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Title: From the Bottom Up - The Life Story of Alexander Irvine
Author: Irvine, Alexander, 1863-1941
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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    | Transcriber's Note:                                          |
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The Life Story of Alexander Irvine


[Illustration: Alexander Irvine, 1909.
Photograph by Vanderweyde]

New York
Doubleday, Page & Company
All Rights Reserved, Including that of Translation
into Foreign Languages, Including the Scandinavian
Copyright, 1909, 1910 by Doubleday, Page & Company
Published, February, 1910




CHAPTER                                                 PAGE
    I. Boyhood in Ireland                                  3

   II. The Beginning of an Education                      24

  III. On Board a Man o' War                              40

   IV. Problems and Places                                53

    V. The Gordon Relief Expedition                       63

   VI. Beginnings in the New World                        82

  VII. Fishing for Men on the Bowery                      90

 VIII. A Bunk-house and Some Bunk-house Men              105

   IX. The Waif's Story                                  119

    X. I Meet Some Outcasts                              126

   XI. A Church in the Ghetto                            144

  XII. Working Way Down                                  156

 XIII. Life and Doubt on the Bottoms                     166

  XIV. My Fight in New Haven                             183

   XV. A Visit Home                                      193

  XVI. New Haven Again--and a Fight                      207

 XVII. I Join a Labour Union and Have Something
       to Do with Strikes                                213

XVIII. I Become a Socialist                              235

  XIX. I Introduce Jack London to Yale                   250

   XX. My Experiences as a Labourer in the Muscle
       Market of the South                               256

  XXI. At the Church of the Ascension                    274

 XXII. My Socialism, My Religion and My Home             285


Alexander Irvine, 1909                        _Frontispiece_

                                                 FACING PAGE
Mr. Irvine's Birthplace                                    4

Where Irvine Spent His Boyhood                             8

Alexander Irvine as a Marine                              38

Officers of H.M.S. "Alexandra" Ashore at Cattaro          50

A Page from Mr. Irvine's Diary                            54

Dowling, Tinker and Colporter                            110

Alexander Irvine. From a sketch by Juliet Thompson       146

State Convention of the Socialist Party of Connecticut   238

The Lunch Hour in an Interborough Shop                   248

Alexander Irvine and Jack London                         252

In Muckers' Camp in Alabama                              258

Irvine and Three Other Muckers as They Left Greenwich
  Street for the South                                   258

Irvine, Punching Logs in the Gulf of Mexico, 1907        270

The Church of the Ascension                              276

"Happy Hollow," Mr. Irvine's Present Home Near
  Peekskill, New York                                    294

Happy Hollow in the Winter, Looking from the House       298




The world in which I first found myself was a world of hungry people.

My earliest sufferings were the sufferings of hunger--physical hunger.
It was not an unusual sight to see the children of our neighbourhood
scratching the offal in the dunghills and the gutterways for scraps of
meat, vegetables, and refuse. Many times I have done it myself.

My father was a shoemaker; but something had gone wrong with the
making of shoes. Improvements in machinery are pushed out into the
commercial world, and explanations follow. A new shoemaker had
arrived--a machine--and my father had to content himself with the
mending of the work that the machine produced. It took him about ten
years to find out what had happened to him.

There were twelve children in our family, five of whom died in
childhood. Those of us who were left were sent out to work as soon as
we were able. I began at the age of nine. My first work was peddling
newspapers. I remember my first night in the streets. Food was scarce
in the home, and I begged to be allowed to do what other boys were
doing. But I was not quite so well prepared. I began in the winter. I
was shoeless, hatless, and in rags. My contribution to the family
treasury amounted to about fifty cents a week; but it looked very
large to me then. It was my first earning.

Our home was a two-room cottage. Over one room was a little loft, my
bedroom for fourteen years. The cottage floor was hard, dried mud.
There was a wide, open fireplace. Several holes made in the wall by
displacing of bricks here and there contained my father's old pipes. A
few ornaments, yellow with the smoke of years, adorned the
mantelpiece. At the front window sat my father, and around him his
shoemaking tools. Beside the window hung a large cage, made by his own
hands, and in which singing thrushes had succeeded one another for
twenty years. The walls were whitewashed. There was a little partition
that screened the work-bench from the door. It was made of newspapers,
and plastered all over it were pictures from the illustrated weeklies.
Two or three small dressers contained the crockery ware. A long bench
set against the wall, a table, several stools, and two or three
creepies constituted the furniture. There was not a chair in the

[Illustration: Mr. Irvine's Birthplace.
There are four different houses in the picture. The third door from
the left is that of the house in which he was born.]

There was a fascination about the winter evenings in that cottage.
Scarcely a night passed that did not see some man or woman sitting in
the corner waiting for shoes. A candlestick about three feet high, in
which burned a large tallow candle, was set in front of my father. My
mother was the only one in the house who could read, and she used to
read aloud from a story paper called _The Weekly Budget_. We were
never interested in the news. The outside world was shut off from us,
and the news consisted of whatever was brought by word of mouth by the
folks who had their shoes cobbled; _that_ was interesting. In those
long winter evenings, I sat in the corner among the shoes and lasts.
On scraps of leather I used to imitate writing, and often I would
quietly steal up to my mother and show her these scratchings, and ask
her whether they meant anything or not. I thought somehow by accident
I would surely get something. My mother merely shook her head and
smiled. She taught me many letters of the alphabet, but it took me
years to string them together.

My mother had acquired a taste, indeed, it was a craving, for strong
drink; and, even from the very small earnings of my father, managed to
satisfy it in a small measure, every day, except Sunday. On Sunday
there was a change. The cobbler's bench was cleared away, and my
mother's beautiful face was surrounded with a halo of spotless,
frilled linen.

My father's Sunday mornings were spent in giving the thrush an outing
and in cleaning his cage. Neither my father nor mother made any
pretensions to religion; but they were strict Sabbatarians. My father
never consciously swore, but, within even the limitations of his small
vocabulary, he was unfortunate in his selection of phrases. I bounced
into the alley one Sunday morning, whistling a Moody and Sankey hymn.

"Shut up yer mouth!" said my father.

"It's a hymn tune," I replied.

"I don't care a damn," replied my father. "It's the Lord's day, and if
I hear you whistlin' in it I'll whale the hell out o' ye!"

That was his philosophy, and he lived it. Saturday nights when the
town clock struck the hour of midnight, he removed his leather apron,
pushed his bench back in the corner, and the work of the week was
over--and if any one was waiting for his shoes, so much the worse for
him. He would wait until the midnight clock struck twelve the next
night or take them as they were.

The first tragedy in my life was the death of a pet pigeon. I grieved
for days over its disappearance; but one Sunday morning the secret
slipped out. Around that neighbourhood there was a custom among the
very poor of exchanging samples of their Sunday broth. Three or four
samples came to our cottage every Sunday morning. We had meat once a
week, and then it was either the hoofs or part of the head of a cow,
or the same parts of a sheep or a calf. On this particular occasion, I
knew that there was something in our broth that was unusual, and I did
not rest until I learned the truth. They had grown tired of nettle
broth, and made a change on the pigeon.

There was a pigsty at the end of our alley against the gable of our
house; but we never were rich enough to own a pig. One of my earliest
recollections is of extemporizing out of the pigsty one of the most
familiar institutions in our town--a pawn shop. If anything was
missing in the house, they could usually find it in pawn.

At the age of ten, I entered the parochial school of the Episcopal
Church; but the pedagogue of that period delegated his pedagogy to a
monitor, and the monitor to one of the biggest boys, and the school
ran itself. The only thing I remember about it is the daily rushes
over the benches and seats, and the number of boys about my size I was
pitted against in fistic battles. At the close of my first school day
I came home with one of my eyes discoloured and one sleeve torn out of
my jacket, as a result of an encounter not down on the programme. The
ignominy of such a spectacle irritated my father, and I was thoroughly
whipped for my inability to defend myself better. It was an _ex parte_
judgment which a look at the other fellow might have modified.

After a few weeks at school I begged my father to allow me to devote
my mornings as well as my evenings to the selling of newspapers. The
extra work added a little to my income and preserved my looks. If
there was any misery in my life at this time I neither knew nor felt
it. I was living the life of the average boy of my neighbourhood, and
had nothing to complain of. Of course, I was in a chronic condition of
hunger, but so was every other boy in the alley and on the street. It
was quite an event for me occasionally to go bird-nesting with the son
of the chief baker of the town. He usually brought a loaf along as
toll. My knowledge of the woods was better than his, for necessity
took me there for fuel for our hearth. Sometimes the baker's son
brought a companion of his class. These boys were well-fed and
well-clothed, and it was when we spent whole days together that I
noticed the disparity. They were "quality"--the baker was called
"Mr.," wore a tall hat on Sundays, and led the psalm singing in the
Presbyterian Church. In the summer time, when the church windows were
open, the leader's voice could be heard a mile away. My childish
misgivings about the distribution of the good things of life were
quieted in the Sunday School by the dictum: "It is the will of God."
My first knowledge of God was that He was a big man in the skies who
dealt out to the church people good things and to others experiences
to make them good. The Bible was to me God's book, and a thing to
be handled reverently. We had a copy, but it was coverless, loose and
incomplete. Every morning I used to take it tenderly in my hands and
pretend to read some of it, "just for luck!" My Sunday School teacher
informed me that work was a curse that God had put upon the world and
from what I saw around me I naturally concluded that life was more of
a curse than a blessing--that was the theory. My father, however,
never seemed to be able to get enough of the curse to appease our

[Illustration: Where Mr. Irvine Spent His Boyhood and the pig-sty that
never had a pig]

The lack of class-conscious envy did not prevent an occasional
questioning of God's arrangement of the universe; occasionally, in the
winter time, when my feet were bleeding, cut by the frozen pavements,
I wondered why God somehow or other could not help me to a pair of
shoes. Nevertheless, I reverently worshipped the God who had consigned
me to such pitiless and poorly paid labour, and believed that, being
the will of God, it was surely for my best good.

My first hero worship came to me while a newsboy. A former resident of
the town had returned from America with a modicum of fame. He had left
a labourer, and returned a "Mr." He delivered a lecture in the town
hall, and, out of curiosity, the town turned out to hear him. I was at
the door with my papers. It was a very cold night, and I was shivering
as I stood on one foot leaning against the door post, the sole of the
other foot resting upon my bare leg. But nobody wanted papers at a
lecture. The doorkeeper took pity upon me, and, to my astonishment,
invited me inside. There on a bench, with my back to the wall and my
feet dangling six inches from the floor, I listened to a lecture about
a "rail-splitter." It took me many years to find out what a
rail-splitter was; but the rail-splitter's name was Lincoln, and he
became my first hero.

From the selling of papers on the streets of Antrim, I went to work on
a farm, the owner of which was a Member of Parliament for our county,
one James Chaine by name. My first work on the farm was the keeping of
crows off the potato crop. Technically speaking, I was a scarecrow. It
was in the autumn, and the potatoes were ripe. I was permitted to help
myself to them, so three times a day I made a fire at the edge of the
wood and roasted as many potatoes as I could eat, and for the first
time in my life I enjoyed the pleasure of a full meal.

In the solitude of the potato field came my first vision. I was a firm
believer in the "wee people," but my visions were not entirely peopled
with fairies. The life of the woods was very fascinating to me. I
enjoyed the birds and the wild flowers, and the sportive rabbits, of
which the woods were full. The bell which closed the labourer's day
was always an unwelcome sound to me.

After the ingathering of the potato crop, I was given work in the
farmyard, attending to horses and cattle, as jack of all jobs. In the
spring of the following year, I went again to work in the potato
field, and later to care for the crop as before. It was during my
second autumn as a scarecrow that I had an experience which changed
the current of my life. It was on a Monday, and during the entire day
I kept humming over and over two lines of a hymn I had heard in the
Sunday School. Nothing ever happened to me that remains quite so
vividly in my mind as that experience.

I was sitting on the fence at the close of the day, a very happy day.
I must have been moved by the colour of the sky, or by the emotion
produced by the lines of the hymn. It may have been both. But, as I
sat on the fence and watched the sun set over the trees, an emotion
swept over me, and the tears began to flow. My body seemed to change
as by the pouring into it of some strange, life-giving fluid. I wanted
to shout, to scream aloud; but instead, I went rapidly over the hill
into the woods, dropped on my knees, and began to pray.

It was getting dark, but the woods were filled with light. Perhaps it
was the light of my vision or the light of my mind--I know not. But
when I came back into the open, I felt as though I were walking on
air. As I passed through the farmyard, I came in contact with some of
the men; and their questions led me to believe that some of the
experience remained on my face; but I naïvely set aside their
questions and passed on down the country road to the town.

That night as I climbed to the little loft, I realized for the first
time in my life that I had never slept in a bed, but on a pallet of
straw. My bed covering was composed of old gunny sacks sewed together;
and automatically, when I took my clothes off, I made a pillow of
them. Many a night I had been kept awake by the gnawing pangs of
hunger; but this night I was kept awake for a different reason. It was
an indescribable ecstasy, a new-born joy. As I lay there with my head
about a foot from the thatched roof, I hummed over and over again the
two lines of the hymn, sometimes breaking the continuity in giving way
to tears.

The second revelation came to me the following morning. I realized the
condition of my body. I was in rags and dirty. I shook my mother out
of her slumber and begged her to help me sew up the rents in my
clothes. I had no shoes, but I carefully washed my feet, combed my
tousled, unkempt hair, and took great pains in the washing of my face.
All of this was a mystery to my mother. She wanted to know what had
happened to me, and a very unusual thing ended the preparations for
the day. My mother said I looked "purty," and kissed me as I went out
of the door.

As I walked up the street that morning, I shared my joy with the first
living thing I met--the saloon-keeper's old dog, Rover. I shook his
paw and said, "Morrow, Rover." Everything looked beautiful. The world
was full of joy. I was perfectly sure that the birds were sharing it,
for they sang that morning as I had never heard them sing before. I
resolved to let at least one person into the secret. I was sure that
my sister would understand me. She used to visit me every noon hour,
on the pretence of bringing my dinner. We had a secret compact that,
whether there was any dinner to bring or not, she should come with a
bowl wrapped in a piece of cloth, as was the custom with other men's
sisters and wives.

There was a straight stretch of road a mile long, and, as I sat on the
roadside watching for her, I could tell a mile off whether she had any
dinner or not. When there was anything in the bowl, she carried it
steadily; when empty, she would swing it like a censer.

When I told my sister about these strange happenings of the heart, she
looked very anxiously into my eyes, and said:

"'Deed, I just think ye're goin' mad."

Before leaving the farm, I experienced an incident which, although of
a different character, equalled in its intensity and beauty my
awakening to what, for lack of a better term, I called a religious

A young lady from the city was visiting at the home of the land
steward, and, as I knew more about the woods and the inhabitants
thereof than anybody else on the farm, I was often ordered to take
visitors around. The land steward's daughter accompanied the young
lady on her first visit to the roads; but afterward she came alone,
and we traversed the ravine from one end to the other. We collected
flowers and specimens, and watched the wild animals.

I had never seen such a beautiful human being. Her voice was soft and
musical. She wore her hair loosely down her back, and was a perfect
picture of health and beauty.

One day I lay at full length on my back, asleep by the edge of the
wood. When I awoke, this city girl was standing at my side. I jumped
to my feet and stood erect, and I remember distinctly the emotions
that swept through me. I was startled at first, startled as I had been
on a previous occasion when, at a sharp turn in the footpath in the
ravine, I met a fawn. I remembered my first impulse then was for a
word, a word of conciliation, for I was fascinated by the beauty of
the graceful beast. Graceful as a nymph it stood there, nerves
strained like a bow bent for the discharge of an arrow, its head
poised in air, fire shooting from its eyes. It remained only for an
instant, and then with a frightened plunge it cleared the clump of
laurel bushes and disappeared.

When I stood before this beautiful city girl, I remembered the fawn,
and expected the girl instantly to vanish out of my sight. There was
something of the fawn in her graceful form, some of the fire in her
blue eyes, and in her girlish laugh a suggestion of the freedom of the
mountain and glen. I think it was in that moment of intensity that I
crossed the bridge which separates the boy from the man. An impassable
gulf was fixed between this girl's station in life and mine. She was
the daughter of a florist, and I was the son of a cobbler.

She returned home shortly after this, and I was promoted from the
potato field to be a groom's helper in the stables of "the master." We
called his residence the "big house." It was like a castle on the
Rhine. A very wonderful man was this Member of Parliament to the
labourers around on his demesne. Not the least part of this wonder
consisted in the tradition that he had a different suit of clothes for
every day in the year. He was very fond of fine horses, and gloried in
the fact that he owned a winner of the Derby. He kept a large stable
of racing, hunting, and carriage horses.

This was the advent of a new life to me. I was taken in hand by the
head groom and fitted out with two suits of clothes, and in this
change the first great ambition of my life was satisfied. I became the
possessor of a hard hat. For two years, I had instinctively longed for
something on my head that I could politely remove to a lady. The first
night I marched down that village street, shoes well polished,
starched linen, and hard hat, I expected the whole town to be there to
see me. I had made several attempts at this hat business before. They
organized a flute band in the town and I joined it for the sake of the
hat. But it was too nice a thing to be lying around when people were
hungry, and, as it was in pawn most of the time, I finally redeemed
it, returned it, and quit. But this time the hat had come to stay.

With my new vision still warm in my heart, I became very active in the
parish Sunday School. My inability to read relegated me to the
children's class; but I had a retentive memory, and before I was able
to read, I memorized about three hundred texts from the Bible.

The first outworking of my vision was on a drunken stone mason of our
town. His family, relatives, and friends had all given him up. He had
given himself up. I went after him every night for weeks; talked to
him, pleaded with him, prayed for him, and was rewarded by seeing him
make a new start. Together we organized a temperance society. I think
it was the first temperance society in that town. I was much more at
home in this kind of work than in the Sunday School; for, while I
could be neither secretary, treasurer, nor president of the temperance
society I had organized, my inability to read or write did not prevent
me from hustling after such men as my first convert.

In the Sunday School, I felt keenly the fact that I was outclassed by
boys half my age; but I persevered and went from one class to another,
until I had gone through the grades, and was then given the
opportunity to organize a class of my own. This I did with the
material on the streets, children unconnected with any school or
institution. I taught them the Bible stories and helped them to
memorize the texts that I had learned myself.

Despite the fact that I was now clean and well groomed, I could not
help comparing my life to the life of the horses I was attending,
especially with regard to their sleeping accommodations. The slightest
speck of dirt of any kind around their bedding was an indictment of
the grooming. The stables were beautifully flagged and sprinkled with
fine, white sand. The mangers were kept cleaner than anything in the
houses of the poor, and, when I trotted a mount out into the yard, the
master would take out his white silk handkerchief, run it along the
horse's side, and then examine it. If the handkerchief was soiled in
the slightest degree, the horse was sent back. Probably not once in a
year was a horse returned under such circumstances. The regularity of
meals was another point of comparison, and the daily washings,
brushings, groomings.

It meant something to be a horse in that stable--much more than it
meant to be a groom. When these points of comparison arose, I pushed
them back as evil and discontent with the will of God. This master man
used to talk to his horses, but he seldom talked to his grooms.
Sometimes I was permitted the luxury of a look at the great
dining-hall, or the drawing-rooms. That also was another world to me,
a world of beauty for God's good people. Even the butlers, footmen,
and other flunkies were superior people, and I envied them, not only
the uniform of their servitude but their intimate touch with that
inner world of beautiful things.

I spent one winter at the big house, and then the shame of my
ignorance drove me forever from the haunts of my childhood. I entered
the city of Belfast, seventeen miles distant, and became coachman and
groom to a man who, by the selling of clothes, had reached the
economic status of owning a horse. In adapting himself to this new
condition, he dressed me in livery, and, after I had taught him to
drive, I sat beside him in the buggy with folded arms, arrayed in a
tall hat with a cockade. The wages in this new position were so small
that when I had paid for my room and meagre board, I had nothing left
for the support of my brothers and sisters, who were still in dire

The young lady I had met on the farm lived in this city and in my
neighbourhood; but I would have considered it a matter of gross
discourtesy to call on her, or, indeed, do anything save lift my hat
if I met her on the street, our social stations were so far apart. But
she had told me the name of the church she attended, and, as I was
thinking more about her at that time than about anybody else, I stole
quietly into the church as soon as the doors were opened, and,
ensconcing myself in a corner under the gallery, I scanned the faces
eagerly as they came in. From that obscure point I saw the young lady
once a week. At the end of three months, her family came without her.
The third Sunday of her absence I was almost on the point of asking
about her; but I mastered the desire, held my station, and went to
Scotland, where I entered a coal-pit as a helper to one of my
brothers. My pay for twelve hours a day was a dollar and fifty cents a
week. If I had not been living in the same house with my brother, this
would not have sustained me in physical efficiency.

The contrast between my life as a groom and this blackened underworld
was very marked, and I did not at all relish it. We were all, men and
boys and sometimes girls, reduced to the common level of blackened
humans, with about two garments each. The coal dust covered my skin
like a tight-fitting garment, and coal was part of every mouthful of
food I ate in that fetid atmosphere. I had a powerful body that defied
the dangers of the pit; but the labour was exhausting, and my face was
blistered every day with the hot oil dripping from the lamp on my

Sometimes I lay flat on my back and worked with a pick-axe at the coal
overhead. Sometimes I pushed long distances a thing called "a hutch,"
filled with coal.

I left my brother's pit with the hope of getting a larger wage; but
there was very little difference between the pits. Everywhere I went,
labour and wages were about the same. Everywhere life had the same
dull, monotonous round. It was a writhing, squirming mass of blackened
humanity struggling for a mere physical existence, a bare living.

The desire to learn to read and write returned to me with renewed
intensity, and gave me keen discontent with the life in the pits. At
the same time, the spiritual ideal sustained me in the upward look.
There was just ahead of me a to-morrow, and my to-morrow was bringing
an escape from this drudgery. I exulted in the thought of the future.
I could sing and laugh in anticipation of it, even though I lived and
worked like a beast. I was conscious that in me resided a power that
would ultimately take me to a life that I had had a little taste
of--a life where people had time to think, and to live a clean,
normal, human life.

I do not remember anything about labour unions in that coal region. If
there were any, I did not know of them--I was not asked to join. In
those same pits and at that same time worked Keir Hardie, and "wee
Keir" was just beginning to move the sluggish souls of his fellow
labourers to improve their condition by collective effort. My ideal
did not lead me in that direction. I was struggling to get into the
other world for another reason. I wanted to live a religious life. I
wanted to move men's souls as I had moved the soul of the drunken
stone mason in my home town.

I made various attempts to learn to read, but each of them failed. I
was so exhausted at the close of the day's work that I usually lay
down in the corner without even washing. Sometimes I pulled myself
together and went out into the village, praying as I went, that by
some miracle or other I should find a teacher. Sometimes I made
excursions into the city of Glasgow. One night I wandered accidentally
into a mission in Possilpark, where a congregation of miners was
listening to a tall, fine-looking young preacher. I had not sufficient
energy to keep awake, so promptly went to sleep. I awoke at a gentle
shake from the hand of the teacher. I returned, but succeeded no
better in keeping awake. I returned again, and the teacher when he
learned of my ambition, advised me to leave the pits entirely and seek
for something else to do. There was something magnetic in that strong
right hand, something musical and inspiring in that wonderful voice.
And just when I was about to sink back in despair, and resign myself,
perhaps for years, to the inevitable, this man's influence pushed me
out into a new venture. The teacher was Professor Henry Drummond.

Trusting to luck, or God, or the power of my hands, I entered the
great, smoky, dirty city of Glasgow to look for a job. I considered it
a great shame to be without one, and a crime to be prowling the city
at night, homeless and workless. God at this time was a very real
Person to me and I spent the greater part of many a night on my knees,
in some alley, or down by the docks, praying for a chance to work--to
be clean--to learn to read.

I slept one night in a large dry-goods box on one of the docks, and,
in searching for a place in the box to lay my head, I laid my hand on
another human, and at daylight discovered him to be a youth of about
my own age. We exchanged experiences, and in a few minutes he outlined
a programme; and, having none of my own, I dropped naturally into his.
He conducted me to a quarter of the city where the recruiting officers
parade the streets, gayly attired in their attractive uniforms. We
accosted one man, who had the special attraction of a large bunch of
gay ribbons flying from his Glengarry cap. We passed the physical
examination, "took the shilling," and were drafted, first to London,
then to a training depot in the south of Kent.



The first discovery I made in the training depot was that I had not,
as I supposed, joined the army at all, but the navy. I was a marine.
But there was no disappointment in the discovery, for I saw in the
marine service a better opportunity to see the world. Here at last was
my school, and schooling was a part of the daily routine. In the daily
exercises of the gymnasium, I was made to feel very keenly by the
instructors the awkwardness of my body; but I was so thrilled with the
joy of the class-room, that it took a good deal of forcing to interest
me in the handling of guns, bayonets, the swinging of clubs, vaulting
of horses, and other gymnasium exercises. I could think only in the
terms of the education I most keenly desired. This was my first source
of trouble. Whatever else a soldier may be, he is a soldier first. His
chief business in life is to be a killer--a strong, intelligent,
professional killer; and nearly all energies of instruction are bent
to give him that kind of power.

