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Title:      A Search for America (1927)
Author:     Frederick Philip Grove (1879-1948)
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Language:   English
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      A Search for America (1927
Author:     Frederick Philip Grove (1879-1948)

"America is a continent, not a country."

I reverently dedicate this book to the memory of George Meredith
and Algernon Swinburne and to one of that illustrious triad who
is still living, namely Thomas Hardy for "Canadian literature is
a mere bud on the tree of the great Anglo-Saxon tradition."

Author's Note

This book, during the last thirty-two years, has been written and
rewritten eight times, becoming a little shorter every time.  That,
at last, I picked up courage to release it for publication as it
stands, with all the anachronisms which are an unavoidable
consequence of such a method of composition, is due entirely to the
encouragement of two of my friends who have known the manuscript
for a number of years, namely A.L.P. and W.K., both of Wesley
College, Winnipeg.

Rapid City, Man.,
December, 1926.



Author's Note


1.  I Emigrate

2.  I Land on American Soil

3.  I Secure Work

4.  I Submerge

5.  I Earn a Promotion

6.  I Meet the Explanation for One Kind of Success

7.  I Move On


1.  The Issue is Obscured

2.  I Scour the City for Work

3.  I Go on the Road

4.  I Seek New Fields

5.  I Join a New Company

6.  I Land Somewhere

7.  I Wind Things Up


1.  I Go Exploring

2.  I Lose Sight of Mankind

3.  I Come Into Contact With Humanity Again

4.  I Try to Find Work for the Winter

5.  I Become a Hand

6.  I Widen My Outlook

7.  I Am Kidnapped


1.  I Learn to Beat My Way

2.  I Start Work in the Harvest

3.  I Become Acquainted With the Hobo

4.  I Meet Mother and Son

5.  My Problem Defines Itself and I Solve It

Appendix:  Author's Note to the Fourth Edition (1939)


The Descent

"As long as you keep in the upper regions, with all the world
bowing to you as you go, social arrangements have a very handsome
air; but once get under the wheels, and you wish society were at
the devil.  I will give most respectable men a fortnight of such a
life, and then I will offer them twopence for what remains of their

Robert Louis Stevenson


I Emigrate

I was twenty-four years old when one day in the month of July I
took passage from Liverpool to Montreal.  I was not British-born;
but my mother had been a Scotswoman, and from my earliest childhood
I had been trained to speak the English of fashionable governesses.
I had acquired--by dint of much study of English literature--a
rather extensive reading and arguing vocabulary which however
showed--and, by the way, to this day shows--its parentage by a
peculiar stiff-necked lack of condescension to everyday slang.  My
father, Charles Edward Branden by name, had been of Swedish
extraction, himself rather an Anglophile.  For many years previous
to my emigration, I, too, had affected English ways in dress and
manners; occasionally, when travelling in Sweden or in the
countries bordering on the Mediterranean, I had connived at being
taken for an Englishman.  I am afraid, if I could meet myself as I
then was, I should consider my former self as an insufferable snob
and coxcomb.

I must explain at some length what induced me to go to America.

When I was a boy, my parents lived "in style"; that is to say, they
had a place in the country, a rather "palatial" home, and a house
in the fashionable residential district of a populous city on the
continent of Europe.  The exact localities are irrelevant.  Every
summer, as soon as at home the heat became oppressive, my mother,
whom I adored and whom I remember as a Junoesque lady of very
pronounced likes and dislikes, used to pack up and to go to the
French coast--to Boulogne, Harfleur, St. Malo, Parisplage--or to
Switzerland--the Zurich Lake, Landshut, Lucerne.  She preferred the
less frequented places, such as were prepared to meet her demands
for comfort without being infested by tourist-crowds.  And
invariably she took one of her ten children along, mostly myself,
probably because I was the youngest one and her only boy.  She died
when I was an adolescent.

About a year after my mother's death I went on a "tour of the
continent", planned to take me several years.  The ostensible
reason was that I intended to pursue and to complete my studies at
various famous universities--Paris, Bonn, Oxford, Rome.  In reality
I went because I had the wandering instinct.  I by no means adhered
to the prearranged plan, but allowed myself to be pushed along.

I will give one example.  At Naples I made the acquaintance of a
delightful young man--I forget whether he was Dutch or Danish--who
knew the artistic circles of Paris--Gide, Regnier, and others.  He
somehow declared that I was the invariably best-dressed man whom he
had ever met, a highly desirable acquaintance, and just the young
Croesus who should interest himself in modern literary aspirations.
He wished me to meet his Parisian friends and offered me cards of
introduction; and although I had not been thinking of France just
then--rather of Egypt and Asia Minor--I promptly took the next
train to Nice and from there the Riviera Express to Paris.  Soon I
was all taken up with that particular brand of literature which was
then becoming fashionable, filled with contempt for the practical
man, and deeply ensconced in artificial poses.

My reputed wealth opened every door.  I sometimes think that some
of the men with whom I linked up--or upon whom I thrust myself--
men, some of whom have in the meantime acquired European or even
world-wide reputation, must have smiled at the presumptuous pup who
thought he was somebody because he threw his father's money about
with noble indifference.  It is a strange fact that they received
me on a footing of equality and led me on; they had time to spare
for exquisite little dinners no less than for the nonsensical
prattle of one who gave himself airs.  Of course, there was an
occasional man who kept himself at a distance; but on the whole I
cannot avoid the conclusion that these idols had feet of clay.

Whenever my father enquired about the progress of my studies, I put
him off by affected contempt.  Anybody could pass examinations and
take degrees; I was going to be one of the few Europeans who
counted.  Of course, nobody but myself ever valued me at exactly
that figure.  I had not done anything to make others aware of my
worth.  It would, however, have been a tremendous shock to my self-
estimation, had I been able to foresee that one day I should value
myself at exactly what the world valued me at while I remained
utterly and absolutely unknown.  I simply was not in a hurry.  My
aims were lofty enough.  To master nothing less than all human
knowledge was for my ambition--or, had I better say, for my
conceit?--no more than the preliminary to swinging the earth out of
its orbit and readjusting, while improving upon, the creator's
work.  What puzzles me to this day, is that my father seemed to
accept these ravings at their face-value--though maybe the
revelations which followed a few years later made it appear
somewhat less astonishing.  I was, after all, a true scion of his

But you must not imagine that I went idle, for I did not.  My work
lacked simply that measure of coordination which might have made it
useful for the purpose of earning a living when the necessity
arose.  I mastered, for instance, five modern languages, wrote an
occasional tract in tolerable Latin, and read Homer and Plato with
great fluency before I was twenty-two.  I dabbled in Mathematics
and in Science, and even attended courses in Medicine.  Theology
and Jurisprudence were about the only two fields of human endeavour
which I shunned altogether.

Meanwhile, having seen in an incidental way a good deal of Europe,
I longed for more extensive travel.  In my reading I had, so I
thought, pretty well exhausted the literatures of the world--
difficile est satiram non scribere--and so there remained the world
itself to see.

An opportunity offered when an uncle of mine took a transcontinental
trip to Vladivostock--it was before the days of the completion of
the Trans-Siberian railroad.  I accompanied him and returned to
Europe by way of Japan and Singapore.  Hardly home again, I struck
at my father's pocketbook by asking him for ten thousand dollars to
finance a year's tour around Africa.  I got the money and made the
trip.  America beckoned--not so much Canada, or the "commercialised"
United States--both of which I despised--as Mexico and Peru with
their great traditions.

Then the entirely unexpected happened.

I asked my father for an interview and submitted to him my
intention of spending a year or two on the continent of America.
Without a word of argument or explanation, he drew his cheque-book,
made out a cheque, and pushed it across the table at which we were

We were in the library of his town-house, a high and imposing room
done in dark oak, with its walls nearly hidden by the vast array of
books which he had assembled during a half century of what I
imagined to have been a most successful career in the business of
raising trees for the reforesting activities of various governments
around the Baltic Sea.  He was the tallest and most distinguished
looking septuagenarian I have ever beheld.  To the very day of this
interview he had lived like a "grand seigneur" of the old school--
with three ideals: social prestige, liberal culture of the mind,
physical prowess.  He was six feet five inches tall, with a long,
narrow, still fair-haired head sitting on wide, straight shoulders,
and a slender body still under perfect control, encased in an
immaculate "morning-coat".  To imagine a man like him without money
would have been an absurdity.

I had asked him for ten thousand dollars.  When I glanced at the
cheque, as a preliminary to slipping it into my pocket, I saw that
it read for seven hundred and fifty.  The world seemed to reel--I
did not understand.  My father was looking at me with great and
expectant seriousness; but not without kindness.  It even seemed as
if behind his earnest and nearly anxious look there lingered in his
grey, white-lashed eyes a twinkle of humour.

Then he spoke substantially as follows.

"When fifty years ago, your mother married me, my boy, she brought
me about half a million in addition to the landed estate which I
owned.  My father had been a peasant, but a money-maker.  We have
been calling him a landed proprietor, probably to cover the
ignominy of our origins; but when he started out, he owned only a
very small farm.  He amassed property--under my hand it has melted
away.  To-day, after allowing for a fair valuation of all these
things that still go as mine"--he looked about as if he could cover
it all with a glance--"there are no more than ten thousand dollars
left.  I am glad that your sisters are married and provided for.
As for you, I might hand you what is left and blow my brains out.
You surmise that that is not my way.

"I have often longed to drop all pretence, to quit this 'mansion',"--
he smiled at the word--"and to retire into the country in order to
live as I should like to live; that is, to buy myself a small
cottage, with one or two rooms, to appoint it in the simplest
manner, and to prepare myself for the life to come by reading
about the life that is past.  These books which were the pride of
your mother were to be the consolation of my old age.  To put it
briefly, I am on the point of becoming a hermit.

"I might say in self-defence that during the half century of my
wedded life I have always lived in clothes which did not fit me.  I
married your mother because I loved her.  She married me because
she liked me.  I was young, brilliant, rich, a skilful spender.
She expected me to keep it up; I did not disappoint her.  She died
when it was time for her to go.  Since her death all my worries
have ceased because I am free to do as I please.  Ever since she
closed her eyes, I have been engaged upon the task of winding up my
affairs.  You have been away a good deal, or you would have been
aware of the fact that unusual things were going on.  I have
finished my task.  So much for myself.

"Now as to you.  For several days I have been worried about the
best way to broach the subject.  I am glad you introduced it

"You will acknowledge that I have been a good father.  I have given
you the most liberal opportunities to finish your education; I have
invariably and unstintingly supplied you with money or paid your
debts; I have sent you around the world and even kept up
appearances as far as I myself was concerned, in order to assist
you in those social aspirations which you have no doubt inherited
from your mother.  You are well liked everywhere; everywhere great
things are expected of you.  Among your closest friends are men of
letters, artists, scholars, men of the world, and diplomats.  All
you need to do in order to find promotion waiting for you is to
make a choice of whatever calling you prefer, and then disclose
your present position to the leading men in your chosen field; they
will place you where an honourable and successful career cannot
fail you.  I know you are a genius,"--he said it without the ghost
of a smile--"now is the time to show the world what you are.  That
little cheque will help you to get established."

I had listened under a spell; no thought of mine had been for the
cheque any longer.  I was so bewildered that I did not know what to
do or say.  At this mention of the cheque I looked at it and
impulsively pushed it across the table, back to him.

He laughed.  "No, no," he said; "I do not intend to leave you
stranded.  It would not be fair, I should feel worried.  You will
oblige me by keeping the trifle."

I crushed it into my pocket and ran over to him.  He gripped my
outstretched hand, but by that very move held me at a distance.
Then he said in an entirely unemotional but not unfriendly way,
"Don't let it for a moment enter your head that you should feel
sorry for me.  As I said, I am shaking off ill-fitting clothes in
order to be better fitted.  I see Paradise ahead."

With these words he ended the interview.  I left him alone.

There followed a series of other interviews.  The phrase, "Awfully
sorry, old man, but I don't see what I could do for you," recurred
more than a few times; in fact, till it became an obsession.  I
drank from Timon's cup.

Especially hard was I hit by the refusal of one of my former
friends, a young millionaire-writer whom I had, before he came into
his money, repeatedly treated to rather expensive hospitality; he
had made two trips with me, one to Paris, one to Venice; both had
been made at my invitation and at my expense--or rather, my
father's.  Now he refused me the loan of one thousand dollars which
I wanted in order to return to my studies and to pass such
examinations as would enable me to take advantage of the only
opening that any one could find for me.  This opening consisted in
a position as lecturer on archeological subjects offered by a few
university men who had been my disappointed teachers--disappointed,
because they, like others, had accepted me as a genius till I
dashed their expectations of what I might be and do to pieces by
my lack of perseverance along a definite and limited line of
endeavour.  This young millionaire--son of a manufacturer of
European fame--had the nerve, as I called it then, to point out to
me that he considered it a bad investment to loan money to a man
who intended to do nothing more lucrative than to embark upon a
university career.  I judge him somewhat more charitably to-day.

Meanwhile I had promptly though regretfully given up my habit of
travelling about in reserved sections of "trains-de-luxe" which
carried only first-class compartments.  Like other poor people I
bought third-class tickets for single seats; I frequented medium-
priced hotels, and generally adapted myself to my reduced
circumstances.  I sold a diamond-brooch left me by my mother and a
small steel sailing-craft which I had been keeping on the Baltic.
For nearly a year the proceeds of these and similar sales kept me
in funds.  The reader will wonder why I did not use this money to
put myself through my Ph.D.  Well, I can only say I wonder myself,
for I know as little about it as he does; but maybe it will appear
less incomprehensible later on, when we meet with more such
decisions and indecisions.  For one thing, though, the money came
in instalments; I did not, at first, think of parting with a legacy
of my mother's; she had, that I knew, intended it as a wedding-gift
to the woman that would be my wife; I held it in trust.  But the
reader might just as well understand from the outset that this
story of a few years of my life is not meant as an apotheosis.  I
do not intend in these pages to gloss over any actions of mine.
More than once, as my patient reader will find, I did not grasp
opportunity by the forelock when it passed my way.  If that is sin
or crime, I have paid the penalty and finally still worked out my
own salvation; that is all.  I even have to confess that the moment
I had the money which paid for my sailing-craft, about six hundred
dollars, I took one hundred dollars out of it, went to Paris, had
just one dinner at Paillard's, took the night-flyer back to
Brussels, and was by that one hundred dollars poorer.  It was not
so easy as it sounds to change from the habits of a young "man
about town" to those of a thrifty young scholar.

My father, meanwhile, had also gone to Paris and had, for the
remainder of his fortunes, bought a "rente viagère"--an annuity--
and a little cottage between Boulogne and Etaples--a coast which he
loved as I have always loved it.  He was fortunate; for at last he
realized his dream, even though only for a short time; and I can
imagine how he felt about it, taking it as a final reward for duty
well done during a lifetime of disguise.

There was consolation, and a good deal of poetry, too, in the fact
that he should have gone there to die; for that is exactly what he
did.  The letter-carrier found him dead on the concrete steps to
his hermitage, one morning late in spring, stricken down, so it
seemed, by a stroke of apoplexy.  It is a significant fact that I
received half a dozen letters from citizens of the nearby town--
Etaples--plain tradesmen, who spoke with a glowing enthusiasm of
this "gentilhomme" who had passed away.  In a shed belonging to his
cottage there were found sixty-three living rabbits, the pets of
his solitude.

When I received the news, I quietly and quickly wound up my little
affairs and took stock.  The only man whom I should have hated to
disappoint by failing to become a great man was dead.  Why
struggle?  My father's desire for a quiet life in obscurity had
become my own desire.  I was bleeding from bitter disappointments--
my state of mind was Byronic.

As it happened, being at the time at Stockholm, I met one evening,
in a certain famous cafe, a young Swedish nobleman with whom I had
been intimate, although originally he had been merely an
acquaintance from the tennis courts.  I was sitting at a small
table and brooding.  He entered, ushering in his two sisters,
brilliant young ladies with whom I had had many a dance.  I rose to
pay my compliments; but the trio passed me as if I had been air.

I paid my bill, went home to my hotel, counted my money, called up
the railway station, found that I could just catch a through-train
via Malmoe, Copenhagen, Hamburg, to Ostend, and thence a boat to
England, engaged a sleeper, and packed up.

I had, in a flash, made up my mind to leave Europe and all my old
associations behind.  Not that I felt really hurt or still cared to
rub elbows with nobility; but I did not want to be "cut" or snubbed
because I was no longer the son of a reputed millionaire.

While dozing in my berth, I determined upon a gamble.  Not for a
moment did it occur to me to go anywhere except into an Anglo-Saxon
country.  I might, of course, have appealed to one of my sisters; I
was too proud to do so.  Canada, the United States, South Africa,
or Australia--on one of these four my choice had to fall.  What I
resolved to do, was this.  I intended to step in at Cook's tourist-
office in London--on the Strand, if I remember right--and to ask
for the next boat which I stood any chance of catching, either at
Liverpool or at Southampton, no matter where she might be bound.
As it happened, when, a day or two later, I carried this idea out,
a White-Star liner was to weigh anchor next day, going from
Liverpool to Montreal.  The boat train was to leave Euston Station
the same night at ten o'clock.  I bought my passage--second cabin--
received a third-class railway ticket free of charge and--had burnt
my bridges.  Thus I became an immigrant into the western

As I have said, I was twenty-four years old at the time; it was
late in July.

While we were sailing up the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, I
naturally pondered a good deal on my venture.  I was starting a new
life at a time when I should have been well on in my old one.
Gradually some conceptions worked themselves out in my mind.  I
thought I had a very definite aim; and I imagined that I also had
some very definite assets to work with.  I did not realize at the
time how much I was also burdened down with very serious
disabilities which were to handicap me sorely in the American game
as I understood it.  My aim I conceived to be modest enough.  I
wanted to found a home and an atmosphere for myself.  Woman might
or might not enter into my scheme of things.  There was the picture
of a girl somewhere in the background of my mind, it is true; but I
thought of her with resignation only.  To do what might win her
seemed quite impossible.  I had met her in the heyday of my
fortunes at Palermo and attached myself to her orbit for a week or
so, following her to Rome, Venice, Vienna, Berlin.  Now she was one
of those infinitely distant stars which you still see because a few
centuries ago they sent out their light on its path, and it keeps
on travelling and reaching our globe, although the star that sent
it has perhaps long since been extinguished.

What I desired as an atmosphere was what I considered the
necessities for a life devoted to quiet studies, to the search for
contact with Nature, to service, unpretentious and unselfish
service of mankind.  Cicero's "otium cum dignitate" was what I
desired.  To this day I believe that to be a worthy aim.  To this
day I believe that we should be a better people, that our country
would be a better place to live in, good as it is even for him who
is without worldly ambition, if more people set themselves that
aim, no matter whether they are philosophically inclined or not.

Just what that meant in the way of a fortune, is hard to say.  But
I believe that even in our days of higher and higher costs the
interest on about forty thousand dollars would have covered all my
wants as I saw them then.  This I vaguely hoped to achieve in from
ten to twenty years.  You see that, as American expectations go,
mine were modest enough.

I had no definite plans.  It did not matter how I did it or what I
might do to reach my goal.  The aim was all-important, nothing else
of any consequence.  I have since lived to see the error in this.
To-day my maxim is, What is the goal to us who love the road?

I did not mind, then, what I might be doing, so long as for the
time being it yielded me a decent living and enabled me besides
year after year to lay by a certain sum, sufficient to insure my
independence within a reasonable time.

I thought a good deal of a man whom I had known as a dignified
member of the small but select English colony at Dresden.  His
calling-card showed a "The Hon." in front of his name; and while I
knew him, he had lived the quiet and independent life of a scholar
of wide views and large experience; not a brilliant, but a carefree
life.  I had admired him for his perfect form and breeding; and I
had always assumed that he probably had never done anything useful
in his life, beyond setting an example of noble leisure to the
younger men of whom he ever had a circle surrounding him.  But one
day I had received a revelation.  It so happened that I became
very intimate with one of these younger men, a physician who had
known him for a number of years and who possessed his confidence
to an unusual degree.  Now this young doctor one day told me 
confidentially that the honourable gentleman had been exceedingly
poor when young.  So he had gone to South Africa and learned the
business of an hotel-keeper.  He had successively been the porter,
the clerk, the manager, and the owner of a small-town hotel, had
lived there for twelve years under an assumed name, had "made his
pile", and returned to Europe to step back into his proper place in

In my meditations about this man I found only one thing which I
could not approve of.  I could not bring myself to the point of
thinking it right of him to return to the haunts of his youth.  He
should have stayed in the country of his adoption, I thought,
paying with his culture-influence for the money he had taken out.
Viewing as I did the colonials as probably sorely in need of such
influence, I vowed to myself that, if ever I should succeed in my
endeavours, I should settle down wherever I had "made my pile" and
spend it, thus paying back my debt and throwing in my influence for
good, such as it might be, by way of interest.  Ecce homo!
Crucified to ease and honour.

Another resolve I made was this that, no matter what line of work I
might follow, as a cog in a machine to start with, of course--I
meant to be quite modest--I should always do a little better than
my mere duty, and, if such were possible, not only a little, but a
good deal better.  In this I was honest enough, for there was
really no need of taking such a resolution; I am temperamentally
unable to do anything by halves while I am at it; though, also
temperamentally, I am next to unable to stay with it for very long
if it completely absorbs my energies.  I have to this very day not
yet made up my mind as to whether this is a weak point or a strong
one.  It has, on the one hand, prevented me from achieving any very
conspicuous success along a single, definite line; on the other, it
has given me a range of experience in various fields, a knowledge
of men, things, processes, languages, and even nations, which I
should never have achieved without this defect.

Some of the pages which follow may read like a huge indictment of
the Americas.  I can assure the patient reader that they were never
meant as such.  Whoever follows me to the end, will see the
unmistakable intention of this book.  I have, of course, had bitter
hours since I first landed on the banks of the St. Lawrence River.
I have sometimes felt inclined, in a spirit of accusation, to put
down my education among the liabilities rather than among the
assets.  I have long since learned to smile at my discomfitures and
to think with pleasure even of things that were horrors in the

I want to state with all due emphasis that this is the story of an
individual, and that I do not mean to put it down as typical except
in certain attitudes towards phenomena of American life--attitudes
which later study and work among hundreds of immigrants have shown
me to be typical.  If then, with this distinct understanding, there
is no lesson left for the American to learn, that is to say, if
parts at least of this story do not uncover weak spots in a great
organization, then let these pages go into oblivion as they will


I Land on American Soil

At Montreal, when at last I stood in the huge hall of the pier at
which the steamer had docked, I felt incongruous and out of place.
I felt forlorn, helpless, depressed when I stood there, in front of
my fourteen pieces of luggage, with half a dozen overcoats on my
arm and a camera in my hand.  In thinking of him now, I cannot but
smile, I cannot but pity the slim youth in his immaculate clothes,
the mere boy I was.

I shall try to describe how I must have looked.

I was six feet three inches tall, with a waist-measure of twenty-
six inches.  Hands and feet were narrow and long; my shoulders had
begun to stoop.  My hair was exceedingly fair--of that ancestral
Scandinavian fairness that makes me to this day appear like a much
younger man than I am.  My eyes were blue, arched over by bushy,
yellow brows, and set rather deeply in a long, narrow face with a
somewhat receding chin.

Add to that a certain diffidence in demeanour--the diffidence of
him who is on unfamiliar ground--and the considerate politeness of
the man who is used to look upon most of the people he deals with
as socially his inferiors--as to be treated with kindliness because
they must suffer from the mere fact that they are what they happen
to be--none of their fault, of course; they did not mean to be born
as such; I was quite tolerant about it: add that, and you will be
able to judge what was in store for him in the matter of wounded
susceptibilities and mental jolts.  Fortunately for the young man,
he had also been trained from his earliest days never to betray an
emotion, to keep his mask intact.

He was young; and though of a serious cast of mind, he nevertheless
looked upon his undertaking--for the moment at least--as something
of an adventure, as something that could not help but satisfy, in
part at least, his great curiosity as to life, and, after all, as
something, too, that might not be so utterly irretrievable as it
would seem.  At last the customs-official reached my pile.  I
remember distinctly the difficulties I had in convincing this man
that I was not bringing all these clothes into the country in order
to open a haberdasher's shop, but for personal wear.  I had to show
him the sleeve-holes of every suit as a proof that it had been
worn.  I also remember that what convinced him at last was my hat-
box which contained a silk hat, two derbies, a sailor, and three or
four caps.  He seemed to accept the silk-hat as conclusive evidence
of my good faith.

"Going to tour the country, sir?" he enquired; and I thought it
best to let it go at that.  "Thank you, sir."  And, his manner
changed, he touched his cap and walked away.

Two porters stood waiting with a truck.  "Cab, sir?"

"No.  Toronto Express.  Grand Trunk, if you please."

I must, at the risk of seeming tedious, point out the significance
of this answer.  I have since gone back to Montreal and studied the
city.  At that time it did not occur to me that there might be
something to interest me in Canada's metropolis.  As far as cities
were concerned, I knew only three in the world that had ever
appeared to me worthy of a visit for their own sakes: London,
Paris, and Rome.  What I saw in them was the setting they gave to
their treasures of Art and their jewels of Architecture.  It is
true, the boulevards of Paris had a further significance for me as
the drawing-room, if I may say so, which a great nation had set up
for itself to receive its guests in, or as the screen which it had
raised before peering eyes to disguise its real mentality, made up
of thrift and common sense.  I considered Naples, Stockholm,
Constantinople as beautiful spots in nature, not as beautiful
cities; for me they had been placed where they stood like
stagepieces to add a touch of colour which was missing in the
landscape.  To look upon them, to be interested in them primarily
as the abodes of human beings, had never entered my mind.

Nature, Science, and Art--these three were the great realities;
what here, in the western hemisphere, forms the first and most
essential problem of every citizen--his own success in life, his
place in the community--that was for me at the time a mere detail,
a trifle to be attended to in due time, but which did not need to
engross my thoughts too much.  Art and Science I did not expect to
find in this new world.  Remained nature.  Nature, I am sorry to
say, meant to me then what it emphatically does not mean to me now;
in America I might have summarized it under the headings Niagara,
Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and maybe the Yosemite and the Big
Trees.  Everything else was negligible in my estimation.

Now the reader may seem to see in this a certain contradiction to
what would seem the natural attitude of the immigrant towards the
country of his adoption.  He must not forget that reasoning in an
abstract way is one thing, and overcoming instincts and leanings
that are born and bred into one's innermost being, quite another.
I might even go a step further in order unmistakably to define
where I stood at the time.  As for America, without ever reasoning
about it, it would have occurred to me as soon to look for Apollos
of Belvedere in Toronto, as to read an American book for anything
beyond a certain amount of information.  Nor had I learnt as yet to
stand transfixed when looking at the Titan frescoes of light
effects on clouds of smoke from iron-furnace or railroad-yard.  I
had not even begun to look for, much less to find, in such things,

And as for the problems which absorb the best thinking of the
western world--the great questions of the social adjustments, the
ethnological difficulties as between Frenchman and Anglo-Saxon,
Indian and Whiteface, Negro and Caucasian--I should have dismissed
them with a shrug of my shoulders as trifles not worthy to occupy
such an exalted intelligence as my own.  And yet I had come to this
country in order to win my daily bread!  Whatever there was in me
of humility was a reasoned acquisition of my intellect; it had not
penetrated within my skin.  In spite of my very distinct
determination not to form a little island of Europe in the American
environment I needed only to let myself go, and I was a hot-house
plant, used to artificial atmospheres.  Rude draughts of the fresh
air of a newer world were required to awaken me fully.

I missed, then, in this opportunity to see, and to get the flair
of, a city which to-day holds for me the strongest and strangest
fascination.  Why I had chosen Toronto as the place to make my
first stand in, I do not remember; no doubt I had some reason which
seemed compelling at the time.

One of the first impressions I had, coming as I did from crowded
Europe, was that of spaciousness.  The big station, the roominess
of the waiting-hall, the height of the train-shed, and--as I walked
along the platform to my car--the length and apparent solidity of
the railway-carriages themselves did not fail to awe me a little
though I did not show it in the impenetrable mask of my face.  I
forbore Parlor-car and Sleeper--my train left about midnight--which
may and may not have argued for a certain sense of proportion.

When I first entered the smoker of the train, I experienced my
first distinct shock.  I had, while crossing the Atlantic, studied
a guide-book for tourists on the American continent.  I knew that
most trains carried only first-class coaches.  Still, I had--
unreasonably enough, of course--expected something of the genteel
exclusiveness of an English or Continental first-class coach.  I
was shocked when instead I saw shirt-sleeved elbows, overalled
knees, tramping boots, and collarless necks as the only things
which protruded above the rattan-covered backs of the seats.  The
evidences of proficiency gained in the art of squeezing your body,
no matter in what seemingly impossible position, into a reclining
posture on a seat which was evidently meant as a mute reproof for
all those who ventured to travel at night in a "day-coach" were no
less amazing to me.  I believe that, with a sinking feeling in my
heart, I feared that, after all, I might not fit in with a
civilization which apparently lavished its wealth on the "navvy".
But, of course, since I was accompanied by what I had already
learned to call a red-cap, no feature of my face betrayed the least
unfamiliarity with what to me was truly a revelation.

The red-cap reversed the back of a seat in the centre of the car,
dropped my suit-case into the space, thus created between two
backs, held out his hand, and departed upon receiving a half-dollar
which I had in readiness.

I sat down and tried desperately to seem at ease.  The large
expanses of costly woods, which were left without the elaborate
carvings of European de-luxe trains--meant to disguise the inferior
materials used--delighted my eye, which at the same time was
scandalized by the cowardly indulgence in puny decorativeness
displayed in the brasswork of the lamps.  Since I could not
reconcile the two things--which is always the case where bad taste
is obtruded--the former ended by impressing me with a sense of
braggadocio.  The whole aspect of the car jarred upon me; for a few
moments I felt very uncomfortable.  I felt that what I saw was
typical for my new environment; it made me afraid.  During these
first minutes in the train I resolved, no matter what might happen,
to hold on to enough of my money to pay my fare back to Europe.
The reader will see by and by whether this resolution was kept.

Another surprise, this time an agreeable one, was in store when the
train started on its gliding motion out of the shed; it went off
without the shouting and excitement which I was accustomed to from
overland trains in Europe.  "Here is sound sense," I said to
myself; "this vehicle starts as if that was its business in the
world, not as if it were doing something against the laws of
Nature."  In Europe it had always seemed to me as if people were
highly indignant and full of anxious protests when we dared to

To others also I must have looked incongruous in that scantily
occupied smoker.  A glance convinced me that, although I had four
seats to myself, without careful preliminary schooling any attempt
to stretch out and to sleep would have proved disastrous to my
dignity.  And so far I was not prepared to let go of that precious
possession of the new arrival.  If any one remotely or closely
resembling myself should ever read this record before he starts out
on a similar enterprise, I have an advice for him:  Let him travel
steerage--he will learn a great many useful things and at the same
time get rid of the cumbersome impediment of his dignity before he
reaches the blessed shores; but, of course, if he really resembles
me, he will certainly not be thus advised.

I sat, then, stiffly on my sat, next the window, looking out into
the dark and feeling suddenly embarked upon things desperate and
suicidal.  The empty space at my side was taken up by the stack of
my overcoats; the opposite seat was vacant.

By and by I ventured again to look about in the car.  On the other
side of the aisle there sat in a seat, whose back was also
reversed, a smallish, middle-aged man with a clean-shaven, puckered
face and in the apparel of a poorly-paid clerk, as I judged at the
time; I should know better to-day.  He had propped his shoulder-
blades against the window-frame, rested his right foot on the arm-
rail of the seat, and had flung his right hand over its back.  His
left hand--the elbow digging into the very edge of the seat--held a
pipe at which he sucked in a reflective and disengaged way while
staring at me.  The very relaxation of his attitude somehow
prejudiced me against this man, whom nevertheless I envied for
being at ease.  I tried to look out of the window again; but soon
my eye returned to the stranger.  Apparently he had not moved; he
was still engaged in what impressed me as staring.  Without looking
directly at him, I began to study his appearance.  In spite of my
irritation at being so openly appraised and weighed, I was fair
enough to admit to myself that very likely he was quite a good-
natured fellow who did not mean any harm.  In fact, at last I
arrived at the conclusion that he was not really staring at all,
that he did not even see me; that his gaze had absent-mindedly
taken the direction it held by mere blind chance.

I was on the point of dismissing all thought of him when he
suddenly started an amazing series of motions--screwing himself up,
as it were, till he stood on his feet; and then he lounged in a
dangling, disjointed way across the aisle.

He dropped into the vacant seat opposite myself and remarked, "Fine

"Beautiful," I assented with a reserve that hardly fitted the

Five minutes passed in silence, with myself staring out of the
window.  I felt expectant, no longer hostile.

"Green here?" he asked in a casual way.

I had been ready to confide in him, to get as much information out
of him as I could; but the word "green" shot me back into my shell.

"Beg your pardon?" I countered stiffly.

"Been in this country long?"  And this time there was so much
understanding sympathy in his voice that I looked straight into his

"Well . . . no," I faltered; "not exactly, sir. . . .  Fact
is. . . .  Well, I arrived to-night."

He blew a thread of smoke through his teeth.  "Thought as much," he

I believe my pulse went at one hundred and twenty beats to the
minute.  I was afraid he might hear the sledgehammer knock in my

Now I want to say a word in praise of the young man that I was.
Three weeks before, I should not have spoken to this stranger at
all.  If, by any chance, he had done something to oblige me--if he
had, let me say, helped me with my baggage in a crowded station
building where it was impossible to secure a porter--I should have
slipped him a handsome tip and dismissed him with "Obliged, my
man!"  Had he, on the other hand, by mere reprehensible
ostentation, spent the savings of his labour on a first-class
railway-ticket, in order to pry upon his "betters", and had he, in
addition, by mere giddiness or unaccountable failure to realize his
"place in life", ventured to address me in a public conveyance--I
should have frozen him, annihilated him with one of those glassy
stares for which I had been famous among my former friends, one of
whom used to say, "Phil can put more opprobrium into one of his
fish-eyes than you can cull out of an unemasculated Shakespeare in
a day."  And here, after only an hour or so on Canadian soil, I was
actually answering this man's questions--yes, I had already
irrevocably committed myself to his tender mercies by confessing to
that most heinous of all crimes--a crime which also involves the
most humiliating admission of abject inferiority: "greenness"! . . .
I believe that was the first step in my Americanization.

Very likely the look of the criminal betrayed me; and that in spite
of the fact that I did my utmost to preserve my mask in impeccable
perfection.  But it cost me an effort, and the effort involved
self-consciousness.  Nobody who is self-conscious can get away with
the pretence that he is at ease when he confronts a man who by gift
or training is used to read human nature at a glance.

That this man read me, appeared from his next remark.  "Hm," he
drawled reflectively, "I shouldn't feel badly about it, me boy."

Imagine him calling me "boy"--me who had been rubbing elbows with
dukes and lords.  But more than in anything else, the rapid
progress of my Americanization showed in the fact that I yielded
myself to the simple good-will with which this stranger stooped
from his superior status to one apparently so raw in the ways of
the country as I was.

"Good many of us have been there," he went on.  "I've been just
there meself."  He sucked at his pipe.

"Have you?" I asked politely.

He nodded in a pensive sort of way, still absent-mindedly sucking
his cold pipe.  "Yea," he said, "sure.  Twenty-seven years ago."

That remark startled me into sudden admiration.  The casual way in
which he made it placed him high, very high indeed, in my esteem.
I had been in this country an hour and a half maybe; he, twenty-
seven years!  I was nearly tempted, I think, to figure out what
multiple twenty-seven years might be of an hour and a half.  It was
overwhelming.  I had been under the impression that this was a
young country.  Young indeed!  The man had been here before I was

"Great country," he continued after a while, "great country!  Want
to go on the land?"

I had not thought of that as a possibility; but I said, "I might."

"Want to look around first, eh? . . .  Good thing to do."  And
again he sucked his pipe for some time.  "Hardly seem the type," he
drawled, "hardly the build. . . .  Better try the city, I'd say.
Know a trade?"

"No," I confessed.  Somehow I did not like to tell him that I was a
linguist, that I had been deep in studies of classical archeology.
I was afraid I might sink too low in his estimation by admitting
scholarly propensities.

"Have a stake, I suppose?"

I did not know what a stake was; but the tone of his words seemed
to imply that not to have what he meant might be a serious handicap
or even a disgrace.  So I answered precipitously, "Oh yes, of

"That's good," he said in the most indifferent manner possible;
"will enable you to look around."

And from that I guessed at the meaning of the word.

He seemed lost in thought.  He had resumed his former attitude on
the seat, only, of course, with the sides reversed.  Now he lifted
his right foot high up and put it negligently but accurately on top
of the stack of my overcoats.  I suffered pangs, for I was
exceedingly particular about my clothes; but not by the slightest
flicker of an eyelash did I betray my agony.  I was too much afraid
of losing this only link which so far connected me with that human
world in which I meant to strike root.

The train went rickety, rackety, rumble, rumble, wheel on rail.
Like ghosts huge trees shot by in the dark.  Hills loomed, lakes
gleamed, towns slipped silently back into the behind; distance was
devoured.  Half an hour passed in silence.

"Great country," my fellow-traveller drawled again.  "Crossed over
from Liverpool?"

"Yes," I replied, glad to hear his voice once more.

And after a while he went on.  "My home-town, that.  Foul with
poverty.  Won't see much poverty here."

I felt glad of it.  I was fleeing from the very threat of poverty.

"Most anybody makes a living here. . . .  Me boy there--only
fifteen--that's him, over there--he's sleeping--learns jeweller's
trade--gets ten a week . . ."

Ten a week?  Surely he did not mean dollars!  TEN DOLLARS A WEEK!
A BOY OF FIFTEEN!  When I should have gladly used the whole of my
education and worked every hour of my waking day for one hundred
and fifty pounds a year?  He could not mean shillings either, could
he?  I tried to find out without betraying my ignorance.

"How much do you have to pay for board?" I asked.

"Well-l," he drawled, rolling the 'l' like a quid in his mouth.  "I'm
boarding meself, me and the boy.  We pay five dollars a week.  Can
get it for four, mebbe.  But when a man works, he needs the grub."

I wondered.  Had he no home?  But my question was answered.  The
boy did get ten dollars a week.  A WEEK!

My fellow-traveller relapsed into silence.  Then he proceeded; and
it took me quite a while to make out what the connection was; so
much was I startled by the visions of possible wealth that arose.

"Can pay six.  More, I've heard."

I mustered all my courage.  I felt that, even though I might be
encroaching on dangerous ground, even though I might be "prying",
much was to be forgiven to a raw arrival like myself.

"Pretty good for the boy," I said, "saving five a week."

"Oh, he ain't saving," he replied; and his tone held a note of
contempt.  "Doesn't even buy his own clothes.  Money's got a knack
of dribbling away in this country.  A dime here, a nickel there.
Soda-fountain, show, Sundaes,--they're the curse of the nation--
leastways, unless ye're a drinking man.  Then, it's treating."

What could he mean?  Sundays?  I did not enquire, however, for fear
of betraying too great an ignorance for his patience.

"Save!" he went on contemptuously.  "Of course, I don't say no.
Been a saving man meself all me life.  But then it had taken me and
me wife five years to lay by sufficient to pay my passage across.
The old lady stayed behind till I should have got a foothold."

Who might the old lady be?  His wife?

"That's how ye learn to be careful.  And when the old lady died--
I brought her over, y'know.  Took me three months here to save
HER passage--longest three months in me life--was young then,
y'know. . . .  Well-l as I was saying, when she died, I kept right
on, don't just rightly know why.  Sold the house, of course.  And
the only thing I ever treated myself to, was a trip back home, all
over the old country, in state--cost me five hundred, mind ye--But
then, I didn't need to earn it--was just a year's rent on some
property I own.  Didn't like it, though--back over yonder.  I
mean . . ."  And he relapsed into silence again.

Five hundred dollars the rent on some property?  Twenty-seven years
in this country?  The man must be wealthy!  And surely, he did not
have much of an education.

"What . . ." I began diffidently and stopped.  "May I . . . I do
not want to be inquisitive, you know.--Might I ask you what your
profession is?" I blurted out at last.

"Me?  I?" he asked.  "Perfession?  That's a good one, me boy.  Used
to heave coal in the docks over yonder.  I?  I'm foreman in the
packing-room at Simpson's, T'ronto. . . .  I'm making thirty-five a
week, and extra for overtime, because that's what ye really want to

"I'm sorry," I started apologetically, for I felt that I must have
offended him.

But he interrupted me in his drawling, indifferent way.  "Not at
all," he said; "if ye have any more questions, shoot.  Glad to be
of help--if it helps . . ."

I was impressed.  My clothing, I counted, would last me for years
without renewing.  This man, to all intents and purposes a
labourer, was making thirty-five dollars a week.  His board cost
him five dollars.  Thirty dollars a week would amount to fifteen
hundred dollars a year in savings.  If I laid by, let me say, a
thousand a year, my goal would seem within reach.  I felt quite
elated.  I, with my education, my knowledge of the world, of
languages, countries--with my appearance!  A subtle change, I
suppose, crept over me.  I believe my fellow-traveller noticed
something of the sort.

He sat up.  Not suddenly, nor in one continuous motion.  I could
see by the slow, successive stages in which he lifted himself to
his feet that age had him in its grip.  Not that he was really old--
past fifty, maybe; nor did he suffer from any very pronounced
infirmity.  But somehow I could not imagine myself ever getting up
that way--unless life in this country used human bodies up to a
greater extent, at a faster rate than it did in Europe.

"You look around for a while," he said when at last he was
standing.  "Steer clear of bars and soda-fountains and shows.  It
doesn't much matter what ye do.  Read the ads in the papers. . . .
Clerking seems to be y'r line.  Not much in that, though.  But
mind, whatever ye do, STICK!  Nothing in drifting.  One thing's
about as bad as the next one.  Might just as well stick--Well-l, I
guess I want to doze a little.  Look me up if ye want to.
Simpson's.  Ask for Bennett."

With a nod of his head and a push of his arms he propelled his body
so that it landed in his former seat across the aisle.

I had risen to my feet; but he did not offer his hand; nor did he
give me a chance to thank him for so much kindness shown to a young
man as green as I must have appeared to him.  I sat down again.

"One thing is about as bad as the next one," he had said.  "As
good," he had meant.  I read him in a kindly spirit.

Rickety, rackety, went the train; rumble, rumble, wheel on rail.  I
looked out through the window again, into the dark.  The vastness
of it all!  It was disquieting!  Sleep was impossible, I had food
for thought.


I Secure Work

I had rented a room, without board, for two dollars a week.  I do
not remember the street nor the exact location.  It was somewhere
east of Yonge Street, in a quiet, residential place.  Restful it
might have been; but for me, of course, there was no rest.

Beginning with the second day of my stay at Toronto, I began to
look for work.  The stranger in the train had advised me to study
the advertisements in the daily papers; that is what I did.  Since
I meant to save in the most desperate way, I did not even buy the
papers.  Every morning and every night I went to the various
newspaper offices, waiting till the sheets were put on file for
inspection.  Armed with a note book and a pencil, I made a list of
all the positions that were offered and which I thought I could
fill.  Luck was against me.  I remember as typical one incident in
this first heart-breaking initiation into the chase.  A steam-
laundry had advertised for a clerk, "apply there and there at 4
p.m."  I went at three, an hour ahead of time, and found a queue of
fifty or more applicants waiting.  I did not get the impression
that "help" was scarce in the city; it seemed to me rather that
work was scarce.  To this very day I have not yet succeeded in
reconciling the contradictory statements which you hear according
as you are interviewing those who are looking for help or those who
are looking for work.  The position was filled, of course, before
it came to be my turn.

Far and away the majority of the advertisements began with the
words, "Wanted, an experienced . . ." whatever it was.  Experience
was what I lacked no matter what the line of business might be.  I
did not dare to apply.

There were also many advertisements grouped together under the
heading "Agents wanted."  Some of them stated expressly,
"Experience unnecessary" or "We teach you".  A number of these I
answered.  Most of the men who received me did not give me a chance
to say much.  "I am afraid we cannot do business with you."
"Sorry; get rid of your brogue, and we might see."  Such were two
of the answers I received most frequently.  Ever recurring there
came the question, "How long have you been in this country?"
Gradually, during a week of heart-breaking and desperate endeavour,
the conviction was borne in upon me that my appearance--among other
things the plainly old-country cut of my suits--stood in the way of
my success.  The man I met sized me up, with a brief, searching
look, saw how "green" I was, and dismissed me curtly, sometimes not
even troubling to be civil about it.

Three or four of these advertisements led me to men, however, who
spoke differently.  They were polite and exceedingly sympathetic,
even to subserviency.  Invariably I found after much preliminary
conversation that what they were after was not my services but my
money.  To hear them, it was astonishing what a small amount
invested would do for me.  It was astonishing, too, that the sum
needed for a start in their particular line of business was always
within a few dollars of what I actually had.  Not that a larger sum
would not have been highly desirable.  Since I was to double or
treble my money within a week or a fortnight, the larger the amount
with which I started, the larger, too, of course, the profits to be
garnered.  According to them most Canadian millionaires had begun
with pretty accurately two hundred and fifty dollars.  Unfortunately
for them and, as far as I know, for myself as well, I was altogether
too regretfully reluctant to part with my money even for so short a
space of time as a single week.  I came to the point where I felt
discouraged the moment a man treated me with common courtesy.

Meanwhile I learned to know the city fairly well.  I began to get
used to the fact that the amazingly numerous churches advertised
their services in various ways--a fact that had greatly shocked me
at first.  I assimilated the ways of dairy-lunch rooms and high-
stool counters.  And I became convinced that women who walked or
rode about unattended, flaunting their clothes in fashions more
"outré" than I had ever seen them at Paris or Nice, could not
necessarily be put down as belonging to the "half-world."  It is
not meant as a criticism if I state that before I was inured to the
finer wrinkles of American fashions, it seemed to me as if shop-
girl and well-to-do "bourgeoise" alike tried their utmost to look
identically like a "cocotte".

Sunday came.  All morning I rode around the city on a belt-line
car, looking down from the heights over the spacious or huddled
streets and feeling baffled, defeated, miserable.  I reproached
myself for not having called at Simpson's the day before.  I needed
a cheering-up about as badly as anybody can need it at any time.
Pride had stood in my way.  Surely, I must be good for something?
Surely, I could somewhere find a breach to take this fortress?  For
by this time I looked upon my fellow-applicants for positions as
defenders against me, the intruder.  I did not like to look Bennett
in the eye once more as somebody prowling about "on the outside".
I was willing to do no matter what.  His boy was making ten dollars
a week; and I was to fall down?  That was what I had said to myself
that Saturday night.

By noon I felt the need of company so strongly that, after taking a
frugal lunch, I went to the beach.  Merely to see humanity, I
thought, would help me.  But I was by this time so thoroughly
discouraged that I saw whatever presented itself to my eyes through
the darkened glasses of doom.  The beach houses struck me as
flimsy, the picnic grounds of the island as litters of paper and
left-overs of lunches, the crowds as a rabble.  Not even the trees
or the lake made any appeal.  Nothing seemed to be able to pull me
out of my wretched self-consciousness and alarm.

Then I sat down on a bench.  I did some searching and thinking.  I
thought of the associations of my past, and I began to see even
them in a new light.

My criticism probed into the lives and careers of all the young men
I had known over yonder.  Those who apparently had been the most
independent, had been so because they had inherited money.  In
other words, they had been parasites!  I was horror-struck at the
word.  Looking back at it now, I am chiefly struck by the ease with
which this young man slipped into socialist views and phraseologies
as soon as he was stripped of his social pretensions.  That could
not have happened in Europe--not, at least, at the time; and since
the conditions of that time are rapidly passing away, I might add
another word.  No matter how miserable I might--in Europe--have
felt in my innermost heart, the mere deference shown by
"subordinates" to my appearance, my bearing, and my clothes would
have kept up the pretence of a certain superiority.  In Europe I
should have lapsed into the most comfortable of all deceptions,
self-commiseration: "a smile on the lips, and death in my heart".
Here I was simply roused to revolt.  Nobody paid the slightest
attention to me.  If in all this gaiety a girl or a boy had a look
for me at all, the girl betrayed no admiration in her eye, the boy
felt not subdued by my mere presence.  This was truth!

Parasites, yes!  And those who had not inherited any money, or not
enough to make them entirely "independent", had dropped into
careers which were carefully prepared and prearranged for them.
These careers were like the track of a railway roadbed.  The young
men were like the trains.  They did not go where they listed; they
went where the rails might lead.  Tradition governed them all.  Of
course, I was thinking of the young men of my own class only; the
lower strata of society I did not know.  I thought of Niels, André,
van Els, and Sidney; I tried to figure them--who had been
successful as young professional men--in my situation.  Why, they
would have been as helpless--more helpless than I was.  How easy it
seemed to follow the beaten road--how different to go out as a

But, had not that beaten road stretched before myself as well?  If
only I had known from the beginning that I must go it?  But should
I have done so?  Was I to go back?  It would still have been easy.
I should have been away for a month or so--on a trip across the
Atlantic.  Nobody needed to know what desperate thoughts had held
me in their grip.  Deep in my innermost heart I should be possessed
of a wisdom beyond all their wisdom--of that knowledge which comes
from having looked down into that deadly maelstrom which is real
life reduced to its lowest terms.  There were still possibilities.
I could still drop into this or that; could surely make some kind
of a living by stepping down somewhat lower than I had so far
contemplated while I was thinking of Europe.

But I knew.  As soon as I began to face the thought of turning
back, I knew that all that was impossible now.  I was like one who
has received a revelation.  Here I was in a different world.  Here
I stood entirely on my own feet.  Whatever I might have to go
through, if finally I arrived somewhere, if I achieved something,
no matter how little, it would be my own achievement; I must be I.

Could a man starve in this great country?  If so, starve I would.
Could a man go under, plunge below the surface into that underworld
which we call crime?  Well and good; rather become a criminal than
turn back on the road!  Here I was, and here I should stay!
Somewhere, somehow I should find a place, a niche into which I
fitted or could fit myself; and when I had found it, then it would
be time for the final search after equilibrium and happiness, not

Monday morning's search through the back-pages of the early papers
raised a hope.  There were two advertisements calling for waiters
in restaurants.  I was willing to do no matter what.  I neglected
everything else and took note of the two addresses.  One of them
was on King Street, the other on Yonge Street.

I found both places at once and discovered that neither would be
open before eight o'clock.  The one on King Street was a large
affair occupying the ground-floor of a business block.  It looked
cosy and exclusive; the huge windows being hung with wide lace-
curtains flanked by heavy draperies.  Nothing but a monogram woven
into the lace of the curtains indicated the name of the place.
Through the film of their patterns I caught sight of many small
tables deeply hung with immaculate linen.

The one on Yonge Street consisted of a low, narrow building
squeezed in between two tall and massive structures.  It displayed
fruit and fowl in two uncurtained windows which flanked a double-
plate-glass door.  Through the glass of this door I caught sight of
a booth built into the right-hand side of the entrance, and, in the
booth, of a cash-register.  To the left of the long, narrow dining-
room there stretched a long, narrow counter with glass-cases on top
in which a white-smocked attendant was arranging pies and pastry.
As far as I could see, the place was quite as clean as you could
wish.  I crossed over to the other side of the street; from there I
saw that a large, black-glass sign with gilt letters five feet high
ran across the entire front of the building.  "Johnson's Café" the
inscription read.  A similar, but smaller sign, fastened over the
door, bore the words, "The Business Man's Lunch."

In my former, old-world days I should not have been doubtful as to
which of the two places I was to enter as a customer.  I was still
too close to that past not to make up my mind instantly to try the
place on King Street first.

The very moment its door was unlocked I entered the restaurant.  A
smooth-shaved young man in a smoking-jacket tried with a bow and a
smile to take charge of me and to conduct me to a seat in the rear
of the room, where a huge balcony overroofed half its area.  I
noticed a semicircular space jutting out from the centre of that
balcony, which seemed to indicate that music would be provided for
the dinner-hour.

The young man nearly succeeded by his winning manner in changing
me, to the profit of his employers, from an applicant for a
position into a customer, such was his hypnotic masterfulness in
sweeping me forward.  In fact, I am afraid, nothing but the
lamentable circumstance that all my currency was hidden away in my
hat-box and that, unfortunately, I did not carry the hat-box with
me, prevented his complete success.

When I realized this phase of the situation, I stopped him short.
"Pardon me," I said; "I do not intend to take anything just now.  I
should like to see the manager."

He turned.  "I am sorry," he regretted.  "Mr. Wainwright is not in
yet.  Maybe you could find it convenient to drop in again about
noon, sir?  Or might I deliver a message?"  He still spoke with
that compelling, frank, hypnotic smile on his face and with
undoubted, nearly ingratiating deference in his tone.

"I read an ad in the paper this morning . . ." I began tentatively.

Instantly his features changed.  His lips straightened, the smile
dropped out of his eyes.  Instead, a grey, steely scrutiny sprang
into them.  He stood rigidly erect, a medium-sized, alert business
man.  When I was a boy, I had a "caleidoscope" given to me, a
brass-tube resembling a telescope, with a great number of tiny,
coloured glass-plates cut in various geometric shapes and set into
the wider objective end.  When you aimed this instrument at the
light, you looked through an eye-piece at a many-coloured mosaic;
and when you rotated the tube slowly in front of your eye,
suddenly, as a certain point in the rotation was reached, all these
little coloured glass-plates would fall into a different
arrangement, tumbling about for a fraction of a second in apparent
confusion; then, with a slight, clicking sound, a new mosaic
presented itself, differing from the first in its general effect
and in its figure, but not in its component parts.  The change in
the face of the young man was like that, as sudden and as
surprising.  The component parts of the face were still the same;
but the expression was altogether new.  The salesman had changed
into a buyer.

"Looking for work?" he asked curtly.  "I am the captain.  I hire
the help.  Vous parlez Français?"

"Parfaitement," I replied.  This question restored my confidence;
after all, my knowledge was going to count in this business!  I
spoke with my best Parisian accent.  I exulted, for I could see
that he accepted a single word as sufficient evidence of my
linguistic proficiency.  But then came the word which instantly
dashed all my hopes to the ground.

"Experienced, of course?"

"No-o," I replied hesitatingly.

"How long have you been here?"

"A week or so."

"Just came over?"


Observe the climax in his questions.

He looked at me with a firm, quiet, thoughtful glance.  Like
another kaleidoscopic view kindliness replaced in his face the
eager scrutiny.  I remember that I liked him immensely because he
did not at once lower his eye to look at my clothes.  He sized me
up from my face alone.  I fairly longed for him to say, "I shall
give you a chance."

Then he spoke; and a feeling of hopelessly sliding down into the
bottomless void took hold of me.

"Sorry," he said.  "I can see you have been used to look at this
business from the other fellow's side.  All the more sorry.  For
that's the type we should like to have.  But there are details.
Suppose you have never handled a tray full of dishes?  I thought
so.  Has to be learned, you know.  Sorry.  Why this?  Have you
tried any other line?"

"Everything," I said in a tone which betrayed my disappointment.

"Sorry.  Awfully sorry.  But wait.  I'll tell you.  You try
Johnson's.  They are shorthanded too.  Ask for Mr. Carlton, the
manager.  If he turns you down, come back and let me know.  I might
be able to do something for you, there.  Beastly place, you know.
But you will have to learn somewhere.  If you make good there, you
can get in here.  But I cannot take on a raw recruit.  We don't
even as a rule advertise.  Get our help through agencies.  But we
were caught, this time.  Still . . .  No, I can't do it."

And his face broke out into a smile quite different from that
hypnotic, masterful smile which he reserved for the guest whom he
guided where he wanted to place him.

"Leave your name with me, will you?  Try Johnson's, and good luck
to you."

He shook hands, and I was in the street.

I came dangerously near crying with rage.  This failure to secure
what I had been after affected me more cruelly than any previous
rebuff had done.  Here I could not attribute it to any preconceived
notion, any silly prejudice, nor to the antagonized unmannerliness
of the employer who did not wish to engage a constant rebuke to his
own lack of breeding.  This young chap, though likely he had never
partaken of my own social pretensions, had my own mentality; I
should have liked to be initiated under his direction into the
mysteries of this business.  And he referred me to a "beastly
place" to learn!

I walked the streets till after ten o'clock before I had quieted
down sufficiently to see that I must go to the other restaurant and
try again.  I nearly wished that I might be "turned down", there,

I entered the glass-doors at half past ten.  I came into an
extraordinarily long and narrow, corridor-like room the walls of
which consisted of huge mirrors.  The front half was level with the
street outside.  Behind, four steps led up to a higher part, at the
far end of which two swinging doors led into what for me was still
the unknown.  A long line of narrow-winged electric fans were
hanging from the ceiling.  In the front-room the right hand wall,
in the rear-room both walls were lined with tables placed between
stall-like, high-backed, leather-cushioned benches which gave
privacy.  Between counter and stalls large, circular tables,
seating, and laid for, eight persons, formed a long, long line.  At
or near every one of these tables I saw a waiter in white jacket
and black tie, his legs hidden by a large, white apron.  It struck
me only now, in retrospection, that in the dining-room of the King
Street restaurant no waiters had been visible.  The same
arrangement seemed to be repeated in the higher room behind.

I turned to the young lady in the booth.

"Just a moment," she said when I expressed the desire to see Mr.
Carlton, the manager; and she tapped the button of a bell which
stood at her elbow.

A uniformed boy arose from nowhere in particular.  She bent her
face down to the window in the glass-front of her booth.

"Caller for Mr. Carlton," she said to him: and to me, "Please to
follow the boy."

The boy led me through the front-room and up the steps at the end
of it.  On each side of these steps there was a sort of niche or
recess, hidden from the public eye by two or three large cretonne
screens stretched in bamboo frames.  The one to the left was
apparently meant as a stall for a small orchestra, for I caught a
glimpse of a piano and of two or three music-stands.  The other one
was the manager's office.

"Gentleman to see you, sir," said the boy into the crack between
two screens; and he retreated.

I entered through the same opening, and, once inside, I noticed
that, though from the outside you could see neither the man nor the
desk at which he was sitting, yet the cretonne was light enough to
permit him to watch whatever was going on in either of the dining-
rooms.  It took me a few seconds to get used to the dim light
prevailing here before I was able to judge of the features of the

Fortunately he was busy with some papers when I entered; and just
as I was collecting myself, the bell of the telephone at his elbow

"Just a moment," he said, taking down the receiver.  "Have a seat."

He waved his free hand towards a chair beside the desk.

I looked at the man before me.  He was tall, slim, with stooping
shoulders.  Above all he was grey.  The suit he wore was grey; so
was the thin hair on the polished skull; so were his eyes; even his
skin seemed grey in that light, though later I came to know it as
merely pallid, with the pallor of the man who hardly ever goes out
to face sun or wind.  He was about fifty.  The shape of his head
was peculiar.  The skull sat on a long neck; the nose was curved,
fleshy, and mobile; the chin short and receding.  The whole head
strangely resembled that of a bird.  His grey eyes looked out from
behind gold-rimmed glasses.  Altogether he looked grey, middle-
aged, mild, and, at first sight, insignificant.

Like an inspiration it came over me that I had to dominate this man
into giving me what I came for.  A native American would have said
that I had to sell myself to this man.  I was glad of the delay.
It gave me time to arrange my selling-points.  A certain confident
elation took hold of me.

"What can I do for you?" he said at last.  When he spoke, his long,
thin upper lip which was curved and, like his nose, strangely
mobile, revealed gold-filled incisors flashing from behind it.

"Mr. Carlton," I began rapidly and with the air of a man conferring
a favour upon his interlocutor, "my name is Branden, Phil Branden;
I landed in this country not quite two weeks ago.  I have never in
my life done anything useful; I was raised in the belief that I did
not have to.  Recently my father died, and I was left without
resources.  I came to America to make my living.  I know you are
going to talk of experience.  Let me forestall you.  I know the
restaurant-business thoroughly--from the customer's point of view.
Your regular run of waiters do not, although they may be better
able to carry a tray full of dishes.  Let me make my point clear.
It is your business to feed your customer and to serve his food in
such a way that he will come back for more.  Your ordinary waiter
will serve him his steak and wait for him to order Lea and Perrin's
or H.P. Sauce to season it.  I know just what I should want to have
him serve me with my order.  So I am going to anticipate his
wishes.  If I have my weak points, you see, I also have my strong
points, just as your so-called experienced waiters.  In addition to
that, let a Swede, a Frenchman, an Italian, a German enter your
place; I shall address him in his own language.  That, too, will
tend to bring him back.  But the best that I can say for myself it
that I want to make good.  Your place has been named to me by a
friend as a good one to learn the restaurant business in.  I am for
the moment not after wages; in fact, I do not particularly need
them; but I want a chance to learn.  I look to you to give me that

Mr. Carlton had been looking at me with a quizzical expression on
his face while I made this long-winded speech.  When I finished, he
took up a paper-knife which was lying in front of him, and he
smiled more brightly than I should have thought him capable of
smiling.  I knew, no matter what he might say, that I had gained my
point; that certainly put me at my ease.

"You have stated your case pretty well, Mr. . . ."

"Branden," I prompted.

"Mr. Branden," he said.  "You have interested me, and that is more
than I can say of any applicant who has ever come to me for a job.
In order to settle the main point first, I will say right now that
I am going to give you your chance.  But I shall regard you as an
experiment.  I cannot quite agree with everything you said, but I
am willing to try you out.  I will state our own case as frankly as
you have stated yours.  We--I happen to be a partner of Mr.
Johnson's--are in this business not so much in order to please our
customers as in order to get their money out of their pockets into
ours.  Unfortunately some of our customers will, like ourselves,
insist on having luxuries like Lea and Perrins' Sauce with their
steak.  But to that extent the one who asks for it is undesirable.
The one who does not ask for it we do not intend to supply with it,
because that means money in our pocket.  We are delighted whenever
a customer orders something which he intends to pay for.  But when
he orders what he expects us to give away, we comply within reason,
but we do so with reluctance.  We do not show it, of course.  We
serve a certain class of customers who as a rule are not too
particular.  We serve them at a certain price to yield us a profit.
Our profit on a single order is not large; so we consider that we
are giving value for the public's money.  We charge five cents for
a cup of coffee.  If the customer asked for cream with his coffee
we should have to take a loss if we complied without an extra
charge.  It is up to the waiter to call his attention to the fact
that he will have to pay an additional five cents for a small jug
of cream.  Of course, we also handle the higher-priced orders of
more exclusive eating-houses; with those we can afford to serve
whatever the customer cares to have, provided he comes for it at
the right time.  But our rush-hour business is conducted on a
narrow margin.  At that time we should prefer the man who demands
your kind of service to go elsewhere.  We want our waiters then to
serve our customer as quickly as possible; and we want our customer
to eat as fast as he can in order to make room for the next one.
We supply a demand.  Your idea of service is right to a certain
extent, of course.  We do not look for ideas in our waiters,
though.  If you were to serve tomato-catsup with every order of
whitefish, let me say, you would do so to the detriment of your
employers' profits.  And that in a two-fold way.  The lunch-hour
and supper-hour client of this dining-room is apt to get spoiled.
He is apt, if he is given the chance, to take ten cents' worth of
catsup with an order that yields only ten cents profit.  We prefer
not to give him that chance.  And besides, to put it cynically, he
will linger too long over his plate, if he enjoys his food beyond
its mere filling powers.  So he will keep the next one from giving
us what we are after, our legitimate profit."

Mr. Carlton laughed.  "I do not know," he went on, "that I have
ever explained these things to a waiter before.  You seem to be
rather out of the ordinary.  But I have a few more things to say
with regard to yourself.  Do not for a moment think that this is a
nice business for you to enter.  I have worked my way up in it;
believe me, I know it.  I have been in it ever since I was a little
boy.  We operate a chain of eating-places in this city; that is to
say, Mr. Johnson does; I am concerned only in this particular
dining-room; the others are lunch-counters.  Now I have told you
already that I am willing to give you the chance you ask for--
provided you care to take it on my conditions.  I cannot put you on
as a waiter at once.  But I will take you on as a omnibus.  You
will have to help the regular waiters out, carry trays full of
soiled dishes to the kitchen, help to clean the silver and make
yourself generally useful.  As you suggested yourself, you will
have to learn to handle dishes in the mass.  Besides, have you
thought of the fact that an American bill-of-fare probably is
something entirely different from that of Europe?  I advise you to
study the menu every day and to familiarize yourself with the kind
of orders we serve.  As soon as I think you are ready to start
waiting on tables, I shall give you a chance to do so, possibly in
a couple of weeks.  You will have to trust yourself to me in that
respect.  As for the wages, we pay an experienced omnibus as much
as a waiter, six dollars a week.  I shall start you on four and a
half.  The waiter, of course, regards the wages as a comparatively
unimportant item.  He figures on tips.  I believe that the best of
our waiters clear up to twenty dollars a week in tips, maybe more;
I do not know; they are secretive about it.  But they do get tips,
in spite of the fact that two things operate against them in this
cafe; firstly, the class of customers--clerks, small storekeepers,
steamship and railroad employees, etc., men, in short, who are not
overly liberal; and secondly, the fact that it is strictly against
the rules for a waiter to collect the amount of the check; he must
refer the customer to the desk."

Silence fell.  I felt sobered.  Since I had settled the main point,
that of securing "some kind of work", I relapsed into a critical
state of mind.  A boy of fifteen and ten dollars a week--I and four
and a half!  But I was determined to accept, of course.

"And the hours?"

"From ten a.m. to two a.m.," said Mr. Carlton.  "We expect you to
be here at ten o'clock in the morning if you want to get your
breakfast.  If not, at half past ten.  Your work starts at eleven
sharp.  You get your board, of course.  We close the doors at two
o'clock in the morning.  A customer who enters the place at a
minute to two must be taken care of.  But nobody is admitted after
that hour.  Then you will have to clear the floor for sweeping, and
mostly you will be ready to leave at a quarter past."

"Very well," I said and rose.  "When do I start in?"

"You may report to-morrow morning.  Black trousers and black shoes
and tie; white shirt, white jacket and apron."

"Where do I get those?"

"At Simpson's.  You mention Johnson's cafe, and they will fix you
up.  You should buy two jackets and three aprons for a start.  They
will be laundered daily at a charge of fifty cents a week."

"Well, till to-morrow morning," I said and turned to go.

"I shall keep an eye on you.  So long."

It is a fact that I felt elated and depressed at the same time.  My
case may be hard to understand.  As a rule the immigrant who goes
from one country to another still preserves some connecting-link
with his past.  He continues in the same work which he has been
doing; and, while he learns new ways of doing his work, he moves
among the same class of people to which he belongs himself.  He may
even keep up pretty close relations with his old environment.
Letters at least will arrive.  I do not mean to use the word
"class" here in a sense indicative of air-tight partitions between
social strata; in that sense class does not exist in America.
There still remains the use of the word as a convenient synonym for
"social environment."

I had stepped from what I could not help regarding as a well-
ordered, comfortable environment into what had upon me the effect
of an utter chaos.  For the moment all human contact was non-
existent.  I felt that not only had I to learn a great many things,
the social connections of a world entirely different from the world
I knew, for instance; but I also had laboriously to tear down
or at least to submerge what I had built up before--my tastes,
inclinations, interests.  My every-day conversation had so far been
about books, pictures, scientific research.  Not a word had I heard
or spoken about these things since I had set foot on the liner
which took me across the Atlantic.  In Europe, no matter with whom
or about what I might have been speaking, my intercourse with other
people had been characterized by that exceeding considerateness
which we call culture.  Here everybody, even the few that were
friendly, seemed bent upon doing what in my former world had seemed
to be the unpardonable social sin, and which is described by the
slang phrase "rubbing it in".  Had I been born as the son of a
waiter, I should have taken a thousand things for granted which now
caused in me a very acute revolt.  Had I at least been born in
America, the atmosphere, which I frankly acknowledged to be a more
healthy one that that of Europe, would not have appeared so
strange, so hostile when it was merely indifferent.  Had I lastly
not been so carefully trained in the gentle art of doing nothing, I
should not, in spite of better judgment, instinctively have shrunk
from soiling my fingers.

As it was, I realized with a gulp that I had become an "omnibus" in
a cheap eating-house.  In order to earn the distinction of waiting
at the table on clerks and small trades-people, I was expected to
prove my ability!

But I also felt elated.  The curious thing is that I actually took
pride in the fact that I had been able to "stoop so low".  A few
years ago I had felt proud because I possessed fourteenth-century
manuscripts of ancient authors.  Why?  I had paid a high price for
them.  Now I had achieved economic independence and prided myself
upon it.  Why?  The price was high.

It is indicative of the state of my feelings that in the afternoon
I walked several times all around Simpson's emporium before I
could bring myself to enter and to ask for a waiter's outfit.
Unreasonably, I expected the salesman to treat me with utter
contempt on hearing what it was I wanted to purchase.  It upset all
my ideas, or rather my instinctive expectations when I found that
not only did he treat me with perfect politeness, but that he even
went to quite a little trouble in order to sell me a greater number
of jackets and aprons than I had intended to buy.  I believe I felt
distinctly flattered when he delicately suggested that for a waiter
of my fastidious tastes it would be revolting to don a jacket that
was just being returned from the laundry, stiff, clammy, unproperly
aired.  He sold me three; a more daring psychologist might have
sold me a dozen just as easily.


I Submerge

When, carrying my aprons and jackets in a small suitcase, I entered
Johnson's Café at ten o'clock sharp on Tuesday morning, the first
person whom I caught sight of was Mr. Carlton.  Not a flicker in
his bespectacled grey eyes betrayed that he had any knowledge of
myself beyond having hired me as that impersonal neuter thing
called help.  A curt, almost severe nod in answer to my "Good
morning, sir," and a sign with his finger to follow him; that was

He led me through the front-room, along the pastry counter, and to
the left of the steps, where, under the orchestra platform, he
opened an exceedingly low door, pointed down to a pitchdark
staircase, and said, "You will find the lavatory and the locker-
room down there.  Your number is sixty-four.  Hang your things in
the locker, get ready, and report."

With these words which were spoken in a cool, matter-of-fact tone,
he left me.

I had to bend very low in order to climb down the stairs and to
reach an excessively dirty subterranean room.  It was lighted by a
number of electric lights which seemed dim because their bulbs were
covered with thick dust and bespattered with mud whose origin
seemed inexplicable.  An inexpressibly fetid smell pervaded the
atmosphere.  To the concrete wall at the right four expensive
white-tile washbasins were fastened, all of them having hot-and-
cold-water taps, and all of them in a state of utter neglect and
dirt.  Through the far wall led two swinging doors, one of them
marked "Women", the other, left one, "Men".  I picked my way across
the litter of paper and matted, carpet-like dust.  On entering the
room behind, I caught sight of a long row of tall, narrow lockers
to the left; to the right, of a partition which reached neither
ceiling nor floor.  From beyond this partition a confused noise of
voices, laughter, squeaking or slamming locker-doors, and running
feet, lifted itself, as it were, above a background of the general
swish of female clothes.  Through the opening between floor and
partition I could see a great number of various-sized shoes moving
and shuffling about.  Several small boxes were lying on the floor.
I noticed that, by pushing one of these to the partition and
stepping on it, any one might peer into the girls' dressing-room.
The litter on the floor and the dirt on the electric bulbs matched
those in the front-room of this underground cave.  There was not a
window in the whole place.  The air consequently was stifling,
saturated with the odour of human sweat, foul with the exhalations
of slow, dry decay.

With a movement of disgust I turned to the lockers, found number
sixty-four with the key in the lock, hung my aprons and jackets
inside, pitched the suitcases on top, and got ready.  Then I
hurried upstairs.

I saw Mr. Carlton standing by the booth and talking to the cashier.
I went to the front and silently awaited his leisure.  I felt
immensely depressed.

When he saw me, he raised his finger and without a word led me back
to the higher room in the rear.

A medium-sized young man in low-cut vest and dinner-coat, with a
non-committal, clean-shaven, singularly empty face came to meet us.
Mr. Carlton stopped.

"This is Branden," he said, "the new omnibus I told you about.  You
show him, Cox."  He turned back to the front.

"Had your breakfast?" asked Cox, the head-waiter.

"No, sir."

He led me to the upper end of the room, where that space of the
wall not taken up by the two swinging-doors was filled by eight
tall, boiler-like nickel vessels with gas-flames underneath.
Between them huge piles of heavy white earthenware cups and saucers
rested on low tables.

Mr. Cox pointed to the four vessels at the left and said "Coffee";
to those at the right, and said, "Tea".

He turned to the table in the last right-hand stall and threw down
a small pad of paper-slips which bore my number "64" printed on

"Your check-book," he said.  "Whatever you order, you write out on
one of the checks; then take it behind to the kitchen, get what you
want, and hand the slip to the checker when you pass back into this
room.  Always enter the kitchen through this door and leave it
through that one"--pointing to the right and to the left.  "When
your order is for yourself, you will write your number once more at
the bottom of the check.  You'll find butter in the ice-bowl."  A
nod of his head indicated where to look for it, on the lower shelf
of one of the numerous dumbwaiters flanking the stalls.  "When you
have finished your breakfast, report.  Better hurry up."

And he went.

I looked about.  There was, in this upper room, a single, solitary
customer still lingering over his breakfast.  An enormously tall
and big waitress with a good-natured, fresh fat face stood by his
table--it was in one of the stalls on the right-hand side--and
chatted with him in a friendly way.

I turned, took a cup and saucer, and helped myself to coffee from
one of the faucets.  It contained milk already mixed in.  I should
have enjoyed some oatmeal, but I did not like to enter the kitchen
unattended.  So I got some butter and sat down at the last table to
the right to make a breakfast of coffee, butter and bread.  The
bread was good, the butter not bad; the coffee, thin and by no
means of the best quality.

For a few minutes there did not seem to be a sound.  As far as my
eye could reach, the place was utterly deserted.  Once more I
looked back, around the corner of the stall-partition of green-
stained oak, and I saw that the enormous girl was still standing by
the table of the belated breakfast guest.  She was giggling.  I
could not help smiling at this very picture of health, girlish
silliness, and innocence.  Considering what I had seen downstairs,
I should not have expected anything as fresh and refreshing as that
girl's face.

Suddenly there was a burst of laughter and noise from the lower
room in front.  I looked around the corner again and saw five or
six young men passing up the lower aisle, along the counter.
Somehow I was amazed when I realized that they made for the door to
that evil-smelling hole below.  If they were employees of the
place, they certainly moved, to my European notion, in a remarkably
free and easy way.  They reached the door.  There was something
like an explosion of mirth among them.  They had collided with a
small young man who was just emerging from below.  Their laughter
and exclamations filled the place.  Mr. Cox rose out of one of the
stalls on my side and, apparently in silent protest, went towards
the steps that led down into the front-room.  The small young man
was taking them at a bound.  While doing so, he kept buttoning up
his jacket; his apron-strings were still dangling loose.

"Hello, Cox," he sang out, in a cheerful and mocking voice.
"Beautiful morning, isn't it?"

I could not hear whether or what Mr. Cox replied; but with the
impulse to hurry up, I turned to my breakfast.

"Hello," the same pleasant voice sang out at my side.  "New face?"

I looked up and smiled.  He was tying his apron and seemed to be
dancing about on his feet.  He was indeed small though he might
just pass as average, with a round, laughing face, neatly parted
short, brown hair, and dancing eyes.

"Beats me where they get them," he went on.  "Hello, Ella," for the
girl was coming towards the table.  "Hungry, Ella?" he asked in a
bantering tone.  "Sit down, girlie; entertain the guest.  I'll get
you some steak and French-fried potatoes."

"Shut up, Frank," Ella replied in a singularly high-pitched,
childish voice and with a plaintive accent.  "You make me tired.
You know I never take any breakfast.  A new one, you say?"  And she
turned to me with a look of scrutiny in her blue eyes.  "Hello,"
she said and sank into the seat opposite my own.

"How do you do?" I answered, and added, "My name is Phil.  I am the
new omnibus."

For no reason that I could see she giggled.  "Poor lamb," she said.
"Where did Carlton pick you up, I wonder."

Frank was meanwhile dancing about, gathering up a small tray, fork,
knife, spoon, and so on, and disappeared through the swinging door
into the kitchen.

I smiled at the girl.  She had won my entire confidence.  "Green,"
I said.  "Fresh from the other side."

She whistled.  "Well, it beats everything, the way people leave a
good thing when they've got it and flock into this land of milk and
honey.  What did you do?  Kill somebody?  Hold up a train?  Dip
into the cash-register?"

I laughed.  "No," I said.  "I wish I had; it would explain things.
As it is, I have committed no crime beyond coming to the end of my

She giggled again.  "Lucky boy," she said.

"Lucky?" I asked, infected by her mirth.

"Sure," she replied; "I never had any resources to come to the end
of.  You look like a swell, too.  I'm going to call you Slim, if
you don't mind."

"Mind?" I said with a slight exaggeration of gallantry.  "You may
call your obedient servant whatever you please."

"Don't get fresh," she reproved with a touch of peevishness in her
tone, while she was slowly getting up.

"Is he making love already, Ella?" asked Frank who at this moment
burst out from the kitchen, with a violent kick against the
swinging door from which a whiff of steam-laden air and the smell
of cooking food reached me.  "Always gaining admirers, are you?"
And he vaulted into the seat behind her, instantly busying himself
with the food on his tray.

"Silly," she said indifferently and stepped into the aisle,
stretching herself.  "Well, I guess I better polish my silver."

"Pewter," said Frank between mouthfuls.  "Pewter you mean, or tin."

Cox, the head-waiter, appeared at our table.  He looked at me.
"Finished?" he asked as if he summoned me to follow him.

I rose in answer.

He pointed to the low dumbwaiters flanking the stalls on both sides
of the room.  "Watch those," he said.  "Whenever there is a tray
with soiled dishes, take it out to the kitchen.  No tray must be
left on the dumbwaiters.  At noon, when the rush is on, you may put
some over there."  And he pointed to tall shelf-racks which stood,
flanked by two hat-trees and umbrella-stands, in the space that
separated the centre tables.  There were eight of these in the
upper room.  "But always get them into the kitchen as fast as you
can.  I'll show you."

And he led the way to the right swinging door.

We entered a low-ceilinged room which was partitioned off to the
left by a gigantic, many-shelved wire dish-rack which reached up to
the dripping ceiling.  The atmosphere was that of an overheated
washroom.  Steam seemed to ooze out from everywhere.  Along the
wall to the right there was, first, a large, low, table-top-like
wire net, stretched so that it hardly sagged in the centre.

"Here you empty your tray," said Mr. Cox.  "Never put it down.
Never leave a tray in this room."

When we went on, a gaping chute for the left-overs came into view
through the steam; beyond, two enormous, tin-lined vats were being
filled with boiling water from two taps.

Two fat, Slavic-looking women were busy there.  Both looked up as
we passed, one with a brazen, one with a hunted look on her face.
Their clothes were damp from the atmosphere.  Unaccountably they
fancied heavy, dark, woollen garments.

Beyond, we turned to the left, into a corridor along the gigantic
dish-rack.  We came to the kitchen.  At the corner there was a
tray-rack, now piled to the ceiling.

"Here you leave your trays," said Cox.  "Pass out through that door
as fast as you can.  Never linger here."

This part of the room was also low-ceilinged; and the heavy odours
of frying fat, boiling gravy, and cooking roasts filled the
atmosphere in veritable layers.  There was a long counter which
separated what evidently was the waiters' corridor from the realm
of the cooks.  At the end of this counter, close to the door into
the dining-room, was a boxlike seat for the checker.  It was still

Behind the counter there were four ranges, one beyond the other,
each about twenty feet long.  Maybe a dozen attendants were busy
there.  All of them were either naked down to their hips, or else
wore nothing but a thin undershirt.  Their lower bodies were hidden
by greasy aprons.

One of the cooks, a tall, angular, gaunt, grey-haired, and grey-
moustached man with an ugly gleam in his one eye--where the other
eye should have been, was nothing but a raw-looking scar--came
across and threw a sheet of soiled paper on the counter for Cox.
He did not say a word but turned back to his range where he was
basting a huge roast.  Cox took the paper, and we passed on.

"Whenever you see that one of the waiters has two trays filled with
orders, pick one of them up and follow him out.  But never wait
here during rush-hours.  Your business is to keep the dumbwaiters
clear.  Never go down into the front-room.  You want to know the
waiters stationed there.  They have their own helpers, plenty of
them.  There are only five waiters on the upper floor where you are
to help.  You want to find out who they are before the rush

We stepped back into the dining-room.

A crowd had gathered at the table where I had taken my breakfast.
They were engaged in a lively conversation, which stopped when Cox
and I emerged.  Curious looks appraised me.  Several of the waiters
passed without a word into the kitchen; two, a man and a girl, went
across to the left-hand aisle and started to rattle about in the
piles of knives and forks and spoons which filled the last two
tables in the stalls.  They filled their trays and went to the

Cox had been standing irresolutely for a moment.  He did not seem
to be the acme of efficiency.  "Better help to lay the tables," he
said and pointed after them.  Then he went across to where Frank
was still sitting and eating his breakfast.

I followed the man and the girl down the aisle.  Each centre table
took up as much floor-space as two stalls.

I passed Ella; then the girl in front of me stopped, and I passed
her, following the man.  He stopped at the third centre table,
counting from the steps, put his tray down, and started to change
the linen in the stalls to the left.  The girl, whom I had passed,
began to busy herself in a similar way.

I scanned the man rather carefully while I approached to offer my
help.  He was small, much smaller than Frank, and held himself very
erect, with the rigidity of those who have been cruelly curtailed
by Nature in the matter of size.  He was at least fifty years old,
grey-haired and grey-moustached, with an expression on his face as
if he suffered from chronic indigestion and indignation.

"Anything I can help with?" I enquired with a smile and a nod.

He stopped in his work, straightened his back, stared at me, and
snapped out, "You can take yourself off.  When I need you, I'll
call for you.  Do you understand?"

"I understand that you are a cad, sir," I replied, turning.

Ella saw me.  He had spoken without subduing his voice.  Everybody,
in fact, had turned and was grinning.  Ella smiled and winked at

"Come here, Slim," she called.  "Roddy doesn't like anybody to help
him.  It would reflect on his efficiency.  Besides I've twice as
many tables as he has."

I did as she wished me to.  But in passing the intervening table, I
caught a sharp look from the eye of the waitress there and heard a
muttered, "Well, I declare."

"Roddy is mad," said Ella in a whisper when I reached her table.
"He wants to be called Mr. Fields.  Besides he can't stand tall
people anyway.  We call him Roddy; not because his name is
Roderick, but because he is supposed to have swallowed a rod when
he was a baby.  If he hadn't, he could not hold himself so stiff."
She giggled.  "My," she sighed, "isn't it hot?  Just watch.  That's
the way we lay out the plate.  Now you start on that side over

I did so, moving noiselessly and quickly.

"Ain't it fierce?" she whispered after a minute or so, with a toss
of her head in the direction of the kitchen.

"Frightful," I assented; then, "Mind giving me the names of the
folks around here?"

"Not at all," she said.  "You know Roddy and Frank and myself.  The
woman in front is Meg.  Her name is Margaret Cox, you know.  She is
the wife of the head-waiter and thinks herself better than the rest
of us.  The girl behind is Iva.  You're lucky if you ever get to
see the natural skin of her face."

I shot a glance at her.  "I have no ambition," I said.  "Powder and
paint are a blessing for some.  Does she need them?"

Ella giggled again.  "I dunno.  I've never seen her without it.
She's a good enough kid.  But you want to act as if you were in
love with her.  Unless you would rather have her for an enemy."

Cox passed along through the aisle, throwing two bills-of-fare on
each of the tables.  They consisted of large, printed cards with a
typewritten sheet attached on which the "Specials" were announced.
One item caught my eye.  I pointed it out and asked, "What is

Ella bent over and read with an unmistakable effort.

"Oh," she said, "Chilly concarn.  Can't be described; can only be
tasted."  Again she giggled.

Frank hurried by from the upper end of the room carrying a heavily
loaded tray.  "Of course," he found time to mock, "Ella's got him
on her strings for keeps!  How do you do it, girlie?"  And he was

Ella giggled.  "Never mind him," she said.  "Frank's a good kid.
He's the best waiter in the place.  We're awfully shorthanded.
Harvest has begun in the West.  That's why they've put us girls on
for the day shift.  When they can get all the help they want,
nobody has more than one centre and two stalls.  But Frank has
always had two centres and two stalls.  He'd quit if they gave him
less.  He makes an awful lot of money; they are very anxious to
hold him.  Well, now you know all you need to.  The rest of the
crowd, there's sixteen of them down there, you'll come to know by
and by--Oh, Lordie!" she wailed suddenly, "can't those people wait
till we're ready for them?"

She started to hurry in the most astonishing way for one as heavy
as she was.

I looked around.  Two customers were coming up the steps, and I
caught a muffled hum from the lower front-room.  People were
beginning to fill the seats there.  Waiters rushed past us in the
direction of the kitchen.  The change was so sudden that it was

"Well, I declare! as our neighbour would say," I exclaimed.

