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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesVandover And The Brute - Chapter 7
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Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 7 Post by :esoteric Category :Long Stories Author :Frank Norris Date :May 2012 Read :2272

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Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 7

Chapter Seven

On a certain evening about four months later Ellis and Vandover had a "date" with Ida Wade and Bessie Laguna at the Mechanics' Fair. Ellis, Bessie, and Ida were to meet Vandover there in the Art Gallery, as he had to make a call with his father, and could not get there until half-past nine. They were all to walk about the Fair until ten, after which the two men proposed to take the girls out to the Cliff House in separate coupes. The whole thing had been arranged by Ellis and Bessie, and Vandover was irritated. Ellis ought to have had more sense; rushing the girls was all very well, but everybody went to the Mechanics' Fair, and he didn't like to have nice girls like Turner or Henrietta Vance see him with chippies like that. It was all very well for Ellis, who had no social position, but for _him_, Vandover, it would look too confounded queer. Of course he was in for it now, and would have to face the music. You can't tell a girl like that that you're ashamed to be seen with her, but very likely he would get himself into a regular box with it all.

When he arrived at the Mechanics' Pavilion, it was about twenty minutes of ten, and as he pushed through the wicket he let himself into a huge amphitheatre full of colour and movement.

There was a vast shuffling of thousands of feet and a subdued roar of conversation like the noise of a great mill; mingled with these were the purring of distant machinery, the splashing of a temporary fountain and the rhythmic clamour of a brass band, while in the piano exhibit the hired performer was playing a concert-grand with a great flourish. Nearer at hand one could catch ends of conversation and notes of laughter, the creaking of boots, and the rustle of moving dresses and stiff skirts. Here and there groups of school children elbowed their way through the crowd, crying shrilly, their hands full of advertisement pamphlets, fans, picture cards, and toy whips with pewter whistles on the butts, while the air itself was full of the smell of fresh popcorn.

Ellis and Bessie were in the Art Gallery upstairs. Mrs. Wade, Ida's mother, who gave lessons in hand painting, had an exhibit there which they were interested to find; a bunch of yellow poppies painted on velvet and framed in gilt. They stood before it some little time hazarding their opinions and then moved on from one picture to another; Ellis bought a catalogue and made it a duty to find the title of every picture. Bessie professed to be very fond of painting; she had 'taken it up' at one time and had abandoned it, only because the oil or turpentine or something was unhealthy for her. "Of course," she said, "I'm no critic, I only know what I like. Now that one over there, I like _that_. I think those ideal heads like that are lovely, don't you, Bandy? Oh, there's Van!"

"Hello!" said Vandover, coming up. "Where's Ida?"

"Hello, Van!" answered Bessie. "Ida wouldn't come. Isn't it too mean? She said she couldn't come because she had a cold, but she was just talking through her face, I know. She's just got kind of a streak on and you can't get anything out of her. You two haven't had a row, have you? Well, I didn't _think you had. But she's worried about something or other. I don't believe she's been out of the house this week. But isn't it mean of her to throw cold water on the procession like this? She's been giving me a lecture, too, and says she's going to reform."

"Well," said Vandover, greatly relieved, "that's too bad. We could have had a lot of fun to-night. I'm awfully sorry. Well, what are you two going to do?"

"Oh, I guess we'll follow out our part of the programme," said Ellis. "You are kind of left out, though."

"I don't know," answered Vandover. "Maybe I'll go downtown, and see if I can find some of the boys."

"Oh, Dolly Haight is around here somewheres," said Ellis. "We saw him just now over by the chess machine."

"I guess I'll try and find him, then," responded Vandover. "Well, I hope you two enjoy yourselves." As he was turning away Bessie Laguna came running back, and taking him a little to one side said:

"You'd better go round and see Ida pretty soon if you can. She's all broke up about something, I'm sure. I think she'd like to see you pretty well. Honestly," she said, suddenly very grave, "I never saw Ida so cut up in my life. She's been taking on over something in a dreadful way, and I think she'd like to see you. She won't tell _me anything. You go around and see her."

