The Story of the Lake
Librería en AbeBooks desde: 12 de febrero de 1997Cantidad: 1
Librería en AbeBooks desde: 12 de febrero de 1997Cantidad: 1
Título: The Story of the Lake
Editorial: Faber and Faber, Boston, MA
Año de publicación: 1995
Condición del libro:Fine
Condición de la sobrecubierta: As New
Ejemplar firmado: Signed by Author
Edición: First Edition.
Tipo de libro: Book
Beginning with Victorian times, the lives of four families are played out in the resort area of Wisconsin's Nogowogotoc Lake, summer refuge of Milwaukee's wealthy beer barons, in a panoramic saga rich in Midwestern history.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Story of the Lake
PART ONEWhen the light on the water spreads like liquid gold leaf, I am reminded of one of the great pleasures of my childhood - standing by this window with my grandmother and watching the sun go down. At that moment I am filled with a visual elixir of sun-burning water and feel the desire to be nowhere else.My grandmother moved swiftly and was known to drive fast - "There goes fearless Helen in her Peerless," one of the first cars made - and nothing seemed to stop her from anything athletic. She even played tennis in a long white dress and led the field on horseback. Still, she had a kind of patience with me as a child that never put me in a rush. Her energy wasn't filled with anxiety, and she always had time to talk or read a book. I believe through her manner she taught me to behold, and that everything should be done for beauty.I loved to sit with her in the blue-green study at the far end of the house. The wall curved and the room reminded me of a ship. A convex mirror bent the dimensions even further, and the watchful eyes of Great Grandmother Felton in her oval frame followed me about the room as I touched the spines of the leather volumes or spun the giant globe that looked as ancient as the Constitution, flame-burnt brown - it stood on its pedestal and whirled at an angle in actual imitation of the earth.In this room I felt aware of our own planet turning, that we were indeed in orbit as the globe rumbled round. It seemed amazing to spot our exact location in southern Wisconsin - that this was the land of black earth, where glaciers had deposited their richest treasure of topsoil and lush vegetation was unequaled.My grandmother spent time every day at her desk, for she believed in the nature of correspondence. Those were the days when etiquette began with the fountain pen and written expression was honored. She still wrote to school friends from Rosemary Hall and to others as far away as Zurich or the Dordogne. I loved the fine cream-colored paper she used, her shiny black pen with the golden tip, and the expert slant of her script.Because I was the oldest granddaughter, I had certain unspoken privileges - my grandmother took me into her confidence and told me the stories of the lake. But sometimes it was even better when we were very quiet, whenshe would do her work and I'd do mine. I didn't have to ask her to unlock the middle drawer of her desk or to remove the flat leather box. She simply handed it to me without admonishment, and I carried it over to the rose-colored love seat, then pressed the brass button that opened it up.The box was lined with a dark purple velvet, and the seven precious gems were each sunk into place. Gazing at the glitter of the gems all together put me in another world, as if an essence had been released and I was under its spell, as if I could hear the planets revolving, each one on a different note in the cosmos, like the sound of our glasses filled with water - rubbing round the rim, making the crystal sing out at each level.I took up each gemstone and held it to the light, entranced by the individual color and cut -- amethyst, citrine, garnet, alexandrite. My grandmother taught me their names, just as she taught me each leaf as we rode - black oak, elm, maple, and poplar. I liked the splashy aquamarine best, then the tourmaline and smoky topaz. Holding each one I felt a different sense of mystery, and sometimes, when I dared hold all the gemstones together, listening to the sound of her pen as she wrote, I became as quiet as if we were in church.I remember the pile of letters that arrived after Papa's death. Only then did I feel the oppression of her correspondence, for she felt she had to answer each one - sympathy cards, outlined in black. It was my very first funeral, the first time I'd seen my father cry.Now both grandparents are gone and the generations seem to blend together, but it's as if the good qualities have thinned or crudeness has thickened, as if each generation has gotten weaker, less aesthetically tuned. The house is basically the same. A few portraits have been replaced by lesser works that don't harmonize with the architectural dimensions, and throw the big room slightly off balance. The furniture, the Oriental carpets are still there, only the mood is different - that reverence, that gracious mood of calm is gone, or perhaps my own capacity for wonder has lessened, making me long to have that box of gemstones back in my hands.I asked Aunt Carol about it. She knew I'd been particularly close to her mother, and I mentioned how Gramma had once casually promised the box of them to me, but this made my aunt appear rattled. She went into her study, no longer used for quiet correspondence or for the study of ancient Greek myths, but for family business transactions. Where there had once been order, my grandmother's desk was now piled high with magazines and catalogues, postcards stuffed in all the slots.Then my aunt remembered that she had found that old box of semiprecious gemstones a while ago, but she had passed them on to my cousin Vernon, for his boys to play with - "You know how children enjoy that sort ofthing. I don't think I could ask for them back now. They have such a good time playing marbles with them."Marbles, I thought. They play marbles?I had loved those gemstones because they were beautiful, beautiful and useless, a private treasure, certainly nothing to be tossed about the rug."But maybe we can find some other memento," she went on, rummaging through the desk, though I wanted to get out of there. I didn't want to witness any more of this now. But then, opening a side drawer, she seemed to find something, and turning, she produced my grandmother's black fountain pen.CHAPTER ONE"Open up another deck of cards," Jon Bloodgood called out to his partner, Merrick Wells, as he entered the Nogowogotoc Cannonball, a private red and yellow club car that would take these commuters by rail back out to their summer lake homes. In the one hour and ten minutes it took to get from Milwaukee to the Wahcheetah Station, these gentlemen would manage to get in a few fast card games for fairly high stakes, and the fresh pack guaranteed no marked cards. Though none of this select group would suspect any other, it was the custom of the commute to let the old pack fly, rippling out the window along the gravel and steel rails still hot from the mid-August sun.
