A Hazard of New Fortunes, V3
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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, anyway. Heigh?"
"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
"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
"I reckon my scolding will keep awhile yet," said the old man,
"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. Heigh, March?"
"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
"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
"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 eyes open."
"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 within bounds."
"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
"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 with it?"
"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 up-town, Conrad?"
"Well, not quite yet, father."
The old man shook hands with March, and went downstairs, followed
by his son.
"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
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 mine, once."
"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 get down."
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.
"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
"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 going stealthily."
"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 you."
"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 place, Jacob?"
"Did it look natural?"
"Yes; mostly. They're sinking the wells down in the woods
"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
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- collars.
"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
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 pleases."
"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
"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 alone?"
"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
"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,
"Fulkerson!" Dryfoos snorted. "Where's Mrs. Mandel, I should like
to know? He brought her, too. Does she go traipsin' off this way
"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,
"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
"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,
"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 Woodburn.
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
"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
"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, demurely, suggestively.
"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
"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,
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
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- cover.
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
"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,
"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,
"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
"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
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 were united.
He was full of the glow of its prosperity when he met Margaret
Vance at the reception.
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 society.
"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,
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
"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
"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 length."
"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
"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
"Oh, they seem to have Mr. Beaton," Margaret answered, and Beaton
felt obscurely flattered by her reference to his patronage of the
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 creature."
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 difficult.
"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 convert me."
"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.
"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 rage, too."
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
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 leaving Boston."
"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
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 ignore them."
"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 Thursdays.
"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
"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- man had acknowledged that the
ladies were at home, and had taken her card to them, she sat waiting
for them in the drawing-room. Her study of its appointments, with
their impersonal costliness, gave her no suggestion how to proceed;
the two sisters were upon her before she had really decided, and she
rose to meet them with the conviction that she was going to play a
part for want of some chosen means of not doing so. She found
herself, before she knew it, making her banjo a property in the little
comedy, and professing so much pleasure in the fact that Miss Dryfoos
was taking it up; she had herself been so much interested by it.
Anything, she said, was a relief from the piano; and then, between
the guitar and the banjo, one must really choose the banjo, unless one
wanted to devote one's whole natural life to the violin. Of course,
there was the mandolin; but Margaret asked if they did not feel that
the bit of shell you struck it with interposed a distance between you
and the real soul of the instrument; and then it did have such a
faint, mosquitoy little tone! She made much of the question, which
they left her to debate alone while they gazed solemnly at her till
she characterized the tone of the mandolin, when Mela broke into a
large, coarse laugh.
"Well, that's just what it does sound like," she explained
defiantly to her sister. "I always feel like it was going to settle
somewhere, and I want to hit myself a slap before it begins to bite.
I don't see what ever brought such a thing into fashion."
Margaret had not expected to be so powerfully seconded, and she
asked, after gathering herself together, "And you are both learning
the banjo?" "My, no!" said Mela, "I've gone through enough with the
piano. Christine is learnun' it."
"I'm so glad you are making my banjo useful at the outset, Miss
Dryfoos." Both girls stared at her, but found it hard to cope with the
fact that this was the lady friend whose banjo Beaton had lent them.
"Mr. Beaton mentioned that he had left it here. I hope you'll keep
it as long as you find it useful."
At this amiable speech even Christine could not help thanking her.
"Of course," she said, "I expect to get another, right off. Mr.
Beaton is going to choose it for me."
"You are very fortunate. If you haven't a teacher yet I should so
like to recommend mine."
Mela broke out in her laugh again. "Oh, I guess Christine's pretty
well suited with the one she's got," she said, with insinuation. Her
sister gave her a frowning glance, and Margaret did not tempt her to
"Then that's much better," she said. " I have a kind of
superstition in such matters; I don't like to make a second choice.
In a shop I like to take the first thing of the kind I'm looking for,
and even if I choose further I come back to the original."
"How funny!" said Mela. "Well, now, I'm just the other way. I
always take the last thing, after I've picked over all the rest. My
luck always seems to be at the bottom of the heap. Now, Christine,
she's more like you. I believe she could walk right up blindfolded
and put her hand on the thing she wants every time."
"I'm like father," said Christine, softened a little by the
celebration of her peculiarity. "He says the reason so many people
don't get what they want is that they don't want it bad enough. Now,
when I want a thing, it seems to me that I want it all through."
"Well, that's just like father, too," said Mela. "That's the way
he done when he got that eighty-acre piece next to Moffitt that he
kept when he sold the farm, and that's got some of the best gas-wells
on it now that there is anywhere." She addressed the explanation to
her sister, to the exclusion of Margaret, who, nevertheless, listened
with a smiling face and a resolutely polite air of being a party to
the conversation. Mela rewarded her amiability by saying to her,
finally, "You've never been in the natural-gas country, have you?"
"Oh no! And I should so much like to see it!" said Margaret, with a
fervor that was partly, voluntary.
"Would you? Well, we're kind of sick of it, but I suppose it would
strike a stranger."
"I never got tired of looking at the big wells when they lit them
up," said Christine. "It seems as if the world was on fire."
