Part 7 out of 21
"I guess he's all right, then." Fulkerson added, in concession to the
umbrage he detected in March.
"Beaton has his times of being the greatest ass in the solar system, but
he usually takes it out in personal conduct. When it comes to work, he's
a regular horse."
"He appears to have compromised for the present by being a perfect mule,"
"Well, he's in a transition state," Fulkerson allowed. "He's the man for
us. He really understands what we want. You'll see; he'll catch on.
That lurid glare of his will wear off in the course of time. He's really
a good fellow when you take him off his guard; and he's full of ideas.
He's spread out over a good deal of ground at present, and so he's pretty
thin; but come to gather him up into a lump, there's a good deal of
substance to him. Yes, there is. He's a first-rate critic, and he's a
nice fellow with the other artists. They laugh at his universality, but
they all like him. He's the best kind of a teacher when he condescends
to it; and he's just the man to deal with our volunteer work. Yes, sir,
he's a prize. Well, I must go now."
Fulkerson went out of the street door, and then came quickly back. "By-
the-bye, March, I saw that old dynamiter of yours round at Beaton's room
"What old dynamiter of mine?"
"That old one-handed Dutchman--friend of your youth--the one we saw at
"Oh-Lindau!" said March, with a vague pang of self reproach for having
thought of Lindau so little after the first flood of his tender feeling
toward him was past.
"Yes, our versatile friend was modelling him as Judas Iscariot. Lindau
makes a first-rate Judas, and Beaton has got a big thing in that head if
he works the religious people right. But what I was thinking of was
this--it struck me just as I was going out of the door: Didn't you tell
me Lindau knew forty or fifty, different languages?"
"Four or five, yes."
"Well, we won't quarrel about the number. The question is, Why not work
him in the field of foreign literature? You can't go over all their
reviews and magazines, and he could do the smelling for you, if you could
trust his nose. Would he know a good thing?"
"I think he would," said March, on whom the scope of Fulkerson's
suggestion gradually opened. "He used to have good taste, and he must
know the ground. Why, it's a capital idea, Fulkerson! Lindau wrote very
fair English, and he could translate, with a little revision."
"And he would probably work cheap. Well, hadn't you better see him about
it? I guess it 'll be quite a windfall for him."
"Yes, it will. I'll look him up. Thank you for the suggestion,
"Oh, don't mention it! I don't mind doing 'Every Other Week' a good turn
now and then when it comes in my way." Fulkerson went out again, and
this time March was finally left with Mr. Dryfoos.
"Mrs. March was very sorry not to be at home when your sisters called the
other day. She wished me to ask if they had any afternoon in particular.
There was none on your mother's card."
"No, sir," said the young man, with a flush of embarrassment that seemed
habitual with him. "She has no day. She's at home almost every day.
She hardly ever goes out."
"Might we come some evening?" March asked. "We should be very glad to
do that, if she would excuse the informality. Then I could come with
"Mother isn't very formal," said the young man. "She would be very glad
to see you."
"Then we'll come some night this week, if you will let us. When do you
expect your father back?"
"Not much before Christmas. He's trying to settle up some things at
"And what do you think of our art editor?" asked March, with a smile,
for the change of subject.
"Oh, I don't know much about such things," said the young man, with
another of his embarrassed flushes. "Mr. Fulkerson seems to feel sure
that he is the one for us."
"Mr. Fulkerson seemed to think that I was the one for you, too," said
March; and he laughed. "That's what makes me doubt his infallibility.
But he couldn't do worse with Mr. Beaton."
Mr. Dryfoos reddened and looked down, as if unable or unwilling to cope
with the difficulty of making a polite protest against March's self-
depreciation. He said, after a moment: "It's new business to all of us
except Mr. Fulkerson. But I think it will succeed. I think we can do
some good in it."
March asked rather absently, "Some good?" Then he added: "Oh yes;
I think we can. What do you mean by good? Improve the public taste?
Elevate the standard of literature? Give young authors and artists a
This was the only good that had ever been in March's mind, except the
good that was to come in a material way from his success, to himself and
to his family.
"I don't know," said the young man; and he looked down in a shamefaced
fashion. He lifted his head and looked into March's face. "I suppose I
was thinking that some time we might help along. If we were to have
those sketches of yours about life in every part of New York--"
March's authorial vanity was tickled. "Fulkerson has been talking to you
about them? He seemed to think they would be a card. He believes that
there's no subject so fascinating to the general average of people
throughout the country as life in New York City; and he liked my notion
of doing these things." March hoped that Dryfoos would answer that
Fulkerson was perfectly enthusiastic about his notion; but he did not
need this stimulus, and, at any rate, he went on without it. "The fact
is, it's something that struck my fancy the moment I came here; I found
myself intensely interested in the place, and I began to make notes,
consciously and unconsciously, at once. Yes, I believe I can get
something quite attractive out of it. I don't in the least know what it
will be yet, except that it will be very desultory; and I couldn't at all
say when I can get at it. If we postpone the first number till February
I might get a little paper into that. Yes, I think it might be a good
thing for us," March said, with modest self-appreciation.
"If you can make the comfortable people understand how the uncomfortable
people live, it will be a very good thing, Mr. March. Sometimes it seems
to me that the only trouble is that we don't know one another well
enough; and that the first thing is to do this." The young fellow spoke
with the seriousness in which the beauty of his face resided. Whenever
he laughed his face looked weak, even silly. It seemed to be a sense of
this that made him hang his head or turn it away at such times.
"That's true," said March, from the surface only. "And then, those
phases of low life are immensely picturesque. Of course, we must try to
get the contrasts of luxury for the sake of the full effect. That won't
be so easy. You can't penetrate to the dinner-party of a millionaire
under the wing of a detective as you could to a carouse in Mulberry
Street, or to his children's nursery with a philanthropist as you can to
a street-boy's lodging-house." March laughed, and again the young man
turned his head away. "Still, something can be done in that way by tact
That evening March went with his wife to return the call of the Dryfoos
ladies. On their way up-town in the Elevated he told her of his talk
with young Dryfoos. "I confess I was a little ashamed before him
afterward for having looked at the matter so entirely from the aesthetic
point of view. But of course, you know, if I went to work at those
things with an ethical intention explicitly in mind, I should spoil
"Of course," said his wife. She had always heard him say something of
this kind about such things.
He went on: "But I suppose that's just the point that such a nature as
young Dryfoos's can't get hold of, or keep hold of. We're a queer lot,
down there, Isabel--perfect menagerie. If it hadn't been that Fulkerson
got us together, and really seems to know what he did it for, I should
say he was the oddest stick among us. But when I think of myself and my
own crankiness for the literary department; and young Dryfoos, who ought
really to be in the pulpit, or a monastery, or something, for publisher;
and that young Beaton, who probably hasn't a moral fibre in his
composition, for the art man, I don't know but we could give Fulkerson
odds and still beat him in oddity."
His wife heaved a deep sigh of apprehension, of renunciation, of
monition. "Well, I'm glad you can feel so light about it, Basil."
"Light? I feel gay! With Fulkerson at the helm, I tell you the rocks
and the lee shore had better keep out of the way." He laughed with
pleasure in his metaphor. "Just when you think Fulkerson has taken leave
of his senses he says or does something that shows he is on the most
intimate and inalienable terms with them all the time. You know how I've
been worrying over those foreign periodicals, and trying to get some
translations from them for the first number? Well, Fulkerson has brought
his centipedal mind to bear on the subject, and he's suggested that old
German friend of mine I was telling you of--the one I met in the
restaurant--the friend of my youth."
"Do you think he could do it?" asked Mrs. March, sceptically.
"He's a perfect Babel of strange tongues; and he's the very man for the
work, and I was ashamed I hadn't thought of him myself, for I suspect he
needs the work."
"Well, be careful how you get mixed up with him, then, Basil," said his
wife, who had the natural misgiving concerning the friends of her
husband's youth that all wives have. "You know the Germans are so
unscrupulously dependent. You don't know anything about him now."
"I'm not afraid of Lindau," said March. "He was the best and kindest man
I ever saw, the most high-minded, the most generous. He lost a hand in
the war that helped to save us and keep us possible, and that stump of
his is character enough for me."
"Oh, you don't think I could have meant anything against him!" said Mrs.
March, with the tender fervor that every woman who lived in the time of
the war must feel for those who suffered in it. "All that I meant was
that I hoped you would not get mixed up with him too much. You're so apt
to be carried away by your impulses."
"They didn't carry me very far away in the direction of poor old Lindau,
I'm ashamed to think," said March. "I meant all sorts of fine things by
him after I met him; and then I forgot him, and I had to be reminded of
him by Fulkerson."
She did not answer him, and he fell into a remorseful reverie, in which
he rehabilitated Lindau anew, and provided handsomely for his old age.
He got him buried with military honors, and had a shaft raised over him,
with a medallion likeness by Beaton and an epitaph by himself, by the
time they reached Forty-second Street; there was no time to write
Lindau's life, however briefly, before the train stopped.
They had to walk up four blocks and then half a block across before they
came to the indistinctive brownstone house where the Dryfooses lived.
It was larger than some in the same block, but the next neighborhood of a
huge apartment-house dwarfed it again. March thought he recognized the
very flat in which he had disciplined the surly janitor, but he did not
tell his wife; he made her notice the transition character of the street,
which had been mostly built up in apartment-houses, with here and there a
single dwelling dropped far down beneath and beside them, to that jag-
toothed effect on the sky-line so often observable in such New York
streets. "I don't know exactly what the old gentleman bought here for,"
he said, as they waited on the steps after ringing, "unless he expects to
turn it into flats by-and-by. Otherwise, I don't believe he'll get his
An Irish serving-man, with a certain surprise that delayed him, said the
ladies were at home, and let the Marches in, and then carried their cards
up-stairs. The drawing-room, where he said they could sit down while he
went on this errand, was delicately, decorated in white and gold, and
furnished with a sort of extravagant good taste; there was nothing to
object to in the satin furniture, the pale, soft, rich carpet, the
pictures, and the bronze and china bric-a-brac, except that their
costliness was too evident; everything in the room meant money too
plainly, and too much of it. The Marches recognized this in the hoarse
whispers which people cannot get their voices above when they try to talk
away the interval of waiting in such circumstances; they conjectured from
what they had heard of the Dryfooses that this tasteful luxury in no wise
expressed their civilization. "Though when you come to that," said
March, "I don't know that Mrs. Green's gimcrackery expresses ours."
