Not long after Lent, Fulkerson set before Dryfoos one day his scheme for a dinner in celebration of the success of 'Every Other Week.' Dryfoos had never meddled in any manner with the conduct of the periodical; but Fulkerson easily saw that he was proud of his relation to it, and he proceeded upon the theory that he would be willing to have this relation known: On the days when he had been lucky in stocks, he was apt to drop in at the office on Eleventh Street, on his way up-town, and listen to Fulkerson's talk. He was on good enough terms with March, who revised his first impressions of the man, but they had not much to say to each other, and it seemed to March that Dryfoos was even a little afraid of him, as of a piece of mechanism he had acquired, but did not quite understand; he left the working of it to Fulkerson, who no doubt bragged of it sufficiently. The old man seemed to have as little to say to his son; he shut himself up with Fulkerson, where the others could hear the manager begin and go on with an unstinted flow of talk about 'Every Other Week;' for Fulkerson never talked of anything else if he could help it, and was always bringing the conversation back to it if it strayed:
The day he spoke of the dinner he rose and called from his door: "March,
I say, come down here a minute, will you? Conrad, I want you, too."
The editor and the publisher found the manager and the proprietor seated on opposite sides of the table. "It's about those funeral baked meats, you know," Fulkerson explained, "and I was trying to give Mr. Dryfoos some idea of what we wanted to do. That is, what I wanted to do," he continued, turning from March to Dryfoos. "March, here, is opposed to it, of course. He'd like to publish 'Every Other Week' on the sly; keep it out of the papers, and off the newsstands; he's a modest Boston petunia, and he shrinks from publicity; but I am not that kind of herb myself, and I want all the publicity we can get—beg, borrow, or steal—for this thing. I say that you can't work the sacred rites of hospitality in a better cause, and what I propose is a little dinner for the purpose of recognizing the hit we've made with this thing. My idea was to strike you for the necessary funds, and do the thing on a handsome scale. The term little dinner is a mere figure of speech. A little dinner wouldn't make a big talk, and what we want is the big talk, at present, if we don't lay up a cent. My notion was that pretty soon after Lent, now, when everybody is feeling just right, we should begin to send out our paragraphs, affirmative, negative, and explanatory, and along about the first of May we should sit down about a hundred strong, the most distinguished people in the country, and solemnize our triumph. There it is in a nutshell. I might expand and I might expound, but that's the sum and substance of it."
Fulkerson stopped, and ran his eyes eagerly over the faces of his three listeners, one after the other. March was a little surprised when Dryfoos turned to him, but that reference of the question seemed to give Fulkerson particular pleasure: "What do you think, Mr. March?"
The editor leaned back in his chair. "I don't pretend to have Mr. Fulkerson's genius for advertising; but it seems to me a little early yet. We might celebrate later when we've got more to celebrate. At present we're a pleasing novelty, rather than a fixed fact."
"Ah, you don't get the idea!" said Fulkerson. "What we want to do with this dinner is to fix the fact."
"Am I going to come in anywhere?" the old man interrupted.
"You're going to come in at the head of the procession! We are going to strike everything that is imaginative and romantic in the newspaper soul with you and your history and your fancy for going in for this thing. I can start you in a paragraph that will travel through all the newspapers, from Maine to Texas and from Alaska to Florida. We have had all sorts of rich men backing up literary enterprises, but the natural-gas man in literature is a new thing, and the combination of your picturesque past and your aesthetic present is something that will knock out the sympathies of the American public the first round. I feel," said Fulkerson, with a tremor of pathos in his voice, "that 'Every Other Week' is at a disadvantage before the public as long as it's supposed to be my enterprise, my idea. As far as I'm known at all, I'm known simply as a syndicate man, and nobody in the press believes that I've got the money to run the thing on a grand scale; a suspicion of insolvency must attach to it sooner or later, and the fellows on the press will work up that impression, sooner or later, if we don't give them something else to work up. Now, as soon as I begin to give it away to the correspondents that you're in it, with your untold millions—that, in fact, it was your idea from the start, that you originated it to give full play to the humanitarian tendencies of Conrad here, who's always had these theories of co-operation, and longed to realize them for the benefit of our struggling young writers and artists—"
March had listened with growing amusement to the mingled burlesque and earnest of Fulkerson's self-sacrificing impudence, and with wonder as to how far Dryfoos was consenting to his preposterous proposition, when Conrad broke out: "Mr. Fulkerson, I could not allow you to do that. It would not be true; I did not wish to be here; and—and what I think—what I wish to do—that is something I will not let any one put me in a false position about. No!" The blood rushed into the young man's gentle face, and he met his father's glance with defiance.
