Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Part 39 out of 78
inspection of it in dishonest justification of his disobedience to his
wife; but he put on an air of offended dignity. "If you don't wish to
show the apartment," he said, "I don't care to see it."
The man groaned, for he was heavy, and no doubt dreaded the stairs. He
scratched a match on his thigh, and led the way up. March was sorry for
him, and he put his fingers on a quarter in his waistcoat-pocket to give
him at parting. At the same time, be had to trump up an objection to the
flat. This was easy, for it was advertised as containing ten rooms, and
he found the number eked out with the bath-room and two large closets.
"It's light enough," said March, "but I don't see how you make out ten
"There's ten rooms," said the man, deigning no proof.
March took his fingers off the quarter, and went down-stairs and out of
the door without another word. It would be wrong, it would be
impossible, to give the man anything after such insolence. He reflected,
with shame, that it was also cheaper to punish than forgive him.
He returned to his hotel prepared for any desperate measure, and
convinced now that the Grosvenor Green apartment was not merely the only
thing left for him, but was, on its own merits, the best thing in New
Fulkerson was waiting for him in the reading-room, and it gave March the
curious thrill with which a man closes with temptation when he said:
"Look here! Why don't you take that woman's flat in the Xenophon? She's
been at the agents again, and they've been at me. She likes your look--
or Mrs. March's--and I guess you can have it at a pretty heavy discount
from the original price. I'm authorized to say you can have it for one
seventy-five a month, and I don't believe it would be safe for you to
offer one fifty."
March shook his head, and dropped a mask of virtuous rejection over his
corrupt acquiescence. "It's too small for us--we couldn't squeeze into
"Why, look here!" Fulkerson persisted. "How many rooms do you people
"I've got to have a place to work--"
"Of course! And you've got to have it at the Fifth Wheel office."
"I hadn't thought of that," March began. "I suppose I could do my work
at the office, as there's not much writing--"
"Why, of course you can't do your work at home. You just come round with
me now, and look at that again."
"No; I can't do it."
"I--I've got to dine."
"All right," said Fulkerson. "Dine with me. I want to take you round to
a little Italian place that I know."
One may trace the successive steps of March's descent in this simple
matter with the same edification that would attend the study of the self-
delusions and obfuscations of a man tempted to crime. The process is
probably not at all different, and to the philosophical mind the kind of
result is unimportant; the process is everything.
Fulkerson led him down one block and half across another to the steps of
a small dwelling-house, transformed, like many others, into a restaurant
of the Latin ideal, with little or no structural change from the pattern
of the lower middle-class New York home. There were the corroded
brownstone steps, the mean little front door, and the cramped entry with
its narrow stairs by which ladies could go up to a dining-room appointed
for them on the second floor; the parlors on the first were set about
with tables, where men smoked cigarettes between the courses, and a
single waiter ran swiftly to and fro with plates and dishes, and,
exchanged unintelligible outcries with a cook beyond a slide in the back
parlor. He rushed at the new-comers, brushed the soiled table-cloth
before them with a towel on his arm, covered its worst stains with a
napkin, and brought them, in their order, the vermicelli soup, the fried
fish, the cheese-strewn spaghetti, the veal cutlets, the tepid roast fowl
and salad, and the wizened pear and coffee which form the dinner at such
"Ah, this is nice!" said Fulkerson, after the laying of the charitable
napkin, and he began to recognize acquaintances, some of whom he
described to March as young literary men and artists with whom they
should probably have to do; others were simply frequenters of the place,
and were of all nationalities and religions apparently--at least, several
were Hebrews and Cubans. "You get a pretty good slice of New York here,"
he said, "all except the frosting on top. That you won't find much at
Maroni's, though you will occasionally. I don't mean the ladies ever,
of course." The ladies present seemed harmless and reputable-looking
people enough, but certainly they were not of the first fashion, and,
except in a few instances, not Americans. "It's like cutting straight
down through a fruitcake," Fulkerson went on, "or a mince-pie, when you
don't know who made the pie; you get a little of everything." He ordered
a small flask of Chianti with the dinner, and it came in its pretty
wicker jacket. March smiled upon it with tender reminiscence, and
Fulkerson laughed. "Lights you up a little. I brought old Dryfoos here
one day, and he thought it was sweet-oil; that's the kind of bottle they
used to have it in at the country drug-stores."
"Yes, I remember now; but I'd totally forgotten it," said March.
"How far back that goes! Who's Dryfoos?"
"Dryfoos?" Fulkerson, still smiling, tore off a piece of the half-yard
of French loaf which had been supplied them, with two pale, thin disks of
butter, and fed it into himself. "Old Dryfoos? Well, of course! I call
him old, but he ain't so very. About fifty, or along there."
"No," said March, "that isn't very old--or not so old as it used to be."
"Well, I suppose you've got to know about him, anyway," said Fulkerson,
thoughtfully. "And I've been wondering just how I should tell you.
Can't always make out exactly how much of a Bostonian you really are!
Ever been out in the natural-gas country?"
"No," said March. "I've had a good deal of curiosity about it, but I've
never been able to get away except in summer, and then we always
preferred to go over the old ground, out to Niagara and back through
Canada, the route we took on our wedding journey. The children like it
as much as we do."
"Yes, yes," said Fulkerson. "Well, the natural-gas country is worth
seeing. I don't mean the Pittsburg gas-fields, but out in Northern Ohio
and Indiana around Moffitt--that's the place in the heart of the gas
region that they've been booming so. Yes, you ought to see that country.
If you haven't been West for a good many years, you haven't got any idea
how old the country looks. You remember how the fields used to be all
full of stumps?"
"I should think so."
"Well, you won't see any stumps now. All that country out around Moffitt
is just as smooth as a checker-board, and looks as old as England. You
know how we used to burn the stumps out; and then somebody invented a
stump-extractor, and we pulled them out with a yoke of oxen. Now they
just touch 'em off with a little dynamite, and they've got a cellar dug
and filled up with kindling ready for housekeeping whenever you want it.
Only they haven't got any use for kindling in that country--all gas.
I rode along on the cars through those level black fields at corn-
planting time, and every once in a while I'd come to a place with a piece
of ragged old stove-pipe stickin' up out of the ground, and blazing away
like forty, and a fellow ploughing all round it and not minding it any
more than if it was spring violets. Horses didn't notice it, either.
Well, they've always known about the gas out there; they say there are
places in the woods where it's been burning ever since the country was
"But when you come in sight of Moffitt--my, oh, my! Well, you come in
smell of it about as soon. That gas out there ain't odorless, like the
Pittsburg gas, and so it's perfectly safe; but the smell isn't bad--about
as bad as the finest kind of benzine. Well, the first thing that strikes
you when you come to Moffitt is the notion that there has been a good
warm, growing rain, and the town's come up overnight. That's in the
suburbs, the annexes, and additions. But it ain't shabby--no shanty-farm
business; nice brick and frame houses, some of 'em Queen Anne style, and
all of 'em looking as if they had come to stay. And when you drive up
from the depot you think everybody's moving. Everything seems to be
piled into the street; old houses made over, and new ones going up
everywhere. You know the kind of street Main Street always used to be in
our section--half plank-road and turnpike, and the rest mud-hole, and a
lot of stores and doggeries strung along with false fronts a story higher
than the back, and here and there a decent building with the gable end to
the public; and a court-house and jail and two taverns and three or four
churches. Well, they're all there in Moffitt yet, but architecture has
struck it hard, and they've got a lot of new buildings that needn't be
ashamed of themselves anywhere; the new court-house is as big as St.
Peter's, and the Grand Opera-house is in the highest style of the art.
You can't buy a lot on that street for much less than you can buy a lot
in New York--or you couldn't when the boom was on; I saw the place just
when the boom was in its prime. l went out there to work the newspapers
in the syndicate business, and I got one of their men to write me a real
bright, snappy account of the gas; and they just took me in their arms
and showed me everything. Well, it was wonderful, and it was beautiful,
too! To see a whole community stirred up like that was--just like a big
boy, all hope and high spirits, and no discount on the remotest future;
nothing but perpetual boom to the end of time--I tell you it warmed your
blood. Why, there were some things about it that made you think what a
nice kind of world this would be if people ever took hold together,
instead of each fellow fighting it out on his own hook, and devil take
the hindmost. They made up their minds at Moffitt that if they wanted
their town to grow they'd got to keep their gas public property. So they
extended their corporation line so as to take in pretty much the whole
gas region round there; and then the city took possession of every well
that was put down, and held it for the common good. Anybody that's a
mind to come to Moffitt and start any kind of manufacture can have all
the gas he wants free; and for fifteen dollars a year you can have all
the gas you want to heat and light your private house. The people hold
on to it for themselves, and, as I say, it's a grand sight to see a whole
community hanging together and working for the good of all, instead of
splitting up into as many different cut-throats as there are able-bodied
citizens. See that fellow?" Fulkerson broke off, and indicated with a
twirl of his head a short, dark, foreign-looking man going out of the
door. "They say that fellow's a Socialist. I think it's a shame they're
allowed to come here. If they don't like the way we manage our affairs
let 'em stay at home," Fulkerson continued. "They do a lot of mischief,
shooting off their mouths round here. I believe in free speech and all
that; but I'd like to see these fellows shut up in jail and left to jaw
one another to death. We don't want any of their poison."
March did not notice the vanishing Socialist. He was watching, with a
teasing sense of familiarity, a tall, shabbily dressed, elderly man, who
had just come in. He had the aquiline profile uncommon among Germans,
and yet March recognized him at once as German. His long, soft beard and
mustache had once been fair, and they kept some tone of their yellow in
the gray to which they had turned. His eyes were full, and his lips and
chin shaped the beard to the noble outline which shows in the beards the
Italian masters liked to paint for their Last Suppers. His carriage was
erect and soldierly, and March presently saw that he had lost his left
hand. He took his place at a table where the overworked waiter found
time to cut up his meat and put everything in easy reach of his right
"Well," Fulkerson resumed, "they took me round everywhere in Moffitt, and
showed me their big wells--lit 'em up for a private view, and let me hear
them purr with the soft accents of a mass-meeting of locomotives. Why,
when they let one of these wells loose in a meadow that they'd piped it
into temporarily, it drove the flame away forty feet from the mouth of
the pipe and blew it over half an acre of ground. They say when they let
one of their big wells burn away all winter before they had learned how
to control it, that well kept up a little summer all around it; the grass
stayed green, and the flowers bloomed all through the winter. I don't
know whether it's so or not. But I can believe anything of natural gas.
My! but it was beautiful when they turned on the full force of that well
and shot a roman candle into the gas--that's the way they light it--and a
plume of fire about twenty feet wide and seventy-five feet high, all red
and yellow and violet, jumped into the sky, and that big roar shook the
ground under your feet! You felt like saying:
"'Don't trouble yourself; I'm perfectly convinced. I believe in Moffitt.'
We-e-e-ll!" drawled Fulkerson, with a long breath, "that's where I met
"Oh yes!--Dryfoos," said March. He observed that the waiter had brought
the old one-handed German a towering glass of beer.
