Part 8 out of 21
"He came home to lunch perfectly sick," said Mrs. Marcli; "and I wouldn't
let him go back again."
"Didn't I tell you so?" Fulkerson persisted.
March could not remember that he had, or that he had been anything but
incoherently and hysterically jocose over the papers, but he said, "Yes,
yes--I think so."
"I knew it from the start," said Fulkerson. "The only other person who
took those criticisms in the right spirit was Mother Dryfoos--I've just
been bolstering up the Dryfoos family. She had them read to her by Mrs.
Mandel, and she understood them to be all the most flattering prophecies
of success. Well, I didn't read between the lines to that extent, quite;
but I saw that they were going to help us, if there was anything in us,
more than anything that could have been done. And there was something in
us! I tell you, March, that seven-shooting self-cocking donkey of a
Beaton has given us the greatest start! He's caught on like a mouse.
He's made the thing awfully chic; it's jimmy; there's lots of dog about
it. He's managed that process so that the illustrations look as
expensive as first-class wood-cuts, and they're cheaper than chromos.
He's put style into the whole thing."
"Oh yes," said March, with eager meekness, "it's Beaton that's done it."
Fulkerson read jealousy of Beaton in Mrs. March's face. "Beaton has
given us the start because his work appeals to the eye. There's no
denying that the pictures have sold this first number; but I expect the
literature of this first number to sell the pictures of the second. I've
been reading it all over, nearly, since I found how the cat was jumping;
I was anxious about it, and I tell you, old man, it's good. Yes, sir!
I was afraid maybe you had got it too good, with that Boston refinement
of yours; but I reckon you haven't. I'll risk it. I don't see how you
got so much variety into so few things, and all of them palpitant, all of
'em on the keen jump with actuality."
The mixture of American slang with the jargon of European criticism in
Fulkerson's talk made March smile, but his wife did not seem to notice it
in her exultation. "That is just what I say," she broke in. "It's
perfectly wonderful. I never was anxious about it a moment, except, as
you say, Mr. Fulkerson, I was afraid it might be too good."
They went on in an antiphony of praise till March said: "Really, I don't
see what's left me but to strike for higher wages. I perceive that I'm
"Why, old man, you're coming in on the divvy, you know," said Fulkerson.
They both laughed, and when Fulkerson was gone, Mrs. March asked her
husband what a divvy was.
"It's a chicken before it's hatched."
He explained, and she began to spend the divvy.
At Mrs. Leighton's Fulkerson gave Alma all the honor of the success; he
told her mother that the girl's design for the cover had sold every
number, and Mrs. Leighton believed him.
"Well, Ah think Ah maght have some of the glory," Miss Woodburn pouted.
"Where am Ah comin' in?"
"You're coming in on the cover of the next number," said Fulkerson."
We're going to have your face there; Miss Leighton's going to sketch it
in." He said this reckless of the fact that he had already shown them
the design of the second number, which was Beaton's weird bit of gas-
"Ah don't see why you don't wrahte the fiction for your magazine, Mr.
Fulkerson," said the girl.
This served to remind Fulkerson of something. He turned to her father.
"I'll tell you what, Colonel Woodburn, I want Mr. March to see some
chapters of that book of yours. I've been talking to him about it."
"I do not think it would add to the popularity of your periodical, sir,"
said the Colonel, with a stately pleasure in being asked. "My views of a
civilization based upon responsible slavery would hardly be acceptable to
your commercialized society."
"Well, not as a practical thing, of course," Fulkerson admitted. "But as
something retrospective, speculative, I believe it would make a hit.
There's so much going on now about social questions; I guess people would
like to read it."
"I do not know that my work is intended to amuse people," said the
Colonel, with some state.
"Mah goodness! Ah only wish it WAS, then," said his daughter; and she
added: "Yes, Mr. Fulkerson, the Colonel will be very glad to submit
po'tions of his woak to yo' edito'. We want to have some of the honaw.
Perhaps we can say we helped to stop yo' magazine, if we didn't help to
They all laughed at her boldness, and Fulkerson said: "It 'll take a good
deal more than that to stop 'Every Other Week'. The Colonel's whole book
couldn't do it." Then he looked unhappy, for Colonel Woodburn did not
seem to enjoy his reassuring words; but Miss Woodburn came to his rescue.
"You maght illustrate it with the po'trait of the awthoris daughtaw, if
it's too late for the covah."
"Going to have that in every number, Miss Woodburn!" he cried.
"Oh, mah goodness!" she said, with mock humility.
Alma sat looking at her piquant head, black, unconsciously outlined
against the lamp, as she sat working by the table. "Just keep still a
She got her sketch-block and pencils, and began to draw; Fulkerson tilted
himself forward and looked over her shoulder; he smiled outwardly;
inwardly he was divided between admiration of Miss Woodburn's arch beauty
and appreciation of the skill which reproduced it; at the same time he
was trying to remember whether March had authorized him to go so far as
to ask for a sight of Colonel Woodburn's manuscript. He felt that he had
trenched upon March's province, and he framed one apology to the editor
for bringing him the manuscript, and another to the author for bringing
"Most Ah hold raght still like it was a photograph?" asked Miss
Woodburn. "Can Ah toak?"
"Talk all you want," said Alma, squinting her eyes. "And you needn't be
either adamantine, nor yet--wooden."
"Oh, ho' very good of you! Well, if Ah can toak--go on, Mr. Fulkerson!"
"Me talk? I can't breathe till this thing is done!" sighed Fulkerson; at
that point of his mental drama the Colonel was behaving rustily about the
return of his manuscript, and he felt that he was looking his last on
Miss Woodburn's profile.
"Is she getting it raght?" asked the girl.
"I don't know which is which," said Fulkerson.
"Oh, Ah hope Ah shall! Ah don't want to go round feelin' like a sheet of
papah half the time."
"You could rattle on, just the same," suggested Alma.
"Oh, now! Jost listen to that, Mr. Fulkerson. Do you call that any way
to toak to people?"
"You might know which you were by the color," Fulkerson began, and then
be broke off from the personal consideration with a business inspiration,
and smacked himself on the knee, "We could print it in color!"
Mrs. Leighton gathered up her sewing and held it with both hands in her
lap, while she came round, and looked critically at the sketch and the
model over her glasses. "It's very good, Alma," she said.
Colonel Woodburn remained restively on his side of the table. "Of
course, Mr. Fulkerson, you were jesting, sir, when you spoke of printing
a sketch of my daughter."
"Why, I don't know--If you object--?
"I do, sir--decidedly," said the Colonel.
"Then that settles it, of course,--I only meant--"
"Indeed it doesn't!" cried the girl. "Who's to know who it's from?
Ah'm jost set on havin' it printed! Ah'm going to appear as the head of
Slavery--in opposition to the head of Liberty."
"There'll be a revolution inside of forty-eight hours, and we'll have the
Colonel's system going wherever a copy of 'Every Other Week' circulates,"
"This sketch belongs to me," Alma interposed. "I'm not going to let it
"Oh, mah goodness!" said Miss Woodburn, laughing good-humoredly.
"That's becose you were brought up to hate slavery."
"I should like Mr. Beaton to see it," said Mrs. Leighton, in a sort of
absent tone. She added, to Fulkerson: "I rather expected he might be in
"Well, if he comes we'll leave it to Beaton," Fulkerson said, with relief
in the solution, and an anxious glance at the Colonel, across the table,
to see how he took that form of the joke. Miss Woodburn intercepted his
glance and laughed, and Fulkerson laughed, too, but rather forlornly.
Alma set her lips primly and turned her head first on one side and then
on the other to look at the sketch. "I don't think we'll leave it to Mr.
Beaton, even if he comes."
"We left the other design for the cover to Beaton," Fulkerson insinuated.
"I guess you needn't be afraid of him."
"Is it a question of my being afraid?" Alma asked; she seemed coolly
intent on her drawing.
"Miss Leighton thinks he ought to be afraid of her," Miss Woodburn
"It's a question of his courage, then?" said Alma.
"Well, I don't think there are many young ladies that Beaton's afraid
of," said Fulkerson, giving himself the respite of this purely random
remark, while he interrogated the faces of Mrs. Leighton and Colonel
Woodburn for some light upon the tendency of their daughters' words.
He was not helped by Mrs. Leighton's saying, with a certain anxiety,
"I don't know what you mean, Mr. Fulkerson."
"Well, you're as much in the dark as I am myself, then," said Fulkerson.
"I suppose I meant that Beaton is rather--a--favorite, you know. The
women like him."
Mrs. Leighton sighed, and Colonel Woodburn rose and left the room.
In the silence that followed, Fulkerson looked from one lady to the other
with dismay. "I seem to have put my foot in it, somehow," he suggested,
and Miss Woodburn gave a cry of laughter.
"Poo' Mr. Fulkerson! Poo' Mr. Fulkerson! Papa thoat you wanted him to
"Wanted him to go?" repeated Fulkerson.
"We always mention Mr. Beaton when we want to get rid of papa."
"Well, it seems to me that I have noticed that he didn't take much
interest in Beaton, as a general topic. But I don't know that I ever saw
it drive him out of the room before!"
"Well, he isn't always so bad," said Miss Woodburn. "But it was a case
of hate at first sight, and it seems to be growin' on papa."
"Well, I can understand that," said Fulkerson. "The impulse to destroy
Beaton is something that everybody has to struggle against at the start."
"I must say, Mr. Fulkerson," said Mrs. Leighton, in the tremor through
which she nerved herself to differ openly with any one she liked,
"I never had to struggle with anything of the kind, in regard to
Mr. Beaton. He has always been most respectful and--and--considerate,
with me, whatever he has been with others."
"Well, of course, Mrs. Leighton!" Fulkerson came back in a soothing tone.
"But you see you're the rule that proves the exception. I was speaking
of the way men felt about Beaton. It's different with ladies; I just
"Is it always different?" Alma asked, lifting her head and her hand from
her drawing, and staring at it absently.
Fulkerson pushed both his hands through his whiskers. "Look here! Look
here!" he said. "Won't somebody start some other subject? We haven't
had the weather up yet, have we? Or the opera? What is the matter with
a few remarks about politics?"
"Why, Ah thoat you lahked to toak about the staff of yo' magazine," said
"Oh, I do!" said Fulkerson. "But not always about the same member of it.
