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   Chapter 16 “Those Endearing Young Charms”

The Two Vanrevels By Booth Tarkington Characters: 11337

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


It is a matter not of notoriety but of the happiest celebrity that Mrs. Tanberry danced that night, and not only that she danced, but that she waltzed. To the lot of Tappingham Marsh (whom she pronounced the most wheedlmg vagabond, next to Crailey Gray, of her acquaintance) it fell to persuade her; and, after a quadrille with the elder Chenoweth, she was with Tappingham. More extraordinary to relate, she danced down both her partner and music. Thereupon did Mr. Bareaud, stung with envy, dare emulation and essay a schottische with Miss Trixie Chenoweth, performing marvelously well for many delectable turns before he unfortunately fell down. It was a night when a sculptured god would have danced on his pedestal: June, but not over-warm, balm in the air and rose leaves on the breeze; and even Minerva's great heels might have marked the time that orchestra kept. Be sure they waltzed again to "Those Endearing Young Charms ":

"Oh, the heart that has truly loved never forgets, But as truly loves on to the close: as the sunflower turns on her god when he sets, The same look that she gave when he rose."

Three of the volunteers were resplendent in their regimentals: Mr. Marsh (who had been elected captain of the new company to succeed Vanrevel), and Will Cummings and Jean Madrillon, the lieutenants. This glory was confined to the officers, who had ordered their uniforms at home, for the privates and non-commissioned officers were to receive theirs at the State rendezvous. However, although this gala adornment was limited to the three gentlemen mentioned, their appearance added "an indescribable air of splendor and pathos to the occasion," to quote Mr. Cummings once more. A fourth citizen of the town who might have seized upon this opportunity to display himself as a soldier neglected to take advantage of it and stole in quietly, toward the last, in his ordinary attire, leaving his major's uniform folded on a chair in his own room. The flag was to be presented to the volunteers at the close of the evening, and Tom came for that-so he claimed to his accusing soul.

He entered unobserved and made his way, keeping close to the wall, to where Mrs. Bareaud sat, taking a chair at her side; but Robert Carewe, glancing thither by chance, saw him, and changed countenance for an instant. Mr. Carewe composed his features swiftly, excused himself with elaborate courtesy from Miss Chenoweth, with whom he was talking, and crossed the room to a corner near his enemy. Presently, as the music ceased, the volunteers were bidden to come forward, whereupon Tom left Mrs. Bareaud and began to work his way down the room. Groups were forming and breaking up in the general movement of the crowd, and the dissolving of one brought him face to face with Elizabeth Carewe, who was moving slowly in the opposite direction, a small flock of suitors in her train.

The confrontation came so suddenly and so unexpectedly that, before either was aware, they looked squarely into each other's eyes, full and straight, and both stopped instantly as though transfixed, Miss Betty leaving a sentence forever half-complete. There was a fierce, short vocal sound from the crowd behind Vanrevel; but no one noticed Mr. Carewe; and then Tom bowed gravely, as in apology for blocking the way, and passed on.

Miss Betty began to talk again, much at random, with a vivacity too greatly exaggerated to be genuine, while the high color went from her cheeks and left her pale. Nothing could have enraged her more with herself than the consciousness, now suddenly strong within her, that the encounter had a perceptible effect upon her. What power had this man to make her manner strained and mechanical? What right had his eyes always to stir her as they did? It was not he for whom she had spent an hour over her hair; not he for whom she had driven her poor handmaiden away in tears: that was for one who had not come, one great in heart and goodness, one of a pure and sacrificial life who deserved all she could give, and for whose sake she had honored herself in trying to look as pretty as she could. He had not come; and that hurt her a little, but she felt his generosity, believing that his motive was to spare her, since she could not speak to him in Mr Carewe's presence without open and public rupture with her father. Well, she was almost ready for that, seeing how little of a father hers was! Ah! that other should have come, if only to stand between her and this tall hypocrite whose dark glance had such strength to disturb her. What lies that gaze contained, all in the one flash!-the strange pretence of comprehending her gently but completely, a sad compassion, too, and with it a look of farewell, seeming to say: "Once more I have come for this-and just, 'Good-by!" For she knew that he was going with the others, going perhaps forever, only the day after tomorrow--then she would see him no more and be free of him. Let the day after tomorrow come soon! Miss Betty hated herself for understanding the adieu, and hated herself more because she could not be sure that, in the startled moment of meeting before she collected herself, she had let it go unanswered.

She had done more than that: without knowing it she had bent her head to his bow, and Mr. Carewe had seen both the salutation and the look.