"Well, Basil, I didn't take the gimcrackery. That was your--"
The rustle of skirts on the stairs without arrested Mrs. March in the
well-merited punishment which she never failed to inflict upon her
husband when the question of the gimcrackery--they always called it that-
-came up. She rose at the entrance of a bright-looking, pretty-looking,
mature, youngish lady, in black silk of a neutral implication, who put
out her hand to her, and said, with a very cheery, very ladylike accent,
"Mrs. March?" and then added to both of them, while she shook hands with
March, and before they could get the name out of their months: "No, not
Miss Dryfoos! Neither of them; nor Mrs. Dryfoos. Mrs. Mandel. The
ladies will be down in a moment. Won't you throw off your sacque, Mrs.
March? I'm afraid it's rather warm here, coming from the outside."
"I will throw it back, if you'll allow me," said Mrs. March, with a sort
of provisionality, as if, pending some uncertainty as to Mrs. Mandel's
quality and authority, she did not feel herself justified in going
But if she did not know about Mrs. Mandel, Mrs. Mandel seemed to know
about her. "Oh, well, do!" she said, with a sort of recognition of the
propriety of her caution. "I hope you are feeling a little at home in
New York. We heard so much of your trouble in getting a flat, from Mr.
"Well, a true Bostonian doesn't give up quite so soon," said Mrs. March.
"But I will say New York doesn't seem so far away, now we're here."
"I'm sure you'll like it. Every one does." Mrs. Mandel added to March,
"It's very sharp out, isn't it?"
"Rather sharp. But after our Boston winters I don't know but I ought to
repudiate the word."
"Ah, wait till you have been here through March!" said Mrs. Mandel. She
began with him, but skillfully transferred the close of her remark, and
the little smile of menace that went with it, to his wife.
"Yes," said Mrs. March, "or April, either: Talk about our east winds!"
"Oh, I'm sure they can't be worse than our winds," Mrs. Mandel returned,
"If we escape New York pneumonia," March laughed, "it will only be to
fall a prey to New York malaria as soon as the frost is out of the
"Oh, but you know," said Mrs. Mandel, "I think our malaria has really
been slandered a little. It's more a matter of drainage--of plumbing.
I don't believe it would be possible for malaria to get into this house,
we've had it gone over so thoroughly."
Mrs. March said, while she tried to divine Mrs. Mandel's position from
this statement, "It's certainly the first duty."
"If Mrs. March could have had her way, we should have had the drainage of
our whole ward put in order," said her husband, "before we ventured to
take a furnished apartment for the winter."
Mrs. Mandel looked discreetly at Mrs. March for permission to laugh at
this, but at the same moment both ladies became preoccupied with a second
rustling on the stairs.
Two tall, well-dressed young girls came in, and Mrs. Mandel introduced,
"Miss Dryfoos, Mrs. March; and Miss Mela Dryfoos, Mr. March," she added,
and the girls shook hands in their several ways with the Marches.
Miss Dryfoos had keen black eyes, and her hair was intensely black. Her
face, but for the slight inward curve of the nose, was regular, and the
smallness of her nose and of her mouth did not weaken her face, but gave
it a curious effect of fierceness, of challenge. She had a large black
fan in her hand, which she waved in talking, with a slow, watchful
nervousness. Her sister was blonde, and had a profile like her
brother's; but her chin was not so salient, and the weak look of the
mouth was not corrected by the spirituality or the fervor of his eyes,
though hers were of the same mottled blue. She dropped into the low seat
beside Mrs. Mandel, and intertwined her fingers with those of the hand
which Mrs. Mandel let her have. She smiled upon the Marches, while Miss
Dryfoos watched them intensely, with her eyes first on one and then on
the other, as if she did not mean to let any expression of theirs escape
"My mother will be down in a minute," she said to Mrs. March.
"I hope we're not disturbing her. It is so good of you to let us come in
the evening," Mrs. March replied.
"Oh, not at all," said the girl. "We receive in the evening."
"When we do receive," Miss Mela put in. "We don't always get the chance
to." She began a laugh, which she checked at a smile from Mrs. Mandel,
which no one could have seen to be reproving.
Miss Dryfoos looked down at her fan, and looked up defiantly at Mrs.
March. "I suppose you have hardly got settled. We were afraid we would
disturb you when we called."
"Oh no! We were very sorry to miss your visit. We are quite settled in
our new quarters. Of course, it's all very different from Boston."
"I hope it's more of a sociable place there," Miss Mela broke in again.
"I never saw such an unsociable place as New York. We've been in this
house three months, and I don't believe that if we stayed three years any
of the neighbors would call."
"I fancy proximity doesn't count for much in New York," March suggested.
Mrs. Mandel said: "That's what I tell Miss Mela. But she is a very
social nature, and can't reconcile herself to the fact."
"No, I can't," the girl pouted. "I think it was twice as much fun in
Moffitt. I wish I was there now."
"Yes," said March, "I think there's a great deal more enjoyment in those
smaller places. There's not so much going on in the way of public
amusements, and so people make more of one another. There are not so
many concerts, theatres, operas--"
"Oh, they've got a splendid opera-house in Moffitt. It's just grand,"
said Miss Mela.
"Have you been to the opera here, this winter?" Mrs. March asked of the
She was glaring with a frown at her sister, and detached her eyes from
her with an effort. "What did you say?" she demanded, with an absent
bluntness. "Oh yes. Yes! We went once. Father took a box at the
"Then you got a good dose of Wagner, I suppose?" said March.
"What?" asked the girl.
"I don't think Miss Dryfoos is very fond of Wagner's music," Mrs. Mandel
said. "I believe you are all great Wagnerites in Boston?"
"I'm a very bad Bostonian, Mrs. Mandel. I suspect myself of preferring
Verdi," March answered.
Miss Dryfoos looked down at her fan again, and said, "I like 'Trovatore'
"It's an opera I never get tired of," said March, and Mrs. March and Mrs:
Mandel exchanged a smile of compassion for his simplicity. He detected
it, and added: "But I dare say I shall come down with the Wagner fever in
time. I've been exposed to some malignant cases of it."
"That night we were there," said Miss Mela, "they had to turn the gas
down all through one part of it, and the papers said the ladies were
awful mad because they couldn't show their diamonds. I don't wonder, if
they all had to pay as much for their boxes as we did. We had to pay
sixty dollars." She looked at the Marches for their sensation at this
March said: "Well, I think I shall take my box by the month, then. It
must come cheaper, wholesale."
"Oh no, it don't," said the girl, glad to inform him. "The people that
own their boxes, and that had to give fifteen or twenty thousand dollars
apiece for them, have to pay sixty dollars a night whenever there's a
performance, whether they go or not."
"Then I should go every night," March said.
"Most of the ladies were low neck--"
March interposed, "Well, I shouldn't go low-neck."
The girl broke into a fondly approving laugh at his drolling. "Oh, I
guess you love to train! Us girls wanted to go low neck, too; but father
said we shouldn't, and mother said if we did she wouldn't come to the
front of the box once. Well, she didn't, anyway. We might just as well
'a' gone low neck. She stayed back the whole time, and when they had
that dance--the ballet, you know--she just shut her eyes. Well, Conrad
didn't like that part much, either; but us girls and Mrs. Mandel, we
brazened it out right in the front of the box. We were about the only
ones there that went high neck. Conrad had to wear a swallow-tail;
but father hadn't any, and he had to patch out with a white cravat.
You couldn't see what he had on in the back o' the box, anyway."
Mrs. March looked at Miss Dryfoos, who was waving her fan more and more
slowly up and down, and who, when she felt herself looked at, returned
Mrs. March's smile, which she meant to be ingratiating and perhaps
sympathetic, with a flash that made her start, and then ran her fierce
eyes over March's face. "Here comes mother," she said, with a sort of
breathlessness, as if speaking her thought aloud, and through the open
door the Marches could see the old lady on the stairs.
She paused half-way down, and turning, called up: "Coonrod! Coonrod!
You bring my shawl down with you."
Her daughter Mela called out to her, "Now, mother, Christine 'll give it
to you for not sending Mike."
"Well, I don't know where he is, Mely, child," the mother answered back.
"He ain't never around when he's wanted, and when he ain't, it seems like
a body couldn't git shet of him, nohow."
"Well, you ought to ring for him!" cried Miss Mela, enjoying the joke.
Her mother came in with a slow step; her head shook slightly as she
looked about the room, perhaps from nervousness, perhaps from a touch of
palsy. In either case the fact had a pathos which Mrs. March confessed
in the affection with which she took her hard, dry, large, old hand when
she was introduced to her, and in the sincerity which she put into the
hope that she was well.
"I'm just middlin'," Mrs. Dryfoos replied. "I ain't never so well,
nowadays. I tell fawther I don't believe it agrees with me very well
here, but he says I'll git used to it. He's away now, out at Moffitt,"
she said to March, and wavered on foot a moment before she sank into a
chair. She was a tall woman, who had been a beautiful girl, and her gray
hair had a memory of blondeness in it like Lindau's, March noticed. She
wore a simple silk gown, of a Quakerly gray, and she held a handkerchief
folded square, as it had come from the laundress. Something like the
Sabbath quiet of a little wooden meeting-house in thick Western woods
expressed itself to him from her presence.
"Laws, mother!" said Miss Mela; "what you got that old thing on for? If
I'd 'a' known you'd 'a' come down in that!"
"Coonrod said it was all right, Mely," said her mother.
Miss Mela explained to the Marches: "Mother was raised among the
Dunkards, and she thinks it's wicked to wear anything but a gray silk
even for dress-up."
"You hain't never heared o' the Dunkards, I reckon," the old woman said
to Mrs. March. "Some folks calls 'em the Beardy Men, because they don't
never shave; and they wash feet like they do in the Testament. My uncle
was one. He raised me."
"I guess pretty much everybody's a Beardy Man nowadays, if he ain't a
Miss Mela looked round for applause of her sally, but March was saying to
his wife: "It's a Pennsylvania German sect, I believe--something like the
Quakers. I used to see them when I was a boy."
"Aren't they something like the Mennists?" asked Mrs. Mandel.
"They're good people," said the old woman, "and the world 'd be a heap
better off if there was more like 'em."
Her son came in and laid a soft shawl over her shoulders before he shook
hands with the visitors. "I am glad you found your way here," he said to
Christine, who had been bending forward over her fan, now lifted herself
up with a sigh and leaned back in her chair.
"I'm sorry my father isn't here," said the young man to Mrs. March.
"He's never met you yet?"
"No; and I should like to see him. We hear a great deal about your
father, you know, from Mr. Fulkerson."
"Oh, I hope you don't believe everything Mr. Fulkerson says about
people," Mela cried. "He's the greatest person for carrying on when he
gets going I ever saw. It makes Christine just as mad when him and
mother gets to talking about religion; she says she knows he don't care
anything more about it than the man in the moon. I reckon he don't try
it on much with father."
"Your fawther ain't ever been a perfessor," her mother interposed; "but
he's always been a good church-goin' man."