Dryfoos turned from him to Fulkerson without speaking, and Fulkerson said, caressingly: "Why, of course, Coonrod! I know how you feel, and I shouldn't let anything of that sort go out uncontradicted afterward. But there isn't anything in these times that would give us better standing with the public than some hint of the way you feel about such things. The publics expects to be interested, and nothing would interest it more than to be told that the success of 'Every Other Week' sprang from the first application of the principle of Live and let Live to a literary enterprise. It would look particularly well, coming from you and your father, but if you object, we can leave that part out; though if you approve of the principle I don't see why you need object. The main thing is to let the public know that it owes this thing to the liberal and enlightened spirit of one of the foremost capitalists of the country; and that his purposes are not likely to be betrayed in the hands of his son, I should get a little cut made from a photograph of your father, and supply it gratis with the paragraphs."
"I guess," said the old man, "we will get along without the cut."
Fulkerson laughed. "Well, well! Have it your own way, But the sight of your face in the patent outsides of the country press would be worth half a dozen subscribers in every school district throughout the length and breadth of this fair land."
"There was a fellow," Dryfoos explained, in an aside to March, "that was getting up a history of Moffitt, and he asked me to let him put a steel engraving of me in. He said a good many prominent citizens were going to have theirs in, and his price was a hundred and fifty dollars. I told him I couldn't let mine go for less than two hundred, and when he said he could give me a splendid plate for that money, I said I should want it cash, You never saw a fellow more astonished when he got it through him. that I expected him to pay the two hundred."
Fulkerson laughed in keen appreciation of the joke. "Well, sir, I guess 'Every Other Week' will pay you that much. But if you won't sell at any price, all right; we must try to worry along without the light of your countenance on, the posters, but we got to have it for the banquet."
"I don't seem to feel very hungry, yet," said they old man, dryly.
"Oh, 'l'appeit vient en mangeant', as our French friends say. You'll be hungry enough when you see the preliminary Little Neck clam. It's too late for oysters."
"Doesn't that fact seem to point to a postponement till they get back, sometime in October," March suggested.
"No, no!" said Fulkerson, "you don't catch on to the business end of this thing, my friends. You're proceeding on something like the old exploded idea that the demand creates the supply, when everybody knows, if he's watched the course of modern events, that it's just as apt to be the other way. I contend that we've got a real substantial success to celebrate now; but even if we hadn't, the celebration would do more than anything else to create the success, if we got it properly before the public. People will say: Those fellows are not fools; they wouldn't go and rejoice over their magazine unless they had got a big thing in it. And the state of feeling we should produce in the public mind would make a boom of perfectly unprecedented grandeur for E. O. W. Heigh?"
He looked sunnily from one to the other in succession. The elder Dryfoos said, with his chin on the top of his stick, "I reckon those Little Neck clams will keep."
"Well, just as you say," Fulkerson cheerfully assented. "I understand you to agree to the general principle of a little dinner?"
"The smaller the better," said the old man.
"Well, I say a little dinner because the idea of that seems to cover the case, even if we vary the plan a little. I had thought of a reception, maybe, that would include the lady contributors and artists, and the wives and daughters of the other contributors. That would give us the chance to ring in a lot of society correspondents and get the thing written up in first-class shape. By-the-way!" cried Fulkerson, slapping himself on the leg, "why not have the dinner and the reception both?"
"I don't understand," said Dryfoos.
"Why, have a select little dinner for ten or twenty choice spirits of the male persuasion, and then, about ten o'clock, throw open your palatial drawing-rooms and admit the females to champagne, salads, and ices. It is the very thing! Come!"
"What do you think of it, Mr. March?" asked Dryfoos, on whose social inexperience Fulkerson's words projected no very intelligible image, and who perhaps hoped for some more light.
"It's a beautiful vision," said March, "and if it will take more time to realize it I think I approve. I approve of anything that will delay Mr. Fulkerson's advertising orgie."
"Then," Fulkerson pursued, "we could have the pleasure of Miss Christine and Miss Mela's company; and maybe Mrs. Dryfoos would look in on us in the course of the evening. There's no hurry, as Mr. March suggests, if we can give the thing this shape. I will cheerfully adopt the idea of my honorable colleague."