The depot is on the edge of the sea, and the sea breezes with six
hours a day of drill, gave me, as it gives all recruits at that stage,
an abnormal appetite, so that the most of the Queen's pay went for
additional rations. I made rapid progress in school, and I attended
all lectures, prayer meetings, religious assemblies and social
gatherings, to exercise a talent which I already possessed, of giving
voice to my religious beliefs. But my Irish dialect was badly out of
place, and it took a good deal of courage to take part in these

But more embarrassing than my attempts at public speech were my
attempts to keep up with my squad in the gymnasium and on the parade
ground. My fellow recruits were thinking in the terms of drill only,
and I was thinking in the terms of my new-found opportunity for an
education. My awkwardness made me the subject of much ridicule and
good-natured jest. It also earned for me a brief sojourn in the
awkward squad. The gymnasium was open every evening for exercise and
amusement. The first time I ventured in to get a little extra drill on
my own account, I had an experience of a kind that one is not likely
to forget. My drill sergeant happened to be there. I saw him engaged
in a whispered conference with one of the gymnasium instructors. A few
minutes later the instructor came to me and urged me to enter the
boxing contest which was going on in the middle of the floor, and
which was the favourite amusement of the evening. I had no desire for
such amusement, and frankly told him so; but he was not to be put off.

He said, "There is a rule of the gym, that men who come here in the
evening, who are very largely given their own way, are nevertheless
obliged to do what they are told; and you may escape serious trouble
by attending to my orders."

I still demurred, but was forced to the ring side, a roped enclosure,
with a pair of boxing gloves and an instructor to take care of the
proceedings. When the gloves were fastened on my hands, I noticed that
my opponent was one of the assistant instructors, and it occurred to
me that I was in for a thrashing; and I certainly was.

They must have made up their minds that a good thrashing would wake me
up from the point of view of the parade ground, and the assistant
instructor proceeded to administer it. I knew nothing whatever of
boxing, and could put up but a weak defence. I was knocked down
several times, one of my eyes partly closed, and my nose smashed, and
one of my arms rendered almost useless.

When away from the gymnasium at my barrack-room that night, I did some
hard thinking. A room-mate whose cot was next to mine, was something
of a boxer. He possessed two pairs of gloves. He had often urged me to
accommodate him as an opponent, but I had steadily refused.

On learning of my plight, he laughed loudly. So did my other
room-mates as they learned of it. That night, before "taps," I bound
myself to an arrangement by which I was to pay my room-mate two-thirds
of my regimental pay per week for instruction in handling the gloves.
He gave me an hour each night for six weeks. At the end of the first
week, I had gained an advantage over him. I had a very long reach, and
a body as lithe as a panther. I gave up prayer meetings, lectures, and
socials, and devoted my self religiously to what is called "the noble
art of self-defence."

If my drill sergeant imagined that a thrashing would wake me up, he
was a very good judge. It did. Incidentally, it woke others up, too.
It woke my new instructor up, and half a dozen of my room-mates. At
the end of my six weeks' training, by dint of perseverance and
application to the thing in hand, I had succeeded in this new type of
education thrust upon me.

During all this time, I had not visited the gymnasium in the evening,
but was remembered there by all who had noticed the process of my
awakening. One night, I modestly approached the chief instructor and
asked him if I might not have another lesson by the man who had taught
me the first. He remembered the occasion and laughed, laughed at the
memory of it, and laughed at the brogue and what he supposed to be the
temerity of my asking. In asking, I had made my brogue just a little
thicker, and my manner just as diffident and modest as possible.

"Oh, certainly," he replied, chuckling to himself.

The man who gave me my first lesson, a man of my own build and height,
appeared, also laughing as he noticed who the applicant for another
lesson was. My barrack-room instructor was on hand also, for I had
confidentially communicated to him that evening my intention to try

There is something fiendish in the Celtic nature, some beast in the
blood, which, when aroused, is exceedingly helpful in matters of this
kind. In less than sixty seconds, I had demonstrated to the onlookers,
and particularly to my opponent, that I had been to school since last
meeting him. I had not been particular about fancy touches, or the
pointless, gingerbread style of showing off before a crowd. There was
a positive viciousness in my attack, which was perfectly legitimate in
such circumstances; but it was the first time I had ever felt the
beast in my blood, and I turned him loose; and if I had been made
Prime Minister of England by a miracle, I could not have felt
one-hundredth part of the pride that I did, when, inside of the first
thirty seconds, I had stretched my instructor on his back at my feet,
and in the absolute joyfulness and ecstasy of my soul, I yelled at the
top of my voice, "Hurry up, ye blind-therin' spalpeen, till I knock
yez down again!"

The man got up, and was somewhat more cautious, but utterly
unprepared to be completely mastered at his own game in five minutes;
and, when the chief instructor interfered and ordered his assistant
out of the ring, I begged for more; and so a fresh man was put in, and
another, and another, until six men had failed to tire me, or to
disturb me in the least. After the first two I laughed, laughed
loudly, in the midst of my aggressive work, and enjoyed it every
moment of the time, and, when occasionally I was the recipient of a
stinging blow, it merely added to my zest.

Next morning I found myself a hero. In the course of the night, I had
become famous in a small circle as a bruiser. In accomplishing this, I
had thrown aside for the time being my religious scruples on the
question of boxing, not only on boxing, but fighting, and I had set
aside a good deal of my prejudice in my struggle for an education, and
my success in the thing I started out to do almost unbalanced me.

I had for the first few days after this encounter a terrific struggle,
a struggle of the human soul, between my character and my reputation.
Only about one hundred and fifty men saw the encounter, but, before
parade time next morning, fifteen hundred men were acquainted with it.
It had reached the officers' mess, and, as I went back and forth, I
was pointed out as the new discovery. I finally reached a state of
mind that filled me with disgust, and I took an afternoon stroll down
the road to Walmer Castle; and just opposite the window of the room
in which the Duke of Wellington died--on the sands of Deal beach I
knelt on my knees and promised God that I "wudn't put th' dhirty
gloves on again," and I kept the promise--while in the training depot.

Early in 1882 I was drafted to headquarters near London--a trained
soldier. My forenoons were spent in parades, drills, fatigue and other
duties. In the afternoons I continued my studies. I entered into
religious work with renewed vigour, connecting myself with a small
independent church not far from the barracks. My thick Irish brogue
militated against my usefulness in the church, and in expressing
myself with warmth, I usually made it worse. In the barrack-room, my
brogue brought me several Irish nicknames which irritated me. They
were names usually attached to the Roman Catholic Irish, and having
been brought up in an Ulster community, where part of a boy's
education is to hate Roman Catholics, I naturally resented these
names. A Protestant Irishman will tolerate "Pat," but "Mick" will put
him in a fighting attitude in a moment. The only way out of the
difficulty was to rid myself of the brogue, and this I proceeded to

All around me were cockney Englishmen, murdering the Queen's English,
and Scotchmen who were doing worse. I had not yet become the possessor
of a dictionary, and my chief instructors in language, and
particularly pronunciation and enunciation, were preachers and

With regard to literature, I was like a man lost in a forest. I had no
guide. One night I attended a lecture by Dr. J.W. Kirton, the author
of a tract called, "Buy Your Own Cherries." This tract my mother had
read to me when a boy, and it had made a very profound impression upon
me. The author was very kind, gave me an interview, and advised me to
read as my first novel, "John Halifax, Gentleman." Inside of a week I
had read the book twice, the second time with dictionary, and pencil.
The story fascinated me, and the way in which it was told opened up
new channels of improvement. I memorized whole pages of it, and even
took long walks by the seaside repeating over and over what I had

The enlargement of my opportunities in garrison life revealed to me
something of the amount of work required to accomplish my purpose. In
the midst of people who had merely an ordinary grammar school
education, I felt like a child. When discouragement came, I took
refuge in the fact that several avenues of usefulness were open to me
in army life. I had shown some proficiency in gunnery. For a steady
plodder who attends strictly to business there is always promotion. As
a flunky, there was the incentive of double pay, the wearing of plain
clothes, and some intimate touch with the aristocracy. Many a time
one of these avenues seemed the only career open for me. I hardly knew
what an education meant; but, whatever it meant, it was a long way off
and almost out of reach. One day in going over my well-marked "John
Halifax," I came across this passage:

  "'What would you do, John, if you were shut up here, and had to
  get over the yew hedge? You could not climb it.'

  "'I know that, and therefore I should not waste time in trying.'

  "'Would you give up, then?'

  "He smiled: there was no 'giving up' in that smile of his. 'I'll
  tell you what I'd do: I'd begin and break it, twig by twig, till I
  forced my way through, and got out safe at the other side.'"

This was a new inspiration. The difficulty was not lessened by the
inspiration, but a new method appealed to me. It was the patient
plodding method of "twig by twig." The quotation from "John Halifax"
was reinforced by one of the first things I ever read of Browning:

    "That low man seeks a little thing to do,
      Sees it and does it:
    This high man with a great thing to pursue,
      Dies ere he knows it.
    That low man goes on adding one to one,
      His hundred's soon hit;
    This high man, aiming at a million,
      Misses an unit."

The most powerful speaker I ever heard was Charles Bradlaugh. I
attended one of his lectures one Sunday afternoon in a large
auditorium in Portsmouth. I shall never forget that wonderful voice
as it thrilled an audience of four thousand people. Bradlaugh was
engaged in one of his favourite themes, demolishing God and the
theologians. It was the most daring thing I had ever heard, and my
mind and soul were in revolt. When the time for questions came, I
pushed my way to the front, was recognized by the chairman, and
mounted the platform. My lips were parched and I could scarcely utter
a word. The big man with the homely face saw my embarrassment, and
said, "Take your time, my boy; don't be in a hurry."

He had been a soldier himself, and, I supposed, as I stood there in my
scarlet tunic, Glengarry cap in hand, Bradlaugh became reminiscent.

When I got command of my voice, I said: "I want to ask Mr. Bradlaugh a
question. I have very little education and little opportunity to get
more, but I have a peace in my heart; I call it 'Belief in God.' I
don't know what else to call it and I want to ask Mr. Bradlaugh
whether he is willing to take that away from me and deprive me of the
biggest pleasure in my life, and leave nothing in its place?"

He rose from his chair, came forward, laid his hand on my shoulder,
and amid a most impressive silence, said:

"No, my lad, Charles Bradlaugh will be the last man on the face of the
earth to take a pleasure from a soldier boy, even though it be a
'belief in God!'"

The crowd wildly cheered, and I went out grateful and strengthened.
This incident had a very unusual effect upon me--an intense desire to
tell others of that belief possessed me. I was already doing this in a
small way, but I became bolder and sought larger opportunities.

About ten days later I was ordered to London as the personal bearer of
a Government dispatch. I made requisition for seven days' leave of
absence. My mission was to the Horse Guards, and after its
accomplishment I went to Whitechapel and rented a small room for a
week. I had with me a suit of plain clothes that I wore during the
daytime, but the scarlet uniform was conspicuous and soldier
Evangelists very rare, so in the mission halls and on the street
corners with the Salvation Army and other open-air preachers, I
exercised my one talent, and told the story of what I had now found a
name for--my conversion.

In the daytime I talked to costermongers, street venders, the
unemployed, and the corner loafers. One night I put my plain clothes
on and spent the night with the "wharf rats" on the banks of the

For seven days and for seven nights I continuously told that simple
story--told it in few words, closing always with an appeal for a
change of life. I had spoken to the officer of the Horse Guards with
whom I had business of my intention, and he told me of a brother
officer who was very much interested in religious work among soldiers,
and directed me to his quarters.

The interview resulted in an invitation to a Sunday afternoon meeting
at the town house of a duke. It was the most gorgeous place I had ever
been in, and the audience was composed of the most aristocratic people
in London. I felt very much out of place and conspicuous because of my
uniform and station in life.

The first part of the meeting partook of the nature of a reception. I
watched the proceedings from the most obscure corner I could find.
Somebody rapped on the table. The hum of voices ceased, and there
stepped out, as the speaker of the afternoon, my friend of the
Possilpark Mission, Professor Drummond.

Up to that hour my theology related largely to another world, but his
explanation of a portion of Scripture was so clear and so convincing
to my simple mind, that I could neither miss its meaning nor avoid its
application. The professor was telling us that religion must be
related to life. Many years afterward I came across the treatise in
printed form. It was entitled, "The Programme of Christianity." The
officer of the Horse Guards by whose invitation I enjoyed this
privilege, introduced me to the lecturer and this personal touch,
though very slight, marked a distinct period in my development.
Drummond had pushed me out of one stage, and, by inviting me to
render an account of myself to him, inspired me into another.

My Bible studies had given me a longing to see the Holy Land. Perhaps
the longing was super-induced by the possibility of being drafted to
the Mediterranean Squadron. On inquiry I learned that the flagship of
that squadron--the _Alexandra_--had a library and a school on board,
so I made this kind of a proposition to the Almighty. I did it, of
course, with a humble spirit and a devout mind; but I did it in a very
clear and positive manner: "Give me the flagship for the sake of the
schooling I will get there, and I will give you my life!"

I prayed daily and nightly, for nearly six months for that object, and
in my anxiety over the matter I made a dicker with a man who was to
embark at the same time--that, if he should be lucky enough to get the
flagship and I should be appointed to some other ship, I would give
him a money consideration and request the commander to permit us to
exchange. This was a break in my faith, and I quickly corrected it,
leaving the entire matter in supernatural hands.

There came a time when I was sure in my mind that I would get that
ship--a time when there was no longer zest in praying for it; and
there entered into my praying phrases of gratitude instead of request.
There came also a time when I confided this assurance to my closest
friend, to whom it was all moonshine. He laughed and poked fun at the
idea. It became a barrack-room joke and I was hurt and chagrined.

The eventful morning arrived. Those for embarkation were called out
for parade in full marching order, and the roll was called. The
universe seemed to hang in the balance that morning. Finally the
moment arrived. My name was called. I took one pace to the front,
ported my arms and awaited the verdict. My name and company were
called, and this assignment: "To Her Majesty's ship _Condor_!"

My comrades giggled and were sharply rebuked: I gave vent to an
inarticulate guttural sound and was also rebuked. After parade I went
to my barrack-room, changed my uniform, and disappeared to escape

"What cheer, Condor?" were the first words that greeted me at reveille
next morning, and my room-mates kept it up. Sometimes the ridicule
worked overtime. Often I was on the edge of a wild outburst of passion
and resentment, but I mastered these things and went on with my
duties. At eleven o'clock in the forenoon of the day following my
assignment, we "mustered kits." This is the ordinary pre-embarkation
inspection. After inspection we packed our kits and were stood to
attention. Several corrections were made in the instructions of the
previous day. My heart almost stopped beating when my name was called
a second time.

"A mistake was made----"

The officer got no farther.

"I knew it, begorra!" I exclaimed, with flushed face and beating

The officer came close to me, looked straight into my face, and said,
"I have a good mind to put you in the guard room."

I stood still, motionless, silent.

"A mistake was made yesterday," he continued, "in appointing you to
the _Condor_. You are to go, instead, with a detachment to the
_Alexandra_, flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron."

Parade was dismissed. I went to the officer, saluted him, and begged
the privilege of an explanation. In a few words I told him my story
and of the hope of my life, and asked him to forgive me for the
interruption. He looked astonished and replied very quietly, "I am
glad you told me, Irvine. I shall be interested in your future."

On the way to the barrack-room, the spirit of exuberant merriment took
possession of me. I wanted to do something ludicrous or desperate. I
threw my pack into a corner, quickly divested myself of my tunic,
rolled up my shirt sleeves, and struck the table such a blow with my
clinched fist as to make the dishes jump off. Everybody looked around.
My face must have been a picture of facial latitude.

[Illustration: Alexander Irvine as a Marine, at the Age of Nineteen]

"Boys," I said, "here's yer last chance to oblige an Irishman!"

"What is it, Pat?" half a dozen shouted in unison.

"I want to box any three blinderin' idiots in the room, and all
together, begorra! Come on now, ye spalpeens, and show the stuff yer
made of!"

The only answer was a loud outburst of applause and laughter.

In my exuberance, I danced an Irish hornpipe, and my career in the
barrack-room was over.



In January, 1883, the big troop-ship bearing reinforcements for the
Mediterranean Squadron steamed into Malta Harbour and we were
transferred to our respective ships. The _Alexandra_ was supposed to
be the most powerful ship in Victoria's navy at that time. She carried
the flag of Admiral Lord John Hay. She was a little city of the sea
with her divisions of labour, her social distinctions, her alleys and
her avenues. She had a population of about one thousand inhabitants.
These were divided into officers, petty officers, bluejackets and
marines. Around the flagship lay half a dozen other ships of the
fleet. I was fascinated with the variety of things around me in that
little city, and for the first few days on board spent all my leisure
time in exploring this mysterious underwater world. Her guns were of
the heaviest calibre. Her steel walls were decorated with ponderous
Pallasier shot and shell. I was struck with the marvellous
cleanliness. Her decks were white. Every inch of brasswork was
shining; everything in order; everything trim and neat; neither
slovenly men nor slovenly conditions.

Malta Harbour is one of the finest in the world. The old City of La
Vallette looks like an immense fortress, which it really is, and the
next thing to explore was the Island.

It seemed as if I had entered an entirely new world. My heart was full
of joy, my mind full of hope, and my uniform for the time being was
more the uniform of a student than of a fighter. My first great
discovery on the ship was the thing I had prayed for--a school. I hid
myself behind a stanchion out of sight of the instructors and took my
bearings. Later, I found a place where I could sit within hearing
distance, but was discovered and forced to explain. The chief
instructor was interested in my explanation and in my story, and gave
me valuable advice as to how to proceed in my studies. Once again my
brogue militated against my advancement. Being the only Irishman in
the mess, I had to bear more than my share of its humour. I made
application to be employed as a waiter in the officers' wardroom, so
that I might improve my pronunciation and add to my vocabulary. I had
a little pad arranged on the inside of my jacket with a pencil
attached, and every new word I heard I jotted down; and every night I
gathered together these new friends, looked up their origin, meaning,
and pronunciation. I was appointed bodyservant to the paymaster of the
ship, a bucolic old Bourbon of the most pronounced aristocracy. This
excused me from military and naval duty, and I was privileged to wear
plain clothes. I attached myself to a small group of pietists called
Plymouth Brethren, orthodox theologians, literalists in interpretation
of the Scriptures and exceedingly straight-laced in their morality.
They were fine Bible students, indeed, Bible experts. This was a great
joy to me at first, but the atmosphere to a red-blooded, jubilant
nature like mine was rather stifling after a while. I was fond of a
good story and was full of Irish folklore and fairy stories, and I
noticed my brethren did not relish my outbursts of laughter. It was
explosive, spontaneous and hearty, but not contagious among them.
Their faces assumed a rather pained expression, a kind of notice of
emotion that a sense of humour and religious beliefs occupied
different compartments in the human mind. It was intimated to me that
such "frivolousness" was out of kelter with the profession of a
Christian. It was merely by accident that I pulled out of a shelf in
the library "Adam Bede" by George Eliot. When I was discovered eagerly
devouring its contents under the glare of the fighting lamp one night
after the crew had "piped down," I was upbraided for spending such
precious time on such "worldly trash."

"Suppose the Lord should come now and find you reading that; what
would you say to Him?"

My reply added to their sorrow.

"I should say, 'Begorra, Yer Honour, it's a bully good story!'"

The judgment of my brethren was that there was good stuff in me for a
Christian if I had only been born somewhere else, a judgment I could
not be expected to agree with. My disagreement with these men on
various lines was no barrier to my participation in their propaganda.
There was only one thing in the world to do--get men converted. Each
man in this small group picked out another man as a subject of prayer
and solicitation and persuasion. At our weekly meetings we reported on
our work. Then we worked for each other. Of course, I was a subject of
prayer myself. When these men shook hands in parting, they usually
said, "If the Lord tarry," for the Lord was expected to come at any
moment. This they could not get into my speech or mind. As I looked
around me, I got the idea that there was a good deal of work to be
done before the Lord came, and I put emphasis rather on the work than
on the expectation. The ship was a beehive of activity, not merely the
activity of warlike discipline or preparation, but social activity. Of
course, this activity was largely for the officers. We had to go
ashore for most of ours, and the social activity of the rank and file
was rather of a questionable character ashore, but the officers had
their dinners, their dances, and their afternoon receptions.

The social centre for a portion of the rank and file was a sailors'
institute. As this was a temperance institution, it was only
patronized by a small percentage of them. Here we had frequent
receptions, afternoon teas, lectures, and religious meetings. Here the
secret societies met--the Free Masons, Odd Fellows, Foresters,
Orangemen, etc. Thursday afternoons we had a half-holiday on board. It
was called "Make-and-Mend-Clothes Day." The upper decks belonged to
the crew that afternoon, and every conceivable kind of activity was in
operation. It looked something like an Irish fair. It was a day on
which most men wrote home; but there were sewing, boxing, fencing, and
on this afternoon at least almost every man on the ship worked at his
hobby. My hobby at this time was mathematics and I could not do that
in the crowd, but on Thursday afternoons I rather enjoyed watching the
boxing and fencing. My experience in the game had given me at least a
permanent interest in it, and as I stood by the ropes the blood
tingled in my veins. I was anxious many a time for a rough and tumble,
but my religious friends saved me from this indulgence. There were
sixteen men in my mess. It was in a corner of the main gun battery
alongside one of the big "stern-chasers." We had a table that could be
lowered from the roof of the gun battery, and eating three times a day
with these men, I knew them fairly well and they knew me. Each
man-of-war's man is allowed a daily portion of rum, and I was advised
by the small group of Christians to follow their example and refuse
to permit anybody else to drink my portion. It took me a long time to
make up my mind to follow their advice. It was, of course, considered
an old-womanish thing to do, but I finally came to the point when I
asked the commissariat department to give me, as was the custom, tea,
coffee, and sugar instead. I took very good care, however, not to
indulge myself in these things. I handed them over to men on the night
watches. This did not save me from the penalty for such an offence. It
brought down on my head the curses of a good many men in the mess, but
especially of one man who was a sort of a ship's bruiser. It came his
turn to be cook about once in ten days. The cook of the mess had as
his perquisite a little of each man's ration of rum. With the others,
the abuse was mixed with good-humour, for on the whole I managed to
lead a fairly agreeable life with my messmates. They looked upon me as
a religious fanatic, but my laughter, my funny stories, and my
willingness to oblige offset with most of them my temperance
principles and religious fanaticism. The insults of the bruiser I
usually met with a smile and passed off with a joke; but when they
were long continued, they irritated me.

There is a monotony in the life of the average soldier or sailor which
has a very deadening effect upon character--seeing the same faces,
hearing the same things, performing the same routine in the same kind
of way every day, year in and year out, makes him a sort of automaton.
Kipling has told us something of the effect of this thing in "Soldiers
Three." There came a time when I broke under the strain of this man's
continued insults. For nearly a year I got comfort from the advice of
the brethren. We had a weekly meeting where our difficulties were
considered and prayed over, but the consolation of my brethren finally
refused to suffice, and, being a healthy, normal, vigorous animal with
some little experience of looking after myself, I began to resent the
insults and make some show of defence. This change of front incensed
the bully, and one day he hurled an exceedingly nasty epithet at
me--one of those vulgar but usual epithets current in army speech. The
reference in it to my mother stirred me with indignation and I
announced in a fit of anger my willingness to be thrashed or thrash
him if the thing was repeated. It was not only repeated at once, but
seizing a lump of dough, he hurled it at my head. I ducked my head and
it hit another man on the jaw, but the gauntlet was on the floor and
an hour afterward the port side of the gun deck was a mass of solidly
packed sailors and marines. My brethren came to me one after another.
They quoted scores of texts to make me uncomfortable. I tried to joke,
but my lips were parched and my tongue unwilling to act. I was pale
and trembling. I knew what I was up against, but determined to see it
through. One text only I could remember in this exigency and I quoted
it to Lanky Lawrence, the big sailmaker who was the leader of our
sect. "Lanky, m' boy," I said to him, "I'm goin' to hing m' hat on one
text fur the space of a good thrashin'."

"What is it?" asked the sailmaker.

"'As much as lieth in ye, live peaceably wid all men.' Now I have done
that same, and bedad, I have done it to the limit and I'm goin' to
jump into this physical continshun so that of out it I will bring

"Ye're all wrong!" said the sailmaker.

"I know it, but from the straight-lacedness of your theology I want a
vacation, Lanky, just for the space that it takes to get a lickin' wan
way or th' other." So the thing began. My chief endeavour was to
escape punishment, but the space was exceedingly small between the two
big guns and I didn't succeed very well. During the first five minutes
I was very badly bruised and beaten. One of my ribs was broken and
both eyes almost closed. Half the time I could not see the bully at
all. In one of the breathing spells, the sailmaker, who, despite his
quotations of Scripture, had remained to see the proceedings,
whispered something in my ear. It was a point of advice. He told me
that if I could stand that five minutes longer, my opponent would be
outclassed. The support of Lanky was a great encouragement to me, and
a good deal of my fear disappeared. I began to think harder, to plan,
and to plant blows as well as to avoid them. This excited the crowd
and it became frenzied.

