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   Chapter 3 The Rogue’s Gallery of a Father Should be Exhibited to a Daughter with Particular Care

The Two Vanrevels By Booth Tarkington Characters: 18180

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


Those angels appointed to be guardians of the merry people of Rouen, poising one night, between earth and stars, discovered a single brilliant and resonant spot, set in the midst of the dark, quiet town like a jewelled music-box on a black cloth. Sounds of revelry and the dance from the luminous spot came up through the summer stillness to the weary guardians all night long, until, at last, when a red glow stole into the east, and the dance still continued, nay, grew faster than ever, the celestial watchers found the work too heavy for their strength, and forthwith departed, leaving the dancers to their own devices; for, as everyone knows, when a dance lasts till daylight, guardian angels flee.

All night long the fiddles had been swinging away at their best; all night long the candles had shone in thin rows of bright orange through the slits of the window-blinds; but now, as the day broke over the maples, the shutters were flung open by laughing young men, and the drivers of the carriages, waiting in the dusty street, pressed up closer to the hedge, or came within and stretched themselves upon the lawn, to see the people waltzing in the daylight. The horses, having no such desires, stood with loosened check-reins, slightly twitching their upper lips, wistful of the tall grass which bordered the wooden sidewalk, though now and then one would lift his head high, sniffing the morning air and bending an earnest gaze not upon the dancers but upon the florid east.

Over the unwearied plaint of French-horn, violin, and bassoon, rose a silvery confusion of voices and laughter and the sound of a hundred footfalls in unison, while, from the open windows there issued a warm breath, heavily laden with the smell of scented fans, of rich fabrics, of dying roses, to mingle with the spicy perfume of a wild crab-tree in fullest blossom, which stood near enough to peer into the ball-room, and, like a brocaded belle herself, challenge the richest to show raiment as fine, the loveliest to look as fair and joyful in the dawn..

"Believe me, of all those endearing young charms, Which I gaze on so fondly to-day, Were to fade by to-morrow and fleet from my arms, Like fairy gifts fading away-"

So ran the violins in waltz time, so bassoon and horn to those dulcet measures; and then, with one accord, a hundred voices joined them in the old, sweet melody:

"Thou wouldst still be adored as this moment thou art, Let thy loveliness fade as it will; And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart Would entwine itself verdantly still."

And the jealous crab-tree found but one to overmatch itself in beauty: a lady who was the focus of the singing; for, by the time the shutters were flung open, there was not a young man in the room, lacked he never so greatly in music or in voice, who did not heartily desire to sing to Miss Betty Carewe, and who did not now (craning neck over partner's shoulder) seek to fix her with his glittering eye, while he sang "Oh, believe me" most directly and conspicuously at her. For that night was the beginning of Miss Betty's famous career as the belle of Rouen, and was the date from which strangers were to hear of her as "the beautiful Miss Carewe," until "beautiful" was left off, visitors to the town being supposed to have heard at least that much before they came.

There had been much discussion of her, though only one or two had caught glimpses of her; but most of the gallants appeared to agree with Crailey Gray, who aired his opinion-in an exceedingly casual way-at the little club on Main Street. Mr. Gray held that when the daughter of a man as rich as Bob Carewe was heralded as a beauty the chances were that she would prove disappointing, and, for his part, he was not even interested enough to attend and investigate. So he was going down the river in a canoe and preferred the shyness of bass to that of a girl of eighteen just from the convent, he said. Tom Vanrevel was not present on the occasion of these remarks; and the general concurrence with Crailey may be suspected as a purely verbal one, since, when the evening came, two of the most enthusiastic dancers and love-makers of the town, the handsome Tappingham Marsh and that doughty ex-dragoon and Indian fighter, stout old General Trumble, were upon the field before the enemy appeared; that is to say, they were in the new ball-room before their host; indeed, the musicians had not arrived, and Nelson, an aged negro servitor, was engaged in lighting the house.

The crafty pair had planned this early descent with a view to monopoly by right of priority, in case the game proved worth the candle, and they were leaning effectively against the little railing about the musicians' platform when Mr. Carewe entered the room with his daughter on his arm.

She was in white, touched with countless small lavender flowers; there were rows and rows of wonderful silk and lace flounces on her skirt, and her fan hung from a rope of great pearls. Ah, hideous, blue, rough cloth of the convent, unforgotten, but laid aside forever, what a chrysalis you were!

Tappingham twitched his companion's sleeve, but the General was already posing; and neither heard the words of presentation, because Miss Betty gave each of them a quick look, then smiled upon them as they bowed; the slayers were prostrated before their prey. Never were lady-killers more instantaneously tamed and subjugated by the power of the feminine eye. Will Cummings came in soon, and, almost upon his heels, Eugene Madrillon and young Frank Chenoweth. No others appeared for half an hour, and the five gentlemen looked at one another aside, each divining his own diplomacy in his fellow's eye, and each laboriously explaining to the others his own mistake in regard to the hour designated upon Mr. Carewe's cards of invitation. This small embarrassment, however, did not prevent General Trumble and young Mr. Chenoweth from coming to high words over Miss Carewe's little, gilt-filigree "programme" of dances.