"Yes, and when you see the surface-gas burnun' down in the woods,
like it used to by our spring-house-so still, and never spreadun' any,
just like a bed of some kind of wild flowers when you ketch sight of
it a piece off."
They began to tell of the wonders of their strange land in an
antiphony of reminiscences and descriptions; they unconsciously
imputed a merit to themselves from the number and violence of the
wells on their father's property; they bragged of the high
civilization of Moffitt, which they compared to its advantage with
that of New York. They became excited by Margaret's interest in
natural gas, and forgot to be suspicious and envious.
She said, as she rose, "Oh, how much I should like to see it all!"
Then she made a little pause, and added:
"I'm so sorry my aunt's Thursdays are over; she never has them
after Lent, but we're to have some people Tuesday evening at a little
concert which a musical friend is going to give with some other
artists. There won't be any banjos, I'm afraid, but there'll be some
very good singing, and my aunt would be so glad if you could come with
She put down her aunt's card on the table near her, while Mela
gurgled, as if it were the best joke: "Oh, my! Mother never goes
anywhere; you couldn't get her out for love or money." But she was
herself overwhelmed with a simple joy at Margaret's politeness, and
showed it in a sensuous way, like a child, as if she had been tickled.
She came closer to Margaret and seemed about to fawn physically upon
"Ain't she just as lovely as she can live?" she demanded of her
sister when Margaret was gone.
"I don't know," said Christine. "I guess she wanted to know who
Mr. Beaton had been lending her banjo to."
"Pshaw! Do you suppose she's in love with him?" asked Mela, and
then she broke into her hoarse laugh at the look her sister gave her.
"Well, don't eat me, Christine! I wonder who she is, anyway? I'm
goun' to git it out of Mr. Beaton the next time he calls. I guess
she's somebody. Mrs. Mandel can tell. I wish that old friend of hers
would hurry up and git well--or something. But I guess we appeared
about as well as she did. I could see she was afraid of you,
Christine. I reckon it's gittun' around a little about father; and
when it does I don't believe we shall want for callers. Say, are you
goun'? To that concert of theirs?"
"I don't know. Not till I know who they are first."
"Well, we've got to hump ourselves if we're goun' to find out
As she went home Margaret felt wrought in her that most incredible
of the miracles, which, nevertheless, any one may make his experience.
She felt kindly to these girls because she had tried to make them
happy, and she hoped that in the interest she had shown there had been
none of the poison of flattery. She was aware that this was a risk
she ran in such an attempt to do good. If she had escaped this effect
she was willing to leave the rest with Providence.
The notion that a girl of Margaret Vance's traditions would
naturally form of girls like Christine and Mela Dryfoos would be that
they were abashed in the presence of the new conditions of their
lives, and that they must receive the advance she had made them with a
certain grateful humility. However they received it, she had made it
upon principle, from a romantic conception of duty; but this was the
way she imagined they would receive it, because she thought that she
would have done so if she had been as ignorant and unbred as they.
Her error was in arguing their attitude from her own temperament, and
endowing them, for the purposes of argument, with her perspective.
They had not the means, intellectual or moral, of feeling as she
fancied. If they had remained at home on the farm where they were
born, Christine would have grown up that embodiment of impassioned
suspicion which we find oftenest in the narrowest spheres, and Mela
would always have been a good-natured simpleton; but they would never
have doubted their equality with the wisest and the finest. As it
was, they had not learned enough at school to doubt it, and the
splendor of their father's success in making money had blinded them
forever to any possible difference against them. They had no question
of themselves in the social abeyance to which they had been left in
New York. They had been surprised, mystified; it was not what they
had expected; there must be some mistake.
They were the victims of an accident, which would be repaired as
soon as the fact of their father's wealth had got around. They had
been steadfast in their faith, through all their disappointment, that
they were not only better than most people by virtue of his money, but
as good as any; and they took Margaret's visit, so far as they,
investigated its motive, for a sign that at last it was beginning to
get around; of course, a thing could not get around in New York so
quick as it could in a small place. They were confirmed in their
belief by the sensation of Mrs. Mandel when she returned to duty that
afternoon, and they consulted her about going to Mrs. Horn's musicale.
If she had felt any doubt at the name for there were Horns and
Horns--the address on the card put the matter beyond question; and she
tried to make her charges understand what a precious chance had
befallen them. She did not succeed; they had not the premises, the
experience, for a sufficient impression; and she undid her work in
part by the effort to explain that Mrs. Horn's standing was
independent of money; that though she was positively rich, she was
comparatively poor. Christine inferred that Miss Vance had called
because she wished to be the first to get in with them since it had
begun to get around. This view commended itself to Mela, too, but
without warping her from her opinion that Miss Vance was all the same
too sweet for anything. She had not so vivid a consciousness of her
father's money as Christine had; but she reposed perhaps all the more
confidently upon its power. She was far from thinking meanly of any
one who thought highly of her for it; that seemed so natural a result
as to be amiable, even admirable; she was willing that any such person
should get all the good there was in such an attitude toward her.