"Oh, that's nothing yet," said Ella while she was rushing about.
"You wait till an hour from now.  Then it's hell, I can tell you.
Hell!"  She nearly screamed the last word out.

She ran away, with me staring after her, this time really startled
by her expression.

I turned again and watched the glass-doors which did not come to
rest any longer.  People were pressing in, singly, in pairs, in
groups--mostly men, a few girls, rarely a family, men and women,
coming together.  Soon the seats in the lower room were taken, and
the overflow into the upper room began to gather volume.  Humanity
appeared in waves.

From the rear of the upper room another be-aproned and be-jacketed
figure turned up, a man whom I had not seen so far.  He was an old
man who walked with a shuffling gait, as if his foot-joints were
unable to move, a common ailment among old waiters, so common that
it is called "waiter's foot".  His face struck me as the coarsest
thing I had ever seen in human expression.  It was bony, with the
eyes set deep in hollow sockets overarched by bushy, dirty-white
eye-brows.  His cheekbones were red and warty; the whole face
framed by a straggling, grey beard.  His lips were thin and dry,
his nostrils dilated with exertion.  His jacket and apron were not
as spotlessly clean as those of the other attendants or mine.  He
carried on right hand and shoulder one of those large trays, loaded
to capacity with four tiers of tumblers full of iced water, one on
top of the other.  Slowly, with the skill of a lifetime of
practice, he deposited his tray on one side of the racks in the
centre and started to distribute the tumblers in front of the ever
farther advancing guests.  I watched this old man with fascination.

But suddenly I was startled back into life by a snapping voice.
Mr. Carlton was standing by my side.

"What are you waiting for?" he said.  "Get busy!  Get a tray with

His tone was such that I flashed around and should have flung him a
sharp rejoinder, not being used to be ordered about.  But I caught
a humorous flicker in his steel-grey eyes; with a "Certainly, sir,"
and a grin I was off.

While I was putting squares of iced butter on chips and piling them
on to the tray, the flood of customers overflowed to the kitchen-
doors.  These doors kept swinging now in a steady pulsation.  The
smell of food began to pervade the atmosphere.  When I grasped my
tray and started to wind my way through the human current, the
electric fans overhead flashed into activity, emitting their
purring sound; at the same moment the piano on the orchestra-
platform started a maddening waltz.

Out of the crowd ahead Mr. Carlton emerged once more.  I was
holding the tray in front, my left hand supporting it from
underneath, the right hand grasping one of the handles.

"Get that tray on the flat of your hand," the manager snapped in no
amiable tone, the flicker behind his glasses again belying his
gruffness.  "Out of the way of the customers' heads."  He gave it
an upward swing which, I feared, would throw its load to the floor.
"Put it down in front, on the first rack," he said.  "Then get busy
on the dumbwaiters.  Hurry up!"

I rushed to the front.

"Bringing the butter?" the old man greeted me when I arrived at his
side.  "Just put it down.  I'll attend to it."

He was wearing white canvas gloves on both his hands.

When I reached the first of the dumbwaiters, it was already piled
high with soiled dishes.  I was at a loss what to do.  Frank was
totalling up a check at the first side-table.

"Quick, Phil," he said.  "Never mind about straightening them.  Get
them out of the way.  I'll help you.  There!"

It seemed to me that he was lifting half a universe on to my

"I'm afraid," I gasped, intending to say that I did not think I
could manage the load.

"Yes, you can," he said very quietly.  "Off with you!  Nothing to

I was on my way.  I went carefully, slowly; but at last I reached
the kitchen.  Fortunately Cox went through just ahead of me,
kicking the door open with his foot, for he carried a similar load.
If I had not been lucky in this, I should not have known how to get
rid of the dishes.  He never stopped but merely slanted the tray
over the wire net, dropping its whole contents, or rather, letting
it slide down while he went.  Then he passed out beyond.  My
momentary hesitation had already caused a congestion behind; I was
being hustled forward by shouts and curses from those who followed
me.  I did as he had done and went on, but not without looking
back.  There, from the door, a whole line of men with loaded trays
passed in, apparently the helpers from the lower room.  To the
left, unencumbered waiters, checks in hand, slipped by and
disappeared around the corner.

I hurried on myself, dropped the empty tray into its place, and was
on the point of rushing out to the front when Ella, now flushed and
perspiring, stopped me with a touch of her hand.

"Take this," she said, swinging a tray loaded with orders aloft, on
to my left hand which I raised above my shoulder, and pressing a
bundle of checks into my right.

I pushed on.

"Checks," the checker yelled; but, when I threw them down, he
merely speared them on a spindle and waved me on without verifying
what I carried.

The next moment Mr. Carlton had me in tow again.

"Whose order?"

"Ella's," I said.

"Here!" and with amazing agility he wound his way through the ever-
thickening mass of humans which filled the aisle, waiting for seats
to be vacated.

Ella's dumbwaiters were piled high.  Mr. Carlton took one of the
trays and pushed it on to a shelf in the rack in the centre.  I
deposited mine and was on the point of stepping over to the rack
when Mr. Carlton's voice rang out again.

"Branden, here!"

He lifted another heavily loaded tray to my shoulder, thus clearing
a second dumbwaiter for Ella who was just appearing through the
crowd.  When I passed her, I was struck by the expression of
desperate, dumb determination about her set lips.  There was little
colour in her cheeks, and they were beady with perspiration.

When I reached the dish-rack in the wash-room, Mr. Carlton was
following me, doing what I did, helping to get the dumbwaiters
cleared.  It put a certain exhilaration into my own endeavours to
see that nobody considered anything below his dignity.

A small, very dapper and neat-looking man whom I had not seen
before, wearing expensive but overdone clothes, flashed past me
just as I was about to turn the corner into the kitchen.  His
command whipped out like a pistol-shot above the pandemonium of
shouting voices and rattling dishes.

"No platters!  Plates only!"

"Plates only," sang out the shrill, senile voice of the head-cook
in verification of the order.

I learned later that this flashy little man of perhaps thirty years
was Mr. Johnson, the owner of a chain of eating-places in the city.

Nobody stopped me this time in the narrow corridor between dish-
rack and counter.

Behind the counter a casual observer would have seen half-naked
maniacs dancing and jumping about in crazy lunacy.  In the
corridor, waiters were bustling each other, reaching up into the
dish-rack, flinging plates on the counter and bellowing orders at
the top of their voices.  From out of the reeking pit behind me
came yelling shouts, repeating every order that was given.  Plates
full of food were thrown back, on trays held by the waiters.  The
swinging doors in front kept opening and slamming shut in ever-
accelerated pulsation.  Whoever passed through gave them a vigorous
kick.  The checker stood on a chair behind his desk, roaring for
checks, swinging his arms, jumping like one possessed; but in
reality he did nothing but spear the checks on spindles, although
he sometimes tried to keep up the pretence of verifying an order
which passed out on a tray.

While I rushed to the front, I saw that Iva, the painted girl, was
as badly off as the rest.  Only Meg had her dumbwaiters always
cleared whenever she needed them, and it struck me that neither I
nor the old man had ever relieved her of a tray.  "Oh," a thought
flashed up, "she is Mrs. Cox!"

Mr. Carlton was everywhere.  Here I saw him chatting with a
customer as if he had all the time in the world; there he was
taking an order for a waiter; and again he was carrying a heavily
loaded tray to the rear.

Most of the waiters were themselves carrying trays now whenever
they went to the kitchen.  Everything was done in a rush; all
movements had to be made through a crowd of people waiting for
seats; nor were these people at all concerned about the convenience
of the slaves that had to serve them.

For an hour and a half I kept it up at the same rate, now helping
Frank, now Ella, now Roddy, to keep their dumbwaiters cleared.  I
stayed in the front of the room; there the crowd was thickest;
partly in fulfilment of an unspoken agreement between myself and
the old man who shared my task; he kept to the rear where he did
not have to take quite so many steps in order to reach the kitchen.
Occasionally, not being used to this pace, I felt like a drowning
man, swamped under a crushing flood of humanity, more especially
when the customers began to clamour for quicker service.  Most of
the diners, when giving their order, would add, "Rush that,
please," as if the whole organization had not already been keyed up
to the utmost in the line of rushing.  Ella had been right.  I
could not have imagined anything more closely approaching to my
conception of Hell on Earth than these noon-hours were for the
waiters and their helpers.  I wondered how the people could sit
there, looking as if they were comfortable instead of jumping up
and springing to our assistance.  As for myself, even if I had been
sitting there and giving orders instead of helping to fill them,
the noise, and above all that demoniacal music would have inflicted
exquisite torture on my nerves.

But when things seemed to come to a climax, when trays piled up in
the racks, when nothing that I, the old man with the shuffling
gait, and the waiters themselves could do in order to breast the
avalanche of dishes that streamed from the kitchen, seemed to
avail, when things seemed ready for a collapse or an explosion--
then suddenly Mr. Carlton and even Mr. Johnson himself appeared,
silently and quickly, or giving short, snapping orders; grabbing
trays and carrying them to the kitchen, they would give a momentary
relief and breathing space.

In the wash-room one of the foreign-looking women piled the soiled
dishes into wire baskets suspended from a little wheel which ran on
an overhead rail; when the baskets were filled, they swept through
the first vat of boiling water, on, into the second vat, and over,
in a dangerous-looking curve, to the dish-rack, where the other
woman emptied them, leaving the dishes to be dried by a current of
hot air and returning the baskets over the remainder of the
overhead track to their starting-point.

By one o'clock the worst of the rush was over.  By half past one
the place began to look deserted.  The waiters at the last tables,
nearest the kitchen, were beginning to rest.

In surveying the room, I was struck as by the sight of a disaster.
Every table-cloth was soiled; every shelf of the central racks and
the dumbwaiters was piled with a jumble of dirty dishes.  The
atmosphere reeked with the smells of the kitchen.  The battle was
fought; we were left on the field.

I scanned the waiters' faces.  Iva was grimy with a paste of sweat,
paint, and dirt.  Ella was pale, exhausted, transformed.  Meg and
Roddy looked grimly resigned.  Frank was the only one who still
smiled and danced about as if he had enjoyed himself hugely.  He
had been the only one, too, who, during that frightful hour of the
midday-climax, had had time and energy left to exchange bantering
talk with his customers.  The others, when taking down orders, had
looked as if they were peering down on the enemy in the trenches.

There is little else to be said about the first day.  Towards
evening there was another flood-tide of humanity.  But with the
specials--which were exhausted--the great attraction of the place
was gone.  The second tide was a neap-tide only.  The customers had
more time; the waiters did not rush about.  Once more the place
filled up when the theatres closed.  Then gradually the work
dwindled down to the waiting on an occasional customer only.

The night-clients came to spend money, not to save it.  These
belated diners, I found, were the ones on whom the waiters counted
for their tips.  The girls had gone off duty at eight o'clock; or
the men might have fared badly; for, from the type that prevailed
among these late-comers, I judged that they would have preferred to
be looked after by members of the other sex.


I Earn a Promotion

The very first day taught me that knowledge of men is no more an
attribute of the underling in America than it is in Europe.  All of
the waiters and helpers, except Frank and Ella, accepted me as what
I was for the time being.  I stood on the bottom-rung of the
ladder, on a level with those Slavic-looking women who washed the
dishes in the room behind.  The fact that I bore myself
differently; that my clothes, if nothing else, bespoke at least
different tastes and a different origin, did not seem to penetrate
their consciousness.  I myself was beginning to see by the second
day of this life that what we call culture, education, breeding is
largely a matter of environment, something that it takes very long
to acquire but which may, after all, be acquired and, therefore,
lost.  It overlies the human nature which is common to us all and
which is not an overly lovely or adorable thing like a thin veneer
which may easily be dented or even pierced.  If anybody belonging
to the social, intellectual, and emotional stratum from which the
greater number of these men and women were recruited had, for
instance, insulted me in my old surroundings, his insult would
never have reached me.  I might have resented it with a cold stare
or an ugly laugh; but I should not have felt a wound.  Now I did
feel that wound though I did not resent it by stare or laugh.

The strange thing was that waiters and waitresses alike regarded
themselves as being on a plane above myself, not intellectually or
emotionally--they did not even know that such was possible--but
socially.  That was what I should have least expected.  The tables
were truly turned.  It took Ella's supreme indifference to such
demarcations, or Frank's shrewd divination--for he simply expected
me to rise--to accept me on a level of equality.  In other words,
there seemed to be two gates through which you could enter into the
democratic spirit: natural good-will and shrewd intelligence.
Both, of course, may be inborn or acquired by education.  Of the
two, the natural good-will stands, morally speaking, on a higher
level, for it simply accepts what is best in human nature and
rejects what is low or accidental.  Frank accepted in me, not what
I was, but what I might be one day.  All of which went to show that
there were social strata in America as well as in Europe.

It might be well, though, to point out a difference.  Taking it for
granted--though the truth may hurt--that manners, knowledge,
culture of mind and heart stand in the last resort for money--money
which is being or has been held by individuals or families--the
eyes of the European who appraises a stranger is turned back; that
of the American, forward.  In Europe the poor man is tolerated if
he can look upon a great past; in America, if he looks to a future.
This, of course, is meant as a summary only of the instinctive
point of view of that part of the population which forms the
apparent or patent--and therefore superficial--ground-mass of the
people.  We also find, both here and there, even on the surface,
excluding all the latent strata, certain areas in which, by an
interpenetration of ideas fostered through blood-relationship,
these characteristics are exactly reversed.  I once had a
conversation with a lady who had been a teacher all her life and
who, in a Canadian school, very strongly underlined veneration for
the aristocracy as culminating in the king; to me the flag seemed
the higher emblem.  "Your king is a person," I said, "a human being
like yourself.  'Now in the name of all the gods at once, upon what
meat does this our Cæsar feed?'"  She laughed.  "The king," she
said, "is not a person.  He stands for our past; he stands for
glorious battles fought, for hours of triumph, hours of terrible
need.  He stands for tattered banners and smoky battlefields.  He
stands for all that we hold sacred if we are British.  What is your
flag?  A coloured rag!"  "Yes," I replied; "the king stands for the
past.  The flag stands for an idea, an ideal, for the future.  And
little it matters whether it be the Union Jack or the Stars and
Stripes.  The king stands for what most certainly has been--can we
always defend it?  The flag stands for what may be if we are great
enough to weave reality out of dreams.  The king stands for our
fathers; the flag, for our children.  That is why I like to see it
in the school.  I can always defend the flag."--I still think,
though that lady was born in America and prided herself on coming
from a slave-holding family in the south which emigrated in 1786, I
was the better American.

Things being as they were, I was--in those hours of the afternoon
and the night when the work was light--very naturally thrown a good
deal with that old man who shared my status on the upper floor.

He had no name in this place where he worked; nobody, not even the
manager or proprietor, called him anything but "Whiskers".  Nor did
anybody, except Frank, Ella and myself, ever speak a word to him
unless when ordering him about.

He had been born in Ontario and had come as a young lad from a
farm.  I was curious about him.  Here was a man, considerably more
than sixty years old, grown grey in this work, a veteran, as it
were, of waiterdom.  Here was a test of that famous American
slogan, "Equal opportunities for all".  He had not risen.  Why not?
Had he not been able to take advantage of the opportunities that
had come his way?  Or had no opportunity ever been offered to him?

I think it was on the afternoon of my second day at the place that
I sat down at the same table with him, at the left-hand side, where
so far he had been left alone, an outcast.

"Hello," I said in the friendliest tone.

He looked up at me with a searching look, out of the cavernous
depths of his eyes.  Then he nodded without a word.

I waited for him to begin the conversation; somehow a trivial
remark about the weather seemed out of place in the face of his
hoary dignity.  But he proceeded with his repast, now and then
scrutinizing me with a look in which shyness and criticism seemed
strangely mingled.  Since I was not eating, he seemed to suspect
that I was making fun of him.  I felt as if I were intruding, as if
I had to find an excuse for being there at all.  Yet, that excuse
would not be found.

I scanned his features; they presented, as I have said, the
coarsest face I had ever seen in my life.  The cheekbones stood out
in high relief, reddened to a carmine tinge by an exceedingly fine
network of enlarged surface-veins.  Above, they sloped away to
temples so hollow that they seemed to form an acute angle with a
perfectly flat forehead jutting out over the caves of his eyes like
a penthouse.  The cheeks, too, were hollow, as if all the molars in
his mouth were gone.  Cheeks, temples, forehead were a ghastly
white, in strong contrast to the red circles on his cheekbones.
Jaws and chin seemed to form a semicircular ridge under the short,
straggling white beard.  It was a face which seemed to lack the
finishing touches of Nature.  It was as if roughly hewn out of
coarse stone.  The more I looked, the more it seemed as if I were
gazing at a death's-head, a mere skull on which there was no flesh.

A stray glance of mine sank to his hands.  There they were, a
living explanation why he wore those white canvas gloves which I
had seen the first day.  These hands were knobby, gnarled like a
stunted oak-limb; their knuckles, like knots in a wiry rope.  The
metacarpal bones, too, stood like rocky anticlines between eroded
valley-folds.  To describe the man one must needs resort to
geological expression.

While I sat there, facing him, my curiosity suddenly seemed
sacrilegious.  I did not see in him a person longer; he became a
symbol.  He was the walking Death-in-Life; he stood for the end of
all things mortal, for ambitions foiled or misguided; for that
disappointment which is all the more heartbreaking when it is
unconscious.  He stood for Old Age looking back on Youth; for
failure incarnate, such as in the essentials awaits us all, no
matter what our apparent success may be.  I was confronting things
eternal, tragedies beyond the utterance of man.

Curiously enough, the fact that this tragedy might be unconscious
touched me with fear.  Speech might turn it into comedy, such
comedy as is beyond even Shakespeare's cruel jest.  I refrained.  I
felt shaken, moved.  But I smiled at him--it must have looked a
ghastly smile--nodded, and got up.

He looked at me with a strange, hungry expression on his face.

As it happened, had I deliberately planned to gain the old man's
confidence--with a calculation of human nature quite beyond my
years--I could not have devised a surer plan.

In the evening, during the slack hours after the supper-wave, it
was he who sought me out.

I was sitting down for a moment, secure from interruption by
guests.  He passed my stall and stopped.

"We must divide the work," he said in a hoarse, expressionless
voice.  "You take the front, and I the rear."

"All right," I assented.

"And I'll bring the water," he went on, "and you, the butter."

"We'll just reverse that," I said.  "Sit down; you're tired."

He looked both ways before he shuffled into the opposite seat.

"My feet!" he said.  "They get so tired I hardly feel them."  And
then he leaned over and whispered confidentially, "Carlton, he must
not see me, you know, sitting down. . . .  That man is a devil; you
don't know him; but that's what he is; you mark my words!"  And
lowering his voice still more, to a scarcely audible sibilance, but
speaking very fast now, "I'll quit him, though; next week I'll quit
him if he doesn't do as he promised.  Exhibition's coming. . . .
They need all hands . . .  Then I'll quit unless he does as he
promised to do."

"Have you been with him long?"

"Yes, sir," he said, nodding his head.  "Yes, sir.  Long enough to
know him and the likes of him.  Ever since he was a waiter in this
place.  Long before Johnson's time. . . .  What are they paying
you, young man?"

"Four fifty a week."

"Four fifty," he repeated.  "Good wages, that.  Good wages when a
man is young.  I get six.  But look at them waiters!  They are
making the money.  That's what a person wants!  Waiting on tables,
that's where the big and easy money is!  Some of them is making ten
dollars extry ever week!  Tips, you know. . . .  You are young,
want to learn.  Take my advice, young fellow, stay for a while.
Till you have caught on to the ways of this country.  Funny ways
they are.  Then quit here.  I'm going to quit, you know; next week
I'm going to quit.  Unless Carlton does as he's promised to do.  He
is always promising, talking and talking; but he never keeps faith.
Has he promised you anything?"  His voice had sunk down to a rapid
whisper again which towards the last took on a strange note of
wistful and cunning expectancy.

"Nothing in particular," I replied; "though, come to think of it,
he did promise that he would keep an eye on me and let me wait on
tables as soon as he thinks I am able to do so."

This casual revelation had an altogether unexpected effect.  The
old man hung upon my words while I was speaking; and when I
mentioned the two promises, he nodded his head with more vigour and
agility than I should have thought possible in one as osseous as he
was.  But when I finished, he broke into the most abandoned giggle
that I had ever heard from anybody but a silly girl, and the giggle
changed into a spasmodic cackle, running into higher and higher
pitches of dissonance--an exhibition of mirth which had something
alarming, terrifying in so old a man, the more so the longer it
lasted; and it lasted longer than anything of the kind I had ever
witnessed, till it broke off just as abruptly as it had begun.

"Didn't I know it," he whispered, raising his gnarled and shaking
forefinger.  "Didn't I know it?  Didn't I tell you he is a devil?
Now, young man, just tell me, didn't I tell you?"

"Yes," I nodded, "you told me; no doubt about that; but still, I
don't quite see . . ."

These words brought a repetition of the former outbreak.  I looked
at him in serious concern, for I feared an accident.  It seemed
impossible for so much hilarity to come from one like him without
provoking wrath divine.  It seemed to be against the laws of
nature.  Probably it was the expression in my face which cut it
short this time.

Then he whispered again.  "He doesn't quite see it!  He doesn't
quite see it!"  And, as if to reveal to me the very arcana of his
innermost knowledge of the depravity of mankind, "Now listen, young
man, and remember!  I have never told this to any one before.  But
you have been good to me.  You haven't called me Whiskers.  Carlton
has promised me that, week for week, for the last twenty-five or
thirty years!  Just think about it and see whether you can make
anything of it!"  And with great exertion he lifted himself to his
feet, shuffled out into the aisle, looked back at me once more, and
whispered again, "Think . . .  Think . . ."

Next day I tried out how many tumblers filled with water I might be
able to handle safely on a tray.  I had made up my mind to start
work ten to fifteen minutes earlier in the morning, so as to get a
sufficient amount of iced water to the front before the rush set
in.  I was determined to do that part of the work myself.

While thus engaged, I caught sight of Ella who was passing along
the aisle.  When she saw me, she stopped.

"What are you doing, Slim?"

"Trying to find out how I can make things somewhat easier for our
friend, the old man," I replied.

"Whiskers?  Poor fellow!"

"Do you think he is being treated fairly?" I asked.

"Well," she said hesitatingly, "what else can they do?  It seems
charity to keep him in this job.  He is too old; he can't do
anything else; he looks a disgrace to the place, but they let him
make his dollar a day.

"Is he any more a disgrace to the place than the dressing-rooms
downstairs, or the kitchen?"

"Perhaps not," she said; "but those the customers do not see."

"That's it.  Do you know how long he has been in this place?"

"Since it was built, I believe."

"Yes," I said, "ever since that dressing-room was swept and aired
for the first and last time.  At six dollars a week!  Why don't
they retire him?"

"Retire him?  What do you mean?"

"Pay him a small sum a week for life and let him go."

"That isn't done, you know," she smiled.  "How could they when he
does not work?"

I challenged her.  "I hear, Mr. Carlton gets three thousand dollars
a year and a share of the profits besides.  Mr. Johnson, they tell
me, clears somewhere around twenty thousand dollars a year from
this place alone."

"Oh yes, they are hogs," declared Ella, and I understood that word
though I had never heard it thus used before.

"The old man has reached the stage where he wants to quit unless
they give him a table."

Ella giggled.  The last trace of thoughtfulness had disappeared
from her face.  "Ain't he too funny for anything?" she said with a
laugh.  "That's his ambition, you know, waiting on tables.  And, of
course, he's sprung that bluff on you, too."

"Bluff?" I asked though I understood only too well.

"That he'll quit next week unless Carlton does as he promised to
do.  I've been here three years now, and he's told that yarn to
every newcomer who would listen.  He never quits.  He's married.
He can't afford to.  He's got to live like the rest of us."

I dropped the topic; Ella clearly was not ripe for such ideas.
Though she might be perfectly awake to the niceties of personal
right and wrong, she had in her mental equipment no organ to grasp
the idea of a social wrong.

I had food for thought.  I did not know at the time just what
socialism was or meant.  So far I had had a vague idea that it
meant the "subversion of the state"; I considered it one of the
many paradoxes in which Bernard Shaw indulged that he tried to
persuade the world that he was a Socialist, when the whole world
knew all the time that he was perfectly respectable and nice.  I
had never seriously thought of such topics as Old-Age-Insurance.
If anybody had told me that I had been talking Socialism to Ella, I
should have been shocked and should have answered, "I was talking
sense, and nothing else."  In this practical case, of which there
must be many duplicates in a great industrial organization like
that of America, I felt at once, as I feel to-day, that society is
at fault if it leaves the provision for old age to the individual's
thrift, or, worse still, puts it beyond his powers to look out for
himself.  "What a country," I thought, "that turns all my
sympathies into new channels within two weeks!"  But, of course, I
forgot that it might have been the same had I "submerged" in that
Europe which I had left behind.

Meanwhile I made rapid progress in various ways.  Above all, I
learned to regard the noon-hour rush with perfect indifference.  I
did what I could with speed and alacrity; but what I could not do
had by Wednesday ceased to worry me.  I also acquired the skill
that is needed to swing a heavily loaded tray aloft and to carry it
out while I was bustled and pushed on every hand.  I knew the names
and the faces of all the employees of the restaurant; nor did the
bill-of-fare hold further mysteries for me.  I received most of the
assistance I was in need of from Frank who was always cheerful,
always willing to help.

Another trouble arose in which Frank aided.  The first day I had,
as much as possible, avoided loitering in the kitchen.  But in my
endeavour to learn all about the various dishes offered I had to
face this kitchen as a serious problem.  What I saw there was not
of a nature to increase my liking for the place.  The very
atmosphere was disgusting.  The wood-work seemed to be soaked,
impregnated, dripping with grease.  Apart from sweeping up the
litter from the floor nobody ever thought of doing any cleaning
there.  Soap seemed to be unknown in this establishment.  The
washing of the dishes even was the most perfunctory process
imaginable.  The chute through which the left-overs were disposed
of was the most nauseating sight I had ever beheld.

This dislike was mutual.  There was no Frank, no Ella in the
kitchen-personnel to befriend me.  Whenever I showed my face--
except during the rush-hours--I was received with an uproar of the
coarsest and filthiest gibes and jokes.  They called me "the baron"
there, addressed me as "Sir Phil", and in high-sounding phrases
spoke to me mostly of things and parts of the body that will not
bear print.  The reader will understand that it took courage to
enter the place.

"Yes," said Frank with his fatalistic acceptance of all things that
be, "you want to get used to that.  They are a vile bunch.  And all
of them--as, by the way, take warning, Phil, most of the girls,
too--are rotten with sexual disease.  You can't help seeing some of
it in the long run."

The first day or so I had forced myself to eat the food prepared in
this kitchen, with eyes closed, as it were.  Then I went hungry
most of the time, for I ate only bread and butter.  But late one
afternoon Frank and I had slipped out through the kitchen to a
little platform behind, where the trucks of the supply-houses
unloaded their wares; there we were having a quiet smoke.

Suddenly I heard, close to the door, a remark made by the head-
cook.  "Well, boys, I must get my hands clean.  Guess I'll make a
batch of biscuits.  Get the flour."

Frank smiled up at me.

But the expression on my face was of such utter disgust that his
smile faded.

"How do you make out on food?" he asked.

This ready comprehension made friends of us.

"I am afraid, after this, I shall not be making out at all."

"It is not bad in the morning," Frank tried a defence.  "I eat
their oatmeal."

"Has the kettle ever been scoured in the last ten years?" I
enquired mercilessly.

He laughed.  "No.  That is, I don't think so.  I haven't been here
more than six months, you know.  During that time it has not that I
know of.  They merely stir the new meal into the left-over
porridge.  But porridge does not get rancid."

"I have heard it gets sour," I replied to that challenge.

"Not if it is sterilized by repeated boiling," he said with a very
serious face.

We both burst out laughing, so that we could not recover till our
sides ached.

"At noon I can't eat their concoctions either," Frank confided
after a while; "not after having looked on when that one-eyed devil

Again we laughed; we were young and easily infected.

"Well, what do you do?"

"Pastry," Frank replied.  "The pies are good.  They are handled at
the counter, in plain view.  They can't spoil them."

"Yes, but I have been told we are now allowed to get our own orders
from the counter unless we pay for them."

"There are lots of things which we are not allowed to do," said
Frank.  "You come to me when you get hungry till you learn to pull
the strings yourself."

We slipped back through the kitchen.  When we were on the point of
pushing through the swinging door, Frank stopped me by a motion of
his hand.  He raised a finger to his lips.

I heard Mr. Carlton's voice.  "Not just now, Whiskers," he said in
a tone that was not unkindly.  "We'll see; maybe later."

"At his old game again," Frank whispered.

We waited a moment, till the steps on the other side of the door
sounded fainter; then we returned into the dining-room.

The words had been insignificant.  But the tone in which they were
spoken was a revelation to me.  There was indulgence in that tone,
even pity.  The manager simply did not wish to tell the old man
that what he asked for was impossible.  He seemed to know that it
would break his heart if he told him.  Sympathy and consideration--
attributes which I had not been looking for in Mr. Carlton--made
him appear less culpable than before.  I came near sharing Ella's
view; it was, perhaps, mere charity to keep the old man "in his

The week drew to an end.  I was inured to the practices of the
place.  The problem of food was solved by the pies and pastry which
Frank sequestered on the lower shelf of one of his dumbwaiters.

On Saturday morning we were all surprised by the appearance of a
third helper on the upper floor.  He was a raw-looking, awkward boy
from the country, red-faced, shy, excitable, but willing to work
and very silent.

Just before the noon-rush, Mr. Carlton stopped at the tray-rack
where I was arranging the tumblers with iced water.

"How do you like it by this time?" he asked.

"Not much to like about it, sir," I replied.  "But I am making my
living and catching on to the work, I believe."

"Yes," he said; "you are doing well.  We have agreed to let you
have full pay for the week.  At noon you will help Ella and Iva
wait on their tables.  After the rush you will take the last
centres and the stalls alongside for yourself."

I was so surprised that I could hardly say anything.

"Of course," Mr. Carlton added, "there is not much of a chance for
you to have many customers at those tables today; it's Saturday."

With a nod he went off.

Here was success!  Mr. Carlton was keeping faith beyond his
promises!  Within a couple of weeks or so, he had said.  I was
promoted within five days!  I knew, of course, that I owed this in
large part to the circumstances.  In spite of the fact that there
seemed to be an abundant supply of help where clerical positions
were concerned, these people were exceedingly short-handed.  From
which I could draw only one conclusion, namely, that the
desirability of certain classes of work attracted or deterred the
crowds of applicants here as well as elsewhere.  Had the management
not by chance been able to secure an additional helper for the
upper floor, I should probably have had to stay longer where I was.
And yet, I had been making good!  My very first attempt in the new
world was not a failure!  There was promise in this fact.  I had
shown to myself, to my own satisfaction that I had the necessary
adaptability.  I knew that I should never accept defeat; that, no
matter how long it might take, no matter how much it might cost, in
the end I should somehow win through to the very goal of my

And while I was going about my work, taking orders, clearing
tables, bellowing in the kitchen with the best of them--sometimes
nearly overcome with the rush and the repulsiveness of it all--I
grew beyond my present status.  I was going to quit this work; I
was going to fight for something better.  But before I did that, I
was going to double my present holdings in money.  With twice what
I had I was going to make another stand in the very front trenches,
as it were.  Should success fail me, should I find it impossible to
break through into something more congenial, then there would be
this to fall back on, this one thing in which I then should be able
to say that I was not without experience.

These were, of course, not continuous or even connected thoughts of
mine.  During the noon-rush the customers saw to it that there was
no time left for dreaming or planning.  Ideas would arise in
disconnected flashes, such as will lift you above your present
surroundings, such as will carry you even through times of danger;
there was triumph in them, such as will take you forward even into
the jaws of death.  You forget what you are about; you are able to
do things which otherwise you might not even have attempted.  In
spite of the fact that you are really absent-minded, you go about
the work in hand with a curious, nearly automatic precision, as if
a second vision guided you, as if you were following inspiration.

Incongruous words to use of the work of a waiter, you say!  But my
life on this continent has taught me that it really does not matter
what you do.  I can assure you that the psychology of a general who
leads his troops to victory is not essentially different from that
of a helper in a cheap restaurant.  If vision guides, the problems
of immediate details solve themselves.  I have found Goethe's word,
"What you long for in youth, you have a-plenty in your old age,"
quite eminently true in life.

If the desire to get somewhere is strong enough in a person, his
whole being, conscious and unconscious, is always at work, looking
for, and devising, means to get to the goal.  It is not so much a
question of opportunities offered, as it is a problem of searching
for, and seeing, things which you would overlook if your soul and
mind were not at all times keyed up to, or attuned for, the very
things you see.  I might put it this way.  On some distant mountain
you know a treasure.  That treasure you are bent upon lifting.  You
approach the place; you circle the summit; but the very peak you
find impossible of access.  You are led to by-paths, devious ways;
environment takes hold of you; your immediate attention is
deflected; you start, let me say, herding cattle in the valleys
around the resplendent peak.  But unconsciously your mind is still
set on your goal; it looks down upon the small things of daily
life; and as you will see the connections of gully and rill, brook-
chasm and river-valley more clearly from above, so you will also
see more clearly the things in hand, the connections between the
hour and the exigencies of the next if your mind is lifted to great
heights by overpowering desires.  While you are living your years
with that glacier-clad height in closest vicinity, without
consciously thinking of it, you will at all times be looking about
for the approaches, for clefts in the cliffs, for slanting ledges
which lead around and above the ice-fields.  And one day all things
that you have seen and noted--for whatever had no bearing upon your
ruling desire you did not note--will, as it were, connect up with a
sudden jerk that sends you to your feet; the whole landscape will
clear like a milky film, and you will see the road that leads to
the goal, as if it were unobstructed.

That is the reason why, in spite of all that has been said to the
contrary, the great man, the genius, still counts for more than the
multitude.  That is why in times of stress or danger we cry for the
leader to come; we turn to the man with vision, the dreamer rather
than the practical man of affairs.  Very great achievements are
brought about by passion and emotion rather than by practice,
training, knowledge.  Questions of routine will solve themselves
when the ideas and ideals are clearly conceived.  Vision is needed;
the dreamer is needed.  A people of men who place practical things
above all others may become wealthy; but a people of dreamers must
become great.  Great men were those who had vision, and for their
vision passionate love.

And here the case of the old man explains itself readily enough.
He was overwhelmed with routine.  His vision was weak in as much as
he threw the burden of finding the path to the peak on others.  I
was to make this mistake a good many times myself, in that future
which now has receded into the dim past.  The old man had a desire,
but it did not dominate his life; he had never coordinated present
and future; the future had never determined and dominated his
present day.

But I do not say this in order to exculpate society from its sins.
Legislation is never needed to guide the man with vision.  But it
should protect that vast majority which is without it.

In the afternoon, when I had taken charge of my new stand, and when
everybody was resting, so as to be ready for the supper-rush, an
elderly, bearded man, an invalid, guided by a young lady in
inconspicuous but expensive clothes, came drifting along the aisle,
looking right and left.  I guessed at what they were looking for:
privacy.  Not one of the other waiters was in sight; I happened to
stand near one of my stalls.  So I ventured a slight, inviting
motion with my hand, the young lady smiled; the pair came up.

I was quite excited about it.  They were the first customers on
whom I was going to wait on my own responsibility.  Ella looked at
me from where she was sitting and winked.  I took charge of the old
man and helped him to his seat, disposed of his hat, and returned
for a light coat which the young lady carried over her arm.

"We should like some tea," she said when she was seated.  "Father
likes his strong, with cream.  I like mine weak, but without cream.
A little toast and some pastry, please."

That was not a large order, to be sure.  I arranged what dishes I
should need, having carefully wiped them, secured a platter with
assorted pieces of pastry and cuts of cake, made the toast myself,
and steeped the tea freshly when I was ready.  Then I served the
whole order as quickly as I could, leaving it to the young lady to
pour the tea, and retired from view.  Still I watched my customers,
took note of what cake was consumed, and completed the check when I
saw that they had taken what they cared to have.  Then I went over,
enquired whether they had any further wishes, and laid the check,
face down, on the edge of the table before I withdrew.  At the
first motion they made to rise I was back, assisted the father into
the aisle, reached for his hat, and handed the young lady her coat.
They left with a smile and a nod.

I had not done anything except what I should have expected from any
waiter in a reputable place.  Yet, what I had done, must have
appeared like exceptional service, for when I cleared the table, I
found a fifty-cent piece under the rim of the young lady's plate.
I could not refrain from showing the coin to Frank and Ella.
Neither one believed that that was the actual tip received.

I will mention that this pair of afternoon customers returned to my
tables every day while I remained in the establishment; and though
the tip was not always so generous, it was never less than a
quarter, the amount depending, probably, on the chance of the

Late in the evening, during the weary, slack hours of waiting, of
sitting, or standing around, my personal satisfaction with the
success achieved was to suffer a heavy check.  The old helper had
all afternoon been going about his duties with a set expression on
his hollow face.  While I waited on my first customers, he had
followed my movements with a dumb, nearly hostile eye.  When the
supper-hour was over--which practically finished his work--he sat
down in the farthest corner, all by himself, resting his hands on
his knees and hiding them under the table, in a peculiar attitude
of his which had something strangely pathetic.  I did not pay much
attention to him, I am afraid, but I shall never forget the shock I
received when, on passing his table, I suddenly noticed that he
held himself very erect, looking neither to right nor to left, and
staring into vacancy, with the tears slowly rolling down into his

My success was his deadliest hurt.  I did not feel so elated any


I Meet the Explanation for One Kind of Success

It would be pretty hard to analyze the elements which entered into
my friendship for Frank.  He was not highly cultured, in the sense
in which the word culture comprises manners, knowledge, and, above
all, tastes and inclinations.  He patronized, for instance, all
manner of cheap shows.  Yet, on my side at least, the friendship
amounted to a passion while it lasted.  "While it lasted"--for
through none of my fault, as you will see, Frank vanished from my
life when I left Toronto; the mere memory of this friendship turned
into bitterness.

When I first met him, he attracted me by the force of the contrast
in which he stood to our common environment.  Like myself he could
not possibly submerge in the atmosphere of that eating-place.  I
endowed him in my thought and unconscious appraisal with virtues
and sensibilities which were quite foreign to his real nature; and
that even after he had revealed part of this real nature to me.

At the time, I had intentionally dropped all consciousness of what
had--in Europe--made up my inner life, as contradistinguished from
the mere accidentals of the day.  I saw the futility of much of its
pretensions.  I saw that what I had called my "view of life"
utterly lacked a foundation on which to rest.  This "view of life",
which had been a composite of the experiences and conclusions
arrived at by a multitude of great minds of the past, was utterly
unoriginal and untenable--a mixture of practical optimism and
transcendental pessimism, with now the one, now the other
predominating.  As a matter of fact, it was contingent upon a life
of ease, upon mental or spiritual parasitism, or at least upon a
sheltered condition.  Such views are needed; they fulfil the
mission of helping the masses interpret their lives.  But from the
moment when I resolved upon my great adventure I saw that they
would not do for myself.  So, when I threw them out of my mental
equipment, with them there went into the discard everything else,
above all that vast store of memories which was acquired, not by
living, but by reading, and which we ordinarily call by the name of
education.  Thus I arrived at an undervaluation of myself; I looked
upon the world, upon other people, and upon myself "de profundis"--
from the depths.  It took me years of a new and strange life to get
back to a proper appreciation of these memories, and though they do
no longer predominate, they form a large and important part of what
I may call my present intellectual environment.  As for original
"Views of Life", the last thirty years have taught me one thing
about them, namely, that they are possible of attainment only for
those who walk on the very heights, or for those who walk in the
very depths of life; because only such will dare to place
themselves beyond tradition, beyond what I may, for the moment,
call morality.

At the time I was abasing myself.  As for Frank, a certain
clearness of perception, a shrewdness of judgment, a nicety of
feeling, an instinctive respect for the other man's point of view,
a mental cleanliness which despised pretences and shams--all these
lifted him above the rest of the "crowd".  I looked up to him.  I
lived, as it were, on the sea-level; I had the perspective of the
frog: above him all things loom.

But there were other things.  The "crowd"--with the exception of
Ella who was morally clean--had positive characteristics which we
two lacked.  I will not speak at length of the depravity in "rebus
sexualibus" which seemed to impregnate the dressing-rooms.  There
are episodes in my memory which I do not like to touch on even in
thought, much less in speech.  But, repulsive as the scene must be,
I will try to sketch an interlude which was played upstairs, in the
kitchen.  I shall do this merely because after much reflection I
have arrived at the conclusion that there is only one excuse for a
narrative of this kind: truth.  Truth is not necessarily so much a
matter of often disgusting detail as it is a matter of atmosphere.
But, though accordingly I have endeavoured to indicate this
atmosphere of the restaurant--the "milieu"--by mere slight touches
of the brush, omitting much and leaving other things in semi-
darkness, I still believe that, to give it relief, I must set down
one glaring colour-patch; without it nobody would quite understand
why I reacted in the way I did.

In the front-room worked a little man of thirty-five or so whom all
called Jim.  He was of slight build, no taller than Roddy, with a
head that seemed to have been compressed from both sides; with
sloping shoulders and small feet which had already acquired the
shuffling gait resulting from the waiter's flatfootedness.  He was
everlastingly joking in coarse, mostly sexual allusions, especially
in conversation with the girls, all of whom, except Ella, liked him
for this "naughtiness".  He was married, by the way, and had a
family; and he was reputed to be a good father, though a bad
husband--bad at any rate in the matter of connubial fidelity.

One evening, when the supper-wave had come and gone, Frank, myself,
and a few other waiters were standing in the corridor of the
kitchen where some discussion with the cooks had arisen, when
suddenly Jim burst in among us, swearing in the most frightful way,
red in the face with unreasoning, scornful anger.  He was carrying
a tray with a plate of soup, which he fairly knocked down on the
counter, yelling at the top of his voice, and cursing everybody.

"Blankety-blank," he shouted.  ". . . this fool of a fellow!
That's the third time the son of a . . . sends me back with that
plate of soup!  He's merely trying to pick on me, . . . him!"  He
was hopping about on his feet and waving his arms.  ". . .  him!"
he shouted again; and then, clearing his throat with a mighty
effort, he spat into the plate of soup with great exertion.

Everybody except Frank and myself was enjoying this thing; most of
the onlookers were laughing.

"Take it back to him, Jim," shouted a voice, "make him eat it, the

Instantly Jim was quiet.  He looked around, perfectly self-
controlled, and winked at the crowd.  "Sure," he said; "what did
you think I did it for?  Here, Dan," this to the cook, "pour
some boiling water in.  This time it wasn't hot enough for the
son-of-a-. . . !"

Under general shouting and laughter he shouldered the tray and
walked out with the greatest bravado.

Part of the "crowd" followed him at no very great distance, to
press into the little orchestra-platform, where he informed them
shortly, so I heard, that the son of a . . . was eating it,
"spitting and all."

The fact that Frank saw in this scene as little fun as I did--
gathered from it, indeed, nothing but disgust--marked him off from
the rest more effectively even than more positive virtues might
have done.

I should add, too, I suppose, that both of us instinctively felt
and soon verified that neither one was "naturally" a member of this
trade or limited to it in his ambitions.  Frank confided to me
early in our acquaintance that he was an engineer by trade--I did
not know at the time how wonderfully ductile this term is on the
American continent, covering as it does the wide range from the
streetcar driver to Thomas A. Edison; I understood that he was
taking a correspondence-school course in order to prepare himself
for advancement; he was planning an elaborate campaign in order to
secure the position which he wished to hold.  If anything, he was
rather older than myself; which made me sometimes wonder why he was
not further advanced in his real career; I was to find out by and

Lastly, there entered into our short but ardent friendship one more
element: a rather unreasonable admiration for him on my part, on
account of his very superior, though very natural familiarity with
American conditions.  It seems to be a matter of course that a
hundred thousand trifles which astonished me should have seemed
quite commonplace and nearly immutable to him; he had never known
any alternatives to them.  To him it appeared to be only one of the
manifestations of democracy that people should crowd the street-
cars to overflowing, hanging on to straps and stepping on each
other's toes; that men and women should rub elbows in the aisles of
a sleeper, fumbling behind impeding curtains while dressing.  He
did not recoil from the common drinking-cup or the general washing-
room in public places.  Since the customs of the country demanded
such indifference, I looked up to him on the score of a callousness
from which my sensibilities shrank.  The reader who shares my own
point of view must not forget that my most immediate ambition, like
that of every immigrant, was to differ from the average American as
little as possible.

It was during the second week of my waiterdom that we drifted
together.  On Monday morning I was given the last two centre tables
with the adjoining eight stalls.  That means, I was, when every
seat was occupied, supposed to take care of forty-eight customers
at a time.  This arrangement relieved Iva and Ella to the extent of
one-half of their former work, much to their satisfaction.  Even
twenty-four seems a heavy allotment for a rush-hour: but the
pressure on the back-room was never even nearly as heavy as that on
the front-room.  I cannot but say that during the noon-wave both
Mr. Johnson and Mr. Carlton henceforth concentrated their
activities on my stand, so that it was a rare occurrence when I had
to take an order myself; they simply handed me the checks to get
whatever was wanted.  They also did everything in their power to
keep my dumbwaiters cleared.  On the other hand, during the rest of
the day, the work of these tables was very light; and, since the
noon-hour was unproductive of tips, I was by no means satisfied
with the way things were going.

"You work too hard when the rush is on," Frank said to me when I
complained.  "Keep cool; take your time.  It's the running that
tells on you.  Pile your trays higher; take heavier loads.  Above
all, don't worry.  Your evening trade will pick up.  Next week you
can ask for a different stand."

"Why!" I exclaimed.  "I'll be glad if they don't fire me."

Frank laughed.  "Fire you!  They don't fire a waiter in this place
when he brings in the second-highest total of checks."

"The second-highest total?" I asked.  "What do you mean?"

"Yes," he answered; "you want to ask for the check-list at the
desk.  You'll find it ready every morning at ten.  Your checks
totalled fifty-three dollars yesterday.  Mine were fifty-nine.  The
lowest was twenty-nine.  So you see!"

"Well," I gasped, "you are the most encouraging person I ever met."

"If you keep anywhere near that mark," Frank continued, "you can
have the pick of the place by Saturday.  As it is, you have too
many tables.  You want only one centre table, but farther to the
front.  Look out for regular customers.  They are the ones that
tip.  Ask for Roddy's tables; then we'll be neighbours; you'll soon
catch on to the ropes."

This information put so much spring into my muscles that I by no
means heeded Frank's advice.  I wanted to be sure that I could ask
for whatever stand I pleased and get it.  And I might say right
here that I did "keep it up" for the rest of the week and finished
on the six days' total of sales in the second place.

When, on the other hand, the third day went by and I had again
taken in less than a dollar in tips, I became discouraged once

"You come to the front to-night," said Frank; "stick around my
stand.  I'll show you how to get tips."

That is what I did; and what I saw that night, opened my eyes
indeed, though I knew at once that Frank's methods could never be
mine.  I told him so; and thereby, I believe, hangs the tale of the
ultimate break in our friendship.

First of all I was struck by the fact that most of the customers
who sat at Frank's tables were by no means the higher-class clients
of the place.  All of them seemed to know just where they were
going.  That was one of Frank's tricks: he never changed his stand.
He might have had his choice of the tables in the front-room; he
did not want them.  His regular customers knew him, knew where to
find him, and did not care to be attended to by any other waiter.

I shall sketch the way in which he waited on two of his typical

The first one was a young man who might have been a truck-driver or
a baggage-handler at one of the railroad stations.  Even in this by
no means exclusive restaurant he looked slightly out of place.  He
nodded to Frank when he sat down, exchanged a few remarks, and
asked, "Well, what've you got to-night?"

Frank named two or three inexpensive "short orders."

"All right," said the young man, "make it chops.  And coffee with

Frank went to the kitchen and in due time filled the order.  So far
there was nothing extraordinary about the affair.  The astonishing
part began when the young man had consumed what he had ordered.

He turned to Frank, winked, and said, "Got any more of this?"
touching his pie-plate with his finger.

"Sure," said Frank, "lots of it."  He stepped up to his dumbwaiter,
whisked two pieces of apple-pie on a plate, and pushed it in front
of his guest.  The same manoeuvre was performed once more, with an
extra cup of coffee thrown in; none of these items was marked down
on the check.

Before this young man who apparently was inordinately fond of pie
had finished his meal, another customer, a heavy-set, prosperous-
looking man who might have been a butcher or a small contractor
came in and dropped into a seat on the opposite side of the room.

When Frank went over to take his order, he merely said, "Hello,
Frank!  The usual thing."

I was interested in this usual thing and followed Frank into the

Frank laughed.  "Beginning to dawn on you?" he asked.  Then he
shouted his order, "One Porterhouse, rare."  Meanwhile he was
making out the check.  When he had finished, he shoved it to me,
and I read, "One Sirloin, single."

Porterhouse steak figured on the menu at one dollar, sirloin at
forty cents.

Frank winked at the one-eyed cook and pushed a ten-cent piece
across the counter; the cook slipped it negligently into his
trousers-pocket.  It was he who, after the supper-rush, attended to
the checking of our orders.

"I see," I said, rather taken aback.  There must have been some
distance in my tone, for Frank laughed; and his laugh sounded a
trifle too boisterous.

"Oh Phil!" he exclaimed; and I could not help hearing a certain
weariness in his mocking hilarity.  "What's the use?  Everybody
does it.  Tip the cook and serve the customer.  You see they are
still making piles of money.  They charge it up to overhead.  That
way I get a chance to make a penny, too."

"Where do you get the pie?" I enquired.  "Is Walter in with you,
too?"  Walter was the German-American "boss" at the counter.

"No," answered Frank, "I've never been able to do anything with
him.  When I have an order for the counter, I just invite a couple
of pieces of pie to come along."

"I see," I said again.

And again Frank tried to laugh it off.  "The great American game,"
he said.

When we returned to the dining-room, I was rather silent.  But at
last I asked, "How much do these fellows tip you?"

"A quarter each," he replied.

"How much are you making that way?" I went on.

"Well, I don't usually talk about it.  Nobody tells the truth about
his tips.  But you keep quiet, and I'll tell you."

"Of course, I'll keep quiet."

He held up the five fingers of his hand.  "About that," he said, "a

That was my first encounter with American "graft".  I felt rather
hurt at the discovery that Frank, whom I was inclined to idolize,
should have lax principles with regard to common honesty.  I also
realized at once the bearing this had on my own outlook.  If this
was the way to earn tips, was I going to get them?  These methods,
I knew, were impossible for me.  I might, under stress of
circumstances, have become a thief, a burglar, almost anything.
I was no longer so sure of myself as I had been before I emigrated
from Europe.  Hunger, despair, and helpless loneliness are strange
prompters.  I had begun to think less harshly of him who sins
against society.  This fact may be a revelation to some who
are dealing with alien criminals in this country.  The path
of the immigrant is sown with temptation: a temptation of a
spiritual kind; he is tempted to charge all his troubles to some 
incomprehensible vice in the very constitution of the new country
or the new society into which he came.  His need and distress may
become extreme.  If he sins, the society against which he sins is
foreign to him, just as truly, as he is foreign to it.  What he
sees of American morals is often, too often, not what shows them at
their best.  Having set myself the arduous task of telling the
truth, I will, in my own case, even go further and confess that,
what disgusted me here, was the pettiness of the thing rather;
there was nothing in it to appeal to my æsthetic appreciation.
Large, bold crime I could have admired where I recoiled from

Frank and I had already formed the habit of walking along together
when we went home in the small hours of the day.  The road which we
followed in common was somewhat out of the way for him as well as
myself.  But for the sake of our company we were both willing to
make a slight detour.  Sometimes we had, when reaching the point
where we must separate, delayed at the street-corner, talking and
laughing for an additional quarter of an hour or so.

This night we reached it in silence.  But instead of bidding Frank
good-night, I said briefly, "Come, I shall see you home."

We proceeded in silence for a little while longer.

Frank felt the tension as much as I did.  That reconciled me
partly.  I could see it by the way in which he looked ahead,
staring into vacancy.  My unspoken condemnation hurt him: I was
glad of it.  He understood me; that did him honour.  But
apparently, too, he had not expected anything of the kind; and that
I resented.  He had taken me into his confidence with bravado; a
master had shown a supposedly apt pupil one of his tricks of the
trade; and the apprentice had suddenly turned into a judge.  Every
motion of his betrayed that he was chafing under the eye of the

"Look here, Phil," he said at length; "let's have this out."

I breathed more freely.  I was glad that he felt it incumbent upon
himself to broach the matter instead of leaving the task to me.

"You don't know," he went on.  "You are new in this country.
Everybody else in the crowd would think this a clever trick.  In
fact, as I've said, quite a few of them practise it themselves.  I
need the money.  I've got to have it.  You can't know, of course.
But I've GOT to have it, fair means or foul.  I could not be
satisfied with the six or eight dollars those fellows pay.  I'm
getting eight; don't tell anybody.  They might give me ten if I
threatened to quit.  If I did not do as I'm doing, I'd make ten
dollars in tips besides.  That isn't enough."

"The question seems to be, can you make more at anything else?"

"I could, and I can't," he answered impatiently.

"If you could, why not try?"

"No use," he replied.  "Not yet.  Nothing to it just now.  Got to
stick it out for the moment."

My silence seemed to irritate him.

"Look here, Phil," he began once more.  "You are new in this
country.  Let me tell you a few things.  There's Johnson.  He owns
property in this city.  His property is assessed by its earning
power.  Do you think, when the assessor comes around, he gives him
the correct figures?  Graft!  He names a figure and slips the man a
bill--a big bill, I suppose.  Graft, I tell you, graft!  There's
Carlton.  He buys the supplies for the beastly place.  Take the
butchers.  One has a better meat at the lower price.  The other
slips Carlton a hundred-dollar bill and gets the trade. . . ."

"How can you know?"

"Never mind," he exclaimed; "I do know.  Graft, I tell you!  Graft
again.  There's Cox.  He's supposed to place the customers and, of
course, not to know who tips and who doesn't.  But you can tell by
the mere looks of the fellow, by the way he steps about and noses
around.  Who gets the big tippers?  Meg!  And you can have some of
them, too, if you slip him a five every week.  What is it but
graft?  Take a railroad conductor.  You board a train without a
ticket.  You wink at him and hold out a dollar-bill.  Where to? he
asks.  You name your destination and get your counter check just as
if you had paid your fare.  Graft!  It's the same thing everywhere.
You don't know this country yet.  Who's the successful man?  The
successful grafter, that's all."

I was struck speechless for a moment.  Then I saw the flaw in his
eloquence.  "Just a moment, Frank.  Has it ever occurred to you
that, if what you say were true, there would be no business
possible in this country?  The railroads, the big companies and
corporations would simply have to quit."

"Oh," Frank laughed, "there are always the suckers."

"You call the honest man a sucker--whatever that may mean."

"A sucker's the man who takes what's handed to him, the gaff as
well as the gold-brick, and doesn't squeal," Frank volunteered as a

"Then I'd rather be a sucker than a . . ."

I suppressed the word, and Frank had the grace not to supply it.
Again we went in silence for a while.

"Look here, Phil," Frank began for the third time.  "I want you to
understand this.  I might just as well tell you.  Carrol's as
little my real name as yours is Branden."

"Just a moment," I interrupted him.  "Is there no law in this
country against assuming a false name?"

"No," he said.  "There isn't.  Not so long as you do it without
dishonest purpose.  Of course, if you do it for fraud . . ."

"Good," I interrupted him once more.  "That settles that point.  I
don't see anything wrong in a man's changing his name if he cares
to do so, law or no law.  But since you've done it, I'm glad it
isn't illegal.  As for myself, I can assure you I have documentary
evidence for the effect that Branden happens to be my real name,
though that's neither here nor there."

"Then why . . .  No, listen.  I want you to get this.  I'm hiding.
Buffalo's my home town.  I'm hiding from my wife."

"Your what?" I asked sharply.

"Yes," he replied and chuckled, though awkwardly.  "Didn't know I
was married, did you?  Well, I am.  I'll tell you a few things
about that marriage.  I was nineteen, my wife was seventeen when we
took the plunge.  My father turned me out; said I was crazy; he was
right; but I didn't know it; so I went on my own.  I defied the
world.  Poor but happy, you know.  Paradise in a hut; just read it
up in any fool novel.  Heaven turned into the usual hell.  No
children, thank the Lord!  Meanwhile I was making good on the job.
I was with the Big Four.  Took correspondence lessons, etc.  Never
had had beyond two years of high school.  At last I was assistant
engineer on the Delaware-Lackawanna; at one hundred and twenty per.
By that time the wife was an hysterical wreck.  Home was hell, I
can tell you.  Nagging and scolding and quarrelling, day and night.
The worst about those hysterical women is, no matter how wildly
they exaggerate in the reproaches they gush at you, there's always
a wee, tiny kernel of truth in what they fling at your head; that
disarms you.  Whenever I wasn't out on a night-run, we sat up
quarrelling or arguing--she doing nine-tenths of the talking.  She
didn't need any microscope either to see my faults!  By and by I
lost all my self-respect.  Drinks never bothered me much; but then
I hit the booze.  One day I came home--discharged.  Well, I tried
to face the music.  She went off into a fit and threw herself on
the floor, screaming and kicking with arms and legs.  I packed up.
I told her I was going to leave, for good.  She scratched my face
all up, screamed some more, and then I banged the door shut on that
part of my life.  Now get this.  Before I left town, I saw my
father.  He's a Pullman conductor, quite well off--graft, I
suppose. . . ."

"Frank!" I exclaimed sharply.

"Oh, hell!" Frank shouted, "don't be so squeamish!  Take the world
as it is; this country, anyway.  Well, he agreed to my going into
hiding.  I'm paying alimony; thirty dollars a week.  Those were HIS
terms.  I was to go under an assumed name: none of my friends to
know where I was--only he.  And he would shield me so long as I
paid the thirty a week, promptly, to him.  If I missed one single
payment, he said, he'd hand me over to that fury.  If I hadn't
promised, he'd have had me arrested right off, I assure you.  I
went into this waiter business because it was the only thing I knew
at which I could make enough money without losing time.  I've
changed my name; I can't use any of my old testimonials and
references.  I've got to get a diploma from some reputable school
in my new name before I can go back to my old work.  I've got to
start in from the bottom.  And while I'm doing that, I can't even
make enough money to live up to what I've promised.  I've got to
get far enough ahead first.  I can't even tell them that I've had
experience.  They'd ask me where.  And if I tell them, I give
myself away."

"Well," I sighed, "you're in a mess all right."

"You've said it.  And now, I suppose, you are ready to pass me up."

"No," I said hesitatingly.  "Still . . ."

"Oh, cut it, Phil," he exclaimed.  "You know I can help you a lot.
You don't want to stick in that hole, do you?  I can help you
along.  New York, that's the place for you.  I've been a waiter at
Sherry's, a bell-hop at the Belmont.  Just for the fun of it, when
I was a mere kid.  I know a few people there, and they know me.  I
can give you a start . . ."

"I suppose so," I said.  "But that isn't the point.  I did not try
to make friends with you for what there might be in it for me.  I
don't think I want to stay in this business anyway.  But what is
there in our relation for you?"

"I don't know," he replied.  "I don't care.  I've taken to you,
that's all.  I want you to think well of me.  I'm quite a decent
chap after all, no matter what I may be doing in the line of graft.
I've known worse than I am, at any rate."

We drifted into silence again.

"No," I said at last.  "I don't think I want to pass you up as you
call it.  But you know, you've given me some jolts tonight.  I wish
I could help you, but I can't.  You must give me time to get used
to the new ideas.  Guess I'll turn back now."

"All right, I'll turn back with you."  And he took me home.

Matrimonial entanglements were nothing new to me.  In those strata
of society in which I had been moving in Europe, marital escapades
were viewed with leniency.  The universal tendency to make marriage
easy, so as to prevent extra-nuptial immorality, had, in my old
environment, reached a point where five-year trial marriages seemed
within reach.  Everybody discussed such things; not to talk glibly
about them, branded you as being behind the times.  From there it
is no great step to taking the solemn obligations of old-fashioned
wedlock as a mere joke.  From a strictly opportunistic view-point
it seems indeed as if there were no way out of this dilemma.  If
you want to suppress vice by making it legitimate, you must throw
the portals of wedlock wide open.  If you still want marriage to
mean anything at all, you must open the door of divorce equally
wide; otherwise you encourage the weak in breaking the law; and you
force misery on those who are morally strong.  All which very
likely amounts to, "Le roi est mort--vive le roi!"  Unfortunately
for the opportunists, a mistake has been made in this modern
tendency, namely, to open the door into wedlock a little faster
than the door out of it; so that a good many--like my then friend
Frank--got caught between door and jamb.

I do not mean to defend him--nor to indict.  But I do wish to say
that familiarity will inure you to almost anything.  I had become
inured to lax views regarding the sanctity of marriage.  Even to my
mother an elopement or a case of adultery had not meant much beyond
a theme for amused gossip.  Frank probably had become inured to
"graft" because he had heard of it and seen it practised ever since
he was a child.  Still, the mere fact that he felt the need of an
explanation showed me that he was aware of the moral taint attached
to it.

I have, as you will hear if you care to follow me to the end,
devoted the major part of my life to the task of "Americanizing"
others.*  I have, from choice, since I found my "level" in the New
World, spent most of my years among that part of the population of
this continent which is of foreign origin.  Only too often have I,
in the midst of these people, met with the profound conviction that
in America "graft" is king, sharp practice goes rampant, that "to
put one over on the other fellow" is the chief aim in life of every
one the immigrant has to deal with.  If he is unable to speak the
language, he feels helpless, not without bitterness.  Nothing was
harder to fight than the pessimism created by such impressions.

* I use the word in the wider sense in which it includes what is
commonly called Canadianization.  America is a continent, not a

I do not mean to indict; nor do I mean to suggest a remedy.  I have
just recounted my first encounter with graft.  I have given, as
nearly as I can remember, the first explanation with which I met of
this disease on the body democratic.  I wish to add that much of
the suffering I was destined to go through, for a long, long while,
was caused by its rankling in my heart which was only too eager to
worship the New World.  In looking back over the first few years of
my life on this continent--while I was still in the plastic stage,--
I cannot but be struck by the amazingly large number of people
with whom I fell in who lived more or less exclusively on this or
that form of graft.  There were so many that in another person I
should find it pardonable if he had arrived at the conclusion that
graft was the predominating trait in the make-up of the average
American.  Is it that the "grafter" consciously or unconsciously
drifts towards the immigrant?  Does he there scent his prey?  Or is
it that the immigrant, coming as he does into a world which he does
not understand, here finds the one feature which he by force must
learn to understand if he wants to survive?


I Move On

As I have said, I kept my record up.  On Saturday night Mr. Carlton
came over to my stand and asked, "Would you like a stand in the
front-room, Branden?"

"No," I replied.  "If I had my choice, I should take Roddy's stand.
I believe that would give me a chance to make some money."

"As you please," said Mr. Carlton.  "I can take Roddy to the front.
You are making good; I want to help you.  Your wages will be eight
dollars, beginning with Monday.  That's settled, then."

And he took his grey presence away.

I pondered a good deal about Mr. Carlton.  How could he let things
go as they were in kitchen and dressing-rooms?  He was quick enough
to notice a spot on a tablecloth.  I came to the conclusion that,
shrewd as he was in his business, he too was hidebound in those
things which he had always taken for granted.  Dressing-rooms had
in his experience always been a litter of filth; kitchens had
always been places to be left to the negligence of subordinates;
flies had always been fought by poisonous fly-pads.  Nor did he
balk at what was prepared behind the swinging doors.

Of his ability in handling men I had no doubt.  He spoke in one
tone to me, in a different one to Jim--though during the rush-hour
this difference disappeared; at that time he spoke to Mr. Cox, the
captain, just as he would have done to a mere helper.

Beginning with my third week, I made money.  I can no longer give
accurate figures except for my last or seventh week in the place.
That week the total of my tips amounted to between sixty-nine and
seventy dollars, an average of over ten dollars a day.  The daily
average for the last four weeks probably ran as high as eight
dollars.  The owners had nothing to object to my making that much
money, for during the whole of that period I also ranked first
among all the waiters in the amount of checks turned in.  Probably
Frank would have outranked me had he charged everything he served.
As it was, my daily business averaged about eighty dollars, and
Frank ran a bad second with sixty or thereabouts.

The major part of my income was made at night; which means that I
secured as steady customers men who did not consider the cost and
went where they found the service they wanted.

In order to make clear how things worked out, I will quote a few
examples which have lingered in my memory, possibly by virtue of
their oddity.

One night, at a quarter past eleven, a large party, heavily loaded
down with suitcases and satchels, entered the place, apparently
fresh from a train or boat.  The party was made up of a powerfully
built, typically Yankee, clean-shaven man of about fifty, a
dignified matron, two grown-up girls, a high school boy, and three
younger children, eight in all.  They somehow drifted through the
front-room and reached the steps, for except during the rush-hours
Mr. Cox used to take it easy.  Frank was busy; I was not.  I went
to meet them, relieved the matron of her suit-case, and pulled out
the chairs of my "centre."  They sat down.  One look convinced me
that this was a family in which the father did the ordering.  So it
was to him that I handed the bill-of-fare.

"Well, young man," he said, hardly looking at it, "we want some
sirloin steak.  We want it tender.  One rare, the rest well-done.
Let's see.  Coffee for eight; some sliced tomatoes, French-fried
potatoes; and apple-pie for dessert."

"Pardon me, sir," I said; "we have some excellent Porterhouse.
Three would do for the party.  No more expensive than eight
sirloins . . ."

"All right, sir," he interrupted, "use your judgment."

I went to the kitchen and down into the meat-storage room, where I
selected three Porterhouse cuts, choosing one which was much
thicker at one end than at the other.  When I returned upstairs, I
tossed the cook a fifty-cent piece and said, "Dress her up a bit,
will you?  All well-done except the thick end of this one."

The cook never garnished a dish unless tipped to do so.

When I had everything ready, I pressed Frank into service in order
to get the whole of my order to the front at one trip.  I served
one of the steaks to the older one of the young ladies, one to the
high school boy who felt quite elated at such honour and tried to
avoid his father's grinning face; and the last one to the man.

"This end is rare," I prompted.

"You managed that?" he said.  "I was wondering."

They sat for an hour.  Then the father called for the check.  It
amounted to less than six dollars.

"You take the money?" he asked.

"At the desk, please," I replied.

"Well," he said, "that was a good supper, well served.  I hope, you
don't decline tips, waiter?"

I smiled non-committally, and he held out a five-dollar bill.  This
party returned every night during their stay in Toronto.

Another five-dollar bill I came by in a different way.

One day, just after the noon-rush, Mr. Carlton brought a man up to
one of my stalls.  He winked at me, as if to say, "Special
attention, please."  This man was middle-aged, slender, fashionably
dressed, and had the air of being tremendously busy.

As soon as he was seated, he began, "Now listen, young man.  I want
a clean table-cloth, a meat-special, a piece of pie, a cup of tea.
Everything piping hot and . . . quick!  I'll be here every day at
twenty to two sharp.  At two I want to be back in my office.  If
you show me that you can do it, I'll make it worth your while."

"Certainly, sir," I answered as casually as I could.  "I shall have
this seat ready for you after this."

To my surprise he took a bill from his fold, tore it into two
pieces, handed me one, and said, "You'll get the other half on
Saturday if I'm satisfied.  If not, you won't."

I held out a menu.  He waved it aside.  "I never order," he
laughed.  "Use your judgment."  And already he was deep in his

The bill he had torn was a five-dollar bill.

One more case to illustrate.

One day a young man found his way to one of my stalls, a student of
some kind, obviously, for he was carrying unwrapped books.  I made
it a point, of course, to serve every customer with the same
precision, whether his looks proclaimed him to be of the tipping
kind or not.  My colleagues made a joke of that fact.

This young man was apparently so well pleased with the service
received that he felt the desire to tip.  Poverty was written all
over him; if I had not feared to offend him, I should have
forestalled any such attempt on his part.  When he had finished his
thirty-cent meal, he caught my eye, smiled, and raised his finger.

I went to his table.

He held a street-car ticket between two fingers stretched out.  I
believe it was worth three cents at the time.  With an apologetic
smile he asked, "Got any use for that?"

"Certainly," I replied.

He, too, came daily after that, and invariably I found a street-car
ticket under the rim of his plate.

The attitude of most of the other waiters was one of outright
derision at my courteous service for every customer--till I
demonstrated them to be wrong even from their own point of view.

One day a party of five whom I had often seen at other tables
appeared at my stand.  I motioned them to the centre table.  There
were three ladies and two young men.  One of the young men seemed
to be in charge.

"Waiter," he whispered to me, "couldn't you fix us up in a stall?
My mother objects to the centre tables."

"Of course," I said.  And I moved an additional chair across the

When I had taken the order and appeared in the kitchen, a shout of
laughter greeted me.

"Got the tight-wad at last, Slim," somebody said, "eh?  Did he spin
his yarn about mother?"

"Son-of-a-gun!" shouted somebody else.  "Wants a stall for five and
kicks about everything; but nobody has ever seen the colour of his

"Get a tip from him, Slim," I heard a third voice say, "and I'll
say you're a waiter."

"Sure," I grinned.  "I'll get a tip from him."

Everybody howled with amusement.

I gave the people just that amount of service which every customer
received from me; when they left, I found a fifty-cent piece under
the rim of the young man's plate.

That convinced even Frank of the superiority of my methods over

"You're a wizard, Phil," he exclaimed.

"No magic about it," I replied.  "Just treat them as you would want
to be treated, and they'll treat you as you wish them to."

Frank laughed.  "You forget," he said, "we're not six feet three;
nor do we have the manners of dukes and lords waiting on kings."

"Well," I replied, "if I awed them into tipping me, as you seem to
think, they would not come back, would they?  All they want is the
service they pay for.  If they get it, they are willing to pay for
it over again."

"I've tried it," Frank denied my plea.  "I've tried it.  Can't do
it, Phil.  Can't do it."

And there the case rested.  I had to accept him as he was or to
avoid him altogether; and for that I was not prepared.

The whole episode of my waiterdom would be of little importance--
for as far as my economic situation went, it was a mere interlude--
if it had not been for the fact that it demonstrated to myself my
own adaptability.  It gave me a fund of confidence which tided me
over, during the moments of clearer vision, even through the years
in the depths that were to follow.  If I had not had this initial
success, I might never have become a Canadian.  I might have
returned to Europe, gone into something "genteel"--or I might have
gone down into the underworld with which I was to come into contact
anyway--maybe becoming insane or indifferent in the end.

I have already given some reasons why I was disgusted with this
particular scene of my activities.  It remains for me to outline
why I began to find it impossible to face the prospect of years to
come in the same occupation.  A certain Sunday morning became the
turning point in the trend of my thoughts.

It was early in September, and Nature had begun to don those
"golden hues that herald and beautify decay".  It had been raining
overnight, quietly, softly, abundantly, I am tempted to say

When I stepped out of the door in the morning, there was relaxation
in the air; the strong and vile odour of the humus of the soil
pervaded even the city streets.  The sky was hazy.  Royal purple
lay all over the east.  The earth seemed like a brood chamber, like
a forcing house for exotic plants.

Instead of going into the city to get my breakfast, I turned into
one of the parks and sat down on a bench.

For the first time in my life the commonplace in nature--the "Near-
at-hand"--took hold of me and gripped my soul; so that I nearly
burst into tears.  A squirrel chattered at me; I longed to be able
to love it.  The dahlias stood with glistening drops still on their
petals; the elms were strangely silent, as if they were hanging
their boughs down, listening to the flow of their sap.

I felt immensely unhappy.  I was young.  The joy of mere living--
to feel the universe in myself when merely stretching my arms--
lassitude and contentment--those things were a memory to me, a
memory still near, still recent; but not reality.  Somewhere in
this great country there must be a place, so I felt, which I could
fill better than anyone else.  To work at what I could do the very
best it could be done, that would be joy, that would be living.  I
felt as if I were chained underground, deep down, deep down, with
an uncontrollable yearning to get to the light, to the life of the
sun, to the real world.

New York was the place for me to go to, of course.  Frank, so he
said, knew the head-waiter at Sherry's who, according to him, was a
wealthy veteran of the "profession".  Yes, he could and would give
me a card of introduction.  He also was known to the employment
agent at the Plaza.  He had lived, he told me, in New York for more
than a year.  He knew a good house where I could secure a nice room
for three dollars a week; it was kept, he said, by an exceptionally
fine old lady who was sure to remember him and to do almost
anything for a friend of his.  He would give me a letter to her.

"And, Phil," he added; "you stop over at Buffalo, that goes without
saying, and run up to Niagara.  While you are there, you might do
me the favour and drop in on my folks.  I want my father to see
that I am not herding it with the bums."

I smiled.  "Of course, I'll see your folks if you wish me to," I

"If you care," he went on tentatively.  "I'm sure my father would
gladly put you on the train for your trip; and you could keep your
roll intact."

"I'm not exactly a pauper for the time being," I replied evasively.

The topic was not touched again.

My mind was made up.  The strange thing about it was that there
entered little of volition into my resolve.  The thing did itself;
I did not do it.  Sometimes I realize to my amazement that the life
I am dealing with has been my own.  I honestly try to understand
why I did this or that; and I do not succeed.  I can only say, I
did it.  Something seemed to push and move me on.

May I suggest once more a connection that links these observations
to some important problems of American sociology?  I have often
asked immigrants on this continent, Why did you do this?  Why, for
instance, did you settle just here?  You would think that a man who
pulls up his stakes in one part of the world will look around,
weighing carefully all pros and cons, and will finally decide with
shrewd vision that this or that spot is exactly where he wants to
go.  In the majority of cases, nothing could be further from the
truth.  Far and away the greater number go blindfolded into the
unknown, just as I did.  It is true that a few will plan and
forecast; but even among these few I have found fewer still whose
plans and forecasts have been realized.  I asked John why he lived
in Ruthensko, Manitoba; and he replied, because George had gone
there; I asked George why he had picked this spot to settle down
in, and he replied, because Mike had picked it before him.  I came
to Mike; and perhaps his story was the same, perhaps it was
different.  He had, so perhaps he said, tramped the country,
working at odd jobs, at the chance of the job that offered.
Meanwhile, in some innermost, hidden pocket, he had put away bill
after bill of hard-earned and harder-saved money.  And finally,
when a railroad was being built into a certain section, he had
found work on the construction gang and gone out into parts
unknown.  He had had a certain amount of money--not half what he
thought he should have had, considering the wages he had been
getting and the frugality with which he had lived; for he had been
mulcted and bled on various occasions because of his ignorance of
conditions and values; nobody had ever helped him to avoid such
pitfalls; complaints had merely elicited scorn and laughter at the
"greenhorn".  A great yearning had taken hold of him; a yearning to
settle on his own soil, to be his own "boss"; he had settled down
and gone through things that made even my hair stand on end; but at
last he had won out in the face of adversity; and now it had seemed
the greatest adversity to be alone in foreign parts.  So he had
written, or caused to be written, letters to friends and relatives;
and they had come; a settlement had grown up.  He had been drifting
and drifting, ordered about and pushed, till he was weary and felt
that to be despised by those who were "on" to the ways and the
language of the country was no longer to be borne.  Like a
refractory sheep, he had lain down in his tracks and refused to
move.  That is the typical story of our rural, alien population,
alien in thought, alien in language, through none of their fault.
If the rural immigrant finds stumps on his land after he has bought
or otherwise acquired it, well, it is stumps for him; if he finds
stones, it is stones, worse luck!  And if he finds loam, it is
great good fortune and none of the fault of the land-shark.  But it
is hit-or-miss; hit-or-miss everywhere.  He has no choice except in
theory.  Yet, in the long, weary run of it, even he builds Empire.

My mind was made up.  Did I make it up?  I can hardly say.  But I
know that henceforth I thrust aside all objections which might turn
up.  I followed my star.

Then something happened which gave me a motive.  I am emphatic
about the order of things at this point.  We hear a bell in our
sleep; and with lightning quickness "it"--whatever it may be that
works in our nerve-cells--constructs a whole story leading up that
peal of the bell, motivating, explaining it "ex-post-facto", as if
we had been dreaming that story for a long while already, and as if
the bell had rung at exactly the right moment; so that we marvel at
the wonderful connection between the dream and reality and build up
a causal nexus, starting at the wrong end.  There was not even
coincidence.  Much of our explanation of psychological phenomena,
much of our motivation in ordinary life is of just that order.  We
do a thing; then we hit on a reason that may explain why we might
have done it; at last we believe quite honestly that we had very
good reasons indeed for doing what we have done.  Thus we build up
the myth of our own free will.

In my own case, however, there never was any illusion about the
sequence of resolution and motive.  It struck me at the time that
in retrospection the order of things might become reversed; the
very thought of this possibility prevented it from becoming a fact.
But it suited my purposes well to give the ex-post-facto motivation
as a very plausible explanation of my actions to others.

What happened was this.  A day or two after my conversation with
Frank--the conversation about New York which decided the issue--Mr.
Cox, the head-waiter, got into a dispute with a patron of the
restaurant.  Meg, his wife, was the waitress.  The customer had
told her that he had to catch a train and asked her to hurry his
order along.  Two or three times he had reminded her of his hurry;
without eliciting any response from her.  Then, Mr. Cox passing his
table, he stopped him, not knowing, of course, about his connection
with the waitress.  He simply directed him to cancel his order and
got up.  Now it was considered a very bad break on the part of a
waiter to let a customer get away without having been served.  Mr.
Cox himself had been rather free with rebukes when such a thing had
happened once or twice at other stands.  He did an exceedingly
injudicious thing for which there was only this excuse that just
then Meg appeared through the swinging door, with the tray on her

"We cannot cancel," Mr. Cox replied.  "Your order is coming, sir."

"I don't want the order any longer.  I have to catch my train," the
customer flared back and reached for his hat.

Mr. Cox went white.  With lightning quickness he snatched Meg's
checkbook up, totaled the amount, and held out the customer's
check.  "Whether you want the order or not," he said, "you will pay
your check."

"I shall do nothing of the kind," replied the customer and made as
if to leave.

Mr. Cox, losing his self-control, tried to bar his way and
threatened, "You will not leave the place till you have paid your
check; I shall call the police."

This moment Mr. Carlton, who was never far away when there was the
slightest commotion, came quickly and quietly along the aisle.

"What's wrong?" he asked curtly.

Cox shrugged his shoulders.  "Man refuses to pay."

"Any complaint, sir?"  Mr. Carlton turned to the customer.

The stranger explained.  "I've been waiting for twenty-five
minutes.  I have to catch a train and told the waitress so.  It is
my impression that she delayed intentionally."

"When does your train leave?"  Mr. Carlton looked at his watch.

The customer gave the time.

"John," Mr. Carlton flashed around, addressing the new helper on
the upper floor, "get a taxicab; quick."  And turning to the
customer, he went on.  "We have to apologize, sir.  The house will
see to it that you catch your train.  I'm sorry you missed your

"Well, now . . ." the customer began deprecatingly.

"Not at all," Mr. Carlton interrupted.  "We cannot let you suffer
through the fault of one of our employees."

And together they passed along the aisle.

Mr. Cox was raving.  "Look here," he fumed when Mr. Carlton
returned, "you have no business to butt in like that . . ."

"Cox," said Mr. Carlton very quietly, but with finality in his
tone, "don't you know that the customer is always right?"

"Hell," Cox broke out, "you're just picking on me."

"Listen, Cox," Mr. Carlton cut in like steel.  "Now I've got to
discharge you, of course.  Take it as a lesson and learn from it,

With that he wheeled about and went into his office.

Mr. Cox was scarlet.  Meg stood white.  For a moment he looked as
if he were going to throw himself after the manager.  Then he
laughed contemptuously, went, without a glance at his wife, down
the steps and into the dressing-room, and emerged shortly
afterwards in business suit and hat, satchel in hand, to leave the
restaurant for ever.

It was Frank who intimated the sequel to me.  He chuckled when,
half an hour later, I went over to where he was standing.

"Good for you, Phil," he greeted me.

"For me?" I asked.

"Sure," he laughed.  "You're picked as the new captain."

"Nonsense," I said.  "How could you know?"

"Heard Carlton talk over the phone to Johnson."

I stood for a moment, looking ahead into vacancy.  My New York
plans seemed to sink, to sink.

But nobody spoke to me about it that day; nor the next; and on the
third morning a sleek-looking, powerfully-built, fat young Jew
appeared as head-waiter on the scene.

"You see," I said to Frank as soon as I had a chance to speak to
him without a witness.

"Too bad," he said; "underhanded game."

"What do you mean?"

"Well," he explained, "the thing got out, you know; and the skunks
went to Carlton and said they'd quit in a body if a greenhorn like
you was promoted over their heads.  They wanted an outsider."

I pondered that.

"It's hard, you know," Frank went on, "to get waiters; it's easy
enough to get a captain.  Lots of waiters to pick from.  This man
they got from the Prince Edward.  Easy job--nothing needed but

The new head-waiter who gave his name as George was instantly
disliked by everybody except Frank, who somehow laughed and joked
him into friendship.  The cause of this general dislike was that he
assumed his duty of directing customers to their seats with
autocratic indifference to preexisting associations.  And since I
depended more than anybody else on my regular customers, I was the
first to come to an open clash.

It was in the afternoon, when that invalid and his daughter
appeared who had been my first customers.  George took the lead and
tried to steer them to the back of the room.  But I relieved him of
his charge by simply reaching for the old gentleman's hat and
smiling at the young lady.

George waited for me at the kitchen-door.

"Look here, young fella," he said sharply, "none of that while I am

I shrugged my shoulders.  "They are my regular customers."

"Never mind about regular customers," he flared back.  "I'm going
to attend to that.  You take what I give you, or I'll fire you."

"You might fire yourself," I replied.  "But as it happens, it suits
me.  I give notice.  I shall leave a week from Saturday."

With that I went through the door to fetch my tray.

Mr. Carlton called me into his office that night.

"I hear you've given notice, Branden," he said.  "What's wrong?"

"Incompatibility of character.  I suppose," I said.  "But that
isn't all.  I do not like to stay where the rumour of my being
promoted precipitates a revolution."

Mr. Carlton laughed.  "Oh, as far as that goes . . .  But I suppose
your mind is made up."

"I'm afraid it is, sir," I replied.

That answer settled the matter.

Most people are familiar with the feeling that dominates a person
who is about to take a holiday.  You see your immediate and maybe
disagreeable duties as if they stood at a distance; you are wrapped
in your expectations and visions and smile at the difficulties of
the hour.  You look after the business in hand with a certain
impatience and even absent-mindedness, forgetting that you will
have to come back to it after a while.  The holiday stretches
ahead--interminably, it seems.

That was my state of mind, except for the fact that I did not
expect to come back.

And here is a curious thing.

I had not, so far, suffered from the consciousness of doing menial
work.  On that score, Frank had been more sensitive than I.  I was
disgusted with the atmosphere of this particular place, with the
dressing-rooms, the kitchen, the small-talk current among the
waiters.  All these things Frank had accepted philosophically; but
he chafed at menial service.  The work itself had to be done to
keep the wheels of the world turning, and I had not at all objected
to doing my share of it.  Frank, who had really not changed from
one environment to another--I mean, as far as the customers were
concerned--objected to being forced to fill orders--obey the
orders, as he put it--of men whom he otherwise would have freely
associated with on a footing of equality.  I, who had never before
considered myself as on a level--intellectually and socially--with
these people, had not considered myself debased by listening or
ministering to their wants, although I should not have picked the
companions of my leisure from their ranks.  All which suggests
strange reflections on the workings of democracy.

This attitude--which is essentially my attitude to-day--now
underwent a subtle change.  Looking back over a gulf of three
decades at myself as I was at the time, I see the difference very
clearly, but find it hard to define it in so many words.

It was as if I had begun to look at my relations to the customer
with a fine and very superior sense of humour.  Not for a moment
did I abate in the service I rendered.  That is proved by the fact
that this last week yielded me the abnormally high total of nearly
seventy dollars in tips.  But I felt like somebody who has made a
specialty of the study of certain processes--in this case, how,
gracefully and with the most bountiful yield in pleasure, to
satisfy your bodily needs--and who condescends to give a
demonstration of his art.  This deceived me about a deeper feeling;
it was an attitude assumed in self-defence.  For, from the moment
when I had put a definite end to my stay at this particular place,
I looked at the whole business with distaste.  It remained bearable
only when viewed as a lark, as something which you might do in
disguise or for a very short time; but to persist in which would be
folly or worse.

During the afternoon before my last day Mr. Johnson, the
proprietor, sat down at one of my tables.

"Have a seat," he said to me.  "Sorry you are going to leave us,"
he went on, in a business-like way, when I had complied.  "What are
your plans?"

"I am going to New York," I answered.  "I have no definite plans."

"You do not wish to continue in your present line?"

"For a while, maybe," I answered, "hardly for long."

"Well, I suppose you know your mind," he suggested, and I tried to
look as if I did.  "I understand you have been in this country only
a few weeks.  You have no doubt learned something useful.  I can
only repeat we are sorry to lose you.  It is your type which we
want.  Should you ever return to this city and need it, we shall be
glad to take you on again."

