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HIS FATHER'S SON
By Edith Wharton
ditions for Mr. Grew's case. He wanted to
be near enough to New York to go there FTER his wife's death often, to feel under his feet the same paveMason Grew. took the mo- ment that Ronald trod, to sit now and then mentous step of selling out in the same theatres, and find on his breakhis business and moving fast-table the journals which, with increasfrom Wingfield, Connecti- ing frequency, inserted Ronald's name in cut, to Brooklyn.
the sacred bounds of the society column. For years he had secretly nursed the hope It had always been a trial to Mr. Grew to of such a change, but had never dared to have to wait twenty-four hours to read that suggest it to Mrs. Grew, a woman of immu- “among those present was Mr. Ronald table habits. Mr. Grew himself was at- Grew.” Now he had it with his coffee, and tached to Wingfield, where he had grown left it on the breakfast-table to the perusal up, prospered, and become what the local of a “hired girl” cosmopolitan enough to press described as “prominent.” He was do it justice. In such ways Brooklyn attached to his ugly brick house with sand- attested the advantages of its propinquity stone trimmings and a cast-iron area-rail- to New York, while remaining, as regards ing neatly sanded to match; to the similar Ronald's duty to his father, as remote and row of houses across the street, the “trol- inaccessible as Wingfield. ley” wires forming a kind of aerial path- It was not that Ronald shirked his filial way between, and the sprawling vista closed obligations, but rather because of his heavy by the steeple of the church which he and sense of them, that Mr. Grew so persistently his wife had always attended, and where sought to minimize and lighten them. It their only child had been baptized. was he who insisted, to Ronald, on the im
It was hard to snap all these threads of mense difficulty of getting from New York association, visual and sentimental; yet still to Brooklyn. harder, now that he was alone, to live so far “Any way you look at it, it makes a big from his boy. Ronald Grew was practising hole in the day; and there's not much use law in New York, and there was no more in the ragged rim left. You say you're dinchance of his returning to live at Wingfield ing out next Sunday? Then I forbid you than of a river's flowing inland from the to come over here to lunch. Do you undersea. Therefore to be near him his father stand me, sir?. You disobey at the risk of must move; and it was characteristic of Mr. your father's malediction! Where did you Grew, and of the situation generally, that say you were dining? With the Waltham the translation, when it took place, was to Bankshires again? Why, that's the second Brooklyn, and not to New York.
time in three weeks, ain't it? Big blow-out, “Why you bury yourself in that hole 1 I suppose? Gold plate and orchids-opera can't think,” had been Ronald's comment; singers in afterward? Well, you'd be in a and Mr. Grew simply replied that rents nice box if there was a fog on the river, and were lower in Brooklyn, and that he had you got hung up half-way over. That'd be heard of a house that would suit him. In re- a handsome return for the attention Mrs. ality he had said to himself-being the only Bankshire has shown you-singling out a recipient of his own confidences—that if he whipper-snapper like you twice in three went to New York he might be on the boy's weeks! (What's the daughter's namemind; whereas, if he lived in Brooklyn, Daisy ?) No, sir-don't you come fooling Ronald would always have a good excuse round here next Sunday, or I'll set the for not popping over to see him every dogs on you. And you wouldn't find me in other day. The sociological isolation of anyhow, come to think of it. I'm lunching Brooklyn, combined with its geographical out myself, as it happens-yes, sir, lunching nearness, presented in fact the precise con- out. Is there anything especially comic in
my lunching out? I don't often do it, you the discredited theory of pre-natal influsay? Well, that's no reason why I never ences. At any rate, if the young man owed should. Who with? Why, with—with old his beauty, his distinction and his winning Dr. Bleaker: Dr. Eliphalet Bleaker. No, manner to the dreams of one of his parents, you wouldn't know about him-he's only an it was certainly to those of Mr. Grew, who, old friend of your mother's and mine." while outwardly devoting his life to the
Gradually Ronald's insistence became manufacture and dissemination of Grew's less difficult to overcome. With his cus- Secure Suspender Buckle, moved in an entomary sweetness and tact (as Mr. Grew chanted inward world peopled with all the put it) he began to “take the hint,” to give figures of romance. In this high company in to "the old gentleman's" growing desire Mr. Grew cut as brilliant a figure as any of for solitude.
