The Entire March Family Trilogy
William Dean Howells
Part 9 out of 21
man had acknowledged that the ladies were at home, and had taken her card
to them, she sat waiting for them in the drawing-room. Her study of its
appointments, with their impersonal costliness, gave her no suggestion
how to proceed; the two sisters were upon her before she had really
decided, and she rose to meet them with the conviction that she was going
to play a part for want of some chosen means of not doing so. She found
herself, before she knew it, making her banjo a property in the little
comedy, and professing so much pleasure in the fact that Miss Dryfoos was
taking it up; she had herself been so much interested by it. Anything,
she said, was a relief from the piano; and then, between the guitar and
the banjo, one must really choose the banjo, unless one wanted to devote
one's whole natural life to the violin. Of course, there was the
mandolin; but Margaret asked if they did not feel that the bit of shell
you struck it with interposed a distance between you and the real soul of
the instrument; and then it did have such a faint, mosquitoy little tone!
She made much of the question, which they left her to debate alone while
they gazed solemnly at her till she characterized the tone of the
mandolin, when Mela broke into a large, coarse laugh.
"Well, that's just what it does sound like," she explained defiantly to
her sister. "I always feel like it was going to settle somewhere, and I
want to hit myself a slap before it begins to bite. I don't see what
ever brought such a thing into fashion."
Margaret had not expected to be so powerfully seconded, and she asked,
after gathering herself together, "And you are both learning the banjo?"
"My, no!" said Mela, "I've gone through enough with the piano. Christine
is learnun' it."
"I'm so glad you are making my banjo useful at the outset, Miss Dryfoos."
Both girls stared at her, but found it hard to cope with the fact that
this was the lady friend whose banjo Beaton had lent them. "Mr. Beaton
mentioned that he had left it here. I hope you'll keep it as long as you
find it useful."
At this amiable speech even Christine could not help thanking her.
"Of course," she said, "I expect to get another, right off. Mr. Beaton
is going to choose it for me."
"You are very fortunate. If you haven't a teacher yet I should so like
to recommend mine."
Mela broke out in her laugh again. "Oh, I guess Christine's pretty well
suited with the one she's got," she said, with insinuation. Her sister
gave her a frowning glance, and Margaret did not tempt her to explain.
"Then that's much better," she said. "I have a kind of superstition in
such matters; I don't like to make a second choice. In a shop I like to
take the first thing of the kind I'm looking for, and even if I choose
further I come back to the original."
"How funny!" said Mela. "Well, now, I'm just the other way. I always
take the last thing, after I've picked over all the rest. My luck always
seems to be at the bottom of the heap. Now, Christine, she's more like
you. I believe she could walk right up blindfolded and put her hand on
the thing she wants every time."
"I'm like father," said Christine, softened a little by the celebration
of her peculiarity. "He says the reason so many people don't get what
they want is that they don't want it bad enough. Now, when I want a
thing, it seems to me that I want it all through."
"Well, that's just like father, too," said Mela. "That's the way he done
when he got that eighty-acre piece next to Moffitt that he kept when he
sold the farm, and that's got some of the best gas-wells on it now that
there is anywhere." She addressed the explanation to her sister, to the
exclusion of Margaret, who, nevertheless, listened with a smiling face
and a resolutely polite air of being a party to the conversation. Mela
rewarded her amiability by saying to her, finally, "You've never been in
the natural-gas country, have you?"
"Oh no! And I should so much like to see it!" said Margaret, with a
fervor that was partly, voluntary.
"Would you? Well, we're kind of sick of it, but I suppose it would
strike a stranger."
"I never got tired of looking at the big wells when they lit them up,"
said Christine. "It seems as if the world was on fire."
"Yes, and when you see the surface-gas burnun' down in the woods, like it
used to by our spring-house-so still, and never spreadun' any, just like
a bed of some kind of wild flowers when you ketch sight of it a piece
They began to tell of the wonders of their strange land in an antiphony
of reminiscences and descriptions; they unconsciously imputed a merit to
themselves from the number and violence of the wells on their father's
property; they bragged of the high civilization of Moffitt, which they
compared to its advantage with that of New York. They became excited by
Margaret's interest in natural gas, and forgot to be suspicious and
She said, as she rose, "Oh, how much I should like to see it all!" Then
she made a little pause, and added:
"I'm so sorry my aunt's Thursdays are over; she never has them after
Lent, but we're to have some people Tuesday evening at a little concert
which a musical friend is going to give with some other artists. There
won't be any banjos, I'm afraid, but there'll be some very good singing,
and my aunt would be so glad if you could come with your mother."
She put down her aunt's card on the table near her, while Mela gurgled,
as if it were the best joke: "Oh, my! Mother never goes anywhere; you
couldn't get her out for love or money." But she was herself overwhelmed
with a simple joy at Margaret's politeness, and showed it in a sensuous
way, like a child, as if she had been tickled. She came closer to
Margaret and seemed about to fawn physically upon her.
"Ain't she just as lovely as she can live?" she demanded of her sister
when Margaret was gone.
"I don't know," said Christine. "I guess she wanted to know who
Mr. Beaton had been lending her banjo to."
"Pshaw! Do you suppose she's in love with him?" asked Mela, and then
she broke into her hoarse laugh at the look her sister gave her. "Well,
don't eat me, Christine! I wonder who she is, anyway? I'm goun' to git
it out of Mr. Beaton the next time he calls. I guess she's somebody.
Mrs. Mandel can tell. I wish that old friend of hers would hurry up and
git well--or something. But I guess we appeared about as well as she
did. I could see she was afraid of you, Christine. I reckon it's
gittun' around a little about father; and when it does I don't believe we
shall want for callers. Say, are you goun'? To that concert of theirs?"
"I don't know. Not till I know who they are first."
"Well, we've got to hump ourselves if we're goun' to find out before
As she went home Margaret felt wrought in her that most incredible of the
miracles, which, nevertheless, any one may make his experience. She felt
kindly to these girls because she had tried to make them happy, and she
hoped that in the interest she had shown there had been none of the
poison of flattery. She was aware that this was a risk she ran in such
an attempt to do good. If she had escaped this effect she was willing to
leave the rest with Providence.
The notion that a girl of Margaret Vance's traditions would naturally
form of girls like Christine and Mela Dryfoos would be that they were
abashed in the presence of the new conditions of their lives, and that
they must receive the advance she had made them with a certain grateful
humility. However they received it, she had made it upon principle, from
a romantic conception of duty; but this was the way she imagined they
would receive it, because she thought that she would have done so if she
had been as ignorant and unbred as they. Her error was in arguing their
attitude from her own temperament, and endowing them, for the purposes of
argument, with her perspective. They had not the means, intellectual or
moral, of feeling as she fancied. If they had remained at home on the
farm where they were born, Christine would have grown up that embodiment
of impassioned suspicion which we find oftenest in the narrowest spheres,
and Mela would always have been a good-natured simpleton; but they would
never have doubted their equality with the wisest and the finest. As it
was, they had not learned enough at school to doubt it, and the splendor
of their father's success in making money had blinded them forever to any
possible difference against them. They had no question of themselves in
the social abeyance to which they had been left in New York. They had
been surprised, mystified; it was not what they had expected; there must
be some mistake.
They were the victims of an accident, which would be repaired as soon as
the fact of their father's wealth had got around. They had been
steadfast in their faith, through all their disappointment, that they
were not only better than most people by virtue of his money, but as good
as any; and they took Margaret's visit, so far as they, investigated its
motive, for a sign that at last it was beginning to get around; of
course, a thing could not get around in New York so quick as it could in
a small place. They were confirmed in their belief by the sensation of
Mrs. Mandel when she returned to duty that afternoon, and they consulted
her about going to Mrs. Horn's musicale. If she had felt any doubt at
the name for there were Horns and Horns--the address on the card put the
matter beyond question; and she tried to make her charges understand what
a precious chance had befallen them. She did not succeed; they had not
the premises, the experience, for a sufficient impression; and she undid
her work in part by the effort to explain that Mrs. Horn's standing was
independent of money; that though she was positively rich, she was
comparatively poor. Christine inferred that Miss Vance had called
because she wished to be the first to get in with them since it had begun
to get around. This view commended itself to Mela, too, but without
warping her from her opinion that Miss Vance was all the same too sweet
for anything. She had not so vivid a consciousness of her father's money
as Christine had; but she reposed perhaps all the more confidently upon
its power. She was far from thinking meanly of any one who thought
highly of her for it; that seemed so natural a result as to be amiable,
even admirable; she was willing that any such person should get all the
good there was in such an attitude toward her.
They discussed the matter that night at dinner before their father and
mother, who mostly sat silent at their meals; the father frowning
absently over his plate, with his head close to it, and making play into
his mouth with the back of his knife (he had got so far toward the use of
his fork as to despise those who still ate from the edge of their
knives), and the mother partly missing hers at times in the nervous
tremor that shook her face from side to side.
After a while the subject of Mela's hoarse babble and of Christine's
high-pitched, thin, sharp forays of assertion and denial in the field
which her sister's voice seemed to cover, made its way into the old man's
consciousness, and he perceived that they were talking with Mrs. Mandel
about it, and that his wife was from time to time offering an irrelevant
and mistaken comment. He agreed with Christine, and silently took her
view of the affair some time before he made any sign of having listened.
There had been a time in his life when other things besides his money
seemed admirable to him. He had once respected himself for the hard-
headed, practical common sense which first gave him standing among his
country neighbors; which made him supervisor, school trustee, justice of
the peace, county commissioner, secretary of the Moffitt County
Agricultural Society. In those days he had served the public with
disinterested zeal and proud ability; he used to write to the Lake Shore
Farmer on agricultural topics; he took part in opposing, through the
Moffitt papers, the legislative waste of the people's money; on the
question of selling a local canal to the railroad company, which killed
that fine old State work, and let the dry ditch grow up to grass, he
might have gone to the Legislature, but he contented himself with
defeating the Moffitt member who had voted for the job. If he opposed
some measures for the general good, like high schools and school
libraries, it was because he lacked perspective, in his intense
individualism, and suspected all expense of being spendthrift. He
believed in good district schools, and he had a fondness, crude but
genuine, for some kinds of reading--history, and forensics of an
With his good head for figures he doubted doctors and despised preachers;
he thought lawyers were all rascals, but he respected them for their
ability; he was not himself litigious, but he enjoyed the intellectual
encounters of a difficult lawsuit, and he often attended a sitting of the
fall term of court, when he went to town, for the pleasure of hearing the
speeches. He was a good citizen, and a good husband. As a good father,
he was rather severe with his children, and used to whip them, especially
the gentle Conrad, who somehow crossed him most, till the twins died.
After that he never struck any of them; and from the sight of a blow
dealt a horse he turned as if sick. It was a long time before he lifted
himself up from his sorrow, and then the will of the man seemed to have
been breached through his affections. He let the girls do as they
pleased--the twins had been girls; he let them go away to school, and got
them a piano. It was they who made him sell the farm. If Conrad had
only had their spirit he could have made him keep it, he felt; and he
resented the want of support he might have found in a less yielding
spirit than his son's.
