DAMON AND PYTHIAS
By an odd coincidence, the night which had seen Henry and Esther confront their father, had seen, in another household in which the young people counted another member of their secret society of youth, a similar but even less seemly clash between the generations. Ned Hazell would be a poet too, and a painter as well, and perhaps a romantic actor; but his father’s tastes for his son’s future lay in none of these directions, and Ned was for the present in cotton. Now the elder Mr. Hazell was a man of violently convivial habits, and the bonhomie, with which he was accustomed to enliven bar-parlours up till eleven of an evening, was apt to suffer a certain ungenial transformation as he reached his own front door. There the wit would fail upon his lips, the twinkle die out of his glance, and an unaccountable ferocity towards the household that was waiting up for him take their place. When possible, he would fix upon some trivial reason to give an air of plausibility to this curious change in him; but if that were not forthcoming, he would, it appeared, fly into a violent rage for just that very reason.
However, on this particular night, Heaven had provided him with an heroic occasion. His son, he discovered, was for once out later than his father. In what haunt of vice, or low place of drinking, he was at the moment ensnared, no one better than his father could imagine. The opportunity was one not to be missed. The outraged parent at last realised that he had borne with him long enough, borne long enough with his folderols of art and nonsense; and so determined was he on the instant that he would have no more of it, that, with a quite remarkable energy, he had thereupon repaired to his son’s room, opened the window, and begun vigorously to throw his pretty editions, his dainty water-colours, his drawers full of letters, his cast of the Venus of Milo, out on to the lawn, upon which at the moment a heavy rain was also falling.
In the very whirlwind of his righteous vandalism his son had returned, and, being a muscular, hot-blooded lad, had taken his father by the throat, called him a drunken beast, and hurled him to the floor, where he pinned him down with a knee on his chest, and might conceivably have made an end of him, but for the interference of mother and sisters, who succeeded at last in getting the dazed and somewhat sobered parent to bed.