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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThat Fortune - Chapter 6
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That Fortune - Chapter 6 Post by :Finner Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dudley Warner Date :May 2012 Read :3400

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That Fortune - Chapter 6

CHAPTER VI

The Mavick mansion was on Fifth Avenue in the neighborhood of Central Park. It was one of the buildings in the city that strangers were always taken to see. In fact, this was a palace not one kind of a palace, but all kinds of a palace. The clever and ambitious architect of the house had grouped all the styles of architecture he had ever seen, or of which he had seen pictures. Here was not an architectural conception, like a sonnet or a well-constructed novel, but if all the work could have been spread out in line, in all its variety, there would have been produced a panorama. The sight of the mansion always caused wonder and generally ignorant admiration. Its vastness and splendor were felt to be somehow typical of the New World and of the cosmopolitan city.

The cost, in the eyes of the spectators, was a great part of its merits. No doubt this was a fabulous sum. "You can form a little idea of it," said a gentleman to his country friend, "when I tell you that that little bit there, that little corner of carving and decoration, cost two hundred thousand dollars! I had this from the architect himself."

"My!"

The interior was as fully representative of wealth and of the ambition to put under one roof all the notable effects of all the palaces in the world. But it had, what most palaces have not, all the requisites for luxurious living. The variety of styles in the rooms was bewildering. Artists of distinction, both foreign and native, had vied with each other in the decoration of the rooms given over to the display of their genius. All paganism and all Christianity, history, myth, and the beauties of nature were spread upon the walls and ceilings. Rare woods, rare marbles, splendid textures, the product of ancient handiwork and modern looms, added a certain dignity to the more airy creations of the artists. Many of the rooms were named from the nations whose styles of decoration and furnishing were imitated in them, but others had the simple designation of the gold room, the silver room, the lapis-lazuli room, and so on. It was not only the show-rooms, the halls, passages, stairways, and galleries (both of pictures and of curios) that were thus enriched, but the boudoirs, retiring-rooms, and more private apartments as well. It was not simply a house of luxury, but of all the comfort that modern invention can furnish. It was said that the money lavished upon one or two of the noble apartments would have built a State-house (though not at Albany), and that the fireplace in the great hall cost as much as an imitation mediaeval church. These were the things talked about, and yet the portions of this noble edifice, rich as they were, habitually occupied by the family had another character--the attractions and conveniences of what we call a home. Mrs. Mavick used to say that in her apartments she found refuge in a sublimated domesticity. Mavick's own quarters--not the study off the library where he received visitors whom it was necessary to impress--had an executive appearance, and were, in the necessary appliances, more like the interior bureau of a board of trade. In fact, the witty brokers who were admitted to its mysteries called it the bucket-shop.

Mr. Brad's article on "A Prisoned Millionaire" more than equaled Philip's expectations. No such "story" had appeared in the city press in a long time. It was what was called, in the language of the period, a work of art--that is, a sensation, heightened by all the words of color in the language, applied not only to material things, but to states and qualities of mind, such as "purple emotions" and "scarlet intrepidity." It was also exceedingly complimentary. Mavick himself was one of the powers and pillars of American society, and the girl was an exquisite exhibition of woodland bloom in the first flush of spring-time. As he read it over, Philip thought what a fine advertisement it is to every impecunious noble in Europe.

That morning, before going to his office, Philip strolled up Fifth Avenue to look at that now doubly, famous mansion. Many others, it appeared, were moved by the same curiosity. There was already a crowd assembled. A couple of policemen, on special duty, patrolled the sidewalk in front in order to keep a passage open, and perhaps to prevent a too impudent inspection. Opposite the house, on the sidewalk and on door-steps, was a motley throng, largely made up of toughs and roughs from the East Side, good-natured spectators who merely wanted to see this splendid prison, and a moving line of gentlemen and ladies who simply happened to be passing that way at this time. The curbstone was lined with a score of reporters of the city journals, each with his note-book. Every window and entrance was eagerly watched. It was hoped that one of the family might be seen, or that some servant might appear who could be interviewed. Upon the windows supposed by the reporters to be those from which the heiress looked, a strict watch was kept. The number, form, and location of these windows were accurately noted, the stuff of the curtains described in the phrase of the upholsterer, and much good language was devoted to the view from these windows. The shrewdest of the reporters had already sought information as to the interior from the flower dealers, from upholsterers, from artists who had been employed in the decorations, and had even assailed, in the name of the rights of the public whom they represented, the architects of the building; but their chief reliance was upon the waiters furnished by the leading caterers on occasions of special receptions and great dinners, and milliners and dress-makers, who had penetrated the more domestic apartments. By reason of this extraordinary article in the newspaper, the public had acquired the right to know all about the private life of the Mavick family.