He gets monotonous, when he doesn't get complicated. I've just come
round from the Marches'," he added, to Mrs. Leighton.
"I suppose they've got thoroughly settled in their apartment by this
time." Mrs. Leighton said something like this whenever the Marches were
mentioned. At the bottom of her heart she had not forgiven them for not
taking her rooms; she had liked their looks so much; and she was always
hoping that they were uncomfortable or dissatisfied; she could not help
wanting them punished a little.
"Well, yes; as much as they ever will be," Fulkerson answered.
"The Boston style is pretty different, you know; and the Marches are old-
fashioned folks, and I reckon they never went in much for bric-a-brac
They've put away nine or ten barrels of dragon candlesticks, but they
keep finding new ones."
"Their landlady has just joined our class," said Alma. "Isn't her name
Green? She happened to see my copy of 'Every Other Week', and said she
knew the editor; and told me."
"Well, it's a little world," said Fulkerson. "You seem to be touching
elbows with everybody. Just think of your having had our head translator
for a model."
"Ah think that your whole publication revolves aroand the Leighton
family," said Miss Woodburn.
"That's pretty much so," Fulkerson admitted. "Anyhow, the publisher
seems disposed to do so."
"Are you the publisher? I thought it was Mr. Dryfoos," said Alma.
The tone and the word gave Fulkerson a discomfort which he promptly
confessed. "Missed again."
The girls laughed, and he regained something of his lost spirits, and
smiled upon their gayety, which lasted beyond any apparent reason for it.
Miss Woodburn asked, "And is Mr. Dryfoos senio' anything like ouah Mr.
"Not the least."
"But he's jost as exemplary?"
"Yes; in his way."
"Well, Ah wish Ah could see all those pinks of puffection togethah,
"Why, look here! I've been thinking I'd celebrate a little, when the old
gentleman gets back. Have a little supper--something of that kind. How
would you like to let me have your parlors for it, Mrs. Leighton? You
ladies could stand on the stairs, and have a peep at us, in the bunch."
"Oh, mah! What a privilege! And will Miss Alma be there, with the othah
contributors? Ah shall jost expah of envy!"
"She won't be there in person," said Fulkerson, "but she'll be
represented by the head of the art department."
"Mah goodness! And who'll the head of the publishing department
"He can represent you," said Alma.
"Well, Ah want to be represented, someho'."
"We'll have the banquet the night before you appear on the cover of our
fourth number," said Fulkerson.
"Ah thoat that was doubly fo'bidden," said Miss Woodburn. "By the stern
parent and the envious awtust."
"We'll get Beaton to get round them, somehow. I guess we can trust him
to manage that."
Mrs. Leighton sighed her resentment of the implication.
"I always feel that Mr. Beaton doesn't do himself justice," she began.
Fulkerson could not forego the chance of a joke. "Well, maybe he would
rather temper justice with mercy in a case like his." This made both the
younger ladies laugh. "I judge this is my chance to get off with my
life," he added, and he rose as he spoke. "Mrs. Leighton, I am about the
only man of my sex who doesn't thirst for Beaton's blood most of the
time. But I know him and I don't. He's more kinds of a good fellow than
people generally understand. He doesn't wear his heart upon his sleeve-
not his ulster sleeve, anyway. You can always count me on your side when
it's a question of finding Beaton not guilty if he'll leave the State."
Alma set her drawing against the wall, in rising to say goodnight to
Fulkerson. He bent over on his stick to look at it. "Well, it's
beautiful," he sighed, with unconscious sincerity.
Alma made him a courtesy of mock modesty. "Thanks to Miss Woodburn!"
"Oh no! All she had to do was simply to stay put."
"Don't you think Ah might have improved it if Ah had, looked better?"
the girl asked, gravely.
"Oh, you couldn't!" said Fulkerson, and he went off triumphant in their
applause and their cries of "Which? which?"
Mrs. Leighton sank deep into an accusing gloom when at last she found
herself alone with her daughter. "I don't know what you are thinking
about, Alma Leighton. If you don't like Mr. Beaton--"
"You don't? You know better than that. You know that, you did care for
"Oh! that's a very different thing. That's a thing that can be got
"Got over!" repeated Mrs. Leighton, aghast.
"Of course, it can! Don't be romantic, mamma. People get over dozens of
such fancies. They even marry for love two or three times."
"Never!" cried her mother, doing her best to feel shocked; and at last
Her looking it had no effect upon Alma. "You can easily get over caring
for people; but you can't get over liking them--if you like them because
they are sweet and good. That's what lasts. I was a simple goose,
and he imposed upon me because he was a sophisticated goose. Now the
case is reversed."
"He does care for you, now. You can see it. Why do you encourage him to
"I don't," said Alma. "I will tell him to keep away if you like. But
whether he comes or goes, it will be the same."
"Not to him, Alma! He is in love with you!"
"He has never said so."
"And you would really let him say so, when you intend to refuse him?"
"I can't very well refuse him till he does say so."
This was undeniable. Mrs. Leighton could only demand, in an awful tone,
"May I ask why--if you cared for him; and I know you care for him still
you will refuse him?"
Alma laughed. "Because--because I'm wedded to my Art, and I'm not going
to commit bigamy, whatever I do."
"Well, then, because I don't like him--that is, I don't believe in him,
and don't trust him. He's fascinating, but he's false and he's fickle.
He can't help it, I dare say."
"And you are perfectly hard. Is it possible that you were actually
pleased to have Mr. Fulkerson tease you about Mr. Dryfoos?"
"Oh, good-night, now, mamma! This is becoming personal"
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Artists never do anything like other people
Ballast of her instinctive despondency
Clinging persistence of such natures
Dividend: It's a chicken before it's hatched
Gayety, which lasted beyond any apparent reason for it
How much can a man honestly earn without wronging or oppressing
I cannot endure this--this hopefulness of yours
If you dread harm enough it is less likely to happen
It must be your despair that helps you to bear up
Marry for love two or three times
No man deserves to sufer at the hands of another
Patience with mediocrity putting on the style of genius
Person talks about taking lessons, as if they could learn it
Say when he is gone that the woman gets along better without him
Shouldn't ca' fo' the disgrace of bein' poo'--its inconvenience
Timidity of the elder in the presence of the younger man
A HAZARD OF NEW FORTUNES
By William Dean Howells
The scheme of a banquet to celebrate the initial success of 'Every Other
Week' expanded in Fulkerson's fancy into a series. Instead of the
publishing and editorial force, with certain of the more representative
artists and authors sitting down to a modest supper in Mrs. Leighton's
parlors, he conceived of a dinner at Delmonico's, with the principal
literary and artistic, people throughout the country as guests, and an
inexhaustible hospitality to reporters and correspondents, from whom
paragraphs, prophetic and historic, would flow weeks before and after the
first of the series. He said the thing was a new departure in magazines;
it amounted to something in literature as radical as the American
Revolution in politics: it was the idea of self government in the arts;
and it was this idea that had never yet been fully developed in regard to
it. That was what must be done in the speeches at the dinner, and the
speeches must be reported. Then it would go like wildfire. He asked
March whether he thought Mr. Depew could be got to come; Mark Twain, he
was sure, would come; he was a literary man. They ought to invite Mr.
Evarts, and the Cardinal and the leading Protestant divines. His
ambition stopped at nothing, nothing but the question of expense; there
he had to wait the return of the elder Dryfoos from the West, and Dryfoos
was still delayed at Moffitt, and Fulkerson openly confessed that he was
afraid he would stay there till his own enthusiasm escaped in other
activities, other plans.
Fulkerson was as little likely as possible to fall under a superstitious
subjection to another man; but March could not help seeing that in this
possible measure Dryfoos was Fulkerson's fetish. He did not revere him,
March decided, because it was not in Fulkerson's nature to revere
anything; he could like and dislike, but he could not respect.
Apparently, however, Dryfoos daunted him somehow; and besides the homage
which those who have not pay to those who have, Fulkerson rendered
Dryfoos the tribute of a feeling which March could only define as a sort
of bewilderment. As well as March could make out, this feeling was
evoked by the spectacle of Dryfoos's unfailing luck, which Fulkerson was
fond of dazzling himself with. It perfectly consisted with a keen sense
of whatever was sordid and selfish in a man on whom his career must have
had its inevitable effect. He liked to philosophize the case with March,
to recall Dryfoos as he was when he first met him still somewhat in the
sap, at Moffitt, and to study the processes by which he imagined him to
have dried into the hardened speculator, without even the pretence to any
advantage but his own in his ventures. He was aware of painting the
character too vividly, and he warned March not to accept it exactly in
those tints, but to subdue them and shade it for himself. He said that
where his advantage was not concerned, there was ever so much good in
Dryfoos, and that if in some things be had grown inflexible, he had
expanded in others to the full measure of the vast scale on which he did
business. It had seemed a little odd to March that a man should put
money into such an enterprise as 'Every Other Week' and go off about
other affairs, not only without any sign of anxiety, but without any sort
of interest. But Fulkerson said that was the splendid side of Dryfoos.
He had a courage, a magnanimity, that was equal to the strain of any such
uncertainty. He had faced the music once for all, when he asked
Fulkerson what the thing would cost in the different degrees of potential
failure; and then he had gone off, leaving everything to Fulkerson and
the younger Dryfoos, with the instruction simply to go ahead and not
bother him about it. Fulkerson called that pretty tall for an old fellow
who used to bewail the want of pigs and chickens to occupy his mind.
He alleged it as another proof of the versatility of the American mind,
and of the grandeur of institutions and opportunities that let every man
grow to his full size, so that any man in America could run the concern
if necessary. He believed that old Dryfoos could step into Bismarck's
shoes and run the German Empire at ten days' notice, or about as long as
it would take him to go from New York to Berlin. But Bismarck would not
know anything about Dryfoos's plans till Dryfoos got ready to show his
hand. Fulkerson himself did not pretend to say what the old man had been
up to since he went West. He was at Moffitt first, and then he was at
Chicago, and then he had gone out to Denver to look after some mines he
had out there, and a railroad or two; and now he was at Moffitt again.
He was supposed to be closing up his affairs there, but nobody could say.