It may be not untimely to remark, also, of these five redoubtable beaux, that, during the evening, it occurred to every one of them to be glad that Crailey Gray was betrothed to Fanchon Bareaud, and that he was down on the Rouen River with a canoe, a rod and a tent. Nay, without more words, to declare the truth in regard to Crailey, they felt greater security in his absence from the field than in his betrothal. As Mr. Chenoweth, a youth as open as out-of-doors, both in countenance and mind, observed plaintively to Tappingham Marsh in a corner, while they watched Miss Betty's lavender flowers miraculously swirling through a quadrille: "Crailey, you know, well, Crailey's been engaged before!" It was not Mr. Chenoweth's habit to disguise his apprehensions, and Crailey Gray would not fish for bass forever.

The same Chenoweth was he, who, maddened by the General's triumphantly familiar way of toying with Miss Betty's fan between two dances, attempted to propose to her during the sunrise waltz. Having sung "Oh, believe me" in her ear as loudly as he could, he expressed the wish-quite as loudly-"That this waltz might last for always!"

That was the seventh time it had been said to Betty during the night, and though Mr. Chenoweth's predecessors had revealed their desires in a guise lacking this prodigious artlessness, she already possessed no novel acquaintance with the exclamation. But she made no comment; her partner's style was not a stimulant to repartee. "It would be heaven," he amplified earnestly, "it would be heaven to dance with you forever-on a desert isle where the others couldn't come!" he finished with sudden acerbity as his eye caught the General's.

He proceeded, and only the cessation of the music aided Miss Carewe in stopping the declaration before it was altogether out; and at that point Frank's own father came to her rescue, though in a fashion little saving of her confusion. The elder Chenoweth was one of the gallant and kindly Southern colony that made it natural for Rouen always to speak of Miss Carewe as "Miss Betty". He was a handsome old fellow, whose hair, long moustache and imperial were as white as he was proud of them, a Virginian with the admirable Southern fearlessness of being thought sentimental. Mounting a chair with complete dignity, he lifted a glass of wine high in the air, and, when all the other glasses had been filled, proposed the health of his young hostess. He made a speech of some length, pronouncing himself quite as hopelessly in love with his old friend's daughter as all could see his own son was; and wishing her long life and prosperity, with many allusions to fragrant bowers and the Muses.

It made Miss Betty happy, but it was rather trying, too, for she could only stand with downcast eyes before them all, trembling a little, and receiving a mixed impression of Mr. Chenoweth's remarks, catching fragments here and there: "And may the blush upon that gentle cheek, lovelier than the radiant clouds at set of sun," and "Yet the sands of the hour-glass must fall, and in

the calm and beauteous old age some day to be her lot, when fond mem'ry leads her back to view again the brilliant scene about her now, where stand 'fair women and brave men,' winecup in hand to do her honor, oh, may she wipe the silent tear", and the like. As the old gentleman finished, and before the toast was drunk, Fanchon Bareaud, kissing her hand to Betty, took up the song again; and they all joined in, lifting their glasses to the blushing and happy girl clinging to her father's arm:

"Thou wouldst still be adored as this moment thou art, Let thy loveliness fade as it will; And around the dear ruin, each wish of my heart, Would entwine itself verdantly still."

They were happy people who had not learned to be self-conscious enough to fear doing a pretty thing openly without mocking themselves for it; and it was a brave circle they made about Betty Carewe, the charming faces of the women and their fine furbelows, handsome men and tall, all so gay, so cheerily smiling, and yet so earnest in their welcome to her. No one was afraid to "let out" his voice; their song went full and strong over the waking town, and when it was finished the ball was over, too.

The veranda and the path to the gate became like tropic gardens, the fair colors of the women's dresses, ballooning in the early breeze, making the place seem strewn with giant blossoms. They all went away at the same time, those in carriages calling farewells to each other and to the little processions departing on foot in different directions to homes near by. The sound of the voices and laughter drew away, slowly died out altogether, and the silence of the street was strange and unfamiliar to Betty. She went to the hedge and watched the musicians, who were the last to go, until they passed from sight: little black toilsome figures, carrying grotesque black boxes. While she could still see them, it seemed to her that her ball was not quite over, and she wished to hold the least speck of it as long as she could; but when they had disappeared, she faced the truth with a deep sigh: the long, glorious night was finished indeed.

What she needed now was another girl: the two would have gone to Betty's room and danced it all over again until noon; but she had only her father. She found him smoking a Principe cigar upon the veranda, so she seated herself timidly, nevertheless with a hopeful glance at him, on the steps at his feet; and, as she did so, he looked down upon her with something more akin to geniality than anything she had ever seen in his eye before. It was not geniality itself, but might be third cousin to it. Indeed, in his way, he was almost proud of her, though he had no wish to show it. Since one was compelled to display the fact that one possessed a grown daughter, it was well that she be like this one.

