"Spend it, then," said his wife; "don't throw it away! And how came you to have so much more money than you know what to do with, Silas Lapham?" she added.
"Oh, I've made a very good thing in stocks lately."
"In stocks? When did you take up gambling for a living?"
"Gambling? Stuff! What gambling? Who said it was gambling?"
"You have; many a time."
"Oh yes, buying and selling on a margin. But this was a bona fide transaction. I bought at forty-three for an investment, and I sold at a hundred and seven; and the money passed both times."
"Well, you better let stocks alone," said his wife, with the conservatism of her sex. "Next time you'll buy at a hundred and seven and sell at forty three. Then where'll you be?"
"Left," admitted the Colonel.
"You better stick to paint a while yet." The Colonel enjoyed this too, and laughed again with the ease of a man who knows what he is about. A few days after that he came down to Nantasket with the radiant air which he wore when he had done a good thing in business and wanted his wife's sympathy. He did not say anything of what had happened till he was alone with her in their own room; but he was very gay the whole evening, and made several jokes which Penelope said nothing but very great prosperity could excuse: they all understood these moods of his.
"Well, what is it, Silas?" asked his wife when the time came. "Any more big-bugs wanting to go into the mineral paint business with you?"
"Something better than that."
"I could think of a good many better things," said his wife, with a sigh of latent bitterness. "What's this one?"
"I've had a visitor."
"Can't you guess?"
"I don't want to try. Who was it?"
Mrs. Lapham sat down with her hands in her lap, and stared at the smile on her husband's face, where he sat facing her.
"I guess you wouldn't want to joke on that subject, Si," she said, a little hoarsely, "and you wouldn't grin about it unless you had some good news. I don't know what the miracle is, but if you could tell quick — — "
She stopped like one who can say no more.
"I will, Persis," said her husband, and with that awed tone in which he rarely spoke of anything but the virtues of his paint. "He came to borrow money of me, and I lent him it. That's the short of it. The long — — "
"Go on," said his wife, with gentle patience.
"Well, Pert, I was never so much astonished in my life as I was to see that man come into my office. You might have knocked me down with — I don't know what."
"I don't wonder. Go on!"
"And he was as much embarrassed as I was. There we stood, gaping at each other, and I hadn't hardly sense enough to ask him to take a chair. I don't know just how we got at it. And I don't remember just how it was that he said he came to come to me. But he had got hold of a patent right that he wanted to go into on a large scale, and there he was wanting me to supply him the funds."
"Go on!" said Mrs. Lapham, with her voice further in her throat.
"I never felt the way you did about Rogers, but I know how you always did feel, and I guess I surprised him with my answer. He had brought along a lot of stock as security — — "
"You didn't take it, Silas!" his wife flashed out.
"Yes, I did, though," said Lapham. "You wait. We settled our business, and then we went into the old thing, from the very start. And we talked it all over. And when we got through we shook hands. Well, I don't know when it's done me so much good to shake hands with anybody."
"And you told him — you owned up to him that you were in the wrong, Silas?"
"No, I didn't," returned the Colonel promptly; "for I wasn't. And before we got through, I guess he saw it the same as I did."
"Oh, no matter! so you had the chance to show how you felt."
"But I never felt that way," persisted the Colonel. "I've lent him the money, and I've kept his stocks. And he got what he wanted out of me."
"Give him back his stocks!"
"No, I shan't. Rogers came to borrow. He didn't come to beg. You needn't be troubled about his stocks. They're going to come up in time; but just now they're so low down that no bank would take them as security, and I've got to hold them till they do rise. I hope you're satisfied now, Persis," said her husband; and he looked at her with the willingness to receive the reward of a good action which we all feel when we have performed one. "I lent him the money you kept me from spending on the house."