And then something very curious happened: The little picture of Turner Ravis that hung over his mantelpiece caught his glance, looking out at him with her honest eyes and sweet smile. In an instant he seemed to love her as he had never imagined he could love any one. All that was best in him went out toward her in a wave of immense tenderness; the tears came to his eyes, he could not tell why. Ah, he was not good enough for her now, but he would love her so well that he would grow better, and between her and his good father and his art, the better Vandover, the real Vandover, would grow so large and strong within him that there should be no room for the other Vandover, the Vandover of Flossie and of the Imperial, the Vandover of the brute.
During the course of talk that day between himself and his father, it was decided that Vandover should go away for a little while. He was in a fair way to be sick from worry and nervous exhaustion, and a sea trip to San Diego and back seemed to be what he stood most in need of. Besides this, his father told him, it was inevitable that his share in Ida’s death would soon be known; in any case it would be better for him to be away from the city.
“You take whatever steamer sails next,” said his father, “and! go down to Coronado and stay there as long as you like, three weeks anyway; stay there until you get well, and when you get back, Van, we’ll have a talk about Paris again. Perhaps you would like to get away this winter, maybe as soon as next month. You think it over while you are away, and when you want to go, why, we’ll go over together, Van. What do you think? Would you like to have your old governor along for a little while?”
* * * * *
The Santa Rosa cast off the company’s docks the next day about noon in the midst of a thick, cold mist that was half rain. The Old Gentleman came to see Vandover off.
The steamer, which seemed gigantic, was roped and cabled to the piers, feeling the water occasionally with her screw to keep the hawsers taut. About the forward gangway a band of overworked stevedores were stowing in the last of the cargo, aided by a donkey engine, which every now and then broke out into a spasm of sputtering coughs. At the passenger gangway a great crowd was gathered, laughing and exchanging remarks with the other crowd that leaned over the railings of the decks.
There was a smell of pitch and bilge in the air mingled with the reek of hot oil from the engines. About twelve o’clock an odour of cooking arose, and the steward went about the decks drumming upon a snoring gong for dinner.
Half an hour later the great whistle roared interminably, drowning out the chorus of “good-byes” that rose on all sides. Long before it had ceased, the huge bulk had stirred, almost imperceptibly at first, then, gathering headway, swung out into the stream and headed for the Golden Gate.