His moral decay began with his perception of the opportunity of making
money quickly and abundantly, which offered itself to him after he sold
his farm. He awoke to it slowly, from a desolation in which he tasted
the last bitter of homesickness, the utter misery of idleness and
listlessness. When he broke down and cried for the hard-working,
wholesome life he had lost, he was near the end of this season of
despair, but he was also near the end of what was best in himself.
He devolved upon a meaner ideal than that of conservative good
citizenship, which had been his chief moral experience: the money he had
already made without effort and without merit bred its unholy self-love
in him; he began to honor money, especially money that had been won
suddenly and in large sums; for money that had been earned painfully,
slowly, and in little amounts, he had only pity and contempt. The poison
of that ambition to go somewhere and be somebody which the local
speculators had instilled into him began to work in the vanity which had
succeeded his somewhat scornful self-respect; he rejected Europe as the
proper field for his expansion; he rejected Washington; he preferred New
York, whither the men who have made money and do not yet know that money
has made them, all instinctively turn. He came where he could watch his
money breed more money, and bring greater increase of its kind in an hour
of luck than the toil of hundreds of men could earn in a year. He called
it speculation, stocks, the Street; and his pride, his faith in himself,
mounted with his luck. He expected, when he had sated his greed,
to begin to spend, and he had formulated an intention to build a great
house, to add another to the palaces of the country-bred millionaires who
have come to adorn the great city. In the mean time he made little
account of the things that occupied his children, except to fret at the
ungrateful indifference of his son to the interests that could alone make
a man of him. He did not know whether his daughters were in society or
not; with people coming and going in the house he would have supposed
they must be so, no matter who the people were; in some vague way he felt
that he had hired society in Mrs. Mandel, at so much a year. He never
met a superior himself except now and then a man of twenty or thirty
millions to his one or two, and then he felt his soul creep within him,
without a sense of social inferiority; it was a question of financial
inferiority; and though Dryfoos's soul bowed itself and crawled, it was
with a gambler's admiration of wonderful luck. Other men said these
many-millioned millionaires were smart, and got their money by sharp
practices to which lesser men could not attain; but Dryfoos believed that
he could compass the same ends, by the same means, with the same chances;
he respected their money, not them.
When he now heard Mrs. Mandel and his daughters talking of that person,
whoever she was, that Mrs. Mandel seemed to think had honored his girls
by coming to see them, his curiosity was pricked as much as his pride was
"Well, anyway," said Mela, "I don't care whether Christine's goon' or
not; I am. And you got to go with me, Mrs. Mandel."
"Well, there's a little difficulty," said Mrs. Mandel, with her unfailing
dignity and politeness. "I haven't been asked, you know."
"Then what are we goun' to do?" demanded Mela, almost crossly. She was
physically too amiable, she felt too well corporeally, ever to be quite
cross. "She might 'a' knowed--well known--we couldn't 'a' come alone,
in New York. I don't see why, we couldn't. I don't call it much of an
"I suppose she thought you could come with your mother," Mrs. Mandel
"She didn't say anything about mother: Did she, Christine? Or, yes, she
did, too. And I told her she couldn't git mother out. Don't you
"I didn't pay much attention," said Christine. "I wasn't certain we
wanted to go."
"I reckon you wasn't goun' to let her see that we cared much," said Mela,
half reproachful, half proud of this attitude of Christine. "Well,
I don't see but what we got to stay at home." She laughed at this lame
conclusion of the matter.
"Perhaps Mr. Conrad--you could very properly take him without an express
invitation--" Mrs. Mandel began.
Conrad looked up in alarm and protest. "I--I don't think I could go that
"What's the reason?" his father broke in, harshly. "You're not such a
sheep that you're afraid to go into company with your sisters? Or are
you too good to go with them?"
"If it's to be anything like that night when them hussies come out and
danced that way," said Mrs. Dryfoos, "I don't blame Coonrod for not
wantun' to go. I never saw the beat of it."
Mela sent a yelling laugh across the table to her mother. "Well, I wish
Miss Vance could 'a' heard that! Why, mother, did you think it like the
"Well, I didn't know, Mely, child," said the old woman. "I didn't know
what it was like. I hain't never been to one, and you can't be too
keerful where you go, in a place like New York."
"What's the reason you can't go?" Dryfoos ignored the passage between
his wife and daughter in making this demand of his son, with a sour face.
"I have an engagement that night--it's one of our meetings."
"I reckon you can let your meeting go for one night," said Dryfoos.
"It can't be so important as all that, that you must disappoint your
"I don't like to disappoint those poor creatures. They depend so much
upon the meetings--"
"I reckon they can stand it for one night," said the old man. He added,
"The poor ye have with you always."
"That's so, Coonrod," said his mother. "It's the Saviour's own words."
"Yes, mother. But they're not meant just as father used them."
"How do you know how they were meant? Or how I used them?" cried the
father. "Now you just make your plans to go with the girls, Tuesday
night. They can't go alone, and Mrs. Mandel can't go with them."
"Pshaw!" said Mela. "We don't want to take Conrad away from his meetun',
do we, Chris?"
"I don't know," said Christine, in her high, fine voice. "They could get
along without him for one night, as father says."
"Well, I'm not a-goun' to take him," said Mela. "Now, Mrs. Mandel, just
think out some other way. Say! What's the reason we couldn't get
somebody else to take us just as well? Ain't that rulable?"
"It would be allowable--"
"Allowable, I mean," Mela corrected herself.
"But it might look a little significant, unless it was some old family
"Well, let's get Mr. Fulkerson to take us. He's the oldest family friend
"I won't go with Mr. Fulkerson," said Christine, serenely.
"Why, I'm sure, Christine," her mother pleaded, "Mr. Fulkerson is a very
good young man, and very nice appearun'."
Mela shouted, "He's ten times as pleasant as that old Mr. Beaton of
Christine made no effort to break the constraint that fell upon the table
at this sally, but her father said: "Christine is right, Mela. It
wouldn't do for you to go with any other young man. Conrad will go with
"I'm not certain I want to go, yet," said Christine.
"Well, settle that among yourselves. But if you want to go, your brother
will go with you."
"Of course, Coonrod 'll go, if his sisters wants him to," the old woman
pleaded. "I reckon it ain't agoun' to be anything very bad; and if it
is, Coonrod, why you can just git right up and come out."
"It will be all right, mother. And I will go, of course."
"There, now, I knowed you would, Coonrod. Now, fawther!" This appeal
was to make the old man say something in recognition of Conrad's
"You'll always find," he said, "that it's those of your own household
that have the first claim on you."
"That's so, Coonrod," urged his mother. "It's Bible truth. Your fawther
ain't a perfesser, but he always did read his Bible. Search the
Scriptures. That's what it means."
"Laws!" cried Mely, "a body can see, easy enough from mother, where
Conrad's wantun' to be a preacher comes from. I should 'a' thought she'd
'a' wanted to been one herself."
"Let your women keep silence in the churches," said the old woman,
"There you go again, mother! I guess if you was to say that to some of
the lady ministers nowadays, you'd git yourself into trouble." Mela
looked round for approval, and gurgled out a hoarse laugh.
The Dryfooses went late to Mrs. Horn's musicale, in spite of Mrs.
Mandel's advice. Christine made the delay, both because she wished to
show Miss Vance that she was (not) anxious, and because she had some
vague notion of the distinction of arriving late at any sort of
entertainment. Mrs. Mandel insisted upon the difference between this
musicale and an ordinary reception; but Christine rather fancied
disturbing a company that had got seated, and perhaps making people rise
and stand, while she found her way to her place, as she had seen them.
do for a tardy comer at the theatre.
Mela, whom she did not admit to her reasons or feelings always, followed
her with the servile admiration she had for all that Christine did; and
she took on trust as somehow successful the result of Christine's
obstinacy, when they were allowed to stand against the wall at the back
of the room through the whole of the long piece begun just before they
came in. There had been no one to receive them; a few people, in the
rear rows of chairs near them, turned their heads to glance at them, and
then looked away again. Mela had her misgivings; but at the end of the
piece Miss Vance came up to them at once, and then Mela knew that she had
her eyes on them all the time, and that Christine must have been right.
Christine said nothing about their coming late, and so Mela did not make
any excuse, and Miss Vance seemed to expect none. She glanced with a
sort of surprise at Conrad, when Christine introduced him; Mela did not
know whether she liked their bringing him, till she shook hands with him,
and said: "Oh, I am very glad indeed! Mr. Dryfoos and I have met
before." Without explaining where or when, she led them to her aunt and
presented them, and then said, "I'm going to put you with some friends of
yours," and quickly seated them next the Marches. Mela liked that well
enough; she thought she might have some joking with Mr. March, for all
his wife was so stiff; but the look which Christine wore seemed to
forbid, provisionally at least, any such recreation. On her part,
Christine was cool with the Marches. It went through her mind that they
must have told Miss Vance they knew her; and perhaps they had boasted of
her intimacy. She relaxed a little toward them when she saw Beaton
leaning against the wall at the end of the row next Mrs. March. Then she
conjectured that he might have told Miss Vance of her acquaintance with
the Marches, and she bent forward and nodded to Mrs. March across Conrad,
Mela, and Mr. March. She conceived of him as a sort of hand of her
father's, but she was willing to take them at their apparent social
valuation for the time. She leaned back in her chair, and did not look
up at Beaton after the first furtive glance, though she felt his eyes on
The music began again almost at once, before Mela had time to make Conrad
tell her where Miss Vance had met him before. She would not have minded
interrupting the music; but every one else seemed so attentive, even
Christine, that she had not the courage. The concert went onto an end
without realizing for her the ideal of pleasure which one ought to find.
in society. She was not exacting, but it seemed to her there were very
few young men, and when the music was over, and their opportunity came to
be sociable, they were not very sociable. They were not introduced, for
one thing; but it appeared to Mela that they might have got introduced,
if they had any sense; she saw them looking at her, and she was glad she
had dressed so much; she was dressed more than any other lady there, and
either because she was the most dressed of any person there, or because
it had got around who her father was, she felt that she had made an
impression on the young men. In her satisfaction with this, and from her
good nature, she was contented to be served with her refreshments after
the concert by Mr. March, and to remain joking with him. She was at her
ease; she let her hoarse voice out in her largest laugh; she accused him,
to the admiration of those near, of getting her into a perfect gale. It
appeared to her, in her own pleasure, her mission to illustrate to the
rather subdued people about her what a good time really was, so that they
could have it if they wanted it. Her joy was crowned when March modestly
professed himself unworthy to monopolize her, and explained how selfish
he felt in talking to a young lady when there were so many young men
dying to do so.
"Oh, pshaw, dyun', yes!" cried Mela, tasting the irony. "I guess I see
He asked if he might really introduce a friend of his to her, and she
said, Well, yes, if be thought he could live to get to her; and March
brought up a man whom he thought very young and Mela thought very old.