its noble phantoms; and to see his vision of “I'm set in my ways, Ronny, that's about himself suddenly projected on the outer the size of it; I like to go tick-ticking along world in the shape of a brilliant popular like a clock. I always did. And when you conquering son, seemed, in retrospect, to come bouncing in I never feel sure there's give to that image a belated objective reality. enough for dinner-or that I haven't sent There were even moments when, forgetting Maria out for the evening. And I don't his physiognomy, Mr. Grew said to himself want the neighbors to see me opening my that if he'd had “half a chance” he might own door to my son. That's the kind of have done as well as Ronald; but this only cringing snob I am. Don't give me away, fortified his resolve that Ronald should do will you? I want 'em to think I keep four infinitely better. or five powdered flunkeys in the hall day Ronald's ability to do well almost and night-same as the lobby of one of those equalled his gift of looking well. Mr. Grew Fifth Avenue hotels. And if you pop over constantly affirmed to himself that the boy when you're not expected, how am I going was “not a genius”; but, barring this slight to keep up the bluff ?”
deficiency, he was almost everything that a Ronald yielded after the proper amount parent could wish. Even at Harvard he of resistance—his intuitive sense, in every had managed to be several desirable things social transaction, of the proper amount of at once writing poetry in the college magforce to be expended, was one of the quali- azine, playing delightfully “by ear." acties his father most admired in him. Mr. quitting himself honorably of his studies, Grew's perceptions in this line were prob- and yet holding his own in the fashionably more acute than his son suspected. able sporting set that formed, as it were, The souls of short thick-set men, with chub- the gateway of the temple of Society. Mr. by features, mutton-chop whiskers, and Grew's idealism did not preclude the frank pale eyes peering between folds of fat like desire that his son should pass through that almond kernels in half-split shells—souls gateway; but the wish was not prompted by thus encased do not reveal themselves material considerations. It was Mr.Grew's to the casual scrutiny as delicate emotional notion that, in the rough and hurrying curinstruments. But in spite of the dense rent of a new civilization, the little pools of disguise in which he walked Mr. Grew leisure and enjoyment must nurture delicvibrated exquisitely in response to every im- ate growths, material graces as well as aginative appeal; and his son Ronald was moral refinements, likely to be uprooted and perpetually stimulating and feeding his swept away by the rush of the main torrent. imagination.
He based his theory on the fact that he had Ronald in fact constituted his father's liked the few “society" people he had met one escape from the impenetrable element —had found their manners simpler, their of mediocrity which had always hemmed voices more agreeable, their views more him in. Toa man so enamoured of beauty, consonant with his own, than those of the and so little qualified to add to its sum leading citizens of Wingfield. But then he total, it was a wonderful privilege to have had met very few. bestowed on the world such a being. Ronald's sympathies needed no urging Ronald's resemblance to Mr. Grew's early in the same direction. He took naturally, conception of what he himself would have dauntlessly, to all the high and exceptional liked to look might have put new life into things about which his father's imagination had so long sheepishly and ineffectu- Buckle, and took out his patent, he and his ally hovered-from the start he was what wife both felt that to bestow their name on Mr. Grew had dreamed of being. And so it was like naming a battle-ship or a peak precise, so detailed, was Mr. Grew's vision of the Andes. of his own imaginary career, that as Ron- Mrs. Grew had never learned to know ald grew up, and began to travel in a better; but Mr. Grew had discovered his widening orbit, his father had an almost error before Ronald was out of school. He uncanny sense of the extent to which that read it first in a black eye of his boy's. career was enacting itself before him. At Ronald's symmetry had been marred by Harvard, Ronald had done exactly what the insolent fist of a fourth former whom he the hypothetical Mason Grew would have had chastised for alluding to his father as done, had not his actual self, at the same “Old Buckles;” and when Mr. Grew age, been working his way up in old Slag- heard the epithet he understood in a flash den's button factory—the institution which that the Buckle was a thing to blush for. was later to acquire fame, and even noto. It was too late then to dissociate his name riety, as the birthplace of Grew's Secure from it, or to efface from the hoardings of Suspender Buckle. Afterward, at a period the entire continent the picture of two genwhen the actual Grew had passed from tlemen, one contorting himself in the abthe factory to the bookkeeper's desk, his ject effort to repair a broken brace, while invisible double had been reading law at the careless ease of the other's attitude proColumbia-precisely again what Ronald claimed his trust in the Secure Suspender