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  • 1889
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ceiling, and gratuitously said, Now such a thing as that he should not agree to put in shape unless they took the apartment for a term of years. The apartment was unfurnished, and they recurred to the fact that they wanted a furnished apartment, and made their escape. This saved them in several other extremities; but short of extremity they could not keep their different requirements in mind, and were always about to decide without regard to some one of them.

They went to several places twice without intending: once to that old- fashioned house with the pleasant colored janitor, and wandered all over the apartment again with a haunting sense of familiarity, and then recognized the janitor and laughed; and to that house with the pathetic widow and the pretty daughter who wished to take them to board. They stayed to excuse their blunder, and easily came by the fact that the mother had taken the house that the girl might have a home while she was in New York studying art, and they hoped to pay their way by taking boarders. Her daughter was at her class now, the mother concluded; and they encouraged her to believe that it could only be a few days till the rest of her scheme was realized.

“I dare say we could be perfectly comfortable there,” March suggested when they had got away. “Now if we were truly humane we would modify our desires to meet their needs and end this sickening search, wouldn’t we?”

“Yes, but we’re not truly humane,” his wife answered, “or at least not in that sense. You know you hate boarding; and if we went there I should have them on my sympathies the whole time.”

“I see. And then you would take it out of me.”

“Then I should take it out of you. And if you are going to be so weak, Basil, and let every little thing work upon you in that way, you’d better not come to New York. You’ll see enough misery here.”

“Well, don’t take that superior tone with me, as if I were a child that had its mind set on an undesirable toy, Isabel.”

“Ah, don’t you suppose it’s because you are such a child in some respects that I like you, dear?” she demanded, without relenting.

“But I don’t find so much misery in New York. I don’t suppose there’s any more suffering here to the population than there is in the country. And they’re so gay about it all. I think the outward aspect of the place and the hilarity of the sky and air must get into the people’s blood. The weather is simply unapproachable; and I don’t care if it is the ugliest place in the world, as you say. I suppose it is. It shrieks and yells with ugliness here and there but it never loses its spirits. That widow is from the country. When she’s been a year in New York she’ll be as gay–as gay as an L road.” He celebrated a satisfaction they both had in the L roads. “They kill the streets and avenues, but at least they partially hide them, and that is some comfort; and they do triumph over their prostrate forms with a savage exultation that is intoxicating. Those bends in the L that you get in the corner of Washington Square, or just below the Cooper Institute–they’re the gayest things in the world. Perfectly atrocious, of course, but incomparably picturesque! And the whole city is so,” said March, “or else the L would never have got built here. New York may be splendidly gay or squalidly gay; but, prince or pauper, it’s gay always.”

“Yes, gay is the word,” she admitted, with a sigh. “But frantic. I can’t get used to it. They forget death, Basil; they forget death in New York.”

“Well, I don’t know that I’ve ever found much advantage in remembering it.”

“Don’t say such a thing, dearest.”

He could see that she had got to the end of her nervous strength for the present, and he proposed that they should take the Elevated road as far as it would carry them into the country, and shake off their nightmare of flat-hunting for an hour or two; but her conscience would not let her. She convicted him of levity equal to that of the New-Yorkers in proposing such a thing; and they dragged through the day. She was too tired to care for dinner, and in the night she had a dream from which she woke herself with a cry that roused him, too. It was something about the children at first, whom they had talked of wistfully before falling asleep, and then it was of a hideous thing with two square eyes and a series of sections growing darker and then lighter, till the tail of the monstrous articulate was quite luminous again. She shuddered at the vague description she was able to give; but he asked, “Did it offer to bite you?”

“No. That was the most frightful thing about it; it had no mouth.”

March laughed. “Why, my dear, it was nothing but a harmless New York flat–seven rooms and a bath.”

“I really believe it was,” she consented, recognizing an architectural resemblance, and she fell asleep again, and woke renewed for the work before them.

IX.

Their house-hunting no longer had novelty, but it still had interest; and they varied their day by taking a coupe, by renouncing advertisements, and by reverting to agents. Some of these induced them to consider the idea of furnished houses; and Mrs. March learned tolerance for Fulkerson by accepting permits to visit flats and houses which had none of the qualifications she desired in either, and were as far beyond her means as they were out of the region to which she had geographically restricted herself. They looked at three-thousand and four-thousand dollar apartments, and rejected them for one reason or another which had nothing to do with the rent; the higher the rent was, the more critical they were of the slippery inlaid floors and the arrangement of the richly decorated rooms. They never knew whether they had deceived the janitor or not; as they came in a coupe, they hoped they had.

They drove accidentally through one street that seemed gayer in the perspective than an L road. The fire-escapes, with their light iron balconies and ladders of iron, decorated the lofty house fronts; the roadway and sidewalks and door-steps swarmed with children; women’s heads seemed to show at every window. In the basements, over which flights of high stone steps led to the tenements, were green-grocers’ shops abounding in cabbages, and provision stores running chiefly to bacon and sausages, and cobblers’ and tinners’ shops, and the like, in proportion to the small needs of a poor neighborhood. Ash barrels lined the sidewalks, and garbage heaps filled the gutters; teams of all trades stood idly about; a peddler of cheap fruit urged his cart through the street, and mixed his cry with the joyous screams and shouts of the children and the scolding and gossiping voices of the women; the burly blue bulk of a policeman defined itself at the corner; a drunkard zigzagged down the sidewalk toward him. It was not the abode of the extremest poverty, but of a poverty as hopeless as any in the world, transmitting itself from generation to generation, and establishing conditions of permanency to which human life adjusts itself as it does to those of some incurable disease, like leprosy.

The time had been when the Marches would have taken a purely aesthetic view of the facts as they glimpsed them in this street of tenement- houses; when they would have contented themselves with saying that it was as picturesque as a street in Naples or Florence, and with wondering why nobody came to paint it; they would have thought they were sufficiently serious about it in blaming the artists for their failure to appreciate it, and going abroad for the picturesque when they had it here under their noses. It was to the nose that the street made one of its strongest appeals, and Mrs. March pulled up her window of the coupe. “Why does he take us through such a disgusting street?” she demanded, with an exasperation of which her husband divined the origin.

“This driver may be a philanthropist in disguise,” he answered, with dreamy irony, “and may want us to think about the people who are not merely carried through this street in a coupe, but have to spend their whole lives in it, winter and summer, with no hopes of driving out of it, except in a hearse. I must say they don’t seem to mind it. I haven’t seen a jollier crowd anywhere in New York. They seem to have forgotten death a little more completely than any of their fellow-citizens, Isabel. And I wonder what they think of us, making this gorgeous progress through their midst. I suppose they think we’re rich, and hate us–if they hate rich people; they don’t look as if they hated anybody. Should we be as patient as they are with their discomfort? I don’t believe there’s steam heat or an elevator in the whole block. Seven rooms and a bath would be more than the largest and genteelest family would know what to do with. They wouldn’t know what to do with the bath, anyway.”

His monologue seemed to interest his wife apart from the satirical point it had for themselves. “You ought to get Mr. Fulkerson to let you work some of these New York sights up for Every Other Week, Basil; you could do them very nicely.”

“Yes; I’ve thought of that. But don’t let’s leave the personal ground. Doesn’t it make you feel rather small and otherwise unworthy when you see the kind of street these fellow-beings of yours live in, and then think how particular you are about locality and the number of bellpulls? I don’t see even ratchets and speaking-tubes at these doors.” He craned his neck out of the window for a better look, and the children of discomfort cheered him, out of sheer good feeling and high spirits. “I didn’t know I was so popular. Perhaps it’s a recognition of my humane sentiments.”

“Oh, it’s very easy to have humane sentiments, and to satirize ourselves for wanting eight rooms and a bath in a good neighborhood, when we see how these wretched creatures live,” said his wife. “But if we shared all we have with them, and then settled down among them, what good would it do?”

“Not the least in the world. It might help us for the moment, but it wouldn’t keep the wolf from their doors for a week; and then they would go on just as before, only they wouldn’t be on such good terms with the wolf. The only way for them is to keep up an unbroken intimacy with the wolf; then they can manage him somehow. I don’t know how, and I’m afraid I don’t want to. Wouldn’t you like to have this fellow drive us round among the halls of pride somewhere for a little while? Fifth Avenue or Madison, up-town?”

