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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

We don't look like New Yorkers


"Of

course, we don't look like New-Yorkers," sighed Mrs. March, "and we've walked through the Square. That might be as if we had walked along the Park Street mall in the Common before we came out on Beacon. Do you suppose he could have seen you getting your boots blacked in that way?"

"It's useless to ask," said March. "But I never can recover from this blow."

"Oh, pshaw! You know you hate such things as badly as I do. It was very impertinent of him."

"Let us go back and 'ecraser l'infame' by paying him a year's rent in advance and taking immediate possession. Nothing else can soothe my wounded feelings. You were not having your boots blacked: why shouldn't he have supposed you were a New-Yorker, and I a country cousin?"

"They always know. Don't you remember Mrs. Williams's going to a Fifth Avenue milliner in a Worth dress, and the woman's asking her instantly what hotel she should send her hat to?"

"Yes; these things drive one to despair. I don't wonder the bodies of so many genteel strangers are found in the waters around New York. Shall we try the south side, my dear? or had we better go back to our rooms and rest awhile?"

Mrs. March had out the vertebrate, and was consulting one of its glittering ribs and glancing up from it at a house before which they stood. "Yes, it's

the number; but do they call this being ready October first?" The little area in front of the basement was heaped with a mixture of mortar, bricks, laths, and shavings from the interior; the brownstone steps to the front door were similarly bestrewn; the doorway showed the half-open, rough pine carpenter's sketch of an unfinished house; the sashless windows of every story showed the activity of workmen within; the clatter of hammers and the hiss of saws came out to them from every opening.

"They may call it October first," said March, "because it's too late to contradict them. But they'd better not call it December first in my presence; I'll let them say January first, at a pinch."

"We will go in and look at it, anyway," said his wife; and he admired how, when she was once within, she began provisionally to settle the family in each of the several floors with the female instinct for domiciliation which never failed her. She had the help of the landlord, who was present to urge forward the workmen apparently; he lent a hopeful fancy to the solution of all her questions. To get her from under his influence March had to represent that the place was damp from undried plastering, and that if she stayed she would probably be down with that New York pneumonia which visiting Bostonians are always dying of. Once safely on the pavement outside, she realized that the apartment was not only unfinished, but unfurnished, and had neither steam heat nor elevator. "But I thought we had better look at everything," she explained.

"Yes, but not take everything. If I hadn't pulled you away from there by main force you'd have not only died of New York pneumonia on the spot, but you'd have had us all settled there before we knew what we were about."

"Well, that's what I can't help, Basil. It's the only way I can realize whether it will do for us. I have to dramatize the whole thing."


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