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Produced by Charles Keller









THE FORTUNE HUNTER


By

DAVID GRAHAM PHILLIPS




Author of

The Deluge, The Social Secretary, The Plum Tree, etc.





CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I ENTER MR. FEURSTEIN
II BRASS OUTSHINES GOLD
III FORTUNE FAVORS THE IMPUDENT
IV A BOLD DASH AND A DISASTER
V A SENSITIVE SOUL SEEKS SALVE
VI TRAGEDY IN TOMKINS SQUARE
VII LOVE IN SEVERAL ASPECTS
VIII A SHEEP WIELDS THE SHEARS
IX AN IDYL OF PLAIN PEOPLE
X MR. FUERSTEIN IS CONSISTENT
XI MR. FEURSTEIN'S CLIMAX
XII EXIT MR. FUERSTEIN





THE FORTUNE HUNTER




I

ENTER MR. FEUERSTEIN

On an afternoon late in April Feuerstein left his boarding-house in
East Sixteenth Street, in the block just beyond the eastern gates of
Stuyvesant Square, and paraded down Second Avenue.

A romantic figure was Feuerstein, of the German Theater stock company.
He was tall and slender, and had large, handsome features. His coat
was cut long over the shoulders and in at the waist to show his lines
of strength and grace. He wore a pearl-gray soft hat with rakish brim,
and it was set with suspicious carelessness upon bright blue, and
seemed to blazon a fiery, sentimental nature. He strode along,
intensely self-conscious, not in the way that causes awkwardness, but
in the way that causes a swagger. One had only to glance at him to
know that he was offensive to many men and fascinating to many women.

Not an article of his visible clothing had been paid for, and the
ten-cent piece in a pocket of his trousers was his total cash balance.
But his heart was as light as the day. Had he not youth? Had he not
health? Had he not looks to bewitch the women, brains to outwit the
men? Feuerstein sniffed the delightful air and gazed round, like a
king in the midst of cringing subjects. "I feel that this is one of my
lucky days," said he to himself. An aristocrat, a patrician, a
Hochwohlgeboren, if ever one was born.

At the Fourteenth-Street crossing he became conscious that a young man
was looking at him with respectful admiration and with the anxiety of
one who fears a distinguished acquaintance has forgotten him.
Feuerstein paused and in his grandest, most gracious manner, said:
"Ah! Mr. Hartmann - a glorious day!"

Young Hartmann flushed with pleasure and stammered, "Yes - a GLORIOUS
day!"

"It is lucky I met you," continued Feuerstein. "I had an appointment
at the Cafe Boulevard at four, and came hurrying away from my lodgings
with empty pockets - I am so absent-minded. Could you convenience me for
a few hours with five dollars? I'll repay you to-night - you will be at
Goerwitz's probably? I usually look in there after the theater."

Hartmann colored with embarrassment.

"I'm sorry," he said humbly, "I've got only a two-dollar bill. If it
would - "

Feuerstein looked annoyed. "Perhaps I can make that do. Thank
you - sorry to trouble you. I MUST be more careful."

The two dollars were transferred, Feuerstein gave Hartmann a
flourishing stage salute and strode grandly on. Before he had gone ten
yards he had forgotten Hartmann and had dismissed all financial
care - had he not enough to carry him through the day, even should he
meet no one who would pay for his dinner and his drinks? "Yes, it is a
day to back myself to win - fearlessly!"

The hedge at the Cafe Boulevard was green and the tables were in the
yard and on the balconies; but Feuerstein entered, seated himself in
one of the smoke-fogged reading-rooms, ordered a glass of beer, and
divided his attention between the Fliegende Blatter and the faces of
incoming men. After half an hour two men in an arriving group of three
nodded coldly to him. He waited until they were seated, then joined
them and proceeded to make himself agreeable to the one who had just
been introduced to him - young Horwitz, an assistant bookkeeper at a
department store in Twenty-third Street. But Horwitz had a "soul," and
the yearning of that secret soul was for the stage. Feuerstein did
Horwitz the honor of dining with him. At a quarter past seven, with
his two dollars intact, with a loan of one dollar added to it, and with
five of his original ten cents, he took himself away to the theater.
Afterward, by appointment, he met his new friend, and did him the honor
of accompanying him to the Young German Shooters' Society ball at
Terrace Garden.