“No; we’ve no time to waste. I’ve got a place near Third Avenue, on a nice cross street, and I want him to take us there.” It proved that she had several addresses near together, and it seemed best to dismiss their coupe and do the rest of their afternoon’s work on foot. It came to nothing; she was not humbled in the least by what she had seen in the tenement-house street; she yielded no point in her ideal of a flat, and the flats persistently refused to lend themselves to it. She lost all patience with them.

“Oh, I don’t say the flats are in the right of it,” said her husband, when she denounced their stupid inadequacy to the purposes of a Christian home. “But I’m not so sure that we are, either. I’ve been thinking about that home business ever since my sensibilities were dragged–in a coupe–through that tenement-house street. Of course, no child born and brought up in such a place as that could have any conception of home. But that’s because those poor people can’t give character to their habitations. They have to take what they can get. But people like us– that is, of our means–do give character to the average flat. It’s made to meet their tastes, or their supposed tastes; and so it’s made for social show, not for family life at all. Think of a baby in a flat! It’s a contradiction in terms; the flat is the negation of motherhood. The flat means society life; that is, the pretence of social life. It’s made to give artificial people a society basis on a little money–too much money, of course, for what they get. So the cost of the building is put into marble halls and idiotic decoration of all kinds. I don’t. object to the conveniences, but none of these flats has a living-room. They have drawing-rooms to foster social pretence, and they have dining- rooms and bedrooms; but they have no room where the family can all come together and feel the sweetness of being a family. The bedrooms are black-holes mostly, with a sinful waste of space in each. If it were not for the marble halls, and the decorations, and the foolishly expensive finish, the houses could be built round a court, and the flats could be shaped something like a Pompeiian house, with small sleeping-closets– only lit from the outside–and the rest of the floor thrown into two or three large cheerful halls, where all the family life could go on, and society could be transacted unpretentiously. Why, those tenements are better and humaner than those flats! There the whole family lives in the kitchen, and has its consciousness of being; but the flat abolishes the family consciousness. It’s confinement without coziness; it’s cluttered without being snug. You couldn’t keep a self-respecting cat in a flat; you couldn’t go down cellar to get cider. No! the Anglo-Saxon home, as we know it in the Anglo-Saxon house, is simply impossible in the Franco- American flat, not because it’s humble, but because it’s false.”

“Well, then,” said Mrs. March, “let’s look at houses.”

He had been denouncing the flat in the abstract, and he had not expected this concrete result. But he said, “We will look at houses, then.”

X.

Nothing mystifies a man more than a woman’s aberrations from some point at which he, supposes her fixed as a star. In these unfurnished houses, without steam or elevator, March followed his wife about with patient wonder. She rather liked the worst of them best: but she made him go down into the cellars and look at the furnaces; she exacted from him a rigid inquest of the plumbing. She followed him into one of the cellars by the fitful glare of successively lighted matches, and they enjoyed a moment in which the anomaly of their presence there on that errand, so remote from all the facts of their long-established life in Boston, realized itself for them.

“Think how easily we might have been murdered and nobody been any the wiser!” she said when they were comfortably outdoors again.

“Yes, or made way with ourselves in an access of emotional insanity, supposed to have been induced by unavailing flat-hunting,” he suggested. She fell in with the notion. “I’m beginning to feel crazy. But I don’t want you to lose your head, Basil. And I don’t want you to sentimentalize any of the things you see in New York. I think you were disposed to do it in that street we drove through. I don’t believe there’s any real suffering–not real suffering–among those people; that is, it would be suffering from our point of view, but they’ve been used to it all their lives, and they don’t feel their’ discomfort so much.”

“Of course, I understand that, and I don’t propose to sentimentalize them. I think when people get used to a bad state of things they had better stick to it; in fact, they don’t usually like a better state so well, and I shall keep that firmly in mind.”

She laughed with him, and they walked along the L bestridden avenue, exhilarated by their escape from murder and suicide in that cellar, toward the nearest cross town track, which they meant to take home to their hotel. “Now to-night we will go to the theatre,” she said, “and get this whole house business out of our minds, and be perfectly fresh for a new start in the morning.” Suddenly she clutched his arm. “Why, did you see that man?” and she signed with her head toward a decently dressed person who walked beside them, next the gutter, stooping over as if to examine it, and half halting at times.

“No. What?”

“Why, I saw him pick up a dirty bit of cracker from the pavement and cram it into his mouth and eat it down as if he were famished. And look! he’s actually hunting for more in those garbage heaps!”

This was what the decent-looking man with the hard hands and broken nails of a workman was doing-like a hungry dog. They kept up with him, in the fascination of the sight, to the next corner, where he turned down the side street still searching the gutter.

They walked on a few paces. Then March said, “I must go after him,” and left his wife standing.

“Are you in want–hungry?” he asked the man.

The man said he could not speak English, Monsieur.

March asked his question in French.

The man shrugged a pitiful, desperate shrug, “Mais, Monsieur–“

March put a coin in his hand, and then suddenly the man’s face twisted up; he caught the hand of this alms-giver in both of his and clung to it. “Monsieur! Monsieur!” he gasped, and the tears rained down his face.

His benefactor pulled himself away, shocked and ashamed, as one is by such a chance, and got back to his wife, and the man lapsed back into the mystery of misery out of which he had emerged.

March felt it laid upon him to console his wife for what had happened. “Of course, we might live here for years and not see another case like that; and, of course, there are twenty places where he could have gone for help if he had known where to find them.”

“Ah, but it’s the possibility of his needing the help so badly as that,” she answered. “That’s what I can’t bear, and I shall not come to a place where such things are possible, and we may as well stop our house-hunting here at once.”

“Yes? And what part of Christendom will you live in? Such things are possible everywhere in our conditions.”

“Then we must change the conditions–“

“Oh no; we must go to the theatre and forget them. We can stop at Brentano’s for our tickets as we pass through Union Square.”

“I am not going to the theatre, Basil. I am going home to Boston to- night. You can stay and find a flat.”

He convinced her of the absurdity of her position, and even of its selfishness; but she said that her mind was quite made up irrespective of what had happened, that she had been away from the children long enough; that she ought to be at home to finish up the work of leaving it. The word brought a sigh. “Ah, I don’t know why we should see nothing but sad and ugly things now. When we were young–“

“Younger,” he put in. “We’re still young.”

“That’s what we pretend, but we know better. But I was thinking how pretty and pleasant things used to be turning up all the time on our travels in the old days. Why, when we were in New York here on our wedding journey the place didn’t seem half so dirty as it does now, and none of these dismal things happened.”

“It was a good deal dirtier,” he answered; “and I fancy worse in every way-hungrier, raggeder, more wretchedly housed. But that wasn’t the period of life for us to notice it. Don’t you remember, when we started to Niagara the last time, how everybody seemed middle-aged and commonplace; and when we got there there were no evident brides; nothing but elderly married people?”

“At least they weren’t starving,” she rebelled.

“No, you don’t starve in parlor-cars and first-class hotels; but if you step out of them you run your chance of seeing those who do, if you’re getting on pretty well in the forties. If it’s the unhappy who see unhappiness, think what misery must be revealed to people who pass their lives in the really squalid tenement-house streets–I don’t mean picturesque avenues like that we passed through.”

“But we are not unhappy,” she protested, bringing the talk back to the personal base again, as women must to get any good out of talk. “We’re really no unhappier than we were when we were young.”

“We’re more serious.”

“Well, I hate it; and I wish you wouldn’t be so serious, if that’s what it brings us to.”

“I will be trivial from this on,” said March. “Shall we go to the Hole in the Ground to-night?”

“I am going to Boston.”

“It’s much the same thing. How do you like that for triviality? It’s a little blasphemous, I’ll allow.”

“It’s very silly,” she said.

At the hotel they found a letter from the agent who had sent them the permit to see Mrs. Grosvenor Green’s apartment. He wrote that she had heard they were pleased with her apartment, and that she thought she could make the terms to suit. She had taken her passage for Europe, and was very anxious to let the flat before she sailed. She would call that evening at seven.

“Mrs. Grosvenor Green!” said Mrs. March. “Which of the ten thousand flats is it, Basil?”

“The gimcrackery,” he answered. “In the Xenophon, you know.”

