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William Dean Howells.

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Produced by David Widger





A HAZARD OF NEW FORTUNES

By William Dean Howells


PART THIRD


I.

The scheme of a banquet to celebrate the initial success of 'Every Other
Week' expanded in Fulkerson's fancy into a series. Instead of the
publishing and editorial force, with certain of the more representative
artists and authors sitting down to a modest supper in Mrs. Leighton's
parlors, he conceived of a dinner at Delmonico's, with the principal
literary and artistic, people throughout the country as guests, and an
inexhaustible hospitality to reporters and correspondents, from whom
paragraphs, prophetic and historic, would flow weeks before and after the
first of the series. He said the thing was a new departure in magazines;
it amounted to something in literature as radical as the American
Revolution in politics: it was the idea of self government in the arts;
and it was this idea that had never yet been fully developed in regard to
it. That was what must be done in the speeches at the dinner, and the
speeches must be reported. Then it would go like wildfire. He asked March
whether he thought Mr. Depew could be got to come; Mark Twain, he was
sure, would come; he was a literary man. They ought to invite Mr. Evarts,
and the Cardinal and the leading Protestant divines. His ambition stopped
at nothing, nothing but the question of expense; there he had to wait the
return of the elder Dryfoos from the West, and Dryfoos was still delayed
at Moffitt, and Fulkerson openly confessed that he was afraid he would
stay there till his own enthusiasm escaped in other activities, other
plans.

Fulkerson was as little likely as possible to fall under a superstitious
subjection to another man; but March could not help seeing that in this
possible measure Dryfoos was Fulkerson's fetish. He did not revere him,
March decided, because it was not in Fulkerson's nature to revere
anything; he could like and dislike, but he could not respect.
Apparently, however, Dryfoos daunted him somehow; and besides the homage
which those who have not pay to those who have, Fulkerson rendered
Dryfoos the tribute of a feeling which March could only define as a sort
of bewilderment. As well as March could make out, this feeling was evoked
by the spectacle of Dryfoos's unfailing luck, which Fulkerson was fond of
dazzling himself with. It perfectly consisted with a keen sense of
whatever was sordid and selfish in a man on whom his career must have had
its inevitable effect. He liked to philosophize the case with March, to
recall Dryfoos as he was when he first met him still somewhat in the sap,
at Moffitt, and to study the processes by which he imagined him to have
dried into the hardened speculator, without even the pretence to any
advantage but his own in his ventures. He was aware of painting the
character too vividly, and he warned March not to accept it exactly in
those tints, but to subdue them and shade it for himself. He said that
where his advantage was not concerned, there was ever so much good in
Dryfoos, and that if in some things he had grown inflexible, he had
expanded in others to the full measure of the vast scale on which he did
business. It had seemed a little odd to March that a man should put money
into such an enterprise as 'Every Other Week' and go off about other
affairs, not only without any sign of anxiety, but without any sort of
interest. But Fulkerson said that was the splendid side of Dryfoos. He
had a courage, a magnanimity, that was equal to the strain of any such
uncertainty. He had faced the music once for all, when he asked Fulkerson
what the thing would cost in the different degrees of potential failure;
and then he had gone off, leaving everything to Fulkerson and the younger
Dryfoos, with the instruction simply to go ahead and not bother him about
it. Fulkerson called that pretty tall for an old fellow who used to
bewail the want of pigs and chickens to occupy his mind. He alleged it as
another proof of the versatility of the American mind, and of the
grandeur of institutions and opportunities that let every man grow to his
full size, so that any man in America could run the concern if necessary.
He believed that old Dryfoos could step into Bismarck's shoes and run the
German Empire at ten days' notice, or about as long as it would take him
to go from New York to Berlin. But Bismarck would not know anything about
Dryfoos's plans till Dryfoos got ready to show his hand. Fulkerson
himself did not pretend to say what the old man had been up to since he
went West. He was at Moffitt first, and then he was at Chicago, and then
he had gone out to Denver to look after some mines he had out there, and
a railroad or two; and now he was at Moffitt again. He was supposed to be
closing up his affairs there, but nobody could say.