They discussed the matter that night at dinner before their father
and mother, who mostly sat silent at their meals; the father frowning
absently over his plate, with his head close to it, and making play
into his mouth with the back of his knife (he had got so far toward
the use of his fork as to despise those who still ate from the edge of
their knives), and the mother partly missing hers at times in the
nervous tremor that shook her face from side to side.
After a while the subject of Mela's hoarse babble and of
Christine's high-pitched, thin, sharp forays of assertion and denial
in the field which her sister's voice seemed to cover, made its way
into the old man's consciousness, and he perceived that they were
talking with Mrs. Mandel about it, and that his wife was from time to
time offering an irrelevant and mistaken comment. He agreed with
Christine, and silently took her view of the affair some time before
he made any sign of having listened. There had been a time in his life
when other things besides his money seemed admirable to him. He had
once respected himself for the hard- headed, practical common sense
which first gave him standing among his country neighbors; which made
him supervisor, school trustee, justice of the peace, county
commissioner, secretary of the Moffitt County Agricultural Society.
In those days he had served the public with disinterested zeal and
proud ability; he used to write to the Lake Shore Farmer on
agricultural topics; he took part in opposing, through the Moffitt
papers, the legislative waste of the people's money; on the question
of selling a local canal to the railroad company, which killed that
fine old State work, and let the dry ditch grow up to grass, he might
have gone to the Legislature, but he contented himself with defeating
the Moffitt member who had voted for the job. If he opposed some
measures for the general good, like high schools and school libraries,
it was because he lacked perspective, in his intense individualism,
and suspected all expense of being spendthrift. He believed in good
district schools, and he had a fondness, crude but genuine, for some
kinds of reading--history, and forensics of an elementary sort.
With his good head for figures he doubted doctors and despised
preachers; he thought lawyers were all rascals, but he respected them
for their ability; he was not himself litigious, but he enjoyed the
intellectual encounters of a difficult lawsuit, and he often attended
a sitting of the fall term of court, when he went to town, for the
pleasure of hearing the speeches. He was a good citizen, and a good
husband. As a good father, he was rather severe with his children,
and used to whip them, especially the gentle Conrad, who somehow
crossed him most, till the twins died. After that he never struck any
of them; and from the sight of a blow dealt a horse he turned as if
sick. It was a long time before he lifted himself up from his sorrow,
and then the will of the man seemed to have been breached through his
affections. He let the girls do as they pleased--the twins had been
girls; he let them go away to school, and got them a piano. It was
they who made him sell the farm. If Conrad had only had their spirit
he could have made him keep it, he felt; and he resented the want of
support he might have found in a less yielding spirit than his son's.
His moral decay began with his perception of the opportunity of
making money quickly and abundantly, which offered itself to him after
he sold his farm. He awoke to it slowly, from a desolation in which
he tasted the last bitter of homesickness, the utter misery of
idleness and listlessness. When he broke down and cried for the
hard-working, wholesome life he had lost, he was near the end of this
season of despair, but he was also near the end of what was best in
himself. He devolved upon a meaner ideal than that of conservative
good citizenship, which had been his chief moral experience: the money
he had already made without effort and without merit bred its unholy
self-love in him; he began to honor money, especially money that had
been won suddenly and in large sums; for money that had been earned
painfully, slowly, and in little amounts, he had only pity and
contempt. The poison of that ambition to go somewhere and be somebody
which the local speculators had instilled into him began to work in
the vanity which had succeeded his somewhat scornful self-respect; he
rejected Europe as the proper field for his expansion; he rejected
Washington; he preferred New York, whither the men who have made money
and do not yet know that money has made them, all instinctively turn.
He came where he could watch his money breed more money, and bring
greater increase of its kind in an hour of luck than the toil of
hundreds of men could earn in a year. He called it speculation,
stocks, the Street; and his pride, his faith in himself, mounted with
his luck. He expected, when he had sated his greed, to begin to
spend, and he had formulated an intention to build a great house, to
add another to the palaces of the country-bred millionaires who have
come to adorn the great city. In the mean time he made little account
of the things that occupied his children, except to fret at the
ungrateful indifference of his son to the interests that could alone
make a man of him. He did not know whether his daughters were in
society or not; with people coming and going in the house he would
have supposed they must be so, no matter who the people were; in some
vague way he felt that he had hired society in Mrs. Mandel, at so much
a year. He never met a superior himself except now and then a man of
twenty or thirty millions to his one or two, and then he felt his soul
creep within him, without a sense of social inferiority; it was a
question of financial inferiority; and though Dryfoos's soul bowed
itself and crawled, it was with a gambler's admiration of wonderful
luck. Other men said these many-millioned millionaires were smart,
and got their money by sharp practices to which lesser men could not
attain; but Dryfoos believed that he could compass the same ends, by
the same means, with the same chances; he respected their money, not
When he now heard Mrs. Mandel and his daughters talking of that
person, whoever she was, that Mrs. Mandel seemed to think had honored
his girls by coming to see them, his curiosity was pricked as much as
his pride was galled.
"Well, anyway," said Mela, "I don't care whether Christine's goon'
or not; I am. And you got to go with me, Mrs. Mandel."
"Well, there's a little difficulty," said Mrs. Mandel, with her
unfailing dignity and politeness. "I haven't been asked, you know."
