Lapham expanded with profound self-satisfaction. As he probably conceived it, he had succeeded in praising, in a perfectly casual way, the supreme excellence of his paint, and his own sagacity and benevolence; and here he was sitting face to face with Bromfield Corey, praising his son to him, and receiving his grateful acknowledgments as if he were the father of some office-boy whom Lapham had given a place half but of charity.
"Yes, sir, when your son proposed to take hold here, I didn't have much faith in his ideas, that's the truth. But I had faith in him, and I saw that he meant business from the start. I could see it was born in him. Any one could."
"I'm afraid he didn't inherit it directly from me," said Bromfield Corey; "but it's in the blood, on both sides." "Well, sir, we can't help those things," said Lapham compassionately. "Some of us have got it, and some of us haven't. The idea is to make the most of what we HAVE got."
"Oh yes; that is the idea. By all means."
"And you can't ever tell what's in you till you try. Why, when I started this thing, I didn't more than half understand my own strength. I wouldn't have said, looking back, that I could have stood the wear and tear of what I've been through. But I developed as I went along. It's just like exercising your muscles in a gymnasium. You can lift twice or three times as much after you've been in training a month as you could before. And I can see that it's going to be just so with your son. His going through college won't hurt him, — he'll soon slough all that off, — and his bringing up won't; don't be anxious about it. I noticed in the army that some of the fellows that had the most go-ahead were fellows that hadn't ever had much more to do than girls before the war broke out. Your son will get along."
"Thank you," said Bromfield Corey, and smiled — whether because his spirit was safe in the humility he sometimes boasted, or because it was triply armed in pride against anything the Colonel's kindness could do.
"He'll get along. He's a good business man, and he's a fine fellow. MUST you go?" asked Lapham, as Bromfield Corey now rose more resolutely. "Well, glad to see you. It was natural you should want to come and see what he was about, and I'm glad you did. I should have felt just so about it. Here is some of our stuff," he said, pointing out the various packages in his office, including the Persis Brand.
"Ah, that's very nice, very nice indeed," said his visitor. "That colour through the jar — very rich — delicious. Is Persis Brand a name?"
"Well, Persis is. I don't know as you saw an interview that fellow published in the Events a while back?"
"What is the Events?"
"Well, it's that new paper Witherby's started."
"No," said Bromfield Corey, "I haven't seen it. I read The Daily," he explained; by which he meant The Daily Advertiser, the only daily there is in the old-fashioned Bostonian sense.
"He put a lot of stuff in my mouth that I never said," resumed Lapham; "but that's neither here nor there, so long as you haven't seen it. Here's the department your son's in," and he showed him the foreign labels. Then he took him out into the warehouse to see the large packages. At the head of the stairs, where his guest stopped to nod to his son and say "Good-bye, Tom," Lapham insisted upon going down to the lower door with him "Well, call again," he said in hospitable dismissal. "I shall always be glad to see you. There ain't a great deal doing at this season." Bromfield Corey thanked him, and let his hand remain perforce in Lapham's lingering grasp. "If you ever like to ride after a good horse — — " the Colonel began.
"Oh, no, no, no; thank you! The better the horse, the more I should be scared. Tom has told me of your driving!"
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the Colonel. "Well! every one to his taste. Well, good morning, sir!" and he suffered him to go.
"Who is the old man blowing to this morning?" asked Walker, the book-keeper, making an errand to Corey's desk.
"Oh! That your father? I thought he must be one of your Italian correspondents that you'd been showing round, or Spanish."
In fact, as Bromfield Corey found his way at his leisurely pace up through the streets on which the prosperity of his native city was founded, hardly any figure could have looked more alien to its life. He glanced up and down the facades and through the crooked vistas like a stranger, and the swarthy fruiterer of whom he bought an apple, apparently for the pleasure of holding it in his hand, was not surprised that the purchase should be transacted in his own tongue.
Lapham walked back through the outer office to his own room without looking at Corey, and during the day he spoke to him only of business matters. That must have been his way of letting Corey see that he was not overcome by the honour of his father's visit. But he presented himself at Nantasket with the event so perceptibly on his mind that his wife asked: "Well, Silas, has Rogers been borrowing any more money of you? I don't want you should let that thing go too far. You've done enough."
"You needn't be afraid. I've seen the last of Rogers for one while." He hesitated, to give the fact an effect of no importance. "Corey's father called this morning."