Fulkerson told March the morning after Dryfoos returned that he had not
only not pulled out at Moffitt, but had gone in deeper, ten times deeper
than ever. He was in a royal good-humor, Fulkerson reported, and was
going to drop into the office on his way up from the Street (March
understood Wall Street) that afternoon. He was tickled to death with
'Every Other Week' so far as it had gone, and was anxious to pay his
respects to the editor.
March accounted for some rhetoric in this, but let it flatter him, and
prepared himself for a meeting about which he could see that Fulkerson
was only less nervous than he had shown himself about the public
reception of the first number. It gave March a disagreeable feeling of
being owned and of being about to be inspected by his proprietor; but he
fell back upon such independence as he could find in the thought of those
two thousand dollars of income beyond the caprice of his owner, and
maintained an outward serenity.
He was a little ashamed afterward of the resolution it had cost him to do
so. It was not a question of Dryfoos's physical presence: that was
rather effective than otherwise, and carried a suggestion of moneyed
indifference to convention in the gray business suit of provincial cut,
and the low, wide-brimmed hat of flexible black felt. He had a stick
with an old-fashioned top of buckhorn worn smooth and bright by the palm
of his hand, which had not lost its character in fat, and which had a
history of former work in its enlarged knuckles, though it was now as
soft as March's, and must once have been small even for a man of Mr.
Dryfoos's stature; he was below the average size. But what struck March
was the fact that Dryfoos seemed furtively conscious of being a country
person, and of being aware that in their meeting he was to be tried by
other tests than those which would have availed him as a shrewd
speculator. He evidently had some curiosity about March, as the first of
his kind whom he bad encountered; some such curiosity as the country
school trustee feels and tries to hide in the presence of the new
schoolmaster. But the whole affair was, of course, on a higher plane; on
one side Dryfoos was much more a man of the world than March was, and he
probably divined this at once, and rested himself upon the fact in a
measure. It seemed to be his preference that his son should introduce
them, for he came upstairs with Conrad, and they had fairly made
acquaintance before Fulkerson joined them.
Conrad offered to leave them at once, but his father made him stay.
"I reckon Mr. March and I haven't got anything so private to talk about
that we want to keep it from the other partners. Well, Mr. March, are
you getting used to New York yet? It takes a little time."
"Oh yes. But not so much time as most places. Everybody belongs more or
less in New York; nobody has to belong here altogether."
"Yes, that is so. You can try it, and go away if you don't like it a
good deal easier than you could from a smaller place. Wouldn't make so
much talk, would it?" He glanced at March with a jocose light in his
shrewd eyes. "That is the way I feel about it all the time: just
visiting. Now, it wouldn't be that way in Boston, I reckon?"
"You couldn't keep on visiting there your whole life," said March.
Dryfoos laughed, showing his lower teeth in a way that was at once simple
and fierce. "Mr. Fulkerson didn't hardly know as he could get you to
leave. I suppose you got used to it there. I never been in your city."
"I had got used to it; but it was hardly my city, except by marriage. My
wife's a Bostonian."
"She's been a little homesick here, then," said Dryfoos, with a smile of
the same quality as his laugh.
"Less than I expected," said March. "Of course, she was very much
attached to our old home."
"I guess my wife won't ever get used to New York," said Dryfoos, and he
drew in his lower lip with a sharp sigh. "But my girls like it; they're
young. You never been out our way yet, Mr. March? Out West?"
"Well, only for the purpose of being born, and brought up. I used to
live in Crawfordsville, and then Indianapolis."
"Indianapolis is bound to be a great place," said Dryfoos. "I remember
now, Mr. Fulkerson told me you was from our State." He went on to brag
of the West, as if March were an Easterner and had to be convinced.
"You ought to see all that country. It's a great country."
"Oh yes," said March, "I understand that." He expected the praise of the
great West to lead up to some comment on 'Every Other Week'; and there
was abundant suggestion of that topic in the manuscripts, proofs of
letter-press and illustrations, with advance copies of the latest number
strewn over his table.
But Dryfoos apparently kept himself from looking at these things.
He rolled his head about on his shoulders to take in the character of the
room, and said to his son, "You didn't change the woodwork, after all."
"No; the architect thought we had better let it be, unless we meant to
change the whole place. He liked its being old-fashioned."
"I hope you feel comfortable here, Mr. March," the old man said, bringing
his eyes to bear upon him again after their tour of inspection.
"Too comfortable for a working-man," said March, and he thought that this
remark must bring them to some talk about his work, but the proprietor
only smiled again.
"I guess I sha'n't lose much on this house," he returned, as if musing
aloud. "This down-town property is coming up. Business is getting in on
all these side streets. I thought I paid a pretty good price for it,
too." He went on to talk of real estate, and March began to feel a
certain resentment at his continued avoidance of the only topic in which
they could really have a common interest. "You live down this way
somewhere, don't you?" the old man concluded.
"Yes. I wished to be near my work." March was vexed with himself for
having recurred to it; but afterward he was not sure but Dryfoos shared
his own diffidence in the matter, and was waiting for him to bring it
openly into the talk. At times he seemed wary and masterful, and then
March felt that he was being examined and tested; at others so simple
that March might well have fancied that he needed encouragement, and
desired it. He talked of his wife and daughters in a way that invited
March to say friendly things of his family, which appeared to give the
old man first an undue pleasure and then a final distrust. At moments he
turned, with an effect of finding relief in it, to his son and spoke to
him across March of matters which he was unacquainted with; he did not
seem aware that this was rude, but the young man must have felt it so; he
always brought the conversation back, and once at some cost to himself
when his father made it personal.
"I want to make a regular New York business man out of that fellow," he
said to March, pointing at Conrad with his stick. "You s'pose I'm ever
going to do it?"
"Well, I don't know," said March, trying to fall in with the joke.
"Do you mean nothing but a business man?"
The old man laughed at whatever latent meaning he fancied in this, and
said: "You think he would be a little too much for me there? Well, I've
seen enough of 'em to know it don't always take a large pattern of a man
to do a large business. But I want him to get the business training, and
then if he wants to go into something else he knows what the world is,
"Oh yes!" March assented, with some compassion for the young man
reddening patiently under his father's comment.
Dryfoos went on as if his son were not in hearing. "Now that boy wanted
to be a preacher. What does a preacher know about the world he preaches
against when he's been brought up a preacher? He don't know so much as a
bad little boy in his Sunday-school; he knows about as much as a girl.
I always told him, You be a man first, and then you be a preacher, if you
want to. Heigh?"
"Precisely." March began to feel some compassion for himself in being
witness of the young fellow's discomfort under his father's homily.
"When we first come to New York, I told him, Now here's your chance to
see the world on a big scale. You know already what work and saving and
steady habits and sense will bring a man, to; you don't want to go round
among the rich; you want to go among the poor, and see what laziness and
drink and dishonesty and foolishness will bring men to. And I guess he
knows, about as well as anybody; and if he ever goes to preaching he'll
know what he's preaching about." The old man smiled his fierce, simple
smile, and in his sharp eyes March fancied contempt of the ambition he
had balked in his son. The present scene must have been one of many
between them, ending in meek submission on the part of the young man,
whom his father, perhaps without realizing his cruelty, treated as a
child. March took it hard that he should be made to suffer in the
presence of a co-ordinate power like himself, and began to dislike the
old man out of proportion to his offence, which might have been mere want
of taste, or an effect of mere embarrassment before him. But evidently,
whatever rebellion his daughters had carried through against him, he had
kept his dominion over this gentle spirit unbroken. March did not choose
to make any response, but to let him continue, if he would, entirely upon
his own impulse.
A silence followed, of rather painful length. It was broken by the
cheery voice of Fulkerson, sent before him to herald Fulkerson's cheery
person. "Well, I suppose you've got the glorious success of 'Every Other
Week' down pretty cold in your talk by this time. I should have been up
sooner to join you, but I was nipping a man for the last page of the
cover. I guess we'll have to let the Muse have that for an advertisement
instead of a poem the next time, March. Well, the old gentleman given
you boys your scolding?" The person of Fulkerson had got into the room
long before he reached this question, and had planted itself astride a
chair. Fulkerson looked over the chairback, now at March, and now at the
elder Dryfoos as he spoke.
March answered him. "I guess we must have been waiting for you,
Fulkerson. At any rate, we hadn't got to the scolding yet."
"Why, I didn't suppose Mr. Dryfoos could 'a' held in so long. I
understood he was awful mad at the way the thing started off, and wanted
to give you a piece of his mind, when he got at you. I inferred as much
from a remark that he made." March and Dryfoos looked foolish, as men do
when made the subject of this sort of merry misrepresentation.
"I reckon my scolding will keep awhile yet," said the old man, dryly.
"Well, then, I guess it's a good chance to give Mr. Dryfoos an idea of
what we've really done--just while we're resting, as Artemus Ward says.
"I will let you blow the trumpet, Fulkerson. I think it belongs strictly
to the advertising department," said March. He now distinctly resented
the old man's failure to say anything to him of the magazine; he made his
inference that it was from a suspicion of his readiness to presume upon a
recognition of his share in the success, and he was determined to second
no sort of appeal for it.
"The advertising department is the heart and soul of every business,"
said Fulkerson, hardily, "and I like to keep my hand in with a little
practise on the trumpet in private. I don't believe Mr. Dryfoos has got
any idea of the extent of this thing. He's been out among those
Rackensackens, where we were all born, and he's read the notices in their
seven by nine dailies, and he's seen the thing selling on the cars, and
he thinks he appreciates what's been done. But I should just like to
take him round in this little old metropolis awhile, and show him 'Every
Other Week' on the centre tables of the millionaires--the Vanderbilts and
the Astors--and in the homes of culture and refinement everywhere, and
let him judge for himself. It's the talk of the clubs and the dinner-
tables; children cry for it; it's the Castoria of literature and the
Pearline of art, the 'Won't-be-happy-till-he-gets-it of every en
lightened man, woman, and child in this vast city. I knew we could
capture the country; but, my goodness! I didn't expect to have New York
fall into our hands at a blow. But that's just exactly what New York has
done. Every Other Week supplies the long-felt want that's been grinding
round in New York and keeping it awake nights ever since the war. It's
the culmination of all the high and ennobling ideals of the past."
"How much," asked Dryfoos, "do you expect to get out of it the first
year, if it keeps the start it's got?"
