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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

Fulkerson wants to ask you something


"Not

at all. But it isn't Dryfoos I want you to help me with; it's your father. I want your father to interview Dryfoos for me, and I-I'm afraid to ask him."

"Poo' Mr. Fulkerson!" she said, and she insinuated something through her burlesque compassion that lifted him to the skies. He swore in his heart that the woman never lived who was so witty, so wise, so beautiful, and so good. "Come raght with me this minute, if the cyoast's clea'." She went to the door of the diningroom and looked in across its gloom to the little gallery where her father sat beside a lamp reading his evening paper; Mrs. Leighton could be heard in colloquy with the cook below, and Alma had gone to her room. She beckoned Fulkerson with the hand outstretched behind her, and said, "Go and ask him."

"Alone!" he palpitated.

"Oh, what a cyowahd!" she cried, and went with him. "Ah suppose you'll want me to tell him aboat it."

"Well, I wish you'd begin, Miss Woodburn," he said. "The fact is, you know, I've been over it so much I'm kind of sick of the thing."

Miss Woodburn advanced and put her hand on her father's shoulder. "Look heah, papa! Mr. Fulkerson wants to ask you something, and he wants me to do it fo' him."

The colonel looked up through his glasses with the sort of ferocity elderly men sometimes have to

put on in order to keep their glasses from falling off. His daughter continued: "He's got into an awful difficulty with his edito' and his proprieto', and he wants you to pacify them."

"I do not know whethah I understand the case exactly," said the colonel, "but Mr. Fulkerson may command me to the extent of my ability."

"You don't understand it aftah what Ah've said?" cried the girl. "Then Ah don't see but what you'll have to explain it you'self, Mr. Fulkerson."

"Well, Miss Woodburn has been so luminous about it, colonel," said Fulkerson, glad of the joking shape she had given the affair, "that I can only throw in a little side-light here and there."

The colonel listened as Fulkerson went on, with a grave diplomatic satisfaction. He felt gratified, honored, even, he said, by Mr. Fulkerson's appeal to him; and probably it gave him something of the high joy that an affair of honor would have brought him in the days when he had arranged for meetings between gentlemen. Next to bearing a challenge, this work of composing a difficulty must have been grateful. But he gave no outward sign of his satisfaction in making a resume of the case so as to get the points clearly in his mind.

"I was afraid, sir," he said, with the state due to the serious nature of the facts, "that Mr. Lindau had given Mr. Dryfoos offence by some of his questions at the dinner-table last night."

"Perfect red rag to a bull," Fulkerson put in; and then he wanted to withdraw his words at the colonel's look of displeasure.

"I have no reflections to make upon Mr. Landau," Colonel Woodburn continued, and Fulkerson felt grateful to him for going on; "I do not agree with Mr. Lindau; I totally disagree with him on sociological points; but the course of the conversation had invited him to the expression of his convictions, and he had a right to express them, so far as they had no personal bearing."


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