He was a contributor to 'Every Other Week,' and so March knew him;
he believed himself a student of human nature in behalf of literature,
and he now set about studying Mela. He tempted her to express her
opinion on all points, and he laughed so amiably at the boldness and
humorous vigor of her ideas that she was delighted with him. She asked
him if he was a New-Yorker by birth; and she told him she pitied him,
when he said he had never been West. She professed herself perfectly
sick of New York, and urged him to go to Moffitt if he wanted to see a
real live town. He wondered if it would do to put her into literature
just as she was, with all her slang and brag, but he decided that he
would have to subdue her a great deal: he did not see how he could
reconcile the facts of her conversation with the facts of her appearance:
her beauty, her splendor of dress, her apparent right to be where she
was. These things perplexed him; he was afraid the great American novel,
if true, must be incredible. Mela said he ought to hear her sister go on
about New York when they first came; but she reckoned that Christine was
getting so she could put up with it a little better, now. She looked
significantly across the room to the place where Christine was now
talking with Beaton; and the student of human nature asked, Was she here?
and, Would she introduce him? Mela said she would, the first chance she
got; and she added, They would be much pleased to have him call. She
felt herself to be having a beautiful time, and she got directly upon
such intimate terms with the student of human nature that she laughed
with him about some peculiarities of his, such as his going so far about
to ask things he wanted to know from her; she said she never did believe
in beating about the bush much. She had noticed the same thing in Miss
Vance when she came to call that day; and when the young man owned that
he came rather a good deal to Mrs. Horn's house, she asked him, Well,
what sort of a girl was Miss Vance, anyway, and where did he suppose she
had met her brother? The student of human nature could not say as to
this, and as to Miss Vance he judged it safest to treat of the non-
society side of her character, her activity in charity, her special
devotion to the work among the poor on the East Side, which she
personally engaged in.
"Oh, that's where Conrad goes, too!" Mela interrupted. "I'll bet
anything that's where she met him. I wisht I could tell Christine!
But I suppose she would want to kill me, if I was to speak to her now."
The student of human nature said, politely, "Oh, shall I take you to
Mela answered, "I guess you better not!" with a laugh so significant that
he could not help his inferences concerning both Christine's absorption
in the person she was talking with and the habitual violence of her
temper. He made note of how Mela helplessly spoke of all her family by
their names, as if he were already intimate with them; he fancied that if
he could get that in skillfully, it would be a valuable color in his
study; the English lord whom she should astonish with it began to form
himself out of the dramatic nebulosity in his mind, and to whirl on a
definite orbit in American society. But he was puzzled to decide whether
Mela's willingness to take him into her confidence on short notice was
typical or personal: the trait of a daughter of the natural-gas
millionaire, or a foible of her own.
Beaton talked with Christine the greater part of the evening that was
left after the concert. He was very grave, and took the tone of a
fatherly friend; he spoke guardedly of the people present, and moderated
the severity of some of Christine's judgments of their looks and
costumes. He did this out of a sort of unreasoned allegiance to
Margaret, whom he was in the mood of wishing to please by being very kind
and good, as she always was. He had the sense also of atoning by this
behavior for some reckless things he had said before that to Christine;
he put on a sad, reproving air with her, and gave her the feeling of
being held in check.
She chafed at it, and said, glancing at Margaret in talk with her
brother, "I don't think Miss Vance is so very pretty, do you?"
"I never think whether she's pretty or not," said Becton, with dreamy,
affectation. "She is merely perfect. Does she know your brother?"
"So she says. I didn't suppose Conrad ever went anywhere, except to
"It might have been there," Becton suggested. "She goes among friendless
"Maybe that's the reason she came to see us!" said Christine.
Becton looked at her with his smouldering eyes, and felt the wish to say,
"Yes, it was exactly that," but he only allowed himself to deny the
possibility of any such motive in that case. He added: "I am so glad you
know her, Miss Dryfoos. I never met Miss Vance without feeling myself
better and truer, somehow; or the wish to be so."
"And you think we might be improved, too?" Christine retorted. "Well,
I must say you're not very flattering, Mr. Becton, anyway."
Becton would have liked to answer her according to her cattishness, with
a good clawing sarcasm that would leave its smart in her pride; but he
was being good, and he could not change all at once. Besides, the girl's
attitude under the social honor done her interested him. He was sure she
had never been in such good company before, but he could see that she was
not in the least affected by the experience. He had told her who this
person and that was; and he saw she had understood that the names were of
consequence; but she seemed to feel her equality with them all.
Her serenity was not obviously akin to the savage stoicism in which
Beaton hid his own consciousness of social inferiority; but having won
his way in the world so far by his talent, his personal quality, he did
not conceive the simple fact in her case. Christine was self-possessed
because she felt that a knowledge of her father's fortune had got around,
and she had the peace which money gives to ignorance; but Beaton
attributed her poise to indifference to social values. This, while he
inwardly sneered at it, avenged him upon his own too keen sense of them,
and, together with his temporary allegiance to Margaret's goodness, kept
him from retaliating Christine's vulgarity. He said, "I don't see how
that could be," and left the question of flattery to settle itself.
The people began to go away, following each other up to take leave of
Mrs. Horn. Christine watched them with unconcern, and either because she
would not be governed by the general movement, or because she liked being
with Beaton, gave no sign of going. Mela was still talking to the
student of human nature, sending out her laugh in deep gurgles amid the
unimaginable confidences she was making him about herself, her family,
the staff of 'Every Other Week,' Mrs. Mandel, and the kind of life they
had all led before she came to them. He was not a blind devotee of art
for art's sake, and though he felt that if one could portray Mela just as
she was she would be the richest possible material, he was rather ashamed
to know some of the things she told him; and he kept looking anxiously
about for a chance of escape. The company had reduced itself to the
Dryfoos groups and some friends of Mrs. Horn's who had the right to
linger, when Margaret crossed the room with Conrad to Christine and
"I'm so glad, Miss Dryfoos, to find that I was not quite a stranger to
you all when I ventured to call, the other day. Your brother and I are
rather old acquaintances, though I never knew who he was before. I don't
know just how to say we met where he is valued so much. I suppose I
mustn't try to say how much," she added, with a look of deep regard at
Conrad blushed and stood folding his arms tight over his breast, while
his sister received Margaret's confession with the suspicion which was
her first feeling in regard to any new thing. What she concluded was
that this girl was trying to get in with them, for reasons of her own.
She said: "Yes; it's the first I ever heard of his knowing you. He's so
much taken up with his meetings, he didn't want to come to-night."
Margaret drew in her lip before she answered, without apparent resentment
of the awkwardness or ungraciousness, whichever she found it: "I don't
wonder! You become so absorbed in such work that you think nothing else
is worth while. But I'm glad Mr. Dryfoos could come with you; I'm so
glad you could all come; I knew you would enjoy the music. Do sit
"No," said Christine, bluntly; "we must be going. Mela!" she called out,
The last group about Mrs. Horn looked round, but Christine advanced upon
them undismayed, and took the hand Mrs. Horn promptly gave her. "Well, I
must bid you good-night."
"Oh, good-night," murmured the elder lady. "So very kind of you to
"I've had the best kind of a time," said Mela, cordially. "I hain't
laughed so much, I don't know when."
"Oh, I'm glad you enjoyed it," said Mrs. Horn, in the same polite murmur
she had used with Christine; but she said nothing to either sister about
any future meeting.
They were apparently not troubled. Mela said over her shoulder to the
student of human nature, "The next time I see you I'll give it to you for
what you said about Moffitt."
Margaret made some entreating paces after them, but she did not succeed
in covering the retreat of the sisters against critical conjecture. She
could only say to Conrad, as if recurring to the subject, "I hope we can
get our friends to play for us some night. I know it isn't any real
help, but such things take the poor creatures out of themselves for the
time being, don't you think?"
"Oh yes," he answered. "They're good in that way." He turned back
hesitatingly to Mrs. Horn, and said, with a blush, "I thank you for a
"Oh, I am very glad," she replied, in her murmur.
One of the old friends of the house arched her eyebrows in saying good-
night, and offered the two young men remaining seats home in her
carriage. Beaton gloomily refused, and she kept herself from asking the
student of human nature, till she had got him into her carriage, "What is
Moffitt, and what did you say about it?"
"Now you see, Margaret," said Mrs. Horn, with bated triumph, when the
people were all gone.
"Yes, I see," the girl consented. "From one point of view, of course
it's been a failure. I don't think we've given Miss Dryfoos a pleasure,
but perhaps nobody could. And at least we've given her the opportunity
of enjoying herself."
"Such people," said Mrs. Horn, philosophically, "people with their money,
must of course be received sooner or later. You can't keep them out.
Only, I believe I would rather let some one else begin with them. The
Leightons didn't come?"
"I sent them cards. I couldn't call again."
Mrs. Horn sighed a little. "I suppose Mr. Dryfoos is one of your fellow-
"He's one of the workers," said Margaret. "I met him several times at
the Hall, but I only knew his first name. I think he's a great friend of
Father Benedict; he seems devoted to the work. Don't you think he looks
"Very," said Mrs. Horn, with a color of censure in her assent. "The
younger girl seemed more amiable than her sister. But what manners!"
"Dreadful!" said Margaret, with knit brows, and a pursed mouth of
humorous suffering. "But she appeared to feel very much at home."
"Oh, as to that, neither of them was much abashed. Do you suppose
Mr. Beaton gave the other one some hints for that quaint dress of hers?
I don't imagine that black and lace is her own invention. She seems to
have some sort of strange fascination for him."
"She's very picturesque," Margaret explained. "And artists see points in
people that the rest of us don't."
"Could it be her money?" Mrs. Horn insinuated. "He must be very poor."
"But he isn't base," retorted the girl, with a generous indignation that
made her aunt smile.
"Oh no; but if he fancies her so picturesque, it doesn't follow that he
would object to her being rich."
"It would with a man like Mr. Beaton!"
"You are an idealist, Margaret. I suppose your Mr. March has some
disinterested motive in paying court to Miss Mela--Pamela, I suppose, is
her name. He talked to her longer than her literature would have
"He seems a very kind person," said Margaret.
"And Mr. Dryfoos pays his salary?"
"I don't know anything about that. But that wouldn't make any difference
Mrs. Horn laughed out at this security; but she was not displeased by the
nobleness which it came from. She liked Margaret to be high-minded, and
was really not distressed by any good that was in her.
The Marches walked home, both because it was not far, and because they
must spare in carriage hire at any rate. As soon as they were out of the
house, she applied a point of conscience to him.
"I don't see how you could talk to that girl so long, Basil, and make her
"Why, there seemed no one else to do it, till I thought of Kendricks."
"Yes, but I kept thinking, Now he's pleasant to her because he thinks
it's to his interest. If she had no relation to 'Every Other Week,' he
wouldn't waste his time on her."
"Isabel," March complained, "I wish you wouldn't think of me in he, him,
and his; I never personalize you in my thoughts: you remain always a
vague unindividualized essence, not quite without form and void, but
nounless and pronounless. I call that a much more beautiful mental
attitude toward the object of one's affections. But if you must he and
him and his me in your thoughts, I wish you'd have more kindly thoughts
"Do you deny that it's true, Basil?"
