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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

Though they were strictly personal to Beaton


"And

you say Mrs. Mandel done right?" asked Dryfoos, as if he wished simply to be assured of a point of etiquette.

"Yes, she did right. I've nothing to complain of."

"That's all I wanted to know," said Dryfoos; but apparently he had not finished, and he did not go, though the silence that Beaton now kept gave him a chance to do so. He began a series of questions which had no relation to the matter in hand, though they were strictly personal to Beaton. "What countryman are you?" he asked, after a moment.

"What countryman?" Beaton frowned back at him.

"Yes, are you an American by birth?"

"Yes; I was born in Syracuse."

"Protestant?"

"My father is a Scotch Seceder."

"What business is your father in?"

Beaton faltered and blushed; then he answered:

"He's in the monument business, as he calls it. He's a tombstone cutter." Now that he was launched, Beaton saw no reason for not declaring, "My father's always been a poor man, and worked with his own hands for his living." He had too slight esteem socially for Dryfoos to conceal a fact from him that he might have wished to blink with others.

"Well, that's right," said

Dryfoos. "I used to farm it myself. I've got a good pile of money together, now. At first it didn't come easy; but now it's got started it pours in and pours in; it seems like there was no end to it. I've got well on to three million; but it couldn't keep me from losin' my son. It can't buy me back a minute of his life; not all the money in the world can do it!"

He grieved this out as if to himself rather than to Beaton, who, scarcely ventured to say, "I know--I am very sorry--"

"How did you come," Dryfoos interrupted, "to take up paintin'?"

"Well, I don't know," said Beaton, a little scornfully. "You don't take a thing of that kind up, I fancy. I always wanted to paint."

"Father try to stop you?"

"No. It wouldn't have been of any use. Why--"

"My son, he wanted to be a preacher, and I did stop him or I thought I did. But I reckon he was a preacher, all the same, every minute of his life. As you say, it ain't any use to try to stop a thing like that. I reckon if a child has got any particular bent, it was given to it; and it's goin' against the grain, it's goin' against the law, to try to bend it some other way. There's lots of good business men, Mr. Beaton, twenty of 'em to every good preacher?"

"I imagine more than twenty," said Beaton, amused and touched through his curiosity as to what the old man was driving at by the quaint simplicity of his speculations.


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