“Well, she may save herself the trouble. I shall not see her. Or yes– I must. I couldn’t go away without seeing what sort of creature could have planned that fly-away flat. She must be a perfect–“

“Parachute,” March suggested.

“No! anybody so light as that couldn’t come down.”

“Well, toy balloon.”

“Toy balloon will do for the present,” Mrs. March admitted. “But I feel that naught but herself can be her parallel for volatility.”

When Mrs. Grosvenor-Green’s card came up they both descended to the hotel parlor, which March said looked like the saloon of a Moorish day-boat; not that he knew of any such craft, but the decorations were so Saracenic and the architecture so Hudson Riverish. They found there on the grand central divan a large lady whose vast smoothness, placidity, and plumpness set at defiance all their preconceptions of Mrs. Grosvenor Green, so that Mrs. March distinctly paused with her card in her hand before venturing even tentatively to address her. Then she was astonished at the low, calm voice in which Mrs. Green acknowledged herself, and slowly proceeded to apologize for calling. It was not quite true that she had taken her passage for Europe, but she hoped soon to do so, and she confessed that in the mean time she was anxious to let her flat. She was a little worn out with the care of housekeeping– Mrs. March breathed, “Oh yes!” in the sigh with which ladies recognize one another’s martyrdom–and Mrs. Green had business abroad, and she was going to pursue her art studies in Paris; she drew in Mr. Ilcomb’s class now, but the instruction was so much better in Paris; and as the superintendent seemed to think the price was the only objection, she had ventured to call.

“Then we didn’t deceive him in the least,” thought Mrs. March, while she answered, sweetly: “No; we were only afraid that it would be too small for our family. We require a good many rooms.” She could not forego the opportunity of saying, “My husband is coming to New York to take charge of a literary periodical, and he will have to have a room to write in,” which made Mrs. Green bow to March, and made March look sheepish. “But we did think the apartment very charming”, (It was architecturally charming, she protested to her conscience),” and we should have been so glad if we could have got into it.” She followed this with some account of their house-hunting, amid soft murmurs of sympathy from Mrs. Green, who said that she had been through all that, and that if she could have shown her apartment to them she felt sure that she could have explained it so that they would have seen its capabilities better, Mrs. March assented to this, and Mrs. Green added that if they found nothing exactly suitable she would be glad to have them look at it again; and then Mrs. March said that she was going back to Boston herself, but she was leaving Mr. March to continue the search; and she had no doubt he would be only too glad to see the apartment by daylight. “But if you take it, Basil,” she warned him, when they were alone, “I shall simply renounce you. I wouldn’t live in that junk-shop if you gave it to me. But who would have thought she was that kind of looking person? Though of course I might have known if I had stopped to think once. It’s because the place doesn’t express her at all that it’s so unlike her. It couldn’t be like anybody, or anything that flies in the air, or creeps upon the earth, or swims in the waters under the earth. I wonder where in the world she’s from; she’s no New-Yorker; even we can see that; and she’s not quite a country person, either; she seems like a person from some large town, where she’s been an aesthetic authority. And she can’t find good enough art instruction in New York, and has to go to Paris for it! Well, it’s pathetic, after all, Basil. I can’t help feeling sorry for a person who mistakes herself to that extent.”

“I can’t help feeling sorry for the husband of a person who mistakes herself to that extent. What is Mr. Grosvenor Green going to do in Paris while she’s working her way into the Salon?”

“Well, you keep away from her apartment, Basil; that’s all I’ve got to say to you. And yet I do like some things about her.”

“I like everything about her but her apartment,” said March.

“I like her going to be out of the country,” said his wife. “We shouldn’t be overlooked. And the place was prettily shaped, you can’t deny it. And there was an elevator and steam heat. And the location is very convenient. And there was a hall-boy to bring up cards. The halls and stairs were kept very clean and nice. But it wouldn’t do. I could put you a folding bed in the room where you wrote, and we could even have one in the parlor”

“Behind a portiere? I couldn’t stand any more portieres!”

“And we could squeeze the two girls into one room, or perhaps only bring Margaret, and put out the whole of the wash. Basil!” she almost shrieked, “it isn’t to be thought of!”

He retorted, “I’m not thinking of it, my dear.”

Fulkerson came in just before they started for Mrs. March’s train, to find out what had become of them, he said, and to see whether they had got anything to live in yet.

“Not a thing,” she said. “And I’m just going back to Boston, and leaving Mr. March here to do anything he pleases about it. He has ‘carte blanche.'”

“But freedom brings responsibility, you know, Fulkerson, and it’s the same as if I’d no choice. I’m staying behind because I’m left, not because I expect to do anything.”

“Is that so?” asked Fulkerson. “Well, we must see what can be done. I supposed you would be all settled by this time, or I should have humped myself to find you something. None of those places I gave you amounts to anything?”

“As much as forty thousand others we’ve looked at,” said Mrs. March. “Yes, one of them does amount to something. It comes so near being what we want that I’ve given Mr. March particular instructions not to go near it.”

She told him about Mrs. Grosvenor Green and her flats, and at the end he said:

“Well, well, we must look out for that. I’ll keep an eye on him, Mrs. March, and see that he doesn’t do anything rash, and I won’t leave him till he’s found just the right thing. It exists, of course; it must in a city of eighteen hundred thousand people, and the only question is where to find it. You leave him to me, Mrs. March; I’ll watch out for him.”

Fulkerson showed some signs of going to the station when he found they were not driving, but she bade him a peremptory good-bye at the hotel door.

“He’s very nice, Basil, and his way with you is perfectly charming. It’s very sweet to see how really fond of you he is. But I didn’t want him stringing along with us up to Forty-second Street and spoiling our last moments together.”

At Third Avenue they took the Elevated for which she confessed an infatuation. She declared it the most ideal way of getting about in the world, and was not ashamed when he reminded her of how she used to say that nothing under the sun could induce her to travel on it. She now said that the night transit was even more interesting than the day, and that the fleeing intimacy you formed with people in second and third floor interiors, while all the usual street life went on underneath, had a domestic intensity mixed with a perfect repose that was the last effect of good society with all its security and exclusiveness. He said it was better than the theatre, of which it reminded him, to see those people through their windows: a family party of work-folk at a late tea, some of the men in their shirt-sleeves; a woman sewing by a lamp; a mother laying her child in its cradle; a man with his head fallen on his hands upon a table; a girl and her lover leaning over the window-sill together. What suggestion! what drama? what infinite interest! At the Forty-second Street station they stopped a minute on the bridge that crosses the track to the branch road for the Central Depot, and looked up and down the long stretch of the Elevated to north and south. The track that found and lost itself a thousand times in the flare and tremor of the innumerable lights; the moony sheen of the electrics mixing with the reddish points and blots of gas far and near; the architectural shapes of houses and churches and towers, rescued by the obscurity from all that was ignoble in them, and the coming and going of the trains marking the stations with vivider or fainter plumes of flame-shot steam-formed an incomparable perspective. They often talked afterward of the superb spectacle, which in a city full of painters nightly works its unrecorded miracles; and they were just to the Arachne roof spun in iron over the cross street on which they ran to the depot; but for the present they were mostly inarticulate before it. They had another moment of rich silence when they paused in the gallery that leads from the Elevated station to the waiting-rooms in the Central Depot and looked down upon the great night trains lying on the tracks dim under the rain of gas-lights that starred without dispersing the vast darkness of the place. What forces, what fates, slept in these bulks which would soon be hurling themselves north and south and west through the night! Now they waited there like fabled monsters of Arab story ready for the magician’s touch, tractable, reckless, will-less–organized lifelessness full of a strange semblance of life.

The Marches admired the impressive sight with a thrill of patriotic pride in the fact that the whole world perhaps could not afford just the like. Then they hurried down to the ticket-offices, and he got her a lower berth in the Boston sleeper, and went with her to the car. They made the most of the fact that her berth was in the very middle of the car; and she promised to write as soon as she reached home. She promised also that, having seen the limitations of New York in respect to flats, she would not be hard on him if he took something not quite ideal. Only he must remember that it was not to be above Twentieth Street nor below Washington Square; it must not be higher than the third floor; it must have an elevator, steam heat, hail-boys, and a pleasant janitor. These were essentials; if he could not get them, then they must do without. But he must get them.