Up to that point it was a one-sided thing. Now, I was not only taking
but giving; and not only giving, but giving with laughter and
ejaculations. Our Bible study for that month was the memorizing of the
names of the minor prophets; and once when I managed to toss my
opponent's head to one side with a blow on the point of the chin, I
shouted full of glee, "Take that, you cross-eyed son of a
seacook--take it in the name of Hosea!" The crowd laughed, but above
the roar of laughter rang out the voice of a Scotchman who was one of
our best Bible students: "Gie him brimstone, Sandy!" A few minutes
later I ejaculated, "And, bedad, that's for Joel!" In this new spirit
and in this jocular way, I pounded the twelve minor prophets into him
one after another, while the rafters of the ship rang with the cheers
of the crew. By the time I had exhausted the minor prophets, I was
much the stronger man of the two. My opponent was wobbling around in
pretty bad shape. Once he was on his knees, and while waiting, I
shouted, "I want to be yer friend, Billy Creedan. Shake hands now, you
idiot, and behave yourself!"

The only answer I got was a string of vile oaths as he staggered to
his feet. I pleaded with him to quit, but that is not the way that
such fights end. Men fight while their senses last, while their legs
keep under them, and at such a moment a blood-thirsty crowd becomes
crazed for the accomplishment of something that looks like murder. The
injection of the minor prophets made a ludicrous ending of a thing
that had at the beginning almost paralyzed me with fear. So the thing
ended with the bully of the mess lying prostrate on his back. I was
not presentable as a waiter for several days, but inside of an hour
everybody on the ship knew what had happened, and for the second time
in my life I was hailed as a bruiser.

To impress a thousand men in such a manner creates an egotism which is
very likely to be lasting. I had not accomplished very much in my
studies. I was nothing in particular among my religious brethren. My
general reputation up to this moment in the ship was that of a
simple-minded Irish lad, who was a religious fanatic, a sort of sky
pilot or "Holy Joe." I became flushed with the only victory worth
while in the army or navy, and the second experience lasted twice as
long as the first.

The next thing to be done, of course, by my friends and admirers, was
to pit me against the bruisers of other ships. Two of the officers
wanted to know my plans. This recognition heightened my vanity.
Prayer-meeting night came along, and I was ashamed to attend. A
committee was sent to help me out, and the following week the
prodigal returned. The proper thing to do on my return was to confess
my sin and ask the brethren to pray for me; but when I failed to do
this, I became a subject of deep concern and solicitude. I tried to
cultivate a sense of conviction, but succeeded indifferently. The
deference paid me by the men of the mess was not calculated to help me
out. I felt very keenly the suspicion of my brethren, but it was
compensated for by the fact that among the ordinary men I had now a
hearing on matters of religious interest. I was rather diffident in
approaching them on this subject, since, from the viewpoint of the
pietists, I had fallen from grace. At the end of a month, a loathing
of this cheap reputation began to manifest itself. The man I had
beaten became one of my closest friends. I wrote his letters home to
his mother. A few weeks later, he entrusted me with a more sacred
mission--the writing of his love letters also.

Creedan was a Lancashire man, as angular in speech as in body, and
lacking utterly a sense of humour. As we became acquainted, I began to
suggest some improvements, not only in his manner of writing, but in
the matter also. I could not understand how a man could make love with
that kind of nature. One day I suggested the idea of rewriting the
entire epistle. The effect of it was a huge joke to Creedan. He
laughed at the change--laughed loud and heartily. The letter, of
course, was plastered all over with Irish blarney. It was such a huge
success that Creedan used to come to me and say:

[Illustration: Officers of H.M.S. _Alexandra_, Ashore at Cattaro]

"Hey, Sandy, shoot off one of them things to Mary, will ye?"

And the thing was done.

The summer cruise of 1883 was up the Adriatic. All the Greek islands
were visited. I knew the historical significance of the places, which
made that summer cruise a fairyland to me.

There were incidents in that summer cruise of more than ordinary
interest. One morning, while our ship was anchored in the harbour of
Chios, the rock on which our anchor lay was moved by a sudden
convulsion: the mighty cable was snapped, and the ship tossed like a
cork by the strain. The guns were torn from their gearing and the shot
and shell torn from their racks. Men on their feet were flung
prostrate, and everything loose scattered over the decks. The shrill
blast of the bugle sounded the "still." Such a sound is very seldom
blown from the bugles, but when it is, every man stops absolutely
still and awaits orders. The boatswain blew his whistle which was
followed with the Captain's order, "Port watch on deck; every other
man to his post!" Five minutes later, on the port side of the ship, I
saw the British Consul's house roll down the side of the hill. I saw
the people flock around a priest who swung his censer and called upon
God. The yawning gulf was there into which a part of the little town
had sunk. A detachment of marines and bluejackets went ashore, not
knowing the moment when the earth would open up and swallow them. The
boats were lowered, and orders were given to stand ready to pack the
ship to the last item of capacity and carry away the refugees from
what we supposed to be a "sinking island." Of course, in a crisis like
this, the sentiment of religion becomes dominant. Some of my comrades
at once jumped to the conclusion that it was the coming of the Lord,
and in the solemnity of the moment I could not resist the suggestion
for which I was derided for months:

"Gee, but isn't He coming with a bang!"



In 1884 I kept a diary--kept it the entire year. It was written in the
straggling characters of a child of ten. As I peruse it now,
twenty-five years afterward, I am struck not so much with what it
records, as with what it leaves unrecorded. The great places visited
and the names of great men are chronicled, Bible studies and religious
observations find a place--but of the fierce struggle of the human
soul with destructive and corrupting influences, not a word!

The itinerary of the year included Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy,
Syria, Asia Minor, Cyprus, Crete and Sicily. Of these Syria was of the
greatest interest to me. Of the men whose pathway crossed mine,
General Gordon was of the most importance; of the others, the King of
Greece and the second son of Victoria were unique, but not
interesting. One in my position could only meet them as a flunky meets
his master, anyway.

Gordon, on his way to his doom in the Soudan, disembarked at
Alexandria. It was early in January. There was no parade, no reception
of any kind. Gordon was dressed in plain clothes with a cane in his
hand. Gladstone had sent him thus to bring order out of chaos in the
Land of the Mad Mullah. Officers with a penchant for religious
propaganda are scarce either in the army or navy, but into whatever
part of the world Gordon went, he was known and recognized and sought
after by men engaged in religious work. It was an officer of the Royal
Naval Temperance Society, who was at the same time a naval petty
officer, who said to me on the wharf at Alexandria--"That's Chinese

"Where is he going?" I asked.

"Down the Nile to civilize niggers who are dressed in palm oil and
mosquitoes," was the answer. A year later Gladstone sent an army and
spent millions of money to bring him back, but it was too late.

While lying off Piræus, the seaport of Athens, I was doing guard duty
on deck in the first watch. I was substitute for a comrade who had
gone to visit the ancient city. There had been an informal dinner, and
there were whispers among the men that some high mogul was in the
Admiral's cabin. Toward the close of the first watch I was joined on
my beat by a man in plain clothes, who, with a lighted cigar in his
mouth, marched fore and aft the star-board side of the ship with me.
In anticipation of entering Greek waters, I had read for months, and
this stranger was astonished to find a common soldier so well informed
on the history of Greece. I had not yet been ashore, but I had
arranged to go the following day. The gentleman, on leaving, handed me
a card on which he had pencilled what I think was an introduction. I
had only time to ask him his name, and he said, "George--just George."
Next day I discovered I had been pow-wowing with a king. The effect on
me was almost as bad as a successful go with the gloves. The Channel
Squadron, flying the flag of the Duke of Edinburgh, entered Malta
Harbour that year, and for some weeks the combined fleets lay moored
alongside each other. The Royal Admiral was a frequent visitor to our
ship. On one of these visits I had the experience of serving him with
luncheon. He was the guest of our skipper. During the luncheon I
handed him a note from his Flag Lieutenant. A dealer in mummies had
come aboard with some samples. They were spread out on the
quarter-deck. The note related the facts, but the Queen's son was not
impressed, and said so.

[Illustration: A Page from Mr. Irvine's Diary.
Kept while serving on H.M.S. _Alexandra_]

"Tell him," said he, "to go to ---- Oh, wait a moment"; then he
pencilled his reply on the back of a note and handed it to me. When
the Flag Lieutenant read it, he laughed, tore it up and handed the
pieces to me. The Duke's reply read--"He may go to the D---- with the
whole boiling. A."

Right off the coast of Sicily, we encountered a bit of rough water,
and Commander Campbell, a seaman of the old school, took advantage of
it for sail drill.

"Strike lower yards and top masts," was the order, "and clear the
decks for action!"

"Away aloft!" he roared, as the wind soughed through the rigging, and
a moment later I heard--"Bear out on the yard-arm!"

Something went wrong in the foretop that day, and its captain fell to
the hatchway grating below. I was standing a few feet from the spot,
and it took me the best part of the day to sponge his blood out of my
clothing. We stopped the evolution for a day, and the following day
another man was killed performing the same drill, and we buried them
both that afternoon in the old cemetery at the base of Mt. Etna. At
noon on the third day the ship was ordered to go through the same
evolution. Meantime a petty officer named Hicks had been promoted
captain of the foretop. He was one of the finest men in the ship. He
could dance a hornpipe, sing a good song, make a splendid showing with
the gloves or single-sticks; was something of a wag, and when he
laughed the deck trembled. His promotion was not wholly a thing of
joy, for the superstition of the sea gripped him tight. He was the
third man, and to most of us the number had an evil omen. Within an
hour after his promotion, the red flush had gone from his cheeks. He
was silent and managed to be alone most of the afternoon and evening
of that day. He had been a signal boy and was an expert in the
language of flags and in flashing the electric light. He was unable
to sleep and passed most of the night on deck with the sentries. It
was noticed that he begged permission to "monkey" with the
electric-light signalling apparatus aft on the poop. When we began the
sail drill the following day, the attention of every man on the ship
was focused on the captain of the foretop, and at the order--"Away
aloft!" he sprang at the rigging like a cat. We stood from under.
There was a breathless hush as the second order was given--"Bear out
on the yard-arm!" It was the fatal order at which the other men had
lost their nerve and their lives! As it rang out over the old ship, we
gulped down our lumps and secretly thanked Him in the hollow of whose
hand lie the seas. The evolution was completed, and when the man of
the foretop descended to the deck, half a dozen men gripped Hicks, and
hugged him and kissed him with tears in their eyes.

Something really did happen in the foretop that day--something
happened to its captain, though nobody knew just what it was. He came
to the deck a changed man, and those who knew him best, felt it most.
We could not analyze it--he could not himself. I got into the secret
by accident. Some weeks later, it may have been months, an officer
from another ship was lunching with a friend in our wardroom. I served
the lunch and overheard the following conversation:

"Have you a signal man by the name of Hicks--Billy Hicks--on board?"

"Yes, what about him?"

"Well," the officer said, smiling, "we were ten miles out at sea a few
weeks ago when I noticed the signals flashing all over the heavens. I
was officer of the deck. It was about seven bells in the first watch.
I called my signal officer, told him to take down what he read." He
pulled out his notebook, still smiling and, spelling out the words,

"_God this is Billy Hicks. I ain't afraid of no bloomin' man nor
devil. I ain't afraid of no Davey Jones bleedin' locker neither. I
ain't like a bawlin baby afussin' at his dad for sweeties. I doant ask
you for no favours but just one. This is it--when I strike the foretop
to-morrow let me do it with the guts of a man what is clean and God
dear God from this here day on giv me the feeling I use to have long
ago when I nelt at my mother's knee an said Our Father. Good night
dear God._"

I went out into the pantry of the wardroom, jotted down as much of
this as I could remember, and it gave me a splendid introduction to
the captain of the foretop.

The greatest problem of my life, and perhaps of any life at the age of
twenty-one, was the problem of sex instinct. I have often wondered why
that problem is discussed so meagrely. I have often wondered why, for
instance, Kipling and Frank Bullen and W. Clark Russell, in discussing
the life of soldiers and sailors with whom this is a specialized
problem, have not frankly discussed the terrific battle that every
full-blooded man must fight on this question.

The moment I arrived in that foreign port I was overwhelmed with a
sense of personal freedom. There I was, with a splendid physical
organization that had just come into its own, and around me in the mess
and on the ship's deck and on the streets of the cities--everywhere--I
heard nothing else but conversation on this problem. To nine out of
every ten men it was a joke. It was laughed at, played with, and I
knew, of course, that young men of my own age were being smashed on the
rocks of this problem.

The British Navy serves out once or twice a week a ration, which is
one of the biggest jokes of naval life. It is a small ration of lime
juice, and the rumoured purpose of it is to modify in some degree this
tremendous natural sex instinct. To most of us it was like spitting on
a burning building--the battle went on fiercer every day of life! I
tackled it from two points of view; first, the moral point of view. My
religion demanded purity, continence and self-mastery. The other point
of view--I don't think this was clear to me at the time; I don't
believe that I intentionally pursued this course with the object in
view that it actually accomplished; nevertheless, whether intentional
or unintentional, planned or unplanned, the effect was produced. The
physical work required of me was light, very light, and all my leisure
time was spent in study. I studied so hard and so conscientiously that
I tired not only my mind, but my body. There came a time when I was
dimly conscious, however, that I was doing two things by hard study: I
was preserving my body, conserving my vital energy, and at the same
time training my mind, gathering information and equipping myself
intellectually. At the present moment my body is as lithe, as powerful
and as enduring as the body of a youth of twenty, and I attribute this
wealth of health to the fact that twenty-five years ago, I tackled
this problem of self-mastery and laid the foundations for my present

Who will give the world a novel or a book dealing with this terrific
problem? Who will tell millions of young men around the age of twenty
that they cannot burn their candle at both ends? With the ordinary man
in civil life the temptation is a negligible quantity compared to the
life of a soldier or sailor. In the army and navy it is talked
incessantly so that a man has a double battle to fight. He fights the
thing and he fights a multitude of suggestions that come to him every
day of his life.

The most revolting, disgusting and degrading thing I ever heard talked
about on a man o' war was the perversion of the sex instinct--the
unnatural use of it! This, too, is a joke and laughed at and talked
lightly about; but the records of the British Navy, and I think of
other navies, would reveal something along this line that would shock
civilization. I did not believe this possible, but the first six
months on board changed my mind.

To the great credit of the British Navy, be it said that this crime is
held almost equal to murder, and when an officer is convicted of it,
the trial is _in camera_, and the findings kept secret; but no matter
how high his rank, he is stripped of his standing and marched over the
side of the ship as a degraded criminal and an outcast. A man of the
ranks convicted of it usually spends the rest of his natural life in

The two things responsible for such perversion in the navy are: first,
the herding of the male sex together and for long periods; second, the
mode of dress in which little boys begin their sea life. These are the
problems before which all others sink into utter insignificance. The
army and navy of Great Britain, is recruited very largely from the
slums of great cities. The most ignorant, the most brutal and most
immoral of mankind are drafted by the incentive of a better life than
they have ever known; but they are only changed outwardly. Their
nature, their habits of life, their mental make-up, does not change;
or, if it changes to the automatic action by which they become part
of a war machine they lose that individual freedom that is the boast
of the Anglo-Saxon race.

On the other hand, I must say that in all my contact with life, I have
never met nor been associated with a group of men more gentlemanly,
better educated, or whose total sum of right thinking and right living
was higher than that group of officers on that ship. I certainly
attribute a great deal of my quickening of mind to contact with them.



The incarceration of Gordon in Khartoum was a matter of deep concern
to every soldier and sailor in the British Empire, particularly to
those of us who were in and around Egypt at the time. It has not
always been plain to the British soldier in Egypt, why he was there;
but he seldom asks why he is anywhere. In the matter of Gordon,
however, the case was different. They all knew that Gladstone had sent
him and refused to relieve him; at least, the relief was so
long-drawn-out, so dilatory, that it was practically useless.

I had made application for my discharge from the service by
purchase--a matter of one hundred dollars--and had my plans made out
for further study; but the plight of Gordon gripped me as it gripped
others, and I determined to throw every other consideration aside, and
get to the front. There was one chance in a thousand, and I took it. A
marine officer of the ship was called for and his valet was a man who
had almost served his time; had seen much service and was not at all
anxious for any more. I went after him, bank-book in hand:

"I will give you all I possess if you will let me go in your place."

"It's a go," said this man as a gleam of joy overspread his face. The
officer himself was glad, and the whole thing was arranged; and in
forty-eight hours, I was on board the Peninsula and Oriental steamship
_Bokhara_ bound for the Red Sea. The officer was the most brutal cad I
have ever met. He strutted like a peacock, and seemed to take delight
in humiliating, when an opportunity would present itself, anybody and
everybody beneath him in rank--he was a captain.

The trip through the Suez Canal might be considered a new stage of
development, for I travelled as a second-class passenger. To be
consulted as to what I should eat or to have any choice whatever, was
not only new, but startling. In turning a curve in the Canal, we
encountered a sunken, water-logged ship which stopped the traffic. We
were there four or five days, and the life of ease and luxury, with
opportunity for reading and social intercourse with well-gowned people,
was so enjoyable that, had it not been for the fact that Gordon was in
danger in Khartoum, and I wanted to have a hand in his relief, I should
have enjoyed staying there a month. We disembarked at Suakim on the Red
Sea, and we were--the officer and myself--immediately attached to the
staff of General Sir Gerald Graham in the desert.

The seven months in the desert were months of waiting--monotonous,
deadening waiting. The greatest difficulty of that period of waiting
was the water supply. We were served out with a pint of water a day.
Water for washing was out of the question. Our laundry method was a
kind of optical illusion. We took our flannel shirts, rolled them up
as tightly as possible, tied them with strings, and then thumped them
laboriously with the butt end of a rifle; then they were untied,
shaken out, brushed, and they were ready for use. Most of this was a
make-believe laundry, but the brushing was real. Being attached to the
General Staff, I had a little more leeway in the comforts of life, but
it was mighty little.

Off in the hills, ten miles distant, was encamped the black horde
under Osman Digna, and every night of the seven months the Arabs kept
up small-arm firing upon us. Sometimes they were bold enough to make
an approach in a body in the darkness, but we had powerful electric
lights that could search the desert for miles. We got accustomed to
this after a while, and would simply lie prostrate while the light was
turned on them. Of course, the searching of the desert with the
electric lights was always accompanied with the levelling of our
artillery on whatever the light revealed. Not very much destruction
was accomplished on either side, however. Occasionally a stray bullet
would carry off one of our men in his sleep. Sometimes these naked
savages would stealthily creep in upon our sentries and with their
sharp knives would overpower them and mutilate them in an
indescribable manner.

To prevent this, we laid dynamite mines in front of our encampments. I
watched, late one afternoon, the young engineer officer as he
connected the wires for the night--perhaps his hand trembled as he
made connections, or perhaps some mistake was made. Anyway, there was
an explosion. Great masses of desert sand shot into the air like a
cloud, and when it fell again, the mangled body of the engineer fell
with it; but the mines were laid, connections made for the night, just
the same, by another engineer.

At other places we had broken bottles fixed in the sand, for the black
men came barefooted, and they were more seared by broken bottles in
the sand than they were by the musketry fire.

A night of great excitement was that of the capturing of some of our
mounted scouts in a sortie near the hills. That night we saw half a
dozen immense bon-fires on the hilltops, and the impression we got was
that our comrades were being burned alive. There were half a dozen
brushes or skirmishes with the natives during my stay in the desert,
but I did not experience what might be called a decisive battle. There
had been decisive battles of one sort or another, but I was not
present. They were before my time.

They began the laying of a railway from Suakim to Berber, but
afterward they pulled the rails up. The soldiers cursed Gladstone for
the laxity of his foreign policy. Gordon, we knew, was in Khartoum,
and hard pressed, and outside were the Mahdi and his multitude; and
why the Government should hold us back, we could not understand. The
desert life was so deadening that any kind of a change would have been
welcome. Every man would have been glad of even a repetition of the
charge at Balaklava, though only few men would come out. Anything was
preferable to rotting in the desert!

The sun was striking dead one out of every two men. I thought my time
had come when I had a sunstroke. Being the only man on the General's
staff stricken, I was well looked after. The General had ice, and I
was privileged to have the luxury of it. I was also given a glass of
the finest French brandy. I asked the attendant to put it by my side,
and when he disappeared out of my tent--my tent was so small that it
barely covered my body--I went through a fierce battle with my
prejudices. I was a fanatic on the drink question. I had sworn eternal
hostility to it, and with good reason. The use of it was partly
responsible for my lack of early schooling. It had robbed me of a
great deal of the life of my kind-hearted old mother, and I had
determined to put up a tremendous fight against it. Here the thing was
in my hands, ordered by the doctor; but I tipped it into the sand and
made them believe that I had drunk it. I had seen so many stricken men
with sunstroke die during the same day, that I had little hope of my
own recovery; but inside of twelve hours, I was on my feet again, and,
though weak, at work.

It was recorded that we lost fifty per cent. of our strength by
sunstroke and enteric fever. It was very noticeable that the men of
intemperate habits were the first to go. They dropped like sheep in
the heat of the day, and by sundown they lay beneath a winding sheet
of desert sand. The actual conflict of civilized with savage forces
was responsible for the loss of very few men. The sun was our arch

To break the monotony, we tried whatever sport was possible in the
sand. The national game, cricket, came in for a trial, but was more
laughter-provoking than recreative: a bundle of rags tightly rolled up
in a sphere served as a ball, and pieces of boards of old
packing-cases served as bats and wickets. Leapfrog and the
three-cornered game of "cat" were favourite pastimes, but nothing
broke the monotony. It was depressing, and it was not an unusual sight
to see men weeping from homesickness--utterly unable to keep back the
tears. There were attempts at suicide also, and men eagerly sought
opportunity to endanger themselves. Actual fighting on the desert was
to us the greatest possible godsend, for it meant either death or
relief from the game of waiting.

Despite the fact that the love of Gordon had brought me there, I was
not enamoured of the way in which the campaign was carried on. Of
course, when in actual conflict, I wanted this black horde wiped off
the face of the earth; but when I saw boys and girls, ranging from six
to ten years of age, approaching the phalanx of British bayonets with
their little assagais ready to do battle, I was thrilled with
admiration for them. Some of our officers described this as
fanaticism, and I remember a discussion that took place between two of
them as to whether it was fanaticism or courage, and a unique
experiment was tried. We had with us always a contingent of friendly
natives, and in order to test the question, one of them was to bare
his back (for a shilling) and an officer applied to it, with all his
strength, a horsewhip. I saw the black man's body writhe for an
instant as he puckered his mouth; but it was only for an instant--then
he smiled and asked for another stroke for another shilling. This
seemed to indicate to the officers that there was something more than
fanaticism in the Soudanese. Their warriors were tall, powerfully
built men--we used to say they were dressed in palm oil and
mosquitoes. Their hair stood straight up, and their bodies were
greased. I think it was the general opinion of our officers that if
these men could be disciplined and drilled as European soldiers are,
they would make the finest fighters in the world. Perhaps Kipling has
described this opinion better than anybody else when he says:

    So 'ere's to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your 'ome in the Soudan;
    You're a pore benighted 'eathen but a first-class fightin' man;
    An' 'ere's to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your 'ayrick 'ead of 'air--
    You big black boundin' beggar--for you broke a British square!

There was somewhat of a mixture of my sentiment and feeling on this
war. I wanted Gordon released, I wanted the war ended and the
Soudanese beaten; but when I contrasted the spirit of the campaign
with the spirit of Jesus, I often wished that I could lend my
assistance to these black men of the desert who were fighting for the
thing under their feet, and the home life of their tribe. But it was
not until I was completely out of the desert that I was possessed of a
loathing and disgust for the game of war, as such. This disgust grew
until I had completely ridden myself not only of the war spirit, but
of the paraphernalia of the soldier. The officer whose servant I was,
was so hated by everybody who knew him that if he had ever gotten in
front of the ranks, as was the ancient custom in war, he would have
been the first man to drop, and he would have dropped by a bullet from
one of his own men. But leaders no longer lead on the field of
battle--they follow!

I had some books with me, but the power to interest myself in them
had almost completely vanished. I occupied my mind very largely with
military tactics. On a large sheet of brown paper I outlined the plan
of campaign. On it I had the position of every regiment in our army.
The dynamite mines, the region of broken glass, the furze bushes, fort
and redoubts were all minutely detailed, and one night an exigency
arose in which this paper plan of campaign was called into evidence.
Tired of waiting, and very restive and discontented under the
privations of the desert, Graham determined to move. The
electric-light apparatus was out of order, and the advance forts were
too far away to be touched with any less powerful signal of the night.
A non-commissioned officer was ordered to take a corporal's guard and
deliver marching orders to the advanced forts. When questioned as to
the route he was not quite certain as to the exact location of the
dynamite mines or broken glass, and as I overheard the entire
conversation, I produced my brown-paper map and begged the honour of
carrying the dispatch. This was not granted me until several others
had been questioned and failed. I was so sure of every inch of the
ground, that I was commissioned to take two men with me and deliver
the orders. This made my heart leap with joy--it was a relief, an
excitement, an opportunity!

Osman Digna's men were stealthy. They hid behind the furze bushes in
the darkness so often, and so many of our men had been hamstrung,
that, of course, we were on the alert; but every furze bush we
approached covered an imaginery "Fuzzy-Wuzzy," and this, often
repeated, created an unutterable fear, so that by the time we reached
our destination, our khaki clothing was black with sweat, and we were
literally drenched with fear. Of course, we put on a brave front and
smiled complacently as we delivered the orders, and when it was
suggested that we remain overnight in the fort, I nonchalantly refused
the offer under the pretence that we were expected back. The same
thing happened on the return journey, and when the thing was over, we
were the most pitiful-looking objects--fear-stricken soldiers!