The young men were gathered near the orchestra, and, to the hilarious strains of "Yankee Doodle," the flag they were to receive for their regiment was borne down the room by the sisters and sweethearts who had made it, all of whom were there, except Fanchon Bareaud. Crailey had persuaded her to surrender the flag for the sake of spe

nding this evening-next to his last in Rouen-at home alone with him.

The elder Chenoweth made the speech of presentation, that is, he made part of it before he broke down, for his son stood in the ranks of the devoted band. Until this incident occurred, all had gone trippingly, for everyone had tried to put the day after to-morrow from his mind. Perhaps there might not have been so many tears even now, if the young men had not stood together so smilingly to receive their gift; it was seeing them so gay and confident, so strong in their youth and so unselfish of purpose; it was this, and the feeling that all of them must suffer and some of them die before they came back. So that when Mr. Chenoweth, choking in his loftiest flight, came to a full stop, and without disguise buried his face in his handkerchief, Mrs. Tanberry, the apostle of gayety, openly sobbed. Chenoweth, without more ado, carried the flag over to Tappingham Marsh, whom Vanrevel directed to receive it, and Tappingham thanked the donors without many words, because there were not then many at his command. .

Miss Carewe bad been chosen to sing "The Star Spangled Banner," and she stepped out a little from the crowd to face the young men as the orchestra sounded the first chord. She sang in a full, clear voice, but when the volunteers saw that, as she sang, the tears were streaming down her cheeks in spite of the brave voice, they began to choke with the others. If Miss Betty found them worth weeping for, they could afford to cry a little for themselves. Yet they joined the chorus nobly, and raised the roof with the ringing song, sending the flamboyant, proud old words thunderously to heaven.

That was not the last song of the night. General Trumble and Mr. Chenoweth had invited their young friends to attend, after the ball, a collation which they chose to call a supper, but which, to accord with the hour, might more aptly have been designated a breakfast. To afford a private retreat for the scene of this celebration, they had borrowed the offices of Gray and Vanrevel, and Crailey hospitably announced that any guest was welcome to stay for a year or two, since, probably, neither of the firm would have need of an office for at least that length of time. Nine men gathered about the table which replaced Tom's work-a-day old desk: the two Chenoweths, Eugene Madrillon, Marsh, Jefferson Bareaud, the stout General, Tom Vanrevel, Crailey, and Will Cummings, the editor coming in a little late, but rubbing his hands cheerfully over what he declared was to be the last column from his pen to rear its length on the Journal's front page for many a long day-a description of the presentation of the flag, a bit of prose which he considered almost equal to his report of the warehouse fire.

This convivial party made merry and tried to forget that most of them had "been mighty teary," as Marsh said, an hour earlier; while Mr. Chenoweth sat with his hand on his son's shoulder, unconsciously most of the time, apologetically removing, it when he observed it. Many were the witticisms concerning the difference in rank hence forth to be observed between the young men, as Tom was now a major, Marsh a captain, Will Cummings a second lieutenant, and the rest mere privates, except Crailey, who was a corporal. Nevertheless, though the board was festive, it was somewhat subdued and absent until they came to the toasts.

It was Tappingham who proposed Miss Betty Carewe. "I know Tom Vanrevel will understand-nay, I know he's man enough to join us," said Marsh as he rose. "Why shouldn't I say that we may hail ourselves as patriots, indeed, since at the call of our country we depart from the town which is this lady's home, and at the trumpet's sound resign the gracious blessing of seeing her day by day, and why shouldn't we admit loyally and openly that it is her image alone which shines in the hearts of most of us here?"

And no man arose to contradict that speech, which appears to have rung true, seeing that four of those present had proposed to her (again) that same evening. "So I give you," cried Tappingham, gallantly, "the health of Miss Betty Carewe, the loveliest rose of our bouquet! May she remember us when we come home!"

They rose and drank it with a shout. But Tom Vanrevel, not setting down his cup, went to the window and threw wide the shutters, letting in a ruddy shaft of the morning sun, so that as he stood in the strong glow he looked like a man carved out of red gold. He lifted his glass, not toward the table and his companions, while they stared at him, surprised, but toward the locusts of Carewe Street.

"To Miss Betty Carewe," he said, "the finest flower of them all! May she remember those who never come home!"

And, without pausing, he lifted his rich baritone in an old song that had been vastly popular with the young men of Rouen ever since the night of Miss Betty's debut; they had hummed it as they went about their daily work, they had whistled it on the streets; they had drifted, into dreams at night with the sound of it still chiming in their ears; and now, with one accord, as they stood gathered together for the last time in Rouen, they joined Tom Vanrevel and sang it again. And the eyes of Crailey Gray rested very gently upon his best friend as they sang:

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

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