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Title: Your United States - Impressions of a first visit
Author: Bennett, Arnold, 1867-1931
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: THE GLORY OF FIFTH AVENUE INSPIRES EVEN THOSE ON FOOT]



YOUR UNITED STATES

IMPRESSIONS OF A FIRST VISIT



BY
ARNOLD BENNETT


ILLUSTRATED BY
FRANK CRAIG



HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
MCMXII



COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY HARPER & BROTHERS

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

PUBLISHED OCTOBER, 1912



CONTENTS

CHAP.                                PAGE

   I. THE FIRST NIGHT                   3
  II. STREETS                          27
 III. THE CAPITOL AND OTHER SITES      49
  IV. SOME ORGANIZATIONS               73
   V. TRANSIT AND HOTELS               99
  VI. SPORT AND THE THEATER           123
 VII. EDUCATION AND ART               147
VIII. CITIZENS                        171



ILLUSTRATIONS

THE GLORY OF FIFTH AVENUE INSPIRES EVEN THOSE ON FOOT      _Frontispiece_
DISEMBARKING AT NEW YORK                                   _Facing p._ 10
THE DOWN-TOWN BROADWAY OF CROWED SKY-SCRAPERS                          16
BROADWAY ON ELECTION NIGHT                                             20
A BUSY DAY ON THE CURB MARKET                                          34
A WELL-KNOWN WALL STREET CHARACTER                                     36
THE SKY-SCRAPERS OF LOWER NEW YORK AT NIGHT                            38
A WINTER MORNING IN LINCOLN PARK, CHICAGO                              42
A RIVER-FRONT HARMONY IN BLACK AND WHITE--CHICAGO                      44
THE APPROACH TO THE CAPITOL                                            50
ON PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE                                                 52
ON THE STEPS OF THE PORTICO--THE CAPITOL                               54
UNDER THE GREAT DOME OF THE CAPITOL                                    56
THE PROMENADE--CITY POINT, BOSTON                                      60
THE BOSTON YACHT CLUB--OVERLOOKING THE HARBOR                          64
AT MORN POURING CONFIDENCES INTO HER TELEPHONE                         74
LUNCHEON IN A DOWN-TOWN CLUB                                           86
A YOUNG WOMAN WAS JUST FINISHING A FLORID SONG                         90
ABSORBED IN THAT WONDROUS SATISFYING HOBBY                             94
IN THE PARLOR-CAR                                                     100
BREAKFAST EN ROUTE                                                    108
IN THE SUBWAY ONE ENCOUNTERS AN INSISTENT, HURRYING STREAM            112
THE STRAP-HANGERS                                                     114
THE PASSENGERS ON THE ELEVATED AT NIGHT ARE ODDLY ASSORTED            116
THE RESTAURANT OF A GREAT HOTEL IS BUT ONE FEATURE OF ITS SPLENDOR    118
THE HORSE-SHOWS ARE WONDROUS DISPLAYS OF FASHION                      124
THE SENSE OF A MIGHTY AND CULMINATING EVENT SHARPENED THE AIR         130
THE VICTORS LEAVING THE FIELD                                         134
UNIVERSITY BUILDINGS--UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA                      156
MITCHELL TOWER AND HUTCHINSON COMMONS--UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO          164
PART OF THE DAILY ROUND OF THE INDOMITABLE NEW YORK WOMAN             172
THE ASTOUNDING POPULOUSNESS OF THE EAST SIDE                          186



YOUR UNITED STATES



I

THE FIRST NIGHT


I sat with a melting ice on my plate, and my gaze on a very distant
swinging door, through which came and went every figure except the
familiar figure I desired. The figure of a woman came. She wore a
pale-blue dress and a white apron and cap, and carried a dish in
uplifted hands, with the gesture of an acolyte. On the bib of the apron
were two red marks, and as she approached, tripping, scornful,
unheeding, along the interminable carpeted aisle, between serried tables
of correct diners, the vague blur of her face gradually developed into
features, and the two red marks on her stomacher grew into two rampant
lions, each holding a globe in its ferocious paws; and she passed on,
bearing away the dish and these mysterious symbols, and lessened into a
puppet on the horizon of the enormous hall, and finally vanished through
another door. She was succeeded by men, all bearing dishes, but none of
them so inexorably scornful as she, and none of them disappearing where
she had disappeared; every man relented and stopped at some table or
other. But the figure I desired remained invisible, and my ice
continued to melt, in accordance with chemical law. The orchestra in the
gallery leaped suddenly into the rag-time without whose accompaniment it
was impossible, anywhere in the civilized world, to dine correctly. That
rag-time, committed, I suppose, originally by some well-intentioned if
banal composer in the privacy of his study one night, had spread over
the whole universe of restaurants like a pest, to the exasperation of
the sensitive, but evidently to the joy of correct diners. Joy shone in
the elated eyes of the four hundred persons correctly dining together in
this high refectory, and at the end there was honest applause!... And
yet you never encountered a person who, questioned singly, did not agree
and even assert of his own accord that music at meals is an outrageous
nuisance!...

However, my desired figure was at length manifest. The man came hurrying
and a little breathless, with his salver, at once apologetic and
triumphant. My ice was half liquid. Had I not the right to reproach him,
in the withering, contemptuous tone which correct diners have learned to
adopt toward the alien serfs who attend them? I had not. I had neither
the right nor the courage nor the wish. This man was as Anglo-Saxon as
myself. He had, with all his deference, the mien of the race. When he
dreamed of paradise, he probably did not dream of the _caisse_ of a
cosmopolitan Grand Hotel in Switzerland. When he spoke English he was
not speaking a foreign language. And this restaurant was one of the
extremely few fashionable Anglo-Saxon restaurants left in the world,
where an order given in English is understood at the first try, and
where the English language is not assassinated and dismembered by
menials who despise it, menials who slang one another openly in the
patois of Geneva, Luxembourg, or Naples. A singular survival, this
restaurant!... Moreover, the man was justified in his triumphant air.
Not only had he most intelligently brought me a fresh ice, but he had
brought the particular kind of rusk for which I had asked. There were
over thirty dishes on the emblazoned menu, and of course I had wanted
something that was not on it: a peculiar rusk, a rusk recondite and
unheard of by my fellow-diners. The man had hopefully said that he
"would see." And here lay the rusk, magically obtained. I felicitated
him, as an equal. And then, having consumed the ice and the fruits of
the hot-house, I arose and followed in the path of the lion-breasted
woman, and arrived at an elevator, and was wafted aloft by a boy of
sixteen who did nothing else from 6 A.M. till midnight (so he said) but
ascend and descend in that elevator. By the discipline of this inspiring
and jocund task he was being prepared for manhood and the greater
world!... And yet, what would you? Elevators must have boys, and even
men. Civilization is not so simple as it may seem to the passionate
reformer and lover of humanity.

Later, in the vast lounge above the restaurant, I formed one of a group
of men, most of whom had acquired fame, and had the slight agreeable
self-consciousness that fame gives; and I listened, against a background
of the ever-insistent music, to one of those endless and multifarious
reminiscent conversations that are heard only in such places. The
companion on my right would tell how he had inhabited a house in Siam,
next to the temple in front of which the corpses of people too poor to
be burned were laid out, after surgical preliminaries, to be devoured by
vultures, and how the vultures, when gorged, would flap to the roof of
his house and sit there in contemplation. And the companion on my left
would tell how, when he was unfamous and on his beam-ends, he would stay
in bed with a sham attack of influenza, and on the day when a chance
offered itself would get up and don his only suit--a glorious one--and,
fitting an eye-glass into his eye because it made him look older, would
go forth to confront the chance. And then the talk might be interrupted
in order to consult the morning paper, and so settle a dispute about the
exact price of Union Pacifics. And then an Italian engineer would tell
about sport in the woods of Maine, a perfect menagerie of wild animals
where it was advisable to use a revolver lest the excessive noise of a
fowling-piece should disturb the entire forest, and how once he had shot
seven times at an imperturbable partridge showing its head over a tree,
and missed seven times, and how the partridge had at last flown off,
with a flicker of plumage that almost said aloud, "Well, I really can't
wait any longer!" And then might follow a simply tremendous discussion
about the digestibility of buckwheat-cakes.

And then the conversation of every group in the lounge would be stopped
by the entry of a page bearing a telegram and calling out in the voice
of destiny the name of him to whom the telegram was addressed. And then
another companion would relate in intricate detail a recent excursion
into Yucatan, speaking negligently--as though it were a trifle--of the
extraordinary beauty of the women of Yucatan, and in the end making
quite plain his conviction that no other women were as beautiful as the
women of Yucatan. And then the inevitable Mona Lisa would get onto the
carpet, and one heard, apropos, of the theft of Adam mantelpieces from
Russell Square, and of superb masterpieces of paint rotting with damp in
neglected Venetian churches, and so on and so on, until one had the
melancholy illusion that the whole art world was going or gone to
destruction. But this subject did not really hold us, for the reason
that, beneath a blasé exterior, we were all secretly preoccupied by the
beauty of the women of Yucatan and wondering whether we should ever get
to Yucatan.... And then, looking by accident away, I saw the dim,
provocative faces of girls in white jerseys and woolen caps peering from
without through the dark double windows of the lounge. And I was glad
when somebody suggested that it was time to take a turn. And outside, in
the strong wind, abaft the four funnels of the _Lusitania_, a star
seemed to be dancing capriciously around and about the masthead light.
And it was difficult to believe that the masthead and its light, and not
the star, were dancing.

From the lofty promenade deck the Atlantic wave is a little enough
thing, so far down beneath you that you can scarcely even sniff its
salty tang. But when the elevator-boy--always waiting for me--had
lowered me through five floors, I stood on tiptoe and gazed through the
thick glass of a porthole there; and the flying Atlantic wave,
theatrically moonlit now, was very near. Suddenly something jumped up
and hit the glass of the port-hole a fearful, crashing blow that made me
draw away my face in alarm; and the solid ground on which I stood
vibrated for an instant. It was the Atlantic wave, caressing. Anybody on
the other side of this thin, nicely painted steel plate (I thought)
would be in a rather hopeless situation. I turned away, half shivering,
from the menace. All was calm and warm and reassuring within the
ship.... In the withdrawn privacy of my berth, with the curtains closed
over the door and Murray Gilchrist's new novel in my hand and a poised
electric lamp over my head, I looked about as I lay, and everything was
still except a towel that moved gently, almost imperceptibly, to and
fro. Yet the towel had copied the immobility of the star. It alone did
not oscillate. Forty-five thousand tons were swaying; but not that
towel. The sense of actual present romance was too strong to let me
read. I extinguished the light, and listened in the dark to the faint
straining noises of the enormous organism. I thought: "This magic thing
is taking me _there_! In three days I shall be on that shore." Terrific
adventure! The rest of the passengers were merely going to America.

       *       *       *       *       *

The magic thing was much more magic than I had conceived. The next
morning, being up earlier than usual and wandering about on strange,
inclosed decks unfamiliar to my feet, I beheld astonishing unsuspected
populations of men and women--crowds of them--a healthy, powerful,
prosperous, independent, somewhat stern and disdainful multitude, it
seemed to me. Those muscular, striding girls in caps and shawls would
not yield an inch to me in their promenade; they brushed strongly and
carelessly past me; had I been a ghost they would have walked through
me. They were, and had been, all living--eating and sleeping--somewhere
within the vessel, and I had not imagined it! It is true that some ass
in the saloon had already calculated for my benefit that there were
"three thousand _souls_ on board!" (The solemn use of the word "souls"
in this connection by a passenger should stamp a man forever.) But such
numerical statements do not really arouse the imagination. I had to see
with my eyes. And I did see with my eyes. That afternoon a high officer
of the ship, spiriting me away from the polite flirtations and pastimes
of the upper decks, carried me down to more exciting scenes. And I saw a
whole string of young women inoculated against smallpox, under the
interested gaze of a crowd of men ranged on a convenient staircase. And
a little later I saw a whole string of men inoculated against smallpox,
under the interested gaze of a crowd of young women ranged on a
convenient staircase.

"They're having their sweet revenge," said the high officer, indicating
the young women. He was an epigrammatic and terse speaker. When I
reflected aloud upon the order and discipline of service which was
necessary to maintain more than a thousand roughish persons in idleness,
cleanliness, health, peace, and content, in the inelastic forward spaces
of the ship, he said with a certain grimness: "Everything has to be
screwed up as tight as you can screw it. And you must keep to the
round. What you do to-day you must do to-morrow. But what you don't do
to-day you can't get done to-morrow."

Nevertheless, it proved to be a very human world, a world in which the
personal equation counted. I remember that while some four hundred in
one long hall were applauding "Home, Sweet Home," very badly fiddled by
a gay man on a stool ("Home, Sweet Home"--and half of them
Scandinavians!), and another four hundred or so were sitting expectant
on those multifarious convenient staircases or wandering in and out of
the maze of cubicles that contained fifteen hundred separate berths, and
a third four hundred or so in another long hall were consuming a huge
tea offered to them by a cohort of stewards in white--I remember that
while all this was going forward and the complex mechanism of the
kitchen was in full strain a little, untidy woman, with an infant
dragging at one hand and a mug in the other, strolled nonchalantly into
the breathless kitchen, and said to a hot cook, "Please will you give me
a drop o' milk for this child?" And under the military gaze of the high
officer, too! Something awful should have happened. The engines ought to
have stopped. The woman ought to have been ordered out to instant
execution. The engines did seem to falter for a moment. But the high
officer grimly smiled, and they went on again. "Give me yer mug,
mother," said the cook. And the untidy woman went off with her booty.

"Now I'll show you the first-class kitchens," the high officer said, and
guided me through uncharted territories to chambers where spits were
revolving in front of intense heat, and where a confectionery business
proceeded, night and day, and dough was mixed by electricity, and
potatoes peeled by the same, and where a piece of clockwork lifted an
egg out of boiling water after it had lain therein the number of seconds
prescribed by you. And there, pinned to a board, was the order I had
given for a special dinner that night. And there, too, more impressive
even than that order, was a list of the several hundred stewards,
together with a designation of the post of each in case of casualty. I
noticed that thirty or forty of them were told off "to control
passengers." After all, we were in the midst of the Atlantic, and in a
crisis the elevator-boys themselves would have more authority than any
passenger, however gorgeous. A thought salutary for gorgeous
passengers--that they were in the final resort mere fool bodies to be
controlled! After I had seen the countless store-rooms, in the recesses
of each of which was hidden a clerk with a pen behind his ear and a
nervous and taciturn air, and passed on to the world of the second
cabin, which was a surprisingly brilliant imitation of the great world
of the saloon, I found that I held a much-diminished opinion of the
great world of the saloon, which I now perceived to be naught but a thin
crust or artificial gewgaw stuck over the truly thrilling parts of the
ship.

It was not, however, till the next day that I realized what the most
thrilling part of the ship was. Under the protection of another high
officer I had climbed to the bridge--seventy-five feet above the level
of the sea--which bridge had been very seriously disestablished by an
ambitious wave a couple of years before--and had there inspected the
devices for detecting and extinguishing fires in distant holds by merely
turning a handle, and the charts and the telephones and the telegraphs,
and the under-water signaling, and the sounding-tubes, and the officers'
piano; and I had descended by way of the capstan-gear (which, being
capable of snapping a chain that would hold two hundred and sixty tons
in suspension, was suitably imprisoned in a cage, like a fierce wild
animal) right through the length of the vessel to the wheel-house aft.
It was comforting to know that if six alternative steering-wheels were
smashed, one after another, there remained a seventh gear to be worked,
chiefly by direct force of human arm. And, after descending several more
stories, I had seen the actual steering--the tremendous affair moving to
and fro, majestic and apparently capricious, in obedience to the light
touch of a sailor six hundred feet distant. And then I had seen the four
shafts, revolving lazily one hundred and eighty-four to the minute; and
got myself involved in dangerous forests of greasy machinery, whizzing
all deserted in a very high temperature under electric bulbs. Only at
rare intervals did I come across a man in brown doing nothing in
particular--as often as not gazing at a dial; there were dials
everywhere, showing pressures and speeds. And then I had come to the
dynamo-room, where the revolutions were twelve hundred to the minute,
and then to the turbines themselves--insignificant little things, with
no swagger of huge crank and piston, disappointing little things that
developed as much as one-third of the horse-power required for all the
electricity of New York.

And then, lastly, when I had supposed myself to be at the rock-bottom
of the steamer, I had been instructed to descend in earnest, and I went
down and down steel ladders, and emerged into an enormous, an incredible
cavern, where a hundred and ninety gigantic furnaces were being fed
every ten minutes by hundreds of tiny black dolls called firemen. I,
too, was a doll as I looked up at the high white-hot mouth of a furnace
and along the endless vista of mouths.... Imagine hell with the addition
of electric light, and you have it!... And up-stairs, far above on the
surface of the water, confectioners were making fancy cakes, and the
elevator-boy was doing his work!... Yes, the inferno was the most
thrilling part of the ship; and no other part of the ship could hold a
candle to it. And I remained of this conviction even when I sat in the
captain's own room, smoking his august cigars and turning over his
books. I no longer thought, "Every revolution of the propellers brings
me nearer to that shore." I thought, "Every shovelful flung into those
white-hot mouths brings me nearer."

       *       *       *       *       *

It is an absolute fact that, four hours before we could hope to
disembark, ladies in mantles and shore hats (seeming fantastic and
enormous after the sobriety of ship attire), and gentlemen in shore hats
and dark overcoats, were standing in attitudes of expectancy in the
saloon-hall, holding wraps and small bags: some of their faces had never
been seen till then in the public resorts of the ship. Excitement will
indeed take strange forms. For myself, although I was on the threshold
of the greatest adventure of my life, I was unaware of being excited--I
had not even "smelled" land, to say nothing of having seen it--until,
when it was quite dark, I descried a queerly arranged group of
different-colored lights in the distance--yellow, red, green, and what
not. My thoughts ran instantly to Coney Island. I knew that Coney was an
island, and that it was a place where people had to be attracted and
distracted somehow, and I decided that these illuminations were a device
of the pleasure-mongers of Coney. And when the ship began to salute
these illuminations with answering flares I thought the captain was a
rather good-natured man to consent thus to amuse the populace. But when
we slowed, our propellers covering the calm sea with acres of foam, and
the whole entire illuminations began to approach us in a body, I
perceived that my Coney Island was merely another craft, but a very
important and official craft. An extremely small boat soon detached
itself from this pyrotechnical craft and came with a most extraordinary
leisureness toward a white square of light that had somehow broken forth
in the blackness of our side. And looking down from the topmost deck, I
saw, far below, the tiny boat maneuver on the glinting wave into the
reflection of our electricity and three mysterious men climb up from her
and disappear into us. Then it was that I grew really excited,
uncomfortably excited. The United States had stretched out a tentacle.

In no time at all, as it seemed, another and more formidable tentacle
had folded round me--in the shape of two interviewers. (How these men
had got on board--and how my own particular friend had got on board--I
knew not, for we were yet far from quay-side.) I had been hearing all my
life about the sublime American institution of the interview. I had been
warned by Americans of its piquant dangers. And here I was suddenly up
against it! Beneath a casual and jaunty exterior, I trembled. I wanted
to sit, but dared not. They stood; I stood. These two men, however, were
adepts. They had the better qualities of American dentists. Obviously
they spent their lives in meeting notorieties on inbound steamers, and
made naught of it. They were middle-aged, disillusioned, tepidly polite,
conscientious, and rapid. They knew precisely what they wanted and how
to get it. Having got it, they raised their hats and went. Their printed
stories were brief, quite unpretentious, and inoffensive--though one of
them did let out that the most salient part of me was my teeth, and the
other did assert that I behaved like a school-boy. (Doubtless the result
of timidity trying to be dignified--this alleged school-boyishness!)

I liked these men. But they gave me an incomplete idea of the race of
interviewers in the United States. There is a variety of interviewers
very different from them. I am, I think, entitled to consider myself a
fairly first-class authority on all varieties of interviewer, not only
in New York but in sundry other great cities. My initiation was brief,
but it was thorough. Many varieties won my regard immediately, and kept
it; but I am conscious that my sympathy with one particular brand
(perhaps not numerous) was at times imperfect. The brand in question, as
to which I was amiably cautioned before even leaving the steamer, is
usually very young, and as often a girl as a youth. He or she cheerfully
introduces himself or herself with a hint that of course it is an awful
bore to be interviewed, but he or she has a job to do and he or she must
be allowed to do it. Just so! But the point which, in my audacity, I
have occasionally permitted to occur to me is this: Is this sort of
interviewer capable of doing the job allotted to him? I do not mind
slips of reporting, I do not mind a certain agreeable malice (indeed, I
reckon to do a bit in that line myself). I do not even mind hasty
misrepresentations (for, after all, we are human, and the millennium is
still unannounced); but I do object to inefficiency--especially in
America, where sundry kinds of efficiency have been carried farther than
any efficiency was ever carried before.

[Illustration: THE DOWN-TOWN BROADWAY OF CROWDED SKY-SCRAPERS]

Now this sort of interviewer too often prefaces the operation itself by
the remark that he really doesn't know what question to ask you. (Too
often I have been tempted to say: "Why not ask me to write the interview
for you? It will save you trouble.") Having made this remark, the
interviewer usually proceeds to give a sketch of her own career,
together with a conspectus of her opinions on everything, a reference to
her importance in the interviewing world, and some glimpse of the amount
of her earnings. This achieved, she breaks off breathless and reproaches
you: "But, my dear man, you aren't saying anything at all. You really
must say something." ("My dear man" is the favorite form of address of
this sort of interviewer when she happens to be a girl.) Too often I
have been tempted to reply: "Cleopatra, or Helen, which of us is
being interviewed?" When he has given you a chance to talk, this sort of
interviewer listens, helps, corrects, advises, but never makes a note.
The result the next morning is the anticipated result. The average
newspaper reader gathers that an extremely brilliant young man or woman
has held converse with a very commonplace stranger who, being confused
in his or her presence, committed a number of absurdities which offered
a strong and painful contrast to the cleverness and wisdom of the
brilliant youth. This result apparently satisfies the average newspaper
reader, but it does not satisfy the expert. Immediately after my first
bout with interviewers I was seated at a table in the dining-saloon of
the ship with my particular friend and three or four friendly, quiet,
modest, rather diffident human beings whom I afterward discovered to be
among the best and most experienced newspaper men in New York--not
interviewers.

Said one of them:

"Not every interviewer in New York knows how to _write_--how to put a
sentence together decently. And there are perhaps a few who don't
accurately know the difference between impudence and wit."

A caustic remark, perhaps. But I have noticed that when the variety of
interviewing upon which I have just animadverted becomes the topic,
quiet, reasonable Americans are apt to drop into causticity.

Said another:

"I was a reporter for twelve years, but I was cured of personalities at
an early stage--and by a nigger, too! I had been interviewing a nigger
prize-fighter, and I'd made some remarks about the facial
characteristics of niggers in general. Some other nigger wrote me a long
letter of protest, and it ended like this: 'I've never seen you. But
I've seen your portraits, and let me respectfully tell you that _you're_
no Lillian Russell.'"

Some mornings I, too, might have sat down and written, from visual
observation, "Let me respectfully tell you that _you're_ no Lillian
Russell."

Said a third among my companions:

"No importance whatever is attached to a certain kind of interview in
the United States."

Which I found, later, was quite true in theory, but not in practice.
Whenever, in that kind of interview, I had been made to say something
more acutely absurd and maladroit than usual, my friends who watched
over me, and to whom I owe so much that cannot be written, were a little
agitated--for about half an hour; in about half an hour the matter had
somehow passed from their minds.

"Supposing I refuse to talk to that sort of interviewer?" I asked, at
the saloon table.

"The interviews will appear all the same," was the reply.

My subsequent experience contradicted this. On the rare occasions when I
refused to be interviewed, what appeared was not an interview, but
invective.

Let me not be misunderstood. I have been speaking of only one brand of
American interviewer. I encountered a couple of really admirable women
interviewers, not too young, and a confraternity of men who did not
disdain an elementary knowledge of their business. One of these arrived
with a written list of questions, took a shorthand note of all I said,
and then brought me a proof to correct. In interviewing this amounts
almost to genius.... I have indicated what to me seems a
defect--trifling, possibly, but still a defect--in the brilliant
organization of the great national sport of interviewing. Were this
defect removed, as it could be, the institution might be as perfect as
the American oyster. Than which nothing is more perfect.

       *       *       *       *       *

"You aren't drinking your coffee," said some one, inspecting my cup at
the saloon table.

"No," I answered, firmly; for when the smooth efficiency of my human
machine is menaced I am as faddy and nervous as a marine engineer over
lubrication. "If I did, I shouldn't sleep."

"And what of it?" demanded my particular friend, challengingly.

It was a rebuke. It was as if he had said, "On this great night, when
you enter my wondrous and romantic country for the first time, what does
it matter whether you sleep or not?"

I saw the point. I drank the coffee. The romantic sense, which had been
momentarily driven back by the discussion of general ideas, swept over
me again.... In fact, through the saloon windows could be seen all the
Battery end of New York and the first vague visions of sky-scrapers....
Then-the moments refused to be counted--we were descending by lifts and
by gangways from the high upper decks of the ship down onto the rocky
ground of the United States. I don't think that any American ever set
foot in Europe with a more profound and delicious thrill than that which
affected me at that instant.... I was there!... The official and
unofficial activities of the quay passed before me like a dream.... I
heard my name shouted by a man in a formidably severe uniform, and I
thought, "Thus early have I somehow violated the Constitution of these
States?" But it was only a telegram for me.... And then I was in a most
rickety and confined taxi, and the taxi was full to the brim with
luggage, two friends, and me. And I was off into New York.

At the center of the first cross-roads I saw a splendid and erect
individual, flashing forth authority, gaiety, and utter smartness in the
gloom. Impossible not to believe that he was the owner of all the
adjacent ground, disguised as a cavalry officer on foot.

"What is that archduke?" I inquired.

"He's just a cop."

I knew then that I was in a great city.

[Illustration: BROADWAY ON ELECTION NIGHT]

The rest of the ride was an enfevered phantasmagoria. We burst
startlingly into a very remarkable deep glade--on the floor of it long
and violent surface-cars, a few open shops and bars with commissionaires
at the doors, vehicles dipping and rising out of holes in the ground,
vistas of forests of iron pillars, on the top of which ran deafening,
glittering trains, as on a tight-rope; above all that, a layer of
darkness; and above the layer of darkness enormous moving images of
things in electricity--a mastodon kitten playing with a ball of thread,
an umbrella in a shower of rain, siphons of soda-water being emptied
and filled, gigantic horses galloping at full speed, and an incredible
heraldry of chewing-gum.... Sky-signs! In Europe I had always inveighed
manfully against sky-signs. But now I bowed the head, vanquished. These
sky-signs annihilated argument. Moreover, had they not been made
possible by the invention of a European, and that European an intimate
friend of my own?...

"I suppose this is Broadway?" I ventured.

It was. That is to say, it was one of the Broadways. There are several
different ones. What could be more different from this than the
down-town Broadway of Trinity Church and the crowded sky-scrapers? And
even this Broadway could differ from itself, as I knew later on an
election night.... I was overpowered by Broadway.

"You must not expect me to talk," I said.

We drew up in front of a huge hotel and went into the bar, huge and
gorgeous to match, shimmering with white bartenders and a variegated
population of men-about-town. I had never seen such a bar.

"Two Polands and a Scotch highball," was the order. Of which
geographical language I understood not a word.

"See the fresco," my particular friend suggested. And from his tone, at
once modestly content and artificially careless, I knew that that
nursery-rhyme fresco was one of the sights of the pleasure quarter of
New York, and that I ought to admire it. Well, I did admire it. I found
it rather fine and apposite. But the free-luncheon counter, as a sight,
took my fancy more. Here it was, the free-luncheon counter of which the
European reads--generously loaded, and much freer than the air.