This right was not acknowledged by Mr. Mavick and his family. Of course the object of the excitement was wholly ignorant of the cause of it, as no daily newspaper was ever seen by her that had not been carefully inspected by the trusted and intelligent governess. The crowd in front of the mansion was accounted for by the statement that a picture of it had appeared in one of the low journals, and there was naturally a curiosity to see it. And Evelyn was told that this was one of the penalties a man paid for being popular.

Mrs. Mavick, who seldom lost her head, was thoroughly frightened and upset, and it was a rare occasion that could upset the equanimity of the late widow, Mrs. Carmen Henderson. She gave way to her passion and demanded that the offending editor should be pursued with the utmost rigor of the law. Mr. Mavick was not less annoyed and angry, but he smiled when his wife talked of pursuing the press with the utmost rigor of the law, and said that he would give the matter prompt attention. That day he had an interview with the editor of the Daily Spectrum; which was satisfactory to both parties. The editor would have said that Mavick behaved like a gentleman. The result of the interview appeared in the newspaper of the following morning.

Mr. Mavick had requested that the offending reporter should be cautioned; he was too wise to have further attention called to the matter by demanding his dismissal. Accordingly the reporter was severely reprimanded, and then promoted.

The editorial, which was written by Mr. Olin Brad, and was in his best Macaulay style, began somewhat humorously by alluding to the curious interest of the public in ancient history, citing Mr. Froude and Mr. Carlyle, and the legend of Casper Hauser. It was true, gradually approaching the case in point, that uncommon precautions had been taken in the early years of the American heiress, and it was the romance of the situation that had been laid before the readers of the Spectrum. But there had been really no danger in our chivalrous, free American society, and all these precautions were long a thing of the past (which was not true). In short, with elaboration and great skill, and some humor, the exaggerations of the former article were minimized, and put in an airy and unsubstantial light. And then this friend of the people, this exposer of abuses and champion of virtue, turned and justly scored the sensational press for prying into the present life of one of the first families in the country.

Incidentally, it was mentioned that the ladies of the family had before this incident bespoken their passage for their annual visit to Europe, and that this affair had not disturbed their arrangements (which also was not true). This casual announcement was intended to draw away attention from the Fifth Avenue house, and to notify the roughs that it would be useless to lay any plans.

The country press, which had far and wide printed the interesting story, softened it in accordance with the later development. Possibly no intelligent person was deceived, but in the estimation of the mass of the people the Spectrum increased its reputation for enterprise and smartness and gave also an impression of its fairness. The manager, told Mr. Brad that the increased sales of the two days permitted the establishment to give him a vacation of two weeks on full pay, and during these weeks the manager himself set up a neat and modest brougham.

All of which events, only partially understood, Mr. Philip Burnett revolved in his mind, and wondered if what was called success was worth the price paid for it.

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CHAPTER XAll winter long that face seemed to get between Philip and his work. It was an inspiration to his pen when it ran in the way of literature, but a distinct damage to progress in his profession. He had seen Evelyn again, more than once, at the opera, and twice been excited by a passing glimpse of her on a crisp, sunny afternoon in the Mavick carriage in the Park-always the same bright, eager face. So vividly personal was the influence upon him that it seemed impossible that she should not be aware of it--impossible that she could not know
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CHAPTER VIt is the desire of every ambitious soul to, enter Literature by the front door, and the few who have patience and money enough to live without the aid of the beckoning Helen may enter there. But a side entrance is the destiny of most aspirants, even those with the golden key of genius, and they are a long time in working their way to be seen coming out, of the front entrance. It is true that a man can attract considerable and immediate attention by trying to effect an entrance through the sewer, but he seldom gains the respect
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