"Natural gas, by thunder!" shouted Fulkerson.
One of the waiters had profited by Lindau's posture to lean over him and put down in the middle of the table a structure in white sugar. It expressed Frescobaldi's conception of a derrick, and a touch of nature had been added in the flame of brandy, which burned luridly up from a small pit in the centre of the base, and represented the gas in combustion as it issued from the ground. Fulkerson burst into a roar of laughter with the words that recognized Frescobaldi's personal tribute to Dryfoos. Everybody rose and peered over at the thing, while he explained the work of sinking a gas-well, as he had already explained it to Frescobaldi. In the midst of his lecture he caught sight of the caterer himself, where he stood in the pantry doorway, smiling with an artist's anxiety for the effect of his masterpiece.
"Come in, come in, Frescobaldi! We want to congratulate you," Fulkerson called to him. "Here, gentlemen! Here's Frescobaldi's health."
They all drank; and Frescobaldi, smiling brilliantly and rubbing his hands as he bowed right and left, permitted himself to say to Dryfoos: "You are please; no? You like?"
"First-rate, first-rate!" said the old man; but when the Italian had bowed himself out and his guests had sunk into their seats again, he said dryly to Fulkerson, "I reckon they didn't have to torpedo that well, or the derrick wouldn't look quite so nice and clean."
"Yes," Fulkerson answered, "and that ain't quite the style—that little wiggly-waggly blue flame—that the gas acts when you touch off a good vein of it. This might do for weak gas"; and he went on to explain:
"They call it weak gas when they tap it two or three hundred feet down; and anybody can sink a well in his back yard and get enough gas to light and heat his house. I remember one fellow that had it blazing up from a pipe through a flower-bed, just like a jet of water from a fountain. My, my, my! You fel—you gentlemen—ought to go out and see that country, all of you. Wish we could torpedo this well, Mr. Dryfoos, and let 'em see how it works! Mind that one you torpedoed for me? You know, when they sink a well," he went on to the company, "they can't always most generally sometimes tell whether they're goin' to get gas or oil or salt water. Why, when they first began to bore for salt water out on the Kanawha, back about the beginning of the century, they used to get gas now and then, and then they considered it a failure; they called a gas- well a blower, and give it up in disgust; the time wasn't ripe for gas yet. Now they bore away sometimes till they get half-way to China, and don't seem to strike anything worth speaking of. Then they put a dynamite torpedo down in the well and explode it. They have a little bar of iron that they call a Go-devil, and they just drop it down on the business end of the torpedo, and then stand from under, if you please! You hear a noise, and in about half a minute you begin to see one, and it begins to rain oil and mud and salt water and rocks and pitchforks and adoptive citizens; and when it clears up the derrick's painted—got a coat on that 'll wear in any climate. That's what our honored host meant. Generally get some visiting lady, when there's one round, to drop the Go-devil. But that day we had to put up with Conrad here. They offered to let me drop it, but I declined. I told 'em I hadn't much practice with Go-devils in the newspaper syndicate business, and I wasn't very well myself, anyway. Astonishing," Fulkerson continued, with the air of relieving his explanation by an anecdote, "how reckless they get using dynamite when they're torpedoing wells. We stopped at one place where a fellow was handling the cartridges pretty freely, and Mr. Dryfoos happened to caution him a little, and that ass came up with one of 'em in his hand, and began to pound it on the buggy-wheel to show us how safe it was. I turned green, I was so scared; but Mr. Dryfoos kept his color, and kind of coaxed the fellow till he quit. You could see he was the fool kind, that if you tried to stop him he'd keep on hammering that cartridge, just to show that it wouldn't explode, till he blew you into Kingdom Come. When we got him to go away, Mr. Dryfoos drove up to his foreman. 'Pay Sheney off, and discharge him on the spot,' says he. 'He's too safe a man to have round; he knows too much about dynamite.' I never saw anybody so cool."
Dryfoos modestly dropped his head under Fulkerson's flattery and, without lifting it, turned his eyes toward Colonel Woodburn. "I had all sorts of men to deal with in developing my property out there, but I had very little trouble with them, generally speaking."
"Ah, ah! you foundt the laboring-man reasonable—dractable—tocile?" Lindau put in.
"Yes, generally speaking," Dryfoos answered. "They mostly knew which side of their bread was buttered. I did have one little difficulty at one time. It happened to be when Mr. Fulkerson was out there. Some of the men tried to form a union—"
"No, no!" cried Fulkerson. "Let me tell that! I know you wouldn't do yourself justice, Mr. Dryfoos, and I want 'em to know how a strike can be managed, if you take it in time. You see, some of those fellows got a notion that there ought to be a union among the working-men to keep up wages, and dictate to the employers, and Mr. Dryfoos's foreman was the ringleader in the business. They understood pretty well that as soon as he found it out that foreman would walk the plank, and so they watched out till they thought they had Mr. Dryfoos just where they wanted him— everything on the keen jump, and every man worth his weight in diamonds —and then they came to him, and—told him to sign a promise to keep that foreman to the end of the season, or till he was through with the work on the Dryfoos and Hendry Addition, under penalty of having them all knock off. Mr. Dryfoos smelled a mouse, but he couldn't tell where the mouse was; he saw that they did have him, and he signed, of course. There wasn't anything really against the fellow, anyway; he was a first-rate man, and he did his duty every time; only he'd got some of those ideas into his head, and they turned it. Mr. Dryfoos signed, and then he laid low."
March saw Lindau listening with a mounting intensity, and heard him murmur in German, "Shameful! shameful!"
Fulkerson went on: "Well, it wasn't long before they began to show their hand, but Mr. Dryfoos kept dark. He agreed to everything; there never was such an obliging capitalist before; there wasn't a thing they asked of him that he didn't do, with the greatest of pleasure, and all went merry as a marriage-bell till one morning a whole gang of fresh men marched into the Dryfoos and Hendry Addition, under the escort of a dozen Pinkertons with repeating rifles at half-cock, and about fifty fellows found themselves out of a job. You never saw such a mad set."
"Pretty neat," said Kendricks, who looked at the affair purely from an aesthetic point of view. "Such a coup as that would tell tremendously in a play."
"That was vile treason," said Lindau in German to March. "He's an infamous traitor! I cannot stay here. I must go."
He struggled to rise, while March held him by the coat, and implored him under his voice: "For Heaven's sake, don't, Lindau! You owe it to yourself not to make a scene, if you come here." Something in it all affected him comically; he could not help laughing.
The others were discussing the matter, and seemed not to have noticed Lindau, who controlled himself and sighed: "You are right. I must have patience."
Beaton was saying to Dryfoos, "Pity your Pinkertons couldn't have given them a few shots before they left."
"No, that wasn't necessary," said Dryfoos. "I succeeded in breaking up the union. I entered into an agreement with other parties not to employ any man who would not swear that he was non-union. If they had attempted violence, of course they could have been shot. But there was no fear of that. Those fellows can always be depended upon to cut one another's throats in the long run."
"But sometimes," said Colonel Woodburn, who had been watching throughout. for a chance to mount his hobby again, "they make a good deal of trouble first. How was it in the great railroad strike of '77?"
"Well, I guess there was a little trouble that time, colonel," said Fulkerson. "But the men that undertake to override the laws and paralyze the industries of a country like this generally get left in the end."
"Yes, sir, generally; and up to a certain point, always. But it's the exceptional that is apt to happen, as well as the unexpected. And a little reflection will convince any gentleman here that there is always a danger of the exceptional in your system. The fact is, those fellows have the game in their own hands already. A strike of the whole body of the Brotherhood of Engineers alone would starve out the entire Atlantic seaboard in a week; labor insurrection could make head at a dozen given points, and your government couldn't move a man over the roads without the help of the engineers."
"That is so," said Kendrick, struck by the dramatic character of the conjecture. He imagined a fiction dealing with the situation as something already accomplished.
"Why don't some fellow do the Battle of Dorking act with that thing?" said Fulkerson. "It would be a card."
"Exactly what I was thinking, Mr. Fulkerson," said Kendricks.
Fulkerson laughed. "Telepathy—clear case of mind transference. Better see March, here, about it. I'd like to have it in 'Every Other Week.' It would make talk."
"Perhaps it might set your people to thinking as well as talking," said the colonel.
"Well, sir," said Dryfoos, setting his lips so tightly together that his imperial stuck straight outward, "if I had my way, there wouldn't be any Brotherhood of Engineers, nor any other kind of labor union in the whole country."
"What!" shouted Lindau. "You would sobbress the unionss of the voarking- men?"
"Yes, I would."
"And what would you do with the unionss of the gabidalists—the drosts— and gompines, and boolss? Would you dake the righdt from one and gif it to the odder?"
"Yes, sir, I would," said Dryfoos, with a wicked look at him.
Lindau was about to roar back at him with some furious protest, but March put his hand on his shoulder imploringly, and Lindau turned to him to say in German: "But it is infamous—infamous! What kind of man is this? Who is he? He has the heart of a tyrant."
Colonel Woodburn cut in. "You couldn't do that, Mr. Dryfoos, under your system. And if you attempted it, with your conspiracy laws, and that kind of thing, it might bring the climax sooner than you expected. Your commercialized society has built its house on the sands. It will have to go. But I should be sorry if it went before its time."
