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Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 11 Post by :esoteric Category :Long Stories Author :Frank Norris Date :May 2012 Read :2358

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Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 11

Chapter Eleven

The following days as they began to pass were miserable. Vandover had never known until now how much he loved his father, how large a place he had filled in his life. He felt horribly alone now, and a veritable feminine weakness overcame him, a crying need to be loved as his father had loved him, and also to love some one as he himself had loved his father. Worst of all, however, was his loneliness. He could think of no one who cared in the least for him; the very thought of Turner Ravis or young Haight wrought in him an expression of scorn. He was sure that he was nothing to them, though they were the ones whom he considered his best friends.

Another cause of misery was the fact that his father's death in leaving him alone had also thrown him upon his own resources. Now he would have to shoulder responsibilities which hitherto his father had assumed, and decide questions which until now his father had answered.

However, he felt that his father's death had sobered him as nothing else, not even Ida's suicide, had done. The time was come at length for him to take life seriously. He would settle down now to work at his art. He would go to Paris as his father had wished, and devote himself earnestly to painting. Yes, the time was come for him to steady himself, and give over the vicious life into which he had been drifting.

But it was not long before Vandover had become accustomed to his father's death, and had again rearranged himself to suit the new environment which it had occasioned. He wondered at himself because of the quickness with which he had recovered from this grief, just as before he had marvelled at the ease with which he had forgotten Ida's death. Could it be true, then, that nothing affected him very deeply? Was his nature shallow?

However, he was wrong in this respect; his nature was not shallow. It had merely become deteriorated.

Two days after his father's death Vandover went into the Old Gentleman's room to get a certain high-backed chair which had been moved there from his own room during the confusion of the funeral, and which, pending the arrival of the trestles, had been used to support the coffin.

As he was carrying it back his eye fell upon a little heap of objects carefully set down upon the bureau. They were the contents of the Old Gentleman's pockets that the undertaker had removed when the body was dressed for burial.

Vandover turned them over, sadly interested in them. There was the watch, some old business letters and envelopes covered with memoranda, his fountain-pen, a couple of cigars, a bank-book, a small amount of change, his pen-knife, and one or two tablets of chewing-gum.

Vandover thrust the pen and the knife into his own pocket. The bank-book, letters, and change he laid away in his father's desk, but the cigars and the tablets of gum, together with the crumpled pocket-handkerchief that he found on another part of the dressing-case, he put into the Old Gentleman's hat, which he had hidden on the top shelf of his clothes closet. The watch he hung upon a little brass thermometer that always stood on his centre table. He even wound up the watch with the resolve never to let it run down so long as he should live.

The keys, however, disturbed him, and he kept changing them from one hand to the other, looking at them very thoughtfully. They suggested to him the inquiry as to whether or no his father had made a will, and how much money he, Vandover, could now command. One of the keys was a long brass key. Vandover knew that this unlocked a little iron box that from time out of mind had been screwed upon the lower shelf of the clothes closet in his father's room. It was in this box that the Old Gentleman kept his ready money and a few important papers.

For a long time Vandover stood undecided, changing the keys about from one hand to the other, hesitating before opening this iron box; he could not tell why. By and by, however, he went softly into his father's room, and into the clothes closet near the head of the bed. Holding the key toward the lock, he paused listening; it was impossible to rid his mind of the idea that he was doing something criminal. He shook himself, smiling at the fancy, assuring himself of the honesty of the thing, yet opening the box stealthily, holding the key firmly in order that it might not spring back with a loud click, looking over his shoulder the while and breathing short through his nose.

The first thing that he saw inside was a loaded revolver, the sudden view of which sent a little qualm through the pit of his stomach. He took it out gingerly, holding it at arm's length, throwing open the cylinder and spilling out the cartridges on the bed, very careful to let none of them fall on the floor lest they should explode.

