The Rise of Silas Lapham Chapter-14
At the end of three days Lapham returned. He was a completely changed man. He' was very quiet in manner and had the look of a person weakened by a long sickness. Mrs. Lapham was puzzled by his behavior but said nothing at first. She told him of one or two things of importance which had happened while he was away. Irene had learned of his difficulties and had returned home. Mrs. Lapham began to explain why Irene had come, and to praise her.
“Yes, she* did right,” said Lapham. “It was time for Irene to come home,” he added gently.
Then he was silent again, and his wife told him that Tom Corey had come to see them and that Tom’s mother and father had also called. “I guess Pen’s decided to make it up with Tom,” she said.
“Well, we’ll see about that,” said Lapham. And now she could no longer resist asking him about his affairs. “How are things going with you, Silas?” she asked.
“Bad,” he said. “Or they ain’t going at all. They’ve stopped.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve got to the end of my rope. Tomorrow I shall call a meeting of my creditors and put myself into their hands. If there’s enough left to satisfy them, I’m satisfied.” His voice dropped and he became silent. He bowed his great head, as though very tired, then, after a moment, went on: “It’s hard to realize it; but I guess there’s no doubt about it.” He drew a long breath, and then he explained to her about the West Virginia people, and how he had got an extension of the time they had first given him, and had got a man to go up to the works at Lap- ham with him to look at the plant a man that had turned up in New York and was ready to put money into the business. His money would have made it possible for Lapham to close the deal with the West Virginia people.
“The devil was in it, right along,” said Lapham. “All I had to do was to keep quiet about the other company. It was Rogers and his property all over again. The fellow was ready to let me have the money but I had to tell him the truth about everything and what I planned to do with the money. He began to back water in a minute, and the next morning I saw that it was up with me. He’s gone back to New York. I’ve lost my last chance. Now all I can do is to try to save the pieces.”
“Will will everything go?” she asked.
“I’m afraid so. I’ll give them a chance at everything every dollar, every cent. I’m sorry for you, Persis and the girls.”
“Oh, don’t talk of us!”
Perhaps because, over the months, the progress of his ruin had been so gradual, perhaps because the excitement of previous events had exhausted them of all emotion, the actual bankruptcy of Lapham’s business brought relief, a feeling of rest to Lapham and his family, rather than a fresh sensation of failure. In the shadow of this new difficulty they returned to something like their old life; they were at least all together again, in body as well as in spirit. Thus it was almost natural that Lapham should come home the evening after he had given up everything to his creditors, and should sit down at his supper so cheerful that Penelope could joke with him in the old way and tell him that she thought from his looks that his creditors had decided to pay him a hundred cents on every dollar he owed them.
All those who were concerned in his business affairs said Lapham behaved well, and even more than well. The good sense which had helped to bring him success in his first years of business, came back; and this quality, together with his concern that no one should suffer because of him, greatly impressed his creditors. They gave him time, and possibly he might have started again on the old basis, if the ground had not been cut from under him by the competition of the West Virginia company.
But he saw that it was useless to go on, and he preferred to go back and begin to work again where he had first begun in the hills at Lapham. He put the house at Nankeen Square, with everything else he had, into the payment of his debts, and Mrs. Lapham found it easier to leave for their old farm in Lapham than it would have been for her to move to the new house on Beacon Street. So many things had happened recently in Nankeen Square to make life difficult for them that both she and the girls were almost glad to leave the place. It was rather like packing up, as they did each year, to leave for their summer place. Lapham alone felt the difference. He had lost everything, and this was as much the end of his proud and successful life as death itself could be. He was returning to Lapham to start life over again, but he very well knew that his youth was gone forever and that the future held little hope of success for him. He continued to work hard, as he had always done but without the same enthusiasm. It was almost as though his spirit had been broken. He seemed less able to make use of his opportunities, and into his face there came, at times, a look of defeat, which pained his wife to see.
He still devoted himself to making paint, but he limited himself to producing a single brand, which he called the Persis Brand. This was a paint of very high quality with which the West Virginia people had never tried to compete. They willingly left this small field to him. A strange friendship had developed between Lapham and the three brothers. They had treated him fairly throughout, and he could not help but admire the successful way they carried on their business.
One result of his friendly relations with the West Virginia people was that Tom Corey went with them; and the fact that he did so upon Lapham’s advice gave the colonel considerable satisfaction. Corey now knew the paint business very well and after a half year spent at the West Virginia plant and in the office in New York he went to Mexico and Central America to see what could be done upon the ground he had first studied with Lapham. Before he went, he came up to Vermont and asked Penelope to go with him. He was to go first to Mexico and, if his work proved successful, he was to remain in South America for several years. Penelope again hesitated. It was now almost a year since Tom had first proposed to her. Irene, with the passing of time, had grown quite reconciled to such an event and even encouraged Penelope now to accept Tom’s proposal.
“Penelope Lapham, have you been such a fool to refuse that man again on my account?” Irene asked. “I’ll thank you to accept him. I’m not going to have him thinking that I’m dying for a man that never cared for me. It’s insulting, and I’m not going to stand it. Now, you just go right ahead and marry him.”
Mr. and Mrs. Lapham also lent their support to these words of Irene, and so at last Penelope went off happily with Tom to Mexico as his wife. The marriage brought Lapham none of that sense of triumph in which he would have once delighted at having his daughter marry into the aristocratic Corey family. Neither he nor his wife seemed to feel that Penelope was marrying a Corey. They felt only that she was giving herself to the man who loved her; and this, under their present circumstances, was sufficient comfort to them.
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. How had Lapham changed when he returned from West Virginia?
2. Why was Irene planning to return home?
3. What seemed to be happening between Tom and Penelope?
4. What had Lapham decided he must do?
5. Why hadn’t Lapham been able to raise the necessary money?
6. Why did Lapham’s failure come as a relief?
7. What did his business associates say about Lapham?
8. Why was Mrs. Lapham glad to leave the house at Nankeen Square?
9. How did Lapham feel about his failure?
10. What did Lapham now devote himself to?
11. What happened to Tom Corey?
12. What did Tom do before he went to Mexico?
13.Why did Irene now urge Penelope to marry Tom?
14.How did the Laphams now feel about the marriage?
B. Use the following words own:
extension brand new
exhaust turn up
payment devote to
debt no doubt about