"Have something?"

I would not. They could shame me into drinking coffee, but they could
not shame me into eating corned beef and granite biscuits at eleven
o'clock at night. The Poland water sufficed me.

We swept perilously off again into the welter. That same evening three
of my steamer companions were thrown out of a rickety taxi into a hole
in the ground in the middle of New York, with the result that one of
them spent a week in a hotel bed, under doctor and nurse. But I went
scatheless. Such are the hazards of life.... We arrived at a terminus.
And it was a great terminus. A great terminus is an inhospitable place.
And just here, in the perfection of the manner in which my minutest
comfort was studied and provided for, I began to appreciate the
significance of American hospitality--that combination of eager
good-nature, Oriental lavishness, and sheer brains. We had time to
spare. Close to the terminus we had passed by a hotel whose summit, for
all my straining out of the window of the cab, I had been unable to
descry. I said that I should really like to see the top of that hotel.
No sooner said than done. I saw the highest hotel I had ever seen. We
went into the hotel, teeming like the other one, and from an agreeable
and lively young dandy bought three cigars out of millions of cigars.
Naught but bank-notes seemed to be current. The European has an awe of
bank-notes, whatever their value.

Then we were in the train, and the train was moving. And every few
seconds it shot past the end of a long, straight, lighted
thoroughfare--scores upon scores of them, with a wider and more
brilliant street interspersed among them at intervals. And I forgot at
what hundredth street the train paused before rolling finally out of New
York. I had had the feeling of a vast and metropolitan city. I thought,
"Whatever this is or is not, it is a metropolis, and will rank with the
best of 'em." I had lived long in more than one metropolis, and I knew
the proud and the shameful unmistakable marks of the real thing. And I
was aware of a poignant sympathy with those people and those mysterious
generations who had been gradually and yet so rapidly putting together,
girder by girder and tradition by tradition, all unseen by me till then,
this illustrious, proud organism, with its nobility and its baseness,
its rectitude and its mournful errors, its colossal sense of life. I
liked New York irrevocably.



II

STREETS


When I first looked at Fifth Avenue by sunlight, in the tranquillity of
Sunday morning, and when I last set eyes on it, in the ordinary peevish
gloom of a busy sailing-day, I thought it was the proudest thoroughfare
I had ever seen anywhere. The revisitation of certain European capitals
has forced me to modify this judgment; but I still think that Fifth
Avenue, if not unequaled, is unsurpassed.

One afternoon I was driving up Fifth Avenue in the company of an
architectural expert who, with the incredible elastic good nature of
American business men, had abandoned his affairs for half a day in order
to go with me on a voyage of discovery, and he asked me, so as to get
some basis of understanding or disagreement, what building in New York
had pleased me most. I at once said the University Club--to my mind a
masterpiece. He approved, and a great peace filled our automobile; in
which peace we expanded. He asked me what building in the world made the
strongest appeal to me, and I at once said the Strozzi Palace at
Florence. Whereat he was decidedly sympathetic.

"Fifth Avenue," I said, "always reminds me of Florence and the
Strozzi.... The cornices, you know."

He stopped the automobile under the Gorham store and displayed to me
the finest cornice in New York, and told me how Stanford White had put
up several experimental cornices there before arriving at finality.
Indeed, a great cornice! I admit I was somewhat dashed by the
information that most cornices in New York are made of cast iron; but
only for a moment! What, after all, do I care what a cornice is made of,
so long as it juts proudly out from the façade and helps the street to a
splendid and formidable sky-line? I had neither read nor heard a word of
the cornices of New York, and yet for me New York was first and last the
city of effective cornices! (Which merely shows how eyes differ!) The
cornice must remind you of Italy, and through Italy of the Renaissance.
And is it not the boast of the United States to be a renaissance? I
always felt that there was something obscurely symbolic in the New York
cornice--symbolic of the necessary qualities of a renaissance, half
cruel and half humane.

The critical European excusably expects a very great deal from Fifth
Avenue, as being the principal shopping street of the richest community
in the world. (I speak not of the residential blocks north of
Fifty-ninth Street, whose beauty and interest fall perhaps far short of
their pretensions.) And the critical European will not be disappointed,
unless his foible is to be disappointed--as, in fact, occasionally
happens. Except for the miserly splitting, here and there in the older
edifices, of an inadequate ground floor into a mezzanine and a shallow
box (a device employed more frankly and usefully with an outer flight of
steps on the East Side), there is nothing mean in the whole street from
the Plaza to Washington Square. A lot of utterly mediocre architecture
there is, of course--the same applies inevitably to every long street in
every capital--but the general effect is homogeneous and fine, and,
above, all, grandly generous. And the alternation of high and low
buildings produces not infrequently the most agreeable architectural
accidents: for example, seen from about Thirtieth Street, the
pale-pillared, squat structure of the Knickerbocker Trust against a
background of the lofty red of the Æolian Building.... And then, that
great white store on the opposite pavement! The single shops, as well as
the general stores and hotels on Fifth Avenue, are impressive in the
lavish spaciousness of their disposition. Neither stores nor shops could
have been conceived, or could be kept, by merchants without genuine
imagination and faith.

And the glory of the thoroughfare inspires even those who only walk up
and down it. It inspires particularly the mounted policeman as he reigns
over a turbulent crossing. It inspires the women, and particularly the
young women, as they pass in front of the windows, owning their contents
in thought. I sat once with an old, white-haired, and serious gentleman,
gazing through glass at Fifth Avenue, and I ventured to say to him,
"There are fine women on Fifth Avenue." "By Jove!" he exclaimed, with
deep conviction, and his eyes suddenly fired, "there are!" On the whole,
I think that, in their carriages or on their feet, they know a little
better how to do justice to a fine thoroughfare than the women of any
other capital in my acquaintance. I have driven rapidly in a fast car,
clinging to my hat and my hair against the New York wind, from one end
of Fifth Avenue to the other, and what with the sunshine, and the flags
wildly waving in the sunshine, and the blue sky and the cornices jutting
into it and the roofs scraping it, and the large whiteness of the
stores, and the invitation of the signs, and the display of the windows,
and the swift sinuousness of the other cars, and the proud opposing
processions of American subjects--what with all this and with the
supreme imperialism of the mounted policeman, I have been positively
intoxicated!

And yet possibly the greatest moment in the life of Fifth Avenue is at
dusk, when dusk falls at tea-time. The street lamps flicker into a
steady, steely blue, and the windows of the hotels and restaurants throw
a yellow radiance; all the shops--especially the jewelers' shops--become
enchanted treasure-houses, whose interiors recede away behind their
façades into infinity; and the endless files of innumerable vehicles,
interlacing and swerving, put forth each a pair of glittering eyes. Come
suddenly upon it all, from the leafy fastnesses of Central Park, round
the corner from the Plaza Hotel, and wait your turn until the arm of the
policeman, whose blue coat is now whitened with dust, permits your
restive chauffeur to plunge down into the main currents of the city....
You will have then the most grandiose impression that New York is, in
fact, inhabited; and that even though the spectacular luxury of New York
be nearly as much founded upon social injustice and poverty as any
imperfect human civilization in Europe, it is a boon to be alive
therein!... In half an hour, in three-quarters of an hour, the vitality
is clean gone out of the street. The shops have let down their rich
gathered curtains, the pavements are deserted, and the roadway is no
longer perilous. And nothing save a fire will arouse Fifth Avenue till
the next morning. Even on an election night the sole sign in Fifth
Avenue of the disorder of politics will be a few long strips of
tape-paper wreathing in the breeze on the asphalt under the lonely
lamps.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is not easy for a visiting stranger in New York to get away from
Fifth Avenue. The street seems to hold him fast. There might almost as
well be no other avenues; and certainly the word "Fifth" has lost all
its numerical significance in current usage. A youthful musical student,
upon being asked how many symphonies Beethoven had composed, replied
four, and obstinately stuck to it that Beethoven had only composed four.
Called upon to enumerate the four, he answered thus, the C minor, the
Eroica, the Pastoral, and the Ninth. "Ninth" had lost its numerical
significance for that student. A similar phenomenon of psychology has
happened with the streets and avenues of New York. Europeans are apt to
assume that to tack numbers instead of names on to the thoroughfares of
a city is to impair their identities and individualities. Not a bit! The
numbers grow into names. That is all. Such is the mysterious poetic
force of the human mind! That curt word "Fifth" signifies as much to the
New-Yorker as "Boulevard des Italiens" to the Parisian. As for the
possibility of confusion, would any New-Yorker ever confuse Fourteenth
with Thirteenth or Fifteenth Street, or Twenty-third with Twenty-second
or Twenty-fourth, or Forty-second with One Hundred and Forty-second, or
One Hundred and Twenty-fifth with anything else whatever? Yes, when the
Parisian confuses the Champs Elysées with the Avenue de l'Opéra! When
the Parisian arrives at this stage--even then Fifth Avenue will not be
confused with Sixth!

One day, in the unusual silence of an election morning, I absolutely
determined to see something of the New York that lies beyond Fifth
Avenue, and I slipped off westward along Thirty-fourth Street, feeling
adventurous. The excursion was indeed an adventure. I came across
Broadway and Sixth Avenue together! Sixth Avenue, with its barbaric
paving, surely could not be under the same administration as Fifth!
Between Sixth and Seventh I met a sinister but genial ruffian, proudly
wearing the insignia of Tammany; and soon I met a lot more of them:
jolly fellows, apparently, yet somehow conveying to me the suspicion
that in a saloon shindy they might prove themselves my superiors. (I was
told in New York, and by the best people in New York, that Tammany was a
blot on the social system of the city. But I would not have it so. I
would call it a part of the social system, just as much a part of the
social system, and just as expressive of the national character, as the
fine schools, the fine hospitals, the superlative business
organizations, or Mr. George M. Cohan's Theater. A civilization is
indivisibly responsible for itself. It may not, on the Day of Judgment,
or any other day, lessen its collective responsibility by baptizing
certain portions of its organism as extraneous "blots" dropped thereon
from without.) To continue--after Seventh Avenue the declension was
frank. In the purlieus of the Five Towns themselves--compared with which
Pittsburg is seemingly Paradise--I have never trod such horrific
sidewalks. I discovered huge freight-trains shunting all over Tenth and
Eleventh Avenues, and frail flying bridges erected from sidewalk to
sidewalk, for the convenience of a brave and hardy populace. I was
surrounded in the street by menacing locomotives and crowds of Italians,
and in front of me was a great Italian steamer. I felt as though Fifth
Avenue was a three days' journey away, through a hostile country. And
yet I had been walking only twenty minutes! I regained Fifth with
relief, and had learned a lesson. In future, if asked how many avenues
there are in New York I would insist that there are three: Lexington,
Madison, and Fifth.

       *       *       *       *       *

The chief characteristic of Broadway is its interminability. Everybody
knows, roughly, where it begins, but I doubt if even the topographical
experts of Albany know just where it ends. It is a street that inspires
respect rather than enthusiasm. In the daytime all the uptown portion of
it--and as far down-town as Ninth Street--has a provincial aspect. If
Fifth Avenue is metropolitan and exclusive, Broadway is not. Broadway
lacks distinction, it lacks any sort of impressiveness, save in its
first two miles, which do--especially the southern mile--strike you with
a vague and uneasy awe. And it was here that I experienced my keenest
disappointment in the United States.

[Illustration: A BUSY DAY ON THE CURB MARKET]

I went through sundry disappointments. I had expected to be often asked
how much I earned. I never was asked. I had expected to be often
informed by casual acquaintances of their exact income. Nobody, save an
interviewer or so and the president of a great trust, ever passed me
even a hint as to the amount of his income. I had expected to find an
inordinate amount of tippling in clubs and hotels. I found, on the
contrary, a very marked sobriety. I had expected to receive many hard
words and some insolence from paid servants, such as train-men,
tram-men, lift-boys, and policemen. From this class, as from the others,
I received nothing but politeness, except in one instance. That
instance, by the way, was a barber in an important hotel, whom I had
most respectfully requested to refrain from bumping my head about.
"Why?" he demanded. "Because I've got a headache," I said. "Then why
didn't you tell me at first?" he crushed me. "Did you expect me to be a
thought-reader?" But, indeed, I could say a lot about American barbers.
I had expected to have my tempting fob snatched. It was not snatched. I
had expected to be asked, at the moment of landing, for my mature
opinion of the United States, and again at intervals of about a quarter
of an hour, day and night, throughout my stay. But I had been in America
at least ten days before the question was put to me, even in jest. I had
expected to be surrounded by boasting and impatient vanity concerning
the achievements of the United States and the citizens thereof. I
literally never heard a word of national boasting, nor observed the
slightest impatience under criticism.... I say I had expected these
things. I would be more correct to say that I _should_ have expected
them if I had had a rumor--believing mind: which I have not.

But I really did expect to witness an overwhelming violence of traffic
and movement in lower Broadway and the renowned business streets in its
vicinity. And I really was disappointed by the ordinariness of the
scene, which could be well matched in half a dozen places in Europe, and
beaten in one or two. If but once I had been shoved into the gutter by a
heedless throng going furiously upon its financial ways, I should have
been content.... The legendary "American rush" is to me a fable. Whether
it ever existed I know not; but I certainly saw no trace of it, either
in New York or Chicago. I dare say I ought to have gone to Seattle for
it. My first sight of a stock-market roped off in the street was an
acute disillusionment. In agitation it could not have competed with a
sheep-market. In noise it was a muffled silence compared with the fine
racket that enlivens the air outside the Paris Bourse. I saw also an
ordinary day in the Stock Exchange. Faint excitations were afloat in
certain corners, but I honestly deemed the affair tame. A vast litter of
paper on the floor, a vast assemblage of hats pitched on the tops of
telephone-boxes--these phenomena do not amount to a hustle. Earnest
students of hustle should visit Paris or Milan. The fact probably is
that the perfecting of mechanical contrivances in the United States has
killed hustle as a diversion for the eyes and ears. The mechanical side
of the Exchange was wonderful and delightful.

The sky-scrapers that cluster about the lower end of Broadway--their
natural home--were as impressive as I could have desired, but not
architecturally. For they could only be felt, not seen. And even in
situations where the sky-scraper is properly visible, it is, as a rule,
to my mind, architecturally a failure. I regret for my own sake that I
could not be more sympathetic toward the existing sky-scraper as an
architectural entity, because I had assuredly no European prejudice
against the sky-scraper as such. The objection of most people to the
sky-scraper is merely that it is unusual--the instinctive objection of
most people to everything that is original enough to violate tradition!
I, on the contrary, as a convinced modernist, would applaud the
unusualness of the sky-scraper. Nevertheless, I cannot possibly share
the feelings of patriotic New-Yorkers who discover architectural
grandeur in, say, the Flat Iron Building or the Metropolitan Life
Insurance Building. To me they confuse the poetical idea of these
buildings with the buildings themselves. I eagerly admit that the bold,
prow-like notion of the Flat Iron cutting northward is a splendid
notion, an inspiring notion; it thrills. But the building itself is
ugly--nay, it is adverbially ugly; and no reading of poetry _into_ it
will make it otherwise.

[Illustration: A WELL-KNOWN WALL STREET CHARACTER]

Similarly, the Metropolitan Building is tremendous. It is a grand sight,
but it is an ugly sight. The men who thought of it, who first conceived
the notion of it, were poets. They said, "We will cause to be
constructed the highest building in the world; we will bring into
existence the most amazing advertisement that an insurance company
ever had." That is good; it is superb; it is a proof of heroic
imagination. But the actual designers of the building did not rise to
the height of it; and if any poetry is left in it, it is not their
fault. Think what McKim might have accomplished on that site, and in
those dimensions!

Certain architects, feeling the lack of imagination in the execution of
these enormous buildings, have set their imagination to work, but in a
perverse way and without candidly recognizing the conditions imposed
upon them by the sky-scraper form: and the result here and there has
been worse than dull; it has been distressing. But here and there, too,
one sees the evidence of real understanding and taste. If every tenant
of a sky-scraper demands--as I am informed he does--the same windows,
and radiators under every window, then the architect had better begin by
accepting that demand openly, with no fanciful or pseudo-imaginative
pretense that things are not what they are. The Ashland Building, on
Fourth Avenue, where the architectural imagination has exercised itself
soberly, honestly, and obediently, appeared to me to be a satisfactory
and agreeable sky-scraper; and it does not stand alone as the promise
that a new style will ultimately be evolved.

In any case, a great deal of the poetry of New York is due to the
sky-scraper. At dusk the effect of the massed sky-scrapers illuminated
from within, as seen from any high building up-town, is prodigiously
beautiful, and it is unique in the cities of this world. The early night
effect of the whole town, topped by the aforesaid Metropolitan tower,
seen from the New Jersey shore, is stupendous, and resembles some
enchanted city of the next world rather than of this. And the fact that
a very prominent item in the perspective is a fiery representation of a
frothing glass of beer inconceivably large--well, this fact too has its
importance.

But in the sky-scrapers there is a deeper romanticism than that which
disengages itself from them externally. You must enter them in order to
appreciate them, in order to respond fully to their complex appeal.
Outside, they often have the air of being nothing in particular; at best
the façade is far too modest in its revelation of the interior. You can
quite easily walk by a sky-scraper on Broadway without noticing it. But
you cannot actually go into the least of them and not be impressed. You
are in a palace. You are among marbles and porphyries. You breathe
easily in vast and brilliant foyers that never see daylight. And then
you come to those mysterious palisaded shafts with which the building
and every other building in New York is secretly honeycombed, and the
palisade is opened and an elevator snatches you up. I think of American
cities as enormous agglomerations in whose inmost dark recesses
innumerable elevators are constantly ascending and descending, like the
angels of the ladder....

[Illustration: THE SKY-SCRAPERS OF LOWER NEW YORK AT NIGHT]

The elevator ejects you. You are taken into dazzling daylight, into what
is modestly called a business office; but it resembles in its grandeur
no European business office, save such as may have been built by an
American. You look forth from a window, and lo! New York and the Hudson
are beneath you, and you are in the skies. And in the warmed stillness
of the room you hear the wind raging and whistling, as you would have
imagined it could only rage and whistle in the rigging of a three-master
at sea. There are, however, a dozen more stories above this story. You
walk from chamber to chamber, and in answer to inquiry learn that the
rent of this one suite-among so many-is over thirty-six thousand dollars
a year! And you reflect that, to the beholder in the street, all that is
represented by one narrow row of windows, lost in a diminishing
chess-board of windows. And you begin to realize what a sky-scraper is,
and the poetry of it.

More romantic even than the sky-scraper finished and occupied is the
sky-scraper in process of construction. From no mean height, listening
to the sweet drawl of the steam-drill, I have watched artisans like
dwarfs at work still higher, among knitted steel, seen them balance
themselves nonchalantly astride girders swinging in space, seen them
throwing rivets to one another and never missing one; seen also a huge
crane collapse under an undue strain, and, crumpling like tinfoil,
carelessly drop its load onto the populous sidewalk below. That
particular mishap obviously raised the fear of death among a
considerable number of people, but perhaps only for a moment. Anybody in
America will tell you without a tremor (but with pride) that each story
of a sky-scraper means a life sacrificed. Twenty stories--twenty men
snuffed out; thirty stories--thirty men. A building of some sixty
stories is now going up--sixty corpses, sixty funerals, sixty domestic
hearths to be slowly rearranged, and the registrars alone know how many
widows, orphans, and other loose by-products!

And this mortality, I believe, takes no account of the long battles
that are sometimes fought, but never yet to a finish, in the steel webs
of those upper floors when the labor-unions have a fit of objecting more
violently than usual to non-union labor. In one celebrated building, I
heard, the non-unionists contracted an unfortunate habit of getting
crippled; and three of them were indiscreet enough to put themselves
under a falling girder that killed them, while two witnesses who were
ready to give certain testimony in regard to the mishap vanished
completely out of the world, and have never since been heard of. And so
on. What more natural than that the employers should form a private
association for bringing to a close these interesting hazards? You may
see the leading spirit of the association. You may walk along the street
with him. He knows he is shadowed, and he is quite cheerful about it.
His revolver is always very ready for an emergency. Nobody seems to
regard this state of affairs as odd enough for any prolonged comment.
There it is! It is accepted. It is part of the American dailiness.
Nobody, at any rate in the comfortable clubs, seems even to consider
that the original cause of the warfare is aught but a homicidal
cussedness on the part of the unions.... I say that these accidents and
these guerrillas mysteriously and grimly proceeding in the skyey fabric
of metal-ribbed constructions, do really form part of the poetry of life
in America--or should it be the poetry of death? Assuredly they are a
spectacular illustration of that sublime, romantic contempt for law and
for human life which, to a European, is the most disconcerting factor
in the social evolution of your States. I have sat and listened to tales
from journalists and other learned connoisseurs till--But enough!

       *       *       *       *       *

When I left New York and went to Washington I was congratulated on
having quitted the false America for the real. When I came to Boston I
received the sympathies of everybody in Boston on having been put off
for so long with spurious imitations of America, and a sigh of happy
relief went up that I had at length got into touch with a genuine
American city. When, after a long pilgrimage, I attained Chicago, I was
positively informed that Chicago alone was the gate of the United
States, and that everything east of Chicago was negligible and even
misleading. And when I entered Indianapolis I discovered that Chicago
was a mushroom and a suburb of Warsaw, and that its pretension to
represent the United States was grotesque, the authentic center of the
United States being obviously Indianapolis.... The great towns love thus
to affront one another, and their demeanor in the game resembles the
gamboling of young tigers--it is half playful and half ferocious. For
myself, I have to say that my heart was large enough to hold all I saw.
While I admit that Indianapolis struck me as very characteristically
American, I assert that the unreality of New York escaped me. It
appeared to me that New York was quite a real city, and European
geographies (apt to err, of course, in matters of detail) usually locate
it in America.

Having regard to the healthy mutual jealousy of the great towns, I feel
that I am carrying audacity to the point of foolhardiness when I state
that the streets of every American city I saw reminded me on the whole
rather strongly of the streets of all the others. What inhabitants of
what city could forgive this? Yet I must state it. Much of what I have
said of the streets of New York applies, in my superficial opinion, for
instance, to the streets of Chicago. It is well known that to the
Chinaman all Westerners look alike. No tourist on his first visit to a
country so astonishing as the United States is very different from a
Chinaman; the tourist should reconcile himself to that deep truth. It is
desolating to think that a second visit will reveal to me the blindness,
the distortions, and the wrong-headedness of my first. But even as a
Chinaman I did notice subtle differences between New York and Chicago.
As one who was brought up in a bleak and uncanny climate, where soft
coal is in universal use, I at once felt more at home in Chicago than I
could ever do in New York. The old instinct to wash the hands and change
the collar every couple of hours instantly returned to me in Chicago,
together with the old comforting conviction that a harsh climate is a
climate healthy for body and spirit. And, because it is laden with soot,
the air of Chicago is a great mystifier and beautifier. Atmospheric
effects may be seen there that are unobtainable without the combustion
of soft coal. Talk, for example, as much as you please about the
electric sky-signs of Broadway--not all of them together will write as
much poetry on the sky as the single word "Illinois" that hangs without
a clue to its suspension in the murky dusk over Michigan Avenue. The
visionary aspects of Chicago are incomparable.

[Illustration: A WINTER MORNING IN LINCOLN PARK, CHICAGO]

Another difference, of quite another order, between New York and
Chicago is that Chicago is self-conscious. New York is not; no
metropolis ever is. You are aware of the self-consciousness of Chicago
as soon as you are aware of its bitumen. The quality demands sympathy,
and wins it by its wistfulness. Chicago is openly anxious about its
soul. I liked that. I wish I could see a livelier anxiety concerning the
municipal soul in certain cities of Europe.

Perhaps the least subtle difference between New York and Chicago springs
from the fact that the handsomest part of New York is the center of New
York, whereas the center of Chicago is disappointing. It does not
impress. I was shown, in the center of Chicago, the first sky-scraper
that the world had ever seen. I visited with admiration what was said to
be the largest department store in the world. I visited with a natural
rapture the largest book-store in the world. I was informed (but
respectfully doubt) that Chicago is the greatest port in the world. I
could easily credit, from the evidence of my own eyes, that it is the
greatest railway center in the world. But still my imagination was not
fired, as it has been fired again and again by far lesser and far less
interesting places. Nobody could call Wabash Avenue spectacular, and
nobody surely would assert that State Street is on a plane with the
collective achievements of the city of which it is the principal
thoroughfare. The truth is that Chicago lacks at present a
rallying-point--some Place de la Concorde or Arc de Triomphe--something
for its biggest streets to try to live up to. A convocation of elevated
railroads is not enough. It seemed to me that Jackson Boulevard or Van
Buren Street, with fine crescents abutting opposite Grant Park and
Garfield Park, and a magnificent square at the intersection of Ashland
Avenue, might ultimately be the chief sight and exemplar of Chicago. Why
not? Should not the leading thoroughfare lead boldly to the lake instead
of shunning it? I anticipate the time when the municipal soul of Chicago
will have found in its streets as adequate expression as it has already
found in its boulevards.

Perhaps if I had not made the "grand tour" of those boulevards, I might
have been better satisfied with the streets of Chicago. The excursion,
in an automobile, occupied something like half of a frosty day that
ended in torrents of rain--apparently a typical autumn day in Chicago!
Before it had proceeded very far I knew that there was a sufficient
creative imagination on the shore of Lake Michigan to carry through any
municipal enterprise, however vast, to a generous and final conclusion.
The conception of those boulevards discloses a tremendous audacity and
faith. And as you roll along the macadam, threading at intervals a
wide-stretching park, you are overwhelmed--at least I was--by the
completeness of the scheme's execution and the lavishness with which the
system is in every detail maintained and kept up.

[Illustration: A RIVER-FRONT HARMONY IN BLACK AND WHITE--CHICAGO]

You stop to inspect a conservatory, and find yourself in a really
marvelous landscape garden, set with statues, all under glass and
heated, where the gaffers of Chicago are collected together to discuss
interminably the exciting politics of a city anxious about its soul. And
while listening to them with one ear, with the other you may catch
the laconic tale of a park official's perilous and successful vendetta
against the forces of graft.

And then you resume the circuit and accomplish many more smooth,
curving, tree-lined miles, varied by a jolting section, or by the faint
odor of the Stock-yards, or by a halt to allow the longest freight-train
in the world to cross your path. You have sighted in the distance
universities, institutions, even factories; you have passed through many
inhabited portions of the endless boulevard, but you have not actually
touched hands with the city since you left it at the beginning of the
ride. Then at last, as darkness falls, you feel that you are coming to
the city again, but from another point of the compass. You have rounded
the circle of its millions. You need only think of the unkempt, shabby,
and tangled outskirts of New York, or of any other capital city, to
realize the miracle that Chicago has put among her assets ...

You descry lanes of water in the twilight, and learn that in order to
prevent her drainage from going into the lake Chicago turned a river
back in its course and compelled it to discharge ultimately into the
Mississippi. That is the story. You feel that it is exactly what
Chicago, alone among cities, would have the imagination and the courage
to do. Some man must have risen from his bed one morning with the idea,
"Why not make the water flow the other way?" And then gone, perhaps
diffidently, to his fellows in charge of the city with the suggestive
query, "Why not make the water flow the other way?" And been laughed at!
Only the thing was done in the end! I seem to have heard that there was
an epilogue to this story, relating how certain other great cities
showed a narrow objection to Chicago draining herself in the direction
of the Mississippi, and how Chicago, after all, succeeded in persuading
those whom it was necessary to persuade that, whereas her drainage was
unsuited to Lake Michigan, it would consort well with the current of the
Mississippi.

