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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

Dryfoos sank contentedly back in her chair


"I think it's a shame, some of the pictur's a body sees in the winders. They say there's a law ag'inst them things; and if there is, I don't understand why the police don't take up them that paints 'em. I hear 182 tell, since I been here, that there's women that goes to have pictur's took from them that way by men painters." The point seemed aimed at March, as if he were personally responsible for the scandal, and it fell with a silencing effect for the moment. Nobody seemed willing to take it up, and Mrs. Dryfoos went on, with an old woman's severity: "I say they ought to be all tarred and feathered and rode on a rail. They'd be drummed out of town in Moffitt."

Miss Mela said, with a crowing laugh: "I should think they would! And they wouldn't anybody go low neck to the opera-house there, either--not low neck the way they do here, anyway."

"And that pack of worthless hussies," her mother resumed, "that come out on the stage, and begun to kick."

"Laws, mother!" the girl shouted, "I thought you said you had your eyes shut!"

All but these two simpler creatures were abashed at the indecorum of suggesting in words the commonplaces of the theatre and of art.

"Well, I did, Mely, as soon as I could believe my eyes. I don't know what they're doin' in all their churches, to let such things go on," said the old woman. "It's a sin and a shame, I think. Don't you, Coonrod?"

A ring at the door cut short whatever answer he was about to deliver.

"If it's going to be company, Coonrod," said his mother, making an effort to rise, "I reckon I better go up-stairs."

"It's Mr. Fulkerson, I guess," said Conrad. "He thought he might come"; and at the mention of this light spirit Mrs. Dryfoos sank contentedly back in her chair, and a relaxation of their painful tension seemed to pass through the whole company. Conrad went to the door himself (the serving-man tentatively, appeared some minutes later) and let in Fulkerson's cheerful voice before his cheerful person.

"Ah, how dye do, Conrad? Brought our friend, Mr. Beaton, with me," those within heard him say; and then, after a sound of putting off overcoats, they saw him fill the doorway, with his feet set square and his arms akimbo.

IX.

"Ah! hello! hello!" Fulkerson said, in recognition of the Marches. "Regular gathering of the clans. How are you, Mrs. Dryfoos? How do you do, Mrs. Mandel, Miss Christine, Mela, Aunt Hitty, and all the folks? How you wuz?" He shook hands gayly all round, and took a chair next the old lady, whose hand he kept in his own, and left Conrad to introduce Beaton. But he would not let the shadow of Beaton's solemnity fall upon the company. He began to joke with Mrs. Dryfoos, and to match rheumatisms with her, and he included all the ladies in the range of appropriate pleasantries. "I've brought Mr. Beaton along to-night, and I want you to make him feel at home, like you do me, Mrs. Dryfoos. He hasn't got any rheumatism to speak of; but his parents live in Syracuse, and he's a kind of an orphan, and we've just adopted him down at the office. When you going to bring the young ladies down there, Mrs. Mandel, for a champagne lunch? I will have some hydro-Mela, and Christine it, heigh? How's that for a little starter? We dropped in at your place a moment, Mrs. March, and gave the young folks a few pointers about their studies. My goodness! it does me good to see a boy like that of yours; business, from the word go; and your girl just scoops my youthful affections. She's a beauty, and I guess she's good, too. Well, well, what a world it is! Miss Christine, won't you show Mr. Beaton that seal ring of yours? He knows about such things, and I brought him here to see it as much as anything. It's an intaglio I brought from the other side," he explained to Mrs. March, "and I guess you'll like to look at it. Tried to give it to the Dryfoos family, and when I couldn't, I sold it to 'em. Bound to see it on Miss Christine's hand somehow! Hold on! Let him see it where it belongs, first!"


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