"All right," answered Vandover smiling, "I'll go."

As he was going down the stairs on his way to find young Haight it occurred to him what Ida's trouble might be. He was all at once struck with a great fear, so that for an instant he turned cold and weak, and reached out his hand to steady himself against the railing of the stairs. Ah, what a calamity that would be! What a calamity! What a dreadful responsibility! What a crime! He could not keep the thought out of his mind. He tried to tell himself that Ida had practically given her consent by going into such a place; that he was not the only one, after all; that there was nothing certain as yet. He stood on the stairway, empty for that moment, biting the end of his thumb, saying to himself in a low voice:

"What a calamity, what a horrible calamity that would be! Ah, you scoundrel! You damned fool, not to have thought!" A couple of girls, the counter girls at one of the candy booths, came down the stairs behind him with a great babble of talk. Vandover gave an irritated shrug of his shoulders as if freeing himself from the disagreeable subject and went on.

He could not find young Haight down stairs and so went up into the gallery again. After a long time he came upon him sitting on an empty bench nursing his cane and watching the crowd go past.

"Hello, old man!" he exclaimed. "Ellis told me I would find you around somewhere. I was just going to give you up." He sat down beside his chum, and the two began to talk about the people as they passed. "Ah, get on to the red hat!" exclaimed Vandover on a sudden. "That's the third time she's passed."

"Has Ellis gone off with Bessie Laguna?" asked young Haight.

"Yes," answered Vandover. "They're going to have a time at the Cliff House."

"That's too bad," young Haight replied. "Ellis has just thrown himself away with that girl. He might have known some very nice people when he first came here. Between that girl and his whisky he has managed to spoil every chance he might have had."

"There's Charlie Geary," Vandover exclaimed suddenly, whistling and beckoning. "Hey, there, Charlie! where you going? Oh," he cried on a sudden as Geary came up, "oh, get on to his new store clothes, will you?" They both pretended to be overwhelmed by the elegance of Geary's new suit.

"O-oh!" cried young Haight. "The bloody, bloomin', bloated swell. Just let me _touch them!"

Vandover shaded his eyes and turned away as though dazzled. "This is _too much," he gasped. "Such magnificence, such purple and fine linen." Then suddenly he shouted, "Oh, _oh! look at the crease in those trousers. No; it's too much, I can't stand it."

"Oh, shut up," said Geary, irritated, as they had intended he should be. "Yes," he went on, "I thought I'd blow myself. I've been working like a dog the whole month. I'm trying to get in Beale's office. Beale and Storey, you know. I got the promise of a berth last week, so I thought I'd blow myself for some rags. I've been over to San Rafael all day visiting my cousins; had a great time; went out to row. Oh, and had a great feed: lettuce sandwiches with mayonnaise. Simply out of sight. I came back on the four o'clock boat and held down the 'line' on Kearney Street for an hour or two."

"Yes?" young Haight said perfunctorily, adding after a moment, "Isn't this a gay crowd, a typical San Francisco crowd and--"

"I had a cocktail in the Imperial at about quarter of five," said Geary, "and got a cigar at the Elite; then I went around to get my clothes. Oh, you ought to have heard the blowing up I gave my tailor! I let him have it right straight."

Geary paused a moment, and Vandover said: "Come on, let's walk around a little; don't you want to? We might run on to the red hat again."

"I told him," continued Geary without moving, "that if he wanted to do any more work for me, he'd have to get in front of himself in a hurry, and that _I wasn't full of bubbles, if _he was. 'Why,' says he, 'why, Mr. Geary, I've never had a customer talk like this to me before since I've been in the business!' 'Well, Mr. Allen,' says I, 'it's time you _had_! Oh, sure, I gave it to him straight."

"Vandover has gone daft over a girl in a red hat," said young Haight, as they got up and began to walk. "Have you noticed her up here?"

"I went to the Grillroom after I left the tailor's," continued Geary, "and had supper downtown. Ah, you ought to have seen the steak they gave me! Just about as thick as it was wide. I gave the slavey a four-bit tip. Oh, it's just as well, you know, to keep in with them, if you go there often. I lunch there four or five times a week."