And then, in the night and in the rain, you swerve round some corner
into the straight, by Grant Park, in full sight of one of the most
dazzling spectacles that Chicago or any other city can offer--Michigan
Avenue on a wet evening. Each of the thousands of electric standards in
Michigan Avenue is a cluster of six huge globes (and yet they will tell
you in Paris that the Rue de la Paix is the best-lit street in the
world), and here and there is a red globe of warning. The two lines of
light pour down their flame into the pool which is the roadway, and you
travel continually toward an incandescent floor without ever quite
reaching it, beneath mysterious words of fire hanging in the invisible
sky!... The automobile stops. You get out, stiff, and murmur something
inadequate about the length and splendor of those boulevards. "Oh," you
are told, carelessly, "those are only the interior boulevards....
Nothing! You should see our exterior boulevards--not quite finished
yet!"



III

THE CAPITOL AND OTHER SITES


"Here, Jimmy!" said, briskly, a middle-aged administrative person in
easy attire, who apparently had dominion over the whole floor beneath
the dome. A younger man, also in easy attire, answered the call with an
alert smile. The elder pointed sideways with his head at my two friends
and myself, and commanded, "Run them through in thirty minutes!" Then,
having reached the center of a cuspidor with all the precision of a
character in a Californian novel, he added benevolently to Jimmy, "Make
it a dollar for them." And Jimmy, consenting, led us away.

In this episode Europe was having her revenge on the United States, and
I had planned it. How often, in half a hundred cities of Europe, had I
not observed the American citizen seeing the sights thereof at high
speed? Yes, even in front of the Michael Angelo sculptures in the Medici
Chapel at Florence had I seen him, watch in hand, and heard him murmur
"Bully!" to the sculptures and the time of the train to his wife in one
breath! Now it was impossible for me to see Washington under the normal
conditions of a session. And so I took advantage of the visit to
Washington of two friends on business to see Washington hastily, as an
excursionist pure and simple. I said to the United States, grimly: "The
most important and the most imposing thing in all America is surely the
Capitol at Washington. Well, I will see it as you see the sacred sights
of Europe. By me Europe shall be revenged."

Thus it came about that we had hired a kind of carriage known as a
"sea-going hack," driven by a negro in dark blue, who was even more
picturesque than the negroes in white who did the menial work in the
classic hotel, and had set forth frankly as excursionists into the
streets of Washington, and presently through the celebrated Pennsylvania
Avenue had achieved entrance into the Capitol.

[Illustration: THE APPROACH TO THE CAPITOL]

It was a breathless pilgrimage--this seeing of the Capitol. And yet an
impressive one. The Capitol is a great place. I was astonished--and I
admit at once I ought not to have been astonished--that the Capitol
appeals to the historic sense just as much as any other vast legislative
palace of the world--and perhaps more intimately than some. The sequence
of its endless corridors and innumerable chambers, each associated with
event or tradition, begets awe. I think it was in the rich Senatorial
reception-room that I first caught myself being surprised that the heavy
gilded and marmoreal sumptuosity of the decorations recalled the average
European palace. Why should I have been expecting the interior of the
Capitol to consist of austere bare walls and unornamented floors?
Perhaps it was due to some thought of Abraham Lincoln. But whatever its
cause, the expectation was naïve and derogatory. The young guide, Jimmy,
who by birth and genius evidently belonged to the universal race of
guides, was there to keep my ideas right and my eyes open. He was
infinitely precious, and after his own fashion would have done honor to
any public monument in the East. Such men are only bred in the very
shadow of genuine history.

"See," he said, touching a wall. "Painted by celebrated Italian artist
to look like bas-relief! But put your hand flat against it, and you'll
see it isn't carved!" One might have been in Italy.

And a little later he was saying of other painting:

"Although painted in eighteen hundred sixty-five--forty-six years
ago--you notice the flesh tints are as fresh as if painted yesterday!"

This, I think, was the finest remark I ever heard a guide make--until
this same guide stepped in front of a portrait of Henry Clay, and, after
a second's hesitation, threw off airily, patronizingly:

"Henry Clay--quite a good statesman!"

But I also contributed my excursionist's share to these singular
conversations. In the swathed Senate Chamber I noticed two
holland-covered objects that somehow reminded me of my youth and of
religious dissent. I guessed that the daily proceedings of the Senate
must be opened with devotional exercises, and these two objects seemed
to me to be proper--why, I cannot tell--to the United States Senate; but
there was one point that puzzled me.

"Why," I asked, "do you have _two_ harmoniums?"

"Harmoniums, sir!" protested the guide, staggered. "Those are roll-top
desks."

If only the floor could have opened and swallowed me up, as it opens
and swallows up the grand piano at the Thomas concerts in Chicago!

Neither the Senate Chamber nor the Congress Chamber was as imposing to
me as the much less spacious former Senate Chamber and the former
Congress Chamber. The old Senate Chamber, being now transferred to the
uses of supreme justice, was closed on the day of our visit, owing to
the funeral of a judge. Europeans would have acquiesced in the firm
negative of its locked doors. But my friends, being American, would not
acquiesce. The mere fact that the room was not on view actually
sharpened their desire that I should see it. They were deaf to
refusals.... I saw that room. And I was glad that I saw it, for in its
august simplicity it was worth seeing. The spirit of the early history
of the United States seemed to reside in that hemicycle; and the crape
on the vacated and peculiar chair added its own effect.

[Illustration: ON PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE]

My first notion on entering the former Congress Chamber was that I was
in presence of the weirdest collection of ugly statues that I had ever
beheld. Which impression, the result of shock, was undoubtedly false. On
reflection I am convinced that those statues of the worthies of the
different States are not more ugly than many statues I could point to in
no matter what fane, museum, or palace of Europe. Their ugliness is only
different from our accustomed European ugliness. The most crudely ugly
mural decorations in the world are to be found all over Italy--the home
of sublime frescos. The most atrociously debased architecture in the
world is to be found in France--the home of sober artistic tradition.
Europe is simply peppered everywhere with sculpture whose appalling
mediocrity defies competition. But when the European meets ugly
sculpture or any ugly form of art in the New World, his instinct is to
exclaim, "Of course!" His instinct is to exclaim, "This beats
everything!" The attitude will not bear examination. And lo! I was
adopting it myself.

"And here's Frances Willard!" cried, ecstatically, a young woman in one
of the numerous parties of excursionists whose more deliberate paths
through the Capitol we were continually crossing in our swift course.

And while, upon the spot where John Quincy Adams fell, I pretended to
listen to the guide, who was proving to me from a distance that the
place was as good a whispering-gallery as any in Europe, I thought: "And
why should not Frances Willard's statue be there? I am glad it is there.
And I am glad to see these groups of provincials admiring with open
mouths the statues of the makers of their history, though the statues
are chiefly painful." And I thought also: "New York may talk, and
Chicago may talk, and Boston may talk, but it is these groups of
provincials who are the real America." They were extraordinarily like
people from the Five Towns--that is to say, extraordinarily like
comfortable average people everywhere.

We were outside again, under one of the enormous porticos of the
Capitol. The guide was receiving his well-earned dollar. The faithful
fellow had kept nicely within the allotted limit of half an hour.

"Now we'll go and see the Congressional Library," said my particular
friend.

But I would not. I had put myself in a position to retort to any
sight-seeing American in Europe that I had seen his Capitol in thirty
minutes, and I was content. I determined to rest on my laurels.
Moreover, I had discovered that conventional sight-seeing is a very
exhausting form of activity. I would visit neither the Library of
Congress, nor the Navy Department, nor the Pension Bureau, nor the
Dead-Letter Museum, nor the Zoological Park, nor the White House, nor
the National Museum, nor the Lincoln Museum, nor the Smithsonian
Institution, nor the Treasury, nor any other of the great spectacles of
Washington. We just resumed the sea-going hack and drove indolently to
and fro in avenues and parks, tasting the general savor of the city's
large pleasantness. And we had not gone far before we got into the
clutches of the police.

"I don't know who you are," said a policeman, as he stopped our
sea-going hack. "I don't know who you are," he repeated, cautiously, as
one accustomed to policing the shahs and grand viziers of the earth,
"but it's my duty to tell you your coachman crossed over on the wrong
side of the lamp-post. It's not allowed, and he knows it as well as I
do."

We admitted by our shamed silence that we had no special "pull" in
Washington; the wise negro said not a word; and we crept away from the
policeman's wrath, and before I knew it we were up against the
Washington Monument--one of those national calamities which ultimately
happen to every country, and of which the supreme example is, of course,
the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens.

[Illustration: ON THE STEPS OF THE PORTICO--THE CAPITOL]

When I drove into the magnificent railway station late that
night--true American rain was descending in sheets--I was carrying away
with me an impression, as it were, of a gigantic plantation of public
edifices in a loose tangle and undergrowth of thoroughfares: which
seemed proper for a legislative and administrative metropolis. I was
amused to reflect how the city, like most cities, had extended in
precisely the direction in which its founders had never imagined it
would extend; and naturally I was astonished by the rapidity of its
development. (One of my friends, who was not old, had potted wild game
in a marsh that is now a park close to the Capitol.) I thought that the
noble wings of the Capitol were architecturally much superior to the
central portion of it. I remembered a dazzling glimpse of the White
House as a distinguished little building. I feared that ere my next
visit the indefatigable energy of America would have rebuilt
Pennsylvania Avenue, especially the higgledy-piggledy and picturesque
and untidy portion of it that lies nearest to the Capitol, and I hoped
that in doing so the architects would at any rate not carry the cornice
to such excess as it has been carried in other parts of the town. And,
finally, I was slightly scared by the prevalence of negroes. It seemed
to me as if in Washington I had touched the fringe of the negro problem.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in a different and a humbler spirit that I went to Boston. I had
received more warnings and more advice about Boston than about all the
other cities put together. And, in particular, the greatest care had
been taken to permeate my whole being with the idea that Boston was
"different." In some ways it proved so to be. One difference forced
itself upon me immediately I left the station for the streets--the
quaint, original odor of the taxis. When I got to the entirely admirable
hotel I found a book in a prominent situation on the writing-table in my
room. In many hotels this book would have been the Bible. But here it
was the catalogue of the hotel library; it ran to a hundred and
eighty-two pages. On the other hand, there was no bar in the hotel, and
no smoking-room. I make no comments; I draw no conclusions; I state the
facts.

The warnings continued after my arrival. I was informed by I don't know
how many persons that Boston was "a circular city," with a topography
calculated to puzzle the simple. This was true. I usually go about in
strange places with a map, but I found the map of Boston even more
complex than the city it sought to explain. If I did not lose myself, it
was because I never trusted myself alone; other people lost me.

Within an hour or so I had been familiarized by Bostonians with a whole
series of apparently stock jokes concerning and against Boston, such as
that one hinging on the phrase "cold roast Boston," and that other one
about the best thing in Boston being the five o'clock train to New York
(I do not vouch for the hour of departure). Even in Cambridge, a less
jocular place, a joke seemed to be immanent, to the effect that though
you could always tell a Harvard man, you could not tell him much.

[Illustration: UNDER THE GREAT DOME OF THE CAPITOL]

Matters more serious awaited me. An old resident of Boston took me
out for privacy onto the Common and whispered in my ear: "This is the
most snobbish city in the whole world. There is no real democracy here.
The first thing people do when they get to know you is to show you their
family tree and prove that they came over in the _Mayflower_." And so he
ran on, cursing Boston up hill and down dale. Nevertheless, he was very
proud of his Boston. Had I agreed with the condemnation, he might have
thrown me into the artificial brook. Another great Bostonian expert,
after leading me on to admit that I had come in order to try to learn
the real Boston, turned upon me with ferocious gaiety, thus: "You will
not learn the real Boston. You cannot. The real Boston is the old Back
Bay folk, who gravitate eternally between Beacon Street and State Street
and the Somerset Club, and never go beyond. They confuse New England
with the created universe, and it is impossible that you should learn
them. Nobody could learn them in less than twenty years' intense study
and research."

Cautioned, and even intimidated, I thought it would be safest just to
take Boston as Boston came, respectfully but casually. And as the
hospitality of Boston was prodigious, splendid, unintermittent, and most
delightfully unaffected, I had no difficulty whatever in taking Boston
as she came. And my impressions began to emerge, one after another, from
the rich and cloudy confusion of novel sensations.

What primarily differentiates Boston from all the other cities I saw is
this: It is finished; I mean complete. Of the other cities, while
admitting their actual achievement, one would say, and their own
citizens invariably do say, "They will be ..." Boston is.

Another leading impression, which remains with me, is that Boston is not
so English as it perhaps imagines itself to be. An interviewer (among
many) came to see me about Boston, and he came with the fixed and sole
notion in his head that Boston was English. He would have it that Boston
was English. Worn down by his persistency, I did, as a fact, admit in
one obscure corner of the interview that Boston had certain English
characteristics. The scare-head editor of the interviewing paper,
looking through his man's copy for suitable prey, came across my
admission. It was just what he wanted; it was what he was thirsting for.
In an instant the scare-head was created: "Boston as English as a
muffin!" An ideal scare-head! That I had never used the word "muffin" or
any such phrase was a detail exquisitely unimportant. The scare-head was
immense. It traveled in fine large type across the continent. I met it
for weeks afterward in my press-cuttings, and I doubt if Boston was
altogether delighted with the comparison. I will not deny that Boston is
less strikingly un-English than sundry other cities. I will not deny
that I met men in Boston of a somewhat pronounced English type. I will
not deny that in certain respects old Kensington reminds me of a street
here and there in Boston--such as Mount Vernon Street or Chestnut
Street. But I do maintain that the Englishness of Boston has been
seriously exaggerated.

And still another very striking memory of Boston--indeed, perhaps, the
paramount impression!--is that it contains the loveliest modern thing I
saw in America--namely, the Puvis de Chavannes wall-paintings on the
grand staircase of the Public Library. The Library itself is a beautiful
building, but it holds something more beautiful. Never shall I forget my
agitation on beholding these unsurpassed works of art, which alone would
suffice to make Boston a place of pilgrimage.

When afterward I went back to Paris, the painters' first question was:
"_Et les Puvis à Boston--vous les avez vus? Qu'est-ce que vous en
dites?_"

It was very un-English on the part of Boston to commission these austere
and classical works. England would never have done it. The nationality
of the greatest decorative painter of modern times would have offended
her sense of fitness. What--a French painter officially employed on an
English public building? Unthinkable! England would have insisted on an
English painter--or, at worst, an American. It is strange that a
community which had the wit to honor itself by employing Puvis de
Chavannes should be equally enthusiastic about the frigid
theatricalities of an E.A. Abbey or the forbidding and opaque intricate
dexterity of a John Sargent in the same building. Or, rather, it is not
strange, for these contradictions are discoverable everywhere in the
patronage of the arts.

It was from the Public Library that some friends and I set out on a
little tour of Boston. Whether we went north, south, east, or west I
cannot tell, for this was one of the few occasions when the extreme
variousness of a city has deprived me definitely of a sense of
direction; but I know that we drove many miles through magnificent
fenny parks, whose roads were reserved to pleasure, and that at length,
after glimpsing famous houses and much of the less centralized wealth
and ease of Boston, we came out upon the shores of the old harbor, and
went into a yacht-club-house with a glorious prospect. Boston has more
book-shops to the acre than any city within my knowledge except Aberdeen
(not North Carolina, but Scotland). Its book-shops, however, are as
naught to its yacht clubs. And for one yacht club I personally would
sacrifice many book-shops. It was an exciting moment in my life when,
after further wandering on and off coast roads, and through curving,
cobbled, rackety streets, and between thunderous tram-cars and under
deafening elevated lines, I was permitted to enter the celestial and
calm precincts of the Boston Yacht Club itself, which overlooks another
harbor. The acute and splendid nauticality of this club, all fashioned
out of an old warehouse, stamps Boston as a city which has comprehended
the sea. I saw there the very wheel of the _Spray_, the cockboat in
which the regretted Slocum wafted himself round the world! I sat in an
arm-chair which would have suited Falstaff, and whose tabular arms would
have held all Falstaff's tankards, and gazed through a magnified
port-hole at a six-masted schooner as it crossed the field of vision!
And I had never even dreamed that a six-masted schooner existed! It was
with difficulty that I left the Boston Yacht Club. Indeed, I would only
leave it in order to go and see the frigate _Constitution_, the ship
which was never defeated, and which assuredly, after over a hundred and
ten years of buoyant life, remains the most truly English thing in
Boston. The afternoon teas of Boston are far less English than that grim
and majestic craft.

[Illustration: THE PROMENADE--CITY POINT, BOSTON]

We passed into the romantic part of Boston, skirting vast
wool-warehouses and other enormous establishments bearing such Oriental
signs as "Coffee and Spices." And so into a bewildering congeries of
crowded streets, where every name on the walls seemed to be Italian, and
where every corner was dangerous with vegetable-barrows, tram-cars, and
perambulators; through this quarter the legend of Paul Revere seemed to
float like a long wisp of vapor. And then I saw the Christopher Wren
spire of Paul Revere's signal-church, closed now--but whether because
the congregation had dwindled to six or for some more recondite reason I
am not clear. And then I beheld the delightful, elegant fabric of the
old State House, with the memories of massacre round about it, and the
singular spectacle of the Lion and the Unicorn on its roof. Too proudly
negligent had Boston been to remove those symbols!

And finally we rolled into the central and most circular shopping
quarter, as different from the Italian quarter as the Italian quarter
was different from Copley Square; and its heart was occupied by a
graveyard. And here I had to rest.

The second portion of the itinerary began with the domed State Capitol,
an impressive sight, despite its strange coloring, and despite its
curious habit of illuminating itself at dark, as if in competition with
such establishments as the "Bijou Dream," on the opposite side of the
Common. Here I first set eyes on Beacon Street, familiar--indeed,
classic--to the European student of American literature. Commonwealth
Avenue, I have to confess, I had never heard of till I saw it. These
interminable and gorgeous thoroughfares, where each massive abode is a
costly and ceremonial organization of the most polished and civilized
existence, leave the simple European speechless--especially when he
remembers the swampy origin of the main part of the ground.... The
inscrutable, the unknowable Back Bay!

Here, indeed, is evidence of a society in equilibrium, and therefore of
a society which will receive genuinely new ideas with an extreme, if
polite, caution, while welcoming with warm suavity old ideas that
disguise themselves as novelties!

It was a tremendous feat to reclaim from ooze the foundation of Back
Bay. Such feats are not accomplished in Europe; they are not even
imaginatively conceived there. And now that the great business is
achieved, the energy that did it, restless and unoccupied, is seeking
another field. I was informed that Boston is dreaming of the
construction of an artificial island in the midst of the river Charles,
with the hugest cathedral in the world thereon, and the most gorgeous
bridges that ever spanned a fine stream. With proper deference, it is to
be hoped that Boston, forgetting this infelicitous caprice, will
remember in time that she alone among the great cities of America is
complete. A project that would consort well with the genius of Chicago
might disserve Boston in the eyes of those who esteem a sense of fitness
to be among the major qualifications for the true art of life. And, in
the matter of the art of daily living, Boston as she is has a great deal
to teach to the rest of the country, and little to learn. Such is the
diffident view of a stranger.

       *       *       *       *       *

Cambridge is separated from Boston by the river Charles and by piquant
jealousies that tickle no one more humorously than those whom,
theoretically, they stab. From the east bank Cambridge is academic, and
therefore negligible; from the west, Boston dwindles to a mere quay
where one embarks for Europe.

What struck me first about Cambridge was that it must be the only city
of its size and amenity in the United States without an imposing hotel.
It is difficult to imagine any city in the United States minus at least
two imposing hotels, with a barber's shop in the basement and a world's
fair in the hall. But one soon perceives that Cambridge is a city apart.
In visual characteristics it must have changed very little, and it will
never change with facility. Boston is pre-eminently a town of
traditions, but the traditions have to be looked for. Cambridge is
equally a town of traditions, but the traditions stare you in the face.

My first halt was in front of the conspicuous home of James Russell
Lowell. Now in the far recesses of the Five Towns I was brought up on
"My Study Windows." My father, who would never accept the authority of
an encyclopedia when his children got him in a corner on some debated
question of fact, held James Russell Lowell as the supreme judge of
letters, from whom not even he could appeal (It is true, he had never
heard of Ste. Beuve, and regarded Matthew Arnold as a modern fad.) And
there were the study windows of James Russell Lowell! And his house in
its garden was only one of hundreds of similar houses standing in like
old gardens.

It was highly agreeable to learn that some of the pre-Revolution houses
had not yet left the occupation of the families which built them.
Beautiful houses, a few of them, utterly dissimilar from anything on the
other side of the Atlantic! Did not William Morris always maintain that
wood was and forever would be the most suitable material for building a
house? On the side of the railroad track near Toledo I saw frame houses,
whose architecture is debased from this Cambridge architecture, blown
clean over by the gale. But the gale that will deracinate Cambridge has
not yet begun to rage.... I rejoiced to see the house of Longfellow. In
spite of the fact that he wrote "The Wreck of the _Hesperus_," he seems
to keep his position as the chief minor poet of the English language.
And the most American and the most wistful thing in Cambridge was that
the children of Cambridge had been guided to buy and make inalienable
the land in front of his house, so that his descendant might securely
enjoy the free prospect that Longfellow enjoyed. In what other country
would just such a delicate, sentimental homage have been paid in just
such an ingeniously fanciful manner?[1]

[Footnote 1: This story was related to me by a resident of Cambridge.
Mr. Richard H. Dana, Longfellow's son-in-law, has since informed me that
it is quite untrue. I regret that it is quite untrue. It ought to have
been quite true. The land in question was given by Longfellow's children
to the Longfellow Memorial Association, who gave it to the city of
Cambridge. The general children of Cambridge did give to Longfellow an
arm-chair made from the wood of a certain historic "spreading
chestnut-tree," under which stood a certain historic village smithy; and
with this I suppose I must be content.--A.B.]

[Illustration: THE BOSTON YACHT CLUB--OVERLOOKING THE RIVER]

After I had passed the Longfellow house it began to rain, and dusk
began to gather in the recesses between the houses; and my memory is
that, with an athletic and tireless companion, I walked uncounted
leagues through endless avenues of Cambridge homes toward a promised
club that seemed ever to retreat before us with the shyness of a fawn.
However, we did at length capture it. This club was connected with
Harvard, and I do not propose to speak of Harvard in the present
chapter.

       *       *       *       *       *

The typical Cambridge house as I saw it persists in my recollection as
being among the most characteristic and comfortable of "real" American
phenomena. And one reason why I insisted, in a previous chapter, on the
special Americanism of Indianapolis is that Indianapolis is full of a
modified variety of these houses which is even more characteristically
American--to my mind--than the Cambridge style itself. Indianapolis
being by general consent the present chief center of letters in the
United States, it is not surprising that I, an author, knew more people
from Indianapolis than from any other city. Indeed, I went to
Indianapolis simply because I had old friends there, and not at all in
the hope of inspecting a city characteristically American. It was quite
startlingly different from the mental picture I had formed of it.

I think that in order to savor Indianapolis properly one should approach
it as I approached it--in an accommodation-train on a single track, a
train with a happy-go-lucky but still agreeable service in its
restaurant-car, a train that halts at every barn-door in the vast flat,
featureless fields of yellow stubble, rolling sometimes over a muddy,
brown river, and skirting now and then a welcome wooded cleft in the
monotony of the landscape. The scenes at those barn-doors were full of
the picturesque and of the racy. A farmer with a gun and a brace of
rabbits and a dog leaping up at them, while two young women talked to or
at the farmer from a distance; a fat little German girl in a Scotch
frock, cleaning outside windows with the absorbed seriousness of a
grandmother; a group of boys dividing their attention between her and
the train; an old woman driving a cart, and a negro gesticulating and
running after the cart; and all of them, save the nigger, wearing
gloves--presumably as a protection against the strong wind that swept
through the stubble and shook the houses and the few trees. Those
houses, in all their summariness and primitive crudity, yet reminded one
of the Cambridge homes; they exhibited some remains of the
pre-Revolution style.

And then you come to the inevitable State Fair grounds, and the environs
of the city which is the capital and heart of all those plains.

And after you have got away from the railroad station and the imposing
hotels and the public monuments and the high central buildings--an
affair of five minutes in an automobile--you discover yourself in long,
calm streets of essential America. These streets are rectangular; the
streets of Cambridge abhor the straight line. They are full everywhere
of maple-trees. And on either side they are bordered with homes--each
house detached, each house in its own fairly spacious garden, each
house individual and different from all the rest. Few of the houses are
large; on the other hand, none of them is small: this is the region of
the solid middle class, the class which loves comfort and piques itself
on its amenities, but is a little ashamed or too timid to be luxurious.

Architecturally the houses represent a declension from the purity of
earlier Cambridge. Scarcely one is really beautiful. The style is
debased. But then, it possesses the advantage of being modernized; it
has not the air of having strayed by accident into the wrong century.
And, moreover, it is saved from condemnation by its sobriety and by its
honest workmanship. It is the expression of a race incapable of looking
foolish, of being giddy, of running to extremes. It is the expression of
a race that both clung to the past and reached out to the future; that
knew how to make the best of both worlds; that keenly realized the value
of security because it had been through insecurity. You can see that all
these houses were built by people who loved "a bit of property," and to
whom a safe and dignified roof was the final ambition achieved. Why! I
do believe that there are men and women behind some of those curtains to
this day who haven't quite realized that the Indians aren't coming any
more, and that there is permanently enough wood in the pile, and that
quinine need no longer figure in the store cupboard as a staple article
of diet! I do believe that there are minor millionaires in some of those
drawing-rooms who wonder whether, out-soaring the ambition of a bit of
property, they would be justified in creeping down-town and buying a
cheap automobile!... These are the people who make the link between the
academic traditionalism of Cambridge and such excessively modern
products of evolution as their own mayor, Mr. Shanks, protector of the
poor. They are not above forming deputations to parley with their own
mayor.... I loved them. Their drawing-rooms were full of old silver, and
book-gossip, and Victorian ladies apparently transported direct from the
more aristocratic parts of the Five Towns, who sat behind trays and
poured out tea from the identical tea-pot that my grandmother used to
keep in a green bag.

In the outer suburbs of the very largest cities I saw revulsions against
the wholesale barracky conveniences of the apartment-house, in the shape
of little colonies of homes, consciously but superficially imitating the
Cambridge-Indianapolis tradition--with streets far more curvily winding
than the streets of Cambridge, and sidewalks of a strip of concrete
between green turf-bands that recalled the original sidewalks of
Indianapolis and even of the rural communities around Indianapolis. Cozy
homes, each in its own garden, with its own clothes-drier, and each
different from all the rest! Homes that the speculative builder, recking
not of the artistic sobriety, had determined should be picturesque at
any cost of capricious ingenuity! And not secure homes, because, though
they were occupied by their owners, their owners had not built them--had
only bought them, and would sell them as casually as they had bought.
The apartment-house will probably prove stronger than these throwbacks.
And yet the time will come when even the apartment-house will be
regarded as a picturesque survival. Into what novel architecture and
organization of living it will survive I should not care to prophesy,
but I am convinced that the future will be quite as interestingly human
as the present is, and as the past was.



IV

SOME ORGANIZATIONS


"What strikes and frightens the backward European as much as anything in
the United States is the efficiency and fearful universality of the
telephone. Just as I think of the big cities as agglomerations pierced
everywhere by elevator-shafts full of movement, so I think of them as
being threaded, under pavements and over roofs and between floors and
ceilings and between walls, by millions upon millions of live filaments
that unite all the privacies of the organism--and destroy them in order
to make one immense publicity! I do not mean that Europe has failed to
adopt the telephone, nor that in Europe there are no hotels with the
dreadful curse of an active telephone in every room. But I do mean that
the European telephone is a toy, and a somewhat clumsy one, compared
with the inexorable seriousness of the American telephone. Many
otherwise highly civilized Europeans are as timid in addressing a
telephone as they would be in addressing a royal sovereign. The average
European middle-class householder still speaks of his telephone, if he
has one, in the same falsely casual tone as the corresponding American
is liable to speak of his motor-car. It is naught--a negligible
trifle--but somehow it comes into the conversation!