"Yes," Fulkerson laughed. "We've got round to Dryfoos again. I thought
I could cut a long story short, but I seem to be cutting a short story
long. If you're not in a hurry, though--"
"Not in the least. Go on as long as you like."
"I met him there in the office of a real-estate man--speculator, of
course; everybody was, in Moffitt; but a first-rate fellow, and public-
spirited as all get-out; and when Dryfoos left he told me about him.
Dryfoos was an old Pennsylvania Dutch farmer, about three or four miles
out of Moffitt, and he'd lived there pretty much all his life; father was
one of the first settlers. Everybody knew he had the right stuff in him,
but he was slower than molasses in January, like those Pennsylvania
Dutch. He'd got together the largest and handsomest farm anywhere around
there; and he was making money on it, just like he was in some business
somewhere; he was a very intelligent man; he took the papers and kept
himself posted; but he was awfully old-fashioned in his ideas. He hung
on to the doctrines as well as the dollars of the dads; it was a real
thing with him. Well, when the boom began to come he hated it awfully,
and he fought it. He used to write communications to the weekly
newspaper in Moffitt--they've got three dailies there now--and throw cold
water on the boom. He couldn't catch on no way. It made him sick to
hear the clack that went on about the gas the whole while, and that
stirred up the neighborhood and got into his family. Whenever he'd hear
of a man that had been offered a big price for his land and was going to
sell out and move into town, he'd go and labor with him and try to talk
him out of it, and tell him how long his fifteen or twenty thousand would
last him to live on, and shake the Standard Oil Company before him, and
try to make him believe it wouldn't be five years before the Standard
owned the whole region.
"Of course, he couldn't do anything with them. When a man's offered a
big price for his farm, he don't care whether it's by a secret emissary
from the Standard Oil or not; he's going to sell and get the better of
the other fellow if he can. Dryfoos couldn't keep the boom out of has
own family even. His wife was with him. She thought whatever he said
and did was just as right as if it had been thundered down from Sinai.
But the young folks were sceptical, especially the girls that had been
away to school. The boy that had been kept at home because he couldn't
be spared from helping his father manage the farm was more like him, but
they contrived to stir the boy up--with the hot end of the boom, too.
So when a fellow came along one day and offered old Dryfoos a cool
hundred thousand for his farm, it was all up with Dryfoos. He'd 'a'
liked to 'a' kept the offer to himself and not done anything about it,
but his vanity wouldn't let him do that; and when he let it out in his
family the girls outvoted him. They just made him sell.
"He wouldn't sell all. He kept about eighty acres that was off in some
piece by itself, but the three hundred that had the old brick house on
it, and the big barn--that went, and Dryfoos bought him a place in
Moffitt and moved into town to live on the interest of his money. Just
What he had scolded and ridiculed everybody else for doing. Well, they
say that at first he seemed like he would go crazy. He hadn't anything
to do. He took a fancy to that land-agent, and he used to go and set in
his office and ask him what he should do. 'I hain't got any horses, I
hain't got any cows, I hain't got any pigs, I hain't got any chickens.
I hain't got anything to do from sun-up to sun-down.' The fellow said
the tears used to run down the old fellow's cheeks, and if he hadn't been
so busy himself he believed he should 'a' cried, too. But most o' people
thought old Dryfoos was down in the mouth because he hadn't asked more
for his farm, when he wanted to buy it back and found they held it at a
hundred and fifty thousand. People couldn't believe he was just homesick
and heartsick for the old place. Well, perhaps he was sorry he hadn't
asked more; that's human nature, too.
"After a while something happened. That land-agent used to tell Dryfoos
to get out to Europe with his money and see life a little, or go and live
in Washington, where he could be somebody; but Dryfoos wouldn't, and he
kept listening to the talk there, and all of a sudden he caught on. He
came into that fellow's one day with a plan for cutting up the eighty
acres he'd kept into town lots; and he'd got it all plotted out so-well,
and had so many practical ideas about it, that the fellow was astonished.
He went right in with him, as far as Dryfoos would let him, and glad of
the chance; and they were working the thing for all it was worth when I
struck Moffitt. Old Dryfoos wanted me to go out and see the Dryfoos &
Hendry Addition--guess he thought maybe I'd write it up; and he drove me
out there himself. Well, it was funny to see a town made: streets driven
through; two rows of shadetrees, hard and soft, planted; cellars dug and
houses put up-regular Queen Anne style, too, with stained glass-all at
once. Dryfoos apologized for the streets because they were hand-made;
said they expected their street-making machine Tuesday, and then they
intended to push things."
Fulkerson enjoyed the effect of his picture on March for a moment, and
then went on: "He was mighty intelligent, too, and he questioned me up
about my business as sharp as I ever was questioned; seemed to kind of
strike his fancy; I guess he wanted to find out if there was any money in
it. He was making money, hand over hand, then; and he never stopped
speculating and improving till he'd scraped together three or four
hundred thousand dollars, they said a million, but they like round
numbers at Moffitt, and I guess half a million would lay over it
comfortably and leave a few thousands to spare, probably. Then he came
on to New York."
Fulkerson struck a match against the ribbed side of the porcelain cup
that held the matches in the centre of the table, and lit a cigarette,
which he began to smoke, throwing his head back with a leisurely effect,
as if he had got to the end of at least as much of his story as he meant
to tell without prompting.
March asked him the desired question. "What in the world for?"
Fulkerson took out his cigarette and said, with a smile: "To spend his
money, and get his daughters into the old Knickerbocker society. Maybe
he thought they were all the same kind of Dutch."
"And has he succeeded?"
"Well, they're not social leaders yet. But it's only a question of time
--generation or two--especially if time's money, and if Every Other Week
is the success it's bound to be."
"You don't mean to say, Fulkerson," said March, with a half-doubting,
half-daunted laugh, "that he's your Angel?"
"That's what I mean to say," returned Fulkerson. "I ran onto him in
Broadway one day last summer. If you ever saw anybody in your life;
you're sure to meet him in Broadway again, sooner or later. That's the
philosophy of the bunco business; country people from the same
neighborhood are sure to run up against each other the first time they
come to New York. I put out my hand, and I said, 'Isn't this Mr. Dryfoos
from Moffitt?' He didn't seem to have any use for my hand; he let me
keep it, and he squared those old lips of his till his imperial stuck
straight out. Ever see Bernhardt in 'L'Etrangere'? Well, the American
husband is old Dryfoos all over; no mustache; and hay-colored chin-
whiskers cut slanting froze the corners of his mouth. He cocked his
little gray eyes at me, and says he: 'Yes, young man; my name is Dryfoos,
and I'm from Moffitt. But I don't want no present of Longfellow's Works,
illustrated; and I don't want to taste no fine teas; but I know a
policeman that does; and if you're the son of my old friend Squire
Strohfeldt, you'd better get out.' 'Well, then,' said I, 'how would you
like to go into the newspaper syndicate business?' He gave another look
at me, and then he burst out laughing, and he grabbed my hand, and he
just froze to it. I never saw anybody so glad.
"Well, the long and the short of it was that I asked him round here to
Maroni's to dinner; and before we broke up for the night we had settled
the financial side of the plan that's brought you to New York. I can
see,'t said Fulkerson, who had kept his eyes fast on March's face, "that
you don't more than half like the idea of Dryfoos. It ought to give you
more confidence in the thing than you ever had. You needn't be afraid,"
he added, with some feeling, "that I talked Dryfoos into the thing for my
"Oh, my dear Fulkerson!" March protested, all the more fervently because
he was really a little guilty.
"Well, of course not! I didn't mean you were. But I just happened to
tell him what I wanted to go into when I could see my way to it, and he
caught on of his own accord. The fact is," said Fulkerson, "I guess I'd
better make a clean breast of it, now I'm at it, Dryfoos wanted to get
something for that boy of his to do. He's in railroads himself, and he's
in mines and other things, and he keeps busy, and he can't bear to have
his boy hanging round the house doing nothing, like as if he was a girl.
I told him that the great object of a rich man was to get his son into
just that fix, but he couldn't seem to see it, and the boy hated it
himself. He's got a good head, and he wanted to study for the ministry
when they were all living together out on the farm; but his father had
the old-fashioned ideas about that. You know they used to think that any
sort of stuff was good enough to make a preacher out of; but they wanted
the good timber for business; and so the old man wouldn't let him.
You'll see the fellow; you'll like him; he's no fool, I can tell you; and
he's going to be our publisher, nominally at first and actually when I've
taught him the ropes a little."
Fulkerson stopped and looked at March, whom he saw lapsing into a serious
silence. Doubtless he divined his uneasiness with the facts that had
been given him to digest. He pulled out his watch and glanced at it.
"See here, how would you like to go up to Forty-sixth street with me, and
drop in on old Dryfoos? Now's your chance. He's going West tomorrow,
and won't be back for a month or so. They'll all be glad to see you, and
you'll understand things better when you've seen him and his family. I
March reflected a moment. Then he said, with a wisdom that surprised
him, for he would have liked to yield to the impulse of his curiosity:
"Perhaps we'd better wait till Mrs. March comes down, and let things take
the usual course. The Dryfoos ladies will want to call on her as the
last-comer, and if I treated myself 'en garcon' now, and paid the first
visit, it might complicate matters."
"Well, perhaps you're right," said Fulkerson. "I don't know much about
these things, and I don't believe Ma Dryfoos does, either." He was on
his legs lighting another cigarette. "I suppose the girls are getting
themselves up in etiquette, though. Well, then, let's have a look at the
'Every Other Week' building, and then, if you like your quarters there,
you can go round and close for Mrs. Green's flat."
March's dormant allegiance to his wife's wishes had been roused by his
decision in favor of good social usage. "I don't think I shall take the
flat," he said.
"Well, don't reject it without giving it another look, anyway. Come on!"
He helped March on with his light overcoat, and the little stir they made
for their departure caught the notice of the old German; he looked up
from his beer at them. March was more than ever impressed with something
familiar in his face. In compensation for his prudence in regard to the
Dryfooses he now indulged an impulse. He stepped across to where the old
man sat, with his bald head shining like ivory under the gas-jet, and his
fine patriarchal length of bearded mask taking picturesque lights and
shadows, and put out his hand to him.
"Lindau! Isn't this Mr. Lindau?"
The old man lifted himself slowly to his feet with mechanical politeness,
and cautiously took March's hand. "Yes, my name is Lindau," he said,
slowly, while he scanned March's face. Then he broke into a long cry.
"Ah-h-h-h-h, my dear poy! my gong friendt! my-my--Idt is Passil Marge,
not zo? Ah, ha, ha, ha! How gladt I am to zee you! Why, I am gladt! And
you rememberdt me? You remember Schiller, and Goethe, and Uhland? And
Indianapolis? You still lif in Indianapolis? It sheers my hardt to zee
you. But you are lidtle oldt, too? Tventy-five years makes a
difference. Ah, I am gladt! Dell me, idt is Passil Marge, not zo?"