"You are righdt, sir," said Lindau. "It would be a bity. I hobe it will last till it feelss its rottenness, like Herodt. Boat, when its hour gomes, when it trope to bieces with the veight off its own gorrubtion— what then?"
"It's not to be supposed that a system of things like this can drop to pieces of its own accord, like the old Republic of Venice," said the colonel. "But when the last vestige of commercial society is gone, then we can begin to build anew; and we shall build upon the central idea, not of the false liberty you now worship, but of responsibility— responsibility. The enlightened, the moneyed, the cultivated class shall be responsible to the central authority—emperor, duke, president; the name does not matter—for the national expense and the national defence, and it shall be responsible to the working-classes of all kinds for homes and lands and implements, and the opportunity to labor at all times.
"The working-classes shall be responsible to the leisure class for the support of its dignity in peace, and shall be subject to its command in war. The rich shall warrant the poor against planless production and the ruin that now follows, against danger from without and famine from within, and the poor—"
"No, no, no!" shouted Lindau. "The State shall do that—the whole beople. The men who voark shall have and shall eat; and the men that will not voark, they shall sdarfe. But no man need sdarfe. He will go to the State, and the State will see that he haf voark, and that he haf foodt. All the roadts and mills and mines and landts shall be the beople's and be ron by the beople for the beople. There shall be no rich and no boor; and there shall not be war any more, for what bower wouldt dare to addack a beople bound togeder in a broderhood like that?"
"Lion and lamb act," said Fulkerson, not well knowing, after so much champagne, what words he was using.
No one noticed him, and Colonel Woodburn said coldly to Lindau, "You are talking paternalism, sir."
"And you are dalking feutalism!" retorted the old man.
The colonel did not reply. A silence ensued, which no one broke till Fulkerson said: "Well, now, look here. If either one of these millenniums was brought about, by force of arms, or otherwise, what would become of 'Every Other Week'? Who would want March for an editor? How would Beaton sell his pictures? Who would print Mr. Kendricks's little society verses and short stories? What would become of Conrad and his good works?" Those named grinned in support of Fulkerson's diversion, but Lindau and the colonel did not speak; Dryfoos looked down at his plate, frowning.
A waiter came round with cigars, and Fulkerson took one. "Ah," he said, as he bit off the end, and leaned over to the emblematic masterpiece, where the brandy was still feebly flickering, "I wonder if there's enough natural gas left to light my cigar." His effort put the flame out and knocked the derrick over; it broke in fragments on the table. Fulkerson cackled over the ruin: "I wonder if all Moffitt will look that way after labor and capital have fought it out together. I hope this ain't ominous of anything personal, Dryfoos?"
"I'll take the risk of it," said the old man, harshly.
He rose mechanically, and Fulkerson said to Frescobaldi's man, "You can bring us the coffee in the library."
The talk did not recover itself there. Landau would not sit down; he refused coffee, and dismissed himself with a haughty bow to the company; Colonel Woodburn shook hands elaborately all round, when he had smoked his cigar; the others followed him. It seemed to March that his own good-night from Dryfoos was dry and cold.
March met Fulkerson on the steps of the office next morning, when he arrived rather later than his wont. Fulkerson did not show any of the signs of suffering from the last night's pleasure which painted themselves in March's face. He flirted his hand gayly in the air, and said, "How's your poor head?" and broke into a knowing laugh. "You don't seem to have got up with the lark this morning. The old gentleman is in there with Conrad, as bright as a biscuit; he's beat you down. Well, we did have a good time, didn't we? And old Lindau and the colonel, didn't they have a good time? I don't suppose they ever had a chance before to give their theories quite so much air. Oh, my! how they did ride over us! I'm just going down to see Beaton about the cover of the Christmas number. I think we ought to try it in three or four colors, if we are going to observe the day at all." He was off before March could pull himself together to ask what Dryfoos wanted at the office at that hour of the morning; he always came in the afternoon on his way up-town.
The fact of his presence renewed the sinister misgivings with which March had parted from him the night before, but Fulkerson's cheerfulness seemed to gainsay them; afterward March did not know whether to attribute this mood to the slipperiness that he was aware of at times in Fulkerson, or to a cynical amusement he might have felt at leaving him alone to the old man, who mounted to his room shortly after March had reached it.
A sort of dumb anger showed itself in his face; his jaw was set so firmly that he did not seem able at once to open it. He asked, without the ceremonies of greeting, "What does that one-armed Dutchman do on this book?"
"What does he do?" March echoed, as people are apt to do with a question that is mandatory and offensive.
"Yes, sir, what does he do? Does he write for it?"
"I suppose you mean Lindau," said March. He saw no reason for refusing to answer Dryfoos's demand, and he decided to ignore its terms. "No, he doesn't write for it in the usual way. He translates for it; he examines the foreign magazines, and draws my attention to anything he thinks of interest. But I told you about this before—"
"I know what you told me, well enough. And I know what he is. He is a red-mouthed labor agitator. He's one of those foreigners that come here from places where they've never had a decent meal's victuals in their lives, and as soon as they get their stomachs full, they begin to make trouble between our people and their hands. There's where the strikes come from, and the unions and the secret societies. They come here and break our Sabbath, and teach their atheism. They ought to be hung! Let 'em go back if they don't like it over here. They want to ruin the country."
March could not help smiling a little at the words, which came fast enough now in the hoarse staccato of Dryfoos's passion. "I don't know whom you mean by they, generally speaking; but I had the impression that poor old Lindau had once done his best to save the country. I don't always like his way of talking, but I know that he is one of the truest and kindest souls in the world; and he is no more an atheist than I am. He is my friend, and I can't allow him to be misunderstood."
"I don't care what he is," Dryfoos broke out, "I won't have him round. He can't have any more work from this office. I want you to stop it. I want you to turn him off."
March was standing at his desk, as he had risen to receive Dryfoos when he entered. He now sat down, and began to open his letters.
"Do you hear?" the old man roared at him. "I want you to turn him off."
"Excuse me, Mr. Dryfoos," said March, succeeding in an effort to speak calmly, "I don't know you, in such a matter as this. My arrangements as editor of 'Every Other Week' were made with Mr. Fulkerson. I have always listened to any suggestion he has had to make."
"I don't care for Mr. Fulkerson? He has nothing to do with it," retorted Dryfoos; but he seemed a little daunted by March's position.
"He has everything to do with it as far as I am concerned," March answered, with a steadiness that he did not feel. "I know that you are the owner of the periodical, but I can't receive any suggestion from you, for the reason that I have given. Nobody but Mr. Fulkerson has any right to talk with me about its management."
Dryfoos glared at him for a moment, and demanded, threateningly: "Then you say you won't turn that old loafer off? You say that I have got to keep on paying my money out to buy beer for a man that would cut my throat if he got the chance?"
"I say nothing at all, Mr. Dryfoos," March answered. The blood came into his face, and he added: "But I will say that if you speak again of Mr. Lindau in those terms, one of us must leave this room. I will not hear you."
Dryfoos looked at him with astonishment; then he struck his hat down on his head, and stamped out of the room and down the stairs; and a vague pity came into March's heart that was not altogether for himself. He might be the greater sufferer in the end, but he was sorry to have got the better of that old man for the moment; and he felt ashamed of the anger into which Dryfoos's anger had surprised him. He knew he could not say too much in defence of Lindau's generosity and unselfishness, and he had not attempted to defend him as a political economist. He could not have taken any ground in relation to Dryfoos but that which he held, and he felt satisfied that he was right in refusing to receive instructions or commands from him. Yet somehow he was not satisfied with the whole affair, and not merely because his present triumph threatened his final advantage, but because he felt that in his heat he had hardly done justice to Dryfoos's rights in the matter; it did not quite console him to reflect that Dryfoos had himself made it impossible. He was tempted to go home and tell his wife what had happened, and begin his preparations for the future at once. But he resisted this weakness and kept mechanically about his work, opening the letters and the manuscripts before him with that curious double action of the mind common in men of vivid imaginations. It was a relief when Conrad Dryfoos, having apparently waited to make sure that his father would not return, came up from the counting-room and looked in on March with a troubled face.
"Mr. March," he began, "I hope father hasn't been saying anything to you that you can't overlook. I know he was very much excited, and when he is excited he is apt to say things that he is sorry for."
The apologetic attitude taken for Dryfoos, so different from any attitude the peremptory old man would have conceivably taken for himself, made March smile. "Oh no. I fancy the boot is on the other leg. I suspect I've said some things your father can't overlook, Conrad." He called the young man by his Christian name partly to distinguish him from his father, partly from the infection of Fulkerson's habit, and partly from a kindness for him that seemed naturally to express itself in that way.
"I know he didn't sleep last night, after you all went away," Conrad pursued, "and of course that made him more irritable; and he was tried a good deal by some of the things that Mr. Lindau said."
"I was tried a good deal myself," said March. "Lindau ought never to have been there."
"No." Conrad seemed only partially to assent.
"I told Mr. Fulkerson so. I warned him that Lindau would be apt to break out in some way. It wasn't just to him, and it wasn't just to your father, to ask him."