"How odd!" you exclaim. And you are right. It is we Europeans who are
wrong, through no particular fault of our own.

The American is ruthlessly logical about the telephone. The only
occasion on which I was in really serious danger of being taken for a
madman in the United States was when, in a Chicago hotel, I permanently
removed the receiver from the telephone in a room designed (doubtless
ironically) for slumber. The whole hotel was appalled. Half Chicago
shuddered. In response to the prayer of a deputation from the management
I restored the receiver. On the horrified face of the deputation I could
read the unspoken query: "Is it conceivable that you have been in this
country a month without understanding that the United States is
primarily nothing but a vast congeries of telephone-cabins?" Yes, I
yielded and admired! And I surmise that on my next visit I shall find a
telephone on every table of every restaurant that respects itself.

[Illustration: AT MORN POURING CONFIDENCES INTO HER TELEPHONE]

It is the efficiency of the telephone that makes it irresistible to a
great people whose passion is to "get results"--the instancy with which
the communication is given, and the clear loudness of the telephone's
voice in reply to yours: phenomena utterly unknown in Europe. Were I to
inhabit the United States, I too should become a victim of the telephone
habit, as it is practised in its most advanced form in those suburban
communities to which I have already incidentally referred at the end of
the previous chapter. There a woman takes to the telephone as women in
more decadent lands take to morphia. You can see her at morn at her
bedroom window, pouring confidences into her telephone, thus
combining the joy of an innocent vice with the healthy freshness of
breeze and sunshine. It has happened to me to sit in a drawing-room,
where people gathered round the telephone as Europeans gather round a
fire, and to hear immediately after the ejaculation of a number into the
telephone a sharp ring from outside through the open window, and then to
hear in answer to the question, "What are you going to wear to-night?"
two absolutely simultaneous replies, one loudly from the telephone
across the room, and the other faintlier from a charming human voice
across the garden: "I don't know. What are you?" Such may be the
pleasing secondary scientific effect of telephoning to the lady next
door on a warm afternoon.

Now it was obvious that behind the apparently simple exterior aspects of
any telephone system there must be an intricate and marvelous secret
organization. In Europe my curiosity would probably never have been
excited by the thought of that organization--at home one accepts
everything as of course!--but, in the United States, partly because the
telephone is so much more wonderful and terrible there, and partly
because in a foreign land one is apt to have strange caprices, I allowed
myself to become the prey of a desire to see the arcanum concealed at
the other end of all the wires; and thus, one day, under the high
protection of a demigod of the electrical world, I paid a visit to a
telephone-exchange in New York, and saw therein what nine hundred and
ninety-nine out of every thousand of the most ardent telephone-users
seldom think about and will never see.

A murmuring sound, as of an infinity of scholars in a prim school
conning their lessons, and a long row of young women seated in a dim
radiance on a long row of precisely similar stools, before a long
apparatus of holes and pegs and pieces of elastic cord, all extremely
intent: that was the first broad impression. One saw at once that none
of these young women had a single moment to spare; they were all
involved in the tremendous machine, part of it, keeping pace with it and
in it, and not daring to take their eyes off it for an instant, lest
they should sin against it. What they were droning about it was
impossible to guess; for if one stationed oneself close to any
particular rapt young woman, she seemed to utter no sound, but simply
and without ceasing to peg and unpeg holes at random among the thousands
of holes before her, apparently in obedience to the signaling of faint,
tiny lights that in thousands continually expired and were rekindled.
(It was so that these tiny lights should be distinguishable that the
illumination of the secret and finely appointed chamber was kept dim.)
Throughout the whole length of the apparatus the colored elastic cords
to which the pegs were attached kept crossing one another in fantastic
patterns.

We who had entered were ignored. We might have been ghosts, invisible
and inaudible. Even the supervisors, less-young women set in authority,
did not turn to glance at us as they moved restlessly peering behind the
stools. And yet somehow I could hear the delicate shoulders of all the
young women saying, without speech: "Here come these tyrants and
taskmasters again, who have invented this exercise which nearly but not
quite cracks our little brains for us! They know exactly how much they
can get out of us, and they get it. They are cleverer than us and more
powerful than us; and we have to submit to their discipline. But--" And
afar off I could hear: "What are you going to wear to-night?" "Will you
dine with me to-night?" "I want two seats." "Very well, thanks, and how
is Mrs....?" "When can I see you to-morrow?" "I'll take your offer for
those bonds." ... And I could see the interiors of innumerable offices
and drawing-rooms.... But of course I could hear and see nothing really
except the intent drone and quick gesturing of those completely absorbed
young creatures in the dim radiance, on stools precisely similar.

I understood why the telephone service was so efficient. I understood
not merely from the demeanor of the long row of young women, but from
everything else I had seen in the exact and diabolically ingenious
ordering of the whole establishment.

We were silent for a time, as though we had entered a church. We were,
perhaps unconsciously, abashed by the intensity of the absorption of
these neat young women. After a while one of the guides, one of the
inscrutable beings who had helped to invent and construct the astounding
organism, began in a low voice on the forlorn hope of making me
comprehend the mechanism of a telephone-call and its response. And I
began on the forlorn hope of persuading him by intelligent acting that I
did comprehend. We each made a little progress. I could not tell him
that, though I genuinely and humbly admired his particular variety of
genius, what interested me in the affair was not the mechanics, but the
human equation. As a professional reader of faces, I glanced as well as
I could sideways at those bent girls' faces to see if they were happy.
An absurd inquiry! Do _I_ look happy when I'm at work, I wonder! Did
they then look reasonably content? Well, I came to the conclusion that
they looked like most other faces--neither one thing nor the other.
Still, in a great establishment, I would sooner search for sociological
information in the faces of the employed than in the managerial rules.

"What do they earn?" I asked, when we emerged from the ten-atmosphere
pressure of that intense absorption. (Of course I knew that no young
women could possibly for any length of time be as intensely absorbed as
these appeared to be. But the illusion was there, and it was effective.)

I learned that even the lowest beginner earned five dollars a week. It
was just the sum I was paying for a pair of clean sheets every night at
a grand hotel. And that the salary rose to six, seven, eight, eleven,
and even fourteen dollars for supervisors, who, however, had to stand on
their feet seven and a half hours a day, as shop-girls do for ten hours
a day; and that in general the girls had thirty minutes for lunch, and a
day off every week, and that the Company supplied them gratuitously with
tea, coffee, sugar, couches, newspapers, arm-chairs, and fresh air, of
which last fifty fresh cubic feet were pumped in for every operator
every minute.

"Naturally," I was told, "the discipline is strict. There are test
wires.... We can check the 'time elements.' ... We keep a record of
every call. They'll take a dollar a week less in an outside place--for
instance, a hotel.... Their average stay here is thirty months."

And I was told the number of exchanges there were in New York, exactly
like the one I was seeing.

A dollar a week less in a hotel! How feminine! And how masculine! And
how wise for one sort of young woman, and how foolish for another!...
Imagine quitting that convent with its guaranteed fresh air, and its
couches and sugar and so on, for the rough hazards and promiscuities of
a hotel! On the other hand, imagine not quitting it!

Said the demigod of the electrical world, condescendingly: "All this
telephone business is done on a mere few hundred horse-power. Come away,
and I'll show you electricity in bulk."

And I went away with him, thoughtful. In spite of the inhuman perfection
of its functioning, that exchange was a very human place indeed. It
brilliantly solved some problems; it raised others. Excessively
difficult to find any fault whatever in it! A marvelous service,
achieved under strictly hygienic conditions--and young women must make
their way through the world! And yet--Yes, a very human place indeed!

       *       *       *       *       *

The demigods of the electric world do not condescend to move about in
petrol motor-cars. In the exercise of a natural and charming coquetry
they insist on electrical traction, and it was in the most modern and
soundless electric brougham that we arrived at nightfall under the
overhanging cornice-eaves of two gigantic Florentine palaces--just such
looming palaces, they appeared in the dark, as may be seen in any
central street of Florence, with a cinema-show blazing its signs on the
ground floor, and Heaven knows what remnants of Italian aristocracy in
the mysterious upper stories. Having entered one of the palaces,
simultaneously with a tornado of wind, we passed through long, deserted,
narrow galleries, lined with thousands of small, caged compartments
containing "transformers," and on each compartment was a label bearing
always the same words: "Danger, 6,600 volts." "Danger, 6,600 volts."
"Danger, 6,600 volts." A wondrous relief when we had escaped with our
lives from the menace of those innumerable volts! And then we stood on a
high platform surrounded by handles, switches, signals--apparatus enough
to put all New York into darkness, or to annihilate it in an instant by
the unloosing of terrible cohorts of volts!--and faced an enormous white
hall, sparsely peopled by a few colossal machines that seemed to be
revolving and oscillating about their business with the fatalism of
conquered and resigned leviathans. Immaculately clean, inconceivably
tidy, shimmering with brilliant light under its lofty and beautiful
ceiling, shaking and roaring with the terrific thunder of its own
vitality, this hall in which no common voice could make itself heard
produced nevertheless an effect of magical stillness, silence, and
solitude. We were alone in it, save that now and then in the far-distant
spaces a figure might flit and disappear between the huge glinting
columns of metal. It was a hall enchanted and inexplicable. I understood
nothing of it. But I understood that half the electricity of New York
was being generated by its engines of a hundred and fifty thousand
horse-power, and that if the spell were lifted the elevators of New York
would be immediately paralyzed, and the twenty million lights expire
beneath the eyes of a startled population. I could have gazed at it to
this day, and brooded to this day upon the human imaginations that had
perfected it; but I was led off, hypnotized, to see the furnaces and
boilers under the earth. And even there we were almost alone, to such an
extent had one sort of senseless matter been compelled to take charge of
another sort of senseless matter. The odyssey of the coal that was
lifted high out of ships on the tide beyond, to fall ultimately into the
furnaces within, scarcely touched by the hand-wielded shovel, was by
itself epical. Fresh air pouring in at the rate of twenty-four million
cubic feet per hour cooled the entire palace, and gave to these
stoke-holes the uncanny quality of refrigerators. The lowest horror of
the steamship had been abolished here.

I was tempted to say: "This alone is fit to be called the heart of New
York!"

They took me to the twin palace, and on the windy way thither figures
were casually thrown at me. As that a short circuit may cause the
machines to surge wildly into the sudden creation of six million
horse-power of electricity, necessitating the invention of other
machines to control automatically these perilous vagaries! As that in
the down-town district the fire-engine was being abolished because, at a
signal, these power-houses could in thirty seconds concentrate on any
given main a pressure of three hundred pounds to the square inch,
lifting jets of water perhaps above the roofs of sky-scrapers! As that
the city could fine these power-houses at the rate of five hundred
dollars a minute for any interruption of the current longer than three
minutes--but the current had never failed for a single second! As that
in one year over two million dollars' worth of machinery had been
scrapped!... And I was aware that it was New York I was in, and not
Timbuctoo.

In the other palace it appeared that the great American scrapping
process was even yet far from complete. At first sight this other seemed
to resemble the former one, but I was soon instructed that the former
one was as naught to this one, for here the turbine--the "strong, silent
man" among engines--was replacing the racket of cylinder and crank.
Statistics are tiresome and futile to stir the imagination. I disdain
statistics, even when I assimilate them. And yet when my attention was
directed to one trifling block of metal, and I was told that it was the
most powerful "unit" in the world, and that it alone would make
electricity sufficient for the lighting of a city of a quarter of a
million people, I felt that statistics, after all, could knock you a
staggering blow.... In this other palace, too, was the same solitude of
machinery, attending most conscientiously and effectively to itself. A
singularly disconcerting spectacle! And I reflected that, according to
dreams already coming true, the telephone-exchange also would soon be a
solitude of clicking contact-points, functioning in mystic certitude,
instead of a convent of girls requiring sugar and couches, and thirsting
for love. A singularly disconcerting prospect!

But was it necessary to come to America in order to see and describe
telephone-exchanges and electrical power-houses? Do not these wonders
exist in all the cities of earth? They do, but not to quite the same
degree of wondrousness. Hat-shops, and fine hat-shops, exist in New
York, but not to quite the same degree of wondrousness as in Paris.
People sing in New York, but not with quite the same natural lyricism as
in Naples. The great civilizations all present the same features; but it
is just the differences in degree between the same feature in this
civilization and in that--it is just these differences which together
constitute and illustrate the idiosyncrasy of each. It seems to me that
the brains and the imagination of America shone superlatively in the
conception and ordering of its vast organizations of human beings, and
of machinery, and of the two combined. By them I was more profoundly
attracted, impressed, and inspired than by any other non-spiritual
phenomena whatever in the United States. For me they were the proudest
material achievements, and essentially the most poetical achievements,
of the United States. And that is why I am dwelling on them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Further, there are business organizations in America of a species which
do not flourish at all in Europe. For example, the "mail-order house,"
whose secrets were very generously displayed to me in Chicago--a
peculiar establishment which sells merely everything (except
patent-medicines)--on condition that you order it by post. Go into that
house with money in your palm, and ask for a fan or a flail or a
fur-coat or a fountain-pen or a fiddle, and you will be requested to
return home and write a letter about the proposed purchase, and stamp
the letter and drop it into a mail-box, and then to wait till the
article arrives at your door. That house is one of the most spectacular
and pleasing proofs that the inhabitants of the United States are thinly
scattered over an enormous area, in tiny groups, often quite isolated
from stores. On the day of my visit sixty thousand letters had been
received, and every executable order contained in these was executed
before closing time, by the co-ordinated efforts of over four thousand
female employees and over three thousand males. The conception would
make Europe dizzy. Imagine a merchant in Moscow trying to inaugurate
such a scheme!

A little machine no bigger than a soup-plate will open hundreds of
envelops at once. They are all the same, those envelops; they have even
less individuality than sheep being sheared, but when the contents of
one--any one at random--are put into your hand, something human and
distinctive is put into your hand. I read the caligraphy on a blue sheet
of paper, and it was written by a woman in Wyoming, a neat, earnest,
harassed, and possibly rather harassing woman, and she wanted all sorts
of things and wanted them intensely--I could see that with clearness.
This complex purchase was an important event in her year. So far as her
imagination went, only one mail-order would reach the Chicago house that
morning, and the entire establishment would be strained to meet it.

Then the blue sheet was taken from me and thrust into the system, and
therein lost to me. I was taken to a mysteriously rumbling shaft of
broad diameter, that pierced all the floors of the house and had
trap-doors on each floor. And when one of the trap-doors was opened I
saw packages of all descriptions racing after one another down spiral
planes within the shaft. There were several of these great shafts--with
divisions for mail, express, and freight traffic--and packages were
ceaselessly racing down all of them, laden with the objects desired by
the woman of Wyoming and her fifty-nine-thousand-odd fellow-customers of
the day. At first it seemed to me impossible that that earnest,
impatient woman in Wyoming should get precisely what she wanted; it
seemed to me impossible that some mistake should not occur in all that
noisy fever of rushing activity. But after I had followed an order, and
seen it filled and checked, my opinion was that a mistake would be the
most miraculous phenomenon in that establishment. I felt quite reassured
on behalf of Wyoming.

And then I was suddenly in a room where six hundred billing-machines
were being clicked at once by six hundred young women, a fantastic aural
nightmare, though none of the young women appeared to be conscious that
anything bizarre was going on.... And then I was in a printing-shop,
where several lightning machines spent their whole time every day in
printing the most popular work of reference in the United States, a
bulky book full of pictures, with an annual circulation of five and a
half million copies--the general catalogue of the firm. For the first
time I realized the true meaning of the word "popularity "--and
sighed....

And then it was lunch-time for about a couple of thousand employees,
and in the boundless restaurant I witnessed the working of the devices
which enabled these legions to choose their meals, and pay for them
(cost price) in a few moments, and without advanced mathematical
calculations. The young head of the restaurant showed me, with pride, a
menu of over a hundred dishes--Austrian, German, Hungarian, Italian,
Scotch, French, and American; at prices from one cent up as high as ten
cents (prime roast-beef)--and at the foot of the menu was his personal
appeal: "_I_ desire to extend to you a cordial invitation to inspect,"
etc. "_My_ constant aim will be," etc. Yet it was not _his_ restaurant.
It was the firm's restaurant. Here I had a curious illustration of an
admirable characteristic of American business methods that was always
striking me--namely, the real delegation of responsibility. An American
board of direction will put a man in charge of a department, as a
viceroy over a province, saying, as it were: "This is yours. Do as you
please with it. We will watch the results." A marked contrast this with
the centralizing of authority which seems to be ever proceeding in
Europe, and which breeds in all classes at all ages--especially in
France--a morbid fear and horror of accepting responsibility.

[Illustration: LUNCHEON IN A DOWN-TOWN CLUB]

Later, I was on the ground level, in the midst of an enormous apparent
confusion--the target for all the packages and baskets, big and little,
that shot every instant in a continuous stream from those spiral planes,
and slid dangerously at me along the floors. Here were the packers. I
saw a packer deal with a collected order, and in this order were a
number of tiny cookery utensils, a four-cent curling-iron, a brush, and
two incredibly ugly pink china mugs, inscribed in cheap gilt
respectively with the words "Father" and "Mother." Throughout my stay in
America no moment came to me more dramatically than this moment, and
none has remained more vividly in my mind. All the daily domestic life
of the small communities in the wilds of the West and the Middle West,
and in the wilds of the back streets of the great towns, seemed to be
revealed to me by the contents of that basket, as the packer wrapped up
and protected one article after another. I had been compelled to abandon
a visitation of the West and of the small communities everywhere, and I
was sorry. But here in a microcosm I thought I saw the simple reality of
the backbone of all America, a symbol of the millions of the little
plain people, who ultimately make possible the glory of the
world-renowned streets and institutions in dazzling cities.

There was something indescribably touching in that curling-iron and
those two mugs. I could see the table on which the mugs would soon
proudly stand, and "father" and "mother" and children thereat, and I
could see the hand heating the curling-iron and applying it. I could see
the whole little home and the whole life of the little home.... And
afterward, as I wandered through the warehouses--pyramids of the same
chair, cupboards full of the same cheap violin, stacks of the same album
of music, acres of the same carpet and wallpaper, tons of the same
gramophone, hundreds of tons of the same sewing-machine and
lawn-mower--I felt as if I had been made free of the secrets of every
village in every State of the Union, and as if I had lived in every
little house and cottage thereof all my life! Almost no sense of beauty
in those tremendous supplies of merchandise, but a lot of honesty,
self-respect, and ambition fulfilled. I tell you I could hear the
engaged couples discussing ardently over the pages of the catalogue what
manner of bedroom suite they would buy, and what design of sideboard....

Finally, I arrived at the firm's private railway station, where a score
or more trucks were being laden with the multifarious boxes, bales, and
parcels, all to leave that evening for romantic destinations such as
Oregon, Texas, and Wyoming. Yes, the package of the woman of Wyoming's
desire would ultimately be placed somewhere in one of those trucks! It
was going to start off toward her that very night!

       *       *       *       *       *

Impressive as this establishment was, finely as it illustrated the
national genius for organization, it yet lacked necessarily, on account
of the nature of its activity, those outward phenomena of splendor which
charm the stranger's eye in the great central houses of New York, and
which seem designed to sum up all that is most characteristic and most
dazzling in the business methods of the United States. These central
houses are not soiled by the touch of actual merchandise. Nothing more
squalid than ink ever enters their gates. They traffic with symbols
only, and the symbols, no matter what they stand for, are never in
themselves sordid. The men who have created these houses seem to have
realized that, from their situation and their importance, a special
effort toward representative magnificence was their pleasing duty, and
to have made the effort with a superb prodigality and an astounding
ingenuity.

Take, for a good, glorious example, the very large insurance company,
conscious that the eyes of the world are upon it, and that the entire
United States is expecting it to uphold the national pride. All the
splendors of all the sky-scrapers are united in its building. Its foyer
and grand staircase will sustain comparison with those of the Paris
Opéra. You might think you were going into a place of entertainment!
And, as a fact, you are! This affair, with nearly four thousand clerks,
is the huge toy and pastime of a group of millionaires who have
discovered a way of honestly amusing themselves while gaining applause
and advertisement. Within the foyer and beyond the staircase, notice the
outer rooms, partitioned off by bronze grilles, looming darkly gorgeous
in an eternal windowless twilight studded with the beautiful glowing
green disks of electric-lamp shades; and under each disk a human head
bent over the black-and-red magic of ledgers! The desired effect is at
once obtained, and it is wonderful. Then lose yourself in and out of the
ascending and descending elevators, and among the unending multitudes of
clerks, and along the corridors of marble (total length exactly measured
and recorded). You will be struck dumb. And immediately you begin to
recover your speech you will be struck dumb again....

Other houses, as has been seen, provide good meals for their employees
at cost price. This house, then, will provide excellent meals, free of
charge! It will install the most expensive kitchens and richly spacious
restaurants. It will serve the delicate repasts with dignity. "Does all
this lessen the wages?" No, not in theory. But in practice, and whether
the management wishes or not, it must come out of the wages. "Why do you
do it?" you ask the departmental chief, who apparently gets far more fun
out of the contemplation of these refectories than out of the
contemplation of premiums received and claims paid. "It is better for
the employees," he says. "But we do it because it is better for us. It
pays us. Good food, physical comfort, agreeable environment, scientific
ventilation--all these things pay us. We get results from them." He does
not mention horses, but you feel that the comparison is with horses. A
horse, or a clerk, or an artisan--it pays equally well to treat all of
them well. This is one of the latest discoveries of economic science, a
discovery not yet universally understood.

[Illustration: A YOUNG WOMAN WAS JUST FINISHING A FLORID SONG]

I say you do not mention horses, and you certainly must not hint that
the men in authority may have been actuated by motives of humanity. You
must believe what you are told--that the sole motive is to get results.
The eagerness with which all heads of model establishments would disavow
to me any thought of being humane was affecting in its _naïveté_; it had
that touch of ingenuous wistfulness which I remarked everywhere in
America--and nowhere more than in the demeanor of many mercantile
highnesses. (I hardly expect Americans to understand just what I mean
here.) It was as if they would blush at being caught in an act of
humanity, like school-boys caught praying. Still, to my mind, the
white purity of their desire to get financial results was often muddied
by the dark stain of a humane motive. I may be wrong (as people say),
but I know I am not (as people think).

The further you advance into the penetralia of this arch-exemplar of
American organization and profusion, the more you are amazed by the
imaginative perfection of its detail: as well in the system of filing
for instant reference fifty million separate documents, as in the
planning of a concert-hall for the diversion of the human machines.

As we went into the immense concert-hall a group of girls were giving an
informal concert among themselves. When lunch is served on the premises
with chronographic exactitude, the thirty-five minutes allowed for the
meal give an appreciable margin for music and play. A young woman was
just finishing a florid song. The concert was suspended, and the whole
party began to move humbly away at this august incursion.

"Sing it again; do, please!" the departmental chief suggested. And the
florid song was nervously sung again; we applauded, the artiste bowed as
on a stage, and the group fled, the thirty-five minutes being doubtless
up. The departmental chief looked at me in silence, content, as much as
to say: "This is how we do business in America." And I thought, "Yet
another way of getting results!"

But sometimes the creators of the organization, who had provided
everything, had been obliged to confess that they had omitted from their
designs certain factors of evolution. Hat-cupboards were a feature of
the women's offices--delightful specimens of sound cabinetry. And still,
millinery was lying about all over the place, giving it an air of
feminine occupation that was extremely exciting to a student on his
travels. The truth was that none of those hats would go into the
cupboards. Fashion had worsted the organization completely. Departmental
chiefs had nothing to do but acquiesce in this startling untidiness.
Either they must wait till the circumference of hats lessened again, or
they must tear down the whole structure and rebuild it with due regard
to hats.

Finally, we approached the sacred lair and fastness of the president,
whose massive portrait I had already seen on several walls. Spaciousness
and magnificence increased. Ceilings rose in height, marble was softened
by the thick pile of carpets. Mahogany and gold shone more luxuriously.
I was introduced into the vast antechamber of the presidential
secretaries, and by the chief of them inducted through polished and
gleaming barriers into the presence-chamber itself: a noble apartment,
an apartment surpassing dreams and expectations, conceived and executed
in a spirit of majestic prodigality. The president had not been afraid.
And his costly audacity was splendidly justified of itself. This man had
a sense of the romantic, of the dramatic, of the fit. And the qualities
in him and his _état major_ which had commanded the success of the
entire enterprise were well shown in the brilliant symbolism of that
room's grandiosity.... And there was the president's portrait again,
gorgeously framed.

He came in through another door, an old man of superb physique, and
after a little while he was relating to me the early struggles of his
company. "My wife used to say that for ten years she never saw me," he
remarked.

I asked him what his distractions were, now that the strain was over and
his ambitions so gloriously achieved. He replied that occasionally he
went for a drive in his automobile.

"And what do you do with yourself in the evenings?" I inquired.

He seemed a little disconcerted by this perhaps unaccustomed bluntness.

"Oh," he said, casually, "I read insurance literature."

He had the conscious mien and manners of a reigning prince. His courtesy
and affability were impeccable and charming. In the most profound sense
this human being had succeeded, for it was impossible to believe that,
had he to live his life again, he would live it very differently.

Such a type of man is, of course, to be found in nearly every country;
but the type flourishes with a unique profusion and perfection in the
United States; and in its more prominent specimens the distinguishing
idiosyncrasy of the average American successful man of business is
magnified for our easier inspection. The rough, broad difference between
the American and the European business man is that the latter is anxious
to leave his work, while the former is anxious to get to it. The
attitude of the American business man toward his business is
pre-eminently the attitude of an artist. You may say that he loves
money. So do we all--artists particularly. No stock-broker's private
journal could be more full of dollars than Balzac's intimate
correspondence is full of francs. But whereas the ordinary artist loves
money chiefly because it represents luxury, the American business man
loves it chiefly because it is the sole proof of success in his
endeavor. He loves his business. It is not his toil, but his hobby,
passion, vice, monomania--any vituperative epithet you like to bestow on
it! He does not look forward to living in the evening; he lives most
intensely when he is in the midst of his organization. His instincts are
best appeased by the hourly excitements of a good, scrimmaging
commercial day. He needs these excitements as some natures need alcohol.
He cannot do without them.

[Illustration: ABSORBED IN THAT WONDROUS SATISFYING HOBBY]

On no other hypothesis can the unrivaled ingenuity and splendor and
ruthlessness of American business undertakings be satisfactorily
explained. They surpass the European, simply because they are never out
of the thoughts of their directors, because they are adored with a fine
frenzy. And for the same reason they are decked forth in magnificence.
Would a man enrich his office with rare woods and stuffs and marbles if
it were not a temple? Would he bestow graces on the environment if while
he was in it the one idea at the back of his head was the anticipation
of leaving it? Watch American business men together, and if you are a
European you will clearly perceive that they are devotees. They are open
with one another, as intimates are. Jealousy and secretiveness are much
rarer among them than in Europe. They show off their respective
organizations with pride and with candor. They admire one another
enormously. Hear one of them say enthusiastically of another: "It was a
great idea he had--connecting his New York and his Philadelphia places
by wireless--a great idea!" They call one another by their Christian
names, fondly. They are capable of wonderful friendships in business.
They are cemented by one religion--and it is not golf. For them the
journey "home" is often not the evening journey, but the morning
journey. Call this a hard saying if you choose: it is true. Could a man
be happy long away from a hobby so entrancing, a toy so intricate and
marvelous, a setting so splendid? Is it strange that, absorbed in that
wondrous satisfying hobby, he should make love with the nonchalance of
an animal? At which point I seem to have come dangerously near to the
topic of the singular position of the American woman, about which
everybody is talking....



