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Sons and Daughters

Sons and Daughters
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Title: Sons and Daughters
Release Date: 2018-12-09
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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SONS AND DAUGHTERS

SONS AND DAUGHTERS

A NOVEL
BY
MRS OLIPHANT
SECOND EDITION
WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS
EDINBURGH AND LONDON
MDCCCXCI
{1}

CHAPTER I., II., III., IV., V., VI., VII., VIII., IX., X.

SONS AND DAUGHTERS.

CHAPTER I.

Then you will not take the share in the business which I have offeredyou?”

“No, I think not, sir. I don’t like it. I don’t like the way in which itis worked. It would be entirely out of accordance with all my training.”

“So much the worse for your training—and for you,” said Mr Burton,hastily.

“Well, sir, perhaps so. I feel it’s ungenerous to say that the trainingwas your{2} own choice, not mine. I think it, of course, the best trainingin the world.”

“So it is—so it was when I selected it for you. There’s no harm in thetraining. Few boys come out of it with your ridiculous prejudicesagainst their bread and butter. It’s not the training, it’s you—thatare a fool, Gervase.”

“Perhaps so, sir,” said the young man with great gravity. “I can offerno opinion on that subject.”

The father and son were seated together in a well-furnished library in alarge house in Harley Street—not fashionable, but extremelycomfortable, spacious, expensive, and dignified. It was a library in thetruest sense of the word, and not merely the “gentleman’s room” in whichthe male portion of a family takes refuge.{3} There was an excellentcollection of books on the shelves that lined the walls, a few goodpictures, a bust or two placed high on the tops of the bookcases. Itbore signs, besides, of constant occupation, and of being, in short, theroom in which its present occupants lived—which was the fact. They wereall their family. Mrs Burton had died years before, and her husband hadafter her death lived only for his boy and—his business. The latterdevotion kept everything that was sentimental out of the former. He wasvery kind and indulgent to Gervase, and gave him the ideal Englisheducation—the education of an English gentleman: five or six years atEton, three or four at Oxford. He intended to do, and did, his son“every justice.” Expense had{4} never been spared in any way. Though hedid not himself care for shooting, he had taken a moor in the Highlandsfor several successive seasons, in order that his boy should be familiarwith that habit of the higher classes. Though he hated travelling, hehad gone abroad for the same purpose. Gervase had never been stinted inanything: he had a good allowance, rooms handsomely furnished, horses athis disposal, everything that heart could desire. And he on his part haddone all that could be desired or expected from a young man. If he hadnot electrified his tutors and masters, he had not disappointed them. Hehad done very well all round. His father had no reason to be otherwisethan proud of his son. Both at school and college he{5} had done well; hehad got into no scrapes. He had even acquired a little distinction; notmuch, not enough to spoil him either for business or society—yetsomething, enough to enable people to say, “He did very well at Oxford.”And he had made some good friends, which perhaps was what his fatherprized most. One or two scions of noble houses came to Harley Street tosee him; he had invitations from a few fine people for their countryhouses, and ladies of note who had a number of daughters were disposedto smile upon the merchant’s son. All these things pleased Mr Burtonmuch, and he had been quite willing to assent to his son’s wish that heshould end and complete his experiences by a visit to America, beforebeginning the work which{6} had always been his final destination. He hadnow just returned from that expedition, and it had been intended that heshould step at once into his place in the business—that business whichwas as good as, nay, much better than, an estate. Up to this time theyoung man had made no objection to the plan, which he was perfectlyacquainted with. So far as his father knew, he was as well disposedtowards that plan as Mr Burton himself, and looked forward to it with asmuch satisfaction. It may therefore be supposed that it was with nosmall consternation, with displeasure, disappointment, and indignation,one greater than the other, that the father had sat and listened to thesudden and astounding protest of the son. Not go into the business!{7} Itwas to Mr Burton as if a man had refused to go to heaven; indeed it wasless reasonable by far: for though going to heaven is supposed to be theheight of everybody’s desire, even the most pious of clergymen has beenknown to say “God forbid!” when he has been warned that he stands on thebrink of another world. One would wish generally to postpone thathighest of consummations; but to refuse to go into the business was athing incredible. Mr Burton had raged and stormed, but afterwards he hadbeen brought into partial calm through the evident impossibility oftreating his son in any other way. To scold Gervase was practicallyimpossible. To treat him like a child or a fool was a thing that couldnot be done. His own composure naturally affected all who had{8} to dowith him, and his father among the rest. That passionate speaking orabuse, or violence of any kind, should fall dumb before his easy andimmovable quiet, was inevitable. He had waited till the outburst wasover, and then he had gone on.

“And what else then, if not in my office, do you mean to do?” Mr Burtonnow said.

“I suppose, sir,” said Gervase, “I am right in believing, as everybodydoes, that you are a rich man?”

“Well; and what then?” said the merchant, with a wave of his hand.

“And I am your only child.”

“Of that, at least, there can be no doubt. But I repeat, what then?”

“I may be wrong,” said Gervase,{9} ingenuously, “but at least everybodysays—that every means of making an income is pursued by crowds ofpeople, more than can ever hope to make an income by it. I may not statethe facts so clearly as I wish.”