"Mr. Fulkerson had a good motive," Conrad gently urged. "He did it because he hurt his feelings that day about the pension."
"Yes, but it was a mistake. He knew that Lindau was inflexible about his principles, as he calls them, and that one of his first principles is to denounce the rich in season and out of season. I don't remember just what he said last night; and I really thought I'd kept him from breaking out in the most offensive way. But your father seems very much incensed."
"Yes, I know," said Conrad.
"Of course, I don't agree with Lindau. I think there are as many good, kind, just people among the rich as there are among the poor, and that they are as generous and helpful. But Lindau has got hold of one of those partial truths that hurt worse than the whole truth, and—"
"Partial truth!" the young man interrupted. "Didn't the Saviour himself say, 'How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God?'"
"Why, bless my soul!" cried March. "Do you agree with Lindau?"
"I agree with the Lord Jesus Christ," said the young man, solemnly, and a strange light of fanaticism, of exaltation, came into his wide blue eyes. "And I believe He meant the kingdom of heaven upon this earth, as well as in the skies."
March threw himself back in his chair and looked at him with a kind of stupefaction, in which his eye wandered to the doorway, where he saw Fulkerson standing, it seemed to him a long time, before he heard him saying: "Hello, hello! What's the row? Conrad pitching into you on old Lindau's account, too?"
The young man turned, and, after a glance at Fulkerson's light, smiling face, went out, as if in his present mood he could not bear the contact of that persiflant spirit.
March felt himself getting provisionally very angry again. "Excuse me, Fulkerson, but did you know when you went out what Mr. Dryfoos wanted to see me for?"
"Well, no, I didn't exactly," said Fulkerson, taking his usual seat on a chair and looking over the back of it at March. "I saw he was on his car about something, and I thought I'd better not monkey with him much. I supposed he was going to bring you to book about old Lindau, somehow." Fulkerson broke into a laugh.
March remained serious. "Mr. Dryfoos," he said, willing to let the simple statement have its own weight with Fulkerson, and nothing more, "came in here and ordered me to discharge Lindau from his employment on the magazine—to turn him off, as he put it."
"Did he?" asked Fulkerson, with unbroken cheerfulness. "The old man is business, every time. Well, I suppose you can easily get somebody else to do Lindau's work for you. This town is just running over with half- starved linguists. What did you say?"
"What did I say?" March echoed. "Look here, Fulkerson; you may regard this as a joke, but I don't. I'm not used to being spoken to as if I were the foreman of a shop, and told to discharge a sensitive and cultivated man like Lindau, as if he were a drunken mechanic; and if that's your idea of me—"
"Oh, hello, now, March! You mustn't mind the old man's way. He don't mean anything by it—he don't know any better, if you come to that."
"Then I know better," said March. "I refused to receive any instructions from Mr. Dryfoos, whom I don't know in my relations with 'Every Other Week,' and I referred him to you."
"You did?" Fulkerson whistled. "He owns the thing!"
"I don't care who owns the thing," said March. "My negotiations were with you alone from the beginning, and I leave this matter with you. What do you wish done about Lindau?"
"Oh, better let the old fool drop," said Fulkerson. "He'll light on his feet somehow, and it will save a lot of rumpus."
"And if I decline to let him drop?"
"Oh, come, now, March; don't do that," Fulkerson began.
"If I decline to let him drop," March repeated, "what will you do?"
"I'll be dogged if I know what I'll do," said Fulkerson. "I hope you won't take that stand. If the old man went so far as to speak to you about it, his mind is made up, and we might as well knock under first as last."
"And do you mean to say that you would not stand by me in what I considered my duty-in a matter of principle?"
"Why, of course, March," said Fulkerson, coaxingly, "I mean to do the right thing. But Dryfoos owns the magazine—"
"He doesn't own me," said March, rising. "He has made the little mistake of speaking to me as if he did; and when"—March put on his hat and took his overcoat down from its nail—"when you bring me his apologies, or come to say that, having failed to make him understand they were necessary, you are prepared to stand by me, I will come back to this desk. Otherwise my resignation is at your service."
He started toward the door, and Fulkerson intercepted him. "Ah, now, look here, March! Don't do that! Hang it all, don't you see where it leaves me? Now, you just sit down a minute and talk it over. I can make you see—I can show you—Why, confound the old Dutch beer-buzzer! Twenty of him wouldn't be worth the trouble he's makin'. Let him go, and the old man 'll come round in time."
"I don't think we've understood each other exactly, Mr. Fulkerson," said March, very haughtily. "Perhaps we never can; but I'll leave you to think it out."
He pushed on, and Fulkerson stood aside to let him pass, with a dazed look and a mechanical movement. There was something comic in his rueful bewilderment to March, who was tempted to smile, but he said to himself that he had as much reason to be unhappy as Fulkerson, and he did not smile. His indignation kept him hot in his purpose to suffer any consequence rather than submit to the dictation of a man like Dryfoos; he felt keenly the degradation of his connection with him, and all his resentment of Fulkerson's original uncandor returned; at the same time his heart ached with foreboding. It was not merely the work in which he had constantly grown happier that he saw taken from him; but he felt the misery of the man who stakes the security and plenty and peace of home upon some cast, and knows that losing will sweep from him most that most men find sweet and pleasant in life. He faced the fact, which no good man can front without terror, that he was risking the support of his family, and for a point of pride, of honor, which perhaps he had no right to consider in view of the possible adversity. He realized, as every hireling must, no matter how skillfully or gracefully the tie is contrived for his wearing, that he belongs to another, whose will is his law. His indignation was shot with abject impulses to go back and tell Fulkerson that it was all right, and that he gave up. To end the anguish of his struggle he quickened his steps, so that he found he was reaching home almost at a run.
He must have made more clatter than he supposed with his key at the apartment door, for his wife had come to let him in when he flung it open. "Why, Basil," she said, "what's brought you back? Are you sick? You're all pale. Well, no wonder! This is the last of Mr. Fulkerson's dinners you shall go to. You're not strong enough for it, and your stomach will be all out of order for a week. How hot you are! and in a drip of perspiration! Now you'll be sick." She took his hat away, which hung dangling in his hand, and pushed him into a chair with tender impatience. "What is the matter? Has anything happened?"
"Everything has happened," he said, getting his voice after one or two husky endeavors for it; and then he poured out a confused and huddled statement of the case, from which she only got at the situation by prolonged cross-questioning.
At the end she said, "I knew Lindau would get you into trouble."
This cut March to the heart. "Isabel!" he cried, reproachfully.
"Oh, I know," she retorted, and the tears began to come. "I don't wonder you didn't want to say much to me about that dinner at breakfast. I noticed it; but I thought you were just dull, and so I didn't insist. I wish I had, now. If you had told me what Lindau had said, I should have known what would have come of it, and I could have advised you—"
"Would you have advised me," March demanded, curiously, "to submit to bullying like that, and meekly consent to commit an act of cruelty against a man who had once been such a friend to me?"
"It was an unlucky day when you met him. I suppose we shall have to go. And just when we bad got used to New York, and begun to like it. I don't know where we shall go now; Boston isn't like home any more; and we couldn't live on two thousand there; I should be ashamed to try. I'm sure I don't know where we can live on it. I suppose in some country village, where there are no schools, or anything for the children. I don't know what they'll say when we tell them, poor things."
Every word was a stab in March's heart, so weakly tender to his own; his wife's tears, after so much experience of the comparative lightness of the griefs that weep themselves out in women, always seemed wrung from his own soul; if his children suffered in the least through him, he felt like a murderer. It was far worse than he could have imagined, the way his wife took the affair, though he had imagined certain words, or perhaps only looks, from her that were bad enough. He had allowed for trouble, but trouble on his account: a svmpathy that might burden and embarrass him; but he had not dreamed of this merely domestic, this petty, this sordid view of their potential calamity, which left him wholly out of the question, and embraced only what was most crushing and desolating in the prospect. He could not bear it. He caught up his hat again, and, with some hope that his wife would try to keep him, rushed out of the house. He wandered aimlessly about, thinking the same exhausting thoughts over and over, till he found himself horribly hungry; then he went into a restaurant for his lunch, and when he paid he tried to imagine how he should feel if that were really his last dollar.
He went home toward the middle of the afternoon, basely hoping that Fulkerson had sent him some conciliatory message, or perhaps was waiting there for him to talk it over; March was quite willing to talk it over now. But it was his wife who again met him at the door, though it seemed another woman than the one he had left weeping in the morning.
"I told the children," she said, in smiling explanation of his absence from lunch, "that perhaps you were detained by business. I didn't know but you had gone back to the office."
"Did you think I would go back there, Isabel?" asked March, with a haggard look. "Well, if you say so, I will go back, and do what Dryfoos ordered me to do. I'm sufficiently cowed between him and you, I can assure you."
"Nonsense," she said. "I approve of everything you did. But sit down, now, and don't keep walking that way, and let me see if I understand it perfectly. Of course, I had to have my say out."
She made him go all over his talk with Dryfoos again, and report his own language precisely. From time to time, as she got his points, she said, "That was splendid," "Good enough for him!" and "Oh, I'm so glad you said that to him!" At the end she said:
"Well, now, let's look at it from his point of view. Let's be perfectly just to him before we take another step forward."
