A Poor Wise Man HTML version

"Meaning what?" He fixed her with cold but attentive eyes.
"Oh - conditions," she said vaguely. She was not at all sure what she meant. And
old Anthony realized it, and gave a sardonic chuckle.
"I advise you to get a few arguments from your father, Lily. He is full of them. If
he had his way I'd have a board of my workmen running my mills, while I played
golf in Florida."
Dinner was a relatively pleasant meal. In her gradual rehabilitation of the house
Grace had finally succeeded in doing over the dining room. Over the old walnut
paneling she had hung loose folds of faded blue Italian velvet, with old silver
candle sconces at irregular intervals along the walls. The great table and high-
backed chairs were likewise Italian, and the old-fashioned white marble fireplace
had been given an over-mantel, also white, enclosing an old tapestry. For
warmth of color there were always flowers, and that night there were red roses.
Lily liked the luxury of it. She liked the immaculate dinner dress of the two men;
she liked her mother's beautiful neck and arms; she liked the quiet service once
more; she even liked herself, moderately, in a light frock and slippers. But she
watched it all with a new interest and a certain detachment. She felt strange and
aloof, not entirely one of them. She felt very keenly that no one of them was
vitally interested in this wonder-year of hers. They asked her perfunctory
questions, but Grace's watchful eyes were on the service, Anthony was
engrossed with his food, and her father -
Her father was changed. He looked older and care-worn. For the first time she
began to wonder about her father. What was he, really, under that calm,
fastidiously dressed, handsome exterior? Did he mind the little man with the
sardonic smile and the swift unpleasant humor, whose glance reduced the men
who served into terrified menials? Her big, blond father, with his rather slow
speech, his honest eyes, his slight hesitation before he grasped some of the finer
nuances of his father's wit. No, he was not brilliant, but he was real, real and
kindly. Perhaps he was strong, too. He looked strong.
With the same pitiless judgment she watched her mother. Either Grace was very
big, or very indifferent to the sting of old Anthony's tongue. Sometimes women
suffered much in silence, because they loved greatly. Like Aunt Elinor. Aunt
Elinor had loved her husband more than she had loved her child. Quite calmly
Lily decided that, as between her husband and herself, her mother loved her
husband. Perhaps that was as it should be, but it added to her sense of
aloofness. And she wondered, too, about these great loves that seemed to feed
on sacrifice.
Anthony, who had a most unpleasant faculty of remembering things, suddenly
bent forward and observed to her, across the table: