George always used to, and so did father, for years; but they both stopped quite a long time ago. Unless there's some special occasion, it seems to me we don't see it done any more, except on the stage and in the magazines." He made no response, and Isabel, after waiting a little while, as if she expected one, appeared to acquiesce in his mood for silence, and turned her head to gaze thoughtfully out at the street. There, in the highway, the evening life of the Midland city had begun. A rising moon was bright upon the tops of the shade trees, where their branches met overhead, arching across the street, but only filtered splashings of moonlight reached the block pavement below; and through this darkness flashed the firefly lights of silent bicycles gliding by in pairs and trios鈥攐r sometimes a dozen at a time might come, and not so silent, striking their little bells; the riders' voices calling and laughing; while now and then a pair of invisible experts would pass, playing mandolin and guitar as if handle-bars were of no account in the world鈥攖heir music would come swiftly, and then too swiftly die away. Surreys rumbled lightly by, with the plod-plod of honest old horses, and frequently there was the glitter of whizzing spokes from a runabout or a sporting buggy, and the sharp, decisive hoof-beats of a trotter. Then, like a cowboy shooting up a peaceful camp, a frantic devil would hurtle out of the distance, bellowing, exhaust racketing like a machine gun gone amuck鈥攁nd at these horrid sounds the surreys and buggies would hug the curbstone, and the bicycles scatter to cover, cursing; while children rushed from the sidewalks to drag pet dogs from the street. The thing would roar by, leaving a long wake of turbulence; then the indignant street would quiet down for a few minutes鈥攖ill another came. "There are a great many more than there used to be," Miss Fanny observed, in her lifeless voice, as the lull fell after one of these visitations. "Eugene is right about that; there seem to be at least three or four times as many as there were last summer, and you never hear the ragamuffins shouting 'Get a horse!' nowadays; but I think he may be mistaken about their going on increasing after this. I don't believe we'll see so many next summer as we do now." "Why?" asked Isabel. "Because I've begun to agree with George about their being more a fad than anything else, and I think it must be the height of the fad just now. You know how roller-skating came in鈥攅verybody in the world seemed to be crowding to the rinks鈥攁nd now only a few children use rollers for getting to school. Besides, people won't permit the automobiles to be used. Really, I think they'll make laws against them. You see how they spoil the bicycling and the driving; people just seem to hate them! They'll never stand it鈥攏ever in the world! Of course I'd be sorry to see such a thing happen to Eugene, but I shouldn't be really surprised to see a law passed forbidding the sale of automobiles, just the way there is with concealed weapons." "Fanny!" exclaimed her sister-in-law. "You're not in earnest?" "I am, though!" Isabel's sweet-toned laugh came out of the dusk where she sat. "Then you didn't mean it when you told Eugene you'd enjoyed the drive this afternoon?" "I didn't say it so very enthusiastically, did I?" "Perhaps not, but he certainly thought he'd pleased you." "I don't think I gave him any right to think he'd pleased me" Fanny said slowly. "Why not? Why shouldn't you, Fanny?" Fanny did not reply at once, and when she did, her voice was almost inaudible, but much more reproachful than plaintive. "I hardly think I'd want any one to get the notion he'd pleased me just now. It hardly seems time, yet鈥攖o me." Isabel made no response, and for a time the only sound upon the dark veranda was the creaking of the wicker rocking-chair in which Fanny sat鈥攁 creaking which seemed to denote content and placidity on the part of the chair's occupant, though at this juncture a series of human shrieks could have been little more eloquent of emotional disturbance. However, the creaking gave its hearer one great advantage: it could be ignored. "Have you given up smoking, George?" Isabel asked presently. "No." "I hoped perhaps you had, because you've not smoked since dinner. We shan't mind if you care to." "No, thanks." There was silence again, except for the creaking of the rocking-chair; then a low, clear whistle, singularly musical, was heard softly rendering an old air from "Fra Diavolo." The creaking stopped. "Is that you, George?" Fanny asked abruptly. "Is that me what?" "Whistling 'On Yonder Rock Reclining'?" "It's I," said Isabel. "Oh," Fanny said dryly. "Does it disturb you?" "Not at all. I had an idea George was depressed about something, and merely wondered if he could be making such a cheerful sound." And Fanny resumed her creaking. "Is she right, George?" his mother asked quickly, leaning forward in her chair to peer at him through the dusk. "You didn't