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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThat Fortune - Chapter 14
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That Fortune - Chapter 14 Post by :Finner Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dudley Warner Date :May 2012 Read :3351

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That Fortune - Chapter 14

CHAPTER XIV

Of course Philip wrote to Celia about his vacation intimacy with the Mavicks. It was no news to her that the Mavicks were spending the summer there; all the world knew that, and society wondered what whim of Carmen's had taken her out of the regular summer occupations and immured her in the country. Not that it gave much thought to her, but, when her name was mentioned, society resented the closing of the Newport house and the loss of her vivacity in the autumn at Lenox. She is such a hand to set things going, don't you know? Mr. Mavick never made a flying visit to his family--and he was in Rivervale twice during the season--that the newspapers did not chronicle his every movement, and attribute other motives than family affection to these excursions into New England. Was the Central system or the Pennsylvania system contemplating another raid? It could not be denied that the big operator's connection with any great interest raised suspicion and often caused anxiety.

Naturally, thought Celia, in such a little village, Philip would fall in with the only strangers there, so that he was giving her no news in saying so. But there was a new tone in his letters; she detected an unusual reserve that was in itself suspicious. Why did he say so much about Mrs. Mavick and the governess, and so little about the girl?

"You don't tell me," she wrote, "anything about the Infant Phenomenon. And you know I am dying to know."

This Philip resented. Phenomenon! The little brown girl, with eyes that saw so much and were so impenetrably deep, and the mobile face, so alert and responsive. If ever there was a natural person, it was Evelyn. So he wrote:

"There is nothing to tell; she is not an infant and she is not a phenomenon. Only this: she has less rubbish in her mind than any person you ever saw. And I guess the things she does not know about life are not worth knowing."

"I see," replied Celia; "poor boy! it's the moth and the star. (That's just like her, muttered Philip, she always assumed to be the older.) But don't mind. I've come to the conclusion that I am a moth myself, and some of the lights I used to think stars have fallen. And, seriously, dear friend, I am glad there is a person who does not know the things not worth knowing. It is a step in the right direction. I have been this summer up in the hills, meditating. And I am not so sure of things as I was. I used to think that all women needed was what is called education--science, history, literature--and you could safely turn them loose on the world. It certainly is not safe to turn them loose without education--but I begin to wonder what we are all coming to. I don't mind telling you that I have got into a pretty psychological muddle, and I don't see much to hold on to.

"I suppose that Scotch governess is pious; I mean she has a backbone of what they call dogma; things are right or wrong in her mind--no haziness. Now, I am going to make a confession. I've been thinking of religion. Don't mock. You know I was brought up religious, and I am religious. I go to church--well, you know how I feel and especially the things I don't believe. I go to church to be entertained. I read the other day that Cardinal Manning said: 'The three greatest evils in the world today are French devotional books, theatrical music, and the pulpit orator. And the last is the worst.' I wonder. I often feel as if I had been to a performance. No. It is not about sin that I am especially thinking, but the sinner. One ought to do something. Sometimes I think I ought to go to the city. You know I was in a College Settlement for a while. Now I mean something permanent, devoted to the poor as a life occupation, like a nun or something of that sort. You think this is a mood? Perhaps. There have always been so many things before me to do, and I wanted to do them all. And I do not stick to anything? You must not presume to say that, because I confide to you all my errant thoughts. You have not confided in me--I don't insinuate that you have anything to confide but I cannot help saying that if you have found a pure and clear-minded girl--Heaven knows what she will be when she is a woman I--I am sorry she is not poor."

But if Philip did not pour out his heart to his old friend, he did open a lively and frequent correspondence with Alice. Not about the person who was always in his thoughts--oh, no--but about himself, and all he was doing, in the not unreasonable expectation that the news would go where he could not send it directly--so many ingenious ways has love of attaining its object. And if Alice, no doubt, understood all this, she was nevertheless delighted, and took great pleasure in chronicling the news of the village and giving all the details that came in her way about the millionaire family. This connection with the world, if only by correspondence, was an outlet to her reserved and secluded life. And her letters recorded more of her character, of her feeling, than he had known in all his boyhood. When Alice mentioned, as it were by chance, that Evelyn had asked, more than once, when she had spoken of receiving letters, if her cousin was going on with his story, Philip felt that the connection was not broken.

Going on with his story he was, and with good heart. The thought that "she" might some day read it was inspiration enough. Any real creation, by pen or brush or chisel, must express the artist and be made in independence of the demands of a vague public. Art is vitiated when the commercial demand, which may be a needed stimulus, presides at the creation. But it is doubtful if any artist in letters, or in form or color, ever did anything well without having in mind some special person, whose approval was desired or whose criticism was feared. Such is the universal need of human sympathy. It is, at any rate, true that Philip's story, recast and reinspired, was thenceforth written under the spell of the pure divining eyes of Evelyn Mavick. Unconsciously this was so. For at this time Philip had not come to know that the reason why so many degraded and degrading stories and sketches are written is because the writers' standard is the approval of one or two or a group of persons of vitiated tastes and low ideals.

