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The Rise of Silas Lapham Chapter 5


The Rise of Silas Lapham Chapter 5
The colonel had time to buy two newspapers on the dock before he jumped on board the boat with Corey. “Just made it,” he said, “and that’s what I like to do. I can’t stand it to be on board much more than a minute before she pulls out.” These words rather set the tone of the colonel’s conversation during the rest of the trip. He gave one of the newspapers to Corey and opened his own and began to run over its news, remarking on various things which he read, and giving his own ideas on public questions. Meanwhile, Corey listened patiently, and waited for him to get back to business, but the colonel appar­ently thought there was plenty of time for more serious matters later. For the moment, he talked about horses, about various people on board, about the overcrowding of the boats. Soon they approached the dock at Nantasket, and the colonel folded his newspaper and waved it in the direction of a group of car­riages drawn up near the water’s edge. Penelope, together with a servant, waited there for him and answered with a wave of her hand.
When he had made his way through the crowd, Penelope began to speak to her father before she noticed Corey. “We’ve been coming to every boat since four o’clock at least, Jerry has and I told Mother I would come myself once more to meet you, and if I failed, you could walk next time.”
The colonel enjoyed letting her scold him before he said, with pride in his voice, “I’ve brought Mr. Corey down for the night with me, and I was showing him things on the way and it took time.”
The young fellow was at the side of the carriage, bowing, and Penelope was saying politely, “Oh, how do you do, Mr. Corey?” before the colonel had finished his explanation.
The colonel directed Corey and Penelope toward the back seat and he got in alongside the driver, Jerry. “I don’t give up the best seat to anybody,” he said. “Jerry, suppose you let me take the reins.” He then turned the carriage around skillfully and was soon moving rapidly down the road past a stretch of small summer hotels and cottages. “Pretty nice down here,” he said presently in Corey’s direction, pointing with a turn of his whip. “But I’ve got about sick of hotels, and this summer I made up my mind that I’d take a cottage. Well, Pen, how are the folks?”
The girl smiled at her father’s innocent manner and conver­sation. “I don’t think there’s much change since this morning. Did Irene have a headache when you left? If not, there’s that to report.”
“Pshaw!” said the colonel, and Corey remarked immediate­ly that he was very sorry to hear this.
“I think she must have got it from walking too long in the sun along the beach,” Penelope explained. “The air is so cool here you forget how hot the sun is.”
The colonel left the remaining conversation to the two young people while he gave all his attention to the driving. When he spoke next, it was to say, “Well, here we are,” and he turned the horse from the road and drove up in front of a small brown cottage, similar in form to dozens of others which they had al­ready passed. There were a few flowers growing in front, but otherwise the place was bare and without trees of any kind. The ocean was just a stone’s throw away. Yet a pleasant smell of supper filled the air, and Mrs. Lapham was on the porch, with a demand in her eye for an excuse from her husband for arriving so late, which, however, she was obliged to check at sight of Corey.
Mrs. Lapham welcomed Mr. Corey, and then the colonel showed him to the room which he was to occupy. The colonel himself then went to his own room to wash his hands, trying to appear completely unaware of his wife’s curiosity, as she fol­lowed close behind him. She asked one question after another about young Corey, which Lapham answered in the most cas­ual and indifferent manner possible. Finally, he was shaking with laughter as she dropped into a chair and said impatiently, “Silas Lapham, if you try to pull off any more of these tricks on me...
“It’s perfectly simple,” the colonel said good-naturedly. “I didn’t press him at all to come down. Seemed to want to come. He had been in the office earlier. He said he wanted to go into the paint business.” Then he added slyly, “Of course, I knew he wouldn’t ‘touch it with a ten-foot pole.’ ”
“Never mind about that,” said his wife. “Go on.”
“Well, I told him he had better come down and talk it over. It was the right thing to do, wasn’t it?”
A knock was heard at the door and Mrs. Lapham answered it. A maid announced supper. “Very well, come to supper,” Mrs. Lapham said. “But I’ll make you pay for this, Silas.” Penelope had gone to her sister’s room as soon as she entered the house.
“Is your head any better, Irene?” she asked.