Back home at Broadoaks, Merrick's daughters, Helen and Isabelle, were washing down the statue of a waterboy that stood in the center of their mother's English garden -- larkspur, dahlias, roses, phlox. It was a robust little statue with hard tufts of hair, tirelessly holding out his shell filled with water - the girls tried to get him completely wet, no dry marks on him, but slick all over like a seal.Isabelle, five years older, was more careful in the way she wiped the liquid over the waterboy's torso. He seemed almost alive to her, and she imagined her touch might offend him. Perhaps he was trapped within the limits of his form and had to put up with their attention. But just then, Isabelle's chow appeared with another half-dead chicken from Vintry's. Helen turned on the dog, "Oh no! You're a bad, bad girl, Tai Fung. This time you're going to get it."Isabelle also knew what Mr. Vintry had threatened, but she didn't know how to prevent Tai's raids without caging her pet and making a true beast out of her. Then up came Helen's pug, Pompeii, carrying a dirty old sock in his mouth. The faun-colored pug looked stupid as well as knowing, embarrassed as well as very proud.As soon as the shiny black brougham turned in at the drive, both girls ran to meet their father. Helen got there first, as usual, and climbed onto her father's lap before he'd had a chance to descend, but Isabelle's upset won hisattention. "Tai's going to be shot. Mr.Vintry said so. Pompeii probably led her over there.""Don't blame him," Helen defended her dog, who now yapped and twirled about the new arrivals. Bloodgood was amused by the fresh little pug, though Merrick Wells had hoped for a more convivial welcome, since he'd been trying to encourage his friend to consider Caroline Felton and the joys of family life."I don't think anyone's going to have to suffer the death penalty over this," Merrick assured his daughter, "except, perhaps, this rangy looking capon," which Tai still held firmly in her jaws. Tai was a very loyal animal, yet aloof. She did not crave petting like Pompeii, but Merrick had always been taken with the chow precisely because she paid little attention to him."Tie the bird around her neck," Bloodgood suggested. "That usually teaches them, once it begins to rot."Isabelle ran for the kitchen, while Merrick calmly extricated the bird from the dog's blue-black mouth. The darkness of the chow's eyes seemed to concentrate, giving her an even more wolf-like expression. The pug stopped his antics and regarded the exchange with the utmost solemnity. With a snap, Merrick Wells broke the capon's neck. "Where's your mother?" he asked."She's over at The Readers. Will you flip me, Uncle Jon?" Helen loved this feat of gymnastics. She would bend over, put her hands between her legs, then grabbing them, he'd yank - and she'd somersault over, landing flat on her feet. Helen smiled up at their visitor, always eager to please. In that way she was much like her mother, though Sarah Felton Wells had never had her daughter's energy or spirit.Isabelle was clearly like her father. She had his delicate proportions and sensitivity of mind. She was also a bit homely compared to Helen, whose sweetness of appearance disguised the determination within."What scandalous novel are the ladies of the lake devouring now?" Jon Bloodgood wanted to know."Nothing much. Some British poetess. But speaking of that, Sarah's been writing some verse herself these days, and it's not bad, flowers in the Alps and that sort of thing. You should get her to read you a couple."Indeed, Sarah Wells had an ear for the euphonic. She was fond of everything that was elegant and harmonious. Broadoaks was known for combining the beauty of the country with all the comforts of town. There was a graciousness about the large, brown-shingled house, balanced on either side with its wide, welcoming porch. Hosta bloomed along the borders of the herringbone walkway, and the window boxes overflowed with white and pink petunias.Sarah had just finished decorating the foyer at Broadoaks using a cream-coloredmaterial with an oak leaf pattern. There were dark green rugs that seemed to keep in the coolness, preserving it like a cave stores wine or a dense glade shades you from the heat. The house was a refuge from the Wisconsin summer climate, though the sight of the lake alone was cooling.Jon was ascending the steps to his guest room when he spied Sarah's buggy bouncing down the