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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

March asked her husband what a divvy was


"What do you mean, Fulkerson?" March demanded, sternly.

"Oh, nothing! Only, the 'News Company' has ordered ten thousand now; and you know we had to give them the first twenty on commission."

"What do you mean?" March repeated; his wife held her breath.

"I mean that the first number is a booming success already, and that it's going to a hundred thousand before it stops. That unanimity and variety of censure in the morning papers, combined with the attractiveness of the thing itself, has cleared every stand in the city, and now if the favor of the country press doesn't turn the tide against us, our fortune's made." The Marches remained dumb. "Why, look here! Didn't I tell you those criticisms would be the making of us, when they first began to turn you blue this morning, March?"

"He came home to lunch perfectly sick," said Mrs. Marcli; "and I wouldn't let him go back again."

"Didn't I tell you so?" Fulkerson persisted.

March could not remember that he had, or that he had been anything but incoherently and hysterically jocose over the papers, but he said, "Yes, yes--I think so."

"I knew it from the start," said Fulkerson. "The only other person who took those criticisms in the right spirit was Mother Dryfoos--I've just been bolstering up the Dryfoos family. She had them read to her by Mrs. Mandel, and she understood them to be all the most flattering prophecies of success. Well, I didn't read between the lines to that extent, quite; but I saw that they were going to help us, if there was anything in us, more than anything that could have been done. And there was something in us! I tell you, March, that seven-shooting self-cocking donkey of a Beaton has given us the greatest start! He's caught on like a mouse. He's made the thing awfully chic; it's jimmy; there's lots of dog about it. He's managed that process so that the illustrations look as expensive as first-class wood-cuts, and they're cheaper than chromos. He's put style into the whole thing."

"Oh yes," said March, with eager meekness, "it's Beaton that's done it."

Fulkerson read jealousy of Beaton in Mrs. March's face. "Beaton has given us the start because his work appeals to the eye. There's no denying that the pictures have sold this first number; but I expect the literature of this first number to sell the pictures of the second. I've been reading it all over, nearly, since I found how the cat was jumping; I was anxious about it, and I tell you, old man, it's good. Yes, sir! I was afraid maybe you had got it too good, with that Boston refinement of yours; but I reckon you haven't. I'll risk it. I don't see how you got so much variety into so few things, and all of them palpitant, all of 'em on the keen jump with actuality."

The mixture of American slang with the jargon of European criticism in Fulkerson's talk made March smile, but his wife did not seem to notice it in her exultation. "That is just what I say," she broke in. "It's perfectly wonderful. I never was anxious about it a moment, except, as you say, Mr. Fulkerson, I was afraid it might be too good."

They went on in an antiphony of praise till March said: "Really, I don't see what's left me but to strike for higher wages. I perceive that I'm indispensable."

"Why, old man, you're coming in on the divvy, you know," said Fulkerson.

They both laughed, and when Fulkerson was gone, Mrs. March asked her husband what a divvy was.

"It's a chicken before it's hatched."


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