Some months later when it was announced to me that we had been
mentioned in dispatches, the absurdity of the thing became for the
first time fully apparent. According to the ethics of military life, I
had done a brave thing--something worth mentioning; but to my own
soul, I had been panic-stricken with physical fear, and, turn it over
as I might, I could not discover a vestige of either courage or
fortitude in the entire transaction.

The phrase, "Everything is fair in love and war," covers a multitude
of sins in both departments. We had a unique way of finding out
whether the wells in the desert were poisoned. We led up to each well
a small detachment of captives and made them drink. If they drank, we
could drink also; if they refused, we took it for granted the wells
were poisoned, and we hanged them. Sometimes this extreme sentence was
mitigated, and we flogged them. Whatever we touched, we destroyed.
What the bullet could not accomplish, the torch could. It was a
campaign of annihilation!

The news of Gordon's death cast a gloom over the entire army. This, of
course, meant relief and return home, but no man wanted to return. We
were seized with a fiendish impulse to proceed at all hazards to
Khartoum to his relief. That, from the point of view of the Government
was, of course, out of the question, and we were ordered home.
Transport ships were lying in Suakim harbour ready for the journey
across the sea, but this could not be accomplished with dispatch. A
garrison had to be left to watch the seaboard. The detachment of which
I was a part was returned to the town of Suakim, and the officers were
quartered in an unfinished building by the seaside at the edge of the
water. The officers' servants lived in tents pitched on the roof. We
were permitted to bathe as often as we wished. The harbour was full of
sharks and rather dangerous for bathing, but the Soudanese seemed to
be not over-careful as they skimmed over the water in their

The journey home on a transport was a continuation of the misery of
the desert. What the desert had left undone to weakened men, the
rough voyage accomplished. The ship was overcrowded and almost every
day dead bodies lashed to planks were pitched over the side. The sight
(below decks) of scores of men crawling around in a dying condition,
struck terror to the hearts of the strong. The smells were nauseating
and the food was vile. No man knew when his turn would come. The few
doctors were utterly unable to cope with this physical collapse of so
many men.

The condition of the ship and of the men furnished me with the best
opportunity I had had up to that time for evangelistic work. I spent
twenty hours of each twenty-four preaching the gospel to the men. The
absence of a chaplain on board made the work comparatively easy. My
work was done so quietly and unobtrusively, that it was practically
unknown save to the sick and the dying until an incident happened that
brought me somewhat into the light.

We were in the Bay of Biscay, and those who were well were fighting
off the atmosphere of disease. It was toward evening and four men were
playing cards for money. I stood watching them with my hands behind my
back. I must have been there half an hour when the man directly in
front of me, looking around and staring me in the face, said:

"Get t'ell out of 'ere! I 'aven't won a penny since you've been
watching us."

The other men laughed and I moved away, excusing myself as I
departed; but before I was out of hearing, one of the men addressed
the speaker and said:

"Don't be too sure of what you could do to that fellow Irvine--his
looks belie him. He's got more steam in his elbow than you have."

That was all I heard, but as I was looking over the side a minute or
two later, a hand was laid on my shoulder. I looked around. It was the
man who had threatened me.

"Say, pal," he said, "I didn't mean no 'arm. These 'ere blokes tell me
as yer name's Irvine. Is that so?" I nodded an assent. "Did yer ever
'ave a chum 'oose name was Creedan?" Again I nodded assent. "D'ye know
what became ov 'im?"

"He was missing on the field," I replied.

"'E's dead," said the man.

Then he described to me the last moments of my friend. It appeared
that Creedan and this man fell together on the field, Creedan shot
through the abdomen; this man, through the shoulder. An officer came
along and offered Creedan a mouthful of water, but he refused, saying
he was all in, but that he wanted to send a message to his chum, and
this is the message he gave to the man who had threatened to punch my

"Tell Irvine the anchor holds!"

I was moved, of course, by the recital of this story; so was the man
who told it.

"What in 'ell did 'e mean by th' anchor 'oldin'?" the man asked.

"Old man," I said, "I had been trying for a long time to lead Creedan
to a religious life, and the story you tell is the only evidence that
I ever had that he took me seriously."

The man looked as if he were going to weep, and in a quivering voice
he asked if I could help him. He was going home to marry a maiden in
Kent whom he described as "a pure good girl." He felt unworthy, for he
was a gambler and a periodical drunkard, and he thought that if a man
like Creedan could be helped, he could.

I struck the iron while it was hot, and said: "There is a good deal to
be done for you, but you have to do it yourself! If you've got the
grit in you to face these fellows and make a confession of religion
right here and now, I will guarantee to you that you'll land on the
shores of England a new man."

He looked at me for a moment with a stern, hard face, then he said:

"By God, I'll do it!" There was no profanity in this assertion. It was
the strongest way he could put it; and we dropped on our knees on the
deck and began to pray. In a minute or two half a dozen others joined
us. Then it seemed as if everybody around us was on his knees; and
then, when I felt the atmosphere of the crowd and the reverence of it,
I called on others to pray; half a dozen others responded, and then
this man, above the roar of the wind through the sails and the
creaking of the boats' davits, prayed to God to make him a new man.

Creedan had been drafted from the ship in a detachment for the front,
and when we met on the desert, we entered into a compact which
stipulated that if either of us fell on the field of battle, the
survivor was to take charge of the deceased's effects, and visit his

The arrival of the troops in England was the occasion for an unusual
demonstration. We were banqueted and paraded, and all kinds of honours
were showered upon us. As we marched through the streets in our
sand-coloured uniforms, we were supposed to be heroes--heroes every
one. What a farce the whole thing seemed to me! Nevertheless, I was
inconsistent enough to actually enjoy whatever the others were

Having purchased my discharge by the payment of £20 I was at liberty
to leave at my pleasure; I was offered a lucrative position in the
officers' mess which was one of the best in the British Army. This I
accepted and held for a year.

My furlough, after a short visit to Ireland, I spent in Oxford. The
University and its colleges and the town had a wonderful fascination
for me, but I think, as I look back at it and try to sum up its
influence upon me, that the personality of the "Master of
Balliol"--Benjamin Jowett--was the greatest and the most permanent
thing I received.

I had been striving for years to slough off from my tongue a thick
Irish brogue, and had not succeeded very well. The elegance and the
chasteness of Jowett's English did more for me in this respect than my
years of pruning. I have never heard such English, and behind this
master language of a master mind, there was a man, a gentleman! I
wrote Dr. Jowett a note one day, asking for an interview. It may have
been the execrable handwriting that interested him; but I had a most
polite note in return, stating the hour at which he would be glad to
see me. I remember attempting in a very awkward, childish way to
explain to him something of my ambition to make progress in my
studies, and how poorly prepared I was and how handicapped in various
ways. He rose from his seat, took down a book from a shelf, consulted
it and put it back, and then he told me in a few words of a Spanish
soldier who had entered the University of Paris at the age of
thirty-three and became an influence that was world-wide. This, by way
of encouragement. The model held up had very little effect upon me,
but this personal interview, this close touch with the man who himself
was a model, was a great inspiration to me, and remains with me one of
the most pleasant memories of my life.

My first lecture was given in the town hall at my home town in
Ireland during the first week of my after-campaign furlough. The
townspeople filled the hall, more out of curiosity than to hear the
lecture, for when the cobbler's son had left the town a few years
before he couldn't read his own name.

The Vicar presided. Ministers of other denominations were present. The
Young Men's Christian Association was very much in evidence at the
lecture. School teachers of the Sunday School where I taught, were
present. The class of little boys I had gathered off the streets was
there; but personally I had gone after the newsboys of the town, and I
had arranged that they should sit in a row of front seats. Indeed, I
bribed some of them to be present.

My lecture was on Gordon and Khartoum. I described our life on the
desert and told something of the war-game as I had seen it played. At
the close of the lecture, the usual perfunctory vote of thanks was
moved, and several prominent men of the town made the seconding of the
vote an excuse for a speech. Curiously enough, I had had an experience
with one of these men when I was a newsboy, and in my reply to this
vote of thanks I told the story:

"One winter's night when I was selling papers on these streets--I
think I was about twelve years of age--I knocked at a man's door and
asked if he wanted a paper. The streets were covered with snow and
slush, and I was shoeless and very cold. The man of the house opened
the door himself, and something must have disturbed him mentally, for
when he saw it was a newsboy, he took me by the collar and threw me
into the gutter. My papers were spoiled and my rags soaked with slush
and water.

"I picked myself up and came back to the window through which I saw a
bright fire on an open hearth, and around it the man's family. I don't
think I said any bad words, nor do I think I was very angry; but I
certainly was sad and I made up my mind at the window that that man
would some day be sorry for an unnecessary act of cruelty. I am glad
that the gentleman is present to-night"--a deep silence and
breathlessness pervaded the audience--"for I am sure that he is sorry.
But here are the newsboys of the town. They are my invited guests
to-night. I want to say to the townspeople that the only kindly hand
ever laid on my head was the Vicar's. It is too late now to help me--I
am beyond your reach: but these boys are here, and they are serving
you with papers and earning a few pennies to appease hunger or to
clothe their bodies, and I want you to be kind to them."

After the lecture the man who had thrown me in the gutter came to me.
Of course, he had forgotten it. He had not the slightest idea he was
the man, but he said:

"What a dastardly shame!"

I gripped him by the hands, and said, "You, my brother, are the man
who did it." I tightened my grip, and said, "And I forgive you as
fully and freely as I possibly can. You are sorry, and I am

I studied in the military schools for a first-class military
certification of education, and got my promotion; but no sooner had
the studies ceased and promotion come than the disgust with military
life and its restrictions increased with such force that it became
unbearable. So I left the service.



I came to the United States in September, 1888. I came as a steerage
passenger. My first lodging on American soil was with one of the
earth's saints, a little old Irish woman who lived on East 106th
Street, New York City. I had served in Egypt with her son, and I was
her guest.

I had come here with the usual idea that coming was the only
problem--that everybody had work; that there were no poor people in
this country, that there was no problem of the unemployed. I was
disillusioned in the first few weeks, for I tramped the streets night
and day. I ran the gamut of the employment agencies and the "Help
Wanted" columns of the papers. It was while looking for work that I
first became acquainted with the Bowery. It was in the current of the
unemployed that I was swept there first. It was there that I first
discovered the dimensions of the problem of the unemployed, and my
first great surprise in the country was to find thousands of men in
what I supposed to be the most wonderful Eldorado on earth, workless,
and many of them homeless.

An advertisement in the morning paper calling for a
"bed-hand"--whatever that might mean--led me to a big lodging-house on
the Bowery. They wanted a man to wash the floors and make the beds up,
and the pay was one dollar a day. I got in line with the applicants. I
was about the forty-fifth man. Many a time I have wished that I could
understand what was passing in the clerk's mind when he dismissed me
with a wave of the hand. I thought, perhaps, that my dismissal meant
that he had engaged a man, but that was not the case. A man two or
three files behind me got the job.

My next attempt led me to a public school on Greenwich Avenue. The
janitor wanted an assistant. I was so weary with my inactivity, that
any kind of a job at any kind of pay would have been acceptable. The
janitor showed me over the school, told me what his work was. Finally,
he took me to the cellar where he had piled up in a corner about
twenty lots of ashes. That, of course, was the first thing to be done,
and though the pile looked rather discouraging, I stripped to the
work, and went at it. My task was to get the ashes outside ready for
carting away. I was about six hours on the job, when I accidently
overheard the janitor say to his wife: "Shut your mouth, I have just
got a sucker of a greenhorn to get them out." That was enough. I got
my coat and hat, went over to the janitor's door, but before I could
open my mouth, his wife said: "What's up?"

"Oh, the job's all right," I replied, "but what I object to is the way
you do your whispering!"

The lowest in the scale of all human employments is the art of
canvassing for a sewing machine company. I did it for two weeks. My
teacher taught me how to canvass a tenement. The janitor is the
traditional arch enemy of the canvasser. My teaching consisted largely
in how to avoid him, circumvent him, or exploit him. A Mrs. Smith--a
mythical Mrs. Smith--always lived on the top floor. I was taught to
interview her first; then I canvassed from the top down.

My district was on the East Side from Fourteenth to Forty-Second
Street. I encountered some rough work with janitors and janitresses in
this region--so rough, indeed, that I considered it a splendid
missionary field; and when I found, crushed in the heart of that
tenement region, a small Methodist Church, I became interested in its
work. I copied its "bill-of-fare" from the board outside the door, and
began, as time permitted, to attend its services. As an offset to the
discouragements I had experienced, I met in this small church two big
men--big, mentally and morally. They were brothers, and during my
twenty-one years in the United States, I have not met their superiors.
They were Lincoln and Frank Moss, both of them leaders in the church,
and although they had moved with the population northward, they
remembered the struggles of their childhood, and gave to it some of
their best manhood.

Selling sewing machines was a failure, but out of it came the
discovery of this splendid field for social and religious activity. I
was directed to the Twenty-third Street Y.M.C.A. There, day after day,
I inquired at the Employment Department until the secretary seemed
tired of the sight of me.

I got ashamed to look at him. One night I sat in a corner, the picture
of dejection and despair, when a big, broad-shouldered man sat down
beside me.

"You look as if you thought God was dead!" he said, smiling.

"He appears to be," I replied.

He put his big hand on my shoulder, looked into my eyes, and drew out
of me my story. I forget what he said, it was brief and perhaps
commonplace, but I went out to walk the streets that night, full of
hope and courage. Before leaving that night I approached the little
man at the employment desk.

"Did you see that big fellow in a gray suit?" I asked.


"Who is he?"

"Mr. McBurney."

"The man whose name is on your letterhead?"

"The same."

"Great guns! and to think that I've been monkeying all these weeks
with a man like you--pardon me, brother!"

Robert R. McBurney was my friend to the day of his death. Many a time,
when out of the pit, I reminded him of the incident. It was from the
little man at the employment desk of the Twenty-third Street Y.M.C.A.
that I got my real introduction to business life--if the vocation of a
porter can be called "business."

I became an under-porter in a wholesale house on Broadway at five
dollars a week, and spent a winter at the job. The head of the house
was a leader of national reputation in his particular denomination. I
was sitting on the radiator one winter's morning before the store was
opened when the chief clerk came in. It was a Monday morning, and his
first words were:

"Well, what did you do yesterday?"

"I taught a Bible Class, led a people's meeting, and preached once,"
was my reply. He looked dumbfounded.

"Do you do that often?" he asked.

"As often as I get a chance," I answered.

An abiding friendship began that morning between us. This man might
have been a member of the firm and a rich man by this time, but he had
a conscience, and it would not permit him to dishonestly keep books,
which his employers wanted him to do, and he quit.

My next job was running an elevator in an office building on West
Twenty-third Street. It was one of the old-fashioned, ice-wagon
variety, jerked up and down by a wire cable. It gave me a good
opportunity for study. In the side of the cage I had an arrangement
for my Greek grammar. This of course, could not escape the notice of
the business men, and if I was a few seconds late in answering their
bell, they always looked like a thunder-cloud in the direction of my
grammar. One of my passengers on that elevator was sympathetic. His
name was Bruce Price, an architect; a tall, fine, powerfully built
man, who had a kindly word for me every morning, and the only
passenger who ever deigned to shake hands with me as if I were a human

After that, I mounted a milk-wagon and served milk in the region of
West Fifty-seventh Street. This drop into the cellars of the
well-to-do gave me contact from another angle with janitors,
janitresses, and servants. I started at four o'clock each morning. I
did not finish until late in the afternoon, but I had all of Sunday
off. I found my way by the touch of the hand, and very soon I seemed
to have the eyesight of a cat to find shafts, dumb-waiters, circuitous
turnings in the sub-cellars of large apartment houses.

The life of a milkman is a busy one, but I found time to mumble my
Greek roots as I trotted in and out of the cellars. My grammar, when
weather permitted, was tied open to a bottle in the cart.

From the milk-wagon I went to a publishing house. They had advertised
for a man with some literary ability, and I had the effrontery to
apply. I drove the milk-cart in front of the publishing-house door,
and, with my working clothes bespattered with milk and grease, I
applied personally for the job.

"What are your qualifications?" the manager asked.

"What kind of work do you want done?" I asked in reply. I found that
they were going to make a new dictionary of the English language, but
their method of making it obviated the necessity for scholarship. They
had an 1859 edition of Webster and a lot of the newer dictionaries,
and Webster was to be the basis of the new one, and we were to crib
and transcribe from all the rest. I was the third man employed on the

My salary to begin with was ten dollars a week. The word "salary" had
a fine sound; it is more refined than "wages," though it was less than
my pay as a milkman. After working a month, I had the temerity to
outline a plan for a dictionary which would necessitate the most
profound scholarship in America. This plan was laughed at, at first,
but finally adopted, and it took seven years and millions of dollars,
and hundreds of the best scholars in the United States and foreign
countries to complete the work. They raised my salary from $10 a week
to $100 a month; but when an opening came to work as a missionary
among the Bowery lodging houses at $60 a month, I considered it the
opportunity of a lifetime, and in 1890 entered my new parish--the



The Bowery is one of the most unique thoroughfares of the world. The
history of the cheap lodging houses, to which I was commissioned to
carry the gospel, is one of the most interesting phases of the
Bowery's history. Ex-inspector Thomas Byrnes has described the lodging
house of the Bowery as "a breeding place of crime." He probably did
not know that the cheap lodging house had its origin in a
philanthropic effort. It was in 1872, somewhere on the edge of a
financial panic, that the first lodging house of this type was
organized by two missionaries--Rev. Dr. A.F. Shauffler and the Rev.
John Dooley. The Young Men's Christian Association of the Bowery found
a lot of young men attending its meetings who were homeless, and their
endeavour to solve this problem resulted in the fitting up of a large
dormitory on Spring Street. Somebody--Ex-inspector Byrnes says a Mr.
Howe--saw a business opportunity in the philanthropy and copied the

There were from sixty to seventy of them on the Bowery when I began my
work. These I visited every day of the week. There was a glamour and
a fascination about it in the night-time that held me in its grip as
tightly as it did others. What a study were the faces--many of them
pale, haggard; many of them painted! How sickly they looked under the
white glare of the arc lights that fizzled and sputtered overhead!
Many of its shops have been "selling out below cost," for over twenty

I did not confine myself to the Bowery, but went to the small side
streets around Chatham Square. They were also filled with cheap
lodging houses. The lowest of these were called "bunk houses." Only
one of the bunk houses remains. That is situated at No. 9 Mulberry
Street. It is there to-day, little altered from the day I first
entered it over twenty years ago. The price for lodging ranges from
seven to fifteen cents, but fifteen cents was the more usual price.

My headquarters at first was the City Mission Church on Broome Street,
called "The Broome Street Tabernacle," and to it I led thousands of
weary feet. The minister at that time was the Rev. C.H. Tyndall, a
splendid man with a modern mind; but I filled his tabernacle so full
of the "Weary Willies of the Bowery" that Mr. Tyndall revolted, and as
I look back at the circumstance now, he was fully justified in his
revolt. Mr. Tyndall was doing a more important work than I was, more
fundamental and far-reaching. He was touching the family life of the
community and he saw what I did not see--that our congregations could
not be mixed; that my work was spoiling his. I did not see it then. I
see it now. So I betook myself to another church, and this other
church got a credit which it did not deserve, for they had no family
life to touch. It was a church at Chatham Square, and its usefulness
consisted in the fact that it was situated where it could catch the
ebb and flow of the "tramp-tide."

I spent my afternoons in the lodging houses, pocket Bible in hand,
going from man to man as they sat there, workless, homeless, dejected
and in despair. I very soon found that there was one gospel they were
looking for and willing to accept--it was the gospel of work; so, in
order to meet the emergency, I became an employment agency. I became
more than that. They needed clothing and food--and I became a junk
store and a soup kitchen.

After six months' experience in the work, I had a story to tell. It
was very vivid, and I could always touch the tear glands of a
congregation with it, and stir their hearts; so I went from church to
church, uptown and out of town and anywhere, and told the story of my
congregation on the Bowery. The result was not by any means a solution
of my problem, nor of the tramp problem, but carloads of old clothes,
and money to pay for lodgings. There was such a terrific tug at my
heartstrings all the time that I never had two coats to my own back,
or a change of clothing in hardly any department. As for money, I was,
as they were, most of the time penniless! Everything I could beg or
borrow went into the work.

At the close of the first year, the results were rather discouraging.
I got a number of men work, but very few had made good. Hundreds of
men had been clothed, fed and lodged, but they had passed out of my
reach. I knew not where they had gone. Scarcely one per cent. ever let
me know even by a postal card what had become of them, or how they
fared, and yet my work was called successful.

Sunday afternoons, with a baby organ on my shoulder and a small group
of converts and helpers following closely behind, I went down the
Bowery and held meetings in about half a dozen houses. I did most of
the speaking, but urged the converts to tell their own stories at each
service. I have said that I was never interfered with or molested in
the work, and the following incident can hardly be called an
exception. A broken-down prize fighter, slightly under the influence
of liquor, tried to prevent us from holding a meeting one afternoon. I
reasoned with him.

"You don't seem to know who I am," he said. I confessed my ignorance.

"Well," he said, "I'm Connelly, the prize fighter!"

"Then you're what your profession calls a 'bruiser'."

"Sure!" he replied.

"Probably you are not aware, Mr. Connelly, that the Bible has
something to say about bruisers."

He explained that, being a Roman Catholic, his Bible was different
from mine, and he did not think there were any bruisers in his Bible.

"Oh, you are mistaken, Mr. Connelly. This is your Bible I have with
me"--and I produced a small Douey Bible, and turning over the pages in
Genesis I read a passage which I thought might appeal to him:

"'The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head.' I suppose
you know who the woman was, Connelly."

"The Holy Virgin?" he inquired.

"Yes; and the serpent is the Devil, and he has been pouring firewater
into you and has been making you say things you would not otherwise
say. As for the seed of the woman, that is Jesus Christ; and this
Douey Bible of yours tells you that Jesus Christ is able to bruise the
head of the old serpent in you, which is the Devil." That sounded
rather reasonable to the retired prize fighter, and he quieted down
and we proceeded with the service.

The society for which I worked, occasionally sent down visitors to be
shown around the lodging houses, and often I took them in there
myself; but the thing grew very distasteful to me, for I never got
hardened or calloused to the misery and sorrow of the situation, and
it seemed to me eminently unfair to parade them.

About the last man I took around was Sir Walter Besant. I dined with
him at the Brevoort House one night, and took him around first to one
of the bunk-houses and then to various others, and also into the
tenement region around Cherry Street.

"Keep close to me," I told Besant as we entered the bunk house, "don't
linger;" so we went to the top floor. The strips of canvas arranged in
double tiers were full of lodgers. The floor was strewn with
bodies--naked, half naked and fully clothed. We had to step over them
to get to the other end. There was a stove in the middle of the room,
and beside it, a dirty old lamp shed its yellow rays around, but by no
means lighted the dormitory. The plumbing was open, and the odours
coming therefrom and from the dirty, sweaty bodies of the lodgers and
from the hot air of the stove--windows and doors being tightly
closed--made the atmosphere stifling and suffocating.

After stepping over the prostrate bodies from one end of the dormitory
to the other, the novelist was almost overcome and when we got back to
the door he begged to be taken to the open air. When we got to Chatham
Square, he said--"Take me to a drugstore." Besant knew the underworld
of London as few men of his generation knew it, but he had never seen
anything quite so bestial, so debauched and so low as the bunk-house
on Mulberry Street.

It seems strange to me now that after having tramped the streets of
New York with the unemployed and after having shared their misery,
disappointment and despair, that I should, as a missionary, have
entirely forgotten it, and that after years of experience among them,
I should still be possessed of the idea that men of this grade were
lazy and would not work if they had it. One afternoon in a bunk-house
I was so possessed of this idea that I challenged the crowd.

"You men surely do not need any further evidence of my interest in
you," I remarked. "All that I have and am belongs to you; but I cannot
help telling you of my conviction: that most of you are here because
you are lazy. Now, if any man in the house is willing to test the
case, I will change clothes with him to-morrow morning and show him
how to find work."

The words had scarcely escaped my lips when a man by the name of Tim
Grogan stood up and accepted the challenge.

I made an appointment to meet Grogan on Chatham Square at half-past
five the next morning. Before I met him, I had done more thinking on
the question of the unemployed than I had ever done in my life. I
balked on the change of clothing article in the agreement--and
furnished my own. Two or three men had enough courage to get up early
in the morning and see Tim off--they were sceptical about my

The first thing that we did was to try the piano, soap and other
factories on the West Side. From place to place we went, from
Fourteenth to Fifty-ninth Street without success. Sometimes under
pretence of business and by force of the power to express myself in
good English, I gained an entrance to the superintendent; but I always
failed to find a job. We crossed the city at Fifty-ninth Street and
went down the East Side. Wherever men were working, we applied. We
went to the stevedores on the East Side, but they were all "full up."
"For God's sake," I said to some of them, but I was brushed aside with
a wave of the hand. I never felt so like a beggar in my life. Tim
trotted at my heels, encouraging me with whimsical Irish phrases, one
of which I remember--

"Begorra, mister, the hardest work for sure is no work at all, at

In the middle of the afternoon, I began to get disturbed; then I
decided to try a scheme I had worked over for hours. "Keep close to
me, now, Tim," I said, as I led him to a drugstore at the corner of
Grand Street and the Bowery.