He looked anxiously into March's face, with a gentle smile of mixed hope
and doubt, and March said: "As sure as it's Berthold Lindau, and I guess
it's you. And you remember the old times? You were as much of a boy as
I was, Lindau. Are you living in New York? Do you recollect how you
tried to teach me to fence? I don't know how to this day, Lindau. How
good you were, and how patient! Do you remember how we used to sit up in
the little parlor back of your printing-office, and read Die Rauber and
Die Theilung der Erde and Die Glocke? And Mrs. Lindau? Is she with--"
"Deadt--deadt long ago. Right after I got home from the war--tventy
years ago. But tell me, you are married? Children? Yes! Goodt! And how
oldt are you now?"
"It makes me seventeen to see you, Lindau, but I've got a son nearly as
"Ah, ha, ha! Goodt! And where do you lif?"
"Well, I'm just coming to live in New York," March said, looking over at
Fulkerson, who had been watching his interview with the perfunctory smile
of sympathy that people put on at the meeting of old friends. "I want to
introduce you to my friend Mr. Fulkerson. He and I are going into a
literary enterprise here."
"Ah! zo?" said the old man, with polite interest. He took Fulkerson's
proffered hand, and they all stood talking a few moments together.
Then Fulkerson said, with another look at his watch, "Well, March, we're
keeping Mr. Lindau from his dinner."
"Dinner!" cried the old man. "Idt's better than breadt and meadt to see
"I must be going, anyway," said March. "But I must see you again soon,
Lindau. Where do you live? I want a long talk."
"And I. You will find me here at dinner-time." said the old man. "It
is the best place"; and March fancied him reluctant to give another
To cover his consciousness he answered, gayly: "Then, it's 'auf
wiedersehen' with us. Well!"
"Also!" The old man took his hand, and made a mechanical movement with
his mutilated arm, as if he would have taken it in a double clasp. He
laughed at himself. "I wanted to gif you the other handt, too, but I
gafe it to your gountry a goodt while ago."
"To my country?" asked March, with a sense of pain, and yet lightly, as
if it were a joke of the old man's. "Your country, too, Lindau?"
The old man turned very grave, and said, almost coldly, "What gountry
hass a poor man got, Mr. Marge?"
"Well, you ought to have a share in the one you helped to save for us
rich men, Lindau," March returned, still humoring the joke.
The old man smiled sadly, but made no answer as he sat down again.
"Seems to be a little soured," said Fulkerson, as they went down the
steps. He was one of those Americans whose habitual conception of life
is unalloyed prosperity. When any experience or observation of his went
counter to it he suffered--something like physical pain. He eagerly
shrugged away the impression left upon his buoyancy by Lindau, and added
to March's continued silence, "What did I tell you about meeting every
man in New York that you ever knew before?"
I never expected to meat Lindau in the world again," said March, more to
himself than to Fulkerson. "I had an impression that he had been killed
in the war. I almost wish he had been."
"Oh, hello, now!" cried Fulkerson.
March laughed, but went on soberly: "He was a man predestined to
adversity, though. When I first knew him out in Indianapolis he was
starving along with a sick wife and a sick newspaper. It was before the
Germans had come over to the Republicans generally, but Lindau was
fighting the anti-slavery battle just as naturally at Indianapolis in
1858 as he fought behind the barricades at Berlin in 1848. And yet he
was always such a gentle soul! And so generous! He taught me German for
the love of it; he wouldn't spoil his pleasure by taking a cent from me;
he seemed to get enough out of my being young and enthusiastic, and out
of prophesying great things for me. I wonder what the poor old fellow is
doing here, with that one hand of his?"
"Not amassing a very 'handsome pittance,' I guess, as Artemus Ward would
say," said Fulkerson, getting back some of his lightness. "There are
lots of two-handed fellows in New York that are not doing much better, I
guess. Maybe he gets some writing on the German papers."
"I hope so. He's one of the most accomplished men! He used to be a
splendid musician--pianist--and knows eight or ten languages."
"Well, it's astonishing," said Fulkerson, "how much lumber those Germans
can carry around in their heads all their lives, and never work it up
into anything. It's a pity they couldn't do the acquiring, and let out
the use of their learning to a few bright Americans. We could make
things hum, if we could arrange 'em that way."
He talked on, unheeded by March, who went along half-consciously
tormented by his lightness in the pensive memories the meeting with
Lindau had called up. Was this all that sweet, unselfish nature could
come to? What a homeless old age at that meagre Italian table d'hote,
with that tall glass of beer for a half-hour's oblivion! That shabby
dress, that pathetic mutilation! He must have a pension, twelve dollars
a month, or eighteen, from a grateful country. But what else did he eke
"Well, here we are," said Fulkerson, cheerily. He ran up the steps
before March, and opened the carpenter's temporary valve in the door
frame, and led the way into a darkness smelling sweetly of unpainted
wood-work and newly dried plaster; their feat slipped on shavings and
grated on sand. He scratched a match, and found a candle, and then
walked about up and down stairs, and lectured on the advantages of the
place. He had fitted up bachelor apartments for himself in the house,
and said that he was going to have a flat to let on the top floor.
"I didn't offer it to you because I supposed you'd be too proud to live
over your shop; and it's too small, anyway; only five rooms."
"Yes, that's too small," said March, shirking the other point.
"Well, then, here's the room I intend for your office," said Fulkerson,
showing him into a large back parlor one flight up. "You'll have it
quiet from the street noises here, and you can be at home or not, as you
please. There'll be a boy on the stairs to find out. Now, you see, this
makes the Grosvenor Green flat practicable, if you want it."
March felt the forces of fate closing about him and pushing him to a
decision. He feebly fought them off till he could have another look at
the flat. Then, baked and subdued still more by the unexpected presence
of Mrs. Grosvenor Green herself, who was occupying it so as to be able to
show it effectively, he took it. He was aware more than ever of its
absurdities; he knew that his wife would never cease to hate it; but he
had suffered one of those eclipses of the imagination to which men of his
temperament are subject, and into which he could see no future for his
desires. He felt a comfort in irretrievably committing himself, and
exchanging the burden of indecision for the burden of responsibility.
"I don't know," said Fulkerson, as they walked back to his hotel
together, "but you might fix it up with that lone widow and her pretty
daughter to take part of their house here." He seemed to be reminded of
it by the fact of passing the house, and March looked up at its dark
front. He could not have told exactly why be felt a pang of remorse at
the sight, and doubtless it was more regret for having taken the
Grosvenor Green flat than for not having taken the widow's rooms. Still,
he could not forget her wistfulness when his wife and he were looking at
them, and her disappointment when they decided against them. He had
toyed, in, his after-talk to Mrs. March, with a sort of hypothetical
obligation they had to modify their plans so as to meet the widow's want
of just such a family as theirs; they had both said what a blessing it
would be to her, and what a pity they could not do it; but they had
decided very distinctly that they could not. Now it seemed to him that
they might; and he asked himself whether he had not actually departed as
much from their ideal as if he had taken board with the widow. Suddenly
it seemed to him that his wife asked him this, too.
"I reckon," said Fulkerson, "that she could have arranged to give you
your meals in your rooms, and it would have come to about the same thing
"No sort of boarding can be the same as house-keeping," said March.
"I want my little girl to have the run of a kitchen, and I want the whole
family to have the moral effect of housekeeping. It's demoralizing to
board, in every way; it isn't a home, if anybody else takes the care of
it off your hands."
"Well, I suppose so," Fulkerson assented; but March's words had a hollow
ring to himself, and in his own mind he began to retaliate his
dissatisfaction upon Fulkerson.
He parted from him on the usual terms outwardly, but he felt obscurely
abused by Fulkerson in regard to the Dryfooses, father and son. He did
not know but Fulkerson had taken an advantage of him in allowing him to
commit himself to their enterprise with out fully and frankly telling him
who and what his backer was; he perceived that with young Dryfoos as the
publisher and Fulkerson as the general director of the paper there might
be very little play for his own ideas of its conduct. Perhaps it was the
hurt to his vanity involved by the recognition of this fact that made him
forget how little choice he really had in the matter, and how, since he
had not accepted the offer to edit the insurance paper, nothing remained
for him but to close with Fulkerson. In this moment of suspicion and
resentment he accused Fulkerson of hastening his decision in regard to
the Grosvenor Green apartment; he now refused to consider it a decision,
and said to himself that if he felt disposed to do so he would send Mrs.
Green a note reversing it in the morning. But he put it all off till
morning with his clothes, when he went to bed, he put off even thinking
what his wife would say; he cast Fulkerson and his constructive treachery
out of his mind, too, and invited into it some pensive reveries of the
past, when he still stood at the parting of the ways, and could take this
path or that. In his middle life this was not possible; he must follow
the path chosen long, ago, wherever, it led. He was not master of
himself, as he once seemed, but the servant of those he loved; if he
could do what he liked, perhaps he might renounce this whole New York
enterprise, and go off somewhere out of the reach of care; but he could
not do what he liked, that was very clear. In the pathos of this
conviction he dwelt compassionately upon the thought of poor old Lindau;
he resolved to make him accept a handsome sum of money--more than he
could spare, something that he would feel the loss of--in payment of the
lessons in German and fencing given so long ago. At the usual rate for
such lessons, his debt, with interest for twenty-odd years, would run
very far into the hundreds. Too far, he perceived, for his wife's joyous
approval; he determined not to add the interest; or he believed that
Lindau would refuse the interest; he put a fine speech in his mouth,
making him do so; and after that he got Lindau employment on 'Every Other
Week,' and took care of him till he died.
Through all his melancholy and munificence he was aware of sordid
anxieties for having taken the Grosvenor Green apartment. These began to
assume visible, tangible shapes as he drowsed, and to became personal
entities, from which he woke, with little starts, to a realization of
their true nature, and then suddenly fell fast asleep.
In the accomplishment of the events which his reverie played with, there
was much that retroactively stamped it with prophecy, but much also that
was better than he forboded. He found that with regard to the Grosvenor
Green apartment he had not allowed for his wife's willingness to get any
sort of roof over her head again after the removal from their old home,
or for the alleviations that grow up through mere custom. The practical
workings of the apartment were not so bad; it had its good points, and
after the first sensation of oppression in it they began to feel the
convenience of its arrangement. They were at that time of life when
people first turn to their children's opinion with deference, and, in the
loss of keenness in their own likes and dislikes, consult the young
preferences which are still so sensitive. It went far to reconcile Mrs.
March to the apartment that her children were pleased with its novelty;
when this wore off for them, she had herself begun to find it much more
easily manageable than a house. After she had put away several barrels
of gimcracks, and folded up screens and rugs and skins, and carried them
all off to the little dark store-room which the flat developed, she
perceived at once a roominess and coziness in it unsuspected before.
Then, when people began to call, she had a pleasure, a superiority, in
saying that it was a furnished apartment, and in disclaiming all
responsibility for the upholstery and decoration. If March was by, she
always explained that it was Mr. March's fancy, and amiably laughed it
off with her callers as a mannish eccentricity. Nobody really seemed to
think it otherwise than pretty; and this again was a triumph for Mrs.
