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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

Dryfoos went on as if his son were not in hearing


"Oh

yes," said March, "I understand that." He expected the praise of the great West to lead up to some comment on 'Every Other Week'; and there was abundant suggestion of that topic in the manuscripts, proofs of letter-press and illustrations, with advance copies of the latest number strewn over his table.

But Dryfoos apparently kept himself from looking at these things. He rolled his head about on his shoulders to take in the character of the room, and said to his son, "You didn't change the woodwork, after all."

"No; the architect thought we had better let it be, unless we meant to change the whole place. He liked its being old-fashioned."

"I hope you feel comfortable here, Mr. March," the old man said, bringing his eyes to bear upon him again after their tour of inspection.

"Too comfortable for a working-man," said March, and he thought that this remark must bring them to some talk about his work, but the proprietor only smiled again.

"I guess I sha'n't lose much on this house," he returned, as if musing aloud. "This down-town property is coming up. Business is getting in on all these side streets. I thought I paid a pretty good price for it, too." He went on to talk of real estate, and March began to feel a certain resentment at his continued avoidance of the only topic in which they could really have a common

interest. "You live down this way somewhere, don't you?" the old man concluded.

"Yes. I wished to be near my work." March was vexed with himself for having recurred to it; but afterward he was not sure but Dryfoos shared his own diffidence in the matter, and was waiting for him to bring it openly into the talk. At times he seemed wary and masterful, and then March felt that he was being examined and tested; at others so simple that March might well have fancied that he needed encouragement, and desired it. He talked of his wife and daughters in a way that invited March to say friendly things of his family, which appeared to give the old man first an undue pleasure and then a final distrust. At moments he turned, with an effect of finding relief in it, to his son and spoke to him across March of matters which he was unacquainted with; he did not seem aware that this was rude, but the young man must have felt it so; he always brought the conversation back, and once at some cost to himself when his father made it personal.

"I want to make a regular New York business man out of that fellow," he said to March, pointing at Conrad with his stick. "You s'pose I'm ever going to do it?"

"Well, I don't know," said March, trying to fall in with the joke. "Do you mean nothing but a business man?"

The old man laughed at whatever latent meaning he fancied in this, and said: "You think he would be a little too much for me there? Well, I've seen enough of 'em to know it don't always take a large pattern of a man to do a large business. But I want him to get the business training, and then if he wants to go into something else he knows what the world is, anyway. Heigh?"

"Oh yes!" March assented, with some compassion for the young man reddening patiently under his father's comment.

Dryfoos went on as if his son were not in hearing. "Now that boy wanted to be a preacher. What does a preacher know about the world he preaches against when he's been brought up a preacher? He don't know so much as a bad little boy in his Sunday-school; he knows about as much as a girl. I always told him, You be a man first, and then you be a preacher, if you want to. Heigh?"


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