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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

And Dryfoos lay awhile on the leathern lounge in his library


Mrs. March was a long time silent. Then she began, "Well, my dear, I never wanted to come to New York--"

"Neither did I," March promptly put in.

"But now that we're here," she went on, "I'm not going to have you letting every little thing discourage you. I don't see what there was in Mr. Dryfoos's manner to give you any anxiety. He's just a common, stupid, inarticulate country person, and he didn't know how to express himself, as I said in the beginning, and that's the reason he didn't say anything."

"Well, I don't deny you're right about it."

"It's dreadful," his wife continued, "to be mixed up with such a man and his family, but I don't believe he'll ever meddle with your management, and, till he does, all you need do is to have as little to do with him as possible, and go quietly on your own way."

"Oh, I shall go on quietly enough," said March. "I hope I sha'n't begin going stealthily."

"Well, my dear," said Mrs. March, "just let me know when you're tempted to do that. If ever you sacrifice the smallest grain of your honesty or your self-respect to Mr. Dryfoos, or anybody else, I will simply renounce you."

"In view of that I'm rather glad the management of 'Every Other Week' involves tastes and not convictions," said March.

III.

That night Dryfoos was wakened from his after-dinner nap by the sound of gay talk and nervous giggling in the drawing-room. The talk, which was Christine's, and the giggling, which was Mela's, were intershot with the heavier tones of a man's voice; and Dryfoos lay awhile on the leathern lounge in his library, trying to make out whether he knew the voice. His wife sat in a deep chair before the fire, with her eyes on his face, waiting for him to wake.

"Who is that out there?" he asked, without opening his eyes.

"Indeed, indeed, I don't know, Jacob," his wife answered. "I reckon it's just some visitor of the girls'."

"Was I snoring?"

"Not a bit. You was sleeping as quiet! I did hate to have 'em wake you, and I was just goin' out to shoo them. They've been playin' something, and that made them laugh."

"I didn't know but I had snored," said the old man, sitting up.

"No," said his wife. Then she asked, wistfully, "Was you out at the old place, Jacob?"

"Yes."

"Did it look natural?"

"Yes; mostly. They're sinking the wells down in the woods pasture."

"And--the children's graves?"

"They haven't touched that part. But I reckon we got to have 'em moved to the cemetery. I bought a lot."

The old woman began softly to weep. "It does seem too hard that they can't be let to rest in peace, pore little things. I wanted you and me to lay there, too, when our time come, Jacob. Just there, back o' the beehives and under them shoomakes--my, I can see the very place! And I don't believe I'll ever feel at home anywheres else. I woon't know where I am when the trumpet sounds. I have to think before I can tell where the east is in New York; and what if I should git faced the wrong way when I raise? Jacob, I wonder you could sell it!" Her head shook, and the firelight shone on her tears as she searched the folds of her dress for her pocket.


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