March, because it showed how inferior the New York taste was to the
Boston taste in such matters.
March submitted silently to his punishment, and laughed with her before
company at his own eccentricity. She had been so preoccupied with the
adjustment of the family to its new quarters and circumstances that the
time passed for laying his misgivings, if they were misgivings, about
Fulkerson before her, and when an occasion came for expressing them they
had themselves passed in the anxieties of getting forward the first
number of 'Every Other Week.' He kept these from her, too, and the
business that brought them to New York had apparently dropped into
abeyance before the questions of domestic economy that presented and
absented themselves. March knew his wife to be a woman of good mind and
in perfect sympathy with him, but he understood the limitations of her
perspective; and if he was not too wise, he was too experienced to
intrude upon it any affairs of his till her own were reduced to the right
order and proportion. It would have been folly to talk to her of
Fulkerson's conjecturable uncandor while she was in doubt whether her
cook would like the kitchen, or her two servants would consent to room
together; and till it was decided what school Tom should go to, and
whether Bella should have lessons at home or not, the relation which
March was to bear to the Dryfooses, as owner and publisher, was not to be
discussed with his wife. He might drag it in, but he was aware that with
her mind distracted by more immediate interests he could not get from her
that judgment, that reasoned divination, which he relied upon so much.
She would try, she would do her best, but the result would be a view
clouded and discolored by the effort she must make.
He put the whole matter by, and gave himself to the details of the work
before him. In this he found not only escape, but reassurance, for it
became more and more apparent that whatever was nominally the structure
of the business, a man of his qualifications and his instincts could not
have an insignificant place in it. He had also the consolation of liking
his work, and of getting an instant grasp of it that grew constantly
firmer and closer. The joy of knowing that he had not made a mistake was
great. In giving rein to ambitions long forborne he seemed to get back
to the youth when he had indulged them first; and after half a lifetime
passed in pursuits alien to his nature, he was feeling the serene
happiness of being mated through his work to his early love. From the
outside the spectacle might have had its pathos, and it is not easy to
justify such an experiment as he had made at his time of life, except
upon the ground where he rested from its consideration--the ground of
His work was more in his thoughts than himself, however; and as the time
for the publication of the first number of his periodical came nearer,
his cares all centred upon it. Without fixing any date, Fulkerson had
announced it, and pushed his announcements with the shameless vigor of a
born advertiser. He worked his interest with the press to the utmost,
and paragraphs of a variety that did credit to his ingenuity were afloat
everywhere. Some of them were speciously unfavorable in tone; they
criticised and even ridiculed the principles on which the new departure
in literary journalism was based. Others defended it; others yet denied
that this rumored principle was really the principle. All contributed to
make talk. All proceeded from the same fertile invention.
March observed with a degree of mortification that the talk was very
little of it in the New York press; there the references to the novel
enterprise were slight and cold. But Fulkerson said: "Don't mind that,
old man. It's the whole country that makes or breaks a thing like this;
New York has very little to do with it. Now if it were a play, it would
be different. New York does make or break a play; but it doesn't make or
break a book; it doesn't make or break a magazine. The great mass of the
readers are outside of New York, and the rural districts are what we have
got to go for. They don't read much in New York; they write, and talk
about what they've written. Don't you worry."
The rumor of Fulkerson's connection with the enterprise accompanied many
of the paragraphs, and he was able to stay March's thirst for employment
by turning over to him from day to day heaps of the manuscripts which
began to pour in from his old syndicate writers, as well as from
adventurous volunteers all over the country. With these in hand March
began practically to plan the first number, and to concrete a general
scheme from the material and the experience they furnished. They had
intended to issue the first number with the new year, and if it had been
an affair of literature alone, it would have been very easy; but it was
the art leg they limped on, as Fulkerson phrased it. They had not merely
to deal with the question of specific illustrations for this article or
that, but to decide the whole character of their illustrations, and first
of all to get a design for a cover which should both ensnare the heedless
and captivate the fastidious. These things did not come properly within
March's province--that had been clearly understood--and for a while
Fulkerson tried to run the art leg himself. The phrase was again his,
but it was simpler to make the phrase than to run the leg. The difficult
generation, at once stiff-backed and slippery, with which he had to do in
this endeavor, reduced even so buoyant an optimist to despair, and after
wasting some valuable weeks in trying to work the artists himself, he
determined to get an artist to work them. But what artist? It could not
be a man with fixed reputation and a following: he would be too costly,
and would have too many enemies among his brethren, even if he would
consent to undertake the job. Fulkerson had a man in mind, an artist,
too, who would have been the very thing if he had been the thing at all.
He had talent enough, and his sort of talent would reach round the whole
situation, but, as Fulkerson said, he was as many kinds of an ass as he
was kinds of an artist.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Any sort of stuff was good enough to make a preacher out of
Appearance made him doubt their ability to pay so much
As much of his story as he meant to tell without prompting
Considerable comfort in holding him accountable
Extract what consolation lurks in the irreparable
Flavors not very sharply distinguished from one another
He expected to do the wrong thing when left to his own devices
Poverty as hopeless as any in the world
Seeming interested in points necessarily indifferent to him
Servant of those he loved
Sigh with which ladies recognize one another's martyrdom
Sorry he hadn't asked more; that's human nature
That isn't very old--or not so old as it used to be
Tried to be homesick for them, but failed
Turn to their children's opinion with deference
Wish we didn't always recognize the facts as we do
A HAZARD OF NEW FORTUNES
By William Dean Howells
The evening when March closed with Mrs. Green's reduced offer, and
decided to take her apartment, the widow whose lodgings he had rejected
sat with her daughter in an upper room at the back of her house. In the
shaded glow of the drop-light she was sewing, and the girl was drawing at
the same table. From time to time, as they talked, the girl lifted her
head and tilted it a little on one side so as to get some desired effect
of her work.
"It's a mercy the cold weather holds off," said the mother. "We should
have to light the furnace, unless we wanted to scare everybody away with
a cold house; and I don't know who would take care of it, or what would
become of us, every way."
"They seem to have been scared away from a house that wasn't cold," said
the girl. "Perhaps they might like a cold one. But it's too early for
cold yet. It's only just in the beginning of November."
"The Messenger says they've had a sprinkling of snow."
"Oh yes, at St. Barnaby! I don't know when they don't have sprinklings of
snow there. I'm awfully glad we haven't got that winter before us."
The widow sighed as mothers do who feel the contrast their experience
opposes to the hopeful recklessness of such talk as this. "We may have a
worse winter here," she said, darkly.
"Then I couldn't stand it," said the girl, "and I should go in for
lighting out to Florida double-quick."
"And how would you get to Florida?" demanded her mother, severely.
"Oh, by the usual conveyance Pullman vestibuled train, I suppose. What
makes you so blue, mamma?" The girl was all the time sketching away,
rubbing out, lifting her head for the effect, and then bending it over
her work again without looking at her mother.
"I am not blue, Alma. But I cannot endure this--this hopefulness of
"Why? What harm does it do?"
"Harm?" echoed the mother.
Pending the effort she must make in saying, the girl cut in: "Yes, harm.
You've kept your despair dusted off and ready for use at an instant's
notice ever since we came, and what good has it done? I'm going to keep
on hoping to the bitter end. That's what papa did."
It was what the Rev. Archibald Leighton had done with all the
consumptive's buoyancy. The morning he died he told them that now he had
turned the point and was really going to get well. The cheerfulness was
not only in his disease, but in his temperament. Its excess was always a
little against him in his church work, and Mrs. Leighton was right enough
in feeling that if it had not been for the ballast of her instinctive
despondency he would have made shipwreck of such small chances of
prosperity as befell him in life. It was not from him that his daughter
got her talent, though he had left her his temperament intact of his
widow's legal thirds. He was one of those men of whom the country people
say when he is gone that the woman gets along better without him. Mrs.
Leighton had long eked out their income by taking a summer boarder or
two, as a great favor, into her family; and when the greater need came,
she frankly gave up her house to the summer-folks (as they call them in
the country), and managed it for their comfort from the small quarter of
it in which she shut herself up with her daughter.
The notion of shutting up is an exigency of the rounded period. The fact
is, of course, that Alma Leighton was not shut up in any sense whatever.
She was the pervading light, if not force, of the house. She was a good
cook, and she managed the kitchen with the help of an Irish girl, while
her mother looked after the rest of the housekeeping. But she was not
systematic; she had inspiration but not discipline, and her mother
mourned more over the days when Alma left the whole dinner to the Irish
girl than she rejoiced in those when one of Alma's great thoughts took
form in a chicken-pie of incomparable savor or in a matchless pudding.
The off-days came when her artistic nature was expressing itself in
charcoal, for she drew to the admiration of all among the lady boarders
who could not draw. The others had their reserves; they readily conceded
that Alma had genius, but they were sure she needed instruction. On the
other hand, they were not so radical as to agree with the old painter who
came every summer to paint the elms of the St. Barnaby meadows. He
contended that she needed to be a man in order to amount to anything; but
in this theory he was opposed by an authority, of his own sex, whom the
lady sketchers believed to speak with more impartiality in a matter
concerning them as much as Alma Leighton. He said that instruction would
do, and he was not only, younger and handsomer, but he was fresher from
the schools than old Harrington, who, even the lady sketchers could see,
painted in an obsolescent manner. His name was Beaton--Angus Beaton; but
he was not Scotch, or not more Scotch than Mary Queen of Scots was. His
father was a Scotchman, but Beaton was born in Syracuse, New York, and it
had taken only three years in Paris to obliterate many traces of native
and ancestral manner in him. He wore his black beard cut shorter than
his mustache, and a little pointed; he stood with his shoulders well
thrown back and with a lateral curve of his person when he talked about
art, which would alone have carried conviction even if he had not had a
thick, dark bang coming almost to the brows of his mobile gray eyes, and
had not spoken English with quick, staccato impulses, so as to give it
the effect of epigrammatic and sententious French. One of the ladies
said that you always thought of him as having spoken French after it was
over, and accused herself of wrong in not being able to feel afraid of
him. None of the ladies was afraid of him, though they could not believe
that he was really so deferential to their work as he seemed; and they
knew, when he would not criticise Mr. Harrington's work, that he was just
acting from principle.
They may or may not have known the deference with which he treated Alma's
work; but the girl herself felt that his abrupt, impersonal comment
recognized her as a real sister in art. He told her she ought to come to
New York, and draw in the League, or get into some painter's private
class; and it was the sense of duty thus appealed to which finally
resulted in the hazardous experiment she and her mother were now making.
There were no logical breaks in the chain of their reasoning from past
success with boarders in St. Barnaby to future success with boarders in
New York. Of course the outlay was much greater. The rent of the
furnished house they had taken was such that if they failed their
experiment would be little less than ruinous.