March laughed at his impudence, but at heart he was ashamed of Fulkerson for proposing to make use of Dryfoos and his house in that way. He fancied something appealing in the look that the old man turned on him, and something indignant in Conrad's flush; but probably this was only his fancy. He reflected that neither of them could feel it as people of more worldly knowledge would, and he consoled himself with the fact that Fulkerson was really not such a charlatan as he seemed. But it went through his mind that this was a strange end for all Dryfoos's money-making to come to; and he philosophically accepted the fact of his own humble fortunes when he reflected how little his money could buy for such a man. It was an honorable use that Fulkerson was putting it to in 'Every Other Week;' it might be far more creditably spent on such an enterprise than on horses, or wines, or women, the usual resources of the brute rich; and if it were to be lost, it might better be lost that way than in stocks. He kept a smiling face turned to Dryfoos while these irreverent considerations occupied him, and hardened his heart against father and son and their possible emotions.
The old man rose to put an end to the interview. He only repeated, "I guess those clams will keep till fall."
But Fulkerson was apparently satisfied with the progress he had made; and when he joined March for the stroll homeward after office hours, he was able to detach his mind from the subject, as if content to leave it.
"This is about the best part of the year in New York," he said; In some of the areas the grass had sprouted, and the tender young foliage had loosened itself froze the buds on a sidewalk tree here and there; the soft air was full of spring, and the delicate sky, far aloof, had the look it never wears at any other season. "It ain't a time of year to complain much of, anywhere; but I don't want anything better than the month of May in New York. Farther South it's too hot, and I've been in Boston in May when that east wind of yours made every nerve in my body get up and howl. I reckon the weather has a good deal to do with the local temperament. The reason a New York man takes life so easily with all his rush is that his climate don't worry him. But a Boston man must be rasped the whole while by the edge in his air. That accounts for his sharpness; and when he's lived through twenty-five or thirty Boston Mays, he gets to thinking that Providence has some particular use for him, or he wouldn't have survived, and that makes him conceited. See?"
"I see," said March. "But I don't know how you're going to work that idea into an advertisement, exactly."
"Oh, pahaw, now, March! You don't think I've got that on the brain all the time?"
"You were gradually leading up to 'Every Other Week', somehow."
"No, sir; I wasn't. I was just thinking what a different creature a
Massachusetts man is from a Virginian, And yet I suppose they're both as
pure English stock as you'll get anywhere in America. Marsh, I think
Colonel Woodburn's paper is going to make a hit."
"You've got there! When it knocks down the sale about one-half, I shall know it's made a hit."
"I'm not afraid," said Fulkerson. "That thing is going to attract attention. It's well written—you can take the pomposity out of it, here and there and it's novel. Our people like a bold strike, and it's going to shake them up tremendously to have serfdom advocated on high moral grounds as the only solution of the labor problem. You see, in the first place, he goes for their sympathies by the way he portrays the actual relations of capital and labor; he shows how things have got to go from bad to worse, and then he trots out his little old hobby, and proves that if slavery had not been interfered with, it would have perfected itself in the interest of humanity. He makes a pretty strong plea for it."
March threw back his head and laughed. "He's converted you! I swear, Fulkerson, if we had accepted and paid for an article advocating cannibalism as the only resource for getting rid of the superfluous poor, you'd begin to believe in it."
Fulkerson smiled in approval of the joke, and only said: "I wish you could meet the colonel in the privacy of the domestic circle, March. You'd like him. He's a splendid old fellow; regular type. Talk about spring!
"You ought to see the widow's little back yard these days. You know that glass gallery just beyond the dining-room? Those girls have got the pot-plants out of that, and a lot more, and they've turned the edges of that back yard, along the fence, into a regular bower; they've got sweet peas planted, and nasturtiums, and we shall be in a blaze of glory about the beginning of June. Fun to see 'em work in the garden, and the bird bossing the job in his cage under the cherry-tree. Have to keep the middle of the yard for the clothesline, but six days in the week it's a lawn, and I go over it with a mower myself. March, there ain't anything like a home, is there? Dear little cot of your own, heigh? I tell you, March, when I get to pushing that mower round, and the colonel is smoking his cigar in the gallery, and those girls are pottering over the flowers, one of these soft evenings after dinner, I feel like a human being. Yes, I do. I struck it rich when I concluded to take my meals at the widow's. For eight dollars a week I get good board, refined society, and all the advantages of a Christian home. By-the-way, you've never had much talk with Miss Woodburn, have you, March?"
