Marvell was not coming into the club, and he drew a long breath of relief as his companion left himWas it possible that he had ever thought leniently of the egregious Popple? The tone of social omniscience which he had once found so comic was now as offensive nike heels sandals to him as a coarse physical touchAnd the worst of it was that Popple, with the slight exaggeration of a caricature, really expressed the ideals of the world he frequentedAs he spoke of Miss Spragg, so others at any rate would think of her: almost every one in Ralph's set would agree that it was luck for a girl from Apex to be started by Peter Van Degen at a Cafe Martin dinnerRalph Marvell, mounting his grandfather's doorstep, looked up at the symmetrical old red house-front, with its frugal marble ornament, as he might have looked into a familiar human faceThey're right,after all, in some ways they're right," he murmured, slipping his key into the doorThey" were his mother and old MrUrban Dagonet, both, from Ralph's earliest memories, so closely identified with the old house in Washington Square that they might have passed for its inner consciousness as it might have stood for their outward form; and the question as to which the house now seemed to affirm their intrinsic rightness was that of the social disintegration expressed by widely-different architectural physiognomies at the other end of Fifth AvenueAs Ralph pushed the bolts behind him, and passed into the hall, with its dark mahogany doors and the quiet "Dutch interior" effect of its black and white marble paving, he said to himself that what Popple called society was really just like the houses it lived in: a muddle of misapplied ornament over a thin steel shell of utilityThe steel shell was built up in Wall Street, the social trimmings were hastily added in Fifth nike air force heels Avenue; and the union between them was as monstrous and factitious, as unlike the gradual homogeneous growth which flowers into what other countries know as society, as that between the Blois gargoyles on Peter Van Degen's roof and the skeleton walls supporting themThat was what "they" had always said; what, at least, the Dagonet attitude, the Dagonet view of life, the very lines of the furniture in the old Dagonet house expressedRalph sometimes called his mother and grandfather the Aborigines, and likened them to those vanishing denizens of the American continent doomed to rapid extinction with the advance of the invading raceHe was fond of describing Washington Square as the "Reservation," and of prophesying that before long its inhabitants would be exhibited at ethnological shows, pathetically engaged in the exercise of their primitive industriesSmall, cautious, middle-class, had been the ideals of aboriginal New York; but it suddenly struck the young man that they were singularly coherent and respectable as contrasted with the chaos of indiscriminate appetites which made up its modern tendenciesHe too had wanted to be "modern," had revolted, half-humorously, against the restrictions and exclusions of the old code; and it must have been by one of the ironic reversions of heredity that, at this precise point, he began to see what there was to be said on the other sidehis side, as he now felt it to beChatper 6 Upstairs, in his brown firelit room, he threw himself into an armchair, and rememberedHarvard firstthen Oxford; then a year of wandering and rich initiationReturning to New York, he had read law, and now had his desk in the office of the respectable firm in whose charge the Dagonet estate had mouldered for several generationsBut his profession was the least real thing in his lifeThe realities lay about him now: the books jamming cheap nike high heels his old college bookcases and overflowing on chairs and tables; sketches toohe could do charming things, if only he had known how to finish them!and, on the writing-table at his elbow, scattered sheets of prose and verse; charming things also, but, like the sketches, unfinishedNothing in the Dagonet and Marvell tradition was opposed to this desultory dabbling with lifeFor four or five generations it had been the rule of both houses that a young fellow should go to Columbia or Harvard, read law, and then lapse into more or less cultivated inactionThe only essential was that he should live "like a gentleman"that is, with a tranquil disdain for mere money-getting, a passive openness to the finer sensations, one or two fixed principles as to the quality of wine, and an archaic probity that had not yet learned to distinguish between private and "business" honourNo equipment could more thoroughly have unfitted the modern youth for getting on: it hardly needed the scribbled pages on the desk to complete the hopelessness of Ralph Marvell's caseHe had accepted the fact with a humorous fatalismMaterial resources were limited on both sides of the house, but there would always be enough for his frugal wantsenough to buy books (not "editions"), and pay now and then for a holiday dash to the great centres of art and ideasAnd meanwhile there was the world of wonders within himAs a boy at the sea-side, Ralph, between tides, had once come on a cavea secret inaccessible place with glaucous lights, mysterious murmurs, and a single shaft of communication with the skyHe had kept his find from the other boys, not churlishly, for he was always an outspoken lad, but because he felt there were things about the cave that the others, good fellows as they all were, couldn't be expected to understand, and that, anyhow, it would never be quite his cave again after he had let his thick-set freckled cousins play smuggler and pirate in itAnd so with his inner worldThough so coloured by outer impressions, it wove a secret curtain about him, and he came and went in it with the same joy of furtive possessionOne day, of course, some one would discover it and reign there with himno, reign over it and himOnce or twice already a light foot had reached the thresholdHis cousin Clare Dagonet, for instance: there had been a summer when her voice had sounded far down the windingsbut he had run over to Spain for the autumn, and when he came back she was engaged to Peter Van Degen, and for a while it looked black in the caveThat was long ago, as time is reckoned under thirty; and for three years now he had felt for her only a half-contemptuous pityTo have stood at the mouth of his cave, and have turned from it to the Van Degen lair! Poor Clare repented, indeedshe wanted it clearly but she repented in the Van Degen diamonds, and the Van Degen motor bore her broken heart from opera to ballShe had been subdued to what she worked in, and she could never again find her way to the enchanted caveRalph, since then, had reached the point of deciding that he would never marry; reached it not suddenly or dramatically, but with such sober advisedness as is urged on those about to take the opposite stepWhat he most wanted, now that the first flutter of being was over, was to learn and to doto know what the great people had thought, think about their thinking, cheap nike heels and then launch his own boat: write some good verse if possible; if not, then critical proseA dramatic poem lay among the stuff at his elbow; but the prose critic was at his elbow too, and not to be satisfied about the poem; and poet and critic passed the nights in hot if unproductive debateOn the whole, it seemed likely that the critic would win the day, and the essay on "The Rhythmical Structures of Walt Whitman" take shape before "The Banished God Yet if the light in the cave was less supernaturally blue, the chant of its tides less laden with unimaginable music, it was still a thronged and echoing place when Undine Spragg appeared on its thresholdHis mother and sister of course wanted him to marryThey had the usual theory that he was "made" for conjugal bliss: women always thought that of a fellow who didn't get drunk and have low tastesRalph smiled at the idea as he sat crouched among his secret treasuresMarrybut whom, in the name of light and freedom? The daughters of his own race sold themselves to the Invaders; the daughters of the Invaders bought their husbands as they bought an  
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