"Not since we come to New York," retorted the girl.
"He's been all broke up since he come to New York," said the old woman,
with an aggrieved look.
Mrs. Mandel attempted a diversion. "Have you heard any of our great New
York preachers yet, Mrs. March?"
"No, I haven't," Mrs. March admitted; and she tried to imply by her
candid tone that she intended to begin hearing them the very next Sunday.
"There are a great many things here," said Conrad, "to take your thoughts
off the preaching that you hear in most of the churches. I think the
city itself is preaching the best sermon all the time."
"I don't know that I understand you," said March.
Mela answered for him. "Oh, Conrad has got a lot of notions that nobody
can understand. You ought to see the church he goes to when he does go.
I'd about as lief go to a Catholic church myself; I don't see a bit o'
difference. He's the greatest crony with one of their preachers; he
dresses just like a priest, and he says he is a priest." She laughed for
enjoyment of the fact, and her brother cast down his eyes.
Mrs. March, in her turn, tried to take from it the personal tone which
the talk was always assuming. "Have you been to the fall exhibition?"
she asked Christine; and the girl drew herself up out of the abstraction
she seemed sunk in.
"The exhibition?" She looked at Mrs. Mandel.
"The pictures of the Academy, you know," Mrs. Mandel explained.
"Where I wanted you to go the day you had your dress tried on,"
"No; we haven't been yet. Is it good?" She had turned to Mrs. March
"I believe the fall exhibitions are never so good as the spring ones.
But there are some good pictures."
"I don't believe I care much about pictures," said Christine. "I don't
"Ah, that's no excuse for not caring about them," said March, lightly.
"The painters themselves don't, half the time."
The girl looked at him with that glance at once defiant and appealing,
insolent and anxious, which he had noticed before, especially when she
stole it toward himself and his wife during her sister's babble. In the
light of Fulkerson's history of the family, its origin and its ambition,
he interpreted it to mean a sense of her sister's folly and an ignorant
will to override his opinion of anything incongruous in themselves and
their surroundings. He said to himself that she was deathly proud--too
proud to try to palliate anything, but capable of anything that would put
others under her feet. Her eyes seemed hopelessly to question his wife's
social quality, and he fancied, with not unkindly interest, the
inexperienced girl's doubt whether to treat them with much or little
respect. He lost himself in fancies about her and her ideals,
necessarily sordid, of her possibilities of suffering, of the triumphs
and disappointments before her. Her sister would accept both with a
lightness that would keep no trace of either; but in her they would sink
lastingly deep. He came out of his reverie to find Mrs. Dryfoos saying
to him, in her hoarse voice:
"I think it's a shame, some of the pictur's a body sees in the winders.
They say there's a law ag'inst them things; and if there is, I don't
understand why the police don't take up them that paints 'em. I hear 182
tell, since I been here, that there's women that goes to have pictur's
took from them that way by men painters." The point seemed aimed at
March, as if he were personally responsible for the scandal, and it fell
with a silencing effect for the moment. Nobody seemed willing to take it
up, and Mrs. Dryfoos went on, with an old woman's severity: "I say they
ought to be all tarred and feathered and rode on a rail. They'd be
drummed out of town in Moffitt."
Miss Mela said, with a crowing laugh: "I should think they would! And
they wouldn't anybody go low neck to the opera-house there, either--not
low neck the way they do here, anyway."
"And that pack of worthless hussies," her mother resumed, "that come out
on the stage, and begun to kick"
"Laws, mother!" the girl shouted, "I thought you said you had your eyes
All but these two simpler creatures were abashed at the indecorum of
suggesting in words the commonplaces of the theatre and of art.
"Well, I did, Mely, as soon as I could believe my eyes. I don't know
what they're doin' in all their churches, to let such things go on," said
the old woman. "It's a sin and a shame, I think. Don't you, Coonrod?"
A ring at the door cut short whatever answer he was about to deliver.
"If it's going to be company, Coonrod," said his mother, making an effort
to rise, "I reckon I better go up-stairs."
"It's Mr. Fulkerson, I guess," said Conrad. "He thought he might come";
and at the mention of this light spirit Mrs. Dryfoos sank contentedly
back in her chair, and a relaxation of their painful tension seemed to
pass through the whole company. Conrad went to the door himself (the
serving-man tentatively, appeared some minutes later) and let in
Fulkerson's cheerful voice before his cheerful person.
"Ah, how dye do, Conrad? Brought our friend, Mr. Beaton, with me," those
within heard him say; and then, after a sound of putting off overcoats,
they saw him fill the doorway, with his feet set square and his arms
"Ah! hello! hello !" Fulkerson said, in recognition of the Marches.
"Regular gathering of the clans. How are you, Mrs. Dryfoos? How do you
do, Mrs. Mandel, Miss Christine, Mela, Aunt Hitty, and all the folks?
How you wuz?" He shook hands gayly all round, and took a chair next the
old lady, whose hand he kept in his own, and left Conrad to introduce
Beaton. But he would not let the shadow of Beaton's solemnity fall upon
the company. He began to joke with Mrs. Dryfoos, and to match
rheumatisms with her, and he included all the ladies in the range of
appropriate pleasantries. "I've brought Mr. Beaton along to-night,
and I want you to make him feel at home, like you do me, Mrs. Dryfoos.
He hasn't got any rheumatism to speak of; but his parents live in
Syracuse, and he's a kind of an orphan, and we've just adopted him down
at the office. When you going to bring the young ladies down there, Mrs.
Mandel, for a champagne lunch? I will have some hydro-Mela, and
Christine it, heigh? How's that for a little starter? We dropped in at
your place a moment, Mrs. March, and gave the young folks a few pointers
about their studies. My goodness! it does me good to see a boy like that
of yours; business, from the word go; and your girl just scoops my
youthful affections. She's a beauty, and I guess she's good, too. Well,
well, what a world it is! Miss Christine, won't you show Mr. Beaton that
seal ring of yours? He knows about such things, and I brought him here
to see it as much as anything. It's an intaglio I brought from the other
side," he explained to Mrs. March, "and I guess you'll like to look at
it. Tried to give it to the Dryfoos family, and when I couldn't, I sold
it to 'em. Bound to see it on Miss Christine's hand somehow! Hold on!
Let him see it where it belongs, first!"
He arrested the girl in the motion she made to take off the ring, and let
her have the pleasure of showing her hand to the company with the ring on
it. Then he left her to hear the painter's words about it, which he
continued to deliver dissyllabically as he stood with her under a gas-
jet, twisting his elastic figure and bending his head over the ring.
"Well, Mely, child," Fulkerson went on, with an open travesty of her
mother's habitual address, "and how are you getting along? Mrs. Mandel
hold you up to the proprieties pretty strictly? Well, that's right.
You know you'd be roaming all over the pasture if she didn't."
The girl gurgled out her pleasure in his funning, and everybody took him.
on his own ground of privileged character. He brought them all together
in their friendliness for himself, and before the evening was over he had
inspired Mrs. Mandel to have them served with coffee, and had made both
the girls feel that they had figured brilliantly in society, and that two
young men had been devoted to them.
"Oh, I think he's just as lovely as he can live!" said Mela, as she stood
a moment with her sister on the scene of her triumph, where the others
had left them after the departure of their guests.
"Who?" asked Christine, deeply. As she glanced down at her ring, her
eyes burned with a softened fire.
She had allowed Beaton to change it himself from the finger where she had
worn it to the finger on which he said she ought to wear it. She did not
know whether it was right to let him, but she was glad she had done it.
"Who? Mr. Fulkerson, goosie-poosie! Not that old stuckup Mr. Beaton of
"He is proud," assented Christine, with a throb of exultation.
Beaton and Fulkerson went to the Elevated station with the Marches; but
the painter said he was going to walk home, and Fulkerson let him go
"One way is enough for me," he explained. "When I walk up, I don't.
walk down. Bye-bye, my son!" He began talking about Beaton to the
Marches as they climbed the station stairs together. "That fellow
puzzles me. I don't know anybody that I have such a desire to kick, and
at the same time that I want to flatter up so much. Affect you that
way?" he asked of March.
"Well, as far as the kicking goes, yes."
"And how is it with you, Mrs. March?"
"Oh, I want to flatter him up."
"No; really? Why? Hold on! I've got the change."
Fulkerson pushed March away from the ticket-office window; and made them
his guests, with the inexorable American hospitality, for the ride down-
town. "Three!" he said to the ticket-seller; and, when he had walked
them before him out on the platform and dropped his tickets into the urn,
he persisted in his inquiry, "Why?"
"Why, because you always want to flatter conceited people, don't you?"
Mrs. March answered, with a laugh.
"Do you? Yes, I guess you do. You think Beaton is conceited?"
"Well, slightly, Mr. Fulkerson."
"I guess you're partly right," said Fulkerson, with a sigh, so
unaccountable in its connection that they all laughed.
"An ideal 'busted'?" March suggested.
"No, not that, exactly," said Fulkerson. "But I had a notion maybe
Beaton wasn't conceited all the time."
"Oh!" Mrs. March exulted, "nobody could be so conceited all the time as
Mr. Beaton is most of the time. He must have moments of the direst
modesty, when he'd be quite flattery-proof."
"Yes, that's what I mean. I guess that's what makes me want to kick him.
He's left compliments on my hands that no decent man would."
"Oh! that's tragical," said March.
"Mr. Fulkerson," Mrs. March began, with change of subject in her voice,
"who is Mrs. Mandel?"
"Who? What do you think of her?" he rejoined. "I'll tell you about her
when we get in the cars. Look at that thing! Ain't it beautiful?"
They leaned over the track and looked up at the next station, where the
train, just starting, throbbed out the flame-shot steam into the white
"The most beautiful thing in New York--the one always and certainly
beautiful thing here," said March; and his wife sighed, "Yes, yes."
She clung to him, and remained rapt by the sight till the train drew
near, and then pulled him back in a panic.
"Well, there ain't really much to tell about her," Fulkerson resumed when
they were seated in the car. "She's an invention of mine."
"Of yours?" cried Mrs. March.
"Of course!" exclaimed her husband.
"Yes--at least in her present capacity. She sent me a story for the
syndicate, back in July some time, along about the time I first met old
Dryfoos here. It was a little too long for my purpose, and I thought I
could explain better how I wanted it cut in a call than I could in a
letter. She gave a Brooklyn address, and I went to see her. I found
her," said Fulkerson, with a vague defiance, "a perfect lady. She was
living with an aunt over there; and she had seen better days, when she
was a girl, and worse ones afterward. I don't mean to say her husband
was a bad fellow; I guess he was pretty good; he was her music-teacher;
she met him in Germany, and they got married there, and got through her
property before they came over here. Well, she didn't strike me like a
person that could make much headway in literature. Her story was well
enough, but it hadn't much sand in it; kind of-well, academic, you know.