"Sir," I said to the clerk, "you are unaccustomed to giving credit, I
know; but perhaps you might suspend your rule for once and trust us
to the amount of five cents?"

"You don't talk like a bum," he said, "but you look like one."

I thanked him for the compliment to my language, but insisted on my

"Well, what is it?" asked the clerk with somewhat of a sneer.

"I am hungry and thirsty. I have looked for work all day and have
utterly failed to find it. Now I have a scheme and I know it will
work. Oxalic acid eats away rust. If I had five cents' worth, I could
earn a dollar--I know I could."

He looked curiously at me for a moment, and said with an oath:

"By--! I've been on the Bowery a good many years and haven't been sold
once. If you're a skin-game man, I'll throw up my job!"

I got the acid. I played the same game in a tailor-shop for five
cents' worth of rags. Then I went to a hardware store on the Square
and got credit for about ten cents' worth of brickdust and paste. I
took Tim by the arm and led him across the west side of Chatham
Square. There used to be a big drygoods store on the east side of the
Square, with large plate-glass windows, and underneath the windows,
big brass signs.

"Nothing doing," said the floorwalker, as I asked for the job of
cleaning them; nevertheless, when he turned his back, I dropped on my
knees and cleaned a square foot--did it inside of a minute.

"Say, boss," I said, "look here! I'm desperately hard up. I want to
make money, and I want to make it honestly. I will clean that entire
sign for a nickle."

It was pity that moved him to give me the job, and when it was
completed, I offered to do the other one. "All right," he said; "go

"But this one," I said, "will cost you a dime."

"Why a nickle for this one and a dime for the other?" he asked.

"Well," I said, "we are just entering business. In the first case I
charged you merely for the work done; in the second, I charge you for
the idea."

"What idea?" he inquired.

"The idea that cleanliness is part of any business man's capital."

"Well, go ahead."

When both signs were polished I offered to do the big plate-glass
windows for ten cents each. This was thirty cents below the regular
price, and I was permitted to do the job. Tim, of course, took his cap
off, rolled his shirtsleeves up and worked with a will beside me.
After that, we swept the sidewalk, earning the total sum of
thirty-five cents. We tried to do other stores, but the nationality of
most of them was against us; nevertheless, in the course of the
afternoon, we made a dollar and a half. I took Tim to "Beefsteak
John's," and we had dinner. Then I began to boast of the performance
and to warn Tim that on the following Sunday afternoon I should
explain my success to the men in the bunk-house.

"Yes, yes, indeed, yer honour," said Tim, "y're a janyus! There's no
doubt about that at all, at all! But----"

"Go on," I said.

"I was jist switherin'," said Tim, "what a wontherful thing ut is that
a man kin always hev worruk whin he invints ut."

"Well, that's worth knowing, Tim," I said, disappointedly. "Did you
learn anything else?"

"There's jist one thing that you forgot, yer honour."

"What is it?" I asked.

"Begorra, you forgot that if all the brains in the bunk-house wor put
together they cudn't think of a thrick like that--the thrick of
cleaning a window wid stuff from a dhrugstore! They aint got brains."

"Why haven't they?"

"Ach, begorra, I dunno except for the same raisin that a fish hasn't
no horns!"

We retraced our steps to the drugstore and the tailor-shop and the
hardware store, and paid our bills and I handed over what was left to

This experiment taught me more than it taught Tim. It made a better
student of me. I had investigated the cases of a hundred men in that
same bunk-house--their nationality, age and occupation--and I had
tried to find out the cause of their failure. And my superficial
inquiry led me to the conclusion that the use of intoxicating liquor
was the chief cause.

The following table shows the trade, nationality and age of one of our
Sunday audiences in the B---- bunk-house. The audience numbered 108,
and were all well-known individually to the Lodging House Missionary.


  Engineer                                 1
  Waiter                                   1
  Watchman                                 1
  Labourers                               17
  'Longshoremen                            7
  Junkmen                                  3
  Mechanics                                3
  Coal Heavers                            18
  Street Peddlers                          4
  Beer Helpers                             2
  Knife Grinders                           4
  Tailors                                  4
  Cooks                                    2
  Cigar Makers                             2
  Upholsterer                              1
  Painter                                  1
  Butcher                                  1
  Shoemakers                               6
  Gardeners                                3
  Gilder                                   1
  Jeweler                                  1
  Oysterman                                1
  Bronzer                                  1
  Truckman                                 1
  Firemen                                  2
  Last Maker                               1
  Farmer                                   1
  Thieves and Bums of various grades      18
  Total                                  108


  Germans                                52
  Americans                              19
  Irish                                  22
  English                                 4
  Swedish                                 2
  Austrians                               2
  Scotch                                  2
  Welsh                                   1
  French                                  2
  Greek                                   1
  Cuban                                   1
  Total                                 108


  Between 20 and 30                      21
     "    30 and 40                      30
     "    40 and 50                      29
     "    50 and 60                      20
     "    60 and 70                       8
  Total                                 108
  Average age, 41 years

Despite my experience with Tim Grogan, I diagnosed the condition of
these men as being entirely due to strong drink. I went back over the
ground and investigated with a little more care the causes that led
them to drink, and this was the more fruitful of the two
investigations. I wondered why men would not even stick at a job when
I got them work. A careful investigation led me to the belief that,
when a man gets out of a job once, he loses just a little of the
routine, the continuity, the habit of work, and it is just a little
harder to apply himself when he begins again. If a man loses a job two
or three times in a year, it is just as many times harder to go on
with a regular job when it comes. Lack of regular employment is the
cause not only of the physical disintegration, but of the moral
disintegration also; so, these men who had been out of employment so
often, actually could not stick at a job when they got it. They were
disorganized. A few of them had the stamina to overcome this
disorganization. I found the same to be true in morals. When a man
made his first break, it was easier to make the second, and it was as
easy for him to lose a good habit as to acquire a bad one.

The same thing holds good in what we call charity. A terrific
soul-struggle goes on in every man and woman before the hand is put
out for the first time. Self-respect is a tremendous asset, and
people hold on to it as to their very souls; but when a hand is held
out once and the community puts alms therein, the fabric of
self-respect begins to totter, and the whole process of disintegration



I made my headquarters, while a lodging-house missionary, in the
Mulberry Street bunk-house. It was only a block from Chatham Square,
and central. The first thing I did was to clean it. I proceeded with
soap and water to scrub it out, dressed in a pair of overalls. While
performing this operation, a tall gaunt figure lurched into the room
with his hands in his pockets--a slit for a mouth, shaggy eyebrows,
rather small eyes. He looked at me for a moment as if in astonishment,
and then he said:

"Hello, bub, what's de game?"

"I'm a missionary," I answered.

"Ye are, eh?"

"Yes. When I finish cleaning the floor, I am going to attempt to clean
up some other things around here."

"Me too, hey?"

"Yes; don't you think you need it?"

He laughed a hoarse, gutteral laugh, and said:

"Don't get bughouse, boss. Ye'd wind up just where ye begun--on the

This man, who was known in the bunk-house as "Gar," was known also by
the names of "McBriarty" and "Brady." He had been in the army, but
they could not drill him. He had spent fifteen years in State's Prison
for various offences, but for a good many years he had been bungling
around in cheap lodging houses, getting a living by his wits. He was
the toughest specimen of a man I ever saw. There was a challenge in
him which I at once accepted. It was in his looks and in his words. It
was an intimation that he was master--that missionaries were somewhat
feeble-minded and had to do with weak people. I was not very well
acquainted with the bunk-house at the time, but I outlined a plan of
campaign the major part of which was the capture of this primordial
man. Could I reach him? Could I influence and move him to a better
life? If not, what was the use of trying my theological programme on
others? So I abandoned myself to the task. I knew my friends and the
officers of the missionary society would have considered it very
ill-advised if the details of the plan had been known to them, so I
slept in the bunk-house and stayed with him night and day. Of course,
I would not have done it if I had not seen beyond him: that if I could
gain this man, I would gain a strategic point. He himself would be a
great power in the bunk-house; first of all, because he was physically
fit. He was selected because he could pitch any two men in the house
out of it; and even from a missionary's point of view, that was
important. He resented at first my interference, but gentleness and
love prevailed, and he finally acquiesced.

The hardest part of the plan was to eat with him in an underground
restaurant where meals cost five and ten cents a piece. When he was
"tapering off," I went with him into the saloons. He visited the cheap
fake auction-rooms and would buy little pieces of cheap jewelry
occasionally and sell them at a few cents' profit. These things
nauseated me. There was no hope of finding this man any work. He did
not want work, anyway; could not work if he had it.

He tried, during the first week that I was with him, to disgust me;
first with his language and then with his actions. He put the lights
out in the dormitory one night, and in the darkness pulled three or
four men out of the bunks, cuffed them on the side of the head and
kicked them around generally. He thought this was the finishing touch
to my vigil. When the superintendent came up and lit the lamp again,
he had an idea that it was the bouncer and came over to his cot, which
was beside mine, and found him snoring. When all was quiet, the
bouncer said to me:

"What did ye tink of it, boss, hey?"

"Oh," I said, "that was a very tame show, and utterly uninteresting."

"Gee!" he said, "you must have been a barker at Coney Island."

The test of my theology on him proved a failure. The story of the
prodigal son was a great joke to him. He said of it:

"Say, bub, if you ever strike an old gazabo as soft as dat one, lemme
know, will ye?" Prayer to him was "talking through one's hat."

In a few weeks he straightened up and began to give me very fine
assistance in the bunk-house. His change of mind and heart almost lost
him his job, for he lost a good deal of his brutality--the thing that
fitted him for his work. In ushering insubordinate gentlemen
downstairs, he did it more with force of persuasion than with the
force of his shoe. He continued my campaign of cleaning, and decorated
the kalsomined walls with chromos that he bought at one penny apiece.
He was a psychologist and would have probably been surprised if
anybody had told him so. He could tell at once the moral worth of a
lodger; so he was a very good lieutenant and picked out the best of
the men who had reached the bottom--and the bunk-house was the bottom
rung of the social ladder. Every day he had his story to tell--of the
newcomers and their possibilities. His conversion was a matter of slow
work. Indeed, I don't know what conversion meant in his case. It
certainly was not the working out of any theological formula that I
had preached to him.

The telling of this man's story in churches helped the work a great
deal. It was the kind of thing that appealed to the churches--rather
graphic and striking; so, unconsciously we exploited him. We could
have gotten a hundred dollars to help a man like this--whose life
after all was past or nearly past--to one dollar we could get for the
work of saving a boy from such a life!

Among the most interesting characters that I came in contact with in
those days was Dave Ranney; he is now himself a missionary to the
Bowery lodging houses. I was going across Chatham Square one night,
when this man tapped me on the shoulder--"touched me"--he would call
it. He was "a puddler from Pittsburg," so he said.

"Show me your hands," I replied. Instead, he stuck them deep into his
trouser pockets, and I told him to try again. He said he was hungry,
so I took him to a restaurant, but he couldn't eat. He wanted a drink,
but I wouldn't give that to him. He walked the streets that night, but
he came to me later and I helped him; and every time he came, he got a
little nearer the truth in telling his story. Finally I got it all. He
squared himself and began the fight of his life.

Another convert of the bunk-house was Edward Dowling. "Der's an old
gazabo here," said the bouncer to me one day, "and he's got de angel
goods on him O.K." He was a quiet, reticent old man of sixty, an
Irishman who had served in the British Army in India with Havelock and
Colin Campbell. He had bought a ranch in the West, but an accident to
one of his eyes forced him to spend all his money to save the other
one. He drifted in to New York, penniless and without a friend. Seeing
a tinker mending umbrellas one day on the street, he sat down beside
him and watched the process. In that way he learned something of the

One Sunday afternoon when I was rallying a congregation in the
bunk-house, I found him on his cot, reading the life of Buffalo Bill.
I invited him down to the meeting, but he politely refused, saying
that he was an Episcopalian. The following Sunday he did come, and his
was the most striking spiritual crisis that I had ever seen. His
conversion was clean-cut, definite and clear; it was of a kind with
the conversion of Paul on the way to Damascus. He was an exceedingly
intelligent man, and could repeat more classic poetry by heart than
any man I have ever known. He came out from that brown mass of human
flotsam and jetsam on the Sunday afternoon following his conversion,
and told them what had happened to him.

The lodgers were very much impressed. It was in the winter-time. The
old man earned very little money at his new trade, but what he had he
shared with his fellow-lodgers. The bouncer told me that the old
tinker would buy a stale loaf for a few cents, then in the
dormitory he would make coffee in tomato cans and gather half a dozen
of the hungriest around him, and share his meal with them--plain bread
soaked in unsweetened coffee. Sometimes he would read a few verses of
the Bible to them, and sometimes merely say in his clear Irish voice:
"There, now, God bliss ye!"

[Illustration: Dowling, Tinker and Colporter.
A Veteran who Served in India under Havelock and Colin Campbell]

At this time he was living on a dollar a week, but every morning he
had his little tea-party around the old stove, his word of greeting,
and his final word of benediction to the men he had selected to share
in his bounty as they slunk out of the bunk-house to begin the day.

Later, he had a large-type New Testament out of which he read a verse
or two every morning at the meal. Very soon the three hundred lodgers
began to look upon him with a kind of awe. This was not because he had
undergone a radical change, for he had always been quiet, gentle and
civil; but because he had found his voice, and that voice was bringing
to them something they could not get elsewhere--sympathy, cheer and

In the tenement region, particularly in the little back alleys around
Mulberry Street, he mended pots, kettles, pans and umbrellas--not
always for money, but as often for the privilege of reading to these
people messages of comfort out of his large-type New Testament.

Going down Mulberry Street one morning in the depth of winter, I
happened to glance up one of those narrow alleys in "the Bend," and I
noticed my friend standing at a window, his face close to a broken
pane of glass and his large New Testament held in front of him a few
inches from his face. His tinker's budget was by his feet. The door
was closed. In a few minutes he closed the book, put it into his kit,
and as he moved away from the window, I saw a large bundle of rags
pushed into the hole.

"What have you been doing?" I inquired.

He laughed. "There, now, God bliss her," he said. "I put a rib in an
umbrella for her, but she said the house was too dirty to read the
Bible in, so she let me read it through the broken window."

All that winter he tinkered and taught. All winter the little ragged
audiences gathered around him in the morning; and often at eventime
when he retreated into a quiet corner to be silent and rest, he found
himself the centre of an inquiring group of his fellow-lodgers.

Instead of uniting himself to the mission, as such men usually do
after their conversion, I advised him to join one of the prominent
churches of the city, in the downtown district. I thought it would be
good for the church. But we both discovered our mistake later. He was
utterly out of keeping with his surroundings. The church he joined was
an institution for the favoured few--and Dowling was a tinker.

His diary of that period is before me as I write, and I am astonished
at the great humility of this simple-minded man.

He had been asked by the minister of his church to call on him; but
his modesty prevented him until hunger forced him to change his mind.
After starving for three days, he made up his mind to accept that
invitation, and reveal his condition to the well-to-do minister of
this well-to-do church. He was poorly clad. It was a very cold winter
day. The streets were covered with slush and snow. On his way he met
an old woman with a shawl around her, a bedraggled dress and wet feet.

"My good woman," said Dowling, "you must be very cold, indeed, in this

"Sir," she answered, "I am cold; but I am also starving of hunger.
Could you afford me one cent to get some bread?"

"God bliss ye, dear friend," he said, "I have not been able to taste
food for three days myself; but I am now on the way to the house of a
good friend, a good servant of the Lord; and if I get any help, I will
share it with you. I am a poor tinker, but work has been very slack
this last week. I have not earned enough to pay for my lodging."

The diary gives all the details, the corner of the street where he met
her, the hour of the day.

A servant ushered him into the parlour of his "good friend, the
servant of the Lord." Presently the reverend doctor came down,
somewhat irritated, and, without shaking hands, said:

"Dowling, I know I have asked you several times to call, but I am a
very busy man and you should have let me know. I simply cannot see you
this morning. I have an address to prepare for the opening of a
mission and I haven't the time."

"No handshake--no Christian greeting," records the tinker's diary; and
the account closes with these words: "Dear Lord, do not let the demon
of uncharitableness enter into my poor heart."

He became a colporteur for a tract society, and was given as territory
the towns on the east side of the Hudson River. Tract selling in this
generation is probably the most thankless, profitless work that any
human being could undertake. The poor old man was burdened with a
heavy bundle of the worst literary trash of a religious kind ever put
out of a publishing house. He was to get twenty-five per cent. on the
sales; so he shouldered his kit, with his heart full of enthusiasm,
and began the summer journey on foot. He carried his diary with him,
and although the entries are very brief, they are to the point.

"August 29. Sold nothing. No money for bread or lodging. _God is
good._ Night came and I was _so_ tired and hungry. I went into a grove
and with a prayer of confidence on my lips, I went to sleep. A clock
not far away struck two. Then, rain fell in torrents and a fierce
wind blew. The elements drove me from the grove. A constable held me
up. 'I am a servant of God, dear friend,' I said. 'Why doesn't he give
you a place to sleep, then?' he answered. 'God forgive me,' thinks I
to myself, 'but that is the same unworthy thought that was in my own
mind.' I went into a building in course of erection and lay down on
some planks; but I was too wet to sleep."

Next day hunger drove him to work early. He was turned from one door
after another, by saints and sinners alike, until finally he was so
weak with hunger that he could scarcely walk. Then he became desperate
to a degree, and his diary records a call on another reverend doctor.

This eminent divine had no need for religious literature, nor had he
time to be bothered with beggars. Dowling records in his diary that he
told the minister that he was dropping off his feet with hunger and
would be thankful for a little bread and a glass of water. It seems
almost incredible that in a Christian community such things could
happen; but the diary records the indictment that those tender lips in
life were never allowed to utter--it records how he was driven from
the door.

He had letters of introduction from this rich tract society, and again
he presented them to a minister.

"A very nice lady came," says the record. "I gave my credentials,
explained my condition and implored help.

"_We are retired from the active ministry_," the woman said, "and
cannot help you. We have no further use for religious books."

A third minister atoned for the others, and made a purchase. This was
at Tarrytown. On another occasion, when his vitality had ebbed low
through hunger and exposure, he was sitting on the roadside when a
labourer said, "There is a nigger down the road here who keeps a
saloon. He hasn't got no religion, but he wants some. Ye'd better look
him up." And he did. The Negro saloon-keeper informed him that being a
saloon-keeper shut him and his family from the church.

"Now," he said, "I am going to get Jim, my barkeeper, to look after
the joint while I take you home to talk to me and my family about
God." So they entertained the tinker-preacher, and the diary is full
of praise to God for his new-found friends. The Negro bought a
dollar's worth of tracts, and persuaded the colporteur to spend the
night with them.

With this dollar he returned to New York, got his tinker's budget, and
went back to his missionary field. If people did not want their souls
cured he knew they must have lots of tinware that needed mending; so
he combined the work of curing souls with the mending of umbrellas and
kitchen utensils, and his period of starvation was past. His business
was to preach the new vision and tinker for a living as he went along.

"September 12," reads the diary, "I found myself by the brook which
runs east of the mountain. I had a loaf of bread and some cheese, and
with a tin cup I helped myself to the water of the brook. The
fragments that remained I put in a bundle and tied to the branch of a
tree by the roadside. On the wrapper I pencilled these words:
'Friend--if you come across this food and you need it, do not hesitate
to eat it; but if you don't need it, leave it for I will return at the
close of the day. God bless you.'"

At eventime he returned and was surprised at the altered shape of the
bundle. He found that two beef sandwiches and two big apples had been
added, with this note: "Friend: accept these by way of variety. Peace
to thee!" This gives occasion for another address of prayer and
gratitude to God for His bountiful care. By the brookside he took
supper, and then began the ascent of the hill. After a few hours
fruitless search for the road, he "got stuck," in the words of the
diary. Finding himself in a helpless predicament, he gathered grass
and dry leaves around him and prepared himself for the night.

"Psalms IV. 8 came to my mind," he said, "and I took great comfort in
the words--'I said, I will both lay me down in peace and sleep, for
Thou, Lord, makest me dwell in safety!'"

He woke next morning and found the earth covered with hoar frost,
which suggested to him: "Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean.
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."

One of my duties while engaged as a missionary on the Bowery was to
render reports of the work done for the missionary society. The
society had a monthly magazine and it was through that medium that
they got the greater part of their support.

In one of my reports I told the story of a London waif. The story made
such an impression upon the superintendent that he thought I was
romancing, and said so. My best answer to that was to produce the boy,
and I produced him. The boy told his own story. Then it was published
in a magazine and produced a strong impression. I think an extra
edition had to be printed to supply the demand.



"I know nothing about my father," said the boy to me. "My mother
worked in the brick-yard not far from our cottage, where we lived
together. I went to school for two years and learned to read and
write, a little.

"Every evening I used to go to the bend in the road and meet my mother
as she came home. She was always very tired--so tired! She carried
clay on her head all day and it was heavy. I used to make the fire and
boil the supper and run all the errands to the grocery.

"One evening at the bend of the road I waited for my mother until it
was dark, but she did not come. Then I went home crying. I found my
mother lying on the bed with her clothes on. She would not wake up. I
shook her by the arm, I rolled her from one side to the other, but she
would not speak; then, I got on my knees and I kissed her--and her
face was very cold. I was scared. I went for the old woman who lived
next door. She shook her; then she cried and told me that my mother
was dead.

"My mother used to play with me at night and sometimes in the morning,
too. When they told me she was dead, I wondered what I would do
without her; but all the neighbours were so kind to me that I forgot a
good deal about my mother until they put her in a box and carried her
away. Then one of the neighbour women took me and said I must live
with her; so I did. I sold papers, ran errands, dried the dishes,
swept the floor for her; but after a long time she began to speak very
crossly to me, and I often trembled with fear.

"One day I decided to run away. After I sold all my papers, I came to
the cottage and slipped all the pennies under the door, and then ran
away as fast as I could. I did not know where I was going, but I had
heard so much about London that I thought it must be a very great
place and that I could get papers to sell and do lots of other things;
so, when a man found me sitting on the side of the road and asked me
where I was going, I said, 'To London.' He laughed and said:

"'Whom do you know there?'

"'Nobody,' I replied, 'but there are lots of people there and lots of
work, and I don't like the place where I live.' The man took me to his
house and kept me all night and paid my carfare to London next day.

"Many days and many nights I had no food to eat, nor no place to
sleep. I did not like to beg, not because I thought it wrong, but
because I was afraid. I saw boys carrying packages along the street,
found out how they got it to do, and imitated them, earning
occasionally a few pennies. I saved up enough with these pennies to
buy a stock of London papers. By saving these pennies and eating
little food, I was able to buy a larger stock of these papers each
day. I had good luck, and by economy I managed to live and save. In a
few days I was able to pay thru'pence a night for a lodging. One night
when I made a big venture in spending all my money on a big stock of
papers, I had an accident in which they were all spoiled. I dropped
them in a pool of water--and I was penniless again! That night, late,
I went up the white stone steps of a big house in Westminster and went
to sleep. I had saved a few of the driest papers and used them as a

"'Hi, little cove!' a policeman said, as he poked his baton under my
armpit next morning. 'What are you doing here?' I began to whimper,
and he took pity on me and showed me the way to Dr. Barnardo's Home;
but when I got out of his sight, I went off in another direction, for
I had heard that many boys got whipped down there. I got among a lot
of boys on the banks of the river. They were diving for pennies. I
thought it was a very hard way to earn money, but I did it too, and
got about as much as the rest. I did not stay long on the river bank.
The boys were sharper than I was and could cheat me out of my pennies.

"One night I slept under an arch. Next morning I heard the loud sound
of factory whistles. Everybody was aroused. Some of the people lying
around were going to work there; and I thought I might get a job also,
so I followed them. On the way we came to a coffee stall, and as I was
nearly fainting with hunger, I stood in front of it to get the smell
of the coffee and fresh bread, for that does a fellow a heap of good
when he's got nothing in his stomach. A man with a square paper hat on
looked at me, and said:

"'What's up, little 'un?'

"I said nothing was up except that I was hungry. Then he stepped up to
the coffee-man and gave him some money, and I got a bun and a mug of
coffee. It seemed to me that I had never been so happy in all my life
as with the feeling I got from that bun and coffee--but then, I had
been a good many days without food.

"There was no work to be had at the factory near the bridge, so I went
back to the docks. At night I slept with a lot of other fellows under
a big canvas cover that kept the rain from some goods lying at the
docks ready to be shipped. I think there must have been as many
fellows under that big cover as there were piles of goods. It was
while there that I thought for the first time very seriously about my
mother, and I began to cry. The other fellows heard me and kicked me
from under the cover; but that did not help my crying, however. I
smothered a good deal of it and walked up and down by the side of the
river all night. My eyes were swollen, and I was feeling very badly
when a sailor noticed me. He had been to sea and had just returned
home. He talked a lot about life on a ship--said if he were a boy, he
would not hang around the docks; he would go to sea.

"'Where's yer folks?' he said to me.

"'Ain't got none,' I said.

"'Where d'ye live, then?'

"'I don't live nowheres.'

"'Shiver my timbers,' he said, 'ye must have an anchorage in some of
these parts? Where d'ye sleep nights?'

"'Wherever I be when night comes on,' I told him.

