at last, we roll in wealth, we need never scrimp again. it’s a
case for Veuve Cliquot!” and he got out a pint of spruce-beer
and made sacrifice, he saying “Damn the expense,” and she rebuking
him gently with reproachful but humid and happy eyes.
They shelved the pork-packer’s son and the banker’s son, and sat
down to consider the Governor’s son and the son of the Congressman.
It were a weariness to follow in detail the leaps and bounds the Foster
fictitious finances took from this time forth. It was marvelous,
it was dizzying, it was dazzling. Everything Aleck touched turned
to fairy gold, and heaped itself glittering toward the firmament.
Millions upon millions poured in, and still the mighty stream flowed
thundering along, still its vast volume increased. Five millions–
ten millions–twenty–thirty–was there never to be an end?
Two years swept by in a splendid delirium, the intoxicated Fosters
scarcely noticing the flight of time. They were now worth three hundred
million dollars; they were in every board of directors of every
prodigious combine in the country; and still as time drifted along,
the millions went on piling up, five at a time, ten at a time,
as fast as they could tally them off, almost. The three hundred
double itself–then doubled again–and yet again–and yet once more.
Twenty-four hundred millions!
The business was getting a little confused. It was necessary
to take an account of stock, and straighten it out. The Fosters
knew it, they felt it, they realized that it was imperative;
but they also knew that to do it properly and perfectly the task
must be carried to a finish without a break when once it was begun.
A ten-hours’ job; and where could THEY find ten leisure hours
in a bunch? Sally was selling pins and sugar and calico all day
and every day; Aleck was cooking and washing dishes and sweeping
and making beds all day and every day, with none to help,
for the daughters were being saved up for high society. The Fosters
knew there was one way to get the ten hours, and only one.
Both were ashamed to name it; each waited for the other to do it.
Finally Sally said:
“Somebody’s got to give in. It’s up to me. Consider that I’ve
named it–never mind pronouncing it out aloud.”
Aleck colored, but was grateful. Without further remark, they fell.
Fell, and–broke the Sabbath. For that was their only free
ten-hour stretch. It was but another step in the downward path.
Others would follow. Vast wealth has temptations which fatally
and surely undermine the moral structure of persons not habituated
to its possession.
They pulled down the shades and broke the Sabbath. With hard
and patient labor they overhauled their holdings and listed them.
And a long-drawn procession of formidable names it was!
Starting with the Railway Systems, Steamer Lines, Standard Oil,
Ocean Cables, Diluted Telegraph, and all the rest, and winding
up with Klondike, De Beers, Tammany Graft, and Shady Privileges
in the Post-office Department.
Twenty-four hundred millions, and all safely planted in Good Things,
gilt-edged and interest-bearing. Income, $120,000,000 a year.
Aleck fetched a long purr of soft delight, and said:
“Is it enough?”
“It is, Aleck.”
“What shall we do?”
“Retire from business?”
“I am agreed. The good work is finished; we will take a long rest
and enjoy the money.”
“How much of the income can we spend?”
“The whole of it.”
It seemed to her husband that a ton of chains fell from his limbs.
He did not say a word; he was happy beyond the power of speech.
After that, they broke the Sabbaths right along as fast as they
turned up. It is the first wrong step that counts. Every Sunday
they put in the whole day, after morning service, on inventions–
inventions of ways to spend the money. They got to continuing this
delicious dissipation until past midnight; and at every s’eance Aleck
lavished millions upon great charities and religious enterprises,
and Sally lavished like sums upon matters to which (at first)
he gave definite names. Only at first. Later the names gradually
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