"Then what are we goun' to do?" demanded Mela, almost crossly.
She was physically too amiable, she felt too well corporeally, ever
to be quite cross. "She might 'a' knowed--well known--we couldn't 'a'
come alone, in New York. I don't see why, we couldn't. I don't call
it much of an invitation."
"I suppose she thought you could come with your mother," Mrs.
"She didn't say anything about mother: Did she, Christine? Or,
yes, she did, too. And I told her she couldn't git mother out. Don't
"I didn't pay much attention," said Christine. "I wasn't certain
we wanted to go."
"I reckon you wasn't goun' to let her see that we cared much," said
Mela, half reproachful, half proud of this attitude of Christine.
"Well, I don't see but what we got to stay at home." She laughed at
this lame conclusion of the matter.
"Perhaps Mr. Conrad--you could very properly take him without an
express invitation--" Mrs. Mandel began.
Conrad looked up in alarm and protest. "I--I don't think I could
go that evening--"
"What's the reason?" his father broke in, harshly. "You're not
such a sheep that you're afraid to go into company with your sisters?
Or are you too good to go with them?"
"If it's to be anything like that night when them hussies come out
and danced that way," said Mrs. Dryfoos, "I don't blame Coonrod for
not wantun' to go. I never saw the beat of it."
Mela sent a yelling laugh across the table to her mother. "Well, I
wish Miss Vance could 'a' heard that! Why, mother, did you think it
like the ballet?"
"Well, I didn't know, Mely, child," said the old woman. "I didn't
know what it was like. I hain't never been to one, and you can't be
too keerful where you go, in a place like New York."
"What's the reason you can't go?" Dryfoos ignored the passage
between his wife and daughter in making this demand of his son, with a
"I have an engagement that night--it's one of our meetings."
"I reckon you can let your meeting go for one night," said Dryfoos.
"It can't be so important as all that, that you must disappoint your
"I don't like to disappoint those poor creatures. They depend so
much upon the meetings--"
"I reckon they can stand it for one night," said the old man. He
added, "The poor ye have with you always."
"That's so, Coonrod," said his mother. "It's the Saviour's own
"Yes, mother. But they're not meant just as father used them."
"How do you know how they were meant? Or how I used them?" cried
the father. "Now you just make your plans to go with the girls,
Tuesday night. They can't go alone, and Mrs. Mandel can't go with
"Pshaw!" said Mela. "We don't want to take Conrad away from his
meetun', do we, Chris?"
"I don't know," said Christine, in her high, fine voice. "They
could get along without him for one night, as father says."
"Well, I'm not a-goun' to take him," said Mela. "Now, Mrs. Mandel,
just think out some other way. Say! What's the reason we couldn't get
somebody else to take us just as well? Ain't that rulable?"
"It would be allowable--"
"Allowable, I mean," Mela corrected herself.
"But it might look a little significant, unless it was some old
"Well, let's get Mr. Fulkerson to take us. He's the oldest family
friend we got."
"I won't go with Mr. Fulkerson," said Christine, serenely.
"Why, I'm sure, Christine," her mother pleaded, "Mr. Fulkerson is a
very good young man, and very nice appearun'."
Mela shouted, "He's ten times as pleasant as that old Mr. Beaton of
Christine made no effort to break the constraint that fell upon the
table at this sally, but her father said: "Christine is right, Mela.
It wouldn't do for you to go with any other young man. Conrad will
go with you."
"I'm not certain I want to go, yet," said Christine.
"Well, settle that among yourselves. But if you want to go, your
brother will go with you."
"Of course, Coonrod 'll go, if his sisters wants him to," the old
woman pleaded. "I reckon it ain't agoun' to be anything very bad; and
if it is, Coonrod, why you can just git right up and come out."
"It will be all right, mother. And I will go, of course."
"There, now, I knowed you would, Coonrod. Now, fawther!" This
appeal was to make the old man say something in recognition of
"You'll always find," he said, "that it's those of your own
household that have the first claim on you."
"That's so, Coonrod," urged his mother. "It's Bible truth. Your
fawther ain't a perfesser, but he always did read his Bible. Search
the Scriptures. That's what it means."
"Laws!" cried Mely, "a body can see, easy enough from mother, where
Conrad's wantun' to be a preacher comes from. I should 'a' thought
she'd 'a' wanted to been one herself."
"Let your women keep silence in the churches," said the old woman,
"There you go again, mother! I guess if you was to say that to some
of the lady ministers nowadays, you'd git yourself into trouble."
Mela looked round for approval, and gurgled out a hoarse laugh.
The Dryfooses went late to Mrs. Horn's musicale, in spite of Mrs.
Mandel's advice. Christine made the delay, both because she wished to
show Miss Vance that she was (not) anxious, and because she had some
vague notion of the distinction of arriving late at any sort of
entertainment. Mrs. Mandel insisted upon the difference between this
musicale and an ordinary reception; but Christine rather fancied
disturbing a company that had got seated, and perhaps making people
rise and stand, while she found her way to her place, as she had seen
them. do for a tardy comer at the theatre.