"The sailor laughed, and said I was a lucky dog to be at home

"'See here, young 'un,' the sailor said, 'I've been up agin it in
these parts myself when I was a kid, and up agin it stiff, too; and
there ain't nothing around here for the likes of ye. Take my advice
and get out o' here. There's a big ship down here by the
docks--_Helvetia_. Sneak aboard, get into a scupper or a barrel or
something, and ship for America.'

"The idea of 'sneaking aboard' got very big in my mind, and I went to
Woolwich where the ship was lying; and I met a lot of other boys who
were trying to sneak aboard, too. I thought my chances were slim, but
I was going to have a try, anyway. These boys that were thinking of
the same thing, tried to get me to do a lot of things that I knew were
not right. There was stuff to steal and they knew how I could get it.
There were kind-hearted people around, and they wanted me to beg. When
they said the ship was going to sail, I got aboard and hid on the
lower deck.

"Two days after that I thought the ship was going to the bottom of the
sea, and I didn't care very much, for I had been vomiting, and it
seemed as if my heart was breaking, and I was sick--so sick that I
didn't care whether I was dead or alive. One of the sailors heard me
groaning and pulled me out by the leg. Then he looked at me and swore;
caught me by the neck and dragged me before the captain. I was so sick
I could not stand; but the captain was not angry. He was very funny,
for he laughed very loudly, and said:

"'Put the kid to work, and if he doesn't do it, put a ten-inch hose on

"Four of us altogether had stowed away on that ship. The other boys
laughed a good deal at me because I got the easiest job of them all.
When I was able to stand on my feet, they made me clean a little
brass cannon. I could clean it sitting down, and I liked the job when
I was not sick. Every one was good to me, and I had a happy time the
last few days of the voyage. Then I came to New York and met you."

This, in briefest outline, is the story of Johnnie Walker. I met him
at a mission on the edge of the North River, and was as touched by his
story as others had been before me. So I took him to my home,
introduced him to the bathroom and to a new suit of clothes, and
Johnnie entered upon the happiest days of his life. After a few weeks
I handed him over to the Children's Aid Society, and they sent him out
West. He has always called me "father."

One evening I asked him what he knew about Jesus and he replied,
"Ain't 'ee th' bloke as they swears about?"

His ideas of prayer were also dim, but he made an attempt. He wrote a
letter to God and read it on his knees before going to bed.

He is now a prosperous farmer in the far West, living on a quarter
section of land given to him by the Government, and on which he has
made good his claim to American citizenship.



A sharp contrast to this waif of the street is the case of a statesman
under a cloud. I was sitting on a bench near the bunk-house one day at
twilight, when I noticed a profile silhouetted against the window. I
had seen only one profile like that in my life, and that was when I
was a boy. I moved closer. The man sat like a statue. His face was
very pale and he was gazing vacantly at the walls in the rear of the
building. Finally, I went over and sat down beside him.

"Good evening," he said quietly, in answer to my salutation. I looked
into his face--a face I knew when a boy, a face familiar to the
law-makers of Victoria for a quarter of a century. I called him by
name. At the sound of his own name, his paleness turned to an ashy

"In Heaven's name," I said, "what are you doing here?" He looked at me
with an expression of excruciating pain on his face, and said:

"I have travelled some thousands of miles in order to be alone; if you
have any kindness, any pity, leave me."

"Pardon me," I said, "for intruding."

That night the Ex-Club invited him to take part in their
deliberations. He refused, and his manner showed that he considered
the invitation an insult. I had known this man as a brilliant orator,
a religious leader, the champion of a sect. In a city across the sea I
had sat as a barelegged boy on an upturned barrel, part of an immense
crowd, listening to the flow of his oratory. Next day he left the
bunk-house. Some weeks afterward I found him on a curbstone, preaching
to whoever of the pedestrians would listen.

At the close of his address, I introduced myself again. He took me to
his new lodging, and I put the questions that filled my mind. For
answer he gave me the House of Commons Blue Book, which explained the
charge hanging over him. Almost daily, for weeks, I heard him on his
knees proclaim his innocence of the unmentionable crime with which he
was charged. After some weeks of daily association, he said to me:

"I believe you are sent of God to guide me, and I am prepared to take
your advice."

My advice was ready. He turned pale as I told him to pack his trunk
and take the next ship for England.

"Face the storm like a man!" I urged, and he said:

"It will kill me, but I will do it."

He did it, and it swept him to prison, to shame, and to oblivion.

Nothing in the life of the bunk-house was more noticeable than the way
men of intelligence grouped themselves together. Besides the Judge,
there were an ex-lawyer, an ex-soldier of Victoria and a German Graf.
I named them the "Ex-Club." Every morning they separated as though
forever. Every night they returned and looked at one another in

At election-time both political parties had access to the register,
and every lodger was the recipient of two letters. Between elections a
letter was always a matter of sensational interest; it lay on the
clerk's table, waiting to be claimed, and every lodger inspected it as
he passed. Scores of men who never expected a letter would pick it up,
handle it in a wistful and affectionate manner, and regretfully lay it
down again. I have often wished I could analyze the thoughts of these
men as they tenderly handled these rare visitors conducted by Uncle
Sam into the bunk-house.

It was a big letter with red seals and an aristocratic monogram that
first drew attention to a new-comer who had signed himself "Hans
Schwanen." "One-eyed Dutchy" had whispered to some of his friends that
the recipient of the letter was a real German Graf.

He was about sixty years of age, short, rotund, corpulent. His head
was bullet-shaped and set well down on his shoulders. His clothes were
baggy and threadbare, his linen soiled and shabby. He had blue eyes,
harsh red hair, and a florid complexion. When he arrived, he brought
three valises. Everybody wondered what he could have in them.

The bouncer was consumed with a desire to examine the contents, and,
as bouncer and general floor-manager of the house, expected that they
would naturally be placed under his care. When, however, it was
announced that the newcomer had engaged "One-eyed Dutchy" as his
valet, the bouncer swore, and said "he might go to ----."

There was something peculiar and mysterious in a ten-cent guest of the
Bismarck hiring a valet. The Germans called him Graf von Habernichts.
He kept aloof from the crowd. He had no friends and would permit no
one to establish any intercourse with him.

His valet informed an intimate friend that the Graf received a check
from Germany every three months. While it lasted, it was the valet's
duty to order, pay for, and keep a record of all food and refreshment.
When the bouncer told me of these things, I tried very hard to
persuade the Graf to dine at my house; but he declined without even
the formality of thanks. After a few months, the revenue of the
mysterious stranger dried up and "One-eyed Dutchy" was discharged.

A snowstorm found the old Graf with an attack of rheumatism, and
helpless. Then he was forced to relinquish his ten-cent cot and move
upstairs to a seven-cent bunk. When he was able to get out again, he
came back dragging up the rickety old stairs a scissors-grinder.
Several of the guests offered a hand, but he spurned them all, and
stuck to his job until he got it up.

Another snowstorm brought back his rheumatism; he got permission to
sit indoors. The old wheel lay idle in the corner; he was hungry and
his pipe had been empty for a day and a night; but still he sat bolt
upright, in pain, alone, with starvation staring him in the face. The
third day of his voluntary fast he got a letter. It contained a
one-dollar bill. The sender was watching at a safe distance and he
recorded that the Graf's puzzled look almost developed into a smile.
He gathered himself together and hobbled out to a nearby German
saloon. Next day came the first sign of surrender. He accepted a
commission to take a census of the house. This at last helped to thaw
him out, but it didn't last long.

His rheumatism prevented him from pushing his wheel through the
streets and I secured him a corner in a locksmith's basement. He had
not been there many weeks when he disappeared. The locksmith told a
story which seemed incredible. He said the old Graf had sold his wheel
and given the proceeds to an Irishwoman to help defray the funeral
expenses of her child.

Some months later, the clerk of the bunk-house got a postal card from
"One-eyed Dutchy." He was on the Island, and the Graf and he were
working together on the ash gang. I secured his release from the

When he returned to the bunk-house, every one who had ever seen him
noted a marked change. He no longer lived in a shell. He had become a
human, and took an interest in what was going on. One night when a few
of the Ex-Club were exchanging reminiscences, he was prevailed upon to
tell his story. He asked us to keep it a secret for ten years. The
time is up, and I am the only one of that group alive.

"In 1849 it was; my brother and I, students, were in Heidelberg. Then
broke out the Revolution. Two years less of age was I, so to him was
due my father's title and most of the estate. 'What is Revolution?'
five of us students asked. 'We know not; we will study,' we all said,
and we did. For King and Fatherland our study make us jealous, but my
brother was not so.

"'I am revolutionist!' he says, and we are mad to make him different.

"'The King is one,' he said, 'and the people are many, and they are

"I hate my brother, and curse him, till in our room he weeps for
sorrow. I curse him until he leaves.

"By and by in the barricades he finds himself fighting against the
King. In the fight the rebels are defeated and my brother escapes.
Many are condemned and shot. Not knowing my heart, my mother writes me
that my brother is at home.

"I lie in my bed, thinking--thinking. Many students have been shot for
treason. Love of King and Fatherland and desire to be Graf, are two
thoughts in my heart.

"I inform. My brother is arrested, and in fortress is he put to be

"Four of us students of patriotism go to see. My heart sinks to see my
brother, so white is he and fearless. His eyes are bright like fire,
and he stands so cool and straight.

"'I have nothing but love,' he says; 'I love the cause of truth and
justice. To kill me is not to kill the truth; where you spill my blood
will Revolution grow as flowers grow by water. I forgive.'

"Then he sees me. 'Hans!' he says, 'Hans!' He holds out his arms. 'I
want to kiss my brother,' he says. The General he says, 'All right.'

"But I love the King. 'No! I have no brother! I will not a traitor

"My Gott! how my brother looks! He looks already dead--so full of
sorrow is he.

"A sharp crack of guns! They chill my heart, and down dead falls my

"I go away, outside glad, but in my heart I feel burn the fires of
hell. Father and mother in one year die for sorrow. Then I am Graf.

"I desire to be of society, but society will not--it is cold. Guests
do not come to my table. Servants do not stay. They tell that they
hear my mother weep for sorrow in the night. I laugh at them, but in
my heart I know them true. Peasants in the village hide from me as I
come to them.

"But my mind is worse. Every night I hear the crack of the rifles--the
sound of the volley that was my brother's death. Soldiers I get, men
of the devil-dare kind, to stay with me. They do not come back; they
tell that they hear tramp, tramp, tramp of soldiers' feet.

"One night, with the soldiers, I take much wine, for I say, 'I shall
be drunk and not hear the guns at night.'

"We drink in our noble hall. Heavy doors are chained, windows barred,
draperies close arranged, and the great lamp burns dim. We drink, we
sing, we curse God und das Gesindel. 'We ourselves,' we say, 'are

"Then creeps close the hour for the guns. My tongue is fast and cannot
move; my brow is wet and frozen is my blood.

"Boom! go the guns; then thunder shakes the castle, lightning flashes
through the draperies, and I fall as dead.

"Was I in a dream? I know not. I did not believe in God; I did not
believe in heaven or in hell; yet do I see my past life go past me in
pictures--pictures of light in frames of fire: Two boys, first--Max,
my brother, and I, playing as children; then my mother weeping for
great sorrow; then the black walls of the great fortress--my brother
with arms outstretched. Again my blood is frozen, again creeps my
skin, and I hear the volley and see him fall to death. I fear. I
scream loud that I love the King, but in my ear comes a voice like
iron--'Liar!' A little girl, then, with hair so golden, comes and
wipes the stain of blood from my brow. I see her plain.

"Then I awake. I am alone; the light is out; blood is on my face. I am
paralyzed with fear, so I cannot stand. When I can walk, I leave, for
I think maybe that only in Germany do I hear the guns. For twenty
years I live in Spain. Still do I hear the guns.

"I go to France, but yet every night at the same hour freezes my blood
and I hear the death volley.

"I come to America, which I have hated, yet never a night is missed.
It is at the same hour. What I hate comes to me. Whatever I fear is
mine. To run away from something is for me to meet it. My estate is
gone; money I have not. I sink like a man in a quicksand, down, down,
down. I come here. Lower I cannot.

"One day in 'the Bend', where das Gesindel live, I see the little
girl--she of the golden hair who wiped my stain away.

"But she is dead. I know for sure the face. What it means I know not.
Again I fall as dead.

"I have one thing in the world left--only one; it is my
scissors-grinder. I sell it and give all the money to bury her. It is
the first--it is the only good I ever did. Then, an outcast, I go out
into the world where no pity is. I sit me down in a dark alley;
strange is my heart, and new.

"It is time for the guns--yet is my blood warm! I wait. The volley
comes not!

"The hour is past!

"'My Gott, my Gott!' I say. 'Can this be true?' I wait one, two, three
minutes; it comes not. I scream for joy--I scream loud! I feel an iron
hand on me. I am put in prison. Yet is the prison filled with
light--yet am I in heaven. The guns are silent!"

One day a big letter with several patches of red sealing-wax and an
aristocratic monogram arrived at the bunk-house. Nearly two hundred
men handled it and stood around until the Graf arrived. Every one felt
a personal interest in the contents. It was "One-eyed Dutchy," who
handed it to the owner, and stood there watching out of his single eye
the face of his former master. The old man smiled as he folded the
letter and put it into his pocket, saying as he did so: "By next ship
I leave for Hamburg to take life up where I laid it down."

       *       *       *       *       *

The only man now living of those bunk-house days is Thomas J.
Callahan. He has been attached for many years to Yale University and
doing the work of a janitor. Many Yale men will never forget how "Doc"
cared for Dwight Hall. He is now in charge of Yale Hall. The
circumstances under which I met Doc were rather peculiar.

"Say, bub," said Gar, the bouncer, to me one day, "what ungodly hour
of the mornin' d'ye git up?"

"At the godly hour of necessity," I replied.

"Wal, I hev a pal I want ter interjooce to ye at six."

I met the bouncer and his "pal" at the corner of Broome Street and the
Bowery next morning at the appointed hour.

"Dat's Doc!" said Gar, as he laid his hand on his friend's shoulder.

His friend bowed low and in faultless English, said: "I am more than
pleased to meet you."

"I can give you a pointer on Doc," the big fellow continued. "If ye
tuk a peaner to th' top av a mountain an' let her go down the side
sorter ez she pleases, 'e c'u'd pick up the remains an' put thim
together so's ye w'u'dn't know they'd been apart. Yes, sir; that's no
song an' dance, an' 'e c'u'd play any chune iver invented on it."

Doc laughed and made some explanations. They had a wheezy old organ
in Halloran's dive, and Doc kept it in repair and played occasionally
for them. Doc had a Rip Van Winkle look. His hair hung down his back,
and his clothes were threadbare and green with age. His shoes were
tied to his feet with wire, and stockings he had none. Doc had studied
in a Medical College until the eve of his graduation. Then he slipped
a cog and went down, down, down, until he landed at Halloran's dive.
For twelve years he had been selling penny song-sheets on the streets
and in saloons. He was usually in rags, but a score of the wildest
inhabitants of that dive told me that Doc was their "good angel." He
could play the songs of their childhood, he was kind and gentle, and
men couldn't be vulgar in his presence.

I saw in Doc an unusual man, and was able to persuade him to go home
with me. In a week he was a new man, clothed and in his right mind. He
became librarian of a big church library, and our volunteer organist
at all the Sunday meetings.

After two years of uninterrupted service as librarian, during which
time Doc had been of great service in the bunk-house, I lost him. Five
years later, crossing Brooklyn Bridge on a car, I passed Doc who was
walking in the same direction. At the end of the bridge I planted
myself in front of him. "Doc," I said, "you will never get away from
me again." I took him to New Haven, where he has been ever since.

It is needless to say that several years' work in the midst of such
surroundings gives one a hopeless outlook for that kind of work. In
1891 a movement to establish a municipal lodging house was organized,
and I became part of it. A committee composed largely of business men
met in the office of Killaen Van Ransellaer, 56 Wall Street. In
discussing the plan of a municipal lodging house, the "Wayfarers
Lodge" in Boston, an institution of the character under discussion,
was pointed out as a model, and it was decided to send a
representative to Boston to investigate and make a report on it.

I was suspicious of the printed report of the Boston place. It spoke
of the men getting clean bedding, clean sheets and good meals; and
experience was teaching me that that kind of catering for the tramp
would swamp any institution. Then, I knew something about the padding
of charitable reports. I did not care to offer any objection to the
sending of a representative, but I determined to go myself; so,
dressed in an old cotton shirt with collar attached, a ragged coat, a
battered hat and with exactly the railroad fare in my pocket, I went
to Boston. I stopped a policeman on the street, told him I was
homeless and hungry. "Go to the Police Station," he said, and knowing
that at each Police Station tickets of admission were served, I
presented myself to the Sergeant at the desk.

Furnished with a ticket, I went to No. 30 Hawkins Street, and there
fell in line with a crowd of the same kind of people I was working
with and for on the Bowery. We had about an hour to wait. When it came
my turn for examination, I was rather disturbed to find the
representative of the committee sitting beside the superintendent,
investigating the tramps as they passed. I knew he could not recognize
me by my clothes, but I was not so certain about my voice, so I spoke
in a low tone.

"Open your mouth," the superintendent said. "Where are you from?"

I kept my eyes on the ground and answered a little louder, "Ireland."

"You are lying," the superintendent said. "Where are you from?"

"Ireland," I answered again in the same tone.

Two kinds of checks lay on the table in front of him--one pile green,
the other red. After answering the rest of the questions, I was given
a red check and taken to a cell where a black man stripped me to the

"Why did I get a red card while most of the others got a green card?"
I asked.

"You're lousy, boss, dat's why."

"Well, what are you going to do about it?"

"Steam 'em." So he tied my clothes in a bundle and put them under a
pressure of two hundred and fifty pounds of steam, the coloured man
remarking as he stowed them away: "What's left of 'em when they come
out, boss, aint gwine to do no harm." Then I was marched, sockless,
with my shoes on and a metal check strung around my neck, to the bath
where I was taken charge of by another coloured man.

"Here!" he said, as he pointed to an empty tub. I bathed myself to his
satisfaction and then looked for the clean towels of the "Annual
Report," but found them not. Instead, there was a pile of towels
already used--towels made of crash--and I was told to select the
driest of them and dry myself.

"I was clean when I went into that tub," I said to the black man--"I
am cleaner now; but if I dry myself with this sodden piece of crash, I
will be dirtier than when I began." The black man proceeded to force
me to do this and his attempt nearly ended the experiment, for I
refused pointblank to do it. "No, thank you," I said, "I will walk up
and down until I dry."

When the superintendent of that department was called into counsel, my
use of English rather surprised him, and he let it go at that. Then we
were marched upstairs to bed; there were one hundred and fifty beds in
a big dormitory. I looked around for the linen of the "Annual Report,"
and was again disappointed. The cots were furnished with horse

The method of arousing the men in the early morning was rather unique.
A man with a stick--a heavy stick that reminded me of an Irish
flail--thumped the bare floor, and, to my astonishment, there was a
rush of this savage-looking, naked crowd to the door. As I knew no
reason for the excitement, I took my time.

I followed the men to the boiler-room, where, after calling out my
number, I got the bundle corresponding to it, and it looked like a
crow's nest. Everybody around me was hustling to get his clothes on,
boiled or unboiled; and again I was mystified as to the hurry. When I
arrived in the yard, I discovered the reason for this unusual activity
of my parishioners. The first men out in the yard had a cord of wood
each to saw, and it took twice as long to chop as it did to saw it.
Those who were last had to chop. I took my axe and began my task. Soon
the splinters were flying in all directions. The man next to me was
rather put out by this activity and said that if he wanted to work
like that he could do it outside.

"This ain't no place to work like that," he said; then he began to
expectorate over my block and annoy me in that way. I tried a few
words of gentle persuasion on him, but it made him worse. He
bespattered my hands and the axe handle, and I took him by the neck
and ran him to the other end of the yard and dumped him in a corner.
Any kind of a fuss in that yard had usually a very serious ending; but
this had not, for the yard superintendent took my part.

I think it was about eleven o'clock in the forenoon when I finished my
wood, and went in to get breakfast, which consisted of a bowl of gruel
and two hard biscuits. One of these biscuits I kept hanging in my
study for two years. After breakfast I marched into the office, and
said to the superintendent:

"Brother, I want to ask you a few questions which belong to a
domain--that mysterious domain that lies between the facts and your
'Annual Report.'"

"Are you a reporter?" was his first question.

Assuring him that I was not, I asked him the necessary questions, and,
furnished with some real information, I returned to the Wall Street

I think John H. Finley of the City College was the representative, and
he rendered his report. Then I stood up and told of my experience
which differed vitally from the re-hash of the "Annual Report." The
facts, as I found them, were all in favour of such an institution. A
man would have to be mighty hard up to go to the Boston municipal
lodging house; and that is exactly what was needed. The necessity for
padding the "Annual Report" I could never find out.

The municipal lodging house agitated at that time is now a fact. It
has been duplicated. On February 19th, 1893, in the Church of the
Covenant on Park Avenue, I made the suggestion, and it was published
in the papers the following day, that there was a splendid
opportunity for a philanthropist to invest a few million dollars at
five per cent. in a few lodging houses on a gigantic scale. What
connection the Mills Hotels bear to that suggestion, I do not know,
but they are the exact fulfilment of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few years in that work gave me a terrific feeling of hopelessness,
and I longed for some other form of church work where I could obviate
some of the work of the Bowery. The best a man could do on the Bowery
was to save a few old stranded wrecks; but the work among children
appealed to me now with far greater force. I also saw the necessity of
the preacher touching not only the spiritual side of a man, but the
material side also. A preacher's function, as I understood it after
these experiences, was to touch the whole round sphere of life.



About this time the old church of Sea and Land at the corner of Market
and Henry streets was to be put up for auction. The New York
Presbytery wanted to sell it and devote most of the money to the
building up of uptown churches. I was sent there by the missionary
society to hold the place until they got a good price for it. I
gathered the trustees around me--a splendid band of devout men, mostly
young men--and I did not need to tell them that it was a forlorn hope.
They already knew it.

We outlined a plan of campaign to save the church for that community,
and the result is that the church is there to-day. Of course, the
district is largely Jewish, but there were enough Gentiles to fill a
dozen churches.

It was inevitable that we should get in touch with the Jewish
children. We had a kindergarten, but made it known to the Jewish
community that we were not in the business of proselyting, and that
they need have no hesitation in sending their children to our
kindergarten, which was a great blessing to the whole community.
Sunday evenings in the spring and fall, I spoke to large congregations
of Jewish people from the steps of the church, on the spirit of Jewish
history--as to what it had done for the world and what it could still

I think it was in the early part of 1893 that I began my work there.
It was the year of the panic, and the East Side was in a general state
of stringency and starvation. A group of ministers of various
denominations got together and devised a plan for a cheap restaurant
in which we were to sell meals at cost.

Probably for the first time in the history of New York, a Roman
Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist
pastors sat down around a table to talk over the welfare of the
people. A committee was formed, and I nominated the Catholic priest
for chairman. He was elected. The restaurant did not last very long,
and probably the chief good of the thing was the getting together of
these men. Difficulties, of course, came thick and fast. Kosher meat
for the Jews, fish for the Catholics on Friday, and any old thing for
the Gentiles, were the smallest of the difficulties to be overcome.

I was supported in my church work by a band of young men and women,
mostly from a distance, who gave their services freely, and in the
course of a year or two, we managed to increase the church membership
by a hundred or so, and occasionally we filled the structure by
serving out refreshments to the lodging-house men of the Bowery. I had
an opportunity to touch the social needs of the community by
coöperating with the University Settlement which was then in its
infancy. I opened the church edifice for their lecture course which
included Henry George, Father McGlyn, Thaddeus B. Wakeman, Daniel de
Leon, Charles B. Spahr, and W.J. Sullivan. Sixteen years ago these men
were the moving spirits in their respective lines in New York City.
The New York Presbytery was not altogether pleased by this new
departure in church work; but we had the lectures first, and asked
permission afterward. Most of these men filled the church to
overflowing. In the case of Father McGlyn, hundreds had to be turned

As I sat beside Father McGlyn in the pulpit, I said, "Father, how do
you stand with the Pope, these days? What is the status of the case?"

"Well, Irvine," he said, "I can best explain it by a dream that I had
some time ago. I dreamed that a young priest visited me with the
intention of getting me to recant. 'McGlyn,' he said, 'if you don't
recant, you'll be damned!' And I thought for a minute or two and then
gave the only answer that a man with a conscience could give: 'Well,
brother, I'll be damned if I do!'"

I found myself drifting quietly out of old methods of church work, and
attempting, at least, to apply religion to the conditions around
me. Every aspect of social life was in need of remedial treatment. Of
course, I did not neglect the religious teaching, but what the
situation demanded was ethical teaching, and, without making any
splurge about my change of view, I worked at whatever my hand found to
do in that immediate neighbourhood.

[Illustration: Alexander Irvine.
From a sketch by Juliet Thompson]

The push-cart men and organ-grinders were terrorized by the policemen.
I hired an organ-grinder one summer afternoon to play for several
hours, so that the children of the neighbourhood might have a dance on
the street. It was a joy to my soul to see these little bits of
half-naked humanity dancing by the hundreds on the streets and
sidewalks, most of them barefooted, hatless and coatless. It was on
one of these occasions that I discovered the petty graft exercised on
the organ-grinders. The push-cart men all paid toll to the policeman
on the beat, and the captain of the precinct winked at it. The
officers of the precinct looked upon the religious leaders as "easy
marks"--every one of them. The detectives of the Society for
Prevention of Crime went through my parish and discovered wholesale
violations of excise laws and city ordinances by the existence of
bawdy-houses and the selling of liquor in prohibited hours and on
Sundays. The captain of the precinct came out with a public statement
that these men were liars; that the law was observed and prostitution
did not exist. As between Dr. Parkhurst and the captain of the
precinct, the public was inclined to believe the captain.