"Or backward," March suggested, ruefully. "The case is simply this: he owns the magazine."
"And he has a right to expect that I will consider his pecuniary interests—"
"Oh, those detestable pecuniary interests! Don't you wish there wasn't any money in the world?"
"Yes; or else that there was a great deal more of it. And I was perfectly willing to do that. I have always kept that in mind as one of my duties to him, ever since I understood what his relation to the magazine was."
"Yes, I can bear witness to that in any court of justice. You've done it a great deal more than I could, Basil. And it was just the same way with those horrible insurance people."
"I know," March went on, trying to be proof against her flatteries, or at least to look as if he did not deserve praise; "I know that what Lindau said was offensive to him, and I can understand how he felt that he had a right to punish it. All I say is that he had no right to punish it through me."
"Yes," said Mrs. March, askingly.
"If it had been a question of making 'Every Other Week' the vehicle of Lindau's peculiar opinions—though they're not so very peculiar; he might have got the most of them out of Ruskin—I shouldn't have had any ground to stand on, or at least then I should have had to ask myself whether his opinions would be injurious to the magazine or not."
"I don't see," Mrs. March interpolated, "how they could hurt it much worse than Colonel Woodburn's article crying up slavery."
"Well," said March, impartially, "we could print a dozen articles praising the slavery it's impossible to have back, and it wouldn't hurt us. But if we printed one paper against the slavery which Lindau claims still exists, some people would call us bad names, and the counting-room would begin to feel it. But that isn't the point. Lindau's connection with 'Every Other Week' is almost purely mechanical; he's merely a translator of such stories and sketches as he first submits to me, and it isn't at all a question of his opinions hurting us, but of my becoming an agent to punish him for his opinions. That is what I wouldn't do; that's what I never will do."
"If you did," said his wife, "I should perfectly despise you. I didn't understand how it was before. I thought you were just holding out against Dryfoos because he took a dictatorial tone with you, and because you wouldn't recognize his authority. But now I'm with you, Basil, every time, as that horrid little Fulkerson says. But who would ever have supposed he would be so base as to side against you?"
"I don't know," said March, thoughtfully, "that we had a right to expect anything else. Fulkerson's standards are low; they're merely business standards, and the good that's in him is incidental and something quite apart from his morals and methods. He's naturally a generous and right- minded creature, but life has taught him to truckle and trick, like the rest of us."
"It hasn't taught you that, Basil."
"Don't be so sure. Perhaps it's only that I'm a poor scholar. But I don't know, really, that I despise Fulkerson so much for his course this morning as for his gross and fulsome flatteries of Dryfoos last night. I could hardly stomach it."
His wife made him tell her what they were, and then she said, "Yes, that was loathsome; I couldn't have believed it of Mr. Fulkerson."
"Perhaps he only did it to keep the talk going, and to give the old man a chance to say something," March leniently suggested. "It was a worse effect because he didn't or couldn't follow up Fulkerson's lead."
"It was loathsome, all the same," his wife insisted. "It's the end of Mr. Fulkerson, as far as I'm concerned."
"I didn't tell you before," March resumed, after a moment, "of my little interview with Conrad Dryfoos after his father left," and now he went on to repeat what had passed between him and the young man.
"I suspect that he and his father had been having some words before the old man came up to talk with me, and that it was that made him so furious."
"Yes, but what a strange position for the son of such a man to take! Do you suppose he says such things to his father?"
"I don't know; but I suspect that in his meek way Conrad would say what he believed to anybody. I suppose we must regard him as a kind of crank."
"Poor young fellow! He always makes me feel sad, somehow. He has such a pathetic face. I don't believe I ever saw him look quite happy, except that night at Mrs. Horn's, when he was talking with Miss Vance; and then he made me feel sadder than ever."
"I don't envy him the life he leads at home, with those convictions of his. I don't see why it wouldn't be as tolerable there for old Lindau himself."
"Well, now," said Mrs. March, "let us put them all out of our minds and see what we are going to do ourselves."
They began to consider their ways and means, and how and where they should live, in view of March's severance of his relations with 'Every Other Week.' They had not saved anything from the first year's salary; they had only prepared to save; and they had nothing solid but their two thousand to count upon. But they built a future in which they easily lived on that and on what March earned with his pen. He became a free lance, and fought in whatever cause he thought just; he had no ties, no chains. They went back to Boston with the heroic will to do what was most distasteful; they would have returned to their own house if they had not rented it again; but, any rate, Mrs. March helped out by taking boarders, or perhaps only letting rooms to lodgers. They had some hard struggles, but they succeeded.
"The great thing," she said, "is to be right. I'm ten times as happy as if you had come home and told me that you had consented to do what Dryfoos asked and he had doubled your salary."
"I don't think that would have happened in any event," said March, dryly.
"Well, no matter. I just used it for an example."
They both experienced a buoyant relief, such as seems to come to people who begin life anew on whatever terms. "I hope we are young enough yet, Basil," she said, and she would not have it when he said they had once been younger.
They heard the children's knock on the door; they knocked when they came home from school so that their mother might let them in. "Shall we tell them at once?" she asked, and ran to open for them before March could answer.
They were not alone. Fulkerson, smiling from ear to ear, was with them. "Is March in?" he asked.
"Mr. March is at home, yes," she said very haughtily. "He's in his study," and she led the way there, while the children went to their rooms.
"Well, March," Fulkerson called out at sight of him, "it's all right! The old man has come down."
"I suppose if you gentlemen are going to talk business—" Mrs. March began.
"Oh, we don't want you to go away," said Fulkerson. "I reckon March has told you, anyway."
"Yes, I've told her," said March. "Don't go, Isabel. What do you mean, Fulkerson ?"
"He's just gone on up home, and he sent me round with his apologies. He sees now that he had no business to speak to you as he did, and he withdraws everything. He'd 'a' come round himself if I'd said so, but I told him I could make it all right."
Fulkerson looked so happy in having the whole affair put right, and the Marches knew him to be so kindly affected toward them, that they could not refuse for the moment to share his mood. They felt themselves slipping down from the moral height which they had gained, and March made a clutch to stay himself with the question, "And Lindau?"
"Well," said Fulkerson, "he's going to leave Lindau to me. You won't have anything to do with it. I'll let the old fellow down easy."
"Do you mean," asked March, "that Mr. Dryfoos insists on his being dismissed?"
"Why, there isn't any dismissing about it," Fulkerson argued. "If you don't send him any more work, he won't do any more, that's all. Or if he comes round, you can—He's to be referred to me."
March shook his head, and his wife, with a sigh, felt herself plucked up from the soft circumstance of their lives, which she had sunk back into so quickly, and set beside him on that cold peak of principle again. "It won't do, Fulkerson. It's very good of you, and all that, but it comes to the same thing in the end. I could have gone on without any apology from Mr. Dryfoos; he transcended his authority, but that's a minor matter. I could have excused it to his ignorance of life among gentlemen; but I can't consent to Lindau's dismissal—it comes to that, whether you do it or I do it, and whether it's a positive or a negative thing—because he holds this opinion or that."
"But don't you see," said Fulkerson, "that it's just Lindau's opinions the old man can't stand? He hasn't got anything against him personally. I don't suppose there's anybody that appreciates Lindau in some ways more than the old man does."
"I understand. He wants to punish him for his opinions. Well, I can't consent to that, directly or indirectly. We don't print his opinions, and he has a perfect right to hold them, whether Mr. Dryfoos agrees with them or not."
Mrs. March had judged it decorous for her to say nothing, but she now went and sat down in the chair next her husband.
"Ah, dog on it!" cried Fulkerson, rumpling his hair with both his hands. "What am I to do? The old man says he's got to go."
"And I don't consent to his going," said March.
"And you won't stay if he goes."
Fulkerson rose. "Well, well! I've got to see about it. I'm afraid the old man won't stand it, March; I am, indeed. I wish you'd reconsider. I—I'd take it as a personal favor if you would. It leaves me in a fix. You see I've got to side with one or the other."
March made no reply to this, except to say, "Yes, you must stand by him, or you must stand by me."
"Well, well! Hold on awhile! I'll see you in the morning. Don't take any steps—"
"Oh, there are no steps to take," said March, with a melancholy smile. "The steps are stopped; that's all." He sank back into his chair when Fulkerson was gone and drew a long breath. "This is pretty rough. I thought we had got through it."
"No," said his wife. "It seems as if I had to make the fight all over again."
"Well, it's a good thing it's a holy war."
"I can't bear the suspense. Why didn't you tell him outright you wouldn't go back on any terms?"
"I might as well, and got the glory. He'll never move Dryfoos. I suppose we both would like to go back, if we could."
"Oh, I suppose so."
They could not regain their lost exaltation, their lost dignity. At dinner Mrs. March asked the children how they would like to go back to Boston to live.
"Why, we're not going, are we?" asked Tom, without enthusiasm.
"I was just wondering how you felt about it, now," she said, with an underlook at her husband.
"Well, if we go back," said Bella, "I want to live on the Back Bay. It's awfully Micky at the South End."
"I suppose I should go to Harvard," said Tom, "and I'd room out at Cambridge. It would be easier to get at you on the Back Bay."
