lost sharpness of outline, and eventually faded into “sundries,”
thus becoming entirely–but safely–undescriptive. For Sally
was crumbling. The placing of these millions added seriously
and most uncomfortably to the family expenses–in tallow candles.
For a while Aleck was worried. Then, after a little, she ceased
to worry, for the occasion of it was gone. She was pained,
she was grieved, she was ashamed; but she said nothing, and so became
an accessory. Sally was taking candles; he was robbing the store.
It is ever thus. Vast wealth, to the person unaccustomed to it,
is a bane; it eats into the flesh and bone of his morals.
When the Fosters were poor, they could have been trusted with
untold candles. But now they–but let us not dwell upon it.
From candles to apples is but a step: Sally got to taking apples;
then soap; then maple-sugar; then canned goods; then crockery.
How easy it is to go from bad to worse, when once we have started upon a
Meantime, other effects had been milestoning the course of the Fosters’
splendid financial march. The fictitious brick dwelling had
given place to an imaginary granite one with a checker-board
mansard roof; in time this one disappeared and gave place to a
still grander home–and so on and so on. Mansion after mansion,
made of air, rose, higher, broader, finer, and each in its turn
vanished away; until now in these latter great days, our dreamers
were in fancy housed, in a distant region, in a sumptuous vast
palace which looked out from a leafy summit upon a noble prospect
of vale and river and receding hills steeped in tinted mists–
and all private, all the property of the dreamers; a palace swarming
with liveried servants, and populous with guests of fame and power,
hailing from all the world’s capitals, foreign and domestic.
This palace was far, far away toward the rising sun, immeasurably remote,
astronomically remote, in Newport, Rhode Island, Holy Land
of High Society, ineffable Domain of the American Aristocracy.
As a rule they spent a part of every Sabbath–after morning service–
in this sumptuous home, the rest of it they spent in Europe,
or in dawdling around in their private yacht. Six days of sordid
and plodding fact life at home on the ragged edge of Lakeside
and straitened means, the seventh in Fairlyand–such had been
their program and their habit.
In their sternly restricted fact life they remained as of old–
plodding, diligent, careful, practical, economical. They stuck
loyally to the little Presbyterian Church, and labored faithfully
in its interests and stood by its high and tough doctrines with all
their mental and spiritual energies. But in their dream life they
obeyed the invitations of their fancies, whatever they might be,
and howsoever the fancies might change. Aleck’s fancies were not
very capricious, and not frequent, but Sally’s scattered a good deal.
Aleck, in her dream life, went over to the Episcopal camp, on account
of its large official titles; next she became High-church on account
of the candles and shows; and next she naturally changed to Rome,
where there were cardinals and more candles. But these excursions
were a nothing to Sally’s. His dream life was a glowing and continuous
and persistent excitement, and he kept every part of it fresh and
sparkling by frequent changes, the religious part along with the rest.
He worked his religions hard, and changed them with his shirt.
The liberal spendings of the Fosters upon their fancies began
early in their prosperities, and grew in prodigality step by step
with their advancing fortunes. In time they became truly enormous.
Aleck built a university or two per Sunday; also a hospital or two;
also a Rowton hotel or so; also a batch of churches; now and then
a cathedral; and once, with untimely and ill-chosen playfulness,
Sally said, “It was a cold day when she didn’t ship a cargo of
missionaries to persuade unreflecting Chinamen to trade off twenty-four
carat Confucianism for counterfeit Christianity.”
This rude and unfeeling language hurt Aleck to the heart, and she
went from the presence crying. That spectacle went to his own heart,
and in his pain and shame he would have given worlds to have
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