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The Rise of Silas Lapham Chapter 6


The Rise of Silas Lapham Chapter 6
Lapham had the pride which comes from success of one’s own making, and he was not going to lower himself openly to the young fellow who came to work in his office. He was going to be obviously master in his own place. During the hours of business he did nothing to distinguish young Corey from the half dozen other clerks who worked in his office. But he was not silent about the fact that the son of Bromfield Corey had taken a fancy to come to him.
Tom Corey devoted himself seriously to his work. He seemed to be in love with the business, and he felt the enthusiasm for it which nothing but work we can do well inspires in us. Every little happening of the busy day was a pleasure to him from the moment he sat down at his desk in the morning, to which Lapham’s boy brought him his foreign letters, until he rose from it at the end of the day.
Lapham had been warned by his wife against discussing Corey’s position in the office with others. He felt, however, that he had a right to do Corey justice, and so he boasted to several business acquaintances, “Talk about training for busi­ness   I tell you it’s all in the man himself. I used to believe in what old Horace Greeley said about college men turning out to be poor workers  but I’ve changed my mind. You take that fellow Corey. He’s been through Harvard and he’s had about every advantage a fellow could have. Been everywhere, and talks half a dozen languages besides English. I suppose he’s got money enough to live on without lifting a finger, any more than his father does son of Bromfield Corey, you know. But the thing was in him. He’s a natural born businessman and sticks at that desk of his from morning to night.”
Thus the summer wore on. Mrs. Corey, Tom’s mother, came to the city once or twice. Despite Tom’s obvious satisfaction in the work he was doing, she was not at all happy with the associations she felt he was forming. She discussed the matter with her husband, but they both agreed that they could hardly interfere at this point. When she also talked with Tom, she found him enthusiastic and with his mind made up. Therefore, as in her first interview with him, she again let the matter drop and returned, no wiser but a little sadder, to her two daughters at Bar Harbour.
Tom visited the Laphams at Nantasket a few times  but not so frequently as might have been expected. He went only upon the express invitation of Mr. Lapham, and business mat­ters which had to be discussed were generally the occasion for these visits. Yet he seemed to pay considerable attention to Irene. Penelope always helped her sister to entertain him at such times. She talked with much greater ease than Irene, and her observations on both people and things were often very amusing.
One day Irene had the good fortune to meet Tom in town. She and her mother had gone up to Boston for the day and tliey had driven out to the new house. Tom happened to be there on an errand for Mr. Lapham. He and Irene talked for a long time together, while Mrs. Lapham was busy with the carpenter in another part of the house. They discussed various subjects, among them the kind of books which Tom recom­mended for the library of the new house. The Laphams had neither a library nor books of any kind in their present home in Nankeen Square. Irene carefully noted down each of the titles which Tom recommended.
Later, when Irene returned to Nantasket, she also carried in her belt a wood shaving, which she had brought from the new house. It was unnoticed by her father and unquestioned by her mother, but Penelope saw, it at once and teased her about it. Penelope had already been told about the meeting with Tom.
“Hadn’t you better put it in water, Irene?” said Penelope, laughing. “It will be all wilted by morning.”
“You mean thing,” cried the happy girl. “It isn’t a flower.” “Really? So it’s a shaving. But I didn’t know it had become the fashion to give shavings instead of flowers. There used to be a book about the language of flowers but I never knew much about the language of shavings.”
Irene laughed for pleasure at this teasing.
“Oh, Pen, I want to tell you how it all happened,” she said. “Oh, he did give it to you, then? Well, I guess I don’t care to hear,” said Penelope.
“You shall, and you’ve got to.” Irene ran and caught her sister, who pretended to be leaving the room, and pushed her down into a chair. “There now!” she said. She pulled up an­other chair close to Penelope and began, “He came over and sat down on some boards beside me ”
“What? As close as you are to me now?”
“You mean thing! No, at a proper distance, of course. And here was this shaving on the floor and I was poking at it with my parasol ”
“To hide your embarrassment.”
“Pshaw! I wasn’t a bit embarrassed; I was just as much at my ease. And then he asked me to let him hold down the shaving with his foot, while I went on with my poking. And I said yes he might. And then  and then,” continued Irene, lifting her eyes absently, and losing herself in the memory, “and then  oh yes! Then I asked him if he didn’t like the smell of pine shavings. And then he picked it up, and said it smelled like a flower. And then he asked if he might offer it to me  just for a joke, you know. And I took it, and stuck it in my belt. And we had such a laugh. We got into a regular storm of laughing. It was such fun.” And so saying, Irene jumped up and went to her mirror, where she stuck the shaving into the frame, alongside the article she had cut from the Texas news­paper which had arrived some months earlier, while Tom was in Texas.
