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The Rise of Silas Lapham Chapter 3

 

The Rise of Silas Lapham Chapter 3
 
 
 
PART I
 
Like most husbands, Lapham quarreled occasionally with his wife, but he was deeply fond of her and proud of her as well. When he married her, it had been a rise in life for him. She had been a school teacher and had more education than he; she also had a clear head, a strong hand, and was not afraid of work. She encouraged him from the first in his business and helped him all along the way. When he had to go off to the war, she took care of the business while he was away. In the Rogers affair, she was really only acting the part of his own conscience. If he had accused himself in the matter, she would no doubt have defended him, for she cared greatly for her husband and knew him to be good and true and without blame in all his life, except for this single wrong which she felt he had committed.
 
Their present quarrel, therefore, did not last very long. As usual, there was no open reconciliation; they just forgot their differences after several days. Thus Mrs. Lapham simply had to say, a few days later, at breakfast, “I guess the girls would like to go round with you this afternoon and look at the new house” in order to make her husband look up from his meal and mumble, “I guess we better all go, hadn’t we?”
 
Accordingly, that afternoon the whole Lapham family drove over to the new house. There was still not a great deal to see there. The walls were up and the floors boarded over, but other­wise, no great progress had been made; still, each of them ex­amined carefully every new detail. Mrs. Lapham was upstairs with the carpenter doing some last minute measuring. Mr. Lap­ham and the girls were sitting downstairs waiting for her in what was later to be one of the front windows of the house, when a young man came into view and began to look up at the signs of ouilding as he approached. Soon he noticed Irene, smiled at her, then took off his hat and bowed pleasantly. Irene rose and blushed deeply. She was a very pretty figure of a girl, round and slender, and her features were unusually fine and regular. Her great beauty, however, was in her coloring. She had red hair, like her father in his younger days, and her eyes were blue and bright, with a tendency to express much more than she herself was aware of.
 
The young man hesitated a moment. Irene stepped forward smiling, and an exchange of greetings followed. He had sup­posed that she was out of town, and she had not known that he had returned from Texas. A pause followed, and then Irene said: “My father, Mr. Corey; and my sister.”
 
Tom Corey tipped his white hat again. He was a pleasant- looking young man, well dressed in clothes which appeared fresh and new. In fact, he had come back from Texas only the day before; his face was still well burned from the sun.
 
“How do you do, sir,” the colonel said, stepping to the win dow and extending his right hand, which Tom went forward at once to take. “Won’t you come in? We’re at home here. House I’m building.”
 
“Oh, really!” Tom answered, and he went up the steps and walked through the skeleton walls into the space within.
 
“Have a horse!” the colonel said, offering the young man a carpenter’s wooden horse on which to sitmuch to the shocked amusement of the two girls.
 
“Mrs. Lapham’s upstairs talking with the carpenter,” the colonel went on. “She’ll be down in a minute.”
“I hope she’s quite well,” Tom said, walking over and taking a seat on the horse. “I supposed she might be out of town.”
 
“Well, we are off to Nantasket next week. The house has kept all of us in town rather late this year.”
“It must be very exciting, building a house,” Tom said to Penelope.
 
“Yes, it is,” she agreed, refusing, in Irene’s interest, the op­portunity of saying anything more to the young man.
 
“I suppose you all helped to plan it?” Tom now addressed Irene.
 
“Oh, no; the architect and Mama* did that.”
 
“But they allowed the rest of us to agree, when we were good,” Penelope added. Tom looked at her and observed that she was shorter than Irene and had a darker coloring.
 
“Why not look around, if you’d like to?” the colonel invited as he got up.
 
“I should like to, very much,” Tom accepted.
 
Tom helped the girls across openings and along narrow board walks. Penelope left her younger sister to profit by such attentions. She walked between them and her father, who went before, describing each room, and taking credit for the whole affair more and more as he talked.
 
“We’re going to put a large window there,” the colonel said, pointing in the direction of one of the walls, “so that we will be able to see all the way up and down. This is to be my girls’ bed­room,” he then added, looking proudly at his daughters. This seemed terribly intimate to Irene. She blushed and turned away.
 
But the young man took it all, apparently, as simply as their father. “What a beautiful view,” he said. The Back Bay spread its shining surface before them, empty except for a few small boats and one large ship, which was being pulled along by a smaller boat in the direction of Cambridge.
 
“Yes,” said Lapham. “I believe in using the best rooms in the house for one’s self. If people come to stay with you, they can put up with the second best. Though we don’t intend to have any second best. There ain’t going to be an unpleasant room in the whole house, from top to bottom.”
 