"Thanks," I said, not very heartily.

"I hope you won't need it.  Wish you the best of success."  With
that he rose and offered his hand.

I felt convinced that he had been prepared to give me a glimpse at
possibilities, at probable promotions; but I had, by the aloofness
of my manner, prevented him from doing so.  That he had come with
some definite purpose, nobody in the whole dining-room doubted.  It
was too great a condescension on his part to sit down with one of
his waiters.

I felt it a duty to call on Ella before she left on Saturday night.

She giggled with embarrassment when I invited her to sit down with
me.  "So you're leaving, Slim?" she said with a wistful smile that
has not faded from my memory.

"Day after to-morrow morning," I said.

A silence fell.

Her face was flushed, her voice playing up a child-like petulancy.
"Too bad; none of the nice people stay."

"You are staying" I fenced.

"That's just it," she complained.

"And Frank," I added.

"Oh yes," she smiled reluctantly.  "Frank's all right.  I thought
so, anyway, till you came.  Oh, Slim, just think, I've been here
now for nearly three years, and I'm over twenty . . ."

I did not like that tack.  I came back to my previous point.
"What's Frank done to you?"

"Nothing," she pouted.  "Only you can't everlastingly go on
fooling.  No matter what I say or do, Frank will turn it into a
joke and get away from under.  I want to be able, once in a while,
to talk seriously."

"Ella," I said, "why don't you look out for a husband?"

"Look out for one?" she asked; and there was in her voice a strange
mixture of impatience and dreaminess.  "As if I hadn't been looking
out all along!  Who'd want me?  Bust-measure forty-four, height six
feet two--there's too much of me.  Men are cowards.  They're afraid
I'll crush them."  And, in spite of the jeering tone, tears were
near the surface.

I laughed.  "Don't take it that way," I said.  "Somebody will come
along.  Somebody will see that he can't get too much of a good
thing.  Some man at the other extreme."

"Some Roddy?" she giggled.

"There are small men who are nice and good and who like to be
mothered.  Don't look for the big and strong, Ella.  They want
something they can gather up in their arms."

"Who tells you I don't want to be gathered up in somebody's arms?"
she pouted.

"It isn't in nature, Ella," I said with a smile.  "You take my
advice.  Look for the other extreme."

Soon after we shook hands and took leave.

Somehow this conversation, more than anything else, seemed to put a
period behind the epoch in my life which this parting from Toronto
marked.  Here was a girl, meant to be wife and mother, a good girl,
a clean girl, suffering from the handicap of too much weight and
missing her destiny through no fault of hers.  I had taken more of
an interest in her than I betrayed; and just because it was the
onlooker's interest only and I was going to leave her behind so
that she would pass out of my life completely and for ever, there
was a certain melancholy about our good-by which I felt keenly.

It was quite different with Frank; I did not expect him to
disappear from my horizons.  We had agreed to write to each other,
to keep in touch, and, if possible, to maintain a mutual
helpfulness.  On Sunday morning he brought me a number of letters;
one of which I was to deliver to his father or his mother at
Buffalo; the rest, half a dozen of them, containing cards of
introduction to various people in New York.  In the afternoon we
went to some park outside the city, roaming about and planning for
the future.  Our parting seemed to lack that air of finality which
had characterized my last conversation with Ella.  I felt it more
as the beginning of my holiday.

I had five hundred dollars in my hat-box when I boarded the train
for Buffalo on Monday morning.  All customs and immigration
formalities had been attended to at Toronto.

I could not help comparing myself with the young man who, two
months ago, had arrived at the pier of Montreal.  "All things
flow."  I was the same and not the same.  I had gone through what,
for me, was a tremendous experience; it had changed my attitude
towards life.  Outwardly I felt very safe, very sure of myself.  If
any one had accosted me and asked whether I was a newcomer to the
country, I should not have answered so openly--maybe not so
truthfully as I had answered Mr. Bennett.  Without telling a lie, I
might have prevaricated, avoiding the stranger's eye.  To a certain
extent the quiet, self-possessed bearing of this young man was not
altogether histrionic.  I was an experienced traveller: for the
first time in my life I had money in my pocket which was really

As I see it now, I was, of course, not essentially changed; but I
had learned something.

I believe I am right in assuming that behind and beyond American
commercialism and industrialism there lies a vast world untouched
by either.  Even part of commercial America is pervaded with the
spirit of that other half which, in spite of its greater extent, is
less obvious.  By slow degrees I have come to accept two character-
traits as distinctively American, marking the collective character
of the New World off from the collective character of Europe or any
other civilization-unit.  One of them is a lack of selfishness
which rests really on the consciousness of size; it is a
willingness to sacrifice, to help along, to let live, to give out
of a superabundance available, and to do a thing because it should
be done, not because it furthers the doer's interests, but because
it is, after all, only fair and right to do it.  The other is a
tendency of non-interference, an inclination to take things and men
as they are--the ability to get around things, to make shift, to
accept things as realities, to make the best of them without
grumbling--in other words, the power to assimilate no matter what,
even graft.  Either of these two traits may become eclipsed now and
then; for it is not always a nation's highest which becomes
audible; but never yet have I for long listened in vain when I was
anxiously waiting for one or the other of these two traits--
helpfulness and toleration--to assert itself and to clear up what
for the moment seemed hopelessly muddled.

At that time, I still saw the surface only, and the surface
indications point rather in the opposite direction.  To the casual
observer America must indeed seem a jumble of unassimilated units;
it seems so to many Americans.  As for the nation's collective
life, it may well appear as a wild scramble of selfishness to him
who cannot see the waters below for the ruffled waters above; he
judges the quiet deep by the fleeting breakers which loom so high.

If I had known more about the real America, I should never have
gone to New York.  Bennett would have advised against it.  That, I
am afraid, is exactly why I did not look him up before leaving
Toronto.  I preferred to listen to Frank, to his stories of frantic
effort and dazzling success.  It had never occurred to me to ask
him why he did not go to New York himself.

Looked at from the outside, America's population, whether in Canada
or in the United States, seemed much less stable than that of
Europe.  My first impression, gained under the circumstances which
I have outlined, was that of a floating tide, changing quickly,
unthinkingly, continually--like the winds which blow over the
continent.  But it is the surface only to which I belonged and to
which I still was to belong for years to come.  Underneath this
frantic motion, this ever-changing surface-agitation, I have, in
the course of years, learned to discern an evergrowing, solid
foundation which is firm as the rocks, moving only in a quiet,
steady, unvarying motion--a motion headed towards clearer insight
and firmer resolve to assert itself--a motion as irresistible as
that of the Earth herself, and as continuous and unobtrusive.  The
trouble is that in our cities we stand in the turmoil of the day;
nearly all that finds utterance through the voice belongs to this
turmoil.  In order to catch the real trend of American thought you
have to get your ear down to the soil to listen.  Then you will
hear the sanity, the good sense, and the good-will which are truly
American.  While you stand upright in the clash of the surface,
your ear is filled with the clamour and clangour, the brassy din of
fleeting noises which drown the quiet whisper of destiny.  The
future must redeem the day.  And lucky we, since it is coming,

My short stay at Buffalo was the most fleeting episode.  I called
at the house of Frank's parents and realized with a shock how
little the fact that I introduced myself as Frank's friend prepared
a welcome for me.

The mother, a stout, middle-aged lady, received me in the parlour,
read the letter which I brought, asked a few questions, distantly
almost, as if she took no interest in her son, sighed a good deal,
looked a good deal at me, over the rim of her glasses, not without
suspicion, hoped Frank would come to his senses, and suggested to
my perceptions that the interview was a painful one and had better
come to an end.

I extricated myself and, after roaming the city for a while and
having looked down from the "Front" on lake and river, took a car
to the "Falls."

There I saw what a year or two ago I might have gone across the
face of the earth to see.  And I have to confess that it made no
impression on me at all.  I am afraid that in much of our
admiration for the great sights there is a good deal of sham.  To
catch the real significance of any aspect of Nature one thing above
all is needed--the receptive mood in ourselves.  To create it, I
found, so many things are necessary, so many coincidences of
preparation, such delicate attunements of eye and ear to the
accidents of light and sound, that hardly ever does the real
experience of the beauty of any one thing come to us more than once
in a lifetime.  A good many times have I been out on sight-seeing
trips; sometimes I did not bring home a single thing of value;
sometimes, what made such a trip an abiding possession, was some
little trifle which had nothing to do with the seven wonders that I
went out to see--some light-reflexes on the mobile ripples of a
brook, maybe; or the play of the shadows of some leaves on the
ground.  But once in a great while, very rarely, in one of those
supreme and never-to-be-forgotten moments which are worth patiently
waiting for, worth wooing, one of the really great things of our
Earth will speak to us because our own condition is just right for
just what we see or hear--and then it stands revealed; when we go
home, we are different men and women; our life, our very being is
changed because we have stood face to face with the Divine.

The falls might have revealed themselves to me, had I been able to
linger with a free and unencumbered mind.  As it was, they were
just so much water falling over rocks.  The trip, foolishly
undertaken, put me at outs with myself and the world.  In reality
it probably was the impression made upon me by my reception at the
house of Frank's parents which so strangely unsettled me.  I was
preoccupied, angry, full of half-realized doubts; and the sight
which I beheld was very nearly an intrusion upon my privacy.

My holiday started thus in the most inauspicious manner.  I felt
lonesome, deserted.  I felt inclined to find fault with Frank for
having sent me on such an errand.  My whole surroundings, the
sight-seers, who were indifferent only, seemed hostile.  I thought
of that last but one Sunday at Toronto.  I had felt as if I were
chained underground, full of an overpowering yearning to get back
to the surface, the life of real men, the light.  Now I was very
near to a desire to bury myself, to hide away from the view of all
those who had their definite place in the work of the world.

For the first time the real problem which confronted me loomed
high.  It had flashed up once or twice before, but dimly only, not
as the all-important thing as which I saw it now.  It is a curious
fact that its recognition did not deflect the course of my life as
yet.  If I had seen things then as I was to see them two years
later, I should have spared myself untold days and nights of
misery.  But to open my eyes, that nightmare was needed which for
me is named by the name New York.  At that time I saw the problem
only, not as yet a way to solve it.  Its solution looked like a
goal that stood at the end of a road which I had to go in order to
get there.  No road which I could see was labelled Salvation.

The problem which loomed up was this: to find--not my "level" any
longer in this civilization of an order foreign to me--but to find,
in this labyrinth of roads, and fields, rocks and soils, that spot
of humus where I could take root IN ORDER THAT I MIGHT GROW.  I had
so far accepted myself, my innermost I, as something given,
something stable, enduring, as something THAT WAS.  This afternoon
at Niagara Falls which has so strongly persisted in my memory--
probably, because it comprised some of the most unhappy hours in my
life--I suddenly saw myself as a mere germ, as a seed that wanted
to be planted.  I realized that I was nothing finished; that there
were still possibilities of growth in me.  But, unless I found the
soil in which I could grow, I was bound to perish--NO MATTER WHAT
MY OUTWARD SUCCESS MIGHT BE.  Like a great anguish a fear crept
over me.  I might achieve what I had set out to achieve--economic
success.  But that success seemed strangely inadequate now, might
it be ever so great.  What good could it do me if I won all the
riches on earth but lost my--growth?

I thought of my father and of his life, and I shuddered.  Was I to
follow his path, but with the direction reversed?  Had I started
life where he left it, and was I now going for ever after to live
in "ill-fitting clothes"?  I had gone too far to turn back.
Besides, turn back to what?  To a life of mediocrity under the eye
of social contempt?  If mediocrity it was to be, why not spare
myself the contempt?  I was surrounded by bitter waters, and I had
to swim.  I was at the mercy of winds and waves.

Bitterly I felt the blindness of him who gropes his way in a
foreign world.  Bitterly I felt the cruelty of those who live their
easy lives in well-marked tracks, unconscious of the suffering that
is his who is cast away among them.

Still, when I saw the real problem at last, it never occurred to
me--as it hardly ever occurs to the immigrant--that the search for
that bit of soil which might fill my needs might not be a
geographical search at all.  The thought never came to me that
somewhere in this great city, in any city, any town, any village,
there might be a man to whom I could talk, with whom I could
discuss the problem just as it loomed before me, and who might
point out its quite obvious and unmistakable solution.  Economic
success seemed a very small thing to me that afternoon and, in sane
moments, ever after.  Economic success is a very relative thing in
any case; it hardly matters.  What would have meant economic
success to me might have seemed abject poverty to some, wealth
incarnate to others.  But one thing we all desire and long for;
unless we find it, we perish spiritually and mentally--unless we
find a way of doing it, for it is a doing rather than a having.
And to express that one thing, I might borrow a word from among the
words of Jesus: "to live in abundance."

Still, of course, the economic problem persisted.  Even after I did
what I could to shake it off entirely, this question of the
immediate sustenance still was to arise, every now and then, and to
obscure the real problem as it had dawned upon me when I was at
outs with myself because a middle-aged lady did not receive me as I
thought I should have been received.


The Relapse

"The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which
is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long

Henry David Thoreau


The Issue is Obscured

When I emerged from the train into the huge hall of the
Pennsylvania Station at Jersey City, the clouds that shadowed mind
and consciousness had vanished.  I still remember the bright
sunshine of the early morning, the glaring contrasts in the light,
as I stepped out of the train shed to find my way to the ferry.  It
was one of the mercilessly clear, cloudless fall days that soften
nothing and which for that very reason are so exhilarating to the

The unfinished skyline of the city, as I saw it in crossing the
Hudson over to 23rd Street, seemed full of hope.  I left my baggage
in the ferry-hall and started out a-foot to get my breakfast.
While waiting for my coffee and rolls, I studied a map in order to
find my way through the network of streets to the address of the
rooming-house which Frank had given me.

On my way I saw the Flatiron Building and the Metropolitan Tower;
and the sight of both filled me again with that exhilaration which
I had experienced during my first few minutes on American soil.
But there was a difference.  I felt very American on this morning
in the metropolis of the western world.  I walked all the way, for
I was jealous of any obstruction to the free range of my eye.  I
felt outside of things, but I enjoyed this onlooker's attitude; I
was still on my holiday--I was glad I was not yet a cog in the
gigantic machine.  I should be one soon enough.

At last I reached 14th Street, and I took out Frank's letter to his
former landlady, in order to make sure of the address.  I soon
understood the system of numbering; so I walked on, past Union
Square, to Third Avenue; beyond which I began to look for the house
that I was trying to find.  Several times I went up and down the
block, relying upon myself.  I could not find it.  I began to
enquire from residents of the street.  No such number had ever

I felt baffled and annoyed at Frank for having committed an
inaccuracy.  Beyond that no suspicion entered my mind.  I still had
the name of the lady; but the directory at the corner-drugstore
gave no clue; I returned to Fifth Avenue and walked back up-town.

It seems a trifle; but something had gone wrong, had not worked
out; I had lost a thread leading out of the past into the present,
a guiding clue; I felt disquieted.  When I caught sight again of
the Flatiron Building and the Metropolitan Tower, they no longer
exhilarated me; there was something like a threat in their very
boldness and enormity.  The glare of the unmitigated sun began to
weary my eye.  I sat down on one of the benches in Madison Square,
opposite the Tower, and began to study my guide-book.  I tried to
find the name of some medium-priced, quiet hotel where I might stay
for a day or two till I got used to the pace of the city.  It
seemed that I could not find what I wanted.  The maze of names and
addresses was bewildering.  Invariably my eye seemed to revert
automatically to such as the "Astor", the "Waldorf", the
"Knickerbocker", the "Plaza".

I reasoned myself into indifference.  What did it matter, after
all?  I should stay at the hotel only for a night or so; then I
should secure accommodation at some private house.  What was the
difference whether I spent a dollar or two more than I felt
justified in spending?

I picked at random and hit upon Prince George Hotel on 27th Street,
between Fifth Avenue and Madison.  I went there at once, secured a
room--with bath--made the necessary arrangements with regard to my
baggage, washed, and left for a trip over the Elevated Railway to
Bronx Park.  I felt the need of relaxation and meant to have it.

In the evening I returned to my hotel; but when I went to my room,
restlessness drove me out again.

I went down to the spacious lobby of the hotel, bought a magazine,
and thought to employ the remedy of reading.  I wished Frank were
there.  I longed for company.

In this mood I dropped into one of the deep, leather-covered chairs
in the smoking room.  I do not remember whether I had started to
read or not.  I dreamed.  At any rate I became conscious, after a
while, of the fact that somebody else had occupied the chair next
to mine.  I did not see my neighbour; not did I hear him.  I did
not look around.  But I felt a pair of eyes which brushed over my
body and seemed to touch it, now here, now there.  We are
occasionally in such a state of sensitive nervousness which seems
to call into play perceptive powers beyond those that are normally

I was on the point of rising and leaving the place, when the
stranger addressed me.  He sat, half hidden between the huge arm-
rests of his chair which was turned so as to shade his face and his
half-averted figure.  The voice seemed pleasant; it had a strange
effect.  It seemed to hold me, to take the initiative out of my
make-up.  It rang with a delicate timbre of sadness and sympathy.
It seemed to force me into a conversation, whether I wanted it or
not; and I yielded to its invitation, at first reluctantly, then
not without pleasurable readiness.  Was not here, after all, the
company I had been longing for?

Our first remarks were trivial enough.

"A beautiful night," the stranger said; and by a turn of his voice
he managed to convey in these three words the effect of great and
elaborate eloquence.

"Yes, very," I replied; the sheer inability to respond adequately
made me laconical.

There followed a good many remarks of a similar nature too
insignificant to be remembered or recorded.

"Nobody should remain in the city this time of the year," he
continued after a while, speaking quite slowly and looking down at
his hands; "much less seek it.  The country, the woods, the hills--
purple distances, hazy foregrounds.  But you cannot always do as
you would like."

A silence fell.  I should by this time have regretted to see him
rise.  When you are in an uncertain, undecided, doubtful mood
yourself, nothing is quite as comforting as to play the helpful
spirit to some one else who is in the same predicament.  The very
tone of his voice spoke of a sadness kin to my own.

"Are you a stranger here?" I enquired.

"Oh," he replied, "I've been in New York before.  Business takes me
here quite frequently.  But I hate the city, except in the dead of
wintertime.  To be here in the summer or spring always gives me a
feeling as if in the whole world I did not know a single soul.  I
arrived today.  Whenever I get here, I seem to be simply starving
for company."

"Yes," I said, "I know that feeling myself.  A person is nowhere
more alone than in a crowd which he does not know."

"You've said it," he exclaimed; and for a second the slang
expression and the alacrity with which it was uttered jarred upon

"I suppose," he went on after a while; and his voice resumed that
soft and melancholy note which had won my sympathy, "you're quite
an experienced traveller.  You look that way.  I've stayed at home
most of my life--at work which I hate.  And there is every now and
then this trip to New York.  St. Louis is my home-town.  Life's a
funny thing anyway."  He laughed a low, melodious laugh at his own

Often already in my young life had I made the experience that a
stranger, if hour and place prove auspicious, will confide to a
fellow-stranger things which the other might never have found out
had he lived side by side with him for decades.  I felt a strange
sensation of expectant tension that such a moment of revelation had
come.  Here was a kindred soul, apparently in troubles not unlike
my own.  To listen to him restored my self-control.  It was
soothing.  I meant to lead him softly on.

"St. Louis?" I asked with a show of interest.

"Yes," he said with a note of indescribable contempt, "the city of
beer, tobacco, and boots.  Boots are my line.  Had to make it my
line, you know.  No choice in the matter.  What else was there for
a Hannan to do?"

He looked up at me with confiding, child-like eyes.  "Of Hannan and
Morse, you know.  The 'National Work-Boot'.  I'm not the Hannan of
the firm, of course.  That's my father.  But if you are born into a
great business, you might just as well desire the stars as think of
anything else."

"Well," I said philosophically, but not without sympathy--the way
you might speak to a child when you try to comfort him, and quoting
Mr. Bennett of two months ago, "One thing is about as bad as the
next one."

"Perhaps," he sighed; "yet I cannot quite admit it.  Take my own
case.  I have a gift for drawing.  That is what made me speak to
you.  When you were sitting there, looking out into the dark, I saw
a picture.  I saw it all finished, painted, framed, and hung in
some famous gallery even.  I saw it all, down to the title on the
little brass-plate underneath.  'Lord Willowscoop', it read, 'in
meditation.'"  And again he laughed his soft ironical laugh, as if
in self-derision.

I smiled.  "Branden's my name," I said indulgently, "plain

"Not the Brandons of Brandon Beeches?" he asked with a sudden show
of interest.

"Not that I know of," I answered simply.  "I am a stranger in this
country."  I had not read Shaw's Unsocial Socialist at the time;
the ironical trick went unchallenged.

"Just touring?"

"Oh, I don't know," I evaded.  "I may stay after all."

"Beastly country to live in," he said with more passion than I
should have expected.  "As I said before, take my own case.  I
wanted to be a painter.  Did I get a chance?  Art is nothing.  It
does not exist.  Nobody has ever heard of such a thing.  There is
money enough in the family.  The old man has seen to that.  But
what is his idea?  Since he made a pot of money in his time, I must
make another in mine.  Sometimes I feel sorely tempted, when he
sends me out on one of these trips, to decamp and try poverty and
contentment.  Life is a rotten thing, alright."

"Things may change," I said.  "Besides, if that is the way you feel
about it, why not try as you suggest?"

"Oh," he exclaimed, "I suppose I am a coward.  A mollycoddle, if
you want.  Don't seem to be able to muster courage enough to break
loose."  He jumped to his feet.  "Say, old man, do me a favour.  I
shouldn't be alone when I'm like that.  Let's go somewhere.  Let's
have a glass of beer.  Anything rather than sit around and brood."

"Sure," I said good-naturedly and rose.  "Whatever you say.  Where
shall we go?"

"Might drop over to the Holland House," he said dejectedly.  "We
can talk there.  It's quiet this time of the night."

I reached for my hat; we went out, down towards Fifth Avenue, and
then turned north.

We walked in silence, and I reflected.  I could, of course, not
help seeing the contrast between the situation of this young
stranger and my own.  A millionaire's son, rich, apparently well-
bred--I had forgotten that one or two remarks had jarred upon my
sensibilities--unhappy through being forced into a station in life
which clashed with his inclinations.  I, free to do as I pleased,
but forcing myself in order not to remain for life what I was, a
poor man.  And yet there was similarity, too, in the way life
played with him and myself.  But the strangest thing was that we
should have met.  I thought of Frank and myself; and now this
stranger!  The country seemed to be full of problematical persons.

We reached the corner of 30th Street and turned in at the Holland
House.  There was, in the large, brilliantly lighted room which we
entered, only one single guest.  He sat near the wall to the right,
at a small table, a bottle of champagne in a cooler by his side.  A
waiter was filling his glass.

My companion started when he saw this guest.  We went to the middle
of the room, young Hannan nudging me and whispering, "Let's get
away from that fellow.  I know him.  He's a bore."

We sat down, separated from the other guest by some five or six
intervening tables.  Since Hannan deliberately chose his seat so as
to turn his back to the stranger, I had to face him.

While Hannan attended to our order, I appraised this man.  He was
heavy, massive, forty years old, I judged.  Apparently he had been
imbibing for some time.  His big, prominent, goggly eyes showed
that lack-lustre stare of the drinker who is almost stupefied with
liquor.  He was probably tall when standing; his great bulk
expanded below to obesity, and tapered towards the head.  The head,
too, tapered towards the skull.  His cheeks seemed to overflow; so
did his chin which reposed in two or three heavy rolls on a low,
fold-back collar.  His nose was fleshy, his upper lip was hanging
like a thick, quivering curtain over his teeth.  His hair was scant
and grey.  His clothes, too, were grey; there was something
slovenly about them; the coat seemed to hang in cast-iron folds.

From the stranger my eye slipped back to my companion.  It was the
first time that I could scan his face in bright light.  He was
prepossessing enough; and he gained still more by contrast.  He
was neat, clean, young, pleasant; his clothes were sober, of
irreproachable cut and taste.  A small, unobtrusive pearl reposed
in his expensive, navy-blue moire necktie.  He seemed the type of
the best class of young Americans.

The waiter withdrew; young Hannan leaned across the table.

"Let's hurry," he said, "and get away.  That fellow is sure to
bother us.  He's an awful bore."

"He does not look any too pleasant," I admitted.

"Tobacco-planter," Hannan whispered.  "Money to burn; but no
manners.  I'm afraid he's seen me already.  If he has, he is sure
to come over and spoil our evening.  A regular boob.  He's from
Missouri, all right.  My father's got a place in the country, next
to his.  Too bad."

Our beer appeared.  The big stranger had all the time been looking
at us.  His heavy upper lip swayed in front of his teeth as if he
were muttering things.  When he saw the nature of the order, he
sneered openly.  "Pikers!" I heard him say, as if to himself.  Then
he shouted across the room, "Broke, Hannan?"

Hannan did not reply.  The stranger laughed.

"Let's hurry," Hannan whispered once more, "we'll go somewhere
else."  He gave the waiter a sign to indicate his desire to pay for
our order.

But the stranger had risen and was already coming towards our
table.  The next moment he was heavily swaying above our heads.  He
spoke ludicrously as if to a child, "Is the poor boy from Missouri
broke?  Poor child!  Bad daddy!  Come, let uncle Howard pay for a
little candy!"

Hannan pushed his chair back, with a fine show of resentment.
"Hang it, Howard," he said; "leave me alone, will you?"

"Sure, sure," soothed Howard.  "Poor little boy!  Out of sorts to-
night, is he?  Waiter, here!  Bring us another Mumm, extra dry.
Sit down, boy!  Let uncle Howard cheer you up.  Sit down; keep your
coat on.  Come, come!"

I had been looking on in half amused, half annoyed silence, ready
to reach for my hat.

To my amazement, Hannan allowed himself to be pushed back into his
seat, whereupon Howard dropped tipsily into a chair between the two
of us.

Meanwhile a waiter brought the wine from Howard's table; from the
rear a second one approached with a tray of high-stemmed glasses
and an unopened bottle.  Howard was treated here with the deference
which is accorded only to well-known liberal patrons of a place.

Hannan still scowled heavily.  Then he suddenly smoothed out his
brow and with a motion of his hand introduced me to Howard.  "Shake
hands with my friend, Mr. Branden," he said, winking at me.

Howard pulled himself together with a visible effort and did so,
nearly upsetting the glasses in the act.  This reminder of a third
presence apparently put him on his guard; he tried to hold himself
straight and steady.

A waiter poured the wine.  We reached for our glasses and raised
them.  Hannan and Howard emptied theirs at a gulp.  I, being bent
on observing the two, barely touched the wine with my lips.  The
waiter instantly refilled the glasses.

Howard turned to me.  "A stranger in this land of libertee?" he
asked in a drunken drawl.

"Yes," I said, "I'm coming over from the Canadian side."

Howard chuckled.  He caught sight of our beer glasses which were
still standing on the table, nearly untouched.  "You pore fish," he
said contemptuously, "drinking beer at a time like this!  Hannan,
you're a piker!  Pa doesn't like to see his money wasted, eh?  Got
any stuff in you, boy?  Don't you even wake up when you get to
little old New York?  Come on, you piker; let's see who's going to
pay for this."

And he extracted from his pocket a handful of silver from which he
laboriously picked a silver dollar.

"Oh, cut it," snapped Hannan in undisguised ill-humour.  "You're
showing off, as usual, Howard.  Probably sold a crop or so, and
when you've got a few pennies in your pocket. . . ."

Howard laughed uproariously, emptied his glass again, and once more
dug into his pocket from which this time he was at great pains to
pull a huge roll of bills, fully three inches in diameter.  They
seemed to be mostly in denominations of one hundred dollars, though
the wrapper consisted of a thousand-dollar bill.

"Sold my crop, eh?" he sneered.  "Sure I did.  Look what kind of
crop uncle Howard had.  Can afford a little spree, can't he, you
little envious crab?  You digger and son of a bobtailed cat!"

"Look here," Hannan said, getting hot under the collar, "if you
want to insult me, I might just as well go.  As for that filthy
trash which you choose to exhibit, if you want to know, I think I
could match every blessed bill you've got there without as much as
writing a cheque.  And so, for that matter, could my friend Mr.
Branden, I suppose, if he wished to.  You don't seem to know that
your bragging is in abominably bad taste, especially in the
presence of strangers . . ."

Howard had, for a moment, dumbly gasped at this effusion.  Then he
burst into a guffaw of laughter which shook his huge bulk like the
waves of a prolonged earthquake.

"Bad taste?" he roared.  "Bad taste, is it?  That's what every
mother's son says who hasn't got it.  Bet you, my boy, that I could
sit in a little game with you and put up a hundred to one and still
clean you out in less'n half an hour.  You pore reptile!"  With
that he got up; and, turning to me, he said, "'Scuse me a minute,
Mister Branden," and went out.

He had hardly left the room when Hannan bent over and started to
speak in a rapid whisper.

"I have to apologize, Mr. Branden," he said "for getting you into
this.  If I had thought we might meet this fellow, and he being
drunk, I should not have taken you here, that goes without saying.
But the thing is done; and I hate to retreat.  He needs a lesson.
I'm going to take that wad from him, till morning.  When he's
sober, he's right enough--he should not drink.  As it is, he's
going to fall into the hands of some con-man; then pity his poor
wife and children.  He's a friend and neighbour of my father's,
too.  It's only charity to protect him.  Let's have the game he
proposes.  You do as I tell you, and in half an hour we'll clean
him out.  Then he'll sleep off his drink; to-morrow morning, when
he's sober, we'll put him on board his train, with his money safe
till he leaves the city.  What say?"

"He might win instead of losing," I objected.

"I'll see to that," whispered Hannan.  "He's coming back.  You do
as I'll tell you.  We two'll stack against him.  He can't win that
way; but he'll never notice the trick.  We often do it for fun, at
home.  I'll be the banker for the two of us.  Whatever you put in,
I'll hand back to you when the game is over.  I'd do it by myself;
only I might not have enough cash in my pocket.  I was bluffing
before, you know.  We'll save that sot in spite of himself."

He leaned back, still speaking in a sibilant whisper, without
moving his lips.

Since I saw Howard approaching, I acquiesced by an imperceptible

Two points I can aver in my defence.  Firstly, I had no doubt of
young Hannan's entirely honest, yes, benevolent intentions.
Howard's condition was such that indeed I considered his money as
being in grave jeopardy from professional crooks.  It was doing him
a kindness to take care of it for him.  I could well imagine what a
salutary jolt it would be for him to wake up next morning and to
find himself penniless.  He would probably live through an hour or
two which would not be so easy to forget.  The hint about his wife
and children had sunk in.  The thing took hold of me.  Secondly, I
had sat in a game before.  I had never yet given thought to
questions of public morals.  Gambling seemed perfectly legitimate
to me; why, it pervaded even the public life of Europe with its
state-sanctioned lotteries.  If anybody had suggested to me at the
time that to live on a million won in the lottery-game was immoral,
I should have gasped as at an absurdity.  From what little I had
seen of American life--which was, of course, superficial enough--it
seemed altogether built up on, and in itself a sanction of, the
gambling chance.

Howard seemed slightly sobered when he sat down.  But the idea of a
game seemed to fill him with pleasurable excitement.  He had by no
means forgotten about it.

"Well, boys," he said, "how about it?"

"How about what?" snapped Hannan, once more with his show of angry

"The game," said Howard.  "I offered to play you a hundred to one.
I need some excitement in this dull town.  The offer is open."

"Sure," said Hannan indifferently, "we'll take you up any moment
you say so.  But we can't start a game here."

Howard became astonishingly active for one who was so far gone in
drink.  He called the waiter, suppressed Hannan's attempt at paying
his share, threw down a hundred-dollar bill, gave, when he received
his change, a five-dollar tip, and asked tersely, when we were
getting up, "Where'll it be?"

"Stanley's," answered Hannan, as tersely, "on twenty-seventh."

And, taking my arm, as we walked out, he whispered, "That's only a
couple of doors from our hotel."

We left the Holland House, Howard leading by a few steps.  Hannan
and I followed, arm in arm, like a pair of old and trusted friends.

On the way Hannan whispered again:  "Going to play flip.  Let him
lead.  Throw your coin quickly.  The game'll take care of itself."

I cannot say but that out here, in the open air, some qualms of
conscience assailed me.  I should have preferred to take Howard's
money outright and to put it in the safe of the Prince George.
But, since we were not going to any private club, there were
difficulties in the way of such a plan.  And what was Howard to me
that I should bother about him?  Hannan seemed to feel sure that he
would lose.  Here goes, I thought.  Since I had gone so far I would
see the matter through.  I was entirely altruistic.

We entered Stanley's by a long, semi-dark corridor from 27th
Street.  The barroom, which must have been closer to 26th Street,
to judge from the length of the corridor, was garishly lighted and
filled with a noisy, gesticulating crowd over which lay thick,
bluish layers of cigar-smoke.  A white-frocked coloured waiter
flitted across our path as we entered.  I still see him with my
mind's eye, how he bent over in hurrying forward, and how he
suddenly stopped, as it were, in mid-flight when he caught sight of
Howard.  Without waiting for sign or word, he turned at a sharp
angle to his former direction and led the way to a small private
room at the left.  He opened the door, switched on the lights,
allowed us to enter, closed the door, and was gone.

We sat down.  In every motion of Howard's enormous bulk was quiet
purpose.  He seemed hardly tipsy any longer.  But Hannan winked at
me and with a quiet smile allayed the misgivings which were taking
hold of me in spite of all.

"He's an habitué here," he whispered.

The waiter returned with three glasses of beer which no one had

"Anything else, gentlemen?" he asked.

"Two scotch," said Hannan.

"Yassir," and the attendant ducked out.  He had not so much as
smiled at any one.

Again he entered, bringing a bottle and three glasses, and

Howard knocked his roll of bills on the table and showed by every
impatient motion that he "meant business."

"What's it to be?" he asked curtly.

"Flip," said Hannan and threw three coppers on the table.

"Just a moment," I spoke up; "how do you play that?"

"A flicker of a smile flashed over Howard's face and vanished.
Hannan explained briefly.  Whoever led, was to make a bet and throw
his coin.  The other two had to match the bet and to decide the
game by throwing their coins in turn.  If all three coins fell
alike, either obverse or reverse, the pot remained; if not, the one
whose coin differed from the other two took it.  Each of us in turn
started the betting and threw first.

"Your turn," said Hannan to Howard.

Howard threw a hundred-dollar bill into the centre of the table and
flipped his coin.

Hannan threw down a silver dollar, and so did I.

Howard snarled with a contemptuous grimace.  "Remember the terms,
do you?" he said.

The pot was Howard's.

Hannan who was sitting to the left of Howard, betted next.  He
threw down a ten-dollar bill; I matched it; and Howard, with a
coarse and derisive laugh, whipped out a thousand.  The coins fell,
and again Howard with a remarkably steady hand raked in the money.

I made it a one; the pot fell to Hannan.  He raked it in and left
it on the table between the two of us.

There was a momentary pause while Hannan filled two of the small
glasses from the bottle.  He pushed one over to me, one to Howard.
Howard emptied his at a gulp, I touched mine with my lips.  Hannan
did not partake.

The taste of the liquor seemed to make Howard all the more eager.
He counted out five hundred-dollar bills and threw them down.
Hannan and I matched with two fives, and the coins span.  Again it
was Howard's turn to rake in the stakes.  His upper lip seemed to
wave from one side of his mouth to the other; it reminded me oddly
of a heavy curtain blowing in a breeze.  His eyes bulged more than

Hannan made his bet five dollars again.  The pot fell to myself.
When I raked it in and joined it to the pile already lying between
us, it suddenly struck me that indeed, even if the stakes had been
even, we could not have helped cleaning Howard out since we were
playing together.  Only the most extraordinary run of luck could
have given Howard any winnings at all.  As it was, he was bound to
be bankrupt within half an hour.  I could not understand that
Howard did not see through the trick, especially since we left the
money lying open on the table and did not disguise the fact that we
threw our winnings together.  Mostly, it is true, for the next ten
or fifteen minutes, Howard was the winner.  But his winnings in
each pot amounted to two, ten, or at most twenty dollars; whereas
what he lost, was never less than a hundred, and often it was a
thousand dollars a throw.

The alertness and alacrity with which he had begun the game had
left him now.  Repeatedly he had his glass refilled.  Repeatedly he
sank into something like a stupor.  At last Hannan had to touch him
on the shoulder when it came his turn to bet.  He started up as
from a dream.

"Sure," he said, "sure"; and he reached for his roll on the table.
It had by this time dwindled down to a few meagre bills.  He
grumbled.  Then, as if awaking, he opened and closed his eyes
rapidly two or three times, and a heavy scowl settled between his
brows.  He shot a glance at our joint pile.  I expected some kind
of trouble.  But he merely hissed a scarcely audible remark,
reached into his hip-pocket, apparently with great exertion, pulled
another roll out, counted off ten bills, slowly and carefully, and
threw them down.  To my bewilderment they were ten thousand-dollar
bills.  I took the remainder of my money out of my pocket.  It
amounted to just sixty dollars.  Hannan saw my predicament and,
with the slightest motion of his hand, pushed the pile of money
which lay between us towards me.  I took four tens and matched the
bet.  I thought I saw Howard shoot a glance at the hand which
picked out the four bills from our common winnings.  I was not
quite sure of it, but the mere suspicion sent misgivings of some
impending disaster through my spine.

When the coins fell, Howard bent forward and watched his chance
more eagerly than he had done so far.

The pot went to Hannan.

Howard laughed.  "Gol-darn it," he said; and suddenly he did not
seem the least bit drunk, "You've done it, boys.  You've cleaned me
out.  All but the fare back home.  Well, 'scuse me a moment."  With
a heavy motion he got up and left the room.

As soon as he was gone, Hannan turned to me.  "Well," he said
quickly, "we'll put that wad in the safe of the Prince George; all
but what is your own, of course.  There must be twenty thousand
here.  Some crop!  How much is yours?"

All misgivings were dispelled by these words.

"Two hundred and fifty-five," I said, and Hannan began to count.

That very moment I pricked my ears, for I heard distinctly that out
in the bar-room a monotonous voice had begun to call my name.  The
voice came nearer.  I could now hear and understand it beyond the
possibility of a doubt.  "Phone-call-for-Mr.-Branden! . . .  Phone-

I jumped up; yet I hesitated.  Who should call me?  Who knew me?
How could the people at the hotel have guessed where I might be?

"Phone for you?" asked Hannan.

"Seems so," I said, "but I cannot imagine . . ."

"Better answer it," said Hannan; "but take your money."

He held out a number of notes among which I recognized two hundred-
dollar bills.  I grabbed them, crammed them into my pocket, and
rushed out.  A uniformed boy was just beginning to sing out again.
At sight of myself he broke off.

"You Mr. Branden?" he asked.


"This way, sir."  And he led the way through the crowd to one of
the telephone-booths.

He held the door open and closed it when I had entered; I picked
the dangling receiver up.

"Hello," I said.

Pause.  Then, "Hello."

"This is Mr. Branden; who is speaking?"


"Hello," I said.  "The Prince George was calling me, I hear.
You've cut us off, it seems."

"Prince George?  You want the Prince George?"

"If you please."

A moment later the connection was made.  No call had come from the

A vague uneasiness took hold of me.  But it did not matter.  Once
more I felt for my money.  The money was there.  I left the booth
and tried to find the room in which we had been sitting.  All the
rooms seemed empty.  I did not know exactly where to look for ours.
Then I suddenly caught sight of my hat on the hat-tree of the very
room into which I was looking.  There was the table, too, with the
glasses and the half-empty bottle.  But neither Hannan nor Howard
were there.  I felt uneasy again but could see no cause for alarm.
Probably they had simply left the room for a moment and would
presently return.  I had my money.  I entered and sat down.

The waiter opened the door.  When he saw me, he stepped back with a
muttered apology.  But before he could close the door, I sang out,
"If you please, waiter."

"Yassir," he said and reentered.

"These gentlemen gone?" I enquired with a motion of my hand towards
the empty chairs.

"Yassir," he repeated obsequiously; not a motion in his coffee-
coloured face betrayed the slightest interest.

"Oh," I said, surprised and exceedingly puzzled.  Then I rallied.
I pulled out my money.

"Young gentleman paid the check," said the waiter.  "Him as you
called Mr. Hannan, sir."

I was still more puzzled.  What was the game?  Something was wrong;
but what?

"Any message?"


"Look here, waiter," I said in a confidential tone, handing him a
dollar-bill which he took with a "Thank you, sir," but without a
smile, his face the picture of unfathomable sorrow.

"Look here," I repeated, "do you know either of the men?"

"Nossir," he said very promptly and, so it seemed to me, a little
too promptly, "never saw either one before."

This I knew to be a lie; the way in which he had led us to the
private room had too clearly betrayed that he knew Howard at least.
I thought of the fact that Hannan, like myself, was stopping at the
Prince George.  I shrugged my shoulders.

"Very well," I said.

"Anything else, sir?" he asked.

"No, thanks."  And I rose to go.

At the office of the hotel I asked for the number of Mr. Hannan's
room.  No Mr. Hannan was registered there.

I went upstairs, profoundly puzzled.  I believe I walked the floor
for the greater part of the night; and when at last I went to bed,
I could not sleep.

There must have been some trick; but I simply could not find in
what it consisted.  All those points on which suspicion was based
came back to me: the unmistakable fact that Howard was known to the
coloured waiter at Stanley's, who yet denied all knowledge of him;
the incomprehensible stupidity of Howard's in submitting to a silly
mulcting trick like ours; his undoubted soberness at the beginning
of the game; the sharp look from the corner of his eye when I began
to draw my betting money from the common fund; the fact that the
game had automatically stopped exactly when my money was gone; the
fabricated telephone-call at exactly the right moment; the
disappearance of the two accomplices (for, that they were
accomplices in some scheme, I had now no doubt); the deceit
practiced by Hannan with regard to his stopping-place--all these
things convinced me that I had been the victim of an elaborately
laid plan.  There were too many suspicious things, there was too
astonishing a concurrence of trifles to admit of their being taken
for mere coincidence.

What was the scheme?  What was its purpose?  I had my money.  I
took it out and counted it over, only to find the amount correct.
Even the drinks had been paid for.  Where did I come in?  If I had
somehow been cheated, well and good; I could have taken my loss and
gone to bed and to sleep and accepted the thing as a lesson.  As it
was, the very mystery of it was tantalizing.

Suddenly a thought struck me, and the whole matter presented itself
intentions has been honest.  But does the end justify the means?
The fact remained that I had taken part in a conspiracy to take a
man's money from him.  I felt defiled.  The rest of the night I
spent in violent self-reproaches.  I vowed never to make up with a
stranger again.  I wished to bury myself, to find a private room
and to accept any kind of work--that of a waiter, if necessary--
immediately.  I began to wish that I had been cheated, that I had
lost my money.  I preferred being the victim to having placed
myself in a position where I might possibly have been the
victimizer.  And suddenly a still more disquieting thought arose,
still more disquieting, because it seemed to carry conviction.  It
seemed to explain to my heated imagination all the puzzling
features of the evening; and those that it did not explain I had no
longer any eye for.

What if Howard had really been bled?  What, if Hannan alone was the
crook?  The fact that the telephone-call had come when Howard had
left the room, seemed to speak against it.  But, might not Hannan
have "planted" that boy who had been paging me?  Might not Hannan
have grabbed the money and made off before Howard returned?  Might
not Howard, thinking that I had fled with him, have started in hot
pursuit of the robbers, sobered as he no doubt had been by that
time?  If that was the right explanation, no matter how guileless
my intention had been, I was Hannan's accomplice or at least an
accessory to the fact.  Who would believe me innocent?

From that moment on I expected the police.  It would have been a
relief to see them enter and to be arrested.  But no one came.  I
believe that was the most terrible night I have lived through in
all my years.

Dawn broke.  I got ready to leave the hotel, locked my baggage, and
went to roam the streets in search of a room.

It was much too early, of course.  The houses were still closed.
But I walked about, went down to the ferries on the North River,
back to the East-River, down to Battery Park, and back again to
Madison Square.

Then I started to scan the houses for "rooms-to-let" signs.  I
inspected only two rooms; one was eight, the other five dollars a
week.  Both seemed too high in price, but in order to get settled I
engaged the latter, paid a week's rent in advance, and returned to
the hotel to have my breakfast.

When I had made arrangements about my baggage, I crossed over to
the cashier's desk, threw down a hundred-dollar bill, and asked
for my account.  There was some delay.  It seemed to take an
unconscionable time to settle my bill.  The cashier, with my money
in his hand, stepped back and used the telephone before attending
to my change.  Two other men sauntered over and stood beside me,
apparently also waiting for the clerk's leisure.

"Just a moment," said the cashier to me; and he looked at the other
two men with what seemed to be a questioning glance.

One of them nodded.

The cashier left his cage through a door in the rear.

I became impatient.  Ten minutes went by.

Then the cashier stepped briskly back into his cage.

A fourth man had joined the group in front of the wicket.

The cashier, whose serious, yes, severe manner struck me, handed my
bill, which he still held between his fingers, through the wicket
to this fourth man who was pushing forward and looked at me without
a word.

The same moment I felt a hand closing over my wrist, and a quiet
voice spoke into my ear.  "You are arrested.  Don't try any monkey
business.  Just walk alongside of me, and nobody will be the wiser.
If you resist, I'll have to put the billies on you.  These two are
the house-detectives."

I smiled.  "I'll follow you, sir," I said quietly, although my
knees shook and my heart pounded as if it were going to burst.  "I
expected you.  I am glad you came."

"All right, come along."

We went through the lobby of the hotel as if we were two guests
lounging about.  At the curb stood a waiting cab.

"Mulberry," said my captor to the driver.

We got in, and the cab rolled off.

For a while the detective sat in silence.  I looked at him.  His
face was intelligent, frank, kindly.  He was thirty-five years old;
his hair, brown; his eyes, gray.

I smiled.  "I'm glad this came at last," I repeated.

He looked at me with a frown.  "Better not say too much," he warned
without a responsive smile.  "Whatever you say, may be used against
you.  Your words imply a confession.  Wait till you've got a

I laughed.  "I don't want a lawyer," I replied.  "The case is clear
enough.  All I want to do is tell the truth and take what is coming
to me for my foolishness."

I could see that his sternness relaxed.  "Well," he said, "you may
not feel like that after a while.  Ever been up before?"

"What do you mean?" I asked, somewhat alarmed.

"Ever been in jail before?"


"Ever done anything like this before?"


"Did you know?" he asked with sudden sharpness.

"Know what?"

"That this is phony?"  He raised the hundred-dollar bill.

The scales fell from my eyes.  So that had been the game!  I felt
immensely relieved.  It was not half so bad as I had feared.  I
laughed with relief till tears choked my laughter.

"No," I said at last, "but thank the Lord if it is.  I thought it
was much worse.  I've got more of that stuff here," and I took the
remaining bills and handed them to the detective.  "The worst of it
is that I have already paid out one bill which probably also is
counterfeit, to pay a week's rent for a room."

"Well," the detective said, "if you didn't know and can prove it,
they can't do anything to you.  But your story has got to be

"My story," I replied, "is straight enough.  I want to make a
confession.  It's lucky that I was the victim and not the crook.  I
was afraid that I was the crook, or at least one of them.  That's
why I was glad when you came."

"We'll be at the station in a minute or two," he said.  "All this
sounds queer.  But tell a straight story, and you'll be all right."

We reached the Central Police Station; I was searched, my papers
were taken from me; and I was locked up in a cell behind iron-bars.

There was an occupant in the cell already; and as soon as the
keeper disappeared, this man, a rather flamboyant youth with a red
necktie and shifty eyes, began a nervous conversation questioning
me as to the charge on which I had been arrested, and telling me
that he was wanted for forgery and embezzlement; he was "in for
it"; they "had the goods on him."

About half an hour later I become aware of a stir and commotion
running through the huge establishment.

"The cap's arrived," my companion volunteered.  "Now we'll be up
one after another.  But they won't fetch you before the afternoon."

I did not reply and resigned myself to waiting.

But it was not more than ten minutes later before the keeper
appeared again.  He unlocked the barred doors, nodded to me, and
said "Chief wants you."

My companion emitted a whistle of surprise; I stepped out.

A detective in uniform took charge of me; I followed him through a
long corridor of cells from behind the barred doors of which many
human eyes looked after us like those of so many caged animals.  We
went down a flight of stone-steps and through a second corridor
similar to the one upstairs.

We stopped at a door where another policeman stood on guard.  Words
were whispered; the guard disappeared through the door.  A minute
or so later the door opened again, and I felt myself pushed forward
into the room beyond.

This room resembled any ordinary office in a large and prosperous
business house.  Over against the window to the left stood a large,
flat-topped desk at which a portly, middle-aged, clean-shaven, and
distinguished-looking man was apparently reading a paper.  But he
shot a sharp, enquiring look at me from behind his gold-rimmed
spectacles.  At the window stood, looking out, the detective who
had arrested me.  In front of the right-hand window sat a young
lady, pencil in hand, holding a pad of paper on a small table.  At
her elbow stood a typewriter.  Between desk and door I noticed an
unoccupied chair.

The captain raised his head and looked at me.  After the slightest
hesitation he nodded dismissal to my escort and waved his hand
towards the unoccupied chair.

"Sit down." he said.  "Mr. Mulligan here tells me you have a story
to tell.  What is your name? . . .  Age? . . .  Date of birth? . . .
Place of birth? . . .  Ah, you are a recent immigrant? . . .
Well, let us have your story, please."

I told the story as clearly and as truthfully as I could.
Repeatedly the captain nodded and smiled in the course of my
recital.  Mr. Mulligan, though ostensibly looking out of the
window, lent a sharp ear.  The young lady wrote rapidly in

When I had finished telling about my worries during the night and
about the relief I had felt on finding that, as far as I could see,
I was the only one victimized, the captain swung around in his
chair and said with a smile to Mr. Mulligan, "Han the Hook, of
course, and Big Heinie."

"Of course," Mr. Mulligan agreed.

"Better give the word," the captain went on, "at the roll-call,
that they are in town again."

"I'm sorry," I said, "and to tell the truth, I'm mad that my
foolishness had got me into this trouble."

"Oh," the captain laughed, "they've got those who should know
better than you can be expected to.  As for trouble, you are in
America.  A little inconvenience, of course; we must ask you to
give us the chance to verify some of your statements.  When you are
dismissed, we must require you to keep us posted as to your
address.  We might need you to identify the pair, that is all.  Too
bad you lost your money."

"Oh," I replied, infinitely relieved, "that part of it is nothing.
So long as I don't need to reproach myself . . ."

The captain exchanged a look with Mr. Mulligan.  "Well, no, Mr.
Branden," he said with a smile, rising, "you don't need to do that.
It may even turn out that you have been of service to us.  I don't
think we'll detain you at all.  As I said, keep us posted with
regard to your address.  Mr. Mulligan will attend to you.  You are

He shook hands with me before I left the office in charge of the
plain-clothes man who had apprehended me.


I Scour the City for Work

It took me some time to get over the excitement incident upon the
happenings of my first day at New York.  The great problem in hand,
however, was that of securing work and recouping myself.  First of
all I was going to follow up the cards of introduction which Frank
had given to me; I started out to call upon the various addressees.
I will not weary the reader's mind by a detailed account of the
peregrinations through the city which certainly wearied my body.  I
did not find a single one of the people to whom the introductions
purported to be.  I may as well anticipate right here and say that
during the months which followed I made in various quarters and at
repeated intervals the most careful enquiries; from what I learned,
I could not help coming to the conclusion that the addressees of
the various letters were altogether fictitious personalities.  The
very first day I wrote to Frank, but I never received an answer;
and when, after a couple of weeks or so, I wrote to Frank's father
to enquire about him, this letter also remained without an
acknowledgment.  Since there was in this an additional thing which
puzzled me profoundly and even wounded me, I wrote, after several
months had gone, once more to Frank's parents and had the letter
registered, explaining fully what my experience with Frank's
introductions had been, and asking whether there was any key to the
mystery.  In reply I received a brief note from the mother in which
she said that to the best of her knowledge her son had never been
in New York; that they, the parents, preferred not to hear of him,
neither directly nor indirectly, that they considered Frank, much
to their sorrow, to be a "bad egg"; and that further enquiries
would remain unanswered.  That settled Frank.  If I were called
upon to write his epitaph, I should word it about as follows:
"Here lies Frank, the most cheerful jester and liar I ever met, and
the most disappointing friend at a distance."  Whenever my thoughts
reverted to Toronto, gloom would settle over my mind like a fog on
the marshes.

I had wasted the day.  In the evening I laid out a plan of
campaign.  Being now, as I imagined, a fully experienced waiter, I
resolved not to rely on the advertisements in the papers alone, but
to find the addresses of the employment agencies and to apply to
them.  Nevertheless, as a last thing before going to bed in order
to make up for the sleep lost the previous night, I went out into
the street to buy the evening papers and to look over their "help-
wanted" columns.

When I got back to my room and unfolded the sheets I had purchased,
I was dumbfounded to see my portrait adorning the front-pages of
the various editions.  Glaring headlines proclaimed:  "Police makes
big haul."--"Clever crook who flooded the city with counterfeit
bills at last apprehended."--"Tries to deny but breaks down under
cross-examination."  I was intensely worried.  It took me a long
while before I was able to sleep; and the purpose for which the
papers were bought was entirely forgotten.

Next morning I was inclined to view things more quietly and to let
the whole matter rest.  And rest it did; but I anxiously scanned
the morning papers for a denial of last night's story; but none
appeared.  I might add that the story was never set right, in spite
of the fact that surely the police must have issued a denial.  My
revenge has been that ever since, I have considered newspapers as
remarkable only for their "square-miles of printed lies."

I was astonished to find that nobody seemed to recognize me.  I had
imagined that everybody would be talking about the case; and I was
nearly disappointed to find that even such a "haul" on the part of
the police should pass unnoticed beyond eliciting a momentary
interest on the part of the commuter ensconced in his car-seat
behind the rampart of his daily paper which defends him against all
intrusion on the part of literature.  I did not know yet that most
people read with their eyes only, not with their minds, the same as
they twiddle their thumbs for physical exercise.

Though, with all my recent savings gone, I was in a hurry to find
work, I was not at all nervous; but I felt that I had lost two
months of my life, a rather serious setback for one in my

First of all I called at two employment agencies--one a commercial
agency in the down-town district, the other a "waiter's exchange"
somewhere in the central portion of Manhattan Island.  At both
these the first question asked was that after my "experience".  At
both I was requested to fill out a lengthy questionnaire which
seemed to search into my most private doings during the past five
or ten years.  When I had filled it out, I stood stripped of all
pretence at being a veteran in any trade whatever.  The clerks who
waited on me took my money--two and a half dollars each; but when
they looked at my record, their faces lengthened.

"You haven't been in this country very long?" asked the elderly man
at the Fulton Street office.

"Not very," I answered deprecatingly.

"Have you any relatives or friends to take care of you?"


He pushed my registration fee back to me across the counter and
made an ominous-sounding remark.  "You better hold on to your
money," he said, "You'll need it before long."

"But surely," I said, still with a brave and confident smile, "a
man with my education . . ."

"No," he interrupted me fiercely, "your education does not count
for that much here.  Let me tell you," this in a more friendly and
sympathetic tone, "you speak French and German, Italian and
Swedish.  Well, there are thousands like you here.  If you knew how
to pound a typewriter faster than anybody else, we could place you
at once.  Or if, instead of those languages, you knew Rumanian,
Slovakian, or some such lingo, we might try.  But for French and
German nobody has any use except a bartender or a waiter."

I thanked him, of course, and left.  So it was a position as a
waiter for me, after all!

At the waiter's exchange I was told to return the next morning at
ten o'clock.

I was there on time.

The anteroom was filled with a noisy, laughing, polyglot crowd.
One after another these people stepped up to a wicket, where a
clerk, after enquiring for name and number of registration-card,
gave each of them a slip containing the addresses of one or more
establishments in need of help.

When it came my turn, I stepped up.

"Oh, yes," said the clerk, looking me over and reaching for the
card which I had filled out the day before; "you are Branden, are
you?  Phil Branden?  Speak French and German, I see.  Fluently?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Experience?  Some, I see.  None in Europe?"


"Well, wait a minute.  I'll see what I can do for you."

He stepped back, took a receiver off a telephone-stand, and called
a number.  A few of his words, during the conversation which
followed, caught my ear.  "Yes," he said.  "French and German.
Spanish, too, by the way. . . .  What's that?  Smart-looking?  Yes,
I should say.  Yes, straight as a pine-tree.  No, not very much
experience.  But I'd give him a chance if I were you.  All right,
send him over right off."

He replaced the receiver and returned to the wicket.

I looked at him, all expectant.

"Well," he said, "I've fixed you up, I think.  Good place, too; at
the Belmont."  He wrote a few words on my card.  "On forty-second,"
he added.  "I suppose you know.  Good luck to you."

With that he turned to the next one waiting.

I found the gigantic pile of the famous hotel.  Being still unused
to my newly humble station in life, I proudly entered through the
main portal into the hall.  When, at the office, I stated upon what
errand I came, I was rather unceremoniously waved away and directed
to enter through the employees' entrance on Fourth Avenue.  I left
the lobby and did so.

On looking about in the subterranean corridor to which this
entrance admitted me, I discovered a sign on the frosted glass
panel of a door.  "A. J. Harris," it read, "Employment Agent."

I approached and was on the point of knocking when the door opened;
a small man with a white goatee came rushing out and collided with

"What're you doing here?" he asked in unmistakably bad humour.

Again I stated my errand.

"See the captain," he said and pointed along the corridor, hurrying
away meanwhile.

I continued my search till I found a door similar to the first but
marked "Captain".  I knocked.

The same moment a voice from behind enquired, "Want to see me?"

I started and turned.  In the half-light which prevailed I saw a
tall, massive, clean-shaven, typically American man in a black
dinner-jacket standing behind me.

I stated my errand for the third time.

A few, rapid-fire questions followed, in English, French, German,
all of which I answered satisfactorily.

Then came the dreaded question about my experience.

I stuck to the truth.

A frown settled on the man's face.  "Give you a chance as an
omnibus," he said; he seemed to drop the words slowly, like so many
pebbles; "the best I can do for you."

"I am willing to learn," I said.

"All right; report to-night at five.  You have a black swallow-


"You'll find me here."  And he was on the point of going.

Then I made a mistake.

"May I ask," I said, detaining him, "what the wages are?"

"Four dollars a week," he said; and he fixed a pair of stern,
penetrating eyes on my face.

My disappointment must have shown in my features.  I know I thought
of the fact that my room-rent amounted to five dollars a week.

Unaccountably, utterly unprovoked, in a wilfully insulting tone, he
snapped out a few vicious words which left me with a feeling of
dumbfounded surprise and indignation; they seemed so utterly

"I don't want you," he said.  "I don't want you at all.  Do you
think I can change the rules of a large establishment like this,
just because you come here, begging for a job?"

His voice had risen towards the last; the next moment I looked
after his retreating figure, too much taken aback to speak.  I felt
inclined to rush after him and to put him, by a few cutting
remarks, "where he belonged".  Fortunately the futility of bearding
the lion in his den came home to me in time, and I was struck with
a sense of the ludicrous.  I laughed and retraced my steps.

When I emerged into the avenue, a miracle had happened.  I was in
Europe again; I was a European.  My whole present situation was
forgotten, submerged in social and intellectual pride.  Who was I
to walk these paths?  I did not care to admit that I had been
defeated.  Had I retreated?  No, I had given up certain positions,
given them up "for strategic reasons", as I might have said.  Had I
been more of an analyst of mental states, I should have seen that
my very revolt and indignation proved me to be defeated.  It was no
genuine outburst, but resentment.  To entrench oneself behind the
feeling of superiority is invariably a sign that one has become the
underdog.  But for the moment this revulsion of my feelings gave
relief.  I was no longer daunted by the terrors and dangers of a
foreign world.  I had bravely gone through the worst; I had done
the utmost anybody could ask me to do--as if anybody had asked me
to do anything at all!  In Toronto, rebuffs, courteous or
discourteous, sympathetic or unsympathetic, had filled me with
vague fears, with a dread of the future, with dark misgivings as to
the very possibilities of life itself.  To-day's experience, which
was really quite similar, wiped away even that feeling of
uncertainty, of unfamiliarity with life and its various, unknown
aspects with which I had been infiltrated by my encounter with
Messrs. Hannan and Howard.  I looked down upon such a world.  I was
glad I had met with the adventures of the last two days.  Instead
of charging them up to my own lack of knowledge in the ways of the
world, I charged them up to America.  Howard and Hannan, Frank and
this captain of waiterdom, they were all of a type--they were what
I had very nearly come to accept on a level of equality!  I had
simply not been keeping myself at the proper distance; in my
present mood I should have snubbed even Mr. Bennett!  Compared with
such as made up that quartette, I felt very righteous indeed.  "I
thank thee, O Lord, that I am not as these men are!"

I seemed to see with a very sudden realization that I had been all
wrong in my methods; the advice I had been listening to was the
advice of ignorance.  This last rebuff, I thought, was needed to
throw me back on the right track.  Here I was, in a new world whose
sham civilization was crude, raw, unfinished in the extreme.  Yes,
America was crude.  That was the word.  I can hardly convey how
much there was of comfort, of soul-quieting, soothing, flattering
support in this wonderful word which summarized my condemnation of
the country to which I had come.  "Crude!"  And I?  Forgotten was
all that humility which I had so carefully nursed.  Forgotten was
what had driven me out of Europe--the merciless adherence to
preordained lines of caste--the spirit of sham and hypocrisy--the
lying falseness of it all.  I was, suddenly, the representative in
a foreign country of an older, of a superior civilization.  I
forgot that I had come among these "colonials" and "Yankees" to ask
them for a living.  I felt as if I were conferring a favour upon
them by condescending to accept an adequate remuneration for my
mere presence upon their shores.

This reaction which was brought about by a mere trifle has often
puzzled me since.  Many a time I have tried to fathom its
significance; but I failed to understand it--except as a mere
perversity--till I became aware of the fact that it is typical;
that nearly every immigrant into the New World goes through this
stage; that some of them, especially English immigrants, seem never
to get over it.  It is probably something like a last fight put up
by the old associations, the old order that had pressed its seal
upon mind and soul, the old points of view and ways of looking at
things.  Everything that was European in the immigrant rallies once
more and tries to reconvert him--till at last it collapses and
leaves him helpless, exhausted; unless indeed it wins out.

The spirit of this reaction determined my next move.  No longer was
I going to apply for positions which might be offered in the daily
papers.  Instead, I was going to announce to the Americas that I
was here and willing to listen to applications for my services.  In
other words, I was going to advertise for a position.

That very day I arranged to run an advertisement for a week in
three of the leading newspapers of New York.  It was a long
advertisement, carefully composed, setting forth all my manifold
accomplishments, but omitting those considerations which might
argue to my disadvantage; the question of immediate remuneration
was treated as negligible.  When I read the final copy, behold, it
was very good; at least, it seemed so to me.  It was, of course,
quite an expense to print this essay in display type for six
insertions running; to be exact, it cost me in the neighbourhood of
ninety dollars.  But I felt confident that it would bring results;
no doubt the big corporations could use me, or maybe the diplomatic
service.  Above all, the fact that I had this announcement running
seemed somehow to release me from all my responsibilities with
regard to myself; I felt that I could sit back and await

I made up my mind not to enquire for answers before the week was
over.  I thought it best not to read a single one before the very
last reply that I could possibly expect had arrived.  If I read
them as they came in, so I reasoned, I might merely be sowing
regret for the future; the better offers might come later,
following the less desirable ones.  Anxiety to get settled might
induce me to accept the first thing that came along.  I was no
longer willing to work at no matter what.

I spent a delightful week.

It was still early in the fall, the month being September.  The
valley of the Hudson River and the hills of Westchester County were
arraying themselves for the grand carnival of the year.  Hazy
atmospheres and crisp breezes, alternating, moved the distances
backward and forward, as if you were looking at them through
telescopes of varying power.  There was about my rambles something
of the adventure of the first explorers.  They had before them the
Indians and an unknown continent.  I had the unknown continent and
the Americans.

Somehow I began, during this first week of carefree roaming which I
enjoyed in the New World, to sense something exotic, something of
the undiscovered world, something of the smell and scent of wild
things in this small fringe of the continent, through which I
walked, not observing, not exploring, but in a divine forgetfulness
of all my worries and of the large city close by, with all its
bustle and hurry and its relentless challenge.  There was a beyond
to these hills, something which called.  There were days when the
call became so intense, so concrete as to grow very nearly into a
sound.  I climbed across fences and walked across lawns, straight
up to the crest of these hills, in a bee-line, merely to look down
into the valley beyond and then to turn back, unsatisfied,
strangely at a loss.  I hardly knew what to do with myself, feeling
full of a boundless melancholy which yet was infinitely sweet, for
it remained entirely veiled and never became so pronounced as to
force an interpretation in articulate thought.

Yet there were other moods, too; moods of a sterner, less
comfortable cast.

My relation to Nature had been largely a literary one.  When I had
gone to Italy, I had read and studied what others had thought and
felt there: Goethe, Browning, Byron, Shelley; and unconsciously I
had tried to feel and to think like them.  I remember with special
distinctness having stood, as a very young man, on some promontory,
somewhere in the Mediterranean, where large rocks had continued the
grey ridge on which I stood way out into the blue deep, like
"staccato accents in some great symphony".  Beethoven, Wagner,
Tchaikowsky had written my landscapes for me.

All that seemed very far and distant now.  I could not make out at
the time where I was heading; but I knew even then that, unknown in
their nature to myself, processes were at work which were to
remould me, which were to make me into something new, something
different from what I had been, something less artificial.  I felt
as if I were in the hands of powers beyond my own or any human
control; as if the gods were grinding me into their grist and
grinding me exceedingly small.

I fought these powers, fought them with all my might.  Growing-
pains are the most healthful sign in a boy; but the boy does not
like them; he would cast them off if he could; they make him feel
tired when he wants to be active; they make him feel dependent when
he dreams of being master.

I should have preferred to condemn; but I could not do that now,
not at least without reservations.  I should have preferred to pass
sentence on everything, on the country as well as on its
population.  It would have re-established my inner equilibrium
which was shaken and thrown out of balance.  I still felt that
America--using the word as a collective name for that part of the
population of two cities with which I had come into contact--was
"crude".  But here, in the hills and the woods, there was something
strangely at variance with that population.  Here there was, not a
church, not a society, not a man-made institution; here there was
God; but God, too, sometimes seemed cruel.

One day I went to the sea-shore; I do not remember just where,
maybe at Rockaway, or on Long Island.  It was early in the
afternoon; the sea looked intensely, cruelly, unfeelingly blue.  I
walked along a beach of a blinding white, a chalky white.  By and
by I sat down; and as I sat there, I felt intensely aimless,
useless in the world--homeless, too: the Son of Man has no place
where to rest his head.  And suddenly I realized that the beach on
which I was sitting consisted of myriads and millions of shells,
thrown up by the waves from the deep, from their home, here to die,
to be ground to pieces by the wash of the surf.  It was a great
shock.  Religion had in my former life never meant anything to me.
I had grown up and lived in entire indifference.  Here I revolted.
At this moment and in the light of what I saw life meant for me
largely the ability to feel pain.  Why did all these myriads and
millions of living beings have to live, if they lived only to die,
and to die in such a way, such a cruel, casual way, devoid of
meaning?  God all-good? I asked.  He could be all-good only if
he was also all-ignorant, not all-knowing.  My whole inner
consciousness was like the raw flesh of a frightful wound: yes, I
was such a shell thrown on these shores, in the process of being
ground to pieces and fragments, in order to furnish the soil for
others to stand on and maybe to thrive on.

When I returned to the city, my mood was nearly suicidal.

The week went by; and so there came the time when I had to face the
things in hand again.  One evening, when I had allowed ample time
for all replies to come in, I made the round of the three newspaper
offices to collect my letters.  There were fifteen in all.  I put
them in my pocket and went home.

I was full of expectant excitement when I began to open one after
the other.  Their contents struck me like the news of a great
disaster.  Not one of them was a bona-fide offer.  Not one of them
took cognizance of the things which in my advertisement I had
stated I knew or could do.  Most of them were written on ordinary
letter-paper, without a business heading.  All of them were
proposals to invest my money for me.  A few stated definite sums,
five hundred or a thousand dollars; most of them left the sums that
were needed to make me independently rich in intentional darkness.

In an impulse of despair I gathered them all and burnt them.  What
was the use?  I did not fit in.

This disappointment, coming as it did at a moment when my whole
outlook on this new life was despondent, merely confirmed me in my
despondency, my attitude of hostility towards God and the world; I
closed up in my shell and coiled inside, to lie down and feel
righteously unhappy.  Unhappiness I felt vaguely to be a sufficient
indictment of the system, a confirmation of the justice of my
resentment, a justification of my late inactivity.  I doubt whether
that night I should have changed things had I by some effort of the
will been able to do so.

What was I to do?  I did not know.  I counted the money that was
left and found it to be somewhat less than a hundred and fifty

And now began another desperate search for work.  It was not as
frantic as it had been during the first week in Toronto; my anxiety
was blunted by despondency.  The daily round, which always fell far
short of the list made up in the morning, became a matter of
routine.  In the beginning I used subways, elevated railways,
surface cars whenever I had more than two or three blocks to go.  I
took hurried meals at whatever restaurants were handy when my
general exhaustion sounded the alarm; I drowned every wish and
every longing for relaxation because I saw my last funds steadily
dwindle to the vanishing point.  After weeks of this, when my
capital had frittered away to less than a hundred dollars, I gave
up riding and walked.  That limited my daily range still more.  The
number of my calls fell to ten or twelve a day.  I did not mind.
My attitude had become such that I expected relief only from some
lucky chance.  I shaved my expenses down to a minimum, just enough
to support a bare existence.  My daily food bill averaged for weeks
on end no higher than forty-five cents a day for week-days, and
thirty cents for Sundays when I limited myself to two meals.

Curiously enough, it was at this stage that I began to read again.
When the offices closed in the evening, I went home and took out my

A few details may be of interest.  Let not the reader suppose that
I limited my search to the "genteel" occupations.  I did not even
have any preference for them any longer.  I was beginning to look
under the surface.  I realized that it was not only easier to
secure work which would have classified me as belonging to the army
of "unskilled labour", but also more profitable.  You could hold
down and control your outgo so much more readily; your appearance,
for instance, had to satisfy only your own standards, not those of
others; and by this time I should have been willing to limit my
aspirations to neatness and cleanliness.

Sometimes I stood for hours in a queue of applicants waiting for
jobs at the office of some contractor, or of the employment agent
of a transfer company.  One thing I felt sure I could not do, kill
living things.  Yet for days in succession I went every morning to
the yards of the city abattoir and stood in line till the foreman
came out and picked the men he needed.  I was fortunate in that he
always passed me by; at last I gave the abattoir up as hopeless.

Once only was I chosen by an employer, by a contractor who hired me
as a hod-carrier for a building in the course of construction in
Brooklyn.  I started out one morning at seven o'clock carrying
bricks up a ladder to the third story of the shell of what was to
be a factory.  At ten I played out and had to go home and to lie
down.  It took me the rest of the day to recover.  My greatest
handicap was a body which would not stand up under heavy work.

For those early morning trips in the search of a livelihood I
dressed the part, of course.  I had bought a suit of black
overalls, so as to cover my expensive-looking wardrobe.  When the
time of the day came at which I could expect to find office-people
in I went home, slipped off my "disguise", changed my shirt, put on
collar and tie, and went out again.

Another plan was this.  I knew something about books, in fact, had
a personal and rather intimate relationship to the best editions of
the best books in half a dozen literatures.  I made a list of all
the New York booksellers and called on at least one of them from
day to day, offering my services for a minimum of wages to start
with.  I came down to offering my work at the discretion of whoever
would employ me.  If what I might do seemed worth anything to him,
he was to give me whatever he thought fair; if not, I should be
satisfied to have worked for nothing.  Some of the men whom I thus
interviewed were friendly; some were not.  Those that were not
usually asked me some such question as, "What's your game anyway?"
Those that were never seemed to be in need of help; business seemed
to be bad with them, invariably and without exception.  Some
however took my name and address, so that they might notify me
should in the future a vacancy arise; I never heard any more of

I also called on every banker whose offices I passed in my
peregrinations, especially in the smaller banks of the downtown
districts, where foreigners did their banking.  These offices I
learned to enter with a show of great confidence, so as to
penetrate without difficulty to the managers and presidents.  I
found it easier to speak to the responsible executives than to
underlings who were hedged about with caution.  Sometimes I was
gruffly shown the door; sometimes I had a friendly chat.  Once a
manager regretted very much; he had indeed been in need of just
such a man for the information bureau--a clerk who could speak
Italian above all; but he had, a day or so before my call, found
what he wanted; the man was giving satisfaction; I was too late;
but, of course, if I cared to leave name and address . . .

Two further incidents stand out, trifling things; but everything in
this desperate search seems trifling; it is only in their
accumulation that matters worked up to a pitch where they became

One day I found an advertisement in the papers which ran as
follows:  "Wanted, young man of good appearance and skilful address
to interview ladies.  Only such as have a more than average
education need apply.  Experience in any commercial branch
unnecessary.  Tact and an unusual degree of culture indispensable.
Do not answer unless you have at least a college education.  Apply
personally. . . ."

Just my case, I thought with characteristic promptness and felt at
once in high spirits.  I cannot help laughing at myself when, in
looking back, I see myself answering that advertisement.  I dressed
with great care for the interview.

A dandified, effeminately adorned young man received me.  For ten
minutes or so he made a general conversation, handing out small-
talk as if I were on a social call.  Then he excused himself and
left through a door, leaving me alone in a sumptuous office which
resembled more the reception room in a well-appointed private house
than that of a business firm.  Nothing whatever gave me a clue to
the line of activity these people might be pursuing.

A few minutes later the young man returned with his partner, a
stockily built, burly, middle-aged man with long hair and flowing
necktie.  He looked like a bohemian of the parlor variety; he might
have posed as a sculptor or a painter of peasant stock; his
bohemianism was too exaggerated to be genuine.

The young man introduced me with elaborate politeness; and again
there began an exchange of mystifying small-talk.

Suddenly they turned towards each other; a mask seemed to drop from
their faces; they spoke in rapid French.

I smiled and broke in, speaking French myself, calling their
attention to the fact that, if they wished not to be understood,
they had chosen the wrong means.

Both gave a brilliant, apologetic smile.

The bohemian turned to me with an expression of candour.  "Well,"
he said, "Mr. Branden, we are very sorry.  It is your brogue that
stands in the way.  Your language is too unmistakably English.  We
need Yankees.  You have everything else.  But we want a man who can
interview young ladies, college students, in fact . . ."

"You will understand, Mr. Branden," the young Beau Brummel broke
in, "they are so flippant; they pick on everything to get the lead
in a conversation.  Whoever interviews them must not only be able
to dominate them completely; he must not give them the slightest
thing to take hold of, either.  If they find anything at all to
make fun of in the man who interviews them, our representative
cannot do business with them.  As Mr. Lowell said, you have
everything else, but you have the slightest touch of a brogue.  I
am so sorry, Mr. Branden; I am sure you will understand . . ."

Both he and Mr. Lowell offered their hands; we parted as if I were
a duke and they mere knights of the lesser gentry.

Of course, I did not understand one iota of it all, but--well, what
was the use?

The other incident reminds me of an anecdote in a magazine story.
Only its outcome was, of course, radically different; life usually
differs from fiction.

It occurred when I had reached my last ten-dollar bill.  Many a
time had I passed the large window of the branch of one of the
international Telegraph and Cable Companies in which a card was
displayed, bearing the legend, "Messenger boys wanted".  I had seen
this card so often that it became a fixture in my memory picture of
that street-corner.  It hardly conveyed any meaning to me any
longer.  But one evening, when I saw the moment coming at which I
should be entirely destitute, its sight suddenly flashed upon my
mind, and it seemed to have a sudden import for me.

"What a boy can do, I can do," thus ran my thought; and in my
distress, this inspiration shone like a beacon-light in the dark.
I was ready to catch at any straw in order to save myself from

Next morning I went straight to this office, without even having
any breakfast, and asked, upon entering, for the manager.

A tall, lean, humourous-looking man in slovenly attire, a tooth-
pick in his mouth, sidled up to the counter and looked at me with a
questioning inclination of his head.

"You are the manager, sir?" I enquired.

"Yes, sir," he said in a voice which seemed impatient right then,
though probably it was only indifferent.

"I see by the sign in your window that you need messenger-boys," I
began hopefully.

"Always room for some more," he replied casually, looking at me
with his questioning glance.

"What a boy can do, I can do," I went on and smiled at him.

He tilted his tooth-pick up, puckered his forehead, and stared.  "I
don't get you," he said with mild reproach in his tone.

"I will make myself clear," I smiled, "I wish to make application
for one of the jobs."

His eyes narrowed to mere slits.  He gave a short laugh.  "Gwan!"
he said.

Several clerks who had overheard our conversation, drew nearer,
expectant, grinning.

"I mean it, sir," I went on.  "I am out of work; I am stranded.  I
assure you I shall try my best to give satisfaction."

"Quit your kidding," he cut in, this time sharply.

"But my dear sir," I argued with the courage of desperation, "if
you would only take me seriously.  I mean every word I say.  I am
at the end of my string.  I am an immigrant and find it impossible
to secure work.  I am willing to do anything at all, down to
sweeping your offices, provided it will pay for a meal-ticket."

"Cut it," he interrupted me.  "Get a move on you, before I put you
out of here.  There's the door."

Under a general snicker I made my exit.

That week I began to sell my wardrobe.  Suit after suit, overcoat
after overcoat, went to the "Jew", as I expressed it to myself.
Pitiful prices they brought.  For the star-piece which I sold, an
evening-dress suit made by one of the most exclusive tailors in
London, a tailor to whom you have to come well recommended if you
want him to work for you--I had paid him twenty-five pounds for it--
I received ten dollars.  I hated to do this--not that I minded
parting with my things; but I knew that this policy merely meant
putting off a little longer what had to come, what was approaching,
inevitably, inexorably.  I had exhausted my funds; now I was
exhausting those of my possessions on which I could realize.
Besides, there was for me something repulsive in the thought that
others were going to wear what I had come to regard as nearly part
of myself.

Why did I not return to Toronto?  Well, I wrote to Mr. Carlton,
asking him whether I could drop back into my old "job", and adding
some lame explanation for my failure at New York.  I never heard of
the man.  That worried me.  If I had received an encouraging reply,
I should most certainly have started back at once, and probably
this book would never have been written.  As it was, I thought up a
great many reasons which might account for his silence.  What kept
me from going on the blind chance was the thought that possibly the
restaurant had gone out of existence.  I was so used to what I
considered my bad luck--and which was largely ignorance and the
lack of proper direction--that in every case I expected the worst
rather than the best.  As a point of fact I might add that, when,
many years later, I did return to Toronto--as a tourist--I found
Mr. Johnson's cafe not only in a flourishing condition, but much
enlarged.  A second similar restaurant had been opened in a
different location and was run by the same management; it, too,
flourished like the first.  When, at the time of this visit, I
spoke to the now aging manager, he recognized me at once; his first
question was, "Why did you not come back to us when you wrote me
from New York?"  "Why did you not answer my letter?" I countered.
"Oh," he said, "I thought that was hardly necessary.  I expected
you any day."

Meanwhile, as I have already said, I gave my evenings and Sundays
to reading.  And since, in due time, contrary to the reading of
most people, mine was destined to influence my life profoundly, I
cannot omit saying a few words about it.  I have mentioned that I
had brought a small collection of books from Europe.  The tin-lined
box which contained them had not been opened at Toronto.  I broke
into it now; most of these books went the way of my wardrobe--to
second-hand dealers.  It was easy to sell them--at great sacrifice,
of course--since they had beautiful bindings and were well kept.
So, when from time to time I made up a parcel of them for sale, I
looked them over carefully.  I parted with them as one parts with
old friends who have never disappointed him.  I felt about them as
all who have loved their books a little too well have felt about
them the world over since there were any books.  Every time a
number of them was to leave my room there were a few which I put
back into the box in order to postpone their sale.  So, very
gradually, my little collection dwindled, the price of those that
were sacrificed to be converted into fifteen-cent meals and to be
used for my room-rent.

Occasionally, after having struck a bargain with the dealer--mostly
they went to a shop on 16th Street--I made him throw in a magazine
or two.

These magazines I read as my first introduction into American
literature.  In them I found some reflection of the actualities of
modern American life, not in the fiction but in the articles; and
though it took quite a while, at last I arrived at something like
an understanding sympathy with American views and ideas.  Being of
anything rather than a frivolous turn of mind, I preferred
informational or argumentative articles to the short-stories which
even then predominated in the magazines.

By inference, or by a sort of mental reconstruction which seized
upon hints and casual references that I ran across in my desultory
reading, three great facts were slowly built up in my mind.

Firstly, there was such a thing as American Lettres.  There had
been writers in America whose works, unlike the general run of
them, were not a mere recast of European models.  In my still
incomplete and distant view of them, they were, for me, soon
dominated by three great figures: Lincoln, Lowell, Thoreau.  I did
not study them directly as yet; but I marked them down for future
reading.  Still I gleaned enough of their physiognomies to fill me
with a rather rueful admiration.  Lincoln's homely features, above
all, his utter lack of pretence in casually dropping sentences of
tremendous import--sentences that seemed at one and the same time
to be formulated on the spur of the moment and to give voice to
thoughts which had been carefully and slowly prepared through the
millenia, so that they now stood, though printed on mere paper, as
if carved by superhuman forces in the granite of geologic ages--
Lincoln's face made me forget my own puny misery; his final earthly
fate filled me with a personal sense of loss and yet with a sense,
also, of a vastly superior significance, such as would in the end
outrun mere human destinies.

Secondly, there was an America of which so far I did not know
anything.  New York was a mere bridgehead of Europe in the western
hemisphere.  The real America was somewhere else; but where?  I was
still under what I may call the geographical illusion.  Had I seen
even part of it yet?  I did not know.  The essential thing was that
my education had been woefully incomplete; it had left part of the
life of our globe out of the scheme of things--and that a part
which was by no means negligible.  I felt again as those first
explorers must have felt when they began to realize that behind
this fringe of coast which the discoverers had found there lay a
vast continent, a world unknown.  Somehow I felt as if my task were
harder than theirs.  They merely needed to set out, at the risk of
their lives, it is true, to arrive at the physical facts; and they
found glory and reward.  The unknown world which I had to explore
was a spiritual world; it had to be inferred from abstract facts;
worst of all, in order to arrive at something which might be of
value to me in terms of happiness or despair, it had to be
condemned or approved of.  "Judge not," said Christ.  But, unless I
judged, I could not justify myself.  Physical facts can be taken as
they are; you do not condemn or approve of a river valley or a
mountain.  But an outlook or a philosophy of life is either good or
bad--a doctrine of life, of either death or life: you must side for
or against it; in order to make your decision, you must first know.
I did not know.  Were Lincoln, Lowell, Thoreau accidents?  But
accidents do not happen.  Where, then, was the ground out of which
they had grown?  Where was the soil that had borne them, so it
might bear me?  The one thing needful for the seed is to be

And thirdly, there arose out of my casual reading a new insight
about myself.  I had come to America to "make my pile".  But
suppose some millionaire had happened to strike up an acquaintance
with me; suppose he had taken an interest in my struggles and
completely eliminated the economic factor by signing a cheque.
What would such a competence have been worth to me?  Precisely
nothing.  It would have left the main problem unsolved.  There was
consolation in this, but also cause for despair.  Here, in this
city of millions of people, there were likely only a very few who
knew that America offered a problem--a problem which had to be
solved if the world, as I saw it, was to be saved.  Unless I was
content to be a drone, I had to solve this problem for myself and
without help.  The third great fact, then, that arose from these
midnight thoughts was that I could never be content with being a

Yet, all the time, the economic question pressed.  Day after day
went by.  Day after day I worked hard to find some niche into which
I could step, whether for good or for a mere make-shift, that did
not matter any longer.  Just to mark off what may appear to be a
low-water mark in the matter of humiliating my self-esteem, I will
mention that one day during these last months of the year I
happened across the address of an agency which supplied the
households of the idle rich with domestic servants.  I went there
and argued that, though I had never myself been a footman or valet,
yet in my father's house footmen and valets had been kept; I knew,
therefore, what would be expected of them in the way of service.  I
need hardly say that my argument was unsuccessful.  Not even an
aristocrat with high-sounding titles could have broken into such
respectable company as that of the liveried crews of the households
of Messrs. Vanderlip or Gould, unless he had very good references
and ample experience.

Then an incident happened which was to side-track me for a while
and to end in a blow-out.

One evening, when I came home, I found a caller waiting for me, a
young man of lively manners and neat appearance.

"Mr. Branden?" he greeted me briskly and shook hands.  "A friend of
yours gave me your name and address . . ."

"Which friend?" I wondered.  "Have I friends?"

". . . as that of a person likely to be interested in a proposition
which I have the honour to represent."