XI.

Mrs. March was one of those wives who exact a more rigid adherence to their ideals from their husbands than from themselves. Early in their married life she had taken charge of him in all matters which she considered practical. She did not include the business of bread-winning in these; that was an affair that might safely be left to his absent- minded, dreamy inefficiency, and she did not interfere with him there. But in such things as rehanging the pictures, deciding on a summer boarding-place, taking a seaside cottage, repapering rooms, choosing seats at the theatre, seeing what the children ate when she was not at table, shutting the cat out at night, keeping run of calls and invitations, and seeing if the furnace was dampered, he had failed her so often that she felt she could not leave him the slightest discretion in regard to a flat. Her total distrust of his judgment in the matters cited and others like them consisted with the greatest admiration of his mind and respect for his character. She often said that if he would only bring these to bear in such exigencies he would be simply perfect; but she had long given up his ever doing so. She subjected him, therefore, to an iron code, but after proclaiming it she was apt to abandon him to the native lawlessness of his temperament. She expected him in this event to do as he pleased, and she resigned herself to it with considerable comfort in holding him accountable. He learned to expect this, and after suffering keenly from her disappointment with whatever he did he waited patiently till she forgot her grievance and began to extract what consolation lurks in the irreparable. She would almost admit at moments that what he had done was a very good thing, but she reserved the right to return in full force to her original condemnation of it; and she accumulated each act of independent volition in witness and warning against him. Their mass oppressed but never deterred him. He expected to do the wrong thing when left to his own devices, and he did it without any apparent recollection of his former misdeeds and their consequences. There was a good deal of comedy in it all, and some tragedy.

He now experienced a certain expansion, such as husbands of his kind will imagine, on going back to his hotel alone. It was, perhaps, a revulsion from the pain of parting; and he toyed with the idea of Mrs. Grosvenor Green’s apartment, which, in its preposterous unsuitability, had a strange attraction. He felt that he could take it with less risk than anything else they had seen, but he said he would look at all the other places in town first. He really spent the greater part of the next day in hunting up the owner of an apartment that had neither steam heat nor an elevator, but was otherwise perfect, and trying to get him to take less than the agent asked. By a curious psychical operation he was able, in the transaction, to work himself into quite a passionate desire for the apartment, while he held the Grosvenor Green apartment in the background of his mind as something that he could return to as altogether more suitable. He conducted some simultaneous negotiation for a furnished house, which enhanced still more the desirability of the Grosvenor Green apartment. Toward evening he went off at a tangent far up-town, so as to be able to tell his wife how utterly preposterous the best there would be as compared even with this ridiculous Grosvenor Green gimcrackery. It is hard to report the processes of his sophistication; perhaps this, again, may best be left to the marital imagination.

He rang at the last of these up-town apartments as it was falling dusk, and it was long before the janitor appeared. Then the man was very surly, and said if he looked at the flat now he would say it was too dark, like all the rest. His reluctance irritated March in proportion to his insincerity in proposing to look at it at all. He knew he did not mean to take it under any circumstances; that he was going to use his inspection of it in dishonest justification of his disobedience to his wife; but he put on an air of offended dignity. “If you don’t wish to show the apartment,” he said, “I don’t care to see it.”

The man groaned, for he was heavy, and no doubt dreaded the stairs. He scratched a match on his thigh, and led the way up. March was sorry for him, and he put his fingers on a quarter in his waistcoat-pocket to give him at parting. At the same time, be had to trump up an objection to the flat. This was easy, for it was advertised as containing ten rooms, and he found the number eked out with the bath-room and two large closets. “It’s light enough,” said March, “but I don’t see how you make out ten rooms”

“There’s ten rooms,” said the man, deigning no proof.

March took his fingers off the quarter, and went down-stairs and out of the door without another word. It would be wrong, it would be impossible, to give the man anything after such insolence. He reflected, with shame, that it was also cheaper to punish than forgive him.

He returned to his hotel prepared for any desperate measure, and convinced now that the Grosvenor Green apartment was not merely the only thing left for him, but was, on its own merits, the best thing in New York.

Fulkerson was waiting for him in the reading-room, and it gave March the curious thrill with which a man closes with temptation when he said: “Look here! Why don’t you take that woman’s flat in the Xenophon? She’s been at the agents again, and they’ve been at me. She likes your look– or Mrs. March’s–and I guess you can have it at a pretty heavy discount from the original price. I’m authorized to say you can have it for one seventy-five a month, and I don’t believe it would be safe for you to offer one fifty.”

March shook his head, and dropped a mask of virtuous rejection over his corrupt acquiescence. “It’s too small for us–we couldn’t squeeze into it.”

“Why, look here!” Fulkerson persisted. “How many rooms do you people want?”

“I’ve got to have a place to work–“

“Of course! And you’ve got to have it at the Fifth Wheel office.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” March began. “I suppose I could do my work at the office, as there’s not much writing–“

“Why, of course you can’t do your work at home. You just come round with me now, and look at that again.”

“No; I can’t do it.”

“Why?”

“I–I’ve got to dine.”

“All right,” said Fulkerson. “Dine with me. I want to take you round to a little Italian place that I know.”

One may trace the successive steps of March’s descent in this simple matter with the same edification that would attend the study of the self- delusions and obfuscations of a man tempted to crime. The process is probably not at all different, and to the philosophical mind the kind of result is unimportant; the process is everything.

Fulkerson led him down one block and half across another to the steps of a small dwelling-house, transformed, like many others, into a restaurant of the Latin ideal, with little or no structural change from the pattern of the lower middle-class New York home. There were the corroded brownstone steps, the mean little front door, and the cramped entry with its narrow stairs by which ladies could go up to a dining-room appointed for them on the second floor; the parlors on the first were set about with tables, where men smoked cigarettes between the courses, and a single waiter ran swiftly to and fro with plates and dishes, and, exchanged unintelligible outcries with a cook beyond a slide in the back parlor. He rushed at the new-comers, brushed the soiled table-cloth before them with a towel on his arm, covered its worst stains with a napkin, and brought them, in their order, the vermicelli soup, the fried fish, the cheese-strewn spaghetti, the veal cutlets, the tepid roast fowl and salad, and the wizened pear and coffee which form the dinner at such places.

“Ah, this is nice!” said Fulkerson, after the laying of the charitable napkin, and he began to recognize acquaintances, some of whom he described to March as young literary men and artists with whom they should probably have to do; others were simply frequenters of the place, and were of all nationalities and religions apparently–at least, several were Hebrews and Cubans. “You get a pretty good slice of New York here,” he said, “all except the frosting on top. That you won’t find much at Maroni’s, though you will occasionally. I don’t mean the ladies ever, of course.” The ladies present seemed harmless and reputable-looking people enough, but certainly they were not of the first fashion, and, except in a few instances, not Americans. “It’s like cutting straight down through a fruitcake,” Fulkerson went on, “or a mince-pie, when you don’t know who made the pie; you get a little of everything.” He ordered a small flask of Chianti with the dinner, and it came in its pretty wicker jacket. March smiled upon it with tender reminiscence, and Fulkerson laughed. “Lights you up a little. I brought old Dryfoos here one day, and he thought it was sweet-oil; that’s the kind of bottle they used to have it in at the country drug-stores.”

“Yes, I remember now; but I’d totally forgotten it,” said March. “How far back that goes! Who’s Dryfoos?”

“Dryfoos?” Fulkerson, still smiling, tore off a piece of the half-yard of French loaf which had been supplied them, with two pale, thin disks of butter, and fed it into himself. “Old Dryfoos? Well, of course! I call him old, but he ain’t so very. About fifty, or along there.”

“No,” said March, “that isn’t very old–or not so old as it used to be.”

“Well, I suppose you’ve got to know about him, anyway,” said Fulkerson, thoughtfully. “And I’ve been wondering just how I should tell you. Can’t always make out exactly how much of a Bostonian you really are! Ever been out in the natural-gas country?”

“No,” said March. “I’ve had a good deal of curiosity about it, but I’ve never been able to get away except in summer, and then we always preferred to go over the old ground, out to Niagara and back through Canada, the route we took on our wedding journey. The children like it as much as we do.”

