The Mansion

The Mansion


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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Mansion, by Henry Van Dyke
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it,
give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at
Title: The Mansion
Author: Henry Van Dyke
Posting Date: July 23, 2008 [EBook #704] Release Date: October, 1996
Language: English
Produced by Michael Leonard
The Mansion
Henry van Dyke
There was an air of calm and reserved opulence about the Weightman mansion that spoke not of money squandered,
but of wealth prudently applied. Standing on a corner of the Avenue no longer fashionable for residence, it looked upon
the swelling tide of business with an expression of complacency and half-disdain.
The house was not beautiful. There was nothing in its straight front of chocolate-colored stone, its heavy cornices, its
broad, staring windows of plate glass, its carved and bronze-bedecked mahogany doors at the top of the wide stoop, to
charm the eye or fascinate the imagination. But it was eminently respectable, and in its way imposing. It seemed to say
that the glittering shops of the jewelers, the milliners, the confectioners, the florists, the picture-dealers, the furriers, the
makers of rare and costly antiquities, retail traders in luxuries of life, were beneath the notice of a house that had its
foundations in ...



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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Mansion, byHenry Van DykeThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere atno cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under theterms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.netTitle: The MansionAuthor: Henry Van DykePosting Date: July 23, 2008 [EBook #704] ReleaseDate: October, 1996Language: English*E*B* OSTOAK RTTH OE F MTAHNISS IPORN O*J**ECT GUTENBERGProduced by Michael LeonardThe Mansion
yBHenry van DykeThere was an air of calm and reserved opulenceabout the Weightman mansion that spoke not ofmoney squandered, but of wealth prudentlyapplied. Standing on a corner of the Avenue nolonger fashionable for residence, it looked upon theswelling tide of business with an expression ofcomplacency and half-disdain.The house was not beautiful. There was nothing inits straight front of chocolate-colored stone, itsheavy cornices, its broad, staring windows of plateglass, its carved and bronze-bedecked mahoganydoors at the top of the wide stoop, to charm theeye or fascinate the imagination. But it waseminently respectable, and in its way imposing. Itseemed to say that the glittering shops of thejewelers, the milliners, the confectioners, theflorists, the picture-dealers, the furriers, themakers of rare and costly antiquities, retail tradersin luxuries of life, were beneath the notice of ahouse that had its foundations in the high finance,and was built literally and figuratively in the shadowof St. Petronius' Church.aAtn dt hceo snagrmate utliamtoer yt hien rteh ew awsa sy oinm ewthhiicnhg  tsheel f-mplaenassioendahlemldo istts  soewenm aedm itdo  tbhee  lcifhteadn guinp ga  nliettilgeh, baomrhoonogd t. hIte
tvaalll ubeu iolfd itnhges  lanneda r oant  whahincdh,  ita ss tifo iot df.elt the risingJohn Weightman was like the house into which hehad built himself thirty years ago, and in which hisideals and ambitions were incrusted. He was a self-made man. But in making himself he had chosen ahighly esteemed pattern and worked according tothe approved rules. There was nothing irregular,questionable, flamboyant about him.He was solid, correct, and justly successful.His minor tastes, of course, had been carefullykept up to date.At the proper time, pictures of the Barbizonmasters, old English plate and portraits, bronzesby Barye and marbles by Rodin, Persian carpetsand Chinese porcelains, had been introduced tothe mansion. It contained a Louis Quinzereception-room, an Empire drawing-room, aJacobean dining-room, and various apartmentsdimly reminiscent of the styles of furniture affectedby deceased monarchs. That the hallways weretoo short for the historic perspective did not makemuch difference. American decorative art iscapable de tout, it absorbs all periods. Of eachperiod Mr. Weightman wished to have somethingof the best. He understood its value, present as acertificate, and prospective as an investment.It was only in the architecture of his town housethat he remained conservative, immovable, onemight almost say Early-Victorian-Christian. His