But they were not going to fail; that was what Alma contended, with a
hardy courage that her mother sometimes felt almost invited failure, if
it did not deserve it. She was one of those people who believe that if
you dread harm enough it is less likely to happen. She acted on this
superstition as if it were a religion.
"If it had not been for my despair, as you call it, Alma," she answered,
"I don't know where we should have been now."
"I suppose we should have been in St. Barnaby," said the girl. "And if
it's worse to be in New York, you see what your despair's done, mamma.
But what's the use? You meant well, and I don't blame you. You can't
expect even despair to come out always just the way you want it. Perhaps
you've used too much of it." The girl laughed, and Mrs. Leighton
laughed, too. Like every one else, she was not merely a prevailing mood,
as people are apt to be in books, but was an irregularly spheroidal
character, with surfaces that caught the different lights of circumstance
and reflected them. Alma got up and took a pose before the mirror, which
she then transferred to her sketch. The room was pinned about with other
sketches, which showed with fantastic indistinctness in the shaded
gaslight. Alma held up the drawing. "How do you like it?"
Mrs. Leighton bent forward over her sewing to look at it. "You've got
the man's face rather weak."
"Yes, that's so. Either I see all the hidden weakness that's in men's
natures, and bring it to the surface in their figures, or else I put my
own weakness into them. Either way, it's a drawback to their presenting
a truly manly appearance. As long as I have one of the miserable objects
before me, I can draw him; but as soon as his back's turned I get to
putting ladies into men's clothes. I should think you'd be scandalized,
mamma, if you were a really feminine person. It must be your despair
that helps you to bear up. But what's the matter with the young lady in
young lady's clothes? Any dust on her?"
"What expressions!" said Mrs. Leighton. "Really, Alma, for a refined
girl you are the most unrefined!"
"Go on--about the girl in the picture!" said Alma, slightly knocking her
mother on the shoulder, as she stood over her.
"I don't see anything to her. What's she doing?"
"Oh, just being made love to, I suppose."
"She's perfectly insipid!"
"You're awfully articulate, mamma! Now, if Mr. Wetmore were to criticise
that picture he'd draw a circle round it in the air, and look at it
through that, and tilt his head first on one side and then on the other,
and then look at you, as if you were a figure in it, and then collapse
awhile, and moan a little and gasp, 'Isn't your young lady a little too-
too--' and then he'd try to get the word out of you, and groan and suffer
some more; and you'd say, 'She is, rather,' and that would give him
courage, and he'd say, 'I don't mean that she's so very--' 'Of course
not.' 'You understand?' 'Perfectly. I see it myself, now.' 'Well, then'
---and he'd take your pencil and begin to draw--'I should give her a
little more--Ah?' 'Yes, I see the difference.'--'You see the difference?'
And he'd go off to some one else, and you'd know that you'd been doing
the wishy-washiest thing in the world, though he hadn't spoken a word of
criticism, and couldn't. But he wouldn't have noticed the expression at
all; he'd have shown you where your drawing was bad. He doesn't care for
what he calls the literature of a thing; he says that will take care of
itself if the drawing's good. He doesn't like my doing these chic
things; but I'm going to keep it up, for I think it's the nearest way to
She took her sketch and pinned it up on the door.
"And has Mr. Beaton been about, yet?" asked her mother.
"No," said the girl, with her back still turned; and she added,
"I believe he's in New York; Mr. Wetmore's seen him."
"It's a little strange he doesn't call."
"It would be if he were not an artist. But artists never do anything
like other people. He was on his good behavior while he was with us, and
he's a great deal more conventional than most of them; but even he can't
keep it up. That's what makes me really think that women can never
amount to anything in art. They keep all their appointments, and fulfil
all their duties just as if they didn't know anything about art. Well,
most of them don't. We've got that new model to-day."
"What new model?"
"The one Mr. Wetmore was telling us about the old German; he's splendid.
He's got the most beautiful head; just like the old masters' things. He
used to be Humphrey Williams's model for his Biblical-pieces; but since
he's dead, the old man hardly gets anything to do. Mr. Wetmore says
there isn't anybody in the Bible that Williams didn't paint him as.
He's the Law and the Prophets in all his Old Testament pictures, and he's
Joseph, Peter, Judas Iscariot, and the Scribes and Pharisees in the New."
"It's a good thing people don't know how artists work, or some of the
most sacred pictures would have no influence," said Mrs. Leighton.
"Why, of course not!" cried the girl. "And the influence is the last
thing a painter thinks of--or supposes he thinks of. What he knows he's
anxious about is the drawing and the color. But people will never
understand how simple artists are. When I reflect what a complex and
sophisticated being I am, I'm afraid I can never come to anything in art.
Or I should be if I hadn't genius."
"Do you think Mr. Beaton is very simple?" asked Mrs. Leighton.
"Mr. Wetmore doesn't think he's very much of an artist. He thinks he
talks too well. They believe that if a man can express himself clearly
he can't paint."
"And what do you believe?"
"Oh, I can express myself, too."
The mother seemed to be satisfied with this evasion. After a while she
said, "I presume he will call when he gets settled."
The girl made no answer to this. "One of the girls says that old model
is an educated man. He was in the war, and lost a hand. Doesn't it seem
a pity for such a man to have to sit to a class of affected geese like us
as a model? I declare it makes me sick. And we shall keep him a week,
and pay him six or seven dollars for the use of his grand old head, and
then what will he do? The last time he was regularly employed was when
Mr. Mace was working at his Damascus Massacre. Then he wanted so many
Arab sheiks and Christian elders that he kept old Mr. Lindau steadily
employed for six months. Now he has to pick up odd jobs where he can."
"I suppose he has his pension," said Mrs. Leighton.
"No; one of the girls"--that was the way Alma always described her
fellow-students--"says he has no pension. He didn't apply for it for a
long time, and then there was a hitch about it, and it was somethinged
--vetoed, I believe she said."
"Who vetoed it?" asked Mrs. Leighton, with some curiosity about the
process, which she held in reserve.
"I don't know-whoever vetoes things. I wonder what Mr. Wetmore does
think of us--his class. We must seem perfectly crazy. There isn't one
of us really knows what she's doing it for, or what she expects to happen
when she's done it. I suppose every one thinks she has genius. I know
the Nebraska widow does, for she says that unless you have genius it
isn't the least use. Everybody's puzzled to know what she does with her
baby when she's at work--whether she gives it soothing syrup. I wonder
how Mr. Wetmore can keep from laughing in our faces. I know he does
behind our backs."
Mrs. Leighton's mind wandered back to another point. "Then if he says
Mr. Beaton can't paint, I presume he doesn't respect him very much."
"Oh, he never said he couldn't paint. But I know he thinks so. He says
he's an excellent critic."
"Alma," her mother said, with the effect of breaking off, "what do you
suppose is the reason he hasn't been near us?"
"Why, I don't know, mamma, except that it would have been natural for
another person to come, and he's an artist at least, artist enough for
"That doesn't account for it altogether. He was very nice at St.
Barnaby, and seemed so interested in you--your work."
"Plenty of people were nice at St. Barnaby. That rich Mrs. Horn couldn't
contain her joy when she heard we were coming to New York, but she hasn't
poured in upon us a great deal since we got here."
"But that's different. She's very fashionable, and she's taken up with
her own set. But Mr. Beaton's one of our kind."
"Thank you. Papa wasn't quite a tombstone-cutter, mamma."
"That makes it all the harder to bear. He can't be ashamed of us.
Perhaps he doesn't know where we are."
"Do you wish to send him your card, mamma?" The girl flushed and towered
in scorn of the idea.
"Why, no, Alma," returned her mother.
"Well, then," said Alma.
But Mrs. Leighton was not so easily quelled. She had got her mind on Mr.
Beaton, and she could not detach it at once. Besides, she was one of
those women (they are commoner than the same sort of men) whom it does
not pain to take out their most intimate thoughts and examine them in the
light of other people's opinions. "But I don't see how he can behave so.
He must know that--"
"That what, mamma?" demanded the girl.
"That he influenced us a great deal in coming--"
"He didn't. If he dared to presume to think such a thing--"
"Now, Alma," said her mother, with the clinging persistence of such
natures, "you know he did. And it's no use for you to pretend that we
didn't count upon him in--in every way. You may not have noticed his
attentions, and I don't say you did, but others certainly did; and I must
say that I didn't expect he would drop us so."
"Drop us!" cried Alma, in a fury. "Oh!"
"Yes, drop us, Alma. He must know where we are. Of course, Mr.
Wetmore's spoken to him about you, and it's a shame that he hasn't been
near us. I should have thought common gratitude, common decency, would
have brought him after--after all we did for him."
"We did nothing for him--nothing! He paid his board, and that ended it."
"No, it didn't, Alma. You know what he used to say--about its being like
home, and all that; and I must say that after his attentions to you, and
all the things you told me he said, I expected something very dif--"
A sharp peal of the door-bell thrilled through the house, and as if the
pull of the bell-wire had twitched her to her feet, Mrs. Leighton sprang
up and grappled with her daughter in their common terror.
They both glared at the clock and made sure that it was five minutes
after nine. Then they abandoned themselves some moments to the
unrestricted play of their apprehensions.
"Why, Alma," whispered the mother, "who in the world can it be at this
time of night? You don't suppose he--"
"Well, I'm not going to the door, anyhow, mother, I don't care who it is;
and, of course, he wouldn't be such a goose as to come at this hour."
She put on a look of miserable trepidation, and shrank back from the
door, while the hum of the bell died away, in the hall.
"What shall we do?" asked Mrs. Leighton, helplessly.
"Let him go away--whoever they are," said Alma.
Another and more peremptory ring forbade them refuge in this simple
"Oh, dear! what shall we do? Perhaps it's a despatch."
The conjecture moved Alma to no more than a rigid stare. "I shall not
go," she said. A third ring more insistent than the others followed, and
she said: "You go ahead, mamma, and I'll come behind to scream if it's
anybody. We can look through the side-lights at the door first."
Mrs. Leighton fearfully led the way from the back chamber where they bad
been sitting, and slowly descended the stairs. Alma came behind and
turned up the hall gas-jet with a sudden flash that made them both jump a
little. The gas inside rendered it more difficult to tell who was on the
threshold, but Mrs. Leighton decided from a timorous peep through the
scrims that it was a lady and gentleman. Something in this distribution
of sex emboldened her; she took her life in her hand, and opened the
The lady spoke. "Does Mrs. Leighton live heah?" she said, in a rich,
throaty voice; and she feigned a reference to the agent's permit she held
in her hand.
"Yes," said Mrs. Leighton; she mechanically occupied the doorway, while
Alma already quivered behind her with impatience of her impoliteness.
"Oh," said the lady, who began to appear more and more a young lady,
"Ah didn't know but Ah had mistaken the hoase. Ah suppose it's rather
late to see the apawtments, and Ah most ask you to pawdon us." She put
this tentatively, with a delicately growing recognition of Mrs. Leighton
as the lady of the house, and a humorous intelligence of the situation in
the glance she threw Alma over her mother's shoulder. "Ah'm afraid we
most have frightened you."