Meanwhile, the building of the new house went forward. The summer was a dull season, for the paint as well as other busi­ness, and until business picked up a little, Lapham was letting the house take a good deal of his time. He talked frequently with Jhe architect. Together they planned new windows were and closed up older ones there; they changed doors and halls, pull«d down walls and put up new ones of a different form. Mrs.* Lapham became frightened at her husband’s reckless spending, and refused to let him pass a certain limit.
“But there’s no call to feel anxious, Pert,” Lapham ex­plained. “I can always sell the house and get back every cent I put into it. It’s really a question now of what to do with my money. I’ll only have to invest it in something else if I don’t put it into the house. I never had so much of it to spend before.” “Spend it, then,” said the wife, “don’t throw it away. And how does it happen you have so much more money than you know what to do with, Silas, Lapham?” she added.
“Oh, I’ve made a good thing in stocks recently.”
“In stocks? When did you take up gambling for a living?” “It wasn’t gambling. I invested in some shares at forty-three, and sold them at a hundred and seven. I didn’t buy on margin. The money passed both times.”
“Well, you better let stocks alone,” said Mrs. Lapham. “Next time you’ll buy at a hundred and seven and sell at forty-three. Where’ll you be then? You better stick to paint a while yet.” Lapham smiled and enjoyed this questioning by his wife. His manner was that of a man who knows what he is about. A few days after this conversation, he came down t<5 Nantasket one evening with the air which he usually wore when he had done a good thing in business and wanted his wife’s praise.
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. How did Lapham treat Tom Corey when he came to work?
2. How did Corey feel about the work?
3. What did Lapham say to his business friends about young Corey?
4. What was Mrs. Corey’s attitude toward her son’s new work?
5. On what occasions did Tom visit Nantasket?
6. Why did Penelope always help to entertain Tom?
7.Where did Irene and Tom finally get a chance to talk with each other? What did they talk about?
8. What did Irene bring back to Nantasket with her?
9. What was the story she told Penelope about the shaving?
10. Where did she put the shaving?
11. What was done on the new house during the summer?
12. Why did Mrs. Lapham become frightened?
13. Why did Lapham say that she didn’t need to worry?
B. Use the following words and expressions in senteces of your own:
clerk                                     errand
inspire                                 poke
association                         embarrassment
enthusiastic                        anxious
ease                                     stock
“Well, what is it, Silas?” asked his wife later, when they were alone. She had recognized the sign immediately. “Any more big bugs wanting to go into the paint business with you?”
“Something better than that.”
“I could think of a good many better things,” she said im­patiently. “What’s this one?”
“I’ve had a visitor. Rogers!” •
Mrs. Lapham sat down and smiled at her husband, who was sitting facing her. “I guess you wouldn’t want to joke about
this, Si”
“He came to borrow money and I let him have it. I was never so surprised in my life as I was to see that man come into my office. And he was just as embarrassed. There we stood staring at each other. I guess I didn’t have enough sense to ask him to sit down. I just don’t remember how we started but, anyway, he has gotten hold of a new business and there he was asking me to supply him with money to develop it.”
“Go on,” his wife said quietly.
“I never felt the way you did about Rogers, and I guess I
surprised him with my answer. He had brought along a lot of stock as security”
“You didn’t take it, Silas!” she interrupted.
“Yes I did. We settled our business and then we went into the old matter and we talked it over from the start. When we got through, we shook hands; I don’t know when it’s done me so much good to shake hands with anybody.”
“You you owned up to him that you had been in the wrong, Silas?”
“No, I didn’t,” he answered, “for I wasn’t. And before we got through, I guess he saw it the way I did.”
“Well, anyway, you showed him how you felt.”
“But I never felt in the wrong,” he insisted.
“Give him back his stock!”
“No, I shan’t. He came to borrow, not to beg. You needn’t worry about his stocks. Right now they’re so low in value, no bank would take them as security. But they’re going to rise in price, and I’m going to hold them. I hope you’re satisfied now, Persis.” He looked for his reward for his good action. “I lent him twenty thousand dollars money you kept me from spend­ing on the house.”
“Truly, Si? Well, I’m satisfied,” she said with a deep breath. “The Lord has been good to you, Silas. You may laugh if you choose, but I believe God has intervened this time; he’s let you make it up to Rogers.”
“But I hadn’t anything to make up to Rogers”
“Say what you please, Si, but you’ve removed the only black mark on your record, and I’m satisfied.”
“There wasn’t any black mark,” he insisted, “and what I did I did for you, Persis.”
“And I thank you for your own soul’s sake. Now I want you to promise me one thing more. That you won’t ever let any­thing tempt you to trouble Rogers for that money you lent him. Do you promise?”
“Why, I don’t ever expect to press him for it. That’s what I said to myself when I lent it. I don’t think I ever did Rogers any wrong; but if I did, I’m willing to call it square, if I never see a cent of the money again.”