“Oh, I wish Papa* wouldn’t brag so!” breathed Irene to her sister, where they stood, a little apart.
The colonel went on. “No, sir,” he saidy rather throwing out his chest, “I have gone in for making a regular job of it. I’ve got the best architect in Boston, and I’m building a house to suit myself. If money can do it, I guess I’m going to be suited. That architect hadn’t talked five minutes before I saw that he knew what he was about every time.”
 
“I wish Mama would come!” breathed Irene again.'“I shall certainly go through the floor if Papa says anything more.” “They are making a great many pretty houses today,” said young Corey. “It’s very different from old-fashioned building.” “Well,” said the colonel, taking a deep breath and swelling out his chest again, “we spend more on our houses today. I started out to build a forty thousand dollar house. Well, sir! That architect has got me in for more than sixty thousand al­ready, and I doubt if I get out of it with much under a hundred thousand dollars. But give an architect enough money and he’ll give you a nice house. It’s like buying anything else; you get just what you pay for.”
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. Why was Lapham fond of and proud of his wife?
2. How was she acting in the Rogers affair?
3. How did their quarrel end?
4. What was there to see at the new house?
5. What did Irene look like?
6. Who was the young man who spoke to Irene?
7. Why was Irene embarrassed by the way her father spoke to Tom Corey?
8. How much did Lapham say he was paying for the house? 
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
commit                        take care of
reconciliation             as yet
amusement               out of town
credit                           take a deep breath
brag                             old- fashioned
PART II
The girls tried to change the subject by turning and looking out over the water. Tom remarked to them, “I don’t believe I ever saw this view to better advantage. It’s surprising how clear­ly the gables of the Cambridge houses may be seen. At night it must be a beautiful sight.”
 
Lapham did not give the girls a chance to answer. “Yes, sir, it’s about the finest view I know of. I always did like the water side of Beacon Street,” he continued. “When people talk about the Hill, I can understand them; it’s pleasant there and old- fashioned, and it’s where they have always lived. But when they talk about any of the newer sections I don’t know what they mean. There’s nothing like the water side of Beacon Street.”
 
Irene was worrying about what her father would say next when she heard her mother coming down the stairs. Mrs. Lap­ham was followed by the carpenter, with his ruler sticking out of his pocket, who was explaining certain measurements to her. Irene said hurriedly, “Mama, Mr. Corey,” even before Mrs. Lapham was aware of the young man’s presence.
 
Corey came forward and Mrs. Lapham, smiling pleasantly, extended her hand. “Why Mr. Corey, when did you get back?” “Yesterday,” said Corey. “It hardly seems as if I had got back. I didn’t expect to find you in a new house.”
 
 
“Well, you are our first caller. I suppose you won’t expect me to make excuses for the state you find the house in. Has the colonel been showing you around?”
 
“Oh, yes. And I’ve seen more of your home than I ever shall again, I suppose.”
 
“Well, I hope not,” broke in Lapham noisily. “There’ll' be several chances to see us in the old one yet, before we leave.” He obviously thought this a very neat way of making such an invitation and looked at his women companions as though ex­pecting their admiration.
 
Corey and the colonel presently went on ahead and helped the ladies along the difficult board path toward the door. Irene seemed less sure-footed than the others and she held the young man’s hand just a little longer than might have been really nec­essary. Thus he found an opportunity of saying, “It’s so pleas­ant seeing you again,” adding, “and meeting your father and sister.”
 
“Thank you,” said Irene. “Your family must be glad to have you at home again.”
 
Corey laughed. “Well, I suppose they would be, if they were at home to have me. But the fact is, there’s no one in the house but my father and myself, and I’m on my way to Bar Harbour. My mother and sisters are there. It’s the only place my mother says that she can get the right combination of sea and moun­tain air that she likes.”
 
“We’re all so taken up with our new house that I don’t be­lieve we’ll go anywhere except Nantasket this summer. It’s con­venient there for Papa. We do nothing but talk, eat, and sleep house according to Penelope and so it may be a relief to get away for a while.”
 
“Your sister seems to have a good sense of humor,” Tom re­marked.
 
The others had gone to the back of the house a moment to look at some suggested change. Irene and Corey were left stand­ing in the entrance. Irene trembled a little and had to make an effort to conceal the excitement she felt at being alone with young Corey. But the others came back directly, and they all went down the front steps together. Tom accompanied all of them to their carriage, helping each of the ladies to get in.
 