Next he drew out the familiar little canvas sack. In it were twenty-dollar gold-pieces, the coin that used to be "Good for the Masses." Behind that was about thirty dollars in two rolls, and last of all in an old, oblong tin cracker-box a great bundle of papers. A list of these papers was pasted on one end of the box. They comprised deeds, titles, insurance policies, tax receipts, mortgages, and all the papers relating to the property. Besides these there was the will.

He took out this box, laying it on the shelf beside him. He was closing the small iron safe again very quietly when all at once, before he could think of what he was doing, he ran his hand into the mouth of the canvas sack, furtively, slyly, snatched one of the heavy round coins, and thrust it into his vest pocket, looking all about him, listening intently, saying to himself with a nervous laugh, "Well, isn't it mine anyway?"

In spite of himself he could not help feeling a joy in the possession of this money as if of some treasure-trove dug up on an abandoned shore. He even began to plan vaguely how he should spend it.

However, he could not bring himself to open any of the papers, but sent them instead to a lawyer, whom he knew his father had often consulted. A few days later he received a typewritten letter asking him to call at his earliest convenience.

It was at his residence and not at his office that Vandover saw the lawyer, as the latter was not well at the time and kept to his bed. However, he was not so sick but that his doctor allowed him to transact at least some of his business. Vandover found him in his room, a huge apartment, one side entirely taken up by book-shelves filled with works of fiction. The walls were covered with rough stone-blue paper, forming an admirable background to small plaster casts of Assyrian _bas-reliefs and large photogravures of Renaissance portraits. Underneath an enormous baize-covered table in the centre of the room were green cloth bags filled apparently with books, padlocked tin chests, and green pasteboard deed-boxes. The lawyer was sitting up in bed, wearing his dressing-gown and occasionally drinking hot water from a glass. He was a thin, small man, middle-aged, with a very round head and a small pointed beard.

"How do you do, Mr. Vandover?" he said, very pleasantly as Vandover passed by the servant holding open the door and came in.

"How do you do, Mr. Field?" answered Vandover, shaking his hand. "Well, I'm sorry to see you like this."

"Yes," answered the lawyer, "I'm--I have trouble with my digestion sometimes, more annoying than dangerous, I suppose. Take a chair, won't you? You can find a place for your hat and coat right on the table there. Well," he added, settling back on the pillows and looking at Vandover pleasantly, "I think you've grown thinner since the last time I saw you, haven't you?"

"Yes," answered Vandover grimly, "I guess I have."

"Yes, yes, I suppose so, of course," responded the lawyer with a vague air of apology and sympathy. "You have had a trying time of it lately, taking it by and large. I was _very painfully shocked to hear of your father's death. I had met him at lunch hardly a week before; he was a far heartier man than I was. Eat? You should have seen--splendid appetite. He spoke at length of you, I remember; told me you expected to go abroad soon to study painting; in fact, I believe he was to go to Paris with you. It was very sad and very sudden. But you know we've all been expecting--been fearing--that for some time."

They both were silent for a moment, the lawyer looking absently at the foot-board of the bed, nodding his head slowly from time to time, repeating, "Yes, sir--yes, sir." Suddenly he exclaimed, "Well--now, let's see." He cleared his throat, coming back to himself again, and continued in a very businesslike and systematic tone:

"I have looked over your father's papers, Mr. Vandover, as you requested me to, and I have taken the liberty of sending for you to let you know exactly how you stand."

"That's the idea, sir," said Vandover, very attentive, drawing up his chair.

Mr. Field took a great package of oblong papers from the small table that stood at the head of his bed, and looked them over, adjusting his eyeglasses. "Well, now, suppose we take up the real property first," he continued, drawing out three or four of these papers and unfolding them. "All of your father's money was invested in what we call 'improved realty.'"

He talked for something over an hour, occasionally stopping to answer a question of Vandover's, or interrupting himself to ask him if he understood. At the end it amounted to this:

The bulk of the estate was residence property in distant quarters of the city. Some twenty-six houses, very cheaply built, each, on an average, renting for twenty-eight dollars. When all of these were rented, the gross monthly income was seven hundred and twenty-eight dollars. At this time, however, six were vacant, bringing down the gross receipts per month to five hundred and sixty dollars. The expenses, which included water, commissions for collecting, repairs, taxes, interest on insurance, etc., when expressed in the terms of a monthly average, amounted to one hundred and eighty-six dollars.

