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   Chapter 40 No.40

Through stained glass By George Agnew Chamberlain Characters: 8450

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Lewis, walking rapidly toward the flat, was thinking over all that Lady Derl had said and was trying to bring Folly into line with his thoughts. He had never pictured Folly old. He tried now and failed. Folly and youth were inseparable; Folly was youth. Then he gave up thinking of Folly. That moment did not belong to her. As once before, the fragrance and the memory of H lne clung to him, held him.

He passed slowly into the room where Leighton sat. He felt a dread lest his father ask him what it was H lne had said. But he wronged his father. Leighton merely glanced up, flashed a look into the eyes of his son. He saw and knew the light that was there for the light that lingers in the eyes of him who comes from looking upon holy inner places.

For an hour neither spoke, then Leighton said:

"Going out to lunch to-day?"

"No," said Lewis; "I've told Nelton I'd be in."

"About this marriage," said Leighton, smiling. "Let's look on it as a settled thing that there's going to be a marriage. Have you thought about the date and ways and means?"

Lewis flushed.

"Don't misunderstand me," said Leighton. "I might as well tell you that I've decided to divide my income equally between us, marriage or no marriage."

"Dad!" cried Lewis, half protesting.

"There, there," said Leighton, "you're not getting from me what you think. What I mean is that I'm not making any sacrifice. I've lived on half my income for some time. You'll need a lump-sum of money besides. Your grandmother left you a big house in Albany. It won't bring much, but I think you'd better sell it. It's on the wrong side of the town now."

"I'll do whatever you say, Dad," said Lewis.

"I suggest that you fix your marriage for six months from now," went on Leighton. "That will give us time to go over and untangle certain affairs, including the house, on the other side. It isn't altogether on account of the house I want to take you over."

Lewis had winced at six months. Now he looked questioningly at his father.

"Keep your eyes open as you go through life," continued Leighton, "and you'll see that marriage is a great divisor. All the sums of friendship and relation are cut in two by marriage. You and I, we've been friends, and before I surrender you I think it's only just that I should take you over and introduce you to your inheritance."

"My inheritance?" asked Lewis.

"Yes," said Leighton, "your country."

"You might think," continued Leighton, "that I'm an expatriate. Externally I have been, but never in the heart. I've been waiting-waiting for our country to catch up to me. Under certain conditions a man has the right to pick out the stage of civilization best adapted to his needs. There are two ways of doing that: either go to it or make it come to you. If you're not tied, it's easier to go to it, because sometimes it takes more than a generation to make it come to you."

"So you've gone to it," said Lewis.

Leighton nodded.

"Nations and individuals travel like the hands of a clock. You can't always live in the midday of your life, but you can in the midday of a nation. When you get an educated taste, you prefer pheasants, bananas, Stilton, and nations when they're at one o'clock. The best flavor-I'm not talking about emotions-the best flavor of anything, including life, comes with one o'clock."

"What time is it over there now?" asked Leighton.

"About eleven," said Leighton, "top wave of success. Now, these are the earmarks of success: a meticulous morality in trifles, ingrowing eyes, crudity, enthusiasm, and a majority."

"Heavens!" cried Lewis, "you told me once you were afraid I was going to be successful. Am I earmarked like that?"

"You will be," said Leighton, "the minute you're driven to sculpturing for the populace-for what it will bring. That's why I'm giving you your own income now, because, when you're married, you're going to be pretty hard pressed. I don't want you to be able to justify the sale of your soul.

"I had an uncle once-he's dead now-that had an only son named Will. Uncle Jim was a hard worker. He had a paper-mill, and he was worth a lot of money. His son Will wasn't a worker. He didn't own the paper-mill, but he neve

r let you forget he was going to. He failed his way through school, but he couldn't quite fail through college. Every time he failed at anything, he used to say: 'It doesn't matter. Dad will give me a start in life, won't you, Dad?' And his father would say, 'I certainly will.'

"Well, one morning a little after Will had been flunked out of college, he was standing on the lawn whittling. I happened to be looking out of the window. I saw Uncle Jim crawling across the grass under cover of a rhododendron bush to a position just behind Will. He was carrying under one arm an enormous fire-cracker, with the fuse lit. He rolled it out on the grass behind Will, and when it went off, Will went, too. He landed seventeen feet from the hole the cracker made.

"When he'd turned around, but before he could get his jaw up, my uncle said: 'Will, I've always promised I'd give you a start in life. Well, I've given it to you-a damn good start, too, judging by the length of that jump. Now you git! Not a word. You just git!'

"Will didn't go very far away. He went to the rival town across the river. He hadn't learned anything about making paper, but a New England Leighton is just naturally born knowing how to make paper. In fifteen years Will didn't have much soul left, but he had enough money to buy his father out and make him sign an agreement to retire. They were both as pleased as Punch. To the day of his death the old man would say, 'I certainly gave you a start in life, Will,' and Will would answer with a grin, 'Dad, you certainly did.'

"The moral of that yarn is that we Leightons have proved over and over that we could play the game of success when we thought it was worth while. Will's generation and mine, generally speaking, thought it was worth while. But your generation-the best of it-isn't going to think so. That's why I'm giving you enough money so that you won't have to think about it all the time."

"I'm grateful, Dad," said Lewis. "It's easier to breathe that way."

Leighton nodded. "Sometimes," He continued, "I feel guilty, as though it were cowardly not to have lived where I was put. But-have you ever seen a straw, caught on a snag, try to stop a river? To your sentimentalist that straw looks heroic; to anybody that knows the difference between bathos and pathos it simply looks silly. The river of life is bigger than that of any nation. We can't stop it, but we can swell it by going with it. Did you ever see a mule drink against the current?"

"No," said Lewis, his eyes lighting with memory of a thing that he knew.

"Did you ever see free cattle face a gale?"

"No," said Lewis again.

"Out of the mouths of the dumb come words of wisdom," said Leighton. "Go with life, Boy. Don't get stranded on a snag. You'll only look silly. I'm glad you've traveled around a bit, because the wider the range of your legs the wider your range of vision, and, let me tell you, you'll need a mighty broad field of sight to take in America and the Americans.

"Your country and mine is a national paradox. It's the only country where you can't buy little things for money. For instance, you can't buy four seats that somebody else has a right to from a railway conductor for sixty-two and a half cents. There isn't any price at which you can get an American to say, 'Yes, sir, thank you, sir,' every time he does anything for you."

"Lunch is served, sir, thank you, sir," announced the impassive Nelton from the doorway.

Lewis smiled, and then laughed at his father's face.

"Nelton," said Leighton, "did you hear what I was saying?"

"I did, sir, thank--"

"Yes, yes," broke in Leighton, "we know. Well, Nelton, your pay is raised. Ten per cent."

"Yes, sir," said Nelton, unmoved. "Thank you, sir."

"As I was saying," continued Leighton to Lewis, "a country where money can't buy little things. A leveled country where there's less under dog than anywhere else on the face of the earth. A people that's more communal and less socialistic than any other commonwealth. A happy nation, my boy-a happy nation of discontented units. Do you get that? Of discontented units."

"Yes, I think I do," said Lewis.

"You don't, but you will in time," said Leighton.

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