They descended to the ground floor and promenaded the central aisle watching for pretty girls. In front of a candy-counter, where there was a soda fountain, they saw the red hat again. Vandover looked her squarely in the face and laughed a little. When he had passed he looked back; the girl caught his eye and turned away with a droll smile. Vandover paused, grinning, and raising his hat; "I guess that's mine," he said.

"You are not going, are you?" exclaimed young Haight, as Vandover stopped. "Oh, for goodness' sake, Van, do leave the girls alone for one hour in the day. Come on! Come on downtown with us."

"No, no," answered Vandover. "I'm going to chase it up. Good-bye. I may see you fellows later," and he turned back and went up to the girl.

"Look at that!" said young Haight, exasperated. "He knows he's liable to meet his acquaintances here, and yet there he goes, almost arm in arm with a girl like that. It's too bad; why _can't a fellow keep straight when there are such a lot of _nice girls?"

Geary never liked to see anything done better than he could do it himself. Just now he was vexed because Vandover had got in ahead of him. He looked after the girl a moment and muttered scornfully:

"Cheap meat!" adding, "Ah, you bet _I wouldn't do that. I flatter myself that I'm a little too clever to cut my own throat in that fashion. I look out after my interests better than that. Well, Dolly," he concluded, "_I've got a thirst on. Van and Ellis have gone off with their girls; let's you and I go somewhere and have something wet."

"All right. What's the matter with the Luxembourg?" answered young Haight.

"Luxembourg goes, then," assented Geary, and they turned about and started for the door. As they were passing out some one came running up behind them and took an arm of each: it was Vandover.

"Hello," cried Geary, delighted, "your girl shook you, didn't she?"

"Not a bit of it," answered Vandover. "Oh, but say, she is out of sight! Says her name is Grace Irving. No, she didn't shake me. I made a date with her for next Wednesday night. I didn't want to be seen around here with her, you know."

"Of _course she will keep that date!" said Geary.

"Well, now, I think she will," protested Vandover.

"Well, come along," interrupted young Haight. "We'll all go down to the Luxembourg and have something cold and wet."

"Ah, make it the Imperial instead," objected Vandover. "We may find Flossie."

"Say," cried Geary, "can't you _live without trailing around after some kind of petticoats?"

"You're right," admitted Vandover, "I can't," but he persuaded them to go to the Imperial for all that.

At the Imperial, Toby, the red-eyed waiter, came to take their order.

"Good evening, gentlemen," he said. "Haven't seen you around here for some time."

"No, no," said Geary. "I've been too busy. I've been working like a dog lately to get into a certain office. You bet I'll make it all right--all right. Bring me a stringy rabbit and a pint of dog's-head."

"You bet I've been working," he continued after they had settled down to their beer and rabbits, "working like a dog. A man's got to rustle if he's going to make a success at law. _I'm going to make it go, by George, or I'll know the reason why. I'll make my way in this town and my pile. There's money to be made here and _I might just as well make it as the next man. Every man for himself, that's what _I say; that's the way to get along. It may be selfish, but you've got to do it. By God! it's human nature. Isn't that right, hey? Isn't that right?"

"Oh, that's right," admitted young Haight, trying to be polite. After this the conversation lagged a little. Young Haight drank his Apollinaris lemonade through a straw, Geary sipped his ale, and Vandover fed himself Welsh rabbit and Spanish olives with the silent enjoyment of a glutton. By and by, when they had finished and had lighted their cigars and cigarettes, they began to talk about the last Cotillon, to which Vandover and Haight belonged.

"Say, Van," said young Haight, tilting his head to one side and shutting one eye to avoid the smoke from his cigar, "say, didn't I see you dancing with Mrs. Doane after supper?"

"Yes," said Vandover laughing; "all the men were trying to get a dance with her. She had an edge on."

"No?" exclaimed Geary, incredulously.

"That's a fact," admitted young Haight. "Van is right."

"She was opposite to me at table," said Vandover, "and _I saw her empty a whole bottle of champagne."