"Not so much as with Miss Woodburn's father."
"Well, he is rather apt to scoop the conversation. I must draw his fire, sometime, when you and Mrs. March are around, and get you a chance with Miss Woodburn."
"I should like that better, I believe," said March.
"Well, I shouldn't wonder if you did. Curious, but Miss Woodburn isn't at all your idea of a Southern girl. She's got lots of go; she's never idle a minute; she keeps the old gentleman in first-class shape, and she don't believe a bit in the slavery solution of the labor problem; says she's glad it's gone, and if it's anything like the effects of it, she's glad it went before her time. No, sir, she's as full of snap as the liveliest kind of a Northern girl. None of that sunny Southern languor you read about."
"I suppose the typical Southerner, like the typical anything else, is pretty difficult to find," said March. "But perhaps Miss Woodburn represents the new South. The modern conditions must be producing a modern type."
"Well, that's what she and the colonel both say. They say there ain't anything left of that Walter Scott dignity and chivalry in the rising generation; takes too much time. You ought to see her sketch the old-school, high-and-mighty manners, as they survive among some of the antiques in Charlottesburg. If that thing could be put upon the stage it would be a killing success. Makes the old gentleman laugh in spite of himself. But he's as proud of her as Punch, anyway. Why don't you and Mrs. March come round oftener? Look here! How would it do to have a little excursion, somewhere, after the spring fairly gets in its work?"
"No, no! Nothing of that kind; perfectly sincere and disinterested enjoyment."
"Oh, a few handbills to be scattered around: 'Buy Every Other Week,' 'Look out for the next number of "Every Other Week,"' 'Every Other Week at all the news-stands.' Well, I'll talk it over with Mrs. March. I suppose there's no great hurry."
March told his wife of the idyllic mood in which he had left Fulkerson at the widow's door, and she said he must be in love.
"Why, of course! I wonder I didn't think of that. But Fulkerson is such an impartial admirer of the whole sex that you can't think of his liking one more than another. I don't know that he showed any unjust partiality, though, in his talk of 'those girls,' as he called them. And I always rather fancied that Mrs. Mandel—he's done so much for her, you know; and she is such a well-balanced, well-preserved person, and so lady-like and correct——"
"Fulkerson had the word for her: academic. She's everything that instruction and discipline can make of a woman; but I shouldn't think they could make enough of her to be in love with."
"Well, I don't know. The academic has its charm. There are moods in which I could imagine myself in love with an academic person. That regularity of line; that reasoned strictness of contour; that neatness of pose; that slightly conventional but harmonious grouping of the emotions and morals—you can see how it would have its charm, the Wedgwood in human nature? I wonder where Mrs. Mandel keeps her urn and her willow."
"I should think she might have use for them in that family, poor thing!" said Mrs. March.
"Ah, that reminds me," said her husband, "that we had another talk with the old gentleman, this afternoon, about Fulkerson's literary, artistic, and advertising orgie, and it's postponed till October."
"The later the better, I should think," said Mrs. March, who did not really think about it at all, but whom the date fixed for it caused to think of the intervening time. "We have got to consider what we will do about the summer, before long, Basil."
"Oh, not yet, not yet," he pleaded; with that man's willingness to abide in the present, which is so trying to a woman. "It's only the end of April."
"It will be the end of June before we know. And these people wanting the Boston house another year complicates it. We can't spend the summer there, as we planned."
"They oughtn't to have offered us an increased rent; they have taken an advantage of us."
"I don't know that it matters," said Mrs. March. "I had decided not to go there."
"Had you? This is a surprise."
"Everything is a surprise to you, Basil, when it happens."
"True; I keep the world fresh, that way."
"It wouldn't have been any change to go from one city to another for the summer. We might as well have stayed in New York."
"Yes, I wish we had stayed," said March, idly humoring a conception of the accomplished fact. "Mrs. Green would have let us have the gimcrackery very cheap for the summer months; and we could have made all sorts of nice little excursions and trips off and been twice as well as if we had spent the summer away."
"Nonsense! You know we couldn't spend the summer in New York."
"I know I could."
"What stuff! You couldn't manage."
"Oh yes, I could. I could take my meals at Fulkerson's widow's; or at Maroni's, with poor old Lindau: he's got to dining there again. Or, I could keep house, and he could dine with me here."
There was a teasing look in March's eyes, and he broke into a laugh, at the firmness with which his wife said: "I think if there is to be any housekeeping, I will stay, too; and help to look after it. I would try not intrude upon you and your guest."
