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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

He may have thought he was using Dryfoos


"He

dissembled his love," he said; but afterward, in describing to his wife his interview with Mr. Dryfoos, he was less amused with this fact.

When she saw that he was a little cast down by it, she began to encourage him. "He's just a common, ignorant man, and probably didn't know how to express himself. You may be perfectly sure that he's delighted with the success of the magazine, and that he understands as well as you do that he owes it all to you."

"Ah, I'm not so sure. I don't believe a man's any better for having made money so easily and rapidly as Dryfoos has done, and I doubt if he's any wiser. I don't know just the point he's reached in his evolution from grub to beetle, but I do know that so far as it's gone the process must have involved a bewildering change of ideals and criterions. I guess he's come to despise a great many things that he once respected, and that intellectual ability is among them--what we call intellectual ability. He must have undergone a moral deterioration, an atrophy of the generous instincts, and I don't see why it shouldn't have reached his mental make-up. He has sharpened, but he has narrowed; his sagacity has turned into suspicion, his caution to meanness, his courage to ferocity. That's the way I philosophize a man of Dryfoos's experience, and I am not very proud when I realize that such a man and his experience are the ideal and ambition of most Americans. I rather think they

came pretty near being mine, once."

"No, dear, they never did," his wife protested.

"Well, they're not likely to be in the future. The Dryfoos feature of 'Every Other Week' is thoroughly distasteful to me."

"Why, but he hasn't really got anything to do with it, has he, beyond furnishing the money?"

"That's the impression that Fulkerson has allowed us to get. But the man that holds the purse holds the reins. He may let us guide the horse, but when he likes he can drive. If we don't like his driving, then we can get down."

Mrs. March was less interested in this figure of speech than in the personal aspects involved. "Then you think Mr. Fulkerson has deceived you?"

"Oh no!" said her husband, laughing. "But I think he has deceived himself, perhaps."

"How?" she pursued.

"He may have thought he was using Dryfoos, when Dryfoos was using him, and he may have supposed he was not afraid of him when he was very much so. His courage hadn't been put to the test, and courage is a matter of proof, like proficiency on the fiddle, you know: you can't tell whether you've got it till you try."

"Nonsense! Do you mean that he would ever sacrifice you to Mr. Dryfoos?"

"I hope he may not be tempted. But I'd rather be taking the chances with Fulkerson alone than with Fulkerson and Dryfoos to back him. Dryfoos seems, somehow, to take the poetry and the pleasure out of the thing."


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