While he was speaking in a lively, business-like way, he backed me
into a corner where an armchair stood into which I allowed myself
to drop.  For himself he drew up a straight-backed chair, sat down
on its edge, and launched himself with amazing eloquence and
volubility into a dissertation upon the excellence of Dr. Elliot's
Five-Foot Shelf of the Best Books of the World, let me say, for I
do not remember what books they were.  I sat, fascinated by a
display of oratorical and histrionic powers which, I thought, it
must have taken years to train.  Several times, while he went
through his prodigious performance, I tried to interrupt and to
tell him that he was wasting his time; that I did not care for the
books; that I could not buy them even if I did care for them; he
would not let me.  He must have talked half an hour.

I marvelled at the accuracy of his information and the extent of
his knowledge, and suddenly I saw a personal application; this was
something I might be able to do.  I watched him, profoundly
absorbed.  At last he had said as much as could be said about the
books without plunging into the intricacies of literary criticism.
Without a break, without as much as a transition, he pulled from
his hip-pocket a heavy folder, flipped it open, and displayed to my
astonished eyes how the whole five feet of leather-backs would look
on my bookshelves.  He rose, still talking, never stopping for even
sufficient time to catch his breath, and put this display on the
little table in my room, upright, so it would hold my eye, so I
should not for a moment forget that there, within my reach, to be
taken up at will and leisure, stood the World's Best Books in a
Five-Foot Row.

And presto, prestidigito!  I saw myself confronted with a large
sheet of formal-looking paper; a fountain pen was persuasively
pressed into my hand; a voice which became more and more insistent
and imperative went on in an irresistible torrent, "And the best of
it, my dear sir, is that we give you this treasure on very easy
terms: five dollars down, and five a month."

An impressive pause; then the command of a general in battle: "Sign
here!"  An accusing finger pointed to a dotted line.

That finger had a nail which was not quite clean; the spell was
broken.  I did not sign, but burst out laughing.

My caller was inclined to be offended at my mirth; I placated him
by explaining with the utmost candour why I could not dream of
giving him an order.  I seasoned my remarks with sufficient
compliments for his great powers of speech and persuasion; and he
was satisfied at last when I apologized for having taken up his

"Oh," he said, "that's all right; glad to have shown you anyway;
we're doing missionary work."

"Missionary work?" I echoed.  "Surely you are doing this for
commercial reasons?"

"Of course," he replied, "a man has to live.  But, at the price,
you will realize that the immediate profit cannot be big.  The
public has to be educated, and the real profit will not come till
it turns to the better class of books without being urged."

"Would you mind if I ask you a question?" I said.  "Just how much
do you make at this work?"

"Oh," he replied, "that depends; and it varies.  Sometimes no more
than twelve dollars a day."

"Twelve dollars a day!" I thought; I felt dizzy, just as I had felt
when Mr. Bennett had casually informed me that his son was
receiving ten dollars a week while learning the jeweller's trade.

"How long," I enquired, "do you have to learn before you become as
expert as you are now?"

"That, too, depends," he replied.  "A week or two.  I have been
with these people only two weeks myself."

"Is there a demand for more agents at any time?"

"No end of it," he asserted confidently.  "You see, it takes
appearance and address to get the interviews; it takes brains to
master the canvass . . ."

"The canvass?" I repeated blankly.

"Yes, sure, the talk; we call it the canvass."

"Oh," I said, "you are not making the canvass up as you go?"

"Oh, no," he laughed.  "They've got it printed.  Every publishing
house has its canvass ready made.  Most of them have some sort of
selling scheme besides."

"I see," I said, sobered in my admiration of his performance.  "So
other houses, too, besides the one which you represent, sell their
publications through agents."

"No book worth buying is ever sold in any other way," he replied;
"that is to say, no high-priced set.  There would be no public for
it if we did not bring it into the homes of the country."

"Well," I said, "you surely come like an angel from Heaven.  Would
you mind giving me an address or two where I might apply for a
position myself?"

"Not at all.  Got a newspaper here?  They are full of their ads."

Obligingly he marked half a dozen of the advertisements for my
especial benefit.


I Go on the Road

Thus I became a book-agent.  Three of the advertisements marked by
my obliging caller were as I found inserted by three different
branches of one and the same firm.  As it chanced, I called at the
three offices in succession.  At the first two I was politely
refused--again on account of my English accent.  When, late in the
afternoon, I called at the third office and found that it, too,
represented the same publishing house, I was tempted not to enter
at all but to pass it up as hopeless without wasting my time.  But
somehow it seemed different.  The other two had occupied large,
expensive-looking quarters on the ground-floor of sumptuous
business blocks--this one was located in a dingy house, upstairs,
filling rooms which seemed to be an apartment converted for its
present purpose.  I made up my mind to try.

The room I entered after knocking held a single occupant, a
powerfully built man with singularly sagging features and a few
wisps of stray grey hair.  When I had introduced myself and stated
my errand, he bade me be seated.  In spite of my height I felt
strangely slim and insignificant in his presence.  His name was

I told him at the outset that I had called at the other two offices
and had been refused.

He smiled in a superior, disdainful way.  "That's nonsense," he
said.  "Let me reassure you on that point by saying that your
English accent will be an advantage to you instead of a drawback.
You will be able to interest people all the more readily because
you will prick their curiosity."

This way of looking at the matter struck me as at least
unprejudiced.  I told the man just what my situation was and
impressed him with the fact that I had to make money at once.

"That's all right," he said.  "It will take you a few days to
master the canvass.  Most of our agents can start on the road
within a week or so.  If you enter with us, we shall take care of
you after that.  We give you a drawing account of fifteen dollars a
week which will, of course, be deducted from your later earnings.
That much we risk.  We usually let it go for three weeks.  If an
agent has not made good by that time, we dismiss him and write off
our loss.  It happens rarely, though.  In your case I feel so
confident of your ultimate success that I offer right now to carry
you for five weeks.  You will not need it; I tell you this merely
to give you confidence.  You will easily understand that, as a
business man, I should not risk seventy-five dollars of my money
unless I felt convinced that it will pay me in the end."

"That stands to reason," I replied.

"Very well," he continued.  "You know our proposition?"

"No, sir, I don't."

"Now, then, Mr. Branden, just give me your attention."

And suddenly I felt myself swept off my feet, so to speak,
listening to a talk delivered with an eloquence, a power of
expression, a command over face and voice, ranging from quiet
jestfulness to the very peak of soul-shaking pathos, compared with
which the performance of my yesternight's caller paled to the
stumbling attempt of a mere beginner.  While the talk progressed--
taking up about twenty-five minutes--this hulking man produced, out
of the recesses of his clothes, as if from nowhere and by magic, a
veritable avalanche of prospectuses, illustrations, sample-pages,
bindings--so that, when he arrived at a brief discussion of prices
and styles, we were surrounded by a litter of things which looked
much more voluminous than it really was because he had stacked
everything up in the most artful fashion.  There were, he said,
three styles of bindings in which this phenomenal collection of
Travellogues--for such the books turned out to be--were sold:
buckram, half-leather, and full morocco.  They sold all three on
the same terms, two dollars down and two a month, the only
difference being in the time required for completing payments.  And
then he drew the formidable order-blank and directed me to sign on
the dotted line.

I gasped with relief when I took the pencil and smiled.  "I surely
must read the books," I said.

"Never," he thundered.  "We have found by experience that it is
better for the agent not to know the books themselves but only the
canvass.  Agents are only human, after all; they are apt, if they
read them, to wander in their talk and to speak of themselves or of
what has struck them, instead of presenting the work as a whole.
You must understand we have sold this book, which is the best book
ever written on the subject for more than thirty years; in these
thirty years we have worked out a canvass which has proved
irresistible in the long-run.  You must believe us in this, or we
cannot use you.  Two things are needed for your success.  You must
feel convinced that never was there a book offered to the public
which gave them more for their money and which was of greater
educative value; and you must be letter-perfect in your canvass
before I shall let you go out."

I pondered that.  "Well," I said, "perhaps you know best.  I merely
thought, if the book is what you say it is, I, having travelled
quite a bit myself, might be all the more convinced of its value if
I had read it and, therefore, all the more convincing in my talk."

"Yes," he replied, "I know; you would think so; it does not work
out.  As for the value of the book, let me show you what people who
have bought it say of it."

And he pulled from his pocket a sheaf of typewritten testimonials,
all speaking in the most glowing terms of the work, all of them
written by men of undoubted standing in the business, scientific,
or literary world.

I was amazed.  "Well," I said, "if all that is true, as I must
assume it to be, I merely wonder why the people don't rush your
offices and fight for these volumes?"

"They should," Mr. Tinker said with conviction.  "As a matter of
fact, the book has sold in millions of copies.  But for the last
few years we have been reaching out by a house-to-house canvass,
all over the United States and Canada, getting at the less well
educated classes, the artisans, clerks, mechanics, and even the
farmers.  You will find that some people still look down upon the
book-agent; but you never want to forget that, like the schools,
the universities, and the churches, you are doing missionary work."

There was that word again.  Missionary work!  I smiled.  "What is
there in it for the agent?" I asked.

"Oh yes," he said and smiled likewise; "I was coming to that.  You
get a commission on every sale.  Eight dollars for a cloth, ten
dollars for a half-leather, and twelve dollars for a morocco
binding.  Every Saturday your orders will be totalled, and every
Wednesday after that you will receive your cheque, no matter in
what part of the country you may be working."

"And where shall I work?"

"Right here in New York," Mr. Tinker answered promptly.  "I will be
quite frank with you.  Our still very short acquaintance has
convinced me that you are a find for the business.  You have the
appearance and the address to gain interviews with city people.
Such agents are rare.  The moment I send you out you begin to draw
two and a half dollars a day.  You run no risks."

"How many calls does a man have to make in order to make a sale?" I

Mr. Tinker laughed.  "That depends on the man."

"On an average," I insisted.

"There is no average," Mr. Tinker said, "I know a lady who sells a
set on every third call and has a pleasant time on the other two.
But in the beginning it may take you a week, or two weeks, of hard
work to make your first sale.  It depends on the way in which you
get your interview.  This is a science, the art of salesmanship; it
has to be learned."

I sighed.  "I am willing to learn.  When can I start?"

"As soon as you know your canvass to the letter."

Another suspicion struck me.  "Is there any charge for the outfit?"
I asked.

"None whatever," he replied.  "This is a legitimate business.  Here
is a copy of your talk, and here are the various things which you
will need.  Of course, you must not only know your canvass, but you
must also learn to handle your material.  You will find the most
detailed directions in this little book."

Mr. Tinker made up a neat little parcel for me.  "Well," he said at
last, "get after the canvass, Mr. Branden.  And when you know it
thoroughly, come back.  You will find me any time from nine to six
except for one hour at noon."

"So long," I said.

We shook hands, and I left.

To Mr. Tinker's surprise I returned to his office the next
afternoon and, at his request, gave him the canvass, though not
with any great dramatic power, yet with a quiet persuasive
conviction and an unhesitating knowledge of the lines which
delighted him.

"Now, Mr. Branden," he said, "I am going to let you go out at once.
But I beg of you, stick to the canvass.  It is the everlasting
temptation of the agent to put in little pieces of his own;
don't you do it.  For one reason, we have to guard against
misrepresentation.  We insist on our agents' not knowing the books,
as I have explained before; every word in the canvass is true; so
long as you follow it word for word, we can always back you up.
Many and many an agent has had to be dropped from our forces
because he could not resist the temptation and got himself into
trouble where we could not stand behind him.  They said things
which amounted to misrepresentation.  We shall require you from
time to time to give us your canvass.  We shall help you in all
your difficulties and guide you as much as we can; we ask only one
thing in return: that you honestly report to us from day to day
about your work.  For the first two or three weeks I shall ask you
to report to me personally every evening at six o'clock."

And he proceeded to give me further directions.  He advised me to
set myself a definite number of calls for the day, say thirty,
never to go outside the territory assigned, so as not to encroach
upon the rights of other agents; to relax completely between
interviews; always to ask for the lady of the house; never to state
my business before I was seated with my interlocutor, nor to let
anything of my prospectuses and papers be seen about my person
before I had started upon my talk; never to allow the person
interviewed to get in a word while I was launched upon the canvass;
and so to control my voice and "magnetism" as to be most hypnotic
towards the end.

"We have reduced the selling of this book to a science," he
repeated.  "Do not expect any great success in the beginning; but
if you follow directions, you cannot help winning success in the
end.  It is merely a question of perseverance."

Little needs to be said about the actual work during my beginnings.
I started out on a certain straggling street in the upper Bronx--a
poor-looking neighbourhood.  When I returned to the office after
the first day's work, I was completely exhausted and all but
hopeless.  The reason for this hopelessness will presently appear.

"Well," Mr. Tinker greeted me with a smile, "how many calls did you
make to-day?"

"Exactly thirty," I replied, "as you advised."

"Good.  And how many interviews did you obtain?"


"Excellent," Mr. Tinker praised.  "But, of course, you got no

"No," I said; "still, I have two prospects.  I talked two ladies
into such a pitch of enthusiasm that they asked me to return to-
morrow morning.  They simply had to persuade their husbands first."

"And they asked you to leave a sample page?"

"Yes," I replied, rather surprised.

Mr. Tinker laughed.  "Well," he said, "you can, of course, do as
you please if you want to get your own experience.  But if you will
believe me, don't call back.  I've been in this business since I
was a mere boy; I yet have to see an order coming from a back-call.
Let me explain.  Books are among the remote luxuries, according to
the views of our middle-class people.  Once they start to talk
things over, other things seem to be so much more urgently needed,
a sewing machine, a gramophone, a carpet-sweeper.  While you are
there, two dollars a month seems a trifle; as soon as you are gone,
they see only the total of sixty dollars."

I was taken aback.  "Well, it strikes me that, considering the
people I have been calling on, they are right," I said, not without

"Nonsense," Mr. Tinker replied with great emphasis.  "You could
have got those orders.  No woman in the United States needs to talk
things over with her husband.  If you make her want the books badly
enough, she will give the order.  Never forget that these books
mean an education for those people.  You know better what is good
for them than they do.  That is the spirit which you want to get.
But I'll tell you.  There was another way of getting those orders.
Suppose that you feel you have missed the psychological moment of
pressing the matter home with the woman and that she has started to
talk of her husband.  Get the address of the man's business place;
let her give you a slip of introduction to him.  See him before he
has a chance to talk to his wife, and play up to his fondness for
her and the children if there are any."

"But, Mr. Tinker," I objected, "quite a few people convinced me to-
day that it would be foolish for them to put money into books.
Surely you don't want me to press the matter when I can only too
clearly see their point of view."

Mr. Tinker laughed; a trifle unpleasantly, I thought.  Then he
controlled himself.  "The affairs of the people you interview are
their own outlook.  You have nothing to do with them.  It is your
business to get the order.  How they are going to pay for it, that
you can safely leave to them and to us."

I got up.

"Stick to your canvass," Mr. Tinker repeated, somewhat more
pleasantly; "do as you did to-day, and the orders will come.  Above
all, do not weaken in closing.  Always think of the untold hours of
clean, wholesome pleasure you are bringing to people who know
nothing but work.  Think of the winter evenings around the lamp.
There's pleasure and profit for father and mother, and no end of it
for the kiddies."

It was only much later that I understood how masterfully and
expertly Mr. Tinker played upon me and my sentimental sensibilities.
As a matter of fact, his last words left me with something to think
over all evening and all night.  That very day, though I did not
know it, my education had begun; I had had the first look-in upon
humble families, striving to do their level best in the fight for a
living; I had understood them and sympathized with them.  More than
once had I felt that I might have succeeded; I had done what to-day
I consider the typical thing to do under the conditions of
democratic freedom: I had sacrificed my personal advantage to what
I considered best for others; I had desisted.

Mr. Tinker did not know that.  After what I had heard him say I did
not care to speak about the real trouble I had encountered.  As a
matter of fact, when I went to his office, I had half made up my
mind to tell him all about it and to part with him then and there.
Only the two prospects which I had kept me from doing so at the
outset.  In spite of what he had said I was still determined to
call back.  But his parting shot was a psychological master stroke.
Maybe this talk about "missionary work" was not all cant.  Maybe
there was something in it, after all.  I could well imagine how
children would delight in looking at the more than eight thousand
pictures that the set boasted of; how their pleasure would be
reflected upon the parents; how the parents would be beguiled into
reading; how the children would listen and take a new interest in
their geography!  And what were two dollars a month to people who,
none of them, so it seemed, were making less than a hundred dollars
a month?

So I kept at it.  I called back at the two houses to which I had
promised to return.  Mr. Tinker was right.  I was not even asked to
come in but told at the door that it would be useless.

A whole week went by, and in spite of hard work I had no order.
But still that last vision, summoned by Mr. Tinker at the end of my
first report, persisted.  Mr. Tinker promptly gave me a cheque for
fifteen dollars; and after I had accepted it, I felt under an
obligation to stay with him till it was repaid.  But I began to
think of a change.  I felt that I was in the wrong surroundings;
that I did not really have a chance to make good where I was
working.  So, one day during the second week, I broached the matter
to Mr. Tinker.

"I wish," I said to him, "you would send me elsewhere."

"But why?" he objected.  "You are getting the interviews; you have
the approach.  Women do not refuse to listen to you.  That is where
most of our agents are weak.  That's why we have to send them into
small towns where people are glad to welcome the stranger.  You are
weak on closing.  You have to overcome that."

"I can't," I replied.  "Here I see only people who have their own
troubles.  They tell me about them."

"But you don't want to listen," Mr. Tinker exclaimed, exasperated.
"You are there to talk, not to listen.  Just give me your canvass.
Let me hear how you work."

I did.

"That is excellent," he praised when I finished; "that is
exceptionally good.  I can't see why you are not getting the
orders.  I'll tell you what I'll do.  I'll go with you to-morrow
morning till we land an order.  You give the canvass; I'll do the

My eye lighted up.  "Very well," I said.  "Shall I call for you

Mr. Tinker and I interviewed an old lady.  It was a small, a very
modest household.  We were ushered into a stuffy, little parlour
that spoke of desperate efforts at keeping up the appearances of
genteel respectability.  On one wall I noticed a framed diploma;
the rest of the wall-space was scattered over with a multitudinous
arrangement of faded photographs.

The old lady, unmistakably Irish--from her speech and her kindly,
round, wrinkled face under the crocheted white bonnet--listened to
my forceful talk with a wistful, benevolent smile which had
something reminiscent in it.

When I finished and was pulling out the folder with the leather-
backs of the bindings, she began in an enthusiastic tone, "Oh, how
my daughter . . ."

But Mr. Tinker, taking the folder out of my hand, interrupted her.
"Just a moment, madam," he said and rose, towering above her.  "You
have a daughter--a teacher, as I see by the diploma here on the
wall . . ."

The old lady beamed.

"It is for her that I am speaking.  Now listen.  Don't say a word
to her till the books are here.  I know you will be impatient to
get them.  Usually it takes a week to deliver a set; but in your
case we shall make an extra effort and get them here by to-night.
They will come in a box, of course.  You open this box and get it
out of the way before your daughter comes home.  And here, on this
little table . . ."  He flipped the folder open and set it up while
he was towering above her.  ". . . Here you place the whole set and
let her discover it.  Just think of her joy!  Every one of these
volumes is bound in full morocco.  Every one of the twenty volumes
contains four hundred pages of delightful reading.  Every page
contains at least one illustration besides the many full-page
plates.  There, look at it; that is the way the set will stand.  No
teacher can afford to be without it.  I know, it is quite a task to
bring up a young girl to be a teacher."--His voice became a
whisper, tender, caressing, confidential.  "You have had your many
years of struggle to do it.  Now you HAVE done it, and at last you
are going to do for her this last one thing."  Beaming, he worked
up to a climax, raising his voice.  "You are going to give her this
set.  And I'll tell you, madam."  At this point he pulled out the
order blanks, laying them down in front of the old lady; and as he
went on, he lowered his voice to a whisper again.  "The best of it
is that I, too, can do something for you.  I am going to make you
the easiest terms that I am allowed to make; two dollars down and
two a month."  He did not even tell her the total.  "Just put your
name down here, please . . . no, on this line. . . .  Thank you,
madam.  And now, if you have two dollars handy . . ."

With trembling fingers she began to count out quarters and dimes,
from a worn-out pocketbook, while Mr. Tinker went on talking,

"Oh, believe me, madam, I know what it means to do things for our
children; I know the reward, too; the happy smile, the gleaming
eye, a tear, and a kiss on the mother's cheek--and never a word!
Thanks, madam.  Good-by, and congratulations."

With amazing agility he had gathered all our paraphernalia and was
pushing me out, ahead of himself, frowning with impatience as I

As soon as we were in the street, he relaxed; his powerful
shoulders sagged; he took a deep breath.

Then he laughed.  "Well," he said, "do you see?  That was an easy
one, of course.  Slick as pulling a tooth.  We'll split the
commission, Branden.  Now go and get half a dozen more."

I did not go on that morning.  I remember it as if it had been
yesterday instead of three decades ago.  I went to Riverside Park,
above the Hudson, feeling at outs with myself and the world.

Missionary work, indeed!

I still see myself, stopping for a moment at the huge foundations
of the Library of Columbia University which at the time was
building.  Here was one of America's great institutions, one of its
universities, being erected at a cost of millions of dollars; I had
just witnessed how money was extracted from the trembling fingers
of bashful poverty.  I cried with shame and humiliation when I
flung myself down on some bench in the park.

My whole life passed in review before my mind.  This seemed a time
for great, decisive resolutions.  What could I do?  There seemed to
be some external power which shuffled men about as you shuffle a
deck of cards.  I had left beaten tracks; I was in the control of
some merciless, gigantic machine.  Useless to fight!  If only I
could lie down and die!  Nobody would miss me, nobody would suffer
if I disappeared.  On the contrary, I should leave the way clear
for others.  If I could make a living only by taking it from
others, would it not be better not to make that living and to
resign myself?  But it was not easy to find a way to do even that.

It was late in the year.  The last leaves were falling; most of the
trees stood still and bare in the clear, sun-saturated December
air.  But for me, like a veil of dark-coloured mist, there lay
gloom over the landscape, over the river, the park, the heights on
the opposite bank.  All the ostentation of pride and wealth in this
great city looked like a hollow show--like the powdered and painted
face of a woman of the street who hides despair and shame behind
the smile of effrontery.

I thought of what I had witnessed.  "Slick as pulling a tooth."

One after another three pictures arose before my mental vision.  A
cat, crouched low at the edge of a pond in which fishes are
playing, glistening in the beams of the sun; the cat reaches out
with incredible swiftness of paw; one of the beautiful creatures
flies up, out of the water, on to the bank; the very next moment it
wriggles and writhes between the cat's teeth.--A hawk, sweeping
down upon a bare spot between bushes and striking its talons into
the quivering flesh of a chick which gives the universal cry of
agonized death.--A snake, coiled up in a ditch, and a toad hopping
inadvertently near; the next moment the toad fights and pulls and
strains against the suck in the mouth of the snake; for the snake,
changed suddenly into a fury of wiry, writhing lust, has struck and
caught its hindfeet.--These sights I had seen on my rambles in
Westchester county.  Especially vivid was the horror of the toad's
fight against the jaws of the snake.

While looking on when Mr. Tinker had "closed" the sale, I had
intercepted a little involuntary unconscious motion of helpless
revolt on the part of the old lady; and that little twitch of her
delicate, trembling, nearly transparent hand had somehow reminded
me with a strange, incomprehensible distinctness of the death-fight
of fish, chick, toad.  Like fish, chick, toad she had given in; she
did not stand a chance!

If that was America, then let my curses ring out over America!  I
was neither cat, hawk, nor snake!

What was America then?  Graft and cruelty, nothing else!  Frank and
Hannan and Howard on one side--Carlton and Tinker with their smug
self-sufficiency on the other!

What could I do?  Leave Tinker?  I owed him fifteen dollars!

"Well," said Mr. Tinker gaily when I entered his office that
evening.  "How many orders?'

"None, of course," I replied.  "Look here, Mr. Tinker.  I did not
make another call this morning.  No, nor this afternoon, either.  I
cannot do this work.  Not in this way.  I come, fully determined to
leave you right now unless you give me a chance to work where I can
see a different class of people.  I cannot foist this thing on to
helpless women who cannot afford it.  Give me a class of people
that can afford sixty-dollar sets of books; and I'll undertake to
sell them.  But here, in the district to which you are sending me,
I must refuse to go on with the work."

Mr. Tinker looked at me for some time in silence, a frown on the
huge expanse of his fleshy face.

"All right," he said at last.  "I shall send you out to White
Plains.  I have a crew working there, under the direction of a
lady-manager, Mrs. McMurchy.  Report to her as soon as you get
there.  I shall write down her address for you.  I shall speak to
her to-night over the telephone, and she will arrange for lodging
and board.  After this you will have to report to her and to follow
her instructions.  You have been a disappointment to me.  But maybe
it will be for the best that way.  You will have company in the
evenings, too."


I Seek New Fields

When I arrived at White Plains, some time before noon, I looked
Mrs. McMurchy up at once and found her at the address which Mr.
Tinker had given me.

She received me in the small, dusky parlor of a private house where
she and her whole little crew of agents had found accommodation.

The light in the room was bad; it was not easy to form an accurate
first impression.  Besides, the lady took apparent care to have
what light there was fall full on my face and to keep herself in
the shade.  She struck me, however, as being at least fifty-five
years old; she was medium-sized, very dark of complexion, with
heavy features which reminded me of Mr. Tinker's sagging facial
muscles, and with strangely strong and prominent lips.  Her manners
were carefully, studiously polite and smooth.  No doubt she was
expecting me.

"Mr. Branden, I suppose?" she said and gave me a large, bony, and
bejewelled hand which for the fraction of a second lay limp in my

"Mr. Tinker phoned me last night," she said.  "Unfortunately, we
are just winding up here at White Plains.  We intend to move to
Pleasantville to-morrow.  It is nearly lunch-time.  If you will
take your meal with us, you will meet the other members of the
crew, and we can see after that what to do."

Since the last sentence was spoken with a questioning inflection, I
replied, "With pleasure."

"Mr. Tinker told me that you know the canvass, that you have been
working, and that you have no difficulty in getting your

"None whatever," I said.

"In that case," she went on, "it is a pity that you should leave
New York.  However, I shall be delighted to have you with us.  I
understand, the difficulty is in closing."

"It is," I said with a slight hesitation.  "But permit me to be a
trifle more explicit, Mrs. McMurchy.  It might save you further

"I shall be glad to hear whatever you may have to say," said my
interlocutor with a smile.

"My difficulties," I began to explain, "are not so much of a
practical as of an ethical nature.  When I see that taking an order
would submit the person interviewed to hardships, I cannot do it.
Mr. Tinker went out with me yesterday and obtained an order which I
should not have taken because it seemed morally wrong to take it."

Mrs. McMurchy gasped with horror.  "But Mister Branden," she
exclaimed, emphasizing every syllable, "how can you say such a
thing?  Mr. Tinker and doing wrong!  Impossible altogether!  I see
from that what your trouble is.  You are not sufficiently convinced
of the value of the thing you are selling.  You do not feel
strongly enough that you are doing missionary work."

I smiled a weary smile.  This, I felt, was mere cant.

"I am afraid," I replied, "that nothing can convince me that a set
of books, however valuable, can feed a hungry mouth or clothe a
shivering body.  Nor shall I ever be able to hypnotize anybody into
buying what he does not want.  I am constitutionally unable to see
wherein lies the missionary part of the fact that I am in need of
commissions.  If I did this work free of charge, it would be
different; as it is, I cannot forget that I ask the person
interviewed to pay two dollars a month for from four to six months
in order to pay me for my trouble."

I looked with inviting frankness into the lady's face.  She smiled,
but avoided my look.

"Your conscience is of a delicacy which I have never yet found in
an agent," she said.  "I believe that you will get over that.  I am
beginning to see why Mr. Tinker said that he believed you to be a
find for the business.  I hope I shall convince you that the
business is a find for you."

At this moment the house-door opened and closed.  At once Mrs.
McMurchy was on her feet.

"Just a moment," she said, and stepped into the door of the
parlour, beckoning to a fat old lady who had just entered the hall.

This old lady, short, stout, white-haired, looked up at me with a
seductive smile on a face which was most artfully rouged and
powdered.  The effect was startling.  Every motion of her betrayed
her age; she must have been over sixty; her hand trembled as she
welcomed me on my being introduced to her; but her face was made up
to an appearance of the most innocent youthfulness.

"Mrs. Coldwell," I heard Mrs. McMurchy name her; "one of our most
successful agents."

Mrs. Coldwell's face was lighted by a winning smile.  Then she
turned to Mrs. McMurchy, and her smile, without disappearing,
underwent a change; there was cunning in it, now, and triumph,

"I have an order," she said, "and a good one, too; for the half-
leather set; from Mr. Regan, the banker."

"I'm very glad indeed, on your account, my dear," said Mrs.
McMurchy and put her hand caressingly on her shoulder.

I had to suppress a smile; for in spite of the friendly tone in
which these two women conversed I could sense a bitter rivalry,
yes, animosity, between them.

The door went again.

"And here," continued Mrs. McMurchy, "is the rest of our little
crew.  Come in, Miss Henders; come in, Mr. Ray.  Meet Mr. Branden,
a new member of our crowd."

Miss Henders was a pretty little Jewess, neatly, though
inexpensively dressed, with forward eyes, a face which could not
conceal her emotions, and manners and movements which jarred a
little on my sensibilities.

Mr. Ray was a tall and slender young man, hardly out of his boyhood
yet, with easy movements and dark, flowing hair.  His brown eyes
which showed a peculiarly penetrating and cheerful lustre won him
my instant sympathies.

All three appraised me with furtive glances while they were
exchanging small talk and banter.

"Any luck, child?" asked Mrs. McMurchy patronizingly from the
little Jewess.

"No-o," she pouted in a voice which was a trifle loud.  "The sun
shines too bright; suckers don't bite."

Everybody laughed, with the exception of Mrs. McMurchy who frowned

"This town has been drained," Mr. Ray threw in.  "It's time to

"Yes," exclaimed Miss Henders, "we've done this town; let's do the

"Miss Henders," gasped Mrs. McMurchy, her indignation becoming
vocal, "how can you speak that way!  I can well see why you are not
getting the orders."

"Nonsense," replied Miss Henders, "I don't get orders because you
send me to women.  Women antagonize me, and I antagonize them.
Give me the business-men whom I can jolly along.  I can't sell the
books; but I can always sell myself."

"Miss Henders!!" Mrs. McMurchy exclaimed again, this time more
sharply, and glancing at me with a significant look.

"Well," Miss Henders broke off, "I hope dinner is ready.  I am as
hungry as a bear."

And all three bustled upstairs to their rooms.

Mrs. McMurchy turned to me.  "I have not been able to make
arrangement for a room for you, Mr. Branden.  I suppose you will
have to stay at the hotel overnight.  But your meals you can take
with us if you like.  As I said, we shall move to Pleasantville to-
morrow; and there I have engaged room and board.  We shall get
there for dinner.  I suppose you would prefer not to start work
until we have moved?

"On the contrary," I replied; "if you can let me have an address or
two, I should like to make a few calls this afternoon, just to see
how things are in the smaller town.  Provided I do not encroach
upon other agents' rights."

"Very well," she replied and followed the others upstairs.

I was anxious to see how the other members of this crew felt about
their work and their outlook; and when, after partaking of their
lunch, I was ready to go out and--much against Mrs. McMurchy's
wishes--fell in at the door with Miss Henders, I joined her.

"If you have some distance to go, Miss Henders," I said in holding
the door for her, "and do not dislike a companion . . ."

"Not at all," she said, "come along."

We walked for a while in silence.

"I suppose you are quite an expert in this business, Mr. Branden?"
she asked at length.

I laughed.  "Not exactly," I said, "I have been trying to get my
first order and failed so far."

"Is that so?" she asked with a sidelong glance from her beady black

"Yes," I said; "I have just arrived in this country; and I am
trying to find a way of making a living."

"Is that so?" she repeated.  "Well, I don't want to discourage you.
But why don't you rather try something else?"

"Nobody, so it seems, has any use for my services.  I am going to
try this thing out.  The trouble is, I can't bring myself to wrest
an order from people who should put their money into necessaries
rather than into luxuries like books."

She laughed.  "That doesn't worry me.  I need the money, and if I
could see the people, I'd take the orders, no matter how poor they
are.  They are not as poor as I am."

A short silence ensued.

"Well," I said at last, "at least you don't talk about missionary

She laughed.  "No," she said; "that's all nonsense.  Most of the
people to whom we sell get along quite comfortably without the
books.  I am frank at least.  I want the commissions."

"If it is not intruding," I said, hesitating, "might I ask you how
many orders the average agent gets in a week?"

"Oh, I don't know," she replied.  "I do know that I work as hard as
anybody, and that I am always in debt to the Company.  I draw ten
dollars a week, and though I sometimes take two orders or sell a
morocco set, at other times I get no orders at all; and so there is
always a balance against me.  Fare, board, and laundry cost from
seven to eight dollars a week; and I cannot dress for less than two
or three, no matter how careful I am."

"And is it the same with Mrs. Coldwell and Mr. Ray?"

"Pretty much," she replied.  "The worst of it is, if we do get an
extra order now and then, suddenly one of the old orders, taken
weeks ago, goes bad; that sets us back again."

"Goes bad?" I repeated.

"Yes," she explained.  "When the books arrive, people refuse to
take them in.  They've got cold feet meanwhile."

"I see," I said pensively; for by intuition I understood the slang

"Still," she went on, "you may have better luck.  Mrs. McMurchy is
always telling us of agents who buy cars or homes with their
commissions.  It may not be all hot air."

I did not feel exactly encouraged by what I had learned.

We separated; and I began to look for the addresses at which I was
to call.  I had three of them; they were all on the same street;
three large residences, looking out, with an air of aloofness, over
well-kept lawns that were now withered and dried by the onset of
winter.  I passed them without going in.

The air was crisp and invigorating; the sun, already advanced on
the western half of its short winter arc.  Something of that spirit
which had guided me during my previous rambles in Westchester
county came over me.  There was satisfaction in merely stretching
my legs and swinging along.  I followed the street on which I was
till I reached the open country.  A slight icy breeze made my
cheeks tingle with its frost, and a feeling of health pervaded me,
an animal satisfaction, as it were, to the exclusion of all
thought.  I entered the woods, without knowing where I was, and I
walked, drinking in the air, and with it oblivion, till a feeling
of happy weariness came over me.  Just at the time when the sun
which I saw behind the trees, as if through black bars, touched the
horizon, I came to a clearing occupied by a well-kept farmyard.
The shadows were rising; a smoky haze lay over the buildings.  They
seemed huddled, as if for warmth and shelter, against the forest.
From behind a building the happy shouts and the laughter of
children sounded across.  In front of myself I saw a well, and
suddenly I felt that I was thirsty.

At the well sat a man.  His attitude was expressive of the
weariness of physical toil.  I approached, and he turned.  His face
radiated satisfaction and glowed from the work he had left.

"Good evening," I greeted; my voice was hushed by the beauty of the
scene.  "May I get a drink?"

"Certainly, help yourself," he said.  "Wait, I'll get a cup."

"This will do," I replied, picking up a rusty tin cup.

"Look at that," the man said suddenly, without turning, waving an
arm against the landscape.

Coal-black stood the forest; in the sky beyond, a dark, lustreless
red shaded off through purple and amber into green.

I sat down beside the man.  A few more words were passed back and
forth.  We spoke like old acquaintances; there was no need of
introductions.  We both were men, face to face with Nature.

A silence fell.

At last I smiled at him, and said, "I have something that might
interest you."

"That so?" he asked.  "What is it?"

"Books," I replied, violating all Mr. Tinker's rules.

"What kind?"

And I began to tell him about the set in my own way, slowly leading
over into the regular canvass.  I had gone on for five minutes,
when he rose.  I stopped.

"Come in," he said.  "Let's go into the house.  I want my wife to
hear that."

We entered a large, simply but solidly furnished room, a combined
dining and living room.  The man lighted a lamp suspended over the
large extension table.  From the adjoining kitchen came the clatter
of dishes.  He offered me a chair and went out.  In two or three
minutes he returned with a tall, bony, but pleasant-looking matron,
her face flushed from the heat of the stove.

"Well," said the man with a smile, "shoot, will you?  But start it
over, please."

And I began the canvass once more, I sitting, husband and wife
standing in front of me, bent over the table, their large, hard
hands resting on its top.  I gave an excellent canvass, quiet,
convincing, never hesitating for a second.  I had gone half through
it when, with a great noise and much laughter, two children burst
into the room.  A look from the mother, reproving, but not too
sternly, silenced them; and they joined the group of listeners.
The boy's eyes shone.  I saw he devoured the illustrations which I
showed with eager eyes.  I also noticed that the father began to
watch him with a humorous expression, and that the mother smiled.

When I had finished, I did not go on; I produced neither order
blanks nor testimonials; I rested my case; I leaned back and looked
at the group.

"Gee-whiz!" exclaimed the boy, "That's some book!  Daddy, I'd like
to have that."

"You kids get out of here," replied the father with mock severity.
"Quick!  This is business."

Reluctantly the children obeyed.

Man and wife looked at each other.

"Would be nice for the children," said the mother.

"Would be nice for you," the man replied.

"And for you!" she added.

We all three burst out laughing.

The man looked at me.  "How much?"

"Sixty dollars," I said, "in full morocco.  Easy terms."

"Never mind about the terms," he said.  "I'll give you a cheque for
ten dollars; balance on delivery.  That satisfactory?"

"Entirely," I replied; and while I made the necessary entries in an
order blank, he wrote the cheque.

When he had signed the order, I rose to go.

"Won't you stay for supper?" invited the woman.

"Well," I replied, "I did not go out for business; I went for a
walk and fell in with your husband.  I suppose it's time for me to
get back to town."

"That's all right," said the farmer.  "I'll hitch up and take you
in.  Better stay for supper.  It's just about ready, I suppose?"

"I was on the point of setting the table," she said.

When, two hours or so later, I entered the parlor where Mrs.
McMurchy had received me in the morning, I found her and Mrs.
Coldwell ensconced in a rocker and an easy-chair respectively,
reading.  Young Ray was playing checkers with the little Jewess.  I
stopped in the door.  Mrs. Coldwell had drawn her feet up under her
body and sat there, huddled together like the handful of old,
comfort-loving humanity which she was; the young pair were laughing
and chattering away; and in the stately, presiding manner of Mrs.
McMurchy's I could not help seeing, with a smile, something of the
watchful attitude of a brood-hen with her flock.

She was the first one to look up, "Ah, Mr. Branden," she said with
a searching look, "did you have your supper?  It is rather late."

I felt the reproach in her voice, carefully controlled though it
was; she did not approve of my late hours.

I smiled.  "Yes, thanks.  I've had my supper.  I'm just coming in
from work."

By this time four pairs of eyes were focused on me; I, not without
a sense of the dramatic, slowly drew the order from my pocket, with
the cheque attached, and laid it down before Mrs. McMurchy.

"No!" shouted Miss Henders petulantly.  "Don't tell us you've got
an order."

"Why, Mr. Branden," Mrs. McMurchy said, rising as soon as she had
perused the blank to shake hands with me, "this is splendid!  You
put our young people to shame, I must say.  A cash-order, too; for
the full morocco binding!"

"What's that?" asked Mrs. Coldwell, not without a touch of envy.
"Let me see that bird of paradise!  You are starting in well, I
declare!"  With a trembling hand she reached for the order.

Young Ray said nothing; but his eyes smiled at me.

"I suppose, you know," remarked Mrs. McMurchy, "that a cash-order
nets you sixteen dollars?"

"I'm glad," I said; "I did not know it."

"That shows you, young people," she said, turning to Miss Henders
and Ray; "the orders are there.  I gave Mr. Branden only three
cards . . ."

"Well," I broke in, "but I called at none of the addresses.  I just
took a walk; I was thirsty; I met a man at a well, out in the
country; I started my canvass, and I sold him."

"He's sold all right!" exclaimed Miss Henders with a harsh laugh.
Apparently this young girl could not refrain from giving expression
to her cynical views.

Mrs. McMurchy looked at her with the eye of reproof.  Then she
turned to me again.  "And ten dollars down!" she said.  "That shows
that the order will stand."

"Oh, the order is good," I said; "but that I got it was mere

"Talk of luck!" Miss Henders could not keep herself from addressing
the ceiling.

The next day--it was a Saturday--we moved to Pleasantville, and I
started to work on the same footing with the three other members of
our crew.  By Wednesday, when our cheques arrived, I had not taken
another order though I probably had made more calls and given a
better canvass than any of the rest.  My cheque was for fifteen
dollars; which left me in debt to the amount of eight dollars.  In
one way the work was less unpleasant than it had been in the Bronx.
At mealtimes and during the long hours of the evening I had
company.  I doubt whether there is--that of teachers and doctors
excepted--any other occupation in the world that is so conducive to
"talking shop" as that of the book-agent.  I know there is none in
which "the blues" are as common.

Strange to say, I soon assumed in this little crew the part of the
comforter.  The reason lay in the fact that I had no difficulty
whatever in obtaining interviews and that, on the whole, they came
off pleasantly.  That, too, is easily explained.  I did not work up
to a dramatic closing.  I did not feel angry with the people
interviewed if they told me, after listening to my canvass, of
their own troubles and worries and forgot all about the books.  I
even remember a case in which I actually refused to accept an
order.  I had canvassed a young woman who liked the books and
longed to have them.  But she had listened to me with every now and
then an absent-minded look creeping into her eyes as if, against
her will, a different, deeper worry kept her occupied.  When I
wound up, I sat back, as was my custom, and smiled an encouraging
smile.  I was ready for her side of the matter.  And soon it all
came out.  The little house was neatly and newly furnished.  The
woman's husband was a printer making good wages; they had been
married a couple of years.  But the furniture had been bought on
the instalment plan, property-rights remaining with the firm that
had sold it.  Two babies had arrived; sickness had intervened; they
had fallen in arrears with their payments and had twice been
threatened with the loss of their things unless they settled
immediately.  But, feeling in the wrong as they did, they had not
done anything about it and considered that such a loss would be
only what was coming to them as a consequence of their bad luck.
They had not even written to the firm.  I felt very worldliwise as
compared with this little family of nest-builders.  I told the
woman they must write and fully explain their situation; no doubt
their creditors would be reasonable enough, provided they felt that
they were dealing with honest people.  I even wrote the letter, so
her husband would only have to sign it.  And when I had done that
much for them, she felt that she was under an obligation to add
fifty or sixty dollars to the debts of the household by buying my
books.  I laughed, refused to listen, shook hands, and left.

At the dinner-table I told this story to the crew; and for several
minutes I had to submit to all manner of jests, for none of the
other agents would have despised the order.

One of the first things I found out at Pleasantville was that we
were going over the same territory for the third time.  Mrs.
McMurchy had a list, supposed to be complete, of those who owned
the set.  From telephone directories and personal enquiry she made
up the new lists of people to be called on.  I soon saw that the
previous canvasses had pretty well exhausted the number of possible
buyers.  This, however, instead of discouraging me, made me feel
that probably all I needed was the right kind of a new proposition
in order to be quite successful at the business.  I began to think
of leaving the company.

I pondered a good deal about the cases of my colleagues.  Mrs.
McMurchy, who saw that I became the centre of the little circle--
cheering, entertaining, encouraging, and correcting them--withdrew
more and more to follow her favourite pastime of resting up.  Two
or three times I intervened in a quarrel between her and Mrs.
Coldwell who accused her of giving her the poorest prospects to
call on.  More than once I pooled my cards with those of Mrs.
Coldwell and asked her to pick whatever she liked, pretending that
it did not matter to me on whom I called and that I could take
orders whenever I really needed them.

The trouble arose from the fact that Mrs. McMurchy refused to
divide the territory by streets, alleging that such a proceeding
would involve an injustice to all concerned.  One agent might get a
good residential neighbourhood, the other, perhaps, a street of
poor labourers' huts.  If she had really known anything about the
people she sent us to, her plan might have been capable of
execution.  But, owing to her indolence, her knowledge was a mere
pretence; which was proved by the fact that at least one-third of
the addresses handed out were erroneous; people had moved, in town
or out of town; occasionally we hunted a person for hours and
hours, only to find in the end that he had been dead for the last
year or two--an exasperating experience when you are told that your
success depends on the number of calls you make in a day.

But still, even this inconvenience, frequent as the complaints
arising from it were, seemed only a trifle.

The real reason for the lack of harmony between the two women lay
in that profound, deep-rooted rivalry which I had felt as soon as I
had seen them together.  It was constitutional; they could not
stand each other.  I believe if they had met in a desert, both
starving, both at the point of death, they would, before lying down
for their last rest, have fought each other to their heart's

Both these women had once been married; both had been book agents
ever since their husbands died.  Both had, whether before or after
that catastrophe, acquired a certain veneer of manners which
covered up their primitive natures; but if it had not been for that
and for the fact that they were not alone in the world, they would
have flown into each other's faces and scratched each other's eyes
out whenever they met.

Mrs. McMurchy was the daughter of a farmer in Virginia; Mrs.
Coldwell was the fatherless daughter of an actress.  Mrs. McMurchy
asserted proudly that her ancestors had been a family of slave-
holders--you know the type; most of them came over in the
Mayflower, too--and to have had a slaveholder among your forebears
marks you as "quality-folk".  Mrs. Coldwell, however, said--
secretly, of course, "Look at her lips and her complexion!  She
comes from coloured people!  Slave-holders, well, I guess!  Slaves,
she means!"

On the other hand, Mrs. Coldwell stoutly averred that her parents
had been married, her father having been a proud but poor
Englishman.  Mrs. McMurchy whispered--confidentially, of course--
that she knew for a fact that her mother had been a Miss even when
she died.

As for their marriages, Mrs. McMurchy had been living on her
father's farm when she met her future husband; Mrs. Coldwell
admitted that she herself had been an actress, to which Mrs.
McMurchy added--sotto voce--"A chorus-girl."

Mrs. McMurchy vaguely described her deceased lord and master as a
railroad official in a responsible position--which Mrs. Coldwell
interpretated by saying, "A section-boss."  Mr. Coldwell, on the
other hand, had been a mining engineer; and his widow--this was the
sorest of all sore points--could prove it by documentary evidence.
Both husbands had lost their lives in railroad accidents; Mr.
McMurchy--according to Mrs. Coldwell who had never seen him,
neither dead nor alive--being run over in a fog by a flyer while
setting a switch; Mr. Coldwell--and again, unfortunately for Mrs.
McMurchy's peace of mind, his widow held proof of the fact--having
been in his sleeper when the train on which he travelled ran into a
freight train and telescoped together.

And now Mrs. McMurchy was manager of a crew with an exclusive
territory, a position which vaguely connected her with the
capitalistic and idle class of the upper ten thousand; and she gave
orders to Mrs. Coldwell who revenged herself for the crying
injustice of it all by hinting darkly that she and Mr. Tinker had
only one soul between them; and that they were very likely also one

Mrs. Coldwell, however, had no ambition.  She frankly acknowledged
that she could not have managed anything, not even a dog; whereas
Mrs. McMurchy had the matronly, brood-hen dignity which imposes on
most people and which--in women--is called executive ability.

Miss Henders, Ray, and myself sided with Mrs. Coldwell.  She seemed
so helpless, her outlook so hopeless.  For me she was a mere child
of seventy--wilful, silly, vain, and conceited--yet lovable on the
whole.  On Miss Henders she made a strong impression with ancient
photographs of her husband and the big house which she had owned in
California--she had lost it, together with ten thousand dollars of
life-insurance, in some wild-cat mining scheme.  Even the worthless
share-certificates filled Miss Henders with awe.

This seemed to me all the stranger since Miss Henders was not only
an American, but, according to her statements, a socialist.  She
was a curious product of city-slum America.  To see her act, you
would have thought her a "flirt" of the purest water, and by no
means particular about the object of her flirtations.  To hear her
talk of "free love" and similar things, you would have taken her
for a depraved young lady; for, at least intellectually, sullied
beyond repair.  Yet, as I convinced myself by and by, she was
innocence herself, utterly unconscious of the dangers into the
midst of which she walked as if she were brazenly exulting in her
lack of prejudice.  Besides, she was passionately, despairingly in
love with young Ray who could not stand her.  If he had left the
company, as he was always on the point of doing, she would have
"gone to pieces" altogether.

As for Ray, he thought he had found in myself a friend from whom he
expected great things.  He wanted to be an artist, a draughtsman;
and he had one of the rarest gifts that I have ever run across.  We
spent a good many hours in talk; at my advice he read many books;
he seemed convinced that I helped him in various ways which
remained mysterious to me.  I met him again--he has since left his
mark in American Art--and later it became clear to me that at the
time he was in what I might call his incubation-period.  Of him we
shall hear more.

Here were three people, strangely assorted; like myself they openly
vowed that what they were doing was not of their choosing; and they
were Americans!

Christmas came during this first week.  Mrs. McMurchy went to New
York; she left the management of our crew in my hands, feeling no
doubt that in the petty warfare of this little crowd I represented
something like a neutral.  For two days I handed out the cards,
verified an order taken by Mrs. Coldwell--which seemed insecure--
resolved difficulties, and decided disputes.

Meanwhile I was just beginning to worry again on my own account
when two new orders fell to my share.  Again I had one afternoon
given up the attempt and walked out of town into the open country.
It was after the first big snowfall of the winter, and the glitter
and sparkle all over the landscape was more than I could resist.
Again I walked on for miles and miles till I felt honestly tired.
And at last I reached a big, residential estate--a mansion built on
the hillside whence it looked out over the soft contours of the
rolling woods.  Close to the road stood--old-country fashion--a
lodge where probably the caretaker or the gardener lived.

This lodged I resolved to enter.

A pleasant ruddy-cheeked young woman, surrounded by a crowd of
children, came to the door to enquire what I wished.  I stated that
I had been walking, that I was tired and thirsty and begged to be
allowed to rest near the fire and to refresh myself.  My request
was granted as if it were the most natural occurrence.

A young man came in and greeted me.

These people were Germans, immigrated a few years ago, and
gardeners by trade.  They had acquired a fair knowledge of English
and seemed eager to learn and to get ahead.

By and by I told them about the books, gave them the canvass,
advised the buckram binding, and made the sale as a matter of
course on a basis of five dollars down and five a month.

The second order was taken the next day under similar circumstances.
That would leave me seven dollars in debt to the company by the
middle of the following week.

The experience with these two orders gave me a new idea.  When Mrs.
McMurchy returned, a day or two before the end of the year, I spoke
to her, telling her that I was going to leave the town entirely to
the other agents; I wanted to work in the open country.

She tried to dissuade me; she did not believe I could see enough
people to make a real success; she insisted that all I needed was
to overcome my repugnance to a forceful closing; and that, unless I
did overcome this weakness, I should sooner or later leave the
business anyway.

I overrode all her objections.  I pointed out that I had taken only
three orders so far--all three in the open country--these orders
had stood; if I could not see as many people as in a town, in
return my percentage of unsuccessful calls in the country had--so
far--been zero.  I could make people want the books; if they were
able to buy them, they would give me the order, not because they
saw no other way of getting rid of me, but because I had what they
wished to have.  I boasted that I was opening up a new field for
the company, proving that the books could be sold where apparently
nobody had ever tried to sell them before.

Mrs. McMurchy gave in and let me have a free hand.

As gently as she could, she broke to me the news that the order
taken by Mr. Tinker and myself in the Bronx had "gone bad".  The
young lady, the teacher, had first written to the company, trying
to cancel her mother's order, and when they sent the books in spite
of her protest, she had refused to take them in.  Mrs. McMurchy was
apologetic about it.

"The house could sue, of course," she said; "but no company likes
to do that because it gives them a hard name."

"Of course," I said.  "Not that I care about the house, but it
would be a crime to force the poor people."

I asked a few questions about these orders which "went bad" and
learned that the company always expected prompt payment if the
books were taken into the house; if not, they preferred to drop the

That brought my debt back to thirteen dollars.

On Tuesday we moved to Mt. Kisco.  My way of working amounted
henceforth to roaming the country, with my prospectuses, sample
pages, and folders hidden away about my person.  There were days
when I simply enjoyed myself; there were days when I made fifteen
or twenty calls.  I never found any difference in the net result.
At last I thought that I could see by the mere looks of a place
whether I could make a sale or not.  And when I made only one or
two calls a day, I was simply passing up what I considered to be
hopeless cases.

Time flew.

I was probably the most persistently cheerful member of our crew,
for my calls were at least not spoiled by outbreaks of temper on
the part of the "prospects".  We went to Brewster, to Dover-Plains,
to Sharon, and thence into Connecticut, via Danbury and Bridgeport,
down to the coast.  The winter months went in this way.  The three
other agents made their board, and so did I.  The others were older
in the business of selling books, but somehow it remained a marvel
to them that I did not give it up.  The fact was that I did not
know what to do.  At last, when we were nearing New York again, I
began to play with the idea of going over to another company which
had what I considered a more promising proposition.

I spoke of it to Ray; and he confided to me that he was going to
drop out as soon as I did.  He intended to leave the business

"Just tell me," he said, "where does it lead?  Suppose there were
no set-backs.  Suppose I could make a little more than my board-
bill and lay by a trifle--I can't.  I've been wearing this suit for
fourteen months, and it's the only one I've got; it's wearing out;
but let that go--suppose I could lay by a few dollars a week, where
does it get me?  A book agent all my life?  I want to draw.  When I
took this up, I had gone hungry rather too much; I thought it would
feel good to get three squares a day.  Well, I AM getting three
triangles a day . . ."  That was a common joke between us.

"And meanwhile Life slips by," I added.

"That's it," he said.  "So long as you stay, I feel that I'm
getting something--something that I haven't been looking for.  Oh,
yes," he waved aside a motion of protest, "you've helped me a lot.
I've read.  I consider that your acquaintance has been worth to me
as much as a year or two at college.  I see my way now.  I'll go
and get a job with a sign-painter or something like that.  I'll be
happy if I can dabble in paints and with pencils.  Before I knew
you, I felt as if I were degrading myself by doing manual work.  I
tried to sell sketches.  Now I see I can get an education through
books.  I'll have my leisure; I shall be at peace with myself.
This is worry all the time.  When I'm not canvassing, I have the
blues.  I'm too young.  People laugh at me in this business; their
laugh stings.  I am losing my ambition.  When I set out in the
morning, my highest wish is to bring in an order, and for a morocco
set at that."

I laughed.  "Well," I said, "I suppose you are right, Ray.  At
least for yourself.  I don't consider it bad to lose my ambition.
In fact, I have nothing to lose there.  But I'm not ready to quit.
I'll join another company; I don't see my way out just yet."

Several things concurred to change my wish into a resolution.

One day, when calling at a country house, I ran across a man who
had the books.  I even remember his name, which was Turnbull.

He lived in a large, ramshackle house of palatial dimensions,
though, apart from its size, there was nothing palatial about it.
He was a handsome, unkempt sort of a man, the kind that will play
the devil with the girls and that feels aggrieved when anything
goes wrong with them.

When, at my knock, he came to the door, he began to talk as soon as
he saw me.  "Come in," he said; "you'll find the house in a deuce
of a shape, though.  The women have left, it seems.  My wife, I
mean, and my daughter."  He laughed the laugh of a man with a more
or less unsettled mind; but it was half affected.  "Damn women
anyway; I never COULD understand them.  I suppose, I was drunk last
night . . .  Well, what can I do for you?"

Reluctantly I stated my errand.

"What's that?" he interrupted me, bending forward and looking
short-sightedly at my prospectus.  "Oh, yes, the Travellogues.
I've got them.  There they are on the shelf.  Want to buy them?
Can't sell me anything, my man.  But you can buy every dog-gone
blessed thing on this hillside.  Haven't got a drop of brandy on
you, by any chance?  Too bad.  Hang that headache!  Well, as I
said, want to buy them?  Ten dollars the set."

"Ten dollars?" I said.  I had had a windfall in the way of orders,
so that I was a little ahead with the company.  "Well, yes, I'd buy
the books at that price."

"Good," he said and laughed raucously, "fine, splendid!  Anything
else I could sell you?  Nothing is of much use to me any longer.
Wife left me, you see.  For good, she writes.  Left a letter
behind.  I had just read it when you came.  She will no longer
share my shameful life.  Shameful is good, isn't it?  Because I
like a drop once in a while, or twice in a while, sometimes.  Well,
God be with her!  That's settled then, is it, eh?  Sure I can't
sell you anything else?  A horse and buggy?  The house?  Or the
farm?  You need a horse in that business!  Well, come along.  I'll
tell Jim to hitch up and take you to town, so you can take the damn
books along.  Sure, no trouble at all.  Take them right along.
Just excuse me a moment."

And he stepped to the sink in the kitchen, where he dashed cold
water over his head before going out.

Thus I acquired the books and read them.  And instantly I began to
understand that Mr. Tinker had been right in refusing to let me
read them.  When I had carefully gone through several volumes, I
saw that every positive assertion about the work, as it stood in
the canvass, was founded on fact; but the whole work was dead,
lifeless, without a spark of genius.  The author had seen what
everybody else sees; he had followed the beaten track of tourist-
travel, even though he had gone far and wide.  As I see it to-day,
it probably was not without its value for people whose intellectual
food consists in the daily papers, the gossip and newsmongery of
the Press.  The child needs a primer; nobody judges that primer by
standards of literature.  But at that time I was not yet far enough
advanced in common, every-day psychology to make concessions.

The long and short of it was that my acquaintance with the work
took the "punch" out of my canvass.

Another thing influenced me in the same direction.  As soon as I
had seen the paper, the print, and the illustrations, I felt
convinced that the price charged for the set was quite out of
proportion to its actual cost.  I discussed this matter with Mr.
Tinker, when he ran over on one of his frequent visits--to Mrs.
McMurchy, as Mrs. Coldwell insinuated.  I did not tell him, of
course, that I had a set in my room.  He explained that the cost
included, on the one hand the actual cost of manufacture, the
royalties, the express-charges, the commissions, and the overhead
on the books which stayed sold; on the other, bad debts--for only
sixty per cent of the sets which were delivered were ever paid for
in full--and express charges and so on for all the books which were
not even accepted by those who had ordered them.  All that went
practically without saying; yet it had never entered my mind.

Soon after, the financial status of Mrs. McMurchy and Mr. Tinker
became a problem to me.  Surely, the house could not pay them a
salary out of the limited proceeds of the sales engineered by them?
Mr. Tinker had, so I heard, four or five crews at work, all of them
turning in, maybe, from six to ten orders a week.  Guarded
enquiries along this line revealed the fact that Mrs. McMurchy was
drawing three dollars on every set sold by a member of her crew,
and Mr. Tinker, one.  So the total of the commissions alone
amounted to sixteen dollars on a full morocco set sold "on time".

These revelations came at a critical moment when an order of my own
gave me food for thought and made me view the whole business as
none too legitimate.

I had been making a good many calls in a densely settled rural
district.  It was one of my off-days, when that instinct which led
me to pass over hopeless places seemed to have deserted me.

At supper-time, in the last amber glow of daylight, I passed a mere
hut of a house.  On any other day I should have gone on; this time
I knocked.

It held a single room with two occupants.  One of them was a young
woman, a mere girl, busy at a tiny cook-stove; the other, a young
man--he, too, a mere boy--was washing his face in a basin placed on
a box.  The room contained an iron bedstead with a cheap excelsior
mattress; two boxes flanking the bed; the stove in the centre; and,
in front of a wooden bench, along the opposite wall, a home-made
table covered with oil-cloth.  There was not even a chair.

I do not know what possessed me to give these people the canvass;
but I did.

They had just been married, not more than two weeks ago; they were,
that I could readily see, absurdly in love with each other.  The
man was a labourer, the woman had been a servant-girl.  They were
awkward and bashful; they laughed and blushed at everything.  It
flattered them to have a well-dressed man like myself speak
politely to them and solicit their order.  To take it was like
leading a sheep to slaughter.  There was no escape for them.  Yet I
took it, waiving even the question of a payment with the order.

A few days after that--my conscience having played havoc with my
rest--I went back to see them.  It was my intention to advise them
not to take the books into their house.

I found the woman alone; to my amazement she was sitting at the
table and looking at the pictures in the set.  An order in a
neighbouring town had "gone wrong", and Mr. Tinker, on receiving
that of these people, had promptly switched the set over to the new

"Well," I said when I entered, "I see the books have arrived.  How
do you like them?"

Oh," she replied, half embarrassed, "they are lovely!  But how are
we ever going to pay for them?"

"I began to feel worried about you," I went on.  "That's why I came

"Oh?"--with a questioning glance.

"You see, if, after talking things over a little more fully, you
had not taken the books into your house, the company could not have
forced you to take them at all."

"That's what I told my husband," she said; and somehow I knew how
glad she was to be able to call him her husband.  "But when he
heard there was a box for him at the station, he rushed right off
and brought them up.  Well . . . it's all the same.  I guess, we'll
pay for them somehow; but we have not the money just now.  He hires
out, you see."

"All right," I said, "You've got to make the best of it now.  I'll
tell you what I'll do.  You promised to make me your first payment
on delivery.  It is due.  I'll send it in for you.  Then, on the
first of the month, you make your second payment."

"Oh, we could not accept . . ." she began.

But I interrupted her.  "That's all right," I said.  "I am making a
little commission on the sale; I should feel better about it if you
would let it go at that."

"Well . . ." she hesitated.  "All the boys were up, last night; and
they sat around till--oh, ever so late; all looking at the pictures
and reading.  We thought, this morning, before he left for work, if
they come again, we'll take up a little collection every time they
want to look at the books--maybe that way we'll get the money

I smiled at her eagerness.  "Quite a scheme," I said and rose.
"Don't worry about the first payment.  And remember me to your
husband.  I hope you will be a happy couple."

She laughed and blushed.

The fact that these people appreciated the books, even though I did
not, made me feel less depressed about this affair which yet, on
the whole, confirmed me in my determination to leave the company
for which I was working.  There was one trouble, however, which
kept me from doing so right away.  Several orders of mine, rashly
taken, had "gone bad"; I was in debt.  We talked about it, one
evening, and the other agents merely laughed at me.

"That wouldn't keep me," said Miss Henders.  "They do us; if I
could do them, I'd welcome the opportunity."

I had a vague idea that this little Jewess rather wished me to
leave, and, if possible, without paying my debt--not at all for any
serious reason or from love of evil, but from that mere love of
mischief which prompts us to long for something to happen,
especially something dramatic--a fire, an elopement, a little
crime--anything which will break and relieve the tedium of a
monotonous life.

That something dramatic did happen, for once.  One day in early
spring, without the slightest provocation, a man on whom I tried to
call set his dogs on me.  My clothes were torn, and one of my legs
was badly lacerated before I reached the road.  The case was
reported to the company and the company took it up with a lawyer.
Two weeks later the matter was settled out of court.  On receipt of
one hundred and fifty dollars damages I signed a release; forty-
five dollars went to the lawyer; I paid my debt, and was free.


I Join a New Company

Before my leg was quite healed and while I was still limping about
with the help of a cane, I called on Mr. Wilbur, the president of
the North American Historians' Publishing Company, New York City.
These people had, so I understood, within recent years placed a
composite history of the world on the market which I presumed to be
good.  The Editor-in-chief was a man of world-wide reputation as an
historian and lexicographer.  The different periods and nations had
been treated by the best modern authorities in all civilized
countries; and the work of those who were not Anglo-Saxon had been
translated into English by men who themselves were considered
authorities in the respective fields.  The work was comparatively
new; I held high hopes for its prospects.

I found the offices of the company in one of the most fashionable
sky-scrapers of the city, where they occupied a whole sumptuously
furnished floor.  No other offices or branches, so it seemed, were

On entering the waiting room and stating my wish to see Mr. Wilbur,
I was requested to fill out a blank, giving my business, name, and
so on.  After a few minutes I was told that Mr. Wilbur would
receive me.  There was an air of importance and exclusiveness about
the whole procedure.

Mr. Wilbur was exceedingly polite.  I told him what experience I
had had and submitted my weekly statements in evidence of my
measure of success.

"I'm glad to hear that," said Mr. Wilbur.  "The Travellogues have
been canvassed to death.  If you can still sell them, your
salesmanship is all right."

"I am weak on closing, though," I put in.  "I cannot clinch a sale
when I see the prospect cannot afford to buy."

"Well," said Mr. Wilbur, appraisingly, "that will not stand in the
way of your success, either, if we sign you up.  We shall not ask
you to call on anybody who cannot afford the price.  But it is
lunch-time, Mr. Branden.  Maybe we had better postpone talking
business till we have had a bite to eat.  Will you accept an
invitation to lunch with me at my club?"

"With pleasure," I said; "provided you do not find it embarrassing
to go about with an invalid."

"Not at all."

We went down in the elevator and to the curb where a magnificent
limousine was waiting.  A liveried chauffeur who touched his cap
was holding the door for us and nodded when Mr. Wilbur gave him our
destination.  A moment later we shot away.  During the short ride
only commonplace remarks were made.

Soon after, we were sitting in the luxurious dining-room of a
fashionable men's luncheon-club.  The meal which Mr. Wilbur ordered
was simple but exquisitely prepared; the wine which was served with
it Mr. Wilbur had ordered to be taken "from my private stock,
please".  Mr. Wilbur was visibly pleased when, after tasting it, I
promptly named the vintage, Romané, from which it proceeded.  That
was a feat at which I had excelled in my heyday of Europe.

We were surrounded by the "jeunesse dorée" of a very definite
fraction of New York's commercial world.  I gathered from Mr.
Wilbur's remarks that all of them had more or less decided artistic
leanings.  In their bearing, dress, and manners there was that
which Molière would have called précieux.

Mr. Wilbur himself, as compared with the majority of these guests,
showed a quiet, superior, slightly ironic reserve which impressed
me favourably.  He did not take these people with their mannerisms

He was a tall, sparely built man with an exceedingly pleasant,
clean-shaven face.  His clothes were conservative, but of the best
style and cut.  A thin platinum watch-chain was, apart from a
scarf-pin, the only jewellery which he exhibited.  His long,
slender hands were unencumbered with rings.  He spoke with an even,
self-possessed voice from which he was at no pains to exclude his
marked, but good-natured irony.

When we had finished our lunch, he initialled his check; and we

"Do you smoke, Mr. Branden?"

"I do," I replied, "I'm sorry to say."

"Oh, why?" he smiled.  "I am partial to the weed myself.  Shall we
go into the smoking-room?  There we can talk."

When we were ensconced in two leather-chairs, in a corner of the
comfortable smoking-room, away from the bustle of the other guests,
Mr. Wilbur's first question was, "When can you start work for us,
Mr. Branden?"

I don't know why; but this question convinced me by its mere
abruptness that the invitation to lunch had been a scheme; I had
been on trial during the last half hour; and I had been approved
of.  I heard later on that Mr. Wilbur never engaged a salesman
before he had seen him eat.

"Whenever my shins cease to give me trouble," I replied.  "Within a
week or so, I suppose."

"Very well," said Mr. Wilbur.  "That will give you time to
familiarize yourself with our prospectuses and to work out your
selling points."

"Could I read a volume or two of the work itself?"

"Certainly," was the reply.  "I shall place a complete set of the
popular edition at your disposal if you wish it.  Though with the
people to whom we sell it does not matter what the books themselves
may be."

"How is that?" I exclaimed, more than surprised.

Mr. Wilbur smiled.  "You see," he said, after a second or so, "we
sell a very high-priced, limited edition de luxe.  We have printed
one thousand copies on hand-made Holland paper.  The plates have
been taken down.  Our bindings are made of hand-embossed leather,
the most costly kind; no two bindings are alike.  The sets are
numbered.  Every one of the twenty volumes contains four hand-
painted plates by a famous artist.  What we sell is not so much the
book as the prestige which the possession of a set will confer upon
the holder."

He had been speaking with his quiet irony, as if he were making fun
of the buyers.  I was taken aback, but I smiled at the idea of
gaining social prestige by buying expensive books.

"I see," I said.  "What is the price of the set?"

"That depends," he replied.  "First of all let me say that there
are really two editions--ours and a popular print.  This merely for
your own, private information.  We have nothing whatever to do with
the popular set.  It is not likely, but it is possible, that you
may run up against this popular reprint.  So I think it better that
you know about it; officially you are not to take cognizance of it.
We want you to sell the de-luxe edition.  Should you ever, among
your prospects, run up against anybody who knows of the cheaper
set, you treat it with quiet contempt as a pirated print.  It is
handled under a different firm; that protects you."

I pondered this; but no suspicion entered my mind.  Mr. Wilbur
paused while I followed my thoughts.

Then he went on.  "I shall take pleasure in presenting you with one
of the popular sets for your own use if you sign up with us.  It
sells, by the way, for sixty dollars.  As for our edition--I shall
show you when we get back to the office some of the original
paintings for the illustrations."

"Just a moment," I interrupted.  "Did I not understand you to say
that the illustrations in the sets themselves are originals?"

"No; they are hand-painted; well-known artists are responsible for
them; but, naturally, they are copies, for they are the same in all
the sets. . . .  Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes," I said, "I understand."

"Now as for the bindings.  We use two materials, parchment and pin-
grain morocco.  The price of the sets in parchment varies from
eight hundred to fourteen hundred dollars a set; the price of the
sets in morocco, from five to eight hundred dollars.  The
difference in the price of the various sets is explained by the
following fact.  All the bindings are imitations of the bindings of
famous books of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  They vary
in difficulty of execution; for every volume a special plate had to
be made.  You sell individual sets.  We shall always keep you
supplied with full-sized photographs of four or five different sets
which you can sell.  Whenever a set is sold, we supply you with the
necessary photographs to replace the ones you have disposed of."

I was impressed, not so much by the prices as by the elaborate
preparation of these sets.

"What would my commission amount to?" I asked.

"I am coming to that," Mr. Wilbur replied.  "Your commission is
twenty per cent.  Since you spoke about the financial side of it,
we might just as well finish that part.  Do not expect to sell one
or two sets a day.  It may sometimes take you a month before you
make a sale, but at the lowest price that will net you a hundred
dollars, at the highest it will bring you two hundred and eighty.
To show you that I am willing to back up my opinion of your
success, I shall open for you a drawing account with our house, the
very moment you are ready to start your work.  Suppose we put it at
fifty dollars a week?"

"I did not expect that much," I said.

"Now as to our selling scheme.  You will be under quite an expense
because we direct you on whom to call; and though we try to keep a
man working in a restricted territory, you may be in Boston or in
New Haven when we shall have to ask you to run over to Washington
or Pittsburg to attend to a prospect there.  We authorize you to
call on a man to whom you may get a personal introduction from a
friend of his; but if you do, we must require you to notify us by
wire; or we might meanwhile send somebody else to see him; this
other salesman would lose his time and his money.  In any case we
discourage promiscuous calls.  As a rule we sell only to people
whom we know to be bibliophiles.  We have lists of people who are
more or less habitual buyers of high-priced books.  These lists
are, of course, subject to constant revision and extension by the
work of our salesmen.  But if we sold only five per cent of the
people whose names are already on them, we should be so swamped
with orders that we should have to establish a waiting list.  We
circularize these people for a few weeks, thus arousing their
curiosity.  Then we offer to send a representative who will
explain, without any obligation on their part, just what our
proposition is.  We enclose a card addressed to ourselves and
expressing a desire to be further informed.  Whoever returns this
card with his signature receives a further letter stating that our
representative, Mr. So-and-so, will call on that-and-that date and
at such-and-such hour.  Thus, when you see him, you have an
appointment; your interview is made."

"Why not eliminate the agent altogether?" I asked.

"My dear Mr. Branden," Mr. Wilbur laughed, "I assure you we should
gladly do so.  The twenty per cent which the salesman gets would
look just as good in my pocket as in his."

I, too, laughed.

"Unfortunately," he went on, "the American buyer suffers from two
weaknesses which only the pressure of a personal interview will
overcome: indecision and procrastination.  An order postponed is an
order lost.  It is easy to lay a letter aside.  But it is a
different matter to ask an agent to call again when that agent can
truthfully say that, at the customer's call, he has come across
half a continent to see him.  By the way, I should advise you to
look as English as you can and to treat your prospective customers
with all the arrogance of a superior education.  As for your
speech, it is pretty good.  I should rather affect that lisp and
drawl which you possess naturally.  The more English you seem, the
less will those people dare to refuse you an order."

I laughed again.

Mr. Wilbur dropped his cigar into an ash-bowl.  "Well," he said,
"if you are ready to go . . ."

We rose.

"My car," Mr. Wilbur said to the attendant who appeared with our
hats and coats.

Two minutes later we were being shot back through the crowded
avenue to the office.

There we found, talking gaily to some of the young ladies who sat
at the typewriters, a florid young man in well-tailored but
pronounced attire who greeted the president of the company with a
familiar nod and smile.

"Hello, Wilbur, how are you to-day?"

"Hello, Williams," replied Mr. Wilbur, "how are you yourself?  Come

We entered his private office.

Mr. Wilbur introduced me.

Mr. Williams shook hands with a great show of cordiality.  He had a
curious way of throwing out his elbows with an angular motion.
"Chawmed to meet you," he said with an accent which was a
caricature of insular affectation.

"I was just going to show Mr. Branden the paintings," Mr. Wilbur
went on.  "Do you want to come?"

"Don't mind if I do."

We went into a long corridor whose walls were hung on both sides
with historical paintings of large proportions and in the
unmistakable manner of Delacroix.  Most of them represented battle-
scenes or state-occasions.  I did not apply any standards of
criticism--for which, by the way, in spite of my historical
schooling, I was little qualified--and they did not fail to impress
me duly.

I admired conservatively.

"Not bad, not bad," said Mr. Williams with a wink of his eye: Mr.
Wilbur smiled.

Then he opened a door leading into a large, well-lighted room in
which stood half a dozen glass-cases on mahogany bases, displaying
samples of the bindings.  There was no doubt about these: they were
marvellously done.  Even age-spots, caused by the handling of the
ancient originals were closely imitated from mediæval models.  I
could not refrain from caressing one or two of the covers, although
I could not get rid of the feeling that they, being mere imitations
of things that were dead, had something of that exaggerated glitter
and polish which attaches to all that is counterfeit.  But I tried
to tell myself that the thing itself was legitimate enough.  Only
much later did it strike me that I never saw a bound set, only
empty bindings.

"Marvellous!" mocked Mr. Williams.  "What an amount of trouble we
go to in order to help the rich in our small way to spend their
money!  These are much too good for the snobs!"

"Too good, indeed," Mr. Wilbur agreed.

He seemed to feel like myself.  I could not know at the time which
was the difference between his melancholy and my own.  I was to
find out that, whereas I felt it nearly as a profanation that
things of real beauty should be degraded by being fitted into a
scheme for making money, he regretted only that he had to spend an
appreciable fraction of what he was getting in order to draw the
larger sum out of his customers.  When I came to see through him, I
understood that he would have preferred to take the money outright
and not to give even part value in return.

We returned to his private office.  I did not account for the fact;
but the whole atmosphere had taken possession of me.  I was still a
recent immigrant.  These were things European.  Even a text of the
work was vouched for by European names.  After all, scientific and
literary America did seem parasitic; it rooted in the millennia-old
culture of Europe.  The word of a young friend of mine, a student
of Art in the university of Paris, who had introduced some
Americans into our circles, came back to me.  "Americans," he had
said, "are Americans only till they have made their money.  After
that they go down on their bellies before everything European."
Something of the inexpressible contempt for America contained in
these words pervaded my whole being.  Both Mr. Wilbur and Mr.
Williams, Americans themselves, seemed to share it.

"Well," Mr. Wilbur asked when we were again sitting at his desk,
"what do you think about it?  Will you give us a try-out?"

"I think so," I said, though hesitatingly, "if you believe that I
can make a success at it."

"Of that I feel sure," replied Mr. Wilbur, and, turning to
Williams, he added, "By the way, Williams, it just strikes me that
Branden and you should be able to pull together for a day or two?
Of course, he will have to find his own way; but no doubt it would
help him to see somebody else at work.  We were just going to book
you out for Pittsburg, I believe.  I'll make sure about it.  You
were to call on one of our steel magnates, Mr. What's-his-name--
Kirsty, I think.  How would it be if Mr. Branden accompanied you on
the trip?  Should you lose your order, we'll credit you with a
week's allowance anyway.  That satisfactory?

"Sure," said Mr. Williams, "quite."

"All right," said Mr. Wilbur, and pressed a button.

A trim young lady entered.

"Bring me a salesman's contract, Miss Donahue," he addressed her.
"And do you remember for whom we were going to book Mr. Williams?"

"For Mr. Kirsty, Pittsburg."

"Well," Mr. Wilbur pondered aloud, "suppose you make the date a
week from day after to-morrow at eleven o'clock, in his office.
You think you will be ready to go out by that time, Mr. Branden?"

"I think so, yes," I replied.

"All right, we'll leave it at that.  Just include Mr. Branden, B-r-
a-n-d-e-n, in your announcement.  Thanks Miss Donahue."

A few minutes later I had signed a contract in duplicate binding me
for one month; and Mr. Wilbur dismissed me, saying, "Please drop in
at this office a week from to-day.  We shall book you for your
train and supply you with funds.  Miss Donahue will address a set
and all the material for study to you."

On the appointed day I presented myself at the office.  I had
carefully studied the "literature" with which I had been provided,
a little booklet entitled "Hints for our Salesmen," and had read
two or three volumes of the work itself.  I was thoroughly
convinced of the intrinsic value of the set and declared to Mr.
Wilbur when he received me that I should be willing to go on the
road in order to sell the popular edition on a straight canvass.

"That's all right," he said with his usual good-humour.  "The point
is, we can get a hundred canvassers for the popular edition where
we get one who can sell the high-priced set.  Besides, as I have
said, we have nothing to do with the other print.  I should like to
try you out on our proposition."

He pushed an envelope across the desk.  I opened it and found a
cheque for fifty dollars, a return-ticket to Pittsburg over the
Pennsylvania railroad, a sleeping-car reservation, and a receipt
for these three items which I signed.

"As soon as you get through at Pittsburg, please report again at
this office," Mr. Wilbur said as I rose.

I met Mr. Williams at the station in Jersey City.  Since I did not
know what else to do with the remainder of my baggage, two
suitcases and a large steamer trunk, I took them along.

"Hope you've had your supper?" Mr. Williams asked when we boarded
our car.

"Yes," I replied.

"Well, let's turn in," he said and led the way to our berths.

I lay awake for the greater part of the night.  I felt sorry that
we did not travel by a day-train; everything that I might see had a
bearing upon my one great problem, America.  Now I was flying along
again, through one of the richest and most famous states of the
Union, and I was passing through it as if I were rolling along
through an underground corridor.  Such was the effect of the
night.  And what a change!  Here I was travelling with all the
appurtenances of wealth.  If a few months ago my appearance and my
clothes had stood in the way of success, suddenly they had become
my greatest asset.  Even my brogue, which had cost me more than one
position, I was now advised to accentuate rather than to get rid
of.  A few weeks ago I had been selling a work which I should not
have cared to put into my own library--I had given my set to Mrs.
Coldwell--which the people, however, wanted and could not afford to
buy.  Now I was going to sell a work which I valued highly--to
people who never read what they bought!  This book, I felt sure, I
could make people want much more strongly because I knew it: its
intrinsic merit was to count for nothing!  I did not feel very
comfortable over that point; but I could not afford to indulge in
such thoughts.  If this business proved to be a money-maker for me,
I was going to stay with it; I needed money.  And there was another
alluring prospect.  I was going to see--at my leisure--a good deal
of the country into which I had come.  True, it was a superficial,
a sight-seeing only; but even that was necessary.  I could not but
marvel at the opportunity which had unexpectedly opened up for me.
I could not help wondering, either, how it was that people trusted
me.  The amount advanced to me totalled over sixty-five dollars.  I
did not know at the time that Mr. Wilbur, after my first interview
with him, had telephoned to the other house and verified what I had
told him.  Above all, he had learned that I had actually squared up
the advances which I had received.  He probably thought that he
could trust a man who would do a thing considered so Quixotic by
most of the agents who sold books.

Some time during the night I started up from my half-sleep, wakened
by piercing darts of light at the very edge of the window-curtain.
Soon after, voices shouted, the train slowed down and finally
stopped.  I raised the blind; and there, just in front of my
window, I read the name of the station in the glare of an arc-
light.  It was Harrisburg.  This name brought to my mind that of
the river on whose banks the city stands: Susquehanna.  I rolled
the word in my mouth: soon we were going to follow the course of
the Juniata, famed in song; and again a poignant regret came over
me, a desire to swing my legs, walking along its banks, to be free,
free, like the bird, to go where I listed.

A strange feeling came over me, a suspicion, an anxiety.  Frank,
Hannan, Howard: graft, I thought; the manager of the Telegraph and
Cable Company, the Captain at the Belmont, Mr. Tinker: cruelty;
Mrs. Coldwell, Turnbull, and others whom I had met in my canvasses:
failure!  Were these the three sides of America?  Did graft and
cruelty prey on weakness only?  The two police-officials whom I had
met, the captain at the central station in New York and Mr.
Mulligan, the detective, seemed to look at me out of the dark; but
I dismissed the thought of them; they did not fit into this ready-
made scheme of condemnation.  Bennett, too, raised his head in my
half-dream; and then the pleasant young captain at the King Street
restaurant in Toronto.  Nor did young Ray fit in; nor the couple
from whom I had taken the order of which I repented.  Well, how
about Mr. Wilbur and those I was going to meet in my new position?
I did not know.  But had not he himself given me the clue?
Contempt for his compatriots, was not that the very essence of his
business?  What he sold, was social prestige!  I felt half sorry
for having met him.  Yet, even this was knowledge which I was
acquiring.  I had to go through with it, now.

When daylight came, I got up.  We were nearing Johnstown, on the
west-slope of the Alleghenies.  There was a commotion in our car as
we approached the city of the Cambria Steel Works.  A good many
passengers were preparing to get off the train.  More and more
people were dressing behind their curtains.  The porter began to
knock down the berths.

It seemed as if we were dropping into a black pit of smoke, an
underground hell of ferocious activity.  Only a few minutes ago we
had been on green hillsides, crossing, re-crossing the swift,
alluring waters of Conemaugh Creek.  Now dingy huts and smoke-
blackened houses made up the scenery, as with a grinding of brakes
we came to a stop.  And then we pulled out again; the mountains
rose; trees just budding out into a green haze of foliage, spoke of
spring in the world, of hope, of innocent life.

We crossed through the Chestunut Range, beloved scene for me of
many a later ramble.  Then again the pit.  Black sores broke out on
Nature's beautiful skin; steaming scars lay across the landscape;
smoke-and-flame-belching furnaces wove the black cloak which covers
the Iron City with its outforts, Braddock and Duquesne, Homestead
and Bessemer.  An incomprehensible world.

Just before we reached Pittsburg, Mr. Williams emerged, smiling, in
the best of conditions and humours.

"I'm glad I slept through the trip," he said, "I don't like to have
breakfast on the train.  Give me your checks.  There's the
conductor now."

He gave the necessary directions with regard to our baggage.

A few minutes later we boarded a cab in front of Union Station and
rode to the Fort Pitt Hotel.

"At least," I thought to myself, "these agents travel in style.  It
is less tiring, anyway."

While we had our breakfast, I remarked upon it.

"Damn it all," said Mr. Williams, "that is the least they can do
for us who do their dirty work, I should think."

I looked up, rather astonished at the bitterness in his words.  He

"Don't mind me, Branden," he said.  "I always feel out of sorts
when I am going to call on one of these suckers.  But I do my best
work when I'm in that frame of mind."

For the day we had nothing to do except to make sure of our
arrangements.  The interview was provided for; but Mr. Williams
explained that we might meet with foreseen and unforeseen
difficulties unless we changed the mere announcement of our visit
into a definite appointment.  He did that over the telephone while
I stood by.

"That Mr. Kirsty?" he asked when the connection had been made.
"This is Mr. Williams, from New York.  You had a letter from my
house announcing my call.  What time do you wish me to come?  Ten,
you say?  Well, all right, make it ten sharp.  Try to be disengaged
when we come.  Yes, we'll be there at ten sharp."

"The fish is hooked," he said, hanging the receiver up.  "Suppose
we'll land him."

He yawned and stretched.

"Well, Branden," he went on, "I'm going to see friends.  Want to
come along?"

"If you don't mind," I replied, "I should prefer to see something
of the city and its surroundings."

"Not at all," he said briefly; "suit yourself.  See you some time
to-day.  If not, to-morrow morning at breakfast.  I'll be down at
eight thirty.  So long."

I explored the city for the rest of the day.

