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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Two Vanrevels - Chapter 14. The Firm Of Gray And Vanrevel
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The Two Vanrevels - Chapter 14. The Firm Of Gray And Vanrevel Post by :peaceful Category :Long Stories Author :Booth Tarkington Date :May 2012 Read :1333

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The Two Vanrevels - Chapter 14. The Firm Of Gray And Vanrevel

CHAPTER XIV. The Firm of Gray and Vanrevel

For the first time it was Crailey who sat waiting for Tom to come home. In a chair drawn to his partner's desk in the dusty office, he half-reclined, arms on the desk, his chin on his clenched fists. To redeem the gloom he had lit a single candle, which painted him dimly against the complete darkness of his own shadow, like a very old portrait whose background time has solidified into shapeless browns; the portrait of a fair-haired gentleman, the cavalier, or the Marquis, one might have said at first glance; not describing it immediately as that of a poet, for there was no mark of art upon Crailey, not even in his hair, for they all wore it rather long then. Yet there was a mark upon him, never more vivid than as he sat waiting in the loneliness of that night for Tom Vanrevel; though what the mark was and what its significance might have been puzzling to define. Perhaps, after all, Fanchon Bareaud had described it best when she told Crailey one day, with a sudden hint of apprehensive tears, that he had a "look of fate."

Tom took his own time in coming; he had stayed at the club to go over his lists--so he had told Crailey--with the General and old Bareaud. His company was almost complete, and Crailey had been the first to volunteer, to the dumfounding of Trumble, who had proceeded to drink his health again and again. But the lists could not detain Tom two hours, Crailey knew, and it was two hours since the new volunteers had sung "The Star Spangled Banner" over the last of the punch, and had left the club to Tom and the two old men. Only once or twice in that time had Crailey shifted his position, or altered the direction of his set gaze at nothing. But at last he rose, went to the window and, leaning far out, looked down the street toward the little clubhouse. Its lights were extinguished and all was dark up and down the street. Abruptly Crailey went back to the desk and blew out the candle, after which he sat down again in the same position. Twenty minutes later he heard Tom's step on the stair, coming up very softly. Crailey waited in silence until his partner reached the landing, then relit the candle.

"Tom," he called. "Come in, please, I've been waiting for you."

There was a pause before Tom answered from the hall:

"I'm very tired, Crailey. I think I'll go up to bed."

"No," said Crailey, "come in."

The door was already open, but Tom turned toward it reluctantly. He stopped at the threshold and the two looked at each other.

"I thought you wouldn't come as long as you believed I was up," said Crailey, "so I blew out the light. I'm sorry I kept you outside so long."

"Crailey, I'm going away to-morrow," the other began. "I am to go over and see the Governor and offer him this company, and to-night I need sleep, so please--"

"No," interrupted Crailey quietly, "I want to know what you're going to do."

"To do about what?"

"About me."

"Oh!" Tom's eyes fell at once from his friend's face and rested upon the floor. Slowly he walked to the desk and stood in embarrassed contemplation of the littered books and papers, while the other waited.

"I think it's best for you to tell me," said Crailey.

"You think so?" Tom's embarrassment increased visibly, and there was mingled with it an odd appearance of apprehension, probably to relieve which he very deliberately took two long cheroots from his pocket, laid one on the desk for Crailey and lit the other himself, with extreme carefulness, at the candle. After this ceremonial he dragged a chair to the window, tilted back in it with his feet on the low sill, his back to the thin light and his friend, and said in a slow, gentle tone: "Well, Crailey?"

"I suppose you mean that I ought to offer my explanation first," said the other, still standing. "Well, there isn't any." He did not speak doggedly or sullenly, as one in fault, but more with the air of a man curiously ready to throw all possible light upon a cloudy phenomenon. "It's very simple--all that I know about it. I went there first on the evening of the Madrillon masquerade and played a little comedy for her, so that some of my theatrical allusions--they weren't very illuminating!--to my engagement to Fanchon, made her believe I was Vanrevel when her father told her about the pair of us. I discovered that the night his warehouses burned--and I saw something more, because I can't help seeing such things: that yours was just the character to appeal to a young girl fresh from the convent and full of honesty and fine dreams and fire. Nobody could arrange a more fatal fascination for a girl of nineteen than to have a deadly quarrel with her father. And that's especially true when the father's like that mad brute of a Bob Carewe! Then, too, you're more or less the town model of virtue and popular hero, in spite of the Abolitionism, just as I am the town scamp. So I let it go on, and played a little at being you, saying the things that you only think--that was all. It isn't strange that it's lasted until now, not more than three weeks, after all. She's only seen you four or five times, and me not much oftener. No one speaks of you to her, and I've kept out of sight when others were about. Mrs. Tanberry is her only close friend, and, naturally, wouldn't be apt to mention that you are dark and I am fair, or to describe us personally, any more than you and I would mention the general appearance of people we both meet about town. But you needn't tell me that it can't last much longer. Some petty, unexpected trifle will turn up, of course. All that I want to know is what you mean to do."

