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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

He was afraid Dryfoos would die


"Father

ever come to the city?"

"No; he never has the time; and my mother's an invalid."

"Oh! Brothers and sisters?"

"Yes; we're a large family."

"I lost two little fellers--twins," said Dryfoos, sadly. "But we hain't ever had but just the five. Ever take portraits?"

"Yes," said Beaton, meeting this zigzag in the queries as seriously as the rest. "I don't think I am good at it."

Dryfoos got to his feet. "I wish you'd paint a likeness of my son. You've seen him plenty of times. We won't fight about the price, don't you be afraid of that."

Beaton was astonished, and in a mistaken way he was disgusted. He saw that Dryfoos was trying to undo Mrs. Mandel's work practically, and get him to come again to his house; that he now conceived of the offence given him as condoned, and wished to restore the former situation. He knew that he was attempting this for Christine's sake, but he was not the man to imagine that Dryfoos was trying not only to tolerate him, but to like him; and, in fact, Dryfoos was not wholly conscious himself of this end. What they both understood was that Dryfoos was endeavoring to get at Beaton through Conrad's memory; but with one this was its dedication to a purpose of self sacrifice, and with the other a vulgar and shameless use

of it.

"I couldn't do it," said Beaton. "I couldn't think of attempting it."

"Why not?" Dryfoos persisted. "We got some photographs of him; he didn't like to sit very well; but his mother got him to; and you know how he looked."

"I couldn't do it--I couldn't. I can't even consider it. I'm very sorry. I would, if it were possible. But it isn't possible."

"I reckon if you see the photographs once"

"It isn't that, Mr. Dryfoos. But I'm not in the way of that kind of thing any more."

"I'd give any price you've a mind to name--"

"Oh, it isn't the money!" cried Beaton, beginning to lose control of himself.

The old man did not notice him. He sat with his head fallen forward, and his chin resting on his folded hands. Thinking of the portrait, he saw Conrad's face before him, reproachful, astonished, but all gentle as it looked when Conrad caught his hand that day after he struck him; he heard him say, "Father!" and the sweat gathered on his forehead. "Oh, my God!" he groaned. "No; there ain't anything I can do now."

Beaton did not know whether Dryfoos was speaking to him or not. He started toward him. "Are you ill?"

"No, there ain't anything the matter," said the old man. "But I guess I'll lay down on your settee a minute." He tottered with Beaton's help to the aesthetic couch covered with a tiger-skin, on which Beaton had once thought of painting a Cleopatra; but he could never get the right model. As the old man stretched himself out on it, pale and suffering, he did not look much like a Cleopatra, but Beaton was struck with his effectiveness, and the likeness between him and his daughter; she would make a very good Cleopatra in some ways. All the time, while these thoughts passed through his mind, he was afraid Dryfoos would die. The old man fetched his breath in gasps, which presently smoothed and lengthened into his normal breathing. Beaton got him a glass of wine, and after tasting it he sat up.


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