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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

Dryfoos left it to Fulkerson to invite the guests


Dryfoos

left it to Fulkerson to invite the guests, and he found ready acceptance of his politeness from Kendricks, who rightly regarded the dinner as a part of the 'Every Other Week' business, and was too sweet and kind-hearted, anyway, not to seem very glad to come. March was a matter of course; but in Colonel Woodburn, Fulkerson encountered a reluctance which embarrassed him the more because he was conscious of having, for motives of his own, rather strained a point in suggesting the colonel to Dryfoos as a fit subject for invitation. There had been only one of the colonel's articles printed as yet, and though it had made a sensation in its way, and started the talk about that number, still it did not fairly constitute him a member of the staff, or even entitle him to recognition as a regular contributor. Fulkerson felt so sure of pleasing him with Dryfoos's message that he delivered it in full family council at the widow's. His daughter received it with all the enthusiasm that Fulkerson had hoped for, but the colonel said, stiffly, "I have not the pleasure of knowing Mr. Dryfoos." Miss Woodburn appeared ready to fall upon him at this, but controlled herself, as if aware that filial authority had its limits, and pressed her lips together without saying anything.

"Yes, I know," Fulkerson admitted. "But it isn't a usual case. Mr. Dryfoos don't go in much for the conventionalities; I reckon he don't know much about 'em, come to boil it down; and he hoped"--here

Fulkerson felt the necessity of inventing a little--"that you would excuse any want of ceremony; it's to be such an informal affair, anyway; we're all going in business dress, and there ain't going to be any ladies. He'd have come himself to ask you, but he's a kind of a bashful old fellow. It's all right, Colonel Woodburn."

"I take it that it is, sir," said the colonel, courteously, but with unabated state, "coming from you. But in these matters we have no right to burden our friends with our decisions."

"Of course, of course," said Fulkerson, feeling that he had been delicately told to mind his own business.

"I understand," the colonel went on, "the relation that Mr. Dryfoos bears to the periodical in which you have done me the honor to print my papah, but this is a question of passing the bounds of a purely business connection, and of eating the salt of a man whom you do not definitely know to be a gentleman."

"Mah goodness!" his daughter broke in. "If you bah your own salt with his money--"

"It is supposed that I earn his money before I buy my salt with it," returned her father, severely. "And in these times, when money is got in heaps, through the natural decay of our nefarious commercialism, it behooves a gentleman to be scrupulous that the hospitality offered him is not the profusion of a thief with his booty. I don't say that Mr. Dryfoos's good-fortune is not honest. I simply say that I know nothing about it, and that I should prefer to know something before I sat down at his board."

"You're all right, colonel," said Fulkerson, "and so is Mr. Dryfoos. I give you my word that there are no flies on his personal integrity, if that's what you mean. He's hard, and he'd push an advantage, but I don't believe he would take an unfair one. He's speculated and made money every time, but I never heard of his wrecking a railroad or belonging to any swindling company or any grinding monopoly. He does chance it in stocks, but he's always played on the square, if you call stocks gambling."


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