"Well, now, let's see," said Vandover, figuring on his cuff, "one hundred and eighty-six from five hundred and sixty leaves me a net monthly income of three hundred and eighty-four--no, seventy-four. Three hundred and seventy-four dollars."

The lawyer shook his head while he drank another glass of hot water:

"You see," he said, wiping his moustache in the hollow of his palm, "you see, we haven't figured on the mortgages yet."

"Mortgages?" echoed Vandover.

"Yes," answered Mr. Field, "when I spoke of expenses I was basing them upon the monthly statements of Adams & Brunt, your father's agents. But they never looked after the mortgages. Your father acted directly with the banks in that matter. I find that there are mortgages that cover the entire property, even the homestead. They are for 6-1/2 and 7 per cent. In some cases there are two mortgages on the same piece of property."

"Well," said Vandover.

"Well," answered the lawyer, "the interest on these foots up to about two hundred and ninety dollars a month."

Vandover made another hasty calculation on his cuff, and leaned back in his chair staring at the lawyer, saying:

"Why, that leaves eighty-four dollars a month, net."

"Yes," assented Field. "I made it that, too."

"Why, the governor used to allow _me fifty a month," returned Vandover, "just for pocket money."

"I'm afraid you mustn't expect anything like that, now, Mr. Vandover," replied Field, smiling. "You see, when your father was alive and pursuing his profession, he made a comfortable income besides that which he derived from his realty. His law business I consider to have been excellent when you take everything into consideration. He often made five hundred dollars a month at it. Such are the figures his papers show. He could make you a handsome allowance while he was alive, but all that is stopped now!"

"Well, but didn't he--didn't he leave any money, any--any--any lump sum?" inquired Vandover incredulously.

"There was his bank account," answered the other. "You see, he invested most of his savings in this same realty, and since he stopped building he seems to have lived right up to his income."

"But eighty-four dollars!" repeated Vandover; "why, look at the house on California Street where we live. It costs that much to run it, the servants and all."

"Here's your father's domestic-account book," answered Field, taking it up and turning the leaves. "One hundred and seventy-five dollars a month were the average running expenses."

_"One hundred and seventy-five!" shouted Vandover, feeling suddenly as if the ground were opening under him. "Why, great heavens! Mr. Field, where am I going to get--what am I going to _do_?"

Mr. Field smiled a little. "Well," he said, "you must make up your mind to live more modestly."

"Modestly?" exclaimed Vandover, scornfully.

"You'll have to rent the house and take rooms."

Vandover gave a gasp of relief.

"I hadn't thought of that," he answered, subsiding at once. "How much would it bring--the house?"

The lawyer hesitated as to this. "That I could hardly tell you definitely," he answered, shaking his head. "Adams & Brunt could give you more exact figures. In fact, I would suggest that you put it into their hands. California near Franklin, isn't it? Yes; the neighbourhood isn't what it used to be, you know. Every one wants to live out on Pacific Heights now. Double house? Yes, well--with the furniture, I suppose--oh, I don't know--say, a hundred and fifty. But, you know, my estimate is only guesswork. Brunt is the man you want to see."

"Well," answered Vandover, solaced, "that makes--two thirty-four; that's more like it. But," he added, hastily, "you say the homestead is mortgaged as well; how about the interest on that?"

"You needn't be bothered about that," answered Mr. Field. "The interest on _that mortgage is included in the two hundred and ninety that I spoke of, and the insurance interest on the homestead is included in Adams & Brunt's statement. That was on the whole estate _with the homestead, you understand? But there is another thing you must look out for. Most of the mortgages are for one year, and every time they are renewed there is an expense of between forty and fifty dollars."

"Yes, I see," assented Vandover.

