“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.
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.