Just a word about the man on whom we were going to call.  His name
was a synonym for enormous wealth.  Mr. Kirsty was one of those
Americans who, by the ruthless exploitation of preempted natural
resources and of basic inventions which were useless to their
inventors because they lacked the capital to exploit them had
obtained a position of power and influence, such that for a while
their say-so counted in certain matters for more than the voice of
the commonwealth.  I met a number of them in my peregrinations; and
though I did not see them at their best--nor at their worst--I
found that the interview which I am going to describe was typical
in one respect: it shows their personal insignificance.  We are
apt, in our thoughts, to associate immense wealth with some nearly
superhuman mental endowment.  I found them to be middle-class
people, in most things of no greater intelligence than the next
one, and remarkable only by a certain blind, unfaltering
calculation of what is to their profit.  Morally they seemed
neither better nor worse than the average.  They were adept in
seeing their advantage, and very indifferent to the higher ethics
in going after it, just as most of us are, on a smaller scale.
Yet, being only average people, with an average conscience, and by
no means Napoleons, they had a sore soul; at heart they could not
understand, nor be reconciled to, their own success.  They
attributed it to some form of genius before which they themselves
stood in awe as if it were something imposed upon them by destiny.
With most of them there was added to this a certain uneasiness
which drove them to devoting millions to what they considered
worthy causes--enterprises which in the opinion of any sane person
should be exclusively reserved to the state.  During the time that
has elapsed since these things happened the Mr. Kirstys have
multiplied and fattened to an amazing degree; large-scale
"philanthropy" has become the fashion among multi-millionaires.  I
suppose, John's "Repent ye" has penetrated even the gates of gold.

When, on the decisive morning, Mr. Williams appeared for breakfast,
he astonished me by the elaborate toilette he had made.  He was
visibly nervous and tried to hide the fact under an all-embracing,
artificial jocularity.  It reminded me of Mr. Tinker's nervous
tension when he closed the sale to the old Irish lady.  As for Mr.
Williams' appearance, only a slang-word will describe it briefly:
he was "dolled-up"; another slang-word will describe his frame of
mind: "he was keyed up to a high pitch."  Under his jocularity I
sensed an irritability which was always on the point of eruption.
I could not but marvel at my own calmly observant mood.

A cab was waiting outside--cars were still rare at the time and
none too reliable.  Watch in hand, Mr. Williams paced the lobby,
stooping now and then to finger the Gladstone bag in which he
carried his materials.  I could not help contrasting the calm
insolence in his tone when he had spoken to Mr. Kirsty over the
telephone with his nervous excitement before the battle.  After all
there was nothing at stake beyond a commission!

At last he judged that the moment had come; picking up his bag, he
nearly snarled, "Time; come on."

A few minutes later the cab stopped in front of a tall office
building.  We shot up to one of the upper floors.

The master of the forge seemed to roost like a bird of prey above
that vast army of workers who directed the activities at the mills.

A stern-looking, simply but expensively dressed young lady of
thirty received us with a questioning glace when we left the
elevator and stepped into a large reception room.

Mr. Williams flicked a calling card out of his vest-pocket and
said, "Mr. Kirsty expects us.  I hope he is disengaged."

The young lady looked at a clock in the southern wall, between two
high windows.  My eyes followed hers.  It was exactly ten o'clock.

The view from the windows was superb.  It flew out over a veritable
sea of roofs to the Monongahela River and rested beyond on the
southern bank.

"If you will wait a moment," she said and turned to a tall,
distinguished-looking young man who, some papers in his hand,
entered the room from the east.

He glanced at the card and nodded.

The lady made a motion inviting us to follow her.  We entered a
long and wide corridor in which three or four more young ladies
were sitting at small desks from which they operated little gates
barring the way.  I could not suppress a smile and an ironical
thought:  "Royalty is hedged about with guards!"  We passed them
all, the presence of our guide acting as an "Open, Sesame."

Then we entered the presence.

The room was large, fitted with rose-mahogany bookcases which
completely concealed the walls.  Two leather reclining chairs
offered the only sitting accommodation, besides one straight-backed
chair by the side of, and a swivel-chair behind, the huge, flat-
topped desk in the centre of the room.  The floor was covered with
a deep-napped, dark-red carpet.

Behind the desk, a small, rotund man was busy.  I search my brain
in vain for a word to describe his activity.  What he was doing
seemed commonplace enough.  He was bending down and impatiently
opening drawer after drawer and pushing them shut again, as if
searching for something that had been mislaid.  But when he pushed
the drawers back into place, he did it with such unnecessary energy
that his movements looked as if he were, monkey-fashion, furiously
jumping up and down.

Then I saw his pale, flat-featured face with the small, knob-like
nose, framed in carefully brushed, perfumed, and yet straggling
grey whiskers.

The expensive clothes, though freshly pressed, were hanging about
him as if carelessly dropped in a pile and by chance caught up on
something resembling the ill-shaped figure of a man.  There was
something shaggy about his appearance.  That was a multi-

When he raised himself, he shot a glance at the young lady who had
been standing in front of us, in the attitude of quiet, expectant

She stepped forward and, without a word, laid our cards on the desk
before him.

He nodded and bent down again, without paying the slightest
attention to us.

The young lady left the room.

Mr. Williams, with an air of self-possessed insolence, stepped up
to the desk, put his bag on the straight-backed chair, opened it
and straightened.  He looked back at me and winked.

I, too, approached; we waited.

At last Mr. Kirsty seemed to give up his search.  He pulled his
watch from his vest-pocket--it did not come quite readily, and I
could hardly keep from smiling at his impatient jerk.  Then we
heard his singularly high-pitched, querulous voice.

"Well," he said, "I can give you just five minutes."

But Williams cut in with a note of indignant protest.  "Mr.
Kirsty," he said, "we have come from New York in order to give you
the privilege of acquiring one of the remaining four sets of a work
which some of your friends considered it an honour to possess."

"Well, what is it?" asked Mr. Kirsty ill-humouredly.

"If you cannot devote more than five minutes to a proposition like
ours," Mr. Williams continued, "I prefer to take the next train

"Well, well," Mr. Kirsty said as if speaking to a child, but still
with that querulous note, "you know I am a very busy man."

"So am I," Mr. Williams rejoined; "I cannot afford deliberately to
waste five minutes of my time and energy."

"How if you saw my secretary?" Mr. Kirsty tried to evade.

"Your secretary," Mr. Williams said, this time with a smile and a
bow, "unfortunately is not on the list of persons to whom we offer
this work."

No smile on Mr. Kirsty's face betrayed the conquest which these
words had made.  He dropped into his swivel-chair and made a motion
to Mr. Williams to be seated; to me no attention was paid.

"It is not necessary, of course," Mr. Williams began, "to speak of
the work itself.  The names of the men who are responsible for it
are sufficient."

He laid down a list of the authors.

"I will briefly explain how it is got up.  The text is printed in
one thousand copies, strictly limited.  The sets are numbered.
When the work appeared, there was a natural rush upon it.  We held
on to the first impressions and are, therefore, able to offer you
number eight in a binding selected by yourself.  It goes without
saying that handmade paper is used; the illustrations are hand-
painted, the print a beautiful Aldine type with hand-illuminated
capitals at the beginning of each chapter."

Sample pages were spread out in front of the prospect.

"As to the bindings, no two sets, and in a set no two volumes are
bound alike.  The higher numbers are bound in morocco; about twenty
sets were held for parchment bindings, gold-embossed.  Each binding
is an exact reproduction of some famous book-cover from the middle-
ages, copied by artists whom we have sent abroad expressly for this

He spread out a number of cuts.

"These are the photographs of the bindings which are available.  As
I said, four sets remain unsold.  We shall take pleasure in binding
the set which we are holding for you, number eight, in whatever
covers you may select."

Mr. Kirsty did not touch the sheets; but he shot an occasional
glance at them while he listened.

"Nine hundred and ninety-six sets have been disposed of," Mr.
Williams went on.  "I have a complete list of the subscribers
before me.  The buyers of the higher numbers would, of course, not
interest you.  Here is the list of the one hundred first sets with
the names of their holders."

For the first time Mr. Kirsty reached out for what was offered to
his inspection.  He scanned the list not without interest.  "These
people," he said in his high-pitched voice which lost its querulous
note, "you say have the set?  An interesting list.  How long have
the books been on the market?"

"Six months, I should say," Mr. Williams replied.

"How is it," Mr. Kirsty complained, the querulous note creeping
back into his accents, "that I receive this offer only after the
greater number of the sets have been sold?"

"You own fault, Mr. Kirsty," smiled Mr. Williams in an amiable
tone; "we wrote you about it before number one was off the press.
It is our rule never to call except on appointment.  At the same
time, you see, we were holding this set for you because we knew you
for a connoisseur and a lover of rare prints.  The moment we
received your card we also made bold to reserve for you what we
considered the finest of all our bindings.  If I may offer a
suggestion on a point or two, I shall lay out for your approval
what Mr. Wilbur and myself were thinking of when we had your call."

He laid out a set of twenty photographs which covered the desk.

Mr. Kirsty meanwhile went back once more to a careful scrutiny of
the list of subscribers.  The thought in his mind, though no doubt
it remained unconscious, interpreted itself to me in about these
terms, "It is a comfort, after all, if I am going to be taken in,
to be in such company.  I wonder whether this list is according to
facts?  There is the name of my friend, Mrs. So-and-so.  I might
call her up over the wire; but it is not necessary, these fellows
know that I might do that; they would not dare to put her name down
unless she had bought the books."

What he said, was, "How about the price?"

"Fourteen," Mr. Williams replied with an accent of apology as if
ashamed that it was not more.  "You see," he went on, "the cost is,
of course, quite out of proportion to the intrinsic and the rarity
value of the set.  We are not dealers.  We are craftsmen.  We do
not raise the price according to the demand.  We could actually
make money by selling to speculators.  That is not our way of doing

"You say this set will have to be bound for me?" Mr. Kirsty asked;
and at last he was actually looking at the photographs.

"Yes," Mr. Williams replied, laying down an order blank.

Mr. Kirsty got to his feet.  "Well," he said, once more in his
querulous and impatient tone, and beginning to work at his drawers
again, "I suppose it is all right.  Send the set along.  What is
this?" he added, picking up the order sheet and glancing at it.  He
handed it back to Mr. Williams.  "My word is as good as my bond,"
he said, not without the punctilio of the small mind.

"Of course," Mr. Williams agreed with a bow of apology.

He quickly gathered his belongings, except the photographs and the
partial list of subscribers which Mr. Kirsty seemed to hang on to,
bowed once more, and left the office, with me following on his

The cab was waiting.  The interview had taken half an hour.  It had
filled me with scruples and puzzling thoughts.  But I could see at
a glance that Mr. Williams was not in a mood to resolve my
difficulties.  He was in that state of complete relaxation which I
had observed once before, though to a lesser degree, in Mr. Tinker.
When we got back to the hotel, he hurried up to his room and threw
himself on a lounge.

At dinner-time, however, I could not repress one question.

"How is it," I asked, "that the house is still engaging agents when
only four more sets remain to be sold?"

Mr. Williams gave me a look of dumbfounded surprise and then
laughed for a moment so uproariously that I felt the colour rising
to the roots of my hair.

Then he turned to the waiter and ordered a glass of milk.  When the
waiter brought it, he pushed it over to me.  "Want a bottle," he
asked, "with nipple attached?"

I reined in my anger.  Mr. Williams was beneath my resentment.

When we boarded the night-train, Mr. Williams was in a state of
complete intoxication.


I Land Somewhere

"Mr. Wilbur," I said earnestly when I faced him for the third time
in his office, "will you let me go out selling the popular

"Well," he said hesitatingly, "I have nothing to do with the sale
of that edition.  I suppose you could easily enough get in with
those people.  But what are your reasons for wishing to drop the
de-luxe set?"

"I do not know whether I can discuss that with you," I replied.
"What I do know is that I can sell the book on its merits, quite
apart from any bibliophile considerations."

"Certainly," Mr. Wilbur agreed.  "But you can sell the de-luxe
edition on its merits just as well, in spite of all the bibliophile
considerations."  He smiled at my quaint wording while repeating
it.  "The point is this: can you sell the books to people who have
more money than is good for them?  I think you can; if I am right,
you should do so; for your own good as well as ours."  He looked at
me, searchingly, it seemed; and puzzled, too.  "Let me clear up a
point," he went on.  "I suppose it was a mistake to send you out
with Williams.  He happened to be handy, that is all.  Williams is
a good enough fellow as they go; but I am afraid he is rather a
snob, and apparently he has displeased you."

"It isn't Mr. Williams," I replied.  "I should not choose him for
my friend, no matter what he might be doing.  But I do not expect
to find on your staff only men who are congenial to me."

"Well," said Mr. Wilbur, "what is it?"

"If you must know," I yielded to his insistence, though it
exasperated me, "it's the method.  I'll give you one example.  Mr.
Williams stated to Mr. Kirsty that there were just four sets of the
edition left."

Mr. Wilbur laughed; then he frowned.  "But permit me, my dear Mr.
Branden," he said; "we are not responsible for what one of our
agents says in order to clinch a sale.  Mr. Williams directed us to
ship a set to Mr. Kirsty, at fourteen hundred dollars.  We do so
because we have no reason to doubt that the sale was made in a
perfectly regular way.  There, as far as we are concerned, the
matter ends, provided we receive, in due time, a cheque for the
amount.  Do not for a moment believe that I countenance sharp
practice.  We want you to sell the books.  We pay you a very
liberal commission for doing so.  In return you have to work out
your own plans.  This is a different proposition from the
Travellogues.  We do not ask you to memorize a canvass and to
deliver it letter-perfect.  Our customers would not stand for such
crude methods.  I am sure you can sell the books.  If you do not
think so, that is entirely your own business.  I do not ask you to
say anything that is not strictly conformable to your own standards
of honesty.  We have never yet heard a complaint from a customer
who bought the books from Mr. Williams.  He is one of our most
successful salesmen.  I know he is making a fortune.  I do not
enquire into his selling methods, though what you tell me shocks me
greatly.  But I have nothing whatever to do with that end of it.
Should a customer complain, on the grounds of misrepresentation, we
should simply ask him to return the set at our expense; and we
should refund the money.  That seems perfectly fair, does it not?
You say you can sell the books on its merits.  Very well, do so.  I
think you have the appearance and the approach, the tact, let me
say, to sell to a class of people who, as a rule, do not buy books
in order to read them.  They buy as collectors, probably as
collectors who do not know very much about what they are
collecting.  They do it because it is fashionable.  Others buy rare
etchings, paintings, or precious stones.  We merely give you, if
you want to look at it that way, an additional selling-point.  But
we do not object at all to selling the books for the purpose of
being read.  They are good enough to be read; that is more than can
be said of a great many other books sold in the same way.  I am in
this business in order to make money; I am glad to say that I am
making it.  I sell a high-priced de-luxe edition for one reason
only; there is more money in doing so than there is in selling a
popular set.  There is nothing unethical in supplying a demand, is
there, now?"

"I suppose not," I sighed.  I could see no flaw in Mr. Wilbur's
reasoning.  "You make me feel as if I owed you an apology."

"Not at all," Mr. Wilbur replied.  "I understand your attitude
perfectly.  As I said, it was a mistake to send you out with Mr.
Williams.  But I did not know it myself."

"When do you want me to start?" I asked.

Mr. Wilbur smiled good-naturedly.  "That sounds better," he said
and pressed a button, waiting for his secretary.

"Miss Donahue," he said when she entered, "what was that enquiry we
had from a New England doctor?"

"Oh," she said, "Dr. Watson, Willowtown, Connecticut."

"That's the man.  Please announce Mr. Branden's visit to him.  For
Thursday, let me say.  Will that suit you, Mr. Branden?"

"Certainly," I said, "if I can reach him by that time."

"Yes; you run down to New Haven and make connections there.  All
right then, Miss Donahue.  Better send the letter at once."

There the matter of my scruples ended for the time being.  I spent
the night in New Haven, and the next day made a small manufacturing
town in central Connecticut.

The following morning I engaged a team and had myself driven out to
a small residential village which had all the charms of a New
England hillside.

I found the doctor in, though he did not expect me.

"You did not get my wire?" he asked when I gave him my name.

He was a tall, strong, active man with the pleasantest face and a
brilliant smile which bared gold-glittering teeth.

"Too bad," he said.  "The day after I wrote to your house I bought
a farm.  That ties me up.  I could not think of buying books at the
present time; much as my fingers itch for them.  I did not think
either that they would send a man expressly to see me."

"Don't let that worry you, doctor," I replied.  "It does not
matter.  But since I am here, I should like to show you what I have

He looked at his watch.  "Why yes," he said.  "I'll be glad to
listen.  Come in."

I gave him a strong canvass on the work itself.

"That is the gem," I said at last, "now comes the setting.  But I
don't know whether to go on.  Maybe I am taking up your time?"

He laughed.  "Seems to me I'm taking up yours," he said.  "I like
to listen to you.  You know the books."

He followed my explanations like a child, frequently stopping me to
look again at a photograph or a sample page, and exclaiming
delightedly whenever something struck his fancy.

"How much of a fortune does that thing cost?" he enquired at last.

I stated the prices of the various bindings.

He was full of regret.  "Too bad," he repeated.  "Too bad.  But I
can't think of it.  Not at present."

"Maybe at some future time," I suggested; "if we are not sold out
by then."

"Yes, yes," he said.  "They won't let a book like that run out of
print.  They'll get up a cheap edition when this one is exhausted.
I must have another chance at it."  He was pensive for a few
seconds.  "Say," he went on, "can you offer a set to anybody else?
A college-friend of mine happens to be in town.  You know him by
name; Mr. ------"  He named a member of Mr. Harrison's entourage
who stood even then rather high in Federal politics and who has
since been directing the nation's destinies.  "I should like to
give him a chance to look at this.  Would you show it to him?"

"I might," I said.

"Good.  Wait a moment.  I'll call him up and tell him about it."

"Sure," he said when he came back.  "He wants you to come right up.
It will be noon when you get through.  Come back here and have
dinner at the house.  I know Mrs. Watson will be delighted.  I'll
put you on the road.  Meanwhile I shall have to make a call

He reached for his hat and satchel, and we went out.

I had a most pleasant interview with the young statesman.  I gave
him the same talk as Dr. Watson and showed him the different
bindings more as the appropriate setting of something which was
worthy of being set well, than as the thing which in itself
constituted what I had to sell.  Nor did I, when I had finished,
press a sale.

The young statesman's brother, with whom he visited, came in, a
tall man in the prime of life whose sparse body contrasted
strangely with that of my prospect who was even then inclined to
obesity.  This brother was a scholar, a member of one of the
leading universities.

The conversation at once became general, with European conditions
for its theme.

When I rose, stating that the Watsons expected me for dinner, the
statesman asked me a few questions about the work and finally
requested me to have one of the five hundred dollar sets forwarded
to his brother's address, signing a contract by which he agreed to
pay for it in five instalments of one hundred dollars each.  I was
not prepared for any such arrangement but judged that I could
safely accept it on my own responsibility.

An equally pleasant dinner-hour followed at Dr. Watson's.  When,
there, too, I rose to go, the doctor asked me whether I could show
the prospectus to still another friend of his, the station agent of
the village.  I hesitated this time, but agreed that no harm could
come from showing him.

I went to see the agent.

A tall, elderly man received me, saying with a laugh that Dr.
Watson had set his ears atingle with talking of the books.

I told him I was transgressing my authority in showing him the set;
but, since I had done so already in selling the young statesman, I
thought it only right to repeat the offence.

"You sold him, eh?" he said.  And when I had given him my canvass,
he jumped up and exclaimed, "I must have that thing.  Excuse me a
moment, will you?" and disappeared into the rooms beyond.

When he returned, he stated that he had talked it over with his

"Tell you what I'll do," he said.  "I take the cheapest set, of
course.  It's the books I want, not the bindings.  I'll give you a
cheque for fifty dollars now, one hundred on delivery, and the
balance when it suits me within ninety days.  That should be

I thought so; the sale was closed.

I sent a wire to Mr. Wilbur, and set out for New York, which I
reached the following day.

I felt a trifle uneasy about these sales.  The question of partial
payments had never been mentioned.

To my astonishment Mr. Wilbur did not waste a word on that side of
the question.  He simply congratulated me on my success.  But he
disapproved of my having sold at the lowest figure.

"It is just as easy," he kept repeating, "to sell an eight or nine
hundred dollar set as a five hundred dollar one.  There is a
weakness.  The edition being limited, it means a loss to us if we
have to part with a set at the lowest figure.  I suppose you will
get over that.  You have made no promise with regard to the

"None," I said laughingly, for I could not remember having said a
word about the limited nature of the edition.

I was immediately sent out again, this time with three addresses,
in Cleveland, Lansing, and Grand Rapids.  Within a week I returned,
having wasted my time, energy and money, for I did not bring an
order.  When I set out on this trip, I had a little over a hundred
and fifty dollars; when I came back I had less than fifty.

Mr. Wilbur was perfectly polite about it.

"You can't always sell, that goes without saying.  Don't worry.  We
have to find out what class of people contains your customers."

"Scholars," I said promptly.

Mr. Wilbur rubbed his forehead with a rueful smile.  "The trouble
is, few scholars will buy our set.  They are, as a rule, not
blessed with worldly goods."

"Have you any calls for me on hand?" I enquired.

"I don't know," he answered.  "We have a number of cards; but I
believe they are more in the line of some of our other agents.  We
better wait a day or so."

I took courage.  "Mr. Wilbur," I said, leaning forward.  "Suppose I
strike out for myself?"

"What do you mean?  Work on a straight canvass?"

"Yes," I replied.  "The only two orders which I have brought in so
far were obtained on a straight canvass."

"I don't believe you'd get the orders."

"I feel sure of it."

"People have learned to distrust the agent who comes around and
offers expensive things."

"They do not mistrust me."

"Where would you want to go?"

"New England," I said.  "Let me try.  I'll go out for two weeks.  I
shall not ask you for any money beyond my commissions.  If I do not
land an order within two weeks, I'll come in and acknowledge

"Very well," he agreed; "we'll try."

Accordingly I ran down to New Haven again.

Spring was advancing; my feeling of insecurity was submerged in the
enjoyment of landscape and salt-air.  I took long trolley-rides and
cross-country drives.  I was nearly at the end of my funds when I
took quarters at Waterbury, the city of watches.  I even remember
the Elton Hotel at which I stopped.

Again I made two sales in one day; one to a young, rising
manufacturer in the city; the other to a school-superintendent
somewhere in the Naugatuck Valley.  The latter was an approval-
sale; but it stood.  Again both orders were for the cheapest set;
and both were obtained strictly on the merits of the work.  The
commissions pulled me out of a difficulty, for I could not have
liquidated my bill at the hotel without selling the remainder of my
wardrobe had I not made a sale in the nick of time.

There was really no necessity for me to patronize the best hotels.
There was no reason either why I should have taken a Pullman-seat
for every train-ride.  But such is the power of suggestion in this
land of waste that it never occurred to me to do otherwise.  Mr.
Williams had succeeded in linking the work up with high living.

Thus, for the time being, Mr. Wilbur acquiescing in my ways, I
settled down once more into something of a routine.  Orders came,
but they came sparingly; they paid for my living.  Thus I explain
the fact that details of my work are lacking henceforth in my
memory of the season's activities.

Again I read a good deal; and, since my income seemed to keep pace
with my expenditures, no matter how much or how little I spent--I
simply lived up to my income--I began to read, not only magazines,
but books.

I roamed the New England coast.  I remember summer days at Old
Orchard Beach, a cruise or so in Casco Bay, drowsy mornings in Cape
Cod fishing-hamlets; altogether a summer which resembled a holiday
of my old days in Europe more than American "hustling".  I was due
for an awakening.

The time of the first anniversary of my immigration came around.
This occasion brought with it retrospection and the onlooker's
criticism.  What had I gained?  A little knowledge beyond the lines
of that book-learning with which I had been equipped before I came.
Graft and Sharp Practice I had become familiar with.  To the types
of Hannan and Howard and to that of Tinker, a third one had been
added and stood out in sharp relief; that of the snob, of the
newly-rich.  And he, take it all-in-all, was merely one of the
dupes of the former two.  The immigrant sees only that which
strikes him forcibly.

Where did I stand, I personally?  I closed my eyes to this
question.  I felt a curious world-weariness from which I tried to
escape by immerging myself in a languid sort of sympathy with
nature.  This sentimental response to Nature's moods, however,
could not last; it might do in summer-time; but winter was going to
come.  Then I should be thrown again with men, living men or man
embalmed in books.

I must record an adventure which was entirely an adventure with

I have already mentioned that I had conceived a great love for
Lincoln.  There is nothing strange about a young man's enthusiasm
for a hero of history.  It was not that.  My enthusiasm had little
to do with the man's achievements; it had little in common with the
American boy's school-fostered hero-worship.  It was a passion
which took hold of me, a passion which longed for self-effacement.
Had Lincoln been among the living, I should have been glad to walk
across a continent in order to be near him, to serve him, unbeknown
to himself.  The fact that he had been assassinated seemed an
enormity far beyond the mere enormity of an ordinary murder, such
as in itself to make the idea of a Providence a mere mockery.  The
smallest of his words seemed pregnant with the innermost being of
the man.  There was a truth and a simplicity about every statement
of his, far beyond the powers of any statesman of Europe; all
others seemed to be fops as compared with him.  His speeches I knew
by heart; his features were as familiar and present to me as the
reflection of my face in the glass.  To him I applied what
Wordsworth had said of Milton.

Was Lincoln an accident?  Was there in this America a soil from
which he had grown?  I had not found it.  If there was, to find it
should be the task of my life.

One day something terrible happened; that is to say, it seemed
terrible to me.  In my miscellaneous reading I ran across an
account of Matthew Arnold's visit to America.  Arnold had called at
the White House in Washington; and, from the great height of his
European "culture" had coolly broken the staff over Lincoln by
calling him "crude".  A horror seized me when I read that, a horror
as may seize a man, a clean, honest, straight-thinking man, when he
listens in while some grotesque miscarriage of justice is being
enacted.  I remember how I got up, searched for Arnold's "Essays in
Criticism", and threw them into the fire-place of my hotel-room
after touching a match to it.  By this word, by this judgment
Arnold had broken the staff, not over Lincoln, but over himself;
and not only over himself, but over that whole culture-medium from
which he came; and quite consciously I took the word "culture-
medium" in its bacteriological sense as a name for Europe's
spiritual atmosphere; it seemed to express so well what I thought
of Europe at the moment.

This afternoon marked an epoch in my life.  Like a flash-light,
suddenly turned on some figure standing veiled in the dark, it
illuminated for me that which I was searching for: the real
America.  In its light my whole past and present stood condemned.

I remember also that I thought ruefully of the fact that only a few
months ago I had used Arnold's very word in condemnation of what I
had seen of this New World.  I am afraid there was still a good
deal of spiritual pride even in this attitude.  Unconsciously I was
classing myself side by side with Lincoln, as opposed to that part
of America which had wounded and hurt me.  I looked down at my
clothes; I looked at my present life; I longed to be on the hills
and the plains, clad in rags, feeling at one with the clouds and
the stars, with beetling mountain-cliff and hollow in the ground.

This day changed my aims; though not with any immediate effect; it
cut me loose from Europe.

By a sort of inertia I went on for some time longer.  My moorings
were loosened, it is true; but it took the riving thunderbolt to
sever them completely.

A more or less immediate effect of my mental preoccupations was
that my sales fell off.  At last, in the height of summer, I was in
debt again.  For a week or two I had to use my drawing account to
tide me over.  I went to New York to talk matters over.  Mr. Wilbur
received me.  He seemed a changed man, nervous, exhausted; I
attributed it to my bad record.

"You seem to be going to pieces," he said.  "We'll have to look
into that.  For the moment I want you to go north with Mr. Williams
once more."

"The fact is, I have troubles and worries of my own," I said.  "My
work will pick up again."

"Your work has been good on the whole," Mr. Wilbur replied.  "I
believe you are too much alone.  So long as a salesman averages one
or two orders a month, we have nothing to complain of.  As it
happens, we have three enquiries from up-state.  I have special
reasons why I want you to go with Williams.  I can't explain.  A
situation may arise with which one man alone may not be able to

"I'm willing, of course," I said.  "I'll do anything you wish me to
do.  But might it not be better to give us full details?"

"No," he replied.  "I prefer not to explain."

Williams and I took a day-train for the ten-hours' run.  Mostly we
read; occasionally we talked.  Naturally, when we conversed, we
"talked shop".  To my surprise, Mr. Williams intimated his
intention of leaving Mr. Wilbur and going into business on his own
account.  He, too, seemed nervous and apprehensive.  I could not
understand it at all.

"This scheme has been overworked," he said.  "It's time to quit."

"Do you mean to say that there is no market any longer?"

Mr. Williams laughed that contemptuous laugh whose sting I knew so
well.  "Market?  There's no end of the market in sight.  There's
one born every minute, you know.  But I think it's getting
dangerous to plant three sets in one small town.  Wilbur is getting
gay; it's time to cut loose."

A sinking feeling took hold of me.  Thus, I suppose, the aviator
feels when he realizes that he has lost control of his plane.

"I have an idea," Williams went on, pensively, "that Wilbur knows
it, too; he wants to grab what is in sight and to retire.  He's
made a pretty penny, God knows.  I have an idea that I can do as
well; and I want to do it on the level.  I'm not afraid of work, as
Wilbur has always been."

"Just a moment," I said, "Do you mean to say that this thing is not
on the level?"

"This?  What?  Wilbur's scheme?" he asked and chuckled.  "You're
green, Branden.  But I do like your innocence.  I'll tell you.
Just listen to this.  Wilbur sells through agents; he prefers such
as you.  If he sold through the mails, the Post-office authorities
would get him.  He probably gave you a lot of hot air about his
unwillingness to let you go out on a straight canvass.  You mustn't
believe all he says.  He wants the innocent ones.  He's got half a
dozen or more like yourself; don't think for a moment you are the
only one; you're not.  He's glad when he gets your kind.  He'd drop
me like a red-hot poker if I didn't know too much about him.  More
than that, I've been thinking he must be up to some trick since he
sends you out with me again.  He says of course, you've gone to
pieces and need jacking-up.  But three calls from one town, that
seems fishy.  I had half a mind to give him the slip and not run up
at all."

"Mr. Williams," I said, "I am dense, I suppose.  Would you mind
telling me just where the trick in all this lies?"

I feel sure it was merely pity with my lack of experience which
induced Mr. Williams to vouchsafe the desired information.  I give
him credit for being more kind-hearted than I had thought him to

He gave a short laugh and went on.  "Not at all.  In the first
place, the so-called de-luxe edition is nothing but the so-called
popular set.  Wilbur merely buys, at wholesale prices--at twenty-
four dollars, to be exact--some one or two hundred sets of that
edition, whatever he may think he needs.  He tears the buckram
bindings off and sticks his bindings on, after having added a
flyleaf with the famous number."

"But the Holland paper?" I broke in, incredulous in the face of
such a revelation.

Mr. Williams sat up and looked reproachfully across at me.  "Ever
seen a set?" he asked.

"No," I replied; "come to think of it, I never have.  I've seen
only empty bindings."

"Of course," Mr. Williams nodded.  "The paper is deckle-edged; but
it is machine-made right here in this state of New York.  Do you
know Van Geldern when you see it?"

"I do," I said.

"Well," he went on; "this looks like it.  But search for the water-
mark, and you won't find it.  Anybody who really knows paper feels
the difference on the spot.  He has never yet sold to a paper-man."

"And the hand-painted illustrations?"

"Down there, at their office, they have some fifty young ladies
sitting who colour the half-tones at the rate of twenty an hour, or
the boss wants to know the reason why.  Water-colours, same as
coloured picture-cards."

I was speechless and did not dare to enquire about the bindings,
for fear of having to listen to more such revelations.  But Mr.
Williams was heartless now.

"The whole thing is a con-game on a gigantic scale, operated with
the help of two factors," he said, "the gullibility of the well-to-
do, and the innocence of milk-sops as yourself.  Of course, there's
something genuine about it, or you poor fish would not bite.  Why,
he's been selling this thing through such as yourself for six or
ten years, at all kinds of prices, getting rich on the fat of the
land.  He shows you the bindings, and they are the only thing
that's worth a tinker's damn in the whole get-up.  He has to spend
some fifty dollars or so a set on that.  As for myself, I've been
in it so long I've got used to it; while I'm making money, I have
no kick.  The public seems satisfied to be bled.  Only, I can't
understand why he is getting so darn careless.  Three sets in a
small town, that's more than I should risk, with the whole U.S.
full of suckers to choose from.  At least, when you're screwing the
prices up so that it amounts to wholesale robbery."

"Well," I objected, "if the thing were honest otherwise, I could
not see anything wrong in it if he sold every citizen in a one-
horse town of five hundred."

"Greed I call it," exclaimed Mr. Williams.  "People are bound to
get together in the long run and compare notes.  Duplications in
numbers are apt to crop out."

"Duplications?" I asked stupidly.

"Of course," he said.  "You don't for a moment fall for that gaff
about a limited edition, do you?  The thing has been sold, as I
said, for more than six years.  The swallowing capacity of the
public is its only limit.  At first Wilbur may not have thought of
going beyond a thousand copies at a hundred and fifty per.  But the
first fifty thousand which he cleared came too easily.  He branched
out, got a sumptuous office, a car, and so on.  He actually seemed
to fill a demand.  I tell you, whenever he steps out, he'll first
salt down a cool million or so."

After this, we did not talk any longer.  I felt as if the earth
under my feet had given way.  I could have cried with blind fury.

We were passing through the landscape of the upper part of the
state.  A year ago I had passed through it, too, on my first, ill-
fated trip to New York.  I thought of that trip and of what the
interval had brought.  Sometimes today, in thinking back, over the
gulf of the years, of the days of my childhood, I feel a similar
contrast.  Joy, innocence, the length of days, the unbounded
confidence in myself, all that is gone.  Weariness, the rapid
succession of seasons, a doubtful appraisal of myself--that is what
has taken its place.  I had no eyes for the Adirondacks, none for
river-valley and gorge.  Again there was a veil of gloom over
everything, that smoky haze which had lain over Hudson River and
Palisades, that morning in Riverside Park.  Where did I stand?
What was I to do?

I thought of the orders which I had taken during the spring and
early summer.  The enjoyment of those rambles through the New
England hills was spoiled even in memory.  I could not think of Dr.
Watson and his friends but with shame.  Why was it that the memory
of pleasant encounters had to be soiled and sullied for me through
none of my fault?  Was I indeed destined to be ground to pieces?

I was not going to partake in the business at our destination.  But
I had a return-ticket and, therefore, might just as well go on and
sit in the train as anywhere else.  It was just that: I did no
longer dare to touch anything.  If with my best intentions I had
succeeded only in becoming the involuntary accomplice of a
swindler, what was I to do?  Already a year and more of my life on
American soil had been hopelessly wasted!

We arrived in our town and registered in the best hotel.

Strange to say, after supper even Williams seemed to be in a softer
mood than was usual with him.  I told him I was not going to go on
with it.

"I don't know as I blame you," he said.  "But listen here, Branden.
Come along with me to-morrow.  I feel shaky myself.  I'll consider
it as a favour.  Since you've come along so far, don't leave me
just now.  I was a fool to come out.  Hunches are nonsense of
course.  But I'm unnerved.  To you nothing can happen, you know."

"If it's any help to you," I said, "I'll see you through."

"Thanks," he replied.

Nobody could have said that I had had no warning.

Next morning Mr. Williams arranged for an interview with one of our
three prospects.  The hour named was three o'clock in the

When we arrived at the address, a stenographer took our cards into
an inner office.  We were told to enter.

The room into which we came was a small, private office, the
greater part of the floor-space being taken up by a large flat-
topped desk in golden oak.  At the centre of one side of it sat a
heavy man with clean-shaven face and short-cropped grey hair.
Opposite him sat two men, one tall and slender, the other medium-
sized and somewhat stout; both were reclining in arm-chairs; the
taller of the two was smoking.

I felt at once that a storm was in the air when I saw the three
pairs of eyes which were fixed upon us as we entered.

"Mr. Williams?" the one who sat by himself enquired, rising.

Mr. Williams acknowledged his identity by shaking hands.

"And Mr. Branden?" the man went on turning to me.  Then he named
his two friends by way of introduction.

could not possibly be without significance.

"Whom of you two am I to address?" the man at the desk asked with a
smile.  "Or do you both represent the North American Historians?"

I noticed that the taller one of the other two had drawn a sheet of
foolscap towards himself; he was ready to take notes.

"I am responsible here," said Mr. Williams, turning pale; "Mr.
Branden has just severed his connection with the house.  He came
along as my friend."

"Well, Mr. Williams," the stranger went on, "will you be kind
enough to answer a few questions?"

"I don't understand," said Williams.  "I came to give you
particulars about a set of books you were supposed to be interested

The stranger laughed.  "I have the books," he said.  "We all three
have the books, and you know it."  A motion of his hand embraced
his two friends on the opposite side of the desk.

"That so?" said Mr. Williams with remarkable coolness.  "I hope you
like them."

The three men laughed.

"We do," the spokesman replied.  "But, as I have said before, I
have a question or two which I should like to have answered."

"Shoot," said Williams.

"You are selling a limited edition, are you not?"

"We are, of sorts,"

"The sets are numbered?"

"They are."

"A strange thing has cropped out; quite by chance, as such things
are apt to do."

"What is it?"  Williams was getting impatient.

"This gentleman there and myself we have both the same number."

"What is the number?" Williams shot back.

"Fourteen," came the answer.

Williams laughed lightly.  "But, gentlemen," he said, "perhaps you
are aware of the fact that quite a few people are superstitious and
would not accept a set with the number thirteen.  So it is our
rule, in limited editions, to duplicate either the twelve or the

The three men laughed again.

"You've got your nerve with you," the spokesman said at last.  "If
you can explain the other difficulties away as slickly as you did
this one, we'll let you off; just for the fun of it.  It was rather
a mistake," he went on, turning to his friends, "to let these
fellows know beforehand what it was about.  They've had plenty of
time to prepare their excuses."

When Williams heard this remark, he sat up.

"What's that?" he snapped.  "Did you write in to headquarters about
your complaints?"

Again the three men laughed.

"Did we?" asked one of them.

But Williams was on his feet now.  He bent forward with such an
expression of earnestness on his face that their laughter died out.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I'll be brief.  You have been the victims of
a crooked game.  I am only an agent.  You don't want to get me; you
want to get the crook."

"And let you skip?  Not much.  You sell the books.  It's you we've
got.  We'll trace the rest of the gang through you."

"Never mind about me," Williams shouted.  "I'll turn state's
evidence.  I'll help you all I can.  I was willing enough to shield
the fellow; but now I tell you, get Wilbur before it's too late."

"How too late?"

"Don't you see that he is making his get-away?"

"How can you know unless you're in with him yourself?"

"By putting two and two together, gentlemen.  For God's sake, don't
waste time.  Don't you see?"  He spoke faster and faster.  "Neither
I nor Branden here were told anything at the New York office except
that there were three prospects in this town.  He sent us out
because by doing so he kept you from going right after him and at
the same time he got rid of us at New York.  The dirty beggar tried
to play us off for a chance to skip and to cover his tracks.  He
uses his agents and gets them into a beastly mess and expects them
besides to go to jail for him.  Take Branden here.  Why did he send
him up?  Because he is innocent.  Till yesterday he did not know
that every word in the gaff he gives the suckers isn't gospel-
truth.  When I told him, he refused to go on with the work.  I had
a hunch that we should have trouble, and I begged him to come
along, or he wouldn't be here.  I'll turn state's evidence.  But
get him, Wilbur, the tricky skunk!"

He had spoken with such convincing vehemence that, when he
finished, every one in the room was on his feet.

"I'll go," said the taller one of the friends and reached for his
hat.  "Wait for me here."

An anticlimax followed.  Williams explained in detail how the
scheme was worked.  When the tall man returned they told me, after
a short discussion conducted in a whisper, that they had agreed to
leave me out of the proceedings.  But for the time being I remained
with them, for I was curious how things would develop.

Two hours later a messenger-boy appeared and handed the tall man a
yellow envelope.

He tore it open, shrugged, and said, "Williams was right.  The bird
is flown."


I Wind Things Up

If I had remained cool under the blow received, or if I had
naturally possessed a great presence of mind, I should not have
returned to New York; my whole future life might have run along
different lines.  But I was--and still am--of that slow-moving type
to whom the good repartees occur when the conversation is over and
who, after the debate, think of all the clever things they might
have said.  I was the very antipode of Mr. Williams.

So, on the morning following the crash, I took the train back to
New York.

The trip was a fiery ordeal.  I was in Purgatory or in worse than
that.  If I call it by the milder name, it is because I have lived
through and beyond it, though I have not risen to Heaven yet.

I kept repeating this one question:  "Why?"  There were the
Bennetts, the Watsons, and many others.  Why did not I stand on
their side?  Why was it that everlastingly I remained the outcast?

The question offered no comfort.  The answer might do that.

I had been trying to cast anchor somewhere; and whenever I thought
I had done so, I was cut adrift again.

People who are born and raised and grow up and run their course of
life in the same community or at least in the same country are
borne along by the current of a river.  They may cut slantways
across the current, changing their position relatively to the
banks.  Still the current of the general activities carries them on
and forward.  Only the criminal classes strive against the current.
I, the immigrant, was trying to cut straight across.  I WAS CROSS-
SECTIONING THE LIFE OF A NATION.  The current was not a helping, it
was an impeding factor.  A submerged rock or an eddy, the anomalous
conditions in the current, offered the only help: they were the
anomalous conditions in society.  I, cross-sectioning it, got
caught in the eddy, held on to the rocks obstructing the flow.

If I had not found something like this rhetorical figure, some
simile for my experience, I should have mistaken for the current
itself what was merely a ripple on its surface.

I did not arrive at any very definite conclusion during that trip
in the train.  Yet, I remember, there was some vague idea of
"breaking away" which seemed to give comfort by holding out
possibilities.  This idea was linked up with my reading.  The
magazines of that time--they were neither so numerous nor so
clearly differentiated as they are now--were full of the
realization of a great change coming over the country.  America was
fast changing from an agricultural country into an industrial one.
I read a good deal about abandoned farms.  The development was
viewed with alarm by many.  But over against that movement towards
the industrial centres--with its mad rush for wealth--there was
being born another movement which I can probably best characterize
by stating a fact of literary history: John Burroughs was coming
into his own.  I was a young man, not yet twenty-six.  My knowledge
of American lettres was neither deep nor extended enough for me to
form a clear view of the significance of these synchronous counter-
currents.  But it was the time when you went "out west".  I had
only a hazy idea of what that meant, especially in a non-
geographical sense; or I might have gone "out west" in the east.

Underlying this western exodus, this phenomenal growth of western
communities, and also that literary movement which for me
crystallized in Burroughs' name there was a movement of vastly
greater significance which has not yet, not nearly, reached its
peak.  It was the movement away from the accidentals of life and
towards the essentials.  It was a desire for a simplification of
issues.  Modern life is not essentially more complicated than the
life of old.  It is nonsense to assert such a thing.  But, what is
commonly called civilization is indeed a movement from the
essentials to the accidentals.  To hear modern economists talk, you
would think that the problem of transportation were the problem of
life.  Through too rapid progress along one line we have lost the
real perspective, that is all.  In that mistaken sense I consider
"Civilization" as a chronic disease of mankind which every now and
then breaks out into some such acute insanity as the late war.  I
saw these things by no means as clearly then as I see them to-day;
which may not be any too clearly yet, even though I have stripped
myself pretty well of that encumbrance which is commonly called
learning and which would be more accurately defined as Thinking-in-
Ruts.  I dimly felt a desire to do something, to get away from
things, to simplify them, to remodel myself and my life.  The
question of that soil which I had for the first time clearly
formulated for myself when I felt at outs with the world, at
Niagara, assumed such proportions that I felt I had to do something
very definite about it.  Still, and that is typical for the
immigrant as well as for the young, the search remained a
geographical search.

Before I got back to the city, I had another adventure with books.
It is significant for my state of mind, for my utter loneliness and
my mental dependency, that so often my most vital decisions arose
from what I read rather than from things which grew out of the
personal contact with living men and women.

When I had started up-state, I had picked at random one of my few
remaining books and slipped it into my pocket.  In going, I had
bought a magazine; in returning I had not done so because I no
longer dared to spend even that much money unnecessarily.

At last, when I was weary of following my own thoughts, I took this
book out of my pocket.  It happened to be Carlyle's Sartor
Resartus.  I felt half annoyed to find that what I had taken along
was something so well known to me that it could hardly contain a
line with a new message.  Yet, when I opened it, much as our
forefathers or foremothers used to open their bibles with a pin, to
find a guiding word to help them in their perplexities, a sentence
seemed to leap out of the page, of such import to me, of such
personal application to my very needs, that it came like a

The sentence was this:

"The fraction of Life can be increased in value not so much by
increasing your numerator as by lessening your denominator."

Here was said what interpreted for me the phrase "going out west".
It seemed uncanny.  I was looking for guidance, and guidance had
been vouchsafed.  I was going to lessen my denominator.

What I found by way of interpretation was this--

In elementary physics the efficiency of a machine is often defined
as a fraction:  Work out over work in.  This fraction can be raised
in value by increasing the "work out" while the "work in" remains
unchanged: or, by lessening the "work in" while the "work out" is
kept at the same level.

The personal satisfaction, the amount of contentment, the ratio of
joy to suffering which you manage to extract out of your life--that
corresponds to the efficiency of the machine.  Well, then; the
value of your own life to yourself is this fraction:  "What you
obtain over what you wish for."

Wish for nothing; your denominator is zero; the value of the
fraction, therefore, infinity, no matter what its numerator may be,
short of nothing.

I did not see at once, that goes without saying, how this result
could be worked out in practice.  But even as a theoretical
proposition, as a theorem, or better still, as the mere definition
of a final aim it held forth hope, it was full of promise.  I
suddenly seemed to understand three great historical figures that
had been enigmas: Sulla, Diocletian, Charles the Fifth.

When we came to New York and the train slowed down for the stop at
125th Street, I felt suddenly moved to accentuate the new departure
in my life by getting off there, in the cheap Harlem neighbourhood,
instead of going on to the expensive district of 42nd Street.

When I ran down the steps of the elevated station, carrying my
suit-case, whom should I catch sight of but young Ray!  He was
crossing the avenue, clad in blue, paint-bespattered overalls, an
oil-tin and several brushes in his hand.

I shouted his name; he stopped in his tracks.

A joyous smile lighted up his face when he saw me coming.  Then he
grinned sheepishly and looked down at himself and back to me as if
to call my attention to his attire.

"My, you look prosperous!" he sang out as soon as I came into

"Look," I said, "but am not.  Well, how are you?"

We shook hands in a way which convinced me entirely of the
sincerity of his feelings.

"Say," I said, "I must see more of you during the next few days.
Where is the cheapest joint around here to put up in for the

"Well," he said, "the Plaza isn't exactly around here, but it's the
nearest of the joints which you call cheap."

I laughed.  "Listen; and get this.  I'm down to rock-bottom, out of
a job, and in a day or so going to leave the city.  Got it?  All
right, where is the cheapest joint?"

"Well," he replied, "I've got only a small hall bed-room and no hot
or cold water on tap there, but, if it's cheapness you're after,
nothing cheaper than to share my bed."

"Good," I said, "I accept.  Are you through for the day?"

"Apart from bringing this pot of juice and these brushes home to
their rightful owner.  I've just been painting the finest Bull
Durham sign in the city limits.  And then for a wash and the merry
life!" he rattled in irresistible good-humour.

"Going in the direction of your roost?" I asked.

"Exactly opposite."

"Then I'll wait for you here at the station."

When we had washed up, we went down-town to have my trunk brought
up from the hotel where I had left it.  Our supper we had in one of
those numerous restaurants which cater to people of cleanly tastes
and slender purses.

Then we went home and settled down to what Ray was pleased to call
a "pow-wow" of gossip.

I told him of my adventures, and he repaid me by giving me all the
news of the "Travellogue-crowd".  Mr. Tinker had gone bankrupt as a
manager; he and Mrs. McMurchy, having at last thrown their fortunes
together, were themselves out on the road again.  Miss Henders was
working in some capacity in the employ of the Socialist party; Mrs.
Coldwell, poor old soul, was canvassing for magazine subscribers.

"How about yourself?" I asked.

"Oh, I'm fine," he said.  "Nothing to be proud of, I suppose.  But
when I go out in the morning, I know that I can do what I'm asked
to do.  I have my definite work; and when it's done, I'm free to
read or to draw.  In a few years' time I feel sure I'll come into
my own.  Meanwhile I get quite a little fun out of this sign-
painting business.  The fellow I work for thinks I've a natural
gift for that sort of thing.  Sometimes I feel quite an artist when
I paint the cows and meadows for Horlick's Malted Milk, or the
Injuns for Round Oak Stoves."

We both laughed more, that night, I believe, than either one of us
had laughed in months together.  We were the silliest of silly
boys; there was nothing that refused itself to being travestied and
laughed at.

Young Ray took it for granted and prevailed upon me to promise him
that I should stay with him for at least a few days.  He asked for
my plans; I did not have any plans.  I disposed of the rest of my
wardrobe, having picked out one single, brown, English riding suite
with breeches--soft-leather-lined--and a raincoat to keep.  All I
knew myself about my intentions was that I was going to "go out

The rest of my books I gave to Ray, picking out only two slender
volumes, one a New Testament, bound in pliable leather, the other a
Greek Odyssey in rather stiff cloth, but both narrow enough to slip
easily into the hip-pockets of my breeches.  My suitcase I filled
with some cherished trifles, ivory nail-files, military brushes,
and similar things, keeping, to fill my pockets with, only such
toilet-articles as seemed indispensable, razor, tooth-brush, comb,
and so on.

On the third day after my return to New York I was ready to start.
My cash, I remember, amounted to seventeen dollars and a little
silver.  Ray begged me to accept some money for the books which I
had given him, but I refused.

"Sooner or later," I explained, "whatever I take along, will come
to an end, no matter whether it is ten or a hundred dollars.  The
sooner the inevitable happens, the better.  It will be a crisis
which is bound to come.  We'll see what will follow in its wake.  I
wonder whether a man can starve in this country?  I have no doubt I
can do so in the city.  There is a condition here which is probably
the same with regard to all immigrants except those that have the
strong arm.  If I were still in a bitter mood, I should call it the
conspiracy of indifference.  But the bitterness is gone.  There is
nothing left but curiosity."

And after a short silence I bent forward and went on, "I'll tell
you a secret, Ray.  Don't think I'm crazy.  Don't ask any questions
about it.  You'll understand it one day, provided I can still get
hold of you then.  You'll understand it whenever I shall ask you to
forward that suitcase of mine.  The secret is this:  I am going in
search of Abraham Lincoln."

A day or so later, of an early Sunday morning, Ray said good-by to
me at the ferry station of 23rd Street, where I had entered New
York a year ago, and I was off, walking, a tramp.


The Depths

"The fraction of Life can be increased in value not so much by
increasing your Numerator as by lessening your Denominator."

Thomas Carlyle


I Go Exploring

At this point, where I begin to tell of the adventures during the
second year of my apprenticeship on American soil, I find myself
confronted with a difficulty.

I had become an onlooker again.  For quite a while, after I left
the city of New York, nothing of what I went through stirred me
very deeply.  I had tried to meddle with the affairs of American
life; I had burned my fingers.  I felt no temptation to try again
before I had regained an inner equilibrium and a maturity from
which I felt myself to be separated by a great distance.  I was
engaged in a search.

One consequence is that memories have become dulled.  Only what
moves us deeply do we remember across the gulf of time.  Above all,
the chronology of events is confused.  Many impressions refuse to
fall back into their proper places.  The only help I can get is
from associations of locality.  Where an impression or an event is
indissolubly linked up with the scenery in which it arose or took
place, I can fit it back by putting it into the proper point of my
itinerary.  Where I have not succeeded in doing so, I have
preferred to treat it as negligible and to leave it out.  The
narrative must thus lose some of its connections; transitions will
be missing; apparent contradictions will crop up; feelings,
thoughts which are hard to reconcile.  And there are, especially in
the beginning, detached scenes, disconnected visions, like mere
pictures flashed upon the screen of memory, seemingly quite
meaningless; and yet they belong into the tale of my tramps.

The very first memories are a series of mere visions.

To the left arises a railroad embankment, twenty feet high, with a
cinder slope from which here and there a cloud of sharp, cutting
dust whirls up in a playful breeze.  To the right runs something
like an aqueduct or a large watermain--if I interpret the picture
in my mind correctly--which shuts out the view.  Underfoot the
road, smooth, tarry, soft to the touch, tremendously hot from the
sun which beats mercilessly down on everything.  The whole road,
running for miles between embankment and aqueduct, is alive with
hordes of winged locusts which, jumping and flying, stir up an
exceedingly fine, oily dust.  So densely do these insects cover the
road that it is impossible not to crush them at every step.  When
the breath of the breeze sweeps the ground, they fly up to the
height of my face, hitting my cheeks, my ears, my neck with the
sharp impact of their mandibles as with blunt needle-points.  In
spite of the tar on the road, which pervades the whole atmosphere
with its tiring smell, the main feature of the landscape is dust,
dust.  The perspiration runs down my face, cutting runnels into the
black coating which begins to cover it.  The wide leaves of False
Ragweed plants on the embankment are also grey with dust; their
stems are covered with locusts.  The dreariness of it all is
accentuated when, at a bend in the road, those huge pipes to the
right come quite close to the driveway before they form their
angle; I stand and listen to the swish of swift-moving water
within.  The sound seems so cool.  The sleeve of my coat on the arm
which carries the waterproof is crumpled and creased as if pressed
and ironed that way; the skin of my arm is beady with sweat.

Locusts, tar-smell, dust and heat; for miles and miles.

In the afternoon I come to Newark.  I have never been back there.
A gulf of many years separates me from that Sunday afternoon.  But
I see a raised railway station, some twenty-five to thirty feet
above the level of the road.  I am in the grateful shade of dusty
trees--their leaves coated with the deposits of smoke--and look up
at that station where light, washable summer-dresses flit about as
if they had a life of their own--a weird impression of unreality
attaches to it all.  The wearers of those dresses are beings in a
different world from my own--they seem like marionettes--they live
in a world of make-believe and pretence--a world that resembles the
painted wings on a stage--the reality is dust and tar-smell.  I
cross a street and get a drink at a public fountain.  People glance
at me as if they were seeing an apparition.  Their movements in the
street look as if they were trying to hurry past--as if my sight
looked like a threat.

But the shade is grateful.

I walk at the chance of the road.  It does not matter where it

At last I have crossed the city and swing out again into its
outskirts.  Houses become an episode.  In the cooling air of
lengthening shadows I step along at a brisker rate.  Deeper and
more refreshing becomes every single breath I take.

A little bridge leaps over a brook.  Verdure clothes its banks
right down to the water which merrily scampers along.  I leave the
road to the left, eagerly hurrying over the meadow, and reach a
willow-clump at the water's edge.  Cap and coat are thrown off, the
sleeves of my shirt rolled back to the arm-pits.  I plunge forward,
submerging head and arms in the cooling flood.  If Ray were with
me, we should now start romping and splashing, shouting and
laughing the while.  But every noise sounds strange, since I am
alone, alone.  I feel hushed.

I am on the road again and suddenly realize that all day long I
have not eaten.  There are buns in the pocket of my raincoat.  I
find a bottle, a perfectly good, sound bottle by the roadside.  It
seems a treasure; I pick it up.

The road rises over the shoulder of a hill.  As I climb it, the
feeling in my legs which keep swinging along mechanically is that
of a man who for the first time in his life shoots up in an
elevator; the ground seems to press upward.  Rail-fences appear on
both sides.  A desire overcomes me to whistle as I march; but I am
shy under the eye of nature.  Dusk is rising.

Simultaneously I see in front the white slice of the moon floating
in the deepening blue, and in a straight line with it, above the
crest of the hill, the black shape of a building.  When I approach,
I find it to be a crossroads store.  Forgetful of its being Sunday,
I stop and ask a man who sits on the stoop for a can of condensed
milk.  He mutters something; but he gets up, walks in, and returns
with the tin.

A little farther along the road a car lurches past me, the exhaust
ringing like so many pistol-shots through the quiet air.  I pass a
farm huddled by the roadside in a cluster of trees.

My purchase at the store has set my thoughts on milk.  My throat
seems to cry out for milk.

I stop and turn.

"Yes," says the woman who is working at the stove in the dusky
kitchen at the back of the farm-house--no lamps being lit yet--
"yes, I guess I can let you have some."

And while she fills my bottle, out of the shadows beyond a man
steps forward into the frame of the door.  "Had a breakdown?" he

For a moment I fail to understand.  Then it flashes upon me that he
takes me for the driver of the car which has just shot by--cars
were still scarce at the time, still something to be commented
upon.  And, strange to say, nearly against my will, certainly
without any intention of deception, simply as the easiest way of
avoiding further queries, my mouth answers, "Yes, rather."

But I feel the colour mantling my face which is mercifully hidden
by the darkness.  I take the bottle from the woman's hands and ask
for the charge.

"Oh," she says pleasantly, "I don't think we'll miss it."

"Thanks," I say and walk off.

Out on the road, away from the shadows of buildings and trees,
there is still the light of the heavenly sickle.  I feel strangely

I am cut loose, adrift on the world.

The ribbon of the road still rises; but it reaches the crest, and I
top the hill.  Like a pair of weights suspended from my body my
feet swing on, downhill now.  Below lies a shallow valley, filled
with the shadow of trees.  As I move on with large strides, my body
seems to gather weight, my knees begin to bend at every step.

Not a single, solitary thought is in my head.  But my teeth seem to
be on edge for the bite into those buns; my throat seems to
anticipate the gurgling flow of the milk.

Thus I reach the bottom of the valley--there is a tiny trickling
stream which crosses the road under a culvert.  I step aside, on
the meadow and bend to the ground--the grass is wet with dew; but
that does not matter.  I spread my raincoat out, sit down, and eat.
Half my bread I put back into the pockets, half my milk I leave in
the bottle.  I rest.

I seem to be weighing the time, as if I held a certain mass of it
in my hand.

At last I get up to proceed.  But an unearthly load presses on my
shoulders; the ground seems to heave under my step; I notice that I

I do not reason or think; instinctively I strike to the left, into
the forest, on rising ground.  Dry leaves rustle under my feet.
The failing light of the moon only half illuminates the roots in
which my feet get caught.  At last I spread my raincoat on the
ground and lie down.

The air is still warm; but everything around is hung with beads of
dew.  The clean smell of humus, mixed with the smoky haze of the
lower air, has something heady; it affects me like new wine.
Strange noises are alive among the trees, rustlings and whirrings
of the creatures of the wild.  The very stillness which is
underlined by these noises has something exciting.  Long, long I
lie awake.  And when at last I doze, I still toss restlessly about.
An uncanny, mocking laughter close at hand makes me sit up; I do
not recall where I am, I do not awake to full consciousness.  I
feel chilly; my clothes are damp; I curl up, pull my raincoat
closer about my body, sink back, and sleep.

And then: all kinds of sounds are astir: a dog barks, a cock crows,
a cow lows in the meadow.  Birds begin to twitter and to chirp.  I
am lifted out of the depths of sleep.  A lassitude which is nearly
voluptuous pervades limbs and body.  Awakening is like a
resurrection; but I do not move.

Gradually the sky begins to whiten, the canopy of the leaves
overhead turns into a black etching.  Slowly, slowly the light of
day steals into all things around.  I lie still, I do not even
look.  But the consciousness that another day has risen soaks into
me by never-suspected senses.  I am still alive.

By and by the consciousness of what I have done obtrudes.  I laugh;
but a sob mingles into the laugh.  It seems so simple--all I have
done is to walk out of a great city.  But it means that I have left
the society of man.  I am an outcast--something closely resembling
those dreaded beings which I have thought of with a shudder:
anarchists.  I am alone; I stand against the world.

This thought sends me into a sitting posture; but I fall back with
a groan; a wild, stabbing pain has flashed across my back.  A sob
convulses my whole body; tears, unreasoning tears seem a relief.
Again I try to rise, this time slowly, cautiously.  I am very
stiff, every movement seems to hurt.

At last I stand.  My foot-joints, my ankles, my knees, my hips, and
my back--all hurt.  But I pick my raincoat up and start a descent
from tree to tree.

Meanwhile the sun has risen in the east, and its orange-coloured
rays send golden flashes along the leaves overhead.  I have to get
out of the woods to dry, to shake off the cloak of misty dampness
that covers the world.

I reach the road in the valley-bottom where the little stream
hurries towards the east.  White mist still floats; I shiver as I
step over the deep-napped carpet of the meadow.  I stand and
listen.  There is no human sound.  So, slowly, painfully, I strip
and wash.  Then I bend down and drink deep at the nearest pool.
Again I shiver; and when I have sat and eaten, I rise and limp back
to the road, to a point where a dry, mossy spot in the western
hillside catches the light and heat from the sun.  There I sit down
once more to gather warmth.

This second day there was a new quality to the rays of the sun,
something I could not define as yet; but for the moment it felt
good.  It was what we realize when we say, "It is going to be a hot
day."  Not an air seemed to stir; I did not move, but lay there for

I do not know how far or in what direction I walked that day.  But
I remember how more and more that strange feeling in the air
predominated which forebodes a storm.  I also remember that my
progress was slow and halting.  The stiffness in my body and limbs
did not disappear altogether, though I finally settled down into a
definite routine of motion.  The slightest departure from this
routine brought pain.  The atmosphere took on that breathless,
brooding concentration which causes us to look into the sky for

My vision clears towards the afternoon when I was slowly plodding
along a road which was more and more densely flanked by farms and
residences, till it changed into something like a wide and spacious
street; but there were no trees to give shade.

I looked up again and saw vast threatening clouds with edges of a
ghostly white.

I scanned the street and caught sight of a large, unpainted
building ahead which resembled a store.  I went on; a sidewalk
sprang up out of the edge of the road.  The building was indeed a
store.  Connected with it was something like a little inn which did
not look as if it were doing a flourishing business.

I entered the store, bought ten cents' worth of bacon and a loaf of
bread, and turned back into the street.

Again I looked at the sky and hesitated.  Then I entered the hall
of the inn and waited.  Nobody came, and at last I sat down.

Heavy drops began to knock at the building like finger-knuckles.  I
thought of the city, of Ray, and brushed the thought away because
it sent a sob rising into my throat.

A short, fat woman entered.  I rose to my feet.

"You take in guests for the night?" I asked.

"Sometimes," she said and looked me up and down, coolly, with
insolent appraisal.

"What do you charge for a room?"

"With meals?"


"Fifty cents," she replied, ". . . in advance."

I laid down a dollar bill, and she gave me the change.

This interview proved that I was indeed on the other side of the
line which demarcates society.

She showed me my room, and I laid my parcels on a table there.  The
air in the room was witness that it had not been occupied for a
long, long time.  There was no dirt; on the contrary, everything
was painfully clean; but it smelt of damp sheets and lowered
blinds; to this very day, when I catch the smell, I see the room.

I raised the window and went out.

In front of the store the sidewalk was roofed over, and in this
shelter stood a chair.  When I sat down, a wind sprang up,
suddenly, furiously, with a whirl preceding it; and then it settled
down into a roaring blow.  The rain lashed the road and gathered
into brooks on both sides, shooting down the gently sloping
hillside.  It was a soaking, gushing, drowning rain, as if the
gates of some lock had been opened and a flood were sweeping over
the dusty stretches below.  I looked on, unmoved; and as suddenly
as it had started, it ceased.  The sun broke forth again; I
breathed more freely; and only the little brooks on both sides of
the road, yellow with the washings of clay, told of the short and
vehement fury of the storm.

It was still daylight when I turned in.  I was paying precious
money for this room; I was going to get my money's worth of the
luxury.  No mere eight or ten hours of sleep would have seemed
adequate; I meant to have sixteen at least and had them.

As for the next day, or the one after that, and probably quite a
few more that followed, my memory is a blank.  I do remember,
though, that the experience of the nights in the open was more than
once similar to that of the first night.  It took me two weeks or
longer to learn that I had to get under some kind of cover, straw
or hay, to protect myself from the dew.  I also remember how I got
used to being silent for days and days at a stretch.  When I
entered a store--I preferred little crossroads places to those in
towns--my voice sounded husky to me, unfamiliar like that of a

Gradually I became hardened to this life.

One day, after a week or so, I found that I was nearing the city of
Philadelphia.  Promptly I struck off for the west.  I did not care
to go even near a city.

I also settled down to a certain routine in my habits, a routine
rather unusual for a tramp, I suppose.  Every second day I shaved,
carefully, painstakingly, with the help of a little disk-mirror
which I carried in the pocket of my vest.  Every third day I washed
my underwear and my shirt--they were of the best that money could
buy--in some brook or stream, provided the sun shone brightly or
the wind blew briskly enough to dry things within an hour or so.

As for the two little books which I carried, I tried to read the
New Testament; but it seemed irrelevant.  I must confess that, up
to that time, I had--like most people, ministers not excluded--
never read it with an open mind; I found that I could not do so
now; but I kept the booklet.  Now and then I looked into the
Odyssey, and I liked it better; I suppose, because I was much more
familiar with it; and if I picked out a line or two, I did not need
to feel that I was perverting their meaning by taking them out of
their context.  Their meaning did not greatly matter, anyway; there
was a sadness about the whole which chimed in with my mood; there
was a soothing melody in its rhythm which made me forget my feeling
of loneliness.

I was in Pennsylvania now; and once more a vision arises of my
staying at an inn over night--the last time during that season as
far as I remember.

I had been swinging along vigourously all day, topping bare and
barren-looking hills, down into shallow valleys and over hills
again.  Here and there I had seen a needy-looking farmstead in the
distance; but I had not passed a single one close by.

Then, somehow, in the dusk of evening, the road I followed gave
out; it was on a marshy plain in the hills; it became less and less
well marked and finally ended in a number of diverging water-soaked
wheel-tracks, not far from a cluster of half-decaying, storm-
battered, lightning-rived remnants of trees.

Thus I struck out at random, going west.

I came to a steep ridge and climbed it.  Night began to wrap the
world.  But when I reached the summit, I looked down upon a long,
winding valley, filled with the shadow of trees.  Darkness lay
huddled down there, in the fold of the hills, as if it, too, had
coiled up for the night.

Compared with this darkness, the heights and summits seemed to
reach up into a thinner, less opaque air, into a region of
indistinct, grey visibility which seemed pregnant with danger,
threatened with the invasion of incomprehensible, cosmic things
sweeping along over the universe.

The valley in its inky blackness seemed infinitely sheltered, cosy,
homelike.  Right in its centre gleamed, ruddily, a light.  I
greeted that light like a message from the sane, quiet, well-
ordered world of man.  Up here on the heights perched insanity.

As if I were fleeing from the threat of the inanimate world above,
from the terrible things that lurked and flitted through the grey
of the upper air, I started to plunge down the hillside, stumbling
over rocks, falling headlong over roots, running up against rail-
fences, scaling them, rushing forward again.

Then, having once more brought up against a rail-fence, I suddenly
heard human voices close by; I stopped short, a lump in my throat.
The night was so dark by this time that I could not have seen my
own hand, even though I had held it up close to my eyes.  As I
stood there, blotted into the dark shadows of the trees behind, I
saw two glowing spots glide down upon myself; the voices became
louder; and from the ground, close at hand, the reverberating tramp
of two men walking downhill arose.  They were talking and laughing
and smoking.  They seemed to be coming straight on; but at the last
moment they swung off and passed me, not more than two or three
feet from where I stood, unsuspected by them in the dark.

I realized that only the fence in front of me separated me from a
road which led along the bottom of the sloping valley to the light.

I waited so as to give the men time to get beyond earshot.  Then I
climbed out on the road and settled down to the rhythm of their
steady swing which I still heard.

After a while I became aware of a widening of the road.  Without
seeing a thing I was conscious of the fact that there were houses
on both sides; at last one of the houses showed a mild, ruddy light
through two or three windows.  This was the inn; I had escaped . . .

I was a wanderer in the hills.  Soon after I became a wanderer in
the valleys.  But before I reached those valleys, one more picture
engraved itself on my brain so that it stands in sharp outline to
this very day.

Again, in a steady tramp, I was winding up a hill.  The sun shone
brightly from the western sky; a clear, blue breeze came rambling
across from the east.  I stopped now and then and turned to let it
blow through my heated body.  I was young, and the world was young.

I have a picture in my mind even of the looks of the soil to both
sides of the road.  It was a bare, heavy clay with marly patches
here and there, a poor soil for farms, washed into gullies by many

Yet, at last I saw a cluster of little buildings ahead, right on
the summit of the pass in the hills.  It seemed to bar the road;
but as I approached, I found that the road turned aside in a double
bend for this cluster of poverty-stricken hovels.  As I turned, I
saw beyond the rail-fence the scaffolding of a well which had a
pole-lift.  I had not met with water for some time; and so, at the
sight of the well, I realized that I was thirsty.  I followed the
second bend of the road, and it brought me alongside the unpainted,
rain-washed house.

There was a gap without a gate in the fence, and I entered.  I
looked about in the yard, but I saw no one, nor any sign of human
occupancy.  I went to the back door and knocked, but received no

I went around to the front; and there, on a rough, wooden bench,
leaning against the house, sat two old people, a man and a woman.
They were old indeed, hollow-eyed and hollow-cheeked.  And when I
turned the corner of the house, the old man was holding one of the
woman's hands between his two; and she was leaning against his
shoulder, crooning some old song.  Their hair was white and soft
and smooth; the man's long, flowing beard as lightly grey as the
rain-bleached lumber of the house.  In their watery, light-blue
eyes was a far-away look.

I wanted to steal back as I had come; but I had been seen, and both
of them started.

"Hello," sang the man in a childish treble.

"Hello," I replied shamefacedly; and I made known my want.

The woman bustled away with astounding activity and got a cup; the
man drew water from the well and would not let me help.

Somehow I felt the need of furnishing a pretext for my presence,
and I enquired for the road to some nearby town.  They pointed it
out but thought I could never reach my destination by nightfall.
Again I fenced.  Was there a farm somewhere along the road where I
might stop in case the dark should overtake me?  I was thinking of
some straw or haystack to crawl into.  No, they replied; most of
the rare travellers along this trail stopped with them; they had a
cot, not much of a bed, to be sure; but they kept it set up against
the home-coming of their son; might I want to stay for the night?
Hardly.  I could not afford to pay for a night's rest anywhere; I
might snatch an hour's sleep by the roadside.  And catch my death
of cold, to be sure!  That would not do!  As for pay, they never
took any, for their son's sake; and had they ever done so, they
would not take it from me; I reminded them of their son so.  That
son, I must know, had gone off, along that very road, twenty or
twenty-five years ago--yes, twenty-four it would be, come next
Easter; the farm had not paid a living for the three any longer; he
had gone out west; and there, on the hill which I could just see
over yonder, he had stopped and waved his hat for the last time
back home; and that was all they had ever seen or heard of him; was
he alive still, did I think?  But surely, he must!  And both wiped
a tear from their eyes.

I stayed over night; and, oh, how I wished I could leave a
"wonderful pitcher" behind!

One day, I looked down upon Harrisburg.

I remembered, of course, the night when I had looked out at the
station, from the window of the sleeping-car; but I banished the
thought.  I banished many thoughts those days.

I turned to the north to avoid the city.

I came down into the Susquehanna valley.  I do not remember a great
deal of this part of my tramps.  But I still feel how my blood was
quickened by the sight of the swift-shooting river.  I have a
vision of a wide, flat-bottomed valley with large slabs of rock
under shallow, smoothly gliding sheets of water; of little islets
with tufts of long, waving grass nearly choking the current; of a
good road along the bank.  I have often longed for a second sight;
but it has been my fate not to see these parts again.  Nothing
remains in my memory but the impression of an inner and unconscious
development of myself.

The first factors in the complex fraction of my life at the time
which I will enumerate are, as it were, positive ones; or, to
borrow Carlyle's figure once more, they must be put down in the

For one thing, I established a mood which eliminated the feeling of
loneliness.  It may have been because I got used to being alone.
That terrible need for communication, for imparting to others what
I garnered in impressions, moods, thoughts was on the wane.  My
body had become adjusted to the conditions of the tramp and left my
mind free to commune with itself.  Things that I felt or thought
began to crystallize into short statements, sometimes into brief
lines of verse.  I obtained a pencil and a little note-book and
occasionally jotted observations down.  But I did not date them;
nor did I attach to them the names of localities.  Nothing was
further from my mind than to keep a journal or a record.  What I
wrote down fulfilled its purpose right then and there, in affording
me that satisfaction which we find in formulating elusive things.
So, when among my papers I ran across this little note-book,
several years ago, it helped me to realize in remembrance the
general mood of the days; but it did not reconstruct definite
scenes and events in the album of mental photographs.  To-day, when
at last I am trying to write this record, even that little help is
no longer available; the note-book seems to have been lost.

Further, there stands out another fact, an external one this time.
All my life I have been a lover of water--rivers, lakes, the sea.
I had made many an inland and outland voyage.  Water is nothing
inanimate.  It responds to the moods of sky and cloud as we do.
The mere fact that water is rarely silent has something to do with
it.  Water is company.  Instinctively I clung for a large part of
my tramps to the courses of rivers.  Here it was, first, the
Susquehanna, then the Juniata; later, Conemaugh, Allegheny, Ohio,
Missouri.  There were other reasons for this, of course.  So long
as I followed a river, I was sure I could not stray.  I had one of
the prime essentials for sustaining life without ever approaching
human habitations which I shunned.  Shade and privacy were
available whenever I needed them--for my ablutions, for instance.
When the time came, as now it did, that I needed a fire at night, I
was never at a loss for fuel; and soon I learned that a river is
also a bountiful giver of other things which were no longer--to me--
necessities.  All this, however, was secondary; for even in
cutting across the streams, so long as I was within the mountains,
I should have met enough of them to minister to all my wants.  The
river, whether large or small, relieved the feeling that I was
alone and an outcast.

Among the negative factors--or those that went down in the ever-
lessening Denominator--the most important one was the habit of
utter frugality which became established.  I learned to expect less
and less.  Wild fruit--blackberries above all--the bark of certain
trees which I began to be familiar with, and nuts played an ever-
increasing part in my daily fare.  Less and less did I spend money.
Against such days as proved barren of finds I carried a bundle.  I
learned to pick up tin-cans for cooking-utensils.  I eliminated
bread from my diet as too expensive and substituted oatmeal which I
cooked in those tin-cans.  I carried salt and, as the rarest treat
on chilly nights, a little tea.  There was no longer any need for
my entering stores except once a fortnight or so; less than half a
dollar bought all I needed for the interval.  I might mention that
I also learned to eat roots and tubers--parsnips, turnips,
potatoes--raw with great relish.  These I did not scruple to
purloin from occasional fields.

Since I avoided men, they being what above all was to be feared, I
escaped importune questions and the discomfort of prevarication.

My body lost its last vestige of fat.  I was a bundle of bones,
sinews, muscles.  I doubt whether my health has ever been what it
was during this tramp in the valleys of the Appalachians.  I did no
longer flee from sudden drenching showers.  I merely rolled my
provisions, my watch, my matches in my waterproof and protected
them as best I could, letting the rain soak my clothes as it
listed.  Nothing seemed to do me any harm.  I felt fit and able to
cope with any difficulty, amply equal to any feat of athletics.  I
prided myself on strength and endurance.

The woods began to flame on the east sides of the ridges.  But on
the west side of the divide, beyond Altoona, where the waters drain
into the Mississippi basin, they were still green.  To pass to the
west slope seemed like experiencing a resurrection of summer after
fall had come.  The waters seemed warmer there, and so did the air.

And now, to close this chapter of dim reminiscences, I have to
explain a general attitude towards things and scenes which I find
it hard to grasp in thought and harder still to formulate in a
medium as coarse and lacking in delicacy, and as unfamiliar to
myself as language is.

Every morning I awoke as to a feast.

I was young, in the early years of manhood.  My whole body and soul
were astir with the possibilities of passion.  Love was not only a
potentiality; it was a prime need, it was a craving, a cry of my
innermost being.

And this love had no object except the woods, the mountains, the
streams; bird, insect, beast, gossamer threads, smoky haze, the
smell of the earth.  These, or more briefly, the country, I loved.

My love for it was not the love for a friend--which is the love for
that which is not; it idealizes, substitutes, omits, redraws.  It
was not the love for the mother--which is the love for origins,
help, food, shelter, care, guidance, akin to gratitude.  It was the
love for the bride, full of desires, seeking all things, accepting
them, craving fulfilment of higher destinies.  Forgotten was where
I came from; forgotten what I had gone through; forgiven in advance
what I might rush into and still have to suffer.  Every fibre of my
being yearned.  And though what lured me was nature, yet it was
also America.


I Lose Sight of Mankind

I had reached the Ohio River, with the state of Ohio to the right
and West Virginia to the left.  The river ran shallow between
great, rolling hills.  Farms dotted the rich bottom-lands of the
flood-plain.  The huge scaffoldings of oil-wells began to obtrude.
The nights began to be cooler; rainy spells were apt to be cold
spells now and to last for days.  My capital had melted to two or
three dollars.

It was somewhere in Ohio, with the town of Wheeling not far off
across the river.  Never did I go out on the road; I followed the
river exclusively.  Sometimes great paddle-steamers lay stranded in
mid-current; big timber-rafts were anchored or drifted past with
their crews.  To see men who followed such occupations seemed to
bridge the chasm between myself, the nomad who lived off the land,
and the settled portion of mankind for whom I still had nothing but
aversion.  I looked at those men on the rafts with longing and

Progress along the river was sometimes difficult, sometimes
dangerous.  I had to climb over the rocks on the throw-side; to
wade through the mud of the flats on the inside of curves.  By this
time I had discarded my shoes, which I carried in my bundle,
together with gaiters, stockings, and coat.  I began to notice the
wear and tear on my clothes, and it worried me.  I began to feel
that the time was bound to come when I should have to fit myself
again into the great machinery of civilization; I dreaded its

One morning I awoke to a sunless sky.  A raw wind was blowing,
lashing the river into short, angry waves which ran against the
current.  I was on the inner side of a long, flat curve, the bank
being filled in with fine, alluvial deposits of the river.  Every
step which I took made a hole in this soft mud which instantly
filled with water as I withdrew my foot.

I was coughing when I started out.

I knew I was near some industrial centre--Wheeling, I suppose--and
I wanted to get past it that day.  It was hard to walk with fair
speed.  But I hurried on.  I remember how I worked myself into a
sweat while I plodded along in the shelter of some vast, low ridge
of gravel running out into the angry river.  When I rounded it, the
raw, bleak blast of the wind felt grateful for a moment; I sat down
on a block of stone.

By noon I felt there was something wrong with me.  I counted the
beats of my pulse and found it careering along at fever-rate.  A
dread seized me that I might break down and be found by men who
might want to take care of me.  It did not matter to me what
happened; I could have dragged myself into some cave to stay there
and to die; but I did not want charity.  The district in which I
was seemed densely populated; the farther I went, the more so it
was.  There seemed to be no other way; I had to get through, past
those towns which lay ahead.  But the more I exerted myself, the
harder it became to keep moving, and the oftener I had to sit down
and to rest.  At last I saw a bridge which crossed the river ahead.
To the right, on my side of the water, there was a large mill, some
iron-works, as I conclude from the outline of the picture in my

A fine drizzling rain began to fall, lashed and driven home by the
wind.  I began to sneeze and to cough in ever more violent attacks.
My head was a whirl; but I plodded on.

It was late; I began to see that at best I could not get far beyond
the town.  Still, I rested and dragged myself forward again.  To
the last I had only one thought; to escape observation.

By the time that I saw the bridge looming overhead, lights were
burning on both sides of the river.  From behind, where the mill
towered, the clangour and roar of big industry sounded down.  I was
sitting on a rock again; the rain was coming down through my thin
clothes.  I had no thought any longer; I did not even realize my
misery, which was merely physical.  When I tried to rise and
proceed, my knees gave out under me; I fell to the ground.

I groped for a spot that might be smooth.  I found a mound of sand
and lay down.  Thus I remained for an hour or so, soaked to the
skin by the rain.  Then I proceeded to make myself as comfortable
as I could.  I worked my body into the moist sand, making a mould
of it which hugged half my body and half the legs which I had drawn
up.  Without rising I untied my bundle, took my coat out, wrapped
my provisions again in the waterproof, stowed the bundle away in
the angle between body and thighs, pulled the coat over my
shoulders, and lay back again.  My head was lying towards the
river; my back turned to the wind.  The rain was increasing in
force and in quantity; but gradually I became aware that by some
freak of chance I had blindly picked on a spot that was, as far as
the rain went, largely sheltered by the great span of the bridge

Long, long lay I awake there, watching the lights move about on the
high bank where the mill stood.  Green lights and red lights they
were, and occasionally the white glare of a shunting engine.

I was glad that the bank was so high; it lessened the danger of
being detected.  I was grateful for the shelter which the bridge
afforded.  And I was not without a feeling of comfort, for I was
warming the sand that formed the mould in which I lay; I never
stirred, instinctively conserving all the heat of my body.

I fell asleep.  And I lay awake again; I was awake all through the
fitful dawn.  I was conscious--over and above, or maybe below that
clangour and roar of the mill--of a strange sound, as if water were
tearing and rushing along at an unusual speed; and when I had
adjusted my ear, so it would pick out these sounds and neglect the
louder ones which proceeded from the mill, I heard, lifted above
the subdued swish, set off against it, the short, playful lapping
of eager little wavelets, very close at hand, yes, coming nearer as
I listened.

I lay thus for hours.

Great white clouds were sailing in a blue sky.  The wind was gusty;
I was wet all though.  But so long as I did not stir, I did not
feel cold.  Only when I moved the least little bit, just my feet,
or my leg, for the smallest fraction of an inch, a cold wave seemed
to run into my body in unexpected places.  Slowly I realized that I
was lying in water; the water came up from below; but I did not
care.  Although it came to be torture not to move, I forced myself
to a strict rigidity; I concentrated my attention and a passionate
effort on this one thing: not to move.  I must have fallen asleep
again over that.

Then I felt a touch in my back; it was repeated; it was a rough
touch; I lifted myself in sudden anger.

There, towering above me, stood a huge, hulking man with one or two
things--the cap, maybe, or a badge--suggesting the policeman.

He was kicking me with his foot, not violently, but insistently.
He said, "Move on, there!  Or I'll have to run you in.  No vagrants

I gathered myself together and staggered to my feet--swaying like a
man in his liquor.  I did not say a word, picked my bundle up, and
stumbled away with a supreme effort, reeling.

The river had changed overnight.  It had risen several feet and
increased tremendously in width.  Its floods were yellow and
gurgled along, carrying a strange assortment of drift.

Once I got over the first shock of moving it was not bad.  I felt
that I was still feverish; but I was rested; and for the moment the
problem was to establish a routine of movements which might proceed
automatically.  That was a problem not so easy of solution on
ground which was soft, with an infinitude of various-sized pebbles
and stones embedded in it.  But I got away from the town.

The morning was showery, the wind blew in squalls; the air was not
warm; but whenever the sun came out, it shone with great power.  I
plodded on for several hours.  Then I began to feel that it was
imperative for me to partake of some food.

At last I came to a point where the river bent to the south.  That
made my, the northern, bank the throw-side of the current.
Consequently it was steep and rocky, all movable sediments having
been washed away by previous floods.

In one place rocky ledges jutted out over the river, like platforms
arranged in a succession of steps, the lowest one being just a few
inches above the water, the higher ones receding more and more.
One of these upper platforms consisted of a rock-ledge six inches
thick and protruding over the lower one for a distance of two or
three feet, thus leaving a roofed-over space some three feet high.
The yellow river shot by with great speed.

I stopped for the day; I had all I needed and all I could expect: a
smooth, dry, rocky floor, shelter from the wind, a roof to ward off
the rain, and a natural nook in the rocky shore which caught and
held the heat of the sun.  It was quite a find.

I unwrapped my bundle.  It was moist inside, but not wet.  The
matches would not strike right away, but they were not completely
spoiled.  The oatmeal needed drying, too; but things looked pretty
cheerful.  A sharp pain in my side, however, warned me that I had a
touch of pleurisy.  I took my water-soaked clothes off and shrugged
my bare body into my raincoat.  Then I caught water from the river
and let it stand for the mud to settle while I prepared a fire.  My
clothes I spread over the ledges to dry them; and whenever a shower
came, I stowed them away under the platform to protect them from
further wettings.  Then I went into the willow-brush higher up on
the bank to lay in a store of firewood; and by two or three in the
afternoon I felt quite comfortable.

But the showers began to be more frequent and threatening again.
They were thunder-showers now, bringing swift and violent outbursts
under which the rocks quaked and shivered.  I lay under my ledge,
having spread a bed of willow-boughs, and using my clothes as

The world seemed to belong to me.

Sheet-lightning and sudden thunderstorms kept up all night; and
even the following day, when the river had risen so as to cover the
lowest rock-ledge, the weather looked still so threatening that I
resolved not to quit my camp.  The pain in my side was gone; once
more I felt the exuberance of youthful spirits.

This day was memorable for me because I learned to watch the drift
of the river for things that might be useful.  I went half a mile
upstream; and whenever I saw something coming which caught my eye,
I swam out.

One of the first things which I brought to shore was a large
teakettle.  True, after I had washed out the mud it contained, I
found it leaked a little; but that hardly mattered, the leak was
not big enough to let the kettle run empty in less than half an
hour.  This teakettle which I carried henceforth for eight or ten
weeks became one of my most highly prized possessions; it solved a
problem which I had long been pondering.  Beyond the realm of the
river, on the higher bottom-lands of the ancient flood-plains,
stretched vast fields of corn.  I did not reflect on the moral
aspect of the matter--I simply levied my toll henceforth, picking a
few ears here and a few ears there.  It was fodder corn, of the
flint variety; and it soon needed anywhere from one to six hours
boiling to soften it enough for profitable digestion in a human
stomach; but it did away with the irksome buying of oatmeal which
threatened to exhaust my funds.

