Toward noon his father came into the room, and Vandover turned to face him and to hear what he had to say as best he could. He knew he should not break down under it, for he felt as though his misery had reached its limit, and that nothing could touch or affect him much now.
His father had a decanter of port in one hand and a glass in the other; he filled the glass and held it toward Vandover, saying gently:
“I think you had better take some of this: you’ve hardly eaten anything in three days. Do you feel pretty bad, Van?”
Vandover put the glass down and got upon his feet. All at once a great sob shook him.
“Oh, governor!” he cried.
It was as if it had been a mother or a dear sister. The prodigal son put his arms about his father’s neck for the first time since he had been a little boy, and clung to him and wept as though his heart were breaking.
“We will begin all over again, Van,” his father said later that same day. “We will start in again and try to forget all this, not as much as we can, but as much as we ought, and live it down, and from now on we’ll try to do the thing that is right and brave and good.”
“Just try me, sir!” cried Vandover.
That was it, begin all over again. He had never seen more clearly than now that other life which it was possible for him to live, a life that was above the level of self-indulgence and animal pleasures, a life that was not made up of the society of lost women or fast girls, but yet a life of keen enjoyment.
Whenever he had been deeply moved about anything, the power and desire of art had grown big within him, and he turned to it now, instinctively and ardently.
It was all the better half of him that was aroused—the better half that he had kept in check ever since his college days, the better half that could respond to the influences of his father and of Turner Ravis, that other Vandover whom he felt was his real self, Vandover the true man, Vandover the artist, not Vandover the easy-going, the self-indulgent, not Vandover the lover of women.
From this time forward he was resolved to give up the world that he had hitherto known, and devote himself with all his strength to his art. In the first glow of that resolution he thought that he had never been happier; he wondered how he could have been blind so long; what was all that life worth compared with the life of a great artist, compared even with a life of sturdy, virile effort and patient labour even though barren of achievement?