Mela, whom she did not admit to her reasons or feelings always,
followed her with the servile admiration she had for all that
Christine did; and she took on trust as somehow successful the result
of Christine's obstinacy, when they were allowed to stand against the
wall at the back of the room through the whole of the long piece begun
just before they came in. There had been no one to receive them; a
few people, in the rear rows of chairs near them, turned their heads
to glance at them, and then looked away again. Mela had her
misgivings; but at the end of the piece Miss Vance came up to them at
once, and then Mela knew that she had her eyes on them all the time,
and that Christine must have been right. Christine said nothing about
their coming late, and so Mela did not make any excuse, and Miss Vance
seemed to expect none. She glanced with a sort of surprise at Conrad,
when Christine introduced him; Mela did not know whether she liked
their bringing him, till she shook hands with him, and said: "Oh, I am
very glad indeed! Mr. Dryfoos and I have met before." Without
explaining where or when, she led them to her aunt and presented them,
and then said, "I'm going to put you with some friends of yours," and
quickly seated them next the Marches. Mela liked that well enough;
she thought she might have some joking with Mr. March, for all his
wife was so stiff; but the look which Christine wore seemed to forbid,
provisionally at least, any such recreation. On her part, Christine
was cool with the Marches. It went through her mind that they must
have told Miss Vance they knew her; and perhaps they had boasted of
her intimacy. She relaxed a little toward them when she saw Beaton
leaning against the wall at the end of the row next Mrs. March. Then
she conjectured that he might have told Miss Vance of her acquaintance
with the Marches, and she bent forward and nodded to Mrs. March across
Conrad, Mela, and Mr. March. She conceived of him as a sort of hand
of her father's, but she was willing to take them at their apparent
social valuation for the time. She leaned back in her chair, and did
not look up at Beaton after the first furtive glance, though she felt
his eyes on her.
The music began again almost at once, before Mela had time to make
Conrad tell her where Miss Vance had met him before. She would not
have minded interrupting the music; but every one else seemed so
attentive, even Christine, that she had not the courage. The concert
went onto an end without realizing for her the ideal of pleasure which
one ought to find. in society. She was not exacting, but it seemed to
her there were very few young men, and when the music was over, and
their opportunity came to be sociable, they were not very sociable.
They were not introduced, for one thing; but it appeared to Mela that
they might have got introduced, if they had any sense; she saw them
looking at her, and she was glad she had dressed so much; she was
dressed more than any other lady there, and either because she was the
most dressed of any person there, or because it had got around who her
father was, she felt that she had made an impression on the young men.
In her satisfaction with this, and from her good nature, she was
contented to be served with her refreshments after the concert by Mr.
March, and to remain joking with him. She was at her ease; she let
her hoarse voice out in her largest laugh; she accused him, to the
admiration of those near, of getting her into a perfect gale. It
appeared to her, in her own pleasure, her mission to illustrate to the
rather subdued people about her what a good time really was, so that
they could have it if they wanted it. Her joy was crowned when March
modestly professed himself unworthy to monopolize her, and explained
how selfish he felt in talking to a young lady when there were so many
young men dying to do so.
"Oh, pshaw, dyun', yes!" cried Mela, tasting the irony. "I guess I
He asked if he might really introduce a friend of his to her, and
she said, Well, yes, if be thought he could live to get to her; and
March brought up a man whom he thought very young and Mela thought
very old. He was a contributor to 'Every Other Week,' and so March
knew him; he believed himself a student of human nature in behalf of
literature, and he now set about studying Mela. He tempted her to
express her opinion on all points, and he laughed so amiably at the
boldness and humorous vigor of her ideas that she was delighted with
him. She asked him if he was a New-Yorker by birth; and she told him
she pitied him, when he said he had never been West. She professed
herself perfectly sick of New York, and urged him to go to Moffitt if
he wanted to see a real live town. He wondered if it would do to put
her into literature just as she was, with all her slang and brag, but
he decided that he would have to subdue her a great deal: he did not
see how he could reconcile the facts of her conversation with the
facts of her appearance: her beauty, her splendor of dress, her
apparent right to be where she was. These things perplexed him; he
was afraid the great American novel, if true, must be incredible.
Mela said he ought to hear her sister go on about New York when they
first came; but she reckoned that Christine was getting so she could
put up with it a little better, now. She looked significantly across
the room to the place where Christine was now talking with Beaton; and
the student of human nature asked, Was she here? and, Would she
introduce him? Mela said she would, the first chance she got; and she
added, They would be much pleased to have him call. She felt herself
to be having a beautiful time, and she got directly upon such intimate
terms with the student of human nature that she laughed with him about
some peculiarities of his, such as his going so far about to ask
things he wanted to know from her; she said she never did believe in
beating about the bush much. She had noticed the same thing in Miss
Vance when she came to call that day; and when the young man owned
that he came rather a good deal to Mrs. Horn's house, she asked him,
Well, what sort of a girl was Miss Vance, anyway, and where did he
suppose she had met her brother? The student of human nature could
not say as to this, and as to Miss Vance he judged it safest to treat
of the non- society side of her character, her activity in charity,
her special devotion to the work among the poor on the East Side,
which she personally engaged in.