"Now," resumed the lawyer, "here is your father's bank account. He had in the First National to his credit between nine and ten thousand dollars; nine thousand seven hundred and ninety, to be exact. His professional account book shows that there is now due him in bills and notes eight hundred and thirty dollars; on the debit side he owes in all nine hundred; the difference, you see, is seventy. Nine thousand seven hundred and ninety less seventy leaves a balance of nine thousand seven hundred and twenty. All clear?" he asked, interrupting himself. Vandover nodded and the other continued:

"Now, your father left a will; here it is. I drew it for him a year ago last September. He has given fifteen hundred dollars to some cousin in the southern part of the state, and six hundred to a few charities here in the city. The remainder, seven thousand five hundred and twenty, and all the rest of the estate is left to you with the wish that you pursue your art studies abroad. Brunt, of Adams & Brunt, and myself are appointed executors. So now, that is just how you stand as far as I can see: seventy-five hundred dollars in ready money and, if we suppose you rent the California Street house, income property that nets you two hundred and thirty-four a month. The will will have to be probated some time next month and you will have to appear; however, I shall let you know about that in time."

During the next two weeks Vandover was plunged into the affairs of business for the first time in his life. It interested and amused him, and he felt a certain self-importance in handling large sums of money, and in figuring interest, rents, and percentages. Three days after his interview with Mr. Field the sale of his father's office effects took place, and the consequent five hundred dollars Vandover turned over into the hands of the lawyer, who was already looking for an investment for the eighty-nine hundred. This matter had given Vandover considerable anxiety.

"I don't want anything fancy," he said to Field. "No big per cents. and bigger risks. If I've got to live economically I want something that's secure. A good solid investment, don't you know, with a fair interest; that's what I'm looking for."

"Yes," answered the lawyer grimly; "I've been looking for that myself ever since I was your age."

They both laughed, and the lawyer added: "Has Brunt found a tenant for the California Street house yet? No? Well, perhaps you had better keep that five hundred for your running expenses until he does. It will probably take some time."

"All right," answered Vandover. "There were a couple of women up to look at the place yesterday, but they wanted to use it for a boarding-house. I won't hear to that. Brunt says they would ruin it, dead sure."

"I suppose you are looking around, yourself, for rooms?" inquired Mr. Field. "Have you found anything to suit you?"

"No," answered Vandover, "I have not. I don't like the idea of living in one of the downtown hotels, and as far as I have looked, the uptown flats are rather steep. However, I haven't gone around very much as yet. I've been so busy. Oh, how about the paving of the street in front of those Bush Street houses of mine? Brunt says that the supervisors have passed a resolution of intention to that effect. Now shall I let the city contractor have the job or give it to Brunt's man?"

"Better let the city people do it," advised Field. "They may charge more, but you needn't pay _them for a long time."

By the end of three weeks Vandover had sickened of the whole thing. The novelty was gone, and business affairs no longer amused him. Besides this, he was anxious to settle down in some comfortable rooms. It was now the middle of winter and he had determined that it was not the season for a European trip. He would wait until the summer before going to Paris.

Little by little Vandover turned over the supervision and management of his affairs and his property to Adams & Brunt, declaring that he could not afford to be bothered with them any longer. This course was much more expensive and by no means so satisfactory from a business point of view, but Vandover felt as though the loss in money was more than offset by his freedom from annoyance and responsibility.

He was eager to get settled. The idea of taking rooms that should be all his own and that he could fit up to suit his taste attracted him immensely. Already he saw himself installed in charming bachelor's apartments, the walls covered with rough stone-blue paper forming an admirable background for small plaster casts of Assyrian _bas-reliefs and photogravures of Velasquez portraits. There would be a pipe-rack over the mantelpiece, and a window-seat with a corduroy cushion such as he had had in his room in Matthew's.