I told her so, and she understood, and cried a little; but she did the
best she could with the thing, and I took it and syndicated it. She kind
of stuck in my mind, and the first time I went to see the Dryfooses they
were stopping at a sort of family hotel then till they could find a
house--"Fulkerson broke off altogether, and said, "I don't know as I know
just how the Dryfooses struck you, Mrs. March?"
"Can't you imagine?" she answered, with a kindly, smile.
"Yes; but I don't believe I could guess how they would have struck you
last summer when I first saw them. My! oh my! there was the native earth
for you. Mely is a pretty wild colt now, but you ought to have seen her
before she was broken to harness.
"And Christine? Ever see that black leopard they got up there in the
Central Park? That was Christine. Well, I saw what they wanted. They
all saw it--nobody is a fool in all directions, and the Dryfooses are in
their right senses a good deal of the time. Well, to cut a long story
short, I got Mrs. Mandel to take 'em in hand--the old lady as well as the
girls. She was a born lady, and always lived like one till she saw
Mandel; and that something academic that killed her for a writer was just
the very thing for them. She knows the world well enough to know just
how much polish they can take on, and she don't try to put on a bit more.
"Yes, I can see," said Mrs. March.
"Well, she took hold at once, as ready as a hospital-trained nurse; and
there ain't anything readier on this planet. She runs the whole concern,
socially and economically, takes all the care of housekeeping off the old
lady's hands, and goes round with the girls. By-the-bye, I'm going to
take my meals at your widow's, March, and Conrad's going to have his
lunch there. I'm sick of browsing about."
"Mr. March's widow?" said his wife, looking at him with provisional
"I have no widow, Isabel," he said, "and never expect to have, till I
leave you in the enjoyment of my life-insurance. I suppose Fulkerson
means the lady with the daughter who wanted to take us to board."
"Oh yes. How are they getting on, I do wonder?" Mrs. March asked of
"Well, they've got one family to board; but it's a small one. I guess
they'll pull through. They didn't want to take any day boarders at
first, the widow said; I guess they have had to come to it."
"Poor things!" sighed Mrs. March. "I hope they'll go back to the
"Well, I don't know. When you've once tasted New York--You wouldn't go
back to Boston, would you?"
Fulkerson laughed out a tolerant incredulity.
Beaton lit his pipe when he found himself in his room, and sat down
before the dull fire in his grate to think. It struck him there was a
dull fire in his heart a great deal like it; and he worked out a fanciful
analogy with the coals, still alive, and the ashes creeping over them,
and the dead clay and cinders. He felt sick of himself, sick of his life
and of all his works. He was angry with Fulkerson for having got him
into that art department of his, for having bought him up; and he was
bitter at fate because he had been obliged to use the money to pay some
pressing debts, and had not been able to return the check his father had
sent him. He pitied his poor old father; he ached with compassion for
him; and he set his teeth and snarled with contempt through them for his
own baseness. This was the kind of world it was; but he washed his hands
of it. The fault was in human nature, and he reflected with pride that
he had at least not invented human nature; he had not sunk so low as that
yet. The notion amused him; he thought he might get a Satanic epigram
out of it some way. But in the mean time that girl, that wild animal,
she kept visibly, tangibly before him; if he put out his hand he might
touch hers, he might pass his arm round her waist. In Paris, in a set he
knew there, what an effect she would be with that look of hers, and that
beauty, all out of drawing! They would recognize the flame quality in
her. He imagined a joke about her being a fiery spirit, or nymph, naiad,
whatever, from one of her native gas-wells. He began to sketch on a bit
of paper from the table at his elbow vague lines that veiled and revealed
a level, dismal landscape, and a vast flame against an empty sky, and a
shape out of the flame that took on a likeness and floated detached from
it. The sketch ran up the left side of the sheet and stretched across
it. Beaton laughed out. Pretty good to let Fulkerson have that for the
cover of his first number! In black and red it would be effective; it
would catch the eye from the news-stands. He made a motion to throw it
on the fire, but held it back and slid it into the table-drawer, and
smoked on. He saw the dummy with the other sketch in the open drawer
which he had brought away from Fulkerson's in the morning and slipped in
there, and he took it out and looked at it. He made some criticisms in
line with his pencil on it, correcting the drawing here and there, and
then he respected it a little more, though he still smiled at the
feminine quality--a young lady quality.
In spite of his experience the night he called upon the Leightons, Beaton
could not believe that Alma no longer cared for him. She played at
having forgotten him admirably, but he knew that a few months before she
had been very mindful of him. He knew he had neglected them since they
came to New York, where he had led them to expect interest, if not
attention; but he was used to neglecting people, and he was somewhat less
used to being punished for it--punished and forgiven. He felt that Alma
had punished him so thoroughly that she ought to have been satisfied with
her work and to have forgiven him in her heart afterward. He bore no
resentment after the first tingling moments were-past; he rather admired
her for it; and he would have been ready to go back half an hour later
and accept pardon and be on the footing of last summer again. Even now
he debated with himself whether it was too late to call; but, decidedly,
a quarter to ten seemed late. The next day he determined never to call
upon the Leightons again; but he had no reason for this; it merely came
into a transitory scheme of conduct, of retirement from the society of
women altogether; and after dinner he went round to see them.
He asked for the ladies, and they all three received him, Alma not
without a surprise that intimated itself to him, and her mother with no
appreciable relenting; Miss Woodburn, with the needlework which she found
easier to be voluble over than a book, expressed in her welcome a
neutrality both cordial to Beaton and loyal to Alma.
"Is it snowing outdo's?" she asked, briskly, after the greetings were
transacted. "Mah goodness!" she said, in answer to his apparent surprise
at the question. "Ah mahght as well have stayed in the Soath, for all
the winter Ah have seen in New York yet."
"We don't often have snow much before New-Year's," said Beaton.
"Miss Woodburn is wild for a real Northern winter," Mrs. Leighton
"The othah naght Ah woke up and looked oat of the window and saw all the
roofs covered with snow, and it turned oat to be nothing but moonlaght.
Ah was never so disappointed in mah lahfe," said Miss Woodburn.
"If you'll come to St. Barnaby next summer, you shall have all the winter
you want," said Alma.
"I can't let you slander St. Barnaby in that way," said Beaton, with the
air of wishing to be understood as meaning more than he said.
"Yes?" returned Alma, coolly. "I didn't know you were so fond of the
"I never think of it as a climate. It's a landscape. It doesn't matter
whether it's hot or cold."
"With the thermometer twenty below, you'd find that it mattered," Alma
"Is that the way you feel about St. Barnaby, too, Mrs. Leighton?" Beaton
asked, with affected desolation.
"I shall be glad enough to go back in the summer," Mrs. Leighton
"And I should be glad to go now," said Beaton, looking at Alma. He had
the dummy of 'Every Other Week' in his hand, and he saw Alma's eyes
wandering toward it whenever he glanced at her. "I should be glad to go
anywhere to get out of a job I've undertaken," he continued, to Mrs.
Leighton. "They're going to start some sort of a new illustrated
magazine, and they've got me in for their art department. I'm not fit
for it; I'd like to run away. Don't you want to advise me a little, Mrs.
Leighton? You know how much I value your taste, and I'd like to have you
look at the design for the cover of the first number: they're going to
have a different one for every number. I don't know whether you'll agree
with me, but I think this is rather nice."
He faced the dummy round, and then laid it on the table before Mrs.
Leighton, pushing some of her work aside to make room for it and standing
over her while she bent forward to look at it.
Alma kept her place, away from the table.
"Mah goodness! Ho' exciting!" said Miss Woodburn. "May anybody look?"
"Everybody," said Beaton.
"Well, isn't it perfectly choming!" Miss Woodburn exclaimed. "Come and
look at this, Miss Leighton," she called to Alma, who reluctantly
What lines are these?" Mrs. Leighton asked, pointing to Beaton's pencil
"They're suggestions of modifications," he replied.
"I don't think they improve it much. What do you think, Alma?"
"Oh, I don't know," said the girl, constraining her voice to an effect of
indifference and glancing carelessly down at the sketch. "The design
might be improved; but I don't think those suggestions would do it."
"They're mine," said Beaton, fixing his eyes upon her with a beautiful
sad dreaminess that he knew he could put into them; he spoke with a
dreamy remoteness of tone--his wind-harp stop, Wetmore called it.
"I supposed so," said Alma, calmly.
"Oh, mah goodness!" cried Miss Woodburn. "Is that the way you awtusts
talk to each othah? Well, Ah'm glad Ah'm not an awtust--unless I could
do all the talking."
"Artists cannot tell a fib," Alma said, "or even act one," and she
laughed in Beaton's upturned face.
He did not unbend his dreamy gaze. "You're quite right. The suggestions
Alma turned to Miss Woodburn: "You hear? Even when we speak of our own
"Ah nevah hoad anything lahke it!"
"And the design itself ?" Beaton persisted.
"Oh, I'm not an art editor," Alma answered, with a laugh of exultant
A tall, dark, grave-looking man of fifty, with a swarthy face and iron-
gray mustache and imperial and goatee, entered the room. Beaton knew the
type; he had been through Virginia sketching for one of the illustrated
papers, and he had seen such men in Richmond. Miss Woodburn hardly
needed to say, "May Ah introduce you to mah fathaw, Co'nel Woodburn, Mr.
The men shook hands, and Colonel Woodburn said, in that soft, gentle,
slow Southern voice without our Northern contractions: "I am very glad to
meet you, sir; happy to make yo' acquaintance. Do not move, madam," he
said to Mrs. Leighton, who made a deprecatory motion to let him pass to
the chair beyond her; "I can find my way." He bowed a bulk that did not
lend itself readily to the devotion, and picked up the ball of yarn she
had let drop out of her lap in half rising. "Yo' worsteds, madam."
"Yarn, yarn, Colonel Woodburn!" Alma shouted. "You're quite
incorrigible. A spade is a spade!"
"But sometimes it is a trump, my dear young lady," said the Colonel, with
unabated gallantry; "and when yo' mothah uses yarn, it is worsteds. But
I respect worsteds even under the name of yarn: our ladies--my own mothah
and sistahs--had to knit the socks we wore--all we could get in the woe."
"Yes, and aftah the woe," his daughter put in. "The knitting has not
stopped yet in some places. Have you been much in the Soath,
Beaton explained just how much.
"Well, sir," said the Colonel, "then you have seen a country making
gigantic struggles to retrieve its losses, sir. The South is advancing
with enormous strides, sir."