"Oh, that's where Conrad goes, too!" Mela interrupted. " I'll bet
anything that's where she met him. I wisht I could tell Christine!
But I suppose she would want to kill me, if I was to speak to her
The student of human nature said, politely, "Oh, shall I take you
Mela answered, "I guess you better not!" with a laugh so
significant that he could not help his inferences concerning both
Christine's absorption in the person she was talking with and the
habitual violence of her temper. He made note of how Mela helplessly
spoke of all her family by their names, as if he were already intimate
with them; he fancied that if he could get that in skillfully, it
would be a valuable color in his study; the English lord whom she
should astonish with it began to form himself out of the dramatic
nebulosity in his mind, and to whirl on a definite orbit in American
society. But he was puzzled to decide whether Mela's willingness to
take him into her confidence on short notice was typical or personal:
the trait of a daughter of the natural-gas millionaire, or a foible of
Beaton talked with Christine the greater part of the evening that
was left after the concert. He was very grave, and took the tone of a
fatherly friend; he spoke guardedly of the people present, and
moderated the severity of some of Christine's judgments of their looks
and costumes. He did this out of a sort of unreasoned allegiance to
Margaret, whom he was in the mood of wishing to please by being very
kind and good, as she always was. He had the sense also of atoning by
this behavior for some reckless things he had said before that to
Christine; he put on a sad, reproving air with her, and gave her the
feeling of being held in check.
She chafed at it, and said, glancing at Margaret in talk with her
brother, "I don't think Miss Vance is so very pretty, do you?"
"I never think whether she's pretty or not," said Becton, with
dreamy, affectation. "She is merely perfect. Does she know your
"So she says. I didn't suppose Conrad ever went anywhere, except
"It might have been there," Becton suggested. "She goes among
friendless people everywhere."
"Maybe that's the reason she came to see us!" said Christine.
Becton looked at her with his smouldering eyes, and felt the wish
to say, "Yes, it was exactly that," but he only allowed himself to
deny the possibility of any such motive in that case. He added: "I am
so glad you know her, Miss Dryfoos. I never met Miss Vance without
feeling myself better and truer, somehow; or the wish to be so."
"And you think we might be improved, too?" Christine retorted.
"Well, I must say you're not very flattering, Mr. Becton, anyway."
Becton would have liked to answer her according to her cattishness,
with a good clawing sarcasm that would leave its smart in her pride;
but he was being good, and he could not change all at once. Besides,
the girl's attitude under the social honor done her interested him.
He was sure she had never been in such good company before, but he
could see that she was not in the least affected by the experience.
He had told her who this person and that was; and he saw she had
understood that the names were of consequence; but she seemed to feel
her equality with them all. Her serenity was not obviously akin to the
savage stoicism in which Beaton hid his own consciousness of social
inferiority; but having won his way in the world so far by his talent,
his personal quality, he did not conceive the simple fact in her case.
Christine was self-possessed because she felt that a knowledge of her
father's fortune had got around, and she had the peace which money
gives to ignorance; but Beaton attributed her poise to indifference to
social values. This, while he inwardly sneered at it, avenged him
upon his own too keen sense of them, and, together with his temporary
allegiance to Margaret's goodness, kept him from retaliating
Christine's vulgarity. He said, "I don't see how that could be," and
left the question of flattery to settle itself.
The people began to go away, following each other up to take leave
of Mrs. Horn. Christine watched them with unconcern, and either
because she would not be governed by the general movement, or because
she liked being with Beaton, gave no sign of going. Mela was still
talking to the student of human nature, sending out her laugh in deep
gurgles amid the unimaginable confidences she was making him about
herself, her family, the staff of 'Every Other Week,' Mrs. Mandel, and
the kind of life they had all led before she came to them. He was not
a blind devotee of art for art's sake, and though he felt that if one
could portray Mela just as she was she would be the richest possible
material, he was rather ashamed to know some of the things she told
him; and he kept looking anxiously about for a chance of escape. The
company had reduced itself to the Dryfoos groups and some friends of
Mrs. Horn's who had the right to linger, when Margaret crossed the
room with Conrad to Christine and Beaton.
"I'm so glad, Miss Dryfoos, to find that I was not quite a stranger
to you all when I ventured to call, the other day. Your brother and I
are rather old acquaintances, though I never knew who he was before.
I don't know just how to say we met where he is valued so much. I
suppose I mustn't try to say how much," she added, with a look of deep
regard at him.
Conrad blushed and stood folding his arms tight over his breast,
while his sister received Margaret's confession with the suspicion
which was her first feeling in regard to any new thing. What she
concluded was that this girl was trying to get in with them, for
reasons of her own. She said: "Yes; it's the first I ever heard of his
knowing you. He's so much taken up with his meetings, he didn't want
to come to-night."
Margaret drew in her lip before she answered, without apparent
resentment of the awkwardness or ungraciousness, whichever she found
it: "I don't wonder! You become so absorbed in such work that you
think nothing else is worth while. But I'm glad Mr. Dryfoos could
come with you; I'm so glad you could all come; I knew you would enjoy
the music. Do sit down--"
"No," said Christine, bluntly; "we must be going. Mela!" she
called out, "come!"
