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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

Without further greeting to Dryfoos


But

Beaton had seen him, and Dryfoos, with a nonchalant nod to the young man, came forward. "What you got there, Christine?"

"A banjo," said the girl, blushing in her father's presence.

Mela gurgled. "Mr. Beaton is learnun' her the first position."

Beaton was not embarrassed. He was in evening dress, and his face, pointed with its brown beard, showed extremely handsome above the expanse of his broad, white shirt-front. He gave back as nonchalant a nod as he had got, and, without further greeting to Dryfoos, he said to Christine: "No, no. You must keep your hand and arm so." He held them in position. "There! Now strike with your right hand. See?"

"I don't believe I can ever learn," said the girl, with a fond upward look at him.

"Oh yes, you can," said Beaton.

They both ignored Dryfoos in the little play of protests which followed, and he said, half jocosely, half suspiciously, "And is the banjo the fashion, now?" He remembered it as the emblem of low-down show business, and associated it with end-men and blackened faces and grotesque shirt-collars.

"It's all the rage," Mela shouted, in answer for all. "Everybody plays it. Mr. Beaton borrowed this from a lady friend of his."

"Humph! Pity I got you a piano, then,"

said Dryfoos. "A banjo would have been cheaper."

Beaton so far admitted him to the conversation as to seem reminded of the piano by his mentioning it. He said to Mela, "Oh, won't you just strike those chords?" and as Mela wheeled about and beat the keys he took the banjo from Christine and sat down with it. "This way!" He strummed it, and murmured the tune Dryfoos had heard him singing from the library, while he kept his beautiful eyes floating on Christine's. "You try that, now; it's very simple."

"Where is Mrs. Mandel?" Dryfoos demanded, trying to assert himself.

Neither of the girls seemed to have heard him at first in the chatter they broke into over what Beaton proposed. Then Mela said, absently, "Oh, she had to go out to see one of her friends that's sick," and she struck the piano keys. "Come; try it, Chris!"

Dryfoos turned about unheeded and went back to the library. He would have liked to put Beaton out of his house, and in his heart he burned against him as a contumacious hand; he would have liked to discharge him from the art department of 'Every Other Week' at once. But he was aware of not having treated Beaton with much ceremony, and if the young man had returned his behavior in kind, with an electrical response to his own feeling, had he any right to complain? After all, there was no harm in his teaching Christine the banjo.

His wife still sat looking into the fire. "I can't see," she said, "as we've got a bit more comfort of our lives, Jacob, because we've got such piles and piles of money. I wisht to gracious we was back on the farm this minute. I wisht you had held out ag'inst the childern about sellin' it; 'twould 'a' bin the best thing fur 'em, I say. I believe in my soul they'll git spoiled here in New York. I kin see a change in 'em a'ready--in the girls."


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