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F EW ENGLAND blood reveals itself in certain characteristics of
Mr. Henry B. Fuller's fiction, though his grandfather took
root in Chicago even after its incorporation in 1840. Born in the windy city," of prosperous merchant stock, he is of the intellectual race of Margaret Fuller; and the saying of one of his characters, «Get the right kind of New England face, and you can't do much better,” shows his liking for the transplanted qualities which began the good fortunes of the Great West.
Family councils decreed that he should fill an important inherited place in the business world; but temperament was too strong for predestination. He might have been an architect, he might have been a musician, had he not turned out a novelist. But a creative artist he was constrained by nature to become. His first story, unacknowledged at first, and entitled “The Chevalier of Pensieri-Vani,' attracted little notice until it fell by chance under the eye of Professor Norton of Cambridge, who sent it with a kindly word to Lowell. This fine critic wrote a cordial letter of praise to the author, and the book was republished by the Century Company of New York in 1892 and widely read. The Chatelaine of La Trinité,' his next venture, appeared as a serial in the Century Magazine during the same year. Both of these stories have a European background; in both a certain remoteness and romantic quality predominates, and both have little in common with this workaday world.
To the amazement of his public, Mr. Fuller's next book — published as a serial in Harper's Weekly, during the summer of the World's Fair, and called "The Cliff-Dwellers — pictured Chicago in its most sordid and utilitarian aspect. King Money sat on the throne, and the whole community paid tribute. The intensity of the struggle for existence, the push of competition, the relentlessness of the realism of the book, left the reader almost breathless at the end, uncertain whether to admire the force of the story-teller or to lament his mercilessness.
In 1895 appeared With the Procession,' another picture of Chicago social life, but painted with a more kindly touch. The artist still delineates what he sees, but he sees more truly, because more sympathetically. The theme of the story is admirable, and it is carried out with a half humorous and wholly serious thoroughness. This theme is the total reconstruction of the social concepts of an oldfashioned, rich, stolid, commercial Chicago family, in obedience to the decree of the modernized younger son and daughters. The process is more or less tragic, though it is set forth with an artistic lightness of touch. With the Procession is such a story as might happen round the corner in any year. Herr Sienkiewicz's Polanyetskis are not more genuinely children of the soil » than Mr. Fuller's Marshalls and Bateses. In these later stories he seems to be asking himself, in most serious words, what is to be the social outcome of the great industrial civilization of the time, and to demand of his readers that they too shall fall to thinking.
AT THE HEAD OF THE MARCH From (With the Procession. Copyright 1894 by Henry B. Fuller, and re
printed by permission of Harper & Brothers, publishers, New York « W ELL, here goes!” said Jane half aloud, with her foot on
the lowest of the glistening granite steps. The steps
led up to the ponderous pillared arches of a grandiose and massive porch; above the porch a sturdy and rugged balustrade half intercepted the rough-faced glitter of a vast and variegated façade; and higher still, the morning sun shattered its beams over a tumult of angular roofs and towering chimneys.
“It is swell, I declare!” said Jane, with her eye on the wrought-iron work of the outer doors, and the jewels and bevels of the inner ones.
“Where is the thingamajig, anyway?” she inquired of herself. She was searching for the door-bell, and she fell back on her own rustic lingo in order to ward off the incipient panic caused by this overwhelming splendor. “Oh, here it is! There ! » She gave a push. And now I'm in for it.” She had decided to take the richest and best known and most fashionable woman on her list to start with; the worst over at the beginning, she thought, the rest would follow easily enough.
“I suppose the maid' will wear a cap and a silver tray,” she observed further. “Or will it be a gold one, with diamonds around the edge ?”
The door-knob turned from within. Is Mrs. Bates — » she began.
The door opened half-way. A grave, smooth-shaven man appeared; his chin and upper lip had the mottled smudge that shows in so many of those conscientious portraits of the olden time.
«Gracious me!” said the startled Jane to herself.
She dropped her disconcerted vision to the door-mat. Then she saw that the man wore knee-breeches and black-silk stockings.
“Heaven be merciful!” was her inward cry. It's a footman, as I live. I've been reading about them all my life, and now I've met one. But I never suspected that there was really anything of the kind in this town! »
She left the contemplation of the servant's pumps and stockings, and began to grapple fiercely with the catch of her handbag.
The man in the meanwhile studied her with a searching gravity, and as it seemed, with some disapproval. The splendor of the front that his master presented to the world had indeed intimidated poor Jane; but there were many others upon whom it had no deterring effect at all. Some of these brought artbooks in monthly parts; others brought polish for the piano legs. Many of them were quite as prepossessing in appearance as Jane was; some of them were much less plain and dowdy; few of them were so recklessly indiscreet as to betray themselves at the threshold by exhibiting a black leather bag.