"Too fast for some of us to keep up," said Miss Woodburn, in an audible
aside. "The pace in Charlottesboag is pofectly killing, and we had to
drop oat into a slow place like New York."
"The progress in the South is material now," said the Colonel; "and those
of us whose interests are in another direction find ourselves--isolated
--isolated, sir. The intellectual centres are still in the No'th, sir;
the great cities draw the mental activity of the country to them, sir.
Necessarily New York is the metropolis."
"Oh, everything comes here," said Beaton, impatient of the elder's
ponderosity. Another sort of man would have sympathized with the
Southerner's willingness to talk of himself, and led him on to speak of
his plans and ideals. But the sort of man that Beaton was could not do
this; he put up the dummy into the wrapper he had let drop on the floor
beside him, and tied it round with string while Colonel Woodburn was
talking. He got to his feet with the words he spoke and offered Mrs.
Leighton his hand.
"Must you go?" she asked, in surprise.
"I am on my way to a reception," he said. She had noticed that he was in
evening dress; and now she felt the vague hurt that people invited
nowhere feel in the presence of those who are going somewhere. She did
not feel it for herself, but for her daughter; and she knew Alma would
not have let her feel it if she could have prevented it. But Alma had
left the room for a moment, and she tacitly indulged this sense of injury
in her behalf.
"Please say good-night to Miss Leighton for me," Beaton continued. He
bowed to Miss Woodburn, "Goodnight, Miss Woodburn," and to her father,
"Good-night, sir," said the Colonel, with a sort of severe suavity.
"Oh, isn't he choming!" Miss Woodburn whispered to Mrs. Leighton when
Beaton left the room.
Alma spoke to him in the hall without. "You knew that was my design, Mr.
Beaton. Why did you bring it?"
"Why?" He looked at her in gloomy hesitation.
Then he said: "You know why. I wished to talk it over with you, to serve
you, please you, get back your good opinion. But I've done neither the
one nor the other; I've made a mess of the whole thing."
Alma interrupted him. "Has it been accepted?"
"It will be accepted, if you will let it."
"Let it?" she laughed. "I shall be delighted." She saw him swayed a
little toward her. "It's a matter of business, isn't it?"
When Alma returned to the room, Colonel Woodburn was saying to Mrs.
Leighton: "I do not contend that it is impossible, madam, but it is very
difficult in a thoroughly commercialized society, like yours, to have the
feelings of a gentleman. How can a business man, whose prosperity, whose
earthly salvation, necessarily lies in the adversity of some one else, be
delicate and chivalrous, or even honest? If we could have had time to
perfect our system at the South, to eliminate what was evil and develop
what was good in it, we should have had a perfect system. But the virus
of commercialism was in us, too; it forbade us to make the best of a
divine institution, and tempted us to make the worst. Now the curse is
on the whole country; the dollar is the measure of every value, the stamp
of every success. What does not sell is a failure; and what sells
"The hobby is oat, mah deah," said Miss Woodburn, in an audible aside to
"Were you speaking of me, Colonel Woodburn?" Alma asked.
"Surely not, my dear young lady."
"But he's been saying that awtusts are just as greedy aboat money as
anybody," said his daughter.
"The law of commercialism is on everything in a commercial society," the
Colonel explained, softening the tone in which his convictions were
presented. "The final reward of art is money, and not the pleasure of
"Perhaps they would be willing to take it all oat in that if othah people
would let them pay their bills in the pleasure of creating," his daughter
"They are helpless, like all the rest," said her father, with the same
deference to her as to other women. "I do not blame them."
"Oh, mah goodness! Didn't you say, sir, that Mr. Beaton had bad manners?"
Alma relieved a confusion which he seemed to feel in reference to her.
"Bad manners? He has no manners! That is, when he's himself. He has
pretty good ones when he's somebody else."
Miss Woodburn began, "Oh, mah-" and then stopped herself. Alma's mother
looked at her with distressed question, but the girl seemed perfectly
cool and contented; and she gave her mind provisionally to a point
suggested by Colonel Woodburn's talk.
"Still, I can't believe it was right to hold people in slavery, to whip
them and sell them. It never did seem right to me," she added, in
apology for her extreme sentiments to the gentleness of her adversary.
"I quite agree with you, madam," said the Colonel. "Those were the
abuses of the institution. But if we had not been vitiated on the one
hand and threatened on the other by the spirit of commercialism from the
North--and from Europe, too--those abuses could have been eliminated,
and the institution developed in the direction of the mild patriarchalism
of the divine intention." The Colonel hitched his chair, which figured a
hobby careering upon its hind legs, a little toward Mrs. Leighton and the
girls approached their heads and began to whisper; they fell
deferentially silent when the Colonel paused in his argument, and went on
again when he went on.
At last they heard Mrs. Leighton saying, "And have you heard from the
publishers about your book yet?"
Then Miss Woodburn cut in, before her father could answer: "The coase of
commercialism is on that, too. They are trahing to fahnd oat whethah it
"And they are right-quite right," said the Colonel. "There is no longer
any other criterion; and even a work that attacks the system must be
submitted to the tests of the system."
"The system won't accept destruction on any othah tomes," said Miss
At the reception, where two men in livery stood aside to let him pass up
the outside steps of the house, and two more helped him off with his
overcoat indoors, and a fifth miscalled his name into the drawing-room,
the Syracuse stone-cutter's son met the niece of Mrs. Horn, and began at
once to tell her about his evening at the Dryfooses'. He was in very
good spirits, for so far as he could have been elated or depressed by his
parting with Alma Leighton he had been elated; she had not treated his
impudence with the contempt that he felt it deserved; she must still be
fond of him; and the warm sense of this, by operation of an obscure but
well-recognized law of the masculine being, disposed him to be rather
fond of Miss Vance. She was a slender girl, whose semi-aesthetic dress
flowed about her with an accentuation of her long forms, and redeemed
them from censure by the very frankness with which it confessed them;
nobody could have said that Margaret Vance was too tall. Her pretty
little head, which she had an effect of choosing to have little in the
same spirit of judicious defiance, had a good deal of reading in it; she
was proud to know literary and artistic fashions as well as society
fashions. She liked being singled out by an exterior distinction so
obvious as Beaton's, and she listened with sympathetic interest to his
account of those people. He gave their natural history reality by
drawing upon his own; he reconstructed their plebeian past from the
experiences of his childhood and his youth of the pre-Parisian period;
and he had a pang of suicidal joy in insulting their ignorance of the
"What different kinds of people you meet!" said the girl at last, with an
envious sigh. Her reading had enlarged the bounds of her imagination,
if not her knowledge; the novels nowadays dealt so much with very common
people, and made them seem so very much more worth while than the people
She said something like this to Beaton. He answered: "You can meet the
people I'm talking of very easily, if you want to take the trouble.
It's what they came to New York for. I fancy it's the great ambition of
their lives to be met."
"Oh yes," said Miss Vance, fashionably, and looked down; then she looked
up and said, intellectually: "Don't you think it's a great pity? How
much better for them to have stayed where they were and what they were!"
"Then you could never have had any chance of meeting them," said Beaton.
"I don't suppose you intend to go out to the gas country?"
"No," said Miss Vance, amused. "Not that I shouldn't like to go."
"What a daring spirit! You ought to be on the staff of 'Every Other
Week,'" said Beaton.
"The staff-Every Other Week? What is it?"
"The missing link; the long-felt want of a tie between the Arts and the
Dollars." Beaton gave her a very picturesque, a very dramatic sketch of
the theory, the purpose, and the personnel of the new enterprise.
Miss Vance understood too little about business of any kind to know how
it differed from other enterprises of its sort. She thought it was
delightful; she thought Beaton must be glad to be part of it, though he
had represented himself so bored, so injured, by Fulkerson's insisting
upon having him. "And is it a secret? Is it a thing not to be
"'Tutt' altro'! Fulkerson will be enraptured to have it spoken of in
society. He would pay any reasonable bill for the advertisement."
"What a delightful creature! Tell him it shall all be spent in charity."
"He would like that. He would get two paragraphs out of the fact, and
your name would go into the 'Literary Notes' of all the newspapers."
"Oh, but I shouldn't want my name used!" cried the girl, half horrified
into fancying the situation real.
"Then you'd better not say anything about 'Every Other Week'. Fulkerson
is preternaturally unscrupulous."
March began to think so too, at times. He was perpetually suggesting
changes in the make-up of the first number, with a view to its greater
vividness of effect. One day he came and said: "This thing isn't going
to have any sort of get up and howl about it, unless you have a paper in
the first number going for Bevans's novels. Better get Maxwell to do
"Why, I thought you liked Bevans's novels?"
"So I did; but where the good of 'Every Other Week' is concerned I am a
Roman father. The popular gag is to abuse Bevans, and Maxwell is the man
to do it. There hasn't been a new magazine started for the last three
years that hasn't had an article from Maxwell in its first number cutting
Bevans all to pieces. If people don't see it, they'll think 'Every Other
Week' is some old thing."
March did not know whether Fulkerson was joking or not. He suggested,
"Perhaps they'll think it's an old thing if they do see it."
"Well, get somebody else, then; or else get Maxwell to write under an
assumed name. Or--I forgot! He'll be anonymous under our system,
anyway. Now there ain't a more popular racket for us to work in that
first number than a good, swinging attack on Bevans. People read his
books and quarrel over 'em, and the critics are all against him, and a
regular flaying, with salt and vinegar rubbed in afterward, will tell
more with people who like good old-fashioned fiction than anything else.
I like Bevans's things, but, dad burn it! when it comes to that first
number, I'd offer up anybody."
"What an immoral little wretch you are, Fulkerson!" said March, with a
Fulkerson appeared not to be very strenuous about the attack on the
novelist. "Say!" he called out, gayly, "what should you think of a paper
defending the late lamented system of slavery'?"
"What do you mean, Fulkerson?" asked March, with a puzzled smile.
Fulkerson braced his knees against his desk, and pushed himself back, but
kept his balance to the eye by canting his hat sharply forward." There's
an old cock over there at the widow's that's written a book to prove that
slavery was and is the only solution of the labor problem. He's a
"I should imagine," March assented.
"He's got it on the brain that if the South could have been let alone by
the commercial spirit and the pseudophilanthropy of the North, it would
have worked out slavery into a perfectly ideal condition for the laborer,
in which he would have been insured against want, and protected in all
his personal rights by the state. He read the introduction to me last
night. I didn't catch on to all the points--his daughter's an awfully
pretty girl, and I was carrying that fact in my mind all the time, too,
you know--but that's about the gist of it."
"Seems to regard it as a lost opportunity?" said March.
"Exactly! What a mighty catchy title, Neigh? Look well on the title-
"I reckon so; I don't know. The Colonel read it mighty eloquently."
