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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

Green's gimcrackery expresses ours


An

Irish serving-man, with a certain surprise that delayed him, said the ladies were at home, and let the Marches in, and then carried their cards up-stairs. The drawing-room, where he said they could sit down while he went on this errand, was delicately, decorated in white and gold, and furnished with a sort of extravagant good taste; there was nothing to object to in the satin furniture, the pale, soft, rich carpet, the pictures, and the bronze and china bric-a-brac, except that their costliness was too evident; everything in the room meant money too plainly, and too much of it. The Marches recognized this in the hoarse whispers which people cannot get their voices above when they try to talk away the interval of waiting in such circumstances; they conjectured from what they had heard of the Dryfooses that this tasteful luxury in no wise expressed their civilization. "Though when you come to that," said March, "I don't know that Mrs. Green's gimcrackery expresses ours."

"Well, Basil, I didn't take the gimcrackery. That was your--"

The rustle of skirts on the stairs without arrested Mrs. March in the well-merited punishment which she never failed to inflict upon her husband when the question of the gimcrackery--they always called it that--came up. She rose at the entrance of a bright-looking, pretty-looking, mature, youngish lady, in black silk of a neutral implication, who put out her hand to her, and said, with

a very cheery, very ladylike accent, "Mrs. March?" and then added to both of them, while she shook hands with March, and before they could get the name out of their months: "No, not Miss Dryfoos! Neither of them; nor Mrs. Dryfoos. Mrs. Mandel. The ladies will be down in a moment. Won't you throw off your sacque, Mrs. March? I'm afraid it's rather warm here, coming from the outside."

"I will throw it back, if you'll allow me," said Mrs. March, with a sort of provisionality, as if, pending some uncertainty as to Mrs. Mandel's quality and authority, she did not feel herself justified in going further.

But if she did not know about Mrs. Mandel, Mrs. Mandel seemed to know about her. "Oh, well, do!" she said, with a sort of recognition of the propriety of her caution. "I hope you are feeling a little at home in New York. We heard so much of your trouble in getting a flat, from Mr. Fulkerson."

"Well, a true Bostonian doesn't give up quite so soon," said Mrs. March.

"But I will say New York doesn't seem so far away, now we're here."

"I'm sure you'll like it. Every one does." Mrs. Mandel added to March, "It's very sharp out, isn't it?"

"Rather sharp. But after our Boston winters I don't know but I ought to repudiate the word."

"Ah, wait till you have been here through March!" said Mrs. Mandel. She began with him, but skillfully transferred the close of her remark, and the little smile of menace that went with it, to his wife.

"Yes," said Mrs. March, "or April, either: Talk about our east winds!"

"Oh, I'm sure they can't be worse than our winds," Mrs. Mandel returned, caressingly.

"If we escape New York pneumonia," March laughed, "it will only be to fall a prey to New York malaria as soon as the frost is out of the ground."

"Oh, but you know," said Mrs. Mandel, "I think our malaria has really been slandered a little. It's more a matter of drainage--of plumbing. I don't believe it would be possible for malaria to get into this house, we've had it gone over so thoroughly."


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