"Comes right down to business, every time!" said Fulkerson, referring the
characteristic to March with a delighted glance. "Well, sir, if
everything works right, and we get rain enough to fill up the springs,
and it isn't a grasshopper year, I expect to clear above all expenses
something in the neighborhood of twenty-five thousand dollars."
"Humph! And you are all going to work a year--editor, manager, publisher,
artists, writers, printers, and the rest of 'em--to clear twenty-five
thousand dollars?--I made that much in half a day in Moffitt once. I see
it made in half a minute in Wall Street, sometimes." The old man
presented this aspect of the case with a good-natured contempt, which
included Fulkerson and his enthusiasm in an obvious liking.
His son suggested, "But when we make that money here, no one loses it."
"Can you prove that?" His father turned sharply upon him. "Whatever is
won is lost. It's all a game; it don't make any difference what you bet
on. Business is business, and a business man takes his risks with his
"Ah, but the glory!" Fulkerson insinuated with impudent persiflage.
"I hadn't got to the glory yet, because it's hard to estimate it; but put
the glory at the lowest figure, Mr. Dryfoos, and add it to the twenty-
five thousand, and you've got an annual income from 'Every Other Week' of
dollars enough to construct a silver railroad, double-track, from this
office to the moon. I don't mention any of the sister planets because I
like to keep within bounds."
Dryfoos showed his lower teeth for pleasure in Fulkerson's fooling, and
said, "That's what I like about you, Mr. Fulkerson--you always keep
"Well, I ain't a shrinking Boston violet, like March, here. More
sunflower in my style of diffidence; but I am modest, I don't deny it,"
said Fulkerson. "And I do hate to have a thing overstated."
"And the glory--you do really think there's something in the glory that
"Not a doubt of it! I shouldn't care for the paltry return in money,"
said Fulkerson, with a burlesque of generous disdain, "if it wasn't for
the glory along with it."
"And how should you feel about the glory, if there was no money along
"Well, sir, I'm happy to say we haven't come to that yet."
"Now, Conrad, here," said the old man, with a sort of pathetic rancor,
"would rather have the glory alone. I believe he don't even care much
for your kind of glory, either, Mr. Fulkerson."
Fulkerson ran his little eyes curiously over Conrad's face and then
March's, as if searching for a trace there of something gone before which
would enable him to reach Dryfoos's whole meaning. He apparently
resolved to launch himself upon conjecture. "Oh, well, we know how
Conrad feels about the things of this world, anyway. I should like to
take 'em on the plane of another sphere, too, sometimes; but I noticed a
good while ago that this was the world I was born into, and so I made up
my mind that I would do pretty much what I saw the rest of the folks
doing here below. And I can't see but what Conrad runs the thing on
business principles in his department, and I guess you'll find it so if
you look into it. I consider that we're a whole team and big dog under
the wagon with you to draw on for supplies, and March, here, at the head
of the literary business, and Conrad in the counting-room, and me to do
the heavy lying in the advertising part. Oh, and Beaton, of course, in
the art. I 'most forgot Beaton--Hamlet with Hamlet left out."
Dryfoos looked across at his son. "Wasn't that the fellow's name that
was there last night?"
"Yes," said Conrad.
The old man rose. "Well, I reckon I got to be going. You ready to go
"Well, not quite yet, father."
The old man shook hands with March, and went downstairs, followed by his
"He didn't jump at the chance you gave him to compliment us all round,
Fulkerson," said March, with a smile not wholly of pleasure.
Fulkerson asked, with as little joy in the grin he had on, "Didn't he say
anything to you before I came in?"
"Not a word."
"Dogged if I know what to make of it," sighed Fulkerson, "but I guess
he's been having a talk with Conrad that's soured on him. I reckon maybe
he came back expecting to find that boy reconciled to the glory of this
world, and Conrad's showed himself just as set against it as ever."
"It might have been that," March admitted, pensively. "I fancied
something of the kind myself from words the old man let drop."
Fulkerson made him explain, and then he said:
"That's it, then; and it's all right. Conrad 'll come round in time; and
all we've got to do is to have patience with the old man till he does.
I know he likes you." Fulkerson affirmed this only interrogatively, and
looked so anxiously to March for corroboration that March laughed.
"He dissembled his love," he said; but afterward, in describing to his
wife his interview with Mr. Dryfoos, he was less amused with this fact.
When she saw that he was a little cast down by it, she began to encourage
him. "He's just a common, ignorant man, and probably didn't know how to
express himself. You may be perfectly sure that he's delighted with the
success of the magazine, and that he understands as well as you do that
he owes it all to you."
"Ah, I'm not so sure. I don't believe a man's any better for having made
money so easily and rapidly as Dryfoos has done, and I doubt if he's any
wiser. I don't know just the point he's reached in his evolution from
grub to beetle, but I do know that so far as it's gone the process must
have involved a bewildering change of ideals and criterions. I guess
he's come to despise a great many things that he once respected, and that
intellectual ability is among them--what we call intellectual ability.
He must have undergone a moral deterioration, an atrophy of the generous
instincts, and I don't see why it shouldn't have reached his mental make-
up. He has sharpened, but he has narrowed; his sagacity has turned into
suspicion, his caution to meanness, his courage to ferocity. That's the
way I philosophize a man of Dryfoos's experience, and I am not very proud
when I realize that such a man and his experience are the ideal and
ambition of most Americans. I rather think they came pretty near being
"No, dear, they never did," his wife protested.
"Well, they're not likely to be in the future. The Dryfoos feature of
'Every Other Week' is thoroughly distasteful to me."
"Why, but he hasn't really got anything to do with it, has he, beyond
furnishing the money?"
"That's the impression that Fulkerson has allowed us to get. But the man
that holds the purse holds the reins. He may let us guide the horse, but
when he likes he can drive. If we don't like his driving, then we can
Mrs. March was less interested in this figure of speech than in the
personal aspects involved. "Then you think Mr. Fulkerson has deceived
"Oh no!" said her husband, laughing. "But I think he has deceived
"How?" she pursued.
"He may have thought he was using Dryfoos, when Dryfoos was using him,
and he may have supposed he was not afraid of him when he was very much
so. His courage hadn't been put to the test, and courage is a matter of
proof, like proficiency on the fiddle, you know: you can't tell whether
you've got it till you try."
"Nonsense! Do you mean that he would ever sacrifice you to Mr. Dryfoos?"
"I hope he may not be tempted. But I'd rather be taking the chances with
Fulkerson alone than with Fulkerson and Dryfoos to back him. Dryfoos
seems, somehow, to take the poetry and the pleasure out of the thing."
Mrs. March was a long time silent. Then she began, "Well, my dear, I
never wanted to come to New York--"
"Neither did I," March promptly put in.
"But now that we're here," she went on, "I'm not going to have you
letting every little thing discourage you. I don't see what there was in
Mr. Dryfoos's manner to give you any anxiety. He's just a common,
stupid, inarticulate country person, and he didn't know how to express
himself, as I said in the beginning, and that's the reason he didn't say
"Well, I don't deny you're right about it."
"It's dreadful," his wife continued, "to be mixed up with such a man and
his family, but I don't believe he'll ever meddle with your management,
and, till he does, all you need do is to have as little to do with him as
possible, and go quietly on your own way."
"Oh, I shall go on quietly enough," said March. "I hope I sha'n't begin
"Well, my dear," said Mrs. March, "just let me know when you're tempted
to do that. If ever you sacrifice the smallest grain of your honesty or
your self-respect to Mr. Dryfoos, or anybody else, I will simply renounce
"In view of that I'm rather glad the management of 'Every Other Week'
involves tastes and not convictions," said March.
That night Dryfoos was wakened from his after-dinner nap by the sound of
gay talk and nervous giggling in the drawing-room. The talk, which was
Christine's, and the giggling, which was Mela's, were intershot with the
heavier tones of a man's voice; and Dryfoos lay awhile on the leathern
lounge in his library, trying to make out whether he knew the voice. His
wife sat in a deep chair before the fire, with her eyes on his face,
waiting for him to wake.
"Who is that out there?" he asked, without opening his eyes.
"Indeed, indeed, I don't know, Jacob," his wife answered. "I reckon it's
just some visitor of the girls'."
"Was I snoring?"
"Not a bit. You was sleeping as quiet! I did hate to have 'em wake you,
and I was just goin' out to shoo them. They've been playin' something,
and that made them laugh."
"I didn't know but I had snored," said the old man, sitting up.
"No," said his wife. Then she asked, wistfully, "Was you out at the old
"Did it look natural?"
"Yes; mostly. They're sinking the wells down in the woods pasture."
"And--the children's graves?"
"They haven't touched that part. But I reckon we got to have 'em moved
to the cemetery. I bought a lot."
The old woman began softly to weep. "It does seem too hard that they
can't be let to rest in peace, pore little things. I wanted you and me
to lay there, too, when our time come, Jacob. Just there, back o' the
beehives and under them shoomakes--my, I can see the very place! And I
don't believe I'll ever feel at home anywheres else. I woon't know where
I am when the trumpet sounds. I have to think before I can tell where
the east is in New York; and what if I should git faced the wrong way
when I raise? Jacob, I wonder you could sell it!" Her head shook, and
the firelight shone on her tears as she searched the folds of her dress
for her pocket.
A peal of laughter came from the drawing-room, and then the sound of
chords struck on the piano.
"Hush! Don't you cry, 'Liz'beth!" said Dryfoos. "Here; take my
handkerchief. I've got a nice lot in the cemetery, and I'm goin' to have
a monument, with two lambs on it--like the one you always liked so much.
It ain't the fashion, any more, to have family buryin' grounds; they're
collectin' 'em into the cemeteries, all round."
"I reckon I got to bear it," said his wife, muffling her face in his
handkerchief. "And I suppose the Lord kin find me, wherever I am. But I
always did want to lay just there. You mind how we used to go out and
set there, after milkin', and watch the sun go down, and talk about where
their angels was, and try to figger it out?"
"I remember, 'Liz'beth."
The man's voice in the drawing-room sang a snatch of French song,
insolent, mocking, salient; and then Christine's attempted the same
strain, and another cry of laughter from Mela followed.
"Well, I always did expect to lay there. But I reckon it's all right.
It won't be a great while, now, anyway. Jacob, I don't believe I'm a-
goin' to live very long. I know it don't agree with me here."