"It mightn't be such bad business," said March, in a muse. "Could you
get me a sight of it without committing yourself?"
"If the Colonel hasn't sent it off to another publisher this morning. He
just got it back with thanks yesterday. He likes to keep it travelling."
"Well, try it. I've a notion it might be a curious thing."
"Look here, March," said Fulkerson, with the effect of taking a fresh
hold; "I wish you could let me have one of those New York things of yours
for the first number. After all, that's going to be the great card."
"I couldn't, Fulkerson; I couldn't, really. I want to philosophize the
material, and I'm too new to it all yet. I don't want to do merely
"Of course! Of course! I understand that. Well, I don't want to hurry
you. Seen that old fellow of yours yet? I think we ought to have that
translation in the first number; don't you? We want to give 'em a notion
of what we're going to do in that line."
"Yes," said March; "and I was going out to look up Lindau this morning.
I've inquired at Maroni's, and he hasn't been there for several days.
I've some idea perhaps he's sick. But they gave me his address, and I'm
going to see."
"Well, that's right. We want the first number to be the keynote in every
March shook his head. "You can't make it so. The first number is bound
to be a failure always, as far as the representative character goes.
It's invariably the case. Look at the first numbers of all the things
you've seen started. They're experimental, almost amateurish, and
necessarily so, not only because the men that are making them up are
comparatively inexperienced like ourselves, but because the material sent
them to deal with is more or less consciously tentative. People send
their adventurous things to a new periodical because the whole thing is
an adventure. I've noticed that quality in all the volunteer
contributions; it's in the articles that have been done to order even.
No; I've about made up my mind that if we can get one good striking paper
into the first number that will take people's minds off the others, we
shall be doing all we can possible hope for. I should like," March
added, less seriously, "to make up three numbers ahead, and publish the
third one first."
Fulkerson dropped forward and struck his fist on the desk. "It's a
first-rate idea. Why not do it?"
March laughed. "Fulkerson, I don't believe there's any quackish thing
you wouldn't do in this cause. From time to time I'm thoroughly ashamed
of being connected with such a charlatan."
Fulkerson struck his hat sharply backward. "Ah, dad burn it! To give
that thing the right kind of start I'd walk up and down Broadway between
two boards, with the title-page of Every Other Week facsimiled on one and
my name and address on the--"
He jumped to his feet and shouted, "March, I'll do it!"
"I'll hire a lot of fellows to make mud-turtles of themselves, and I'll
have a lot of big facsimiles of the title-page, and I'll paint the town
March looked aghast at him. "Oh, come, now, Fulkerson!"
"I mean it. I was in London when a new man had taken hold of the old
Cornhill, and they were trying to boom it, and they had a procession of
these mudturtles that reached from Charing Cross to Temple Bar. Cornhill
Magazine. Sixpence. Not a dull page in it.' I said to myself then that
it was the livest thing I ever saw. I respected the man that did that
thing from the bottom of my heart. I wonder I ever forgot it. But it
shows what a shaky thing the human mind is at its best."
"You infamous mountebank!", said March, with great amusement at
Fulkerson's access; "you call that congeries of advertising instinct of
yours the human mind at its best? Come, don't be so diffident,
Fulkerson. Well, I'm off to find Lindau, and when I come back I hope Mr.
Dryfoos will have you under control. I don't suppose you'll be quite
sane again till after the first number is out. Perhaps public opinion
will sober you then."
"Confound it, March! How do you think they will take it? I swear I'm
getting so nervous I don't know half the time which end of me is up.
I believe if we don't get that thing out by the first of February it 'll
be the death of me."
"Couldn't wait till Washington's Birthday? I was thinking it would give
the day a kind of distinction, and strike the public imagination, if--"
"No, I'll be dogged if I could!" Fulkerson lapsed more and more into the
parlance of his early life in this season of strong excitement.
"I believe if Beaton lags any on the art leg I'll kill him."
"Well, I shouldn't mind your killing Beaton," said March, tranquilly, as
he went out.
He went over to Third Avenue and took the Elevated down to Chatham
Square. He found the variety of people in the car as unfailingly
entertaining as ever. He rather preferred the East Side to the West Side
lines, because they offered more nationalities, conditions, and
characters to his inspection. They draw not only from the up-town
American region, but from all the vast hive of populations swarming
between them and the East River. He had found that, according to the
hour, American husbands going to and from business, and American wives
going to and from shopping, prevailed on the Sixth Avenue road, and that
the most picturesque admixture to these familiar aspects of human nature
were the brilliant eyes and complexions of the American Hebrews, who
otherwise contributed to the effect of well-clad comfort and citizen-
self-satisfaction of the crowd. Now and then he had found himself in a
car mostly filled with Neapolitans from the constructions far up the
line, where he had read how they are worked and fed and housed like
beasts; and listening to the jargon of their unintelligible dialect, he
had occasion for pensive question within himself as to what notion these
poor animals formed of a free republic from their experience of life
under its conditions; and whether they found them practically very
different from those of the immemorial brigandage and enforced complicity
with rapine under which they had been born. But, after all, this was an
infrequent effect, however massive, of travel on the West Side, whereas
the East offered him continual entertainment in like sort. The sort was
never quite so squalid. For short distances the lowest poverty, the
hardest pressed labor, must walk; but March never entered a car without
encountering some interesting shape of shabby adversity, which was almost
always adversity of foreign birth. New York is still popularly supposed
to be in the control of the Irish, but March noticed in these East Side
travels of his what must strike every observer returning to the city
after a prolonged absence: the numerical subordination of the dominant
race. If they do not outvote them, the people of Germanic, of Slavonic,
of Pelasgic, of Mongolian stock outnumber the prepotent Celts; and March
seldom found his speculation centred upon one of these. The small eyes,
the high cheeks, the broad noses, the puff lips, the bare, cue-filleted
skulls, of Russians, Poles, Czechs, Chinese; the furtive glitter of
Italians; the blonde dulness of Germans; the cold quiet of Scandinavians
--fire under ice--were aspects that he identified, and that gave him
abundant suggestion for the personal histories he constructed, and for
the more public-spirited reveries in which he dealt with the future
economy of our heterogeneous commonwealth. It must be owned that he did
not take much trouble about this; what these poor people were thinking,
hoping, fearing, enjoying, suffering; just where and how they lived; who
and what they individually were--these were the matters of his waking
dreams as he stared hard at them, while the train raced farther into the
gay ugliness--the shapeless, graceful, reckless picturesqueness of the
There were certain signs, certain facades, certain audacities of the
prevailing hideousness that always amused him in that uproar to the eye
which the strident forms and colors made. He was interested in the
insolence with which the railway had drawn its erasing line across the
Corinthian front of an old theatre, almost grazing its fluted pillars,
and flouting its dishonored pediment. The colossal effigies of the fat
women and the tuft-headed Circassian girls of cheap museums; the vistas
of shabby cross streets; the survival of an old hip-roofed house here and
there at their angles; the Swiss chalet, histrionic decorativeness of the
stations in prospect or retrospect; the vagaries of the lines that
narrowed together or stretched apart according to the width of the
avenue, but always in wanton disregard of the life that dwelt, and bought
and sold, and rejoiced or sorrowed, and clattered or crawled, around,
below, above--were features of the frantic panorama that perpetually
touched his sense of humor and moved his sympathy. Accident and then
exigency seemed the forces at work to this extraordinary effect; the play
of energies as free and planless as those that force the forest from the
soil to the sky; and then the fierce struggle for survival, with the
stronger life persisting over the deformity, the mutilation, the
destruction, the decay of the weaker. The whole at moments seemed to him
lawless, godless; the absence of intelligent, comprehensive purpose in
the huge disorder, and the violent struggle to subordinate the result to
the greater good, penetrated with its dumb appeal the consciousness of a
man who had always been too self-enwrapped to perceive the chaos to which
the individual selfishness must always lead.
But there was still nothing definite, nothing better than a vague
discomfort, however poignant, in his half recognition of such facts; and
he descended the station stairs at Chatham Square with a sense of the
neglected opportunities of painters in that locality. He said to himself
that if one of those fellows were to see in Naples that turmoil of cars,
trucks, and teams of every sort, intershot with foot-passengers going and
coming to and from the crowded pavements, under the web of the railroad
tracks overhead, and amid the spectacular approach of the streets that
open into the square, he would have it down in his sketch-book at once.
He decided simultaneously that his own local studies must be illustrated,
and that be must come with the artist and show him just which bits to do,
not knowing that the two arts can never approach the same material from
the same point. He thought he would particularly like his illustrator to
render the Dickensy, cockneyish quality of the, shabby-genteel ballad-
seller of whom he stopped to ask his way to the street where Lindau
lived, and whom he instantly perceived to be, with his stock in trade,
the sufficient object of an entire study by himself. He had his ballads
strung singly upon a cord against the house wall, and held down in piles
on the pavement with stones and blocks of wood. Their control in this way
intimated a volatility which was not perceptible in their sentiment.
They were mostly tragical or doleful: some of them dealt with the wrongs
of the working-man; others appealed to a gay experience of the high seas;
but vastly the greater part to memories and associations of an Irish
origin; some still uttered the poetry of plantation life in the artless
accents of the end--man. Where they trusted themselves, with syntax that
yielded promptly to any exigency of rhythmic art, to the ordinary
American speech, it was to strike directly for the affections, to
celebrate the domestic ties, and, above all, to embalm the memories of
angel and martyr mothers whose dissipated sons deplored their sufferings
too late. March thought this not at all a bad thing in them; he smiled
in patronage of their simple pathos; he paid the tribute of a laugh when
the poet turned, as he sometimes did, from his conception of angel and
martyr motherhood, and portrayed the mother in her more familiar phases
of virtue and duty, with the retributive shingle or slipper in her hand.
He bought a pocketful of this literature, popular in a sense which the
most successful book can never be, and enlisted the ballad vendor so
deeply in the effort to direct him to Lindau's dwelling by the best way
that he neglected another customer, till a sarcasm on his absent-
mindedness stung hint to retort, "I'm a-trying to answer a gentleman a
civil question; that's where the absent-minded comes in."
It seemed for some reason to be a day of leisure with the Chinese
dwellers in Mott Street, which March had been advised to take first.
They stood about the tops of basement stairs, and walked two and two
along the dirty pavement, with their little hands tucked into their
sleeves across their breasts, aloof in immaculate cleanliness from the
filth around them, and scrutinizing the scene with that cynical sneer of
faint surprise to which all aspects of our civilization seem to move
their superiority. Their numbers gave character to the street, and
rendered not them, but what was foreign to them, strange there; so that
March had a sense of missionary quality in the old Catholic church, built
long before their incursion was dreamed of. It seemed to have come to
them there, and he fancied in the statued saint that looked down from its
facade something not so much tolerant as tolerated, something
propitiatory, almost deprecatory. It was a fancy, of course; the street
was sufficiently peopled with Christian children, at any rate, swarming
and shrieking at their games; and presently a Christian mother appeared,
pushed along by two policemen on a handcart, with a gelatinous tremor
over the paving and a gelatinous jouncing at the curbstones. She lay
with her face to the sky, sending up an inarticulate lamentation; but the
indifference of the officers forbade the notion of tragedy in her case.