might almost say Early-Victorian-Christian. Hiscountry house at Dulwich-on-the-Sound was apalace of the Italian Renaissance. But in town headhered to an architecture which had moralassociations, the Nineteenth-Century-Brownstoneepoch. It was a symbol of his social position, hisreligious doctrine, and even, in a way, of hisbusiness creed."A man of fixed principles," he would say, "shouldexpress them in the looks of his house. New Yorkchanges its domestic architecture too rapidly. It islike divorce. It is not dignified. I don't like it.Extravagance and fickleness are advertised inmost of these new houses. I wish to be known fordifferent qualities. Dignity and prudence are thethings that people trust. Every one knows that Ican afford to live in the house that suits me. It is aguarantee to the public. It inspires confidence. Ithelps my influence. There is a text in the Bibleabout 'a house that hath foundations.' That is theproper kind of a mansion for a solid man."Harold Weightman had often listened to his fatherdiscoursing in this fashion on the fundamentalprinciples of life, and always with a divided mind.He admired immensely his father's talents and thesingle-minded energy with which he improvedthem. But in the paternal philosophy there wassomething that disquieted and oppressed theyoung man, and made him gasp inwardly for freshair and free action.tAht et ilamwe ss, cdhuoroinl, g hhei sh acodl lyeigeled ecod utros teh iasn idm hpiusl syee aarns dat
broken away—now toward extravagance anddissipation, and then, when the reaction came,toward a romantic devotion to work among thepoor. He had felt his father's disapproval for bothof these forms of imprudence; but is was neverexpressed in a harsh or violent way, always with acertain tolerant patience, such as one might showfor the mistakes and vagaries of the very young.John Weightman was not hasty, impulsive,inconsiderate, even toward his own children. Withthem, as with the rest of the world, he felt that hehad a reputation to maintain, a theory to vindicate.He could afford to give them time to see that hewas absolutely right.One of his favorite Scripture quotations was, "Waiton the Lord."He had applied it to real estate and to people, withprofitable results.But to human persons the sensation of beingwaited for is not always agreeable. Sometimes,especially with the young, it produces a vaguerestlessness, a dumb resentment, which isincreased by the fact that one can hardly explain orjustify it. Of this John Weightman was notconscious. It lay beyond his horizon. He did nottake it into account in the plan of life which hemade for himself and for his family as the sharersand inheritors of his success.i"rFritatathieorn ,p ltaoy hsi su sm,"o tshaiedr , H"laikreo ldp,i eicn eas  imn oam geantm oef of
chess."My dear," said that lady, whose faith in herhusband was religious, "you ought not to speak soimpatiently. At least he wins the game. He is one ofthe most respected men in New York. And he isvery generous, too.""I wish he would be more generous in letting us beourselves," said the young man. "He always hassomething in view for us and expects to move usup to it.""But isn't it always for our benefit?" replied hismother. "Look what a position we have. No onecan say there is any taint on our money. There areno rumors about your father. He has kept the lawsof God and of man. He has never made anymistakes." Harold got up from his chair and pokedthe fire. Then he came back to the ample, well-gowned, firm-looking lady, and sat beside her onthe sofa. He took her hand gently and looked atthe two rings—a thin band of yellow gold, and asmall solitaire diamond—which kept their place onher third finger in modest dignity, as if not shamed,but rather justified, by the splendor of the emeraldwhich glittered beside them."Mother," he said, "you have a wonderful hand.And father made no mistake when he won you. Butare you sure he has always been so inerrant?""mHeaarnol?d ,H" iss hlief ee ixsc laani moepde,n  ab loittolke. "stiffly, "what do you
"Oh," he answered, "I don't mean anything bad,mother dear. I know the governor's life is an openbook—a ledger, if you like, kept in the bestbookkeeping hand, and always ready for inspection—every page correct, and showing a handsomebalance. But isn't it a mistake not to allow us tomake our own mistakes, to learn for ourselves, tolive our own lives? Must we be always working for'the balance,' in one thing or another? I want to bemyself—to get outside of this everlasting, profitable'plan'—to let myself go, and lose myself for a whileat least—to do the things that I want to do, justbecause I want to do them.""My boy," said his mother, anxiously, "you are notgoing to do anything wrong or foolish? You knowthe falsehood of that old proverb about wild oats."He threw back his head and laughed. "Yes,mother," he answered, "I know it well enough. Butin California, you know, the wild oats are one of themost valuable crops. They grow all over thehillsides and keep the cattle and the horses alive.But that wasn't what I meant—to sow wild oats.Say to pick wild flowers, if you like, or even tochase wild geese—to do something that seemsgood to me just for its own sake, not for the sakeof wages of one kind or another. I feel like a hiredman, in the service of this magnificent mansion—say in training for father's place as majordomo. I'dlike to get out some way, to feel free—perhaps todo something for others."The young man's voice hesitated a little. "Yes, it