The last group about Mrs. Horn looked round, but Christine advanced
upon them undismayed, and took the hand Mrs. Horn promptly gave her.
"Well, I must bid you good-night."
"Oh, good-night," murmured the elder lady. "So very kind of you to
"I've had the best kind of a time," said Mela, cordially. "I
hain't laughed so much, I don't know when."
"Oh, I'm glad you enjoyed it," said Mrs. Horn, in the same polite
murmur she had used with Christine; but she said nothing to either
sister about any future meeting.
They were apparently not troubled. Mela said over her shoulder to
the student of human nature, "The next time I see you I'll give it to
you for what you said about Moffitt."
Margaret made some entreating paces after them, but she did not
succeed in covering the retreat of the sisters against critical
conjecture. She could only say to Conrad, as if recurring to the
subject, "I hope we can get our friends to play for us some night. I
know it isn't any real help, but such things take the poor creatures
out of themselves for the time being, don't you think?"
"Oh yes," he answered. "They're good in that way." He turned back
hesitatingly to Mrs. Horn, and said, with a blush, "I thank you for a
"Oh, I am very glad," she replied, in her murmur.
One of the old friends of the house arched her eyebrows in saying
good- night, and offered the two young men remaining seats home in her
carriage. Beaton gloomily refused, and she kept herself from asking
the student of human nature, till she had got him into her carriage,
"What is Moffitt, and what did you say about it?"
"Now you see, Margaret," said Mrs. Horn, with bated triumph, when
the people were all gone.
"Yes, I see," the girl consented. "From one point of view, of
course it's been a failure. I don't think we've given Miss Dryfoos a
pleasure, but perhaps nobody could. And at least we've given her the
opportunity of enjoying herself."
"Such people," said Mrs. Horn, philosophically, "people with their
money, must of course be received sooner or later. You can't keep
them out. Only, I believe I would rather let some one else begin with
them. The Leightons didn't come?"
"I sent them cards. I couldn't call again."
Mrs. Horn sighed a little. "I suppose Mr. Dryfoos is one of your
"He's one of the workers," said Margaret. "I met him several times
at the Hall, but I only knew his first name. I think he's a great
friend of Father Benedict; he seems devoted to the work. Don't you
think he looks good?"
"Very," said Mrs. Horn, with a color of censure in her assent.
"The younger girl seemed more amiable than her sister. But what
"Dreadful!" said Margaret, with knit brows, and a pursed mouth of
humorous suffering. "But she appeared to feel very much at home."
"Oh, as to that, neither of them was much abashed. Do you suppose
Mr. Beaton gave the other one some hints for that quaint dress of
hers? I don't imagine that black and lace is her own invention. She
seems to have some sort of strange fascination for him."
"She's very picturesque," Margaret explained. "And artists see
points in people that the rest of us don't."
"Could it be her money?" Mrs. Horn insinuated. "He must be very
"But he isn't base," retorted the girl, with a generous indignation
that made her aunt smile.
"Oh no; but if he fancies her so picturesque, it doesn't follow
that he would object to her being rich."
"It would with a man like Mr. Beaton!"
"You are an idealist, Margaret. I suppose your Mr. March has some
disinterested motive in paying court to Miss Mela--Pamela, I suppose,
is her name. He talked to her longer than her literature would have
"He seems a very kind person," said Margaret.
"And Mr. Dryfoos pays his salary?"
"I don't know anything about that. But that wouldn't make any
difference with him."
Mrs. Horn laughed out at this security; but she was not displeased
by the nobleness which it came from. She liked Margaret to be
high-minded, and was really not distressed by any good that was in
The Marches walked home, both because it was not far, and because
they must spare in carriage hire at any rate. As soon as they were
out of the house, she applied a point of conscience to him.
"I don't see how you could talk to that girl so long, Basil, and
make her laugh so."
"Why, there seemed no one else to do it, till I thought of
"Yes, but I kept thinking, Now he's pleasant to her because he
thinks it's to his interest. If she had no relation to 'Every Other
Week,' he wouldn't waste his time on her."
"Isabel," March complained, "I wish you wouldn't think of me in he,
him, and his; I never personalize you in my thoughts: you remain
always a vague unindividualized essence, not quite without form and
void, but nounless and pronounless. I call that a much more beautiful
mental attitude toward the object of one's affections. But if you
must he and him and his me in your thoughts, I wish you'd have more
kindly thoughts of me."
"Do you deny that it's true, Basil?"
"Do you believe that it's true, Isabel?"
"No matter. But could you excuse it if it were?"
"Ah, I see you'd have been capable of it in my, place, and you're
"Yes," sighed the wife, "I'm afraid that I should. But tell me
that you wouldn't, Basil!"
"I can tell you that I wasn't. But I suppose that in a real
exigency, I could truckle to the proprietary Dryfooses as well as
"Oh no; you mustn't, dear! I'm a woman, and I'm dreadfully afraid.
But you must always be a man, especially with that horrid old Mr.
Dryfoos. Promise me that you'll never yield the least point to him in
a matter of right and wrong!"
"Not if he's right and I'm wrong?"