It was one of those simple, entirely and genuinely gay entertainments
that assemble the society of the real New York - the three and a half
millions who work and play hard and live plainly and without pretense,
whose ideals center about the hearth, and whose aspirations are to
retire with a competence early in the afternoon of life, thenceforth
placidly to assist in the prosperity of their children and to have
their youth over again in their grandchildren.

Feuerstein's gaze wandered from face to face among the young women, to
pause at last upon a dark, handsome, strong-looking daughter of the
people. She had coal-black hair that curled about a low forehead. Her
eyes were dreamy and stormy. Her mouth was sweet, if a trifle
petulant. "And who is she?" he asked.

"That's Hilda Brauner," replied Horwitz. "Her father has a
delicatessen in Avenue A. He's very rich - owns three flat-houses.
They must bring him in at least ten thousand net, not to speak of what
he makes in the store. They're fine people, those Brauners; none nicer
anywhere."

"A beautiful creature," said Feuerstein, who was feeling like a prince
who, for reasons of sordid necessity, had condescended to a party in
Fifth Avenue. "I'd like to meet her."

"Certainly," replied Horwitz. "I'll introduce her to you."

She blushed and was painfully ill at ease in presence of his grand and
lofty courtesy - she who had been used to the offhand manners which
prevail wherever there is equality of the sexes and the custom of frank
sociability. And when he asked her to dance she would have refused had
she been able to speak at all. But he bore her off and soon made her
forget herself in the happiness of being drifted in his strong arm upon
the rhythmic billows of the waltz. At the end he led her to a seat and
fell to complimenting her - his eyes eloquent, his voice, it seemed to
her, as entrancing as the waltz music. When he spoke in German it was
without the harsh sputtering and growling, the slovenly slurring and
clipping to which she had been accustomed. She could answer only with
monosyllables or appreciative looks, though usually she was a great
talker and, as she had much common sense and not a little wit, a good
talker. But her awe of him, which increased when she learned that he
was on the stage, did not prevent her from getting the two main
impressions he wished to make upon her - that Mr. Feuerstein was a very
grand person indeed, and that he was condescending to be profoundly
smitten of her charms.

She was the "catch" of Avenue A, taking prospects and looks together,
and the men she knew had let her rule them. In Mr. Feuerstein she had
found what she had been unconsciously seeking with the Idealismus of
genuine youth - a man who compelled her to look far up to him, a man
who seemed to her to embody those vague dreams of a life grand and
beautiful, away off somewhere, which are dreamed by all young people,
and by not a few older ones, who have less excuse for not knowing where
happiness is to be found. He spent the whole evening with her; Mrs.
Liebers and Sophie, with whom she had come, did not dare interrupt her
pleasure, but had to stay, yawning and cross, until the last strain of
Home, Sweet Home.

At parting he pressed her hand. "I have been happy," he murmured in a
tone which said, "Mine is a sorrow-shadowed soul that has rarely tasted
happiness."

She glanced up at him with ingenuous feeling in her eyes and managed to
stammer: "I hope we'll meet again."

"Couldn't I come down to see you Sunday evening?"

"There's a concert in the Square. If you're there I might see you."

"Until Sunday night," he said, and made her feel that the three
intervening days would be for him three eternities.

She thought of him all the way home in the car, and until she fell
asleep. His sonorous name was in her mind when she awoke in the
morning; and, as she stood in the store that day, waiting on the
customers, she looked often at the door, and, with the
childhood-surviving faith of youth in the improbable and impossible,
hoped that he would appear. For the first time she was definitely
discontented with her lot, was definitely fascinated by the idea that
there might be something higher and finer than the simple occupations
and simple enjoyments which had filled her life thus far.


In the evening after supper her father and mother left her and her
brother August in charge, and took their usual stroll for exercise and
for the profound delight of a look at their flat-houses - those
reminders of many years of toil and thrift. They had spent their youth,
she as cook, he as helper, in one of New York's earliest delicatessen
shops. When they had saved three thousand dollars they married and put
into effect the plan which had been their chief subject of conversation
every day and every evening for ten years - they opened the
"delicatessen" in Avenue A, near Second Street. They lived in two back
rooms; they toiled early and late for twenty-three contented, cheerful
years - she in the shop when she was not doing the housework or caring
for the babies, he in the great clean cellar, where the cooking and
cabbage-cutting and pickling and spicing were done. And now, owners of
three houses that brought in eleven thousand a year clear, they were
about to retire. They had fixed on a place in the Bronx, in the East
Side, of course, with a big garden, where every kind of gay flower and
good vegetable could be grown, and an arbor where there could be
pinochle, beer and coffee on Sunday afternoons. In a sentence, they
were honorable and exemplary members of that great mass of humanity
which has the custody of the present and the future of the race - those
who live by the sweat of their own brows or their own brains, and train
their children to do likewise, those who maintain the true ideals of
happiness and progress, those from whom spring all the workers and all
the leaders of thought and action.

