Dryfoos did not think it necessary to answer such a question. “It’s all Fulkerson, Fulkerson, Fulkerson. It seems to me that Fulkerson about runs this family. He brought Mrs. Mandel, and he brought that Beaton, and he brought that Boston fellow! I guess I give him a dose, though; and I’ll learn Fulkerson that he can’t have everything his own way. I don’t want anybody to help me spend my money. I made it, and I can manage it. I guess Mr. Fulkerson can bear a little watching now. He’s been travelling pretty free, and he’s got the notion he’s driving, maybe. I’m a-going to look after that book a little myself.”
“You’ll kill yourself, Jacob,” said his wife, “tryin’ to do so many things. And what is it all fur? I don’t see as we’re better off, any, for all the money. It’s just as much care as it used to be when we was all there on the farm together. I wisht we could go back, Ja—”
“We can’t go back!” shouted the old man, fiercely. “There’s no farm any more to go back to. The fields is full of gas-wells and oil-wells and hell-holes generally; the house is tore down, and the barn’s goin’—”
“The barn!” gasped the old woman. “Oh, my!”
“If I was to give all I’m worth this minute, we couldn’t go back to the farm, any more than them girls in there could go back and be little children. I don’t say we’re any better off, for the money. I’ve got more of it now than I ever had; and there’s no end to the luck; it pours in. But I feel like I was tied hand and foot. I don’t know which way to move; I don’t know what’s best to do about anything. The money don’t seem to buy anything but more and more care and trouble. We got a big house that we ain’t at home in; and we got a lot of hired girls round under our feet that hinder and don’t help. Our children don’t mind us, and we got no friends or neighbors. But it had to be. I couldn’t help but sell the farm, and we can’t go back to it, for it ain’t there. So don’t you say anything more about it, ’Liz’beth.”
“Pore Jacob!” said his wife. “Well, I woon’t, dear.”
It was clear to Beaton that Dryfoos distrusted him; and the fact heightened his pleasure in Christine’s liking for him. He was as sure of this as he was of the other, though he was not so sure of any reason for his pleasure in it. She had her charm; the charm of wildness to which a certain wildness in himself responded; and there were times when his fancy contrived a common future for them, which would have a prosperity forced from the old fellow’s love of the girl. Beaton liked the idea of this compulsion better than he liked the idea of the money; there was something a little repulsive in that; he imagined himself rejecting it; he almost wished he was enough in love with the girl to marry her without it; that would be fine. He was taken with her in a certain’ measure, in a certain way; the question was in what measure, in what way.