“Yes, yes,” said Fulkerson. “Well, the natural-gas country is worth seeing. I don’t mean the Pittsburg gas-fields, but out in Northern Ohio and Indiana around Moffitt–that’s the place in the heart of the gas region that they’ve been booming so. Yes, you ought to see that country. If you haven’t been West for a good many years, you haven’t got any idea how old the country looks. You remember how the fields used to be all full of stumps?”

“I should think so.”

“Well, you won’t see any stumps now. All that country out around Moffitt is just as smooth as a checker-board, and looks as old as England. You know how we used to burn the stumps out; and then somebody invented a stump-extractor, and we pulled them out with a yoke of oxen. Now they just touch ’em off with a little dynamite, and they’ve got a cellar dug and filled up with kindling ready for housekeeping whenever you want it. Only they haven’t got any use for kindling in that country–all gas. I rode along on the cars through those level black fields at corn- planting time, and every once in a while I’d come to a place with a piece of ragged old stove-pipe stickin’ up out of the ground, and blazing away like forty, and a fellow ploughing all round it and not minding it any more than if it was spring violets. Horses didn’t notice it, either. Well, they’ve always known about the gas out there; they say there are places in the woods where it’s been burning ever since the country was settled.

“But when you come in sight of Moffitt–my, oh, my! Well, you come in smell of it about as soon. That gas out there ain’t odorless, like the Pittsburg gas, and so it’s perfectly safe; but the smell isn’t bad–about as bad as the finest kind of benzine. Well, the first thing that strikes you when you come to Moffitt is the notion that there has been a good warm, growing rain, and the town’s come up overnight. That’s in the suburbs, the annexes, and additions. But it ain’t shabby–no shanty-farm business; nice brick and frame houses, some of ’em Queen Anne style, and all of ’em looking as if they had come to stay. And when you drive up from the depot you think everybody’s moving. Everything seems to be piled into the street; old houses made over, and new ones going up everywhere. You know the kind of street Main Street always used to be in our section–half plank-road and turnpike, and the rest mud-hole, and a lot of stores and doggeries strung along with false fronts a story higher than the back, and here and there a decent building with the gable end to the public; and a court-house and jail and two taverns and three or four churches. Well, they’re all there in Moffitt yet, but architecture has struck it hard, and they’ve got a lot of new buildings that needn’t be ashamed of themselves anywhere; the new court-house is as big as St. Peter’s, and the Grand Opera-house is in the highest style of the art. You can’t buy a lot on that street for much less than you can buy a lot in New York–or you couldn’t when the boom was on; I saw the place just when the boom was in its prime. l went out there to work the newspapers in the syndicate business, and I got one of their men to write me a real bright, snappy account of the gas; and they just took me in their arms and showed me everything. Well, it was wonderful, and it was beautiful, too! To see a whole community stirred up like that was–just like a big boy, all hope and high spirits, and no discount on the remotest future; nothing but perpetual boom to the end of time–I tell you it warmed your blood. Why, there were some things about it that made you think what a nice kind of world this would be if people ever took hold together, instead of each fellow fighting it out on his own hook, and devil take the hindmost. They made up their minds at Moffitt that if they wanted their town to grow they’d got to keep their gas public property. So they extended their corporation line so as to take in pretty much the whole gas region round there; and then the city took possession of every well that was put down, and held it for the common good. Anybody that’s a mind to come to Moffitt and start any kind of manufacture can have all the gas he wants free; and for fifteen dollars a year you can have all the gas you want to heat and light your private house. The people hold on to it for themselves, and, as I say, it’s a grand sight to see a whole community hanging together and working for the good of all, instead of splitting up into as many different cut-throats as there are able-bodied citizens. See that fellow?” Fulkerson broke off, and indicated with a twirl of his head a short, dark, foreign-looking man going out of the door. “They say that fellow’s a Socialist. I think it’s a shame they’re allowed to come here. If they don’t like the way we manage our affairs let ’em stay at home,” Fulkerson continued. “They do a lot of mischief, shooting off their mouths round here. I believe in free speech and all that; but I’d like to see these fellows shut up in jail and left to jaw one another to death. We don’t want any of their poison.”

March did not notice the vanishing Socialist. He was watching, with a teasing sense of familiarity, a tall, shabbily dressed, elderly man, who had just come in. He had the aquiline profile uncommon among Germans, and yet March recognized him at once as German. His long, soft beard and mustache had once been fair, and they kept some tone of their yellow in the gray to which they had turned. His eyes were full, and his lips and chin shaped the beard to the noble outline which shows in the beards the Italian masters liked to paint for their Last Suppers. His carriage was erect and soldierly, and March presently saw that he had lost his left hand. He took his place at a table where the overworked waiter found time to cut up his meat and put everything in easy reach of his right hand.

“Well,” Fulkerson resumed, “they took me round everywhere in Moffitt, and showed me their big wells–lit ’em up for a private view, and let me hear them purr with the soft accents of a mass-meeting of locomotives. Why, when they let one of these wells loose in a meadow that they’d piped it into temporarily, it drove the flame away forty feet from the mouth of the pipe and blew it over half an acre of ground. They say when they let one of their big wells burn away all winter before they had learned how to control it, that well kept up a little summer all around it; the grass stayed green, and the flowers bloomed all through the winter. I don’t know whether it’s so or not. But I can believe anything of natural gas. My! but it was beautiful when they turned on the full force of that well and shot a roman candle into the gas–that’s the way they light it–and a plume of fire about twenty feet wide and seventy-five feet high, all red and yellow and violet, jumped into the sky, and that big roar shook the ground under your feet! You felt like saying:

“‘Don’t trouble yourself; I’m perfectly convinced. I believe in Moffitt.’ We-e-e-ll!” drawled Fulkerson, with a long breath, “that’s where I met old Dryfoos.”

“Oh yes!–Dryfoos,” said March. He observed that the waiter had brought the old one-handed German a towering glass of beer.

“Yes,” Fulkerson laughed. “We’ve got round to Dryfoos again. I thought I could cut a long story short, but I seem to be cutting a short story long. If you’re not in a hurry, though–“

“Not in the least. Go on as long as you like.”

“I met him there in the office of a real-estate man–speculator, of course; everybody was, in Moffitt; but a first-rate fellow, and public- spirited as all get-out; and when Dryfoos left he told me about him. Dryfoos was an old Pennsylvania Dutch farmer, about three or four miles out of Moffitt, and he’d lived there pretty much all his life; father was one of the first settlers. Everybody knew he had the right stuff in him, but he was slower than molasses in January, like those Pennsylvania Dutch. He’d got together the largest and handsomest farm anywhere around there; and he was making money on it, just like he was in some business somewhere; he was a very intelligent man; he took the papers and kept himself posted; but he was awfully old-fashioned in his ideas. He hung on to the doctrines as well as the dollars of the dads; it was a real thing with him. Well, when the boom began to come he hated it awfully, and he fought it. He used to write communications to the weekly newspaper in Moffitt–they’ve got three dailies there now–and throw cold water on the boom. He couldn’t catch on no way. It made him sick to hear the clack that went on about the gas the whole while, and that stirred up the neighborhood and got into his family. Whenever he’d hear of a man that had been offered a big price for his land and was going to sell out and move into town, he’d go and labor with him and try to talk him out of it, and tell him how long his fifteen or twenty thousand would last him to live on, and shake the Standard Oil Company before him, and try to make him believe it wouldn’t be five years before the Standard owned the whole region.

“Of course, he couldn’t do anything with them. When a man’s offered a big price for his farm, he don’t care whether it’s by a secret emissary from the Standard Oil or not; he’s going to sell and get the better of the other fellow if he can. Dryfoos couldn’t keep the boom out of has own family even. His wife was with him. She thought whatever he said and did was just as right as if it had been thundered down from Sinai. But the young folks were sceptical, especially the girls that had been away to school. The boy that had been kept at home because he couldn’t be spared from helping his father manage the farm was more like him, but they contrived to stir the boy up–with the hot end of the boom, too. So when a fellow came along one day and offered old Dryfoos a cool hundred thousand for his farm, it was all up with Dryfoos. He’d ‘a’ liked to ‘a’ kept the offer to himself and not done anything about it, but his vanity wouldn’t let him do that; and when he let it out in his family the girls outvoted him. They just made him sell.