did! But it was when the young man left Buckle. These records were indelible, but the paths laid out for him by the parental Ronald could at least be spared all direct hand, and cast himself boldly on the world, connection with them; and from that day that his adventures began to bear the most Mr. Grew resolved that the boy should not astonishing resemblance to those of the un- return to Wingfield. realized Mason Grew. It was in New “You'll see," he had said to Mrs. Grew, York that the scene of this hypothetical “he'll take right hold in New York. Ronbeing's first exploits had always been laid; ald's got my knack for taking hold,” he and it was in New York that Ronald was to added, throwing out his chest. achieve his first triumph. There was noth- “But the way you took hold was in busiing small or timid about Mr. Grew's im- ness," objected Mrs. Grew, who was large agination; it had never stopped at anything and literal. between Wingfield and the metropolis. And Mr. Grew's chest collapsed, and he bethe real Ronald had the same cosmic vision came suddenly conscious of his comic face as his parent. He brushed aside with a in its rim of sandy whiskers. “That's not contemptuous laugh his mother's tearful the only way," he said, with a touch of wistentreaty that he should stay at Wingfield fulness which escaped his wife's analysis. and continue the dynasty of the Grew “Well, of course you could have written Suspender Buckle. Mr. Grew knew that beautifully,” she rejoined with admiring in reality Ronald winced at the Buckle, eyes. loathed it, blushed for his connection with “Written? Me!” Mr. Grew became it. Yet it was the Buckle that had seen him sardonic. through Groton, Harvard and the Law “Why, those letters—weren't they beauSchool, and had permitted him to enter the tiful, I'd like to know?”. office of a distinguished corporation law- The couple exchanged a glance, innover, instead of being enslaved to some sor- cently allusive and amused on the wife's did business with quick returns. The part, and charged with a sudden tragic sigBuckle had been Ronald's fairy god- nificance on the husband's. mother-yet his father did not blame him “Well, I've got to be going along to the for abhorring and disowning it. Mr. Grew office now," he merely said, dragging himhimself often bitterly regretted having be- self out of his rocking-chair. stowed his own name on the instrument of his material success, though, at the time, his This had happened while Ronald was still doing so had been the natural expression at school; and now Mrs. Grew slept in the of his romanticism. When he invented the Wingfield cemetery, under a life-size theo
logical virtue of her own choosing, and Mr. presence at the play; and for three blessed Grew's prognostications as to Ronald's abil- hours Mr. Grew had watched his boy's ity to “take right hold” in New York were handsome dark head bent above the dense being more and more brilliantly fulfilled. fair hair and white averted shoulder that
were all he could catch of Miss Bankshire's beauties.
He recalled the vision now; and with it RONALD obeyed his father's injunction came, as usual, its ghostly double: the vision not to come to luncheon on the day of the of his young self bending above such a Bankshires' dinner; but in the middle of the white shoulder and such shining hair. following week Mr. Grew was surprised by Needless to say that the real Mason Grew a telegram from his son.
had never found himself in so enviable a “Want to see you important matter. Ex- situation. The late Mrs. Grew had no pect me to-morrow afternoon.”
more resembled Miss Daisy Bankshire Mr. Grew received the telegram after than he had looked like the happy vicbreakfast. To peruse it he had lifted his torious Ronald. And the mystery was eye from a paragraph of the morning paper that from their dull faces, their dull endeardescribing a fancy-dress dinner which had ments, the miracle of Ronald should have taken place the night before at the Hamil- sprung. It was almost-fantastically-as ton Gliddens' for the house-warming of if the boy had been a changeling, child of a their new Fifth Avenue palace.
Latmian night, whom the divine compan"Among the couples who afterward ion of Mr. Grew's early reveries had sedanced in the Poets' Quadrille were Miss cretly laid in the cradle of the Wingfield Daisy Bankshire, looking more than usu- bedroom while Mr. and Mrs. Grew slept ally lovely as Laura, and Mr. Ronald Grew the deep sleep of conjugal indifference. as the young Petrarch.”
The young Mason Grew had not at first Petrarch and Laura! Well—if anything accepted this astral episode as the commeant anything, Mr. Grew supposed he plete cancelling of his claims on romance. knew what that meant. For weeks past He too had grasped at the high-hung he had noticed how constantly the names glory; and, with his fatal tendency to reach of the young people appeared together in too far when he reached at all, had singled the society notes he so insatiably devoured out the prettiest girl in Wingfield. When Even the soulless reporter was getting into he recalled his stammered confession of love the habit of coupling them in his lists. And his face still tingled under her cool bright this Laura and Petrarch business was al- stare. The wonder of his audacity had most an announcement. . .