"Do you believe that it's true, Isabel?"
"No matter. But could you excuse it if it were?"
"Ah, I see you'd have been capable of it in my, place, and you're
"Yes," sighed the wife, "I'm afraid that I should. But tell me that you
"I can tell you that I wasn't. But I suppose that in a real exigency,
I could truckle to the proprietary Dryfooses as well as you."
"Oh no; you mustn't, dear! I'm a woman, and I'm dreadfully afraid. But
you must always be a man, especially with that horrid old Mr. Dryfoos.
Promise me that you'll never yield the least point to him in a matter of
right and wrong!"
"Not if he's right and I'm wrong?"
"Don't trifle, dear! You know what I mean. Will you promise?"
"I'll promise to submit the point to you, and let you do the yielding.
As for me, I shall be adamant. Nothing I like better."
"They're dreadful, even that poor, good young fellow, who's so different
from all the rest; he's awful, too, because you feel that he's a martyr
"And I never did like martyrs a great deal," March interposed.
"I wonder how they came to be there," Mrs. March pursued, unmindful of
"That is exactly what seemed to be puzzling Miss Mela about us. She
asked, and I explained as well as I could; and then she told me that Miss
Vance had come to call on them and invited them; and first they didn't
know how they could come till they thought of making Conrad bring them.
But she didn't say why Miss Vance called on them. Mr. Dryfoos doesn't
employ her on 'Every Other Week.' But I suppose she has her own vile
"It can't be their money; it can't be!" sighed Mrs. March.
"Well, I don't know. We all respect money."
"Yes, but Miss Vance's position is so secure. She needn't pay court to
those stupid, vulgar people."
"Well, let's console ourselves with the belief that she would, if she
needed. Such people as the Dryfooses are the raw material of good
society. It isn't made up of refined or meritorious people--professors
and litterateurs, ministers and musicians, and their families. All the
fashionable people there to-night were like the Dryfooses a generation or
two ago. I dare say the material works up faster now, and in a season or
two you won't know the Dryfooses from the other plutocrats. THEY will--
a little better than they do now; they'll see a difference, but nothing
radical, nothing painful. People who get up in the world by service to
others--through letters, or art, or science--may have their modest little
misgivings as to their social value, but people that rise by money--
especially if their gains are sudden--never have. And that's the kind of
people that form our nobility; there's no use pretending that we haven't
a nobility; we might as well pretend we haven't first-class cars in the
presence of a vestibuled Pullman. Those girls had no more doubt of their
right to be there than if they had been duchesses: we thought it was very
nice of Miss Vance to come and ask us, but they didn't; they weren't
afraid, or the least embarrassed; they were perfectly natural--like born
aristocrats. And you may be sure that if the plutocracy that now owns
the country ever sees fit to take on the outward signs of an aristocracy
--titles, and arms, and ancestors--it won't falter from any inherent
question of its worth. Money prizes and honors itself, and if there is
anything it hasn't got, it believes it can buy it."
Well, Basil," said his wife, "I hope you won't get infected with Lindau's
ideas of rich people. Some of them are very good and kind."
"Who denies that? Not even Lindau himself. It's all right. And the
great thing is that the evening's enjoyment is over. I've got my society
smile off, and I'm radiantly happy. Go on with your little pessimistic
diatribes, Isabel; you can't spoil my pleasure."
"I could see," said Mela, as she and Christine drove home together, "that
she was as jealous as she could be, all the time you was talkun' to Mr.
Beaton. She pretended to be talkun' to Conrad, but she kep' her eye on
you pretty close, I can tell you. I bet she just got us there to see how
him and you would act together. And I reckon she was satisfied. He's
dead gone on you, Chris."
Christine listened with a dreamy pleasure to the flatteries with which
Mela plied her in the hope of some return in kind, and not at all because
she felt spitefully toward Miss Vance, or in anywise wished her ill.
"Who was that fellow with you so long?" asked Christine. "I suppose you
turned yourself inside out to him, like you always do."
Mela was transported by the cruel ingratitude. "It's a lie! I didn't
tell him a single thing."
Conrad walked home, choosing to do so because he did not wish to hear his
sisters' talk of the evening, and because there was a tumult in his
spirit which he wished to let have its way. In his life with its single
purpose, defeated by stronger wills than his own, and now struggling
partially to fulfil itself in acts of devotion to others, the thought of
women had entered scarcely more than in that of a child. His ideals were
of a virginal vagueness; faces, voices, gestures had filled his fancy at
times, but almost passionately; and the sensation that he now indulged
was a kind of worship, ardent, but reverent and exalted. The brutal
experiences of the world make us forget that there are such natures in
it, and that they seem to come up out of the lowly earth as well as down
from the high heaven. In the heart of this man well on toward thirty
there had never been left the stain of a base thought; not that
suggestion and conjecture had not visited him, but that he had not
entertained them, or in any-wise made them his. In a Catholic age and
country, he would have been one of those monks who are sainted after
death for the angelic purity of their lives, and whose names are invoked
by believers in moments of trial, like San Luigi Gonzaga. As he now
walked along thinking, with a lover's beatified smile on his face, of how
Margaret Vance had spoken and looked, he dramatized scenes in which be
approved himself to her by acts of goodness and unselfishness, and died
to please her for the sake of others. He made her praise him for them,
to his face, when he disclaimed their merit, and after his death, when he
could not. All the time he was poignantly sensible of her grace, her
elegance, her style; they seemed to intoxicate him; some tones of her
voice thrilled through his nerves, and some looks turned his brain with a
delicious, swooning sense of her beauty; her refinement bewildered him.
But all this did not admit the idea of possession, even of aspiration.
At the most his worship only set her beyond the love of other men as far
as beyond his own.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Brag of his wife, as a good husband always does
But when we make that money here, no one loses it
Courage hadn't been put to the test
Family buryin' grounds
Homage which those who have not pay to those who have
Hurry up and git well--or something
Made money and do not yet know that money has made them
Society: All its favors are really bargains
Wages are the measure of necessity and not of merit
Without realizing his cruelty, treated as a child
A HAZARD OF NEW FORTUNES
By William Dean Howells
Not long after Lent, Fulkerson set before Dryfoos one day his scheme for
a dinner in celebration of the success of 'Every Other Week.' Dryfoos
had never meddled in any manner with the conduct of the periodical;
but Fulkerson easily saw that he was proud of his relation to it, and he
proceeded upon the theory that he would be willing to have this relation
known: On the days when he had been lucky in stocks, he was apt to drop
in at the office on Eleventh Street, on his way up-town, and listen to
Fulkerson's talk. He was on good enough terms with March, who revised
his first impressions of the man, but they had not much to say to each
other, and it seemed to March that Dryfoos was even a little afraid of
him, as of a piece of mechanism he had acquired, but did not quite
understand; he left the working of it to Fulkerson, who no doubt bragged
of it sufficiently. The old man seemed to have as little to say to his
son; he shut himself up with Fulkerson, where the others could hear the
manager begin and go on with an unstinted flow of talk about 'Every Other
Week;' for Fulkerson never talked of anything else if he could help it,
and was always bringing the conversation back to it if it strayed:
The day he spoke of the dinner he rose and called from his door: "March,
I say, come down here a minute, will you? Conrad, I want you, too."
The editor and the publisher found the manager and the proprietor seated
on opposite sides of the table. "It's about those funeral baked meats,
you know," Fulkerson explained, "and I was trying to give Mr. Dryfoos
some idea of what we wanted to do. That is, what I wanted to do," he
continued, turning from March to Dryfoos. "March, here, is opposed to
it, of course. He'd like to publish 'Every Other Week' on the sly; keep
it out of the papers, and off the newsstands; he's a modest Boston
petunia, and he shrinks from publicity; but I am not that kind of herb
myself, and I want all the publicity we can get--beg, borrow, or steal--
for this thing. I say that you can't work the sacred rites of
hospitality in a better cause, and what I propose is a little dinner for
the purpose of recognizing the hit we've made with this thing. My idea
was to strike you for the necessary funds, and do the thing on a handsome
scale. The term little dinner is a mere figure of speech. A little
dinner wouldn't make a big talk, and what we want is the big talk,
at present, if we don't lay up a cent. My notion was that pretty soon
after Lent, now, when everybody is feeling just right, we should begin to
send out our paragraphs, affirmative, negative, and explanatory, and
along about the first of May we should sit down about a hundred strong,
the most distinguished people in the country, and solemnize our triumph.
There it is in a nutshell. I might expand and I might expound, but
that's the sum and substance of it."
Fulkerson stopped, and ran his eyes eagerly over the faces of his three
listeners, one after the other. March was a little surprised when
Dryfoos turned to him, but that reference of the question seemed to give
Fulkerson particular pleasure: "What do you think, Mr. March?"
The editor leaned back in his chair. "I don't pretend to have Mr.
Fulkerson's genius for advertising; but it seems to me a little early
yet. We might celebrate later when we've got more to celebrate. At
present we're a pleasing novelty, rather than a fixed fact."
"Ah, you don't get the idea!" said Fulkerson. "What we want to do with
this dinner is to fix the fact."
"Am I going to come in anywhere?" the old man interrupted.
"You're going to come in at the head of the procession! We are going to
strike everything that is imaginative and romantic in the newspaper soul
with you and your history and your fancy for going in for this thing.
I can start you in a paragraph that will travel through all the
newspapers, from Maine to Texas and from Alaska to Florida. We have had
all sorts of rich men backing up literary enterprises, but the natural-
gas man in literature is a new thing, and the combination of your
picturesque past and your aesthetic present is something that will knock
out the sympathies of the American public the first round. I feel,"
said Fulkerson, with a tremor of pathos in his voice, "that 'Every Other
Week' is at a disadvantage before the public as long as it's supposed to
be my enterprise, my idea. As far as I'm known at all, I'm known simply
as a syndicate man, and nobody in the press believes that I've got the
money to run the thing on a grand scale; a suspicion of insolvency must
attach to it sooner or later, and the fellows on the press will work up
that impression, sooner or later, if we don't give them something else to
work up. Now, as soon as I begin to give it away to the correspondents
that you're in it, with your untold millions--that, in fact, it was your
idea from the start, that you originated it to give full play to the
humanitarian tendencies of Conrad here, who's always had these theories
of co-operation, and longed to realize them for the benefit of our
struggling young writers and artists--"
March had listened with growing amusement to the mingled burlesque and
earnest of Fulkerson's self-sacrificing impudence, and with wonder as to
how far Dryfoos was consenting to his preposterous proposition, when
Conrad broke out: "Mr. Fulkerson, I could not allow you to do that. It
would not be true; I did not wish to be here; and--and what I think--what
I wish to do--that is something I will not let any one put me in a false
position about. No!" The blood rushed into the young man's gentle face,
and he met his father's glance with defiance.
Dryfoos turned from him to Fulkerson without speaking, and Fulkerson
said, caressingly: "Why, of course, Coonrod! I know how you feel, and I
shouldn't let anything of that sort go out uncontradicted afterward. But
there isn't anything in these times that would give us better standing
with the public than some hint of the way you feel about such things.