"Oh, I guess it does, 'Liz'beth. You're just a little pulled down with
the weather. It's coming spring, and you feel it; but the doctor says
you're all right. I stopped in, on the way up, and he says so."
"I reckon he don't know everything," the old woman persisted: "I've been
runnin' down ever since we left Moffitt, and I didn't feel any too well
there, even. It's a very strange thing, Jacob, that the richer you git,
the less you ain't able to stay where you want to, dead or alive."
"It's for the children we do it," said Dryfoos. "We got to give them
their chance in the world."
"Oh, the world! They ought to bear the yoke in their youth, like we
done. I know it's what Coonrod would like to do."
Dryfoos got upon his feet. "If Coonrod 'll mind his own business, and do
what I want him to, he'll have yoke enough to bear." He moved from his
wife, without further effort to comfort her, and pottered heavily out
into the dining-room. Beyond its obscurity stretched the glitter of the
deep drawing-room. His feet, in their broad; flat slippers, made no
sound on the dense carpet, and he came unseen upon the little group there
near the piano. Mela perched upon the stool with her back to the keys,
and Beaton bent over Christine, who sat with a banjo in her lap, letting
him take her hands and put them in the right place on the instrument.
Her face was radiant with happiness, and Mela was watching her with
foolish, unselfish pleasure in her bliss.
There was nothing wrong in the affair to a man of Dryfoos's traditions
and perceptions, and if it had been at home in the farm sitting-room,
or even in his parlor at Moffitt, he would not have minded a young man's
placing his daughter's hands on a banjo, or even holding them there;
it would have seemed a proper, attention from him if he was courting her.
But here, in such a house as this, with the daughter of a man who had
made as much money as he had, he did not know but it was a liberty.
He felt the angry doubt of it which beset him in regard to so many
experiences of his changed life; he wanted to show his sense of it, if it
was a liberty, but he did not know how, and he did not know that it was
so. Besides, he could not help a touch of the pleasure in Christine's
happiness which Mela showed; and he would have gone back to the library,
if he could, without being discovered.
But Beaton had seen him, and Dryfoos, with a nonchalant nod to the young
man, came forward. "What you got there, Christine?"
"A banjo," said the girl, blushing in her father's presence.
Mela gurgled. "Mr. Beaton is learnun' her the first position."
Beaton was not embarrassed. He was in evening dress, and his face,
pointed with its brown beard, showed extremely handsome above the expanse
of his broad, white shirt-front. He gave back as nonchalant a nod as he
had got, and, without further greeting to Dryfoos, he said to Christine:
"No, no. You must keep your hand and arm so." He held them in position.
"There! Now strike with your right hand. See?"
"I don't believe I can ever learn," said the girl, with a fond upward
look at him.
"Oh yes, you can," said Beaton.
They both ignored Dryfoos in the little play of protests which followed,
and he said, half jocosely, half suspiciously, "And is the banjo the
fashion, now?" He remembered it as the emblem of low-down show business,
and associated it with end-men and blackened faces and grotesque shirt-
"It's all the rage," Mela shouted, in answer for all. "Everybody plays
it. Mr. Beaton borrowed this from a lady friend of his."
"Humph! Pity I got you a piano, then," said Dryfoos. "A banjo would
have been cheaper."
Beaton so far admitted him to the conversation as to seem reminded of the
piano by his mentioning it. He said to Mela, "Oh, won't you just strike
those chords?" and as Mela wheeled about and beat the keys he took the
banjo from Christine and sat down with it. "This way!" He strummed it,
and murmured the tune Dryfoos had heard him singing from the library,
while he kept his beautiful eyes floating on Christine's. "You try that,
now; it's very simple."
"Where is Mrs. Mandel?" Dryfoos demanded, trying to assert himself.
Neither of the girls seemed to have heard him at first in the chatter
they broke into over what Beaton proposed. Then Mela said, absently,
"Oh, she had to go out to see one of her friends that's sick," and she
struck the piano keys. "Come; try it, Chris!"
Dryfoos turned about unheeded and went back to the library. He would
have liked to put Beaton out of his house, and in his heart he burned
against him as a contumacious hand; he would have liked to discharge him
from the art department of 'Every Other Week' at once. But he was aware
of not having treated Beaton with much ceremony, and if the young man had
returned his behavior in kind, with an electrical response to his own
feeling, had he any right to complain? After all, there was no harm in
his teaching Christine the banjo.
His wife still sat looking into the fire. "I can't see," she said,
"as we've got a bit more comfort of our lives, Jacob, because we've got
such piles and piles of money. I wisht to gracious we was back on the
farm this minute. I wisht you had held out ag'inst the childern about
sellin' it; 'twould 'a' bin the best thing fur 'em, I say. I believe in
my soul they'll git spoiled here in New York. I kin see a change in 'em
a'ready--in the girls."
Dryfoos stretched himself on the lounge again. "I can't see as Coonrod
is much comfort, either. Why ain't he here with his sisters? What does
all that work of his on the East Side amount to? It seems as if he done
it to cross me, as much as anything." Dryfoos complained to his wife on
the basis of mere affectional habit, which in married life often survives
the sense of intellectual equality. He did not expect her to reason with
him, but there was help in her listening, and though she could only
soothe his fretfulness with soft answers which were often wide of the
purpose, he still went to her for solace. "Here, I've gone into this
newspaper business, or whatever it is, on his account, and he don't seem
any more satisfied than ever. I can see he hain't got his heart in it."
"The pore boy tries; I know he does, Jacob; and he wants to please you.
But he give up a good deal when he give up bein' a preacher; I s'pose we
ought to remember that."
"A preacher!" sneered Dryfoos. "I reckon bein' a preacher wouldn't
satisfy him now. He had the impudence to tell me this afternoon that he
would like to be a priest; and he threw it up to me that he never could
be because I'd kept him from studyin'."
"He don't mean a Catholic priest--not a Roman one, Jacob," the old woman
explained, wistfully. "He's told me all about it. They ain't the kind
o' Catholics we been used to; some sort of 'Piscopalians; and they do a
heap o' good amongst the poor folks over there. He says we ain't got any
idea how folks lives in them tenement houses, hundreds of 'em in one
house, and whole families in a room; and it burns in his heart to help
'em like them Fathers, as be calls 'em, that gives their lives to it.
He can't be a Father, he says, because he can't git the eddication now;
but he can be a Brother; and I can't find a word to say ag'inst it, when
it gits to talkin', Jacob."
"I ain't saying anything against his priests, 'Liz'beth," said Dryfoos.
"They're all well enough in their way; they've given up their lives to
it, and it's a matter of business with them, like any other. But what
I'm talking about now is Coonrod. I don't object to his doin' all the
charity he wants to, and the Lord knows I've never been stingy with him
about it. He might have all the money he wants, to give round any way he
"That's what I told him once, but he says money ain't the thing--or not
the only thing you got to give to them poor folks. You got to give your
time and your knowledge and your love--I don't know what all you got to
give yourself, if you expect to help 'em. That's what Coonrod says."
"Well, I can tell him that charity begins at home," said Dryfoos, sitting
up in his impatience. "And he'd better give himself to us a little--to
his old father and mother. And his sisters. What's he doin' goin' off
there to his meetings, and I don't know what all, an' leavin' them here
"Why, ain't Mr. Beaton with 'em?" asked the old woman. "I thought I
heared his voice."
"Mr. Beaton! Of course he is! And who's Mr. Beaton, anyway?"
"Why, ain't he one of the men in Coonrod's office? I thought I heared--"
"Yes, he is! But who is he? What's he doing round here? Is he makin'
up to Christine?"
"I reckon he is. From Mely's talk, she's about crazy over the fellow.
Don't you like him, Jacob?"
"I don't know him, or what he is. He hasn't got any manners. Who
brought him here? How'd he come to come, in the first place?"
"Mr. Fulkerson brung him, I believe," said the old woman, patiently.
"Fulkerson!" Dryfoos snorted. "Where's Mrs. Mandel, I should like to
know? He brought her, too. Does she go traipsin' off this way every
"No, she seems to be here pretty regular most o' the time. I don't know
how we could ever git along without her, Jacob; she seems to know just
what to do, and the girls would be ten times as outbreakin' without her.
I hope you ain't thinkin' o' turnin' her off, Jacob?"
Dryfoos did not think it necessary to answer such a question. "It's all
Fulkerson, Fulkerson, Fulkerson. It seems to me that Fulkerson about
runs this family. He brought Mrs. Mandel, and he brought that Beaton,
and he brought that Boston fellow! I guess I give him a dose, though;
and I'll learn Fulkerson that he can't have everything his own way. I
don't want anybody to help me spend my money. I made it, and I can
manage it. I guess Mr. Fulkerson can bear a little watching now. He's
been travelling pretty free, and he's got the notion he's driving, maybe.
I'm a-going to look after that book a little myself."
"You'll kill yourself, Jacob," said his wife, "tryin' to do so many
things. And what is it all fur? I don't see as we're better off, any,
for all the money. It's just as much care as it used to be when we was
all there on the farm together. I wisht we could go back, Ja--"
"We can't go back!" shouted the old man, fiercely. "There's no farm any
more to go back to. The fields is full of gas-wells and oil-wells and
hell-holes generally; the house is tore down, and the barn's goin'--"
"The barn!" gasped the old woman. "Oh, my!"
"If I was to give all I'm worth this minute, we couldn't go back to the
farm, any more than them girls in there could go back and be little
children. I don't say we're any better off, for the money. I've got
more of it now than I ever had; and there's no end to the luck; it pours
in. But I feel like I was tied hand and foot. I don't know which way to
move; I don't know what's best to do about anything. The money don't
seem to buy anything but more and more care and trouble. We got a big
house that we ain't at home in; and we got a lot of hired girls round
under our feet that hinder and don't help. Our children don't mind us,
and we got no friends or neighbors. But it had to be. I couldn't help
but sell the farm, and we can't go back to it, for it ain't there. So
don't you say anything more about it, 'Liz'beth."
"Pore Jacob!" said his wife. "Well, I woon't, dear."
