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The Rise of Silas Lapham Chapter 9


The Rise of Silas Lapham Chapter 9


When Corey entered the office, Lapham was standing with his huge hands trembling on the back of his chair.

When Corey entered the office, Lapham was standing with his huge hands trembling on the back of his chair. The colonel’s face showed the strain of his mixed feelings: shame and fear of the things he may have done or said. “Was I drunk last night?” he asked.

Well, sir, you were not quite yourself,” Tom answered. “But there was nothing really nothing. I explained to my father that I had never seen wine at your table, and he was sorry that we had not been more considerate of you. I’m sure everyone understood.”


I’m not a drinking manf I guess I was a disgrace,” Lapham said. There were further words of apology from him, and po­lite protest on the part of Tom. Finally, Lapham added, “I wasn’t fit to be there. Do you want to leave the business?” “Leave?” Tom asked in surprise. “I haven’t the faintest idea of it. Why should I?”


It ain’t right I should be over you, if you want to go. I know some people who would be glad to get you.”

There’s no/question of my going unless you want it ”


I’m not fit to associate with gentlemen except in a business way. Will you tell your father that I’ve suffered all day


I’ll do nothing of the kind,” Tom objected. “You exagger­ate the effect of what has happened and there’s no need for you to say anything more to anybody. I really don’t care to listen to you any longer. It’s enough, more than enough, for you to have mentioned the matter to me.” Tom started to leave.


Don’t go yet.- I’ve disgusted you I didn’t mean to. I take it back.”


There’s nothing to take back,” Tom answered. “Let us say no more about it. There wasn’t a gentleman present last night who didn’t understand the matter just as my father and I did, and that fact must end it between us.”


Tom went out into the large office, shut his desk and decided to take a long walk in an effort to bring some order to his con­fused thoughts. He wanted to think the best of Lapham, for his hopes were joined with the Lapham family in more than a busi­ness way. During the past months he had tried to avoid thinking of the difference in their social stations. He saw how far apart in all their experiences and ideals the Lapham girls and his sisters were; how different Mrs. Lapham was from his mother; how greatly unlike were his father and Lapham. A wave of dis­gust passed over him as he thought back upon Lapham’s vul­gar manners of the night before. He realized that many guests at his father’s table had, at one time or another, taken too much wine, but they had known how to hold their tongues. Still it was Lapham’s first experience. He then asked himself whether he had been fair in not showing Lapham greater sympathy.


Three hours later, he stood at the door of Lapham’s home with the intention of proving his faith in the colonel, and of making up for the lack of sympathy that he felt he had shown earlier.


A maid admitted him and led him to the living room. She explained that Colonel Lapham had not arrived yet. Mrs. Lap- ham and Irene were out but Penelope was-at home. He waited with some embarrassment, and after a few minutes Penelope came down to greet him.


It’s veryj good of you to see me,” Tom said. “There was something I wished to say to your father. I hope,” he broke off, “you’re feeling better. We all missed you last night.”


Oh, yes, thank you,” said Penelope, remembering that her mother had given this as an excuse for her not attending the dinner party the night before. They went on talking, Penelope seeming to be wholly unaware of the excitement which pos­sessed the young man. For want of something better to say, she mentioned that she had been reading. She had just finished a certain book. “It has rather a sentimental name,” she said. “Did you ever read it?Tears, Idle Tears.”


Oh, yes; they were talking about it last night at dinner,” Tom said. “It’s a famous book with ladies. They break their hearts over it. Did it make you cry?”


Oh, it’s easy to cry over a book,” Penelope answered with a laugh. “It was all very natural until it came to the main part, and then it seemed rather forced.”


Her giving him up to the other girl?”


Yes,” she said, “simply because she happened to know that the other girl cared for him. What right did she have to do it? It wasn’t really self-sacrifice because she was sacrificing his in­terests too. It’s wrong foolish for any girl to do what she did. Why can’t they let people act more sensibly in stories?”


I don’t know. Perhaps that’s the way they also act in real life,” suggested Tom with a smile. Then he added, “But why shouldn’t people in love always act sensibly?”


That’s a serious question; I couldn’t answer it.”


Irene says you can’t be serious about anything.”


Penelope had taken a fan from the table and held it, now, between her face and Tom and, again, between her face and the fireplace, before which they both sat. Her face had the charm of a happy woman. The light of the fire played prettily shall I do? I mustn’t ever see you again. You mustn’t come here any more. Do you promise that?”


Certainly not,” said the young man. “Why should I promise such a thing—so obviously wrong? I could obey you if you didn’t love me”


Oh, I don’t; Really I don’t! Now will you obey?”


I don’t believe you.” He took her hand again. “Dearest! What is this trouble, that you can’t tell me? It can’t be anything about yourself, and if it’s about someone else, it wouldn’t make the least difference, no matter what it is. I’ll do anything to show you that nothing could change me toward you.”


I can’t tell you now; please go.”


Do you think I’ll give you up until I know why I must? May I speak with your mother or father?”

Oh, please don’t. Promise me you won’t.”


Dearest,” Tom said. “There is nothing under heaven that I wouldn’t gladly do for you. There is no trouble I wouldn’t share with you, or take all upon myself if I could.”


Penelope heard a key being turned in the lock of the front door. She threw her arms around Tom’s neck, pressed her cheek tight against his, and said “Good-bye!” Then she ran out of the room by one door as her father entered it by another.


Corey turned to Lapham, greatly confused. “II called to speak with you about a matter But it’s so late now. I’ll see you tomorrow.”


No time like the present,” Lapham insisted.


I really can’t now,” said Corey weakly. “It will do quite as well tomorrow. Good night, sir!”


Good night!” Lapham answered, following Tom to the front door and shutting it after him. “I think the devil is in everybody tonight,” he muttered. He went to the top of the stairs leading down to the kitchen and called out to a servant, “Hello, Alice! I want something to eat.”


Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review



1. What did Lapham say to Tom Corey about his behavior the previous night?

  1. Why did he suggest that Tom might want to leave the paint company?

  2. What did Tom think about after he left Lapham’s office?

  1. Who was at home when Tom went to call on Lapham?

  2. What did Penelope ask Tom about?

  3. What did Penelope say about the book?

  4. What was Penelope’s reaction to Tom’s proposal?

  5. Why did Penelope try to send Tom away?

  6. What did Tom do when Lapham came home?

B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:

shame                               the lack of
exaggerate                        make up  for
sensible                            at home
fan                                     care for
glance                               the top of
concert                             lead down
mutter                               call out