One Sunday evening after service, I dressed in the clothes of a
labourer, took several men with me and went through the parish. The
first place we entered was the East River Hotel, a few blocks from my
church. We purchased whiskey at the bar. I did not drink the whiskey,
for under oath I could not tell whether it was whiskey or not; but my
companions were not so hampered. After paying for the liquor, we were
invited upstairs, and there we saw one of the ghastliest, most inhuman
sights that can be found anywhere on earth outside of Port Said. We
counted forty women on the first floor. We saw them and their stalls,
surroundings and companions, and we beat a hasty retreat. A cry of
alarm was raised, and the barkeeper jumped to the door. It was secured
by two heavy chains. No explanation was made, but a straight demand
that he open the door, which was done, and we passed out.

The grand jury, which at that time was hearing report and
counter-report on the condition of the neighbourhood, had for a
foreman a Tammany man who owned several saloons. We went into these
saloons one after another, purchased liquor in bottles, and next
morning appeared before the grand jury armed with affidavits, and the
liquor. Dr. Parkhurst stood at the door of the jury room as I went
in, and whispered to me as I passed him: "This thing cannot last

The first few minutes of my testimony I was unconsciously assuming the
position of a criminal myself, and apologizing for interfering with
these gentlemen. The assistant district attorney, instead of
representing the people and standing for the Law, was inquiring into
my reasons for doing such an unusual thing. I objected to the foreman
sitting on his own case.

"This man," I said, "is an habitual violator of the Law. I am here to
testify to that; so are my companions. We have the evidence of his
law-breaking here," and I pointed to the bottles that we had placed on
the table.

They did not move, however, and I think they rather considered the
whole thing a joke. We proceeded to describe the East River Hotel and
similar resorts that a few days previously had been described as
immaculately clean by the captain of the precinct. The result of all
this was the sustaining of the testimony of Dr. Parkhurst's
detectives. The petty graft among the organ-grinders and the push-cart
men went right on. Complaints were jokes and were treated as such.

The change of seasons brought little change in the activities of a
church centre like that. In the winter it was the provision of coal
and clothes. In the summer it was fresh-air parties and doctors.

I made the discovery one day in a tenement in talking to a little
child of five, that she had never seen a green field or a tree. This
led me to ask the missionaries assisting the church to make a search
for a few weeks and collect as many such children as possible. We got
together seventeen, ranging from three to seven years of age, not any
of whom had ever seen a single aspect of the outdoor world, save the
world of stone and brick and wood.

Some friends in Montclair, N.J., arranged a lawn party for these
little ones, and we proceeded. Nothing extraordinary happened. There
was no open-eyed wonder, few exclamations as we intently watched the
emotions of these children as they gazed for the first time on lawns,
flower gardens and trees. Two-thirds of them were seasick on the train
and the one regret of the journey was that we had not taken along half
a dozen wet nurses.

The one unique thing of the day was the luncheon. The children were
arranged around an extemporized table where sandwiches, lemonade and
milk were abundantly provided. At a signal from the hostess, I said,
"Now, children, everything is ready! Have your luncheon." But there
was no commotion. Two-thirds of them sat motionless, looking at each

The sandwiches were made of ham. If I had not seen this with my own
eyes, I would scarcely have credited the telling of it by anybody
else. Two-thirds of the children were of Jewish parents and had been
taught at least one thing thoroughly. The hostess did the best she
could under the circumstances and provided other kinds of meat, cake
and fruit, and the festal occasion had a happy ending.

A certain amount of care has always to be exercised in new
enterprises, in departures from the ordinary routine, especially if
they involve expense; or, as I have said before, interfere with
political or economic progress. Pulpit preaching is the smallest item
in the entire programme of a preacher, especially in such a
neighbourhood and in such a church. If a preacher wants an audience,
all he has to do is to step outside his church door, stand on a box,
and the audience is ready-made. It is miscellaneous and cosmopolitan;
it is respectful and multitudinous. When I discovered this, I
proceeded to act on my convictions, and copy, to the extent of getting
an audience, at least, the Socialist propagandist; and I proceeded to
work _with_ the people around me instead of _for_ them. There were no
lines of demarkation to my activity. I touched the life of the
community at every angle, sometimes entering as a fool where an angel
would fear to tread.

I was called upon to visit a poor couple who lived in a rear tenement.
They were of the unattached; had no ecclesiastical connections
whatever. I saw that the old man, who lay on a couch, was dying. He
was scarcely able to speak, but managed to express a desire that I
sing to him; so, as there was no one present but his wife and myself
to hear it, I sang. This inspired the old man to sing himself. He
coughed violently, tried to clear his throat, pulled himself together,
and sang after me a line of "Jesus, Lover of my Soul." This was very
touching, but the solemnity was severely jarred by following that line
by the first line of: "Little Brown Jug, don't I love you!" So between
the Little Brown Jug and the sacred poetry of the church he wound up,
dying with his head on my knee.

There was an insurance of thirty dollars on his life. I informed the
undertaker, and did what I could to comfort the old woman who was now
entirely alone in the world. One of the missionaries of the church
came next day and helped to make arrangements for the funeral which
was to take place in the afternoon. They had not been long in that
alley and knew nobody in it, and when I arrived to conduct the funeral
service at three o'clock in the afternoon, there was a little crowd of
people around the door, and from the inside came agonized yells from
the old woman.

I opened the door and marched in. I found the undertaker in the act of
taking the body out of the casket and laying it on the lounge in the
corner. The old woman was on her knees, wringing her hands and begging
him in the name of God not to do it. I asked for an explanation and,
rather reluctantly, the undertaker told me, proceeding with his
programme as he explained that there was a "kink" in the insurance.

"Well," I said, "we can fix that up all right."

"Yes," he said, "you can fix it up with cash; but we are not in the
undertaking business for our health, you know."

"Well, stop for a moment," I pleaded, "and let us talk it over!"

"Have you got the dough?" he asked.

"Not here," I replied, "but I am the pastor of that church up there on
the corner, and surely we are good enough for the small expense of
this funeral."

By this time he had the lid on the casket and was proceeding to carry it
out. The old woman was now on her feet and almost in hysterics. I was
mightily moved by the situation, and asked the man to wait; but he
jabbed the end of the casket under my arm--perhaps accidentally--pushing
me to one side on his way to the door. I was there ahead of him however;
locked the door and put the key in my pocket.

"Now, will you wait for one moment till we talk it over?"

His answer was a volley of oaths. I waited until he subsided, and then
I said:

"I will be responsible for this financially. You are wringing the
heart's blood out of this poor old woman, and I don't propose to stand
by and allow it." I raised my voice and continued--"I will give you
two minutes to put that corpse back in the casket and arrange it for
burial, and if you don't do it, there may be two to bury instead of

I began to time him, making absolutely no answer to anything he said.
I quieted the old woman, stood very close to her and put my hand on
her head. I said, "It's all right, Mary. Everything is all right. You
are not friendless. You are not alone."

The two minutes were up. I took off my coat, rolled up my shirt
sleeves and advanced toward him.

"Are you going to do the decent thing?"

There was one long look between us. Then he put the body back in the
casket, arranged it for burial, and I opened the door and the crowd
came in, not, however, before I had put my coat on again. I read the
service and preached the sermon, and the undertaker did the rest.

Some months afterward, I was at work in my study in the tower of the
old church, when I heard a loud knocking at the church door--a most
unusual thing. I came down and found that undertaker and a gentleman
and lady, well dressed, evidently of the well-to-do class, standing at
the door.

"Here is a couple that want to get married, Mr. Irvine," the
undertaker said.

They came into the study and were married, and I shook hands with the
three, and they went off. Next day I went to the undertaker--indeed,
he was an undertaker's helper. I went up to his desk and laid down a
five-dollar bill, one-fourth of the marriage fee. Without being
invited, I pulled a chair up and sat down beside him.

"Now, tell me, brother," I said confidentially. "Why did you bring
them to me?"

A smile overspread his features.

"Well," he said, "it was like this. You remember that funeral


"Well, I figured it out like this: that one of the two of us was
puttin' up a damned big bluff; but I hadn't the heart to call it.



After some years' experience in missions and mission churches, I would
find it very hard if I were a workingman living in a tenement not to
be antagonistic to them; for, in large measure, such work is done on
the assumption that people are poor and degraded through laxity in
morals. The scheme of salvation is a salvation for the individual;
social salvation is out of the question. Social conditions cannot be
touched, because in all rotten social conditions, there is a thin red
line which always leads to the rich man or woman who is responsible
for them.

Coming in contact with these ugly social facts continuously, led me to
this belief. It came very slowly as did also the opinion that the
missionary himself or the pastor, be he as wise as Solomon, as
eloquent as Demosthenes, as virtuous as St. Francis, has no social
standing whatever among the people whose alms support the
institutions, religious and philanthropic, of which these men are the
executive heads. The fellowship of the saints is a pure fiction, has
absolutely no foundation in fact in a city like New York except as
the poor saints have it by themselves.

Tim Grogan jolted me into a new political economy; the crowded streets
of the East Side on a summer night gave me a new theology. I stood one
night in August on the tower of the old church and looked down upon
the sweltering mass that covered the roofs, fire escapes and
sidewalks. The roofs were littered with naked and half-naked children
panting for breath. Down on the crowded streets thousands of little
children darted in and out like sparrows, escaping as if by miracle
the vehicles of all sorts and descriptions. Crowded baby-carriages
lined the sidewalks. The stoops, too, were crowded. What a mass of
humans! What a ganglia of living wires! As I looked on this vast
multitude, I questioned the orthodox theology that held me in its
grip. Most of these people belonged to another race. And I stood at
that moment firmly rooted in the belief that this multitude was
inevitably doomed! Let me put it frankly, even though it seems brutal:
doomed to hell!

I am unable to analyze the quick currents of thought that went through
my mind at that instant. I cannot explain how the change came. I know
that there came to me a bigger thought than any I had ever known, and
that thought so thrilled me with human feeling, with love for men,
that I said to my soul: "Soul, if this multitude is doomed to hell, be
brave; gird up your loins and go with them!"

In that tenement district people were being murdered by the tens of
thousands by tuberculosis, by defective plumbing, by new diseases born
of the herding of men and women like cattle. I made some feeble
attempt to investigate, to ascertain, to acquaint myself with the
facts, and my investigation led me to this result--a result that the
lapse of years has not altered; that the private ownership of
tenements--the private profits in housing--was not only the mother of
the great white plague, but of most of the plagues down there that
endanger health. It led me to the belief also that the struggle for
bodily health, the struggle to survive, was so fierce as to leave
little time for soul health or mental health! It was a source of
continual wonder to me that people so helpless and so neglected were
as good as they were, or as healthy as they were. It did not seem
reasonable to lay the blame at the doors of the owners of the
tenements. Many of them had a tenement only as a source of income--and
to acquire the tenement had taken long years of savings, earnings and
sacrifices. It was part of the great game of business, the game of
"live I, die you!"

The churches and synagogues are of little vital importance there,
because they ignore social conditions, or largely ignore them. And
there is a reason for this also, and the reason is that they are
supported by the people--the very people who perpetuate the evils
against which prophet, priest and pastor ought to cry out
continually. The protest against such conditions is a negligible

There is a protest, an outcry, but it is related neither to the church
nor to the synagogue. The East Side has a soul, but it is not an
ecclesiastical soul! It is a soul that is alive--so much alive to the
interest of the people that many times I felt ashamed of myself when I
listened to the socialistic orators on the street corners and in the
East Side halls. They were stirring up the minds of the people. They
were not merely making them discontented with conditions, but they
were offering a programme of reconstruction--a programme that included
a trowel as well as a sword.

The soul of the East Side expressed itself in the Yiddish press,
daily, weekly, and monthly, and in Yiddish literature, and in the
spoken word of the propagandist whose ideal, though limited in
literary expression, made him a flame of living fire. It was this soul
of the East Side that drove me against my will to study the relation
of politics to the condition of the people. One of the first things
that I discovered was the grip that Tammany had on the people. Every
saloon keeper was a power in the community. Men, of any force of
character whatever, who were willing to hold their hands behind their
backs for Tammany graft, were singled out by the organization for some
moiety of honour. Small merchants found it to their advantage to keep
on the right side of the saloon keepers and the Tammany leaders. I
remember trying to express this thought in an uptown church to a
wealthy congregation; and I remember distinctly, also, that I was
rebuked by one of the leading lights of the missionary society of
which I was a part. I was informed that my business was to "save
souls," and in my public addresses to tell how I saved them; that
political conditions must be left to the politicians--and it was done.

To the old church at the corner of Market and Henry streets came
Dowling. He followed me as a matter of fellowship--we loved each
other. And came also Dave Ranney, the "puddler from Pittsburg."

On the first anniversary of Dave's conversion, I gathered a hundred
wastrels of the Bowery together and gave them a dinner at the church.
Dave, of course, was the guest of honour. When my guests were full and
warm, they became reminiscent, and I urged them, a few of them, to
tell us their stories--to unfold the torn manuscripts of their lives.
Dave told his first.

"Boys," he said, "I was one of de toughest gazabos what ever hung
aroun' de square. I met dis man an' tried t' bleed 'im, but it warn't
no go--'e was on to de game and cudn't be touch't.

"I giv'd 'im a song an' dance story fur weeks. One day 'e sez to me,
sez 'e, 'Chum!'--well, say boys, when I went out an' had a luk at
meself, sez I, 'Ye dhirty loafer, if a man like dat calls y' "chum,"
why don't y' take a brace an' get on de dead level?' So I did an' I've
been on de dead level ever since--ain't I, boss?"

I was able to place Dave as janitor of the church. After he had been
there for a while and comfortably housed in the janitor's quarters in
the basement, he thought it a propitious time to be reconciled to his
wife; so we arranged to have Mary come down and inspect the place. We
put extra work into the cleaning of the quarters, furnishing it with
some sticks of furniture. Reconciliations were getting to be an old
story with Mary, and Dave knew he was going to have difficulty in this
new attempt. He finally persuaded her to make a visit to the church.
When he was ready, Dave, in a most apologetic tone, said:

"There is just one thing lacking here."

"What is it Dave?"

"A white tie."


"On you."

The white tie as ecclesiastical appendage I had avoided. I despised
it. But Dave assured me that if Mary came down to look the church
over, she would be more interested in my appearance than in the
appearance of the church, because what she really wanted was an
assurance that Dave was "on the square!" and if he could introduce
her to a real minister as his friend, it would enhance his chance.

I sent Dave to the Bowery for a five cent white string tie, and I
borrowed a Prince Albert coat. There was an old stovepipe hat in the
church--sort of legacy from former pastorates--and it was trotted out,
carefully brushed and put on the study table. Then Mary appeared! Dave
had instructed me to put up a "tall talk," so I put up the tallest
possible. Mary inspected the church, the quarters and the minister;
then she looked at Dave and said in an undertone--"This looks on the

"You bet your sweet life!" Dave said.

So Mary was installed as "the lady of the temple" at Sixty-one Henry
Street, and for seven years ministered to the poor and the needy, and
kept in order the House of God. After her death, Dave remained at the
church about a year; then he became my successor as missionary to the
lodging houses on the Bowery, where he still works--a sort of humble
doctor of the humanities; feeding the hungry, clothing the naked,
comforting men in despair.

It seemed to me at that time that what a weak church like that most
needed was a strong, powerful church to put its arms around it and
give it support. I interviewed Dr. Parkhurst, as I was Chairman of a
Committee of the City Vigilance League which he organized. The result
was that Dr. Parkhurst's church gave it for a year support and
absolute independence of action at the same time. Then the Rev. John
Hopkins Dennison, who had been Dr. Parkhurst's assistant, superseded
me in the care of the church, and was able to bring to its support
help that I could not have touched. Mr. Dennison's service to that
church is worthy of a better record than it has yet received. He
performed brilliant service, intensified the life of the church and
gathered around it a band of noble people. He transformed the tower of
the church into a kind of modern monastery in which he lived himself,
and in which Dowling, the old Irish tinker, had a place also, and
which he made a centre of ten years' missionary work chiefly among the
lodging houses where I found him.

One day Dowling was walking along the Bowery when a hand was laid
roughly on his shoulder and a voice said:

"Ain't you Dowling?"


"What did you do with the loot?"

In the Sepoy Rebellion in India, he had looted the palace of a Rajah
with two other soldiers. The most valuable items of the booty were
several bamboo canes stuffed with diamonds, rubies and sapphires. In
the act of burying them for protection and hiding, one of the soldiers
was shot dead; the other two escaped and separated, and all these
years each of them had lived in the suspicion that the other had gone
back for the loot, and they both discovered on the Bowery that
neither of them had and that this valuable stuff was buried in far-off
India. Dowling wrote to the Governor-General and told of his part in
the affair and volunteered to come out and locate it. But by this time
his body was wasted, his steps were tottering and his head bent.
Five-hundred dollars were appropriated by the Indian Government to
take him out; but Dowling was destined for another journey; and, in
the old tower that he loved so well and where he was beloved by every
one who knew him, he lay down and died. They buried him in Plainfield,
N.J., and his friends put over him a stone bearing these words that
were so characteristic of his life:


My next service was in a city of a second class beyond the Mississippi
River. I had been invited as a pulpit supply in one of its largest
churches, but when I arrived I found them in a wrangle over the pastor
who had just left and by whose recommendation I was to fill the
pulpit. I arrived in the city on a Sunday morning and went from my
hotel to the church prepared to preach. I stood for a few minutes in
the vestibule, and what I heard led me to go straight out again, never
to return.

My first impression of the city was that it contained more vital
democracy than any city I had ever been in. It takes an Old World
proletarian a long time to outgrow a sense of subserviency. As a
missionary and almoner of the rich in New York, this sense was very
strong in me. In the West I felt this vital democracy so keenly and
saw the vision of political independence so clearly, that my very
blood seemed to change. Politically, I was born again.



While studying the social conditions of this city, I took a residence
on the banks of the river among the squatters. There were about
fifteen hundred people living in shacks on this "no man's land." My
residence was a shack for which I paid three dollars a month. It was
at the bottom of a big clay bank, and not far from where the city
dumped its garbage. There was neither church nor chapel in this
neglected district, and the people were mostly foreigners; but the
children all spoke English.

During the early part of my stay in that shack, I entered my first
great period of doubting--doubt as to the moral order of the universe,
doubt on the question of God. I had gone through some great soul
struggles, but this was the greatest. It was for a time the eclipse of
my soul. For weeks I lived behind closed doors--I was shut in with my
soul. But the community around me called in a thousand ways for help,
for guidance, for instruction, and I opened the door of my shack and
invited the children in. I organized a Sunday School and taught them
ethics and religion. I got up little entertainments for them. I
procured a stereopticon, gave them lectures on my experience in Egypt,
and lectures on art, biography and history. I had a peculiar method of
advertising these lectures. I informed the little cripple boy on the
corner. He whispered the information to a section of the huts, at the
farthest end of which a golden-haired courier informed another
section; so that by the time the lecture was scheduled to begin, my
audience was ready, and most of them slid down the clay bank in front
of my door. Later I went out through the surrounding towns and cities,
lecturing, and raised money for a chapel, and we called it the "Chapel
of the Carpenter."

I never knew the meaning of the incarnation until I lived on "the
bottoms" with the squatters. I talked of great characters of history;
I reviewed great books. I travelled with these children over the great
highways of history, science and art, and very soon we had a strong
Sunday School, and helpers came from the city--but the door of my own
soul was still shut. It seemed to me that my soul was dead. I was
without hope for myself: everything around me was dark. Sometimes I
locked the door and tried to pray, but no words came, nor
thoughts--not a ray of light penetrated the darkness. My mind and
intellect became duller and duller. It was at this time that I came
across the writings of Schopenhauer; and Schopenhauer suggested to me
a method of relief. I may be doing him an injustice, but it was his
philosophy that made me reason that, as I did not ask to come into
life and had no option, I had a right to go out of it. There was
nothing spasmodic in the development of my thought along this line: it
was cold, calm reasoning; I had determined to go out of life. So, with
the same calm deliberation that I cooked my breakfast, I destroyed
every vestige of my correspondence; and, one night went to the river
to seek relief. I was sitting on the end of a log when a man, who had
been working twelve hours in a packing-house, came out to smoke, after
his supper. He had not washed himself. His bloody shirt stuck to his
skin--he was haggard, pale; and we dropped naturally into
conversation. In language intelligible to him I asked him what life
meant to him.

"The kids," he said, "that's what it means to me. I work like one of
the things I kill every day--I kill hundreds of them, thousands of
them every day. I go home and eat like one of them, and sleep like one
of them, and go back to hog it again like one of them."

"Do you get tired?"

"Tired? Tired as hell!"

"I mean--tired of life?"

"Oh, no," he said, "I aint livin' the best kind of a life, but what I
have is better than none. I don't know what's beyond--if there is any
life or none at all; but something in me makes me stick to this one.
Besides, if there is any chance for a better life here, he must be a
damned coward that would go out of it and leave it undone. Good

I saw him retreat to his shack among the tall weeds. I heard the door
close. I fancied him lie down in a heap in the corner and go to sleep.
He was a better philosopher than I was, and he had called me a coward,
but he had not altered my determination. I began to sweat. It was like
the action of a fever on my body, and I became very nervous; but I was
determined to meet the crisis, and go.

A sudden change in affairs was created by an unearthly scream--the
scream of a woman. I looked around suddenly and discovered that the
only two-story shack on "the bottoms" was in a blaze, and the thought
occurred to me that I might be of some help and accomplish my purpose
at the same time.

In a moment I was beside the burning hut. It appeared that a lamp had
exploded upstairs, and that three small children were hemmed in. That
was the cause of the scream.

A plank that reached to the upstairs window was lying at the wood
pile. I pushed it against the house and climbed like a cat into the
burning bedroom. By this time the neighbours had collected, and I
helped the woman and lowered the three children down, one by one, and
then deliberately groped for the stairs to get hemmed in, the smoke
suffocating me as I did so. By the time I found the stairs, my hair
was singed, my arms were burned, but I was gradually losing
consciousness, and before I reached the bottom I fell, suffocated with
the smoke. In that last moment of consciousness, my whole life came up
in review. I had no regrets. I had played a part and it was over.

When I came out of coma, I was lying on my cot in the hut, the
neighbours crowding my little bedroom and standing outside in scores.
One of the newspapers that had most severely criticized my
interference in politics, gave me a pass to Colorado and return--and
in the mountains of Colorado, the door of my soul opened again, and I
saw the world beautiful--and opportunities that were golden for
helpfulness and service awaiting my touch. So I returned to my hut
with the sense of God more fully developed in me than it had ever

They had a system in that city that I was very much ashamed of--that I
thought all men ought to be ashamed of--the segregation of the "social
evil." I discovered that the city fined these poor creatures of the
streets, and that these fines, amounting to thousands of dollars every
year, went straight into the public school fund, so that it could
truly be said that the more debauched society was, the more
efficiently it could educate its children and its youth.

These houses in the red light district were built to imitate castles
on the Rhine, and were owned by church people and politicians.
Everybody winked at this condition. One minister of this town uttered
a loud protest and took his children out of the public schools, but he
had to leave the city. The Christians would not stand for such a
protest. The newspapers would not touch it, trustees would not touch
it, the great political parties would not touch it.

I joined the Knights of Labour in that city, an organization then in
its prime of strength, but they would not touch it. I joined the
People's Party in the hope that there I might do something about it.
One of the leading members of that party importuned me to nominate him
as presiding officer of the city convention. "On one condition," I
told him; "that you appoint me chairman of the committee on
resolutions." And the compact was made.

Five men were on that committee, and when I asked the committee to put
in a resolution condemning the education of children from this fund,
they refused. I could only persuade one of four to indorse my minority
report, which, signed by two of us, condemned this remnant of Sodom
left over; but it swept the convention and was carried almost
unanimously. Even the three men on the resolutions committee who
refused to sign it before, voted for it in convention. I am aware that
it does not matter from what fund or funds the public school system
is supported. I am aware also that one of the things we can do is to
make that kind of thing cover up its head.

What I suffered for that resolution can never be recorded.

My period of inclement mental weather was followed by a period of
poverty--destitution rather--I was physically unable to work with my
hands and I had not yet tried to earn money by my pen. I was often so
reduced by hunger that I could scarcely walk. At such times one feels
more grateful for friendship. Into my life then came a few choice
souls whose fellowship acted as a dynamic to my life. It was when
things were at their worst that George D. Herron found me. The almost
Jewish cast of feature, the strange, wonderful voice, the prophetic
atmosphere of the man forced me to express the belief that I had never
met a human being who seemed to me so like Christ. Then came George A.
Gates, the president of Iowa College where Dr. Herron was a professor.
About the same time came Elia W. Peattie and Ida Doolittle Fleming.
Mrs. Fleming and her husband helped me organize a Congregational
Church which, when organized, was a means of support.

The church was in a growing section of the city but I could not be
persuaded to live there. I lived where I thought my life was most
serviceable--on "the bottoms."