She was perhaps a local celebrity; the children left off their games, and
ran gayly trooping after her; even the young fellow and young girl
exchanging playful blows in a robust flirtation at the corner of a liquor
store suspended their scuffle with a pleased interest as she passed.
March understood the unwillingness of the poor to leave the worst
conditions in the city for comfort and plenty in the country when he
reflected upon this dramatic incident, one of many no doubt which daily
occur to entertain them in such streets. A small town could rarely offer
anything comparable to it, and the country never. He said that if life
appeared so hopeless to him as it must to the dwellers in that
neighborhood he should not himself be willing to quit its distractions,
its alleviations, for the vague promise of unknown good in the distance
But what charm could such a man as Lindau find in such a place? It could
not be that he lived there because he was too poor to live elsewhere:
with a shutting of the heart, March refused to believe this as he looked
round on the abounding evidences of misery, and guiltily remembered his
neglect of his old friend. Lindau could probably find as cheap a lodging
in some decenter part of the town; and, in fact, there was some
amelioration of the prevailing squalor in the quieter street which he
turned into from Mott.
A woman with a tied-up face of toothache opened the door for him when he
pulled, with a shiver of foreboding, the bell-knob, from which a yard of
rusty crape dangled. But it was not Lindau who was dead, for the woman
said he was at home, and sent March stumbling up the four or five dark
flights of stairs that led to his tenement. It was quite at the top of
the house, and when March obeyed the German-English "Komm!" that followed
his knock, he found himself in a kitchen where a meagre breakfast was
scattered in stale fragments on the table before the stove. The place
was bare and cold; a half-empty beer bottle scarcely gave it a convivial
air. On the left from this kitchen was a room with a bed in it, which
seemed also to be a cobbler's shop: on the right, through a door that
stood ajar, came the German-English voice again, saying this time,
March pushed the door open into a room like that on the left, but with a
writing-desk instead of a cobbler's bench, and a bed, where Lindau sat
propped up; with a coat over his shoulders and a skull-cap on his head,
reading a book, from which he lifted his eyes to stare blankly over his
spectacles at March. His hairy old breast showed through the night-
shirt, which gaped apart; the stump of his left arm lay upon the book to
keep it open.
"Ah, my tear yo'ng friendt! Passil! Marge! Iss it you?" he called out,
joyously, the next moment.
"Why, are you sick, Lindau?" March anxiously scanned his face in taking
Lindau laughed. "No; I'm all righdt. Only a lidtle lazy, and a lidtle
eggonomigal. Idt's jeaper to stay in pedt sometimes as to geep a fire a-
goin' all the time. Don't wandt to gome too hardt on the 'brafer
Mann', you know:
"Braver Mann, er schafft mir zu essen."
You remember? Heine? You readt Heine still? Who is your favorite boet
now, Passil? You write some boetry yourself yet? No? Well, I am gladt
to zee you. Brush those baperss off of that jair. Well, idt is goodt
for zore eyess. How didt you findt where I lif?
"They told me at Maroni's," said March. He tried to keep his eyes on
Lindau's face, and not see the discomfort of the room, but he was aware
of the shabby and frowsy bedding, the odor of stale smoke, and the pipes
and tobacco shreds mixed with the books and manuscripts strewn over the
leaf of the writing-desk. He laid down on the mass the pile of foreign
magazines he had brought under his arm. "They gave me another address
"Yes. I have chust gome here," said Lindau. "Idt is not very coy,
"It might be gayer," March admitted, with a smile. "Still," he added,
soberly, "a good many people seem to live in this part of the town.
Apparently they die here, too, Lindau. There is crape on your outside
door. I didn't know but it was for you."
"Nodt this time," said Lindau, in the same humor. "Berhaps some other
time. We geep the ondertakers bratty puzy down here."
"Well," said March, "undertakers must live, even if the rest of us have
to die to let them." Lindau laughed, and March went on: "But I'm glad it
isn't your funeral, Lindau. And you say you're not sick, and so I don't
see why we shouldn't come to business."
"Pusiness?" Lindau lifted his eyebrows. "You gome on pusiness?"
"And pleasure combined," said March, and he went on to explain the
service he desired at Lindau's hands.
The old man listened with serious attention, and with assenting nods that
culminated in a spoken expression of his willingness to undertake the
translations. March waited with a sort of mechanical expectation of his
gratitude for the work put in his way, but nothing of the kind came from
Lindau, and March was left to say, "Well, everything is understood, then;
and I don't know that I need add that if you ever want any little advance
on the work--"
"I will ask you," said Lindau, quietly, "and I thank you for that. But I
can wait; I ton't needt any money just at bresent." As if he saw some
appeal for greater frankness in, March's eye, he went on: "I tidn't gome
here begause I was too boor to lif anywhere else, and I ton't stay in
pedt begause I couldn't haf a fire to geep warm if I wanted it. I'm nodt
zo padt off as Marmontel when he went to Paris. I'm a lidtle loaxurious,
that is all. If I stay in pedt it's zo I can fling money away on
somethings else. Heigh?"
"But what are you living here for, Lindau ?" March smiled at the irony
lurking in Lindau's words.
"Well, you zee, I foundt I was begoming a lidtle too moch of an
aristograt. I hadt a room oap in Creenvidge Willage, among dose pig pugs
over on the West Side, and I foundt"--Liudau's voice lost its jesting
quality, and his face darkened--"that I was beginning to forget the
"I should have thought," said March, with impartial interest, "that you
might have seen poverty enough, now and then, in Greenwich Village to
remind you of its existence."
"Nodt like here," said Lindau. "Andt you must zee it all the dtime--zee
it, hear it, smell it, dtaste it--or you forget it. That is what I gome
here for. I was begoming a ploated aristograt. I thought I was nodt
like these beople down here, when I gome down once to look aroundt;
I thought I must be somethings else, and zo I zaid I better take myself
in time, and I gome here among my brothers--the becears and the thiefs!"
A noise made itself heard in the next room, as if the door were furtively
opened, and a faint sound of tiptoeing and of hands clawing on a table.
"Thiefs!" Lindau repeated, with a shout. "Lidtle thiefs, that gabture
your breakfast. Ah! ha! ha!" A wild scurrying of feet, joyous cries and
tittering, and a slamming door followed upon his explosion, and he
resumed in the silence: "Idt is the children cot pack from school. They
gome and steal what I leaf there on my daple. Idt's one of our lidtle
chokes; we onderstand one another; that's all righdt. Once the gobbler
in the other room there he used to chase 'em; he couldn't onderstand
their lidtle tricks. Now dot goppler's teadt, and he ton't chase 'em any
more. He was a Bohemian. Gindt of grazy, I cuess."
"Well, it's a sociable existence," March suggested. "But perhaps if you
let them have the things without stealing--"
"Oh no, no! Most nodt mage them too gonceitedt. They mostn't go and
feel themselfs petter than those boor millionairss that hadt to steal
March smiled indulgently at his old friend's violence. "Oh, there are
fagots and fagots, you know, Lindau; perhaps not all the millionaires are
"Let us speak German!" cried Lindau, in his own tongue, pushing his book
aside, and thrusting his skullcap back from his forehead. "How much
money can a man honestly earn without wronging or oppressing some other
"Well, if you'll let me answer in English," said March, "I should say
about five thousand dollars a year. I name that figure because it's my
experience that I never could earn more; but the experience of other men
may be different, and if they tell me they can earn ten, or twenty, or
fifty thousand a year, I'm not prepared to say they can't do it."
Lindau hardly waited for his answer. "Not the most gifted man that ever
lived, in the practice of any art or science, and paid at the highest
rate that exceptional genius could justly demand from those who have
worked for their money, could ever earn a million dollars. It is the
landlords and the merchant princes, the railroad kings and the coal
barons (the oppressors to whom you instinctively give the titles of
tyrants)--it is these that make the millions, but no man earns them.
What artist, what physician, what scientist, what poet was ever a
"I can only think of the poet Rogers," said March, amused by Lindau's
tirade. "But he was as exceptional as the other Rogers, the martyr,
who died with warm feet." Lindau had apparently not understood his joke,
and he went on, with the American ease of mind about everything: "But you
must allow, Lindau, that some of those fellows don't do so badly with
their guilty gains. Some of them give work to armies of poor people--"
Lindau furiously interrupted: "Yes, when they have gathered their
millions together from the hunger and cold and nakedness and ruin and
despair of hundreds of thousands of other men, they 'give work' to the
poor! They give work! They allow their helpless brothers to earn enough
to keep life in them! They give work! Who is it gives toil, and where
will your rich men be when once the poor shall refuse to give toil'?
Why, you have come to give me work!"
March laughed outright. "Well, I'm not a millionaire, anyway, Lindau,
and I hope you won't make an example of me by refusing to give toil. I
dare say the millionaires deserve it, but I'd rather they wouldn't suffer
in my person."
"No," returned the old man, mildly relaxing the fierce glare he had bent
upon March. "No man deserves to sufer at the hands of another. I lose
myself when I think of the injustice in the world. But I must not forget
that I am like the worst of them."
"You might go up Fifth Avenue and live among the rich awhile, when you're
in danger of that," suggested March. "At any rate," he added, by an
impulse which he knew he could not justify to his wife, "I wish you'd
come some day and lunch with their emissary. I've been telling Mrs.
March about you, and I want her and the children to see you. Come over
with these things and report." He put his hand on the magazines as he
"I will come," said Lindau, gently.
"Shall I give you your book?" asked March.
"No; I gidt oap bretty soon."
"And--and--can you dress yourself?"
"I vhistle, 'and one of those lidtle fellowss comess. We haf to dake
gare of one another in a blace like this. Idt iss nodt like the worldt,"
said Lindau, gloomily.
March thought he ought to cheer him up. "Oh, it isn't such a bad world,
Lindau! After all, the average of millionaires is small in it." He
added, "And I don't believe there's an American living that could look at
that arm of yours and not wish to lend you a hand for the one you gave us
all." March felt this to be a fine turn, and his voice trembled slightly
in saying it.
Lindau smiled grimly. "You think zo? I wouldn't moch like to drost 'em.