eat a very hearty dinner, but I thought it was probably because of the warm weather. Are you troubled about anything?" "No!" he said angrily. "That's good. I thought we had such a nice day, didn't you?" "I suppose so," he muttered, and, satisfied, she leaned back in her chair; but "Fra Diavolo" was not revived. After a time she rose, went to the steps, and stood for several minutes looking across the street. Then her laughter was faintly heard. "Are you laughing about something?" Fanny inquired. "Pardon?" Isabel did not turn, but continued her observation of what had interested her upon the opposite side of the street. "I asked: Were you laughing at something?" "Yes, I was!" And she laughed again. "It's that funny, fat old Mrs. Johnson. She has a habit of sitting at her bedroom window with a pair of opera-glasses." "Really!" "Really. You can see the window through the place that was left when we had the dead walnut tree cut down. She looks up and down the street, but mostly at father's and over here. Sometimes she forgets to put out the light in her room, and there she is, spying away for all the world to see!" However, Fanny made no effort to observe this spectacle, but continued her creaking. "I've always thought her a very good woman," she said primly. "So she is," Isabel agreed. "She's a good, friendly old thing, a little too intimate in her manner, sometimes, and if her poor old opera-glasses afford her the quiet happiness of knowing what sort of young man our new cook is walking out with, I'm the last to begrudge it to her! Don't you want to come and look at her, George?" "What? I beg your pardon. I hadn't noticed what you were talking about." "It's nothing," she laughed. "Only a funny old lady鈥攁nd she's gone now. I'm going, too鈥攁t least, I'm going indoors to read. It's cooler in the house, but the heat's really not bad anywhere, since nightfall. Summer's dying. How quickly it goes, once it begins to die." When she had gone into the house, Fanny stopped rocking, and, leaning forward, drew her black gauze wrap about her shoulders and shivered. "Isn't it queer," she said drearily, "how your mother can use such words?" "What words are you talking about?" George asked. "Words like 'die' and 'dying.' I don't see how she can bear to use them so soon after your poor father鈥" She shivered again. "It's almost a year," George said absently, and he added: "It seems to me you're using them yourself." "I? Never!" "Yes, you did." "When?" "Just this minute." "Oh!" said Fanny. "You mean when I repeated what she said? That's hardly the same thing, George." He was not enough interested to argue the point. "I don't think you'll convince anybody that mother's unfeeling," he said indifferently. "I'm not trying to convince anybody. I mean merely that in my opinion 鈥攚ell, perhaps it may be just as wise for me to keep my opinions to myself." She paused expectantly, but her possible anticipation that George would urge her to discard wisdom and reveal her opinion was not fulfilled. His back was toward her, and he occupied himself with opinions of his own about other matters. Fanny may have felt some disappointment as she rose to withdraw. However, at the last moment she halted with her hand upon the latch of the screen door. "There's one thing I hope," she said. "I hope at least she won't leave off her full mourning on the very anniversary of Wilbur's death!" The light door clanged behind her, and the sound annoyed her nephew. He had no idea why she thus used inoffensive wood and wire to dramatize her departure from the veranda, the impression remaining with him being that she was critical of his mother upon some point of funeral millinery. Throughout the desultory conversation he had been profoundly concerned with his own disturbing affairs, and now was preoccupied with a dialogue taking place (in his mind) between himself and Miss Lucy Morgan. As he beheld the vision, Lucy had just thrown herself at his feet. "George, you must forgive me!" she cried. "Papa was utterly wrong! I have told him so, and the truth is that I have come to rather dislike him as you do, and as you always have, in your heart of hearts. George, I understand you: thy people shall be my people and thy gods my gods. George, won't you take me back?" "Lucy, are you sure you understand me?" And in the darkness George's bodily lips moved in unison with those which uttered the words in his imaginary rendering of this scene. An eavesdropper, concealed behind the column, could have heard the whispered word "sure," the emphasis put upon it in the vision was so poignant. "You say you understand me, but are you sure?" Weeping, her head bowed almost to her waist, the ethereal Lucy made reply: "Oh, so sure! I will never listen to father's opinions again. I do not even care if I never see him again!" "Then I pardon you," he said gently. This softened mood lasted for several moments鈥攗ntil he realized that it had been brought about by processes strikingly lacking