"Oh, not at all," said Alma; and at the same time her mother said,
"Will you walk in, please?"
The gentleman promptly removed his hat and made the Leightons an
inclusive bow. "You awe very kind, madam, and I am sorry for the trouble
we awe giving you." He was tall and severe-looking, with a gray,
trooperish mustache and iron-gray hair, and, as Alma decided, iron-gray
eyes. His daughter was short, plump, and fresh-colored, with an effect
of liveliness that did not all express itself in her broad-vowelled,
rather formal speech, with its odd valuations of some of the auxiliary
verbs, and its total elision of the canine letter.
"We awe from the Soath," she said, "and we arrived this mawning, but we
got this cyahd from the brokah just befo' dinnah, and so we awe rathah
"Not at all; it's only nine o'clock," said Mrs. Leighton. She looked up
from the card the young lady had given her, and explained, "We haven't
got in our servants yet, and we had to answer the bell ourselves, and--"
"You were frightened, of coase," said the young lady, caressingly.
The gentleman said they ought not to have come so late, and he offered
some formal apologies.
"We should have been just as much scared any time after five o'clock,"
Alma said to the sympathetic intelligence in the girl's face.
She laughed out. "Of coase! Ah would have my hawt in my moath all day
long, too, if Ah was living in a big hoase alone."
A moment of stiffness followed; Mrs. Leighton would have liked to
withdraw from the intimacy of the situation, but she did not know how.
It was very well for these people to assume to be what they pretended;
but, she reflected too late, she had no proof of it except the agent's
permit. They were all standing in the hall together, and she prolonged
the awkward pause while she examined the permit. "You are Mr. Woodburn?"
she asked, in a way that Alma felt implied he might not be.
"Yes, madam; from Charlottesboag, Virginia," he answered, with the slight
umbrage a man shows when the strange cashier turns his check over and
questions him before cashing it.
Alma writhed internally, but outwardly remained subordinate; she examined
the other girl's dress, and decided in a superficial consciousness that
she had made her own bonnet.
"I shall be glad to show you my rooms," said Mrs. Leighton, with an
irrelevant sigh. "You must excuse their being not just as I should wish
them. We're hardly settled yet."
"Don't speak of it, madam," said the gentleman, "if you can overlook the
trouble we awe giving you at such an unseasonable houah."
"Ah'm a hoasekeepah mahself," Miss Woodburn joined in, "and Ah know ho'
to accyoant fo' everything."
Mrs. Leighton led the way up-stairs, and the young lady decided upon the
large front room and small side room on the third story. She said she
could take the small one, and the other was so large that her father
could both sleep and work in it. She seemed not ashamed to ask if Mrs.
Leighton's price was inflexible, but gave way laughing when her father
refused to have any bargaining, with a haughty self-respect which he
softened to deference for Mrs. Leighton. His impulsiveness opened the
way for some confidence from her, and before the affair was arranged she
was enjoying in her quality of clerical widow the balm of the Virginians'
reverent sympathy. They said they were church people themselves.
"Ah don't know what yo' mothah means by yo' hoase not being in oddah,"
the young lady said to Alma as they went down-stairs together. "Ah'm a
great hoasekeepah mahself, and Ah mean what Ah say."
They had all turned mechanically into the room where the Leightons were
sitting when the Woodburns rang: Mr. Woodburn consented to sit down, and
he remained listening to Mrs. Leighton while his daughter bustled up to
the sketches pinned round the room and questioned Alma about them.
"Ah suppose you awe going to be a great awtust?" she said, in friendly
banter, when Alma owned to having done the things. "Ah've a great notion
to take a few lessons mahself. Who's yo' teachah?"
Alma said she was drawing in Mr. Wetmore's class, and Miss Woodburn said:
"Well, it's just beautiful, Miss Leighton; it's grand. Ah suppose it's
raght expensive, now? Mah goodness! we have to cyoant the coast so much
nowadays; it seems to me we do nothing but cyoant it. Ah'd like to hah
something once without askin' the price."
"Well, if you didn't ask it," said Alma, "I don't believe Mr. Wetmore
would ever know what the price of his lessons was. He has to think, when
you ask him."
"Why, he most be chomming," said Miss Woodburn. "Perhaps Ah maght get
the lessons for nothing from him. Well, Ah believe in my soul Ah'll
trah. Now ho' did you begin? and ho' do you expect to get anything oat
of it?" She turned on Alma eyes brimming with a shrewd mixture of fun
and earnest, and Alma made note of the fact that she had an early
nineteenth-century face, round, arch, a little coquettish, but extremely
sensible and unspoiled-looking, such as used to be painted a good deal in
miniature at that period; a tendency of her brown hair to twine and twist
at the temples helped the effect; a high comb would have completed it,
Alma felt, if she had her bonnet off. It was almost a Yankee country-
girl type; but perhaps it appeared so to Alma because it was, like that,
pure Anglo-Saxon. Alma herself, with her dull, dark skin, slender in
figure, slow in speech, with aristocratic forms in her long hands, and
the oval of her fine face pointed to a long chin, felt herself much more
Southern in style than this blooming, bubbling, bustling Virginian.
"I don't know," she answered, slowly.
"Going to take po'traits," suggested Miss Woodburn, "or just paint the
ahdeal?" A demure burlesque lurked in her tone.
"I suppose I don't expect to paint at all," said Alma. "I'm going to
illustrate books--if anybody will let me."
"Ah should think they'd just joamp at you," said Miss Woodburn. "Ah'll
tell you what let's do, Miss Leighton: you make some pictures, and Ah'll
wrahte a book fo' them. Ah've got to do something. Ali maght as well
wrahte a book. You know we Southerners have all had to go to woak. But
Ah don't mand it. I tell papa I shouldn't ca' fo' the disgrace of bein'
poo' if it wasn't fo' the inconvenience."
"Yes, it's inconvenient," said Alma; "but you forget it when you're at
work, don't you think?"
"Mah, yes! Perhaps that's one reason why poo' people have to woak so
hawd-to keep their wands off their poverty."
The girls both tittered, and turned from talking in a low tone with their
backs toward their elders, and faced them.
"Well, Madison," said Mr. Woodburn, "it is time we should go. I bid you
good-night, madam," he bowed to Mrs. Leighton. "Good-night," he bowed
again to Alma.
His daughter took leave of them in formal phrase, but with a jolly
cordiality of manner that deformalized it. "We shall be roand raght soon
in the mawning, then," she threatened at the door.
"We shall be all ready for you," Alma called after her down the steps.
"Well, Alma?" her mother asked, when the door closed upon them.
"She doesn't know any more about art," said Alma, "than--nothing at all.
But she's jolly and good-hearted. She praised everything that was bad in
my sketches, and said she was going to take lessons herself. When a
person talks about taking lessons, as if they could learn it, you know
where they belong artistically."
Mrs. Leighton shook her head with a sigh. "I wish I knew where they
belonged financially. We shall have to get in two girls at once. I
shall have to go out the first thing in the morning, and then our
troubles will begin."
"Well, didn't you want them to begin? I will stay home and help you get
ready. Our prosperity couldn't begin without the troubles, if you mean
boarders, and boarders mean servants. I shall be very glad to be
afflicted with a cook for a while myself."
"Yes; but we don't know anything about these people, or whether they will
be able to pay us. Did she talk as if they were well off?"
"She talked as if they were poor; poo' she called it."
"Yes, how queerly she pronounced," said Mrs. Leighton. "Well, I ought to
have told them that I required the first week in advance."
"Mamma! If that's the way you're going to act!"
"Oh, of course, I couldn't, after he wouldn't let her bargain for the
rooms. I didn't like that."
"I did. And you can see that they were perfect ladies; or at least one
of them." Alma laughed at herself, but her mother did not notice.
"Their being ladies won't help if they've got no money. It 'll make it
all the worse."
"Very well, then; we have no money, either. We're a match for them any
day there. We can show them that two can play at that game."
Arnus Beaton's studio looked at first glance like many other painters'
studios. A gray wall quadrangularly vaulted to a large north light;
casts of feet, hands, faces hung to nails about; prints, sketches in oil
and water-color stuck here and there lower down; a rickety table, with
paint and palettes and bottles of varnish and siccative tossed
comfortlessly on it; an easel, with a strip of some faded mediaeval silk
trailing from it; a lay figure simpering in incomplete nakedness, with
its head on one side, and a stocking on one leg, and a Japanese dress
dropped before it; dusty rugs and skins kicking over the varnished floor;
canvases faced to the mop-board; an open trunk overflowing with costumes:
these features one might notice anywhere. But, besides, there was a
bookcase with an unusual number of books in it, and there was an open
colonial writing-desk, claw-footed, brass-handled, and scutcheoned, with
foreign periodicals--French and English--littering its leaf, and some
pages of manuscript scattered among them. Above all, there was a
sculptor's revolving stand, supporting a bust which Beaton was modelling,
with an eye fixed as simultaneously as possible on the clay and on the
head of the old man who sat on the platform beside it.
Few men have been able to get through the world with several gifts to
advantage in all; and most men seem handicapped for the race if they have
more than one. But they are apparently immensely interested as well as
distracted by them. When Beaton was writing, he would have agreed,
up to a certain point, with any one who said literature was his proper
expression; but, then, when he was painting, up to a certain point,
he would have maintained against the world that he was a colorist,
and supremely a colorist. At the certain point in either art he was apt
to break away in a frenzy of disgust and wreak himself upon some other.
In these moods he sometimes designed elevations of buildings, very
striking, very original, very chic, very everything but habitable.
It was in this way that he had tried his hand on sculpture, which he had
at first approached rather slightingly as a mere decorative accessory of
architecture. But it had grown in his respect till he maintained that
the accessory business ought to be all the other way: that temples should
be raised to enshrine statues, not statues made to ornament temples; that
was putting the cart before the horse with a vengeance. This was when he
had carried a plastic study so far that the sculptors who saw it said
that Beaton might have been an architect, but would certainly never be a
sculptor. At the same time he did some hurried, nervous things that had
a popular charm, and that sold in plaster reproductions, to the profit of
another. Beaton justly despised the popular charm in these, as well as
in the paintings he sold from time to time; he said it was flat burglary
to have taken money for them, and he would have been living almost wholly
upon the bounty of the old tombstone-cutter in Syracuse if it had not
been for the syndicate letters which he supplied to Fulkerson for ten
dollars a week.
They were very well done, but he hated doing them after the first two or
three, and had to be punched up for them by Fulkerson, who did not cease
to prize them, and who never failed to punch him up. Beaton being what
he was, Fulkerson was his creditor as well as patron; and Fulkerson being
what he was, had an enthusiastic patience with the elusive, facile,
adaptable, unpractical nature of Beaton. He was very proud of his art-
letters, as he called them; but then Fulkerson was proud of everything he
secured for his syndicate. The fact that he had secured it gave it
value; he felt as if he had written it himself.
One art trod upon another's heels with Beaton. The day before he had
rushed upon canvas the conception of a picture which he said to himself
was glorious, and to others (at the table d'hote of Maroni) was not bad.
