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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

Dryfoos would look in on us in the course of the evening


He

looked sunnily from one to the other in succession. The elder Dryfoos said, with his chin on the top of his stick, "I reckon those Little Neck clams will keep."

"Well, just as you say," Fulkerson cheerfully assented. "I understand you to agree to the general principle of a little dinner?"

"The smaller the better," said the old man.

"Well, I say a little dinner because the idea of that seems to cover the case, even if we vary the plan a little. I had thought of a reception, maybe, that would include the lady contributors and artists, and the wives and daughters of the other contributors. That would give us the chance to ring in a lot of society correspondents and get the thing written up in first-class shape. By-the-way!" cried Fulkerson, slapping himself on the leg, "why not have the dinner and the reception both?"

"I don't understand," said Dryfoos.

"Why, have a select little dinner for ten or twenty choice spirits of the male persuasion, and then, about ten o'clock, throw open your palatial drawing-rooms and admit the females to champagne, salads, and ices. It is the very thing! Come!"

"What do you think of it, Mr. March?" asked Dryfoos, on whose social inexperience Fulkerson's words projected no very intelligible image, and who perhaps hoped for some more light.

style="text-align: justify;">"It's a beautiful vision," said March, "and if it will take more time to realize it I think I approve. I approve of anything that will delay Mr. Fulkerson's advertising orgie."

"Then," Fulkerson pursued, "we could have the pleasure of Miss Christine and Miss Mela's company; and maybe Mrs. Dryfoos would look in on us in the course of the evening. There's no hurry, as Mr. March suggests, if we can give the thing this shape. I will cheerfully adopt the idea of my honorable colleague."

March laughed at his impudence, but at heart he was ashamed of Fulkerson for proposing to make use of Dryfoos and his house in that way. He fancied something appealing in the look that the old man turned on him, and something indignant in Conrad's flush; but probably this was only his fancy. He reflected that neither of them could feel it as people of more worldly knowledge would, and he consoled himself with the fact that Fulkerson was really not such a charlatan as he seemed. But it went through his mind that this was a strange end for all Dryfoos's money-making to come to; and he philosophically accepted the fact of his own humble fortunes when he reflected how little his money could buy for such a man. It was an honorable use that Fulkerson was putting it to in 'Every Other Week;' it might be far more creditably spent on such an enterprise than on horses, or wines, or women, the usual resources of the brute rich; and if it were to be lost, it might better be lost that way than in stocks. He kept a smiling face turned to Dryfoos while these irreverent considerations occupied him, and hardened his heart against father and son and their possible emotions.

The old man rose to put an end to the interview. He only repeated, "I guess those clams will keep till fall."

But Fulkerson was apparently satisfied with the progress he had made; and when he joined March for the stroll homeward after office hours, he was able to detach his mind from the subject, as if content to leave it.

"This is about the best part of the year in New York," he said; In some of the areas the grass had sprouted, and the tender young foliage had loosened itself froze the buds on a sidewalk tree here and there; the soft air was full of spring, and the delicate sky, far aloof, had the look it never wears at any other season. "It ain't a time of year to complain much of, anywhere; but I don't want anything better than the month of May in New York. Farther South it's too hot, and I've been in Boston in May when that east wind of yours made every nerve in my body get up and howl. I reckon the weather has a good deal to do with the local temperament. The reason a New York man takes life so easily with all his rush is that his climate don't worry him. But a Boston man must be rasped the whole while by the edge in his air. That accounts for his sharpness; and when he's lived through twenty-five or thirty Boston Mays, he gets to thinking that Providence has some particular use for him, or he wouldn't have survived, and that makes him conceited. See?"


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