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PAGE 2

His Father’s Son
by [?]

Gradually Ronald’s insistence became less difficult to overcome. With his customary sweetness and tact (as Mr. Grew put it) he began to “take the hint,” to give in to “the old gentleman’s” growing desire for solitude.

“I’m set in my ways, Ronny, that’s about the size of it; I like to go tick-ticking along like a clock. I always did. And when you come bouncing in I never feel sure there’s enough for dinner–or that I haven’t sent Maria out for the evening. And I don’t want the neighbors to see me opening my own door to my son. That’s the kind of cringing snob I am. Don’t give me away, will you? I want ’em to think I keep four or five powdered flunkeys in the hall day and night–same as the lobby of one of those Fifth Avenue hotels. And if you pop over when you’re not expected, how am I going to keep up the bluff?”

Ronald yielded after the proper amount of resistance–his intuitive sense, in every social transaction, of the proper amount of force to be expended, was one of the qualities his father most admired in him. Mr. Grew’s perceptions in this line were probably more acute than his son suspected. The souls of short thick-set men, with chubby features, mutton-chop whiskers, and pale eyes peering between folds of fat like almond kernels in half-split shells–souls thus encased do not reveal themselves to the casual scrutiny as delicate emotional instruments. But in spite of the dense disguise in which he walked Mr. Grew vibrated exquisitely in response to every imaginative appeal; and his son Ronald was perpetually stimulating and feeding his imagination.

Ronald in fact constituted his father’s one escape from the impenetrable element of mediocrity which had always hemmed him in. To a man so enamoured of beauty, and so little qualified to add to its sum total, it was a wonderful privilege to have bestowed on the world such a being. Ronald’s resemblance to Mr. Grew’s early conception of what he himself would have liked to look might have put new life into the discredited theory of pre-natal influences. At any rate, if the young man owed his beauty, his distinction and his winning manner to the dreams of one of his parents, it was certainly to those of Mr. Grew, who, while outwardly devoting his life to the manufacture and dissemination of Grew’s Secure Suspender Buckle, moved in an enchanted inward world peopled with all the figures of romance. In this high company Mr. Grew cut as brilliant a figure as any of its noble phantoms; and to see his vision of himself suddenly projected on the outer world in the shape of a brilliant popular conquering son, seemed, in retrospect, to give to that image a belated objective reality. There were even moments when, forgetting his physiognomy, Mr. Grew said to himself that if he’d had “half a chance” he might have done as well as Ronald; but this only fortified his resolve that Ronald should do infinitely better.

Ronald’s ability to do well almost equalled his gift of looking well. Mr. Grew constantly affirmed to himself that the boy was “not a genius”; but, barring this slight deficiency, he was almost everything that a parent could wish. Even at Harvard he had managed to be several desirable things at once–writing poetry in the college magazine, playing delightfully “by ear,” acquitting himself honorably in his studies, and yet holding his own in the fashionable sporting set that formed, as it were, the gateway of the temple of Society. Mr. Grew’s idealism did not preclude the frank desire that his son should pass through that gateway; but the wish was not prompted by material considerations. It was Mr. Grew’s notion that, in the rough and hurrying current of a new civilization, the little pools of leisure and enjoyment must nurture delicate growths, material graces as well as moral refinements, likely to be uprooted and swept away by the rush of the main torrent. He based his theory on the fact that he had liked the few “society” people he had met–had found their manners simpler, their voices more agreeable, their views more consonant with his own, than those of the leading citizens of Wingfield. But then he had met very few.