He had worked at it in a fury till the light failed him, and he execrated
the dying day. But he lit his lamp and transferred the process of his
thinking from the canvas to the opening of the syndicate letter which be
knew Fulkerson would be coming for in the morning. He remained talking
so long after dinner in the same strain as he had painted and written in
that he could not finish his letter that night. The next morning, while
he was making his tea for breakfast, the postman brought him a letter
from his father enclosing a little check, and begging him with tender,
almost deferential, urgence to come as lightly upon him as possible, for
just now his expenses were very heavy. It brought tears of shame into
Beaton's eyes--the fine, smouldering, floating eyes that many ladies
admired, under the thick bang--and he said to himself that if he were
half a man he would go home and go to work cutting gravestones in his
father's shop. But he would wait, at least, to finish his picture; and
as a sop to his conscience, to stay its immediate ravening, he resolved
to finish that syndicate letter first, and borrow enough money from
Fulkerson to be able to send his father's check back; or, if not that,
then to return the sum of it partly in Fulkerson's check. While he still
teemed with both of these good intentions the old man from whom he was
modelling his head of Judas came, and Beaton saw that he must get through
with him before he finished either the picture or the letter; he would
have to pay him for the time, anyway. He utilized the remorse with which
he was tingling to give his Judas an expression which he found novel in
the treatment of that character--a look of such touching, appealing self-
abhorrence that Beaton's artistic joy in it amounted to rapture; between
the breathless moments when he worked in dead silence for an effect that
was trying to escape him, he sang and whistled fragments of comic opera.
In one of the hushes there came a blow on the outside of the door that
made Beaton jump, and swear with a modified profanity that merged itself
in apostrophic prayer. He knew it must be Fulkerson, and after roaring
"Come in!" he said to the model, "That 'll do this morning, Lindau."
Fulkerson squared his feet in front of the bust and compared it by
fleeting glances with the old man as he got stiffly up and suffered
Beaton to help him on with his thin, shabby overcoat.
"Can you come to-morrow, Lindau?"
"No, not to-morrow, Mr. Peaton. I haf to zit for the young ladties."
"Oh!" said Beaton. "Wet-more's class? Is Miss Leighton doing you?"
"I don't know their namess," Lindau began, when Fulkerson said:
"Hope you haven't forgotten mine, Mr. Lindau? I met you with Mr. March
at Maroni's one night." Fulkerson offered him a universally shakable
"Oh yes! I am gladt to zee you again, Mr. Vulkerson. And Mr. Marge--he
don't zeem to gome any more?"
"Up to his eyes in work. Been moving on from Boston and getting settled,
and starting in on our enterprise. Beaton here hasn't got a very
flattering likeness of you, hey? Well, good-morning," he said, for
Lindau appeared not to have heard him and was escaping with a bow through
Beaton lit a cigarette which he pinched nervously between his lips before
he spoke. "You've come for that letter, I suppose, Fulkerson? It isn't
Fulkerson turned from staring at the bust to which he had mounted. "What
you fretting about that letter for? I don't want your letter."
Beaton stopped biting his cigarette and looked at him. "Don't want my
letter? Oh, very good!" he bristled up. He took his cigarette from his
lips, and blew the smoke through his nostrils, and then looked at
"No; I don't want your letter; I want you."
Beacon disdained to ask an explanation, but he internally lowered his
crest, while he continued to look at Fulkerson without changing his
defiant countenance. This suited Fulkerson well enough, and he went on
with relish, "I'm going out of the syndicate business, old man, and I'm
on a new thing." He put his leg over the back of a chair and rested his
foot on its seat, and, with one hand in his pocket, he laid the scheme of
'Every Other Week' before Beaton with the help of the other. The artist
went about the room, meanwhile, with an effect of indifference which by
no means offended Fulkerson. He took some water into his mouth from a
tumbler, which he blew in a fine mist over the head of Judas before
swathing it in a dirty cotton cloth; he washed his brushes and set his
palette; he put up on his easel the picture he had blocked on the day
before, and stared at it with a gloomy face; then he gathered the sheets
of his unfinished letter together and slid them into a drawer of his
writing-desk. By the time he had finished and turned again to Fulkerson,
Fulkerson was saying: "I did think we could have the first number out by
New-Year's; but it will take longer than that--a month longer; but I'm
not sorry, for the holidays kill everything; and by February, or the
middle of February, people will get their breath again and begin to look
round and ask what's new. Then we'll reply in the language of
Shakespeare and Milton, 'Every Other Week; and don't you forget it.'"
He took down his leg and asked, "Got a pipe of 'baccy anywhere?"
Beaton nodded at a clay stem sticking out of a Japanese vase of bronze on
his mantel. "There's yours," he said; and Fulkerson said, "Thanks," and
filled the pipe and sat down and began to smoke tranquilly.
Beaton saw that he would have to speak now. "And what do you want with
"You? Oh yes," Fulkerson humorously dramatized a return to himself from
a pensive absence. "Want you for the art department."
Beaton shook his head. "I'm not your man, Fulkerson," he said,
compassionately. "You want a more practical hand, one that's in touch
with what's going. I'm getting further and further away from this
century and its claptrap. I don't believe in your enterprise; I don't
respect it, and I won't have anything to do with it. It would-choke me,
that kind of thing."
"That's all right," said Fulkerson. He esteemed a man who was not going
to let himself go cheap. "Or if it isn't, we can make it. You and March
will pull together first-rate. I don't care how much ideal you put into
the thing; the more the better. I can look after the other end of the
"You don't understand me," said Beaton. "I'm not trying to get a rise
out of you. I'm in earnest. What you want is some man who can have
patience with mediocrity putting on the style of genius, and with genius
turning mediocrity on his hands. I haven't any luck with men; I don't
get on with them; I'm not popular." Beaton recognized the fact with the
satisfaction which it somehow always brings to human pride.
"So much the better!" Fulkerson was ready for him at this point.
"I don't want you to work the old-established racket the reputations.
When I want them I'll go to them with a pocketful of rocks--knock-down
argument. But my idea is to deal with the volunteer material. Look at
the way the periodicals are carried on now! Names! names! names! In a
country that's just boiling over with literary and artistic ability of
every kind the new fellows have no chance. The editors all engage their
material. I don't believe there are fifty volunteer contributions
printed in a year in all the New York magazines. It's all wrong; it's
suicidal. 'Every Other Week' is going back to the good old anonymous
system, the only fair system. It's worked well in literature, and it
will work well in art."
"It won't work well in art," said Beaton. "There you have a totally
different set of conditions. What you'll get by inviting volunteer
illustrations will be a lot of amateur trash. And how are you going to
submit your literature for illustration? It can't be done. At any rate,
I won't undertake to do it."
"We'll get up a School of Illustration," said Fulkerson, with cynical
security. "You can read the things and explain 'em, and your pupils can
make their sketches under your eye. They wouldn't be much further out
than most illustrations are if they never knew what they were
illustrating. You might select from what comes in and make up a sort of
pictorial variations to the literature without any particular reference
to it. Well, I understand you to accept?"
"No, you don't."
"That is, to consent to help us with your advice and criticism. That's
all I want. It won't commit you to anything; and you can be as anonymous
as anybody." At the door Fulkerson added: "By-the-way, the new man--the
fellow that's taken my old syndicate business--will want you to keep on;
but I guess he's going to try to beat you down on the price of the
letters. He's going in for retrenchment. I brought along a check for
this one; I'm to pay for that." He offered Beaton an envelope.
"I can't take it, Fulkerson. The letter's paid for already." Fulkerson
stepped forward and laid the envelope on the table among the tubes of
"It isn't the letter merely. I thought you wouldn't object to a little
advance on your 'Every Other Week' work till you kind of got started."
Beaton remained inflexible. "It can't be done, Fulkerson. Don't I tell
you I can't sell myself out to a thing I don't believe in? Can't you
"Oh yes; I can understand that first-rate. I don't want to buy you; I
want to borrow you. It's all right. See? Come round when you can; I'd
like to introduce you to old March. That's going to be our address." He
put a card on the table beside the envelope, and Beaton allowed him to go
without making him take the check back. He had remembered his father's
plea; that unnerved him, and he promised himself again to return his
father's poor little check and to work on that picture and give it to
Fulkerson for the check he had left and for his back debts. He resolved
to go to work on the picture at once; he had set his palette for it; but
first he looked at Fulkerson's check. It was for only fifty dollars, and
the canny Scotch blood in Beaton rebelled; he could not let this picture
go for any such money; he felt a little like a man whose generosity has
been trifled with. The conflict of emotions broke him up, and he could
The day wasted away in Beaton's hands; at half-past four o'clock he went
out to tea at the house of a lady who was At Home that afternoon from
four till seven. By this time Beaton was in possession of one of those
other selves of which we each have several about us, and was again the
laconic, staccato, rather worldlified young artist whose moments of a
controlled utterance and a certain distinction of manner had commended
him to Mrs. Horn's fancy in the summer at St. Barnaby.
Mrs. Horn's rooms were large, and they never seemed very full, though
this perhaps was because people were always so quiet. The ladies, who
outnumbered the men ten to one, as they always do at a New York tea, were
dressed in sympathy with the low tone every one spoke in, and with the
subdued light which gave a crepuscular uncertainty to the few objects,
the dim pictures, the unexcited upholstery, of the rooms. One breathed
free of bric-a-brac there, and the new-comer breathed softly as one does
on going into church after service has begun. This might be a suggestion
from the voiceless behavior of the man-servant who let you in, but it was
also because Mrs. Horn's At Home was a ceremony, a decorum, and not
festival. At far greater houses there was more gayety, at richer houses
there was more freedom; the suppression at Mrs. Horn's was a personal,
not a social, effect; it was an efflux of her character, demure,
silentious, vague, but very correct.
Beaton easily found his way to her around the grouped skirts and among
the detached figures, and received a pressure of welcome from the hand
which she momentarily relaxed from the tea-pot. She sat behind a table
put crosswise of a remote corner, and offered tea to people whom a niece
of hers received provisionally or sped finally in the outer room. They
did not usually take tea, and when they did they did not usually drink
it; but Beaton was, feverishly glad of his cup; he took rum and lemon in
it, and stood talking at Mrs. Horn's side till the next arrival should
displace him: he talked in his French manner.
"I have been hoping to see you," she said. "I wanted to ask you about
the Leightons. Did they really come?"
"I believe so. They are in town--yes. I haven't seen them."
"Then you don't know how they're getting on--that pretty creature, with
her cleverness, and poor Mrs. Leighton? I was afraid they were venturing
on a rash experiment. Do you know where they are?"
"In West Eleventh Street somewhere. Miss Leighton is in Mr. Wetmore's
"I must look them up. Do you know their number?"
"Not at the moment. I can find out."
"Do," said Mrs. Horn. "What courage they must have, to plunge into New
York as they've done! I really didn't think they would. I wonder if
they've succeeded in getting anybody into their house yet?"
"I don't know," said Beaton.