They walked slowly up the Avenue, speaking to their neighbors, pausing
now and then for a joke or to pat a baby on the head, until they were
within two blocks of Tompkins Square. They stopped before a five-story
tenement, evidently the dwelling-place of substantial, intelligent,
self-respecting artisans and their families, leading the natural life
of busy usefulness. In its first floor was a delicatessen - the sign
read "Schwartz and Heilig." Paul Brauner pointed with his long-stemmed
pipe at the one show-window.

"Fine, isn't it? Beautiful!" he exclaimed in Low-German - they and
almost all their friends spoke Low-German, and used English only when
they could not avoid it.

The window certainly was well arranged. Only a merchant who knew his
business thoroughly - both his wares and his customers - could have thus
displayed cooked chickens, hams and tongues, the imported sausages and
fish, the jelly-inclosed paste of chicken livers, the bottles and jars
of pickled or spiced meats and vegetables and fruits. The spectacle
was adroitly arranged to move the hungry to yearning, the filled to
regret, and the dyspeptic to rage and remorse. And behind the
show-window lay a shop whose shelves, counters and floor were clean as
toil could make and keep them, and whose air was saturated with the
most delicious odors.

Mrs. Brauner nodded. "Heilig was up at half-past four this morning,"
she said. "He cleans out every morning and he moves everything twice a
week." She had a round, honest face that was an inspiring study in
simplicity, sense and sentiment.

"What a worker!" was her husband's comment. "So unlike most of the
young men nowadays. If August were only like him!"

"You'd think Heilig was a drone if he were your son," replied Mrs.
Brauner. She knew that if any one else had dared thus to attack their
boy, his father would have been growling and snapping like an angry
bear.

"That's right!" he retorted with mock scorn. "Defend your children!
You'll be excusing Hilda for putting off Heilig next."

"She'll marry him - give her time," said Mrs. Brauner. "She's romantic,
but she's sensible, too - why, she was born to make a good wife to a
hard-working man. Where's there another woman that knows the business
as she does? You admit on her birthdays that she's the only real
helper you ever had."

"Except you," said her husband.

"Never mind me." Mrs. Brauner pretended to disdain the compliment.

Brauner understood, however. "We have had the best, you and I," said
he.

"Arbeit und Liebe und Heim. Nicht wahr?" Otto Heilig appeared in his
doorway and greeted them awkwardly. Nor did their cordiality lessen
his embarrassment. His pink and white skin was rosy red and his frank
blue-gray eyes shifted uneasily. But he was smiling with eager
friendliness, showing even, sound, white teeth.

"You are coming to see us to-morrow?" asked Mrs. Brauner - he always
called on Sunday afternoons and stayed until five, when he had to open
shop for the Sunday supper rush.

"Why - that is - not exactly - no," he stammered. Hilda had told him not
to come, but he knew that if he admitted it to her parents they would
be severe with her. He didn't like anybody to be severe with Hilda,
and he felt that their way of helping his courtship was not suited to
the modern ideas. "They make her hate me," he often muttered. But if
he resented it he would offend them and Hilda too; if he acquiesced he
encouraged them and added to Hilda's exasperation.

Mrs. Brauner knew at once that Hilda was in some way the cause of the
break in the custom. "Oh, you must come," she said. "We'd feel
strange all week if we didn't see you on Sunday."

"Yes - I must have my cards," insisted Brauner. He and Otto always
played pinochle; Otto's eyes most of the time and his thoughts all the
time were on Hilda, in the corner, at the zither, playing the maddest,
most romantic music; her father therefore usually won, poor at the game
though he was. It made him cross to lose, and Otto sometimes defeated
his own luck deliberately when love refused to do it for him.

"Very well, then - that is - if I can - I'll try to come."

Several customers pushed past him into his shop and he had to rejoin
his partner, Schwartz, behind the counters. Brauner and his wife
walked slowly home - it was late and there would be more business than
Hilda and August could attend to. As they crossed Third Street
Brauner said: "Hilda must go and tell him to come. This is her doing."