The parents smiled ruefully at each other, and, in view of these grand expectations of his children, March resolved to go as far as he could in meeting Dryfoos's wishes. He proposed the theatre as a distraction from the anxieties that he knew were pressing equally on his wife. "We might go to the 'Old Homestead,'" he suggested, with a sad irony, which only his wife felt.
"Oh yes, let's!" cried Bella.
While they were getting ready, some one rang, and Bella went to the door, and then came to tell her father that it was Mr. Lindau. "He says he wants to see you just a moment. He's in the parlor, and he won't sit down, or anything."
"What can he want?" groaned Mrs. March, from their common dismay.
March apprehended a storm in the old man's face. But he only stood in the middle of the room, looking very sad and grave. "You are Going oudt," he said. "I won't geep you long. I haf gome to pring pack dose macassines and dis mawney. I can't do any more voark for you; and I can't geep the mawney you haf baid me a'ready. It iss not hawnest mawney —that hass been oarned py voark; it iss mawney that hass peen mate py sbeculation, and the obbression off lapor, and the necessity of the boor, py a man—Here it is, efery tollar, efery zent. Dake it; I feel as if dere vas ploodt on it."
"Why, Lindau," March began, but the old man interrupted him.
"Ton't dalk to me, Passil! I could not haf believedt it of you. When you know how I feel about dose tings, why tidn't you dell me whose mawney you bay oudt to me? Ach, I ton't plame you—I ton't rebroach you. You haf nefer thought of it; boat I have thought, and I should be Guilty, I must share that man's Guilt, if I gept hiss mawney. If you hat toldt me at the peginning—if you hat peen frank with meboat it iss all righdt; you can go on; you ton't see dese tings as I see them; and you haf cot a family, and I am a free man. I voark to myself, and when I ton't voark, I sdarfe to myself. But. I geep my handts glean, voark or sdarfe. Gif him hiss mawney pack! I am sawry for him; I would not hoart hiss feelings, boat I could not pear to douch him, and hiss mawney iss like boison!"
March tried to reason with Lindau, to show him the folly, the injustice, the absurdity of his course; it ended in their both getting angry, and in Lindau's going away in a whirl of German that included Basil in the guilt of the man whom Lindau called his master.
"Well," said Mrs. March. "He is a crank, and I think you're well rid of him. Now you have no quarrel with that horrid old Dryfoos, and you can keep right on."
"Yes," said March, "I wish it didn't make me feel so sneaking. What a long day it's been! It seems like a century since I got up."
"Yes, a thousand years. Is there anything else left to happen?"
"I hope not. I'd like to go to bed."
"Why, aren't you going to the theatre?" wailed Bella, coming in upon her father's desperate expression.
"The theatre? Oh yes, certainly! I meant after we got home," and March amused himself at the puzzled countenance of the child. "Come on! Is Tom ready?"
Fulkerson parted with the Marches in such trouble of mind that he did not feel able to meet that night the people whom he usually kept so gay at Mrs. Leighton's table. He went to Maroni's for his dinner, for this reason and for others more obscure. He could not expect to do anything more with Dryfoos at once; he knew that Dryfoos must feel that he had already made an extreme concession to March, and he believed that if he was to get anything more from him it must be after Dryfoos had dined. But he was not without the hope, vague and indefinite as it might be, that he should find Lindau at Maroni's, and perhaps should get some concession from him, some word of regret or apology which he could report to Dryfoos, and at lest make the means of reopening the affair with him; perhaps Lindau, when he knew how matters stood, would back down altogether, and for March's sake would withdraw from all connection with 'Every Other Week' himself, and so leave everything serene. Fulkerson felt capable, in his desperation, of delicately suggesting such a course to Lindau, or even of plainly advising it: he did not care for Lindau a great deal, and he did care a great deal for the magazine.
But he did not find Lindau at Maroni's; he only found Beaton. He sat looking at the doorway as Fulkerson entered, and Fulkerson naturally came and took a place at his table. Something in Beaton's large-eyed solemnity of aspect invited Fulkerson to confidence, and he said, as he pulled his napkin open and strung it, still a little damp (as the scanty, often-washed linen at Maroni's was apt to be), across his knees, "I was looking for you this morning, to talk with you about the Christmas number, and I was a good deal worked up because I couldn't find you; but I guess I might as well have spared myself my emotions."
"Why?" asked Beaton, briefly.
"Well, I don't know as there's going to be any Christmas number."
"Why?" Beaton asked again.
"Row between the financial angel and the literary editor about the chief translator and polyglot smeller."
"Lindau is his name."
"What does the literary editor expect after Lindau's expression of his views last night?"
"I don't know what he expected, but the ground he took with the old man was that, as Lindau's opinions didn't characterize his work on the magazine, he would not be made the instrument of punishing him for them the old man wanted him turned off, as he calls it."
"Seems to be pretty good ground," said Beaton, impartially, while he speculated, with a dull trouble at heart, on the effect the row would have on his own fortunes. His late visit home had made him feel that the claim of his family upon him for some repayment of help given could not be much longer delayed; with his mother sick and his father growing old, he must begin to do something for them, but up to this time he had spent his salary even faster than he had earned it. When Fulkerson came in he was wondering whether he could get him to increase it, if he threatened to give up his work, and he wished that he was enough in love with Margaret Vance, or even Christine Dryfoos, to marry her, only to end in the sorrowful conviction that he was really in love with Alma Leighton, who had no money, and who had apparently no wish to be married for love, even. "And what are you going to do about it?" he asked, listlessly.
"Be dogged if I know what I'm going to do about it," said Fulkerson. "I've been round all day, trying to pick up the pieces—row began right after breakfast this morning—and one time I thought I'd got the thing all put together again. I got the old man to say that he had spoken to March a little too authoritatively about Lindau; that, in fact, he ought to have communicated his wishes through me; and that he was willing to have me get rid of Lindau, and March needn't have anything to do with it. I thought that was pretty white, but March says the apologies and regrets are all well enough in their way, but they leave the main question where they found it."
"What is the main question?" Beaton asked, pouring himself out some Chianti. As he set the flask down he made the reflection that if he would drink water instead of Chianti he could send his father three dollars a week, on his back debts, and he resolved to do it.
"The main question, as March looks at it, is the question of punishing Lindau for his private opinions; he says that if he consents to my bouncing the old fellow it's the same as if he bounced him."
"It might have that complexion in some lights," said Beaton. He drank off his Chianti, and thought he would have it twice a week, or make Maroni keep the half-bottles over for him, and send his father two dollars. "And what are you going to do now?"
"That's what I don't know," said Fulkerson, ruefully. After a moment he said, desperately, "Beaton, you've got a pretty good head; why don't you suggest something?"
"Why don't you let March go?" Beaton suggested.
"Ah, I couldn't," said Fulkerson. "I got him to break up in Boston and come here; I like him; nobody else could get the hang of the thing like he has; he's—a friend." Fulkerson said this with the nearest approach he could make to seriousness, which was a kind of unhappiness.
Beaton shrugged. "Oh, if you can afford to have ideals, I congratulate you. They're too expensive for me. Then, suppose you get rid of Dryfoos?"
Fulkerson laughed forlornly. "Go on, Bildad. Like to sprinkle a few ashes over my boils? Don't mind me!"
They both sat silent a little while, and then Beaton said, "I suppose you haven't seen Dryfoos the second time?"
"No. I came in here to gird up my loins with a little dinner before I tackled him. But something seems to be the matter with Maroni's cook. I don't want anything to eat."
"The cooking's about as bad as usual," said Beaton. After a moment he added, ironically, for he found Fulkerson's misery a kind of relief from his own, and was willing to protract it as long as it was amusing, "Why not try an envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary?"
"What do you mean?"
"Get that other old fool to go to Dryfoos for you!"
"Which other old fool? The old fools seem to be as thick as flies."
"That Southern one."
"He did seem to rather take to the colonel!" Fulkerson mused aloud.
"Of course he did. Woodburn, with his idiotic talk about patriarchal slavery, is the man on horseback to Dryfoos's muddy imagination. He'd listen to him abjectly, and he'd do whatever Woodburn told him to do." Beaton smiled cynically.
Fulkerson got up and reached for his coat and hat. "You've struck it, old man." The waiter came up to help him on with his coat; Fulkerson slipped a dollar in his hand. "Never mind the coat; you can give the rest of my dinner to the poor, Paolo. Beaton, shake! You've saved my life, little boy, though I don't think you meant it." He took Beaton's hand and solemnly pressed it, and then almost ran out of the door.
They had just reached coffee at Mrs. Leighton's when he arrived and sat down with them and began to put some of the life of his new hope into them. His appetite revived, and, after protesting that he would not take anything but coffee, he went back and ate some of the earlier courses. But with the pressure of his purpose driving him forward, he did not conceal from Miss Woodburn, at least, that he was eager to get her apart from the rest for some reason. When he accomplished this, it seemed as if he had contrived it all himself, but perhaps he had not wholly contrived it.
"I'm so glad to get a chance to speak to you alone," he said at once; and while she waited for the next word he made a pause, and then said, desperately, "I want you to help me; and if you can't help me, there's no help for me."