The publics expects to be interested, and nothing would interest it more
than to be told that the success of 'Every Other Week' sprang from the
first application of the principle of Live and let Live to a literary
enterprise. It would look particularly well, coming from you and your
father, but if you object, we can leave that part out; though if you
approve of the principle I don't see why you need object. The main thing
is to let the public know that it owes this thing to the liberal and
enlightened spirit of one of the foremost capitalists of the country; and
that his purposes are not likely to be betrayed in the hands of his son,
I should get a little cut made from a photograph of your father, and
supply it gratis with the paragraphs."
"I guess," said the old man, "we will get along without the cut."
Fulkerson laughed. "Well, well! Have it your own way, But the sight of
your face in the patent outsides of the country press would be worth half
a dozen subscribers in every school district throughout the length and
breadth of this fair land."
"There was a fellow," Dryfoos explained, in an aside to March, "that was
getting up a history of Moffitt, and he asked me to let him put a steel
engraving of me in. He said a good many prominent citizens were going to
have theirs in, and his price was a hundred and fifty dollars. I told
him I couldn't let mine go for less than two hundred, and when he said he
could give me a splendid plate for that money, I said I should want it
cash, You never saw a fellow more astonished when he got it through him.
that I expected him to pay the two hundred."
Fulkerson laughed in keen appreciation of the joke. "Well, sir, I guess
'Every Other Week' will pay you that much. But if you won't sell at any
price, all right; we must try to worry along without the light of your
countenance on, the posters, but we got to have it for the banquet."
"I don't seem to feel very hungry, yet," said they old man, dryly.
"Oh, 'l'appeit vient en mangeant', as our French friends say. You'll be
hungry enough when you see the preliminary Little Neck clam. It's too
late for oysters."
"Doesn't that fact seem to point to a postponement till they get back,
sometime in October," March suggested,
"No, no!" said Fulkerson, "you don't catch on to the business end of this
thing, my friends. You're proceeding on something like the old exploded
idea that the demand creates the supply, when everybody knows, if he's
watched the course of modern events, that it's just as apt to be the
other way. I contend that we've got a real substantial success to
celebrate now; but even if we hadn't, the celebration would do more than
anything else to create the success, if we got it properly before the
public. People will say: Those fellows are not fools; they wouldn't go
and rejoice over their magazine unless they had got a big thing in it.
And the state of feeling we should produce in the public mind would make
a boom of perfectly unprecedented grandeur for E. O. W. Heigh?"
He looked sunnily from one to the other in succession. The elder Dryfoos
said, with his chin on the top of his stick, "I reckon those Little Neck
clams will keep."
"Well, just as you say," Fulkerson cheerfully assented. "I understand
you to agree to the general principle of a little dinner?"
"The smaller the better," said the old man.
"Well, I say a little dinner because the idea of that seems to cover the
case, even if we vary the plan a little. I had thought of a reception,
maybe, that would include the lady contributors and artists, and the
wives and daughters of the other contributors. That would give us the
chance to ring in a lot of society correspondents and get the thing
written up in first-class shape. By-the-way!" cried Fulkerson, slapping
himself on the leg, "why not have the dinner and the reception both?"
"I don't understand," said Dryfoos.
"Why, have a select little dinner for ten or twenty choice spirits of the
male persuasion, and then, about ten o'clock, throw open your palatial
drawing-rooms and admit the females to champagne, salads, and ices. It
is the very thing! Come!"
"What do you think of it, Mr. March?" asked Dryfoos, on whose social
inexperience Fulkerson's words projected no very intelligible image, and
who perhaps hoped for some more light.
"It's a beautiful vision," said March, "and if it will take more time to
realize it I think I approve. I approve of anything that will delay Mr.
Fulkerson's advertising orgie."
"Then," Fulkerson pursued, "we could have the pleasure of Miss Christine
and Miss Mela's company; and maybe Mrs. Dryfoos would look in on us in
the course of the evening. There's no hurry, as Mr. March suggests, if
we can give the thing this shape. I will cheerfully adopt the idea of my
March laughed at his impudence, but at heart he was ashamed of Fulkerson
for proposing to make use of Dryfoos and his house in that way.
He fancied something appealing in the look that the old man turned on
him, and something indignant in Conrad's flush; but probably this was
only his fancy. He reflected that neither of them could feel it as
people of more worldly knowledge would, and he consoled himself with the
fact that Fulkerson was really not such a charlatan as he seemed. But it
went through his mind that this was a strange end for all Dryfoos's
money-making to come to; and he philosophically accepted the fact of his
own humble fortunes when he reflected how little his money could buy for
such a man. It was an honorable use that Fulkerson was putting it to in
'Every Other Week;' it might be far more creditably spent on such an
enterprise than on horses, or wines, or women, the usual resources of the
brute rich; and if it were to be lost, it might better be lost that way
than in stocks. He kept a smiling face turned to Dryfoos while these
irreverent considerations occupied him, and hardened his heart against
father and son and their possible emotions.
The old man rose to put an end to the interview. He only repeated,
"I guess those clams will keep till fall."
But Fulkerson was apparently satisfied with the progress he had made; and
when he joined March for the stroll homeward after office hours, he was
able to detach his mind from the subject, as if content to leave it.
"This is about the best part of the year in New York," he said; In some
of the areas the grass had sprouted, and the tender young foliage had
loosened itself froze the buds on a sidewalk tree here and there; the
soft air was full of spring, and the delicate sky, far aloof, had the
look it never wears at any other season. "It ain't a time of year to
complain much of, anywhere; but I don't want anything better than the
month of May in New York. Farther South it's too hot, and I've been in
Boston in May when that east wind of yours made every nerve in my body
get up and howl. I reckon the weather has a good deal to do with the
local temperament. The reason a New York man takes life so easily with
all his rush is that his climate don't worry him. But a Boston man must
be rasped the whole while by the edge in his air. That accounts for his
sharpness; and when he's lived through twenty-five or thirty Boston Mays,
he gets to thinking that Providence has some particular use for him, or
he wouldn't have survived, and that makes him conceited. See?"
"I see," said March. "But I don't know how you're going to work that
idea into an advertisement, exactly."
"Oh, pahaw, now, March! You don't think I've got that on the brain all
"You were gradually leading up to 'Every Other Week', somehow."
"No, sir; I wasn't. I was just thinking what a different creature a
Massachusetts man is from a Virginian, And yet I suppose they're both as
pure English stock as you'll get anywhere in America. Marsh, I think
Colonel Woodburn's paper is going to make a hit."
"You've got there! When it knocks down the sale about one-half, I shall
know it's made a hit."
"I'm not afraid," said Fulkerson. "That thing is going to attract
attention. It's well written--you can take the pomposity out of it, here
and there and it's novel. Our people like a bold strike, and it's going
to shake them up tremendously to have serfdom advocated on high moral
grounds as the only solution of the labor problem. You see, in the first
place, he goes for their sympathies by the way he portrays the actual
relations of capital and labor; he shows how things have got to go from
bad to worse, and then he trots out his little old hobby, and proves that
if slavery had not been interfered with, it would have perfected itself
in the interest of humanity. He makes a pretty strong plea for it."
March threw back his head and laughed. "He's converted you! I swear,
Fulkerson, if we had accepted and paid for an article advocating
cannibalism as the only resource for getting rid of the superfluous poor,
you'd begin to believe in it."
Fulkerson smiled in approval of the joke, and only said: "I wish you
could meet the colonel in the privacy of the domestic circle, March.
You'd like him. He's a splendid old fellow; regular type. Talk about
"You ought to see the widow's little back yard these days. You know that
glass gallery just beyond the dining-room? Those girls have got the pot-
plants out of that, and a lot more, and they've turned the edges of that
back yard, along the fence, into a regular bower; they've got sweet peas
planted, and nasturtiums, and we shall be in a blaze of glory about the
beginning of June. Fun to see 'em work in the garden, and the bird
bossing the job in his cage under the cherry-tree. Have to keep the
middle of the yard for the clothesline, but six days in the week it's a
lawn, and I go over it with a mower myself. March, there ain't anything
like a home, is there? Dear little cot of your own, heigh? I tell you,
March, when I get to pushing that mower round, and the colonel is smoking
his cigar in the gallery, and those girls are pottering over the flowers,
one of these soft evenings after dinner, I feel like a human being. Yes,
I do. I struck it rich when I concluded to take my meals at the widow's.
For eight dollars a week I get good board, refined society, and all the
advantages of a Christian home. By-the-way, you've never had much talk
with Miss Woodburn, have you, March?"
"Not so much as with Miss Woodburn's father."
"Well, he is rather apt to scoop the conversation. I must draw his fire,
sometime, when you and Mrs. March are around, and get you a chance with
"I should like that better, I believe," said March.
"Well, I shouldn't wonder if you did. Curious, but Miss Woodburn isn't
at all your idea of a Southern girl. She's got lots of go; she's never
idle a minute; she keeps the old gentleman in first-class shape, and she
don't believe a bit in the slavery solution of the labor problem; says
she's glad it's gone, and if it's anything like the effects of it, she's
glad it went before her time. No, sir, she's as full of snap as the
liveliest kind of a Northern girl. None of that sunny Southern languor
you read about."
"I suppose the typical Southerner, like the typical anything else, is
pretty difficult to find," said March. "But perhaps Miss Woodburn
represents the new South. The modern conditions must be producing a
"Well, that's what she and the colonel both say. They say there ain't
anything left of that Walter Scott dignity and chivalry in the rising
generation; takes too much time. You ought to see her sketch the old-
school, high-and-mighty manners, as they survive among some of the
antiques in Charlottesburg. If that thing could be put upon the stage it
would be a killing success. Makes the old gentleman laugh in spite of
himself. But he's as proud of her as Punch, anyway. Why don't you and
Mrs. March come round oftener? Look here! How would it do to have a
little excursion, somewhere, after the spring fairly gets in its work?"
"No, no! Nothing of that kind; perfectly sincere and disinterested
"Oh, a few handbills to be scattered around: "Buy Every Other Week,"
Look out for the next number of 'Every Other Week,' 'Every Other Week at
all the news-stands.' Well, I'll talk it over with Mrs. March. I
suppose there's no great hurry."
March told his wife of the idyllic mood in which he had left Fulkerson at
the widow's door, and she said he must be in love.
"Why, of course! I wonder I didn't think of that. But Fulkerson is such
an impartial admirer of the whole sex that you can't think of his liking
one more than another. I don't know that he showed any unjust
partiality, though, in his talk of 'those girls,' as he called them.
And I always rather fancied that Mrs. Mandel--he's done so much for her,
you know; and she is such a well-balanced, well-preserved person, and so
lady-like and correct----"
"Fulkerson had the word for her: academic. She's everything that
instruction and discipline can make of a woman; but I shouldn't think
they could make enough of her to be in love with."
"Well, I don't know. The academic has its charm. There are moods in
which I could imagine myself in love with an academic person. That
regularity of line; that reasoned strictness of contour; that neatness of
pose; that slightly conventional but harmonious grouping of the emotions
and morals--you can see how it would have its charm, the Wedgwood in
human nature? I wonder where Mrs. Mandel keeps her urn and her willow."
