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The Rise of Silas Lapham Chapter-11

 

The Rise of Silas Lapham Chapter-11
PART I
After a week Mrs. Lapham returned, leaving Irene in Ver­mont with relatives there. “She’s comfortable there as com­fortable as she can be anywhere, I guess,” Mrs. Lapham said to her husband as they drove home together from the station. “She keeps herself busy about the house and she goes around a little among the workers from the plant. But I’m afraid it’ll wear on her, Silas. If she could only go off somewhere new, and be amused, see new people ”
 
“I have to go out West on business  and I suppose I could just as well take Irene along,” said Lapham. “I can run up to Lapham for Irene, and then push on through Canada. I can get there that way just about as quick.”
“Good,” said his wife. “That’s about the best thing I’ve heard yet. Where are you going? Is it anything you can tell me about?”
 
“Yes,” said Lapham.
 
 “But it’s a long story, and I guess you’ve got your hands pretty full as it is. I’ve been throwing good money after bad the usual wayand now I’ve got to see if I can save the pieces.”
 
Mrs. Lapham looked at him. “If it’s Rogers,” she said, “I didn’t want you to get in any deeper with him.”
 
“No. You didn’t want me to press him either. I had to do one thing or the other. And so I got in deeper. But it’s all right. I was glad to make it up to him. But he saw he had a soft touch in me and worked it for all it was worth. Now I’m in a rather bad position. I owe a little money to creditors but the people who owe me don’t seem in a hurry to pay. All of a sudden, everyone expects me to do a cash business.”
 
“But, Silas, what are you going to do?”
 
“If necessary, I’m going to squeeze Rogers,” said Lapham. “Milton K. Rogers is a rascal, if you want to know despite your good opinion of him. He has had a big milling property out on the line of the P. Y. & X railroad and for the last eight years he has done a good business there business that would have made anyone else rich. But you can’t make Milton K. Rogers rich. It ain’t in him. He’d run through the fortunes of Vanderbilt and Jay Gould in six months, come out, and want to borrow more money from you. Well, he turned in the mills to me as security for the money I lent him but if he thinks I don’t know the whole story behind those mills he’s very much mis­taken. I’m going out there now to see how I can unload. And I don’t mind if Rogers is under the load when it falls.”
 
“I don’t understand you, Silas.”
 
“Well, it’s just this. The Great Lacustrine & Polar Railroad has leased the P. Y. & X for ninety-nine years practically bought it. And it’s going to build car works right by those mills, and it will probably want the mills. And Milton K. Rogers knew it when he turned them in to me.”
 
“Well, if the railroad wants them, doesn’t that make them more valuable? You can get what you want for them.”
 
“Can I? The P. Y. & X. is the ohly line that runs within fifty miles of the mills and you can’t ship a stick of wood or a pound of flour to market any other way. As long as he had a little local road like the P. Y. & X. to deal with, Rogers could manage but when it comes to a big line like the G. L. & P. he wouldn’t stand any chance at all. They could squeeze him and offer any price for the mills that they wanted. He would have to accept or try to get his things to market some other way.” Mrs. Lapham sat, obviously worried. “And you say he knew the G. L. & P. wanted the mills when he turned than in to you?” she asked. She paused a moment, and then added, “Well, Silas, I want you to ask yourself whether Rogers would ever have gone wrong, or got into these ways of his, if it hadn’t been for your forcing him out of the business when you did.” “Never mind that now,” said her husband a little abruptly. “When we get home you get that bag of mine ready. I guess I can take care of myself and of Milton K. Rogers too.” Lapham was gone for two weeks. He was in a bad humor when he came back, and kept himself shut within his private office the first day. He entered it in the morning without a word to his clerks, and he made no sign throughout the day except to strike savagely at his desk bell from time to time and send out to Walker, the bookkeeper, for some book of accounts or past records. Corey and the bookkeeper often ate lunch to­gether at the lunch room on the corner. That day at lunch the bookkeeper said, “Well, it looks as though there’s a storm com­ing up.”
 
Corey looked up at him innocently. “What do you mean?” he asked, thinking for the moment that the fellow was really speaking of the weather.
 