“There are more men wanting work than there is work to give them. Isuppose that’s what you mean.”

“Far better said than I could say it. In that case, my dear father,”said Gervase, with a look of imperturbable reason and candour, “whyshould I, who have no need to work and no desire for it, help to crowdthe already overcrowded field?”

Mr Burton gave a start like an excited horse, and evidently had to makean effort to restrain the corresponding burst of{10} utterance. But theconviction that these impatient outbursts did more harm than goodrestrained him. He said with simulated calm—

“I am not aware that there is any crowd—at my gates, to force anentrance into my business—to the place which I have naturallyreserved for my son.”

“My dear father,” Gervase repeated, with an almost caressing franknessand appeal to his superior judgment, “there are hundreds who could do itmuch better than your son. There is Wickham’s son——”

“Try not to drive me beyond the bounds of patience,” cried the merchant,with suppressed excitement. “Wickham’s son—my old clerk——”

“Who has served you most faithfully{11} for years. And Charlie Wickham isworth twenty of me—in all that concerns business——”

“That’s not saying very much,” cried Mr Burton, with a snort of rage.

“I am sorry you should say that, sir—for, of course, it shows that youthought I would be a mere cipher in the business; whereas I am sureCharlie——”

“Look here, Gervase,” cried his father. “Let’s understand each other.You are free to come in and prepare yourself to take my place, whichwould be the course of nature; but if you don’t think fit to do this, Ihave no desire for your advice. I don’t believe in your advice. Keepyour suggestions to yourself. As for your Wickhams—— If I bring inanybody in your place, I’ll bring in new blood. I’ll bring{12} in moremoney. I’ll——” He felt himself getting hot and excited—and the calmand slightly wondering countenance of his son, although seen through amist of irritation, and apt to send any man dancing with fury, yet heldhim in as with a bridle, so strong was the superiority of the calm tothe excitement. “Try not to drive me beyond the bounds of patience,” hesaid.

“Well, sir?” replied Gervase, spreading out his hands and slightlyelevating his shoulders. The gesture was French, which irritated MrBurton more and more: but he said nothing further; and it was not tillhe had taken up the ‘St James’s Gazette’ which lay on the table, andread through two of those soothing articles on nothing particular withwhich that journal abounds, and which the merchant in his anger read{13}from beginning to end without the slightest idea what they were about,that he allowed himself to speak again. He was then preternaturallytranquil, with a quietude like that of an anchorite in his voice.

“I suppose,” he said, “that you have taken everything into account inmaking this decision—Miss Thursley, for instance—and given up all ideaof marriage, or anything of that kind?”

Gervase’s quiet looks became slightly disturbed. He looked up with acertain eagerness. “Given up?——” he said.

“Of course,” said Mr Burton, delighted to have got the mastery, “youcan’t marry—a girl accustomed to every luxury—on your boy’s allowance.Five hundred a-year is not much—it might do for her pin-money, with alittle perhaps to the good{14} for your button-holes. But what you wouldlive upon, in the more serious sense of the words, I don’t know.”

The young man’s composure had completely disappeared during this speech.Astonishment, irritation, and dismay came into his face. He did not seemable, however, to believe what was said to him. “I thought—that youwere in every way pleased with—the connection,” he said.

“Certainly I am—a better business connection could not be, for a youngman seriously entering into commercial life. A dilettante is adifferent pair of shoes——”

“A dilettante—I don’t object to the name,” said Gervase, with a faintsmile.

“Madeline is a dilettante too. She has some money of her own. And Ifeel sure she would agree with me.{15}

“In setting her father at defiance, and marrying upon nothing——?”

“Father,” said Gervase, distressed, “I had no intention of setting youat defiance. I have certain opinions—of my own—which are new.Business—is not congenial to me. Some of its methods seem—— But Ineed not explain. I never meant, however, to set you at defiance. Ithought that in myself I—had some claims upon you apart from thebusiness——”

“What claims? I am the author of your being, as the old books say, andI’ve responded to that claim by giving you everything that a king’s soncould have had. You have been just as well off as the Prince of Wales.What more do you want? I think my claims are better founded than{16} yours.It is I who have a right to something in return, not you.”

Gervase’s countenance was a sight to see; it changed altogether from thecalm certainty of superior right which had been in it. The firstastonishment did not pass away, but other sentiments came in.Doubt—slow conviction that there was something in what his fathersaid—a strong feeling, nevertheless, that it was impossible he couldhimself be altogether in the wrong. All these warring sentiments roseupon the clear and calm conviction of his earlier state, and blurredthat spotless firmament. He drew a long breath.

“It is quite true,” he said—“quite true all you say. You have given meeverything—and I—have had nothing to give in{17} return. Still——” Allnature was in that word—all the certainty of youth that it has a claimnever to be ignored—that its mere existence is response enough; and allthe traditions of family custom, which make the wellbeing of the childthe first object of the father; and the unconscious assumption whichevery child instinctively makes, that, after all, its predecessors arepassing away, and itself the permanent interest—an assumption which itis quite

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