"I should think she might have use for them in that family, poor thing!"
said Mrs. March.
"Ah, that reminds me," said her husband, "that we had another talk with
the old gentleman, this afternoon, about Fulkerson's literary, artistic,
and advertising orgie, and it's postponed till October."
"The later the better, I should think," said Mrs: March, who did not
really think about it at all, but whom the date fixed for it caused to
think of the intervening time. "We have got to consider what we will do
about the summer, before long, Basil."
"Oh, not yet, not yet," he pleaded; with that man's willingness to abide
in the present, which is so trying to a woman. "It's only the end of
"It will be the end of June before we know. And these people wanting the
Boston house another year complicates it. We can't spend the summer
there, as we planned."
"They oughtn't to have offered us an increased rent; they have taken an
advantage of us."
"I don't know that it matters," said Mrs. March. "I had decided not to
"Had you? This is a surprise."
"Everything is a surprise to you, Basil, when it happens."
"True; I keep the world fresh, that way."
"It wouldn't have been any change to go from one city to another for the
summer. We might as well have stayed in New York."
"Yes, I wish we had stayed," said March, idly humoring a conception of
the accomplished fact. "Mrs. Green would have let us have the
gimcrackery very cheap for the summer months; and we could have made all
sorts of nice little excursions and trips off and been twice as well as
if we had spent the summer away."
"Nonsense! You know we couldn't spend the summer in New York."
"I know I could."
"What stuff! You couldn't manage."
"Oh yes, I could. I could take my meals at Fulkerson's widow's; or at
Maroni's, with poor old Lindau: he's got to dining there again. Or, I
could keep house, and he could dine with me here."
There was a teasing look in March's eyes, and he broke into a laugh, at
the firmness with which his wife said: "I think if there is to be any
housekeeping, I will stay, too; and help to look after it. I would try
not intrude upon you and your guest."
"Oh, we should be only too glad to have you join us," said March, playing
"Very well, then, I wish you would take him off to Maroni's, the next
time he comes to dine here!" cried his wife.
The experiment of making March's old friend free of his house had not
given her all the pleasure that so kind a thing ought to have afforded so
good a woman. She received Lindau at first with robust benevolence, and
the high resolve not to let any of his little peculiarities alienate her
from a sense of his claim upon her sympathy and gratitude, not only as a
man who had been so generously fond of her husband in his youth, but a
hero who had suffered for her country. Her theory was that his
mutilation must not be ignored, but must be kept in mind as a monument of
his sacrifice, and she fortified Bella with this conception, so that the
child bravely sat next his maimed arm at table and helped him to dishes
he could not reach, and cut up his meat for him. As for Mrs. March
herself, the thought of his mutilation made her a little faint; she was
not without a bewildered resentment of its presence as a sort of
oppression. She did not like his drinking so much of March's beer,
either; it was no harm, but it was somehow unworthy, out of character
with a hero of the war. But what she really could not reconcile herself
to was the violence of Lindau's sentiments concerning the whole political
and social fabric. She did not feel sure that he should be allowed to
say such things before the children, who had been nurtured in the faith
of Bunker Hill and Appomattox, as the beginning and the end of all
possible progress in human rights. As a woman she was naturally an
aristocrat, but as an American she was theoretically a democrat; and it
astounded, it alarmed her, to hear American democracy denounced as a
shuffling evasion. She had never cared much for the United States
Senate, but she doubted if she ought to sit by when it was railed at as a
rich man's club. It shocked her to be told that the rich and poor were
not equal before the law in a country where justice must be paid for at
every step in fees and costs, or where a poor man must go to war in his
own person, and a rich man might hire someone to go in his. Mrs. March
felt that this rebellious mind in Lindau really somehow outlawed him from
sympathy, and retroactively undid his past suffering for the country: she
had always particularly valued that provision of the law, because in
forecasting all the possible mischances that might befall her own son,
she had been comforted by the thought that if there ever was another war,
and Tom were drafted, his father could buy him a substitute. Compared
with such blasphemy as this, Lindau's declaration that there was not
equality of opportunity in America, and that fully one-half the people
were debarred their right to the pursuit of happiness by the hopeless
conditions of their lives, was flattering praise. She could not listen
to such things in silence, though, and it did not help matters when
Lindau met her arguments with facts and reasons which she felt she was
merely not sufficiently instructed to combat, and he was not quite
gentlemanly to urge. "I am afraid for the effect on the children," she
said to her husband. "Such perfectly distorted ideas--Tom will be ruined
"Oh, let Tom find out where they're false," said March. "It will be good
exercise for his faculties of research. At any rate, those things are
getting said nowadays; he'll have to hear them sooner or later."
"Had he better hear them at home?" demanded his wife.
"Why, you know, as you're here to refute them, Isabel," he teased,
"perhaps it's the best place. But don't mind poor old Lindau, my dear.
He says himself that his parg is worse than his pidte, you know."
"Ah, it's too late now to mind him," she sighed. In a moment of rash
good feeling, or perhaps an exalted conception of duty, she had herself
proposed that Lindau should come every week and read German with Tom; and
it had become a question first how they could get him to take pay for it,
and then how they could get him to stop it. Mrs. March never ceased to
wonder at herself for having brought this about, for she had warned her
husband against making any engagement with Lindau which would bring him
regularly to the house: the Germans stuck so, and were so unscrupulously
dependent. Yet, the deed being done, she would not ignore the duty of
hospitality, and it was always she who made the old man stay to their
Sunday-evening tea when he lingered near the hour, reading Schiller and
Heine and Uhland with the boy, in the clean shirt with which he observed
the day; Lindau's linen was not to be trusted during the week. She now
concluded a season of mournful reflection by saying, "He will get you
into trouble, somehow, Basil."
"Well, I don't know how, exactly. I regard Lindau as a political
economist of an unusual type; but I shall not let him array me against
the constituted authorities. Short of that, I think I am safe."
"Well, be careful, Basil; be careful. You know you are so rash."
"I suppose I may continue to pity him? He is such a poor, lonely old
fellow. Are you really sorry he's come into our lives, my dear?"
"No, no; not that. I feel as you do about it; but I wish I felt easier
about him--sure, that is, that we're not doing wrong to let him keep on
"I suspect we couldn't help it," March returned, lightly. "It's one of
what Lindau calls his 'brincibles' to say what he thinks."
The Marches had no longer the gross appetite for novelty which urges
youth to a surfeit of strange scenes, experiences, ideas; and makes
travel, with all its annoyances and fatigues, an inexhaustible delight.
But there is no doubt that the chief pleasure of their life in New York
was from its quality of foreignness: the flavor of olives, which, once
tasted, can never be forgotten. The olives may not be of the first
excellence; they may be a little stale, and small and poor, to begin
with, but they are still olives, and the fond palate craves them.
The sort which grew in New York, on lower Sixth Avenue and in the region
of Jefferson Market and on the soft exposures south of Washington Square,
were none the less acceptable because they were of the commonest Italian
The Marches spent a good deal of time and money in a grocery of that
nationality, where they found all the patriotic comestibles and potables,
and renewed their faded Italian with the friendly family in charge.
Italian table d'hotes formed the adventure of the week, on the day when
Mrs. March let her domestics go out, and went herself to dine abroad with
her husband and children; and they became adepts in the restaurants where
they were served, and which they varied almost from dinner to dinner.
The perfect decorum of these places, and their immunity from offence in
any, emboldened the Marches to experiment in Spanish restaurants, where
red pepper and beans insisted in every dinner, and where once they
chanced upon a night of 'olla podrida', with such appeals to March's
memory of a boyish ambition to taste the dish that he became poetic and
then pensive over its cabbage and carrots, peas and bacon. For a rare
combination of international motives they prized most the table d'hote of
a French lady, who had taken a Spanish husband in a second marriage, and
had a Cuban negro for her cook, with a cross-eyed Alsation for waiter,
and a slim young South-American for cashier. March held that some thing
of the catholic character of these relations expressed itself in the
generous and tolerant variety of the dinner, which was singularly
abundant for fifty cents, without wine. At one very neat French place he
got a dinner at the same price with wine, but it was not so abundant; and
March inquired in fruitless speculation why the table d'hote of the
Italians, a notoriously frugal and abstemious people, should be usually
more than you wanted at seventy-five cents and a dollar, and that of the
French rather less at half a dollar. He could not see that the
frequenters were greatly different at the different places; they were
mostly Americans, of subdued manners and conjecturably subdued fortunes,
with here and there a table full of foreigners. There was no noise and
not much smoking anywhere; March liked going to that neat French place
because there Madame sat enthroned and high behind a 'comptoir' at one
side of the room, and every body saluted her in going out. It was there
that a gentle-looking young couple used to dine, in whom the Marches
became effectlessly interested, because they thought they looked like
that when they were young. The wife had an aesthetic dress, and defined
her pretty head by wearing her back-hair pulled up very tight under her
bonnet; the husband had dreamy eyes set wide apart under a pure forehead.
"They are artists, August, I think," March suggested to the waiter, when
he had vainly asked about them. "Oh, hartis, cedenly," August consented;
but Heaven knows whether they were, or what they were: March never
This immunity from acquaintance, this touch-and go quality in their New
York sojourn, this almost loss of individuality at times, after the
intense identification of their Boston life, was a relief, though Mrs.
March had her misgivings, and questioned whether it were not perhaps too
relaxing to the moral fibre. March refused to explore his conscience;
he allowed that it might be so; but he said he liked now and then to feel
his personality in that state of solution. They went and sat a good deal
in the softening evenings among the infants and dotards of Latin
extraction in Washington Square, safe from all who ever knew them,
and enjoyed the advancing season, which thickened the foliage of the
trees and flattered out of sight the church warden's Gothic of the
University Building. The infants were sometimes cross, and cried in
their weary mothers' or little sisters' arms; but they did not disturb
the dotards, who slept, some with their heads fallen forward, and some
with their heads fallen back; March arbitrarily distinguished those with
the drooping faces as tipsy and ashamed to confront the public.
The small Italian children raced up and down the asphalt paths, playing
American games of tag and hide and-whoop; larger boys passed ball, in
training for potential championships. The Marches sat and mused, or
quarrelled fitfully about where they should spend the summer, like
sparrows, he once said, till the electric lights began to show distinctly
among the leaves, and they looked round and found the infants and dotards
gone and the benches filled with lovers. That was the signal for the
Marches to go home. He said that the spectacle of so much courtship as
the eye might take in there at a glance was not, perhaps, oppressive, but
the thought that at the same hour the same thing was going on all over
the country, wherever two young fools could get together, was more than
he could bear; he did not deny that it was natural, and, in a measure.
authorized, but he declared that it was hackneyed; and the fact that it
must go on forever, as long as the race lasted, made him tired.