Fulkerson told March the morning after Dryfoos returned that he had not
only not pulled out at Moffitt, but had gone in deeper, ten times deeper
than ever. He was in a royal good-humor, Fulkerson reported, and was
going to drop into the office on his way up from the Street (March
understood Wall Street) that afternoon. He was tickled to death with
'Every Other Week' so far as it had gone, and was anxious to pay his
respects to the editor.

March accounted for some rhetoric in this, but let it flatter him, and
prepared himself for a meeting about which he could see that Fulkerson
was only less nervous than he had shown himself about the public
reception of the first number. It gave March a disagreeable feeling of
being owned and of being about to be inspected by his proprietor; but he
fell back upon such independence as he could find in the thought of those
two thousand dollars of income beyond the caprice of his owner, and
maintained an outward serenity.

He was a little ashamed afterward of the resolution it had cost him to do
so. It was not a question of Dryfoos's physical presence: that was rather
effective than otherwise, and carried a suggestion of moneyed
indifference to convention in the gray business suit of provincial cut,
and the low, wide-brimmed hat of flexible black felt. He had a stick with
an old-fashioned top of buckhorn worn smooth and bright by the palm of
his hand, which had not lost its character in fat, and which had a
history of former work in its enlarged knuckles, though it was now as
soft as March's, and must once have been small even for a man of Mr.
Dryfoos's stature; he was below the average size. But what struck March
was the fact that Dryfoos seemed furtively conscious of being a country
person, and of being aware that in their meeting he was to be tried by
other tests than those which would have availed him as a shrewd
speculator. He evidently had some curiosity about March, as the first of
his kind whom he bad encountered; some such curiosity as the country
school trustee feels and tries to hide in the presence of the new
schoolmaster. But the whole affair was, of course, on a higher plane; on
one side Dryfoos was much more a man of the world than March was, and he
probably divined this at once, and rested himself upon the fact in a
measure. It seemed to be his preference that his son should introduce
them, for he came upstairs with Conrad, and they had fairly made
acquaintance before Fulkerson joined them.

Conrad offered to leave them at once, but his father made him stay. "I
reckon Mr. March and I haven't got anything so private to talk about that
we want to keep it from the other partners. Well, Mr. March, are you
getting used to New York yet? It takes a little time."

"Oh yes. But not so much time as most places. Everybody belongs more or
less in New York; nobody has to belong here altogether."

"Yes, that is so. You can try it, and go away if you don't like it a good
deal easier than you could from a smaller place. Wouldn't make so much
talk, would it?" He glanced at March with a jocose light in his shrewd
eyes. "That is the way I feel about it all the time: just visiting. Now,
it wouldn't be that way in Boston, I reckon?"

"You couldn't keep on visiting there your whole life," said March.

Dryfoos laughed, showing his lower teeth in a way that was at once simple
and fierce. "Mr. Fulkerson didn't hardly know as he could get you to
leave. I suppose you got used to it there. I never been in your city."

"I had got used to it; but it was hardly my city, except by marriage. My
wife's a Bostonian."

"She's been a little homesick here, then," said Dryfoos, with a smile of
the same quality as his laugh.

"Less than I expected," said March. "Of course, she was very much
attached to our old home."

"I guess my wife won't ever get used to New York," said Dryfoos, and he
drew in his lower lip with a sharp sigh. "But my girls like it; they're
young. You never been out our way yet, Mr. March? Out West?"

"Well, only for the purpose of being born, and brought up. I used to live
in Crawfordsville, and then Indianapolis."

"Indianapolis is bound to be a great place," said Dryfoos. "I remember
now, Mr. Fulkerson told me you was from our State." He went on to brag of
the West, as if March were an Easterner and had to be convinced. "You
ought to see all that country. It's a great country."

"Oh yes," said March, "I understand that." He expected the praise of the
great West to lead up to some comment on 'Every Other Week'; and there
was abundant suggestion of that topic in the manuscripts, proofs of
letter-press and illustrations, with advance copies of the latest number
strewn over his table.

But Dryfoos apparently kept himself from looking at these things. He
rolled his head about on his shoulders to take in the character of the
room, and said to his son, "You didn't change the woodwork, after all."

"No; the architect thought we had better let it be, unless we meant to
change the whole place. He liked its being old-fashioned."

"I hope you feel comfortable here, Mr. March," the old man said, bringing
his eyes to bear upon him again after their tour of inspection.