"But she can't do that," objected Mrs. Brauner. "She'd say it was
throwing herself at his head."

"Not if I send her?" Brauner frowned with a seeming of severity. "Not
if I, her father, send her - for two chickens, as we're out?" Then he
laughed. His fierceness was the family joke when Hilda was small she
used to say, "Now, get mad, father, and make little Hilda laugh!"

Hilda was behind the counter, a customer watching with fascinated eyes
the graceful, swift movements of her arms and hands as she tied up a
bundle. Her sleeves were rolled to her dimpled elbows, and her arms
were round and strong and white, and her skin was fine and smooth. Her
shoulders were wide, but not square; her hips were narrow, her wrists,
her hands, her head, small. She looked healthy and vigorous and useful
as well as beautiful.

When the customers had gone Brauner said: "Go up to Schwartz and
Heilig, daughter, and ask them for two two-pound chickens. And tell
Otto Heilig you'll be glad to see him to-morrow."

"But we don't need the chickens, now. We - " Hilda's brow contracted
and her chin came out.

"Do as I tell you," said her father.

"MY children shall not sink to the disrespect of these days."

"But I shan't be here to-morrow! I've made another engagement."

"You SHALL be here to-morrow! If you don't wish young Heilig here for
your own sake, you must show consideration for your parents. Are they
to be deprived of their Sunday afternoon? You have never done this
before, Hilda. You have never forgotten us before."

Hilda hung her head; after a moment she unrolled her sleeves, laid
aside her apron and set out. She was repentant toward her father, but
she felt that Otto was to blame. She determined to make him suffer for
it - how easy it was to make him suffer, and how pleasant to feel that
this big fellow was her slave! She went straight up to him. "So you
complained of me, did you?" she said scornfully, though she knew well
that he had not, that he could not have done anything that even seemed
mean.

He flushed. "No - no," he stammered. "No, indeed, Hilda. Don't think - "

She looked contempt. "Well, you've won. Come down Sunday afternoon.
I suppose I'll have to endure it."

"Hilda, you're wrong. I will NOT come!" He was angry, but his mind
was confused. He loved her with all the strength of his simple,
straightforward nature. Therefore he appeared at his worst before
her - usually either incoherent or dumb. It was not surprising that
whenever it was suggested that only a superior man could get on so well
as he did, she always answered: "He works twice as hard as any one
else, and you don't need much brains if you'll work hard."

She now cut him short. "If you don't come I'll have to suffer for it,"
she said. "You MUST come! I'll not be glad to see you. But if you
don't come I'll never speak to you again!" And she left him and went
to the other counter and ordered the chickens from Schwartz.

Heilig was wretched, - another of those hideous dilemmas over which he
had been stumbling like a drunken man in a dark room full of furniture
ever since he let his mother go to Mrs. Brauner and ask her for Hilda.
He watched Hilda's splendid back, and fumbled about, upsetting bottles
and rattling dishes, until she went out with a glance of jeering scorn.
Schwartz burst out laughing.

"Anybody could tell you are in love," he said. "Be stiff with her,
Otto, and you'll get her all right. It don't do to let a woman see
that you care about her. The worse you treat the women the better they
like it. When they used to tell my father about some woman being crazy
over a man, he always used to say, 'What sort of a scoundrel is he?'
That was good sense."

Otto made no reply. No doubt these maxims were sound and wise; but how
was he to apply them? How could he pretend indifference when at sight
of her he could open his jaws only enough to chatter them, could loosen
his tongue only enough to roll it thickly about? "I can work," he said
to himself, "and I can pay my debts and have something over; but when
it comes to love I'm no good."



II

BRASS OUTSHINES GOLD

Hilda returned to her father's shop and was busy there until nine
o'clock. Then Sophie Liebers came and they went into the Avenue for a
walk. They pushed their way through and with the throngs up into
Tompkins Square - the center of one of the several vast districts,
little known because little written about, that contain the real New
York and the real New Yorkers. In the Square several thousand young
people were promenading, many of the girls walking in pairs, almost all
the young men paired off, each with a young woman. It was warm, and
the stars beamed down upon the hearts of young lovers, blotting out for
them electric lights and surrounding crowds. It caused no comment
there for a young couple to walk hand in hand, looking each at the
other with the expression that makes commonplace eyes wonderful. And
when the sound of a kiss came from a somewhat secluded bench, the only
glances east in the direction whence it had come were glances of
approval or envy.