"Why, I didn't know they got drunk like that at the Cotillons," said Geary. "I thought they were very swell."

"Well, of course, they don't as a rule," returned Vandover. "Of course there are girls like--like Henrietta Vance who belong to the Cotillon and make it what it is, and what it ought to be. But there are other girls like Mrs. Doane and Lilly Stannard and the Trafford girls that like their champagne pretty well now, and don't you forget it! Oh, you know, I wouldn't call it getting drunk, though."

"Well, why not?" exclaimed young Haight impatiently. "Why not call it 'getting drunk?' Why not call things by their right name? You can see just how bad they are then; and I think it's shameful that such things can go on in an organization that is supposed to contain the very best people in the city. Now, I just want to tell you what I saw at one of these same Cotillons in the first part of the season. Lilly Stannard disappeared after supper and people said she was sick and was going home, but I knew exactly what was the matter, because I had seen her at the supper table. Well, I had gone outside on the steps to get a mouthful of smoke, and my little cousin, Hetty, who has just come out and who is only nineteen, was out there with me because it was so warm inside, and _she had seen Lilly Stannard filling up with champagne at supper, and didn't know what to make of it. Well, we were just talking about it, and I was trying to make her believe too that Lilly Stannard was sick, when here comes Lilly herself out to her carriage. Her maid was supporting her, just about half-carrying her. Lilly's face was so pale that the powder on it looked like ashes, her hair was all coming down, and she was hiccoughing. Now," continued young Haight, his eyes snapping, and his voice raised so as to make itself heard above the exclamations of his two friends, "now, that's a _fact_; I give you my word of honour that it actually happened. It's not hearsay; I saw it myself. It's fine, isn't it?" he went on, wrathfully. "It sounds well, don't it, when it's told _just as it happened_? The girl was dead drunk. Oh, she may have made a mistake; it may have been the first time; but the fact remains that she always drinks a lot of champagne at the Cotillons, and other girls have been drunk there, too. Mrs. Doane, that Van tells about, was _drunk_; that's the word for it. She was dead drunk that night, and there was my little cousin, Hetty, who had never seen even a man the worse for his liquor, standing there and taking it all in. Of course, every one hushed the thing up or else said the poor girl was sick; but Hetty knew, and what effect do you suppose it had upon a little girl like that, who had always been told what nice, irreproachable people went to the Cotillons? Hetty will never be the same little girl now that she was before. Oh, it makes me damned tired."

"Well, I don't see," said Geary, "why the girls should make such a fuss about the men keeping straight. I daresay now that this Stannard girl would cut us all dead if she knew how drunk we were that night about four months ago--that night that you fellows got thrown out of the Luxembourg."

"No, I don't believe she would at all," said young Haight.

"She'd think better of you for it," put in Vandover. "Look here," he went on, "all this talk of women demanding the same moral standard for men as men do for women is fine on paper, but how does it work in real life? The women don't demand it at all. Take the average society girl in a big city like this. The girls that we meet at teas and receptions and functions--don't you suppose they know the life we men lead? Of course they do. They may not know it in detail, but they know in a general way that we get drunk a good deal and go to disreputable houses and that sort of thing, and do they ever cut us for that? No, sir; not much. Why, I tell you, they even have a little more respect for us. They like a man to know things, to be experienced. A man that keeps himself straight and clean and never goes around with fast women, they think is ridiculous. Of course, a girl don't want to know the particulars of a man's vice; what they want is that a man should have the knowledge of good and evil, yes, and lots of evil. To a large extent I really believe it's the women's fault that the men are what they are. If they demanded a higher moral standard the men would come up to it; they encourage a man to go to the devil and then--and then when he's rotten with disease and ruins his wife and has children--what is it--_'spotted toads'_--_then there's a great cry raised against the men, and women write books and all, when half the time the woman has only encouraged him to be what he is."

"Oh, well now," retorted young Haight, "you know that all the girls are not like that."

"Most of them that you meet in society are."

"But they are the best people, aren't they?" demanded Geary.