Few people have an idea of the value and the variety of the river-
drift after heavy rains.  The next thing that attracted my
attention on this day was a round, shiny, yellow object that bobbed
up and down, looking for all the world like the bald skull of a
human being.  I was half afraid of going near it when I swam out.
It proved to be a pumpkin; I brought it in.

Along towards evening I made my biggest find: a box containing a
perfectly well-preserved ham of a well-known packer's brand.  This
ham taught me the first of a series of lessons which I was slow to
profit by.  You must not forget that this was not altogether a
pleasure outing.  It goes without saying that I tried to palm it
off as such to myself as well as to the rare people who spoke to
me--a clam-fisher here and there, or the attendant of a lock.  I
never took food any longer more than twice a day; and often it was
not very satisfying.  In fact, I do not think that I am going
beyond the limits of the truth if I state that I had accustomed
myself to a perpetual feeling of hunger.  This evening I carved,
with a pocket-knife, a pretty little corner off this ham; I boiled
it, together with a quarter of the pumpkin, in a tin-can.  I boiled
it till it was deliciously tender.  And then, not having partaken
of meat for the last six weeks or so, I devoured it like a
cannibal.  Half an hour later I was violently ill; I found I could
not retain the food I had eaten.

Another trifle had gone wrong in connection with this ham.  When I
brought it in, the current had swept me too far downstream, and I
attempted a landing at my ledges.  The speed of the current was
considerable there, fifteen miles to the hour, I should say.  And
in my attempt to reach out for the ledge while I was being carried
by I had grazed a submerged rock with my knee.  When I was ashore
again, I found that the point of the rock had cut a bad gash across
it, two and a half inches long and as deep as the bone underneath

Next morning my leg was sore and stiff, and since I did not feel
overly fit--a consequence of my indigestion--I resolved to stay in
camp for another day.

The whole previous day it had been raining off and on, in violent,
fitful showers; often I had been forced to retire under my rock-
ledge for shelter.  The river had still continued to rise.  But
this third day at the camp proved to be one of those glorious days
of the fall when time seems to stop and to stand still.

Downstream lay a wooded island, dividing the river into two broad
arms.  The huge domes of the trees on this island seemed, in the
sunlight of the early morning, to be fashioned of dark-green gold.
The arms of the river to both sides looked like gates into a beyond
which called and beckoned:  Come, oh come!  I fretted at being

There is a distinct gradation in the things the river picks up when
it rises.  I have seen a creek take all the breakfast paraphernalia
from a roofed-over porch on which a coloured household had been
sitting when the rainstorm started.  The rise of the waters in the
steep little creek was so sudden that, when they rushed away to
secure other things about their yard, chairs, table and dishes had
been swept off that porch before they had thought of their being in
danger.  Large logs, meanwhile, which they had felled for their
winter's fuel, got caught in the brush surrounding the farm and
settled down with only a slight dislocation when the flood ran out
without going beyond a certain level.  But from the opposite bank,
helpless to interfere, I had watched the sugarbowl, from among
their dishes, set out on its merry jaunt to the Gulf of Mexico,
going at an amazing rate.

On this third day of the rising river hewn timbers, large logs and
similar heavy freight began to travel downstream.

And they gave rise to, nursed, and finally launched a new idea.
Why not make a raft and embark and let the river carry me on its
patient back?

Nor did it take me long to suit my actions to the thought.  I was
on the throw-side of the current; heavy things swept very close
along that last, submerged ledge, sometimes touching it and
rebounding.  The ham had been abundantly tied with a fairly stout
cord.  The little box furnished boards with nails which were short,
but sufficient, I thought, to hold the two or three logs together,
which I needed to carry me.

I lay down at the edge of the lowest platform, pocket-knife in hand
to use as a grappling-hook.  I made my first catch, a log which
came floating down crossways to the current.  I buried my knife
into its one end with such force that, when it gave under the
impact, I nearly followed it, head first.  I had to strain every
muscle in order not to let go of both knife and log; but when it
swung around, into the current, its pull eased off, and I guided it
into the sheltered pool below the ledges where I tied it with my
cord to a projection of the rock.  Soon I had three logs which
promised well.  Then I saw a board floating by; and I remember
distinctly what a feeling of anticipation of pain it gave me to see
large nails sticking out of them; I could not help imagining
vividly how it would feel to step on them with bare feet.  But I
wanted some of those boards for the top of my raft.  To swim out
after them was out of the question, on account of my sore and
swollen knee.  Yet I set out, limping upstream to where the bank
sloped down more gently and evenly.  And then I saw something which
sent me rushing into the water: a wide board or plank or whatever
it might be.  I could nearly reach it before I had to relinquish my
toe-hold on the river-bottom.  I was swept off my feet for a second
or so.  But I had the precious thing, and I threw myself back,
holding on to it, pulling with all my strength, striking out with
one foot.  My whole body floated under that plank or whatever it
was.  My toe hit something there; I gave a yell of pain; but I did
not let go; and the next second I came to with a terrific jolt and
crash: we had brought up against the ledge of rock.  Already the
force of the current was swinging me out into the river; but with a
twist of my body I threw myself on that lowest, submerged ledge and
found myself lifting the whole thing bodily out of the water: a
long, wide kitchen-table.  God knew where the river might have
picked up such loot; I laughed and danced about on the ledge,
pulling the thing up and setting it on my platform.  I went all
around it and examined it carefully.  The top was warped, but that
was nothing; one of the legs had nearly been broken off by the
impact on the ledge, and it stood sadly awry, but what did that
matter?  Here was what I needed: this table was going to ride
astraddle over my logs; it was going to be the top of my raft.

I looked myself over.  I had acquired quite a new crop of bruises
and scratches; but what was that?  I was going to ride along
henceforth; I did not need to walk any longer.

I went upstream to get my raincoat which I had thrown off when I
dashed into the water.  I was exulting over my find, and I was half
tempted to set out at once.

That night I ate carefully, cutting the thinnest possible slice off
my ham, and chewing it carefully and long.  But the mere taste of
meat nauseated me.

The story of my trip on the raft stands out with great clearness in
my memory.  There were fun and disaster, comedy and quasi-tragedy
enough in those two weeks to fill a book by themselves.  But all
that has little bearing upon the present story; I must skip.  I
shall, after a few brief hints, explain only how my raft came to

For a day or two it kept increasing in size; I soon caught more
logs and set the table over them crosswise.  That did not increase
the area of my deck--sixty by thirty inches--but, since there was a
greater buoyancy underneath, it lifted it higher above the water.
That I found desirable after I, with my whole outfit, had once or
twice been swept off by the wingwaves of passing tugs.  Another
improvement I introduced when I had lost that one leg which was
already badly loosened by my first collision with the ledge at the
camp.  The remaining legs would catch at snags and sandbars in
shallow water.  If I happened to be standing, I was shot overboard
by the sudden jolt.  One evening, while camping on a huge sandbar
pushed out by a tributary of the river, I removed them and,
swinging them aloft and bringing them down on the sharp edge of an
upended rock-slab, I broke them off short, leaving mere stubs to
slip over the logs and to hold them together.

I weathered another three or four days of rain--a slashing, driving
rain it was--with the table-top set up slant-ways as a roof,
covered on the outside with my raincoat.

At first I always landed for the night.  Then, tentatively, I began
to sleep on the raft, drawing my legs up and lying on my side, with
a layer of willow-boughs for a mattress, the whole craft being tied
to some overhanging tree.  That eventually led to the loss of the

One evening I discovered, just before it was time to land and to do
my cooking, the trumpet-shaped mouth of a creek which emptied into
the river.  The river being still high, though falling, this creek-
mouth resembled a drowned valley.  There was no current; the water
stood perfectly still and clear.  I at once poled into it and found
it delightfully sheltered and calm.  At the mouth, this estuary
measured some sixty to seventy-five feet across, with high banks
rough with the underwashed roots of great willows, the peach-leaved
kind; inland it narrowed down, in the form of an isosceles
triangle, the perpendicular of which measured about a hundred feet.
There, at the apex, a miniature valley or chasm opened, ten feet
wide, with shallow, limpid, ice-cool water trickling down.

I resolved to tie up and to spend the night on the raft.  All went
to perfection, and by eight or so I was asleep.

Then, about midnight, a great commotion arose.  I awoke and sat up.
It was a dark night, but the stars stood out brightly.  All around
I heard the wild swishing and sucking of tearing water.  I noticed
that I was adrift; the thin cord had been torn.  I also noticed
that, for a few seconds, I was being shot, at great speed, out to
the open river.  I saw lights ahead--a chain of big river-scows
went upstream, the steam-tug labouring painfully against the
current.  I saw it all in a flash.  I expected the wingwave and
grabbed for my things so as to hold on to them.  Already, in front,
a black wall rose out of the water, rushing on, towards me.  The
next second my raft was uptilted and thrown over, upside down; and
it and I were racing along at tremendous speed, back to the land,
and into the creek, and on and on.  At last, after having scraped
and knocked along and against a hundred obstacles, I was violently
deposited against the upper side of a rock, for the water was
running out again.  There I sat, stunned into insensibility by the
rough handling I had experienced.  All this had taken considerably
less time than it takes to tell it.  When I could think again, I
saw clearly what had happened and blessed myself for a fool.

All large river-craft, especially that going upstream, is, since it
throws the water back with its paddles, preceded by a powerful
suck; in front and abreast of it, the water, being churned into
swifter motion behind, starts to race downstream to fill up the
valley created there.  Then the big wingwave comes in which all
these waters mass together.  When this wingwave struck my trumpet-
shaped creek-mouth, a certain mass of water, measured by the height
and length of the wave and by the width of the trumpet at the
river-line, entered it with a given momentum.  Since the mouth
narrowed down towards its apex, the big wave was compressed from
both sides, and, since the mass of the water could not escape, the
wave rose in height, and its motion became swifter and swifter,
till it reached the chasm of the creek.  Its width being only a
sixth or so of the trumpet where it had first caught the wave, it
is a simple problem in mathematics to calculate the height and
speed of this "bore", as geographers call it.

It was a cold night, clear and cold; and, of course, I was drenched
to the skin and dripping.  I found that I was still holding on to
my coats; but where the rest of my things might be, I had no idea.
There was nothing to do but to make the best of it and to wait for
daylight.  Painfully I climbed the bank of the creek and emerged in
a cornfield; at last I came to a place where the huge stalks had
been cut and put up in shocks.  I crawled into one of these and was
grateful for the warmth it retained.

Next morning, with the first of the sun, I limped back to the creek
and found that my raft had been shattered into its component parts,
all of which lay high and dry where I could not move them.  I found
my kettle, badly battered, but still serviceable.  I found my bag
of oatmeal, none the better for a night's soaking, but still to be
dried and hoarded against a day of need.  I found my tea-tin in
perfect condition; and, after much searching, I found my watch--a
bequest of my grandfather's on the maternal side--smashed and
useless henceforth; but it, too, I picked up, of course.  I did not
find the remainder of my precious ham.

There was nothing to it--I dried everything and took to my feet
again; the idyll on the river was ended.

I had had a warning, too; the cornfields were being harvested.
When that source of food gave out, what was I to do?  The loss of
my raft was rather a disaster--a shipwreck in little.

My progress was slow and painful; but I kept going.

The nights were getting colder; everywhere the corn was being
husked; the leaves on the trees took on a dry rustle.  One morning,
when I awoke, I found the sparse vegetation on the river-sands
white with frost.  I did not mind the slight suffering caused by
the chilly nights--the days were still pleasant enough, as a rule.
But there was a threat in this coming of winter: what was I to do?


I Come Into Contact With Humanity Again

The valley of the river widened out; the islands which divided it
were larger now; sometimes one of the two arms was closed by a
weir, the other, by a lock.

I was more and more getting used to going hungry.  Sometimes I felt
a weird intoxication with hunger; at other times my mind seemed to
see things with extraordinary clearness and logic.

One day, about noon, I came to a place where a large island, in
outline like a pear, densely wooded, was connected at its upper end
by a narrow strip of sandbank with the shore along which I

An impulse of exploration made me cross over to the island.  Below
the sandbank which I followed, there was a dead arm of the river.
No doubt the sandbank was flooded after heavy rains, and the water
in this dead arm was swept out.  But the river was low at the time,
and with the big trees--sycamores mostly--overhanging the stagnant
water in the autumn sun, there was something infinitely quiet,
soothing, sadly reminiscent about the place.  I felt a desire to
linger.  The island proved a veritable trap for driftwood which I
had to climb over in order to penetrate into the sanctuary of its

Suddenly I heard a noise, the cracking of a dry limb, or the
snapping of a dead sapling.  I stopped and listened.  Not a breath
seemed to stir.  It was a perfect day for the season--clear, cool,
crisp, yet gratefully warm.  I felt as if I were confronted with a
great, decisive leave-taking.  Soon, soon I had to go back to the
world of man.  I wanted to drink to the dregs the last cup of
freedom vouchsafed.

The noise was repeated; and when I carefully scanned the trees, I
became aware of a man who was gathering wood, breaking dry limbs
and picking up drift.  I did not care to be interfered with in my
present mood; so I started on a silent, infinitely cautious

I returned to the northern river-bank and continued my way
downstream.  By the time I reached the lower end of the island it
was late in the afternoon; and I was watching the way the current
on the far side broke into an eddy where it touched the stagnant
water of the dead arm when a strange sight caught my eye.

From under the overhanging trees of the island a boat detached
itself.  It was loaded with brushwood.  The sticks had been laid
crosswise over the boat--making a load twelve to sixteen feet wide;
they were piled across its whole length, to a height of three feet
or more above the gunnel.  The load was so heavy that, where the
gunnel of the boat ran lowest, in the centre, there was not more
than one or two inches of freeboard above the water, the ends of
the lower sticks on both sides dipping into it.  On top of this
load stood, gingerly poised in midair, a tall, gaunt man who held a
long, straight pole with a boathook fastened to its end.  With this
pole which he moved slowly and carefully--balancing the while--he
guided the craft.  It looked as if he were performing a feat on the
tight-rope.  Fascinated, I watched.

He pushed out into the dead arm of the river, guiding his boat by
the lightest and deftest touches of the pole on limbs and trunks of
trees.  I marvelled at this exhibition of skill and strength
required for handling the enormously long pole without disturbing
the equilibrium of the overloaded boat.

All went well till he reached the end of the island.  But there he
miscalculated a motion.  The sticks of wood, where they reached out
on the far side, just dipped into the furious current that shot out
from beyond the point of the island; the next second his craft gave
a lurch, settled down, was caught in the eddy.  In order to recover
his balance, the man made a step to the side; the whole load tilted
over, and with a curious, grotesque twist of his body, he slipped
down into the water which splashed up high.  It looked so funny
that I burst out laughing.

But my laugh changed into a gasp: the man had gone down like a
stone.  Then his head bobbed up again--he was in the quiet water of
the dead arm; his boat had gone off, careering, with the current.
When he appeared at the surface, I saw that he was fighting wildly.
He went down again, a burst of bubbles showed the exact spot where
he was: he could not swim!

The weird feature of this life-and-death struggle was the absolute
silence in which it proceeded.  There had been no shout, no sound
beyond that of the splashing water.

Now I am--or was--by nature nearly amphibious, swimming and diving
being my favourite pastimes.  So, the moment I realized his danger,
I dropped what I was carrying, stripped off my coat, and plunged

When I got him, he seemed to have given up; but as soon as I jerked
him to the surface, he started to fight, grabbing wildly, impeding
my arms.  I shouted at him, but he did not cease.  So I whirled him
around, getting one hand under his chin and forcing his head back;
and simultaneously I lifted the other hand and brought it down,
edgewise, on the root of his nose.  He hung limp for a minute, long
enough for me to reach shallow water.  I hauled him ashore.  He sat
up, in a dazed, half unconscious way.  I left him.

This was an adventure for me, and I was pleasurably excited.  I did
not mean to leave my work half done.  I ran downstream, caught up
with the boat which had capsized, swam out, found its rope, took it
ashore, and tied it.

Then I returned to the man.  He got to his feet and shook himself
in a strange way, just as a dog would shake himself after a
wetting, or a horse when you pull his harness off after a hard
day's work.  I had never seen a man shake the water out of his
artificial pelt in just that way.  It had something contagious; I
found myself rehearsing the thing in anticipatory impulses; I came
near trying to imitate him.

There were other queer things about him.  His hair was long, like
that of a woman, grey; it was braided into a stout, long braid
which was twice laid around his head, like a turban.  His face, as
I see it very clearly in my memory, closely resembled the face of
Mark Twain in Carroll Beckwith's portrait, only that moustache and
eyes and shaggy brows were grey, and there was absolutely no
expression in his features.  He was fully as tall as I was--and I
am over six feet.

Again and again he shook himself, but when he stood still there was
something of the stiff and silent dignity of the turkey-buzzard
about him.  His expressionless face had an albino-like look.

You would expect a man to say a word or so when you have just saved
his life--"Much obliged, old chap"--or, "Thanks for going to all
the trouble"--but this man didn't.  He merely looked me over and
allowed his dead eagle-eye to rest for a moment on my things, the
kettle, the tin-cans, my bundle, all which I had been carrying
slung to a stick which rested on my shoulder.

His glance made me look down at myself.  His eye had been halting
for the fraction of a second on my knees.  They were shaking
violently.  I became aware that I was sick with hunger and weak
with fatigue from my exertion.  Also, of course, I was wet through;
and the evening was turning chilly.

The man walked off, up the bank, stepping with a strange leg-action
and an uncanny, nearly supernatural dignity.  Never a word he said.
I looked after him, dumbfounded.  But neither did I say a word.

Then, just as he was about to disappear in the willow-brush of the
upper bank, he looked back for a moment before he went on.  There
was no expression in his vacant, bold eye even then.  I could take
that look or leave it, just as I pleased.  I might interpret it as
a look of fear or as a summons.

I chose to take it for a summons.  I quickly picked up the
shoulder-stick with my things attached, threw my coat over its end
and followed him.

There was a wide band of shore-brush; through it led a narrow path
which I followed in the wake of the man.  The brush changed in
character: from the willows of the bank to the thickets of the
hillside--honey-locust predominating.

At last, half way up the hill, we came to a shoulder in the rising
ground which was cleared.  The path now led through a tiny corn-
patch to a hut beyond.  I could look out here to right and left,
for the corn had been cut and shocked.  There was no other human
habitation within miles on either side.  The sun was touching the
horizon exactly in the river-gap.

We entered the house.  It was built of lumber, unpainted, with that
silky-grey appearance which testified to the weather and the rains
of many years.  A large slab of stone served for a doorstep.

The arrangement of the room into which we came was as follows.  The
wall opposite the entrance held a small window, one and a half feet
square.  To the right there was a fireplace, built of the rough
stones of the hillside embedded in mortar.  Beyond it, a home-made
door of thin boards led into an adjoining room.  Along the wall to
the left stood a home-made table; for a seat, in front of it, an
upended box.  In the corner, behind the door through which we
entered, a rough bed was strewn on the floor: straw, covered with a
rag-blanket: at its foot two or three more blankets lay in a
crumpled pile.  At a glance you knew it for a bachelor's

My host crouched down, squatting stiffly on his heels and built a
pyre of woodsticks in the grateless fireplace.  Then he stood
again, whittled a small piece of soft, white wood into a fan-shaped
flowerhead of shavings, disappeared through the door into the
adjoining room, and reappeared in a minute or so with his stick
ablaze.  He applied it to the wood in the fireplace; the flame
licked upward.

He took his smock off and hung it on a nail.  His shoes and coarse
cotton socks he removed, too, and laid them on the floor, close to
the fireplace, along the wall.  He did not pay the slightest
attention to me.  He moved about in a sober, grave way, slow and
deliberate, with no unnecessary flourishes or bendings.

Thus he squatted down again, in front of the fire, but this time
with his back to it, warming himself.  His shirt began to steam
over his shoulders; then he turned and sat a while longer.  At last
he got up and went out.

I began to feel "creepy".

But, while he was outside, I stripped my wet clothes off and
slipped into my raincoat which was dry.  I looked out of the
window.  The tiny yard of this hermitage contained a well and a
large pile of just such wood as the man had lost.  It was closed on
the far side by a low building which seemed to serve for a pig-pen;
I saw the man throwing feed into its rail-enclosure and heard the
grunting of swine.

The man returned into the house and room before I had had time to
pick up my wet clothes.  He bent down and carefully hung them on
nails in the fireplace wall.  That was the first indication of the
fact that he was aware of my presence.

Next he busied himself at the table, pushing things about and
rearranging them.  He reached up somewhere into the now dark corner
over the bed and brought down a mug, knife, and fork.  It seemed so
much like a conjurer's trick that I nearly jumped.  But when I
looked closely, I saw that a box was nailed to the wall there,
serving for a cupboard.  Then he took a tin kettle from the table,
shook it--I heard the swish of water--took it to the window, peered
into it, and, finding the contents satisfactory, placed it on top
of the blazing wood in the fireplace, pressing it down to keep it
from tilting.

Then he went out again.

I felt strange.  Had I saved a lunatic from drowning?  His actions
were sane enough.  As for his head-gear, that hair when unrolled
must have reached down to his knees!  It looked as if he took care
of it; but that might be because it was wet.  There was a reddish
glint in his eye which was not really grey but whitish.  It
reminded me somehow, when at rest, of the eye of white rabbits;
when it moved, of that of an eagle; it was so imperious.

When he came in again, this time, he dropped something large and
light which rustled in the adjoining room and kicked the door open.
He carried a sooty lantern and an empty box.  The lantern he
suspended from a hook in the ceiling; the box he dropped close to
the door.  Then he pulled the table out from the wall, put his box
on one side of it, pushed the other with his foot to the opposite
side, and lifted the tin kettle which was spouting steam, with the
help of a stick passed through its handle.  At last he sat down on
his box.

Again he looked at me with a brief glance: take it or leave it;
again I took it and sat down.  He poured some of the contents of
the little kettle into a mug and pushed it as well as a pan of
unraised corn-bread and a tin of molasses across the table to my
place.  The beverage was tea, bitter with many stewings.  He
started to eat; and I, too, ate a little, very carefully, for I was
no longer used to such sumptuous fare, and more from courtesy than
from appetite, though I was hungry.

I concluded that the man was deaf and dumb.

When he had satisfied his hunger with great bites of corn-bread
soaked in molasses--he had a splendid set of teeth--he got up; and,
passing into the darkness of the adjoining room, gathered what he
had dropped there before.  It proved to be an armful of straw,
good, clean oat-straw too.

This he threw into the corner opposite his own bed, spreading it
out with a kick or so of his foot.  On it he dropped one of the
blankets which he picked up from the crumpled heap on his own side;
and he stood and looked thoughtfully at me.

Suddenly he reached up and took the lantern from its hook.  When he
entered the adjoining room, leaving the door open, I saw for the
first time that from its ceiling there were hanging down great
bunches of half dried and entirely wilted "hands" of tobacco.  So I
was in the tobacco-belt!  It also proved to be tobacco that he went
after; for when he came back, he held a large "braid" of it in his
hand; from which, after disposing of the lantern, he cut a generous

Again we sat for a while in utter silence.  I had found some
cigarette paper in a pocket of my raincoat, had rubbed some of his
"long-green" into granules and was smoking.  I pondered a problem.
I wished to speak, to say something.  But, after having been silent
so long, it seemed inconsiderate to start speaking now; there was
something indelicate about words; I gave it up.

His large, heavy hands were resting on his knees; his shoulders
were bent forward; he was staring into the fire which he fed from
time to time.  Suddenly I became aware that he was going to sleep.
His eyelids fell; he began to nod; his head shot forward; and he
pulled himself back, aroused.

As I got up, a sudden temptation was too strong for me.

"Suppose I'll turn in," I said.

I repented at once; the colour mantled my face; but not a flicker
in his features betrayed that he had heard.

Yet, seeing my motion, he, too, got up, slowly, stiffly, reached
for the lantern, and waited for my next move.  When he saw that I
turned to the litter of straw, he gave the lantern an expert jerk
which extinguished its flame.  Thus he deposited it on the floor
and rolled in.  There was enough light from the fire for me to lie
down by.

You can imagine that I lay awake a long while.  The mere fact that
I was under a roof was exciting.  Here I lay in the same room with
this man of sixty or more who looked like an oaktree, lived like a
hermit, and was either a lunatic or a deaf-and-dumb cripple.  Even
now he was weirdly silent.  He lay like a log, without stirring.  I
had expected to hear him snoring; I did not even hear him breathe.
Instead I heard mice and rats go through a veritable carnival of
running and jumping, capering and dancing.  At first I had pulled
the patch-blanket merely over my knees; but it turned pretty cold;
and when I did get drowsy, I forgot all squeamishness and rolled

I awoke with a start, becoming conscious of the fact that somebody
was moving about in the room.

The man had relighted the fire and was leaving through the door
when I opened my eyes.  I jumped up and felt my clothes which I
found dry.  While dressing, I looked around and wondered no longer
that I had been cold overnight.  There were large cracks in the
single boarding of the walls; lack of fresh air was no vice of this
habitation.  The wood used in the building was sycamore lumber; it
warps and twists when exposed to the weather.

The man gave no sign of recognition when he entered.  He had two
eggs in one hand, which he put on the table.  In the other he held
the little kettle, apparently freshly filled, for it dripped with
water; it he placed on the fire.

He went out again, and this time I noticed a peculiarity of his
footfall.  I found that, whenever he put his foot down, his heel
touched the floor first; and, after lifting it again, he brought
his whole sole down with a thump, walking in a knock-kneed way; he
was a high-stepper.

After breakfast he seemed in doubt what to do.  He moved aimlessly
about.  At last he went to the front-door, opened it as if to go
out, hesitated for a second, and waited for something to be said or

I was going to hang on to him.  He was not going to get off as
lightly as all that!  I had saved him from drowning, he was going
to keep me for a day or two!

So I made as if to follow him; and he held the door till I took
hold of it.

In the open, a subtle change in the landscape struck me very
forcibly.  There had been hoar-frost on the ground before; but to-
day the crust of the ground itself was frozen.  In the corn-patch
the stalks and weeds north and west of the shocks were still furred
with white.  The leaves of the honey-locust and the great sycamores
in the distant river valley were tinged with yellow.  Overnight the
season had changed from late fall to early winter.  The next storm
would bring snow!

My host wended his way down to the river and, beyond the willows,
along the pebbly shelf of the beach.

We went down to his boat.  He first pulled it up quite a piece on
the sandy shore.  It was a strong, heavy boat.  Then, with a
powerful heave, he turned it on its keel.  He, I say; for though I
made a pretence at helping him, I was so weakened by my late mode
of life that my efforts, had they been needed, would not have
counted for much.  Then he launched the boat back into the water,
took the rope in, and laid it down in the bow.  For a moment he
stood helpless, looking around.  Apparently he was baffled because
the pole was lost, which he had not realized so far.  He went up to
the edge of the beach, where the ribbon of the high-water drift was
deposited, and selected a pole there.  When he came back, he
climbed into the boat.

Again, as at the door, he hesitated awkwardly.  I climbed in after
him; and at once he began poling upstream.

When we came to the quiet water in the dead arm, he landed; but
since he did not fasten the boat beyond running it on to the sand,
I did not follow him.  He disappeared into the willow-brush; and
after a short interval he returned, carrying another long pole and
a tin dipper.  He tilted the boat, climbed in and bailed the water

Then we went for a load of wood.  He piled it just as high as the
day before, possibly feeling safe in my presence, but he pushed
across the dead arm before we reached the point of the island.
This dead arm was strangely deep.

I stayed all day, and the next day, too.  We kept at work; he
carried the wood up with the help of a rope, slinging it on his
back in huge bundles.

The third morning, while we had our breakfast, I thought I saw a
change, an ever so slight change in his manner.  I cannot define it
in detail.  One trifle lingers in my memory.

When I had helped myself to molasses, he took the tin and, before
helping himself, he looked into it, hesitating.

Maybe he considered that by two days and three nights of
hospitality he had paid for the slight service I had been able to
do him.  It is true, I helped him with his work; but when a person
can do a piece of work by himself, he cannot afford to hire help at
the expense of a diminishing supply of molasses in the tin.  I
agreed with this unspoken argument and made up my mind to leave.

When, after breakfast, he went to feed his pig, I rolled my bundle
and tied my things to the stick.

He returned after a while but did not pay any attention to my
preparations beyond a casual glance at the bundle on the floor.  I
sat for a while longer.  Apparently he was getting ready to bring
in another boat-load of firewood against the winter.  At last he
opened the door and stepped out, holding it for a moment, as was
his custom, till I made a move.  I picked the shoulder-stick up and
followed.  And down we wended our way to the river.

I felt soft in my heart.  We had not made friends, but I had
enjoyed his quiet, matter-of-fact hospitality.  I should have liked
to shake hands, to say a word of thanks to this man with the
braided hair whose life I had saved.

When we reached the boat, we stood for a moment, awkwardly, he
holding the pole in one hand, the rope of his craft in the other,
and looking out to the water, as if waiting.  I did not know what
to do; with a shrug of my shoulders I turned.

Then I stopped and said, "I suppose, it's about time for me to be

And something startling happened.  The man spoke.  He spoke with an
effort, twisting his whole body in the act, the words sounding like
those of an overgrown boy when he is changing his voice, hoarse,
unexpectedly loud and husky.  It looked and sounded as if he were
heaving the words up from, let me say, his abdomen and ejecting
them forcibly.

What he said, was, "I reckon."

Then he climbed into his boat and pushed off without as much as
once looking back.

That was my first encounter with a human being in more than three

It affected me profoundly, probably because it came at a critical
moment.  As for the peculiarities of this representative of the
genus homo, I did not feel called upon to judge him.  I did no
longer forget that possibly my own mentality would seem abnormal
to most people with whom I might come into contact.  Certain
conceptions which were dimly forming in my mental recesses made me
question the value of much that was highly prized by other men.  I
had found, for instance, that talking largely keeps you from
thinking.  Without reading as yet, certain passages in the story of
Jesus had taken on a profound and new significance for me.  A deep-
rooted suspicion of all that is called learning, progress, culture
pervaded all my thinking.  I was no longer so sure of my
superiority over those who had not received my "education."  I had
come to regard education as pretty much the opposite of what, in a
sane world, it should be.  It seemed to me to be a process of
filling old wine into new skins.  I began to suspect that there
might be more wisdom in this "hermit's" mode of life than in that
of the most refined and cultured scholar.  Yes, I sometimes doubted
whether he might not have deeper, truer thoughts than any one I had
ever met before.  Certain sayings of Christ's--in the sermon of the
Mount, during the last supper--sayings which in the common
interpretation were just words without meaning--gradually grew upon
me.  More and more my thoughts began to circle around Jesus.

But I had gone out on a search when I started these tramps; I began
to see that the search had been beside the point.  So long as my
search remained geographical, it must of necessity be a failure; at
the same time this geographical search, though it might not bring
me nearer to the thing sought for, was slowly fitting me to
undertake the real search.  Also, it taught me toleration.

Still, the give-and-take of the world was not to be forgotten.  I
should have to give as well as to take.  These three days at the
hermit's house were earned.  What I had done for him was in my own
estimation worth what he had done for me--though, what I had done
for him seemed trifling indeed because it had been so easy for me.
But I came to the conclusion that in the long run only one kind of
work would do for me--and that was precisely work which did come
easy: work which I should choose as play, as a pastime if I were
not driven to it by necessity.  If I could have earned a permanent
living by pulling out of the river a dozen drowning people a day, I
should have been glad to go to work right then.  Unfortunately
people were not reckless enough to risk their lives in order to
provide a living for somebody else.  So I could not rely on finding
off-handedly what I was looking for.

On the other hand, once the problem was clearly grasped, makeshifts
lost some of their repulsiveness.  If it was understood that, no
matter what I might undertake to do, provided it was useful,
provided it was in some way productive, even though it went against
my nature and could not in the long-run result in that profound
satisfaction which we all crave--in the "abundance of life", in
Jesu words--if it was understood that I could drop it whenever it
became irksome, then, I believed, there were a great many things
which I could do.  Why not, for instance, help a farmer with his
work?  Why not go into some office and add up figures?  One thing
only was debarred from all my thoughts: selling in any form
whatever.  All selling at a profit was, for me, tinged with that
taint attaching to Mr. Wilbur's game.

I began to feel more cheerful about my outlook.  I began to see
things not without a sense of humour.  I even reasoned this way.
Suppose I undertook to do what I did not know the first thing
about: was I not eminently adaptable?  Might I not quickly pick up
the tricks of almost any trade and give an employer complete
satisfaction even though, without knowing it, he had to teach me
first how to do it?  I did not care to get something for nothing;
but if a man insisted on experience, well, might I not humour him
for a while and later tell him that, when I started, I had had no
experience whatever?  I began to rehearse imaginary interviews
which sometimes made me laugh.

The river banks and the hills beyond had donned their most gorgeous
garb.  Yellow and orange tints prevailed; but here and there the
scarlet of an oak or a hard maple was embedded in it like a softly
glowing flame.

Night-frosts were the rule now rather than the exception.  The
river itself, though during the noon-hours the waters still seemed
warm, especially in shallow bights, took on a look of chill,
particularly in the early morning when white, thready mists
sometimes filled the whole valley and sometimes merely covered the
surface of the water with curling veils.

A railroad ran close to the river for a while; it seemed sent by
Providence for my especial benefit; for I found it easy to discover
some culvert or short viaduct bridging a creek or a gully and
yielding shelter for the night.  A little fire goes far to heat
even the out-of-doors if it is built so as to have its heat
reflected from a wall behind or a roof overhead.  I was careful to
extinguish even the last spark of the glow in the morning, carrying
a kettle of water from the river and pouring it over the ashes if
they were still warm when I left.

It was under such a culvert that I had my next encounter with

One afternoon it began to rain; soon snow was mixed with the
falling drops; and since a raw wind was blowing, this mixture
became increasingly disagreeable.  The drops struck through my thin
clothing; they were cold, chilling me to the bone.  I began to look
for shelter, going up to the track and following it.  I was out of
luck, for I had to go a long while before I found what I wanted.
It was dusk when I saw a cross-valley ahead.  When I neared it, I
went out on the cinder-slope; and I was just jumping down into the
bushy hollow below when I caught the gleam of a light.

At once I stood rigid; I still had the instinct to withdraw when I
expected to meet man or woman.  For half a minute silence

Then a pleasant though rough voice called out, "Come in!" and
laughed at its own joke.

I jumped across the little brook bridged by the culvert and stepped
out into the light of the fire.

"Hello, pal," the same voice said; "come on; supper's ready."

I saw a little man, round-faced, round-bellied, with a week's
stubble on cheeks and chin and the pleasantest laugh on his
features which I had seen for a long while.  He was squatting
behind the fire over which a kettle hung suspended; the appetizing
odour of broth struck my nostrils; I threw my bundles down.

"Coming far?" he asked.

"Not very."

"Kind of cold out-doors to-night," he went on, laughing.  "Want a
roof overhead."

He looked me over with open scrutiny.  I was not sure whether to
stay or to proceed; but I wanted to get warm first.

So, while he rambled on, I squatted down.

"Got a cup?" he asked.

"No," I said; "I have some tins."

"Just as good," he nodded, "just as good.  Help yourself.
Squirrel-stew.  Mighty nice."

I complied; and meanwhile my eyes began to roam.  It was clear at a
glance that this was a more or less permanent camp.  There was
straw tucked away in the angle between creek-bank and culvert;
there was quite an outfit of dishes; overhead a large sheet of tar-
paper was carefully stretched across the joists.

"Been here long?" I asked.

"Quite a while," he said, "quite a while.  Nice place too; but
you've got to watch out for the section-gang.  They steal like
rats.  I always break camp in daytime."

The stew was very good indeed; but I did not dare to do much beyond
tasting it; I knew the danger that lurked in too-nourishing food.

The little man kept up a rambling, inconsequential talk.  "Well," I
said at last, "I suppose I'll be moving along."

"Moving?" he asked, offended.  "I guessed you were booked for the

"I was," I said truthfully; "but . . ."

"Don't let me push you out," he said; "I don't pay rent here.
Say," he added animatedly, "yez aren't afraid of me company, eh?"
He chuckled.  "Afeard of me!  Say, pal, I'm the harmlessest feller
on earth, even though I'm wanted."

"Wanted?" I asked blankly.

"Yes," he said.



He pulled a crumpled sheet of paper out of his pocket, carefully
spread it on his knee, and smoothed it with a rough hand.

It was one of those sheets sent out by the police of the larger
centres to rural authorities, containing pictures and descriptions
of people who are "wanted".

He pointed to one of the portraits and said, not without a touch of
pride, "That's me."

"But what do they want you for?"


"Bravery?" I repeated, puzzled.

"Yea," he said.  "I skipped.  Knocked a guard on the bean and
walked out."

"Oh," I said, "I see.  You have broken jail?"

"That's it," he nodded.  "Didn't really mean to.  Only I didn't
want to let them turn me out in winter.  Shouldn't have minded if
it had been summer.  Too much trouble to get back again.  Don't
mind it yet.  Still nice outside.  But in winter you want a roof
over your head."

"Well," I said at last, "running away from the roof does not
exactly seem the way to get under it."

"It doesn't?" he countered.  "Shows what you know about it.  I'm
going to get caught after a while," he elucidated.  "Pal of mine--
lives up there," and he pointed up the bank, "he's going to catch
me and make two hundred bucks out of it, too."  He chuckled again.

"How about myself?  Aren't you afraid I might betray you?"

"You?" he laughed contemptuously.  "I'll trust ye."

I wondered why.  He looked at me, appraisingly.


"What do you mean?  I?  No, I'm looking for work."

"Work?" he exclaimed and laughed again.  "I wouldn't pick it up if
I found it.  What kind of work?"

"Any kind," I said.  "Want a roof overhead in winter."  I grinned
at him.

"Wall-l," he said, "mebbe I c'n help ye."

And he told me of a large farm, a little to the north and the west
along the main road to Cincinnati, a company-farm, as he called it,
where help was always wanted, so he said.

After a while he spread his straw, and we rolled in.

I had been lying for some time, trying to go to sleep when a
thought struck me.

"Sleeping?" I asked.

"No," he replied.

"I was wondering what you had gone to jail in the first place for?"

"Punched an officer on the jaw."

"What did you do that for?"

"Cause I wanted to go to jail."

I pondered that.  I began to see light.  But I wanted to make quite

"Why?" I asked at last.

"Cause I like it there.  That's why."

At that we left it.

Next morning I thanked him for his hospitality and struck out for
the road to the company-farm.


I Try to Find Work for the Winter

The "company-farm" was easily found.  Its gigantic barns showed
from a great distance; I approached it about noon.  The barns
occupied the eastern third of the yard.  To the north there stood a
pleasant-looking, white-painted dwelling with a little lawn in
front.  To the west, a small, white house stood next to the road;
behind it stretched a long, low building painted red, the purpose
of which I could not make out but to which some men whom I
overheard later referred as the "bunk-house."

I stopped at the gate and dropped my bundle.

A number of men, some of them coloured, but most of them white,
came in from behind with heavy teams.  They stopped at the barns,
tied the lines up, and led the horses into the buildings.  One team
was a mule-team.  I had never seen mules outside of the circus.  I
remember that I admired the careless way in which the driver
handled the slick and elegant-looking little beasts; I had heard
that mules kick.  I had always loved horses, and though I had
handled only drivers and saddle-mounts, I had no doubt but that I
could easily catch on to the intricacies of any work-harness and
establish a friendly relation between draft-horses and myself.  I
resolved to make that my "talking-point."  I was going to offer
myself as an experienced teamster.  I noticed that, after a while,
every man who had entered the stables came out again and, crossing
the yard, entered the little house on the west side, close to the

Then I saw a heavily built, tall man leaving the dwelling in the
background and crossing the yard to the barns.  He had an air of
authority about him and spoke to several men whom he met,
apparently giving orders or receiving reports.

I entered the yard.

The man disappeared behind one of the buildings; but in a short
while he appeared again in the door of the southernmost barn.  He
was talking to an undersized fellow who looked strangely dwarfed by
his side.  Then he nodded and started back towards the house from
which he had come.  He saw me lingering in the centre of the yard
and changed his direction.  When he approached, he looked at me
with a questioning glance.

"Are you the superintendent?" I asked.

"I am," he replied, briefly but not unpleasantly.

"I heard you are in need of help?"

He laughed and looked me over.  "No," he said.  "I have more hands
now than I can keep busy.  Harvest is over.  I'm thinking of laying
off rather than of hiring.  Had your dinner?"


"Well, there's the cook-house.  Better take a bite before you go
on.  I'll send word over.  New in this country?"

"Yes," I said.

"Tell you," he went on; "better hit the town.  Some factory or so.
No more work on farms this winter--unless you find one where they
keep stock."  He nodded.  "Go in with the men," he repeated.  "Have
your dinner."

And he walked off, calling to another man to let the cook know he
had sent me.

This other man fell into step at my side.

"Did he hire you?" he asked when we reached the cook-house.

"No," I replied monosyllabically.  I was thinking of my "talking-
point" which I had not even had an opportunity to use.  But I did
not feel depressed by my lack of success.  Against my expectations
I had been treated courteously.

We entered a large room with two long tables.  On both sides of the
tables a miscellaneous crowd was seated on benches.  Never, not
even in my days as a waiter, had I seen a number of men so
completely given over to the task or the sensuous pleasure of
eating.  "Pass the taters," "Soup, please," and similar exclamations
were the only words I heard.

My companion and I found seats.  He, too, devoted himself
immediately body and soul to the task in hand.  Everybody seemed to
be in a hurry.  Though several of the men looked at me, they did
not speak.  When a "flunkey" passed, my companion gave him the
message of the superintendent.

The food was good; there was plenty of it.  Soup, sweet corn and
cabbage in large dishes, potatoes, meat, and pie: it was the first
"square" meal I had seen since I had left New York in summer.  I
could not resist the temptation.  Though I ate sparingly at first,
towards the end I began to "fill up".  Most of the men drifted out
again, some lighting their corncob pipes; the smell of the burning
tobacco was sweet to my nostrils.

When I, too, got up, I felt drowsy.

Outside, north of the building, lay a huge pile of sawed wood.  An
axe was leaning against the pile; and with the impulse to pay for
the meal I had had I crossed over, picked it up, and started to
split the sticks.

Suddenly I felt faint; the world seemed to turn; a cramp convulsed
my stomach.  I had to rush behind the house; I could no longer
retain decent food.

But I returned to the woodpile.

Shortly after, I saw the superintendent in the yard again.  He,
too, saw me and came over.

"Don't waste you time," he said.  "Move on."

"I thought . . ."

"Yes, I know," he interrupted.  "Never mind.  That's nothing.
Where we feed a hundred, we can feed a hundred and one.  You can't
afford to stop where they've no work for you.  Get to the next

"Thanks," I said, dropped the axe, and walked off, though I could
not see any call for hurry.

That evening, I am afraid, I succumbed to self-pity.  I looked at
my thin arms and shook my head.  The worst of it was the
realization that in my present condition I had no right to ask for
work.  I feared that my digestive powers were permanently impaired;
that, to put it technically, I had lost the power to saponify fats.

I had delayed too long.  It was too late, too late!  Just when I
had begun to see light, when I wanted to live again because there
was a life's work to be done somewhere!  What that lifework was I
did not know; but it was there, somewhere, waiting for me; I should
find it; once found, it would put me entirely beyond all troubles
of an economic nature.  I had been sorely in need of this tramp.  I
felt forcibly that, as I was at the time, it constituted the most
important part in my education.  Nor was it ended; I felt sure of
that, too.  My education was proceeding apace.  But I had to
interrupt it for the time being; life seemed precious again, and I
could not winter on the trail.

I had delayed too long; and yet I delayed still longer.  There were
two reasons for that.  Firstly, the advice received from the
superintendent of the farm kept me from visiting other farms--it
withdrew the open country as a field for my endeavours; the city
which I was nearing now I did not want to try.  Remained the small
town; and the small town was terra incognita to me.  I did not know
how to approach it.  The second reason was that I fell in with a
man who was moving to Indiana.  He moved in a large, flat-bottomed
boat in which he offered me a ride provided I would act as pilot.
I accepted readily, for thus I could avoid Cincinnati.  Of this
boat-trip I remember little, except the river-view of the city and
comfortable nights in the open.  The first few days' tramp below
Vevay, where my companion landed, is also a blank in my memory.
But, if going "out west" could help me, this ride surely furthered
my plans.

Now, one chilly night, I had built a large fire on the beach-shelf
of the river.  I remember well how inky black the night was.  I had
been busy to the last, gathering a pile of dry drift to feed my
fire with overnight.

At last I sat down and toasted myself in the radiating heat.  I had
not been sitting very long when, out of the surrounding darkness, a
man stepped into the dome of light thrown up by my fire.  I was
startled; I had not heard him approach.

"Good evening," he said.

He was medium-sized, middle-aged, in decent workday clothes; a
mechanic, I judged, or a blacksmith.

I returned the greeting.

"Camping?" he asked.

"Looks that way, doesn't it?"

"Mind if I sit down?"

"Not at all.  Travelling?"

"No," he said.  "I live here; up in the house on the bank, this
side the town.  I saw your fire and wondered."

"Is there a town close by?"  I was none too well pleased.

"Yes," he said.  "Quite a little town, too.  Have a mill there."
He stated what kind of a mill it was; but I have forgotten.

"Getting to be pretty chilly for that sort of thing," he went on,
"isn't it?"

"Yes," I said, rather peeved at his obvious curiosity.

But he was not to be rebutted.  "Just out for pleasure?"

"No," I replied, "looking for work."

"That so?  What kind of work?"

I had a sharp rejoinder on the tip of my tongue and looked up.  The
expression in his face reminded me of Bennett, the first man who
had spoken to me in a friendly tone on American soil.

I withheld my rejoinder and said, "Any kind.  Anything I can do."

He looked at me for a while.  Then, "You don't look like an
ordinary tramp.  Don't talk like one, either.  Sounds as if you had
seen better days."

"The days are good enough right now," I said in order to evade the
question implied.  "It's the nights I mind."

He laughed.  "Guess you're right."

Again we sat in silence for some time.

"Ever worked in an office?"

"No," I replied, "not exactly.  Been a salesman, though, out on the

"Well, how did you ever . . ."

"Never mind," I interrupted him, not bad-naturedly, "that is a long

"Good at figures?"

I grinned.

He became eager.  "I knew it.  You've had an education."  He
pronounced it "eddication".  "I've never had much schooling myself.
Had to go out and earn my living when I was twelve.  But I can

"Well," I sighed, "education be hanged!  You're better off than I

"That's so," he agreed, "but if I had had an education, I shouldn't
be where I am."

"Maybe not.  You might be on the tramp."

"Yes," he laughed.  "I guess I should be satisfied as it is."
After a while he added, "We've got a mill in town.  I work there.
The boss needs a man for the office.  Must be good at figures, he
says.  You might suit him.  He's a funny fellow, kind of.  But if
you know how to take him, he's easy enough to get along with.  I've
been working for him going on fifteen years now."

"Well," I said, "I might try."

"Sure, do," he said; "if you don't hit it off with him, there's
Heini, the miller.  He runs a coal-yard.  Can you handle horses?"

"I suppose so."

"Well, he's looking for a fellow to deliver coal."

And so the talk drifted on a while longer.

At last my caller got up.  He hesitated.

"Say," he said, "makes me feel kinda bad to lie down in a warm
house and think of you out here.  Wish I could do something."

"Oh, I'm used to it."

"I can't take ye into the house," he mused, "the old woman is awful
perticular.  Ye wouldn't like it yerself."

"Don't bother."

"I've got a stable," he persisted, "with no horse or cow in it.
There's a hayloft upstairs.  It's clean, you know."

"Well . . ." I hesitated.

"You can just slip out in the morning," he urged.

"All right," I said, getting up.  "I won't need to bother about the

"No, that's right, too," he agreed, evidently pleased.

I threw sand on the coals of the glowing wood and scattered them
about.  When I followed him through the brush of the bank, we came
to a building.

"That's the stable," he whispered while he quietly opened the door.
"Wait.  Don't make any noise.  I'll get a lantern from the

He disappeared in the direction of the house.

Soon after, he returned with a burning lantern.  He chuckled.  "She
was setting in the kitchen," he whispered, half choked with subdued
laughter.  "Sound asleep.  I took the lantern away right under her

I smiled.

He showed me the ladder into the loft and another door through
which I was to leave in the morning.

"And say," he added; "if you've no luck and are still around to-
morrow night, I'll leave the lantern here by the door.  Come back.
I'll look some time in the evening.  If it's not there, I'll know
you're upstairs."

"All right," I whispered.  "And thanks."

Before long I heard the door once more, and I held my breath.  But
it was the man again.  His head appeared in the opening.

"Still sound asleep," he chuckled.  "Thought you might like a bite.
I can tell her I had the snack myself."

He put a plate on the floor of the hayloft.

"Well . . . thanks awfully," I said while he retreated.

The plate held the leg of a chicken and a few buns.

I thought of the couple in the house while I ate one of the buns
and chewed just one single bite of the chicken.  Some men, I
thought, have the instincts of mothers; their wives are like
dragoons!  I fairly saw a large-bosomed, big-boned woman sitting on
a straight-backed chair, arms folded, spectacles pushed up on her
forehead, very erect and sound asleep.

Next morning I was late, and I had a headache--from sleeping in the
hay, I judged.  A cat or rat had carried off the remainder of the
chicken-leg; I ate another bun and slipped out.

I went down to the river.  There was a thin shelf of ice along the
beach, the first ice I had seen on the water.  If I had needed a
reminder, here it was!

I shaved carefully that morning, and I spent an hour cleaning my
coat and shoes.

Then I hid my bundles in the willows and went to town.  For ever so
long I had not been in the streets of a town, and things looked
strange to me.  The houses seemed so small and so crowded.

There was a business square, and the stores--one of them called
itself a Department-Store--looked quaint in their provincialism.  I
felt greatly out of place.  More than by anything else this feeling
of awkwardness was caused by the fact that my hair had grown so
long as to be conspicuous; it curled in locks behind my ear.  It is
characteristic for the gregarian nature of our civilization that
such a trifle should put a man out.

I dug about in my pockets for the two or three small coins which I
still retained; there were seventeen cents altogether.  Then I
found a barber-shop, a tiny box of a house with the traditional
badge in front.

When I slipped in, I found it empty of customers, much to my
relief.  The barber proved willing to cut my hair for fifteen
cents; and I indulged in the luxury.  But I paid him many times
fifteen cents if I charge him for the trouble it cost me to evade
his many questions as to my aim in life, origin, and present
purpose.  He was as itching with curiosity as an income-tax report-
form.  When he finished with me, I looked at myself in the mirror.
My cheeks were thin; I was tanned to an astonishing depth; but my
clothes had stood up under my mode of life in the most wonderful
way.  I looked quite civilized now that my hair was cut.  I did not
realize how unmistakably foreign my breeches made me appear; it
took the war to make the average American accept breeches as
sensible leg-wear.

I enquired for the road to the factory.  Was I going to work there?
No, but I could find the superintendent there, could I not?  The
superintendent?  No, indeedy!  Not this time of the day!  He'd be
at the office.  And where might the office be?  He gasped, as if to
say, Truly, I did not seem to know anything at all!  The office was
down the street, a block or so; a little red building; I could not
miss it.

Well then, I went.  The office was found, and I entered.  There was
a front-room, with a young lady and a young man standing at high
desks in a grilled-off space to the right.  Beyond, a door with
frosted glass panels marked "Private" led into another room.

"Good morning," I said jauntily.  And, pointing to the glass door,
I raised my voice to a questioning inflection, "The superintendent?"

The young lady nodded.

I knocked.


I entered and found, sitting in a back-tilted swivel-chair at a
desk and smoking a cigar, a man of medium size, with a grey
moustache and a puzzled, dissatisfied look on his face.

"Name's Branden," I said cheerfully.  "I hear you are looking for
somebody who is good at figures?"

"Mebbe," he replied in an absent-minded, preoccupied way, busying
himself with papers on his desk.

"I am," I said confidently.

"You're what?"  He looked up.

"Good at figures," I smiled.

"Where'd you come from?"

"Down the river."

He drew his brows up, so that the skin of his forehead was pushed
together into innumerable folds.

I thought it was time to be serious.  I gave him a brief talk about
myself.  I had recently come into the country; had tried to find
work; had not been able to find anything congenial; had started out
west, on foot, since I had no money; I had had what is commonly
called a good education and felt able and was willing to do any
work that might have to be done around an office; as for
remuneration, I was prepared to start at any figure that would pay
my board.  It was quite a good little talk.

He listened patiently enough.  He even seemed still to be listening
when I had finished.  Then he sighed and settled back.

"Know a time-sheet?" he asked.

"No," I said, very earnestly now; "but I feel sure it will not take
me very long to find my way through it."

He looked up again.  "Feel pretty sure of yourself, don't you?"

"Not at all sir," I said.  "But I do feel sure that there can be no
great mysteries about the routine of an office.  I am willing to
work hard.  All I ask is to be given a chance.  Let me try for a
day or so.  If I find out that I cannot do your work, I shall be
the first to tell you so, and I shall not ask you for a cent."

"Let you try right now," he said with a smirk, cigar in mouth.  He
picked up a sheet of paper which lay on his desk and flipped it
over to me.  "I've been puzzling about a problem in 'rithmetic," he
said.  "Sit down.  Solve it."

I sat down and read it over.  I remember the problem, though not
the figures involved.  It was this:

"A pole 98 feet high breaks off, and the top strikes the ground 84
feet from the centre of the pole.  Where did the pole break?"

I reached for a pencil and wrote as follows:

"Let a be the distance from the ground.


           (98 - a)2 = a2 + 842

    9604 - 196a + a2 = a2 + 7056

                196a = 2548

                   a = 2548/196 = 13

The pole broke 13 feet from the ground."

This solution I pushed back to him across the desk.

He looked it over in a careless way, glancing at it sideways, past
his up-tilted cigar.

"Hm," he snorted.  "That's algebra!  I want 'rithmetic."

"Pardon me, sir," I said.  "The problem, as it stands, cannot be
solved in a purely arithmetical way.  It is a problem in elementary

He frowned.  "What?"

I repeated.  "The problem cannot be solved without the use of an

He laughed.  "We've got a principal in our school here," he said,
"who is a mathematical expert.  He gave this problem to my boy as
an exercise in 'rithmetic.  The boy has never had any algebra.  Do
you mean to tell me that you know more mathematics than our
principal of the school?"  He had spoken with a strongly rising
inflection in his voice.

I shrugged my shoulders.  "I don't mean to say anything except what
I said."

The man was on his feet now; both his hands came down on the desk
with a thump; the veins on his temples seemed to swell to the
bursting point; his voice was a roar.

"You know everything," he shouted, "don't you?  You know everything
better than anybody else?  You tramp!  Get out!"

I stood and laughed in his face.  Then, with another shrug of my
shoulders, I turned and left him.

In the grilled-off space of the front-room the young man and the
young lady were looking at each other, smiling furtively.  I saw
that they had heard.

When I closed the door of the private office, they craned their
necks to look at me.  Both smiled when I nodded across to them.

"Good morning," I said.

"Good morning," both replied and ducked guiltily down into their

I went back to the river.  The river was a great friend of mine
those days.  The river did not call me a tramp.  It did not bellow
at me.  It bore with me patiently.

A tramp!  Jesus had been a tramp!  There was nothing in the word to
cause pain.  If somebody had called me a swindler or a crook with
as much truth as this man had called me a tramp, it would have
hurt.  But a tramp?  What, then, was the discouraging thing about
it?  It was the intention behind the word.  The word was used with
intent to hurt.  Where did that intention come from?

I sat on the riverbank, head between knees.

Was this man "no good"?  I could not say that.  He might be a good
citizen, a good husband.  I even had some ground for the assumption
that he was a good father.  My friend of the night before had
called him a funny fellow; but he had added that he was easy enough
to get along with.  I must have antagonized him.  I had antagonized
people before.  What in me was it that did it?  I came to the
conclusion that it was the fact of my recent immigration.

What did it come to?  America had worried along without me.  There
seemed no reason why I should press myself upon her.  My life-work!
How could I ask these people to help me in order that I might be
preserved for some purpose which certainly would not benefit them?
It was easier to give in.

Jesus--Abraham Lincoln!  What nonsense to search!  The Lincolns
were living all about me, of course; there were thousands of them,
hundreds of thousands, millions!  If there were not, what with
graft, "con", politics, and bossdom the country would long since
have collapsed!  The very disease of the bodies politic and social
proved their fundamental health.  Who was I to think that anybody
in this country needed me?  And unless I was needed, I did not want
to stay.  I was not a parasite!

And yet I felt sure that, if I could only find them, the Lincolns
in this great commonwealth, the small ones and great ones, would
gladly stretch forth a helping hand; they would point out some
nook, some hidden valley maybe, where I, too, might help in
fighting back disease, be it on ever so small a scale.  They would
not call me a tramp, with intent to hurt.

And gradually, by the time the sun had reached the middle of the
western sky, I reasoned myself back into a different frame of mind.
I laughed at this manufacturer who was a victim of his own
dyspepsia.  How easy it would have been to answer yes instead of no
when he asked me about the time-sheet!  Such an answer might have
given the whole interview a different turn.  What did it amount to?
There could not be any great mystery about such a thing.  That
pleasant young lady would have been glad to point out its meaning
to me; and the young man, too.

I determined to make another attempt, to go uptown once more, to
see Heini, the miller.

I found the flourmill and entered the little office.  A counter
separated the front from the realm beyond.  Again there was a
little box of a private office partitioned off to the left; a
second door, behind the counter, apparently led into the mill.

It was through this second door that the miller entered.

He was a small, round little ball of a man, with a greying beard
and shoe-button eyes, a man of quick, soft movements, apologetic in
manner, pleasant-faced, pleasant-spoken--a German-American.  I do
not remember his name; for simplicity's sake I shall call him Mr.

"How do you do, Mr. Miller," I greeted him with a smile.

"No, no, no," he said with exaggerated energy, raising both his
hands.  "I don't want anything.  I no can use anything.  Nothing at
all!  Business is bad.  I don't know what we are coming to!  Chust
look out.  Look out through the window.  The coal-yard there.  Full
of good coal.  Best coal money can buy.  Go into town.  Chust go
into town and ask the peoples.  Ask them, I tell you.  Do they want
the coal?  Do they?  I tell you, they do.  Sure they do.  I've got
the coal.  They've got the money.  They want the coal, I want the
money.  But how?  Can I get the coal into their cellars?  Can I, I
ask you?  Can I?  I cannot.  For why?  I no can put the coal in a
paper-bag and tell them, There, take it.  I've got to send it to
them, on a wagon.  Have I got the wagon?  I have.  I have the mules
to pull it.  Nice little mules, slick little beasts!  Oh, they are
beauties!  Oh, they are pretty!  They are birdies!  Well, then you
say.  Well then, why not?  Because!  Chust sit down.  Sit down,
sir, and let me explain.  No driver, no help!  Here I am with a
mill.  Capacity five hundred barrels.  Do I grind the five hundred
barrels.  Do I?  Perhaps you think, I do?  I don't.  For why?
Help, I tell you.  I no can get help.  The farmers bring their
corn.  They want it ground.  Take it home, my friends, I tell them,
take it home.  I no can do it.  I no can.  They've got the corn;
I've got the mill.  No good.  No good these days.  I tell you, in
Chermany . . .  But what's the use?  Peoples owe me money.  Peoples
buy flour.  Here they come.  Charge it, they say.  Charge it, Mr.
Miller.  We'll pay on the first.  No, I have to say no.  For why?
Do I trust them?  Do I?  I do.  Why?  Have I not known them all
along?  Don't they always pay when they've got the money?  Don't
they?  They do.  Well, you say, well then, why not?  I'm coming to
that; chust wait a moment; don't be impatient, sir, don't.  Charge
it, they say.  No, I say.  I no can.  For why?  I've got the flour.
They've got the money.  Maybe not now.  Well, then, next month.  So
far, so good.  But a bookkeeper!  Have I a bookkeeper?  Have I?
Well, sir, I have not.  And there you are!"

"Mr. Miller," I said when I contrived to get a word in, "that is
just what I want to talk about."

"That?  What?" he asked, completely at a loss.  "What?  What, I ask

"Help," I said succinctly.

"Help?" he repeated and gasped.

"Yes," I replied.  "You took me for a salesman.  Well, Mr. Miller,
I am.  But I sell help."

"Whose?" he asked.

"My own," I replied.  "To put it briefly, I want to go to work for

He sat down as if a strong fist had hit him.  "A chob, you mean?
You vant a chob?"


"Vell," he said; and again, "Vell?" as if taken unawares.

"Look here, Mr. Miller," I said.  "You've got the work.  I want the
work.  You've got the coal.  I'll deliver it for you.  You've got
an engine.  I'll start her up for you.  You've got the books.  I'll
keep them for you."

"Vat?" he shouted, for he was getting excited.  "Can you drive

"Sure," I smiled.

"Vell," he said; moving restlessly about on his stool.  "Vat do you
think about that?  You can drive mules?  You can?"

"That's what I said."

"Lissen," he went on, "lissen.  They're ugly . . ."

"You said they were pretty," I objected.

He laughed uproariously.  "So they are!  So they are!  But they

"No mule has ever kicked me," I replied truthfully.

"You must be Dutch," he exclaimed.  "A Dutchman and a mule always
get along together."

"Perhaps," I agreed.  "In all my dealings with mules I have never
given them a chance to kick me."  Which was perfectly true.  I had
never been near one.

Again he laughed.  "Say," he said, "Mr . . ."

"Branden's my name," I said, "make it Phil, for short."

"Vell," he shouted, "you said something, Phil.  That's vat you vant
to do.  That's it.  Don't give them a chance.  You give them a
chance, they kick.  You don't, they don't.  And there you are."

True enough, there I was.  It seemed too good to be reality.  "And
in the morning," I hastened to say in order to hammer the iron
while it was hot, "before I go out with the mules, I'll start your
engine.  You show me how.  At night I'll keep your books."

Again he laughed.  "Three in one," he said "three in one.  But you
no can do it all."

"Sure," I asserted.  "I'm a devil for work.  I just eat it up.  If
I can get a place around the mill to sleep in, I won't even bother
about a room."

"Vait," he shrieked.  And he jumped up and ran to the window.
"Look," he said.  "See?"

"The house?" I asked; for in the far corner of the well-kept yard
stood a miniature house.

"Yes," he nodded.  "Sure, the cottach!  I built it.  For the hired
man.  It's yours."

"Fine," I said.  "I could bach it there."

"Sure!"  He was full of enthusiasm.  "Sure.  Bach it.  That's it.
No cost much."

He paused, suddenly pensive, stroking and rubbing his bewhiskered
chin.  And, a note of suspicion creeping into his voice.  "Vat do
you vant?"


"Yes.  Vages.  How much?"

"Oh," I replied.  "That's up to you.  Enough to live on.  Whatever
you say, till I have delivered your coal.  After that, if I give
satisfaction, we'll see."

"Vell," he went on dryly, "four dollars a veek.  How about it?"

"All right," I said, "I'm willing to work for four dollars a week."

"Start right avay?"

"The sooner the better."

"All right," he said in an absent-minded way.  "Maybe I hire you;
maybe not."

"Not?" I echoed.

"Yes," he said.  "I like you.  I like you fine.  You chust suit me.
But I've a partner."

"A partner?"

"Yes," he said.  "My vife.  A fine voman.  A very fine voman.  Ven
ve married, she had the mill, I vas a miller, and there you are."

"Well," I said, disappointed at not getting immediate action, "if
you mean to say that you have to consult her . . ."

"Consult her?  Sure, I've got to consult her."

"Certainly," I agreed, "if she is your partner.  But the sooner you
do so, the better it will suit me."

"Right avay," he said, "right avay."

He went to the door, opened it, and peered out.

"Villie," he shouted to a little boy across the road.  "Villie,
come here!"

The boy came running across the driveway.

"Villie, you run up-street, to my house.  Tell my vife, Mrs.
Miller.  I'd like to see her, you tell her.  Can she come?"

The boy ran off.

"Well," I said, "if you have the time, you could show me the mules
meanwhile.  If Mrs. Miller agrees, I'll start right in."

"Yes," he replied, still absent-mindedly, "sure.  Come along."

He led the way through the door behind the counter, into the mill,
where he took a flour-dusted cap from a nail, and down four or five
steps into the yard.  When we came to the stable, he pushed the
door aside.

"There," he said.  "There they are."  He pointed to a team of as
ugly and mean-looking beasts as you care to imagine.

The floor of the stable was choked with manure.

"Need a brushing," I said, looking at the mules.

"Yes," he agreed.  "Sure.  I no can do everything.  I got the
mules.  I got the vagon.  I no got the driver.  Nice beasts.
Chentle as lambs."  He approached the near mule.  "Ho boy," he said
and patted him on the rump.  "Chentle, you see."  But the mule gave
a vicious kick without hitting him, for he was clearly afraid and
did not go near.

I laughed.  "You can't hurt the air, boy," I said to the mule.

Mr. Miller laughed loud and long.  "No," he exclaimed, "he can't
hurt the air."

"It's all in keeping out of the way of his feet," I said and
quickly stepped between the two brutes, although my heart was
pounding like an engine.  "Hold on," I said to the same mule and
hit his nose with my fist; for he turned around, teeth bare, ready
to bite.  "Pretty set of teeth you've got!"

"Dat's the vay," praised Mr. Miller, his enthusiasm reviving since
I was less afraid than he.  "Dat's the vay to handle them.  I can
see.  You know them.  They won't bite YOU!"

At this moment the boy joined us in the stable.

"Vell, Villie," asked the miller, "vat did she say?"

"She's coming," answered the boy.

Mr. Miller was in a great hurry to get back to his office.  There
was no mistaking his nervousness.  I was expectant and just a
little afraid.

"Where did you come from?" asked Mr. Miller when we re-entered the

"Down the river," I said.  "I heard from a man at the other end of
the town that you were in need of help."

Mr. Miller did not reply but gave himself over to impatient

We did not have to wait long.

Mrs. Miller appeared in the door; the moment I saw her, I might
have returned to my friend, the river.

She was a tall, bony woman, slender, skinny, who in walking held
her hands stiffly in a tiny worn-out muff, a smooth, flat stole of
the same, cat's-eye yellow fur on her shoulders.  She held herself
erect and seemed to try hard to avoid giving one the impression as
if she had legs; she glided along.  Her mouth was closed in a
straight line.  A pair of horn-rimmed spectacles rested on the
bridge of her nose.  Her small hat bore an upright aigrette of
short plumes which looked as if they had been pulled through a rat-

I rose and greeted her with a pleasant, "How do you do, madam."

But she ignored the greeting.  For a moment she stood by the door
and swept her eye over me from head to toe.  Swept, I say, for it
felt as if somebody were sweeping me down with a single, rough
stroke of a coarse broom.  And I stood bared of every pretence at

Then she slid past, with an air of injured dignity which brought a
rueful smile to my face.

Mr. Miller had hurriedly preceded her into the private office, the
door of which remained ajar.

The beginning of the conversation escaped me; but soon the woman's
voice cut out like an icy knife.

"No," she said with great precision.  "Not under any circumstances.
It is the worst element, the scum of the country, which comes down
the river."

A few muttered words.

Then again, "No.  Not under any circumstances.  I should consider
myself criminally negligent.  Reflect for a moment.  Think.
Suppose a house was broken into!  Worse maybe!  A murder!  Who
would be to blame?"

A few muttered words again.

Mr. Miller appeared.  He was the picture of dejection; he was all

"I'm sorry," he said; "the river; it's the river!"

I was mad clean through.  "No," I said, "Mr. Miller, it's you!  Do
you mean to tell me that, because that skate . . ."

"Sh!" Mr. Miller hissed warningly.  "Sh!  A fine voman, I tell you;
a very fine voman!"

"All right," I said and reached for my cap.  "Suit yourself.  Don't
blame me if your coal remains undelivered.  Good-by."

I went back to the river as if I might miss a train.


I Become a Hand

I made many other abortive attempts.  Details seem irrelevant.

One morning when I awoke my face felt strangely wet and cold.  On
carefully lifting myself, penetrated as I was with a feeling of
otherworldliness, I found that the outline of my body, as I lay in
the bush, was softened by a mound of snow.  The snow had come down
soft-footedly, over night, like a benediction.  I had slept through
it all; my fire had gone out.

My body did not feel cold; not in the least.  There seemed such a
lightness, speaking of weight as well as of colour, in everything,
that the illusion, had it lasted, might have persuaded me that I
was still dreaming.  I sank back to my bed of willow-boughs and lay
there, staring thoughtlessly at the world transformed.  Gradually,
as my circulation adjusted itself to the quickened pace of
wakefulness, my face began to glow, my ears to tingle.  Infinite
comfort seemed to creep through my limbs; it was good to lie still.
My worries seemed dead and forgotten.  I thought of nothing with
any degree of intensity.

I seemed to review my life as you may look on at a play when your
seat is too far from the stage to understand the words: you miss,
therefore, all the vital connections: tragedy may be a farce;
comedy may touch you with tears.  I lay for hours.  I was utterly
indifferent to everything except the strange feeling of comfort, of
well-being.  I dozed again.

Hours later, I started up.  This time a wild fear possessed me; a
feeling of being hunted and tracked.  I sat and stared blankly.
Everything was dripping.  The snow on the ground and the bushes was
a mere slush.  The sun was getting in his work.

I felt my pulse.  My watch had been spoiled when I lost my raft; so
I could not count the beats; but even thus I could feel that my
blood was racing through my veins at fever-rate.  I rose in terror,
picked my things up, and started to stumble blindly along the
beach.  I do not know how far or how long I went.  But I know that
some time during the day, when the snow had melted and showed only
here and there in patches along the hollows of the opposite,
southern bank of the river, the sky became overcast; the usual wind
sprang up, a bleak, raw, wintry wind that drove huge waves on the
river upstream.  Simultaneously, I believe, I began to cough: a
hard, dry, racking cough that brought sharp pain to my side and the
lower part of my chest.  I began to grope along the steep but low
bank which followed the curves of the beach at some little distance
from the water.  I had to stop often; when the cough caught me, I
had to bend down, to support myself with my hands on stones, roots,
fallen logs.

At last I found a sandy nook in this bank and lay down again.  I
had not eaten all day; but I had wetted my lips repeatedly with
water from the river.

The wind howled dismally through the bare stems overhead.  One of
the last things which I observed was that the river was rising
fast.  I slept.  A fitful sleep it was, filled with ravings and
nightmares, and broken by frightful attacks of that dry cough which
seemed to shake my body.

Again I awoke with a wild start in the morning--a start which this
time sent me up on my feet.  I had to clutch at things in order not
to fall.  Then I saw the river.  It had risen prodigiously.  It was
full of drift.  But the drift consisted, not of logs and boards,
not of household articles and fruits of the field, but of large
slabs of ice which danced wildly in the wind-lashed floods.

I was beyond myself with unreasoning fear.

I could not stand; I could not walk.  I peered up the steep bank
and caught sight of the edge of a roof; but between the house and
myself rose a formidable hedge of honey-locust with thorns like
daggers, ten, twelve inches long.

I struggled up to the hedge; and then I broke or stumbled through
it, the huge thorns tearing my clothes and lacerating my flesh with
their points.  I emerged into the yard of a small farm, swept by
the tearing, icy gale.

To the right stood a house.  I went to the door and knocked.

A man came out, closing the door behind him.  He was in a shirt and
trousers only, bareheaded and barefooted; and as he stepped out, he
shrugged into the shoulder-loops of his suspenders; he had
apparently just been getting up.  His empty face expressed only
horror at my sight.

I swayed, and the words I spoke came in a painful gasp.

"Have you some stable?" I asked.  "A hayloft.  I came down the
river.  I'm sick.  I've GOT to get out of the wind."

He hastened to lead me around the house.  I followed, holding on to
house and trees to steady myself and not to fall headlong.  We came
to the barn.  It was of that half-open type that marks the tobacco-
barn, boards and open spaces alternating in the walls.  He opened
the door.  The floor was a mire of manure and trampled-up mud.

I shook my head and waved my hand in his face.  "Won't do," I
gasped, "too wet."

I could see that the man was nearly scared out of his wits.  He
slammed the door shut and looked about.

"The smoke-house," he said; "it isn't warm, but its dry.  We aren't
using it."

Again he led the way.

The smoke-house was a tiny building opposite the dwelling.  Its
walls were slatted only, but there were all sorts of discarded
things in it which offered shelter; the floor was dry.

I nodded, and the man left me.

I sank down and rested.  Then I began to crawl about on all fours,
like a beast in distress, trying to find the most sheltered spot,
not by looking for it, but by the sense of feeling only.

After a while--I must have been lying there for an hour or longer--
the door opened, and I saw a woman of ample proportions, a small
boy hanging on to her skirts and peering around them, half
impertinent, half frightened.  The woman looked at me.

"You're pretty sick," she said.  "I bring you some broth."

"Put it down," I replied.  "Put it on the floor there."

And she placed it within reach of my hand.  She hesitated a moment;
and then she went away.

I shivered in my chill.  After a while I propped myself up, reached
for the cup, drank what I did not spill, and sank down again.  I
lost consciousness.

Hours later I felt that I was being handled.  The woman was bending
over me.

"We are going to take you into the house," she said.

I offered no resistance.  I did not care.  But while they laboured
in supporting me across the yard, a paroxysm of spasmodic coughing
seized me; and when they stopped, trying to uphold me, I noticed a
boy hitching a very mockery, a veritable skate of a horse to a
decrepit buck-board.

I lost consciousness again.

Days, maybe weeks intervened of which I know nothing.

But through those weeks, scattered in, as it were, among the fever-
phantasies and nightmares of my illness, there flit visions of a
man who was deftly putting his fingers to my chest and applying a

Him I see very distinctly when I close my eyes.  A medium-sized,
quiet, unobtrusive man in a black suit, awkward-looking, with hard,
gnarly fingers, a coarse, angular face marked by a grey moustache,
his shoulders sloping, his neck enclosed in a stiff, very white,
but home-laundered fold-back collar with a ready-made black bow
tie--the kind that fastens with a rubber-loop and a crescent-shaped
pasteboard shield.

A homely figure; ridiculous in its stiff clothes which are too
large; I cannot help laughing when I think of him and how he
looked; but the laughter is undershot with tears; a strange lump
rises in my throat.  No offence is meant, doctor, if I laugh at
you!  Believe me, I bow down to the very earth and touch the ground
with my brow!

A consultation took place.  I was conscious again by that time of
what was going on around me; I was very, very weak; so weak that I
could not move my hand without help.

There were three men in the room.  "My" doctor and two others,
slick and competent-looking men who fairly dwarfed my doctor as
they applied their instruments to my chest.  I wondered.

A weird conversation took place in which formidable and learned
words caught my ears; words like "hyperresonant rather than
hyporesonant"--"hematogenic"--"peribronchial", and others.  "My"
doctor hardly took part in the discussion; with an apologetic smile
he listened; and as I watched his face, I could see, now agreement,
now disagreement under that smile.  His whole mind seemed to become
transparent to my eyes.  When one of the young men wound up with,
"The prognosis is bad, if not hopeless.  Don't you agree, doctor?"
he shrugged his shoulders; his smile seemed to become ever so
slightly ironic.

The young men took their leave with elaborate, formal courtesy
which but thinly disguised their contempt for their homely
colleague who thanked them humbly for their help.

As soon as they were gone, "my" doctor got busy.  It was the first
time that I consciously heard him talking.  I remember every word.

"Oh, these young doctors," he said.  "They have had so much more of
a chance than I ever had!  They know so much more!  They are so
much abler!  They have so much more confidence in their diagnosis!
When I went to college, we did not have half the opportunities!  We
were sent out very inadequately equipped indeed.  But I am going to
wager on Nature.  I am going to help Nature along the slightest
little bit.  I am going to give her a chance to get in her work."

And he rolled me over on my side and bared my back.

"Now, my dear young man," he went on.  "I am going to hurt you.  I
am going to push a pretty stout needle in between your ribs.  Here
it is," and he showed me.  "As I said, it is going to hurt; but I
cannot help that.  The more it hurts, the greater the hope for you.
Pain is not pleasant, I know; but it is an attribute of life."

He was working with wonderfully deft fingers on my back, at the
lower edge of the ribs.  Those gnarled hands of his were not
clumsy.  The smell of ether struck my nostrils; he was squirting it
at the skin of my back.  And then, suddenly, I felt him gather a
lump of flesh in one sure, unfailing hand, a hand that knew what it
was about--and the next moment the other hand pushed the needle
through that upgathered flesh, in between the ribs and through my
body.  And from my lungs there detached itself, against my will, a
yell of pain.

I heard the doctor's quiet, reassuring laugh.

"Good," he said, "fine!  Why, there must be a great reserve of
strength left if you can still yell that way.  One day you are
going to be a noted athlete yet.  The pain is all over now.  Of
course, it does not feel natural to have that needle in your chest.
But it will take only a few more minutes.  Only a very few minutes
now.  I am working the aspirator."

And thus he talked on; and at last he said, "Now one more second.
I am going to withdraw the needle, and then you will be all right;
on the road back to health and strength if Nature wills it."

I sank into a sleep; and when I awoke, the pain was gone.

From that day dated my recovery.  One morning when the doctor
called I tried to speak; but he laid his hand on my mouth.

"Not yet, my friend," he said.  "Not yet.  To-morrow maybe.  You
are doing fine.  Soon, soon we are going to sit up.  But not yet.
And no talking yet.  But the time is coming fast."

I began to take note of my surroundings.  I was still in that house
on the riverbank.  I was lying on a wide, soft bed opposite an open
window through which the wintry air came in, pleasantly cold.  Snow
was on the ground and lay in heavy layers on the branches of an
evergreen outside.  There were goings and comings into the room,
and gradually I realized that I was lying in the kitchen of a two-
roomed house.  I do not know how the next bit of information
reached me; but I found out that this family of four with whom I
was staying had moved into the parlour.  I was lying in the one bed
which they owned.  They were sleeping on straw spread on the floor,
there, in their dingy parlor.  The fat woman was nursing me under
the doctor's direction.  The whole household had reorganized itself
with this one view, to save me from dying.  Poverty was written all
over the place; but I lacked nothing that might be needed.

A thought began to puzzle me.  One day I asked the doctor when he
sat on the edge of my bed.

"Doctor," I said in a thin, strange voice, "who's paying for all

"Don't think of that," he said.  "Get well first.  You are among

When he had gone, I beckoned the fat woman to come.

"Who is paying for all this?" I whispered.

She smiled.  "Doctor Goodwin says you are not to worry."

"But I do," I replied.

"Well, don't," she admonished.  "We'd be willing to do it for the
Lord, but the doctor won't let us."

So I knew.

"Why do you do all this?" I asked the doctor the next time.

He smiled his deprecating smile.  "Your case has been interesting,"
he said.  "I am always glad to take on a case from which I can

"I am a tramp, doctor," I said on another occasion.  "Just a common

"You're not," he replied.  "Don't do an injustice to yourself.  You
may have been tramping, but you are not a tramp.  There's a

"How do you know?"

"I can tell," he said; "and what does it matter?"

Then, as my strength returned, we talked.

"Our policy is at fault," he said.  "We lose sight of the
immigrant.  But I suppose it is the same all over the world."

"It is, and it isn't," I replied.

He looked a question.

"Who would think of going to England, to France, to Sweden--
anywhere," I argued, "without carefully laid-out plans and
prearranged connections?"

"Yes," he agreed, "there is something in that.  We invite the
immigrant.  We tell him, Come and you will find freedom and
economic independence.  And when he follows the call, we turn him
lose to shift for himself."

"You even forbid him to make arrangements beforehand.  And think of
the countless thousands who do not even know the language of the

"I know," he said.  "I've sometimes thought of that.  Unless they
gather in alien communities, they become a prey to sharp practice."

"And it is the one who comes in good faith who suffers most," I
went on.  "You match two men for a fight.  One you strip of his
weapons; the other one you leave fully equipped."

The doctor got up.  "Don't rub it in," he said.

But I did.  "And because they are foreigners, you turn them over to
the scoffing derision of thoughtless ignorance.  No wonder you
remain foreign to them.  Yet they, too, have made part of America."

"Yes," he said.  "In one sense they have."

"Are you done with tramping?" he asked when I had told him part of
what I have told in this record.

"No," I said, "I have only begun.  So far I have drifted.  After
this I want to drive."

"I think I understand," he smiled.  "But you can't go on now.  You
will have to lay off for the winter."

"If I can find work."

"Don't worry.  Get well.  We have provided for that."

I wondered who "we" might be; but I did not ask.

I was sitting up again.  I was relearning to walk.  My recovery was
rapid; the doctor's calls became rarer; I missed them.

One day, he took me out for a ride in his buggy.  It was a mild
winter day; gratefully I drew the air into my healing lungs.  I
waited for him in his vehicle whenever he entered a house to make a
call.  All his calls were made in poor country-houses--his
clientele was not among the well-to-do nor in the nearby town.

Then, on our way back, he broached the subject which he had been

"I don't know," he said, "how you feel about it.  We have a mill in
town, a veneer-factory.  How are you with tools?"

I laughed.  "Give me a hammer and a nail, and you can rely on my
hitting the wrong one.  But it doesn't matter."

"The druggist, too," he said, "is looking for a clerk."

"No," I said, "no selling for me.  Let it be the mill.  I'd like to
try out what it is to be a hand."

"Well," he replied, "I've spoken to the manager.  They are
shorthanded all the time.  We'll fix you up."

"Will they take the vagrant?"

"You are no vagrant now.  You have a roof overhead."

"Doctor," I said inconsequentially, "what is the difference between
a jail-bird and a respectable man?"

"The respectable man is forehanded," he replied, looking puzzled.
"He has an intenser fear of the future and a greater desire for
manifold things."

"True," I said; "you might add, a greater dependency on the
judgment of his neighbours.  But that was not what I meant."

"Morally speaking?" he asked.

"Ethically," I nodded.

"None, necessarily," he answered.  "It all depends."

"Doctor," I laughed, "you are an anarchist.  I have suspected for
some time that all really good people are anarchists."

He too, laughed.  "Of sorts," he agreed.  "But the really
intelligent man, no matter who he is, longs for one thing above

"What is that?" I asked.


"I have lived off the land," I objected.

"A child," he said sententiously, "is entitled to his infancy."

I felt very grateful for that word.

"The Abraham Lincolns live all around," I added after a while.

"Who are they?" he asked.

"You are one of them," I said.

He frowned quizzically, but kept silent.

And so we returned to what, for the time being, was my home.

A week or two later he dropped in again.  I was walking in the
yard, looking down at the frozen river, when he pulled his pony in.
I smiled and went to meet him.

"Get your coat," he said.  "Jump in.  I want to show you

We drove to town.  At the edge of the village he stopped in front
of a tiny house; he tied his horse.

"Come on," he said, "I've got the key."

The tiny house held one room, eighteen by eighteen feet.  There was
a small stove, a bed with a mattress and a blanket, a plain deal
table and one chair.

"I'll charge you two dollars a month for rent," he said.  "The
stove costs two and a half.  You owe for it at the hardware store.
The bed was given by one of the bankers who wants to be nameless.
Table, chair, and blanket are mine, to be returned when no longer
needed.  You will want some dishes, maybe, and similar things.  I
am going on your security at the general store.  As for fuel, I
advise to get half a ton of coal at the yard.  That will set you
back another two dollars; but it will be cheaper than gathering
drift, for you will need to husband your strength.  You better stay
right here now.  To-morrow we shall go to the mill.  My office is
across the road.  You might call there at nine o'clock."

"But I cannot leave those people without thanking them or saying
good-by," I objected.

"Well," he said, "they wanted it so.  You will see them later."

Thus, that day, I set up a bachelor's establishment.

Next morning we went down to the mill by the river.

I was bewildered when we entered the huge brick building--
bewildered by the roar of machinery and the great number of men
handling logs, planks, and all kinds of timber in all stages of
finish or lack of finish.  But more than anything else one thing
struck me: these men who were, so it seemed, mere parts of the
intricate machines they fed did not seem to mind it in the least:
they had time to joke and to laugh.

Doctor Goodwin led me into a small room on the ground-floor, a room
which was partitioned off from the rest of the building, but which
nevertheless seemed to shake with the pulse of the work.

He bade me wait while he went away, upstairs.

After a while he returned, accompanied by a tall, fleshy man of
truly senatorial proportions.  This man moved about in a detached
sort of way, as if he did not care where he was or went; but on
closer observation I saw that his alert little eyes were shooting
about in all directions.

"Well," he said when he entered, "so this is the young man?"

And he looked at me with a humorous flicker in his grey-blue eyes.
"We can always use an additional hand," he said with a note of
irony and the slightest possible emphasis on the last word.  "The
doctor tells me you are long on brains and short on muscle?"