V

TRANSIT AND HOTELS


The choice of such a trite topic as the means of travel may seem to
denote that my observations in the United States must have been
superficial. They were. I never hoped that they would be otherwise. In
seven weeks (less one day) I could not expect to penetrate very far
below the engaging surface of things. Nor did I unnaturally attempt to
do so; for the evidence of the superficies is valuable, and it can only
be properly gathered by the stranger at first sight. Among the scenes
and phenomena that passed before me I of course remember best those
which interested me most. Railroads and trains have always appealed to
me; I have often tried to express my sense of their romantic savor. And
I was eager to see and appreciate these particular manifestations of
national character in America.

It happily occurred that my first important journey from New York was on
the Pennsylvania Road.

"I'll meet you at the station," I said to my particular friend.

"Oh no!" he answered, positively. "I'll pick you up on my way."

The fact was that not for ten thousand dollars would he have missed the
spectacle of my sensations as I beheld for the first time the most
majestic terminus in the world! He alone would usher me into the gates
of that marvel! I think he was not disappointed. I frankly surrendered
myself to the domination of this extraordinary building. I did not
compare. I knew there could be no comparison. Whenever afterward I
heard, as I often did, enlightened, Europe-loving citizens of the United
States complain that the United States was all very well, but there was
no art in the United States, the image of this tremendous masterpiece
would rise before me, and I was inclined to say: "Have you ever crossed
Seventh Avenue, or are you merely another of those who have been to
Europe and learned nothing?" The Pennsylvania station is full of the
noble qualities that fine and heroic imagination alone can give. That
there existed a railroad man poetic and audacious enough to want it,
architects with genius powerful enough to create it, and a public with
heart enough to love it--these things are for me a surer proof that the
American is a great race than the existence of any quantity of wealthy
universities, museums of classic art, associations for prison reform, or
deep-delved safe-deposit vaults crammed with bonds. Such a monument does
not spring up by chance; it is part of the slow flowering of a nation's
secret spirit!

[Illustration: IN THE PARLOR-CAR]

The terminus emerged brilliantly from an examination of the complicated
detail, both esthetic and practical, that is embedded in the apparent
simplicity of its vast physiognomy. I discovered everything in it proper
to a station, except trains. Not a sign of a train. My impulse was to
ask, "Is this the tomb of Alexander J. Cassatt, or is it a cathedral, or
is it, after all, a railroad station?" Then I was led with due
ceremony across the boundless plains of granite to a secret staircase,
guarded by lions in uniform, and at the foot of this staircase, hidden
like a shame or a crime, I found a resplendent train, the Congressional
Limited. It was not the Limited of my dreams; but it was my first
American Limited, and I boarded it in a condition of excitement. I
criticized, of course, for every experienced traveler has decided views
concerning _trains de luxe_. The cars impressed rather than charmed me.
I preferred, and still prefer, the European variety of Pullman. (Yes, I
admit we owe it entirely to America!) And then there is a harsh,
inhospitable quality about those all-steel cars. They do not yield. You
think you are touching wood, and your knuckles are abraded. The
imitation of wood is a triumph of mimicry, but by no means a triumph of
artistic propriety. Why should steel be made to look like wood?...
Fireproof, you say. But is anything fireproof in the United States,
except perhaps Tammany Hall? Has not the blazing of fireproof
constructions again and again singed off the eyebrows of dauntless
firemen? My impression is that "fireproof," in the American tongue, is
one of those agreeable but quite meaningless phrases which adorn the
languages of all nations. Another such phrase, in the American tongue,
is "right away!" ...

I sat down in my appointed place in the all-steel car, and, turning over
the pages of a weekly paper, saw photographs of actual collisions,
showing that in an altercation between trains the steel-and-wood car
could knock the all-steel car into a cocked hat!... The decoration of
the all-steel car does not atone for its probable combustibility and its
proved fragility. In particular, the smoking-cars of all the Limiteds I
intrusted myself to were defiantly and wilfully ugly. Still, a fine,
proud train, handsome in some ways! And the trainmen were like admirals,
captains, and first officers pacing bridges; clearly they owned the
train, and had kindly lent it to the Pennsylvania R.R. Their demeanor
expressed a rare sense of ownership and also of responsibility. While
very polite, they condescended. A strong contrast to the miserable
European "guard"--for all his silver buttons! I adventured into the
observation-car, of which institution I had so often heard Americans
speak with pride, and speculated why, here as in all other cars, the
tops of the windows were so low that it was impossible to see the upper
part of the thing observed (roofs, telegraph-wires, tree-foliage,
hill-summits, sky) without bending the head and cricking the neck. I do
not deny that I was setting a high standard of perfection, but then I
had heard so much all my life about American Limiteds!

The Limited started with exactitude, and from the observation-car I
watched the unrolling of the wondrous Hudson tunnel--one of the major
sights of New York, and a thing of curious beauty.... The journey passed
pleasantly, with no other episode than that of dinner, which cost a
dollar and was worth just about a dollar, despite the mutton. And with
exactitude we arrived at Washington--another splendid station. I
generalized thus: "It is certain that this country understands railroad
stations." I was, however, fresh in the country, and had not then seen
New Haven station, which, as soon as it is quite done with, ought to be
put in a museum.

We returned from Washington by a night train; we might have taken a day
train, but it was pointed out to me that I ought to get into "form" for
certain projected long journeys into the West. At midnight I was
brusquely introduced to the American sleeping-car. I confess that I had
not imagined anything so appalling as the confined, stifling, malodorous
promiscuity of the American sleeping-car, where men and women are herded
together on shelves under the drastic control of an official aided by
negroes. I care not to dwell on the subject.... I have seen European
prisons, but in none that I have seen would such a system be tolerated,
even by hardened warders and governors; and assuredly, if it were,
public opinion would rise in anger and destroy it. I have not been in
Siberian prisons, but I remember reading George Kennan's description of
their mild horrors, and I am surprised that he should have put himself
to the trouble of such a tedious journey when he might have discovered
far more exciting material on any good road around New York. However,
nobody seemed to mind, such is the force of custom--and I did not mind
very much, because my particular friend, intelligently foreseeing my
absurd European prejudices, had engaged for us a state-room.

This state-room, or suite--for it comprised two apartments--was a
beautiful and aristocratic domain. The bedchamber had a fan that would
work at three speeds like an automobile, and was an enchanting toy. In
short, I could find no fault with the accommodation. It was perfect,
and would have remained perfect had the train remained in the station.
Unfortunately, the engine-driver had the unhappy idea of removing the
train from the station. He seemed to be an angry engine-driver, and his
gesture was that of a man setting his teeth and hissing: "Now, then,
come out of that, you sluggards!" and giving a ferocious tug. There was
a fearful jerk, and in an instant I understood why sleeping-berths in
America are always arranged lengthwise with the train. If they were not,
the passengers would spend most of the night in getting up off the floor
and climbing into bed again. A few hundred yards out of the station the
engine-driver decided to stop, and there was the same fearful jerk and
concussion. Throughout the night he stopped and he started at frequent
intervals, and always with the fearful jerk. Sometimes he would slow
down gently and woo me into a false tranquillity, but only to finish
with the same jerk rendered more shocking by contrast.

The bedchamber was delightful, the lavatory amounted to a boudoir, the
reading-lamp left nothing to desire, the ventilation was a continuous
vaudeville entertainment, the watch-pocket was adorable, the mattress
was good. Even the road-bed was quite respectable--not equal to the best
I knew, probably, but it had the great advantage of well-tied rails, so
that as the train passed from one rail-length to the next you felt no
jar, a bliss utterly unknown in Europe. The secret of a satisfactory
"sleeper," however, does not lie in the state-room, nor in the
glittering lavatory, nor in the lamp, nor in the fan, nor in the
watch-pocket, nor in the bed, nor even in the road-bed. It lies in the
mannerisms of that brave fellow out there in front of you on the engine,
in the wind and the rain. But no one in all America seemed to appreciate
this deep truth. For myself, I was inclined to go out to the
engine-driver and say to him: "Brother, are you aware--you cannot
be--that the best European trains start with the imperceptible
stealthiness of a bad habit, so that it is impossible to distinguish
motion from immobility, and come to rest with the softness of doves
settling on the shoulders of a young girl?" ... If the fault is not the
engine-driver's, then are the brakes to blame? Inconceivable!... All
American engine-drivers are alike; and I never slept a full hour in any
American "sleeper," what with stops, starts, hootings, tollings,
whizzings round sharp corners, listening to the passage of
freight-trains, and listening to haughty conductor-admirals who
quarreled at length with newly arrived voyagers at 2 or 3 A.M.! I do not
criticize; I state. I also blame myself. There are those who could
sleep. But not everybody could sleep. Well and heartily do I remember
the moment when another friend of mine, in the midst of an interminable
scolding that was being given by a nasal-voiced conductor to a passenger
just before the dawn, exposed his head and remarked: "Has it occurred to
you that this is a sleeping-car?" In the swift silence the whirring of
my private fan could be heard.

I arrived in New York from Washington, as I arrived at all my
destinations after a night journey, in a state of enfeebled
submissiveness, and I retired to bed in a hotel. And for several hours
the hotel itself would stop and start with a jerk and whiz round
corners.

       *       *       *       *       *

For many years I had dreamed of traveling by the great, the unique, the
world-renowned New York-Chicago train; indeed, it would not be a gross
exaggeration to say that I came to America in order to take that train;
and at length time brought my dream true. I boarded the thing in New
York, this especial product of the twentieth century, and yet another
thrilling moment in my life came and went! I boarded it with pride;
everybody boarded it with pride; and in every eye was the gleam: "This
is the train of trains, and I have my state-room on it." Perhaps I was
ever so slightly disappointed with the dimensions and appointments of
the state-room--I may have been expecting a whole car to myself--but the
general self-conscious smartness of the train reassured me. I wandered
into the observation-car, and saw my particular friend proudly employ
the train-telephone to inform his office that he had caught the train. I
saw also the free supply of newspapers, the library of books, the
typewriting-machine, and the stenographer by its side--all as promised.
And I knew that at the other end of the train was a dining-car, a
smoking-car, and a barber-shop. I picked up the advertising literature
scattered about by a thoughtful Company, and learned therefrom that this
train was not a mere experiment; it was the finished fruit of many
experiments, and that while offering the conveniences of a hotel or a
club, it did with regularity what it undertook to do in the way of
speed and promptness. The pamphlet made good reading!...

I noted that it pleased the Company to run two other very important
trains out of the terminus simultaneously with the unique train.
Bravado, possibly; but bravado which invited the respect of all those
who admire enterprise! I anticipated with pleasure the noble spectacle
of these three trains sailing forth together on three parallel tracks;
which pleasure was denied me. We for Chicago started last; we started
indeed, according to my poor European watch, from fifteen to thirty
seconds late!... No matter! I would not stickle for seconds:
particularly as at Chicago, by the terms of a contract which no company
in Europe would have had the grace to sign, I was to receive, for any
unthinkable lateness, compensation at the rate of one cent for every
thirty-six seconds!

Within a quarter of an hour it became evident that that train had at
least one great quality--it moved. As, in the deepening dusk, we swung
along the banks of the glorious Hudson, veiled now in the vaporous
mysteries following a red sunset, I was obliged to admit with increasing
enthusiasm that that train did move. Even the persecutors of Galileo
would never have had the audacity to deny that that train moved. And one
felt, comfortably, that the whole Company, with all the Company's
resources, was watching over its flying pet, giving it the supreme right
of way and urging it forward by hearty good-will. One felt also that the
moment had come for testing the amenities of the hotel and the club.

"Tea, please," I said, jauntily, confidently, as we entered the
spotless and appetizing restaurant-car.

The extremely polite and kind captain of the car was obviously taken
aback. But he instinctively grasped that the reputation of the train
hung in the balance, and he regained his self-possession.

"Tea?" His questioning inflection delicately hinted: "Try not to be too
eccentric."

"Tea."

"Here?"

"Here."

"I can serve it here, of course," said the captain, persuasively. "But
if you don't mind I should prefer to serve it in your state-room."

We reluctantly consented. The tea was well made and well served.

[Illustration: BREAKFAST EN ROUTE]

In an instant, as it seemed, we were crossing a dark river, on which
reposed several immense, many-storied river-steamers, brilliantly lit. I
had often seen illustrations of these craft, but never before the
reality. A fine sight-and it made me think of Mark Twain's incomparable
masterpiece, _Life on the Mississippi_, for which I would sacrifice the
entire works of Thackeray and George Eliot. We ran into a big town, full
of electric signs, and stopped. Albany! One minute late! I descended to
watch the romantic business of changing engines. I felt sure that
changing the horses of a fashionable mail-coach would be as nothing to
this. The first engine had already disappeared. The new one rolled
tremendous and overpowering toward me; its wheels rose above my head,
and the driver glanced down at me as from a bedroom window. I was
sensible of all the mystery and force of the somber monster; I felt the
mystery of the unknown railway station, and of the strange illuminated
city beyond. And I had a corner in my mind for the thought: "Somewhere
near me Broadway actually ends." Then, while dark men under the ray of a
lantern fumbled with the gigantic couplings, I said to myself that if I
did not get back to my car I should probably be left behind. I regained
my state-room and waited, watch in hand, for the jerk of restarting. I
waited half an hour. Some mishap with the couplings! We left Albany
thirty-three minutes late. Habitués of the train affected nonchalance.
One of them offered to bet me that "she would make it up." The admirals
and captains avoided our gaze.

We dined, _à la carte_; the first time I had ever dined _à la carte_ on
any train. An excellent dinner, well and sympathetically served. The
mutton was impeccable. And in another instant, as it seemed, we were
running, with no visible flags, through an important and showy street of
a large town, and surface-cars were crossing one another behind us. I
had never before seen an express train let loose in the middle of an
unprotected town, and I was _naïf_ enough to be startled. But a huge
electric sign--"Syracuse bids you welcome"--tranquilized me. We briefly
halted, and drew away from the allurement of those bright streets into
the deep, perilous shade of the open country.

I went to bed. The night differed little from other nights spent in
American sleeping-cars, and I therefore will not describe it in detail.
To do so might amount to a solecism. Enough to say that the jerkings
were possibly less violent and certainly less frequent than usual,
while, on the other hand, the halts were strangely long; one, indeed,
seemed to last for hours; I had to admit to myself that I had been to
sleep and dreamed this stoppage.

From a final cat-nap I at last drew up my blind to greet the oncoming
day, and was rewarded by one of the finest and most poetical views I
have ever seen: a misty, brown river flanked by a jungle of dark reddish
and yellowish chimneys and furnaces that covered it with shifting
canopies of white steam and of smoke, varying from the delicatest grays
to intense black; a beautiful dim gray sky lightening, and on the ground
and low, flat roofs a thin crust of snow: Toledo! A wonderful and
inspiring panorama, just as romantic in its own way as any Spanish
Toledo. Yet I regretted its name, and I regretted the grotesque names of
other towns on the route--Canaan, Syracuse, Utica, Geneva, Ceylon,
Waterloo, and odd combinations ending in "burg." The names of most of
the States are superb. What could be more beautiful than Ohio, Idaho,
Kentucky, Iowa, Missouri, Wyoming, Illinois--above all, Illinois?
Certain cities, too, have grand names. In its vocal quality "Chicago" is
a perfect prince among names. But the majority of town names in America
suffer, no doubt inevitably, from a lack of imagination and of
reflection. They have the air of being bought in haste at a big
advertising "ready-for-service" establishment.

Remembering in my extreme prostration that I was in a hotel and club,
and not in an experiment, I rang the bell, and a smiling negro
presented himself. It was only a quarter to seven in Toledo, but I was
sustained in my demeanor by the fact that it was a quarter to eight in
New York.

"Will you bring me some tea, please?"

He was sympathetic, but he said flatly I couldn't have tea, nor
anything, and that nobody could have anything at all for an hour and a
half, as there would be no restaurant-car till Elkhart, and Elkhart was
quite ninety miles off. He added that an engine had broken down at
Cleveland.

I lay in collapse for over an hour, and then, summoning my manhood,
arose. On the previous evening the hot-water tap of my toilette had
yielded only cold water. Not wishing to appear hypercritical, I had said
nothing, but I had thought. I now casually turned on the cold-water tap
and was scalded by nearly boiling water. The hot-water tap still yielded
cold water. Lest I should be accused of inventing this caprice of
plumbing in a hotel and club, I give the name of the car. It was
appropriately styled "Watertown" (compartment E).

In the corridor an admiral, audaciously interrogated, admitted that the
train was at that moment two hours and ten minutes late. As for Elkhart,
it seemed to be still about ninety miles away. I went into the
observation-saloon to cheer myself up by observing, and was struck by a
chill, and by the chilly, pinched demeanor of sundry other passengers,
and by the apologetic faces of certain captains. Already in my
state-room my senses had suspected a chill; but I had refused to believe
my senses. I knew and had known all my life that American trains were
too hot, and I had put down the supposed chill to a psychological
delusion. It was, however, no delusion. As we swept through a snowy
landscape the apologetic captains announced sadly that the engine was
not sparing enough steam to heat the whole of the train. We put on
overcoats and stamped our feet.

The train was now full of ravening passengers. And as Elkhart with
infinite shyness approached, the ravening passengers formed in files in
the corridors, and their dignity was jerked about by the speed of the
icy train, and they waited and waited, like mendicants at the kitchen
entrance of a big restaurant. And at long last, when we had ceased to
credit that any such place as Elkhart existed, Elkhart arrived. Two
restaurant-cars were coupled on, and, as it were, instantly put to the
sack by an infuriated soldiery. The food was excellent, and newspapers
were distributed with much generosity, but some passengers, including
ladies, had to stand for another twenty minutes famished at the door of
the first car, because the breakfasting accommodation of this particular
hotel and club was not designed on the same scale as its bedroom
accommodation. We reached Chicago one hundred and ten minutes late. And
to compensate me for the lateness, and for the refrigeration, and for
the starvation, and for being forced to eat my breakfast hurriedly under
the appealing, reproachful gaze of famishing men and women, an official
at the Lasalle station was good enough to offer me a couple of dollars.
I accepted them....

[Illustration: IN THE SUBWAY ONE ENCOUNTERS AN INSISTENT, HURRYING
STREAM]

An unfortunate accident, you say. It would be more proper to say a
series of accidents. I think "the greatest train in the world" is
entitled to one accident, but not to several. And when, in addition to
being a train, it happens to be a hotel and club, and not an experiment,
I think that a system under which a serious breakdown anywhere between
Syracuse and Elkhart (about three-quarters of the entire journey) is
necessarily followed by starvation--I think that such a system ought to
be altered--by Americans. In Europe it would be allowed to continue
indefinitely.

Beyond question my experience of American trains led me to the general
conclusion that the best of them were excellent. Nevertheless, I saw
nothing in the organization of either comfort, luxury, or safety to
justify the strange belief of Americans that railroad traveling in the
United States is superior to railroad traveling in Europe. Merely from
habit, I prefer European trains on the whole. It is perhaps also merely
from habit that Americans prefer American trains.

       *       *       *       *       *

As regards methods of transit other than ordinary railroad trains, I
have to admit a certain general disappointment in the United States. The
Elevated systems in the large cities are the terrible result of an
original notion which can only be called unfortunate. They must either
depopulate the streets through which they run or utterly destroy the
sensibility of the inhabitants; and they enormously increase and
complicate the dangers of the traffic beneath them. Indeed, in the view
of the unaccustomed stranger, every Elevated is an affliction so
appallingly hideous that no degree of convenience could atone for its
horror. The New York Subway is a masterpiece of celerity, and in other
ways less evil than an Elevated, but in the minimum decencies of travel
it appeared to me to be inferior to several similar systems in Europe.

The surface-cars in all the large cities that I saw were less smart and
less effective than those in sundry European capitals. In Boston
particularly I cannot forget the excessive discomfort of a journey to
Cambridge, made in the company of a host who had a most beautiful house,
and who gave dinners of the last refinement, but who seemed
unaccountably to look on the car journey as a sort of pleasant
robustious outing. Nor can I forget--also in Boston--the spectacle of
the citizens of Brookline--reputed to be the wealthiest suburb in the
world--strap-hanging and buffeted and flung about on the way home from
church, in surface-cars which really did carry inadequacy and brutality
to excess.

The horse-cabs of Chicago had apparently been imported second-hand
immediately after the great fire from minor towns in Italy.

[Illustration: THE STRAP-HANGERS]

There remains the supreme mystery of the vices of the American taxicab.
I sought an explanation of this from various persons, and never got one
that was convincing. The most frequent explanation, at any rate in New
York, was that the great hotels were responsible for the vices of the
American taxicab, by reason of their alleged outrageous charges to the
companies for the privilege of waiting for hire at their august
porticos. I listened with respect, but with incredulity. If the
taxicabs were merely very dear, I could understand; if they were
merely very bad, I could understand; if they were merely numerically
insufficient for the number of people willing to pay for taxicabs, I
could understand. But that they should be at once very dear, very bad,
and most inconveniently scarce, baffled and still baffles me. The sum of
real annoyance daily inflicted on a rich and busy but craven-hearted
city like New York by the eccentricity of its taxicab organization must
be colossal.

As to the condition of the roadways, the vocabulary of blame had been
exhausted long before I arrived. Two things, however, struck me in New
York which I had not heard of by report: the greasiness of the streets,
transforming every automobile into a skidding death-trap at the least
sign of moisture, and the leisureliness of the road-works. The busiest
part of Thirty-fourth Street, for example--no mean artery, either--was
torn up when I came into New York, and it was still torn up when I left.
And, lastly, why are there no island refuges on Fifth Avenue? Even at
the intersection of Fifth and Broadway there is no oasis for the pursued
wayfarer. Every European city has long ago decided that the provision of
island refuges in main thoroughfares is an act of elementary justice to
the wayfarer in his unequal and exhausting struggle with wheeled
traffic.

All these criticisms, which are severe but honest, would lose much of
their point if the general efficiency of the United States and its
delightful genius for organization were not so obvious and so impressive
to the European. In fact, it is precisely the brilliant practical
qualities of the country which place its idiosyncrasies in the matter
of transit in so startling a light.... I would not care to close this
section without a grateful reference to the very natty electric coupés,
usually driven by ladies, which are so refreshing a feature of the
streets of Chicago, and to the virtues of American private automobiles
in general.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is remarkable that a citizen who cheerfully and negligently submits
to so many various inconveniences outside his home should insist on
having the most comfortable home in the world, as the American citizen
unquestionably has! Once, when in response to an interviewer I had
become rather lyrical in praise of I forget what phenomenon in the
United States, a Philadelphia evening newspaper published an editorial
article in criticism of my views. This article was entitled "Offensive
Flattery." Were I to say freely all that I thought of the American
private house, large or small, I might expose myself again to the same
accusation.

[Illustration: THE PASSENGERS ON THE ELEVATED AT NIGHT ARE ODDLY
ASSORTED.]

When I began to make the acquaintance of the American private house, I
felt like one who, son of an exiled mother, had been born abroad and had
at length entered his real country. That is to say, I felt at home. I
felt that all this practical comfort and myself had been specially
destined for each other since the beginning of time, and that fate was
at last being fulfilled. Freely I admit that until I reached America I
had not understood what real domestic comfort, generously conceived,
could be. Certainly I had always in this particular quarreled with my
own country, whose average notion of comfort still is to leave the
drawing-room (temperature 70°--near the fire) at midnight, pass by a
windswept hall and staircase (temperature 55°) to a bedroom full of fine
fresh air (temperature 50° to 40°), and in that chamber, having removed
piece by piece every bit of warm clothing, to slip, imperfectly
protected, between icy sheets and wait for sleep. Certainly I had always
contested the joyfulness of that particular process; but my imagination
had fallen short of the delicious innumerable realities of comfort in an
American home.

Now, having regained the "barbaric seats" whence I came, I read with a
peculiar expression the advertisements of fashionable country and town
residences to rent or for sale in England. Such as: "Choice residence.
Five reception-rooms. Sixteen bedrooms. Bathroom--" Or: "Thoroughly
up-to-date mansion. Six reception-rooms. Splendid hall. Billiard-room.
Twenty-four bedrooms. Two bath-rooms--" I read this literature (to be
discovered textually every week in the best illustrated weeklies), and I
smile. Also I wonder, faintly blushing, what Americans truly _do_ think
of the residential aspects of European house-property when they first
see it. And I wonder, without blushing, to what miraculous degree of
perfected comfort Americans would raise all their urban traffic if only
they cared enough to keep the professional politician out of their
streets as strictly as they keep him out of their houses.

       *       *       *       *       *

The great American hotel, too, is a wondrous haven for the European who
in Europe has only tasted comfort in his dreams. The calm orderliness of
the bedroom floors, the adequacy of wardrobes and lamps, the reckless
profusion of clean linen, that charming notice which one finds under
one's door in the morning, "You were called at seven-thirty, and
answered," the fundamental principle that a bedroom without a bath-room
is not a bedroom, the magic laundry which returns your effects duly
starched in eight hours, the bells which are answered immediately, the
thickness of the walls, the radiator in the elevator-shaft, the
celestial invention of the floor-clerk--I could catalogue the civilizing
features of the American hotel for pages. But the great American hotel
is a classic, and to praise it may seem inept. My one excuse for doing
so is that I have ever been a devotee of hotels, and once indeed wrote a
whole book about one. When I told the best interviewer in the United
States that my secret ambition had always been to be the manager of a
grand hotel, I was quite sincere. And whenever I saw the manager of a
great American hotel traversing with preoccupied and yet aquiline glance
his corridors and public rooms, I envied him acutely.

[Illustration: THE RESTAURANT OF A GREAT HOTEL IS BUT ONE FEATURE OF ITS
SPLENDOR]

The hospitality of those corridors and public rooms is so wide and
comprehensive that the ground floor and mezzanine of a really big hotel
in the United States offer a spectacle of humanity such as cannot be
seen in Europe; they offer also a remarkable contrast to the
tranquillity of their own upper stories, where any eccentricity is
vigorously discouraged. I think that it must be the vast tumult and
promiscuity of the ground floor which is responsible for the relative
inferiority of the restaurant in a great American hotel. A restaurant
should be a paramount unit, but as a fact in these hotels it is no
more than an item in a series of resorts, several of which equal if they
do not surpass it in popular interest. The Americans, I found, would
show more interest in the barber-shop than in the restaurant. (And to
see the American man of business, theoretically in a hurry, having his
head bumped about by a hair-cutter, his right hand tended by one
manicurist, his left hand tended by another manicurist, his boots
polished by a lightning shiner, and his wits polished by the two
manicurists together--the whole simultaneously--this spectacle in itself
was possibly a reflection on the American's sense of proportion.)
Further, a restaurant should be a sacred retreat, screened away from the
world; which ideal is foreign to the very spirit of the great American
hotel.