They did not know each other very well, and she often doubted that they would ever become intimate. There was no sense of companionship for either in the other; she had been unable to break through his perfunctory, almost formal, manner with her; therefore, because he encouraged no af-fection in her, she felt none, and wondered why, since he was her father. She was more curious about him than interested, and, though she did not know it, she was prepared to judge him-should occasion arise-precisely as she would judge any other mere acquaintance. This morning, for the first time, she was conscious of a sense of warmth and gratitude toward him: the elaborate fashion in which he had introduced her to his friends made it appear possible that he liked her; for he had forgotten nothing, and to remember everything in this case was to be lavish, which has often the appearance of generosity.

And yet there had been a lack: some small thing she had missed, though she was not entirely sure that she identified it; but the lack had not been in her father or in anything he had done. Then, too, there was something so unexpectedly human and pleasant in his not going to bed at once, but remaining to smoke on the veranda at this hour, that she gave him credit for a little of her own excitement, innocently fancying that he, also, might feel the need of a companion with whom to talk over the brilliant passages of the night. And a moment ensued when she debated taking his hand. She was too soon glad that her intuition forbade the demonstration.

"It was all so beautiful, papa," she said, timidly. "I have no way to tell you how I thank you."

"You may do that," he replied, evenly, with no unkindness, with no kindness, either, in the level of his tone, "by never dancing again more than twice with one man in one evening."

"I think I should much prefer not, myself," she returned, lifting her head to face him gravely. "I believe if I cared to dance more than once with one, I should like to dance all of them with him."

Mr. Carewe frowned. "I trust that you discovered none last night whom you wished to honor with your entire programme?"

"No," she laughed, "not last night."

Her father tossed away his cigar abruptly "Is it too much to hope," he inquired, "that when you discover a gentleman with whom you desire to waltz all night, you will omit to mention the fact to him?"

There was a brief flash of her eye as she recalled her impulse to take his hand, but she immediately looked at him with such complete seriousness that he feared his irony had been thrown away.

"I'll remember not to mention it," she answered. "I'll tell him you told me not too."

"I think you may retire now," said Mr. Carewe, sharply.

She rose from the steps, went to the door, then turned at the threshold. "Were all your friends here, papa?"

"Do you think that every ninny who gabbled in my house last night was my friend?" he said, angrily. "There was one friend of mine, Mrs. Tanberry, who wasn't here, because she is out of town; but I do not imagine that you are inquiring about women. You mean: Was every unmarried male idiot who could afford a swallow-tailed coat and a clean pair of gloves cavorting about the place? Yes, miss, they were all here except two, and one of those is a fool, the other a knave."

"Can't I know the fool?" she asked, eagerly.

"I rejoice to find them so rare in your experience!" he retorted. "This one is out of town, though I have no doubt you will see him sufficiently often when he returns. His name is Crailey Gray, and he is to marry Fanchon Bareaud-if he remembers!"

"And the knave?"

"Is one!" Carewe shut his teeth with a venomous snap, and his whole face reddened suddenly. "I'll mention this fellow once-now," he said, speaking each word with emphasis. "His name is Vanrevel. You see that gate; you see the line of my property there: the man himself, as well as every other person in the town, remembers well that the last time I spoke to him, it was to tell him that if he ever set foot on ground of mine I'd shoot him down, and he knows, and they all know, I shall keep my word! Elsewhere, I told him that for the sake of public peace, I should ignore him. I do. You will see him everywhere; but it will not be difficult; no one will have the hardihood to present him to my daughter. The quarrel between us-" Mr. Carewe broke off for a moment, his hands clinching the arms of his chair, while he swallowed with difficulty, as though he choked upon some acrid bolus, and he was so strongly agitated by his own mention of his enemy that he controlled himself by a painful effort of his will. "The quarrel between us is political-and personal. You will remember."

"I shall remember," she answered in a rather frightened voice.

... It was long before she fell asleep. "I alone must hover about the gates or steal into your garden like a thief," the Incroyable had said. "The last time I spoke to him it was to tell him that if he ever set foot on ground of mine, I'd shoot him down!" had been her father's declaration. And Mr. Carewe had spoken with the most undeniable air of meaning what he said. Yet she knew that the Incroyable would come again.

Also, with hot cheeks pressed into her pillow, Miss Betty had identified the young man in the white hat, that dark person whose hand she had far too impetuously seized in both of hers. Aha! It was this gentleman who looked into people's eyes and stammered so sincerely over a pretty speech that you almost believed him, it was he who was to marry Fanchon Bareaud-"if he remembers!" No wonder Fanchon had been in such a hurry to get him away.... "If he remembers!" Such was that young man's character, was it? Miss Carewe laughed aloud to her pillow: for, was one to guess the reason, also, of his not having come to her ball? Had the poor man been commanded to be "out of town?"

Then, remembering the piquant and generous face of Fanchon, Betty clinched her fingers tightly and crushed the imp who had suggested the unworthy thought, crushed him to a wretched pulp and threw him out of the open window. He immediately sneaked in by the back way, for, in spite of her victory, she still felt a little sorry for poor Fanchon.

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