"Oh, we should be only too glad to have you join us," said March, playing with fire.
"Very well, then, I wish you would take him off to Maroni's, the next time he comes to dine here!" cried his wife.
The experiment of making March's old friend free of his house had not given her all the pleasure that so kind a thing ought to have afforded so good a woman. She received Lindau at first with robust benevolence, and the high resolve not to let any of his little peculiarities alienate her from a sense of his claim upon her sympathy and gratitude, not only as a man who had been so generously fond of her husband in his youth, but a hero who had suffered for her country. Her theory was that his mutilation must not be ignored, but must be kept in mind as a monument of his sacrifice, and she fortified Bella with this conception, so that the child bravely sat next his maimed arm at table and helped him to dishes he could not reach, and cut up his meat for him. As for Mrs. March herself, the thought of his mutilation made her a little faint; she was not without a bewildered resentment of its presence as a sort of oppression. She did not like his drinking so much of March's beer, either; it was no harm, but it was somehow unworthy, out of character with a hero of the war. But what she really could not reconcile herself to was the violence of Lindau's sentiments concerning the whole political and social fabric. She did not feel sure that he should be allowed to say such things before the children, who had been nurtured in the faith of Bunker Hill and Appomattox, as the beginning and the end of all possible progress in human rights. As a woman she was naturally an aristocrat, but as an American she was theoretically a democrat; and it astounded, it alarmed her, to hear American democracy denounced as a shuffling evasion. She had never cared much for the United States Senate, but she doubted if she ought to sit by when it was railed at as a rich man's club. It shocked her to be told that the rich and poor were not equal before the law in a country where justice must be paid for at every step in fees and costs, or where a poor man must go to war in his own person, and a rich man might hire someone to go in his. Mrs. March felt that this rebellious mind in Lindau really somehow outlawed him from sympathy, and retroactively undid his past suffering for the country: she had always particularly valued that provision of the law, because in forecasting all the possible mischances that might befall her own son, she had been comforted by the thought that if there ever was another war, and Tom were drafted, his father could buy him a substitute. Compared with such blasphemy as this, Lindau's declaration that there was not equality of opportunity in America, and that fully one-half the people were debarred their right to the pursuit of happiness by the hopeless conditions of their lives, was flattering praise. She could not listen to such things in silence, though, and it did not help matters when Lindau met her arguments with facts and reasons which she felt she was merely not sufficiently instructed to combat, and he was not quite gentlemanly to urge. "I am afraid for the effect on the children," she said to her husband. "Such perfectly distorted ideas—Tom will be ruined by them."
"Oh, let Tom find out where they're false," said March. "It will be good exercise for his faculties of research. At any rate, those things are getting said nowadays; he'll have to hear them sooner or later."
"Had he better hear them at home?" demanded his wife.
"Why, you know, as you're here to refute them, Isabel," he teased, "perhaps it's the best place. But don't mind poor old Lindau, my dear. He says himself that his parg is worse than his pidte, you know."
"Ah, it's too late now to mind him," she sighed. In a moment of rash good feeling, or perhaps an exalted conception of duty, she had herself proposed that Lindau should come every week and read German with Tom; and it had become a question first how they could get him to take pay for it, and then how they could get him to stop it. Mrs. March never ceased to wonder at herself for having brought this about, for she had warned her husband against making any engagement with Lindau which would bring him regularly to the house: the Germans stuck so, and were so unscrupulously dependent. Yet, the deed being done, she would not ignore the duty of hospitality, and it was always she who made the old man stay to their Sunday-evening tea when he lingered near the hour, reading Schiller and Heine and Uhland with the boy, in the clean shirt with which he observed the day; Lindau's linen was not to be trusted during the week. She now concluded a season of mournful reflection by saying, "He will get you into trouble, somehow, Basil."
"Well, I don't know how, exactly. I regard Lindau as a political economist of an unusual type; but I shall not let him array me against the constituted authorities. Short of that, I think I am safe."
"Well, be careful, Basil; be careful. You know you are so rash."
"I suppose I may continue to pity him? He is such a poor, lonely old fellow. Are you really sorry he's come into our lives, my dear?"
"No, no; not that. I feel as you do about it; but I wish I felt easier about him—sure, that is, that we're not doing wrong to let him keep on talking so."
"I suspect we couldn't help it," March returned, lightly. "It's one of what Lindau calls his 'brincibles' to say what he thinks."
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