in substance. Abruptly he swung his feet down from the copestone to the floor of the veranda. "Pardon nothing!" No meek Lucy had thrown herself in remorse at his feet; and now he pictured her as she probably really was at this moment: sitting on the white steps of her own front porch in the moonlight, with red-headed Fred Kinney and silly Charlie Johnson and four or five others鈥攁ll of them laughing, most likely, and some idiot playing the guitar! George spoke aloud: "Riffraff!" And because of an impish but all too natural reaction of the mind, he could see Lucy with much greater distinctness in this vision than in his former pleasing one. For a moment she was miraculously real before him, every line and colour of her. He saw the moonlight shimmering in the chiffon of her skirts brightest on her crossed knee and the tip of her slipper; saw the blue curve of the characteristic shadow behind her, as she leaned back against the white step; saw the watery twinkling of sequins in the gauze wrap over her white shoulders as she moved, and the faint, symmetrical lights in her black hair鈥攁nd not one alluring, exasperating twentieth-of-an-inch of her laughing profile was spared him as she seemed to turn to the infernal Kinney鈥 "Riffraff!" And George began furiously to pace the stone floor. "Riffraff!" By this hard term鈥攁 favourite with him since childhood's scornful hour鈥攈e meant to indicate, not Lucy, but the young gentlemen who, in his vision, surrounded her. "Riffraff!" he said again, aloud, and again: "Riffraff!" At that moment, as it happened, Lucy was playing chess with her father; and her heart, though not remorseful, was as heavy as George could have wished. But she did not let Eugene see that she was troubled, and he was pleased when he won three games of her. Usually she beat him.

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Chapter 35George went driving the next afternoon alone, and, encountering Lucy and her father on the road, in one of Morgan's cars, lifted his hat, but nowise relaxed his formal countenance as they passed. Eugene waved a cordial hand quickly returned to the steering-wheel; but Lucy only nodded gravely and smiled no more than George did. Nor did she accompany Eugene to the Major's for dinner, the following Sunday evening, though both were bidden to attend that feast, which was already reduced in numbers and gayety by the absence of George Amberson. Eugene explained to his host that Lucy had gone away to visit a schoolfriend. The information, delivered in the library, just before old Sam's appearance to announce dinner, set Miss Minafer in quite a flutter. "Why, George!" she said, turning to her nephew. "How does it happen you didn't tell us?" And with both hands opening, as if to express her innocence of some conspiracy, she exclaimed to the others, "He's never said one word to us about Lucy's planning to go away!" "Probably afraid to," the Major suggested. "Didn't know but he might break down and cry if he tried to speak of it!" He clapped his grandson on the shoulder, inquiring jocularly, "That it, Georgie?" Georgie made no reply, but he was red enough to justify the Major's developing a chuckle into laughter; though Miss Fanny, observing her nephew keenly, got an impression that this fiery blush was in truth more fiery than tender. She caught a glint in his eye less like confusion than resentment, and saw a dilation of his nostrils which might have indicated not so much a sweet agitation as an inaudible snort. Fanny had never been lacking in curiosity, and, since her brother's death, this quality was more than ever alert. The fact that George had spent all the evenings of the past week at home had not been lost upon her, nor had she failed to ascertain, by diplomatic inquiries, that since the day of the visit to Eugene's shops George had gone driving alone. At the dinner-table she continued to observe him, sidelong; and toward the conclusion of the meal she was not startled by an episode which brought discomfort to the others. After the arrival of coffee the Major was rallying Eugene upon some rival automobile shops lately built in a suburb, and already promising to flourish. "I suppose they'll either drive you out of the business," said the old gentleman, "or else the two of you'll drive all the rest of us off the streets." "If we do, we'll even things up by making the streets five or ten times as long as they are now," Eugene returned. "How do you propose to do that?" "It isn't the distance from the center of a town that counts," said Eugene; "it's the time it takes to get there. This town's already spreading; bicycles and trolleys have been doing their share, but the automobile is going to carry city streets clear out to the county line." The Major was skeptical. "Dream on, fair son!" he said. "It's lucky for us that you're only dreaming; because if people go to moving that far, real estate values in the old residence part of town are going to be stretched pretty