I do not complain that the representative celebrated restaurants fail to
achieve an absolutely first-class cuisine. No large restaurant, either
in the United States or out of it, can hope to achieve an absolutely
first-class cuisine. The peerless restaurant is and must be a little
one. Nor would I specially complain of the noise and thronging of the
great restaurants, the deafening stridency of their music, the artistic
violence of their decorations; these features of fashionable restaurants
are now universal throughout the world, and the philosopher adapts
himself to them. (Indeed, in favor of New York I must say that in one of
the largest of its restaurants I heard a Chopin ballade well played on a
good piano--and it was listened to in appreciative silence; event quite
unique in my experience. Also, the large restaurant whose cuisine
nearest approaches the absolutely first-class is in New York, and not in
Europe.) Nor would I complain that the waiter in the great restaurant
neither understands English nor speaks a tongue which resembles English,
for this characteristic, too, is very marked across the Atlantic. (One
night, in a Boston hotel, after lingual difficulties with a head-waiter,
I asked him in French if he was not French. He cuttingly replied in
waiter's American: "I _was_ French, but now I am an American." In
another few years that man will be referring to Great Britain as "the
old country.") ...

No; what disconcerts the European in the great American restaurant is
the excessive, the occasionally maddening slowness of the service, and
the lack of interest in the service. Touching the latter defect, the
waiter is not impolite; he is not neglectful. But he is, too often,
passively hostile, or, at best, neutral. He, or his chief, has
apparently not grasped the fact that buying a meal is not like buying a
ton of coal. If the purchaser is to get value for his money, he must
enjoy his meal; and if he is to enjoy the meal, it must not merely be
efficiently served, but it must be efficiently served in a sympathetic
atmosphere. The supreme business of a good waiter is to create this
atmosphere.... True, that even in the country which has carried cookery
and restaurants to loftier heights than any other--I mean, of course,
Belgium, the little country of little restaurants--the subtle ether
which the truly civilized diner demands is rare enough. But in the great
restaurants of the great cities of America it is, I fancy, rarer than
anywhere else.



VI

SPORT AND THE THEATER


I remember thinking, long before I came to the United States, at the
time when the anti-gambling bill was a leading topic of American
correspondence in European newspapers, that a State whose public opinion
would allow even the discussion of a regulation so drastic could not
possibly regard "sport" as sport is regarded in Europe. It might be very
fond of gambling, but it could not be afflicted with the particular
mania which in Europe amounts to a passion, if not to a religion. And
when the project became law, and horse-racing was most beneficially and
admirably abolished in the northeastern portion of the Republic, I was
astonished. No such law could be passed in any European country that I
knew. The populace would not suffer it; the small, intelligent minority
would not care enough to support it; and the wealthy oligarchical
priest-patrons of sport would be seriously convinced that it involved
the ruin of true progress and the end of all things. Such is the
sacredness of sport in Europe, where governments audacious enough to
attack and overthrow the state-church have never dared to suggest the
suppression of the vice by which alone the main form of sport lives ...

So that I did not expect to find the United States a very "sporting"
country. And I did not so find it. I do not wish to suggest that, in my
opinion, there is no "sport" in the United States, but only that there
is somewhat less than in Western Europe; as I have already indicated,
the differences between one civilization and another are always slight,
though they are invariably exaggerated by rumor.

I know that the "sporting instinct"--a curious combination of the
various instincts for fresh air, destruction, physical prowess,
emulation, devotion, and betting--is tolerably strong in America. I
could name a list of American sports as long as the list of dutiable
articles in the customs tariff. I am aware that over a million golf
balls are bought (and chiefly lost) in the United States every year. I
know that no residence there is complete without its lawn-tennis court.
I accept the statement that its hunting is unequaled. I have admired the
luxury and completeness of its country clubs. Its yachting is renowned.
Its horse-shows, to which enthusiasts repair in automobiles, are
wondrous displays of fashion. But none of these things is democratic;
none enters into the life of the mass of the people. Nor can that fierce
sport be called quite democratic which depends exclusively upon, and is
limited to, the universities. A six-day cycling contest and a
Presidential election are, of course, among the very greatest sporting
events in the world, but they do not occur often enough to merit
consideration as constant factors of national existence.

[Illustration: THE HORSE-SHOWS ARE WONDROUS DISPLAYS OF FASHION]

Baseball remains a formidable item, yet scarcely capable of balancing
the scale against the sports--football, cricket, racing, pelota,
bull-fighting--which, in Europe, impassion the common people, and draw
most of their champions from the common people. In Europe the
advertisement hoardings--especially in the provinces--proclaim sport
throughout every month of the year; not so in America. In Europe the
most important daily news is still the sporting news, as any editor will
tell you; not so in America, despite the gigantic headings of the
evening papers at certain seasons.

But how mighty, nevertheless, is baseball! Its fame floats through
Europe as something prodigious, incomprehensible, romantic, and
terrible. After being entertained at early lunch in the correct hotel
for this kind of thing, I was taken, in a state of great excitement, by
a group of excited business men, and flashed through Central Park in an
express automobile to one of the great championship games. I noted the
excellent arrangements for dealing with feverish multitudes. I noted the
splendid and ornate spaciousness of the grand-stand crowned with
innumerable eagles, and the calm, matter-of-fact tone in which a friend
informed me that the grand-stand had been burned down six months ago. I
noted the dreadful prominence of advertisements, and particularly of
that one which announced "the 3-dollar hat with the 5-dollar look," all
very European! It was pleasant to be convinced in such large letters
that even shrewd America is not exempt from that universal human naïveté
which is ready to believe that in some magic emporium a philanthropist
is always waiting to give five dollars' worth of goods in exchange for
three dollars of money.

Then I braced my intelligence to an understanding of the game, which,
thanks to its classical simplicity, and to some training in the finesse
of cricket and football, I did soon grasp in its main outlines. A
beautiful game, superbly played. We reckon to know something of ball
games in Europe; we reckon to be connoisseurs; and the old footballer
and cricketer in me came away from that immense inclosure convinced that
baseball was a game of the very first class, and that those players were
the most finished exponents of it. I was informed that during the winter
the players condescended to follow the law and other liberal
professions. But, judging from their apparent importance in the public
eye, I should not have been surprised to learn that during the winter
they condescended to be Speakers of the House of Representatives or
governors of States. It was a relief to know that in the matter of
expenses they were treated more liberally than the ambassadors of the
Republic.

They seemed to have carried the art of pitching a ball to a more
wondrous degree of perfection than it has ever been carried in cricket.
The absolute certitude of the fielding and accuracy of the throwing was
profoundly impressive to a connoisseur. Only in a certain lack of
elegance in gesture, and in the unshaven dowdiness of the ground on
which it was played, could this game be said to be inferior to the noble
spectacle of cricket. In broad dramatic quality I should place it above
cricket, and on a level with Association football.

In short, I at once became an enthusiast for baseball. For nine innings
I watched it with interest unabated, until a vast purple shadow,
creeping gradually eastward, had obscurely veiled the sublime legend of
the 3-dollar hat with the 5-dollar look. I began to acquire the proper
cries and shouts and menaces, and to pass comments on the play which I
was assured were not utterly foolish. In my honest yearning to feel
myself a habitué, I did what everybody else did and even attacked a
morsel of chewing-gum; but all that a European can say of this singular
substance is that it is, finally, eternal and unconquerable. One slip I
did quite innocently make. I rose to stretch myself after the sixth
inning instead of half-way through the seventh. Happily a friend with
marked presence of mind pulled me down to my seat again, before I had
had time fully to commit this horrible sacrilege. When the game was
finished I surged on to the enormous ground, and was informed by
innerring experts of a few of the thousand subtle tactical points which
I had missed. And lastly, I was flung up onto the Elevated platform,
littered with pieces of newspaper, and through a landscape of slovenly
apartment-houses, punctuated by glimpses of tremendous quantities of
drying linen, I was shot out of New York toward a calm week-end.

Yes, a grand game, a game entirely worthy of its reputation! If the
professional matador and gladiator business is to be carried on at all,
a better exemplification of it than baseball offers could hardly be
found or invented. But the beholding crowd, and the behavior of the
crowd, somewhat disappointed me. My friends said with intense pride that
forty thousand persons were present. The estimate proved to be an
exaggeration; but even had it not been, what is forty thousand to the
similar crowds in Europe? In Europe forty thousand people will often
assemble to watch an ordinary football match. And for a "Final," the
record stands at something over a hundred thousand. It should be
remembered, too, in forming the comparison, that many people in the
Eastern States frequent the baseball grounds because they have been
deprived of their horse-racing. Further, the New York crowd, though
fairly excited, was not excited as sporting excitement is understood in,
for instance, the Five Towns. The cheering was good, but it was not the
cheering of frenzied passion. The anathemas, though hearty, lacked that
religious sincerity which a truly sport-loving populace will always put
into them. The prejudice in favor of the home team, the cruel, frank
unfairness toward the visiting team, were both insufficiently
accentuated. The menaces were merely infantile. I inquired whether the
referee or umpire, or whatever the arbiter is called in America, ever
went in danger of life or limb, or had to be protected from a homicidal
public by the law in uniform. And I was shocked by a negative answer.
Referees in Europe have been smuggled off the ground in the center of a
cocoon of policemen, have even been known to spend a fortnight in bed,
after giving a decision adverse to the home team!... More evidence that
the United States is not in the full sense a sporting country!

       *       *       *       *       *

Of the psychology of the great common multitude of baseball "bleachers,"
I learned almost nothing. But as regards the world of success and luxury
(which, of course, held me a willing captive firmly in its soft and
powerful influence throughout my stay), I should say that there was an
appreciable amount of self-hypnotism in its attitude toward baseball. As
if the thriving and preoccupied business man murmured to his soul, when
the proper time came: "By the way, these baseball championships are
approaching. It is right and good for me that I should be boyishly
excited, and I will be excited. I must not let my interest in baseball
die. Let's look at the sporting-page and see how things stand. And I'll
have to get tickets, too!" Hence possibly what seemed to me a
superficiality and factitiousness in the excitement of the more
expensive seats, and a too-rapid effervescence and finish of the
excitement when the game was over.

The high fever of inter-university football struck me as a more
authentic phenomenon. Indeed, a university town in the throes of an
important match offers a psychological panorama whose genuineness can
scarcely be doubted. Here the young men communicate the sacred contagion
to their elders, and they also communicate it to the young women, who,
in turn, communicate it to the said elders--and possibly the indirect
method is the surer! I visited a university town in order to witness a
match of the highest importance. Unfortunately, and yet fortunately, my
whole view of it was affected by a mere nothing--a trifle which the
newspapers dealt with in two lines.

When I reached the gates of the arena in the morning, to get a glimpse
of a freshmen's match, an automobile was standing thereat. In the
automobile was a pile of rugs, and sticking out of the pile of rugs in
an odd, unnatural, horizontal way was a pair of muddy football boots.
These boots were still on the feet of a boy, but all the rest of his
unconscious and smashed body was hidden beneath the rugs. The automobile
vanished, and so did my peace of mind. It seemed to me tragic that that
burly infant under the rugs should have been martyrized at a poor little
morning match in front of a few sparse hundreds of spectators and tens
of thousands of unresponsive empty benches. He had not had even the
glory and meed of a great multitude's applause. When I last inquired
about him, at the end of the day, he was still unconscious, and that was
all that could be definitely said of him; one heard that it was his
features that had chiefly suffered in the havoc, that he had been
defaced. If I had not happened to see those muddy football boots
sticking out, I should have heard vaguely of the accident, and remarked
philosophically that it was a pity, but that accidents would occur, and
there would have been the end of my impression. Only I just did happen
to see those muddy boots sticking out.

[Illustration: THE SENSE OF A MIGHTY AND CULMINATING EVENT SHARPENED THE
AIR]

When we came away from the freshmen's match, the charming roads of the
town, bordered by trees and by the agreeable architecture of mysterious
clubs, were beginning to be alive and dangerous with automobiles and
carriages, and pretty girls and proud men, and flags and flowers, and
colored favors and shoutings. Salutes were being exchanged at every
yard. The sense of a mighty and culminating event sharpened the air. The
great inn was full of jollity and excitement, and the reception-clerks
thereof had the negligent mien of those who know that every bedroom
is taken and every table booked. The club (not one of the mysterious
ones, but an ingenuous plain club of patriarchs who had once been young
in the university and were now defying time) was crammed with amiable
confusion, and its rich carpets protected for the day against the feet
of bald lads, who kept aimlessly walking up-stairs and down-stairs and
from room to room, out of mere friendly exuberance.

And after the inn and the club I was conducted into a true American
home, where the largest and most free hospitality was being practised
upon a footing of universal intimacy. You ate standing; you ate sitting;
you ate walking the length of the long table; you ate at one small
table, and then you ate at another. You talked at random to strangers
behind and strangers before. And when you couldn't think of anything to
say, you just smiled inclusively. You knew scarcely anybody's name, but
the heart of everybody. Impossible to be ceremonious! When a young woman
bluntly inquired the significance of that far-away look in your eye,
impossible not to reply frankly that you were dreaming of a second
helping of a marvelous pie up there at the end of the long table; and
impossible not to eat all the three separate second helpings that were
instantly thrust upon you! The chatter and the good-nature were
enormous. This home was an expression of the democracy of the university
at its best. Fraternity was abroad; kindliness was abroad; and therefore
joy. Whatever else was taught at the university, these were taught, and
they were learnt. If a publicist asked me what American civilization had
achieved, I would answer that among other things it had achieved this
hour in this modest home.

Occasionally a face would darken and a voice grow serious, exposing the
terrible secret apprehensions, based on expert opinion, that the home
side could not win. But the cloud would pass. And occasionally there
would be a reference to the victim whose muddy boots I had seen.
"Dreadful, isn't it?" and a twinge of compassion for the victim or for
his mother! But the cloud would immediately pass.

And then we all had to leave, for none must be late on this solemn and
gay occasion. And now the roads were so many converging torrents of
automobiles and carriages, and excitement had developed into fever. Life
was at its highest, and the world held but one problem ... Sign that
reaction was approaching!

A proud spectacle for the agitated vision, when the vast business of
filling the stands had been accomplished, and the eye ranged over acres
of black hats and variegated hats, hats flowered and feathered, and
plain male caps--a carpet intricately patterned with the rival colors!
At a signal the mimic battle began. And in a moment occurred the first
casualty--most grave of a series of casualties. A pale hero, with a
useless limb, was led off the field amid loud cheers. Then it was that I
became aware of some dozens of supplementary heroes shivering beneath
brilliant blankets under the lee of the stands. In this species of
football every casualty was foreseen, and the rules allowed it to be
repaired. Not two teams, but two regiments, were, in fact, fighting. And
my European ideal of sport was offended.

Was it possible that a team could be permitted to replace a wounded man
by another, and so on ad infinitum? Was it possible that a team need not
abide by its misfortunes? Well, it was! I did not like this. It seemed
to me that the organizers, forgetting that this was a mimic battle, had
made it into a real battle, and that there was an imperfect appreciation
of what strictly amateur sport is. The desire to win, laudable and
essential in itself, may by excessive indulgence become a morbid
obsession. Surely, I thought, and still think, the means ought to suit
the end! An enthusiast for American organization, I was nevertheless
forced to conclude that here organization is being carried too far,
outraging the sense of proportion and of general fitness. For me, such
organization disclosed even a misapprehension as to the principal aim
and purpose of a university. If ever the fate of the Republic should
depend on the result of football matches, then such organization would
be justifiable, and courses of intellectual study might properly be
suppressed. Until that dread hour I would be inclined to dwell heavily
on the admitted fact that a football match is not Waterloo, but simply a
transient game in which two sets of youngsters bump up against one
another in opposing endeavors to put a bouncing toy on two different
spots of the earth's surface. The ultimate location of the inflated
bauble will not affect the national destiny, and such moral value as the
game has will not be increased but diminished by any enlargement of
organization. After all, if the brains of the world gave themselves
exclusively to football matches, the efficiency of football matches
would be immensely improved--but what then?... I seemed to behold on
this field the American passion for "getting results"--which I admire
very much; but it occurred to me that that passion, with its eyes fixed
hungrily on the result it wants, may sometimes fail to see that it is
getting a number of other results which it emphatically doesn't want.

[Illustration: THE VICTORS LEAVING THE FIELD]

Another example of excessive organization presented itself to me in the
almost military arrangements for shrieking the official yells. I was
sorry for the young men whose duty it was, by the aid of megaphones and
of grotesque and undignified contortions, to encourage and even force
the spectators to emit in unison the complex noises which constitute the
yell. I have no doubt that my pity was misdirected, for these young men
were obviously content with themselves; still, I felt sorry for them.
Assuming for an instant that the official yell is not monstrously absurd
and surpassingly ugly, admitting that it is a beautiful series of
sounds, enheartening, noble, an utterance worthy of a great and ancient
university at a crisis, even then one is bound to remember that its
essential quality should be its spontaneity. Enthusiasm cannot be
created at the word of command, nor can heroes be inspired by cheers
artificially produced under megaphonic intimidation. Indeed, no moral
phenomenon could be less hopeful to heroes than a perfunctory response
to a military order for enthusiasm. Perfunctory responses were frequent.
Partly, no doubt, because the imperious young men with megaphones would
not leave us alone. Just when we were nicely absorbed in the caprices of
the ball they would call us off and compel us to execute their
preposterous chorus; and we--the spectators--did not always like it.

And the difficulty of following the game was already acute enough!
Whenever the play quickened in interest we stood up. In fact, we were
standing up and sitting down throughout the afternoon. And as we all
stood up and we all sat down together, nobody gained any advantage from
these muscular exercises. We saw no better, and we saw no worse. Toward
the end we stood on the seats, with the same result. We behaved in
exactly the child-like manner of an Italian audience at a fashionable
concert. And to crown all, an aviator had the ineffably bad taste and
the culpable foolhardiness to circle round and round within a few dozen
yards of our heads.

In spite of all this, the sum of one's sensations amounted to lively
pleasure. The pleasure would have been livelier if university football
were a better game than in candid truth it is. At this juncture I seem
to hear a million voices of students and ex-students roaring out at me
with menaces that the game is perfect and the greatest of all games. A
national game always was and is perfect. This particular game was
perfect years ago. Nevertheless, I learned that it had recently been
improved, in deference to criticisms. Therefore, it is now pluperfect. I
was told on the field--and sharply--that experience of it was needed for
the proper appreciation of its finesse. Admitted! But just as devotees
of a favorite author will put sublime significances into his least
phrase, so will devotees of a game put marvels of finesse into its
clumsiest features. The process is psychological. I was new to this
particular game, but I had been following various footballs with my feet
or with my eyes for some thirty years, and I was not to be bullied out
of my opinion that the American university game, though goodish, lacked
certain virtues. Its characteristics tend ever to a too close formation,
and inevitably favor tedium and monotony. In some aspects an unemotional
critic might occasionally be tempted to call it naïve and barbaric. But
I was not unemotional. I recognize, and in my own person I proved, that
as a vehicle for emotion the American university game will serve. What
else is such a game for? In the match I witnessed there were some really
great moments, and one or two masterly exhibitions of skill and force.
And as "my" side won, against all odds, I departed in a state of
felicity.

       *       *       *       *       *

If the great cities of the East and Middle West are not strikingly
sportive, perhaps the reason is that they are impassioned theater-goers;
they could not well be both, at any rate without neglecting the
financial pursuits which are their chief real amusement and hobby. I
mention the theaters in connection with sports, rather than in
connection with the arts, because the American drama is more closely
related to sporting diversions than to dramatic art. If this seems a
hard saying, I will add that I am ready to apply it with similar force
to the English and French drama, and, indeed, to almost all modern drama
outside Germany. It was astonishing to me that America, unhampered by
English traditions, should take seriously, for instance, the fashionable
and utterly meretricious French dramatists, who receive nothing but a
chilly ridicule from people of genuine discrimination in Paris. Whatever
American dramatists have to learn, they will not learn it in Paris; and
I was charmed once to hear a popular New York playwright, one who
sincerely and frankly wrote for money alone, assert boldly that the
notoriously successful French plays were bad, and clumsily bad. It was a
proof of taste. As a rule, one finds the popular playwright taking off
his hat to contemporaries who at best are no better than his equals.

A few minor cases apart, the drama is artistically negligible throughout
the world; but if there is a large hope for it in any special country,
that country is the United States. The extraordinary prevalence of big
theaters, the quickly increasing number of native dramatists, the
enormous profits of the successful ones--it is simply inconceivable in
the face of the phenomena, and of the educational process so rapidly
going on, that serious and first-class creative artists shall not arise
in America. Nothing is more likely to foster the production of
first-class artists than the existence of a vast machinery for winning
money and glory. When I reflect that there are nearly twice as many
first-class theaters in New York as in London, and that a very
successful play in New York plays to eighteen thousand dollars a week,
while in London ten thousand dollars a week is enormous, and that the
American public has a preference for its own dramatists, I have little
fear for the artistic importance of the drama of the future in America.
And from the discrepancy between my own observations and the
observations of a reliable European critic in New York only five years
ago, I should imagine that appreciable progress had already been made,
though I will not pretend that I was much impressed by the achievements
up to date, either of playwrights, actors, or audiences. A huge popular
institution, however, such as the American theatrical system, is always
interesting to the amateur of human nature.

The first thing noted by the curious stranger in American theaters is
that American theatrical architects have made a great discovery--namely,
that every member of the audience goes to the play with a desire to be
able to see and hear what passes on the stage. This happy American
discovery has not yet announced itself in Europe, where in almost every
theater seats are impudently sold, and idiotically bought, from which it
is impossible to see and hear what passes on the stage. (A remarkable
continent, Europe!) Apart from this most important point, American
theaters are not, either without or within, very attractive. The
auditoriums, to a European, have a somewhat dingy air. Which air is no
doubt partly due to the non-existence of a rule in favor of evening
dress (never again shall I gird against the rule in Europe!), but it is
due also to the oddly inefficient illumination during the entr'actes,
and to the unsatisfactory schemes of decoration.

The interior of a theater ought to be magnificent, suggesting pleasure,
luxury, and richness; it ought to create an illusion of rather riotous
grandeur. The rare architects who have understood this seem to have lost
their heads about it, with such wild and capricious results as the new
opera-house in Philadelphia. I could not restrain my surprise that the
inhabitants of the Quaker City had not arisen with pickaxes and razed
this architectural extravaganza to the ground. But Philadelphia is a
city startlingly unlike its European reputation. Throughout my too-brief
sojourn in it I did not cease to marvel at its liveliness. I heard more
picturesque and pyrotechnic wit at one luncheon in Philadelphia than at
any two repasts outside it. The spacious gaiety and lavishness of its
marts enchanted me. It must have a pretty weakness for the most costly
old books and manuscripts. I never was nearer breaking the Sixth
Commandment than in one of its homes, where the Countess of Pembroke's
own copy of Sir Philip Sidney's _Arcadia_--a unique and utterly
un-Quakerish treasure--was laid trustfully in my hands by the regretted
and charming Harry Widener.

To return. The Metropolitan Opera-House in New York is a much more
satisfactory example of a theatrical interior. Indeed, it is very fine,
especially when strung from end to end of its first tier with pearls, as
I saw it. Impossible to find fault with its mundane splendor. And let me
urge that impeccable mundane splendor, despite facile arguments to the
contrary, is a very real and worthy achievement. It is regrettable, by
the way, that the entrances and foyers to these grandiose interiors
should be so paltry, slatternly, and inadequate. If the entrances to the
great financial establishments reminded me of opera-houses, the
entrances to opera-houses did not!

Artistically, of course, the spectacle of a grand-opera season in an
American city is just as humiliating as it is in the other Anglo-Saxon
country. It was disconcerting to see Latin or German opera given
exactly--with no difference at all; same Latin or German artists and
conductors, same conventions, same tricks--in New York or Philadelphia
as in Europe. And though the wealthy audiences behaved better than
wealthy audiences at Covent Garden (perhaps because the boxes are less
like inclosed pews than in London), it was mortifying to detect the
secret disdain for art which was expressed in the listless late
arrivings and the relieved early departures. The which disdain for art
was, however, I am content to think, as naught in comparison with the
withering artistic disdain felt, and sometimes revealed, by those Latin
and German artists for Anglo-Saxon Philistinism. I seem to be able to
read the sarcastic souls of these accomplished and sensitive aliens,
when they assure newspaper reporters that New York, Chicago, Boston,
Philadelphia, and London are really musical. The sole test of a musical
public is that it should be capable of self-support--I mean that it
should produce a school of creative and executive artists of its own,
whom it likes well enough to idolize and to enrich, and whom the rest of
the world will respect. This is a test which can be safely applied to
Germany, Russia, Italy, and France. And in certain other arts it is a
test which can be applied to Anglo-Saxondom--but not in music. In
America and England music is still mainly a sportive habit.

When I think of the exoticism of grand opera in New York, my mind at
once turns, in contrast, to the natural raciness of such modest
creations as those offered by Mr. George Cohan at his theater on
Broadway. Here, in an extreme degree, you get a genuine instance of a
public demand producing the desired artist on the spot. Here is
something really and honestly and respectably American. And why it
should be derided by even the most lofty pillars of American taste, I
cannot imagine. (Or rather, I can imagine quite well.) For myself, I
spent a very agreeable evening in witnessing "The Little Millionaire." I
was perfectly conscious of the blatancy of the methods that achieved it.
I saw in it no mark of genius. But I did see in it a very various talent
and an all-round efficiency; and, beneath the blatancy, an admirable
direct simplicity and winning unpretentiousness. I liked the ingenuity
of the device by which, in the words of the programme, the action of Act
II was "not interrupted by musical numbers." The dramatic construction
of this act was so consistently clever and right and effective that more
ambitious dramatists might study it with advantage. Another
point--though the piece was artistically vulgar, it was not vulgar
otherwise. It contained no slightest trace of the outrageous salacity
and sottishness which disfigure the great majority of successful musical
comedies. It was an honest entertainment. But to me its chief value and
interest lay in the fact that while watching it I felt that I was really
in New York, and not in Vienna, Paris, or London.

Of the regular theater I did not see nearly enough to be able to
generalize even for my own private satisfaction. I observed, and
expected to observe, that the most reactionary quarters were the most
respected. It is the same everywhere. When a manager, having discovered
that two real clocks in one real room never strike simultaneously, put
two real clocks on the stage, and made one strike after the other; or
when a manager mimicked, with extraordinary effects of restlessness, a
life-sized telephone-exchange on the stage--then was I bound to hear of
"artistic realism" and "a fine production"! But such feats of
truthfulness do not consort well with chocolate sentimentalities and
wilful falsities of action and dialogue. They caused me to doubt whether
I was not in London.

The problem-plays which I saw were just as futile and exasperating as
the commercial English and French varieties of the problem-play, though
they had a trifling advantage over the English in that their most
sentimental passages were lightened by humor, and the odiously insincere
felicity of their conclusions was left to the imagination instead of
being acted ruthlessly out on the boards. The themes of these plays
showed the usual obsession, and were manipulated in the usual attempt to
demonstrate that the way of transgressors is not so very hard after all.
They threw, all unconsciously, strange side-lights on the American man's
private estimate of the American woman, and the incidence of the
applause was extremely instructive.

The most satisfactory play that I saw, "Bought and Paid For," by George
Broadhurst, was not a problem-play, though Mr. Broadhurst is also a
purveyor of problem-plays. It was just an unpretentious fairy-tale about
the customary millionaire and the customary poor girl. The first act
was maladroit, but the others made me think that "Bought and Paid For"
was one of the best popular commercial Anglo-Saxon plays I had ever seen
anywhere. There were touches of authentic realism at the very crisis at
which experience had taught one to expect a crass sentimentality. The
fairy-tale was well told, with some excellent characterization, and very
well played. Indeed, Mr. Frank Craven's rendering of the incompetent
clerk was a masterly and unforgettable piece of comedy. I enjoyed
"Bought and Paid For," and it is on the faith of such plays, imperfect
and timid as they are, that I establish my prophecy of a more glorious
hereafter for the American drama.