"To do?" repeated Tom softly, and blew a long scarf of smoke out of the window.

"Ah!" Crailey's voice grew sharp and loud. "There are many things you needn't tell me! You need not tell me what I've done to you--nor what you think of me! You need not tell me that you have others to consider, that you have Miss Carewe to think of. Don't you suppose I know that? And you need not tell me that you have a duty to Fanchon--"

"Yes," Tom broke in, his tone not quite steady. "Yes, I've thought of that."

"Well?"

"Have you--did you--" he hesitated, but Crailey understood immediately.

"No; I haven't seen her again."

"But you--"

"Yes--I wrote. I answered the letter."

"As-"

"Yes; I signed your name. I told you that I had just let things go on," Crailey answered, with an impatient movement of his hands. "What are you going to do?"

"I'm going over to see the Governor in the morning. I'll be away two or three days, I imagine."

"Vanrevel!" exclaimed Crailey hotly, "Will you give me an answer and not beat about the bush any longer? Or do you mean that you refuse to answer?"

Tom dropped his cigar upon the brick window-ledge with an abysmal sigh. "Oh, no, it isn't that," he answered mildly "I've been thinking it all over for three days in the country, and when I got back tonight I found that I had come to a decision without knowing it, and that I had come to it even before I started; my leaving the letter for you proved it. It's a little like this Mexican war, a mixed-up problem and only one thing clear. A few schemers have led the country into it to increase the slave-power and make us forget that we threatened England when we couldn't carry out the threat. And yet, if you look at it broadly, these are the smaller things and they do not last. The means by which the country grows may be wrong, but its growth is right; it is only destiny, working out through lies and blood, but the end will be good. It is bound to happen and you can't stop it. I believe the men who make this war for their own uses will suffer in hell-fire for it; but it is made, and there's only one thing I can see as the thing for me to do. They've called me every name on earth--and the same with you, too, Crailey--because I'm an Abolitionist, but now, whether the country has sinned or not, a good many thousand men have got to do the bleeding for her, and I want to be one of them. That's the one thing that is plain to me."

"Yes," returned Crailey. "You know I'm with you; and I think you're always right. Yes; we'll all be on the way in a fortnight or so. Do you mean you won't quarrel with me because of that? Do you mean it would be a poor time now, when we're all going out to take our chances together?"

"Quarrel with you!" Tom rose and came to the desk, looking across it at his friend. "Did you think I might do that?"

"Yes--I thought so."

"Crailey!" And now Tom's expression showed desperation; it was that of a man whose apprehensions have culminated and who is forced to face a crisis long expected, long averted, but imminent at last. His eyes fell from Crailey's clear gaze and his hand fidgeted among the papers on the desk.

"No," he began with a painful lameness and hesitation. "I did not mean it--no; I meant, that, in the same way, only one thing in this other--this other affair that seems so confused and is such a problem--only one thing has grown clear. It doesn't seem to me that--that--" here he drew a deep breath, before he went on with increasing nervousness--"that if you like a man and have lived with him a good many years; that is to say, if you're really much of a friend to him, I don't believe you sit on a high seat and judge him. Judging, and all that, haven't much part in it. And it seems to me that you've got yourself into a pretty bad mix-up, Crailey."

"Yes," said Crailey. "It's pretty bad."

"Well," Tom looked up now, with an almost tremulous smile, "I believe that is about all I can make of it. Do you think it's the part of your best friend to expose you? It seems to me that if there ever was a time when I ought to stand by you, it's now."

There was a silence while they looked at each other across the desk in the faint light. Tom's eye fell again as Crailey opened his lips.

"And in spite of everything," Crailey said breathlessly, "you mean that you won't tell?"

"How could I, Crailey?" said Tom Vanrevel as he turned away.

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