"No," answered Vandover and young Haight in a breath, and young Haight continued:

"No; I believe that very few of what you would call the 'best people' go out in society--people like the Ravises, who have good principles, and keep up old-fashioned virtues and all that. You know," he added, "they have family prayers down there every morning after breakfast."

Geary began to smile.

"Well, now, I don't care," retorted young Haight, "I like that sort of thing."

"So do I," said Vandover. "Up home, now, the governor asks a blessing at each meal, and somehow I wouldn't like to see him leave it off. But you can't tell me," he went on, going back to the original subject of their discussion, "you can't tell me that American society girls, city-bred, and living at the end of the nineteenth century, don't know about things. Why, man alive, how can they help but know? Look at those that have brothers--don't you suppose they know, and if they know, why don't they use their influence to stop it? I tell you if any one were to write up the lives that we young men of the city lead after dark, people wouldn't believe it. At that party that Henrietta Vance gave last month there were about twenty fellows there and I knew every one, and I was looking around the supper-table and wondering how many of those young fellows had never been inside of a disreputable house, and there was only _one beside Dolly Haight!"

Young Haight exclaimed at this, laughing good-naturedly, twirling his thumbs, and casting down his eyes with mock-modesty.

"Well, that's the truth just the same," Vandover went on. "We young men of the cities are a fine lot. I'm not doing the baby act. I'm not laying the blame on the girls altogether, but I say that in a measure the girls are responsible. They want a man to be a _man_, to be up to date, to be a man of the world and to go in for that sort of vice, but they don't know, they don't dream, how rotten and disgusting it is. Oh, I'm not preaching. I know I'm just as bad as the rest, and I'm going to have a good time while I can, but sometimes when you stop and think, and as Dolly says 'call things by their right names,' why you feel, don't you know--_queer_."

"I don't believe, Van," responded young Haight, "that it's _quite as bad as you say. But it's even wrong, I think, that a good girl should know anything about vice at all."

"Oh, that's nonsense," broke in Geary; "you can't expect nowadays that a girl, an American girl, can live twenty years in a city and not know things. Do you think the average modern girl is going to be the absolutely pure and innocent girl of, say, fifty years ago? Not much; they are right on to things to-day. You can't tell them much. And it's all right, too; they know how to look out for themselves, then. It's part of their education; and I think if they haven't the knowledge of evil, and don't know what sort of life the average young man leads, that their mothers ought to tell them."

"Well, I don't agree with you," retorted young Haight. "There's something revolting in the idea that it's necessary a young girl should be instructed in that sort of nastiness."

"Why, not at all," answered Geary. "Without it she might be ruined by the first man that came along. It's a protection to her virtue."

"Oh, pshaw! I don't believe it at all," cried young Haight, impatiently. "I believe that a girl is born with a natural intuitive purity that will lead her to protect her virtue just as instinctively as she would dodge a blow; if she wants to go wrong she will have to make an effort herself to overcome that instinct."

"And if she don't," cried Vandover eagerly, "if she don't--if she don't protect her virtue, I say a man has a right to go as far with her as he can."

"If _he don't, some one else will," said Geary.

"Ah, you can't get around it that way," answered young Haight, smiling. "It's a man's duty to protect a girl, even if he has to protect her against herself."

When he got home that night Vandover thought over this remark of young Haight's and in its light reviewed what had occurred in the room at the Imperial. He felt aroused, nervous, miserably anxious. At length he tried to dismiss the subject from his mind; he woke up his drowsing grate fire, punching it with the poker, talking to it, saying, "Wake up there, you!" When he was undressed, he sat down before it in his bathrobe, absorbing its heat luxuriously, musing into the coals, scratching himself as was his custom. But for all that he fretted nervously and did not sleep well that night.

Next morning he took his bath. Vandover enjoyed his bath and usually spent two or three hours over it. When the water was very warm he got into it with his novel on a rack in front of him and a box of chocolates conveniently near. Here he stayed, for over an hour, eating and reading, and occasionally smoking a cigarette, until at length the enervating heat of the steam gradually overcame him and he dropped off to sleep.