“He wouldn’t sell all. He kept about eighty acres that was off in some piece by itself, but the three hundred that had the old brick house on it, and the big barn–that went, and Dryfoos bought him a place in Moffitt and moved into town to live on the interest of his money. Just What he had scolded and ridiculed everybody else for doing. Well, they say that at first he seemed like he would go crazy. He hadn’t anything to do. He took a fancy to that land-agent, and he used to go and set in his office and ask him what he should do. ‘I hain’t got any horses, I hain’t got any cows, I hain’t got any pigs, I hain’t got any chickens. I hain’t got anything to do from sun-up to sun-down.’ The fellow said the tears used to run down the old fellow’s cheeks, and if he hadn’t been so busy himself he believed he should ‘a’ cried, too. But most o’ people thought old Dryfoos was down in the mouth because he hadn’t asked more for his farm, when he wanted to buy it back and found they held it at a hundred and fifty thousand. People couldn’t believe he was just homesick and heartsick for the old place. Well, perhaps he was sorry he hadn’t asked more; that’s human nature, too.

“After a while something happened. That land-agent used to tell Dryfoos to get out to Europe with his money and see life a little, or go and live in Washington, where he could be somebody; but Dryfoos wouldn’t, and he kept listening to the talk there, and all of a sudden he caught on. He came into that fellow’s one day with a plan for cutting up the eighty acres he’d kept into town lots; and he’d got it all plotted out so-well, and had so many practical ideas about it, that the fellow was astonished. He went right in with him, as far as Dryfoos would let him, and glad of the chance; and they were working the thing for all it was worth when I struck Moffitt. Old Dryfoos wanted me to go out and see the Dryfoos & Hendry Addition–guess he thought maybe I’d write it up; and he drove me out there himself. Well, it was funny to see a town made: streets driven through; two rows of shadetrees, hard and soft, planted; cellars dug and houses put up-regular Queen Anne style, too, with stained glass-all at once. Dryfoos apologized for the streets because they were hand-made; said they expected their street-making machine Tuesday, and then they intended to push things.”

Fulkerson enjoyed the effect of his picture on March for a moment, and then went on: “He was mighty intelligent, too, and he questioned me up about my business as sharp as I ever was questioned; seemed to kind of strike his fancy; I guess he wanted to find out if there was any money in it. He was making money, hand over hand, then; and he never stopped speculating and improving till he’d scraped together three or four hundred thousand dollars, they said a million, but they like round numbers at Moffitt, and I guess half a million would lay over it comfortably and leave a few thousands to spare, probably. Then he came on to New York.”

Fulkerson struck a match against the ribbed side of the porcelain cup that held the matches in the centre of the table, and lit a cigarette, which he began to smoke, throwing his head back with a leisurely effect, as if he had got to the end of at least as much of his story as he meant to tell without prompting.

March asked him the desired question. “What in the world for?”

Fulkerson took out his cigarette and said, with a smile: “To spend his money, and get his daughters into the old Knickerbocker society. Maybe he thought they were all the same kind of Dutch.”

“And has he succeeded?”

“Well, they’re not social leaders yet. But it’s only a question of time –generation or two–especially if time’s money, and if Every Other Week is the success it’s bound to be.”

“You don’t mean to say, Fulkerson,” said March, with a half-doubting, half-daunted laugh, “that he’s your Angel?”

“That’s what I mean to say,” returned Fulkerson. “I ran onto him in Broadway one day last summer. If you ever saw anybody in your life; you’re sure to meet him in Broadway again, sooner or later. That’s the philosophy of the bunco business; country people from the same neighborhood are sure to run up against each other the first time they come to New York. I put out my hand, and I said, ‘Isn’t this Mr. Dryfoos from Moffitt?’ He didn’t seem to have any use for my hand; he let me keep it, and he squared those old lips of his till his imperial stuck straight out. Ever see Bernhardt in ‘L’Etrangere’? Well, the American husband is old Dryfoos all over; no mustache; and hay-colored chin- whiskers cut slanting froze the corners of his mouth. He cocked his little gray eyes at me, and says he: ‘Yes, young man; my name is Dryfoos, and I’m from Moffitt. But I don’t want no present of Longfellow’s Works, illustrated; and I don’t want to taste no fine teas; but I know a policeman that does; and if you’re the son of my old friend Squire Strohfeldt, you’d better get out.’ ‘Well, then,’ said I, ‘how would you like to go into the newspaper syndicate business?’ He gave another look at me, and then he burst out laughing, and he grabbed my hand, and he just froze to it. I never saw anybody so glad.

“Well, the long and the short of it was that I asked him round here to Maroni’s to dinner; and before we broke up for the night we had settled the financial side of the plan that’s brought you to New York. I can see,’t said Fulkerson, who had kept his eyes fast on March’s face, “that you don’t more than half like the idea of Dryfoos. It ought to give you more confidence in the thing than you ever had. You needn’t be afraid,” he added, with some feeling, “that I talked Dryfoos into the thing for my own advantage.”

“Oh, my dear Fulkerson!” March protested, all the more fervently because he was really a little guilty.

“Well, of course not! I didn’t mean you were. But I just happened to tell him what I wanted to go into when I could see my way to it, and he caught on of his own accord. The fact is,” said Fulkerson, “I guess I’d better make a clean breast of it, now I’m at it, Dryfoos wanted to get something for that boy of his to do. He’s in railroads himself, and he’s in mines and other things, and he keeps busy, and he can’t bear to have his boy hanging round the house doing nothing, like as if he was a girl. I told him that the great object of a rich man was to get his son into just that fix, but he couldn’t seem to see it, and the boy hated it himself. He’s got a good head, and he wanted to study for the ministry when they were all living together out on the farm; but his father had the old-fashioned ideas about that. You know they used to think that any sort of stuff was good enough to make a preacher out of; but they wanted the good timber for business; and so the old man wouldn’t let him. You’ll see the fellow; you’ll like him; he’s no fool, I can tell you; and he’s going to be our publisher, nominally at first and actually when I’ve taught him the ropes a little.”

XII.

Fulkerson stopped and looked at March, whom he saw lapsing into a serious silence. Doubtless he divined his uneasiness with the facts that had been given him to digest. He pulled out his watch and glanced at it. “See here, how would you like to go up to Forty-sixth street with me, and drop in on old Dryfoos? Now’s your chance. He’s going West tomorrow, and won’t be back for a month or so. They’ll all be glad to see you, and you’ll understand things better when you’ve seen him and his family. I can’t explain.”

March reflected a moment. Then he said, with a wisdom that surprised him, for he would have liked to yield to the impulse of his curiosity: “Perhaps we’d better wait till Mrs. March comes down, and let things take the usual course. The Dryfoos ladies will want to call on her as the last-comer, and if I treated myself ‘en garcon’ now, and paid the first visit, it might complicate matters.”

“Well, perhaps you’re right,” said Fulkerson. “I don’t know much about these things, and I don’t believe Ma Dryfoos does, either.” He was on his legs lighting another cigarette. “I suppose the girls are getting themselves up in etiquette, though. Well, then, let’s have a look at the ‘Every Other Week’ building, and then, if you like your quarters there, you can go round and close for Mrs. Green’s flat.”

March’s dormant allegiance to his wife’s wishes had been roused by his decision in favor of good social usage. “I don’t think I shall take the flat,” he said.

“Well, don’t reject it without giving it another look, anyway. Come on!”

He helped March on with his light overcoat, and the little stir they made for their departure caught the notice of the old German; he looked up from his beer at them. March was more than ever impressed with something familiar in his face. In compensation for his prudence in regard to the Dryfooses he now indulged an impulse. He stepped across to where the old man sat, with his bald head shining like ivory under the gas-jet, and his fine patriarchal length of bearded mask taking picturesque lights and shadows, and put out his hand to him.

“Lindau! Isn’t this Mr. Lindau?”

The old man lifted himself slowly to his feet with mechanical politeness, and cautiously took March’s hand. “Yes, my name is Lindau,” he said, slowly, while he scanned March’s face. Then he broke into a long cry. “Ah-h-h-h-h, my dear poy! my gong friendt! my-my–Idt is Passil Marge, not zo? Ah, ha, ha, ha! How gladt I am to zee you! Why, I am gladt! And you rememberdt me? You remember Schiller, and Goethe, and Uhland? And Indianapolis? You still lif in Indianapolis? It sheers my hardt to zee you. But you are lidtle oldt, too? Tventy-five years makes a difference. Ah, I am gladt! Dell me, idt is Passil Marge, not zo?”