“Why, just this: I guess the old man’s takin’ in sail. And I guess he’s got to. As I’ve told you before, Lapham keeps his business pretty much to himself, but I ain’t betraying any con­fidence when I tell you that that old partner of his has got pretty deep into his books. The old man’s lent him more and more money until the fellow’s got a drowning man’s hold around his neck. There seems to be a kind of dead calm now in the paint business. Then again, a man like Lapham doesn’t build a hun­dred thousand dollar house without feeling the expense, unless business is good. And right now business ain’t good at all.”
 
Corey had listened with curiosity and feeling up to a certain moment, when a light of hope flashed upon him. It came from Lapham’s possible ruin, which might give him the opportunity to prove his faith both in the man himself and in the business. He thought of the sum of money that was his own, and that he might offer to lend, or practically give, if the time came and Lapham needed it.
 
Walker could not rest until he had developed the whole situ­ation so far as he knew it. “Look at the stock of paint we’ve got on hand. And when other companies are shutting down, or running half-time, the works up at Lapham are going full speed, just the same as ever. Well, it’s his pride. I don’t say but what it’s a good kind of pride, but he likes to boast that the fire’s never been out in the works since they started, and that no man’s work or salary has ever been cut yet, it doesn’t matter what the times are.”
 
About the middle of the afternoon of the same day the dust- colored face of Rogers, now familiar to Lapham’s clerks, showed itself among them. “Has Colonel Lapham returned yet?” he asked, in his usual, dry voice.
 
“Yes, he’s in his office,” said the boy. “But I don’t know as you can see him today. His orders are not to let anybody in.”
 
“Oh, I think he will see me,” said Rogers, and he pressed forward.
 
The scene which followed was violent in nature. The ar­gument, although the door of Lapham’s office was closed, could be heard by the clerks outside. Lapham told his visitor that he had visited the milling properties Rogers had turned in to him. He accused Rogers of having known that the properties would be worth only what the G. L. & P. railroad might be ready to give for them.
 
“I supposed the road would give a fair price,” said Rogers quietly.
 
“You lie,” shouted Lapham. Then he went on to call Rogers a cheat and a rascal. He said that Rogers had taken advantage of him in borrowing such huge sums of money and giving him as security stocks which were almost worthless and a milling property which was at the mercy of the railroad which con­trolled it. “But do you know what I’m going to do?” Lapham concluded angrily. “I’m going to let those mills go for what­ever they’ll bring. I’m not going to fight the G, L. & P.”
 
“There are some English parties,” Rogers began quietly, “ there are some English parties who have expressed an inter­est in buying the mills.”
 
“I guess you’re lying, Rogers,” said Lapham bitterly.
 
“Well, all that I ask is that you will not act hurriedly.”
 
“I see you think that I am not serious,” cried Lapham, now facing his visitor directly. 
 
“You think I’m fooling, do you? Well, I’ve already sold part of your stock and now I’m going to sell the rest of it.”
 
Rogers rose from his chair. “But I understand that you will not take any action in regard to the mills until I have seen the parties I speak of.”
 
Lapham faced him for a moment in silence. “I wonder what you’re up to now, Rogers,” he said at last. “I should like to know.” But when Rogers made no sign of satisfying his curi­osity, he went on, scowling angrily. “You bring me a party that will give me enough for those mills to clear me of you, and I’ll talk to them. But don’t come here with any man of straw. And I give you just twenty-four hours to prove yourself a liar again.” Lapham once more turned his back, and Rogers, after look­ing thoughtfully into his hat a moment, quietly withdrew.
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. Where did Lapham suggest that Irene could go with him?
2. What trouble was Lapham having with his business?
3. What did Lapham tell his wife about Rogers’ business?
4. Why weren’t Rogers’ mills as valuable as they seemed?
5. What kind of humor was Lapham in when he returned from his trip? How did he show it?
6. What did the bookkeeper say about Lapham’s business problems?
7. What hope did Lapham’s problems give to Tom Corey?
8. Why was Lapham keeping his works going at full speed?
9. What did Lapham accuse Rogers of?
10. What did Rogers ask Lapham to wait for?
11. How much time did Lapham agree to give Rogers?
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
 
creditor                                     flour
cash                                         local
squeeze                                  sum
rascal                                       worthless
mill                                            liar
property                                   go off
lease                                        make it up to you
PART II
 
That evening, as Lapham sat down with his wife alone at supper, he asked. “Ain’t Pen coming to supper?”
“No, she ain’t. I don’t know whether I like the way she’s go­ing on. I’m afraid, if she keeps on, she’ll be down sick. She’s got deeper feelings than Irene.”
 