thin." "I'm afraid so," Eugene assented. "Unless you keep things so bright and clean that the old section will stay more attractive than the new ones." "Not very likely! How are things going to be kept 'bright and clean' with soft coal, and our kind of city government?" "They aren't," Eugene replied quickly. "There's no hope of it, and already the boarding-house is marching up National Avenue. There are two in the next block below here, and there are a dozen in the half-mile below that. My relatives, the Sharons, have sold their house and are building in the country鈥攁t least, they call it 'the country.' It will be city in two or three years." "Good gracious!" the Major exclaimed, affecting 'dismay. "So your little shops are going to ruin all your old friends, Eugene!" "Unless my old friends take warning in time, or abolish smoke and get a new kind of city government. I should say the best chance is to take Warning." "Well, well!" the Major laughed. "You have enough faith in miracles, Eugene鈥攇ranting that trolleys and bicycles and automobiles are miracles. So you think they're to change the face of the land, do you?" "They're already doing it, Major; and it can't be stopped. Automobiles鈥" At this point he was interrupted. George was the interrupter. He had said nothing since entering the dining room, but now he spoke in a loud and peremptory voice, using the tone of one in authority who checks idle prattle and settles a matter forever. "Automobiles are a useless nuisance," he said. There fell a moment's silence. Isabel gazed incredulously at George, colour slowly heightening upon her cheeks and temples, while Fanny watched him with a quick eagerness, her eyes alert and bright. But Eugene seemed merely quizzical, as if not taking this brusquerie to himself. The Major was seriously disturbed. "What did you say, George?" he asked, though George had spoken but too distinctly. "I said all automobiles were a nuisance," George answered, repeating not only the words but the tone in which he had uttered them. And he added, "They'll never amount to anything but a nuisance. They had no business to be invented." The Major frowned. "Of course you forget that Mr. Morgan makes them, and also did his share in inventing them. If you weren't so thoughtless he might think you rather offensive." "That would be too bad," said George coolly. "I don't think I could survive it." Again there was a silence, while the Major stared at his grandson, aghast. But Eugene began to laugh cheerfully. "I'm not sure he's wrong about automobiles," he said. "With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization鈥攖hat is, in spiritual civilization. It may be that they will not add to the beauty of the world, nor to the life of men's souls. I am not sure. But automobiles have come, and they bring a greater change in our life than most of us suspect. They are here, and almost all outward things are going to be different because of what they bring. They are going to alter war, and they are going to alter peace. I think men's minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles; just how, though, I could hardly guess. But you can't have the immense outward changes that they will cause without some inward ones, and it may be that George is right, and that the spiritual alteration will be bad for us. Perhaps, ten or twenty years from now, if we can see the inward change in men by that time, I shouldn't be able to defend the gasoline engine, but would have to agree with him that automobiles 'had no business to be invented.'" He laughed good-naturedly, and looking at his watch, apologized for having an engagement which made his departure necessary when he would so much prefer to linger. Then he shook hands with the Major, and bade Isabel, George, and Fanny a cheerful good-night鈥攁 collective farewell cordially addressed to all three of them together鈥攁nd left them at the table. Isabel turned wondering, hurt eyes upon her son. "George, dear!" she said. "What did you mean?" "Just what I said," he returned, lighting one of the Major's cigars, and his manner was imperturbable enough to warrant the definition (sometimes merited by imperturbability) of stubbornness. Isabel's hand, pale and slender, upon the tablecloth, touched one of the fine silver candlesticks aimlessly: the fingers were seen to tremble. "Oh, he was hurt!" she murmured. "I don't see why he should be," George said. "I didn't say anything about him. He didn't seem to me to be hurt鈥攕eemed perfectly cheerful. What made you think he was hurt?" "I know him!" was all of her reply, half whispered. The Major stared hard at George from under his white eyebrows. "You didn't mean 'him,' you say, George? I suppose if we had a clergyman as a guest here you'd expect him not to be offended, and to understand that your remarks were neither personal nor untactful, if you said the church was a nuisance and ought never to have been invented. By Jove, but you're a puzzle!" "In what way, may I ask, sir?" "We seem to have a new kind of young people these days," the old gentleman returned, shaking his head. "It's a new style of courting a pretty girl, certainly, for a young fellow to go deliberately out of his way to try and make an enemy of her father by attacking his business! By Jove! That's a new way to win a woman!" George flushed angrily and seemed about to offer a retort, but held his breath for a moment; and then held his peace. It was Isabel who responded to the Major. "Oh, no!" she said. "Eugene would never be anybody's enemy鈥攈e couldn't!