"Don't trifle, dear! You know what I mean. Will you promise?"
"I'll promise to submit the point to you, and let you do the
yielding. As for me, I shall be adamant. Nothing I like better."
"They're dreadful, even that poor, good young fellow, who's so
different from all the rest; he's awful, too, because you feel that
he's a martyr to them."
"And I never did like martyrs a great deal," March interposed.
"I wonder how they came to be there," Mrs. March pursued, unmindful
of his joke.
"That is exactly what seemed to be puzzling Miss Mela about us.
She asked, and I explained as well as I could; and then she told me
that Miss Vance had come to call on them and invited them; and first
they didn't know how they could come till they thought of making
Conrad bring them. But she didn't say why Miss Vance called on them.
Mr. Dryfoos doesn't employ her on 'Every Other Week.' But I suppose
she has her own vile little motive."
"It can't be their money; it can't be!" sighed Mrs. March.
"Well, I don't know. We all respect money."
"Yes, but Miss Vance's position is so secure. She needn't pay
court to those stupid, vulgar people."
"Well, let's console ourselves with the belief that she would, if
she needed. Such people as the Dryfooses are the raw material of good
society. It isn't made up of refined or meritorious
people--professors and litterateurs, ministers and musicians, and
their families. All the fashionable people there to-night were like
the Dryfooses a generation or two ago. I dare say the material works
up faster now, and in a season or two you won't know the Dryfooses
from the other plutocrats. THEY will-- a little better than they do
now; they'll see a difference, but nothing radical, nothing painful.
People who get up in the world by service to others--through letters,
or art, or science--may have their modest little misgivings as to
their social value, but people that rise by money-- especially if
their gains are sudden--never have. And that's the kind of people
that form our nobility; there's no use pretending that we haven't a
nobility; we might as well pretend we haven't first-class cars in the
presence of a vestibuled Pullman. Those girls had no more doubt of
their right to be there than if they had been duchesses: we thought it
was very nice of Miss Vance to come and ask us, but they didn't; they
weren't afraid, or the least embarrassed; they were perfectly
natural--like born aristocrats. And you may be sure that if the
plutocracy that now owns the country ever sees fit to take on the
outward signs of an aristocracy --titles, and arms, and ancestors--it
won't falter from any inherent question of its worth. Money prizes
and honors itself, and if there is anything it hasn't got, it believes
it can buy it."
Well, Basil," said his wife, "I hope you won't get infected with
Lindau's ideas of rich people. Some of them are very good and kind."
"Who denies that? Not even Lindau himself. It's all right. And
the great thing is that the evening's enjoyment is over. I've got my
society smile off, and I'm radiantly happy. Go on with your little
pessimistic diatribes, Isabel; you can't spoil my pleasure."
"I could see," said Mela, as she and Christine drove home together,
"that she was as jealous as she could be, all the time you was talkun'
to Mr. Beaton. She pretended to be talkun' to Conrad, but she kep'
her eye on you pretty close, I can tell you. I bet she just got us
there to see how him and you would act together. And I reckon she was
satisfied. He's dead gone on you, Chris."
Christine listened with a dreamy pleasure to the flatteries with
which Mela plied her in the hope of some return in kind, and not at
all because she felt spitefully toward Miss Vance, or in anywise
wished her ill. "Who was that fellow with you so long?" asked
Christine. "I suppose you turned yourself inside out to him, like you
Mela was transported by the cruel ingratitude. "It's a lie! I
didn't tell him a single thing."
Conrad walked home, choosing to do so because he did not wish to
hear his sisters' talk of the evening, and because there was a tumult
in his spirit which he wished to let have its way. In his life with
its single purpose, defeated by stronger wills than his own, and now
struggling partially to fulfil itself in acts of devotion to others,
the thought of women had entered scarcely more than in that of a
child. His ideals were of a virginal vagueness; faces, voices,
gestures had filled his fancy at times, but almost passionately; and
the sensation that he now indulged was a kind of worship, ardent, but
reverent and exalted. The brutal experiences of the world make us
forget that there are such natures in it, and that they seem to come
up out of the lowly earth as well as down from the high heaven. In
the heart of this man well on toward thirty there had never been left
the stain of a base thought; not that suggestion and conjecture had
not visited him, but that he had not entertained them, or in any-wise
made them his. In a Catholic age and country, he would have been one
of those monks who are sainted after death for the angelic purity of
their lives, and whose names are invoked by believers in moments of
trial, like San Luigi Gonzaga. As he now walked along thinking, with
a lover's beatified smile on his face, of how Margaret Vance had
spoken and looked, he dramatized scenes in which be approved himself
to her by acts of goodness and unselfishness, and died to please her
for the sake of others. He made her praise him for them, to his face,
when he disclaimed their merit, and after his death, when he could
not. All the time he was poignantly sensible of her grace, her
elegance, her style; they seemed to intoxicate him; some tones of her
voice thrilled through his nerves, and some looks turned his brain
with a delicious, swooning sense of her beauty; her refinement
bewildered him. But all this did not admit the idea of possession,
even of aspiration. At the most his worship only set her beyond the
love of other men as far as beyond his own.