There was the usual exchange of good-byes; Tom tipped his hat, the ladies bowed, and the Laphams drove off.
“So that was young Corey, was it?” the colonel said after a few minutes, holding the reins loosely and letting the tall, high- stepping horse make his way toward home. “Well, he isn’t a bad-looking fellow and he’s got a good, honest eye. But I don’t see how a fellow like that, who has every advantage in the world, can hang around home and let his father support him. Seems to me, if I had his health and education, I should want to strike out for myself in something.”
The girls on the back seat had hold of each other’s hands, and they exchanged looks at the different points their father made as he went on talking.
 
“I suppose,” Mrs. Lapham said presently, “that he was down in Texas looking after something.”
 
“He’s come back without finding it, I guess,” said Lapham. “Well, if his father has the money to support him and doesn’t complain about it, I don’t see why we should,” answered his wife.
 
“Oh, I know it’s none of my business but I don’t like the idea of it,” said Lapham. “I like to see a man act like a man. I don’t like to see him taken care of like a young lady. Now, I suppose that fellow belongs to two or three clubs and hangs around them all day, lookin’ out the window instead of tryin’ to hunt up something to do for an honest living.”
“If I were a young man,” Penelope broke in at this point, “I would belong to twenty clubs, and I would hang around them all, and look out the window until I dropped.”
 
“Oh, you would, would you?” demanded her father, good- naturedly. “Well, you wouldn’t do it on my money, if you were a son of mine, young lady.”
 
“Oh, you wait and see,” answered the girl which caused them all to laugh.
 
The colonel, however, returned to the same subject later that night,- wnen he and Mrs. Lapham were alone and getting ready for bed. He was winding his watch before putting it under his pillow for the night. “I spoke the way I did about young Corey because I didn’t want Irene to think I would stand any kind of loafer hanging around here—I don’t care who he is, or how
 
educated or well brought up. But I could make a man of that fellow, if I had him in the business with me. He’s got good character in him.”
 
“I must say that you think about nothing else except paint, Silas Lapham,” answered his wife. “Do you suppose a fellow like Corey, brought up the way he’s been brought up, would touch house paint with a ten-foot pole?”
“Why not?” the colonel said simply.
 
“Well, if you don’t know already, there’s no use trying to tell you,” said Mrs. Lapham.
 
Meanwhile, the two girls were talking excitedly between themselves in another room about young Tom Corey. They had been discussing the way he dressed, each remark he had made. Irene had gone to Penelope’s room and was watching her sister brush her long, dark hair before the mirror. Penelope would stop now and then and imitate, in her humorous way, some of the remarks her father had made in discussing the new house with Corey. Irene said presently, “Do you suppose he’ll think Papa always talks in that boasting way?”
 
“He’ll be right if he does,” said Penelope. “It’s the way fa­ther does talk you never noticed it so much before. But I guess if Tom Corey can’t stand hearing the colonel boast a little, he’s too good for us. I enjoyed hearing the colonel be himself.”
 
“I know you did,” Irene said. Then she added, “But didn’t you think, in general, he was very nice?”
 
“The colonel?” Pen asked, jokingly.
 
“You know very well I don’t mean Papa,” said Irene, blush­ing.
 
“Oh, Mr. Corey? Why didn’t you say Mr. Corey if you meant Mr. Corey?” said Penelope in a teasing voice. “It isn’t swear­ing to say his name: Corey, Corey, Corey . . .” Her voice rose louder and louder as both girls screamed and laughed. Irene ran and put her hand over Pen’s mouth, “Hush, you awful thing. The whole house will hear you,” she cried.
 
But at this moment the door of another bedroom opened and the colonel called out, “What are you girls doing? Why don’t you go to bed?”
 
The girls giggled loudly. Then the colonel heard the sound of moving feet and more laughing. He next heard a door open and Penelope «ay, “I was only repeating something you said when you talked with Mr. Corey.”
“Very well, now,” Lapham answered. “Postpone the rest of it until breakfast and, for a change, see that you’re up in time for me to hear it.”
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. Why was Irene glad to see her mother while Mr. Lapham
was talking to young Corey?
2. How did Lapham invite Corey to visit them?
3. Why did Irene seem less sure-footed than the others when they left the house?
4. Where were Corey’s mother and sisters spending the summer?
5. What did Lapham say about Tom Corey?
6. Why did Lapham say what he had about young Corey?
7. What were the girls talking about?
8. What impression was Irene afraid that Colonel Lapham might make on Tom Corey?
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
measurement                    scream
combination                       take off
pillow                                   take out
loaf                                       take care of
pole                                      take back
brush                                   take up with