鈥攁nd last of all Georgie's. I'm afraid he was hurt, but I don't fear his not having understood that George spoke without thinking of what he was saying鈥擨 mean, with-out realizing its bearing on Eugene." Again George seemed upon the point of speech, and again controlled the impulse. He thrust his hands in his pockets, leaned back in his chair, and smoked, staring inflexibly at the ceiling. "Well, well," said his grandfather, rising. "It wasn't a very successful little dinner!" Thereupon he offered his arm to his daughter, who took it fondly, and they left the room, Isabel assuring him that all his little dinners were pleasant, and that this one was no exception. George did not move, and Fanny, following the other two, came round the table, and paused close beside his chair; but George remained posed in his great imperturbability, cigar between teeth, eyes upon ceiling, and paid no attention to her. Fanny waited until the sound of Isabel's and the Major's voices became inaudible in the hall. Then she said quickly, and in a low voice so eager that it was unsteady: "George, you've struck just the treatment to adopt: you're doing the right thing!" She hurried out, scurrying after the others with a faint rustling of her black skirts, leaving George mystified but incurious. He did not understand why she should bestow her approbation upon him in the matter, and cared so little whether she did or not that he spared himself even the trouble of being puzzled about it. In truth, however, he was neither so comfortable nor so imperturbable as he appeared. He felt some gratification: he had done a little to put the man in his place鈥攖hat man whose influence upon his daughter was precisely the same thing as a contemptuous criticism of George Amberson Minafer, and of George Amberson Minafer's "ideals of life." Lucy's going away without a word was intended, he supposed, as a bit of punishment. Well, he wasn't the sort of man that people were allowed to punish: he could demonstrate that to them鈥攕ince they started it! It appeared to him as almost a kind of insolence, this abrupt departure鈥攏ot even telephoning! Probably she wondered how he would take it; she even might have supposed he would show some betraying chagrin when he heard of it. He had no idea that this was just what he had shown; and he was satisfied with his evening's performance. Nevertheless, he was not comfortable in his mind; though he could not have explained his inward perturbations, for he was convinced, without any confirmation from his Aunt Fanny, that he had done "just the right thing."

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"I've 'done it'?" George cried. "What do you mean: I've done it? And what have I done?" Amberson had collapsed into an easy chair beside his dressing-table, the white evening tie he had been about to put on dangling from his hand, which had fallen limply on the arm of the chair. The tie dropped to the floor before he replied; and the hand that had held it was lifted to stroke his graying hair reflectively. "By Jove!" he muttered. "That is too bad!" George folded his arms bitterly. "Will you kindly answer my question? What have I done that wasn't honourable and right? Do you think these riffraff can go about bandying my mother's name鈥" "They can now," said Amberson. "I don't know if they could before, but they certainly can now!" "What do you mean by that?" His uncle sighed profoundly, picked up his tie and, preoccupied with despondency, twisted the strip of white lawn till it became unwearable. Meanwhile, he tried to enlighten his nephew. "Gossip is never fatal, Georgie," he said, "until it is denied. Gossip goes on about every human being alive and about all the dead that are alive enough to be remembered, and yet almost never does any harm until some defender makes a controversy. Gossip's a nasty thing, but it's sickly, and if people of good intentions will let it entirely alone, it will die, ninety-nine times out of a hundred." "See here," George said: "I didn't come to listen to any generalizing dose of philosophy! I ask you鈥" "You asked me what you've done, and I'm telling you." Amberson gave him a melancholy smile, continuing: "Suffer me to do it in my own way. Fanny says there's been talk about your mother, and that Mrs. Johnson does some of it. I don't know, because naturally nobody would come to me with such stuff or mention it before me; but it's