Under the Skylights by Henry Blake Fuller
Little O'Grady vs. The Grindstone
Dill and his coadjutors had two or three more conferences, and a second detailed scheme was sent over to the bank. History in general was decisively thrust aside,--the only history worth recording was the history the Nine themselves had helped to make. "We will go to the libraries for 'ana,'" said Gowan; "they will help us with the earlier years of the last century."
"And to the Historical Association for more," said Giles. "Old Oliver Dowd is an ex-secretary of it, and him at least we can capture beyond a doubt."
"Hurray!" cried Little O'Grady, who had insisted on being present. That very afternoon he threw his "First Coinage of Venetian Sequins" back into the clay-box and started in on a relief of "The Earliest Issue of Wild-Cat Currency."
"We've got a good thing this time," said Adams. "It's homogeneous; it's picturesque; it's local. It gives all they want and a great deal more. I think we can tussle with it successfully and not be ashamed of the outcome."
"As business-men they ought to appreciate the completeness of our new scheme," said Giles, "and our promptness in furnishing it."
"They will," said Joyce. "This beats the other idea all hollow. Go in and win."
Each one of them spoke in terms of unwonted confidence. Little O'Grady himself was in such a state of irrepressible buoyancy that he left the earth and fairly sailed among the clouds. All this reacted on Dill. For the first time he felt the great commission fully within his grasp and the net profits as safely to be counted upon. He began to warm to his subjects. To him, who had learned a good deal in regard to shipping and the handling of water from lounging about the ports of Marseilles and Leghorn, had fallen the arrival of the first vessel: he would reconstruct the primitive lighthouse that Mr. Hill had set his heart on, and would eke out the angular emptiness of the subject by a varied group of expectant pioneers big in the foreground. He had also taken the Baptist church, of whose Bible-class Andrew P. Hill had been a member. He would suppress the spire, and would show the pillared front on some Sunday morning in midsummer, with an abundance of wide petticoats and deep bonnets of the period of 1845, or thereabouts, displayed upon its front steps. And finally, as he was fairly strong on figures in action, he had intrepidly undertaken the Pottawatomie war-dance; and as soon as the conference in Giles's studio broke up, he took the express-train out to the Memorial Museum to see what the ethnological department there could do for him in the way of moccasins, tomahawks and war-bonnets.
He made his way through several halls filled with tall glass cases, skirting the Polynesians, bearing away from the Eskimos and finally reaching the North Americans. Their room was empty, save for a slender girl in brown who was making notes on a collection of war-bonnets in a morocco memorandum-book. It was Virgilia.
"Why, what are you doing out here?" he asked.
"Turning the odd moments to account. Collecting data for you on the aborigines,--I am sure we can put them to use. I ran out to hear the lecture on Earthquakes in Japan--you know I have a chance to go there with the Knotts in April--and I thought I might incidentally pick up a few notions for the War-Dance."
So authentic and thoroughgoing a piece of loyalty as this affected Dill tremendously; the hint of an Oriental exodus scarcely less so. Never should she go to Japan with the Knotts; she should go with him. His share in the work at the Grindstone would make this the easiest as well as the most delightful of possibilities. Now was the time; no matter about waiting for the contract. He felt the flood rising within him. Here at last was the moment for taking her hand (she had put the memorandum-book back into her pocket), and for looking earnestly into her eyes with all the ardour perfect good taste would permit, and for saying in a voice tremulous with well-bred passion the words that would make her his loyal coadjutor through life. These different things he now said and did with a flawless technique (Virgilia recalled how sadly the young real-estate dealer had boggled), and a row of gaudy Buddhistic idols that looked in through the wide door leading to the Chinese section stood witnesses to her unaffected surrender. The pair passed back through the Aztecs and the South Sea Islanders in a maze of happy murmurs and whisperings, and when next Eudoxia Pence asked her niece:
"Has he--has he----?"
Virgilia, as she again dropped her eyes, was able to reply, this time:
Daffingdon and Virgilia passed out through the great row of Ionic columns and down the wide flight of steps into the bare, brown wind-swept landscapes of the park.
"And about Japan?" asked Dill. "You can wait a year longer for that, can't you? We shall find the earthquakes just the same."
Virgilia laughed happily. "Of course I can. What will such a year count for as a mere delay?--a year so short, so full, so busy, so happy, so successful! By next February we shall be famous, we shall be rich, the whole country will be ringing with our pictures----"
Dill found it easy to fall in with her mood. He foresaw the immediate acceptance of a scheme so complete and so well-considered; the early signing of a binding contract; the receipt, without undue delay, of his honorarium--a business-like tribute from a methodical and trustworthy body of business-men; growing fame, increasing prosperity----After all, why dwell on Japan? The world was beautiful everywhere, even in the bare, flat rawness of the suburbs.