It was clear to Beaton that Dryfoos distrusted him; and the fact
heightened his pleasure in Christine's liking for him. He was as sure of
this as he was of the other, though he was not so sure of any reason for
his pleasure in it. She had her charm; the charm of wildness to which a
certain wildness in himself responded; and there were times when his
fancy contrived a common future for them, which would have a prosperity
forced from the old fellow's love of the girl. Beaton liked the idea of
this compulsion better than he liked the idea of the money; there was
something a little repulsive in that; he imagined himself rejecting it;
he almost wished he was enough in love with the girl to marry her without
it; that would be fine. He was taken with her in a certain' measure, in
a certain way; the question was in what measure, in what way.
It was partly to escape from this question that he hurried down-town, and
decided to spend with the Leightons the hour remaining on his hands
before it was time to go to the reception for which he was dressed.
It seemed to him important that he should see Alma Leighton. After all,
it was her charm that was most abiding with him; perhaps it was to be
final. He found himself very happy in his present relations with her.
She had dropped that barrier of pretences and ironical surprise. It
seemed to him that they had gone back to the old ground of common
artistic interest which he had found so pleasant the summer before.
Apparently she and her mother had both forgiven his neglect of them in
the first months of their stay in New York; he was sure that Mrs.
Leighton liked him as well as ever, and, if there was still something a
little provisional in Alma's manner at times, it was something that
piqued more than it discouraged; it made him curious, not anxious.
He found the young ladies with Fulkerson when he rang. He seemed to be
amusing them both, and they were both amused beyond the merit of so small
a pleasantry, Beaton thought, when Fulkerson said: "Introduce myself,
Mr. Beaton: Mr. Fulkerson of 'Every Other Week.' Think I've met you at
our place." The girls laughed, and Alma explained that her mother was
not very well, and would be sorry not to see him. Then she turned, as he
felt, perversely, and went on talking with Fulkerson and left him to Miss
She finally recognized his disappointment: "Ah don't often get a chance
at you, Mr. Beaton, and Ah'm just goin' to toak yo' to death. Yo' have
been Soath yo'self, and yo' know ho' we do toak."
"I've survived to say yes," Beaton admitted.
"Oh, now, do you think we toak so much mo' than you do in the No'th?"
the young lady deprecated.
"I don't know. I only know you can't talk too much for me. I should
like to hear you say Soath and house and about for the rest of my life."
"That's what Ah call raght personal, Mr. Beaton. Now Ah'm goin' to be
personal, too." Miss Woodburn flung out over her lap the square of cloth
she was embroidering, and asked him: "Don't you think that's beautiful?
Now, as an awtust--a great awtust?"
"As a great awtust, yes," said Beaton, mimicking her accent. "If I were
less than great I might have something to say about the arrangement of
colors. You're as bold and original as Nature."
"Really? Oh, now, do tell me yo' favo'ite colo', Mr. Beaton."
"My favorite color? Bless my soul, why should I prefer any? Is blue
good, or red wicked? Do people have favorite colors?" Beaton found
himself suddenly interested.
"Of co'se they do," answered the girl. "Don't awtusts?"
"I never heard of one that had--consciously."
"Is it possible? I supposed they all had. Now mah favo'ite colo' is
gawnet. Don't you think it's a pretty colo'?"
"It depends upon how it's used. Do you mean in neckties?" Beaton stole
a glance at the one Fulkerson was wearing.
Miss Woodburn laughed with her face bowed upon her wrist. "Ah do think
you gentlemen in the No'th awe ten tahms as lahvely as the ladies."
"Strange," said Beaton. "In the South--Soath, excuse me! I made the
observation that the ladies were ten times as lively as the gentlemen.
What is that you're working?"
"This?" Miss Woodburn gave it another flirt, and looked at it with a
glance of dawning recognition. "Oh, this is a table-covah. Wouldn't you
lahke to see where it's to go?"
"Well, if you'll be raght good I'll let yo' give me some professional
advass about putting something in the co'ners or not, when you have seen
it on the table."
She rose and led the way into the other room. Beaton knew she wanted to
talk with him about something else; but he waited patiently to let her
play her comedy out. She spread the cover on the table, and he advised
her, as he saw she wished, against putting anything in the corners; just
run a line of her stitch around the edge, he said.
"Mr. Fulkerson and Ah, why, we've been having a regular faght aboat it,"
she commented. "But we both agreed, fahnally, to leave it to you; Mr.
Fulkerson said you'd be sure to be raght. Ah'm so glad you took mah
sahde. But he's a great admahrer of yours, Mr. Beaton," she concluded,
"Is he? Well, I'm a great admirer of Fulkerson," said Beaton, with a
capricious willingness to humor her wish to talk about Fulkerson.
"He's a capital fellow; generous, magnanimous, with quite an ideal of
friendship and an eye single to the main chance all the time. He would
advertise 'Every Other Week' on his family vault."
Miss Woodburn laughed, and said she should tell him what Beaton had said.
"Do. But he's used to defamation from me, and he'll think you're
"Ah suppose," said Miss Woodburn, "that he's quahte the tahpe of a New
York business man." She added, as if it followed logically, "He's so
different from what I thought a New York business man would be."
"It's your Virginia tradition to despise business," said Beaton, rudely.
Miss Woodburn laughed again. "Despahse it? Mah goodness! we want to get
into it and woak it fo' all it's wo'th,' as Mr. Fulkerson says. That
tradition is all past. You don't know what the Soath is now. Ah suppose
mah fathaw despahses business, but he's a tradition himself, as Ah tell
him." Beaton would have enjoyed joining the young lady in anything she
might be going to say in derogation of her father, but he restrained
himself, and she went on more and more as if she wished to account for
her father's habitual hauteur with Beaton, if not to excuse it. "Ah tell
him he don't understand the rising generation. He was brought up in the
old school, and he thinks we're all just lahke he was when he was young,
with all those ahdeals of chivalry and family; but, mah goodness! it's
money that cyoants no'adays in the Soath, just lahke it does everywhere
else. Ah suppose, if we could have slavery back in the fawm mah fathaw
thinks it could have been brought up to, when the commercial spirit
wouldn't let it alone, it would be the best thing; but we can't have it
back, and Ah tell him we had better have the commercial spirit as the
next best thing."
Miss Woodburn went on, with sufficient loyalty and piety, to expose the
difference of her own and her father's ideals, but with what Beaton
thought less reference to his own unsympathetic attention than to a
knowledge finally of the personnel and materiel of 'Every Other Week.'
and Mr. Fulkerson's relation to the enterprise. "You most excuse my
asking so many questions, Mr. Beaton. You know it's all mah doing that
we awe heah in New York. Ah just told mah fathaw that if he was evah
goin' to do anything with his wrahtings, he had got to come No'th, and Ah
made him come. Ah believe he'd have stayed in the Soath all his lahfe.
And now Mr. Fulkerson wants him to let his editor see some of his
wrahtings, and Ah wanted to know something aboat the magazine. We awe a
great deal excited aboat it in this hoase, you know, Mr. Beaton," she
concluded, with a look that now transferred the interest from Fulkerson
to Alma. She led the way back to the room where they were sitting, and
went up to triumph over Fulkerson with Beaton's decision about the table-
Alma was left with Beaton near the piano, and he began to talk about the
Dryfooses as he sat down on the piano-stool. He said he had been giving
Miss Dryfoos a lesson on the banjo; he had borrowed the banjo of Miss
Vance. Then he struck the chord he had been trying to teach Christine,
and played over the air he had sung.
"How do you like that?" he asked, whirling round.
"It seems rather a disrespectful little tune, somehow," said Alma,
Beaton rested his elbow on the corner of the piano and gazed dreamily at
her. "Your perceptions are wonderful. It is disrespectful. I played
it, up there, because I felt disrespectful to them."
"Do you claim that as a merit?"
"No, I state it as a fact. How can you respect such people?"
"You might respect yourself, then," said the girl. "Or perhaps that
wouldn't be so easy, either."
"No, it wouldn't. I like to have you say these things to me," said
"Well, I like to say them," Alma returned.
"They do me good."
"Oh, I don't know that that was my motive."
"There is no one like you--no one," said Beaton, as if apostrophizing her
in her absence. "To come from that house, with its assertions of money--
you can hear it chink; you can smell the foul old banknotes; it stifles
you--into an atmosphere like this, is like coming into another world."
"Thank you," said Alma. "I'm glad there isn't that unpleasant odor here;
but I wish there was a little more of the chinking."
"No, no! Don't say that!" he implored. "I like to think that there is
one soul uncontaminated by the sense of money in this big, brutal, sordid
"You mean two," said Alma, with modesty. "But if you stifle at the
Dryfooses', why do you go there?"
"Why do I go?" he mused. "Don't you believe in knowing all the natures,
the types, you can? Those girls are a strange study: the young one is a
simple, earthly creature, as common as an oat-field and the other a sort
of sylvan life: fierce, flashing, feline--"
Alma burst out into a laugh. "What apt alliteration! And do they like
being studied? I should think the sylvan life might--scratch."
"No," said Beaton, with melancholy absence, "it only-purrs."
The girl felt a rising indignation. "Well, then, Mr. Beaton, I should
hope it would scratch, and bite, too. I think you've no business to go
about studying people, as you do. It's abominable."
"Go on," said the young man. "That Puritan conscience of yours!
It appeals to the old Covenanter strain in me--like a voice of pre-
existence. Go on--"
"Oh, if I went on I should merely say it was not only abominable, but
"You could be my guardian angel, Alma," said the young man, making his
eyes more and more slumbrous and dreamy.
"Stuff! I hope I have a soul above buttons!"
He smiled, as she rose, and followed her across the room. "Good-night;
Mr. Beaton," she said.
Miss Woodburn and Fulkerson came in from the other room. "What! You're
not going, Beaton?"
"Yes; I'm going to a reception. I stopped in on my way."
"To kill time," Alma explained.
"Well," said Fulkerson, gallantly, "this is the last place I should like
to do it. But I guess I'd better be going, too. It has sometimes
occurred to me that there is such a thing as staying too late. But with
Brother Beaton, here, just starting in for an evening's amusement, it
does seem a little early yet. Can't you urge me to stay, somebody?"
The two girls laughed, and Miss Woodburn said:
"Mr. Beaton is such a butterfly of fashion! Ah wish Ah was on mah way to
a pawty. Ah feel quahte envious."
"But he didn't say it to make you," Alma explained, with meek softness.