“Yes, a little,” came a voice from the pillows. “But I shall
not come down to supper. I don’t want anything. If I keep still, I shall be all right by morning.”
“Well, I am sorry,” said the other sister. “He’s come down with father.”
“He hasn’t! Who?” cried Irene, starting up from the bed. “Oh, well, if you say he hasn’t, what’s the use of my telling you who?”
“Oh, how can you treat me so?” moaned Irene. “What do you mean, Pen?”
“I guess I’d better not tell you,” teased Penelope, like a cat playing with a mouse. “If you are not coming to supper, it would only excite you for nothing.”
Irene moaned again and turned upon the bed. “Oh, I wouldn’t treat you so!”
“Well, what would you do if it was Mr. Corey? You can’t come to supper, you say. But he’ll excuse you, for I’ve already told him you have a headache. And I’ll do my best to make the time pleasant for him.” Penelope finally broke out into a laugh. “You know I’m joking,” she then added, as she sat on the bed and threw her arms around her sister and kissed her. “But you must get up and come down. Tom is here. I don’t know what brought him, but he is here.”
“What a fool I was to take that long walk in the sun,” said Irene. “No, I can’t come down. But send me some tea.” “Perhaps you can see him later in the evening?”
“I don’t think so,” answered Irene.
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. How did Colonel Lapham pass the time on the boat to
2. Who was waiting for them on the dock at Nantasket?
3. Who drove the carriage home?
4. How had Irene gotten a headache?
5. Describe the Laphams’ cottage.
6. What did Lapham do about his wife’s curiosity regarding Tom Corey?
7. How did Penelope tease her sister?
8. Why couldn’t Irene go down for supper?
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
dock                                      sly
scold                                    tea
cottage                                on board
folks                                     stand it
headache                           the rest of
porch                                  meanwhile
Yet when Penelope returned to her sister’s room after supper, she found Irene in front of the mirror getting dressed. “It was just as well you didn’t come down, Irene,” Penelope said. “As soon as we finished supper, Papa said, ‘Well, Mr. Corey and I have got to talk over a little matter of business, and so we’ll excuse you ladies.’ Irene, you ought to have heard the colonel swelling at supper. What he said the other day was nothing.”
Mrs. Lapham suddenly opened the door. “Now, see here, Pen,” she said, “I’ve had just as much as I can stand from your father, and if you don’t tell me this moment what it all means,
“Well, the colonel seems to be on his high horse,” said Pene­lope humorously. “But you mustn’t ask me what his business with Mr. Corey is, for I don’t know. All I know is that I met them at the landing but neither of them spoke of it all the way down.”
“But what do you think it is?”
“Well, if you want my honest opinion, I think this talk about business is nothing but a blind. He came to see Irene and it’s a pity she shouldn’t have been up to receive him.”
Irene looked sadly toward her mother, who, however, gave her little attention. “Your father said Mr. Corey wanted to go into business with him,” Mrs. Lapham said.
“Well, it’s a pretty good business to go into, I believe,” said Penelope.
“But I don’t believe a word of it. And I told your father so,” cried Mrs. Lapham. “However. I know one thing. He’s got to tell me every word or there’ll be no sleep for him this night.” Mrs. Lapham, however, shortly had an opportunity to talk again with her husband about the matter. After a half hour or so Lapham and Corey had finished their talk. The whole family, including Irene, then gathered for a while in the living room and engaged in some general conversation. Then it was sug­gested that the girls and Corey go for a walk along the beach. This suggestion met with immediate approval, and so Mr. and Mrs. Lapham were left alone.
“It’s just as I said, Persis,” began Lapham in answer to his wife’s immediate questioning. “He wants to go into business with me.”
“But what in the world do you suppose he means by it?” “Well, I should judge by his talk that he had been trying a good many things since he left college and he hasn’t found just the thing he likes  or the thing that likes him. It’s not so easy. And now he’s got an idea that he can take hold of the paint and push it in other countries  push it in Mexico and in South America. He speaks Spanish and has traveled a lot down that way. And he believes in the paint.”
“I guess he believes in something else besides the paint,” said Mrs. Lapham.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Silas Lapham, if you can’t see that he’s after Irene, I don’t know what can ever open your eyes. That’s all.”