“Well, that’s all,” she concluded.
But before she went to sleep she added that she had feared that the way he had originally acted toward Rogers had weak­ened her husband and left him less able to resist other tempta­tions. Now, she would never fear for him again.
“Well,” he answered, “it’s all past now; and I don’t want you to think anything more about it.”
The following day Lapham took advantage of the high favor in which he stood with his wife and brought Corey home with him in the evening. Mrs. Lapham understood such maneuver­ing, smiled, but said nothing.
“Corey and I got to talking about a matter just before I left,” explained the colonel, “and he walked down to the boat with me. Then he said that if I didn’t mind he guessed he’d come along down and go back on the return boat. He’s not going to stay the night, unless,” here Lapham hesitated, “you want him to.”
“Oh, of course, I want him to,” said Mrs. Lapham. “I guess he’ll stay probably.”
“Well, you know how crowded that last boat always is, and he can’t get any other now.”
Mrs. Lapham smiled again at this simple statement of her husband’s. “I hope you’ll be just as well satisfied with him, Si, if it turns out that one day he is not interested in Irene after all,” she said.
“Pshaw, Persis! What are you always bringing that up for?” asked the colonel.
From the porch the sound of Penelope’s lazy tone came through the closed windows, with light laughing on the part of Irene, and heavy laughter from Corey.
“Listen to that,” said her father, swelling with satisfaction. “That girl, Penelope, can talk for twenty, right straight along. She’s better than a circus any day. I wonder what she’s up to now?”
“Oh, she’s probably getting off some of those stories of hers, or telling about some people,” said Mrs. Lapham. “She can’t step out of the house without coming back with more things to talk about than most people bring back from Japan. And there’s no stopping her once she gets started. I guess it’s lucky for Irene that she’s got Pen there to help entertain her com­pany. No one can ever feel down where Pen is.”
“That’s so,” said the colonel. “And I guess she’s got as much culture as any of them. She certainly reads enough. She’s at it all the time.”
There was a period of silence. Then Mrs. Lapham said, “Si­las, has Corey ever said anything to you about Irene?”
“He’s never mentioned Irene to me.”
“He hasn’t to me either. Then what makes him keep com­ing?”
“I can’t tell you. One thing, he says that everyone is away for the summer. Wait until his friends get back, and then if he keeps coming, it will be time to ask.”
“Well,” said his wife, “at first I thought it was Irene he was interested in and not the paint business. But now I’m beginning to wonder. Anyway, I don’t think we ought to let him keep coming. I don’t quite like it, with all his family away. First thing you know they’re going to say we took advantage of their being out of town and encouraged him to come here.”
“I should like to hear them say it!” cried Lapham. “Or any­body else.”
“Well,” said his wife quietly, as though agreeing to accept her husband’s point of view, “but I can’t make out whether he cares for her or not. And Pen can’t either, or else she won’t. Certainly he hasn’t said or done the first thing to show it.” “Well, I was better than a year getting my courage up.”
“Oh, that was different,” said Mrs. Lapham. “I guess if he cared for her, a fellow in his social position wouldn’t be long in getting his courage up.”
Lapham brought his fist down on the table between them. “Look here, Persis, don’t ever let me hear you say anything like that again. Those people are no better than we are. I’m worth a million dollars, and I’ve made every cent of it myself. My girls are the equal of anybody, I don’t care who it is. Young Corey ain’t the kind of fellow who puts on airs; but if he ever tries it with me, I’ll send him packing right away. I’ll have a talk with him, if”
“No, no, don’t do that!” begged his wife. “I didn’t mean any­thing. He’s just as plain and modest as he can be, and I think
Irene’s a match for anybody. It’ll be all right. Perhaps she’s a little shy. You can never tell how it is with young people.” Lapham suffered himself to be persuaded because he knew in his heart that his pride would never permit him to approach Tom directly on the subject. He contented himself now with his wife’s promise that she would not again present this offen­sive view of the case. Mrs. Lapham, in turn, gained some, relief from her husband’s words and from the feeling of confidence he showed.
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. Who had come to visit Lapham in his office?
2. What had this person wanted?
3. What had Rogers given Lapham as security?
4. How much had Rogers borrowed from Lapham?
5. What did Mrs. Lapham want her husband to promise?
6. What did Lapham say that he didn’t expect to do?
7. What did Mrs. Lapham warn her husband about when he brought Tom to Nantasket again?
8. Why was it lucky for Irene to have Penelope to help her entertain?
9. Why didn’t Mrs. Lapham want her husband to bring Tom to the cottage so often?
10. Why did Lapham say that he was as good as anybody?
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
security                                  own up to
intervene                                talk over
tempt                                       get over
square                                    look over
weaken                                   turn over
temptation                              take over
persade                                  put over