"There's Otto Heilig dogging us," said Hilda to Sophie, as they walked
up and down. "Do you wonder I hate him?" They talked in American, as
did all the young people, except with those of their elders who could
speak only German.

Sophie was silent. If Hilda had been noting her face she would have
seen a look of satisfaction.

"I can't bear him," went on Hilda. "No girl could. He's so stupid
and - and common!" Never before had she used that last word in such a
sense. Mr. Feuerstein had begun to educate her.

Sophie's unobserved look changed to resentment. "Of course he's not
equal to Mr. Feuerstein," she said. "But he's a very nice fellow - at
least for an ordinary girl." Sophie's father was an upholsterer, and
not a good one. He owned no tenements - was barely able to pay the rent
for a small corner of one. Thus her sole dower was her pretty face and
her cunning. She had an industrious, scheming, not overscrupulous
brain and - her hopes and plans. Nor had she time to waste. For she
was nearer twenty-three than twenty-two, at the outer edge of the
marriageable age of Avenue A, which believes in an early start at what
it regards as the main business of life - the family.

"You surely couldn't marry such a man as Otto!" said Hilda absently.
Her eyes were searching the crowd, near and far.

Sophie laughed. "Beggars can't be choosers," she answered. "I think
he's all right - as men go. It wouldn't do for me to expect too much."

Just then Hilda caught sight of Mr. Feuerstein - the godlike head, the
glorious hair, the graceful hat. Her manner changed - her eyes
brightened, her cheeks reddened, and she talked fast and laughed a
great deal. As they passed near him she laughed loudly and called out
to Sophie as if she were not at her elbow - she feared he would not see.
Mr. Feuerstein turned his picturesque head, slowly lifted his hat and
joined them. At once Hilda became silent, listening with rapt
attention to the commonplaces he delivered in sonorous, oracular tones.

As he deigned to talk only to Hilda, who was walking between Sophie and
him, Sophie was free to gaze round. She spied Otto Heilig drooping
dejectedly along. She adroitly steered her party so that it crossed
his path. He looked up to find himself staring at Hilda. She frowned
at this disagreeable apparition into her happiness, and quickened her
step. But Sophie, without letting go of Hilda's hand, paused and spoke
to Otto. Thus Hilda was forced to stop and to say ungraciously: "Mr.
Feuerstein, Mr. Heilig."

Then she and Mr. Feuerstein went on, and Sophie drew the reluctant Otto
in behind them. She gradually slackened her pace, so that she and
Heilig dropped back until several couples separated them from Hilda and
Mr. Feuerstein. A few minutes and Hilda and Mr. Feuerstein were seated
on a bench in the deep shadow of a tree, Sophie and Heilig walking
slowly to and fro a short distance away.

Heilig was miserable with despondent jealousy. He longed to inquire
about this remarkable-looking new friend of Hilda's. For Mr.
Feuerstein seemed to be of that class of strangers whom Avenue A
condemns on their very appearance. It associates respectability with
work only, and it therefore suspects those who look as if they did not
work and did not know how. Sophie was soon answering of her own accord
the questions Heilig as a gentleman could not ask. "You must have
heard of Mr. Feuerstein? He's an actor - at the German Theater. I
don't think he's much of an actor - he's one of the kind that do all
their acting off the stage."

Heilig laughed unnaturally. He did not feel like laughing, but wished
to show his gratitude to Sophie for this shrewd blow at his enemy.
"He's rigged out like a lunatic, isn't he?" Otto was thinking of the
long hair, the low-rolling shirt collar and the velvet collar on his
coat, - light gray, to match his hat and suit.

"I don't see what Hilda finds in him," continued Sophie. "It makes me
laugh to look at him; and when he talks I can hardly keep from
screaming in his face. But Hilda's crazy over him, as you see. He
tells all sorts of romances about himself, and she believes every word.
I think she'll marry him - you know, her father lets her do as she
pleases. Isn't it funny that a sensible girl like Hilda can be so
foolish?"

Heilig did not answer this, nor did he heed the talk on love and
marriage which the over-eager Sophie proceeded to give. And it was
talk worth listening to, as it presented love and marriage in the
interesting, romantic-sensible Avenue A light. Otto was staring
gloomily at the shadow of the tree. He would have been gloomier could


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