He looked anxiously into March’s face, with a gentle smile of mixed hope and doubt, and March said: “As sure as it’s Berthold Lindau, and I guess it’s you. And you remember the old times? You were as much of a boy as I was, Lindau. Are you living in New York? Do you recollect how you tried to teach me to fence? I don’t know how to this day, Lindau. How good you were, and how patient! Do you remember how we used to sit up in the little parlor back of your printing-office, and read Die Rauber and Die Theilung der Erde and Die Glocke? And Mrs. Lindau? Is she with–“

“Deadt–deadt long ago. Right after I got home from the war–tventy years ago. But tell me, you are married? Children? Yes! Goodt! And how oldt are you now?”

“It makes me seventeen to see you, Lindau, but I’ve got a son nearly as old.”

“Ah, ha, ha! Goodt! And where do you lif?”

“Well, I’m just coming to live in New York,” March said, looking over at Fulkerson, who had been watching his interview with the perfunctory smile of sympathy that people put on at the meeting of old friends. “I want to introduce you to my friend Mr. Fulkerson. He and I are going into a literary enterprise here.”

“Ah! zo?” said the old man, with polite interest. He took Fulkerson’s proffered hand, and they all stood talking a few moments together.

Then Fulkerson said, with another look at his watch, “Well, March, we’re keeping Mr. Lindau from his dinner.”

“Dinner!” cried the old man. “Idt’s better than breadt and meadt to see Mr. Marge!”

“I must be going, anyway,” said March. “But I must see you again soon, Lindau. Where do you live? I want a long talk.”

“And I. You will find me here at dinner-time.” said the old man. “It is the best place”; and March fancied him reluctant to give another address.

To cover his consciousness he answered, gayly: “Then, it’s ‘auf wiedersehen’ with us. Well!”

“Also!” The old man took his hand, and made a mechanical movement with his mutilated arm, as if he would have taken it in a double clasp. He laughed at himself. “I wanted to gif you the other handt, too, but I gafe it to your gountry a goodt while ago.”

“To my country?” asked March, with a sense of pain, and yet lightly, as if it were a joke of the old man’s. “Your country, too, Lindau?”

The old man turned very grave, and said, almost coldly, “What gountry hass a poor man got, Mr. Marge?”

“Well, you ought to have a share in the one you helped to save for us rich men, Lindau,” March returned, still humoring the joke.

The old man smiled sadly, but made no answer as he sat down again.

“Seems to be a little soured,” said Fulkerson, as they went down the steps. He was one of those Americans whose habitual conception of life is unalloyed prosperity. When any experience or observation of his went counter to it he suffered–something like physical pain. He eagerly shrugged away the impression left upon his buoyancy by Lindau, and added to March’s continued silence, “What did I tell you about meeting every man in New York that you ever knew before?”

I never expected to meat Lindau in the world again,” said March, more to himself than to Fulkerson. “I had an impression that he had been killed in the war. I almost wish he had been.”

“Oh, hello, now!” cried Fulkerson.

March laughed, but went on soberly: “He was a man predestined to adversity, though. When I first knew him out in Indianapolis he was starving along with a sick wife and a sick newspaper. It was before the Germans had come over to the Republicans generally, but Lindau was fighting the anti-slavery battle just as naturally at Indianapolis in 1858 as he fought behind the barricades at Berlin in 1848. And yet he was always such a gentle soul! And so generous! He taught me German for the love of it; he wouldn’t spoil his pleasure by taking a cent from me; he seemed to get enough out of my being young and enthusiastic, and out of prophesying great things for me. I wonder what the poor old fellow is doing here, with that one hand of his?”

“Not amassing a very ‘handsome pittance,’ I guess, as Artemus Ward would say,” said Fulkerson, getting back some of his lightness. “There are lots of two-handed fellows in New York that are not doing much better, I guess. Maybe he gets some writing on the German papers.”

“I hope so. He’s one of the most accomplished men! He used to be a splendid musician–pianist–and knows eight or ten languages.”

“Well, it’s astonishing,” said Fulkerson, “how much lumber those Germans can carry around in their heads all their lives, and never work it up into anything. It’s a pity they couldn’t do the acquiring, and let out the use of their learning to a few bright Americans. We could make things hum, if we could arrange ’em that way.”

He talked on, unheeded by March, who went along half-consciously tormented by his lightness in the pensive memories the meeting with Lindau had called up. Was this all that sweet, unselfish nature could come to? What a homeless old age at that meagre Italian table d’hote, with that tall glass of beer for a half-hour’s oblivion! That shabby dress, that pathetic mutilation! He must have a pension, twelve dollars a month, or eighteen, from a grateful country. But what else did he eke out with?

“Well, here we are,” said Fulkerson, cheerily. He ran up the steps before March, and opened the carpenter’s temporary valve in the door frame, and led the way into a darkness smelling sweetly of unpainted wood-work and newly dried plaster; their feat slipped on shavings and grated on sand. He scratched a match, and found a candle, and then walked about up and down stairs, and lectured on the advantages of the place. He had fitted up bachelor apartments for himself in the house, and said that he was going to have a flat to let on the top floor. “I didn’t offer it to you because I supposed you’d be too proud to live over your shop; and it’s too small, anyway; only five rooms.”

“Yes, that’s too small,” said March, shirking the other point.

“Well, then, here’s the room I intend for your office,” said Fulkerson, showing him into a large back parlor one flight up. “You’ll have it quiet from the street noises here, and you can be at home or not, as you please. There’ll be a boy on the stairs to find out. Now, you see, this makes the Grosvenor Green flat practicable, if you want it.”

March felt the forces of fate closing about him and pushing him to a decision. He feebly fought them off till he could have another look at the flat. Then, baked and subdued still more by the unexpected presence of Mrs. Grosvenor Green herself, who was occupying it so as to be able to show it effectively, he took it. He was aware more than ever of its absurdities; he knew that his wife would never cease to hate it; but he had suffered one of those eclipses of the imagination to which men of his temperament are subject, and into which he could see no future for his desires. He felt a comfort in irretrievably committing himself, and exchanging the burden of indecision for the burden of responsibility.

“I don’t know,” said Fulkerson, as they walked back to his hotel together, “but you might fix it up with that lone widow and her pretty daughter to take part of their house here.” He seemed to be reminded of it by the fact of passing the house, and March looked up at its dark front. He could not have told exactly why be felt a pang of remorse at the sight, and doubtless it was more regret for having taken the Grosvenor Green flat than for not having taken the widow’s rooms. Still, he could not forget her wistfulness when his wife and he were looking at them, and her disappointment when they decided against them. He had toyed, in, his after-talk to Mrs. March, with a sort of hypothetical obligation they had to modify their plans so as to meet the widow’s want of just such a family as theirs; they had both said what a blessing it would be to her, and what a pity they could not do it; but they had decided very distinctly that they could not. Now it seemed to him that they might; and he asked himself whether he had not actually departed as much from their ideal as if he had taken board with the widow. Suddenly it seemed to him that his wife asked him this, too.

“I reckon,” said Fulkerson, “that she could have arranged to give you your meals in your rooms, and it would have come to about the same thing as housekeeping.”

“No sort of boarding can be the same as house-keeping,” said March. “I want my little girl to have the run of a kitchen, and I want the whole family to have the moral effect of housekeeping. It’s demoralizing to board, in every way; it isn’t a home, if anybody else takes the care of it off your hands.”

“Well, I suppose so,” Fulkerson assented; but March’s words had a hollow ring to himself, and in his own mind he began to retaliate his dissatisfaction upon Fulkerson.