At home, generally, they found that the children had not missed them, and
were perfectly safe. It was one of the advantages of a flat that they
could leave the children there whenever they liked without anxiety. They
liked better staying there than wandering about in the evening with their
parents, whose excursions seemed to them somewhat aimless, and their
pleasures insipid. They studied, or read, or looked out of the window at
the street sights; and their mother always came back to them with a pang
for their lonesomeness. Bella knew some little girls in the house, but
in a ceremonious way; Tom had formed no friendships among the boys at
school such as he had left in Boston; as nearly as he could explain, the
New York fellows carried canes at an age when they would have had them
broken for them by the other boys at Boston; and they were both sissyish
and fast. It was probably prejudice; he never could say exactly what
their demerits were, and neither he nor Bella was apparently so homesick
as they pretended, though they answered inquirers, the one that New York
was a hole, and the other that it was horrid, and that all they lived for
was to get back to Boston. In the mean time they were thrown much upon
each other for society, which March said was well for both of them; he
did not mind their cultivating a little gloom and the sense of a common
wrong; it made them better comrades, and it was providing them with
amusing reminiscences for the future. They really enjoyed Bohemianizing
in that harmless way: though Tom had his doubts of its respectability; he
was very punctilious about his sister, and went round from his own school
every day to fetch her home from hers. The whole family went to the
theatre a good deal, and enjoyed themselves together in their desultory
explorations of the city.
They lived near Greenwich Village, and March liked strolling through its
quaintness toward the waterside on a Sunday, when a hereditary
Sabbatarianism kept his wife at home; he made her observe that it even
kept her at home from church. He found a lingering quality of pure
Americanism in the region, and he said the very bells called to worship
in a nasal tone. He liked the streets of small brick houses, with here
and there one painted red, and the mortar lines picked out in white, and
with now and then a fine wooden portal of fluted pillars and a bowed
transom. The rear of the tenement-houses showed him the picturesqueness
of clothes-lines fluttering far aloft, as in Florence; and the new
apartment-houses, breaking the old sky-line with their towering stories,
implied a life as alien to the American manner as anything in continental
Europe. In fact, foreign faces and foreign tongues prevailed in
Greenwich Village, but no longer German or even Irish tongues or faces.
The eyes and earrings of Italians twinkled in and out of the alleyways
and basements, and they seemed to abound even in the streets, where long
ranks of trucks drawn up in Sunday rest along the curbstones suggested
the presence of a race of sturdier strength than theirs. March liked the
swarthy, strange visages; he found nothing menacing for the future in
them; for wickedness he had to satisfy himself as he could with the
sneering, insolent, clean-shaven mug of some rare American of the b'hoy
type, now almost as extinct in New York as the dodo or the volunteer
fireman. When he had found his way, among the ash-barrels and the groups
of decently dressed church-goers, to the docks, he experienced a
sufficient excitement in the recent arrival of a French steamer, whose
sheds were thronged with hacks and express-wagons, and in a tacit inquiry
into the emotions of the passengers, fresh from the cleanliness of Paris,
and now driving up through the filth of those streets.
Some of the streets were filthier than others; there was at least a
choice; there were boxes and barrels of kitchen offal on all the
sidewalks, but not everywhere manure-heaps, and in some places the stench
was mixed with the more savory smell of cooking. One Sunday morning,
before the winter was quite gone, the sight of the frozen refuse melting
in heaps, and particularly the loathsome edges of the rotting ice near
the gutters, with the strata of waste-paper and straw litter, and egg-
shells and orange peel, potato-skins and cigar-stumps, made him unhappy.
He gave a whimsical shrug for the squalor of the neighboring houses, and
said to himself rather than the boy who was with him: "It's curious,
isn't it, how fond the poor people are of these unpleasant thoroughfares?
You always find them living in the worst streets."
"The burden of all the wrong in the world comes on the poor," said the
boy. "Every sort of fraud and swindling hurts them the worst. The city
wastes the money it's paid to clean the streets with, and the poor have
to suffer, for they can't afford to pay twice, like the rich."
March stopped short. "Hallo, Tom! Is that your wisdom?"
"It's what Mr. Lindau says," answered the boy, doggedly, as if not
pleased to have his ideas mocked at, even if they were second-hand.
"And you didn't tell him that the poor lived in dirty streets because
they liked them, and were too lazy and worthless to have them cleaned?"
"No; I didn't."
"I'm surprised. What do you think of Lindau, generally speaking, Tom?"
"Well, sir, I don't like the way he talks about some things. I don't
suppose this country is perfect, but I think it's about the best there
is, and it don't do any good to look at its drawbacks all the time."
"Sound, my son," said March, putting his hand on the boy's shoulder and
beginning to walk on. "Well?"
"Well, then, he says that it isn't the public frauds only that the poor
have to pay for, but they have to pay for all the vices of the rich; that
when a speculator fails, or a bank cashier defaults, or a firm suspends,
or hard times come, it's the poor who have to give up necessaries where
the rich give up luxuries."
"Well, well! And then?"
"Well, then I think the crank comes in, in Mr. Lindau. He says there's
no need of failures or frauds or hard times. It's ridiculous. There
always have been and there always will be. But if you tell him that, it
seems to make him perfectly furious."
March repeated the substance of this talk to his wife. "I'm glad to know
that Tom can see through such ravings. He has lots of good common
It was the afternoon of the same Sunday, and they were sauntering up
Fifth Avenue, and admiring the wide old double houses at the lower end;
at one corner they got a distinct pleasure out of the gnarled elbows that
a pollarded wistaria leaned upon the top of a garden wall--for its
convenience in looking into the street, he said. The line of these
comfortable dwellings, once so fashionable, was continually broken by the
facades of shops; and March professed himself vulgarized by a want of
style in the people they met in their walk to Twenty-third Street.
"Take me somewhere to meet my fellow-exclusives, Isabel," he demanded.
"I pine for the society of my peers."
He hailed a passing omnibus, and made his wife get on the roof with him.
"Think of our doing such a thing in Boston!" she sighed, with a little
shiver of satisfaction in her immunity from recognition and comment.
"You wouldn't be afraid to do it in London or Paris?"
"No; we should be strangers there--just as we are in New York. I wonder
how long one could be a stranger here."
"Oh, indefinitely, in our way of living. The place is really vast, so
much larger than it used to seem, and so heterogeneous."
When they got down very far up-town, and began to walk back by Madison
Avenue, they found themselves in a different population from that they
dwelt among; not heterogeneous at all; very homogeneous, and almost
purely American; the only qualification was American Hebrew. Such a well
-dressed, well-satisfied, well-fed looking crowd poured down the broad
sidewalks before the handsome, stupid houses that March could easily
pretend he had got among his fellow-plutocrats at last. Still he
expressed his doubts whether this Sunday afternoon parade, which seemed
to be a thing of custom, represented the best form among the young people
of that region; he wished he knew; he blamed himself for becoming of a
fastidious conjecture; he could not deny the fashion and the richness and
the indigeneity of the spectacle; the promenaders looked New-Yorky; they
were the sort of people whom you would know for New-Yorkers elsewhere,
--so well equipped and so perfectly kept at all points. Their silk hats
shone, and their boots; their frocks had the right distension behind, and
their bonnets perfect poise and distinction.
The Marches talked of these and other facts of their appearance, and
curiously questioned whether this were the best that a great material
civilization could come to; it looked a little dull. The men's faces
were shrewd and alert, and yet they looked dull; the women's were pretty
and knowing, and yet dull. It was, probably, the holiday expression of
the vast, prosperous commercial class, with unlimited money, and no
ideals that money could not realize; fashion and comfort were all that
they desired to compass, and the culture that furnishes showily, that
decorates and that tells; the culture, say, of plays and operas, rather
Perhaps the observers did the promenaders injustice; they might not have
been as common-minded as they looked. "But," March said, "I understand
now why the poor people don't come up here and live in this clean,
handsome, respectable quarter of the town; they would be bored to death.
On the whole, I think I should prefer Mott Street myself."
In other walks the Marches tried to find some of the streets they had
wandered through the first day of their wedding journey in New York, so
long ago. They could not make sure of them; but once they ran down to the
Battery, and easily made sure of that, though not in its old aspect.
They recalled the hot morning, when they sauntered over the trodden weed
that covered the sickly grass-plots there, and sentimentalized the
sweltering paupers who had crept out of the squalid tenements about for a
breath of air after a sleepless night. Now the paupers were gone, and
where the old mansions that had fallen to their use once stood, there
towered aloft and abroad those heights and masses of many-storied brick-
work for which architecture has yet no proper form and aesthetics no
name. The trees and shrubs, all in their young spring green, blew
briskly over the guarded turf in the south wind that came up over the
water; and in the well-paved alleys the ghosts of eighteenth-century
fashion might have met each other in their old haunts, and exchanged
stately congratulations upon its vastly bettered condition, and perhaps
puzzled a little over the colossal lady on Bedloe's Island, with her
lifted torch, and still more over the curving tracks and chalet-stations
of the Elevated road. It is an outlook of unrivalled beauty across the
bay, that smokes and flashes with the in numerable stacks and sails of
commerce, to the hills beyond, where the moving forest of masts halts at
the shore, and roots itself in the groves of the many villaged uplands.
The Marches paid the charming prospects a willing duty, and rejoiced in
it as generously as if it had been their own. Perhaps it was, they
decided. He said people owned more things in common than they were apt
to think; and they drew the consolations of proprietorship from the
excellent management of Castle Garden, which they penetrated for a
moment's glimpse of the huge rotunda, where the immigrants first set foot
on our continent. It warmed their hearts, so easily moved to any cheap
sympathy, to see the friendly care the nation took of these humble
guests; they found it even pathetic to hear the proper authority calling
out the names of such as had kin or acquaintance waiting there to meet
them. No one appeared troubled or anxious; the officials had a
conscientious civility; the government seemed to manage their welcome as
well as a private company or corporation could have done. In fact, it
was after the simple strangers had left the government care that March
feared their woes might begin; and he would have liked the government to
follow each of them to his home, wherever he meant to fix it within our
borders. He made note of the looks of the licensed runners and touters
waiting for the immigrants outside the government premises; he intended
to work them up into a dramatic effect in some sketch, but they remained
mere material in his memorandum-book, together with some quaint old
houses on the Sixth Avenue road, which he had noticed on the way down.
On the way up, these were superseded in his regard by some hip-roof
structures on the Ninth Avenue, which he thought more Dutch-looking.
The perspectives of the cross-streets toward the river were very lively,
with their turmoil of trucks and cars and carts and hacks and foot
passengers, ending in the chimneys and masts of shipping, and final
gleams of dancing water. At a very noisy corner, clangorous with some
sort of ironworking, he made his wife enjoy with him the quiet sarcasm of
an inn that called itself the Home-like Hotel, and he speculated at
fantastic length on the gentle associations of one who should have passed
his youth under its roof.