drive. Quickly he returned to greet her. She descended like some newborn thing, wearing a mint-green dress of voluminous lawn, delicate pink ribbons laced through the bodice. "Ah, the most beautiful, most gracious and good," Bloodgood began his typical eulogy, "the finest, most fashionable dove in the entire aviary.""Jonathan, don't tease me. I am nothing but a dupe!" Sarah's face was flushed, and she seemed strangely flustered. "Can you imagine, Harriet Hawkshurst bribed one of the gardeners for a bag of my seed corn!" This tiny, delicate corn had such pale, milky kernels you could eat it raw. "She got hold of it last summer, planted it this spring, harvested her first batch, and had The Readers for luncheon. I can't tell you how she relished my upset.""Why, Sarah," Jon teased, "I didn't know you were seed proud.""Well of course I am." She was proud of her husband, her children, and her home, but especially proud of her garden. Sarah Wells had been known to order every single item in the seed catalogue, and Kurtz, her gardener, managed a work crew of ten."Anyway, we'll eat lightly tonight. The girls are going to join us, and here --" she lifted a small ceramic jug. "I just went over to Ulrich Farms, fresh cream for dessert. Schaum torte, isn't that your favorite? We don't want it to spoil." So off she swept toward the kitchen, where Isabelle and Helen were each relating different versions of the chicken-sock story.
Over dinner they savored a freshly opened bottle of white wine, an excellent Deideshaimer Langenmorgan. "I tell you, Wells, this Liebenau store is really headed somewhere. Merging's the only way to go. You could turn Felton's into the biggest drygoods operation in the entire Midwest.""It is the biggest in the Midwest," Merrick replied."That doesn't mean it couldn't be bigger and better." Turning to his hostess, Jon added, "You'd think with that much gray matter, he'd wake up to the ways of the future." Jon liked to kid Merrick about being three-fourths brain."What are the ways of the future?" Helen asked."You have to be grabby" - he snatched at her arm, and she squealed.Fraulein Reusner, who always joined the family for casual dinners, maintained a rather dour expression, for she didn't think the girls should hear conversation about business.Merrick only shook his head. "That's what they say, greed and speed. But I think endurance stands for something, don't you, girls?""Come, come, let's have no contests," Sarah urged.Merrick was the first to admit that Jon could usually beat him at tennis, or even golf, and Jon usually pulled up much bigger perch than he did, but he believed that he could probably out-stand him. "What do you think?" he asked the girls.They were both delighted by the challenge, for they had often witnessed their father out-standing larger, more powerfully built men, who hobbled away aching and groaning after a fairly short stint on one foot, while their father continued to stand there. He might have been small of stature, but he had a fierceness of mind that made him well-respected in this world of moguls and magnates.William Felton, Sarah's father, had noticed this quality as well as Merrick's unusual thoughtfulness. Years ago, when Felton's Department Store burned to the ground, the old man had arrived at the scene in his nightclothes, and Merrick had offered his galoshes. Felton accepted, and soon asked the young man to give up the law and come help him rebuild the store. He had also introduced him to Sarah.When the store reopened, railroad lines running into Milwaukee gave special rates to customers coming from a radius of a hundred miles, and some seventy thousand people thronged the store that first day. The new Felton's was a true trade palace, the finest of its kind. A huge mahogany triple fireplace stood as a symbol of the store's hospitality. On frosty mornings, when the wet and chilled ladies of Milwaukee appeared, it was the solicitous Felton who ushered them up to the glowing logs to warm themselves. It was his habit to stand with his hands behind his back, bowing graciously to the elite and plain folk alike, while Merrick Wells sat in an office upstairs making radical yet certain decisions.Before coffee and dessert were served, Sarah asked, "Who'd like to go for a boat ride?" It was that splendid hour of the evening, and the girls were up in an instant, flying down the slope to the lakefront. They...
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