The Mavicks did not return to town till late in the autumn. By this time Philip's novel had been submitted to a publisher, or, rather, to state the exact truth, it had begun to go the rounds of the publishers. Mr. Brad, to whose nineteenth-century and newspaper eye Philip had shrunk from confiding his modest creation, but who was consulted in the business, consoled him with the suggestion that this was a sure way of getting his production read. There was already in the city a considerable body of professional "readers," mostly young men and women, to whom manuscripts were submitted by the publishers, so that the author could be sure, if he kept at it long enough, to get a pretty fair circulation for his story. They were selected because they were good judges of literature and because they had a keen appreciation of what the public wanted at the moment. Many of them are overworked, naturally so, in the mass of manuscripts turned over to their inspection day after day, and are compelled often to adopt the method of tea-tasters, who sip but do not swallow, for to drink a cup or two of the decoction would spoil their taste and impair their judgment, especially on new brands. Philip liked to imagine, as the weeks passed away--the story is old and need not be retold here--that at any given hour somebody was reading him. He did not, however, dwell with much delight upon this process, for the idea that some unknown Rhadamanthus was sitting in judgment upon him much more wounded his 'amour propre', and seemed much more like an invading of his inner, secret life and feeling, than would be an instant appeal to the general public. Why, he thought, it is just as if I had shown it to Brad himself--apiece of confidence that he could not bring himself to. He did not know that Brad himself was a reader for a well-known house--which had employed him on the strength of his newspaper notoriety--and that very likely he had already praised the quality of the work and damned it as lacking "snap."

It was, however, weary waiting, and would have been intolerable if his duties in the law office had not excluded other thoughts from his mind a good part of the time. There were days when he almost resolved to confine himself to the solid and remunerative business of law, and give up the vague aspirations of authorship. But those vague aspirations were in the end more enticing than the courts. Common-sense is not an antidote to the virus of the literary infection when once a young soul has taken it. In his long walks it was not on the law that Philip was ruminating, nor was the fame of success in it occupying his mind. Suppose he could write one book that should touch the heart of the world. Would he exchange the sweetness of that for the fleeting reputation of the most brilliant lawyer? In short, he magnified beyond all reason the career and reputation of the author, and mistook the consideration he occupies in the great world. And what a world it would be if there had not been a continuous line of such mistaken fools as he!

That it was not literature alone that inflated his dreams was evidenced by the direction his walks took. Whatever their original destination or purpose, he was sure to pass through upper Fifth Avenue, and walk by the Mavick mansion. And never without a lift in his spirits. What comfort there is to a lover in gazing at the blank and empty house once occupied by his mistress has never been explained; but Philip would have counted the day lost in which he did not see it.

After he heard from Alice that the Mavicks had returned, the house had still stronger attractions for him, for there was added the chance of a glimpse of Evelyn or one of the family. Many a day passed, however, before he mustered up courage to mount the steps and touch the button.

"Yes, sir," said the servant, "the family is returned, but they is h'out."

Philip left his card. But nothing came of it, and he did not try again. In fact, he was a little depressed as the days went by. How much doubt and anxiety, even suffering, might have been spared him if the historian at that moment could have informed him of a little shopping incident at Tiffany's a few days after the Mavicks' return.

A middle-aged lady and a young girl were inspecting some antiques. The girl, indeed, had been asking for ancient coins, and they were shown two superb gold staters with the heads of Alexander and Philip.

"Aren't they beautiful?" said the younger. "How lovely one would be for a brooch!"

"Yes, indeed," replied the elder, "and quite in the line of our Greek reading."

The girl held them in her hand and looked at one and the other with a student's discrimination.

"Which would you choose?"

"Oh, both are fine. Philip of Macedon has a certain youthful freshness, in the curling hair and uncovered head. But, of course, Alexander the Great is more important, and then there is the classic casque. I should take the Alexander." The girl still hesitated, weighing the choice in her mind from the classic point of view.

"Doubtless you are right. But"--and she held up the lovely head--"this is not quite so common, and--and--I think I'll take the Macedon one. Yes, you may set that for me," turning to the salesman.

"Diamonds or pearls?" asked the jeweler.

"Oh, dear, no!" exclaimed the girl; "just the head."

Evelyn's education was advancing. For the first time in her life she had something to conceal. The privilege of this sort of secret is, however, an inheritance of Eve. The first morning she wore it at breakfast Mrs. Mavick asked her what it was.

"It's a coin, antique Greek," Evelyn replied, passing it across the table.

"How pretty it is; it is very pretty. Ought to have pearls around it. Seems to be an inscription on it."

"Yes, it is real old. McDonald says it is a stater, about the same as a Persian daric-something like the value of a sovereign."

"Oh, indeed; very interesting."