struck her dumb; and when she recovered Mr. Grew dropped the telegram, wiped her voice it was to fling a taunt at him. his eye-glasses, and re-read the paragraph. “Don't be too discouraged, you know“Miss Daisy Bankshire ... more than have you ever thought of trying Addie usually lovely. .." Yes; she was lovely. Wicks?” He had often seen her photograph in the All Wingfield would have understood the papers—seen her represented in every con- gibe: Addie Wicks was the dullest girl in ceivable attitude of the mundane game: town. And a year later he had married fondling her prize bull-dog, taking a fence Addie Wicks. . . on her thoroughbred, dancing a gavotte, all patches and plumes, or fingering a guitar, He looked up from the perusal of Ronall tulle and lilies; and once he had caught ald's telegram with this memory in his a glimpse of her at the theatre. Hearing mind. Now at last his dream was comthat Ronald was going to a fashionable ing true! His boy would taste of the jovs first-night with the Bankshires, Mr. Grew that had mocked his thwarted youth and his had for once overcome his repugnance to dull gray middle-age. And it was fitting following his son's movements, and had se- that they should be realized in Ronald'sdescured for himself, under the shadow of the tiny. Ronald was made to take happiness balcony, a stall whence he could observe boldly by the hand and lead it home like a the Bankshire box without fear of detection. bridegroom. He had the carriage, the conRonald had never known of his father's fidence, the high faith in his fortune, that compel the wilful stars. And, thanks to er—" she gasped out helplessly when they the Buckle, he would have the exceptional had regained their hotel bedroom, and sat setting, the background of material ele- staring back entranced at the evening's gance, that became his conquering person. evocations. Her large immovable face was Since Mr. Grew had retired from business pink and tremulous, and she sat with her his investments had prospered, and he had hands on her knees, forgetting to roll up her been saving up his income for just such a bonnet strings and prepare her curl-papers. contingency. His own wants were few: he “I'd like to write him just how I felt-I had transferred the Wingfield furniture to wisht I knew how!” she burst out sudBrooklyn, and his sitting-room was a rep- denly in a final effervescence of emotion. lica of that in which the long years of his Her husband lifted his head and looked married life had been spent. Even the at her. florid carpet on which Ronald's totter- “Would you? I feel that way too,” he ing footsteps had been taken was carefully said with a sheepish laugh. And they conmatched when it became too threadbare. tinued to stare at each other shyly through a And on the marble centre-table, with its transfiguring mist of sound. chenille-fringed cover and bunch of dyed Mr. Grew recalled the scene as he gazed pampas grass, lay the illustrated Long- up at the pianist's faded photograph.“Well, fellow and the copy of Ingersoll's lectures I owe her that anyhow-poor Addie!” he which represented literature to Mr. Grew said, with a smile at the inconsequences of when he had led home his bride. In the fats. With Ronald's telegram in his hand light of Ronald's romance, Mr. Grew he was in a mood to count his mercies. found himself re-living, with a strange tremor of mingled pain and tenderness, all
III the poor prosaic incidents of his own personal history. Curiously enough, with this “A CLEAR twenty-five thousand a year: new splendor on them they began to emit that's what you can tell 'em with my complia small faint ray of their own. His wife's ments," said Mr. Grew, glancing complaarmchair, in its usual place by the fire, cently across the centre-table at his boy's recalled her placid unperceiving presence, charming face. seated opposite to him during the long It struck him that Ronald's gift for lookdrowsy years; and he felt her kindness, her ing his part in life had never so romanticequanimity, where formerly he had only ally expressed itself. Other young men, at ached at her obtuseness. And from the such a moment, would have been red, chair he glanced up at the large discolored damp, tight about the collar; but Ronald's photograph on the wall above, with a cheek was only a shade paler, and the brittle brown wreath suspended on a corner contrast made his dark eyes more expresof the frame. The photograph represented sive. a young man with a poetic necktie and un- “A clear twenty-five thousand; yes, sirtrammelled hair, leaning negligently against that's what I always meant you to have." a Gothic chair-back, a roll of music in his Mr. Grew leaned back, his hands thrust hand; and beneath was scrawled a bar of carelessly in his pockets, as though to diChopin, with the words: “Adieu, Adele.” vert attention from the agitation of his fea
The portrait was that of the great pianist, tures. He had often pictured himself rollFortuné Dolbrowski; and its presence on ing out that phrase to Ronald, and now that the wall of Mr. Grew's sitting-room com- it was actually on his lips he could not conmemorated the only exquisite hour of his trol their tremor. life save that of Ronald's birth. It was Ronald listened in silence, lifting a nersome time before the latter memorable vous hand to his slight dark moustache, as event, a few months only after Mr. Grew's though he, too, wished to hide some inmarriage, that he had taken his wife to New voluntary betrayal of emotion. At first York to hear the great Dolbrowski. Their Mr. Grew took his silence for an expresevening had been magically beautiful, and sion of gratified surprise; but as it prolonged even Addie, roused from her habitual inex- itself it became less easy to interpret. pressiveness, had quivered into a momen- “I-see here, my boy; did you expect tary semblance of life. “I never-I nev- more? Isn't it enough?” Mr. Grew