«There ! ” remarked Jane to the footman, “I knew I should get at it eventually.” She smiled at him with a friendly goodwill: she acknowledged him as a human being, and she hoped to propitiate him into the concession that she herself was nothing less.
The man took her card, which was fortunately as correct as the most discreet and contemporaneous stationer could fashion. He decided that he was running no risk with his mistress, and “Miss Jane Marshall” was permitted to pass the gate.
She was ushered into a small reception-room. The hard-wood floor was partly covered by a meagre Persian rug. There was a plain sofa of forbidding angles, and a scantily upholstered chair which insisted upon nobody's remaining longer than necessary. But through the narrow door Jane caught branching vistas of room after room heaped up with the pillage of a sacked and ravaged globe, and a stairway which led with a wide sweep to regions of unimaginable glories above.
“Did you ever!” exclaimed Jane. It was of the footman that she was speaking; he in fact loomed up, to the practical eclipse of all this luxury and display. “Only eighty years from the Massacre, and hardly eight hundred feet from the Monument!”
Presently she heard a tapping and a rustling without. She thought that she might lean a few inches to one side with no risk of being detected in an impropriety, and she was rewarded by seeing the splendid vacuity of the grand stairway finally filled
— filled more completely, more amply, than she could have imagined possible through the passage of one person merely. A woman of fifty or more was descending with a slow and somewhat ponderous stateliness. She wore an elaborate morning. gown with a broad plait down the back, and an immensity of superfluous material in the sleeves. Her person was broad, her bosom ample, and her voluminous gray hair was tossed and fretted about the temples after the fashion of a marquise of the old régime. Jane set her jaw and clamped her knotty fingers to the two edges of her inhospitable chair.
“I don't care if she is so rich," she muttered, and so famous, and so fashionable, and so terribly handsome; she can't bear me down.”
The woman reached the bottom step, and took a turn that for a moment carried her out of sight. At the same time the sound of her footsteps was silenced by one of the big rugs that covered the floor of the wide and roomy hall. But Jane had had a glimpse, and she knew with whom she was to deal: with one of the big, the broad, the great, the triumphant; with one of a Roman amplitude and vigor, an Indian keenness and sagacity, an American ambition and determination; with one who baffles circumstance and almost masters fate — with one of the conquerors, in short.
"I don't hear her,” thought the expectant girl, in some trepidation; “but all the same, she's got to cross that bare space just outside the door before — yes, there's her step! And here she is herself! »
Mrs. Bates appeared in the doorway. She had a strong nose of the lofty Roman type; her bosom heaved with breaths deep, but quiet and regular. She had a pair of large, full blue eyes, and these she now fixed on Jane with an expression of rather cold questioning.
«Miss Marshall ?” Her voice was firm, smooth, even, rich, deep. She advanced a foot or two within the room and remained standing there. ...
«My father,” Jane began again, in the same tone, “is David Marshall. He is very well known, I believe, in Chicago. We have lived here a great many years. It seems to me that there ought to — »
“David Marshall ?) repeated Mrs. Bates, gently. “Ah, I do know David Marshall — yes,” she said; "or did — a good many years ago.” She looked up into Jane's face now with a completely altered expression. Her glance was curious and searching, but it was very kindly. "And you are David Marshall's daughter ?” She smiled indulgently at Jane's outburst of spunk. «Really - David Marshall's daughter ?»
«Yes," answered Jane, with a gruff brevity. She was far from ready to be placated yet.
“David Marshall's daughter! Then, my dear child, why not have said so in the first place, without lugging in everybody and everything else you could think of? Hasn't your father ever spoken of me? And how is he, anyway? I haven't seen him — to really speak to him— for fifteen years. It may be even more.”
She seemed to have laid hands on a heavy bar, to have wrenched it from its holds, to have flung it aside from the footpath, and to be inviting Jane to advance without let or hindrance.
But Jane stood there with pique in her breast, and her long thin arms laid rigid against her sides. “Let her (dear child' me, if she wants to; she sha'n't bring me around in any such way as that.”
All this, however, availed little against Mrs. Bates's new manner. The citadel so closely sealed to charity was throwing itself wide open to memory. The portcullis was dropped, and the late enemy was invited to advance as a friend.
Nay, urged. Mrs. Bates presently seized Jane's unwilling hands. She gathered those poor, stiff, knotted fingers into two crackling bundles within her own plump and warm palms, squeezed them forcibly, and looked into Jane's face with all imaginable kindness. I had just that temper once myself,” she said.
The sluice gates of caution and reserve were opening wide; the streams of tenderness and sympathy were bubbling and fretting to take their course.
“And your father is well ? And you are living in the same old place ? Oh, this terrible town! You can't keep your old