"Mah goodness," she said, "is the case so bad as that? What in the woald is the trouble?"
"Yes, it's a bad case," said Fulkerson. "I want your father to help me."
"Oh, I thoat you said me!"
"Yes; I want you to help me with your father. I suppose I ought to go to him at once, but I'm a little afraid of him."
"And you awe not afraid of me? I don't think that's very flattering, Mr. Fulkerson. You ought to think Ah'm twahce as awful as papa."
"Oh, I do! You see, I'm quite paralyzed before you, and so I don't feel anything."
"Well, it's a pretty lahvely kyand of paralysis. But—go on."
"I will—I will. If I can only begin."
"Pohaps Ah maght begin fo' you."
"No, you can't. Lord knows, I'd like to let you. Well, it's like this."
Fulkerson made a clutch at his hair, and then, after another hesitation, he abruptly laid the whole affair before her. He did not think it necessary to state the exact nature of the offence Lindau had given Dryfoos, for he doubted if she could grasp it, and he was profuse of his excuses for troubling her with the matter, and of wonder at himself for having done so. In the rapture of his concern at having perhaps made a fool of himself, he forgot why he had told her; but she seemed to like having been confided in, and she said, "Well, Ah don't see what you can do with you' ahdeals of friendship except stand bah Mr. Mawch."
"My ideals of friendship? What do you mean?"
"Oh, don't you suppose we know? Mr. Beaton said you we' a pofect Bahyard in friendship, and you would sacrifice anything to it."
"Is that so?" said Fulkerson, thinking how easily he could sacrifice Lindau in this case. He had never supposed before that he was chivalrous in such matters, but he now began to see it in that light, and he wondered that he could ever have entertained for a moment the idea of throwing March over.
"But Ah most say," Miss Woodburn went on, "Ah don't envy you you' next interview with Mr. Dryfoos. Ah suppose you'll have to see him at once aboat it."
The conjecture recalled Fulkerson to the object of his confidences. "Ah, there's where your help comes in. I've exhausted all the influence I have with Dryfoos—"
"Good gracious, you don't expect Ah could have any!"
They both laughed at the comic dismay with which she conveyed the preposterous notion; and Fulkerson said, "If I judged from myself, I should expect you to bring him round instantly."
"Oh, thank you, Mr. Fulkerson," she said, with mock meekness.
"Not at all. But it isn't Dryfoos I want you to help me with; it's your father. I want your father to interview Dryfoos for me, and I-I'm afraid to ask him."
"Poo' Mr. Fulkerson!" she said, and she insinuated something through her burlesque compassion that lifted him to the skies. He swore in his heart that the woman never lived who was so witty, so wise, so beautiful, and so good. "Come raght with me this minute, if the cyoast's clea'." She went to the door of the diningroom and looked in across its gloom to the little gallery where her father sat beside a lamp reading his evening paper; Mrs. Leighton could be heard in colloquy with the cook below, and Alma had gone to her room. She beckoned Fulkerson with the hand outstretched behind her, and said, "Go and ask him."
"Alone!" he palpitated.
"Oh, what a cyowahd!" she cried, and went with him. "Ah suppose you'll want me to tell him aboat it."
"Well, I wish you'd begin, Miss Woodburn," he said. "The fact is, you know, I've been over it so much I'm kind of sick of the thing."
Miss Woodburn advanced and put her hand on her father's shoulder. "Look heah, papa! Mr. Fulkerson wants to ask you something, and he wants me to do it fo' him."
The colonel looked up through his glasses with the sort of ferocity elderly men sometimes have to put on in order to keep their glasses from falling off. His daughter continued: "He's got into an awful difficulty with his edito' and his proprieto', and he wants you to pacify them."
"I do not know whethah I understand the case exactly," said the colonel, "but Mr. Fulkerson may command me to the extent of my ability."
"You don't understand it aftah what Ah've said?" cried the girl. "Then Ah don't see but what you'll have to explain it you'self, Mr. Fulkerson."
"Well, Miss Woodburn has been so luminous about it, colonel," said Fulkerson, glad of the joking shape she had given the affair, "that I can only throw in a little side-light here and there."
The colonel listened as Fulkerson went on, with a grave diplomatic satisfaction. He felt gratified, honored, even, he said, by Mr. Fulkerson's appeal to him; and probably it gave him something of the high joy that an affair of honor would have brought him in the days when he had arranged for meetings between gentlemen. Next to bearing a challenge, this work of composing a difficulty must have been grateful. But he gave no outward sign of his satisfaction in making a resume of the case so as to get the points clearly in his mind.
"I was afraid, sir," he said, with the state due to the serious nature of the facts, "that Mr. Lindau had given Mr. Dryfoos offence by some of his questions at the dinner-table last night."
"Perfect red rag to a bull," Fulkerson put in; and then he wanted to withdraw his words at the colonel's look of displeasure.
"I have no reflections to make upon Mr. Landau," Colonel Woodburn continued, and Fulkerson felt grateful to him for going on; "I do not agree with Mr. Lindau; I totally disagree with him on sociological points; but the course of the conversation had invited him to the expression of his convictions, and he had a right to express them, so far as they had no personal bearing."
"Of course," said Fulkerson, while Miss Woodburn perched on the arm of her father's chair.
"At the same time, sir, I think that if Mr. Dryfoos felt a personal censure in Mr. Lindau's questions concerning his suppression of the strike among his workmen, he had a right to resent it."
"Exactly," Fulkerson assented.
"But it must be evident to you, sir, that a high-spirited gentleman like Mr. March—I confess that my feelings are with him very warmly in the matter—could not submit to dictation of the nature you describe."
"Yes, I see," said Fulkerson; and, with that strange duplex action of the human mind, he wished that it was his hair, and not her father's, that Miss Woodburn was poking apart with the corner of her fan.
"Mr. Lindau," the colonel concluded, "was right from his point of view, and Mr. Dryfoos was equally right. The position of Mr. March is perfectly correct—"
His daughter dropped to her feet from his chair-arm. "Mah goodness! If nobody's in the wrong, ho' awe you evah going to get the mattah straight?"
"Yes, you see," Fulkerson added, "nobody can give in."
"Pardon me," said the colonel, "the case is one in which all can give in."
"I don't know which 'll begin," said Fulkerson.
The colonel rose. "Mr. Lindau must begin, sir. We must begin by seeing Mr. Lindau, and securing from him the assurance that in the expression of his peculiar views he had no intention of offering any personal offence to Mr. Dryfoos. If I have formed a correct estimate of Mr. Lindau, this will be perfectly simple."
Fulkerson shook his head. "But it wouldn't help. Dryfoos don't care a rap whether Lindau meant any personal offence or not. As far as that is concerned, he's got a hide like a hippopotamus. But what he hates is Lindau's opinions, and what he says is that no man who holds such opinions shall have any work from him. And what March says is that no man shall be punished through him for his opinions, he don't care what they are."
The colonel stood a moment in silence. "And what do you expect me to do under the circumstances?"
"I came to you for advice—I thought you might suggest——?"
"Do you wish me to see Mr. Dryfoos?"
"Well, that's about the size of it," Fulkerson admitted. "You see, colonel," he hastened on, "I know that you have a great deal of influence with him; that article of yours is about the only thing he's ever read in 'Every Other Week,' and he's proud of your acquaintance. Well, you know" —and here Fulkerson brought in the figure that struck him so much in Beaton's phrase and had been on his tongue ever since—" you're the man on horseback to him; and he'd be more apt to do what you say than if anybody else said it."
"You are very good, sir," said the colonel, trying to be proof against the flattery, "but I am afraid you overrate my influence." Fulkerson let him ponder it silently, and his daughter governed her impatience by holding her fan against her lips. Whatever the process was in the colonel's mind, he said at last: "I see no good reason for declining to act for you, Mr. Fulkerson, and I shall be very happy if I can be of service to you. But"—he stopped Fulkerson from cutting in with precipitate thanks—"I think I have a right, sir, to ask what your course will be in the event of failure?"
"Failure?" Fulkerson repeated, in dismay.
"Yes, sir. I will not conceal from you that this mission is one not wholly agreeable to my feelings."
"Oh, I understand that, colonel, and I assure you that I appreciate, I—"
"There is no use trying to blink the fact, sir, that there are certain aspects of Mr. Dryfoos's character in which he is not a gentleman. We have alluded to this fact before, and I need not dwell upon it now: I may say, however, that my misgivings were not wholly removed last night."
"No," Fulkerson assented; though in his heart he thought the old man had behaved very well.
"What I wish to say now is that I cannot consent to act for you, in this matter, merely as an intermediary whose failure would leave the affair in state quo."
"I see," said Fulkerson.
"And I should like some intimation, some assurance, as to which party your own feelings are with in the difference."
The colonel bent his eyes sharply on Fulkerson; Miss Woodburn let hers fall; Fulkerson felt that he was being tested, and he said, to gain time, "As between Lindau and Dryfoos?" though he knew this was not the point.
"As between Mr. Dryfoos and Mr. March," said the colonel.
Fulkerson drew a long breath and took his courage in both hands. "There can't be any choice for me in such a case. I'm for March, every time."
