A Poor Wise Man HTML version
While Grace rested that afternoon of Lily's return, Lily ranged over the house. In
twenty odd years the neighborhood had changed, and only a handful of the old
families remained. Many of the other large houses were prostituted to base uses.
Dingy curtains hung at their windows, dingy because of the smoke from the great
furnaces and railroads. The old Osgood residence, nearby, had been turned into
apartments, with bottles of milk and paper bags on its fire-escapes, and a
pharmacy on the street floor. The Methodist Church, following its congregation to
the vicinity of old Anthony's farm, which was now cut up into city lots, had
abandoned the building, and it had become a garage. The penitentiary had been
moved outside the city limits, and near its old site was a small cement-lined lake,
the cheerful rendezvous in summer of bathing children and thirsty dogs.
Lily was idle, for the first time in months. She wandered about, even penetrating
to those upper rooms sacred to her grandfather, to which he had retired on
Howard's marriage. How strangely commonplace they were now, in the full light
of day, and yet, when he was in them, the doors closed and only Burton, his
valet, in attendance, how mysterious they became!
Increasingly, in later years, Lily had felt and resented the domination of the old
man. She resented her father's acquiescence in that domination, her mother's
good-humored tolerance of it. She herself had accepted it, although unwillingly,
but she knew, rather vaguely, that the Lily Cardew who had gone away to the
camp and the Lily Cardew who stood that day before her grandfather's throne-
like chair under its lamp, were two entirely different people.
She was uneasy rather than defiant. She meant to keep the peace. She had
been brought up to the theory that no price was too great to pay for peace. But
she wondered, as she stood there, if that were entirely true. She remembered
something Willy Cameron had said about that very thing.
"What's wrong with your grandfather," he had said, truculently, and waving his
pipe, "is that everybody gets down and lets him walk on them. If everybody lets a
man use them as doormats, you can't blame him for wiping his feet on them. Tell
him that sometime, and see what happens."
"Tell him yourself!" said Lily.
He had smiled cheerfully. He had an engaging sort of smile.