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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Volume 2 by Howells

Mandel looked discreetly at Mrs


"Well,

Basil, I didn't take the gimcrackery. That was your--"

The rustle of skirts on the stairs without arrested Mrs. March in the well-merited punishment which she never failed to inflict upon her husband when the question of the gimcrackery--they always called it that--came up. She rose at the entrance of a bright-looking, pretty-looking, mature, youngish lady, in black silk of a neutral implication, who put out her hand to her, and said, with a very cheery, very ladylike accent, "Mrs. March?" and then added to both of them, while she shook hands with March, and before they could get the name out of their months: "No, not Miss Dryfoos! Neither of them; nor Mrs. Dryfoos. Mrs. Mandel. The ladies will be down in a moment. Won't you throw off your sacque, Mrs. March? I'm afraid it's rather warm here, coming from the outside."

"I will throw it back, if you'll allow me," said Mrs. March, with a sort of provisionality, as if, pending some uncertainty as to Mrs. Mandel's quality and authority, she did not feel herself justified in going further.

But if she did not know about Mrs. Mandel, Mrs. Mandel seemed to know about her. "Oh, well, do!" she said, with a sort of recognition of the propriety of her caution. "I hope you are feeling a little at home in New York. We heard so much of your trouble in getting a flat, from Mr. Fulkerson."

"Well, a true Bostonian

doesn't give up quite so soon," said Mrs. March.

"But I will say New York doesn't seem so far away, now we're here."

"I'm sure you'll like it. Every one does." Mrs. Mandel added to March, "It's very sharp out, isn't it?"

"Rather sharp. But after our Boston winters I don't know but I ought to repudiate the word."

"Ah, wait till you have been here through March!" said Mrs. Mandel. She began with him, but skillfully transferred the close of her remark, and the little smile of menace that went with it, to his wife.

"Yes," said Mrs. March, "or April, either: Talk about our east winds!"

"Oh, I'm sure they can't be worse than our winds," Mrs. Mandel returned, caressingly.

"If we escape New York pneumonia," March laughed, "it will only be to fall a prey to New York malaria as soon as the frost is out of the ground."

"Oh, but you know," said Mrs. Mandel, "I think our malaria has really been slandered a little. It's more a matter of drainage--of plumbing. I don't believe it would be possible for malaria to get into this house, we've had it gone over so thoroughly."

Mrs. March said, while she tried to divine Mrs. Mandel's position from this statement, "It's certainly the first duty."

"If Mrs. March could have had her way, we should have had the drainage of our whole ward put in order," said her husband, "before we ventured to take a furnished apartment for the winter."

Mrs. Mandel looked discreetly at Mrs. March for permission to laugh at this, but at the same moment both ladies became preoccupied with a second rustling on the stairs.


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