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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

They bragged of the high civilization of Moffitt


like father," said Christine, softened a little by the celebration of her peculiarity. "He says the reason so many people don't get what they want is that they don't want it bad enough. Now, when I want a thing, it seems to me that I want it all through."

"Well, that's just like father, too," said Mela. "That's the way he done when he got that eighty-acre piece next to Moffitt that he kept when he sold the farm, and that's got some of the best gas-wells on it now that there is anywhere." She addressed the explanation to her sister, to the exclusion of Margaret, who, nevertheless, listened with a smiling face and a resolutely polite air of being a party to the conversation. Mela rewarded her amiability by saying to her, finally, "You've never been in the natural-gas country, have you?"

"Oh no! And I should so much like to see it!" said Margaret, with a fervor that was partly, voluntary.

"Would you? Well, we're kind of sick of it, but I suppose it would strike a stranger."

"I never got tired of looking at the big wells when they lit them up," said Christine. "It seems as if the world was on fire."

"Yes, and when you see the surface-gas burnun' down in the woods, like it used to by our spring-house-so still, and never spreadun' any, just like a bed of some kind of wild flowers when you ketch sight of it a piece


They began to tell of the wonders of their strange land in an antiphony of reminiscences and descriptions; they unconsciously imputed a merit to themselves from the number and violence of the wells on their father's property; they bragged of the high civilization of Moffitt, which they compared to its advantage with that of New York. They became excited by Margaret's interest in natural gas, and forgot to be suspicious and envious.

She said, as she rose, "Oh, how much I should like to see it all!" Then she made a little pause, and added:

"I'm so sorry my aunt's Thursdays are over; she never has them after Lent, but we're to have some people Tuesday evening at a little concert which a musical friend is going to give with some other artists. There won't be any banjos, I'm afraid, but there'll be some very good singing, and my aunt would be so glad if you could come with your mother."

She put down her aunt's card on the table near her, while Mela gurgled, as if it were the best joke: "Oh, my! Mother never goes anywhere; you couldn't get her out for love or money." But she was herself overwhelmed with a simple joy at Margaret's politeness, and showed it in a sensuous way, like a child, as if she had been tickled. She came closer to Margaret and seemed about to fawn physically upon her.

"Ain't she just as lovely as she can live?" she demanded of her sister when Margaret was gone.

"I don't know," said Christine. "I guess she wanted to know who Mr. Beaton had been lending her banjo to."

"Pshaw! Do you suppose she's in love with him?" asked Mela, and then she broke into her hoarse laugh at the look her sister gave her. "Well, don't eat me, Christine! I wonder who she is, anyway? I'm goun' to git it out of Mr. Beaton the next time he calls. I guess she's somebody. Mrs. Mandel can tell. I wish that old friend of hers would hurry up and git well--or something. But I guess we appeared about as well as she did. I could see she was afraid of you, Christine. I reckon it's gittun' around a little about father; and when it does I don't believe we shall want for callers. Say, are you goun'? To that concert of theirs?"

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