On this particular morning between nine and ten Geary called, and as was his custom came right up to Vandover's room. Mr. Corkle, lying on the wolfskin in the bay window, jumped up with a gruff bark, but, recognizing him, came up wiggling his short tail. Geary saw Vandover's clothes thrown about the floor and the closed door of the bathroom.

"Hey, Van!" he called. "It's Charlie Geary. Are you taking a bath?"

"Hello! What? Who is it?" came from behind the door. "Oh, is that you, Charlie? Hello! how are you? Yes, I'm taking a bath. I must have been asleep. Wait a minute; I'll be out."

"No, I can't stop," answered Geary. "I've an appointment downtown; overslept myself, and had to go without my breakfast; makes me feel all broke up. I'll get something at the Grillroom about eleven; a steak, I guess. But that isn't what I came to say. Ida Wade has killed herself! Isn't it fearful? I thought I'd drop in on my way downtown and speak to you about it. It's dreadful! It's all in the morning papers. She must have been out of her head."

"What is it--what has she done?" came back Vandover's voice. "Papers--I haven't seen--what has she done? Tell me--what has she done?"

"Why, she committed suicide last night by taking laudanum," answered Geary, "and nobody knows why. She didn't leave any message or letter or anything of the kind. It's a fearful thing to happen so suddenly, but it seems she has been very despondent and broke up about something or other for a week or two. They found her in her room last night about ten o'clock lying across her table with only her wrapper on. She was unconscious then, and between one and two she died. She was unconscious all the time. Well, I can't stop any longer, Van; I've an appointment downtown. I was just going past the house and I thought I would run up and speak to you about Ida. I'll see you again pretty soon and we'll talk this over."

Mr. Corkle politely attended Geary to the head of the stairs, then went back to Vandover's room, and after blowing under the crack of the bathroom door to see if his master was still there returned to the wolfskin and sat down on his short tail and yawned. He was impatient to see Vandover and thought he stayed in his bath an unnecessarily long time. He went up to the door again and listened. It was very still inside; he could not hear the slightest sound, and he wondered again what could keep Vandover in there so long. He had too much self-respect to whine, so he went back to the wolfskin and curled up in the sun, but did not go to sleep.

By and by, after a very long time, the bathroom door swung open, and Vandover came out. He had not dried himself and was naked and wet. He went directly to the table in the centre of the room and picked up the morning paper, looking for the article of which Geary had spoken. At first he could not find it, and then it suddenly jumped into prominence from out the gray blur of the print on an inside page beside an advertisement of a charity concert for the benefit of a home for incurable children. There was a picture of Ida taken from a photograph like one that she had given him, and which even then was thrust between the frame and glass of his mirror. He read the article through; it sketched her life and character and the circumstances of her death with the relentless terseness of the writer cramped for space. According to this view, the causes of her death were unknown. It had been remarked that she had of late been despondent and in ill health.

Vandover threw the paper down and straightened up, naked and dripping, putting both hands to his head. In a low voice under his breath he said:

"What have I done? What have I done now?"

Like the sudden unrolling of a great scroll he saw his responsibility for her death and for the ruin of that something in her which was more than life. What would become of her now? And what would become of him? For a single brief instant he tried to persuade himself that Ida had consented after all. But he knew that this was not so. She had consented, but he had forced her consent; he was none the less guilty. And then in that dreadful moment when he saw things in their true light, all the screens of conventionality and sophistry torn away, the words that young Haight had spoken came back to him. No matter if she had consented, it was his duty to have protected her, even against herself.

He walked the floor with great strides, steaming with the warm water, striking his head with his hands and crying out, "Oh, this is fearful, fearful! What have I done now? I have killed her; yes, and worse!"

He could think of nothing worse that could have happened to him. What a weight of responsibility to carry--he who hated responsibility of any kind, who had always tried to escape from anything that was even irksome, who loved his ease, his comfort, his peace of mind!