Is'do ulinkde  ltiok ed co asnot,m I ek ngooow,d  ibnu tt hseo mwoertildm, eifs  fIa fteheelr  aosn lifywouldn't insist upon God's putting it into theledger."His mother moved uneasily, and a slight look ofbewilderment came into her face."Isn't that almost irreverent?" she asked. "Surelythe righteous must have their reward. And yourfather is good. See how much he gives to all theestablished charities, how many things he hasfounded. He's always thinking of others, andplanning for them. And surely, for us, he doeseverything. How well he has planned this trip toEurope for me and the girls—the court-presentation at Berlin, the season on the Riviera,the visits in England with the Plumptons and theHalverstones. He says Lord Halverstone has thefinest old house in Sussex, pure Elizabethan, andall the old customs are kept up, too—familyprayers every morning for all the domestics. By-the-way, you know his son Bertie, I believe."Harold smiled a little to himself as he answered:"Yes, I fished at Catalina Island last June with theHonorable Ethelbert; he's rather a decent chap, inspite of his ingrowing mind. But you?—mother, youare simply magnificent! You are father'smasterpiece." The young man leaned over to kissher, and went up to the Riding Club for hisafternoon canter in the Park.So it came to pass, early in December, that Mrs.
Weightman and her two daughters sailed forEurope, on their serious pleasure trip, even as ithad been written in the book of Providence; andJohn Weightman, who had made the entry, wasleft to pass the rest of the winter with his son andheir in the brownstone mansion.They were comfortable enough. The machinery ofthe massive establishment ran as smoothly as agreat electric dynamo. They were busy enough,too. John Weightman's plans and enterprises werecomplicated, though his principle of action wasalways simple—to get good value for everyexpenditure and effort. The banking-house ofwhich he was the chief, the brain, the will, theabsolutely controlling hand, was so admirablyorganized that the details of its direction took butlittle time.But the scores of other interests that radiated fromit and were dependent upon it—or perhaps it wouldbe more accurate to say, that contributed to itssolidity and success—the many investments,industrial, political, benevolent, reformatory,ecclesiastical, that had made the name ofWeightman well known and potent in city, church,and state, demanded much attention and carefulsteering, in order that each might produce thedesired result. There were board meetings ofcorporations and hospitals, conferences in WallStreet and at Albany, consultations and committeemeetings in the brownstone mansion.For a share in all this business and its adjuncts
John Weightman had his son in training in one ofthe famous law firms of the city; for he held thatbanking itself is a simple affair, the only realdifficulties of finance are on its legal side.Meantime he wished the young man to meet andknow the men with whom he would have to dealwhen he became a partner in the house. So acouple of dinners were given in the mansion duringDecember, after which the father called the son'sattention to the fact that over a hundred milliondollars had sat around the board.But on Christmas Eve father and son were diningtogether without guests, and their talk across thebroad table, glittering with silver and cut glass, andsoftly lit by shaded candles, was intimate, though alittle slow at times. The elder man was in rather arare mood, more expansive and confidential thanusual; and, when the coffee was brought in andthey were left alone, he talked more freely of hispersonal plans and hopes than he had ever donebefore."I feel very grateful to-night," said he, at last; "itmust be something in the air of Christmas thatgives me this feeling of thankfulness for the manydivine mercies that have been bestowed upon me.All the principles by which I have tried to guide mylife have been justified. I have never made thevalue of this salted almond by anything that thecourts would not uphold, at least in the long run,and yet—or wouldn't it be truer to say andtherefore?—my affairs have been wonderfullyprospered. There's a great deal in that text