"Too comfortable for a working-man," said March, and he thought that this
remark must bring them to some talk about his work, but the proprietor
only smiled again.

"I guess I sha'n't lose much on this house," he returned, as if musing
aloud. "This down-town property is coming up. Business is getting in on
all these side streets. I thought I paid a pretty good price for it,
too." He went on to talk of real estate, and March began to feel a
certain resentment at his continued avoidance of the only topic in which
they could really have a common interest. "You live down this way
somewhere, don't you?" the old man concluded.

"Yes. I wished to be near my work." March was vexed with himself for
having recurred to it; but afterward he was not sure but Dryfoos shared
his own diffidence in the matter, and was waiting for him to bring it
openly into the talk. At times he seemed wary and masterful, and then
March felt that he was being examined and tested; at others so simple
that March might well have fancied that he needed encouragement, and
desired it. He talked of his wife and daughters in a way that invited
March to say friendly things of his family, which appeared to give the
old man first an undue pleasure and then a final distrust. At moments he
turned, with an effect of finding relief in it, to his son and spoke to
him across March of matters which he was unacquainted with; he did not
seem aware that this was rude, but the young man must have felt it so; he
always brought the conversation back, and once at some cost to himself
when his father made it personal.

"I want to make a regular New York business man out of that fellow," he
said to March, pointing at Conrad with his stick. "You s'pose I'm ever
going to do it?"

"Well, I don't know," said March, trying to fall in with the joke. "Do
you mean nothing but a business man?"

The old man laughed at whatever latent meaning he fancied in this, and
said: "You think he would be a little too much for me there? Well, I've
seen enough of 'em to know it don't always take a large pattern of a man
to do a large business. But I want him to get the business training, and
then if he wants to go into something else he knows what the world is,
anyway. Heigh?"

"Oh yes!" March assented, with some compassion for the young man
reddening patiently under his father's comment.

Dryfoos went on as if his son were not in hearing. "Now that boy wanted
to be a preacher. What does a preacher know about the world he preaches
against when he's been brought up a preacher? He don't know so much as a
bad little boy in his Sunday-school; he knows about as much as a girl. I
always told him, You be a man first, and then you be a preacher, if you
want to. Heigh?"

"Precisely." March began to feel some compassion for himself in being
witness of the young fellow's discomfort under his father's homily.

"When we first come to New York, I told him, Now here's your chance to
see the world on a big scale. You know already what work and saving and
steady habits and sense will bring a man, to; you don't want to go round
among the rich; you want to go among the poor, and see what laziness and
drink and dishonesty and foolishness will bring men to. And I guess he
knows, about as well as anybody; and if he ever goes to preaching he'll
know what he's preaching about." The old man smiled his fierce, simple
smile, and in his sharp eyes March fancied contempt of the ambition he
had balked in his son. The present scene must have been one of many
between them, ending in meek submission on the part of the young man,
whom his father, perhaps without realizing his cruelty, treated as a
child. March took it hard that he should be made to suffer in the
presence of a co-ordinate power like himself, and began to dislike the
old man out of proportion to his offence, which might have been mere want
of taste, or an effect of mere embarrassment before him. But evidently,
whatever rebellion his daughters had carried through against him, he had
kept his dominion over this gentle spirit unbroken. March did not choose
to make any response, but to let him continue, if he would, entirely upon
his own impulse.




II.

A silence followed, of rather painful length. It was broken by the cheery
voice of Fulkerson, sent before him to herald Fulkerson's cheery person.
"Well, I suppose you've got the glorious success of 'Every Other Week'
down pretty cold in your talk by this time. I should have been up sooner
to join you, but I was nipping a man for the last page of the cover. I
guess we'll have to let the Muse have that for an advertisement instead
of a poem the next time, March. Well, the old gentleman given you boys
your scolding?" The person of Fulkerson had got into the room long before
he reached this question, and had planted itself astride a chair.
Fulkerson looked over the chairback, now at March, and now at the elder
Dryfoos as he spoke.

March answered him. "I guess we must have been waiting for you,
Fulkerson. At any rate, we hadn't got to the scolding yet."