First and last, the Marches did a good deal of travel on the Elevated
roads, which, he said, gave you such glimpses of material aspects in the
city as some violent invasion of others' lives might afford in human
nature. Once, when the impulse of adventure was very strong in them,
they went quite the length of the West Side lines, and saw the city
pushing its way by irregular advances into the country. Some spaces,
probably held by the owners for that rise in value which the industry of
others providentially gives to the land of the wise and good, it left
vacant comparatively far down the road, and built up others at remoter
points. It was a world of lofty apartment houses beyond the Park,
springing up in isolated blocks, with stretches of invaded rusticity
between, and here and there an old country-seat standing dusty in its
budding vines with the ground before it in rocky upheaval for city
foundations. But wherever it went or wherever it paused, New York gave
its peculiar stamp; and the adventurers were amused to find One Hundred
and Twenty-fifth Street inchoately like Twenty-third Street and
Fourteenth Street in its shops and shoppers. The butchers' shops and
milliners' shops on the avenue might as well have been at Tenth as at One
The adventurers were not often so adventurous. They recognized that in
their willingness to let their fancy range for them, and to let
speculation do the work of inquiry, they were no longer young. Their
point of view was singularly unchanged, and their impressions of New York
remained the same that they had been fifteen years before: huge, noisy,
ugly, kindly, it seemed to them now as it seemed then. The main
difference was that they saw it more now as a life, and then they only
regarded it as a spectacle; and March could not release himself from a
sense of complicity with it, no matter what whimsical, or alien, or
critical attitude he took. A sense of the striving and the suffering
deeply possessed him; and this grew the more intense as he gained some
knowledge of the forces at work-forces of pity, of destruction, of
perdition, of salvation. He wandered about on Sunday not only through
the streets, but into this tabernacle and that, as the spirit moved him,
and listened to those who dealt with Christianity as a system of
economics as well as a religion. He could not get his wife to go with
him; she listened to his report of what he heard, and trembled; it all
seemed fantastic and menacing. She lamented the literary peace, the
intellectual refinement of the life they had left behind them; and he
owned it was very pretty, but he said it was not life--it was death-in-
life. She liked to hear him talk in that strain of virtuous self-
denunciation, but she asked him, "Which of your prophets are you going to
follow?" and he answered: "All-all! And a fresh one every Sunday."
And so they got their laugh out of it at last, but with some sadness at
heart, and with a dim consciousness that they had got their laugh out of
too many things in life.
What really occupied and compassed his activities, in spite of his
strenuous reveries of work beyond it, was his editorship. On its social
side it had not fulfilled all the expectations which Fulkerson's radiant
sketch of its duties and relations had caused him to form of it. Most of
the contributions came from a distance; even the articles written in New
York reached him through the post, and so far from having his valuable
time, as they called it, consumed in interviews with his collaborators,
he rarely saw any of them. The boy on the stairs, who was to fence him
from importunate visitors, led a life of luxurious disoccupation, and
whistled almost uninterruptedly. When any one came, March found himself
embarrassed and a little anxious. The visitors were usually young men,
terribly respectful, but cherishing, as he imagined, ideals and opinions
chasmally different from his; and he felt in their presence something
like an anachronism, something like a fraud. He tried to freshen up his
sympathies on them, to get at what they were really thinking and feeling,
and it was some time before he could understand that they were not really
thinking and feeling anything of their own concerning their art, but were
necessarily, in their quality of young, inexperienced men, mere
acceptants of older men's thoughts and feelings, whether they were
tremendously conservative, as some were, or tremendously progressive, as
others were. Certain of them called themselves realists, certain
romanticists; but none of them seemed to know what realism was, or what
romanticism; they apparently supposed the difference a difference of
material. March had imagined himself taking home to lunch or dinner the
aspirants for editorial favor whom he liked, whether he liked their work
or not; but this was not an easy matter. Those who were at all
interesting seemed to have engagements and preoccupations; after two or
three experiments with the bashfuller sort--those who had come up to the
metropolis with manuscripts in their hands, in the good old literary
tradition--he wondered whether he was otherwise like them when he was
young like them. He could not flatter himself that he was not; and yet
he had a hope that the world had grown worse since his time, which his
Mrs. March was not eager to pursue the hospitalities which she had at
first imagined essential to the literary prosperity of 'Every Other
Week'; her family sufficed her; she would willingly have seen no one out
of it but the strangers at the weekly table-d'hote dinner, or the
audiences at the theatres. March's devotion to his work made him
reluctant to delegate it to any one; and as the summer advanced, and the
question of where to go grew more vexed, he showed a man's base
willingness to shirk it for himself by not going anywhere. He asked his
wife why she did not go somewhere with the children, and he joined her in
a search for non-malarial regions on the map when she consented to
entertain this notion. But when it came to the point she would not go;
he offered to go with her then, and then she would not let him. She said
she knew he would be anxious about his work; he protested that he could
take it with him to any distance within a few hours, but she would not be
persuaded. She would rather he stayed; the effect would be better with
Mr. Fulkerson; they could make excursions, and they could all get off a
week or two to the seashore near Boston--the only real seashore--in
August. The excursions were practically confined to a single day at
Coney Island; and once they got as far as Boston on the way to the
seashore near Boston; that is, Mrs. March and the children went; an
editorial exigency kept March at the last moment. The Boston streets
seemed very queer and clean and empty to the children, and the buildings
little; in the horse-cars the Boston faces seemed to arraign their mother
with a down-drawn severity that made her feel very guilty. She knew that
this was merely the Puritan mask, the cast of a dead civilization, which
people of very amiable and tolerant minds were doomed to wear, and she
sighed to think that less than a year of the heterogeneous gayety of New
York should have made her afraid of it. The sky seemed cold and gray;
the east wind, which she had always thought so delicious in summer, cut
her to the heart. She took her children up to the South End, and in the
pretty square where they used to live they stood before their alienated
home, and looked up at its close-shuttered windows. The tenants must
have been away, but Mrs. March had not the courage to ring and make sure,
though she had always promised herself that she would go all over the
house when she came back, and see how they had used it; she could pretend
a desire for something she wished to take away. She knew she could not
bear it now; and the children did not seem eager. She did not push on to
the seaside; it would be forlorn there without their father; she was glad
to go back to him in the immense, friendly homelessness of New York, and
hold him answerable for the change, in her heart or her mind, which made
its shapeless tumult a refuge and a consolation.
She found that he had been giving the cook a holiday, and dining about
hither and thither with Fulkerson. Once he had dined with him at the
widow's (as they always called Mrs. Leighton), and then had spent the
evening there, and smoked with Fulkerson and Colonel Woodburn on the
gallery overlooking the back yard. They were all spending the summer in
New York. The widow had got so good an offer for her house at St.
Barnaby for the summer that she could not refuse it; and the Woodburns
found New York a watering-place of exemplary coolness after the burning
Augusts and Septembers of Charlottesburg.
"You can stand it well enough in our climate, sir," the colonel
explained, "till you come to the September heat, that sometimes runs well
into October; and then you begin to lose your temper, sir. It's never
quite so hot as it is in New York at times, but it's hot longer, sir."
He alleged, as if something of the sort were necessary, the example of a
famous Southwestern editor who spent all his summers in a New York hotel
as the most luxurious retreat on the continent, consulting the weather
forecasts, and running off on torrid days to the mountains or the sea,
and then hurrying back at the promise of cooler weather. The colonel had
not found it necessary to do this yet; and he had been reluctant to leave
town, where he was working up a branch of the inquiry which had so long
occupied him, in the libraries, and studying the great problem of labor
and poverty as it continually presented itself to him in the streets.
He said that he talked with all sorts of people, whom he found
monstrously civil, if you took them in the right way; and he went
everywhere in the city without fear and apparently without danger. March
could not find out that he had ridden his hobby into the homes of want
which he visited, or had proposed their enslavement to the inmates as a
short and simple solution of the great question of their lives; he
appeared to have contented himself with the collection of facts for the
persuasion of the cultivated classes. It seemed to March a confirmation
of this impression that the colonel should address his deductions from
these facts so unsparingly to him; he listened with a respectful
patience, for which Fulkerson afterward personally thanked him.
Fulkerson said it was not often the colonel found such a good listener;
generally nobody listened but Mrs. Leighton, who thought his ideas were
shocking, but honored him for holding them so conscientiously. Fulkerson
was glad that March, as the literary department, had treated the old
gentleman so well, because there was an open feud between him and the art
department. Beaton was outrageously rude, Fulkerson must say; though as
for that, the old colonel seemed quite able to take care of himself, and
gave Beaton an unqualified contempt in return for his unmannerliness.
The worst of it was, it distressed the old lady so; she admired Beaton as
much as she respected the colonel, and she admired Beaton, Fulkerson
thought, rather more than Miss Leighton did; he asked March if he had
noticed them together. March had noticed them, but without any very
definite impression except that Beaton seemed to give the whole evening
to the girl. Afterward he recollected that he had fancied her rather
harassed by his devotion, and it was this point that he wished to present
for his wife's opinion.
"Girls often put on that air," she said. "It's one of their ways of
teasing. But then, if the man was really very much in love, and she was
only enough in love to be uncertain of herself, she might very well seem
troubled. It would be a very serious question. Girls often don't know
what to do in such a case."
"Yes," said March, "I've often been glad that I was not a girl, on that
account. But I guess that on general principles Beaton is not more in
love than she is. I couldn't imagine that young man being more in love
with anybody, unless it was himself. He might be more in love with
himself than any one else was."
"Well, he doesn't interest me a great deal, and I can't say Miss Leighton
does, either. I think she can take care of herself. She has herself
very well in hand."
"Why so censorious?" pleaded March. "I don't defend her for having
herself in hand; but is it a fault?"
Mrs. March did not say. She asked, "And how does Mr. Fulkerson's affair
"His affair? You really think it is one? Well, I've fancied so myself,
and I've had an idea of some time asking him; Fulkerson strikes one as
truly domesticable, conjugable at heart; but I've waited for him to
"I should think so."
"Yes. He's never opened on the subject yet. Do you know, I think
Fulkerson has his moments of delicacy."
"Moments! He's all delicacy in regard to women."
"Well, perhaps so. There is nothing in them to rouse his advertising
The Dryfoos family stayed in town till August. Then the father went West
again to look after his interests; and Mrs. Mandel took the two girls to
one of the great hotels in Saratoga. Fulkerson said that he had never
seen anything like Saratoga for fashion, and Mrs. Mandel remembered that
in her own young ladyhood this was so for at least some weeks of the
year. She had been too far withdrawn from fashion since her marriage to
know whether it was still so or not. In this, as in so many other
matters, the Dryfoos family helplessly relied upon Fulkerson, in spite of
Dryfoos's angry determination that he should not run the family, and in
spite of Christine's doubt of his omniscience; if he did not know
everything, she was aware that he knew more than herself. She thought
that they had a right to have him go with them to Saratoga, or at least
go up and engage their rooms beforehand; but Fulkerson did not offer to
do either, and she did not quite see her way to commanding his services.
The young ladies took what Mela called splendid dresses with them; they
sat in the park of tall, slim trees which the hotel's quadrangle
enclosed, and listened to the music in the morning, or on the long piazza
in the afternoon and looked at the driving in the street, or in the vast
parlors by night, where all the other ladies were, and they felt that
they were of the best there. But they knew nobody, and Mrs. Mandel was
so particular that Mela was prevented from continuing the acquaintance
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