presumably true鈥 I suppose it is. I've seen Fanny with Mrs. Johnson quite a lot; and that old lady is a notorious gossip, and that's why she ordered you out of her house when you pinned her down that she'd been gossiping. I have a suspicion Mrs. Johnson has been quite a comfort to Fanny in their long talks; but she'll probably quit speaking to her over this, because Fanny told you. I suppose it's true that the 'whole town,' a lot of others, that is, do share in the gossip. In this town, naturally, anything about any Amberson has always been a stone dropped into the centre of a pond, and a lie would send the ripples as far as a truth would. I've been on a steamer when the story went all over the boat, the second day out,' that the prettiest girl on board didn't have any ears; and you can take it as a rule that when a woman's past thirty-five the prettier her hair is, the more certain you are to meet somebody with reliable information that it's a wig. You can be sure that for many years there's been more gossip in this place about the Ambersons than about any other family. I dare say it isn't so much so now as it used to be, because the town got too big long ago, but it's the truth that the more prominent you are the more gossip there is about you, and the more people would like to pull you down. Well, they can't do it as long as you refuse to know what gossip there is about you. But the minute you notice it, it's got you! I'm not speaking of certain kinds of slander that sometimes people have got to take to the courts; I'm talking of the wretched buzzing the Mrs. John-sons do鈥攖he thing you seem to have such a horror of鈥攑eople 'talking'鈥攖he kind of thing that has assailed your mother. People who have repeated a slander either get ashamed or forget it, if they're let alone. Challenge them, and in self-defense they believe everything they've said: they'd rather believe you a sinner than believe themselves liars, naturally. Submit to gossip and you kill it; fight it and you make it strong. People will forget almost any slander except one that's been fought." "Is that all?" George asked. "I suppose so," his uncle murmured sadly. "Well, then, may I ask what you'd have done, in my place?" "I'm not sure, Georgie. When I was your age I was like you in many ways, especially in not being very cool-headed, so I can't say. Youth can't be trusted for much, except asserting itself and fighting and making love." "Indeed!" George snorted. "May I ask what you think I ought to have done?" "Nothing." "'Nothing?" George echoed, mocking bitterly "I suppose you think I mean to let my mother's good name鈥" "Your mother's good name!" Amberson cut him off impatiently. "Nobody has a good name in a bad mouth. Nobody has a good name in a silly mouth, either. Well, your mother's name was in some silly mouths, and all you've done was to go and have a scene with the worst old woman gossip in the town鈥攁 scene that's going to make her into a partisan against your mother, whereas she was a mere prattler before. Don't you suppose she'll be all over town with this to-morrow? To-morrow? Why, she'll have her telephone going to-night as long as any of her friends are up! People that never heard anything about this are going to bear it all now, with embellishments. And she'll see to it that everybody who's hinted anything about poor Isabel will know that you're on the warpath; and that will put them on the defensive and make them vicious. The story will grow as it spreads and鈥" George unfolded his arms to strike his right fist into his left palm. "But do you suppose I'm going to tolerate such things?" he shouted. "What do you suppose I'll be doing?" "Nothing helpful." "Oh, you think so, do you?" "You can do absolutely nothing," said Amberson. "Nothing of any use. The more you do the more harm you'll do." "You'll see! I'm going to stop this thing if I have to force my way into every house on National Avenue and Amberson Boulevard!" His uncle laughed rather sourly, but made no other comment. "Well, what do you propose to do?" George demanded. "Do you propose to sit there鈥" "Yes." "鈥攁nd let this riffraff bandy my mother's good name back and forth among them? Is that what you propose to do?" "It's all I can do," Amberson returned. "It's all any of us can do now: just sit still and hope that the thing may die down in time, in spite of your stirring up that awful old woman." George drew a long breath, then advanced and stood close before his uncle. "Didn't you understand me when I told you that people are saying my mother means to marry this man?" "Yes, I understood you." "You say that my going over there has made matters worse," George went on. "How about it if such a鈥攕uch an unspeakable marriage did take place? Do you think that would make people believe they'd been wrong in saying鈥攜ou know what they say." "No," said Amberson deliberately; "I don't believe it would. There'd be more badness in the bad mouths and more silliness in the silly mouths, I