At every moment now he saw the different consequences of what he had done. Now, it was that his life was ruined, and that all through its course this crime would hang like a millstone about his neck. There could be no more enjoyment of anything for him; all the little pleasures and little self-indulgences which till now had delighted him were spoiled and rendered impossible. The rest of his life would have to be one long penitence; any pleasure he might take would only make his crime seem more abominable.

Now, it was a furious revolt against his mistake that had led him to such a fearful misunderstanding of Ida; a silent impotent rage against himself and against the brute in him that he had permitted to drag him to this thing.

Now, it was a wave of an immense pity for the dead girl that overcame him, and he saw himself as another person, destroying what she most cherished for the sake of gratifying an unclean passion.

Now, it was a terror for himself. What would they do to him? His part in the affair was sure to be found out. He tried to think what the punishment for such crime would be; but would he not be considered a murderer as well? Could he not hang for this? His imagination was never more active; his fear never more keen. At once a thousand plans of concealment or escape were tossed up in his mind.

But worse than all was the thought of that punishment from which there was absolutely no escape, and of that strange other place where his crime would assume right proportions and receive right judgment, no matter how it was palliated or evaded here. Then for an instant it was as if a gulf without bottom had opened under him, and he had to fight himself back from its edge for sheer self-preservation. To look too long in that direction was simple insanity beyond any doubt.

And all this time he threw himself to and fro in his room, his long white arms agitated and shaking, his wet and shining hair streaming far over his face, and the sparse long fell upon his legs and ankles, all straight and trickling with moisture. At times an immense unreasoning terror would come upon him all of a sudden, horrible, crushing, so that he rolled upon the bed groaning and sobbing, digging his nails into his scalp, shutting his teeth against a desire to scream out, writhing in the throes of terrible mental agony.

That day and the next were fearful. To Vandover everything in his world was changed. All that had happened before the morning of Geary's visit appeared to him to have occurred in another phase of his life, years and years ago. He lay awake all night long, listening to the creaking of the house and the drip of the water faucets. He turned from his food with repugnance, told his father that he was sick, and kept indoors as much as he could, reading all the papers to see if he had been found out. To his great surprise and relief, a theory gained ground that Ida was subject to spells of ill-health, to long fits of despondency, and that her suicide had occurred during one of these. If Ida's family knew anything of the truth, it was apparent that they were doing their best to cover up their disgrace. Vandover was too thoroughly terrified for his own safety to feel humiliated at this possible explanation of his security. There was as yet not even a guess that implicated him.

He thought that he was bearing up under the strain well enough, but on the evening of the second day, as he was pretending to eat his supper, his father sent the servant out and turning to him, said kindly:

"What is it, Van? Aren't you well nowadays?"

"Not very, sir," answered Vandover. "My throat is troubling me again."

"You look deathly pale," returned his father. "Your eyes are sunken and you don't eat."

"Yes, I know," said Vandover. "I'm not feeling well at all. I think I'll go to bed early to-night. I don't know"--he continued, after a pause, feeling a desire to escape from his father's observation--"I don't know but what I'll go up now. Will you tell the cook to feed Mr. Corkle for me?"

His father looked at him as he pushed back from the table.

"What's the matter, Van?" he said. "Is there anything wrong?"

"Oh, I'll be all right in the morning," he replied nervously. "I feel a little under the weather just now."

"Don't you think you had better tell me what the trouble is?" said his father, kindly.

"There _isn't any trouble, sir," insisted Vandover. "I just feel a little under the weather."

But as he was starting to undress in his room a sudden impulse took possession of him, an overwhelming childish desire to tell his father all about it. It was beginning to be more than he was able to bear alone. He did not allow himself to stop and reason with this impulse, but slipped on his vest again and went downstairs. He found his father in the smoking-room, sitting unoccupied in the huge leather chair before the fireplace.

As Vandover came in the Old Gentleman rose and without a word, as if he had been expecting him, went to the door and shut and locked it. He came back and stood before the fireplace watching Vandover as he approached and took the chair he had just vacated. Vandover told him of the affair in two or three phrases, without choosing his words, repeating the same expressions over and over again, moved only with the desire to have it over and done with.