"Well, we can't all be swells. Where is your party, anyway, Beaton?"
asked Fulkerson. "How do you manage to get your invitations to those
things? I suppose a fellow has to keep hinting round pretty lively,
Beaton took these mockeries serenely, and shook hands with Miss Woodburn,
with the effect of having already shaken hands with Alma. She stood with
hers clasped behind her.
Beaton went away with the smile on his face which he had kept in
listening to Fulkerson, and carried it with him to the reception.
He believed that Alma was vexed with him for more personal reasons than
she had implied; it flattered him that she should have resented what he
told her of the Dryfooses. She had scolded him in their behalf
apparently; but really because he had made her jealous by his interest,
of whatever kind, in some one else. What followed, had followed
naturally. Unless she had been quite a simpleton she could not have met
his provisional love-making on any other terms; and the reason why Beaton
chiefly liked Alma Leighton was that she was not a simpleton. Even up in
the country, when she was overawed by his acquaintance, at first, she was
not very deeply overawed, and at times she was not overawed at all.
At such times she astonished him by taking his most solemn histrionics
with flippant incredulity, and even burlesquing them. But he could see,
all the same, that he had caught her fancy, and he admired the skill with
which she punished his neglect when they met in New York. He had really
come very near forgetting the Leightons; the intangible obligations of
mutual kindness which hold some men so fast, hung loosely upon him;
it would not have hurt him to break from them altogether; but when he
recognized them at last, he found that it strengthened them indefinitely
to have Alma ignore them so completely. If she had been sentimental, or
softly reproachful, that would have been the end; he could not have stood
it; he would have had to drop her. But when she met him on his own
ground, and obliged him to be sentimental, the game was in her hands.
Beaton laughed, now, when he thought of that, and he said to himself that
the girl had grown immensely since she had come to New York; nothing
seemed to have been lost upon her; she must have kept her eyes uncommonly
wide open. He noticed that especially in their talks over her work; she
had profited by everything she had seen and heard; she had all of
Wetmore's ideas pat; it amused Beaton to see how she seized every useful
word that he dropped, too, and turned him to technical account whenever
she could. He liked that; she had a great deal of talent; there was no
question of that; if she were a man there could be no question of her
future. He began to construct a future for her; it included provision
for himself, too; it was a common future, in which their lives and work
He was full of the glow of its prosperity when he met Margaret Vance at
The house was one where people might chat a long time together without
publicly committing themselves to an interest in each other except such a
grew out of each other's ideas. Miss Vance was there because she united
in her catholic sympathies or ambitions the objects of the fashionable
people and of the aesthetic people who met there on common ground. It
was almost the only house in New York where this happened often, and it
did not happen very often there. It was a literary house, primarily,
with artistic qualifications, and the frequenters of it were mostly
authors and artists; Wetmore, who was always trying to fit everything
with a phrase, said it was the unfrequenters who were fashionable. There
was great ease there, and simplicity; and if there was not distinction,
it was not for want of distinguished people, but because there seems to
be some solvent in New York life that reduces all men to a common level,
that touches everybody with its potent magic and brings to the surface
the deeply underlying nobody. The effect for some temperaments, for
consciousness, for egotism, is admirable; for curiosity, for hero
worship, it is rather baffling. It is the spirit of the street
transferred to the drawing-room; indiscriminating, levelling, but
doubtless finally wholesome, and witnessing the immensity of the place,
if not consenting to the grandeur of reputations or presences.
Beaton now denied that this house represented a salon at all, in the old
sense; and he held that the salon was impossible, even undesirable,
with us, when Miss Vance sighed for it. At any rate, he said that this
turmoil of coming and going, this bubble and babble, this cackling and
hissing of conversation was not the expression of any such civilization
as had created the salon. Here, he owned, were the elements of
intellectual delightfulness, but he said their assemblage in such
quantity alone denied the salon; there was too much of a good thing.
The French word implied a long evening of general talk among the guests,
crowned with a little chicken at supper, ending at cock-crow. Here was
tea, with milk or with lemon-baths of it and claret-cup for the hardier
spirits throughout the evening. It was very nice, very pleasant, but it
was not the little chicken--not the salon. In fact, he affirmed, the
salon descended from above, out of the great world, and included the
aesthetic world in it. But our great world--the rich people, were
stupid, with no wish to be otherwise; they were not even curious about
authors and artists. Beaton fancied himself speaking impartially, and so
he allowed himself to speak bitterly; he said that in no other city in
the world, except Vienna, perhaps, were such people so little a part of
"It isn't altogether the rich people's fault," said Margaret; and she
spoke impartially, too. "I don't believe that the literary men and the
artists would like a salon that descended to them. Madame Geoffrin, you
know, was very plebeian; her husband was a business man of some sort."
"He would have been a howling swell in New York," said Beaton, still
Wetmore came up to their corner, with a scroll of bread and butter in one
hand and a cup of tea in the other. Large and fat, and clean-shaven, he
looked like a monk in evening dress.
"We were talking about salons," said Margaret.
"Why don't you open a salon yourself?" asked Wetmore, breathing thickly
from the anxiety of getting through the crowd without spilling his tea.
"Like poor Lady Barberina Lemon?" said the girl, with a laugh. "What a
good story! That idea of a woman who couldn't be interested in any of
the arts because she was socially and traditionally the material of them!
We can, never reach that height of nonchalance in this country."
"Not if we tried seriously?" suggested the painter. "I've an idea that
if the Americans ever gave their minds to that sort of thing, they could
take the palm--or the cake, as Beaton here would say--just as they do in
everything else. When we do have an aristocracy, it will be an
aristocracy that will go ahead of anything the world has ever seen.
Why don't somebody make a beginning, and go in openly for an ancestry,
and a lower middle class, and an hereditary legislature, and all the
rest? We've got liveries, and crests, and palaces, and caste feeling.
We're all right as far as we've gone, and we've got the money to go any
"Like your natural-gas man, Mr. Beaton," said the girl, with a smiling
glance round at him.
"Ah!" said Wetmore, stirring his tea, "has Beaton got a natural-gas man?"
"My natural-gas man," said Beaton, ignoring Wetmore's question, "doesn't
know how to live in his palace yet, and I doubt if he has any caste
feeling. I fancy his family believe themselves victims of it. They say
--one of the young ladies does--that she never saw such an unsociable
place as New York; nobody calls."
"That's good!" said Wetmore. "I suppose they're all ready for company,
too: good cook, furniture, servants, carriages?"
"Galore," said Beaton.
"Well, that's too bad. There's a chance for you, Miss Vance. Doesn't
your philanthropy embrace the socially destitute as well as the
financially? Just think of a family like that, without a friend, in a
great city! I should think common charity had a duty there--not to
mention the uncommon."
He distinguished that kind as Margaret's by a glance of ironical
deference. She had a repute for good works which was out of proportion
to the works, as it always is, but she was really active in that way,
under the vague obligation, which we now all feel, to be helpful. She
was of the church which seems to have found a reversion to the imposing
ritual of the past the way back to the early ideals of Christian
"Oh, they seem to have Mr. Beaton," Margaret answered, and Beaton felt
obscurely flattered by her reference to his patronage of the Dryfooses.
He explained to Wetmore: "They have me because they partly own me.
Dryfoos is Fulkerson's financial backer in 'Every Other Week'."
"Is that so? Well, that's interesting, too. Aren't you rather
astonished, Miss Vance, to see what a petty thing Beaton is making of
that magazine of his?"
"Oh," said Margaret, "it's so very nice, every way; it makes you feel as
if you did have a country, after all. It's as chic--that detestable
little word!--as those new French books."
"Beaton modelled it on them. But you mustn't suppose he does everything
about 'Every Other Week'; he'd like you to. Beaton, you haven't come up
to that cover of your first number, since. That was the design of one of
my pupils, Miss Vance--a little girl that Beaton discovered down in New
Hampshire last summer."
"Oh yes. And have you great hopes of her, Mr. Wetmore?"
"She seems to have more love of it and knack for it than any one of her
sex I've seen yet. It really looks like a case of art for art's sake,
at times. But you can't tell. They're liable to get married at any
moment, you know. Look here, Beaton, when your natural-gas man gets to
the picture-buying stage in his development, just remember your old
friends, will you? You know, Miss Vance, those new fellows have their
regular stages. They never know what to do with their money, but they
find out that people buy pictures, at one point. They shut your things
up in their houses where nobody comes, and after a while they overeat
themselves--they don't know what, else to do--and die of apoplexy, and
leave your pictures to a gallery, and then they see the light. It's
slow, but it's pretty sure. Well, I see Beaton isn't going to move on,
as he ought to do; and so I must. He always was an unconventional
Wetmore went away, but Beaton remained, and he outstayed several other
people who came up to speak to Miss Vance. She was interested in
everybody, and she liked the talk of these clever literary, artistic,
clerical, even theatrical people, and she liked the sort of court with
which they recognized her fashion as well as her cleverness; it was very
pleasant to be treated intellectually as if she were one of themselves,
and socially as if she was not habitually the same, but a sort of guest
in Bohemia, a distinguished stranger. If it was Arcadia rather than
Bohemia, still she felt her quality of distinguished stranger. The
flattery of it touched her fancy, and not her vanity; she had very little
vanity. Beaton's devotion made the same sort of appeal; it was not so
much that she liked him as she liked being the object of his admiration.
She was a girl of genuine sympathies, intellectual rather than
sentimental. In fact, she was an intellectual person, whom qualities of
the heart saved from being disagreeable, as they saved her on the other
hand from being worldly or cruel in her fashionableness. She had read a
great many books, and had ideas about them, quite courageous and original
ideas; she knew about pictures--she had been in Wetmore's class; she was
fond of music; she was willing to understand even politics; in Boston she
might have been agnostic, but in New York she was sincerely religious;
she was very accomplished; and perhaps it was her goodness that prevented
her feeling what was not best in Beaton.
"Do you think," she said, after the retreat of one of the comers and
goers left her alone with him again, "that those young ladies would like
me to call on them?"
"Those young ladies?" Beaton echoed. "Miss Leighton and--"
"No; I have been there with my aunt's cards already."
"Oh yes," said Beaton, as if he had known of it; he admired the pluck and
pride with which Alma had refrained from ever mentioning the fact to him,
and had kept her mother from mentioning it, which must have been
"I mean the Miss Dryfooses. It seems really barbarous, if nobody goes
near them. We do all kinds of things, and help all kinds of people in
some ways, but we let strangers remain strangers unless they know how to
make their way among us."