VII

EDUCATION AND ART


I had my first glimpses of education in America from the purser of an
illustrious liner, who affirmed the existence of a dog--in fact, his own
dog--so highly educated that he habitually followed and understood human
conversations, and that in order to keep secrets from the animal it was
necessary to spell out the keyword of a sentence instead of pronouncing
it. After this I seemed somehow to be prepared for the American infant
who, when her parents discomfited her just curiosity by the same mean
adult dodge of spelling words, walked angrily out of the room with the
protest: "There's too blank much education in this house for me!"
Nevertheless, she proudly and bravely set herself to learn to spell;
whereupon her parents descended to even worse depths of baseness, and in
her presence would actually whisper in each other's ear. She merely
inquired, with grimness: "What's the good of being educated, anyway?
First you spell words, and when I can spell then you go and whisper!"
And received no adequate answer, naturally.

This captivating creature, whose society I enjoyed at frequent intervals
throughout my stay in America, was a mirror in which I saw the whole
American race of children--their independence, their self-confidence,
their adorable charm, and their neat sauciness. "What _is_ father?" she
asked one day. Now her father happened to be one of the foremost
humorists in the United States; she was baldly informed that he was a
humorist. "What _is_ a humorist?" she went on, ruthlessly, and learned
that a humorist was a person who wrote funny things to make people
laugh. "Well," she said, "I don't honestly think he's very funny at
home." It was naught to her that humorists are not paid to be funny at
home, and that in truth they never under any circumstances are very
funny at home. She just hurled her father from his niche--and then went
forth and boasted of him as a unique peculiarity in fathers, as an
unrivaled ornament of her career on earth; for no other child in the
vicinity had a professional humorist for parent. Her gestures and accent
typified for me the general attitude of youngest America, in process of
education, toward the older generation: an astonishing, amusing,
exquisite, incomprehensible mixture of affection, admiration, trust, and
rather casual tolerating scorn. The children of most countries display a
similar phenomenon, but in America the phenomenon is more acute and
disconcerting than elsewhere.

One noon, in perfect autumn weather, I was walking down the main road of
a residential suburb, and observing the fragile-wheeled station-wagons,
and the ice-wagons enormously labeled "DANGER" (perhaps by the gastric
experts of the medical faculty), and the Colonial-style dwellings, and
the "tinder" boarding-houses, and the towering boot-shine stands, and
the roast-chestnut emporia, and the gasometers flanking a noble and
beautiful river--I was observing all this when a number of young men and
maids came out of a high-school and unconsciously assumed possession of
the street. It was a great and impressive sight; it was a delightful
sight. They were so sure of themselves, the maids particularly; so
interested in themselves, so happy, so eager, so convinced (without any
conceit) that their importance transcended all other importances, so
gently pitiful toward men and women of forty-five, and so positive that
the main function of elders was to pay school-fees, that I was thrilled
thereby. Seldom has a human spectacle given me such exciting pleasure as
this gave. (And they never suspected it, those preoccupied demigods!) It
was the sheer pride of life that I saw passing down the street and
across the badly laid tram-lines! I had never seen anything like it. I
immediately desired to visit schools. Profoundly ignorant of educational
methods, and with a strong distaste for teaching, I yet wanted to know
and understand all about education in America in one moment--the
education that produced that superb stride and carriage in the street! I
failed, of course, in my desire--not from lack of facilities offered,
but partly from lack of knowledge to estimate critically what I saw, and
from lack of time. My experiences, however, though they left my mind
full of enigmas, were wondrous. I asked to inspect one of the best
schools in New York. Had I been a dispassionate sociological student, I
should probably have asked to inspect one of the worst schools in New
York--perhaps one of the gaunt institutions to be found, together with a
cinema-palace and a bank, in almost every block on the East Side. But I
asked for one of the best, and I was shown the Horace Mann School.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Horace Mann School proved to be a palace where a thousand children
and their teachers lived with extreme vivacity in an atmosphere of ozone
from which all draughts and chilliness had been eliminated. As a
malcontent native of the Isle of Chilly Draughts, this attribute of the
atmosphere of the Horace Mann School impressed me. Dimensionally I found
that the palace had a beginning but no end. I walked through leagues of
corridors and peeped into unnumbered class-rooms, in each of which
children were apparently fiercely dragging knowledge out of nevertheless
highly communicative teachers; and the children got bigger and bigger,
and then diminished for a while, and then grew again, and kept on
growing, until I at last entered a palatial kitchen where some two dozen
angels, robed in white but for the moment uncrowned, were eagerly
crowding round a paradisiacal saucepan whose magic contents formed the
subject of a lecture by one of them. Now these angels were not cherubs;
they were full grown; they never would be any taller than they were; and
I asked up to what age angels were kept at school in America. Whereupon
I learned that I had insensibly passed from the school proper into a
training-school for teachers; but at what point the school proper ended
I never did learn. It seems to me that if I had penetrated through seven
more doors I should have reached Columbia University itself, without
having crossed a definite dividing-line; and, anyhow, the circumstance
was symbolic.

Reluctantly I left the incredible acres of technical apparatus
munificently provided in America for the training of teachers, and,
having risen to the roof and seen infants thereon grabbing at
instruction in the New York breeze, I came again to the more normal
regions of the school. Here, as everywhere else in the United States
(save perhaps the cloak-room department of the Metropolitan
Opera-House), what chiefly struck me was the brilliant organization of
the organism. There was nothing that had not been thought of. A
handsomely dressed mother came into the organism and got as far as the
antechamber of the principal's room. The organization had foreseen her,
had divined that that mother's child was the most important among a
thousand children--indeed, the sole child of any real importance--had
arranged that her progress should be arrested at just that stage, and
had stationed a calm and diplomatic woman to convince her that her child
was indeed the main preoccupation of the Horace Mann School. A pretty
sight--the interview! It charmed me as the sight of an ingenious engine
in motion will charm an engineer.

The individual class-rooms, in some of which I lingered at leisure, were
tonic, bracing, inspiring, and made me ashamed because I was not young.
I saw geography being taught with the aid of a stereoscopic
magic-lantern. After a view of the high street of a village in North
Russia had been exposed and explained by a pupil, the teacher said: "If
anybody has any questions to ask, let him stand up." And the whole class
leaped furiously to its feet, blotting out the entire picture with black
shadows of craniums and starched pinafores. The whole class might have
been famishing. In another room I saw the teaching of English
composition. Although when I went to school English composition was
never taught, I have gradually acquired a certain interest in the
subject, and I feel justified in asserting that the lesson was admirably
given. It was, in fact, the best example of actual pedagogy that I met
with in the United States. "Now can any one tell me--" began the
mistress. A dozen arms of boys and girls shot up with excessive
violence, and, having shot up, they wiggled and waggled with ferocious
impatience in the air; it was a miracle that they remained attached to
their respective trunks; it was assuredly an act of daring on the part
of the intrepid mistress to choose between them.

"How children have changed since my time!" I said to the principal
afterward. "We never used to fling up our hands like that. We just put
them up.... But perhaps it's because they're Americans--"

"It's probably because of the ventilation," said the principal, calmly
corrective. "We never have the windows open winter or summer, but the
ventilation is perfect."

I perceived that it indeed must be because of the ventilation.

More and more startled, as I went along, by the princely lavishness of
every arrangement, I ventured to surmise that it must all cost a great
deal.

"The fees are two hundred and eighty-five dollars in the Upper School."

"Yes, I expected they would be high," I said.

"Not at all. They are the lowest in New York. Smart private schools
will charge five or six hundred dollars a year."

Exhausted, humbled, I at last quitted the warmed Horace Mann ozone for
the harsh and searching atmosphere of the street. And I gazed up at the
pile, and saw all its interiors again in my mind. I had not grasped the
half nor the quarter of what had been so willingly and modestly shown to
me. I had formed no theory as to the value of some of the best juvenile
education in the Eastern States. But I had learned one thing. I knew the
secret of the fine, proud bearing of young America. A child is not a
fool; a child is almost always uncannily shrewd. And when it sees a
splendid palace provided for it, when it sees money being showered upon
hygienic devices for its comfort, even upon trifles for its distraction,
when it sees brains all bent on discovering the best, nicest ways of
dealing with its instincts, when it sees itself the center of a
magnificent pageant, ritual, devotion, almost worship, it naturally
lifts its chin, puts its shoulders back, steps out with a spring, and
glances down confidently upon the whole world. Who wouldn't?

       *       *       *       *       *

It was an exciting day for me when I paid a call next door to Horace
Mann and visited Columbia University. For this was my first visit of
inspection to any university of any kind, either in the New World or in
the Old. As for an English university education, destiny had deprived me
of its advantages and of its perils. I could not haughtily compare
Columbia with Oxford or Cambridge, because I had never set foot even in
their towns. I had no standards whatever of comparison.

I arose and went out to lunch on that morning, and left the lunch before
anybody else and rushed in an automobile to Columbia; but football had
already begun for the day in the campus costing two million dollars, and
classes were over. I saw five or more universities while I was in
America, but I was not clever enough to catch one of them in the act of
instruction. What I did see was the formidable and magnificent machine,
the apparatus of learning, supine in repose.

And if the spectacle was no more than a promise, it was a very dazzling
promise. No European with any imagination could regard Columbia as other
than a miracle. Nearly the whole of the gigantic affair appeared to have
been brought into being, physically, in less than twenty years. Building
after building, device after device, was dated subsequent to 1893. And
to my mind that was just the point of the gigantic affair. Universities
in Europe are so old. And there are universities in America which are
venerable. A graduate of the most venerable of them told me that
Columbia was not "really" a university. Well, it did seem unreal, though
not in his sense; it seemed magic. The graduate in question told me that
a university could not be created by a stroke of the wand. And yet there
staring me in the face was the evidence that a university not merely
could be created by a stroke of the wand, but had been. (I am aware of
Columbia's theoretic age and of her insistence on it.) The wand is a
modern invention; to deny its effective creative faculty is absurd.

Of course I know what the graduate meant. I myself, though I had not
seen Oxford nor Cambridge, was in truth comparing Columbia with my dream
of Oxford and Cambridge, to her disadvantage. I was capable of saying to
myself: "All this is terribly new. All this lacks tradition." Criticism
fatuous and mischievous, if human! It would be as sapient to imprison
the entire youth of a country until it had ceased to commit the offense
of being young. Tradition was assuredly not apparent in the atmosphere
of Columbia. Moreover, some of her architecture was ugly. On the other
hand, some of it was beautiful to the point of nobility. The library,
for instance: a building in which no university and no age could feel
anything but pride. And far more important than stone or marble was the
passionate affection for Columbia which I observed in certain of her
sons who had nevertheless known other universities. A passionate
affection also perhaps brought into being since 1893, but not to be
surpassed in honest fervency and loyalty by influences more venerable!

Columbia was full of piquancies for me. It delighted me that the Dean of
Science was also consulting engineer to the university. That was
characteristic and fine. And how splendidly unlike Oxford! I liked the
complete life-sized railroad locomotive in the engineering-shops, and
the Greek custom in the baths; and the students' notion of coziness in
the private dens full of shelves, photographs, and disguised beds; and
the visibility of the president; and his pronounced views as to the
respective merits of New York newspapers; and the eagerness of a young
professor of literature in the Faculty Club to defend against my
attacks English Professor A.C. Bradley. I do believe that I even liked
the singular sight of a Chinaman tabulating from the world's press, in
the modern-history laboratory, a history of the world day by day. I can
hardly conceive a wilder, more fearfully difficult way of trying to
acquire the historical sense than this voyaging through hot, fresh
newspapers, nor one more probably destined to failure (I should have
liked to see some of the two-monthly résumés which students in this
course are obliged to write); but I liked the enterprise and the
originality and the daring of the idea; I liked its disdain of
tradition. And, after all, is it weirder than the common traditional
method?

[Illustration: UNIVERSITY BUILDINGS--UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA]

To the casual visitor, such as myself, unused either to universities or
to the vastness of the American scale, Columbia could be little save an
enormous and overwhelming incoherence. It so chiefly remains in my mind.
But the ingenious humanity running through the whole conception of it
was touching and memorable. And although I came away from my visit still
perfectly innocent of any broad theory as to ultimate educational values
in America, I came away also with a deeper and more reassuring
conviction that America was intensely interested in education, and that
all that America had to do in order to arrive at real national, racial
results was to keep on being intensely interested. When America shall
have so far outclassed Europe as to be able to abolish, in university
examinations, what New York picturesquely calls "the gumshoe squad" (of
course now much more brilliantly organized in America than in
Europe), then we shall begin to think that, under the stroke of the
wand, at least one real national, racial result has been attained!

       *       *       *       *       *

When I set eyes on the sixty buildings which constitute the visible part
of Harvard University, I perceived that, just as Kensington had without
knowing it been imitating certain streets of Boston, so certain lost
little old English towns that even American tourists have not yet
reached had without knowing it been imitating the courts and chimneys
and windows and doorways and luscious brickwork of Harvard. Harvard had
a very mellow look indeed. No trace of the wand! The European in search
of tradition would find it here in bulk. I should doubt whether at
Harvard modern history is studied through the daily paper--unless
perchance it be in Harvard's own daily paper. The considerableness of
Harvard was attested for me by the multiplicity of its press organs. I
dare say that Harvard is the only university in the world the offices of
whose comic paper are housed in a separate and important building. If
there had been a special press-building for Harvard's press, I should
have been startled. But when I beheld the mere comic organ in a spacious
and costly detached home that some London dailies would envy, I was
struck dumb. That sole fact indicated the scale of magnificence at
Harvard, and proved that the phenomenon of gold-depreciation has
proceeded further at Harvard than at any other public institution in the
world.

The etiquette of Harvard is nicely calculated to heighten the material
splendor of the place. Thus it is etiquette for the president, during
his term of office, to make a present of a building or so to the
university. Now buildings at Harvard have adopted the excellent habit of
never costing less than about half a million dollars. It is also
etiquette that the gifts to the university from old students shall touch
a certain annual sum; they touch it. Withal, there is no architectural
ostentation at Harvard. All the buildings are artistically modest; many
are beautiful; scarcely one that clashes with the sober and subtle
attractiveness of the whole aggregation. Nowhere is the eye offended.
One looks upon the crimson façades with the same lenient love as marks
one's attitude toward those quaint and lovely English houses (so
familiar to American visitors to our isle) that are all picturesqueness
and no bath-room. That is the external effect. Assuredly entering some
of those storied doorways, one would anticipate inconveniences and what
is called "Old World charm" within.

But within one discovers simply naught but the very latest, the very
dearest, the very best of everything that is luxurious. I was ushered
into a most princely apartment, grandiose in dimensions, superbly
furnished and decorated, lighted with rich discretion, heated to a turn.
Portraits by John Sargent hung on the vast walls, and a score of other
manifestations of art rivaled these in the attention of the stranger. No
club in London could match this chamber. It was, I believe, a sort of
lounge for the students. Anyhow, a few students were lounging in it;
only a few--there was no rush for the privilege. And the few loungers
were really lounging, in the wonderful sinuous postures of youth. They
might have been lounging in a railway station or a barn instead of amid
portraits by John Sargent.

The squash-racket court was an example of another kind of luxury, very
different from the cunning combinations of pictured walls, books, carved
wood, and deep-piled carpets, but not less authentic. The dining-hall
seating a thousand simultaneously was another. Here I witnessed the
laying of dinner-tables by negroes. I noted that the sudden sight of me
instantly convinced one negro, engaged in the manipulation of pats of
butter, that a fork would be more in keeping with the Harvard tradition
than his fingers, and I was humanly glad thus to learn that the secret
reality of table-laying is the same in two continents. I saw not the
dining of the thousand. In fact, I doubt whether in all I saw one
hundred of the six thousand students. They had mysteriously vanished
from all the resorts of perfect luxury provided for them. Possibly they
were withdrawn into the privacies of the thousands of suites--each
containing bedroom, sitting-room, bath-room, and telephone--which I
understood are allotted to them for lairs. I left Harvard with a very
clear impression of its frank welcoming hospitality and of its
extraordinary luxury.

And as I came out of the final portal I happened to meet a student
actually carrying his own portmanteau--and rather tugging at it. I
regretted this chance. The spectacle clashed, and ought to have been
contrary to etiquette. That student should in propriety have been
followed by a Nigerian, Liberian, or Senegambian, carrying his
portmanteau.

My visits to other universities were about as brief, stirring,
suggestive, and incomplete as those to Columbia and Harvard. I repeat
that I never actually saw the educational machine in motion. What it
seemed to me that I saw in each case was a tremendous mechanical
apparatus at rest, a rich, empty frame, an organism waiting for the word
that would break its trance. The fault was, of course, wholly mine. I
find upon reflection that the universities which I recall with the most
sympathy are those in which I had the largest opportunity of listening
to the informal talk of the faculty and its wife. I heard some mighty
talking upon occasion--and in particular I sat willing at the feet of a
president who could mingle limericks and other drollery, the humanities,
science, modern linguistics, and economics in a manner which must surely
make him historic.

       *       *       *       *       *

Education, like most things except high-class cookery, must be judged by
ultimate results; and though it may not be possible to pass any verdict
on current educational methods (especially when you do not happen to
have even seen them in action), one can to a certain extent assess the
values of past education by reference to the demeanor of adults who have
been through it. One of the chief aims of education should be to
stimulate the great virtue of curiosity. The worst detractors of the
American race--and there are some severe ones in New York, London, and
Paris!--will not be able to deny that an unusually active curiosity is a
marked characteristic of the race. Only they twist that very
characteristic into an excuse for still further detraction. They will,
for example, point to the "hordes" (a word which they regard as
indispensable in this connection) of American tourists who insist on
seeing everything of historic or artistic interest that is visible in
Europe. The plausible argument is that the mass of such tourists are
inferior in intellect and taste to the general level of Europeans who
display curiosity about history or art. Which is probably true. But it
ought to be remembered by us Europeans (and in sackcloth!) that the mass
of us with money to spend on pleasure are utterly indifferent to history
and art. The European dilettante goes to the Uffizi and sees a
shopkeeper from Milwaukee gazing ignorantly at a masterpiece, and says:
"How inferior this shopkeeper from Milwaukee is to me! The American is
an inartistic race!" But what about the shopkeeper from Huddersfield or
Amiens? The shopkeeper from Huddersfield or Amiens will be flirting
about on some entirely banal beach--Scarborough or Trouville--and for
all he knows or cares Leonardo da Vinci might have been a cabman; and
yet the loveliest things in the world are, relatively speaking, at his
door! When the European shopkeeper gets as far as Lucerne in August, he
thinks that a journey of twenty-four hours entitles him to rank a little
lower than Columbus. It was an enormous feat for him to reach Lucerne,
and he must have credit for it, though his interest in art is in no wise
thereby demonstrated. One has to admit that he now goes to Lucerne in
hordes. Praise be to him! But I imagine that the American horde
"hustling for culture" in no matter what historic center will compare
pretty favorably with the European horde in such spots as Lucerne.

All general curiosity is, to my mind, righteousness, and I so count it
to the American. Not that I think that American curiosity is always the
highest form of curiosity, or that it is not limited. With its apparent
omnivorousness it is often superficial and too easily satisfied--particularly
by mere words. Very seldom is it profound. It is apt to browse agreeably
on externals. The American, like Anglo-Saxons generally, rarely shows a
passionate and yet honest curiosity about himself or his country, which
is curiosity at its finest. He will divide things into pleasant and
unpleasant, and his curiosity is trained to stop at the frontier of the
latter--an Anglo-Saxon device for being comfortable in your mind! He
likes to know what others think of him and his country, but he is not
very keen on knowing what he really thinks on these subjects himself.
The highest form of curiosity is apt to be painful sometimes. (And yet
who that has practised it would give it up?) It also demands
intellectual honesty--a quality which has been denied by Heaven to all
Anglo-Saxon races, but which nevertheless a proper education ought in
the end to achieve. Were I asked whether I saw in America any
improvement upon Britain in the supreme matter of intellectual honesty,
I should reply, No. I seemed to see in America precisely the same
tendency as in Britain to pretend, for the sake of instant comfort, that
things are not what they are, the same timid but determined dislike of
the whole truth, the same capacity to be shocked by notorious and
universal phenomena, the same delusion that a refusal to look at these
phenomena is equivalent to the destruction of these phenomena, the same
flaccid sentimentality which vitiates practically all Anglo-Saxon art.
And I have stood in the streets of New York, as I have stood in the
streets of London, and longed with an intense nostalgia for one hour of
Paris, where, amid a deplorable decadence, intellectual honesty is
widely discoverable, and where absolutely straight thinking and talking
is not mistaken for cynicism.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another test of education is the feeling for art, and the creation of an
environment which encourages the increase of artistic talent. (And be it
noted in passing that the intellectually honest races, the Latin, have
been the most artistic, for the mere reason that intellectual dishonesty
is just sentimentality, and sentimentality is the destroying poison of
art.) Now the most exacerbating experience that fell to me in
America--and it fell more than once--was to hear in discreetly lighted
and luxurious drawing-rooms, amid various mural proofs of trained taste,
and usually from the lips of an elegantly Europeanized American woman
with a sad, agreeable smile: "There is no art in the United States.... I
feel like an exile." A number of these exiles, each believing himself or
herself to be a solitary lamp in the awful darkness, are dotted up and
down the great cities, and it is a curious fact that they bitterly
despise one another. In so doing they are not very wrong. For, in the
first place, these people, like nearly all dilettanti of art, are
extremely unreliable judges of racial characteristics. Their mentality
is allied to that of the praisers of time past, who, having read _Tom
Jones_ and _Clarissa_, are incapable of comprehending that the immense
majority of novels produced in the eighteenth century were nevertheless
terrible rubbish. They go to a foreign land, deliberately confine their
attention to the artistic manifestations of that country, and then
exclaim in ecstasy: "What an artistic country this is! How different
from my own!" To the same class belong certain artistic visitors to the
United States who, having in their own country deliberately cut
themselves off from intercourse with ordinary inartistic persons, visit
America, and, meeting there the average man and woman in bulk, frown
superiorly and exclaim: "This Philistine race thinks of nothing but
dollars!" They cannot see the yet quite evident truth that the rank and
file of every land is about equally inartistic. Modern Italy may in the
mass be more lyrical than America, but in either architecture or
painting Italy is simply not to be named with America.

[Illustration: MITCHELL TOWER AND HUTCHINSON COMMONS--UNIVERSITY OF
CHICAGO]

Further, and in the second place, these people never did and never will
look in the right quarters for vital art. A really original artist
struggling under their very noses has small chance of being recognized
by them, the reason being that they are imitative, with no real opinion
of their own. They associate art with Florentine frames, matinée hats,
distant museums, and clever talk full of allusions to the dead. It would
not occur to them to search for American art in the architecture of
railway stations and the draftsmanship and sketch-writing of
newspapers and magazines, because they have not the wit to learn that
genuine art flourishes best in the atmosphere of genuine popular demand.

Even so, with all their blindness, it is unnatural that they should not
see and take pride in the spectacular historical facts which prove their
country to be less negligible in art than they would assert. I do not
mean the existence in America of huge and glorious collections of
European masters. I have visited some of these collections, and have
taken keen pleasure therein. But I perceive in them no national
significance--no more national significance than I perceive in the
endowment of splendid orchestras to play foreign music under foreign
conductors, or in the fashionable crowding of classical concerts.
Indeed, it was a somewhat melancholy experience to spend hours in a
private palace crammed with artistic loveliness that was apparently
beloved and understood, and to hear not one single word disclosing the
slightest interest in modern American art. No, as a working artist
myself, I was more impressed and reassured by such a sight as the Innes
room at the colossal Art Institute of Chicago than by all the
collections of old masters in America, though I do not regard Innes as a
very distinguished artist. The aforesaid dilettanti would naturally
condescend to the Innes room at Chicago's institute, as to the
long-sustained, difficult effort which is being made by a school of
Chicago sculptors for the monumental ornamentation of Chicago. But the
dilettanti have accomplished a wonderful feat of unnaturalness in
forgetting that their poor, inartistic Philistine country did provide,
_inter alia_, the great writer who has influenced French imaginative
writers more deeply than any other foreign writer since Byron--Edgar
Allan Poe; did produce one of the world's supreme poets--Whitman; did
produce the greatest pure humorist of modern times; did produce the
miraculous Henry James; did produce Stanford White and the incomparable
McKim; and did produce the only two Anglo-Saxon personalities who in
graphic art have been able to impose themselves on modern
Europe--Whistler and John Sargent.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the matter of graphic art, I have known so many American painters in
Paris that I was particularly anxious to see what American painting was
like at home. My first adventures were not satisfactory. I trudged
through enormous exhibitions, and they filled me with just the same
feeling of desolation and misery that I experienced at the Royal
Academy, London, or the Société des Artistes Français, Paris. In miles
of slippery exercise I saw almost nothing that could interest an
intelligent amateur who had passed a notable portion of his life in
studios. The first modern American painting that arrested me was one by
Grover, of Chicago. I remember it with gratitude. Often, especially in
New York, I was called upon by stay-at-home dilettanti to admire the
work of some shy favorite, and with the best will in the world I could
not, on account of his too obvious sentimentality. In Boston I was
authoritatively informed that the finest painting in the whole world was
at that moment being done by a group of Boston artists in Boston. But as
I had no opportunity to see their work, I cannot offer an opinion on
the proud claim. My gloom was becoming permanent, when one wet day I
invaded, not easily, the Macdowell Club, and, while listening to a
chorus rehearsal of Liszt's "St. Elizabeth" made the acquaintance of
really interesting pictures by artists such as Irving R. Wiles, Jonas
Lie, Henri, Mrs. Johansen, and Brimley, of whom previously I had known
nothing. From that moment I progressed. I met the work of James Preston,
and of other men who can truly paint.

All these, however, with all their piquant merits, were Parisianized.
They could have put up a good show in Paris and emerged from French
criticism with dignity. Whereas there is one American painter who has
achieved a reputation on the tongues of men in Europe without (it is
said) having been influenced by Europe, or even having exhibited there.
I mean Winslow Homer. I had often heard of Winslow Homer from
connoisseurs who had earned my respect, and assuredly one of my reasons
for coming to America was to see Winslow Homer's pictures. My first
introduction to his oil-paintings was a shock. I did not like them, and
I kept on not liking them. I found them theatrical and violent in
conception, rather conventional in design, and repellent in color. I
thought the painter's attitude toward sea and rock and sky decidedly
sentimental beneath its wilful harshness. And I should have left America
with broken hopes of Winslow Homer if an enthusiast for State-patronized
art had not insisted on taking me to the State Museum at Indianapolis.
In this agreeable and interesting museum there happened to be a
temporary loan exhibit of water-colors by Winslow Homer. Which
water-colors were clearly the productions of a master. They forced me to
reconsider my views of Homer's work in general. They were beautiful;
they thrilled; they were genuine American; there is nothing else like
them. I shall never forget the pleasure I felt in unexpectedly
encountering these summary and highly distinguished sketches in the
quietude of Indianapolis. I would have liked to collect a trainful of
New York, Chicago, and Boston dilettanti, and lead them by the ears to
the unpretentious museum at Indianapolis, and force them to regard
fixedly these striking creations. Not that I should expect appreciation
from them! (Indianapolis, I discovered, was able to keep perfectly calm
in front of the Winslow Homer water-colors.) But their observations
would have been diverting.



VIII

CITIZENS


Nothing in New York fascinated me as much as the indications of the vast
and multitudinous straitened middle-class life that is lived there; the
average, respectable, difficult, struggling existence. I would always
regard this medium plane of the social organism with more interest than
the upper and lower planes. And in New York the enormity of it becomes
spectacular. As I passed in Elevated trains across the end of street
after street, and street after street, and saw so many of them just
alike, and saw so many similar faces mysteriously peering in the same
posture between the same curtains through the same windows of the same
great houses; and saw canaries in cages, and enfeebled plants in pots,
and bows of ribbon, and glints of picture-frames; and saw crowd after
dense crowd fighting down on the cobbled roads for the fearful privilege
of entering a surface-car--I had, or seemed to have, a composite vision
of the general life of the city.

