It was like a burst of thunder. The worst his father had feared was not as bad as this. He had expected some rather serious boyish trouble, but this was the crime of a man. Still watching his son, he put out his hand, groping for the edge of the mantelpiece, and took hold of it with a firm grasp. For a moment he said nothing; then:
“And—and you say you seduced her.”
Without looking up, Vandover answered, “Yes, sir,” and then he added, “It is horrible; when I think of it I sometimes feel as though I should go off my head. I—”
But the Old Gentleman interrupted him, putting out his hand:
“Don’t,” he said quickly, “don’t say anything now—please.”
They were both silent for a long time, Vandover gazing stupidly at a little blue and red vase on the table, wondering how his father would take the news, what next he would say; the Old Gentleman drawing his breath short, occasionally clearing his throat, his eyes wandering vaguely about the walls of the room, his fingers dancing upon the edge of the mantelpiece. Then at last he put his hand to his neck as though loosening his collar and said, looking away from Vandover:
“Won’t you—won’t you please go out—go away for a little while—leave me alone for a little while.”
When Vandover closed the door, he shut the edge of a rug between it and the sill; as he reopened it to push the rug out of the way he saw his father sink into the chair and, resting his arm upon the table, bow his head upon it.
He did not see his father again that night, and at breakfast next morning not a word was exchanged between them, but his father did not go downtown to his office that forenoon, as was his custom. Vandover went up to his room immediately after breakfast and sat down before the window that overlooked the little garden in the rear of the house.
He was utterly miserable, his nerves were gone, and at times he would feel again a touch of that hysterical, unreasoning terror that had come upon him so suddenly the other morning.
Now there was a new trouble: the blow he had given his father. He could see that the Old Gentleman was crushed under it, and that he had never imagined that his son could have been so base as this. Vandover wondered what he was going to do. It would seem as if he had destroyed all of his father’s affection for him, and he trembled lest the Old Gentleman should cast him off, everything. Even if his father did not disown him, he did not see how they could ever be the same. They might go on living together in the same house, but as far apart from each other as strangers. This, however, did not seem natural; it was much more likely that his father would send him away, anywhere out of his sight, forwarding, perhaps through his lawyer or agents, enough money to keep him alive. The more Vandover thought of this, the more he became convinced that such would be his father’s decision. The Old Gentleman had spent the night over it, time enough to make up his mind, and the fact that he had neither spoken to him nor looked at him that morning was only an indication of what Vandover was to expect. He fancied he knew his father well enough to foresee how this decision would be carried out, not with any imprecations or bursts of rage, but calmly, sadly, inevitably.