The colonel seized his hand, and Miss Woodburn said, "If there had been any choice fo' you in such a case, I should never have let papa stir a step with you."
"Why, in regard to that," said the colonel, with a, literal application of the idea, "was it your intention that we should both go?"
"Well, I don't know; I suppose it was."
"I think it will be better for me to go alone," said the colonel; and, with a color from his experience in affairs of honor, he added: "In these matters a principal cannot appear without compromising his dignity. I believe I have all the points clearly in mind, and I think I should act more freely in meeting Mr. Dryfoos alone."
Fulkerson tried to hide the eagerness with which he met these agreeable views. He felt himself exalted in some sort to the level of the colonel's sentiments, though it would not be easy to say whether this was through the desperation bred of having committed himself to March's side, or through the buoyant hope he had that the colonel would succeed in his mission.
"I'm not afraid to talk with Dryfoos about it," he said.
"There is no question of courage," said the colonel. "It is a question of dignity—of personal dignity."
"Well, don't let that delay you, papa," said his daughter, following him to the door, where she found him his hat, and Fulkerson helped him on with his overcoat. "Ah shall be jost wald to know ho' it's toned oat."
"Won't you let me go up to the house with you?" Fulkerson began. "I needn't go in—"
"I prefer to go alone," said the colonel. "I wish to turn the points over in my mind, and I am afraid you would find me rather dull company."
He went out, and Fulkerson returned with Miss Woodburn to the drawing- room, where she said the Leightons were. They, were not there, but she did not seem disappointed.
"Well, Mr. Fulkerson," she said, "you have got an ahdeal of friendship, sure enough."
"Me?" said Fulkerson. "Oh, my Lord! Don't you see I couldn't do anything else? And I'm scared half to death, anyway. If the colonel don't bring the old man round, I reckon it's all up with me. But he'll fetch him. And I'm just prostrated with gratitude to you, Miss Woodburn."
She waved his thanks aside with her fan. "What do you mean by its being all up with you?"
"Why, if the old man sticks to his position, and I stick to March, we've both got to go overboard together. Dryfoos owns the magazine; he can stop it, or he can stop us, which amounts to the same thing, as far as we're concerned."
"And then what?" the girl pursued.
"And then, nothing—till we pick ourselves up."
"Do you mean that Mr. Dryfoos will put you both oat of your places?"
"And Mr. Mawch takes the risk of that jost fo' a principle?"
"And you do it jost fo' an ahdeal?"
"It won't do to own it. I must have my little axe to grind, somewhere."
"Well, men awe splendid," sighed the girl. "Ah will say it."
"Oh, they're not so much better than women," said Fulkerson, with a nervous jocosity. "I guess March would have backed down if it hadn't been for his wife. She was as hot as pepper about it, and you could see that she would have sacrificed all her husband's relations sooner than let him back down an inch from the stand he had taken. It's pretty easy for a man to stick to a principle if he has a woman to stand by him. But when you come to play it alone—"
"Mr. Fulkerson," said the girl, solemnly, "Ah will stand bah you in this, if all the woald tones against you." The tears came into her eyes, and she put out her hand to him.
"You will?" he shouted, in a rapture. "In every way—and always—as long as you live? Do you mean it?" He had caught her hand to his breast and was grappling it tight there and drawing her to him.
The changing emotions chased one another through her heart and over her face: dismay, shame, pride, tenderness. "You don't believe," she said, hoarsely, "that Ah meant that?"
"No, but I hope you do mean it; for if you don't, nothing else means anything."
There was no space, there was only a point of wavering. "Ah do mean it."
When they lifted their eyes from each other again it was half-past ten. "No' you most go," she said.
"But the colonel—our fate?"
"The co'nel is often oat late, and Ah'm not afraid of ouah fate, no' that we've taken it into ouah own hands." She looked at him with dewy eyes of trust, of inspiration.
"Oh, it's going to come out all right," he said. "It can't come out wrong now, no matter what happens. But who'd have thought it, when I came into this house, in such a state of sin and misery, half an hour ago—"
"Three houahs and a half ago!" she said. "No! you most jost go. Ah'm tahed to death. Good-night. You can come in the mawning to see-papa." She opened the door and pushed him out with enrapturing violence, and he ran laughing down the steps into her father's arms.
"Why, colonel! I was just going up to meet you." He had really thought he would walk off his exultation in that direction.
"I am very sorry to say, Mr. Fulkerson," the colonel began, gravely, "that Mr. Dryfoos adheres to his position."
"Oh, all right," said Fulkerson, with unabated joy. "It's what I expected. Well, my course is clear; I shall stand by March, and I guess the world won't come to an end if he bounces us both. But I'm everlastingly obliged to you, Colonel Woodburn, and I don't know what to say to you. I—I won't detain you now; it's so late. I'll see you in the morning. Good-ni—"
Fulkerson did not realize that it takes two to part. The colonel laid hold of his arm and turned away with him. "I will walk toward your place with you. I can understand why you should be anxious to know the particulars of my interview with Mr. Dryfoos"; and in the statement which followed he did not spare him the smallest. It outlasted their walk and detained them long on the steps of the 'Every Other Week' building. But at the end Fulkerson let himself in with his key as light of heart as if he had been listening to the gayest promises that fortune could make.
By the tune he met March at the office next morning, a little, but only a very little, misgiving saddened his golden heaven. He took March's hand with high courage, and said, "Well, the old man sticks to his point, March." He added, with the sense of saying it before Miss Woodburn: "And I stick by you. I've thought it all over, and I'd rather be right with you than wrong with him."
"Well, I appreciate your motive, Fulkerson," said March. "But perhaps— perhaps we can save over our heroics for another occasion. Lindau seems to have got in with his, for the present."
He told him of Lindau's last visit, and they stood a moment looking at each other rather queerly. Fulkerson was the first to recover his spirits. "Well," he said, cheerily, "that let's us out."
"Does it? I'm not sure it lets me out," said March; but he said this in tribute to his crippled self-respect rather than as a forecast of any action in the matter.
"Why, what are you going to do?" Fulkerson asked. "If Lindau won't work for Dryfoos, you can't make him."
March sighed. "What are you going to do with this money?" He glanced at the heap of bills he had flung on the table between them.
Fulkerson scratched his head. "Ah, dogged if I know: Can't we give it to the deserving poor, somehow, if we can find 'em?"
"I suppose we've no right to use it in any way. You must give it to Dryfoos."
"To the deserving rich? Well, you can always find them. I reckon you don't want to appear in the transaction! I don't, either; but I guess I must." Fulkerson gathered up the money and carried it to Conrad. He directed him to account for it in his books as conscience-money, and he enjoyed the joke more than Conrad seemed to do when he was told where it came from.
Fulkerson was able to wear off the disagreeable impression the affair left during the course of the fore-noon, and he met Miss Woodburn with all a lover's buoyancy when he went to lunch. She was as happy as he when he told her how fortunately the whole thing had ended, and he took her view that it was a reward of his courage in having dared the worst. They both felt, as the newly plighted always do, that they were in the best relations with the beneficent powers, and that their felicity had been especially looked to in the disposition of events. They were in a glow of rapturous content with themselves and radiant worship of each other; she was sure that he merited the bright future opening to them both, as much as if he owed it directly to some noble action of his own; he felt that he was indebted for the favor of Heaven entirely to the still incredible accident of her preference of him over other men.
Colonel Woodburn, who was not yet in the secret of their love, perhaps failed for this reason to share their satisfaction with a result so unexpectedly brought about. The blessing on their hopes seemed to his ignorance to involve certain sacrifices of personal feeling at which he hinted in suggesting that Dryfoos should now be asked to make some abstract concessions and acknowledgments; his daughter hastened to deny that these were at all necessary; and Fulkerson easily explained why. The thing was over; what was the use of opening it up again?
"Perhaps none," the colonel admitted. But he added, "I should like the opportunity of taking Mr. Lindau's hand in the presence of Mr. Dryfoos and assuring him that I considered him a man of principle and a man of honor—a gentleman, sir, whom I was proud and happy to have known."
"Well, Ah've no doabt," said his daughter, demurely, "that you'll have the chance some day; and we would all lahke to join you. But at the same tahme, Ah think Mr. Fulkerson is well oat of it fo' the present."