And what sharpened and stimulated the vision more than anything else was
the innumerable flashing glimpses of immense torn clouds of clean linen,
or linen almost clean, fluttering and shaking in withdrawn courtyards
between rows and rows of humanized windows. This domestic detail,
repugnant possibly to some, was particularly impressive to me; it was
the visible index of what life really is on a costly rock ruled in all
material essentials by trusts, corporations, and the grand principle of
tipping.

I would have liked to live this life, for a space, in any one of half a
million restricted flats, with not quite enough space, not quite enough
air, not quite enough dollars, and a vast deal too much continual strain
on the nerves. I would have liked to come to close quarters with it, and
get its subtle and sinister toxin incurably into my system. Could I have
done so, could I have participated in the least of the uncountable daily
dramas of which the externals are exposed to the gaze of any starer in
an Elevated, I should have known what New York truly meant to
New-Yorkers, and what was the real immediate effect of average education
reacting on average character in average circumstances; and the
knowledge would have been precious and exciting beyond all knowledge of
the staggering "wonders" of the capital. But, of course, I could not
approach so close to reality; the visiting stranger seldom can; he must
be content with his imaginative visions.

[Illustration: PART OF THE DAILY ROUND OF THE INDOMITABLE NEW YORK
WOMAN]

Now and then I had the good-fortune to come across illuminating stories
of New York dailiness, tales of no important event, but which lit up for
me the whole expanse of existence in the hinterlands of the Elevated.
As, for instance, the following. The tiny young wife of the ambitious
and feverish young man is coming home in the winter afternoon. She is
forced to take the street-car, and in order to take it she is forced to
fight. To fight, physically, is part of the daily round of the
average fragile, pale, indomitable New York woman. In the swaying crowd
she turns her head several times, and in tones of ever-increasing
politeness requests a huge male animal behind her to refrain from
pushing. He does not refrain. Being skilled, as a mariner is skilled in
beaching himself and a boat on a surfy shore, she does ultimately
achieve the inside of the car, and she sinks down therein apparently
exhausted. The huge male animal follows, and as he passes her,
infuriated by her indestructible politeness, he sticks his head against
her little one and says, threateningly, "What's the matter with you,
anyway?" He could crush her like a butterfly, and, moreover, she is
about ready to faint. But suddenly, in uncontrollable anger, she lifts
that tiny gloved hand and catches the huge male animal a smart smack in
the face. "Can't you be polite?" she hisses. Then she drops back,
blushing, horrified by what she has done. She sees another man throw the
aghast male animal violently out of the car, and then salute her with:
"Madam, I take off my hat to you." And the tired car settles down to
apathy, for, after all, the incident is in its essence part of the
dailiness of New York.

The young wife gets home, obsessed by the fact that she has struck a man
in the face in a public vehicle. She is still blushing when she relates
the affair in a rush of talk to another young wife in the flat next to
hers. "For Heaven's sake don't tell my husband," she implores. "If he
knew he'd leave me forever!" And the young husband comes home, after his
own personal dose of street-car, preoccupied, fatigued, nervous, hungry,
demanding to be loved. And the young wife has to behave as though she
had been lounging all the afternoon in a tea-gown on a soft sofa.
Curious that, although she is afraid of her husband's wrath, the
temptation to tell him grows stronger! Indeed, is it not a rather fine
thing that she has done, and was not the salute of the admiring male
flattering and sweet? Not many tiny wives would have had the pluck to
slap a brute's face. She tells the young husband. It is an error of tact
on her part. For he, secretly exacerbated, was waiting for just such an
excuse to let himself go. He is angry, he is outraged--as she had said
he would be. What--his wife, _his_-etc., etc.!

A night full of everything except sleep; full of Elevated and rumbling
cars, and trumps of autos, and the eternal liveliness of the cobbled
street, and all incomprehensible noises, and stuffiness, and the sense
of other human beings too close above, too close below, and to the left
and to the right, and before and behind, the sense that there are too
many people on earth! What New-Yorker does not know the wakings after
the febrile doze that ends such a night? The nerves like taut strings;
love turned into homicidal hatred; and the radiator damnably tapping,
tapping!... The young husband afoot and shaved and inexpensively
elegant, and he is demanding his fried eggs. The young wife is afoot,
too, manoeuvering against the conspiracies of the janitor, who lives far
below out of sight, but who permeates her small flat like a malignant
influence.... Hear the whistling of the dumb-waiter!... Eggs are
demanded, authoritatively, bitterly. If glances could kill, not only
that flat but the whole house would be strewn with corpses.... Eggs!...

Something happens, something arrives, something snaps; a spell is broken
and horror is let loose. "Take your eggs!" cries the tiny wife, in a
passion. The eggs fly across the table, and the front of a man's suit is
ruined. She sits down and fairly weeps, appalled at herself. Last
evening she was punishing males; this morning she turns eggs into
missiles, she a loving, an ambitious, an intensely respectable young
wife! As for him, he sits motionless, silent, decorated with the colors
of eggs, a graduate of a famous university. Calamity has brought him
also to his senses. Still weeping, she puts on her hat and jacket.
"Where are you going?" he asks, solemnly, no longer homicidal, no longer
hungry. "I must hurry to the cleaners for your other suit!" says she,
tragic. And she hurries....

A shocking story, a sordid story, you say. Not a bit! They are young;
they have the incomparable virtue of youthfulness. It is naught, all
that! The point of the story is that it illustrates New York--a New York
more authentic than the spaciousness of upper Fifth Avenue or the
unnatural dailiness of grand hotels. I like it.

       *       *       *       *       *

You may see that couple later in a suburban house--a real home for the
time being, with a colorable imitation of a garden all about it, and the
"finest suburban railway service in the world": the whole being a frame
and environment for the rearing of children. I have sat at dinner in
such houses, and the talk was of nothing but children; and anybody who
possessed any children, or any reliable knowledge of the ways of
children, was sure of a respectable hearing and warm interest. If one
said, "By the way, I think I may have a photograph of the kid in my
pocket," every eye would reply immediately: "Out with it, man--or
woman!--and don't pretend you don't always carry the photograph with you
on purpose to show it off!" In such a house it is proved that children
are unmatched as an exhaustless subject of conversation. And the
conversation is rendered more thrilling by the sense of partially tamed
children-children fully aware of their supremacy--prowling to and fro
unseen in muddy boots and torn pinafores, and speculating in their
realistic way upon the mysteriousness of adults.

"We are keen on children here," says the youngish father, frankly. He is
altered now from the man he was when he inhabited a diminutive flat in
the full swirl of New York. His face is calmer, milder, more benevolent,
and more resignedly worried. And assuredly no one would recognize in him
the youth who howled murderously at university football matches and
cried with monstrous ferocity at sight of danger from the opposing
colors: "Kill him! Kill him for me! I can't stand his red stockings
coming up the field!" Yet it is the same man. And this father, too, is
the fruit of university education; and further, one feels that his
passion for his progeny is one of the chief causes of American interest
in education. He and his like are at the root of the modern
university--not the millionaires. In Chicago I was charmed to hear it
stoutly and even challengingly maintained that the root of Chicago
University was not Mr. Rockefeller, but the parents of Chicago.

Assuming that the couple have no children, there is a good chance of
catching them later, splendidly miserable, in a high-class
apartment-house, where the entire daily adventure of living is taken out
of your hands and done for you, and you pay a heavy price in order to be
deprived of one of the main interests of existence. The apartment-house
ranks in my opinion among the more pernicious influences in American
life. As an institution it is unhappily establishing itself in England,
and in England it is terrible. I doubt if it is less terrible in its
native land. It is anti-social because it works always against the
preservation of the family unit, and because it is unfair to children,
and because it prevents the full flowering of an individuality. (Nobody
can be himself in an apartment-house; if he tried that game he would
instantly be thrown out.) It is immoral because it fosters bribery and
because it is pretentious itself and encourages pretense in its victims.
It is unfavorable to the growth of taste because its decorations and
furniture are and must be ugly; they descend to the artistic standard of
the vulgarest people in it, and have not even the merit of being the
expression of any individuality at all. It is enervating because it
favors the creation of a race that can do absolutely nothing for itself.
It is unhealthy because it is sometimes less clean than it seems, and
because often it forces its victims to eat in a dining-room whose walls
are a distressing panorama of Swiss scenery, and because its cuisine is
and must be at best mediocre, since meals at once sound and showy
cannot be prepared wholesale.

Some apartment-houses are better than others; many are possibly marvels
of organization and value for money. But none can wholly escape the
indictment. The institution itself, though it may well be a natural and
inevitable by-product of racial evolution, is bad. An experienced
dweller in apartment-houses said to me, of a seeming-magnificent house
which I had visited and sampled: "We pay six hundred dollars for two
poor little rooms and a bath-room, and twenty-five dollars a week for
board, whether we eat or not. The food is very bad. It is all kept hot
for about an hour, on steam, so that every dish tastes of laundry.
Everything is an extra. Telephone--lights--tips--especially tips. I tip
everybody. I even tip the _chef_. I tip the _chef_ so that, when I am
utterly sick of his fanciness and prefer a mere chop or a steak, he will
choose me an eatable chop or steak. And that's how things go on!"

My true and candid friend, the experienced dweller in apartment-houses,
was, I have good reason to believe, an honorable man. And it is
therefore a considerable tribute to the malefic influence of
apartment-house life that he had no suspicion of the gross anti-social
immorality of his act in tipping the _chef_. Clearly it was an act
calculated to undermine the _chef's_ virtue. If all the other
experienced dwellers did the same, it was also a silly act, producing no
good effect at all. But if only a few of them did it, then it was an act
which resulted in the remainder of the victims being deprived of their
full, fair chance of getting eatable chops or steaks. My friend's
proper course was obviously to have kicked up a row, and to have kicked
up a row in a fashion so clever that the management would not put him
into the street. He ought to have organized a committee of protest, he
ought to have convened meetings for the outlet of public opinion, he
ought to have persevered day after day and evening after evening, until
the management had been forced to exclude uneatable chops and steaks
utterly from their palatial premises and to exact the honest performance
of duty from each and all of the staff. In the end it would have dawned
upon the management that inedible food was just as much out of place in
the restaurant as counterfeit bills and coins at the cash-desk. The
proper course would have been difficult and tiresome. The proper course
often is. My friend took the easy, wicked course. That is to say, he
exhibited a complete lack of public spirit.

       *       *       *       *       *

An apartment-house is only an apartment-house; whereas the republic is
the republic. And yet I permit myself to think that the one may
conceivably be the mirror of the other. And I do positively think that
American education does not altogether succeed in the very important
business of inculcating public spirit into young citizens. I judge
merely by results. Most peoples fail in the high quality of public
spirit; and the American perhaps not more so than the rest. Perhaps all
I ought to say is that according to my own limited observation public
spirit is not among the shining attributes of the United States citizen.
And even to that statement there will be animated demur. For have not
the citizens of the United States been conspicuous for their public
spirit?...

It depends on what is meant by public spirit--that is, public spirit in
its finer forms. I know what I do _not_ mean by public spirit. I was
talking once to a member of an important and highly cultivated social
community, and he startled me by remarking:

"The major vices do not exist in this community at all."

I was prepared to credit that such Commandments as the Second and Sixth
were not broken in that community. But I really had doubts about some
others, such as the Seventh and Tenth. However, he assured me that such
transgressions were unknown.

"What do you _do_ here?" I asked.

He replied: "We live for social service--for each other."

The spirit characterizing that community would never be described by me
as public spirit. I should fit it with a word which will occur at once
to every reader.

On the other hand, I cannot admit as proof of public spirit the
prevalent American habit of giving to the public that which is useless
to oneself--no matter how immense the quantity given, and no matter how
admirable the end in view. When you have got the money it is rather easy
to sit down and write a check for five million dollars, and so bring a
vast public institution into being. It is still easier to leave the same
sum by testament. These feats are an affair of five minutes or so; they
cost simply nothing in time or comfort or peace of mind. If they are
illustrations of public spirit, it is a low and facile form of public
spirit.

True public spirit is equally difficult for the millionaire and for the
clerk. It is, in fact, very tedious work. It implies the quiet daily
determination to get eatable chops and steaks by honest means, chiefly
for oneself, but incidentally for everybody else. It necessitates
trouble and inconvenience. I was in a suburban house one night, and it
was the last night for registering names on an official list of voters
before an election; it was also a rainy night. The master of the house
awaited a carriage, which was to be sent up by a candidate, at the
candidate's expense, to take him to the place of registration. Time grew
short.

"Shall you walk there if the carriage doesn't come?" I asked, and gazed
firmly at the prospective voter.

At that moment the carriage came. We drove forth together, and in a
cabin warmed by a stove and full of the steam of mackintoshes I saw an
interesting part of the American Constitution at work--four hatted
gentlemen writing simultaneously the same particulars in four similar
ledgers, while exhorting a fifth to keep the stove alight. An
acquaintance came in who had trudged one mile through the rain. That
acquaintance showed public spirit. In the ideal community a candidate
for election will not send round carriages in order, at the last moment,
to induce citizens to register; in the ideal community citizens will
regard such an attention as in the nature of an insult.

I was told that millionaires and presidents of trusts were chiefly
responsible for any backwardness of public spirit in the United States.
I had heard and read the same thing about the United States in England.
I was therefore curious to meet these alleged sinister creatures. And
once, at a repast, I encountered quite a bunch of millionaire-presidents.
I had them on my right hand and on my left. No two were in the least
alike. In my simplicity I had expected a type--formidable, intimidating.
One bubbled with jollity; obviously he "had not a care in the world."
Another was grave. I talked with the latter, but not easily. He was
taciturn. Or he may have been feeling his way. Or he may have been not
quite himself. Even millionaire-presidents must be self-conscious. Just
as a notorious author is too often rendered uneasy by the consciousness
of his notoriety, so even a millionaire-president may sometimes have a
difficulty in being quite natural. However, he did ultimately talk. It
became clear to me that he was an extremely wise and sagacious man. The
lines of his mouth were ruthlessly firm, yet he showed a general
sympathy with all classes of society, and he met my radicalism quite
half-way. On woman's suffrage he was very fair-minded. As to his own
work, he said to me that when a New York paper asked him to go and be
cross-examined by its editorial board he willingly went, because he had
nothing to conceal. He convinced me of his uprightness and of his
benevolence. He showed a nice regard for the claims of the Republic, and
a proper appreciation of what true public spirit is.

Some time afterward I was talking to a very prominent New York editor,
and the conversation turned to millionaires, whereupon for about half an
hour the editor agreeably recounted circumstantial stories of the
turpitude of celebrated millionaires--stories which he alleged to be
authentic and undeniable in every detail. I had to gasp. "But surely--"
I exclaimed, and mentioned the man who had so favorably impressed me.

"Well," said the editor, reluctantly, after a pause, "I admit he has
_the new sense of right and wrong_ to a greater extent than any of his
rivals."

I italicize the heart of the phrase, because it is italicized in my
memory. No words that I heard in the United States more profoundly
struck me. Yet the editor had used them quite ingenuously, unaware that
he was saying anything singular!... Since when is the sense of right and
wrong "new" in America?

Perhaps all that the editor meant was that public spirit in its higher
forms was growing in the United States, and beginning to show itself
spectacularly here and there in the immense drama of commercial and
industrial policies. That public spirit is growing, I believe. It
chanced that I found the basis of my belief more in Chicago than
anywhere else.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have hitherto said nothing of the "folk"--the great mass of the
nation, who live chiefly by the exercise, in one way or another, of
muscular power or adroitness, and who, if they possess drawing-rooms, do
not sit in them. Like most writers, when I have used such phrases as
"the American people" I have meant that small dominant minority which
has the same social code as myself. Goethe asserted that the folk were
the only real people. I do not agree with him, for I have never found
one city more real than another city, nor one class of people more real
than another class. Still, he was Goethe, and the folk, though
mysterious, are very real; and, since they constitute perhaps
five-sixths of the nation, it would be singular to ignore them. I had
two brief glimpses of them, and the almost theatrical contrast of these
two glimpses may throw further light upon the question just discussed.

I evaded Niagara and the Chicago Stock-yards, but I did not evade the
"East Side" of New York. The East Side insisted on being seen, and I was
not unwilling. In charge of a highly erudite newspaper man, and of an
amiable Jewish detective, who, originally discovered by Colonel
Roosevelt, had come out first among eighteen hundred competitors in a
physical examination, my particular friend and I went forth one
intemperate night to "do" the East Side in an automobile. We saw the
garlanded and mirrored core of "Sharkey's" saloon, of which the most
interesting phenomenon was a male pianist who would play the piano
without stopping till 2.30 A.M. With about two thousand other persons,
we had the privilege of shaking hands with Sharkey. We saw another
saloon, frequented by murderers who resembled shop assistants. We saw a
Hebraic theater, whose hospitable proprietor informed us how he had
discovered a great play-writing genius, and how on the previous Saturday
night he had turned away seven thousand patrons for lack of room!
Certainly on our night the house was crammed; and the play seemed of
realistic quality, and the actresses effulgently lovely. We saw a Polack
dancing-hall, where the cook-girls were slatterns, but romantic
slatterns. We saw Seward Park, which is the dormitory of the East Side
in summer. We saw a van clattering off with prisoners to the night
court. We saw illustrious burglars, "gunmen," and "dukes" of famous
streets--for we had but to raise a beckoning finger, and they approached
us, grinning, out of gloomy shadows. (And very ordinary they seemed in
spite of slashed faces!)

We even saw Chinatown, and the wagonettes of tourists stationary in its
streets. I had suspected that Chinatown was largely a show for tourists.
When I asked how it existed, I was told that the two thousand Chinese of
Chinatown lived on the ten thousand Chinese who came into it from all
quarters on Sundays, and I understood. As a show it lacked
convincingness--except the delicatessen-shop, whose sights and odors
silenced criticism. It had the further disadvantage, by reason of its
tawdry appeals of color and light, of making one feel like a tourist.
Above a certain level of culture, no man who is a tourist has the
intellectual honesty to admit to himself that he is a tourist. Such
honesty is found only on the lower levels. The detective saved our pride
from time to time by introducing us to sights which the despicable
ordinary tourists cannot see. It was a proud moment for us when we
assisted at a conspiratorial interview between our detective and the
"captain of the precincts." And it was a proud moment when in an
inconceivable retreat we were permitted to talk with an aged Chinese
actor and view his collection of flowery hats. It was a still prouder
(and also a subtly humiliating) moment when we were led through
courtyards and beheld in their cloistral aloofness the American
legitimate wives of wealthy China-men, sitting gorgeous, with the
quiescence of odalisques, in gorgeous uncurtained interiors. I was glad
when one of the ladies defied the detective by abruptly swishing down
her blind.

But these affairs did not deeply stir my imagination. More engaging was
the detective's own habit of stopping the automobile every hundred yards
or so in order to point out the exact spot on which a murder, or several
murders, had been committed. Murder was his chief interest. I noticed
the same trait in many newspaper men, who would sit and tell excellent
murder stories by the hour. But murder was so common on the East Side
that it became for me curiously puerile--a sort of naughtiness whose
punishment, to be effective, ought to wound, rather than flatter, the
vanity of the child-minded murderers. More engaging still was the
extraordinary frequency of banks--some with opulent illuminated
signs--and of cinematograph shows. In the East End of London or of Paris
banks are assuredly not a feature of the landscape--and for good reason.
The cinematograph is possibly, on the whole, a civilizing agent; it
might easily be the most powerful force on the East Side. I met the
gentleman who "controlled" all the cinematographs, and was reputed to
make a million dollars a year net therefrom. He did not appear to be a
bit weighed down, either by the hugeness of his opportunity or by the
awfulness of his responsibility.

[Illustration: THE ASTOUNDING POPULOUSNESS OF THE EAST SIDE]

The supreme sensation of the East Side is the sensation of its
astounding populousness. The most populous street in the
world--Rivington Street--is a sight not to be forgotten. Compared to
this, an up-town thoroughfare of crowded middle-class flats is the
open country--is an uninhabited desert! The architecture seemed to sweat
humanity at every window and door. The roadways were often impassable.
The thought of the hidden interiors was terrifying. Indeed, the hidden
interiors would not bear thinking about. The fancy shunned them--a
problem not to be settled by sudden municipal edicts, but only by the
efflux of generations. Confronted by this spectacle of sickly-faced
immortal creatures, who lie closer than any other wild animals would
lie; who live picturesque, feverish, and appalling existences; who amuse
themselves, who enrich themselves, who very often lift themselves out of
the swarming warren and leave it forever, but whose daily experience in
the warren is merely and simply horrible--confronted by this
incomparable and overwhelming phantasmagoria (for such it seems), one is
foolishly apt to protest, to inveigh, to accuse. The answer to futile
animadversions was in my particular friend's query: "Well, what are you
going to do about it?"

       *       *       *       *       *

My second glimpse of the folk was at quite another end of the city of
New York--namely, the Bronx. I was urgently invited to go and see how
the folk lived in the Bronx; and, feeling convinced that a place with a
name so remarkable must itself be remarkable, I went. The center of the
Bronx is a racket of Elevated, bordered by banks, theaters, and other
places of amusement. As a spectacle it is decent, inspiring confidence
but not awe, and being rather repellent to the sense of beauty. Nobody
could call it impressive. Yet I departed from the Bronx very
considerably impressed. It is the interiors of the Bronx homes that are
impressive. I was led to a part of the Bronx where five years previously
there had been six families, and where there are now over two thousand
families. This was newest New York. No obstacle impeded my invasion of
the domestic privacies of the Bronx. The mistresses of flats showed me
round everything with politeness and with obvious satisfaction. A stout
lady, whose husband was either an artisan or a clerk, I forget which,
inducted me into a flat of four rooms, of which the rent was twenty-six
dollars a month. She enjoyed the advantages of central heating, gas, and
electricity; and among the landlord's fixtures were a refrigerator, a
kitchen range, a bookcase, and a sideboard. Such amenities for the
people--for the _petits gens_--simply do not exist in Europe; they do
not even exist for the wealthy in Europe. But there was also the
telephone, the house exchange being in charge of the janitor's
daughter--a pleasing occupant of the entrance-hall. I was told that the
telephone, with a "nickel" call, increased the occupancy of the Bronx
flats by ten per cent.

Thence I visited the flat of a doctor--a practitioner who would be the
equivalent of a "shilling" doctor in a similar quarter of London. Here
were seven rooms, at a rent of forty-five dollars a month, and no end of
conveniences--certainly many more than in any flat that I had ever
occupied myself! I visited another house and saw similar interiors. And
now I began to be struck by the splendor and the cleanliness of the
halls, landings, and staircases: marble halls, tesselated landings, and
stairs out of Holland; the whole producing a gorgeous effect--to match
the glory of the embroidered pillow-cases in the bedrooms. On the roofs
were drying-grounds, upon which each tenant had her rightful "day," so
that altercations might not arise. I saw an empty flat. The professional
vermin exterminator had just gone--for the landlord-company took no
chances in this detail of management.

Then I was lifted a little higher in the social-financial scale, to a
building of which the entrance-hall reminded me of the foyers of grand
hotels. A superb negro held dominion therein, but not over the telephone
girl, who ran the exchange ten hours a day for twenty-five dollars a
month, which, considering that the janitor received sixty-five dollars
and his rooms, seemed to me to be somewhat insufficient. In this house
the corridors were broader, and to the conveniences was added a
mail-shoot, a device which is still regarded in Europe as the final word
of plutocratic luxury rampant. The rents ran to forty-eight dollars a
month for six rooms. In this house I was asked by hospitable tenants
whether I was not myself, and, when I had admitted that I was myself,
books of which I had been guilty were produced, and I was called upon to
sign them.

The fittings and decorations of all these flats were artistically
vulgar, just as they are in flats costing a thousand dollars a month,
but they were well executed, and resulted in a general harmonious effect
of innocent prosperity. The people whom I met showed no trace of the
influence of those older artistic civilizations whose charm seems subtly
to pervade the internationalism of the East Side. In certain strata and
streaks of society on the East Side things artistic and intellectual are
comprehended with an intensity of emotion and understanding impossible
to Anglo-Saxons. This I know.

The Bronx is different. The Bronx is beginning again, at a stage earlier
than art, and beginning better. It is a place for those who have learnt
that physical righteousness has got to be the basis of all future
progress. It is a place to which the fit will be attracted, and where
the fit will survive. It has rather a harsh quality. It reminded me of a
phrase used by an American at the head of an enormous business. He had
been explaining to me how he tried a man in one department, and, if he
did not shine in that, then in another, and in another, and so on. "And
if you find in the end that he's honest but not efficient?" I asked.
"Then," was the answer, "we think he's entitled to die, and we fire
him."

The Bronx presented itself to me as a place where the right of the
inefficient to expire would be cheerfully recognized. The district that
I inspected was certainly, as I say, for the fit. Efficiency in physical
essentials was inculcated--and practised--by the landlord-company, whose
constant aim seemed to be to screw up higher and higher the self-respect
of its tenants. That the landlord-company was not a band of
philanthropists, but a capitalistic group in search of dividends, I
would readily admit. But that it should find its profit in the business
of improving the standard of existence and appealing to the pride of the
folk was to me a wondrous sign of the essential vigor of American
civilization, and a proof that public spirit, unostentatious as a coral
insect, must after all have long been at work somewhere.

Compare the East Side with the Bronx fully, and one may see, perhaps
roughly, a symbol of what is going forward in America. Nothing, I should
imagine, could be more interesting to a sociological observer than that
actual creation of a city of homes as I saw it in the Bronx. I saw the
home complete, and I saw the home incomplete, with wall-papers not on,
with the roof not on. Why, I even saw, further out, the ground being
leveled and the solid rock drilled where now, most probably, actual
homes are inhabited and babies have been born! And I saw further than
that. Nailed against a fine and ancient tree, in the midst of a desolate
waste, I saw a board with these words: "A new Subway station will be
erected on this corner." There are legendary people who have eyes to see
the grass growing. I have seen New York growing. It was a hopeful sight,
too.

       *       *       *       *       *

At this point my impressions of America come to an end, for the present.
Were I to assert, in the phrase conventionally proper to such an
occasion, that no one can be more sensible than myself of the manifold
defects, omissions, inexactitudes, gross errors, and general lack of
perspective which my narrative exhibits, I should assert the thing which
is not. I have not the slightest doubt that a considerable number of
persons are more sensible than myself of my shortcomings; for on the
subject of America I do not even know enough to be fully aware of my own
ignorance. Still, I am fairly sensible of the enormous imperfection and
rashness of this book. When I regard the map and see the trifling
extent of the ground that I covered--a scrap tucked away in the
northeast corner of the vast multi-colored territory--I marvel at the
assurance I displayed in choosing my title. Indeed, I have yet to see
your United States. Any Englishman visiting the country for the second
time, having begun with New York, ought to go round the world and enter
by San Francisco, seeing Seattle before Baltimore and Denver before
Chicago. His perspective might thus be corrected in a natural manner,
and the process would in various ways be salutary. It is a nice question
how many of the opinions formed on the first visit--and especially the
most convinced and positive opinions--would survive the ordeal of the
second.

As for these brief chapters, I hereby announce that I am not prepared
ultimately to stand by any single view which they put forward. There is
naught in them which is not liable to be recanted. The one possible
justification of them is that they offer to the reader the one thing
that, in the very nature of the case, a mature and accustomed observer
could not offer--namely, an immediate account (as accurate as I could
make it) of the first tremendous impact of the United States on a mind
receptive and unprejudiced. The greatest social historian, the most
conscientious writer, could not recapture the sensations of that first
impact after further intercourse had scattered them.


THE END





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