I've driedt idt too often." He began to speak German again fiercely:
"Besides, they owe me nothing. Do you think I knowingly gave my hand to
save this oligarchy of traders and tricksters, this aristocracy of
railroad wreckers and stock gamblers and mine-slave drivers and mill-serf
owners? No; I gave it to the slave; the slave--ha! ha! ha!--whom I
helped to unshackle to the common liberty of hunger and cold. And you
think I would be the beneficiary of such a state of things?"
"I'm sorry to hear you talk so, Lindau," said March; "very sorry."
He stopped with a look of pain, and rose to go. Lindau suddenly broke
into a laugh and into English.
"Oh, well, it is only dalk, Passil, and it toes me goodt. My parg is
worse than my pidte, I cuess. I pring these things roundt bretty soon.
Good-bye, Passil, my tear poy. Auf wiedersehen!"
March went away thinking of what Lindau had said, but not for the
impersonal significance of his words so much as for the light they cast
upon Lindau himself. He thought the words violent enough, but in
connection with what he remembered of the cheery, poetic, hopeful
idealist, they were even more curious than lamentable. In his own life
of comfortable reverie he had never heard any one talk so before, but he
had read something of the kind now and then in blatant labor newspapers
which he had accidentally fallen in with, and once at a strikers' meeting
he had heard rich people denounced with the same frenzy. He had made his
own reflections upon the tastelessness of the rhetoric, and the obvious
buncombe of the motive, and he had not taken the matter seriously.
He could not doubt Lindau's sincerity, and he wondered how he came to
that way of thinking. From his experience of himself he accounted for a
prevailing literary quality in it; he decided it to be from Lindau's
reading and feeling rather than his reflection. That was the notion he
formed of some things he had met with in Ruskin to much the same effect;
he regarded them with amusement as the chimeras of a rhetorician run away
with by his phrases.
But as to Lindau, the chief thing in his mind was a conception of the
droll irony of a situation in which so fervid a hater of millionaires
should be working, indirectly at least, for the prosperity of a man like
Dryfoos, who, as March understood, had got his money together out of
every gambler's chance in speculation, and all a schemer's thrift from
the error and need of others. The situation was not more incongruous,
however, than all the rest of the 'Every Other Week' affair. It seemed
to him that there were no crazy fortuities that had not tended to its
existence, and as time went on, and the day drew near for the issue of
the first number, the sense of this intensified till the whole lost at
moments the quality of a waking fact, and came to be rather a fantastic
fiction of sleep.
Yet the heterogeneous forces did co-operate to a reality which March
could not deny, at least in their presence, and the first number was
representative of all their nebulous intentions in a tangible form.
As a result, it was so respectable that March began to respect these
intentions, began to respect himself for combining and embodying them in
the volume which appealed to him with a novel fascination, when the first
advance copy was laid upon his desk. Every detail of it was tiresomely
familiar already, but the whole had a fresh interest now. He now saw how
extremely fit and effective Miss Leighton's decorative design for the
cover was, printed in black and brick-red on the delicate gray tone of
the paper. It was at once attractive and refined, and he credited Beaton
with quite all he merited in working it over to the actual shape. The
touch and the taste of the art editor were present throughout the number.
As Fulkerson said, Beaton had caught on with the delicacy of a humming-
bird and the tenacity of a bulldog to the virtues of their illustrative
process, and had worked it for all it was worth. There were seven papers
in the number, and a poem on the last page of the cover, and he had found
some graphic comment for each. It was a larger proportion than would
afterward be allowed, but for once in a way it was allowed. Fulkerson
said they could not expect to get their money back on that first number,
anyway. Seven of the illustrations were Beaton's; two or three he got
from practised hands; the rest were the work of unknown people which he
had suggested, and then related and adapted with unfailing ingenuity to
the different papers. He handled the illustrations with such sympathy as
not to destroy their individual quality, and that indefinable charm which
comes from good amateur work in whatever art. He rescued them from their
weaknesses and errors, while he left in them the evidence of the pleasure
with which a clever young man, or a sensitive girl, or a refined woman
had done them. Inevitably from his manipulation, however, the art of the
number acquired homogeneity, and there was nothing casual in its
appearance. The result, March eagerly owned, was better than the
literary result, and he foresaw that the number would be sold and praised
chiefly for its pictures. Yet he was not ashamed of the literature, and
he indulged his admiration of it the more freely because he had not only
not written it, but in a way had not edited it. To be sure, he had
chosen all the material, but he had not voluntarily put it all together
for that number; it had largely put itself together, as every number of
every magazine does, and as it seems more and more to do, in the
experience of every editor. There had to be, of course, a story, and
then a sketch of travel. There was a literary essay and a social essay;
there was a dramatic trifle, very gay, very light; there was a dashing
criticism on the new pictures, the new plays, the new books, the new
fashions; and then there was the translation of a bit of vivid Russian
realism, which the editor owed to Lindau's exploration of the foreign
periodicals left with him; Lindau was himself a romanticist of the Victor
Hugo sort, but he said this fragment of Dostoyevski was good of its kind.
The poem was a bit of society verse, with a backward look into simpler
and wholesomer experiences.
Fulkerson was extremely proud of the number; but he said it was too good
--too good from every point of view. The cover was too good, and the
paper was too good, and that device of rough edges, which got over the
objection to uncut leaves while it secured their aesthetic effect, was a
thing that he trembled for, though he rejoiced in it as a stroke of the
highest genius. It had come from Beaton at the last moment, as a
compromise, when the problem of the vulgar croppiness of cut leaves and
the unpopularity of uncut leaves seemed to have no solution but suicide.
Fulkerson was still morally crawling round on his hands and knees, as he
said, in abject gratitude at Beaton's feet, though he had his qualms, his
questions; and he declared that Beaton was the most inspired ass since
Balaam's. "We're all asses, of course," he admitted, in semi-apology to
March; "but we're no such asses as Beaton." He said that if the tasteful
decorativeness of the thing did not kill it with the public outright,
its literary excellence would give it the finishing stroke. Perhaps that
might be overlooked in the impression of novelty which a first number
would give, but it must never happen again. He implored March to promise
that it should never happen again; be said their only hope was in the
immediate cheapening of the whole affair. It was bad enough to give the
public too much quantity for their money, but to throw in such quality as
that was simply ruinous; it must be stopped. These were the expressions
of his intimate moods; every front that he presented to the public wore a
glow of lofty, of devout exultation. His pride in the number gushed out
in fresh bursts of rhetoric to every one whom he could get to talk with
him about it. He worked the personal kindliness of the press to the
utmost. He did not mind making himself ridiculous or becoming a joke in
the good cause, as he called it. He joined in the applause when a
humorist at the club feigned to drop dead from his chair at Fulkerson's
introduction of the topic, and he went on talking that first number into
the surviving spectators. He stood treat upon all occasions, and he
lunched attaches of the press at all hours. He especially befriended the
correspondents of the newspapers of other cities, for, as he explained to
March, those fellows could give him any amount of advertising simply as
literary gossip. Many of the fellows were ladies who could not be so
summarily asked out to lunch, but Fulkerson's ingenuity was equal to
every exigency, and he contrived somehow to make each of these feel that
she had been possessed of exclusive information. There was a moment when
March conjectured a willingness in Fulkerson to work Mrs. March into the
advertising department, by means of a tea to these ladies and their
friends which she should administer in his apartment, but he did not
encourage Fulkerson to be explicit, and the moment passed. Afterward,
when he told his wife about it, he was astonished to find that she would
not have minded doing it for Fulkerson, and he experienced another proof
of the bluntness of the feminine instincts in some directions, and of the
personal favor which Fulkerson seemed to enjoy with the whole sex. This
alone was enough to account for the willingness of these correspondents
to write about the first number, but March accused him of sending it to
their addresses with boxes of Jacqueminot roses and Huyler candy.
Fulkerson let him enjoy his joke. He said that he would do that or
anything else for the good cause, short of marrying the whole circle of
March was inclined to hope that if the first number had been made too
good for the country at large, the more enlightened taste of metropolitan
journalism would invite a compensating favor for it in New York. But
first Fulkerson and then the event proved him wrong. In spite of the
quality of the magazine, and in spite of the kindness which so many
newspaper men felt for Fulkerson, the notices in the New York papers
seemed grudging and provisional to the ardor of the editor. A merit in
the work was acknowledged, and certain defects in it for which March had
trembled were ignored; but the critics astonished him by selecting for
censure points which he was either proud of or had never noticed; which
being now brought to his notice he still could not feel were faults. He
owned to Fulkerson that if they had said so and so against it, he could
have agreed with them, but that to say thus and so was preposterous; and
that if the advertising had not been adjusted with such generous
recognition of the claims of the different papers, he should have known
the counting-room was at the bottom of it. As it was, he could only
attribute it to perversity or stupidity. It was certainly stupid to
condemn a magazine novelty like 'Every Other Week' for being novel; and
to augur that if it failed, it would fail through its departure from the
lines on which all the other prosperous magazines had been built, was in
the last degree perverse, and it looked malicious. The fact that it was
neither exactly a book nor a magazine ought to be for it and not against
it, since it would invade no other field; it would prosper on no ground
but its own.
The more March thought of the injustice of the New York press (which had
not, however, attacked the literary quality of the number) the more
bitterly he resented it; and his wife's indignation superheated his own.
'Every Other Week' had become a very personal affair with the whole
family; the children shared their parents' disgust; Belle was outspoken
in, her denunciations of a venal press. Mrs. March saw nothing but ruin
ahead, and began tacitly to plan a retreat to Boston, and an
establishment retrenched to the basis of two thousand a year. She shed
some secret tears in anticipation of the privations which this must
involve; but when Fulkerson came to see March rather late the night of
the publication day, she nobly told him that if the worst came to the
worst she could only have the kindliest feeling toward him, and should
not regard him as in the slightest degree responsible.
"Oh, hold on, hold on!" he protested. "You don't think we've made a
failure, do you?"
"Why, of course," she faltered, while March remained gloomily silent.
"Well, I guess we'll wait for the official count, first. Even New York
hasn't gone against us, and I guess there's a majority coming down to
Harlem River that could sweep everything before it, anyway."
"What do you mean, Fulkerson?" March demanded, sternly.
"Oh, nothing! Only, the 'News Company' has ordered ten thousand now; and
you know we had to give them the first twenty on commission."
"What do you mean?" March repeated; his wife held her breath.
"I mean that the first number is a booming success already, and that it's
going to a hundred thousand before it stops. That unanimity and variety
of censure in the morning papers, combined with the attractiveness of the
thing itself, has cleared every stand in the city, and now if the favor
of the country press doesn't turn the tide against us, our fortune's
made." The Marches remained dumb. "Why, look here! Didn't I tell you
those criticisms would be the making of us, when they first began to turn
you blue this morning, March?"