"Why, I didn't suppose Mr. Dryfoos could 'a' held in so long. I
understood he was awful mad at the way the thing started off, and wanted
to give you a piece of his mind, when he got at you. I inferred as much
from a remark that he made." March and Dryfoos looked foolish, as men do
when made the subject of this sort of merry misrepresentation.

"I reckon my scolding will keep awhile yet," said the old man, dryly.

"Well, then, I guess it's a good chance to give Mr. Dryfoos an idea of
what we've really done - just while we're resting, as Artemus Ward says.
Heigh, March?"

"I will let you blow the trumpet, Fulkerson. I think it belongs strictly
to the advertising department," said March. He now distinctly resented
the old man's failure to say anything to him of the magazine; he made his
inference that it was from a suspicion of his readiness to presume upon a
recognition of his share in the success, and he was determined to second
no sort of appeal for it.

"The advertising department is the heart and soul of every business,"
said Fulkerson, hardily, "and I like to keep my hand in with a little
practise on the trumpet in private. I don't believe Mr. Dryfoos has got
any idea of the extent of this thing. He's been out among those
Rackensackens, where we were all born, and he's read the notices in their
seven by nine dailies, and he's seen the thing selling on the cars, and
he thinks he appreciates what's been done. But I should just like to take
him round in this little old metropolis awhile, and show him 'Every Other
Week' on the centre tables of the millionaires - the Vanderbilts and the
Astors - and in the homes of culture and refinement everywhere, and let
him judge for himself. It's the talk of the clubs and the dinner-tables;
children cry for it; it's the Castoria of literature and the Pearline of
art, the 'Won't-be-happy-till-he-gets-it of every enlightened man,
woman, and child in this vast city. I knew we could capture the country;
but, my goodness! I didn't expect to have New York fall into our hands at
a blow. But that's just exactly what New York has done. 'Every Other Week'
supplies the long-felt want that's been grinding round in New York and
keeping it awake nights ever since the war. It's the culmination of all
the high and ennobling ideals of the past."

"How much," asked Dryfoos, "do you expect to get out of it the first
year, if it keeps the start it's got?"

"Comes right down to business, every time!" said Fulkerson, referring the
characteristic to March with a delighted glance. "Well, sir, if
everything works right, and we get rain enough to fill up the springs,
and it isn't a grasshopper year, I expect to clear above all expenses
something in the neighborhood of twenty-five thousand dollars."

"Humph! And you are all going to work a year - editor, manager, publisher,
artists, writers, printers, and the rest of 'em - to clear twenty-five
thousand dollars? - I made that much in half a day in Moffitt once. I see
it made in half a minute in Wall Street, sometimes." The old man
presented this aspect of the case with a good-natured contempt, which
included Fulkerson and his enthusiasm in an obvious liking.

His son suggested, "But when we make that money here, no one loses it."

"Can you prove that?" His father turned sharply upon him. "Whatever is
won is lost. It's all a game; it don't make any difference what you bet
on. Business is business, and a business man takes his risks with his
eyes open."

"Ah, but the glory!" Fulkerson insinuated with impudent persiflage. "I
hadn't got to the glory yet, because it's hard to estimate it; but put
the glory at the lowest figure, Mr. Dryfoos, and add it to the
twenty-five thousand, and you've got an annual income from 'Every Other
Week' of dollars enough to construct a silver railroad, double-track,
from this office to the moon. I don't mention any of the sister planets
because I like to keep within bounds."

Dryfoos showed his lower teeth for pleasure in Fulkerson's fooling, and
said, "That's what I like about you, Mr. Fulkerson - you always keep
within bounds."

"Well, I ain't a shrinking Boston violet, like March, here. More
sunflower in my style of diffidence; but I am modest, I don't deny it,"
said Fulkerson. "And I do hate to have a thing overstated."

"And the glory - you do really think there's something in the glory that
pays?"

"Not a doubt of it! I shouldn't care for the paltry return in money,"
said Fulkerson, with a burlesque of generous disdain, "if it wasn't for
the glory along with it."

"And how should you feel about the glory, if there was no money along
with it?"

"Well, sir, I'm happy to say we haven't come to that yet."

"Now, Conrad, here," said the old man, with a sort of pathetic rancor,
"would rather have the glory alone. I believe he don't even care much for
your kind of glory, either, Mr. Fulkerson."