"I discouraged their coming all I could," she sighed, "and I suppose you
did, too. But it's quite useless trying to make people in a place like
St. Barnaby understand how it is in town."
"Yes," said Beaton. He stirred his tea, while inwardly he tried to
believe that he had really discouraged the Leightons from coming to New
York. Perhaps the vexation of his failure made him call Mrs. Horn in his
heart a fraud.
"Yes," she went on, "it is very, very hard. And when they won't
understand, and rush on their doom, you feel that they are going to hold
Mrs. Horn's eyes wandered from Beaton; her voice faltered in the faded
interest of her remark, and then rose with renewed vigor in greeting a
lady who came up and stretched her glove across the tea-cups.
Beaton got himself away and out of the house with a much briefer adieu to
the niece than he had meant to make. The patronizing compassion of Mrs.
Horn for the Leightons filled him with indignation toward her, toward
himself. There was no reason why he should not have ignored them as he
had done; but there was a feeling. It was his nature to be careless, and
he had been spoiled into recklessness; he neglected everybody, and only
remembered them when it suited his whim or his convenience; but he
fiercely resented the inattentions of others toward himself. He had no
scruple about breaking an engagement or failing to keep an appointment;
he made promises without thinking of their fulfilment, and not because he
was a faithless person, but because he was imaginative, and expected at
the time to do what he said, but was fickle, and so did not. As most of
his shortcomings were of a society sort, no great harm was done to
anybody else. He had contracted somewhat the circle of his acquaintance
by what some people called his rudeness, but most people treated it as
his oddity, and were patient with it. One lady said she valued his
coming when he said he would come because it had the charm of the
unexpected. "Only it shows that it isn't always the unexpected that
happens," she explained.
It did not occur to him that his behavior was immoral; he did not realize
that it was creating a reputation if not a character for him. While we
are still young we do not realize that our actions have this effect. It
seems to us that people will judge us from what we think and feel. Later
we find out that this is impossible; perhaps we find it out too late;
some of us never find it out at all.
In spite of his shame about the Leightons, Beaton had no present
intention of looking them up or sending Mrs. Horn their address. As a
matter of fact, he never did send it; but he happened to meet Mr. Wetmore
and his wife at the restaurant where he dined, and he got it of the
painter for himself. He did not ask him how Miss Leighton was getting
on; but Wetmore launched out, with Alma for a tacit text, on the futility
of women generally going in for art. "Even when they have talent they've
got too much against them. Where a girl doesn't seem very strong, like
Miss Leighton, no amount of chic is going to help."
His wife disputed him on behalf of her sex, as women always do.
"No, Dolly," he persisted; "she'd better be home milking the cows and
leading the horse to water."
Do you think she'd better be up till two in the morning at balls and
going all day to receptions and luncheons?"
"Oh, guess it isn't a question of that, even if she weren't drawing.
You knew them at home," he said to Beaton.
"I remember. Her mother said you suggested me. Well, the girl has some
notion of it; there's no doubt about that. But--she's a woman. The
trouble with these talented girls is that they're all woman. If they
weren't, there wouldn't be much chance for the men, Beaton. But we've
got Providence on our own side from the start. I'm able to watch all
their inspirations with perfect composure. I know just how soon it's
going to end in nervous breakdown. Somebody ought to marry them all and
put them out of their misery."
"And what will you do with your students who are married already?" his
wife said. She felt that she had let him go on long enough.
"Oh, they ought to get divorced."
"You ought to be ashamed to take their money if that's what you think of
"My dear, I have a wife to support."
Beaton intervened with a question. "Do you mean that Miss Leighton isn't
standing it very well?"
"How do I know? She isn't the kind that bends; she's the kind that
After a little silence Mrs. Wetmore asked, "Won't you come home with us,
"Thank you; no. I have an engagement."
"I don't see why that should prevent you," said Wetmore. "But you always
were a punctilious cuss. Well!"
Beaton lingered over his cigar; but no one else whom he knew came in,
and he yielded to the threefold impulse of conscience, of curiosity,
of inclination, in going to call at the Leightons'. He asked for the
ladies, and the maid showed him into the parlor, where he found Mrs.
Leighton and Miss Woodburn.
The widow met him with a welcome neatly marked by resentment; she meant
him to feel that his not coming sooner had been noticed. Miss Woodburn
bubbled and gurgled on, and did what she could to mitigate his
punishment, but she did not feel authorized to stay it, till Mrs.
Leighton, by studied avoidance of her daughter's name, obliged Beaton to
ask for her. Then Miss Woodburn caught up her work, and said, "Ah'll go
and tell her, Mrs. Leighton." At the top of the stairs she found Alma,
and Alma tried to make it seem as if she had not been standing there.
"Mah goodness, chald! there's the handsomest young man asking for you
down there you evah saw. Alh told you' mothah Ah would come up fo' you."
" What--who is it?"
" Don't you know? But bo' could you? He's got the most beautiful eyes,
and he wea's his hai' in a bang, and he talks English like it was
something else, and his name's Mr. Beaton."
"Did he-ask for me?" said Alma, with a dreamy tone. She put her hand on
the stairs rail, and a little shiver ran over her.
"Didn't I tell you? Of coase he did! And you ought to go raght down if
you want to save the poo' fellah's lahfe; you' mothah's just freezin' him
"She is?" cried Alma. "Tchk!" She flew downstairs, and flitted swiftly
into the room, and fluttered up to Beaton, and gave him a crushing hand-
"How very kind, of you to come and see us, Mr. Beaton! When did you come
to New York? Don't you find it warm here? We've only just lighted the
furnace, but with this mild weather it seems too early. Mamma does keep
it so hot!" She rushed about opening doors and shutting registers, and
then came back and sat facing him from the sofa with a mask of radiant
cordiality. "How have you been since we saw you?"
"Very well," said Beaton. "I hope you're well, Miss Leighton?"
"Oh, perfectly! I think New York agrees with us both wonderfully. I
never knew such air. And to think of our not having snow yet! I should
think everybody would want to come here! Why don't you come,
Beaton lifted his eyes and looked at her. "I--I live in New York," he
"In New York City!" she exclaimed.
"Surely, Alma," said her mother, "you remember Mr. Beaton's telling us he
lived in New York."
"But I thought you came from Rochester; or was it Syracuse? I always
get those places mixed up."
"Probably I told you my father lived at Syracuse. I've been in New York
ever since I came home from Paris," said Beaton, with the confusion of a
man who feels himself played upon by a woman.
"From Paris!" Alma echoed, leaning forward, with her smiling mask tight
on. "Wasn't it Munich where you studied?"
"I was at Munich, too. I met Wetmore there."
"Oh, do you know Mr. Wetmore?"
"Why, Alma," her mother interposed again, "it was Mr. Beaton who told you
of Mr. Wetmore."
"Was it? Why, yes, to be sure. It was Mrs. Horn who suggested Mr.
Ilcomb. I remember now. I can't thank you enough for having sent me to
Mr. Wetmore, Mr. Beaton. Isn't he delightful? Oh yes, I'm a perfect
Wetmorian, I can assure you. The whole class is the same way."
"I just met him and Mrs. Wetmore at dinner," said Beaton, attempting the
recovery of something that he had lost through the girl's shining ease
and steely sprightliness. She seemed to him so smooth and hard, with a
repellent elasticity from which he was flung off. "I hope you're not
working too hard, Miss Leighton?"
"Oh no! I enjoy every minute of it, and grow stronger on it. Do I look
very much wasted away?" She looked him full in the face, brilliantly
smiling, and intentionally beautiful.
"No," he said, with a slow sadness; "I never saw you looking better."
"Poor Mr. Beaton!" she said, in recognition of his doleful tune. "It
seems to be quite a blow."
"I remember all the good advice you used to give me about not working too
hard, and probably it's that that's saved my life--that and the house-
hunting. Has mamma told you of our adventures in getting settled?
"Some time we must. It was such fun! And didn't you think we were
fortunate to get such a pretty house? You must see both our parlors."
She jumped up, and her mother followed her with a bewildered look as she
ran into the back parlor and flashed up the gas.
"Come in here, Mr. Beaton. I want to show you the great feature of the
house." She opened the low windows that gave upon a glazed veranda
stretching across the end of the room. "Just think of this in New York!
You can't see it very well at night, but when the southern sun pours in
here all the afternoon--"
"Yes, I can imagine it," he said. He glanced up at the bird-cage hanging
from the roof. "I suppose Gypsy enjoys it."
"You remember Gypsy?" she said; and she made a cooing, kissing little
noise up at the bird, who responded drowsily. "Poor old Gypsum! Well,
he sha'n't be disturbed. Yes, it's Gyp's delight, and Colonel Woodburn
likes to write here in the morning. Think of us having a real live
author in the house! And Miss Woodburn: I'm so glad you've seen her!
They're Southern people."
"Yes, that was obvious in her case."
"From her accent? Isn't it fascinating? I didn't believe I could ever
endure Southerners, but we're like one family with the Woodburns. I
should think you'd want to paint Miss Woodburn. Don't you think her
coloring is delicious? And such a quaint kind of eighteenth-century type
of beauty! But she's perfectly lovely every way, and everything she says
is so funny. The Southerners seem to be such great talkers; better than
we are, don't you think?"
"I don't know," said Beaton, in pensive discouragement. He was sensible
of being manipulated, operated, but he was helpless to escape from the
performer or to fathom her motives. His pensiveness passed into gloom,
and was degenerating into sulky resentment when he went away, after
several failures to get back to the old ground he had held in relation to
Alma. He retrieved something of it with Mrs. Leighton; but Alma
glittered upon him to the last with a keen impenetrable candor, a child-
like singleness of glance, covering unfathomable reserve.
"Well, Alma," said her mother, when the door had closed upon him.
"Well, mother." Then, after a moment, she said, with a rush: "Did you
think I was going to let him suppose we were piqued at his not coming?
Did you suppose I was going to let him patronize us, or think that we
were in the least dependent on his favor or friendship?"
Her mother did not attempt to answer her. She merely said, "I shouldn't
think he would come any more."
"Well, we have got on so far without him; perhaps we can live through the
rest of the winter."
"I couldn't help feeling sorry for him. He was quite stupefied. I could
see that he didn't know what to make of you."
"He's not required to make anything of me," said Alma.
"Do you think he really believed you had forgotten all those things?"
"Impossible to say, mamma."
"Well, I don't think it was quite right, Alma."
"I'll leave him to you the next time. Miss Woodburn said you were
freezing him to death when I came down."
"That was quite different. But, there won't be any next time, I'm
afraid," sighed Mrs. Leighton.
Beaton went home feeling sure there would not. He tried to read when he
got to his room; but Alma's looks, tones, gestures, whirred through and
through the woof of the story like shuttles; he could not keep them out,
and he fell asleep at last, not because he forgot them, but because he
forgave them. He was able to say to himself that he had been justly cut
off from kindness which he knew how to value in losing it. He did not
expect ever to right himself in Alma's esteem, but he hoped some day to
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