Lapham said nothing but looked down at his food indiffer­ently and made a weak attempt to eat. His wife could not help noticing this change in his usual habits. “What’s the matter with you?” she asked.
“Nothing. I just don’t feel like eating.”
 
“What’s the matter?”
 
“Trouble’s the matter; bad luçk and lots of it,” said Lapham. “I haven’t ever hid anything from you, Persis, when you asked me, and it’s too late to begin now. I’m in a fix.”
 
“How much of one?”
 
“Well, I can’t tell, just yet. Business has been bad all fall, but I thought it would get better this winter. It hasn’t. A lot of com­panies have failed. Some of them owed me money; and “ Lap­ham stopped, “and there’s Rogers!”
 
“I’m to blame for that,” said Mrs. Lapham, “I forced you to lend him money.”
 
“No, I was as willing to go into it as you were. The first twen ty thousand dollars was all right, but he kept borrowing, and then I had to help him in order to try to get my own money back. I might as well have thrown it away. And now I don’t know what’s going to happen. I may have to hold up on the new house a little while, until I can see where I am.”
 
“I shouldn’t care if we had to sell it,” cried his wife passion­ately. “Money and social position are not everything. We were happy before even when we were poor. Don’t worry for me, Silas. As far as I’m concerned, I should be glad if you sold the house.”
 
“I wouldn’t,” said Lapham. He paused a moment in thought, and then added, “Of course, there’s a chance Rogers may come through after all. It’s one chance in a million, but he says there are some English parties who may want to buy the mills. I gave him twenty-four hours to prove he was lying.”
 
“But what could be the use of his pretending such a thing? If he brought the parties to you”
 
“Well,” said Lapham, “I’d let them have the mills at the price for which Rogers turned them in to me. I don’t want to make anything on them.”
 
“If you get your price from those English parties before they know that the G. L. & P. may want to take over the mills, would it let you out with Rogers?”
 
“Just about,” said Lapham.
 
“Then I know Rogers will move heaven and earth to bring it about. I know you won’t suffer, Silas, for doing him a kind­ness. He can’t be so ungrateful.”
 
Lapham laughed, but she gave so many reasons for her be­lief in Rogers that his own faith became stronger. He ate his supper, and was more cheerful during the rest of the evening than he had been in several weeks.
But in the middle of the night his wife called to him, in a voice which the darkness made appear still more troubled, “Are you awake, Silas?”
 
“Yes, I’m awake.”
 
“I’ve been thinking about those English parties, Si. I can’t make out but what you’d be just as bad as Rogers, every bit, if you were to let them have those mills”
 
“Without telling them what the chances were with the G. L. & P.? I’ve thought about that too, and you needn’t be afraid. I’ll tell them the truth about the situation first. I couldn’t do it any other way.”
 
She began to cry desperately. “Oh, Silas! Oh, Silas! But it doesn’t seem right that you must give up this chance to save yourself when the Lord has fairly raised it up for you.”
 
“Maybe the Lord only meant to tempt me. Anyway, most likely Rogers was lyin’ and there ain’t any such parties. But if there were, they couldn’t buy the mills from me without the whole story. Don’t you be troubled now, Persis, I’ll pull through all right.”
 
Mrs. Lapham stopped her crying. Heaven knows in what measure the passion of her soul was mixed with pride in her husband’s honesty and deep pity for him but it was some time before she was able to close her eyes in sleep again.
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. Why was Mrs. Lapham worried about Penelope?
2. What did Lapham tell his wife about his business troubles?
3. How did Mrs. Lapham feel about the new house?
4. What hope did Lapham still have that he could get out of his difficulties?
5. Why was Lapham more cheerful that evening?
6. What question did Mrs. Lapham bring up during the night?
7. What did Lapham say that he would do?
8. Why was Mrs. Lapham proud of her husband?
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
keep on                                   come through
feel likedoing it                      bring it about
be in a fix                                 give up
throw away                             pull through