"I am afraid," I said, "as far as the muscles are concerned, the
doctor is right."

"Well," he went on, "as it happens, we need a fellow with an ounce
or so of brains just now.  In the glue-room.  Things are not going
there as they should.  We make veneers, you know.  But we also sell
table tops and such things ready veneered.  That is a side-line
with us, lately introduced.  And somehow it has not been a success.
We are always behind our orders, way behind.  And we are thinking
of dropping the whole department for lack of the right kind of a
man.  It is not a nice place to work in.  It is hot, there.
Everything needs to be hot.  Glue does not smell like perfume
either."  And he paused with an ironical, questioning inclination
of his head.

"Never mind," I said; "where others can work, I can, I suppose."

"That's the spirit," he replied, still with his ironical drawl.
"There are three hands working there now.  But they are mere boys.
They don't have much sense of responsibility.  Naturally, we have
to draw on the town for our help; and the glue-room is not popular.
The best men do not care to go down there.  But if I put you in, I
should expect you to see to it that we catch up with the work.
Three men should be able to keep the store room empty.  But one of
them has to be the boss.  Of course, I cannot engage you as foreman
of a department.  You will have to start in on the wages of a
helper.  But unless you make yourself the boss, you know, you can
be of no use to the mill."

Again he paused questioningly.  He spoke very much "de-haut-en-
bas".  But that, I found later, was his way with everybody, even
with his fellow-citizens of high standing in the town.

I smiled ruefully.  "Well, sir," I said, "I suppose you know all
about myself.  I am afraid I shall disappoint you."

"The work does not need to be hard," he went on.  "It is a case of
using an ounce of brains or so."

"It is not that," I said.  "But will the boys obey a man who is new
in the country?"

"Well," he drawled, "if it is any comfort to you, I will tell you
this.  The best worker we have at present--I mean by that, the man
who is most anxious to do an honest day's work for a day's wages--
is a Russian who has been in this country only four months.  He is
just beginning to pick up his first words of English.  He has no
education, either.  In fact, he can neither read nor write.  He was
quite unskilled when we shipped him out from Pittsburg.  He is
kiln-boss now."

"If YOU will risk it," I said.

He turned and looked out into the machine-floor.  He raised a
finger to a man who was walking about, there, inspecting the work
of the roaring machines.  A shout would not have availed out there.

The man came, deferential in his bearing.

"Mansfield," said the manager, "this man here--his name is Branden--
will report to-morrow morning for work in the glue-room.  See me
about him later on.  Better show him around."

"All right, sir," replied the foreman.

And with a brief nod the manager turned away; and Doctor Goodwin
followed him.

Mansfield, a short man with quick, shifty-looking eyes in an
elderly, colourless face, beckoned to me to follow him as he began
to thread his way among the machines.  When he came to an elevator-
shaft, he stopped and pressed a button.  The open platform of the
elevator began to descend.  It was encumbered with two low-wheeled
trucks loaded with "cores" of worm-eaten chestnut wood.

We descended.  It was cool down there, in that huge store-room of
the basement.  Cores of various sizes, similar to those on the
trucks, were piled all around to the height of the ceiling.  The
whole centre of this basement was occupied by long strips of
veneers of quarter-sawed oak, mahogany and poplar.

"Arrears," said Mansfield, pointing with a sweep of his arm, and he
laughed.  "Need a boss here to catch up."

We went along one of the main aisles, ducking under swinging belts
and whirling shafts.  Even down here Mansfield had to speak at the
top of his voice in order to make himself understood.

Then we came to the glue-room.  Intense heat struck us like a blow
when we entered.  Wide racks of hot steam-piping were loaded with
cores.  Veneers were spread on long, shelf-like desks.  A huge
hydraulic press occupied the centre of the room.  Along the far
wall glue boiled in steam-jacketed pots.  The smell was certainly
not like perfume; more like that of burning fishbones.

Three young boys were working here, none of them, more than fifteen
or sixteen years old.  They scanned me with curious looks.

We left the room through a door at the opposite end.

"Can't get a decent man to take hold here," said Mansfield.  "It's
the heat and the smell."

"I don't mind," I said, "but I don't know anything about the work."

"You'll learn," he replied.

"When do I start?"

"At six sharp, second whistle."

I was a factory-hand.


I Widen My Outlook

Next morning I arrived at the factory at a quarter to six, with the
piercing yell of the first whistle, and started in.  I cannot
follow events in this interlude very closely; it would lead me too
far afield.  I will briefly state that I found the management
considerate in the extreme and that, if I made a success of the
task as outlined to me by Mr. Warburton, the superintendent, I owed
it chiefly to the circumstance.  It was no easy work for me; but I
have always considered that it was worth while.  Three factors made
it so: Mansfield, the foreman; Gawrilucy, the Russian kiln-boss;
and my study of the general run of workmen employed.

As for my own career, suffice it to say that within a month I was
"boss" in the glue-room--the word "boss" implying that I took
orders from nobody except the superintendent himself--that within
three months the department under my charge had caught up with
orders and that, when I left, the work was running smoothly enough
to be left to the boys whom I found in charge.  My own earnings had
remained modest enough.  I had started in on seventy-five cents a
day; this was raised to a dollar the second week; and by the end of
my first month I was getting seven dollars and fifty cents a week--
the highest wage that any one below the management could boast of;
and even Mansfield, the foreman of the machine floor, received only
twice as much.

I said that Mansfield's eye had impressed me as shifty-looking.  He
seemed to avoid your eye.  But I soon found out that the reason did
not lie in any inability on his part of treating the men over whom
he held authority in a straight-forward way; he was simply
excessively modest.

He, too, had come to this mill as a "raw hand"--and not so very
long ago.  He had worked for maybe eight or ten years and had been
foreman for a matter of three or four.  His promotion, which he had
literally thrust upon him, was due, not so much to sheer ability,
as to his vision.  Many of the other men could beat him in speed
and accuracy of manipulation; but--and here is a very important
point--suppose you had slipped him in among them as a mere hand,
without their knowledge, at any one of the machines, say at a
sandpaper-belt--though they COULD have matched and excelled him in
quantity and quality of their output, not one of them WOULD have
done so.  If it had been a contest, entered into with the full
knowledge of all concerned that it WAS a contest, many a one would
have outdone him.  But without such a stimulus, only he would have
put forward his full effort.  The reason was simply this: that he
saw the mill as a thing alive--as a living organism whose
performance was his very personal pride.  He had that curious
ability of loving a dead machine; he adopted it into his affections
as nowadays a man may love his car and never be satisfied unless it
shows at all times at its best.  He could tell you the history of
every one of them; how the inventor had met with difficulties in
getting his improvement adopted--and how, gradually, it had swept
the country and come into general use.  For him there was romance
in machinery.  When he fed some such moving structure of knives and
saws, he felt exactly as Dr. Goodwin had felt when he said at my
sickbed, "I am going to help Nature along the slightest little

All this implies that he was a reader.  He had started with trade-
journals, but had soon gone on to reading books of a technical
nature; and Mr. Warburton, the superintendent, had encouraged him
in every possible way--till one day he had said to him, "Mansfield,
I believe you know as much of veneers as I do.  Would you like to
come into the office."  "No," Mansfield had answered.  "I don't
care about veneers.  I want to stay where I am, with the machines."
"All right," Mr. Warburton had continued, "but not as a hand, not
with a single machine.  I am going to put you in charge of the
whole floor."

The Russian kiln-boss presented a different problem to me.  Like
myself he was a recent immigrant; unlike myself, he had at once
made a complete and permanent economic success of his new life.
But in one respect I found him to be very much in the same
difficulties which I had experienced.  He was the first of a long
line of inarticulate immigrants with whom I was going to come into
contact; and from the first I was drawn to him.  Many Americans
have the idea that the immigrant, as they are used to see him
nowadays, is completely satisfied with material comforts.  Nothing,
I found, is farther from the truth; and that is precisely why I
have felt encouraged in giving this record of my own struggles.
Very few of them will speak up, even if they are able to do so.

This man, when he came to the United States, left a family behind
in Russia.  He had saved enough money by this time to let them
follow him; but he hesitated.

"This country," he said to me, "good country to work in.  Bad
country to live in."

I questioned him on this point; and gradually I found out what was
his point of view.  Immigrants from Eastern Europe were wanted to
do the hard work in America, that kind of work for which the man
born in America had become too soft through easy living.  They were
highly welcome to employers who found it increasingly difficult to
secure help for that class of work.  But they were not at all
welcome to those whom they regarded as their equals in the country.

"Why," he would say, "why me kiln-boss?  Heavy work.  Why no
machine hand?  Light work.  Others do.  Handle small piece.  Out
here, in kiln, heavy pieces.  Big logs, big planks, hard work."

"But do you object to hard work?" I asked.

He laughed.  "No.  Not me.  Like it.  Can do it."

"Well, then . . ."

"Oh," he said, and his laugh died out.  "We here like Pollacks in
Russia.  Despised.  Americans good--we no good.  Just beasts, like

"Does Mr. Warburton treat you like an ox?" I insisted.

"Him, no," he replied.  "Him make money.  Need me.  But boys, how
bout them?  Slant-eyes, they say.  Low-ears.  Bones stick out.
Cannot speak English.  They laugh."

"What do you care?" I objected.  "That's only the riffraff.  They
do the same with me.  A blistering Englishman, they call me.  They
can't even distinguish between an Englishman and a Swede, when the
Swede happens to speak better English than they do."

"I no care," he said.  "I no care for myself.  But the children.  I
care for them.  I go back to Russia.  All Russians there.  I got
money, I all right.  I buy land.  My children good.  I stay here,
my children no good.  I no want my children laughed at.  Not their
fault, have slant-eyes.  Not mine.  I can't help.  Slant-eyes just
as good.  I speak English; they no speak Russian.  I honest.  I
good father.  I good worker.  But no good here.  Why?  Russian!
Liberty, Freedom?"  He laughed.  "Freedom to joke.  Freedom to
hurt.  Fair play?  Foul play!"

The upshot of it was that I started to teach him English.  He
proved a remarkably able scholar.  I marvelled at the speed with
which he learned, and above all with which he learned to read and
write.  In two or three months he read magazines.  The paradox in
it all was that he still had to go to a professional scribe to get
his Russian letters written to his family--at fifty cents a sheet--
when he could easily have written them himself in English.

Then I came back to the charge.  I knew Russia too well to let him
go back--Russia as it then was, no matter how much certain people
may praise it now.

"You are making good," I told him, "you are an American.  Those
boys in the mill that make fun of you might be Americans; but they
aren't.  They are too ignorant.  They don't know any better.  Your
children?  Why, bring them over.  Teach them yourself for a while.
Then send them to school.  Will they ever have a chance in Russia?"

"Not much," he agreed.

"Well," I went on, "here you can give them a chance.  You say you
came here on their account.  It's on their account that you want to
stay and to bring them over."

"Maybe," he said.  "Maybe in fall."

Meanwhile Mr. Warburton began to notice a change in him; one day he
sent him to Cincinnati to appraise and to buy, if up to standard, a
supply of timbers from the raft.

Once I had a brief talk with the manager about the Russian.

"It's next to uncanny," said Mr. Warburton, "the way that man can
see into a log.  He'll take his axe and swing it into a timber, and
he can tell what the flake will be when it is quarter-sawed.  If I
did not need him, I'd send him up to Chicago or Grand Rapids.  But,
I suppose, he'll find out himself, soon enough, that there are
better places for him to work in; places where knowledge and power
will bring him better pay."

As for the boys with whom I had to work, one little episode will
illustrate their psychology.  As the time was approaching when I
intended to leave--for, as soon as we had caught up with orders, I
lost my interest in the task--I mentioned one day that I should not
be with them much longer.  One of the three, Dan, I felt sure,
would be able to keep the glue-room going, provided that the other
two would support him.  Of these two only one gave real trouble.
His name was Jesse, and his aim in life seemed to be to get as much
fun and to do as little work as he possibly could.

"I want to help you," I said to him, "to make your job permanent.
Unless you show them that you can do as much work as others do,
that job will disappear."

"I guess," he shouted.  "I can do as much work as the next one."

"Sure," I said, "and get as much pay, too.  The trouble is you
aren't doing it."

"Well," he exclaimed, "let's get busy."

And for a day or so he outdid every one.

The desire to do his best could be awakened only by a sporting
proposition.  Make it a case of rivalry, a contest, and he was as
good as any one.  In the daily grind of routine he fell down.

Spring came, and one day I sought Mr. Warburton.

"I'm going to leave," I said.

"That so?" he asked, unruffled.

"Yes," I said, "seven and a half dollars a week do not seem so
alluring to me that I should give up a wider outlook."

"Anything in sight?" he enquired in his ironical way.

"No," I said.  "But I want to move on.  I want to see things."

"Well, Branden," Mr. Warburton proceeded, somewhat annoyed, "I've
always thought so.  The lure of the river's got you.  It's always
the same with the men that drift down the river.  Spring comes, and
the wanderlust gets back into their blood."

"Partly; maybe," I agreed, though I was nettled at being thought so
shallow.  "Yet I am not going to follow the river.  I am going to
foot it, but only because I haven't the money to pay my fare."

"Where do you intend to go?"

"To Indianapolis," I replied.  "Maybe to Chicago.  I want a wider

"As a veneer-hand?"

"Maybe, for a while."

"Look here, Branden," he said.  "I don't want to hold you back.
But I believe you are making a mistake.  Here, in a small mill, you
have made good.  Don't think for a moment that I want to deny it.
But in a large mill you will be just a hand again.  Of course, you
may make good there, too; don't forget, however, that you are not
very strong.  Will you be able to stand the pace?"

"I don't care," I replied.  "It is beside the point.  It does not
enter into my ambitions to make a career out of this thing.  I have
an idea that there is something bigger and more important which I
can do."

"Oh?" said Mr. Warburton vacantly.

"It isn't money," I went on.  "As far as money goes, very little
will satisfy me."

"Money is power," he drawled ironically.

"Money is slavery," I replied.  "At any rate, it is not the kind of
power I want.  Most of you industrial Americans overrate the value
of money or of the material things which it buys.  Your higher
standard of living, as you proudly call it, does not seem so all-
satisfying to me.  Life has to yield me more than a competence or
even an abundance of things necessary or desirable.  But I suppose,
it is useless to discuss it."

This, in turn, nettled Mr. Warburton; he closed his shell, as it
were.  His judgment was formed.  He did not say it in so many
words; but in his features I read his estimate of the tramp.

Dr. Goodwin, with whom I sat during the following afternoon--it
being Sunday--took a different view.

"So you are going?" he said.  "Well, I don't blame you.  But will
you find what you want?"

"I don't know," I replied.  "I'll find it or perish in the

"Nothing like perishing in a worthy cause," he said.  "There is a
great deal of satisfaction in it.  Though it sometimes seems
selfish to me.  Don't forget that for us ordinary mortals it is
quite a worthy task merely to make an honest living."

"Not for me," I replied, "nor for you."

He laughed an embarrassed laugh.  "Well . . ."  And his tone was
half deprecation, half admission.

"Doctor," I shot at him suddenly, "how much do I owe you?"

He was still more embarrassed.  "I really couldn't tell you
offhandedly," he said.  "I've never figured it out.  I'd have to
look it up in my books."

"Suppose I wait a week before I ask you again?"

"All right," he said, visibly relieved.

This time it was I who laughed.  "Do you want me to tell you what
would happen?"

"How do you mean?" he asked.

"I'll tell you," I said.  "Either you would not be able to find it
in your books or you would try very hard to avoid me.  Perhaps
you'd be tempted to make a little trip in order never to see me

His face was a study.

I was determined, however, not to let him get away with it.  I had
saved a tidy little sum out of my wages.  So I drew a roll of bills
out of my pocket and put it on a little table which stood at my

"Listen, doctor," I said.  "I am not going to offend you by
insisting that you accept a fee.  I have seen the good people who
nursed me.  They will get my bed and whatever else I own in the
line of such trifles.  With you I am going to leave four-fifths of
what I have saved, in trust as it were, to be used by you for the
relief of suffering in your parish.  It is not much.  Only forty
dollars.  But I should feel better if you would take it on these

"I will," he said; "thank you."

That settled the matter.

I had still another interview, this time with Mansfield.

"Do you think," I asked him, "that Dan will be able to carry on the
work as glue-room boss?"

"I do," he replied.  "He has learned to see the employer's point of
view, and he has given in to the better methods."

"Very well.  Then you had better count me out a week from next

"I'm sorry," he said.  "But if you wish to go . . ."

"I'll go," I replied.

As it happened, that was, against my expectations, the end of my
career as a factory hand.  Just a word about what it seemed to
teach me.

There are three classes of men engaged in the industries of the
nation: born leaders, born servants, and the rest of them who are
neither the one nor the other but who work for others because they
cannot help themselves.

Nothing needs to be said about the first two classes; if all men
belonged to them, there would be no industrial troubles.

Nor do troubles necessarily arise in the third class, either.  Not
without intention have I given details in this chapter about the
foreman of the machine-floor and the Russian Gawrilucy.  They
fitted in; they were unable to be leaders in a large sense; they
were not necessarily servants.  On the other hand they did not
object to the fundamental condition of being led.  Being led, they
had made a success of their work in life; they were satisfied.
Chance had been kind to them: they lived "in abundance" where
chance had dropped them.  If the world as it is had been put down
before them as a toy-shop, Mansfield would have chosen machines for
his toys, the Russian would have chosen logs to toss about, to pick
them for their flakes and figures, and to cut them open in order to
verify his conjectures.  They were not only satisfied with what
they were doing; they were happy in doing it.

I think I can say that, without exception, the other workmen in
this factory were doing what they did--like myself--by chance.
When they had reached the age at which they thought they should be
making money--or at which others thought that they should do so--
they had gone to the mill which happened to be near.  A job was
easily secured.  Work was work; what did it matter?  But it surely
does matter what we do with two thirds of our waking hours.  So
long as work is work, and play play, just so long do we want to get
as little of the one and as much of the other as possible; that is
human nature, not here, but the world over; not now, but in

We will, for a moment, disregard that small fraction of the human
race which would choose to live in utter sloth.  We can disregard
them for, I believe, humanity could afford to "carry" them as
parasites.  The loss entailed by them would be small as compared
with the loss entailed through present, faulty distribution.  For
the rest, we will assume that the great majority of humans want to
work, want to exercise, not only their physical powers, but also
their mental equipment, whatever it be.

We will, also, assume that every human being has, hidden away,
maybe, in his innermost heart, never awakened perhaps, but yet has
his leanings, his pet inclinations, his hobbies.  Why, then, does
he not make his hobby his occupation?  Because he cannot do so.
Chance guides him.  When he starts life on his own account, at
fourteen, let me say, some mill is nearby, and he goes to it.
Money looms bigger than the "abundance of life".  And for one
thing, very few children know at fourteen years anything of
themselves.  They start drifting.

Raise the school-age to eighteen, and you will have made a step
forward in the right direction; but you will not have solved the

Alas!  Our schools!  We worship the fetish of reading and writing.
Useful arts they are, of that there is no doubt.  But--I speak from
manifold experience--show me the grownup who wishes to master the
arts of reading and writing and cannot do so in a short time--in
one-hundredth the time which we waste on them in our schools,
incidentally making our children into verbalists and spoiling them
for reality--and I will show you a mental laggard.  We say that
there is an age for these things; that beyond that age it becomes
nearly impossible to acquire that knowledge.  That is simply one of
the superstitions of the ages.  Reading and writing and similar
inessentials have formed the curriculum of our schools since time
immemorial.  Why?  Because in by-gone civilizations the man who
received an education was the man of leisure.  He was taught to
read; he was taught to write, not because these things were prime
necessities of his life, for they were that less then than now; but
exactly because they were not necessities, because they were
luxuries, because they were the distinctive accomplishments of his
class; they marked him off from the multitude.

We want, or regard as desirable, only one class of our population:
the workers.  What, then, is the distinctive accomplishment which
we should nurse in our schools?  There is only one answer:  Work
which satisfies.

Why do our children break away from school as soon as they can?
Because they are forced to follow what seems to them futile, silly,
purposeless routine.  The children are right.  Convince yourselves
by going to their schools yourselves; by acquiring some art which
is taught there in the same, deadening way in which it is presented
to them: I believe I should soon catch you yawning; I believe I
should soon catch you playing truant.  We are everlastingly
hitching the buggy in front of the horse; and we think that
unfortunately it cannot be helped.  A more systematic, organized,
wilfully cruel waste than that conducted in our world-wide systems
of education no genius of perversity could invent.

Meanwhile there waits that one great problem of life, to be solved
by chance for the countless millions.  And we let it wait!

Why is the boy with fingers adapted to tinkering, with a mind
inclined to mechanics--why does he think he is satisfied with his
work in a machine-shop?  Because chance was good to him, SO HE
THINKS; it placed him where he belonged.  But did it?  Maybe the
time will come when he is at the end of his possibilities for lack
of deeper knowledge.  He will be a labourer when he might be an
executive--leaving all thought of the money-rewards aside for a
moment.  Then his life will suddenly lack that "abundance".  Equal
opportunities for all?  Indeed!  Do you call it giving that man an
opportunity if you point back into the past and say to him, "You
should have made better use of your school-days?"  Was he the man
he is now when he was a child?  Could he foresee?  As a child he
looked into that school-room with horror.  That was the school-
room's fault, not his; all the more so if the schoolroom sugar-
coated things.  The task allotted seemed and was slavery and
drudgery; Life beckoned, clad in light and the wind of the wild.
Maybe it was only tinsel and shoddy: could he distinguish?

But if, when he was a boy, you had led him into a giant work-shop
of all the essential industries of the land and had spoken to him
somewhat as follows:  "Go to it; satisfy yourself; find out in the
next year, or in two or four or five years, what kind of work you
would like to do; then do it.  Whatever you do will be paid for at
current rates; henceforth you are self-supporting; the work we are
turning out here is not idle play; we are doing part of the work of
the world; we do not ask you to weave little paper-mats or to sew
little picture-cards which seem silly to you and which indeed we
should drop into the nearest waste-paper basket as soon as you do
not happen to look; whatever you make, unless in the process of
making it was spoiled beyond the possibility of use, will be used;
in fact, our shops differ from those of our great industries in
only three points: they are here brought together within a
comparatively small compass--we watch that you do not overwork, for
there will, I trust, be no need of watching you so you won't
underwork--and you can get help at any moment in whatever may seem
puzzling to you.  Above all, find out where your inclinations are;
we are going to let you work in many departments; work in them all
and find out what you like best.  And whenever you run up against
that which you do not understand, for which you need theoretical
knowledge, well, my boy, against that case we have provided class-
rooms where such things are taught; you can avail yourself of them
or not, as you please.  But till you are eighteen years old, no
matter what you may choose to do, you are going to do it right
here, on these farms, in these workshops and offices.  But, if we
do not ask you to spell out silly words which you do not understand
and for which you have not now and may never have any use, we do
ask you most earnestly never to persist in a task which seems
hateful; we require you to find a task that is pleasant to perform.
By doing that you will be doing your duty"--if you had said that to
the boy or the girl, would they have responded?  It is my
unalterable conviction that they would.

That is nothing new, of course.  I do not mean to palm it off as
original thought.  I hold no monopoly in common sense.  But, couple
such a system of education--which would breed craftsmen instead of
labourers--with a half-ways sensible system of labour-exchanges--as
any group of intelligent men could work out in an hour or so--and
you will have done away with the major part of the causes of
present unrest; but you will also have done away with what brought
the French Revolution about and which is by no means dead: with
privilege in all its forms.

No amount of literary cramming will make a good, loyal, intelligent
citizen out of a reluctant child.  But a craftsman who loves his
work and takes pride in his work, who would rather do his work than
joy-ride over the country--such a craftsman cannot be a disloyal,
troublesome, unintelligent citizen, even though he can neither
read--nor write.  But, of course, he would have mastered both these
arts without wasting eight years of his life on them, endangering
his health to boot.


I Am Kidnapped

One day in May I left the little mill-town on the Ohio River and
struck out north.  Thoughts like those which I have outlined at the
end of the preceding chapter occupied my mind.

I had seen something of menial service, something of commercial
life.  A glimpse at industrial activities had followed.  One of
these three aspects of the work of a nation was warped, it is true,
by the unfortunate chance which had led me on to the crooked paths
rather than to the straight and narrow ones.  But I could close my
eyes to that part of my experiences.  Two had proved distasteful to
me in their very nature.  One, the last, had left me feeling clean,
untainted, but still dissatisfied.  I attributed my dissatisfaction
to the circumstances which had led me to one of the smaller
enterprises.  More and more I became imbued with that old
conception of mine that I was cross-sectioning the life of a
nation.  I must not stop before this task, for as a task I viewed
it, was completed.  It seemed to be something imposed, a mission,
something I could not escape in any case and which I might well
further.  There was no ulterior motive in it.  The thought of
writing, of some day telling others about my life, was very far
from me indeed.  I was merely trying to work out my own salvation;
and to do it in my own way.  Just now the labourer was in my mind;
I wanted to see more of him; I wanted to study him in the mass.
Indianapolis was my immediate goal; beyond it loomed Chicago with
its multitude of immigrants.

I had set out from New York in order to search for that America
which bore Abraham Lincoln.  I thought I had found it.  I thought
that I saw the Lincolns all over the country, in little villages,
little hamlets, little farmsteads and smithies--wherever men
sacrificed their own selfish ends for the general good--and, above
all, of course, in little doctors' offices.

There was, from the outset, no fear of the unknown in this second
tramp of a hundred and fifty miles or so.  I had only a little
money in my pocket, it is true; I went in overalls; but I went,
determined and confident that I could make my way without
suffering.  Nor was that confidence disappointed.  I travelled like
the travelling journeymen of old.

I will give three examples of how it worked out.

The first evening I came to a farm which stretched along between a
creek and the road.  House, barns, and stables were strung out to
the left of the road, behind a stone-wall.  The farm sloped down
over bottom-lands to a quick-flowing stream.

It was at the horse-stable where I stopped.  A man who had just
come in from the field was taking the harness off his horses.  I
bade him good evening and stepped in.  Without leaving his work he
returned my greeting and looked me over.

"I'm on the tramp," I said, "I've been working down at the mill on
the river and am trying to get to Indianapolis.  I'm a veneer-man.
I wondered whether I could get a bite at your place and a corner in
the hay-loft to sleep in?"

"I don't know," he replied, still looking me over with a look of

"I'm willing to pay whatever is right," I added.

"Take that horse, will you?" he exclaimed; for one of the horses
was trying to get away from him.

I grabbed the halter-line.

"We'll see," he went on.  "I've got to take the horses down to the
creek for water first.  I'll ask the missus."

"All right," I said.  "I'll help you; how many are there?"

"Five," he replied; "yes, if you'll take two, we can make it in one

"Sure," I agreed, dropped my bundle, and reached for the halter-
shank of a second horse.

We wended our way down to the creek, through a field in which the
corn stood a few inches high.

"Nice corn," I praised.

"Pretty fair," he replied.

And when we were waiting for the horses to drink, he enquired,
"Nice little mill they've got down to the river.  Are they making

"Hand over fist," I said.

"Why'd you quit?"

"Oh," I said, not caring to discuss my real reasons, "mill is too
small.  They don't pay enough."

"How much?"

"Six, seven dollars a week, according."

He laughed.  "A farm-hand gets that, all found."

"That so?"

I felt sure of the night's accommodation by that time.

When we returned to the stable, we fed the horses and went to the
house.  The man entered alone.

"All right," he said when he reappeared.  "The missus is getting
supper.  We haven't a bed to spare . . ."

"Never mind," I interrupted.  "I'll sleep in the loft.  I'm trying
to spend as little as I can."

And we sat down, till the "missus" called.

Next morning I was up at the break of day and started brushing the
horses and throwing the manure out.  I was thus engaged when the
farmer entered.

"Well," he said.  "Working, are you?"

"Might as well help while I'm here."

"Come in and have breakfast," he said.

When I took my leave and asked what I owed him, he answered, "Oh, I
reckon you've paid by your work."

"Well," I said, "thanks."

And I was on my way.

Another night I reached a very small farm just at nightfall.  It
was a dairy-farm, worked by a young newly-married couple.  They
were in the cow-barn, milking, when I found them.

Again I started in by giving them some data about myself.  They
looked at each other.  I could see they were glad of a stranger's
call.  Their lives did not offer much entertainment.  To have me
there, for the night, was a break in the monotony of their daily
grind.  They were beginners; their work was hard; and since they
had no help, they had to share it.

Still, all their talk at supper was about hiring a man, only to end
in a sigh with the words, "Well, we can't.  Not just yet.  A year
from now, maybe."

The woman was expecting a baby as I could see.  I carried water and
stove-wood in while the young man watered and fed the cows.

Next morning he took a cream-can to town, and, his road coinciding
with mine, I had a ride.  They refused to accept any pay though
they had given me a bed in the house.

A third night which I remember was spent on a large farm conducted
by a city-bred man who was trying to use the most modern methods.

Again I came across the owner in the barn.  He was standing on top
of a load of fodder-corn, and a number of men were feeding the
horses of which there were sixteen or twenty, all of them splendid
animals with high-arched necks, Percherons and Belgians.  I waited
for him when one of the hired men had pointed him out to me as the

"Well," he asked when he fell into step with me, "what can I do for
you, sir?"

I told him.

"Sure," he said, "we'll put you up."

A slight shower had fallen during the afternoon, and the air was
fresh--of that spring-freshness which seems like a caress.

He stopped between house and barn and looked out over a field
sloping away to the setting sun; the corn stood knee-high.

"I've known that corn to grow six inches in a single night," he
said.  Then he turned to me.  "Going to the city, you said?"

"Yes," I replied.  "I'm a veneer-man."

He laughed.  "I got out," he said.

"From veneering?"

"No, from the city."

I looked at him.  He was still a young man, thirty-five maybe--a
pleasant, vigourous type.

"Hard on the women, though," he went on when he proceeded towards
the house.  "Farm life, I mean.  My mother and two sisters are with
me.  I am unmarried."

"Well," I said, "of course, you can't have city conveniences on the
farm . . ."

"You can, too," he interrupted.  "One day I am going to build the
right kind of a house, if I make a go of this."

"You have not been on the place very long?" I enquired.

"A little over a year," he said.  "I'm all for it, too.  But I
doubt whether the women like it."

We reached the house.

"Mother," he called when he entered, "I bring a guest."

A white-haired lady stepped into the room.  At a glance I saw why
she suffered: she had lived with social niceties for the breath of
her life.  But she was brave, "game", for she adored her son.  I
somehow divined as much; and I treated her with formal courtesy.

Before we sat down for supper, I had become a friend of the family,
a confidant of their troubles.

We sat till late into the night, the mother depicting, not without
a sense of humour, though it was of the ironic kind, the trials of
her life among the "rustics".

"But my son says that is honesty," she smiled, "and it is, of
course.  But it seems to me mere honesty is nothing much to boast

We laughed.

"When a man is worried about the mortgage on his farm," I said, "I
suppose he has not much to say for the white table-cloth."

"He should," she answered; and again her son laughed.

"Mother doesn't believe in mixing homelife with business-worries,"
he said.  "When a man takes his overalls off, he should be a
gentleman even though he may be a roughneck in the barn."

"Above all he SHOULD take his overalls off once in a while," she

I had a room to myself, with washstand and bureau.  It would have
been an insult had I offered to pay when I said good-by after

I gained an insight into the lives of men in the country, a
straighter, juster view of things, superficial though it was.
During the preceding fall I had looked on the farms which I passed
with suspicion and hostility; I doubt whether the mere tramp would
have been welcome.  Now I kept up the fiction that I "belonged"
somewhere.  I thus began to feel that a new vista was opening up.
What were cities and towns?  Mere specks on the map.  Here was the
ground-mass of the nation--the soil from which cities sprang, like
strange, weird, sometimes poisonous flowers in the woods.  For the
first time I saw the true relation: the city, the town working for
the country: the farmer, though not yet realized as such, the real
master of the world who would one day come into his own.  I
understood that, before I could say that I had a fair view of
America as it is, I should have to mingle with the men who tilled
the soil.  And no longer did this seem a formidable task, as it had
seemed when first, in the east, I had had a vision of the continent
which stretched beyond the rim of the coast-lands.  I looked
forward to it with pleasure and anticipation.

But I did not swerve from my immediate objective.  The labourer was
the man whom I wanted to study; unconsciously I understood by that
the labouring immigrant: others who, like myself, had come into
this country to make a living, but who had the strong arm to make a
success of it.  I wanted to seem them in the mass, to weigh their
chances for a real life.  I myself seemed very unimportant, very
irrelevant, for I realized by this time that mine was of necessity
an exceptional case.

I also pondered a good deal on the curious plan which seemed to
underlie my wanderings, though I could not see as yet that it was
the natural and necessary outcome of conditions.  Here I was, in
the middle west, walking the highroads to my destiny.  I had
started life on this continent as a waiter, feeding the city-
masses; had looked in upon straight and crooked business; had taken
a glimpse at one of the essential industries, helping to make the
accessories of civilized life; and at last I was seeing myself, in
the future, among the fundamentals of life--where the food was
being grown for the seething world.

What had I done, so I asked myself again, to bring these steps
about?  Nothing!  I had drifted.  It was as if a higher power had
led me blind-folded.  Is it not time, I said to myself, that,
instead of resisting, I help it along, that I assist it in bringing
about what seems to be my destiny?  Oh, how proud I felt when I
surmised that one day I was to be master supreme of myself and my

There is humour and irony in the fact that I should just have
reached this summit of self-approval, this reconciliation with, and
acceptance of, that which I fondly imagined to be my destiny when
fate took a hand and played a little trick on me, so as to take the
starch out of my most wonderful conceit.  For Fate did take a hand
and literally railroaded me into the next phase of my life.

This is how it happened.

I was now very close to my immediate destination.  That day or the
next, I thought, I should have reached the city.  But the weather
had taken a nasty turn.  In the morning a heavy and cold rain had
started, soaking the roads till they were mere mires of clayey mud.
A drizzle persisted all afternoon.

I came to a farm.  The owner whom I saw at once when I turned in at
the gate was closing the slide door of a big red barn.  I waded
across to him and, with a greeting, stated my desire.

He interrupted me gruffly--the weather was enough to spoil any
man's humour.  "I don't keep a boarding-house," he said, "why don't
you go to town?"

I referred him to the state of the roads, but enquired about the

"Follow the track," he said and pointed north.

I went.

I found that I had to go about a mile before I reached the track.
I was tired and wet.  This last piece of the road was a veritable
quagmire, that kind of tough clay-mud which smacks its lips at you
when you withdraw your foot.  I was hungry, too--though I still
carried some bread, the left-overs of my lunch.  But since the town
was said to be near, I did not stop to eat.

It was a relief when I reached the track; but I tramped along,
walking the ties, for another three or four miles before I finally
saw lights ahead.  At the same time there loomed a water-tank to
the right.  On a spur of the opposite track stood an open box-car;
its doors showed it to be invitingly empty.  I still had ten
dollars or so; but I was anxious to hold on to that much cash.  I
crossed over to the car and looked in.  It was getting dark by that
time; but I could see a litter of hay on the floor.

Here was an opportunity to save money.  I had enough bread to allay
the worst of my hunger; and I was dreadfully tired.  The town
seemed to be another half mile ahead.

My mind was quickly made up, and I jumped into the car.  I raked
the hay together with my foot, making a pile of it in a dark
corner.  I reached into it with my hands: it was clean and dry.

So I crouched down at the door and ate my supper.  I carried a tin-
flask with water; and I drank.

Then I lay down on the hay and covered up with my damp raincoat.
In a very few minutes I was sound asleep.

A rumbling noise and a strange, half tossing, half shaking motion
waked me up.  For several minutes I remained where I was, lying
still and staring into the darkness.  Gradually an uncertainty as
to where I was took hold of me.  Then a panic seized me.

I remembered where I had gone to sleep.  I shot up into a sitting
posture and realized that I had a bad headache.  I jumped up.
There was no doubt any longer; the car was moving, rolling along in
a steady swing.  This was no mere shunting; the car was coupled to
a train; and I was going God and the train-crew only knew where.

I saw grey light which filtered from the cracks of the doors into
the dark interior of the car; and the next moment I was groping
along one of them, clawing for something to catch hold of in order
to pull it open.  But I was wasting my effort and merely breaking
my nails.

Just then the car lurched over, and I fell against the door, so
that it swung outward.  In desperation I reached into the crack,
trying to catch its edge with my fingers.  But the car lurched
back, and my hand was caught.  With a yell of pain I jerked it
free, leaving a piece of my skin in the crack.

I was beside myself with rage and fear; and in my foolish panic I
began to hammer the door with my fists, and to yell and to shout at
the top of my voice, till I was hoarse.

Then I sat down, in front of the door; and tears of fury coursed
over my cheeks.  I raved in insensate anger against God and fate
and the world.  I felt cheated and trapped, like an animal, like a
wild beast.  And as a trapped beast will--to the very last, to the
limit of its strength--rather than give in, fight against the trap
which has caught it, so I fought on again, without thinking,
without reasoning.  I stood and hammered away at that door till the
knuckles of my fists were bleeding; till I had spent the last of my
strength.  True symbol of much of the immigrant's life!

Then I sat down again and held my head as if I were trying to shut
out the deafening noise of that car, the roar of the sledge-hammer
blows which followed each other in quick succession as rail after
rail flew along underneath.

Sunlight replaced the grey dawn in the cracks of the doors, and the
atmosphere heated up.  The air became stiflingly hot.

I broke down; I relaxed.  I threw myself back on that pile of hay.
And now I seemed to become conscious of a mocking note in that
succession of pounding blows of the wheels on the rails; and
impotent rage took hold of me again.

It must have been afternoon before quieter counsel prevailed.  I
could not see the humour of the situation, of course.  I did not
laugh at the futility of my planning.  But I began to say, "What is
the use?"  And finally, I believe, I said, "What is the difference,
after all?"  Still, that goes without saying, I had only one
thought: how to get out of this.

But I began to reflect.  Trains do not go on for ever.  They get to
a destination.  It might well be, however, that this was one going
to California or to the Atlantic coast.  It might run on for days.
We were going at fifteen or twenty miles an hour, I judged.  But
they also have to stop for coal and water.  And not all the cars
were going right through to the same place either: some were
"kicked off" now and then; others were picked up.  It was at the
stops that I must try to call attention to myself.  I resented
having been so foolish as to waste effort and emotion while we were
rolling along.

And suddenly I realized that we were slowing down.  That put new
life into me.  My throat was dry; but as yet I did not think of the
fact that perhaps I might have a few drops of water left in my
flask.  I got up and stood ready at the door.  With a screeching of
all the brakes and the clangour of clashing car against car we came
to a stop.  I started to hammer and to shout again; not
hysterically this time; methodically, husbanding my strength.  But
even so it was exhausting work.  Then I stopped and listened.  Not
a sound anywhere.  Nobody could possibly suspect my presence: why,
then, should anybody happen to come near me?  I stood and listened
for a long while.

Then I heard a shout and running steps outside.  I broke into a
frenzy of noise, kicking, hammering, shouting--nothing happened;
for just then a sudden jerk and a roar of clashes nearly shot me
off my feet; the train went on.

I staggered back to my bed of hay and sat down.  I was exhausted
with hunger and thirst.  I took my flask out, shook it, and
inverted it over my mouth, reclining to catch a few precious drops
which leaked out.  I began to see the possibility of starving in
this car.  I felt strange waves of panic running over my
consciousness.  But I fought fear down: it led to insanity.  Not
that, I thought, not that!

I tried to occupy my mind: I looked at the light in the door-
cracks--it conveyed the message to me that the sun was setting--
there was a reddish glow to it as of fiery masses of cloud in the
sky.  And another message: the sunlight struck the front crack of
the door: we were going west.  It was not much information, but it
was something; something to think about: I began to canvass the map
of America which I carried about in my head.  I indulged in
conjectures as to our probable destination, then I started to doze;
and at last I slept.

When I awoke, I believe it was the feeling of soreness that made me
do so.  I do not remember details beyond the fact that for a long
while, probably for hours together, I lay perfectly still, in a
kind of stupour.

Somehow the feeling of soreness departed when I was awake; whenever
I dozed, it returned.  My hands were sore, my back ached, my bones
seemed to be jarred loose throughout my body.  It was as if my
physical self awoke to the consciousness of these things whenever
my mental self went to sleep.  I tried to keep awake.

Without stirring I noted, in a half unconscious way, that a thread
of light came through the near crack of the door to the right.
Daylight dawned.  I wondered what stretches of the country might
lie outside; what stretches we might have run through overnight,
while I had been sleeping.  Truly, I was going "out west" at last
with a vengeance!

After a while I tried to rouse myself.  I wanted to transfer my bed
of hay to the space between the doors.  It took me hours to
accomplish that.  My throat was dry, my tongue swollen.  That was
my last effort.  When I lay down again, I gave in, yielded to fate.
I did not care any longer even to arouse the attention of the
train-crew by futile efforts.  Had I tried, I should probably have
found that I lacked the strength to shout or hammer.  It was the
lack of water more, I believe, than the lack of food which made me
so utterly weak.

Another day went by as it had come.

Of the night which followed I know not.

But at last I see a young man with demented eyes and feverish head
stagger out of that car--into the arms of a horrified train-man--
gasp for water, and faint away by the side of the track in the
greying dawn.

I was in a little town west of Springfield, Missouri.


The Level

"None can be an impartial or wise observer of human life but from
the vantage ground of what we should call voluntary poverty."

Henry David Thoreau


I Learn to Beat My Way

Everybody, I suppose, has played with a half-grown pup.  He tries
to get at your fingers and to lie down under your hand.  You push
him away, into some corner of the room; as soon as he is on his
feet again, he starts back for your hand.  His pertinacity is
wonderful.  He will wag his tail, deprecatingly; he will perhaps
feel aggrieved; he will even emit a growl or a bark; but he will
start back for your hand.

I cannot help seeing myself like that.  I had been on my way to
Indianapolis.  Why?  It was the nearest centre of an industry of
which I thought I had taken hold.  The hand of fate had picked me
up and thrown me into some far corner of the land.  Hardly was I on
my feet again, when I started back for my original goal.

I followed the track over which I had come.  I struck a bee-line,
walking the ties.  This tramp back east was little of my own
choosing.  My wish and will had nothing to do with it.  For more
than a month I kept at it obstinately.  Since I followed the track,
I met few farms but many towns--little outright hospitality, but
many opportunities for occasional work--"odd jobs".  I had ten
dollars or so in my pocket, and I held on to that.  I adapted
myself again.

Sometimes, when I came into these towns, I told the story of how I
had been cast away in this corner of the world; sometimes I did
not; but always I walked boldly in whenever I was hungry or when
night fell.  I picked a few houses and made a back-door canvass for
work till I found it.

The chief result of my experience was the realization--come to with
something akin to amazement--that it really mattered very little
where a person was.  So long as I was content to go on with the
kind of life I was leading, I could make some kind of a living
anywhere.  I do not think that such would have been possible in

Also, a lucky chance thrust a new trade upon me.  One of the first
women to whom I spoke in this way asked me whether I knew anything
about pruning trees.  She pointed to the cherished plantation in
her front-yard with which a recent wind-storm had played havoc.  It
had never before struck me that I did know something about this
art.  I had grown up in a tree-nursery; I had never done any of the
work myself; but I had looked on so often, and I had so often heard
the directions given to "new hands" by a trained superintendent or
foreman that I knew the underlying principles thoroughly; I felt
sure I could adapt my hands to the mechanics of the trade.  I
undertook the work for this good lady; and when I finished, I felt
it to be a success.  She asked for my charge; and since I had
worked at it for a day, getting my meals--and good meals they were--
I asked for a dollar.

She exclaimed in surprise.  "I should think it would be worth more
than that!  That is skilled labour!  I should not have minded
paying five dollars for what you have done."

She gave me two and half; and I felt rich.

Henceforth when I went into a town, I no longer asked for "work"; I
went from house to house with this question, "Any trees to prune,
madam?"  And when I was asked for my terms, I replied, "Twenty-five
cents an hour."  If materials were needed--wax, wire, cement--I
charged for them, of course, making it a point to discuss the
problem in hand with the owner of the trees, so as to underline the
fact that my work was that of an expert.

By this time it dawned upon me that I could also graft, bud, and
transplant; and if, in this tramp, I had run across a tree-nursery,
I might have been sidetracked again; my whole life might have been
deflected into a different channel.

Financially speaking, I got ahead of the game and laid money by;
geographically, of course, my progress was much retarded.  And I
believe I can say, not without taking a certain childlike pride in
the fact, that for once a "peripatetic tree-pruner" was not a
"tree-butcher".  I even bought the best tools which the market
afforded, though I limited my outfit to saw and knives; yes, I went
to the extent of discontinuing the work as a regular trade when I
judged the season too far advanced, though I still offered to
remove dead limbs which were a menace to the welfare of trees and
advised about early spring pruning.

At last I began to think of boarding a train.  For the first time I
questioned the wisdom of returning to the middle west.  If I had
thought things over more carefully when I first landed west of
Springfield, and if at that time I had been in my later mood, I
believe I should have gone west instead of east.  But the baffled
feeling of being railroaded out had prevented me from reasoning
coolly.  By the comparison of my behaviour with that of the pup I
have already indicated that this tramp back east was undertaken by
instinct; and instinct is as often wrong as it is right, for it is
blind.  Now I was nearing St. Louis.  "Beer, Tobacco, and Boots"--
three things of which I knew nothing except as a consumer.

To the north there was the Missouri River.  It was summer.  Crops
were ripening; the great northwestern wheatfields beckoned.  But
how to get there was a problem.  Might I not, so I thought, look in
upon those farms, upon the granary of the western world?  Did I
really know anything of America, even granted that I had to
restrict my view of it to the view from below, to the perspective
of the frog, unless I knew the life of the farm where farming is an
industry, done on the large scale, not with the primitive methods
of mere husbandry with which I was already more or less familiar?

Several days I spent in intense uncertainty, hesitating at every
cross-roads where a trail led north.  The economic problem had
ceased to worry me.  No longer was I going to go hungry; no longer
was I going to lie in the bush, under no other cover but that of
the whirling snow--unless I chose to do so.

I did not realize it at the time; but I had been a tramp; I was
becoming a hobo.

The tramp is the outcast, the victim of his nature which is at
variance with constituted society; he goes hungry and thirsty and
without shelter by sheer necessity and in distress; he is unhappy
and to be pitied; his rambles are always at random and lack purpose
and plan.

The hobo is, at least in his own estimation--and what else counts?--
the lord of the world; deliberately he follows his inclination;
if constituted society is at variance with him, so much the worse
for constituted society for it is the slave of convention and
greed!  The hobo never goes hungry and thirsty but lives on the fat
of the land; he goes without shelter merely from choice, when the
weather is golden and propitious; he is happy in his mode of life,
strange as it may seem, and he pities you, gentle reader; work is
to be found for the asking wherever he goes--for he goes where it
is to be found; he often rejects it because it is not to his
liking, or because the pay or some other conditions are not up to
standard; he travels, and his rambles are continent-wide, though
following definite, well-laid-out channels; if he wishes to spend
the winter, the inclement seasons, in softer climes and in
idleness, he does so.  He is often a coarser and de-sublimated
Henry David Thoreau.  There is poetry in the hobo's life; and
strange to say, though his instincts are not those of the settled
citizen, he still has or at any rate had a definite function in the
nation's economy.

Of course, there are between the two types all stages of
graduation, as we shall see; occasionally one finds a tramp among
hobos, and a hobo among tramps, and individual hobos are often
victims of very cruel conditions.

But before I go on with my story, I must once more speak of myself.
For, quite independently from my haps and mishaps, I went at about
this time through a series of deductions which finally determined
my life for the rest of my days.

By no trick in the chemistry of my nature, nor by any inclination
or choice of my own was I a tramp or a hobo.  No matter how much I
had sometimes loved my rambles; no matter with how much longing I
sometimes looked back with my mind's eyes on this or that scene--in
the mountains, along the river, or in the plains--still there was
in my heart, deep down, a craving for peace with society, a desire
to take root somewhere and to fit myself into this scheme of life
in the western hemisphere as a cog which furthered its design in
some definite way.  Although I saw suffering and injustice on every
hand, I began to sense the great undercurrent of an evolution
towards fairness, towards that which is morally right and true.
Individual men and women might resist this current, might
heartlessly, thoughtlessly step down on those who were less
fortunate than they; they might be heartless and thoughtless as
that freight-car had been heartless and thoughtless in throwing me
into that corner of Missouri--yet I began to see more and more
clearly that the very essence of the nation's life was a
recognition of that which is fair and just, and a firm resolve to
help it along to a final victory.  With these, the less obvious
but, in the long-run, all-powerful tendencies I wished to side, I
wished to ally myself if I permanently became an American.  Money
and glory in the eyes of the world seemed by this time very small
things indeed.  I no longer cared for them.  But here was a task,
and a task, so I thought, for which I was fitted.  It was, after
this, a question of how to go at it; and that became a problem
which remained unsolved for a little while yet.

And then, one night, I had a revelation.  In Europe I had
dallied with the thought--as a possible way out of my economic
difficulties--of fitting myself for what should always be an
avocation but which at that time would have been no more than a
profession for me; and though the thought had never led to anything
beyond a dallying with possibilities, I knew suddenly that this was
my avocation and that it was to be my destiny.  The thought took
possession of me; it seemed to solve all my problems.  I knew now
that, whenever I chose to leave the life that I was leading, I
could do so.  I saw the gate which led out of the wilderness into
the garden of civilization where I, too, might be useful in
exterminating weeds and maybe even in planting the trees which
would bear fruit.  It is significant that I did not choose to do so
at once and that I postponed it from choice.  Henceforth I could
plunge down into the very depths of humanity, knowing the while
that I was merely rounding off what I now called my education in
the "true humanities".

Thus, one day, I left the track of the railroad and struck north.
In the course of a day or so I reached the Osage River and followed
it, down to its confluence with the Missouri.

Now there began a strange trip along the river.  I have said that,
without knowing it, I had become a hobo.  It is one of the
distinguishing features of the hobo's travels that he neither goes
alone nor necessarily afoot.  I did not know that either at the
time; but I was an apt learner, and I learned from a man who, by
chance, was in my own position in as much as he happened to be, for
the moment, alone.

I met him one evening, somewhere along the river, between St. Louis
and Kansas City.  When I came upon him, he was sitting on the
river-bank and feeding a little fire over which he was cooking his

He was not tall--a strangely sallow-skinned man, his face framed in
a brown-black beard of soft, curly hair.  What struck me more than
anything else was the resemblance he bore to Titian's paintings of
the Lord of Christianity.  His was the mild eye, his that exceeding
delicacy of skin and features, that near-transparency of the flesh,
his the traditional beard.

By his side, where he sat, lay a neatly-rolled bundle done up in
waterproof canvas.

Altogether he reminded me of certain people whom I had seen in
Russia; all of them belonged to the "Intelligentzia" of that
country; and from what I knew of them--which was not much--most of
them were fanatics, politically or religiously.  Instinctively, I
put him down as of Slavonic origin.  There was something refined
and gentle about him which attracted me.  I could not help thinking
of Tolstoy's Sergei Ivanovitch.  I do not remember whether
Tolstoy's description of this figure would have fitted him; but the
picture I saw when I stepped up to his fire would have fitted the

"Mind if I sit down?" I asked.

He invited me by a motion of his hand, without a word.

It was a beautiful early-summer night.  To the right, the river
meandered over its wide flood-plain of pebbly rock--to the left
stretched the willow-clothed bank.  The sun had just sunk down
below the horizon; it was an hour for silence, not for talk; and
his wordless gesture had something noble in it.

I had been thinking of camping out myself.  I had brought a can of
baked beans from the store in the last town which I had passed.  I
opened it and prepared to have my supper.

Meanwhile the stranger's eye appraised me, silently.

I stood up and looked out.  There is about the lower valley of the
Missouri a suggestion of width, of large spaces, of an infinite
beyond which has always thrilled me.  It did so that night.

I walked down to the edge of the water to fill my flask.  But when
I came back, the stranger raised his finger and shook it.

"No good," he said; and, pointing to the northwest, he added, "The
city."  He raised a little kettle.  "Have some tea," he invited.
"I have plenty."

"Thanks," I said, nearly in a whisper, for I was hushed by the wide
silence of the landscape.

By the time we had eaten our supper there seemed to be a perfect
understanding of mutual helpfulness between us.  Neither of us had
spoken.  But I had offered him some of my beans, and he had
retaliated by sharing the meat which he had cooked, the boiled hock
of a pig, seasoned to a nicety.

At last he unrolled his bundle, and so did I.  He had a blanket and
a pair of overalls in his.  He was wearing a black suit which was
rather neat for that of a tramp, for as such I had put him down in
my ignorance.  The duck in which his bundle was rolled was large
enough for a man to lie on or to cover up with.  This canvas he
offered me when he saw that I had nothing in the line of bedding.

"You need a blanket," he said.  "It's cold overnight along the

His English was perfect.  I could not help wondering about his
status.  Neatness, delicacy, and refinement were features which I
did not expect to find in people "on the tramp".  Much against my
nature I had been trying to suppress my leanings in that direction
so as to fit myself better into the part I was playing.  I accepted
his offer of the canvas and rolled up.  The quiet breathing of my
companion soon showed that he was asleep.

Next morning, when I awoke, I found him up already.  He had a fire
going and was boiling water for tea.  He smiled at me with a
strangely brilliant smile which uncovered white and well-kept

"I have been away for water," he said.

I sat up.  "Are you tramping it?" I asked.

His face was a study; it looked nearly pained.  "Going north," he
answered.  "Harvest.  You, too?"

"Yes," I said, "if I can get there.  Where did you come from?"

"Florida," he replied and busied himself with the boiling water.

"Florida!" I thought with a gasp.  "How did he manage to get

He read the thought in my face; for he laughed and enquired, "Ever
been up before?"

"Up?" I repeated.

"In the Dakotas."

I shook my head.  "First time," I replied.  And after a while I
added, "How do you go?  Walk it?"

He smiled again.  "No," he said.  "Beat it.  By train."

This left me pretty much where I was, in darkness.  But I did not
say anything for a while.  I had learned that most things come to
him that waits.

We had our breakfast consisting of tea, with sugar and condensed
milk, and of fresh bread.  I was thinking hard, trying to find a
way to make him yield me his secret.  But there was no need, for,
when he rolled up his bundle, he broke the silence.

"Want to come with me?" he asked.  "We can be partners."

I did not then grasp the full significance of this word, nor the
honour conferred upon me; but I accepted readily enough.

"If you don't mind," I said.

"Not at all," he answered.

So we both got our bundles ready, he swinging his, hanging from the
handle of a stout walking-cane, over his shoulder; I breaking the
stem of a willow for the same purpose.  Thus we struck out to the
west, away from the river, till we reached the track.  There we
walked the ties for a mile or two.  It was on this stretch that he
gave me his name.

"Call me Ivan," he said.

"My name is Phil," I reciprocated.  And at last I asked, "You are
Russian, are you not?"

He nodded.  "Born in Russia; but I have my papers," meaning
apparently that he was naturalized.

Mostly we walked in silence; there did not seem to be any need for

We came to a point where we saw a town ahead.  To the right of the
track stood the usual water-tank and a coal-bunker, a few hundred
yards ahead.  Ivan stopped and carefully studied the lay-out,
shading his eyes with his hand.  I could not guess at his purpose,
but I did not like to ask questions.  I felt that I was in the
hands of a competent guide and did not worry.

At last my companion, having satisfied himself as to the object of
his investigations, pointed to the left, down the embankment of the
track, and said "We'll wait here.  I think we'll make Kansas City

We cut slantways down the side of the road-bed, to a cluster of
brush behind which we sat down for a patient wait.  Ivan apparently
had a good store of everything; for after an hour or so he got out
a little parcel and opened a can of sardines on which we lunched.

"Better have a bit now," he said; "we can't tell when we'll eat

Not long after that a train announced itself by a distant rumbling.
At once Ivan was on the alert.  He put his bundle into ship-shape
and kept on the look-out.  But above all he listened.  The track
stretched away in a curve to the southeast.

"Freight-train," he said before we saw it.

I was to find out that he could distinguish the sounds which trains
make at great distances.

Then he nodded across the track where, a hundred yards to the
northwest, the water-tank loomed.

"They'll stop for water and coal," he said.  "We'll board a car."

The train appeared around the curve in the distance.  Its rumbling
grew louder.  The side of the roadbed began to quiver as if in
anticipation; and at last I watched the rails on the track, as
slowly they began to heave and to sink when the engine approached.
Ivan kept carefully out of sight, under the cover of the willows;
and whatever he did, I did, too.  No words were exchanged; there
was tension in the very air.  And slowly, with slackening speed,
the heavy cars rolled by overhead.  They were mostly box-cars, with
their doors closed and sealed; but in their rear followed flat-cars
piled high with timbers.  Those Ivan watched.

The train came to with a sudden roar of clashes and screaming
buffers.  The flat-cars were only a few steps to our right.  But
Ivan did not move as yet; and I watched him closely in order to do
as he did.  I should have hated to make a mistake.  He gave no
explanations, but the thing explained itself when I saw the legs of
one or two members of the train-crew running up from the caboose on
the other side of the train.

They had hardly passed opposite our hiding-place when Ivan nudged
me.  We ran.  Ivan had already picked the car he wanted; and with
extraordinary agility he boarded it by jumping on the coupler and
climbing on to the timbers, flattening himself, so as not to be
visible above the box-cars in front.  I followed his example, but
made the mistake of choosing the far side of the timber pile.

Then I heard Ivan's voice.  "Come to this side," he said.  "The
station is on your side, ahead.  Climb down again, the way you
came, and come over here."

I did as directed.

"Lie down," he said when I joined him, "till we are past the
station.  Afterward we can sit up and be comfortable."

I flattened myself between the timbers.

He spoke again.  "It does not matter much if they do find us.  But
it will cost us a dollar.  So long as nobody sees us, it's free."

I do not think I shall ever forget the exhilaration of that train-
ride.  To the right we had glimpses of the river; to the left we
looked out upon farms and wooded hills.  It was dusty, it is true;
the engine seemed to throw out cinders by the shovelful; but it was
the first voluntary train-ride which I had since I had left New
York; and like the first involuntary one it was free.

Shortly after the noon-hour, houses began to stand in clusters;
then straggling clusters arranged themselves, unwillingly, so it
seemed, into streets.  We were going into the city.  What with the
sharp draft, the cutting cinders, and the rough jolting, I felt
dazed by that time; but I kept up a brave show.

"We'll drop off as soon as she slows down," my companion said.
"We'll take a street-car into the city.  You better buy yourself a
blanket here, and a piece of oil-cloth to wrap it in.  That's
cheaper than duck."

"You are the doctor," I thought, rather exulting in this new lore
of the road.  What I said was, "Do we stay in the city overnight?"

"No," he answered, "I want to get out as soon as we can.  We are
behind the harvest as it is."

So the next time the train slowed down we climbed off to the
coupling-gear between the cars; and there we waited till my
companion thought the moment propitious to drop to the ground and
to dive out to the side.

Then we quietly started to walk to the west, crossing the maze of
tracks, and emerged in a dingy street beyond the round-houses.
Ivan seemed to be perfectly familiar with the surroundings.  We
turned a few corners and came to a street with the double tracks of
a street-car line.  We waited and boarded a car.

In spite of my former cosmopolitan life I was awed by the city
traffic and the city manners of the people.  I felt like a prodigal

At the large and new Central Station we got off our car.  My
companion led the way to the waiting-room where he immediately
began to study a time-table.  When he joined me again, after a few
minutes, he said, "We'll go out tonight.  We may go as far as
Omaha.  I'll see."

"But," I objected, "I don't know whether I shall have enough money
to pay my fare."

He smiled.  "Don't need any money," he said.  "Just wait.  I want
to wash."

It was about three in the afternoon.

After a thorough cleaning-up we left the station and went to a big
department-store where I, on Ivan's advice, invested two dollars in
a blanket and a few cents in a piece of oil-cloth.

"They charge you cut-throat prices for everything farther north,"
he said.  "You will need it anyway.  You don't want to horn in with
the roughnecks."

This was the only piece of slang which I ever heard him use; it was
expressive of the contempt which he meant to put into his words.
Otherwise, syncopated as his language was, stripped of unnecessary
words, it kept even in the most trivial every-day things to an
astonishing level of clear English.  "Horn in with the roughnecks"
I found to mean sharing the bunks in the atrocious accommodations
provided by the farmers of the northwest for their floating labour-

A perverse desire to use the conveniences of the city prompted me
to suggest going to a restaurant for our supper.  But Ivan flouted
the idea with a motion of his hand.

"No," he said, "no good.  Need something solid.  We'll have a hard

And, of course, I gave in to his better judgment.

We bought a supply of good things and returned to the waiting-hall
of the station to consume part of them.

Ivan was quiet.  He was resting up.  His whole attitude showed that
this was a serious business with him; that success or failure in
any point might mean at least partial success or failure of the
season's work.  I did as he did.  But for me it was no more than a
lark--a new experience, to be sure; yet one that was not very

About nine o'clock in the evening Ivan became restless.

"Train leaves nine thirty," he said.  "We'd better get ready."

In a dark corner of the waiting-hall he slung his bundle over his
back, fastening it with a stout cord and pushing it under his left
armpit.  He also tied the bottom of his trouser-legs and the wrists
of his sleeves with pieces of string.  Lastly he pulled his cap
securely down on his head.  I imitated him in everything; and when
we were ready, we left the station, lighting a cigarette as we did

For a while we walked briskly along, turning corners and following
glaringly lighted streets.  Then we came into darker quarters along
the river front; and Ivan's movements became more furtive.  We
passed under the arch of one of the bridges.  It was very dark
here, the bridge being lighted only by the red and green signal
lights of the railroad.  When we came out on the other side of the
structure, Ivan stopped.  I was now a prey to intense excitement.
My heart pounded, and I had a lump in my throat.  Instinctively I
felt that there was adventure ahead, and that it would be a test of
nerve and staying-power.  Even Ivan, the mild and delicate one,
seemed tense.

He started to climb up along one of the spans of the bridge,
working with hands as well as feet.  I followed.  Several times we
had to pull ourselves up by our hands alone, performing athletic
feats of no mean merit, with the river darkly gurgling underneath.

At last we stood on the bridge; and at once Ivan eclipsed himself
in the hollow of a huge H-shaped girder.

Then he spoke.  "We'll ride the rods," he said, "on the flyer.  If
we are in luck, we shall go right through to Council Bluffs.  We
shall get there about five in the morning.  The train runs slow
here on the bridge.  You watch me.  Climb in beside me.  When I get
in, you walk alongside the car till I'm on the rods.  I shall make
room for you.  I'll shout when I'm ready."

"All right," I said.

We waited another five minutes.  Then there was some motion of
shifting lights on the bridge in front.

"She's coming," said Ivan.  "Keep out of the glare of the
headlight.  Don't get out of the shadows before I do.  Got your
gloves on?"

That moment the cruel pencil of the headlight touched the girders
where we stood.  The whole bridge with its sleepers and its thin
bands of glittering steel seemed to leap out of the dark.  Its
floor began to vibrate and to swing rhythmically as the engine,
belching steam and smoke in brief, angry snorts, struck rail after
rail.  It was as if some giant monster were approaching,
deliberately, carefully groping its way along a suspected path.
The moving shadows of the girders were inky-black.

And suddenly the cloak of darkness fell over us again where we
stood; the screeching and towering monster had passed us.  The
engineer was leaning sideways out of his cab, his eyes rigidly
fixed ahead.  There was an hysterical, uncanny temptation to shout
at him; but I swallowed it down.

Slowly but irresistibly, baggage and mail-cars hove by.  The first
Pullman appeared.  Ivan looked back and stepped out into the narrow
aisle between the girders of the bridge-span and the shoulder-high
edge of the moving cars.

"Third car," he said and began to walk slowly ahead, with me in his

Suddenly all the brakes began to grind.

"Luck," said Ivan and halted.  "She's going to stop."

The third car came by.  Then the buffers squeaked, a rumbling noise
ran through the monster; the cars seemed to rear as their
connections telescoped together.

"Now, quick," said Ivan and dived behind the wheels.

"Come," he said again.

And half against my will I found myself diving in.  I was just
following him when the train moved with a jerk.

"Watch your feet," shouted Ivan.  "Swing up."

The next moment I lay across the rods?*  There were four of them.
Like Ivan I was on my belly, holding on to the rods with my hands.

* This description was written many years ago, shortly, after a
similar experience.  To-day I search in vain for the rods;
apparently there have been changes in construction.

"Hook your feet under," shouted Ivan when we were getting under
way, "we'll soon be off the bridge; then she'll turn loose."

Once more he shouted.  "When she's going, hold your face down on
your arms."

The rails were beginning to pound.  The rods were by no means
rigid.  It felt oddly as if they were living things, trying to
throw off their riders by bucking.  I looked over at Ivan whom I
could just see as a blacker bulk against the dark background.

Then it felt as if a restraining hand were withdrawn, or as if we
were starting to go downhill.

Faster and faster came the blows of the rail-endings, like hammer-
blows on the steel of the wheels.  The air began to roar past us;
and, as we were picking up speed, first a fine, cutting dust, then
sand, and finally gravel was pelted up against my body, caught in
the roaring whirl of the wildly rushing air.

I laughed, somewhat hysterically, and buried my face in my arms.

At last we were thundering along.  The whole universe seemed to be
one deafening bedlam of noise let loose.  We swayed and swung as we
were holding on for dear life, our hands getting sore from the
pelting gravel, our eyes closed tight, our faces pressed down on
our sleeves.  The track seemed to be a succession of hills and
valleys; the rods, a mere vibrating mass of whipping cords; our
arms, springs now stretched to the snapping-point, now compressed
beyond the power of re-expanding when the roadbed rose and pressed
the steel-truck upward.  I felt dazed and frightened beyond
anything I have ever gone through; and I should surely have got out
and relinquished the attempt had it been possible to do so.  But as
I thought of it, I saw myself lying on the sleepers, a mangled mass
of bloody flesh and crushed bones.  I did not believe that I could
hold on for an hour.  Long before that, I thought, my fingers would
be numb; they would let go; and if they did, that would inevitably
be the end.  Again, I thought of Ivan; if he could do it, I should
be able to.  And I clutched the rods with the effort of

Yet it seemed madness incarnate.  I thought of the delightful tramp
it might have been--in the green river-valley with its flood-plain,
its sandbanks, and its shady trees.  And again I thought how slow
it would have been--what a snail's-pace as compared with this
tearing speed.  But then, that was life--this was Purgatory at the
very least, even if there was an escape, which as yet I could not
know.  And still, in dumb determination I held on, for hours and
hours, so it seemed to me.

Then, after half an eternity of titanic effort and ceaseless
sameness, broken only by the scream of the whistle which seemed
oddly dull and ineffectual in this roaring noise, the train slowed
down.  Imperceptibly at first; then with an ever-increasing
screeching of brakes close to my ear.  The pelting against sore
finger-knuckles and body became less violent; the knocking of the
rods against knees and thighs less breathlessly frequent and
inexorable; the rush of the air roaring past my face less like an
irresistible blast.

We were rounding a huge curve; lights flashed by, seen through
tightly closed lids; my arms and muscles relaxed.

Slower and slower we went; and at last I heard Ivan's shout.  I
opened my eyes--the lids seemed stiff with embedded sand--and
looked across at him.  He seemed ghastly pale in the flashes of
light.  His face was coated with dirt; his clothes, in their
creases, stuffed with thick welts of sand and fine gravel.

"St. Joseph," he shouted.  "Only stop.  We've got to get off.  They
look the wheels over.  Let's drop at the water-tank."

"All right," I shouted back.

When we got out, I could hardly trust my legs.  I swayed as the
voyageur sways who for the first time has weathered a storm at sea.

Ivan laughed.  "Want to quit?" he asked.

"No," I said; I felt ashamed to own up.

We crossed several tracks to the left, away from the train,
avoiding the lights.  On the track next to the one on which our
train had been running, several loose cars stood strung out in a
casual-looking, disconnected line.  As soon as we came up, abreast
with them, we crossed back into their shadow and started to run.

The station with its glittering lights was just ahead.  Our train
was moving up, now.  I bent down and looked along under the cars at
the crowded platform.  St. Joseph, I thought--we had not made more
than fifty miles yet.  I figured it must be about two hundred and
fifty to Omaha.

"You hold on too tight," said Ivan.  "When the car throws you to
the right, she'll throw you back to the left.  Let yourself go
more.  I'm not tired."

He jumped on to the coupling-gear of one of the idle cars and
motioned me to do the same.  We were opposite the station.  If it
had not been for the intervening glare of the sheaf of light from
the engine of our train, we should have been in plain view of the
waiting people.  As it was, we saw them, but they did not see us.
Then the engine passed us, and we were screened by the train.  It
stopped, and people began to run along on the far side, hurrying
down to the day-coaches at the end of the train.

Again I felt nervous; we sat and waited.  A labourer with oil-can
and hammer ran along on our side, reaching in here and there with
the spout of the oil-can and tapping the wheels with his hammer.
Still we waited.

Then Ivan nudged me, jumped to the ground, and ran.  I followed;
and when we had climbed in again, I noticed that our relative
position was reversed this time.

"All aboard!"

We saw the legs of the brake-man who stood quite close by.  There
was a general shuffling; the bell rang out; and with a jerk we
started to glide along.  I could plainly look out on the station-
platform where still a few people lingered as we slipped by.  A
high building intervened.  There was no light except from little,
one-eyed lanterns hung to posts here and there.  And at last, as we
were getting under way again, streets flashed by in their nightly
aspect; we closed and buried our eyes again.

Once more Inferno started; and this time it lasted for a matter of
five or six hours.  I heeded my companion's advice and strained my
muscles less than I had done before; but, when at last, in the cool
dawn of a summer day, we dropped off our rods, at the weirdly
benighted-looking grey station of Council Bluffs, I was hardly able
to hold myself on my feet.

I staggered along like one drunk; and I was more than glad when
Ivan threw his bundle down on the riverbank, so we could rest.

But we did not stay long.  Ivan left me as soon as he thought the
bakeshops were open.  He wanted fresh bread for breakfast.

In half an hour or so he came back; we picked our things up and
started on a short tramp in the river valley.

As soon as we were out of sight of any buildings--on the opposite
shore, Omaha was still in plain view--we stopped again and made
camp.  We could not help laughing at each other; we were so black
and dirty.  But we had a bath in the river; and then we had

I praised Ivan because he had thought of fresh bread; he laughed
pleasantly, showing his snow-white teeth which were brightly set
off by his soft, dark beard.

"I feel as if I could sleep for twenty-four hours," I said.

"Do," he answered; and we laughed.  "We shall wait till to-morrow
morning anyway," said Ivan.  "I don't suppose you want another
night-ride again."

"Not just yet," I replied.  "Later on.  Since I've lived through
this one, I won't mind any longer."

"Quick trip," said Ivan.

"Quick," I agreed, "but rough."

I did not know what our final destination might be; nor did Ivan.
For the time being, I understood, he was trying to get to a certain
town in South Dakota where there was going to be a meeting of some

Next day we made Sioux City on a freight train; then we left the
Missouri River, going straight north.  We began to pass miles of
waving wheatfields.  Barley was ripe; whirring binders were cutting
the crop.  I suggested stopping and hunting for work.  But Ivan
shook his head.

"Small farms," he said, "poor grub.  Too many lay-offs going from
place to place.  They pay more, too, up north; their season is
shorter.  Sometimes they will pay as much for haying as these
fellows pay for stooking.  We shall see at the camp."

He often alluded to "the camp" now, and one day I asked him about

"Oh," he said, "the hobos from all over the country come together
there.  We can find out what the wages are and where the crops are
best.  No use losing time in beating about."

I had, so far, only the vaguest idea of how things worked out in
this great garnering of America's wheat-crop.

North of Sioux City our progress became slower.  We had left the
district of south-eastern Nebraska and Missouri where the net of
railroads overlying the country was narrow-meshed and where traffic
was heavy, fed as it was by great industries.  Trains were not
always forthcoming when we needed them; often we had to wait for
many hours.  But we went to the stations now when waiting and did
not hide any longer; and when they came, we were not the only
passengers who were travelling unbeknown though not unsuspected by
their crews.  Once or twice one of these "blind" passengers was
caught; then, as a rule, a search was made by the train-crew over
all the cars, and every one of the "bums" who was found was laid
under contribution.  Once, when the conductor was "grouchy" or
conscientiously honest, every one of us was chased off, a few who
were not quick enough to take the hint being badly rough-handled
before they at last escaped; we were a motley crowd as we stood
there along the embankment, roundly cursing the crew for inhuman
fools and destitute of common decency!

I cannot say but that, once I was hardened to this way of
travelling, I enjoyed it hugely; especially the righteous
indignation of the ever-increasing crowd when something was done
which did not seem "fair" to them.

I remember one case with more than common distinctness.

All the passenger-trains along this line were day-trains.  Ivan and
I gave up waiting for them.  It was not advisable to travel the
rods in daylight; you cannot hide.

Ivan and I were sitting--in a crowd of fifty or sixty others--on
the platform of a small way-station, waiting for a freight-train to
turn up.

A passenger-train was due and appeared, not more than an hour or
two behind schedule-time--so much was usual on those lines.

When the train pulled out, we saw a dozen rod-riders in broad
daylight before us; and like one man the whole assembly stood up
and cheered them for their audacity.

The conductor had swung up on the step of the last car.  When he
heard our cheering and saw us wave our hands at the luckless
fellows, he bent over to see what was wrong.

"Well, I'll be jiggered!" he exclaimed and jumped into the car to
pull the signal line.

A few minutes later the train came to a stop; the rod-riders had to
decamp in a hurry.

The train went merrily along without them; but they were more than
mad; and though they were in a hopeless minority, they offered to
fight the whole crowd of us, getting no satisfaction, however,
beyond being laughed at.

I proposed in all seriousness to take up a collection for them and
to pay their fare on the next accommodation; but they took that as
an aggravation, thinking I was poking fun at them.

When at last, coming from nowhere, so it seemed to me, the news
spread that a freight-train was approaching, the crowd which had
been thronging the platform broke up.  A pair here, a group of
three there would walk along the track ahead.  Ivan and I, too,
picked up our bundles and started out.  There was a grain-elevator
not far from the little station-building.  Ivan rounded its corner;
we stood there, waiting.

Several times another group thought our post a likely place; but
when they saw that it was occupied, they would turn and walk on.
One member of such a group, on catching sight of us, remarked
contemptuously, "There seem to be bums around everywhere!"

Ivan and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

It is characteristic of this unstable flood of floating labour that
there is a great feeling of solidarity when they are together in a
crowd.  Then they are the hobos, as opposed to the great,
contemptible mass of the respectable citizens; I should not wonder
if I heard that nowadays they had formed a "hobos' union".  But
when we met them singly or in smaller groups, that feeling of
solidarity was non-existent.  Every individual feels himself better
than his neighbour; his neighbour is a "bum"; he himself is the
Lord of Creation.  There are exceptions, of course, but they are
few.  Rarely has one of them, as Ivan did, simply and as a matter
of course accepted me on a dead level.  Those who did stand out in
my memory as my friends.

More and more numerous did these crowds become.  Oftener and
oftener we saw more or less elaborate camping-outfits along the
track, at the outskirts of towns.  Sometimes there would be camps
for two or three, sometimes for a dozen, sometimes for a hundred
men or more.  There were men from all the corners of the world;
Swedes, a decent lot, but clannish and none too articulate in
English; Russians in number galore, sometimes not very clean;
Germans who knew the language but mangled it; Austrians, Croatians,
Armenians; but very few Latins.  Slavs and Teutons--in the wider
sense which includes all the minor populations of northern Europe--
formed the mass of the foreign element; but Americans and Anglo-
Saxons were about as numerous as all the other groups together.

Gradually there formed in my mind the impression of a vast exodus,
or rather a vast confluence of numberless multitudes engaged in a
pilgrimage to some Mecca.


I Start Work in the Harvest

At last there were unmistakable signs that we were approaching some
great centre of hobodom, some world-capital of floating labour.
For though the itinerant "bums" were ever increasing on the trains,
the camping sites by the line were decreasing in number and finally

One evening, when we rode on an empty flat car into a small town of
the northern part of South-Dakota, I caught sight of a camp that
was of truly gigantic proportions; we began passing alongside of it
at least five minutes before we reached the town, and it extended
right up to the town limits.  On the west-side it touched the
track; on the east-side it stretched away as far as the eye would
reach.  Everywhere fires were burning; everywhere men were engaged
in the task of cooking their suppers.

When we dropped off our car and walked back through the camp, Ivan
apparently looked for some one whom he knew.

I was struck by the variety of devices adopted to provide shelter.
There were tents; there were open flies; there were poles driven
into the ground with wattled walls stretched between them; there
were regular cabins built of a few pieces of lumber and covered
with building paper; there were ropes fastened to the limb of a
tree, running down to a peg in the ground, with coats of the most
diverse descriptions hung over them, stretched sideways by cords,
so that in the evening breeze they gave the odd impression of great
flapping birds, as the sleeves or skirts were raised by the wind.

Right through the centre of the camp ran a pretty little creek with
clear, slow-flowing water.  And everywhere there was activity and
evidence of the most varied household-industry.  Here you came upon
a group engaged in washing their clothes: huge iron kettles--God
only knew where they came from--hanging over fires to boil them in;
there a group was demonstrating some new culinary feat; here a man
was sitting on the ground and plying the needle on the buttons or
patches for coat or trousers; there one was squatting on a low box,
his chin well lathered, while another stropped a razor preparatory
to shaving him.  Games were going on in various places, card games
and quoits being those most in favour.

The assembly was truly polyglot; I heard most of the languages of
eastern, central, and western Europe, though English seemed to
predominate.  But in spite of the fact that in the flood pouring
north I had found a goodly number of groups of Swedes, the fact
struck me that I found none of them here.  Again the entire absence
of the Latin languages was a conspicuous feature.

Ivan and I joined a group composed of one Russian, one German, and
two Americans.  Greetings between him and these four were cordial;
there was much shaking of hands, slapping of shoulders, laughter
and shouting.  To my astonishment Ivan showed that he spoke German
as fluently as Russian or English.  I was introduced; soon we were
squatting on the ground, by the fire, and partaking of a good and
substantial supper.  I do not remember the talk that was going on,
but it was lively enough.

After supper we smoked; for the first time it struck me that,
though Ivan was a most persistent smoker, he never had any tobacco
himself.  The conversation turned upon crops and the chances for
work.  It appeared that the four whom we had joined had been at
work for over a month.  They had slowly come up through the wheat-
districts of Kansas and Nebraska.  But in the southern part of
South Dakota crops had been poor; the chances for work had been
slight.  I gathered that cutting was in full swing all over the
state as indeed I had inferred from what I had seen.  But the
farmers were holding back in engaging help; they preferred to work
on a cooperative plan.

North Dakota with its big "bonanza-farms" was the general goal.
They had had the needful rainfall there, and wheat stood well.  It
seemed that the result of the camp-discussions had been something
like a general consensus, amounting to, though not actually taking
the form of, a resolution not to start work at stooking for less
than two and a half dollars a day.

Ivan did not say much but seemed to ponder what he had heard.

I was more than surprised by the independence these people
displayed.  They were not suffering from their mode of life.  Nor
were they, even now, in any hurry about securing work.  They were
going to hold out for high wages.

Our group had a wall tent, with all the paraphernalia of a complete
outfit for a prolonged stay in the open.  Ivan and I were offered a
corner in this tent, but Ivan declined; and when the others
betrayed the wish to retire he nudged me with his elbow and rose.

I followed him.

"Where do all these people go?" I enquired, actually awed by the
numbers I beheld and those I inferred from the innumerable fires
that punctured the night.

Ivan laughed.  "Not many here yet," he said; "still early in the
season.  They're just haying in North-Dakota; haven't started
cutting yet.  These fellows won't work at haying, they wait for
cutting and threshing--there's not much work in South-Dakota."

He picked a place for the night; and while we were unrolling our
bundles, he told me that he had left his friends because he wanted
to talk things over.

"I go north-west," he said, "if you come.  Rather stay in one
place, on a big farm, for haying, cutting, and threshing.  More
money in it in the long-run.  No lay-offs hunting for a new place.
Grub is better, too.  When the rush comes, better wages.  I've
tried it often enough.  What do you say?"

"Anything," I replied.  "You know best.  How much do you think we
can get just now?"

"A dollar and a half a day," Ivan answered; "a quarter a day more
from week to week.  Four dollars in threshing time.  We'll try to
beat it up to Walloh, then buy a ticket and strike west.  Big farm
there.  Work for three months or longer.  We'll average two and a
half a day."

"Good," I said.

We remained in camp the next day.  More than anything else the
general prosperity struck me.  There was no want of anything; the
merchants of the little town were waxing rich by the purchases of
this vast crowd.

I saw others this day, besides the group of four which we rejoined
occasionally.  Above all there was one man who looked more like a
Bohemian of the Quartier Latin in Paris than like a labourer--both
in features and clothes.  I heard him speak to several people;
invariably his accent was that of authority; his vocabulary, that
of an educated man.  On his hand I saw a solitaire ring worth the
year's income of a well-paid clerk.

"He doesn't work," Ivan explained; "He's rich.  Son of a
millionaire.  He likes this life and travels about with the crowd.
He spends his winters in California."

"What were you doing in Florida?" I asked irrelevantly.

Ivan shrugged his shoulders.  "Picking fruit," he said, "for some
time anyway.  Resting, mostly."

There were still a good many things about Ivan which seemed
mysterious to me; he was not given to talking beyond that which it
was necessary to discuss.

On the evening of this second day we pulled out in an empty box-
car, having for once voluntarily paid our contribution to an
accommodating train-crew so they would leave the doors open for our
convenience.  I had told Ivan about my being railroaded in spring;
and though he laughed and thought it a good thing that I had never
reached my destination, it made him chary of open boxcars.  But
this night we had straw aplenty in our car and made up a
comfortable bed; and while we were sleeping, we travelled at much
greater ease and with about the same speed as the average passenger
in the day-coach of a way-train.  The first greying of the dawn
found us at a tiny hamlet in the upper Red River valley where our
car had been kicked off, forty-five miles from Walloh, our first

It being a beautiful day and we well rested, we tramped it for a
while.  Here the waving grain on the fields was still green, and
Ivan seemed satisfied.  By and by we boarded another freight-train
which in the afternoon took us to Walloh.

On the outskirts of the town we had seen the usual hobo-camp, and
as soon as we could drop off our car, we did so and footed it back.
Ivan bade me wait for him and went down.  He exchanged a few words,
in Russian, with one of the men who was lying on his back, enjoying
his idleness.  Then he rejoined me.

"They're haying out west," he said, "on the big farm.  It's only
fifteen or sixteen miles.  We might tramp it?"

"Suits me," I replied.

We set out at once, swinging along at a good gait in the freshening
afternoon, walking now the track, now the road which skirted it and
offered a smooth though dusty gumbo level.

We did not speak; I believe, for that very reason this vigorous
evening march stands out in my memories.  A soft and yet cool
breeze was blowing; the prairie with its illimitable horizon
stretched endlessly ahead; the grain on the fields was waving; the
farmhouses stood so still and foot-bound that I readily entered
into that hobo-spirit of joy at being "on the go"; my chest
expanded; the exertion of marching was grateful.

Odd combinations of words, idle plays of my brain, kept floating
through my mind and sometimes wove themselves into disconnected
lines of verse.  Some of them recur to me even now, at this belated
hour, as I try to re-visualize myself, walking along those roads
into the setting sun.  Others merely peep up through the darkening
oblivion which has settled like a cloak over the details of my

I also remember that to myself I seemed at the time very old, very
experienced, very clear-sighted with regard to the ways of the
world.  I thought I saw through the futility of much, and that I
perceived the high worth of much which was not highly valued by
others.  The phrase of a German philosopher about the "recasting--
revaluation--of values" was much in my mind.  I seemed to be
looking back upon millennia of thought and accumulated wisdom.  I
vaguely felt as if it were given to me to solve the problems of a
world.  It is characteristic of my essential youth at the time that
I still believed a solution of the problems of the world to be
possible of attainment through such a process as a recasting of
values--in other words, through theories and the erection of
ideals.  It is also characteristic of the eternal egotism of youth
that I should have felt myself to be chosen as the one to effect
this revaluation of the values of life.  Ideals are the playthings
of immature minds.

Another peculiar conception arose; that of an assembly of the days,
all telling of the errors into which they have fallen and of the
truths they have found; and after many speeches and beautiful
thoughts have been uttered, the Dean of the Days arises, the oldest
Day, and solves the riddle in perfect simplicity.

When we rolled up for the night, in the shelter of a cluster of
wild plum trees, by the side of the road, the elation persisted.  I
felt as if I were standing on the very heights of Life and looking
down on the world below.  I felt--as well I might--that I had
solved at least one great problem for myself:  He who asketh little
enjoyeth much.  With that thought patience came and hurry departed.
I was no longer the "modern man" who has not Life.

Early the following morning Ivan and I set out again; as was usual
with us, we swung along without words.  Never in my life have I met
with a companion who could so well keep silent.  And he was a hobo!