Very slowly his father's affairs were settled, and by degrees the estate began to adjust itself to the new grooves in which it was to run. By the middle of December everything was beginning to go smoothly, and the day before Christmas Mr. Field announced to Vandover that he had invested his eighty-nine hundred in registered U.S. 4 per cents. They had had several long talks concerning this sum of money, and in the end had concluded that it would be better to invest it in some such fashion rather than to take up any of the mortgages that were on the houses.

During the first weeks of the new year the house on California Street was rented for one hundred and twenty-five dollars to an English gentleman, the president of a fruit syndicate in the southern part of the state. There were but three in the family, and though the rent was below that which Vandover had desired, Brunt advised him to close the transaction at once, as they were desirable tenants and would probably stay in the house a long time.

On the last evening which he was to spend in his home, Vandover cast up his accounts and made out a schedule as to his monthly income.

Rent from realty, net average $ 84.00
Rent from homestead property on California Street 125.00
Interest on U.S. bonds, 4 per cent. 23.00
Total $232.00
In small iron safe $170.00
Received from sale of office effects $500.00
Expenses, outstanding bills, lawyer's fees,
undertaker's bill, expenses for collecting, etc 587.00
Balance, January 16th $83.00

Then with a shrug of the shoulders he dismissed the whole burdensome business from his mind. Brunt would manage his property, sending him regularly the monthly statement in order to keep him informed. The English gentleman of the fruit syndicate would add his hundred and twenty-five, and the 4 per cents., faithfully brooding over his eighty-nine hundred in the dark of the safety deposit drawer, would bring forth their little quota of twenty-three with absolute certainty. Two thirty-two a month. Yes, he was comfortably fixed and was free now to do exactly as he pleased.

His first object now was to settle down for the winter in some pleasant rooms. He had decided that he would look for a suite of three--a bedroom, studio, and sitting-room. The bedroom he was not particular about, the studio he hoped would have plenty of light from the north, but the sitting-room _must be sunny and overlook the street, else what would be the use of a window-seat? As to the neighbourhood, he thought he would prefer Sutter Street anywhere between Leavenworth and Powell.

In the downtown part this street was entirely given over to business houses; in the far, uptown quarter it was lined with residences; but between these two undesirable extremes was an intermediate district where the residences had given place to flats, and the business blocks to occasional stores. It was a neighbourhood affected by doctors, dentists, and reputable music-teachers; drug stores occupied many of the corners, here and there a fine residence still withstood the advance of business, there were a number of great apartment houses, and even one or two club buildings.

It was a gay locality, not too noisy, not too quiet. The street was one of the great arteries of travel between the business and the residence portions of the city, and its cable-cars were frequented by ladies going to their shopping or downtown marketing or to and from the matinees. Acquaintances of Vandover were almost sure to pass at every hour.

He took rooms temporarily at the Palace and at once set about locating on Sutter Street. He had recourse again to Brunt, who furnished him with a long list of vacancies in that neighbourhood. Apartment-hunting was an agreeable pastime to Vandover, though in the end it began to bore him. Altogether, he visited some fifteen or twenty suites, in each case trying to fit himself into the rooms, imagining how the window-seat would look in such a window, how the pipe-rack would show over such a mantel, just where on such walls the Assyrian _bas-reliefs could be placed to the best advantage, and if his easel could receive enough steady light from such windows. Then he considered the conveniences, the baths, the electric light, and the heat.

After a two weeks' search, he had decided upon one of two suites; both of these were in the desired neighbourhood but differed widely in other respects.

The first was reasonable enough in the matter of rent, and had even been occupied by an artist for some three or four years previous. However, the room that Vandover proposed to use as a sitting-room was small and had no double windows, thus making the window-seat an impossibility. There did not seem to be any suitable place for the Assyrian _bas-reliefs_, and the mantelpiece was of old-fashioned white marble like the mantelpiece in Mrs. Wade's front parlour, a veritable horror. It revolted Vandover even to think of putting a pipe-rack over it. These defects were offset by the studio, a large and splendid room with hardwood floors and an enormous north light, the legendary studio, the dream of an artist, precisely such a studio as Vandover had hoped he would occupy in the Quarter.