It was like a burst of thunder. The worst his father had feared was not as bad as this. He had expected some rather serious boyish trouble, but this was the crime of a man. Still watching his son, he put out his hand, groping for the edge of the mantelpiece, and took hold of it with a firm grasp. For a moment he said nothing; then:

"And--and you say you seduced her."

Without looking up, Vandover answered, "Yes, sir," and then he added, "It is horrible; when I think of it I sometimes feel as though I should go off my head. I--"

But the Old Gentleman interrupted him, putting out his hand:

"Don't," he said quickly, "don't say anything now--please."

They were both silent for a long time, Vandover gazing stupidly at a little blue and red vase on the table, wondering how his father would take the news, what next he would say; the Old Gentleman drawing his breath short, occasionally clearing his throat, his eyes wandering vaguely about the walls of the room, his fingers dancing upon the edge of the mantelpiece. Then at last he put his hand to his neck as though loosening his collar and said, looking away from Vandover:

"Won't you--won't you please go out--go away for a little while--leave me alone for a little while."

When Vandover closed the door, he shut the edge of a rug between it and the sill; as he reopened it to push the rug out of the way he saw his father sink into the chair and, resting his arm upon the table, bow his head upon it.

He did not see his father again that night, and at breakfast next morning not a word was exchanged between them, but his father did not go downtown to his office that forenoon, as was his custom. Vandover went up to his room immediately after breakfast and sat down before the window that overlooked the little garden in the rear of the house.

He was utterly miserable, his nerves were gone, and at times he would feel again a touch of that hysterical, unreasoning terror that had come upon him so suddenly the other morning.

Now there was a new trouble: the blow he had given his father. He could see that the Old Gentleman was crushed under it, and that he had never imagined that his son could have been so base as this. Vandover wondered what he was going to do. It would seem as if he had destroyed all of his father's affection for him, and he trembled lest the Old Gentleman should cast him off, everything. Even if his father did not disown him, he did not see how they could ever be the same. They might go on living together in the same house, but as far apart from each other as strangers. This, however, did not seem natural; it was much more likely that his father would send him away, anywhere out of his sight, forwarding, perhaps through his lawyer or agents, enough money to keep him alive. The more Vandover thought of this, the more he became convinced that such would be his father's decision. The Old Gentleman had spent the night over it, time enough to make up his mind, and the fact that he had neither spoken to him nor looked at him that morning was only an indication of what Vandover was to expect. He fancied he knew his father well enough to foresee how this decision would be carried out, not with any imprecations or bursts of rage, but calmly, sadly, inevitably.

Toward noon his father came into the room, and Vandover turned to face him and to hear what he had to say as best he could. He knew he should not break down under it, for he felt as though his misery had reached its limit, and that nothing could touch or affect him much now.

His father had a decanter of port in one hand and a glass in the other; he filled the glass and held it toward Vandover, saying gently:

"I think you had better take some of this: you've hardly eaten anything in three days. Do you feel pretty bad, Van?"

Vandover put the glass down and got upon his feet. All at once a great sob shook him.

"Oh, governor!" he cried.

It was as if it had been a mother or a dear sister. The prodigal son put his arms about his father's neck for the first time since he had been a little boy, and clung to him and wept as though his heart were breaking.

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Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 8 Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 8

Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 8
Chapter Eight "We will begin all over again, Van," his father said later that same day. "We will start in again and try to forget all this, not as much as we _can_, but as much as we _ought_, and live it down, and from now on we'll try to do the thing that is right and brave and good." "Just try me, sir!" cried Vandover. That was it, begin all over again. He had never seen more clearly than now that other life which it was possible for him to live, a life that was above the level of self-indulgence

Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 6 Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 6

Vandover And The Brute - Chapter 6
Chapter Six Everybody in San Francisco knew of the Ravises and always made it a point to speak of them as one of the best families of the city. They were not new and they were not particularly rich. They had lived in the same house on California Street for nearly twenty years and had always been comfortably well off. As things go in San Francisco, they were old-fashioned. They had family traditions and usages and time-worn customs. Their library had been in process of collection for the past half century and the pictures on the walls were oil paintings of