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Anticipative reprisal Buttoned about him as if it concealed a bad conscience Courtship Got their laugh out of too many things in life Had learned not to censure the irretrievable Had no opinions that he was not ready to hold in abeyance Ignorant of her ignorance It don't do any good to look at its drawbacks all the time Justice must be paid for at every step in fees and costs Life has taught him to truckle and trick Man's willingness to abide in the present No longer the gross appetite for novelty No right to burden our friends with our decisions Travel, with all its annoyances and fatigues Typical anything else, is pretty difficult to find
A HAZARD OF NEW FORTUNES
By William Dean Howells
Superficially, the affairs of 'Every Other Week' settled into their wonted form again, and for Fulkerson they seemed thoroughly reinstated. But March had a feeling of impermanency from what had happened, mixed with a fantastic sense of shame toward Lindau. He did not sympathize with Lindau's opinions; he thought his remedy for existing evils as wildly impracticable as Colonel Woodburn's. But while he thought this, and while he could justly blame Fulkerson for Lindau's presence at Dryfoos's dinner, which his zeal had brought about in spite of March's protests, still he could not rid himself of the reproach of uncandor with Lindau. He ought to have told him frankly about the ownership of the magazine, and what manner of man the man was whose money he was taking. But he said that he never could have imagined that he was serious in his preposterous attitude in regard to a class of men who embody half the prosperity of the country; and he had moments of revolt against his own humiliation before Lindau, in which he found it monstrous that he should return Dryfoos's money as if it had been the spoil of a robber. His wife agreed with him in these moments, and said it was a great relief not to have that tiresome old German coming about. They had to account for his absence evasively to the children, whom they could not very well tell that their father was living on money that Lindau disdained to take, even though Lindau was wrong and their father was right. This heightened Mrs. March's resentment toward both Lindau and Dryfoos, who between them had placed her husband in a false position. If anything, she resented Dryfoos's conduct more than Lindau's. He had never spoken to March about the affair since Lindau had renounced his work, or added to the apologetic messages he had sent by Fulkerson. So far as March knew, Dryfoos had been left to suppose that Lindau had simply stopped for some reason that did not personally affect him. They never spoke of him, and March was too proud to ask either Fulkerson or Conrad whether the old man knew that Lindau had returned his money. He avoided talking to Conrad, from a feeling that if be did he should involuntarily lead him on to speak of his differences with his father. Between himself and Fulkerson, even, he was uneasily aware of a want of their old perfect friendliness. Fulkerson had finally behaved with honor and courage; but his provisional reluctance had given March the measure of Fulkerson's character in one direction, and he could not ignore the fact that it was smaller than he could have wished.
He could not make out whether Fulkerson shared his discomfort or not. It certainly wore away, even with March, as time passed, and with Fulkerson, in the bliss of his fortunate love, it was probably far more transient, if it existed at all. He advanced into the winter as radiantly as if to meet the spring, and he said that if there were any pleasanter month of the year than November, it was December, especially when the weather was good and wet and muddy most of the time, so that you had to keep indoors a long while after you called anywhere.
Colonel Woodburn had the anxiety, in view of his daughter's engagement, when she asked his consent to it, that such a dreamer must have in regard to any reality that threatens to affect the course of his reveries. He had not perhaps taken her marriage into account, except as a remote contingency; and certainly Fulkerson was not the kind of son-in-law that he had imagined in dealing with that abstraction. But because he had nothing of the sort definitely in mind, he could not oppose the selection of Fulkerson with success; he really knew nothing against him, and he knew, many things in his favor; Fulkerson inspired him with the liking that every one felt for him in a measure; he amused him, he cheered him; and the colonel had been so much used to leaving action of all kinds to his daughter that when he came to close quarters with the question of a son-in-law he felt helpless to decide it, and he let her decide it, as if it were still to be decided when it was submitted to him. She was competent to treat it in all its phases: not merely those of personal interest, but those of duty to the broken Southern past, sentimentally dear to him, and practically absurd to her. No such South as he remembered had ever existed to her knowledge, and no such civilization as he imagined would ever exist, to her belief, anywhere. She took the world as she found it, and made the best of it. She trusted in Fulkerson; she had proved his magnanimity in a serious emergency; and in small things she was willing fearlessly to chance it with him. She was not a sentimentalist, and there was nothing fantastic in her expectations; she was a girl of good sense and right mind, and she liked the immediate practicality as well as the final honor of Fulkerson. She did not idealize him, but in the highest effect she realized him; she did him justice, and she would not have believed that she did him more than justice if she had sometimes known him to do himself less.
Their engagement was a fact to which the Leighton household adjusted itself almost as simply as the lovers themselves; Miss Woodburn told the ladies at once, and it was not a thing that Fulkerson could keep from March very long. He sent word of it to Mrs. March by her husband; and his engagement perhaps did more than anything else to confirm the confidence in him which had been shaken by his early behavior in the Lindau episode, and not wholly restored by his tardy fidelity to March. But now she felt that a man who wished to get married so obviously and entirely for love was full of all kinds of the best instincts, and only needed the guidance of a wife, to become very noble. She interested herself intensely in balancing the respective merits of the engaged couple, and after her call upon Miss Woodburn in her new character she prided herself upon recognizing the worth of some strictly Southern qualities in her, while maintaining the general average of New England superiority. She could not reconcile herself to the Virginian custom illustrated in her having been christened with the surname of Madison; and she said that its pet form of Mad, which Fulkerson promptly invented, only made it more ridiculous.
Fulkerson was slower in telling Beaton. He was afraid, somehow, of Beaton's taking the matter in the cynical way; Miss Woodburn said she would break off the engagement if Beaton was left to guess it or find it out by accident, and then Fulkerson plucked up his courage. Beaton received the news with gravity, and with a sort of melancholy meekness that strongly moved Fulkerson's sympathy, and made him wish that Beaton was engaged, too.
It made Beaton feel very old; it somehow left him behind and forgotten; in a manner, it made him feel trifled with. Something of the unfriendliness of fate seemed to overcast his resentment, and he allowed the sadness of his conviction that he had not the means to marry on to tinge his recognition of the fact that Alma Leighton would not have wanted him to marry her if he had. He was now often in that martyr mood in which he wished to help his father; not only to deny himself Chianti, but to forego a fur-lined overcoat which he intended to get for the winter, He postponed the moment of actual sacrifice as regarded the Chianti, and he bought the overcoat in an anguish of self-reproach. He wore it the first evening after he got it in going to call upon the Leightons, and it seemed to him a piece of ghastly irony when Alma complimented his picturesqueness in it and asked him to let her sketch him.
"Oh, you can sketch me," he said, with so much gloom that it made her laugh.
"If you think it's so serious, I'd rather not."
"No, no! Go ahead! How do you want me?"
Oh, fling yourself down on a chair in one of your attitudes of studied negligence; and twist one corner of your mustache with affected absence of mind."
"And you think I'm always studied, always affected?"
"I didn't say so."
"I didn't ask you what you said."
"And I won't tell you what I think."
"Ah, I know what you think."
"What made you ask, then?" The girl laughed again with the satisfaction of her sex in cornering a man.
Beaton made a show of not deigning to reply, and put himself in the pose she suggested, frowning.
"Ah, that's it. But a little more animation—
"'As when a great thought strikes along the brain, And flushes all the cheek.'"
She put her forehead down on the back of her hand and laughed again. "You ought to be photographed. You look as if you were sitting for it."
Beaton said: "That's because I know I am being photographed, in one way. I don't think you ought to call me affected. I never am so with you; I know it wouldn't be of any use."
"Oh, Mr. Beaton, you flatter."
"No, I never flatter you."
"I meant you flattered yourself."
"Oh, I don't know. Imagine."
"I know what you mean. You think I can't be sincere with anybody."
"Oh no, I don't."
"What do you think?"
"That you can't—try." Alma gave another victorious laugh.
Miss Woodburn and Fulkerson would once have both feigned a great interest in Alma's sketching Beaton, and made it the subject of talk, in which they approached as nearly as possible the real interest of their lives. Now they frankly remained away in the dining-room, which was very cozy after the dinner had disappeared; the colonel sat with his lamp and paper in the gallery beyond; Mrs. Leighton was about her housekeeping affairs, in the content she always felt when Alma was with Beaton.
"They seem to be having a pretty good time in there," said Fulkerson, detaching himself from his own absolute good time as well as he could.
"At least Alma does," said Miss Woodburn.
"Do you think she cares for him?"
"Quahte as moch as he desoves."
"What makes you all down on Beaton around here? He's not such a bad fellow."
"We awe not all doan on him. Mrs. Leighton isn't doan on him."
"Oh, I guess if it was the old lady, there wouldn't be much question about it."
They both laughed, and Alma said, "They seem to be greatly amused with something in there."
"Me, probably," said Beaton. "I seem to amuse everybody to-night."
"Don't you always?"
"I always amuse you, I'm afraid, Alma."
She looked at him as if she were going to snub him openly for using her name; but apparently she decided to do it covertly. "You didn't at first. I really used to believe you could be serious, once."
"Couldn't you believe it again? Now?"
"Not when you put on that wind-harp stop."
"Wetmore has been talking to you about me. He would sacrifice his best friend to a phrase. He spends his time making them."
"He's made some very pretty ones about you."
"Like the one you just quoted?"
"No, not exactly. He admires you ever so much. He says" She stopped, teasingly.
"He says you could be almost anything you wished, if you didn't wish to be everything."
"That sounds more like the school of Wetmore. That's what you say, Alma. Well, if there were something you wished me to be, I could be it."
"We might adapt Kingsley: 'Be good, sweet man, and let who will be clever.'" He could not help laughing. She went on: "I always thought that was the most patronizing and exasperating thing ever addressed to a human girl; and we've had to stand a good deal in our time. I should like to have it applied to the other 'sect' a while. As if any girl that was a girl would be good if she had the remotest chance of being clever."
"Then you wouldn't wish me to be good?" Beaton asked.
"Not if you were a girl."
"You want to shock me. Well, I suppose I deserve it. But if I were one- tenth part as good as you are, Alma, I should have a lighter heart than I have now. I know that I'm fickle, but I'm not false, as you think I am."