The magnificence of the Ambersons began in 1873. Their splendor lasted throughout all the years that saw their Midland town spread and darken into a city. In that town in those days, all the women who wore silk or velvet knew all the other women who wore silk or velvet and everybody knew everybody else's family horse and carriage. The only public conveyance was the streetcar. A lady could whistle to it from an upstairs window, and the car would halt at once, and wait for her, while she shut the window, ... put on her hat and coat, ... went downstairs, ... found an umbrella, ... told the 'girl' what to have for dinner...and came forth from the house. Too slow for us nowadays, because the faster we're carried, the less time we have to spare.
Trousers with a crease were considered plebian; the crease proved that the garment had lain upon a shelf, and hence was ready-made.
In those days, they had time for everything: Time for sleigh rides, and balls, and assemblies, and cotillions, and open house on New Years, and all-day picnics in the woods, and even that prettiest of all vanished customs: the serenade.
On a summer night, young men would bring an orchestra under a pretty girl's window, and flute, harp, fiddle, cello, cornet, bass viol would presently release their melodies to the dulcet stars.
Against so homespun a background, the magnificence of the Ambersons was as conspicuous as a brass band at a funeral.
Cards were out for a ball in his honor, and this pageant of the tenantry was the last of the great long-remembered dances that everybody talked about.
And now, Major Amberson was engaged in the profoundest thinking of his life. And he realized that everything which had worried him or delighted him during this lifetime, all his buying and building and trading and banking, that it was all trifling and waste beside what concerned him now. For the Major knew now that he had to plan how to enter an unknown country where he was not even sure of being recognized as an Amberson.
George Amberson Minafer walked homeward slowly through what seemed to be the strange streets of a strange city. The town was growing and changing. It was heaving up in the middle, incredibly. It was spreading, incredibly. And as it heaved and spread, it befouled itself, and darkened its sky. This was the last walk home he was ever to take up National Avenue to Amberson addition, and the big old house at the foot of Amberson Boulevard. Tomorrow, they were to move out. Tomorrow, everything would be gone.
Something had happened, a thing which years ago had been the eagerest hope of many, many good citizens of the town. And now it came at last: George Amberson Minafer had got his comeuppance. He'd got it three times filled and running over. But those who had longed for it were not there to see it. And they never knew it, those who were still living had forgotten all about it, and all about him.
Most girls are usually pretty fresh. They ought to go to a man's college for about a year. They'd get taught a few things about freshness.
Horseless Carriages! Automobiles!...People aren't gonna spend their lives lying on their backs in the road letting grease drip in their faces. No, I think your father better forget about 'em.
Get a horse! Get a horse!
My mother will have no interest in knowing that you came here today or any other day...You're not wanted in this house, Mr. Morgan, now or at any other time. Perhaps you'll understand this.
This is our last walk together, Lucy...This is the last time I'll see you ever, ever in my life. Mother and I are starting on a trip around the world tomorrow. We've made no plans at all for coming back...Lucy. I can't stand this...It's quite a shock, Lucy...to find out just how deeply you care, to see how much difference this makes to you...Can't stand this any longer. I can't Lucy. Good-bye, Lucy. It's good-bye. I think it's good-bye for good, Lucy.
Your father wanted to prove that his horseless carriage would run even in the snow. It really does too...It's so interesting. He says he's going to have wheels all made of rubber and blown up with air. I should think they'd explode...Eugene seems very confident. Oh, it seems so like old times to hear him talk.
I can just guess what that was about. He's telling her what you did to Eugene...You're not going in there!...You keep away from here...Go on to the top of the stairs. Go on! It's indecent, like squabbling outside the door of an operating room. The idea of you going in there now. Just telling Isabel the whole thing. Now you stay here and let him tell her. He's got some consideration for her...I thought you already knew everything I did. I was just suffering...Oh, I was a fool. Eugene never would have looked at me, even if he'd never seen Isabel. And they haven't done any harm! She made Wilbur happy. She was a true wife to him as long as he lived. Here I go, not doing myself a bit of good by him, I'm just ruining them. Leave her alone.
Dearest One. Yesterday, I thought the time had come when I could ask you to marry me and you were dear enough to tell me, 'Sometime it might come to that.' Now, we are faced, not with slander, not with our own fear of it, because we haven't any, but someone else's fear of it, your son's. Oh dearest woman in the world, I know what your son is to you and it frightens me. Let me explain a little. I don't think he'll change. At twenty-one or twenty-two, so many things appear solid, permanent, and terrible, which forty sees as nothing but disappearing miasma. Forty can't tell twenty about this. Twenty can find out only by getting to be forty. And so we come to this, dear. Will you live your life your way, or George's way? Dear, it breaks my heart for you, but what you have to oppose now is your own selfless and perfect motherhood. Are you strong enough, Isabel? Can you make a fight? I promise you that if you will take heart for it, you will find so quickly that it's all amounted to nothing. You shall have happiness and only happiness. I'm saying too much for wisdom, I fear. And oh my dear, won't you be strong? Such a little short strength it would need. Don't strike my life down twice, dear. This time I've not deserved it.
You know what he said to me when we went in that room? He said, 'You must have known my mother wanted you to come here today, so that I could ask you to forgive me.' We shook hands.
I never noticed before how much like Isabel Georgie looks. You know something, Fanny? I wouldn't tell this to anybody but you. But it seemed to me as if someone else was in that room. And that through me, she brought her boy under shelter again, and that I'd been true at last to my true love.
Wilbur? Wilbur Minafer? I never thought he'd get her. Well, what do ya know? Well, Wilbur may not be any Apollo, as it were, but he's a steady young business man.
Once I stood where we're standing now to say goodbye to a pretty girl. Only it was in the old station before this was built. We called it the depot. We knew we wouldn't see each other again for almost a year. I thought I couldn't live through it. She stood there crying - don't even know where she lives now. Or if she is living. If she ever thinks of me she probably imagines I'm still dancing in the ballroom of the Amberson mansion. She probably thinks of the mansion as still beautiful. Still the finest house in town. Ah, life and money both behave like loose quicksilver in a nest of cracks. When they're gone, you can't tell where, or what the devil you did with them...I've always been fond of you, Georgie. I can't say I've always liked ya. But we all spoiled you terribly when you were a boy....There have been times when I thought you ought to be hanged. And just for a last word, there may be somebody else in this town who's always felt about you like that. Fond of you, I mean, no matter how much it seems you ought to be hanged.
There it is, the Amberson mansion. The pride of the town...Sixty thousands dollars worth of woodwork alone. Hot and cold running water, upstairs and down. And stationary washstands in every last bedroom in the place.
I guess she's still mad at him...Isabel. Major Amberson's daughter. Eugene Morgan's her best beau. Took a bit too much to drink the other night right out here and stepped clean through the bass fiddle serenadin' her.
Wilbur Minafer. A quiet man. The town will hardly know he's gone.
No sir. Miss Amberson ain't at home to you, Mr. Morgan.