To give Evelyn her due, it must be confessed that she blushed at this equivocation about the inscription, and she got quite hot with shame thinking what would become of her if Philip should ever know that she was regarding him as a stater and wearing his name on her breast.

One can fancy what philosophical deductions as to the education of women Celia Howard would have drawn out of this coin incident; one of them doubtless being that a classical education is no protection against love.

But for Philip's connection with the thriving firm of Hunt, Sharp & Tweedle, it is safe to say that he would have known little of the world of affairs in Wall Street, and might never have gained entrance into that other world, for which Wall Street exists, that society where its wealth and ambitious vulgarity are displayed. Thomas Mavick was a client of the firm. At first they had been only associated with his lawyer, and consulted occasionally. But as time went on Mr. Mavick opened to them his affairs more and more, as he found the advantage of being represented to the public by a firm that combined the highest social and professional standing with all the acumen and adroitness that his complicated affairs required.

It was a time of great financial feverishness and uncertainty, and of opportunity for the most reckless adventurers. Houses the most solid were shaken and crippled, and those which were much extended in a variety of adventures were put to their wits' ends to escape shipwreck. Financial operations are perpetual war. It is easy to calculate about the regular forces, but the danger is from the unexpected "raids" and the bushwhackers and guerrillas. And since politics has become inextricably involved in financial speculations (as it has in real war), the excitement and danger of business on a large scale increase.

Philip as a trusted clerk, without being admitted into interior secrets, came to know a good deal about Mavick's affairs, and to be more than ever impressed with his enormous wealth and the magnitude of his operations. From time to time he was sent on errands to Mavick's office, and gradually, as Mavick became accustomed to him as a representative of the firm, they came on a somewhat familiar footing, and talked of other things than business. And Mavick, who was not a bad judge of the capacities of men, conceived a high idea of Philip's single-mindedness, of his integrity and general culture, and, as well, of his agreeableness (for Philip had a certain charm where he felt at ease), while at the same time he discovered that his mind was more upon something else than law, and that, if his success in his profession depended upon his adoption of the business methods of the Street, he could not go very far. Consequently he did not venture upon the same confidences with him that he habitually did with Mr. Sharp. Yet, business aside, he had an intellectual pleasure in exchanging views with Philip which Mr. Sharp's conversation did not offer him.

When, therefore, Mrs. Mavick came to consult her husband about the list for the coming-out reception of Evelyn, Philip found a friend at court.

"It is all plain enough," said Carmen, as she sat down with book and pencil in hand, "till you come to the young men, the unattached young men. Here is my visiting-list, that of course. But for the young ladies we must have more young men. Can't you suggest any?"

"Perhaps. I know a lot of young fellows."

"But I mean available young men, those that count socially. I don't want a broker's board or a Chamber of Commerce here."

Mr. Mavick named half a dozen, and Carmen looked for their names in the social register. "Any more?"

"Why, you forgot young Burnett, who was with you last summer at Rivervale. I thought you liked him."

"So I did in Rivervale. Plain farmer people. Yes, he was very nice to us. I've been thinking if I couldn't send him something Christmas and pay off the debt."

"He'd think a great deal more of an invitation to your reception."

"But you don't understand. You never think of Evelyn's future. We are asking people that we think she ought to know."

"Well, Burnett is a very agreeable fellow."

"Fiddlesticks! He is nothing but a law clerk. Worse than that, he is a magazine writer."

"I thought you liked his essays and stories."

"So I do. But you don't want to associate with everybody you like that way. I am talking about society. You must draw the line somewhere. Oh, I forgot Fogg--Dr. LeRoy Fogg, from Pittsburg." And down went the name of Fogg.

"You mean that young swell whose business it is to drive a four-in-hand to Yonkers and back, and toot on a horn?"

"Well, what of that? Everybody who is anybody, I mean all the girls, want to go on his coach."

"Oh, Lord! I'd rather go on the Elevated." And Mavick laughed very heartily, for him. "Well, I'll make a compromise. You take Fogg and I'll take Burnett. He is in a good firm, he belongs to a first-rate club, he goes to the Hunts' and the Scammels', I hear of him in good places. Come."

"Well, if you make a point of it. I've nothing against him. But if you knew the feelings of a mother about her only daughter you would know, that you cannot be too careful."

When, several days after this conversation, Philip received his big invitation, gorgeously engraved on what he took to be a sublimated sort of wrapping-paper, he felt ashamed that he had doubted the sincere friendship and the goodness of heart of Mrs. Mavick.

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CHAPTER XIIIWhen Philip said that Evelyn was educated in the world of literature and not in the conflicts of life he had hit the key-note of her condition at the moment she was coming into the world and would have to act for herself. The more he saw of her the more was he impressed with the fact that her discrimination, it might almost be called divination, and her judgment were based upon the best and most vital products of the human mind. A selection had evidently been made for her, until she had acquired the taste, or the habit rather,
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