"Well, suppose I go with you, then?"
"Why, if you like, sir," said the son, with some deprecation.
"Oh, the question is, will HE like?"
"I think he will, sir;" and the father could see that his son was very much pleased.
Lapham was rending an impatient course through the morning's news when they appeared at the door of his inner room. He looked up from the newspaper spread on the desk before him, and then he stood up, making an indifferent feint of not knowing that he knew Bromfield Corey by sight.
"Good morning, Colonel Lapham," said the son, and Lapham waited for him to say further, "I wish to introduce my father." Then he answered, "Good morning," and added rather sternly for the elder Corey, "How do you do, sir? Will you take a chair?" and he pushed him one.
They shook hands and sat down, and Lapham said to his subordinate, "Have a seat;" but young Corey remained standing, watching them in their observance of each other with an amusement which was a little uneasy. Lapham made his visitor speak first by waiting for him to do so.
"I'm glad to make your acquaintance, Colonel Lapham, and I ought to have come sooner to do so. My father in your place would have expected it of a man in my place at once, I believe. But I can't feel myself altogether a stranger as it is. I hope Mrs. Lapham is well? And your daughter?"
"Thank you," said Lapham, "they're quite well."
"They were very kind to my wife — — "
"Oh, that was nothing!" cried Lapham. "There's nothing Mrs. Lapham likes better than a chance of that sort. Mrs. Corey and the young ladies well?"
"Very well, when I heard from them. They're out of town."
"Yes, so I understood," said Lapham, with a nod toward the son. "I believe Mr. Corey, here, told Mrs. Lapham." He leaned back in his chair, stiffly resolute to show that he was not incommoded by the exchange of these civilities.
"Yes," said Bromfield Corey. "Tom has had the pleasure which I hope for of seeing you all. I hope you're able to make him useful to you here?" Corey looked round Lapham's room vaguely, and then out at the clerks in their railed enclosure, where his eye finally rested on an extremely pretty girl, who was operating a type-writer.
"Well, sir," replied Lapham, softening for the first time with this approach to business, "I guess it will be our own fault if we don't. By the way, Corey," he added, to the younger man, as he gathered up some letters from his desk, "here's something in your line. Spanish or French, I guess."
"I'll run them over," said Corey, taking them to his desk.
His father made an offer to rise.
"Don't go," said Lapham, gesturing him down again. "I just wanted to get him away a minute. I don't care to say it to his face, — I don't like the principle, — but since you ask me about it, I'd just as lief say that I've never had any young man take hold here equal to your son. I don't know as you care."
"You make me very happy," said Bromfield Corey. "Very happy indeed. I've always had the idea that there was something in my son, if he could only find the way to work it out. And he seems to have gone into your business for the love of it."
"He went to work in the right way, sir! He told me about it. He looked into it. And that paint is a thing that will bear looking into."
"Oh yes. You might think he had invented it, if you heard him celebrating it."
"Is that so?" demanded Lapham, pleased through and through. "Well, there ain't any other way. You've got to believe in a thing before you can put any heart in it. Why, I had a partner in this thing once, along back just after the war, and he used to be always wanting to tinker with something else. 'Why,' says I, 'you've got the best thing in God's universe now. Why ain't you satisfied?' I had to get rid of him at last. I stuck to my paint, and that fellow's drifted round pretty much all over the whole country, whittling his capital down all the while, till here the other day I had to lend him some money to start him new. No, sir, you've got to believe in a thing. And I believe in your son. And I don't mind telling you that, so far as he's gone, he's a success."
"That's very kind of you."
"No kindness about it. As I was saying the other day to a friend of mine, I've had many a fellow right out of the street that had to work hard all his life, and didn't begin to take hold like this son of yours."