The other suite was in a great apartment house, a hotel in fact, but very expensive, with electric bulbs and bells, and with a tiled bathroom connecting with the bedroom. The room which he would be obliged to use as his studio was small, dark, the light coming from the west. But the sitting-room was perfect. It had the sun all day long through a huge bay window that seemed to have been made for a window-seat; there were admirable, well-lighted spaces on the walls for casts and pictures, and the mantelpiece was charming, extremely high, and made of oak; in a word, the exact sitting-room that Vandover had in mind. Already he saw himself settled there as comfortably and snugly as a kernel in a nutshell. It was true that upon investigation he found that the grate had been plastered up and the flue arranged for a stove. But for that matter there were open-grate stoves to be had that would permit the fire to be seen and that would look just as cheerful as a grate. He had even seen such a stove in the window of a hardware store downtown, a tiled stove with a brass fender and with curious flamboyant ornaments of cast-iron--a jewel of a stove.

For two days Vandover hesitated between these two suites, undecided whether he should sacrifice his studio for his sitting-room, or his sitting-room for his studio. At length he came to the conclusion that as he was now to be an artist a good studio ought to be the first consideration, and that since he was to settle down to hard, serious work at last he owed it to himself to have a fitting place in which to paint; yes, decidedly he would take the suite with the studio. He went to the agent, told him of his decision, and put up a deposit to secure the rooms.

The same day upon which he took this decided step he had occasion to pass by both places in question. As he approached the apartment house in which the rejected suite was situated it occurred to him to tell the clerk in the office that he had decided against the rooms; he could take a last look at them at the same time.

He was shown up to the rooms again, and walked about in the sitting-room, asking the same questions about the heat, the plumbing, and the baths. He even went to the window and looked out into the street. It _was a first-rate berth just the same, and how jolly it would be to lounge in the window-seat of a morning, with a paper, a cigarette, and a cup of coffee, watching the people on their way downtown; the women going to their shopping and morning's marketing. Then all at once he remembered that at most he would only have these rooms for five months, and reflected that if his whole life was to be devoted to painting he might easily put up with an inconvenient studio for a few months. Once at Paris all would be different.

At that the rooms took on a more charming aspect than ever; never had they appeared cheerier, sunnier, more comfortable; never had the oak mantel and the tiled stove with the flamboyant ornaments been more desirable; never had a window-seat seemed more luxurious, never a pipe-rack more delectable, while at the same time, the other rooms, the rooms of the big studio, presented themselves to his imagination more sombre, uncomfortable, and forbidding than ever. It was out of the question to think of living there; he was angry with himself for having hesitated so long. But suddenly he remembered the deposit he had already made; it was ten dollars; for a moment he paused, then dismissed the matter with an impatient shrug of the shoulders. "So much the worse," he said. "What's ten dollars?" He made up his mind then and there and went downstairs, walking on his heels, to tell the clerk that after all he would engage the rooms from that date.

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Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 12 Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 12

Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 12
Chapter Twelve Vandover took formal possession of his rooms on Sutter Street during the first few days of February. For a week previous they had been in the greatest confusion: the studio filled with a great number of trunks, crates, packing cases, and furniture still in its sacking. In the bedroom was stored the furniture that had been moved out of the sitting-room, while the sitting-room itself was given over to the paperhangers and carpenters. Vandover himself appeared from time to time, inquiring anxiously as to the arrival of his "stuff," or sitting on a packing-case, his hands in his pockets,

Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 10 Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 10

Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 10
Chapter Ten About ten o'clock Vandover went ashore in the ship's yawl and landed in the city on a literally perfect day in early November. It seemed many years since he had been there. The drizzly morning upon which the _Santa Rosa had cast off was already too long ago to be remembered. The city itself as he walked up Market Street toward Kearney seemed to have taken on a strange appearance. It was Sunday, the downtown streets were deserted except for the cable-cars and an occasional newsboy. The stores were closed and in their vestibules one saw the peddlers who