dare say. But it wouldn't hurt Isabel and Eugene, if they never heard of it; and if they did hear of it, then they could take their choice between placating gossip or living for their own happiness. If they have decided to marry鈥" George almost staggered. "Good God!" he gasped. "You speak of it calmly!" Amberson looked up at him inquiringly. "Why shouldn't they marry if they want to?" he asked. "It's their own affair." "Why shouldn't they?" George echoed. "Why shouldn't they?" "Yes. Why shouldn't they? I don't see anything precisely monstrous about two people getting married when they're both free and care about each other. What's the matter with their marrying?" "It would be monstrous!" George shouted. "Monstrous even if this horrible thing hadn't happened, but now in the face of this鈥攐h, that you can sit there and even speak of it! Your own sister! O God! Oh鈥" He became incoherent, swinging away from Amberson and making for the door, wildly gesturing. "For heaven's sake, don't be so theatrical!" said his uncle, and then, seeing that George was leaving the room: "Come back here. You mustn't speak to your mother of this!" "Don't 'tend to," George said indistinctly; and he plunged out into the big dimly lit hall. He passed his grandfather's room on the way to the stairs; and the Major was visible within, his white head brightly illumined by a lamp, as he bent low over a ledger upon his roll-top desk. He did not look up, and his grandson strode by the door, not really conscious of the old figure stooping at its tremulous work with long additions and subtractions that refused to balance as they used to. George went home and got a hat and overcoat without seeing either his mother or Fanny. Then he left word that he would be out for dinner, and hurried away from the house. He walked the dark streets of Amberson Addition for an hour, then went downtown and got coffee at a restaurant. After that he walked through the lighted parts of the town until ten o'clock, when he turned north and came back to the purlieus of the Addition. He strode through the length and breadth of it again, his hat pulled down over his forehead, his overcoat collar turned up behind. He walked fiercely, though his feet ached, but by and by he turned homeward, and, when he reached the Major's, went in and sat upon the steps of the huge stone veranda in front鈥攁n obscure figure in that lonely and repellent place. All lights were out at the Major's, and finally, after twelve, he saw his mother's window darken at home. He waited half an hour longer, then crossed the front yards of the new houses and let himself noiselessly in the front door. The light in the hall had been left burning, and another in his own room, as he discovered when he got there. He locked the door quickly and without noise, but his fingers were still upon the key when there was a quick footfall in the hall outside. "Georgie, dear?" He went to the other end of the room before replying. "Yes?" "I'd been wondering where you were, dear." "Had you?" There was a pause; then she said timidly: "Wherever it was, I hope you had a pleasant evening." After a silence, "Thank you," he said, without expression. Another silence followed before she spoke again. "You wouldn't care to be kissed good-night, I suppose?" And with a little flurry of placative laughter, she added: "At your age, of course!" "I'm going to bed, now," he said. "Goodnight." Another silence seemed blanker than those which had preceded it, and finally her voice came鈥攊t was blank, too. "Good-night." After he was in bed his thoughts became more tumultuous than ever; while among all the inchoate and fragmentary sketches of this dreadful day, now rising before him, the clearest was of his uncle collapsed in a big chair with a white tie dangling from his hand; and one conviction, following upon that picture, became definite in George's mind: that his Uncle George Amberson was a hopeless dreamer from whom no help need be expected, an amiable imbecile lacking in normal impulses, and wholly useless in a struggle which required honour to be defended by a man of action. Then would return a vision of Mrs. Johnson's furious round head, set behind her great bosom like the sun far sunk on the horizon of a mountain plateau鈥攁nd her crackling, asthmatic voice鈥 "Without sharing in other people's disposition to put an evil interpretation on what may be nothing more than unfortunate appearances." 鈥 "Other people may be less considerate in not confirming their discussion of it, as I have, to charitable views." 鈥 "you'll know something pretty quick! You'll know you're out in the street." 鈥 And then George would get up again鈥攁nd again鈥攁nd pace the floor in his bare feet. That was what the tormented young man was doing when daylight came gauntly in at his window鈥攑acing the floor, rubbing his head in his hands, and muttering: "It can't be true: this can't be happening to me!"Chapter 16

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