We came to a place where a road ran up from the south and crossed
the track.  Just north of the line of steel stood a group of
gigantic barns, by the side of which two or three small white
houses looked singularly dwarfed.  The road from the south was
lined with poplars, tall, stately trees--cotton-woods they must
have been, from the picture in my memory.  It seemed to spring out
of a large compound of buildings half hidden in the cluster of its

A low, open buggy, drawn by a team of swift-footed, rangy-looking
horses, came rolling along the smooth, shady driveway.

"That's Nelson, the superintendent," said Ivan and stopped at the

"We are there, then?" I asked.

He nodded and we waited for the buggy.

As it approached, I saw its occupant, a rather small, good-natured
and efficient-looking man who sat in the seat, relaxed and
nonchalant, negligently and yet firmly holding the horses in with
one hand.

At sight of Ivan he stopped and smiled.  "Back again?  I did not
see you last year."

"No," said Ivan.  "I went farther west.  I have a partner this
year.  Have you any work yet?"

"Yes," said Nelson, "I can use you two.  I can use more, in fact.
I am going to town to see whether I can get any men at our price.
We're paying one fifty so far.  They're holding out for the higher
wages, as usual.  But the smaller farmers don't hire help yet.
They will have to wait."

"Haying?" asked Ivan.


"Which camps are open?"

"Three and eight," was Nelson's answer.  "And headquarters, of
course.  But there we don't need any more help just now."

"We'll go to eight," said Ivan.

"All right," Mr. Nelson assented.  "Want to wait for a ride?"

Ivan looked at me.  "We'll walk."

"Leave your names at the office.  Tell them I sent you."

With that he clicked his tongue to the horses.

We turned south, into the nave of the poplar trees.

"Camp eight!" I thought and I asked, "How large is this farm?"

"Don't know," Ivan replied; "twenty, thirty thousand acres."

I felt dazed.  "Owned by some company?"

"No," said Ivan.  "Man's name is Mackenzie."

I pondered that.  A farm, many square miles in extent, owned by a
single man!  Nothing was further from my thoughts than envy; had
somebody offered me the place as a present, I should not have
accepted it.  But it struck me as incongruous.  I was awed and felt
as if I had run up against some barrier in a valley along which I
had been travelling--a barrier of forbidding aspect, insurmountable.
This feeling did not leave me either when later on I learned the
explanation of the fact.  The present owner's father had invested
the savings of a lifetime in this land which he had bought at ten
cents an acre--before there was a railroad, when nobody yet thought
of making it the granary of the world.  Now it was worth fifty
dollars an acre--hardly allowing for buildings and other 
improvements at figures which represented real values.  Was that
what was called "enterprise"?

The road to the great compound of buildings was not much more than
a mile long.  We passed a handsome white frame-house, surrounded by
trees, to our left.

"Superintendent's house," Ivan commented.

Then we emerged into a yard of truly gigantic dimensions.  Huge
barns stretched out to the west, with horse-lots enclosed by high
board-fences.  Other buildings stood in front of them, one a
blacksmith's shop as I inferred from the clanging noise that
proceeded from it.

To the east a number of scattered buildings made a straggling
group; these, with the exception of one huge red structure, were
all painted white.  One of them, occupying the centre of this east
half of the yard, reminded me of the "cook-house" on that Ohio
"company-farm" of nine months ago.

In this part of the compound a cement sidewalk ran along the
northern edge of the yard; and as we proceeded across the open
expanse, another view opened up on a cluster of buildings in the
northeast corner.  There was an unmistakably residential air about
them.  They were surrounded by a small park; well-kept lawns
encircled them; and at the entrance of the central house in this
group a carriage was waiting, with a team of magnificent, coal-
black hackneys hitched to it.  Just as we were nearing the building
which Ivan was bound for, a young man of athletic build, clad in
white flannels, walked briskly along the sidewalk, westward.  Ivan
saw my look, as I glanced back at him and the house.

"That's the boss," he said.  "And that's the White House.  He lives
there with his mother."

This pleasant-faced boy was the owner of all these square-miles!
And he lived with his mother!  That seemed to imply that he was
unmarried.  The fact that his mother kept house for him made the
whole thing somehow seem still more preposterous; it made the young
man seem still younger; it made it a certainty that this farm was
not earned.  I felt as if some uncomfortable facts, some
disquieting realities were obtruded upon me, at variance with my
last night's mood.

Ivan and I registered, much as we should have done at an inn.  A
tall young Jew of dandified appearance looked indifferently and yet
disdainfully down on these two more bums who henceforth would
figure upon his books and time-sheets.  I paid scant attention to
him; in a few minutes we were on the road again, going south.

Far to the east we had a glimpse of another huge compound of
buildings; and as soon as we swung out between the fields, we
caught sight, way ahead of us, to the south, of the camp for which
we were bound.

"All this still the farm?" I asked at last, looking out over
endless fields of barley, oats, and wheat.

Ivan laughed.  "Yes," he said and waved his arms through space; "as
far as you can see; and also north of the track.  There is another
camp, way north, twenty or twenty-five miles from headquarters."

We came to a place where east of our road a summer-fallow, half a
mile wide, seemed to stretch away to the southern horizon.  Three
steam-tractors travelled along the far edge, each drawing three
disk-harrows spaced behind and beside each other.  They travelled
along at about our speed and kept abreast during the whole walk of
four or five miles which we made to reach our camp.

"Big farm," said Ivan and smiled his enigmatical smile.

I nodded in silence; I could not shake off that feeling that
something was fundamentally wrong with this world, even though I
did not desire one single thing from among its wealth.

The camp which we reached at last made a less well cared-for
impression than the one which we had passed through before.  The
buildings had, in their arrangement, something casual, as if they
had been erected without a previous plan, or as if they had been
dropped out of some giant's toy-box.

Close to the road, in the centre, stood the cook-house.  To the
east a towering, barn-like structure, painted red, had something
sinister about it.  It was the bunk-house, as I found.  To the
west, at an acute angle to the road, stretched the horsebarns with
their accompaniment of high board-fences enclosing the paddocks.

It was there we went.  By Ivan's watch it was nearly noon.  We
would wait for the foreman, he said; we squatted down against the
wall of a barn.  The only signs of activity were at the cook-house.
Otherwise the compound looked deserted.

After a while a two-wheeled cart, drawn by a neglected-looking bay
nag came rattling in from the south.

A dirty, stunted little runt of a fellow got out of it in front of
the barn and unhitched the horse while he greeted Ivan.  We had
risen and were walking towards him.

"Hello, Ol'-timer," he sang out in a shrill, mocking, cynical
voice.  "Got a pardner this time, have you?"

"Yes," said Ivan; and for the first time his smile was embarrassed.
I had the impression as if he felt the need of apologizing to me
for the fact that this was the foreman of the camp at which we were
going to work.

"Going out this afternoon?"

"Don't mind if we do," Ivan answered.

"Who's going to be the teamster?"

"We work together."

"All right, pal," the foreman acquiesced.  "Suit yourself.  Two
miles south, one west, along the track; that's where I want you to
work.  Come on; I'll show you your team."

And he walked off, leading his horse into the barn.

We followed, taking our bundles along.

The foreman, in passing, pointed to a stall where two big Clydes
were standing.  "There," he said and walked on.

Ivan reached for my bundle, stepped in between the horses, and
climbed up on the manger.  He hid our belongings overhead, in a
corner of the beams.

"We'll sleep in the hay-loft" he whispered; "that's against the
rules; but the bunk-house is alive with vermin."

I had learned to trust Ivan's leadership and nodded.

He started at once to harness the horses.  I watched him and did as
he did, thus taking my first lesson in harnessing up a draft-horse.

The men were beginning to come in with their teams, and a bell rang
at the cook-house.  I noticed with satisfaction that on the whole
they seemed a decent lot.  They were Swedes, for the most part,
speaking a broken English.  Most of them greeted Ivan as an old
acquaintance, some calling him "Old-timer," some by a name which
made me look up at him.  Again I saw that embarrassed smile on his

He laughed and said, "No use getting mad; they've always called me
that.  Why, I don't know."

The name was Jesus.

We went to the cook-house for dinner.  The food was good,
consisting of soup, meat, vegetables, and pudding.  Plenty of pies
were scattered over the tables which were covered with white oil-
cloth; there were large stacks of fresh bread, both white and
brown, dishes of butter, pitchers with milk, and pots full of
coffee and tea.  As once before in similar surroundings I marvelled
again at the capacity for eating which these workers of the soil

Nobody seemed to take notice of myself, though a few more greeted
Ivan in a half friendly, half ironical way.  There was a rough-and-
ready, but healthy toleration about it all.

I found that the majority of these Swedes were not hobos, but young
homesteaders from the north, from Canada or the northern edge of
Dakota where crops were later--men who were only just establishing
themselves, who needed the ready cash to pay for farms or stock or
equipment and who went out to this one place only, where they were
working for monthly wages till threshing was over.  They lost the
advantage of higher pay when the price of labour rose; but they
gained inasmuch as they were sure of their pay, rain or shine.
When the harvest was finished, they left to attend to their own
small holdings; and they returned again when winter had set in and
when only the vast numbers of horses and other farm-animals had to
be fed and looked after.  The crew numbered no more than fifty men
at present.  Ivan and I were the advance-guard, here, of that vast
army which had to march in to take care of the crest of the wave of

That afternoon I had reason to congratulate myself on the
partnership I had formed with Ivan.  This quiet and unassuming man
with his intelligent, delicate face was endowed with a body able to
stand up under any strain.  I did his driving and stood on the load
which we gathered; Ivan pitched the hay.  When he picked up with
his fork what he intended to lift, I could only marvel at his
strength and skill.  Slowly, without hurry, but also without waste
of time, he would force the fork with its tremendous load up, with
a steady exertion, till he held the handle high overhead; and he
would throw the load off with the slightest of jerks so that it
fell just where he wanted it.  His body seemed to shorten and to
broaden when he did that; and never did I see a wrong move or a
lost motion, never hurry, never delay.  Meanwhile he would call out
directions to me, instructing me in the art of building the load,
and cautioning me against the mistakes which I made.  He was
patient, as if he had known that the work was new to me.

Whenever we pulled up to the stack, our load was wider and higher
than any other; and it was certainly none of my doing.

In the evening, when we returned to the camp, Ivan looked a
different man.  He was streaming with sweat; on his bare arms
powerful muscles played.  He did not remind me of Sergei Ivanovitch
in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina now, but of Levin himself--the man who
stands squarely upon the soil and who, from the soil, from his
soil, reaches out with tentative mind into the great mysteries.
This man was to me, on this evening, while we were rattling along
the road, the personification of all that is fine and noble in
bodily labour; of the joy of muscle and sinew that want to play in
mere exertion.  I envied him his strength.

From him was reflected into myself, into my own weary limbs and
aching joints, an exhilaration, a quiet satisfaction with weariness
honestly come by, with pain resulting from having used and called
into action hidden reserves of bodily powers of whose very
existence I had been in ignorance.

Ivan glowed and smiled; to me it seemed that in his smile there
were the infinite sympathy and tenderness which are the attributes
of the strong in contact with those who are weak but whom they

From this afternoon dated a deeper friendship between us, a
friendship still less in need of words than it had been before.  I
saw a deeper, truer, less obvious significance in the name by which
most of the Swedish farmhands called him and which was meant as a
mockery suggested by his physical resemblance to the type.

Never, during the month that followed, did Ivan and I discuss the
slightest thing of any importance beyond the work in hand.  Not
once did we touch on anything wider, on our intellectual or
emotional lives; and that was very much as it should be.  Little
was said, much done.

It did not take Ivan long to find out that I was hardly equal to
the strain of the work; and since we were working in partnership,
he invariably and unhesitatingly and without a word assumed the
harder part.  So long as the haying proceeded, he harnessed the
horses in the morning; he unharnessed them at night; I drove the
team; he pitched the hay.  And I did nothing for him except that I
supplied him with tobacco which he apparently craved but never

Gradually, as the cutting began in the fields of barley, the bunk-
house filled, for wages rose.  At first only a few stragglers came
in; but when the daily pay had reached the two-and-a-half-dollar
mark, hobos appeared by the dozen; soon our camp had its full
complement of a hundred men.  Even then more were hired every day
and sent down; if there was no work for them with the field-crews,
they were kept busy, drawing pay for every day which was fit for
the work in the field, while they were splitting wood, drawing
water, and doing similar chores; to be sent out behind the binders
when others left unexpectedly.

For there was a constant coming and going; you could never be sure
that you would see a face that had turned up to-day again on the
morrow.  I did not, as yet, take much interest in these men; the
reasons which sent them back on the road, away to the next place,
seemed utterly trivial.  "This eternal beef!" one would say.  "This
eternal pork!" or, "These eternal stewed prunes!" said the next
ones; they asked for their "time", and went.  It was mostly the
food which served as pretext.  By and by I saw more of them, and I
shall give a glimpse at their lives as I proceed.

So long as Ivan and I were employed in haying, we saw very little
of the foreman.  True, he drove by in his cart when we were loading
the rack; he stopped at the stack when we pitched the load off; but
he never spoke to us.  When cutting began, however, he always
seemed to be on our heels.

I found that stooking sheaves was much harder work than haying.
The twelve or fifteen binders which did the cutting for our crew
were given, as a matter of course, to the Swedes who were in the
steady employ of the farm.  When I saw that, I was strongly
inclined to leave, simply as a matter of fairness to the
management.  I felt that I was no longer doing a day's work for a
day's wages.  But, again without words, Ivan opposed such a plan.
He worked harder and harder, fairly revelling in exertion; more and
more frequently he would say, "Take it easy!  Take it easy!"  I
hated, in leaving the work, to leave him.

Once, of a hot afternoon, we two being alone on one side of the
field, I was suddenly taken sick.

Ivan looked at my face, pointed to a place on the ground, in the
shade of a stook, and said, "Lie down."

There was no choice; I obeyed.  While I lay there, I watched him
with ever-increasing wonder, for he worked as if he were engaged in
a contest of speed and endurance, fairly leaping from place to
place and throwing the heavy sheaves which he picked up, never less
than two, and sometimes three at a time, with infallible precision,
lifting them shoulder-high and flinging them down so that they
stood as if planted.  He went on for an hour or longer.  Then he
called me; and when I reached him, he pointed across the field,
where the barley was still standing on a shoulder of the ground.
A black spot was moving along, just above the waving grain.

"Foreman coming," Ivan said.  "Work till he's gone."

"Oh," I said, "I don't care.  I shall have to report sick anyway."

"No," he exclaimed.  "I've done enough, and more, for any two of
them.  You take your wages."

"All right," I said and made a pretence at working till the foreman
had passed us.

"Lie down," said Ivan as soon as the man was out of sight; and
again he started to work as he had done before.

Next morning I felt still weak, though somewhat better.  Nelson,
the superintendent, was down at our camp when we were ready to go
to the field.  But the foreman was not around.  Since we all knew
what had to be done, he had not been missed till Mr. Nelson
enquired after him.  There was a commotion, then; and several men
went in search around the buildings.  They found him at last in
an empty stall of one of the stables, in a state of brutish
intoxication.  Our start was delayed.  Mr. Nelson summarily
dismissed the man and called one of the big Swedes aside.  But
after a short discussion the Swede rejoined the waiting men.  He
had declined to act as foreman.  Mr. Nelson gave the necessary
orders, and teams and crews went out to the field.

Not much later a new man made his appearance in the foreman's cart.
As luck would have it, he came at once to where Ivan and I were
working, I no doubt not doing a full man's share of the work.  He
stopped his horse and started his task of looking on.  He was
watching me.  Had he spoken to me in a decent way, I should have
explained.  But he did not choose to do so; he merely looked on and
scowled.  He was a fat, florid man with an ugly-looking face.
Ivan, too, was slackening in his usual speed.  He did not want to
outwork me under the eye of the "boss".

Suddenly, after having stopped there for twenty minutes or so, this
boss drove up close to us, jumped out of his seat and started to
swear and to shout, flinging out obscene words and profane language
in such an amazing manner that both Ivan and I straightened up,
each of us a sheaf in his hands, looked at each other, and burst
out laughing.

This drove the man frantic, and he lifted his hand against me.

But Ivan was faster than he.  Before he realized what was
happening, Ivan had thrown him off his feet by merely pushing the
sheaf he was holding into his face.  The man tumbled over, and
Ivan, still laughing, held him down.

It was characteristic of Ivan that he looked up at me before he
jumped back and said, "We are through."

The newly appointed foreman must have had an inkling of the iron
strength in those arms which had tumbled him over; for he simply
got up, took a slip of paper from his pocket, scribbled a word or
so with a pencil, and handed it to Ivan, saying, "All right."

He had given us our "time"; and we returned to camp to roll our

Before we left, a dozen or more of the hobos were coming back from
the field.  There had been no further provocation, we heard.  But
an example like ours sets the crowds of the hobos going.  It works
like revolt in a long oppressed country.  Somewhere a clash occurs,
and soon the whole people is up in arms.  Before evening forty of
them left this camp alone; yet nobody had had any personal cause
for complaint.  There is nothing that binds the hobo when he wants
to go; he is always willing to leave the best of places.

Ivan and I went to headquarters to draw our pay.  At the office
there was a stampede.  A number of the men who had quitted at our
camp had called out their "pals" from other camps; the young Jew
found himself swamped with the work of figuring wages and writing
cheques.  The men were crowding the office; some of them were in an
ugly mood.  They refused to take cheques and demanded cash.  Before
long the bookkeeper used the telephone and summoned help.

Soon after, the young man whom a few weeks ago I had seen on the
cement sidewalk of the yard came in.  He was not more than twenty-
five years old; but he had an air of quiet assurance which
strikingly lacked the Jew's particular shade of disdain.  His mere
appearance brought a hush.

He calmly sat down at a desk and turned about.  "Who's next?" he

The men held back.  Then one of them approached and he started the
others going.

Suddenly Mr. Mackenzie turned again, "Listen here, you men.  What's
wrong?  What are you quitting for?"

"Oh, I don't know," said one.

Others looked at each other.

Mr. Mackenzie picked out the one who bore himself most boldly.
"Here, you, what are you quitting for?"

"I guess I have the right to quit if I want to," replied the man

"Sure," said Mr. Mackenzie amiably; "sure.  But what do you want to
quit for?"

The man looked about, he saw me; with a nod of his head he said,
"Ask him."

Mr. Mackenzie looked a question at me.

I could not help but admire his composure.  "Well," I said, "I
can't speak for these men.  As for myself, I am sick.  I was not
doing my share of the work this morning.  The foreman at number
eight took the wrong tack, swore, and offered blows.  My friend
here bowled him over.  We could hardly stay after that."

Mr. Mackenzie nodded.  "Willing to work at another camp?"

I saw an opportunity here.  "Certainly," I said; "but I am not very
strong.  I think it only fair to tell you that I cannot do what
some of the men can do."

"That's all right," he replied; "some work is easier, some harder.
We need a store-boss just now.  How about your partner?  Oh, it's
Ivan, is it?  Hello!"  He nodded to him.  "What do you say, Ivan?
Willing to stay?"

Ivan nodded; he, too, was smiling.

"How about you?"  Mr. Mackenzie asked the next one; in ten minutes
more he had hired half the number back.

The rest had made up their minds to leave, and leave they did.

When a man refused to accept a cheque and demanded cash, Mr.
Mackenzie told him to wait.  "You don't expect me to carry as much
loose cash about me as you men are getting these days," he said
quite pleasantly.  "I'll send to town after a while and have it
brought out."

Before long the man stepped up again and declared himself willing
to take a cheque.

"That's sense," said Mr. Mackenzie.  "You are going to town anyway.
They'll cash my cheque at any store."

Mr. Nelson, too, came in after a while.  He had had word of the

He and Mr. Mackenzie held a brief, whispered consultation, in the
course of which Mr. Mackenzie pointed me out.

When they had finished, Mr. Nelson came over.

"We need a store-boss," he said.  "It's mostly driving.  There is
more honesty needed than strength.  Want to try?"

I did; emphatically; but meanwhile it had occurred to me that to
accept meant leaving Ivan.  I hesitated; but Ivan nudged me with
his elbow and nodded without looking at me.

So I said, "If you think that I can do the work, I'll be glad to
try.  As for honesty, I can promise you that."

"You'll have to start right away," he went on, "we need some things
from town."

"All right," I said.

Ivan drew his pay and told Mr. Nelson that he would not start
before morning.  He wanted to go to town; since I was going, he had
a ride.


I Become Acquainted With the Hobo

My new job as "store-boss" and later as "driving-boss" threw me
into closer contact, first with the men, then with the management
of the farm.  It separated my close relation to Ivan; it made me
independent of him.  We still remained friends, still saw a good
deal of each other for two more months; but no longer did I do what
he did--no longer was he the determining factor in my life.  That
is the reason why he disappears from this story.  I cannot but
think that he had foreseen this and wanted it so.  A few more words
about him will be sufficient to resolve the reader's curiosity as
to the motive behind his life.

The very evening after I had assumed my new duties I came upon him,
sitting on the ground behind the southern-most building of the vast
compound which I came, for the time being to regard as my "home".
It was after supper, just before dark, and I had been looking for
him.  He had gone to town with me and cashed his cheque which was
for some fifty dollars or so.  When I found him behind the "old
granary"--which, since Mr. Mackenzie had erected three large grain-
elevators of his own, was used as a store-house for such supplies
as binder-twine, canvas, and so on--Ivan was sewing at his coat.

He smiled at me with his usual brilliant smile and explained what
he was doing by showing me a secret pocket in the lining of his
coat which he was sewing up.  That was the place where he kept his

"Say, Ivan," I said.  "I have long been wondering.  Just why do you
lead this life?"

"Well," he asked, astonished that I should ask him such a question,
"why do you?"

"Chance," I replied.  "I met you and went along.  I liked you, I
had no money, and it did not matter what I was doing, so long as I
saw something of this country.  But I see you have money; more than
I have ever seen since I came to this country."

"Maybe," he replied.  "I have close to four thousand dollars.  It's
taken me ten years to save it.  I like this work, and don't like
any other work.  That is why I do it."

"Well," I went on, "what do you intend to do with all that wealth?"

"Buy a farm," he said.  "One more year, then I'll be ready.  Those
Swedes buy the land and work out in order to pay for it.  I don't
like that.  I want a wife and little children around."

He laughed, shamefacedly.

"There's another thing I have been wondering about," I went on.
"Just how old are you?"

"Thirty-five," he said.

After that, as was usual with us, we sat in silence.

Ivan was no hobo after all; he had a purpose in life beyond the
immediate present.  The hobo has not; the hobo never saves; the
very essence of his being is spending.

As I found out, the round of my duties was as follows: I had to
watch the trains for arriving shipments; I had to haul the
provisions out to the store--which was located in the rear of the
same building which held the office; I had to visit every camp--we
had seven of them open, now--to take out groceries, vegetables,
meat; I had to keep an exact inventory of the things on hand and to
keep tab on outgoing and incoming items; I had to bring the men
hired by Mr. Nelson into the central camp and to distribute them
among the other camps; I had to round up the beef-cattle for the
butcher--there was, on an average, one steer killed a day; I had to
look after the cleaning of the two storehouses; I had to bring the
mail from town; and I had to sell such necessaries as overalls,
socks, underwear, and such luxuries as tobacco and candy to the

In order to enable me to look after all these various duties two
teams were at my disposal, one a team of heavy draft-horses, the
other a light driving team for a democrat.  For rounding up the
cattle I had a well-trained saddle-horse besides.

My wages were the same as those of the harvest-crews, except that
on rainy days and Sundays, when all the other men lost their time,
I was paid at the flat rate of two dollars a day.  I had bettered
myself, quite apart from the fact that with rare exceptions--as,
for instance, when heavy barrels of lubricating oil had to be
unloaded--my work was brain-work rather than physical labour.  The
drives, though sometimes long and tiresome, were on the whole to my
liking.  I had been rather a horseman in Europe, and I took readily
to handling my bronchos.  I had no "boss" except Mr. Nelson, who
was invariably kind and courteous; I came into close contact with
many of the men, of whom there were now eight or nine hundred

Again all nationalities except the Latin ones were represented; all
mingled freely except the Swedes.  Swedes are clannish; they kept
to themselves, slept--by connivance of the superintendent, himself
of Swedish descent, in the haylofts of the barns, played their own,
innocent games--horse-shoe quoits--and worked with the steadiness
peculiar to their race.

All the other hands employed at headquarters lodged at the bunk-
house, a huge, barnlike structure in the extreme south-east corner
of the yard.  The upper floor of this building was the dormitory.
The beds or bunks were roughly put up of lumber; they had no
mattresses but were filled with straw; the straw was never renewed,
and consequently it swarmed with vermin.  That was the one
unpardonable feature in the accommodation provided.  Two heavy
blankets of wool shot with cotton were assigned to every bunk.
When I first saw this upper floor where a hundred men were crowded
together, I thought of the stifling lack of fresh air which must
prevail there overnight.  But, strange to say, only one or two of
the hundreds of men with whom I came into touch ever objected to
this accommodation.  The ground-floor of the bunk-house was a large
hall provided with long tables and wooden benches.  Here the men
assembled on rainy days.

As for myself, it was not only my right but my duty to sleep in the
store-house whenever I was at headquarters for the night.  There
was a bunk; but I never used it; I preferred to bed myself down on
the floor.  Occasionally it happened that provisions or men had to
be taken to that northernmost outpost of the farm which was twenty-
six miles from headquarters and which was now opened at last.  When
I went there, I had to stop over at an intermediate camp, not on my
own account, but on account of the horses, especially when I was
driving a wagon with the heavy team.  My meals I took at whatever
camp I could make in time; I did not mind if I had to skip one now
and then.

Ivan slept--by my connivance--in the second storehouse which I have
already mentioned.

A specimen or two of my encounters with such of the men as obtruded
themselves on my attention will be necessary.

One day when I had gone to town in the morning, I picked up two men
whom Mr. Nelson had hired.  There was the usual hobo-camp at the
outskirts of the village, occupied by those who were still holding
out for higher wages or who had left some other farm and were going
idle till their money was spent.  It was here that the two men
boarded my wagon.

One was a German of slight proportions, a mere boy; the other a
middle-aged American of burly build.  Both were taciturn; both
seemed to be at outs with their fate.  As it happened, they were to
be the ones who roused my interest in the great mass of hobos.

There was no immediate vacancy for them in the crews at headquarters;
Mr. Nelson put them to splitting wood.

In the evening the German kept lingering in the neighbourhood of
the store-house; when he saw me closing the slide-doors on the east
side, where the loading platform was, he spoke to me.

"Can I sleep in there?" he asked.

"I'm sorry," I replied, "it's against my orders."

"The bookkeeper gone?"

"Yes," I said, "he has his rooms in the cook-house.  Want to see

"I want to quit," he said.

I looked at him.  "You came only this morning.  What's wrong?"

"I'm not going to sleep in that bunk-house," he said vehemently.

I could understand that and felt instant pity.  Most of the men who
were seized with the sudden desire to leave used the "grub" for
their pretext.  The food was good; I had no sympathy with them,
though I came to view even these men differently.  This boy
objected to the one objectionable thing.

Suddenly he sat down on the platform and buried his face in his
hands.  I was shocked and frightened.

"Don't do that," I said.  "I'll see what I can do for you.  I can't
put you up here, against definite orders.  But there is the
driving-stable with a good hayloft above.  I have no orders
regarding it; I'll show you how to get up there if you will wait
till I have locked up."

He did not stir.

I bent down and laid my hand on his shoulder; he was shaken by
sobs; in an impulse of pity I sat down beside him.  "Is there
anything I could help you in?" I asked.

He shook his head.

"Are you new in this country?"

Again he shook his head.

"I did not think so," I said, "from your English."

"I can't stay," he cried out.  "I can't stay!"

"Why not?  Is the work too hard?"

"No," he said.  His whole body began to shake with sobs.  "My poor
mother!" he cried out.

For a moment I was unable to speak.  "Is she here in this country?"

"No," he answered, "she's in Germany.  When my father died, she had
to go out to work, washing and scrubbing!  I was to go to America
to make money.  She's waiting, has been waiting for years, to hear
from me.  And what have I done?"

"Well," I said softly, "look here.  You are making three and a half
dollars a day; you have no expenses.  There is work on this farm
for another two months.  Why not stay and then send her a hundred
dollars?  A hundred dollars is quite a sum over there."

He was still sobbing.  "No use," he said.  "I can't stay anywhere.
I've tried it for years.  I can't."

"But why?" I persisted.  "Where do you want to go?"

"Nowhere," he answered.  "I don't know.  I get work, and I leave
it.  I can't stay.  It's stronger than I.  I'll go to-morrow."  He
seemed to pull himself together.  "Never mind," he said.  "Don't
ask me.  I won't bother the bookkeeper tonight.  Show me the
hayloft.  I'll stay till morning."

I felt helpless; the thing was beyond my understanding; but I saw
suffering; the seat of the pain seemed to be beyond my reach.  My
impotence was complete and baffling.

Next morning the other of these two men whom I had taken out
brought himself to my notice.  He, too, lingered about that group
of buildings which comprised cookhouse and store.  Since I had the
impression that he was looking for something, I went and spoke to

"What do you do with your garbage here?" he asked gruffly.

"Our garbage?"

"Yes," he replied, "what's thrown away, the offal from the dishes
and the kitchen."

"That's thrown out into a barrel and drawn away to be fed to the

"To the pigs!" he snorted contemptuously and hitched his trousers
up.  "You'll have to keep it if you want to keep me."

"What do you mean?" I asked.  "What do you want it for?"

"To eat," he said with another snort.

I stood aghast.  "Did you not get in in time for breakfast?"

"Oh, breakfast!" he fairly shouted.  "I don't want none of your
beastly feed.  I want the garbage."

"You don't mean to say that you prefer it?" I asked, half
disgusted, half horrified.

"You don't mean to say," he mocked my voice.  "Yes, sir.  I do mean
to say.  I've gone without dinner, and I've gone without supper.
If I've got to go without breakfast, too, I'll quit."

"Well, what on earth made you that way?" I asked.

"What on earth, eh?" he mocked again.  "Tastes better, that's what.
More flavour to it.  I can't digest the feed you serve."

With that he walked off.  He left that day.

Both these incidents may seem funny to some, disgusting to others;
but I had gone through too many things myself in the vicissitudes
of my life to let it go at that.  Nor did they remain isolated
happenings, now that my "job" brought me into constant contact with
the men and that as one who stood apart from the crews.  They spoke
to me as being one of the lesser members of the administration.
More than once, when I was taking newly-hired men out to some
distant camp--especially to that northernmost outpost of the farm
which was some thirty miles from the nearest town--did one or two
of them refuse to go on when they discovered that they were being
taken far away from the beaten trail.  They simply dropped off the
wagon and started back, walking.

"Where're we going?" was invariably their first question when they
were alone with me on the road.  When I told them, they swore or
grumbled at the distance; still most of them went on, hoping, that
when the spirit moved them to leave, they would find some
conveyance to snatch a ride on, if only for part of the way.

As the season advanced, two measures were taken to prevent them
from lightly throwing up the work; for when the harvest on the
smaller farms was finished, the supply of this floating labour gave
out: the wave of hobodom struck farther north, towards the Canadian
border where crops were noticeably later, even within an easy day's
drive from headquarters; the camp, for instance, on that outpost of
Mr. Mackenzie's holdings had not been opened at all till Ivan and I
had transferred to headquarters.  It was I who drove the cook and
the first provisions over, followed by a long string of fifteen
binders and as many wagons, with a hundred draft-horses or so

One of the measures to prevent, or at least to impede the drifting
away of the men, at a time when they were most urgently needed for
threshing, consisted in strict orders issued to the foremen to put
only the most reliable hands on the wagons and grain-tanks as
teamsters; these in turn, as indeed myself, received strict orders
never to give anybody a ride unless authorized by a foreman or the
superintendent to do so.  Accordingly those among the Swedes who
were homesteaders were picked out for hauling the grain when
threshing started.  To them the threat of instant dismissal in case
of disobedience held terrors.

As for myself, one day Mr. Nelson became emphatic about this order,
reiterating that it was meant literally; for I had been seen
returning from one of the northern camps with a passenger.  This
had been an independent farmer who, on a rainy day, was walking to
town.  I explained this to Mr. Nelson, adding that surely I was to
use my judgment in such a case; it could not be the intention to
antagonize the permanently settled population.

Mr. Nelson smiled.  "Just take the order quite literally.  If a
foreman is around or I, ask.  But don't take anybody without being
authorized to do so.  As for the small farmer, we do not intend to
curry favour with him."

Mr. Nelson actually used the word "we".  To me this seemed utter
autocracy, besides being a narrow-minded policy, as "we" were
shortly to find out when the herd of cattle kept on the farm
stampeded and broke through the fence; it could not be located for
several weeks because every "small" farmer in the neighbourhood did
his best to cover the tracks; to find them involved the management
in no end of trouble and expense.

As it happened, I had an opportunity to express my opinion in a
practical way.  A day or two after, when I was driving along a
muddy road, I saw young Mr. Mackenzie's car lying on the grassy
slope of a cross-road, not far from where it joined the trail which
I was following myself.  As luck would have it, I was driving the
light broncho-team hitched to the democrat, and they were capable
of considerable speed.

As soon as Mr. Mackenzie saw me coming, he started on a run for the
crossing, leaving his car.

I touched my horses with the whip, and they responded.  When I shot
past the crossing, Mr. Mackenzie began to shout and to wave his
arms.  As soon as I had put a hundred yards or so between him and
myself, I pulled my horses up short.

Then I turned and called back.  "Strict orders from Mr. Nelson.
Nobody to get a ride without permission from him or a foreman!"
And I drove on, leaving him to tramp home over four or five miles
of muddy road.

In the evening he came over to the store, accompanied by Mr.

"Nelson," he said, "better tell this man to give me a ride when I
ask for it.  Make it a standing order, will you?"

I grinned; we all three burst out laughing.

The other measure was of a more serious character.

Everybody who was newly hired was now required to sign an agreement
whereby he promised that he would not leave before it was Mr.
Mackenzie's pleasure to dismiss him.

I understand that, the men being hired by the day, at day wages,
and no definite term being set to end the agreement, nor any
definite remuneration being agreed upon--the phrase used was at
"current wages"--this agreement was void in law.  I know it worked
hardship on many and raised a good deal of bad blood.  The men, as
most men do, signed blindly, some being unable to read, others not
caring to go to the trouble.  The few who refused to sign were left
free to walk back to town--a distance of five miles--or otherwise
to take themselves off the premises in any way they pleased.

The way this measure worked out was instructive.  As many men left
their work as before; for there is always, in the hobo, the desire
to move on.  When they came to the office, they were refused their
cheques; the foremen had already refused them their time-slips.
Some took it meekly and went back to work.  Some insisted on
leaving and were told to come back for their wages when the work
was completed; if the impulse to leave was strong enough and the
sum owing to them not too large, they simply threw up their wages,
for I am sure that nobody returned for them.  Some, lastly, got
into a temper, demanded to see Mr. Mackenzie, and threatened when
he came--as he invariably did--with legal proceedings.

"Go to law, if you want to," Mr. Mackenzie told them.  "I doubt
whether you can find a lawyer to take your case.  If you succeed,
all the worse for you.  I'll fight you up to the supreme court;
whatever you may have coming will disappear in fees and costs, and
more besides.  If you'll take my advice, you will go back to work
and wait till I have finished.  There will be something coming to
you, then."

Being stationed in the store-house, when I was not out driving, I
saw a good deal of this; for I also had a small desk in the office

Some incidents gave me a good deal to think about, for I had taken
a great liking to the young owner.  I saw his side, of course.  It
was in the interest of the country, and even of mankind at large,
that crops like his should be safely garnered.  Lack of labour
might prevent this from being accomplished.  The men were
unreasonable, there was no doubt about that.  But I had learned, by
that time, that at least nine-tenths of all our behaviour is
unreasonable.  And I could not help pitying them; I felt sympathy
even with their impotent rage, for I knew how the feeling of
impotence hurts.  What I saw and heard made my heart sore for the
underlying conditions that have created hobodom.  There is, in most
cases, first the inability to secure steady work at any one place;
partial or seasonal employment is to blame for that; thus arises,
in the individual, an inability to stay with the work; the men have
to move sooner or later; they want to choose their own time; and
this desire becomes at last a mania for which they can no longer be
held responsible.  Where hobodom has not been created in this
manner, it is a case of congenital disposition.  At any rate, as
things were, it was one of the conditions of human life; to ignore
it and not to make allowance for it, seemed cruelly callous to me.

Slowly my liking for Mr. Mackenzie faded; I found myself slipping
into an attitude of animosity.

Then a case came up which relieved me, at least partly, of this
gnawing discontent with the order of things.  I saw that Mr.
Mackenzie tempered a cruel policy with discriminating humanity.

A man had left his camp, asked for his cheque, and was refused.  He
demanded to see Mr. Mackenzie, saying he had to catch a morning
train to the east.  Unfortunately Mr. Mackenzie was out in the
fields, in his car, and could not be reached.  The man, a quiet,
unassuming fellow, walked restlessly up and down while waiting.

As soon as Mr. Mackenzie returned, he came over.  Two or three
others were waiting for him by this time.

"Well, what is it?" he asked.

"I am a married man," the first of those waiting said in substance.
"I have a family, and I received a letter last night telling me
that my wife and two children are down with typhoid.  I've got to
get home.  I have missed to-day's train; but I can walk it to
Walloh and catch a night-train.  I must have my wages."

"How much have you coming?"

The bookkeeper answered for the man.

"Well," said Mr. Mackenzie, "I can't pay you your wages.  I have
made a rule; I have to live up to it.  But I shall fix you up
somehow.  Where do you live?"

"Near Fergus Falls, Minnesota," the man replied.

"Mr. Mackenzie studied a time-table.  "You can make the night-train
from Barnesville," he said at last; "that is thirty miles from
here.  Have your dinner first; after that I shall take you over in
my car.  As for money, I shall loan you a hundred dollars in cash.
You leave your address with the bookkeeper, and we shall send you
the balance by mail when the season is over.  Will, that fix you

"Yes," said the man, "thanks."

The other two found the young owner inexorable.

I could not excuse the cruel condition; but I could at least view
Mr. Mackenzie less harshly than I had done before.  Much of our
suffering is inflicted by thoughtlessness.  Lack of humanity is
lack of thought, insight, imagination.

It was at this time that the old feeling of wonder took hold of me
again; I marvelled at the plan of my life.

Had I gone through those things which I had endured and suffered
myself--on that tramp from New York to Indiana--in preparation for
what I was witnessing now?  Doubtlessly my own, direct suffering,
little as it amounted to, had prepared me for the vicarious
suffering of the present.  Doubtlessly I should--as others did--
have shrugged my shoulders at the agony of the German boy; I should
have turned in disgust from the "garbage-eater".  Doubtlessly I
should have looked with the Jewish bookkeeper's distant and hostile
disdain upon this flood of questionable humanity, had not my own
experience taught me a deeper sympathy.  I had at that time no
thought for myself; I had nothing to worry about for the future; I
felt that my great idea, my revelation of only a few weeks ago,
secured me, insured me against all threats of an economic nature
which the invaded continent might hold.  As far as I personally was
concerned, I could step out of this condition of hobodom whenever I
chose to.  But what difference did that make?  It did not change
one single fact in the cruel conditions which surrounded me.

And then, somehow, I received a hint of what was going on at the
bunk-house at night and on rainy days.

I knew, of course, that the big hall on the ground-floor was the
scene of the recreations of the hobos.  For me there lay a certain
glamour over that hall--that kind of fascination, I suppose, which
in former years, in the Quartier Latin of Paris, had lured me on
occasional adventurous trips into the "dives" of the criminal

All these men were harmless enough, taken singly.  They were men
like you and myself, men with personal worries and sorrows, likings
and idiosyncrasies; above all weak and suffering men who appealed
to my human sympathies.  So far I had steered clear of them in the
mass.  I knew that Mr. Nelson, the superintendent, a quiet, coolly
courageous man, did not like to interfere with them, there.
Sometimes it was whispered that drinking was going on in the hall;
and though it was strictly against the rules to bring liquor in any
form into the camp, so that, if it was done, in violation of the
rules, it became Nelson's duty to do something about it, I could
see a look of annoyance cross his face when he was informed of the
fact.  He would have preferred not to know about it, to let them
get drunk and sleep it off the next day.  It was a dangerous task
to investigate and to seize the whisky.  Once, when the report came
that the men were far gone in drink and that an ugly mood was
prevailing, he held a brief conference with Mr. Mackenzie, and the
two went together.  Unflinching courage I found to be the most
redeeming feature of the young millionaire-owner.

There was no need for me to go near the place.  No duty of mine led
me there.  But I felt that my knowledge of this particular brand of
humanity was incomplete till I had seen it in its orgies.

At last, one evening, after a sudden thunderstorm which had brought
the work in the fields to a stop in the early afternoon, I went.

It was after supper; the hour was late; I could not quit work at
the usual time.  This was especially true on rainy days because
then we always had a rush on both office and store; everybody drew
a cheque on account; everybody bought what he thought he needed.
So night had set in when I reached the hall of the bunk-house.

To this very day I see the scene when I close my eyes.

Innumerable more or less smoky lanterns stood on a long table
placed in the centre of the huge barn-hall.  The rest of its spaces
were in darkness; for the table was surrounded by a dense crowd of
excited onlookers whose dim but gigantic shadows checkered and
moved over the slanting beams, the walls, and the ceiling of the
structure.  The atmosphere reeked with the smells of coal-oil,
soot, and whisky-exhalations.

When I penetrated the surrounding wall of humanity, edging in at
the upper end, near the top of the table, so as to get a look at
the game, I was struck by the feeling of tension which prevailed.

To me a game had always been a game--a give-and-take, in which a
loss had to be borne with the same equanimity--at least in
appearance--as that with which you rake in a gain.  But these
twenty-odd men who were seated on the wooden-benches around the
table played for what to them were fortunes.  Their stakes were the
earnings of weeks and months of unremitting labour; to some a gain
might mean comparative ease and leisure during the coming winter; a
loss, slavery in a sweat-shop of the middle west.  Winnings were
taken with a grim sort of satisfaction; losses, with an obscene
curse; sometimes with a vicious word against the winner.

The game was poker, of course; with the bets running high--"the sky
was the limit".  That is the most deplorable form of the game
because it allows the skilful "bluffer" to "squeeze out" an
unfortunate antagonist whose holdings have run below his own.  It
was on that score that the brawls arose; for, as soon as you
passed, unable to follow up the expert "pyramiding" of the bets,
you lost the right to demand a "show-down".

I saw at once that the game was dominated by a young engineer from
St. Paul, sent out by the Tractor Company to supervise the working
of the new engines used for steam-plowing and threshing.  Engineers
and separator men could command as much as ten dollars a day during
the high-pressure of the work.  But this young fellow was engaged
for three months at a flat rate of six dollars a day, all found,
rain or shine.  His earnings during the season may not have
exceeded those of any other engineer--there were eight on the farm;
but his bragging certainly did.  The fact that he went on drawing
his money when rainy weather threw everybody else out of
employment, except the low-paid Swedes who never appeared here
anyway, put him in his own estimation on a sort of pedestal where
he glorified himself.

Once, when he came to the store for a new suit of overalls, he
spoke in the most patronizing way to me: and though I coolly
discouraged his confidential talk, he rambled on for a quarter of
an hour or so, sitting on an up-tilted box and keeping me from
attending to my work.

"Money piles up pretty fast," he said, "when it keeps coming in at
the rate of six dollars a day whether you work or not.  Besides, I
have a whole crowd here working for me.  They can't keep their
money; it burns in their pockets.  They come and beg for a game.
They know or if they don't, they should know that, when I sit down
in a game, I take the money and nobody else.  Oh boy, when I get
back to the Twin Cities, won't I have a sweet old time with the
girls?  I'll say I will."

This man who had nothing to recommend him except his never-failing
nerve, sat in the centre on one side of the table.  On either hand
he had a lantern, in front of him a half-empty bottle.  At his
right lay a long folding-knife which locked in the handle; at his
left a pile of bills, cheques, and IOU's.  His voice dominated the
bedlam of shouts and laughter.

There were others who had made large winnings; they, too, were

But most of the gamblers sat tense and silent, except for an
occasional muttered curse or a whispered accusation.  What I could
not understand was that they did not unite to down the bully in
their midst.  But the prevailing spirit seemed rather to narrow the
circle by "squeezing" more and more of the less able or less
fortunate players out, and then, when only two or three players
were left, to spar for position and opportunity and finally to
stake everything on one bold throw.

To me the game became a symbol of much that is horrible in modern

Here was a handful of the drifting population of God's earth; here
were men who owned nothing in the world beyond what they carried
about and what might be waiting for them as a balance on the books
of the farm.  They threw down what they had and mortgaged their
future into the bargain by giving IOU's and orders on wages not yet
earned.  They were virtually selling themselves into slavery.  For
what?  For the thrilling and gripping excitement of a moment; and
then maybe in the vain hope of recouping themselves by hanging on;
and in a game in which nothing counted in the long-run except

I watched the engineer.  He took his cards up as they fell, hiding
the first in the hollow palm of his hand and laying those which
followed on top of the first, slowly and deliberately; he never
looked at his cards again, never spread his hand out; he hardly
ever discarded to draw a new supplement.  It hardly mattered to him
what his hand might hold.  He waited for the first bet; he hardly
ever "passed", never accepted a bet as offered.  Swiftly he
pyramided, in his shrill, tense, ironic voice which stung his
opponent like an insult and which seemed to have the power of
depriving his victims of their cooler reason.  He sat like a hawk,
apparently nonchalant, in reality with every muscle taut; his whole
attitude one of studied contempt.

I was to have an illustration of the fact that even chance counted
for little or nothing in the game as it was played.

Where I stood, a commotion arose among the onlookers.  A broad-
shouldered giant of a man sat right in front of me.  When my eye
followed the excited looks of my neighbours in the group, I saw
that he held "four of a kind".

I stood tightly wedged in at my post; but somehow I managed to edge
up a little closer behind him.

He had a small pile of bills at his right, amounting to maybe
twenty dollars or a little more.

Betting started somewhere around the table.

The giant seemed to bide his time.

The engineer's voice was pyramiding the bets, quickly, sharply,

More and more betters dropped out of the game; at last there was a
momentary pause.  I saw that the pot held the stakes left over from
a draw.

The deep bass of the giant in front sang out, "Wait a minute, you

And then he made a fatal mistake.  The betting stood at fifteen
dollars; he should have accepted the bet as it stood, but, instead
of merely "staying in," he raised it to twenty dollars.

That gave the engineer the chance for which he was waiting.  With a
swift side-look of his eye he appraised the giant's pile.  I doubt
whether many saw that look; but I knew that very moment that the
giant was not going to win even though chance had dealt him a "hand
among hands".  The engineer calmly raised the bet back on him, to
an amount way beyond the giant's holdings.

The game stood between the two.

I think, the giant realized at once that he had made an
irretrievable mistake.  But his fist came down on the table with a
tremendous thump which sent the lanterns jumping up into the air.

"I'll call you," he roared, "you son-of-a-gun!"

The engineer sat coolly unmoved.  "Put up," he said, throwing his
money into the already large "pot".

The giant looked about, as if reading the faces.  None of those he
saw held the slightest encouragement.

"Loan me thirty buck," he called to no one in particular.

Not a man made a move.

There was a cruel perversity in this indifference.  If I had had
the money in my pocket, I should have slipped it to him.  He was
sure of his game.  His "hand" could hardly be beaten.  But, of
course, it was not the possible or certain chance of recovery which
would have prompted me.  Iniquity was being perpetrated, even
though in a game; I heard the unspoken call for redress.

A pleading look crept into the giant's face.  He bent over and
showed his neighbour what he held.

The only answer that man made was to close his hand over his pile
of bills.

The giant muttered.  He turned back to the engineer; but his voice
sounded hopeless when he said, "I have sixty dollars coming to me
at the office.  I'll give you my IOU."

"I won't accept it; I am not a fool," replied the engineer with a
steely sneer.

The giant clenched his fist as if ready to spring; his eyes bulged;
he bent forward.

The engineer, piercing him with his steady look, reached with a
blind hand for the handle of his knife.

There was a moment's tension which came close to sending a sob into
my throat.

Then the giant relaxed, threw, with a coarse word, his cards on the
table, got to his feet, and shouted, "Count me out.  You can't beat
the devil."

The engineer smiled his smile of bravado and for a second spread
his cards into a fan, for the onlookers to see his hand.

Then he raked in the pot.

I squeezed myself out of the crowd.  When, on my way to the door, I
passed those who stood behind the engineer, I touched one of the
men on the shoulder.

"What did he have?" I asked in a whisper.

"Nothing," was the reply.

Next morning, when I went out into the fresh, rain-washed air, one
of the men who, the night before, had seen me in the hall said in
passing, "Three of them are still at it, over there."


I Meet Mother and Son

The first building in that long row of stables and barns which ran
along the southern edge of the western half of the yard was the
"driving-barn".  It consisted of two parts: the front-shed which
held an astonishing array of buggies, old-fashioned carriages, dog-
carts, and so on, a harness-room, and the quarters of the "driving-
boss"; in the rear, the stable where four or five driving-teams and
four or five saddle-horses had their stalls.  Over the whole
building stretched a hayloft.

The quarters of the driving-boss were connected by telephone with
the White House, the office, and the superintendent's residence.

The driving-boss, as he was called--the word "boss" meaning in this
connection that he took no orders from any of the foremen--was a
middle-aged little Scotchman of real horsemanship.  His temper,
however, was that of the man suffering from chronic stomach-
trouble--an American disease due, I believe, to the so-called high
standard of living.  During my month as store-boss I had been
thrown with him a good deal, for the broncho-team was quartered in
his stable.

One evening, when I was closing up for the day, Mr. Mackenzie
appeared in the store-house.

"How are you with horses, Branden?" he asked.

"Oh," I replied, "about as good as the next one, I suppose."

"Well," he went on, "I need a substitute for the driving-boss.  He
is going on a spree.  Do you think you could handle the hackneys?"

"On a spree?" I said, without answering the question.  "I thought
you don't allow anybody to leave till you have finished threshing?"

"Oh," he replied, "it's different with Standish.  He's a permanent
employee and has his privileges.  When he wants to get drunk,
there's no holding him anyway.  I'd rather have him away, then.  He
picks his own time.  It is inconvenient--just now; but he gives
satisfaction and we want him back.  How about the hackneys?"

"Well," I said, "as far as the hackneys go, I'm not afraid.  How
about the wages?"

"Same as here.  Two dollars for rainy days and Sundays; on workdays
what the field-crews get."

"All right," I said.

"That's settled, then," said Mr. Mackenzie.  "We've got a man to
take your place here.  Better move over tomorrow morning."

Thus, for the second time, I changed my status on this farm.

Again I will briefly summarize my new duties.

First among them was, of course, the care for the horses.  This
comprised feeding and brushing, watching the state of their health,
looking after their shoeing, and taking them out for exercise when
they were not being used.  Further, I had to get the teams ready
when they were needed; for the owner, for the superintendent, and
now and then for the bookkeeper, too.  And lastly, when Mr.
Mackenzie or his mother wished to be driven, I had to act as

Mrs. Mackenzie, whom I had never seen so far, was a white-haired
lady of bourgeois habits and conspicuously expensive tastes.  Her
late husband had, in his earlier life, been a section boss; that
explained it.  She was given to visiting and church-work, so that,
whenever the weather was propitious, I was kept busy in her service
during the afternoon.

Hers was the black team of hackneys of which she was at the same
time excessively proud and inordinately afraid.  They were high-
strung beasts, but so easily handled and so responsive that to me
it was a never-exhausted pleasure to drive them.  They were so
infinitely superior to the dowdy old lady who sat behind my back
that I sometimes smiled and winked at occasional passers-by in town
who would invariably stop to admire their arching necks and the
thin bones of their fleet, dancing feet.

Once, when we were crossing the crowded freight-yard in town where
cars were being shunted and locomotives unexpectedly blew off their
steam, the funny bundle of silks and ribbons in the carriage flew
into a panic and screamed at me, "Do you see that engine, coachman?
Take the whip!"

She did not know that to use the whip on horses like that would
have been at once dangerous and foolish.

I nodded; but I merely watched for the moment when the passage
ahead was clear and then clicked my tongue: the prancing horses
straightened out and shot away.

The old lady never called me anything but "coachman"--that seemed
to her a symbol of the gulf which gaped between us.  She was, to
herself, the "grande dame"; I was a nameless menial.  She is dead,
now; so this will never hurt her.

On another occasion she telephoned an unexpected order for her
team, adding, "Hurry up, coachman.  I want to be in town in twenty-
five minutes."

The town was five miles away; twenty-five minutes was rather short
notice.  I came very near recommending the use of the car; but I
knew that nothing would have induced her to enter such a vulgar
conveyance.  I also knew the horses and what I could ask them to do
when it came to an emergency.  I had the carriage in front of the
White House in less than six minutes.

She stood on the steps; and when I held the door of the carriage
for her, she threw her order at me, "To the rectory.  And remember,
coachman, I promised to be there at half past two.  Don't make me

"Very well, madam," I replied and touched my cap; for I was wearing
a uniform when I took her out; her son was just as well pleased
with me in overalls.

We had nineteen minutes to make five miles; but we made them.  The
horses, not used to such speeding, were speckled with the foam
thrown from their mouths.

"Wait here," said Mrs. Mackenzie when I opened the door for her,
touching my cap.

But I judged it expedient to walk the horses up and down the street
so as to prevent a chill.

When, twenty minutes or so after that, Mrs. Mackenzie appeared on
the steps, with the rector, she had to wait a quarter of a minute
before she could re-enter the carriage.  I saw at once that she was

An hour or so later, when we were back at the farm, her son came
into the driving-barn and asked me, "What's that my mother is
complaining about?"

I stated the facts and showed him the horses which were still
nervous and which I had blanketed.

"Well," he said, "you did right, of course.  Never mind mother."

With that he walked out.

It was quite a different matter to drive Mr. Mackenzie himself.  I
have already mentioned that he never stood on form.  He liked to
tinker about; so he used his car mostly.  Cars gave ample scope, at
the time, for the exercise of mechanical leanings; I have heard
they do so still.

But when the season advanced, he liked to go out shooting birds in
the evening; and whenever he did, he asked me to drive him.  If we
missed the supper-hour, he would take me to the kitchen of the
White House where a pretty maid would serve both of us with a

We used to take a broncho-team for these drives, and they were
sometimes not easy to handle.  One of the horses we had,
occasionally, to chase for five or ten minutes around the stable
before we could slip a bridle over his head.  And when we had
hitched them to the democrat we were using, we had to jump in as
fast as we could, for there was no holding them.  The young owner
invariably helped me in these preparations, and we had a good deal
of fun.

Then, when we rolled along the smooth roads between his fields, Mr.
Mackenzie dearly loved to talk.

Since we were going out to shoot birds, I told him of the game
reserves in Europe.  I told him especially of a certain evening
which I had once spent in a deer-park; I contrasted that careful
policy of conservation with America's wastefulness.

"Oh yes," he said, "but all that's only for royalty."

"Not as far as their presence goes," I replied.  "Of course, as for
shooting them . . ."

"Well," he asked, "what else should you want to keep game for?"

"That's your American view," I assailed him.  "You people still
have the utilitarian idea; the fight for the backyard is still
in your blood; you haven't had time to put your frontyard in
order . . ."

The young owner laughed.  "I like your way," he said.  "You are
hard on America, are you not?"

"On some phases of its life," I argued.  "Do you know why?"

"I am curious," he said.

"Because you are wasting the biggest opportunity any civilized
nation ever had; because there is even in you a spark of that
spirit which found the word Government of the people, by the
people, for the people."

"The people!" Mr. Mackenzie scoffed.  "Who are they?  I am the

I gasped.  "Do you know," I said, "that you are not the first one
to use words to that effect?"

"No, I don't."

"You should read," I went on.  "Read history, above all.  There's
something to be learned."

Mr. Mackenzie laughed it off.  "You are a funny fellow," he said.

But he came back to the topic.  A few days later, when we we're
rolling along the roads again, we passed the field on which the
crews were threshing.  We approached behind a screen of poplars and
came unawares upon some of them who were loading the sheaves.  At
sight of the young owner they changed their gait.

Mackenzie laughed again.  "There is your people for you," he said.
"Did you see how they speeded up when they saw us?"

"Of course," I replied, "what else can you expect?  They have
nothing at stake."

"They are taking my money," he objected.

"You have taken their land," I countered, waving my arms across the

"It's honestly come by," he said.

"It's come by through chance," I challenged.

He laughed.

"I have often wondered," I went on, "how much of what is called
enterprise is really chance."

"You're a radical," he said.

"Of course," I agreed.  "How can anybody with imagination,
sympathy, and brains be anything but a radical?  You are a duke, a
lord, or an incipient king."

"No kings in this country," he said.

"Well," I replied, "do you think that kings in Europe had a
different origin?  It has always been that way.  Who grabs most
becomes the founder of a great family.  What did you do to become
the owner of this principality?  You went to the trouble of being
born, to quote a Frenchman."

"I am a good farmer," he defended himself.

"You're not," I accused.  "Have you ever spent a night in a bed of
your bunk-house?"

"Well," he exclaimed, "you are the limit!  I am not fond enough of

"So you have not even the excuse of ignorance!  Do you think the
hobos are?"

"They must be, or they would get rid of them."

"Have you ever seen them squatting along the slough, of a Sunday,
boiling their clothes?" I asked.

"Yes," he pondered, "I have.  Why don't they go and clean out the

"I wish you would try to pitch sheaves for twelve hours, one day,
and afterwards clean house."

"There may be something in that," he agreed.  "But there are the
rainy days."

"I should not like myself to sleep in wet straw," I answered.

Next day I was thrilled to hear that a man had been appointed to
look after the cleaning of the bunk-house.  All the bunks were
treated with coal-oil and gasoline; the straw was renewed.

"You're learning," I praised the next time.  "I wish you had given
orders to have the blankets burnt."

"Say," said the young man, "don't you think you are asking a good

"Just what does your harvest amount to?" I countered.

Mr. Mackenzie looked at me, quizzically.  "I know what you are
driving at.  I'll tell you.  Suppose I did all that.  What good
would it do?"

"It would set an example," I replied.  "You see, I am a better
American than you are.  Do you know what I believe to be the
fundamental difference between this country and Europe?"

"I wonder."

"The whole civilization of Europe is based on the theory of the
original sin.  Right is done only when might enforces it.  Even the
life of the individual is regulated.  But here there is a profound
suspicion that in his heart the human animal wants to do right and
is good.  Take the case of mere honesty.  The railway-system, the
customs, the police-organization of Europe--they are all built up
on the presumption that everybody, unless watched, is a crook.
Here the presumption is that the average American is honest."

"I wish I had more of that average," said Mr. Mackenzie.

This time it was I who laughed.  "Hold on," I said.  "Now you are
the radical."

"I don't see that," he replied.

"According to your fundamental tenet all men are born free and

"A beautiful phrase!"

"Do I hear an American say that?"

"You don't want me to assume that the hobo who has to be watched at
his work from morning till night is my equal?"

"Are you so sure that, if he had been born in your place, he would
not make as good a millionaire as you are?  Or that you would make
a more industrious hobo than he is?--I am a hobo myself."

"You don't seem to be one," he said.  "You are too outspoken."

"Do you know what I have made up my mind to do?"

"Well?" he asked.

"When I leave this life, I am going to talk Red to every man like
you," I replied.  "But I am going to be the most conservative of
the conservatives when I talk to the men.  I cannot help believing
that at heart you mean right, even where you are doing wrong."

There was quite a break, after this, in our conversations,
occasioned by the fact that visitors arrived at the White House.
For a week or longer there was only one of these evening-
excursions; and that time Mr. Mackenzie was accompanied by a guest.

When the guests were gone, Mr. Mackenzie resumed the drives.  The
first time we sat in silence for quite a while.  Then it was he who
took our old topic up again.

"I've been wondering," he said, "what you would have done if you
had had the misfortune of being born in my place."

"Don't be so ironical about it," I said.

"Well," he countered, "your talks have made me feel quite blue."

"Good," I exclaimed.  "Though they were not meant to work that way.
If it is any comfort to you, I will first of all say that probably
I should have lived a life of ease as you have done.  You rich
people don't have half a chance.  Your education is neglected."

"Our education?"

"Yes," I replied.  "A man like Judge Gary is to be pitied only.  It
would do him, and incidentally a few thousand workmen, a world of
good if he were turned out on a tramp in a foreign country for a
year or two, penniless, in order to learn.  I contend that, as
things stand to-day, the most fundamental part of your education is
forgotten.  You are not taught to see the other fellow's point of
view.  But, of course, if you were, you might lose sight of your
own, though that would be distinctly the lesser evil.  Equality of
opportunity!  Nothing but a phrase.  You poor rich people simply do
not stand a chance!"

"It strikes me," laughed Mr. Mackenzie, "that this time it is you
who are ironical."

"Very well," I said, "I'll be serious.  What you really meant to
ask is this:  What would I do if a property like this fell into my
hands at the present time, I being what I am and having gone
through what I have seen of the world?  I will tell you; but it
will seem Utopian.  First of all I should spend some hundred
thousand odd dollars in providing proper dormitories for the men--a
white-tiled bunk-house with proper bathing and washing facilities
and decent beds: that would settle the vermin.  Then gymnasium,
reading-room, and play-room equipped for the proper kind of games:
that would settle the goings-on in that bunk-house hall of yours.
Next I should provide proper work for them the year around.  You
would soon anchor that part of your floating labour supply which
can take root.  And lastly I should divest myself of my property."

"What do you mean by that?"

"I mean, I should feel that it is sinful for me to let even an
appearance persist as if I were really the owner of all this and as
if the men were working for me.  It is surely better for the
country if the same amount of grain, or even a smaller amount, is
produced by a greater number of independent farmers, each holding a
fraction only of what you hold.  I am not an economist, but I can
see that real democracy can be arrived at only in one of two ways,
by collective ownership or by a limitation of wealth.  I do not
presume to decide on their relative merits; I do not expect to see
either way realized in my lifetime."

"How old are you?" asked Mr. Mackenzie with seeming irrelevance.

"I am young, thank God," I replied with fervour; "and so are you.
Youth means courage and adaptability; old age means ossification.
I hope I shall never be old, even though I live to be a hundred or

"I sometimes wonder," he sighed, "whether you are right or merely

And at that we left it.

Harvest was finished; the regular driving-boss returned.  I drew my
pay--it amounted to two hundred dollars or so--and got ready to

I said a personal good-by to Mr. Mackenzie, and he offered me the
position as bookkeeper on his farm.

I declined.  "I want to see a little more of this life," I said;
"My place is with the men; you are the past, they are the future.
I have my plans, and I see very clearly what I want; it is not
within your gift."


My Problem Defines Itself and I Solve It

This is the last chapter of my wanderings.

Light gleamed ahead.  My life-work was clearly outlined in my mind.
I had discovered the soil in which I could grow.  This book has
nothing to do with that life-work itself; it does not deal with the
growth in that soil.  Its topic is the search and its end.  I might
stop here; I had found.

Unfortunately, and typically for the immigrant, a conspiracy of
circumstances seemed to arise, bent upon, and well capable of,
shaking the strongest faith of him whose wider outlook was none too
firmly established as yet.

I was reconciled to America.  I was convinced that the American
ideal was right; that it meant a tremendous advance over anything
which before the war could reasonably be called the ideal of
Europe.  A reconciliation of contradictory tendencies, a bridging
of the gulf between the classes was aimed at, in Europe, at best
by concessions from above, from condescension; in America the
fundamental rights of those whom we may call the victims of
civilization were clearly seen and, in principle, acknowledged--so
I felt--by a majority of the people.  Consequently the gulf
existing between the classes was more apparent than real; the gulf
was there, indeed; but it was there as a consequence of an
occasional vitiation of the system, not of the system itself.  I
might put it this way.  In Europe the city was the crown of the
edifice of the state; the city culminated in the court--a
republican country like France being no exception, for the
bureaucracy took the place, there, of the aristocracy in other
countries.  In America the city was the mere agent of the country--
necessary, but dependent upon the country in every way--
politically, intellectually, economically.  Let America beware of
the time when such a relation might be reversed: it would become a
mere bridgehead of Europe, as in their social life some of its
cities are even now.*  The real reason underlying this difference I
believed to be the fact that Europe, as far as the essentials of
life were concerned, was a consumer; whereas America was a
producer.  The masses were fed, in Europe, from the cities; the
masses were fed, in America, from the country.  Blessed is the
nation that remains rural in this respect, for it will inherit the
world.  Freedom and happiness flee, unless "superest ager."

* I must repeat that this book was, in all its essential parts,
written decades ago.

That was my idea; and it contained the germ of an error.  In my
survey of the American attitude I was apt to take ideals for facts,
aspirations for achievements.  From the vantage-ground of
retrospection, I can only be glad that an anticlimax intervened
before I set about building my life.

When I came from Europe, I came as an individual; when I settled
down in America, at the end of my wanderings, I was a social man.
My view of life, if now, at the end, I may use this word once more,
had been, in Europe, historical, it had become, in America,
ethical.  We come indeed from Hell and climb to Heaven; the Golden
Age stands at the never-attainable end of history, not at Man's
origins.  Every step forward is bound to be a compromise; right and
wrong are inseparably mixed; the best we can hope for is to make
right prevail more and more; to reduce wrong to a smaller and
smaller fraction of the whole till it reaches the vanishing point.
Europe regards the past; America regards the future.  America is an
ideal and as such has to be striven for; it has to be realized in
partial victories.*

* I have since come to the conclusion that the ideal as I saw and
still see it has been abandoned by the U.S.A.  That is one reason
why I became and remained a Canadian.

When I walked back to Walloh, I had two hundred dollars deposited
to my name in the bank of the town, and some little sum in my
pocket besides.  I carried my bundle as I had done three months
ago, when I had walked the same road in the opposite direction.
Financially I was very nearly where I had been when I had walked
the same road in the opposite direction.  Financially I was very
nearly where I had been when I had first landed at Montreal.  But
then my only idea had been to make money; now my one idea was to
live and to help others to live.

Three months ago I had been a hobo; now I adopted the disguise of
one.  I have since gone out like that again, a good many times; I
have always enjoyed such holidays.

I reached Walloh late in the afternoon and boarded an evening train
going north.  After a ride of seventy or eighty miles I dropped off
at some junction and struck west again.  For two or three days I
tramped it, alone.  The crops stood in stooks; I should find work
at threshing.

Then I came to a town.  As it chanced, I hit upon a livery-stable,
somewhere along the track.  The front of the building was occupied
by a real-estate broker's office.

I entered the stable and found the hostler, a morose elderly man
crippled with rheumatism.

"Any work around here?" I enquired.

"Sure," he grumbled.  "Might pull the harness off that horse
there."  He stopped at a stall, looking with helpless eyes at a
long-legged driver.

"I'll do that for you," I replied, for he was bent double with
suffering.  When I had finished, I turned and said, "But, you know,
that was not exactly the way I meant it."

Since I had helped him, he softened.  "I guess not," he said with a
sigh and went to the front of the building.

I followed him.

"No," he answered my question at last.  "Not yet.  They are through
cutting, and haven't started threshing.  But in a few days, I
suppose.  You see the boss."

"The livery man?" I asked.

"Barn belongs to two lawyers," he said.  "Real estate and farm
loans, too.  They've got a big farm south of here, fifteen miles
out.  Three thousand acres or so."

"Where can I find either one?"

"Stick around," he replied.  "One of them will drop in before

In the dusk of the evening a small, stout man appeared in the
office in front of the stable.  I followed him in.

"Have you any use for a harvest-hand?" I enquired.

He looked me over.  "I can use some teamsters," he said.  "Can you
handle horses?"

"I can," I replied.  "For threshing?"

"Yes; but we won't start before next week.  Meanwhile I need a man
to look after a bunch of horses here in town if you are satisfied
with the wages I offer."

"How much would that be?"

"Well," he said, "I'll pay you a dollar and a half a day.  You will
have to board yourself.  Not here.  In the stable at my house.  You
can sleep in the hayloft, if you want to.  Meanwhile you can haul
hay for my drivers.  When I take you out to the farm, you get your
board, of course, and the current wages."

"All right," I said.  And thus it was settled.

I began work next day, hauling hay from a nearby half-section of
land owned by my employer.  There was a man living on the place, a
Finn who spoke only the most broken of English.  Since he was
getting ready to move, I presumed him to be a renting tenant; I was
interested in his experience.  My curiosity as to the economic life
of the immigrant settler led to enquiries; and they disclosed a
startling condition.

This man had come to America five or six years ago; he had brought
a family which had since increased by three or four members.  This
family he had at first left behind in the city, while he himself
was drifting about.  He had come to this town and started to work
for my present employer who, seeing his great strength and his love
of work, had treated him well, had gained his confidence, and
finally had made him an offer which had seemed good to the Finn.
It had even seemed kind.

The offer was this.  The lawyer would sell the Finn a half-section
of land at twenty dollars an acre, to be paid for in half-crop
payments.  He would build a shack and a stable for him at so-and-so
much, and equip him besides with all the machinery and the horses
he needed at stated prices.  The machinery was second-hand; I do
not remember the sums involved; but I do remember that the price as
stipulated was what it had cost when new.  Of horses there had been
five--good horses, the Finn admitted; but colts, not broken or
trained for the work.  The price of these was one thousand dollars.
For the whole of this equipment the Finn had been induced to give
five notes, lien-notes, with that iniquitous clause, ". . . Or if
the party of the first part should consider this note insecure, he
shall have full power to declare this and all other notes made by
me in his favour due and payable forthwith, and he may take
possession of the property and hold it until this note and all
other notes made by me are paid, or sell the said property at
public or private sale; the proceeds thereof to be applied in
reducing the amount unpaid thereon; and the holder thereof,
notwithstanding such taking possession or sale, shall thereafter
have the right to proceed against me and recover, and I agree to
pay, the balance then found to be due thereon."

This, I am aware, is perfectly within the law; it may even work
without hardship where "the party of the second part" is fully
aware of what he signs, though I doubt it.  This Finn was an
intelligent man; he could read and write his own language.  But, as
far as English goes, he was to all intents and purposes illiterate;
through none of his fault.  He had been turned loose on American
soil, equipped for the struggle of life with nothing but an
inherent trustfulness; he was paying for his lesson with
bankruptcy.  My own, comparatively trifling and mild experiences,
annoying as they had been, here widened out for the first time into
the experience of a whole class of immigrants, and that the most
desirable one.  In every nation there are sharks, of course; it is
only just to say that in later years I found the worst of the
sharks among successful immigrants.  In every nation there are
brutes and fools; we cannot charge their doings to the collective
score.  But children need looking after; and the immigrant is, as
far as the ways of this country are concerned, no better than a
child.  Here was a bona-fide settler, a prospective citizen of the
most promising kind, turned into a sower of discontent.  Do you
blame him?

Let me explain how the compact between the lawyer and the Finn
worked out.

The lawyer played the part of the lumber-dealer, the contractor,
the implement-dealer, the horse-dealer, the real estate agent, the
collector, the bailiff.  At his disposal were willing friends and
helpers; there was, above all, the whole, inexorable, and
irresistible machinery of the law which he knew well how to handle.
With all these assistants, he stood arrayed against a single man
who was helpless because he did not even know the language of the

The lawyer made a profit on the lumber, on the building, on the
implements, on the horses, and on the land; but he was not
satisfied with that.

If he had rented the land, he would have had to furnish all that he
had furnished the Finn, free of charge; his only gain would have
been the customary half-share of the crop.  It is true, he would
have remained the owner of the land and the equipment; but he also
would have had to pay the taxes on the property.  As it was, the
Finn paid the taxes and the interest on his debt for two years, in
addition to two payments on the capital involved.

Then one of the horses fell; the machinery--which had not been new
in the first place--began to go wrong at a critical time.  When the
third of the notes fell due and he found himself unable to pay, the
bailiff seized machinery and live-stock.  These were offered at
private sale and readily found a buyer who proved to be the second
lawyer of the little town, the seller's partner; he paid a
laughable price for the whole of the outfit and shortly sold it
back to the first owner at a profit, but still at considerably less
than the Finn had paid.  His profit was his part of the loot.

The Finn still owed a considerable balance; his equity in the farm
and whatever he had acquired in the first two years of his life as
an independent farmer--two cows, some pigs, a flock of chickens,
the furniture in his shack, and so on--came under the hammer.  The
net result was that the Finn had worked three years for nothing--
not as a renter would work--with an eye only to his advantage--but
as the owner works, from sun to sun and longer, straining his
powers to the very limit.

I might add right here that the same farm was sold again, equipment
and all, under exactly the same conditions--with the price of the
land raised to twenty-five dollars an acre--before I even left
town, that is, within three or four weeks.

My first impulse was, of course, to leave then and there; but on
second thought I decided otherwise.  To leave would have been a
weakness.  If at any future time I wanted to be of help, I had to
study just such cases.  I saw even at the time that, unless such
problems are faced and the easy remedies applied, nothing could
come from the indiscriminate admission of immigrants, but
unmitigated evil.  I might add that most of the fashionable talk
about Americanization strikes me as mere cant.  I know of no more
effective means towards that end than the open, frank, unsugared
square deal.

With my new employer no relation was possible as had sprung up
between Mr. Mackenzie and myself.  The farm was a matter of fifteen
miles from the town.  Its lay-out resembled in a general way that
of the outlying camps on the Mackenzie place, though, of course,
things were on a smaller scale.  There were only twenty-five men in
the crew; but in the absence of the owners of the land--which was
primarily held for speculation and disposed of in parts as buyers
were found--there was again that impersonal air about the work
which had characterized the organization on Mr. Mackenzie's farm.

I found the crew in a turmoil.  When I appeared, I was questioned
about wages offered in town.  I was little interested in the
amounts I was making and could give no information on this point.

The foreman asserted that the men were getting what anybody else
got in this neighbourhood.  But they demanded certainty.  They were
in a strange isolation on the farm.  They were kept busy
throughout, rain or shine; and the only way to get to town would
have been to ask the foreman to let them off from their work for a
day and to give them a ride to boot.  They were all of that type of
men who, like the Swedes, hang on to the work as long as they can,
most of them being Finns.  I was most forcibly struck by the way in
which nationalities ran in streaks in this northern harvest-
migration of floating labour.  At Mr. Mackenzie's place the Swedes
had predominated; here it was the Finns.

I had been on the place for two weeks or so, driving a four-horse
team with a load of wheat to town in the morning and coming back
late at night.  Then, one evening, the men held a secret meeting in
the horse-barn, and I was asked to come.

When I entered, I found them talking in a lively and excited way,
in Finnish, which I did not understand.  What struck me, however,
right at the start, was the air of mistrust, of suspicion with
regard to the management of the farm.  Apparently the owners
enjoyed a "hard name".  On the Mackenzie place nobody had ever
questioned the perfect fairness in money-matters between men and
owner.  The wages had been about twenty-five cents above those
which other farmers of the neighbourhood were paying; whenever an
advance took place, the foreman had made it known at the breakfast
table.  Here it turned out that nobody knew exactly what he was
being credited with.  All of them had been engaged at "current
wages"; the foreman, when asked, was evasive; he never stated a
definite sum without adding "I think"; the last sum which he had
mentioned that way had been three and a half dollars a day; but
even that was no more than "he thought" they were getting.  The
season was drawing towards its end; none of these men had any
particular reason to work on this farm rather than on any other.
There was no consideration of loyalty involved.  They were after
the greatest number of dollars in the shortest possible time.

As it happened, it was my turn next morning to take the first load
to town; my tank had been filled just before quitting time at
night.  Under these circumstances I would start before break of day
and reach town in time for feeding the horses; that would leave me
an hour or so for my own meal and for whatever else I might wish to

The men asked me to go to the station at train-time, when farmers
would be in, looking for help, and to enquire about the wages paid
elsewhere.  I promised to do so, and we dispersed.

At the station next day three or four farmers addressed me,
offering work; an enquiry as to the wages disclosed the fact that
nobody offered less than four dollars, while one of them offered
four and a quarter a day.

It was about five o'clock in the afternoon when I got home.  As
soon as I appeared on the road, within sight of the crews, the
whistle of the engine blew for me to come out to the field and to
reload for the next morning.  I turned on to the stubble and, when
I passed through the corner where the men were loading sheaves,
they crowded around me and asked for the news.

Everybody, as if by a concerted plan, dropped his work and jumped
into the box of my grain-tank.  It was thus, with a load of
seething humanity, that I reached the separator.

The men at once called the foreman aside and surrounded him,
clamouring, threatening.  I heard the foreman protesting, arguing,
promising; and after a short time, while I was waiting for the
grain to begin pouring into my tank, the men dispersed, going back
to their work.

The foreman came over to where I was waiting.

"Get out of that tank," he shouted to me, his voice nearly drowned
by the vibratory pounding of engine and separator which were
running empty.

"I'll give you your time," he went on; "I'm going to town, you come

I jumped to the ground.  "What's wrong?" I asked.

"No damned foreign agitators wanted around," he shouted angrily.

I shrugged my shoulders and walked off to camp.

When we reached the office in front of the livery stable, the
foreman and my employer held a whispered conference.  Then the
lawyer went to a desk and made out a cheque.

I sat down and waited till he tossed the pink slip across the small
table at which I was sitting.  I looked at it and did some rapid
mental arithmetic.

"Just what do you call current wages?" I asked.

"What I pay the rest of my men," he replied.  "How much that is is
none of your business.  You don't think that I pay current wages to
a man who quits before the work is finished, do you?"

"Oh," I said with a shrug of my shoulders and a smile, "that
explains this cheque."

I crushed it into my pocket and rose.

That was the end of my work as a harvest hand.

Now those were the years of tree-planting in these parts.  Every
house in town was surrounded by a yard with young plantations a few
years old.  It had struck me that many of them needed attending to.
The tree used was box-elder, a bad choice in a windy country, since
it is apt to break in the crotch.  I still had my tree-saw and
pruning knife; and somehow I did not wish to leave the town just
then.  I went out offering my services as a tree-pruner, charging
forty cents an hour, and finding an ample clientele.

One day, a man who reminded me of the senatorial Mr. Warburton, the
manager of the veneer-mill in the little Indiana town, had been
watching me for some time at work and at last addressed me.

"You seem to know your business," he said.  "I have a large
plantation at the north end of the town.  Do you care to look it
over and see what you can do with it?"

"Certainly," I agreed.  "I'll go with you now."

We came to an agreement on the basis of my usual charge; I
estimated that the work would take me five or six days.

I did not know the man; but an enquiry brought out the fact that he
was the partner of my previous employer; a curious coincidence, I

I went to work with even more than my usual vigour and alacrity; I
was anxious to show that I, at least, was willing to give a square
deal even though I had not received it at his partner's hands.
Frequently, while I was at work, the man would come and look on,
asking questions, making suggestions.  By dint of special efforts I
managed to finish the work in four days.

On the morning of the fifth day I wrote a bill for sixteen dollars
and went to the law-office to present it.  A stenographer took the
bill and asked me to return in the afternoon.  When I did so, she
handed me four dollars and stated that her employer had said that
was all my work was worth.

I refused to take the money and asked to see him; but he was not

I went to his house, and he was not there; nor could I find him
anywhere else.  A sullen anger took possession of me; at him and
his partner.  They were the lawyers in town; they were prominent
and respected citizens; but they were crooks, and I longed to tell
them so.

To this very day I hope they will read this record; if they do,
they may rest assured that I hoard their names in my memory.

In the evening I was sitting at the station, on the platform,
talking with the section-boss with whom I had fallen in and to whom
I told my experience with the noble pair, when a tall, skinny man
touched me on the shoulder and gave me a sign to follow him.  He
led the way to the side of the station-building.

"I'm the chief?" he said by way of introduction.

"The chief?" I asked blankly.

"Yes," he said, uncovering a badge on the edge of his vest.  "The
chief of police.  You better leave town; there are complaints
against you."

"Complaints?" I asked.  "Of what nature?"

"Never mind," he said and turned to go.  "You know.  You can't go
about here and threaten respectable citizens.  Take my advice and
clear out."  With that he walked off.

Then I returned to the section-boss and told him of the new

He, too, laughed; but to my amazement he advised me to take the
hint and go.  "Can't beat politics in this country," he said.

"But what can they do except expose their own crooked dealings?"

"Railroad you on a trumped-up charge," he replied.

I mused for a while.  When my first anger had cooled, I decided
that the advice was good.  What did it matter?  I wanted to get out
in any case.  After I had made the big change, then it would be
time to go after men like these.  I had meanwhile seen enough of
America to put the incident down for what it was: an incident.  It
no longer clouded my whole horizon for me, as my experiences with
Messrs. Hannan and Howard, Tinker and Wilbur had done.  I had
simply run up against a pair that were sailing close to the wind; I
had hit upon another crooked game; crooked games were no longer the
world.  The immigrant always sees only a partial view; but I had
seen enough partial views to make their average more or less true
to reality.  I even thought myself lucky to have run up against
this case; the very fact that I could take it as I did seemed to
prove that I was ready for the work which I had chosen.  If you run
down a river in a boat and your boat brings up against a snag, you
do not get out to dam the river and to dislodge the snag; you
simply turn your boat and push it off into the current; the snag is
not the river, after all.

As it happened, the section-boss could offer me the means to leave
town.  He was shorthanded in his gang; that very morning a man,
after receiving his wages, had quitted work, leaving at his tool-
shed a hand-car which was needed further back along the line.  The
signal-posts along the track were to be repainted before snow-up;
there was a week's work to be done, at a dollar and seventy-five a
day.  If I cared to take the "job", I could have it; he would get
into communication with the district-superintendent over the wire.

Thus it came that my rambles ended by a week in the open.  I shot
along the line of steel at a speed which depended only on my
endurance and strength.  There was fun in the work.  Sometimes I
wished that one of my old friends in the capitals of Europe could
see me thus.  Whenever I met a signal-post, I got off my hand-car,
armed with paint-pot and brush.  At night I made some station and
stayed in town.  To all whom I met I was no longer a tramp or a
hobo; I was a duly labelled painter of signs for one of the great
lines on the American continent; as such I "belonged".

For the first time in a year I thought of young Ray; one day I
wrote to him to find out where he might be.  I gave the city of
Winnipeg as my address; for by now I felt that I wanted to become
"repatriated" in Canada where I had made my first fight for
economic independence.

At last the day came when I reported at the office at Grand Forks,
handed over my car, and received my pay.

I have mentioned a little notebook which I had started to use soon
after I had first set out from New York.  A few years ago that
little booklet was still at hand.  It held my accounts, among other
things; and I remember that, when I had received the wages earned
on Mr. Mackenzie's farm and left on deposit in the bank, the net
result of my season's work as a harvest-hand showed a saving of
$249.35, on the day when I bought my ticket for Winnipeg.

When I arrived there, I had a number of interviews.  I wanted to go
to foreign settlements and help recent immigrants to build their
partial views of America into total views; I wanted to assist them
in realizing their promised land.  The upshot was that I applied
for and obtained a position as teacher.

I have been a teacher ever since; and not only a teacher, but the
doctor, lawyer, and business-agent of all the immigrants in my
various districts.

And twenty-seven years after the end of my rambles I published the
first of my few books.


Author's Note to the Fourth Edition (1939)

Since this book, written in 1893-1894, appeared in print in 1927, I
have often been asked whether the story which it presents is fact
or fiction.  My answer, a prevaricating answer, was that every
event in the story was lived through; but that only a very few
events that had taken place in the years with which the book deals
found their place in it; and among them there was not one of the
terrible things.

I should like to seize this opportunity to add a word or so.

Every work of so-called imaginative literature, good or bad, is
necessarily at once both fact and fiction; and not only in the
sense that fiction is mingled with fact.  In every single part fact
and fiction are inextricably interwoven.

Imaginative literature is not primarily concerned with facts; it is
concerned with truth.  It sees fact only within the web of life,
coloured and made vital by what preceded it, coloured and made
significant by what followed.  In its highest flights, imaginative
literature, which is one and indivisible, places within a single
fact the history of the universe from its inception as well as the
history of its future to the moment of its final extinction.

The reason for this is that, in imaginative literature, no fact
enters as mere fact; a fact as such can be perceived; but, to form
subject-matter for art, it must contain its own interpretation; and
a fact interpreted, and therefore made capable of being understood,
becomes fiction.*

* See Hueffer, Joseph Conrad: A Personal Remembrance, for Conrad's
perfectly sincere reminiscences of his seafaring life.  In their
oral presentations, they varied as their significances unfolded
themselves in the telling.

The book which followed is essentially retrospective; which means
that it is teleological; what was the present when it was written
had already become its telos.  Events that had followed were
already casting their shadows backward.  By writing the book, in
that long-ago past, I was freeing myself of the mental and
emotional burden implied in the fact that I had once lived it and
had left it behind.  But the present pervaded the past in every

One more point.  Why, so I have been asked, did I choose a
pseudonym for my hero?  Well, while a pseudonym ostensibly
dissociates the author from his creation, it gives him at the same
time an opportunity to be even more personal than, in the
conditions of our present-day civilization, it would be either safe
or comfortable to be were he speaking in the first person,


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