"The Dryfooses certainly wouldn't know how to make their way among you,"
said Beaton, with a sort of dreamy absence in his tone.
Miss Vance went on, speaking out the process of reasoning in her mind,
rather than any conclusions she had reached. "We defend ourselves by
trying to believe that they must have friends of their own, or that they
would think us patronizing, and wouldn't like being made the objects of
social charity; but they needn't really suppose anything of the kind."
"I don't imagine they would," said Beaton. "I think they'd be only too
happy to have you come. But you wouldn't know what to do with each
other, indeed, Miss Vance."
"Perhaps we shall like each other," said the girl, bravely, "and then we
shall know. What Church are they of?"
"I don't believe they're of any," said Beaton. "The mother was brought
up a Dunkard."
Beaton told what he knew of the primitive sect, with its early Christian
polity, its literal interpretation of Christ's ethics, and its quaint
ceremonial of foot-washing; he made something picturesque of that.
"The father is a Mammon-worshipper, pure and simple. I suppose the young
ladies go to church, but I don't know where. They haven't tried to
"I'll tell them not to despair--after I've converted them," said Miss
Vance. "Will you let me use you as a 'point d'appui', Mr. Beaton?"
"Any way you like. If you're really going to see them, perhaps I'd
better make a confession. I left your banjo with them, after I got it
put in order."
"How very nice! Then we have a common interest already."
"Do you mean the banjo, or--"
"The banjo, decidedly. Which of them plays?"
"Neither. But the eldest heard that the banjo was 'all the rage,' as the
youngest says. Perhaps you can persuade them that good works are the
Beaton had no very lively belief that Margaret would go to see the
Dryfooses; he did so few of the things he proposed that he went upon the
theory that others must be as faithless. Still, he had a cruel amusement
in figuring the possible encounter between Margaret Vance, with her
intellectual elegance, her eager sympathies and generous ideals, and
those girls with their rude past, their false and distorted perspective,
their sordid and hungry selfishness, and their faith in the omnipotence
of their father's wealth wounded by their experience of its present
social impotence. At the bottom of his heart he sympathized with them
rather than with her; he was more like them.
People had ceased coming, and some of them were going. Miss Vance said
she must go, too, and she was about to rise, when the host came up with
March; Beaton turned away.
"Miss Vance, I want to introduce Mr. March, the editor of 'Every Other
Week.' You oughtn't to be restricted to the art department. We literary
fellows think that arm of the service gets too much of the glory
nowadays." His banter was for Beaton, but he was already beyond ear-
shot, and the host went on:
Mr. March can talk with you about your favorite Boston. He's just turned
his back on it."
"Oh, I hope not!" said Miss Vance. "I can't imagine anybody voluntarily
"I don't say he's so bad as that," said the host, committing March to
her. "He came to New York because he couldn't help it--like the rest of
us. I never know whether that's a compliment to New York or not."
They talked Boston a little while, without finding that they had common
acquaintance there; Miss Vance must have concluded that society was much
larger in Boston than she had supposed from her visits there, or else
that March did not know many people in it. But she was not a girl to
care much for the inferences that might be drawn from such conclusions;
she rather prided herself upon despising them; and she gave herself to
the pleasure of being talked to as if she were of March's own age.
In the glow of her sympathetic beauty and elegance he talked his best,
and tried to amuse her with his jokes, which he had the art of tingeing
with a little seriousness on one side. He made her laugh; and he
flattered her by making her think; in her turn she charmed him so much by
enjoying what he said that he began to brag of his wife, as a good
husband always does when another woman charms him; and she asked, Oh was
Mrs. March there; and would he introduce her?
She asked Mrs. March for her address, and whether she had a day; and she
said she would come to see her, if she would let her. Mrs. March could
not be so enthusiastic about her as March was, but as they walked home
together they talked the girl over, and agreed about her beauty and her
amiability. Mrs. March said she seemed very unspoiled for a person who
must have been so much spoiled. They tried to analyze her charm, and
they succeeded in formulating it as a combination of intellectual
fashionableness and worldly innocence. "I think," said Mrs. March,
"that city girls, brought up as she must have been, are often the most
innocent of all. They never imagine the wickedness of the world, and if
they marry happily they go through life as innocent as children.
Everything combines to keep them so; the very hollowness of society
shields them. They are the loveliest of the human race. But perhaps the
rest have to pay too much for them."
"For such an exquisite creature as Miss Vance," said March, "we couldn't
pay too much."
A wild laughing cry suddenly broke upon the air at the street-crossing in
front of them. A girl's voice called out: "Run, run, Jen! The copper is
after you." A woman's figure rushed stumbling across the way and into
the shadow of the houses, pursued by a burly policeman.
"Ah, but if that's part of the price?"
They went along fallen from the gay spirit of their talk into a silence
which he broke with a sigh. "Can that poor wretch and the radiant girl
we left yonder really belong to the same system of things? How
impossible each makes the other seem!"
Mrs. Horn believed in the world and in society and its unwritten
constitution devoutly, and she tolerated her niece's benevolent
activities as she tolerated her aesthetic sympathies because these
things, however oddly, were tolerated--even encouraged--by society;
and they gave Margaret a charm. They made her originality interesting.
Mrs. Horn did not intend that they should ever go so far as to make her
troublesome; and it was with a sense of this abeyant authority of her
aunt's that the girl asked her approval of her proposed call upon the
Dryfooses. She explained as well as she could the social destitution of
these opulent people, and she had of course to name Beaton as the source
of her knowledge concerning them.
"Did Mr. Beaton suggest your calling on them?"
"No; he rather discouraged it."
"And why do you think you ought to go in this particular instance? New
York is full of people who don't know anybody."
Margaret laughed. "I suppose it's like any other charity: you reach the
cases you know of. The others you say you can't help, and you try to
"It's very romantic," said Mrs. Horn. "I hope you've counted the cost;
all the possible consequences."
Margaret knew that her aunt had in mind their common experience with the
Leightons, whom, to give their common conscience peace, she had called
upon with her aunt's cards and excuses, and an invitation for her
Thursdays, somewhat too late to make the visit seem a welcome to New
York. She was so coldly received, not so much for herself as in her
quality of envoy, that her aunt experienced all the comfort which
vicarious penance brings. She did not perhaps consider sufficiently her
niece's guiltlessness in the expiation. Margaret was not with her at
St. Barnaby in the fatal fortnight she passed there, and never saw the
Leightons till she went to call upon them. She never complained: the
strain of asceticism, which mysteriously exists in us all, and makes us
put peas, boiled or unboiled, in our shoes, gave her patience with the
snub which the Leightons presented her for her aunt. But now she said,
with this in mind: "Nothing seems simpler than to get rid of people if
you don't want them. You merely have to let them alone."
"It isn't so pleasant, letting them alone," said Mrs. Horn.
"Or having them let you alone," said Margaret; for neither Mrs. Leighton
nor Alma had ever come to enjoy the belated hospitality of Mrs. Horn's
"Yes, or having them let you alone," Mrs. Horn courageously consented.
"And all that I ask you, Margaret, is to be sure that you really want to
know these people."
"I don't," said the girl, seriously, "in the usual way."
"Then the question is whether you do in the un usual way. They will
build a great deal upon you," said Mrs. Horn, realizing how much the
Leightons must have built upon her, and how much out of proportion to her
desert they must now dislike her; for she seemed to have had them on her
mind from the time they came, and had always meant to recognize any
reasonable claim they had upon her.
"It seems very odd, very sad," Margaret returned, "that you never could
act unselfishly in society affairs. If I wished to go and see those
girls just to do them a pleasure, and perhaps because if they're strange
and lonely, I might do them good, even--it would be impossible."
"Quite," said her aunt. "Such a thing would be quixotic. Society
doesn't rest upon any such basis. It can't; it would go to pieces, if
people acted from unselfish motives."
"Then it's a painted savage!" said the girl. "All its favors are really
bargains. It's gifts are for gifts back again."
"Yes, that is true," said Mrs. Horn, with no more sense of wrong in the
fact than the political economist has in the fact that wages are the
measure of necessity and not of merit. "You get what you pay for. It's
a matter of business." She satisfied herself with this formula, which
she did not invent, as fully as if it were a reason; but she did not
dislike her niece's revolt against it. That was part of Margaret's
originality, which pleased her aunt in proportion to her own
conventionality; she was really a timid person, and she liked the show of
courage which Margaret's magnanimity often reflected upon her. She had
through her a repute, with people who did not know her well, for
intellectual and moral qualities; she was supposed to be literary and
charitable; she almost had opinions and ideals, but really fell short of
their possession. She thought that she set bounds to the girl's
originality because she recognized them. Margaret understood this better
than her aunt, and knew that she had consulted her about going to see the
Dryfooses out of deference, and with no expectation of luminous
instruction. She was used to being a law to herself, but she knew what
she might and might not do, so that she was rather a by-law. She was the
kind of girl that might have fancies for artists and poets, but might end
by marrying a prosperous broker, and leavening a vast lump of moneyed and
fashionable life with her culture, generosity, and good-will. The
intellectual interests were first with her, but she might be equal to
sacrificing them; she had the best heart, but she might know how to
harden it; if she was eccentric, her social orbit was defined; comets
themselves traverse space on fixed lines. She was like every one else,
a congeries of contradictions and inconsistencies, but obedient to the
general expectation of what a girl of her position must and must not
finally be. Provisionally, she was very much what she liked to be.
Margaret Vance tried to give herself some reason for going to call upon
the Dryfooses, but she could find none better than the wish to do a kind
thing. This seemed queerer and less and less sufficient as she examined
it, and she even admitted a little curiosity as a harmless element in her
motive, without being very well satisfied with it. She tried to add a
slight sense of social duty, and then she decided to have no motive at
all, but simply to pay her visit as she would to any other eligible
strangers she saw fit to call upon. She perceived that she must be very
careful not to let them see that any other impulse had governed her; she
determined, if possible, to let them patronize her; to be very modest and
sincere and diffident, and, above all, not to play a part. This was
easy, compared with the choice of a manner that should convey to them the
fact that she was not playing a part. When the hesitating Irish serving-