Fulkerson ran his little eyes curiously over Conrad's face and then
March's, as if searching for a trace there of something gone before which
would enable him to reach Dryfoos's whole meaning. He apparently resolved
to launch himself upon conjecture. "Oh, well, we know how Conrad feels
about the things of this world, anyway. I should like to take 'em on the
plane of another sphere, too, sometimes; but I noticed a good while ago
that this was the world I was born into, and so I made up my mind that I
would do pretty much what I saw the rest of the folks doing here below.
And I can't see but what Conrad runs the thing on business principles in
his department, and I guess you'll find it so if you look into it. I
consider that we're a whole team and big dog under the wagon with you to
draw on for supplies, and March, here, at the head of the literary
business, and Conrad in the counting-room, and me to do the heavy lying
in the advertising part. Oh, and Beaton, of course, in the art. I 'most
forgot Beaton - Hamlet with Hamlet left out."

Dryfoos looked across at his son. "Wasn't that the fellow's name that was
there last night?"

"Yes," said Conrad.

The old man rose. "Well, I reckon I got to be going. You ready to go
up-town, Conrad?"

"Well, not quite yet, father."

The old man shook hands with March, and went downstairs, followed by his
son.

Fulkerson remained.

"He didn't jump at the chance you gave him to compliment us all round,
Fulkerson," said March, with a smile not wholly of pleasure.

Fulkerson asked, with as little joy in the grin he had on, "Didn't he say
anything to you before I came in?"

"Not a word."

"Dogged if I know what to make of it," sighed Fulkerson, "but I guess
he's been having a talk with Conrad that's soured on him. I reckon maybe
he came back expecting to find that boy reconciled to the glory of this
world, and Conrad's showed himself just as set against it as ever."

"It might have been that," March admitted, pensively. "I fancied
something of the kind myself from words the old man let drop."

Fulkerson made him explain, and then he said:

"That's it, then; and it's all right. Conrad 'll come round in time; and
all we've got to do is to have patience with the old man till he does. I
know he likes you." Fulkerson affirmed this only interrogatively, and
looked so anxiously to March for corroboration that March laughed.

"He dissembled his love," he said; but afterward, in describing to his
wife his interview with Mr. Dryfoos, he was less amused with this fact.

When she saw that he was a little cast down by it, she began to encourage
him. "He's just a common, ignorant man, and probably didn't know how to
express himself. You may be perfectly sure that he's delighted with the
success of the magazine, and that he understands as well as you do that
he owes it all to you."

"Ah, I'm not so sure. I don't believe a man's any better for having made
money so easily and rapidly as Dryfoos has done, and I doubt if he's any
wiser. I don't know just the point he's reached in his evolution from
grub to beetle, but I do know that so far as it's gone the process must
have involved a bewildering change of ideals and criterions. I guess he's
come to despise a great many things that he once respected, and that
intellectual ability is among them - what we call intellectual ability. He
must have undergone a moral deterioration, an atrophy of the generous
instincts, and I don't see why it shouldn't have reached his mental
make-up. He has sharpened, but he has narrowed; his sagacity has turned
into suspicion, his caution to meanness, his courage to ferocity. That's
the way I philosophize a man of Dryfoos's experience, and I am not very
proud when I realize that such a man and his experience are the ideal and
ambition of most Americans. I rather think they came pretty near being
mine, once."

"No, dear, they never did," his wife protested.

"Well, they're not likely to be in the future. The Dryfoos feature of
'Every Other Week' is thoroughly distasteful to me."

"Why, but he hasn't really got anything to do with it, has he, beyond
furnishing the money?"

"That's the impression that Fulkerson has allowed us to get. But the man
that holds the purse holds the reins. He may let us guide the horse, but
when he likes he can drive. If we don't like his driving, then we can get
down."

Mrs. March was less interested in this figure of speech than in the
personal aspects involved. "Then you think Mr. Fulkerson has deceived
you?"

"Oh no!" said her husband, laughing. "But I think he has deceived
himself, perhaps."

"How?" she pursued.

"He may have thought he was using Dryfoos, when Dryfoos was using him,


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Online LibraryWilliam Dean HowellsHazard of New Fortunes, a — Volume 3 → online text (page 1 of 6)