"Ah, yes, your father!" said the mother, in that way in which a wife at once compassionates and censures her husband to their children.
"Do you think it's really going to be a trial to him?" asked the young man quickly.
"No, no, I can't say it is. But I confess I wish it was some other business, Tom."
"Well, mother, I don't see why. The principal thing looked at now is the amount of money; and while I would rather starve than touch a dollar that was dirty with any sort of dishonesty — — "
"Of course you would, my son!" interposed his mother proudly.
"I shouldn't at all mind its having a little mineral paint on it. I'll use my influence with Colonel Lapham — if I ever have any — to have his paint scraped off the landscape."
"I suppose you won't begin till the autumn."
"Oh yes, I shall," said the son, laughing at his mother's simple ignorance of business. "I shall begin to-morrow morning."
"Yes. I've had my desk appointed already, and I shall be down there at nine in the morning to take possession."
"Tom," cried his mother, "why do you think Mr. Lapham has taken you into business so readily? I've always heard that it was so hard for young men to get in."
"And do you think I found it easy with him? We had about twelve hours' solid talk."
"And you don't suppose it was any sort of — personal consideration?"
"Why, I don't know exactly what you mean, mother. I suppose he likes me."
Mrs. Corey could not say just what she meant. She answered, ineffectually enough —
"Yes. You wouldn't like it to be a favour, would you?"
"I think he's a man who may be trusted to look after his own interest. But I don't mind his beginning by liking me. It'll be my own fault if I don't make myself essential to him."
"Yes," said Mrs. Corey.
"Well," demanded her husband, at their first meeting after her interview with their son, "what did you say to Tom?"
"Very little, if anything. I found him with his mind made up, and it would only have distressed him if I had tried to change it."
"That is precisely what I said, my dear."
"Besides, he had talked the matter over fully with James, and seems to have been advised by him. I can't understand James."
"Oh! it's in regard to the paint, and not the princess, that he's made up his mind. Well, I think you were wise to let him alone, Anna. We represent a faded tradition. We don't really care what business a man is in, so it is large enough, and he doesn't advertise offensively; but we think it fine to affect reluctance."
"Do you really feel so, Bromfield?" asked his wife seriously.
"Certainly I do. There was a long time in my misguided youth when I supposed myself some sort of porcelain; but it's a relief to be of the common clay, after all, and to know it. If I get broken, I can be easily replaced."
"If Tom must go into such a business," said Mrs. Corey, "I'm glad James approves of it."
"I'm afraid it wouldn't matter to Tom if he didn't; and I don't know that I should care," said Corey, betraying the fact that he had perhaps had a good deal of his brother-in-law's judgment in the course of his life. "You had better consult him in regard to Tom's marrying the princess."
"There is no necessity at present for that," said Mrs. Corey, with dignity. After a moment, she asked, "Should you feel quite so easy if it were a question of that, Bromfield?"
"It would be a little more personal."
"You feel about it as I do. Of course, we have both lived too long, and seen too much of the world, to suppose we can control such things. The child is good, I haven't the least doubt, and all those things can be managed so that they wouldn't disgrace us. But she has had a certain sort of bringing up. I should prefer Tom to marry a girl with another sort, and this business venture of his increases the chances that he won't. That's all."
"''Tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door, but 'twill serve.'"
"I shouldn't like it."
"Well, it hasn't happened yet."
"Ah, you never can realise anything beforehand."