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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

Has Beaton got a natural gas man


"We

were talking about salons," said Margaret.

"Why don't you open a salon yourself?" asked Wetmore, breathing thickly from the anxiety of getting through the crowd without spilling his tea.

"Like poor Lady Barberina Lemon?" said the girl, with a laugh. "What a good story! That idea of a woman who couldn't be interested in any of the arts because she was socially and traditionally the material of them! We can, never reach that height of nonchalance in this country."

"Not if we tried seriously?" suggested the painter. "I've an idea that if the Americans ever gave their minds to that sort of thing, they could take the palm--or the cake, as Beaton here would say--just as they do in everything else. When we do have an aristocracy, it will be an aristocracy that will go ahead of anything the world has ever seen. Why don't somebody make a beginning, and go in openly for an ancestry, and a lower middle class, and an hereditary legislature, and all the rest? We've got liveries, and crests, and palaces, and caste feeling. We're all right as far as we've gone, and we've got the money to go any length."

"Like your natural-gas man, Mr. Beaton," said the girl, with a smiling glance round at him.

"Ah!" said Wetmore, stirring his tea, "has Beaton got a natural-gas man?"

"My natural-gas man,"

said Beaton, ignoring Wetmore's question, "doesn't know how to live in his palace yet, and I doubt if he has any caste feeling. I fancy his family believe themselves victims of it. They say--one of the young ladies does--that she never saw such an unsociable place as New York; nobody calls."

"That's good!" said Wetmore. "I suppose they're all ready for company, too: good cook, furniture, servants, carriages?"

"Galore," said Beaton.

"Well, that's too bad. There's a chance for you, Miss Vance. Doesn't your philanthropy embrace the socially destitute as well as the financially? Just think of a family like that, without a friend, in a great city! I should think common charity had a duty there--not to mention the uncommon."

He distinguished that kind as Margaret's by a glance of ironical deference. She had a repute for good works which was out of proportion to the works, as it always is, but she was really active in that way, under the vague obligation, which we now all feel, to be helpful. She was of the church which seems to have found a reversion to the imposing ritual of the past the way back to the early ideals of Christian brotherhood.

"Oh, they seem to have Mr. Beaton," Margaret answered, and Beaton felt obscurely flattered by her reference to his patronage of the Dryfooses.

He explained to Wetmore: "They have me because they partly own me. Dryfoos is Fulkerson's financial backer in 'Every Other Week'."

"Is that so? Well, that's interesting, too. Aren't you rather astonished, Miss Vance, to see what a petty thing Beaton is making of that magazine of his?"

"Oh," said Margaret, "it's so very nice, every way; it makes you feel as if you did have a country, after all. It's as chic--that detestable little word!--as those new French books."

"Beaton modelled it on them. But you mustn't suppose he does everything about 'Every Other Week'; he'd like you to. Beaton, you haven't come up to that cover of your first number, since. That was the design of one of my pupils, Miss Vance--a little girl that Beaton discovered down in New Hampshire last summer."


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