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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

Fulkerson braced his knees against his desk


"What do you mean, Fulkerson?" asked March, with a puzzled smile.

Fulkerson braced his knees against his desk, and pushed himself back, but kept his balance to the eye by canting his hat sharply forward. "There's an old cock over there at the widow's that's written a book to prove that slavery was and is the only solution of the labor problem. He's a Southerner."

"I should imagine," March assented.

"He's got it on the brain that if the South could have been let alone by the commercial spirit and the pseudophilanthropy of the North, it would have worked out slavery into a perfectly ideal condition for the laborer, in which he would have been insured against want, and protected in all his personal rights by the state. He read the introduction to me last night. I didn't catch on to all the points--his daughter's an awfully pretty girl, and I was carrying that fact in my mind all the time, too, you know--but that's about the gist of it."

"Seems to regard it as a lost opportunity?" said March.

"Exactly! What a mighty catchy title, Neigh? Look well on the title-page."

"Well written?"

"I reckon so; I don't know. The Colonel read it mighty eloquently."

"It mightn't be such bad business," said March, in a muse. "Could you get me a sight of it without committing yourself?"

"If the Colonel hasn't sent it off to another publisher this morning. He just got it back with thanks yesterday. He likes to keep it travelling."

"Well, try it. I've a notion it might be a curious thing."

"Look here, March," said Fulkerson, with the effect of taking a fresh hold; "I wish you could let me have one of those New York things of yours for the first number. After all, that's going to be the great card."

"I couldn't, Fulkerson; I couldn't, really. I want to philosophize the material, and I'm too new to it all yet. I don't want to do merely superficial sketches."

"Of course! Of course! I understand that. Well, I don't want to hurry you. Seen that old fellow of yours yet? I think we ought to have that translation in the first number; don't you? We want to give 'em a notion of what we're going to do in that line."

"Yes," said March; "and I was going out to look up Lindau this morning. I've inquired at Maroni's, and he hasn't been there for several days. I've some idea perhaps he's sick. But they gave me his address, and I'm going to see."

"Well, that's right. We want the first number to be the keynote in every way."

March shook his head. "You can't make it so. The first number is bound to be a failure always, as far as the representative character goes. It's invariably the case. Look at the first numbers of all the things you've seen started. They're experimental, almost amateurish, and necessarily so, not only because the men that are making them up are comparatively inexperienced like ourselves, but because the material sent them to deal with is more or less consciously tentative. People send their adventurous things to a new periodical because the whole thing is an adventure. I've noticed that quality in all the volunteer contributions; it's in the articles that have been done to order even. No; I've about made up my mind that if we can get one good striking paper into the first number that will take people's minds off the others, we shall be doing all we can possible hope for. I should like," March added, less seriously, "to make up three numbers ahead, and publish the third one first."


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