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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTogether - Part Two - Chapter 24
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Together - Part Two - Chapter 24 Post by :Jay_White Category :Long Stories Author :Robert Herrick Date :May 2012 Read :3294

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Together - Part Two - Chapter 24

PART TWO CHAPTER XXIV

Isabelle did not go to Vickers as she firmly intended to that summer. Lane offered a stubborn if silent opposition to the idea of her joining her brother,--"so long as that woman is with him." He could not understand Isabelle's passionate longing for her brother, nor the fact that his loyalty to his mistake endeared Vickers all the more to her. She divined the ashes in her brother's heart, the waste in which he dwelt, and the fact that he "had made a complete mess of life" did not subtract from her love. After all, did the others, their respectable acquaintance, often make much of living?

It was not John's opposition, however, that prevented the journey, but the alarming weakness of the Colonel. In spite of his activity and his exercise the old man had been growing perceptibly weaker, and his digestive trouble had developed until the doctors hinted at cancer. To leave the Colonel now and go to the son he had put out of his life would be mere brutality. Vickers might come back, but Mrs. Price felt that this would cause the Colonel more pain than pleasure.

During the spring Isabelle made many expeditions about the city in company with her father, who gave as an excuse for penetrating all sorts of new neighborhoods that he wished to look at his real estate, which was widely scattered. But this was merely an excuse, as Isabelle easily perceived; what he really cared about was to see the city itself, the building, the evidences of growth, of thriving.

"When your mother and I came to live in the city," he would say, laying a large white hand on his daughter's knee, "it was all swamp out this way,--we used to bring Ezra with us in the early spring and pick pussy-willows. Now look at it!" And what Isabelle saw, when she looked in the direction that the old man waved his hand, was a row of ugly brick apartment houses or little suburban cottages, or brick stores and tenements. There was nothing in the scene, for her, to inspire enthusiasm, and yet the Colonel would smile and gaze fondly out of those kindly blue eyes at the acres of human hive. It was not pride in his shrewd foresight in investing his money, so much as a generous sympathy for the growth of the city, the forthputting of a strong organism.

"I bought this tract in eighty-two," he said, pointing to a stretch of factories and grain elevators. "Had to borrow part of the money to do it. Parrott thought I was a fool, but I knew the time would come when it would be sold by the foot,--folks are born and must work and live," he mused. He made the man drive the car slowly through the rutty street while he looked keenly at the hands pouring from the mills, the elevators, the railroad yards. "Too many of those Polaks," he commented, "but they are better than niggers. It is a great country!"

In the old man's pride there was more than selfish satisfaction, more than flamboyant patriotism over his "big" country; there was an almost pathetic belief in the goodness of life, merely as life. These breeding millions, in this teeming country, were working out their destiny,--on the whole a better destiny than the world had yet seen. And the old man, who had lived his life and fought vitally, felt deep in the inner recesses of his being that all was good; the more chance for the human organism to be born and work out its day, the better. In the eyes of the woman of the newer generation this was a singular-pantheism,--incomprehensible. Unless one were born under favorable conditions, what good was there in the struggle? Mere life was not interesting.

They went, too, to see the site of the coming Exposition. The great trees were being cut down and uprooted to give space for the vast buildings. The Colonel lamented the loss of the trees. "Your mother and I used to come out here Sundays in summer," he said regretfully. "It was a great way from town then--there was only a steam road--and those oaks were grateful, after the heat. I used to lie on the ground and your mother would read to me. She had a very sweet voice, Isabelle!"

But he believed in the Exposition, even if the old trees must be sacrificed for it. He had contributed largely to the fund, and had been made a director, though the days of his leadership were over. "It is good for people to see how strong they are," he said. "These fairs are our Olympic games!"

* * * * *

At first he did not wish to leave the city, which was part of his bone and flesh; but as the summer drew on and he was unable to endure the motor his thoughts turned back to his Connecticut hills, to the old farm and the woods and the fields. Something deeper than all was calling to him to return to the land that was first in his blood. So they carried him--now a bony simulacrum of his vigorous self--to the old house at Grafton. For a few weeks he lay wrapped in rugs on the veranda, his eyes on Dog Mountain. At first he liked to talk with the farm-hands, who slouched past the veranda. But more and more his spirit withdrew even from this peaceful scene of his activity, and at last he died, as one who has no more concern about life....

To Isabelle, who had been with him constantly these last fading months, there was much that remained for a long time inexplicable in her father's attitude towards life. He seemed to regret nothing, not even the death of his elder son, nor his estrangement from Vickers, and he had little of the old man's pessimism. There were certain modern manifestations that she knew he disliked; but he seemed to have a fine tolerance even for them, as being of no special concern to him. He had lived his life, such as it was, without swerving, without doubts or hesitations, which beset the younger generation, and now that it was over he had neither regret nor desire to grasp more.

When the Colonel's will was opened, it caused surprise not only in his family, but in the city where he had lived. It was long talked about. In the first place his estate was much larger than even those nearest him had supposed; it mounted upwards from eight millions. The will apparently had been most carefully considered, largely rewritten after the departure of Vickers. His son was not mentioned in the document. Nor were there the large bequests, at least outright, to charities that had been expected of so public spirited a man. The will was a document in the trust field. To sum it all up, it seemed as if the old man had little faith in the immediate generation, even in his daughter and her successful husband. For he left Isabelle only the farm at Grafton and a few hundred thousand dollars. To be sure, after his wife's death the bulk of the estate would be held in trust for her child, or children, should her marriage prove more fruitful in the future. Failing heirs, he willed that the bulk of the estate should go to certain specified charities,--an Old Man's Home, The Home for Crippled Children, etc. And it was arranged that the business should be continued under the direction of the trustees. The name of Parrott and Price should still stand for another generation!

"A singular will!" Lane, who was one of the trustees, said to his wife.

Isabelle was more hurt than she cared to have known. She had always supposed that some day she would be a rich woman in her own right. But it was the silent comment, the mark of disapproval, that she read in the lines of the will which hurt. The Colonel had never criticised, never chided her; but she had felt at times that he did not like the kind of life she had elected to lead latterly.

"He thought we were extravagant, probably," she replied to her husband.

"I can't see why,--we never went to him for help!"

She knew that was not exactly the reason,--extravagance. The old man did not like the modern spirit--at least the spirit of so many of her friends--of spending for themselves. The Colonel did not trust the present generation; he preferred that his money should wait until possibly the passing of the years had brought wisdom.

"A selfish will!" the public said.

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