The colonel pretended to give this thought some silent con­sideration, as if it had not occurred to him before. “Well, then, all I’ve got to say is that he’s going a long way around. I don’t say you’re wrong, but if it’s Irene, I don’t see why he should want to go off to South America to get her. So I guess there’s some paint in it too. He says he believes in our paint and he’s ready to go to work on a commission basis.”
“Of course! He probably wouldn’t accept the work on any other basis. He doesn’t want to feel any obligation toward you. He’s got too much pride for that.”
“Well, he’s not going to do it on any terms if he doesn’t mean paint in the first place and Irene afterwards. I don’t object to him, as I see it, either way, but the two things won’t mix. How­ever, the way he talks, he means paint first, last, and all the time. In any case, I’m going to take him on that basis. He’s got some good ideas and he’s stirred up by this talk, just now, about getting our paint into foreign markets. We’ve got a lot of paint on hand right now and business is slow. I’d like to get rid of some of it, otherwise we may have to shut down the plant a while until the home market builds up again. So he wants to try it, and I’ve about made up my mind. Of course, I won’t let him take all the risk; I believe in the paint too, and I’ll pay part of his expenses.”
“So you want another partner?”
“Yes, if that’s your idea of a partner. It isn’t mine,” he an­swered.
“When is he going to leave for South America?”
“Sometime in the winter. He’s got to know the business first. I’ll take him into the office for a while.”
“Really? And I suppose you expect him to board in the family with us?”
“What do you mean, Persis?”
“Well, even if he doesn’t board with us, I suppose you’ll expect him to visit us often.”
“I imagine he may visit us now and then.”
“But what if he doesn’t? What if he doesn’t pay any atten­tion to Irene? Do you think he’ll be fit then to manage your paint business in South America?”
Lapham’s face grew red. “I’m not taking him on that basis.” “Oh, yes you are. You may pretend to yourself, but I know you.” He laughed and his wife continued. “I don’t see any harm in hoping that he’ll take a fancy to her. But what if he doesn’t you know you couldn’t do him justice in business then. I don’t think you should take him on unless you’re pretty sure. I can see you’ve got your heart set on it.”
“I haven’t got my heart set on it,” he said. “If you know what’s in my mind better than I do, there’s no use arguing.”
He got up and went out on the porch. He could see the young people down on the rocks and his heart swelled. He always said that he didn’t care what a man’s family was, but now he tasted sweet success in the fact that young Corey wished to work for him and that he was also his guest and a possible suitor for his daughter. He knew very well who the Coreys were and, in his simple way, had long hated their name as a symbol of social elegance. He knew the business traditions of the famous grandfather, old Phillips Corey, and he had heard a great many things about the father, Bromfield Corey, who had spent his youth in Europe and spent his father’s money everywhere, and done nothing but say clever things. Once he had seen Bromfield Corey, and it had seemed to Lapham that he was everything that was Offensively aristocratic. Although Lapham had also felt some prejudice against Tom at first, yet when he met him he had taken an immediate liking to him. The colonel’s imagination, in short, was stirred by the day’s events; nothing had so stirred him since that day in Lumber- ville, many years ago, when the girl who taught school there had agreed to have him for her husband.
The dark figures on the rocks started to move toward the cottage. Silas Lapham quickly went inside so they would not see that he had been watching them.
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. What did Penelope find Irene doing after supper?
2. Why did the women think that young Corey had come to visit?
3. When did Mrs. Lapham finally get an opportunity to talk to her husband?
4. What did Lapham say about Tom’s going into business with him?
5. What did Mrs. Lapham say was Tom’s real purpose?
6. Why didn’t Lapham fully believe her?
7. Why was Lapham glad of Corey’s offer at that time?
8. What were Lapham’s immediate plans for Corey?
9. What did Mrs. Lapham persist in believing?
10. Why did Lapham feel happy when he saw the young people?
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
afterwards                            on his high horse
symbol                                  go fot a walk
offensive                               take hold of
get dressed                        take a fancy to
talk over                               have your heart set on
get rid of                              take a liking to