He parted from him on the usual terms outwardly, but he felt obscurely abused by Fulkerson in regard to the Dryfooses, father and son. He did not know but Fulkerson had taken an advantage of him in allowing him to commit himself to their enterprise with out fully and frankly telling him who and what his backer was; he perceived that with young Dryfoos as the publisher and Fulkerson as the general director of the paper there might be very little play for his own ideas of its conduct. Perhaps it was the hurt to his vanity involved by the recognition of this fact that made him forget how little choice he really had in the matter, and how, since he had not accepted the offer to edit the insurance paper, nothing remained for him but to close with Fulkerson. In this moment of suspicion and resentment he accused Fulkerson of hastening his decision in regard to the Grosvenor Green apartment; he now refused to consider it a decision, and said to himself that if he felt disposed to do so he would send Mrs. Green a note reversing it in the morning. But he put it all off till morning with his clothes, when he went to bed, he put off even thinking what his wife would say; he cast Fulkerson and his constructive treachery out of his mind, too, and invited into it some pensive reveries of the past, when he still stood at the parting of the ways, and could take this path or that. In his middle life this was not possible; he must follow the path chosen long, ago, wherever, it led. He was not master of himself, as he once seemed, but the servant of those he loved; if he could do what he liked, perhaps he might renounce this whole New York enterprise, and go off somewhere out of the reach of care; but he could not do what he liked, that was very clear. In the pathos of this conviction he dwelt compassionately upon the thought of poor old Lindau; he resolved to make him accept a handsome sum of money–more than he could spare, something that he would feel the loss of–in payment of the lessons in German and fencing given so long ago. At the usual rate for such lessons, his debt, with interest for twenty-odd years, would run very far into the hundreds. Too far, he perceived, for his wife’s joyous approval; he determined not to add the interest; or he believed that Lindau would refuse the interest; he put a fine speech in his mouth, making him do so; and after that he got Lindau employment on ‘Every Other Week,’ and took care of him till he died.

Through all his melancholy and munificence he was aware of sordid anxieties for having taken the Grosvenor Green apartment. These began to assume visible, tangible shapes as he drowsed, and to became personal entities, from which he woke, with little starts, to a realization of their true nature, and then suddenly fell fast asleep.

In the accomplishment of the events which his reverie played with, there was much that retroactively stamped it with prophecy, but much also that was better than he forboded. He found that with regard to the Grosvenor Green apartment he had not allowed for his wife’s willingness to get any sort of roof over her head again after the removal from their old home, or for the alleviations that grow up through mere custom. The practical workings of the apartment were not so bad; it had its good points, and after the first sensation of oppression in it they began to feel the convenience of its arrangement. They were at that time of life when people first turn to their children’s opinion with deference, and, in the loss of keenness in their own likes and dislikes, consult the young preferences which are still so sensitive. It went far to reconcile Mrs. March to the apartment that her children were pleased with its novelty; when this wore off for them, she had herself begun to find it much more easily manageable than a house. After she had put away several barrels of gimcracks, and folded up screens and rugs and skins, and carried them all off to the little dark store-room which the flat developed, she perceived at once a roominess and coziness in it unsuspected before. Then, when people began to call, she had a pleasure, a superiority, in saying that it was a furnished apartment, and in disclaiming all responsibility for the upholstery and decoration. If March was by, she always explained that it was Mr. March’s fancy, and amiably laughed it off with her callers as a mannish eccentricity. Nobody really seemed to think it otherwise than pretty; and this again was a triumph for Mrs. March, because it showed how inferior the New York taste was to the Boston taste in such matters.

March submitted silently to his punishment, and laughed with her before company at his own eccentricity. She had been so preoccupied with the adjustment of the family to its new quarters and circumstances that the time passed for laying his misgivings, if they were misgivings, about Fulkerson before her, and when an occasion came for expressing them they had themselves passed in the anxieties of getting forward the first number of ‘Every Other Week.’ He kept these from her, too, and the business that brought them to New York had apparently dropped into abeyance before the questions of domestic economy that presented and absented themselves. March knew his wife to be a woman of good mind and in perfect sympathy with him, but he understood the limitations of her perspective; and if he was not too wise, he was too experienced to intrude upon it any affairs of his till her own were reduced to the right order and proportion. It would have been folly to talk to her of Fulkerson’s conjecturable uncandor while she was in doubt whether her cook would like the kitchen, or her two servants would consent to room together; and till it was decided what school Tom should go to, and whether Bella should have lessons at home or not, the relation which March was to bear to the Dryfooses, as owner and publisher, was not to be discussed with his wife. He might drag it in, but he was aware that with her mind distracted by more immediate interests he could not get from her that judgment, that reasoned divination, which he relied upon so much. She would try, she would do her best, but the result would be a view clouded and discolored by the effort she must make.

He put the whole matter by, and gave himself to the details of the work before him. In this he found not only escape, but reassurance, for it became more and more apparent that whatever was nominally the structure of the business, a man of his qualifications and his instincts could not have an insignificant place in it. He had also the consolation of liking his work, and of getting an instant grasp of it that grew constantly firmer and closer. The joy of knowing that he had not made a mistake was great. In giving rein to ambitions long forborne he seemed to get back to the youth when he had indulged them first; and after half a lifetime passed in pursuits alien to his nature, he was feeling the serene happiness of being mated through his work to his early love. From the outside the spectacle might have had its pathos, and it is not easy to justify such an experiment as he had made at his time of life, except upon the ground where he rested from its consideration–the ground of necessity.

His work was more in his thoughts than himself, however; and as the time for the publication of the first number of his periodical came nearer, his cares all centred upon it. Without fixing any date, Fulkerson had announced it, and pushed his announcements with the shameless vigor of a born advertiser. He worked his interest with the press to the utmost, and paragraphs of a variety that did credit to his ingenuity were afloat everywhere. Some of them were speciously unfavorable in tone; they criticised and even ridiculed the principles on which the new departure in literary journalism was based. Others defended it; others yet denied that this rumored principle was really the principle. All contributed to make talk. All proceeded from the same fertile invention.

March observed with a degree of mortification that the talk was very little of it in the New York press; there the references to the novel enterprise were slight and cold. But Fulkerson said: “Don’t mind that, old man. It’s the whole country that makes or breaks a thing like this; New York has very little to do with it. Now if it were a play, it would be different. New York does make or break a play; but it doesn’t make or break a book; it doesn’t make or break a magazine. The great mass of the readers are outside of New York, and the rural districts are what we have got to go for. They don’t read much in New York; they write, and talk about what they’ve written. Don’t you worry.”

The rumor of Fulkerson’s connection with the enterprise accompanied many of the paragraphs, and he was able to stay March’s thirst for employment by turning over to him from day to day heaps of the manuscripts which began to pour in from his old syndicate writers, as well as from adventurous volunteers all over the country. With these in hand March began practically to plan the first number, and to concrete a general scheme from the material and the experience they furnished. They had intended to issue the first number with the new year, and if it had been an affair of literature alone, it would have been very easy; but it was the art leg they limped on, as Fulkerson phrased it. They had not merely to deal with the question of specific illustrations for this article or that, but to decide the whole character of their illustrations, and first of all to get a design for a cover which should both ensnare the heedless and captivate the fastidious. These things did not come properly within March’s province–that had been clearly understood–and for a while Fulkerson tried to run the art leg himself. The phrase was again his, but it was simpler to make the phrase than to run the leg. The difficult generation, at once stiff-backed and slippery, with which he had to do in this endeavor, reduced even so buoyant an optimist to despair, and after wasting some valuable weeks in trying to work the artists himself, he determined to get an artist to work them. But what artist? It could not be a man with fixed reputation and a following: he would be too costly, and would have too many enemies among his brethren, even if he would consent to undertake the job. Fulkerson had a man in mind, an artist, too, who would have been the very thing if he had been the thing at all. He had talent enough, and his sort of talent would reach round the whole situation, but, as Fulkerson said, he was as many kinds of an ass as he was kinds of an artist.

ETEXT EDITOR’S BOOKMARKS:

Anticipative homesickness
Any sort of stuff was good enough to make a preacher out of Appearance made him doubt their ability to pay so much As much of his story as he meant to tell without prompting Considerable comfort in holding him accountable Extract what consolation lurks in the irreparable Flavors not very sharply distinguished from one another Handsome pittance
He expected to do the wrong thing when left to his own devices Hypothetical difficulty
Never-blooming shrub
Poverty as hopeless as any in the world Seeming interested in points necessarily indifferent to him Servant of those he loved
Sigh with which ladies recognize one another’s martyrdom Sorry he hadn’t asked more; that’s human nature That isn’t very old–or not so old as it used to be Tried to be homesick for them, but failed Turn to their children’s opinion with deference Wish we didn’t always recognize the facts as we do