One night after a few days' involuntary fast I found in the hut two
cents. To the city I went and bought two bananas--one I ate on the way
back and the other I put in my hip pocket.

There were no streets, no lights, no sidewalks in that region. As I
came to a railroad arch on the edge of the squatter community I saw a
figure emerge from the deep shadows. I knew instantly I was to be held
up, but as life was rather cheap down there I was not sure what would
accompany the assault. A second figure emerged and when I came to
within a few yards of them, I whipped the banana from my pocket and
pointing it as one would a revolver I said--"Move a muscle, either of
you, and I'll blow your brains out!"

"Gee!" one of them muttered; "it's Mr. Irvine."

They belonged to a gang of young toughs who lived in a dug-out on the
banks of the river. Some of them had brothers in my school. There were
about a dozen of them. They had hinted several times that they would
clean me out when they had time, but they had delayed their plan. I
took these fellows to my hut and we talked for hours.

When I produced the banana they laughed vociferously and invited me to
their "hole." Next evening they gave a reception and, I suppose, fed
me on stolen property. They had a stove--a few old mattresses and some
dry-goods boxes.

I held their attention that night for four hours while I told the
story of Jean Valjean. Next day we were all photographed together on a
pile of stones near the "hole."

After that these fellows protected the chapel and made themselves
useful in their way. In less than a year afterward half of them had
gone to honest work; the rest went the way of the transgressor, to the
penetentiary and the reform school.

This period was one of total rejection by any means--powerful
influences were at work to render my labour void--but they were offset
for a time by the finer influences of life. I gave a series of
addresses in Tabor College, Iowa, and they were the beginning of an
awakening among the students. After the last word of the last address
the student about whom the president and faculty were most concerned
walked up the aisle and expressed a desire to lead a new life.

"Do it now," I suggested.

"Right here?"

"Yes, right where you stand."

The president and faculty gathered around him, making a circle; he
stood in the midst, alone, and in that way with prayer and dedication
from the lips of the young man and his friends began one of the most
useful lives in the American ministry. This young man became an
ascetic. I gave him to read the life of Francis of Assisi, and he went
to the extreme in emulation. He divested himself of collars and ties
and on graduating read his thesis for his Bachelor's degree collarless
and tieless.

I was in New Haven when he came there to take his Divinity degree in
Yale. He came without either collar or tie, but after days of prayer
and fasting he was "led" to enter the University as others entered it.
He is now pastor of the First Congregational Church in Rockford,
Illinois; his name is Frank M. Sheldon. Nine men have gone by a
similar route into the ministry, but Mr. Sheldon is the only one of
them who has kept touch with the modern demands on religious

Birthdays have meant nothing whatever to me, but I made my
thirty-second an occasion for a party on "the bottoms."

I could only accommodate seven guests. Two were favourite boys and the
others were selected because of their great need. The hut was the
centre of a mud puddle that January morning. I got a long plank and
laid it from my doorstep to the edge of the clay bank. I took
precaution not to announce the affair, even to the guests, but a
grocer's boy who had been sent by a friend with some oranges lost his
way and his inquiry after me created such a sensation that when he
found me he was accompanied by about fifty children.

Old Mrs. Belgarde, my nearest neighbour, had whispered across the
fence to her neighbour that something was sure to happen, for she had
noticed me making unusual preparations that day. I think the origin
of the party idea came with my first birthday gift--I mean the first I
had ever received--it was a copy of Thomas à Kempis, given me by my
friend the Reverend Gregory J. Powell. [I gave it later to a man who
was to die by judicial process in the county jail.]

When the hour arrived a crowd of two hundred youngsters stood in the
mud outside. On the top of the clay bank stood parents, crossing
themselves and praying quietly that their offspring would be lucky
enough to get in.

I had taught these children some simple rules of order, and when I
opened the door I rang a little bell. There was absolute silence. They
had been actually tearing each other's clothing to rags for a position
near the door. I told them that I was so poor that I had scarcely
enough food for myself. That the little I had I was going to share
with seven of my special friends; of course they all considered
themselves included in that characterization.

"Dear little friends," I said, "I never had a birthday party before;
and now you are going to spoil this one."

Up to this time the crowd didn't know who the guests were. I proceeded
to call the names. As those called made a move there was a violent
fight for the door. Some of them I had to drag out of the clutches of
the unsuccessful. Only six of the seven were there. There was a howl
from a hundred throats to take the place of the absent one.

"No," I said sternly; "he'll come, all right." A roar of discontent
went up and chaos reigned. I couldn't make myself heard; I rang the
bell and again calmed them. I was at a loss to know what to say.

"Dear little folks," I said, "I thought you loved me!"

"Do too!" whined a dozen voices.

"Then if you do, go away and some day I will have a party for every
child on 'the bottoms.'"

That quieted the youthful mob and they departed--that is, the majority
departed. Some stayed and bombarded the doors and windows with stones.
There were few stones to be found, and as it didn't occur to them to
use the same stones twice they used mud and plastered the front of the
hut with it.

This form of expression, however, did not disturb us much. I sent
three of my guests into the back yard to wash and arrange their hair.
They returned for inspection but didn't pass, the hair refusing to
comply on such short notice. I put the finishing touches on each of
their toilets and we sat down to supper. The oldest boy, "Fritz," was
half past twelve and the youngest, "Ano," had just struck ten. Ano was
a cripple and both legs were twisted out of shape--he hobbled about on
crutches. "Jake" was eleven--two of his eleven years he had spent in
a reformatory where he had learned to chew tobacco and to swear.

"Eddy" was also eleven, but the oldest of all in point of wits. I had
a claim on Eddy: one day he was amusing himself by jerking a cat at
the end of a string, in and out of Frau Belgarde's well. She was
stealthily approaching him with a piece of fence rail when I arrived
and possibly prevented some broken bones. "Kaiser" was nearly twelve;
he too had been in a reform school--he liked it and would have been
glad to stay as long as they wanted him--for he had three meals a day
and he had never had such "luck" outside. "Whitey" was a little
Swedish boy whose mother worked in a cigar factory. "Kaiser" and
"Whitey" had a "dug-out" and they spent more nights together in it
than they spent in their huts.

"Fritz," the oldest boy, began his career in the open by stealing his
father's revolver; and, jumping on the first grocery wagon he found
handy, he left town. Of course he was brought back and "sent up" for a
year. "Franz," the absent one, was Ano's brother, and the toughest boy
in the community.

These brief outlines describe the guests of my birthday party.

"When ye make a feast call the poor" was stretched a little to cover
this aggregation--stretched as to the character of those invited. A
blessing was asked, of course--by the host and repeated by the
guests. Of things to eat there was enough and to spare. After dinner
each one was to contribute something to the entertainment.

"Beginning here on my left with 'Whitey,'" I said, "I want each boy to
tell us what he would like to be when he becomes a man." Whitey
without hesitation said:

"A organ-man wid a monkey."



Eddy said he would like to be a butcher, and as a reason gave: "Plenty
ov beef to eat."

"Kaiser" preferred to be a "Reformatory boss."

"Ano," the cripple, said he would like to be a minister. When pressed
for a reason he said, "That's what m' father says--dey ain't got
notin' to do!"

In the midst of this social quiz a loud noise was heard outside.
"Bang! Bang!! Bang!!!" The timbers of the hut shivered, the guests
made a rush to the back door. I was there first and found Franz, the
missing guest, his arms smeared with blood, his ragged jacket covered
with hair of some sort and in his hand a bloody stiletto.

He rushed past me into the hut, got to the table and exclaimed: "Gee
whiz! der ain't a ---- scrap left!"

"Look here, Franz," I said, "I want to know what you've been up to?"

"Ye do, hey? Ye look skeered, too, don't yer--hey?"

"Never mind how I look; tell me at once what you've been up to!"

"Ha, ha, ha!" he laughed, "d'ye tink I kilt some ol' sucker for 'is
money--hey? Ha, ha! Well, I hain't, see? I've bin skinnin' a dead hoss
an brot ye d' skin for a birfday present, see?"

The skin was lying in a bloody heap outside the back door. I arranged
"Franz" for dinner and the party was complete.

I told some stories; then we played games and at ten o'clock they went
home. The moment the front door was opened, about forty children--each
with a lighted candle in hand--sang a verse of my favourite hymn:
"Lead, Kindly Light." They knew but one verse, but that they sang
twice. It was a weird performance and moved me almost to tears.

After they sang they came down the clay bank and shook hands, wishing
me all sorts of things. Two nights afterward I had a different kind of
a party. A bullet came crashing through the boards of my hut about
midnight. Rushing to the door, I saw the fire flashes of other shots
in a neighbour's garden. I went to the high board fence and saw one of
my neighbours--a German--emptying a revolver at his wife who was
dodging behind a tree.

My first impulse was to jump the fence and save the woman but the man
being evidently half-drunk might have turned and poured into me what
was intended for his wife; and the first law of nature was
sufficiently developed in me to let her have what belonged to her! I
tried to speak but my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. I was
positively scared.

The old fellow walked up to the tree, letting out as he walked a
volley of oaths. I recovered my equilibrium, sprang over the fence,
crept up behind and jumped on him, knocking him down and instantly
disarming him.

I went inside with them and sat between them until they seemed to have
forgotten what had happened. Then I put them to bed, put the light out
and went home. I examined the revolver and found it empty. Next
morning I went back and told the old man that I would volunteer to
give him some lessons in target practice; and that the reason I
knocked him down was because he was such a poor shot. This old couple
became my staunchest supporters.

I interested the students of Tabor College in the people of that
out-of-the-way community, and before I built the Chapel of the
Carpenter which still stands there I organized a college settlement
which was manned by students.

The small church, the chapel on "the bottoms," the work of the college
students and the increasing circle of converts and friends made the
work attractive to me, but I had entered the political field in order
to protest against and possibly remedy something civic that savoured
of Sodom; and for a minister that was an unpardonable sin. The
"interests" determined to cripple me or destroy my work. This they did
successfully by the medium of a subsidized press and other means, fair
and foul. It was a case of a city against one man--a rich city against
a poor man and the man went down to defeat--apparent defeat, anyway: I
packed my belongings and left. As I crossed the bridge which spans the
river I looked on the little squatter colony on "the bottoms" and as
my career there passed in review, for the second time in my life I was
stricken with home-sickness and I was guilty of what my manhood might
have been ashamed of--tears.



The experiences of 1894, '5 and '6 gave me a distaste--really a
disgust--with public life I felt that I would never enter a large city
again. I sought retirement in a country parish; this was secured for
me by my friend, the president of Tabor College, the Rev. Richard
Cecil Hughes.

It was in a small town in Iowa--Avoca in Pottawattomie County; I
stayed there a year.

In 1897 I was in Cleveland, Ohio, in charge of an institution called
The Friendly Inn; a very good name if the place had been an inn or
friendly. My inability to make it either forced me to leave it before
I had been there many months. It was in Cleveland that I first joined
a labour union. I was a member of what was called a Federal Labour
Union and was elected its representative to the central body of the
union movement.

Early in 1898 I was in Springfield, Mass., delivering a series of
addresses to a Bible school there. My funds ran out and not being in
receipt of any remuneration and, not caring to make my condition
known, I was forced for the first time in my life to become a
candidate for a church. There were two vacant pulpits and I went after
both of them. Meantime I boarded with a few students who, like their
ancestors, had "plenty of nothing but gospel."

They lived on seventy-five cents a week. Living was largely a matter
of scripture texts, hope and imagination. I used to breakfast through
my eyes at the beautiful lotus pond in the park. We lunched usually on
soup that was a constant reminder of the soul of Tomlinson of Berkeley
Square. Quantitively speaking, supper was the biggest meal of the
day--it was a respite also for our imaginations.

The day of my candidacy arrived. I was prepared to play that most
despicable of all ecclesiastical tricks--making an impression. I
almost memorized the Scripture reading and prepared my favourite
sermon; my personal appearance never had been so well attended to. The
hour arrived. The little souls sat back in their seats to take my

It was their innings. I had been duly looked up in the year-book and
my calibre gauged by the amount of money paid me in previous

The "service" began. My address to the Almighty was prepared and part
of the game is to make believe that it is purely extemporaneous. Every
move, intonation and gesture is noted and has its bearing on the final
result. I was saying to the ecclesiastical jury: "Look here, you
dumb-heads, wake up; I'm the thing you need here!" Sermon time came
and with it a wave of disgust that swept over my soul.

"Good friends," I began; "I am not a candidate for the pastorate here.
I was a few minutes ago; but not now. Instead of doing the work of an
infinite God and letting Him take care of the result I have been
trying to please _you_. If the Almighty will forgive me for such
unfaith--such meanness--I swear that I will never do it again."

Then I preached. This brutal plainness created a sensation and several
tried to dissuade me, but I had made up my mind.

It was while I was enjoying the "blessings" of poverty in Springfield
that I was called to New Haven to confer with the directors of the
Young Men's Christian Association about their department of religious
work. I had been in New Haven before. In 1892 I addressed the students
of Yale University on the subject of city mission work and, as a
result of that address, had been invited to make some investigations
and outline a plan for city mission work for the students. I spent ten
days in the slum region there, making a report and recommendations. On
these the students began the work anew. I was asked at that time to
attach myself to the university as leader and instructor in city
missions, but work in New York seemed more important to me.

I rode my bicycle from Springfield to New Haven for that interview.
When it was over I found myself on the street with a wheel and sixty
cents. I bought a "hot dog"--a sausage in a bread roll--ate it on the
street and then looked around for a lodging.

"Is it possible," I asked a policeman, "to get a clean bed for a night
in this town for fifty cents?"

"Anything's possible," he answered, "but----"

He directed me to the Gem Hotel, where I was shown to a 12 × 6 box,
the walls of which spoke of the battles of the weary travellers who
had preceded me. I protected myself as best I could until the dawn,
when I started for Springfield, a disciple for a day of the
no-breakfast fad.

Things were arranged differently at the next interview. I was the
guest of the leaders in that work and was engaged as "Religious Work
Director" for one year. I think I was the first man in the United
States to be known officially by that title.

The Board of Directors was composed of men efficient to an
extraordinary degree. The General Secretary was a worker of great
energy and business capacity and as high a moral type as the highest.
He was orthodox in theology and the directors were orthodox in
sociology. It was a period when I was moving away from both

To express a very modern opinion in theology would disturb the
churches--the moral backers of the institution; to express an advanced
idea in sociology would alienate the rich men--the financial backers.
A month after I began my work I "supplied" the pulpit of a church in
the New Haven suburbs called the Second Congregational Church of Fair
Haven. The chairman of the pulpit supply committee was a member of the
Board of Directors of the Y.M.C.A.

Gradually I drifted away from the Association toward the church. The
former was building a new home and many people were glad of an excuse
not to give anything toward its erection. So any utterance of mine
that seemed out of the common was held up to the solicitor. An address
on War kept the telephone ringing for days. It was as if Christianity
had never been heard of in New Haven. Labour men asked that the
address be printed and subscribed money that it might be done, but an
appeal to the teachings of Jesus on the question of war was lauded by
the sinners and frowned upon by the saints.

With the General Secretary I never had an unkind word. Though a man of
boundless energy he was a man in supreme command of himself. We knew
in a way that we were drifting apart and acted as Christians toward
each other. What more can men do?

Mr. Barnes, the director, who was chairman of the pulpit supply
committee of the church, kept urging me to give my whole time to the
church. Every day for weeks he drove his old white horse to my door
and talked it over. I refused the call to the pastorate but divided
my time between them. For the Y.M.C.A. my duties were:

  To conduct mass meetings for men in a theatre.
  To organize the Bible departments and teach one of the classes.
  Care and visiting of converts.
  Daily office hour.
  Literary work as associate editor of the weekly paper.
  Writing of pamphlets.
  To conduct boys' meetings.

For the church:

  To conduct regular Sunday services.
  Friday night prayer meetings.
  Men's Bible class.
  Visitation of sick and burial of the dead.
  Class for young converts.
  Children's meetings.

At the same time I entered the Divinity School of Yale University,
taking studies in Hebrew, New Testament Greek and Archæology. A little
experience in the church taught me that intellectually I was leaving
the ordinary type of church at a much quicker pace than I was leaving
the Y.M.C.A.

Dr. Edward Everett Hale told a friend once that he preached to the
South Church on Sunday morning so that he might preach to the world
the rest of the week. I told the officers of the church frankly that
I was not the kind of man needed for their parish; but they insisted
that I was, so I preached for them on Sunday that I might preach to a
larger parish during the week.

Two things I tried to do well for the church--conduct an evening
meeting for the unchurched--which simply means the folk unable to
dress well and pay pew rents--and conduct a meeting for children. I
organized a committee to help me at the evening meeting. The only
qualification for membership on the committee was utter ignorance of
church work. The very good people of the community called this meeting
"a show." Well, it was. I asked the regular members to stay away for I
needed their space and their corner lots with cushioned knee stools. I
made a study of the possibilities of the stereopticon. Mr. Barnes gave
me a fine outfit. I got the choicest slides and subjects published.
Prayers, hymns, scripture readings and illuminated bits of choice
literature were projected on a screen. I trained young men to put up
and take down the screen noiselessly, artistically, and with the
utmost neatness and dispatch. I discovered that many men who either
lacked ambition or ability to wear collars came to that meeting, and
they sang, too, when the lights were low. When in full view of each
other they were as close-mouthed as clams. The singing became a
special feature. My brethren in other churches considered this a
terrible "come-down" at first, but changed their minds later and
copied the thing, borrowing the best of my good slides and not a few
of the unique ideas accompanying the scheme.

A Methodist brother across the river said confidentially to a friend
that he was going to launch on the community "a legitimate
sensation"--a boys' choir. My plans for getting the poor people to
church succeeded. Such a thing as fraternizing the steady goers--goers
by habit and heredity--and the unsteady goers--goers by the need of
the soul--was impossible. The most surprising thing in these evening
meetings to the men who financed the church was the fact that these
poor people paid for their own extras. That goes a long way in church

The weekly children's meeting I called "The Pleasant Hour." Believing
that the most important work of the Church is the teaching of the
children, it was my custom for many years in many churches to
personally conduct a Sunday School on a week day so that the best I
had to give would be given to the children. In my larger work for the
city two ideas governed my action. One was to get the church people
interested in civic problems and the other was to solve civic problems
or to attempt a solution whether church people were interested in them
or not.

I organized a flower mission for the summer months. We called it a
Flower House. An abandoned hotel was cleaned up. A few loads of sand
dumped in the back yard as a sort of extemporized seashore where
little children might play. Flowers were solicited and distributed to
the folks who had neither taste nor room for flowers. We did some
teaching, too, and gave entertainments. A barrel-organ played on
certain days by the sand pile; and that music of the proletariat never
fails to attract a crowd.

The flower mission developed into a social settlement. We called it
Lowell House. At first the church financed it, then it got tired of
that, and when I incorporated the settlement work in my church reports
in order to stimulate support, the settlement workers--directors
rather--got tired of the church and went into a spasm over it. Lowell
House is accounted a successful institution of the city now. It is
doing a successful church work among the poor--church work with this
exception, that its head worker--its educated, sympathetic
priestess--lives there and shares her little artistic centre with the
crowd who live in places not good enough for domestic animals.

In 1898 New Haven's public baths consisted of a tub in the basement of
a public school. I photographed the tub and projected the picture on a
screen in the Grand Opera House for the consideration of the citizens.
That was the beginning of an agitation for a public bath house--an
agitation that was pushed until the dream became a brick structure.

I was not particularly interested in the bath _per se_. It was an
opportunity to get people to work for something this side of heaven,
to emphasize the thought that men were as much worth taking care of as
horses--an idea that has not yet a firm grip on the mind of the

The bath-house bill passed the Aldermanic and Councilmanic chambers,
was signed by the mayor and the matter of building put into the hands
of the Board of Health. The Board forgot all about it and some time
later the agitation began again and persisted until another city
government and another mayor had made a second law and carried it into

There was no ecclesiastical objection to my participation in this
movement. It was a small thing and cost little.



My Father had been begging me for years to come home and say good-bye
to him; so, in 1901, I made the journey.

I hadn't been in the old home long before the alley was filled with
neighbours, curious to have a look at "ould Jamie's son who was a
clargymaan." I went to the door and shook hands with everybody in the
hope that after a while they would go away and leave me with my own.
But nobody moved. They stood and stared for several hours. "'Deed I
mind ye fine when ye weren't th' height av a creepie!" said one woman,
who was astounded that I couldn't call her by name.

"Aye," said another, "'deed ye were i' fond o' th' Bible, an' no
wundther yer a clargymaan!"

A dozen old women "minded" as many different things of my childhood. I
finally dismissed them with this phrase, as I dropped easily enough
into the vernacular, "Shure, we'd invite ye all t' tay but there's
only three cups in the house!"

My sister Mary and her four children lived with my father. We shut
_and barred_ the door when the neighbours left and sat down to "tay,"
which consisted of potatoes and buttermilk. Mary had been trying to
improve on the old days but I interposed, and together, we went
through the old régime. Father took the pot of potatoes to the old tub
in which he used to steep the leather. There he drained them--then put
them on the fire for a minute to allow the steam to escape.

"I'm going to 'kep' them," I said, and they both laughed.

"Oh, heavens, don't," he said; "shure they don't 'kep' pirtas in

"I'm not in America now," I answered, as I circled as much of the
little bare table as I could with my arms to keep the potatoes from
rolling off. He dumped them in a heap in the centre; they rolled up
against my arms and breast and I pushed them back. Mary cleared a
space for a small pile of salt and the buttermilk bowls.

"We'll haave a blessin' by a rale ministher th' night," Mary said.

"Oh, yis, that's thrue enough," my father said, "but Alec minds th'
time whin it was blessin' enough to hev th' murphies--don't ye, boy?"

After "tay" I tacked a newspaper over the lower part of the window--my
father lit the candle and Mary put a few turfs on the fire and we sat
as we used to sit so many years ago. My father was so deaf that I had
to shout to make him hear and nearly everything I said could be heard
by the neighbours in the alley, many of whom sat around the door to
hear whatever they could of the story they supposed I would tell of
the magic land beyond the sea.

I unbarred the door in answer to a loud knock; it was a most polite
note from a Roman Catholic schoolmaster inviting me to occupy a spare
room in his house. Half an hour later we were again interrupted by
another visitor, an old friend who also invited me to occupy his spare
bed. It was evidently disturbing the town to know where I was to
sleep. I politely refused all invitations. Each invitation was
explained to my father.

"Shure that's what's cracking m' own skull," he said; "where th' divil
will ye sleep, anyway, at all, at all?"

Then they listened and I talked--talked of what the years had meant to

The old man sighed often and occasionally there were tears in Mary's
eyes; and there were times when the past surged through my mind with
such vividness that I could only look vacantly into the white flame of
the peat fire. Once after a long silence my father spoke--his voice
trembled, "Oh," he said, "if she cud just have weathered through till
this day!"

"Aye," Mary said, "but how do ye know she isn't jist around here
somewhere, anyway?"

"Aye," the old man said as he nodded his head, "deed that's thrue for
you, Mary, she may!" He took his black cutty pipe out of his mouth and
gazed at me for a moment.

"What d'ye mind best about her?"

"I mind a saying she had that has gone through life with me."

"'Ivery day makes its own throuble?'"

"No, not that; something better. She used to say so often, 'It's nice
to be nice.'"

"Aye, I mind that," he said.

"Then," I continued, "on Sundays when she was dressed and her nice
tallied cap on her head, I thought she was the purtiest woman I ever

"'Deed, maan, she was that!"

When bed time came I took a small lap-robe from my suit case, spread
it on the hard mud floor, rolled some other clothes as a pillow and
lay down to rest. Sleep came slowly but as I lay I was not alone, for
around me were the forms and faces of other days.

Next day I visited the scene of my boyhood's vision--I went through
the woods where I had my first full meal. I visited the old church;
but the good Rector was gathered to his fathers. It was all a
day-dream; it was like going back to a former incarnation. Along the
road on my way home I discovered the most intimate friend of my
boyhood--the boy with whom I had gathered faggots, played "shinney"
and gone bird-nesting. He was "nappin'" stones. He did not recognize
my voice but his curiosity was large enough to make him throw down his
hammer, take off the glasses that protected his eyes and stare at me.

"Maan, yer changed," he said, "aren't you?"

"And you?"

"Och, shure, I'm th' same ould sixpence!"

"Except that you're older!" There was a look of disappointment on his

"Maan," he said, "ye talk like quality--d'ye live among thim?"

I explained something of my changed life; I told of my work and what I
had tried to do and I closed with an account of the vision in the
fields not far from where we sat.

"Aye," he would say occasionally, "aye, 'deed it's quare how things
turn out."

When I ended the story of the vision he said: "Ye haaven't forgot how
t' tell a feery story--ye wor i' good at that!"

"Bob" hadn't read a book, or a newspaper in all those years. He got
his news from the men who stopped at his stone pile to light their
pipes--what he didn't get there he got at the cobbler's while his
brogues were being patched or at the barber's when he went for his
weekly shave. We talked each other out in half an hour. A wide gulf
was between us: it was a gulf in the realm of mind.

As I moved away toward the town, I wondered why I was not breaking
stones on the roadside, and I muttered Bob's well-worn phrase: "How

It became so difficult to talk to my father without gathering a crowd
at the door that I shortened my stay and took him to Belfast where we
could spend a few days together and alone. We had our meals at first
in a quiet little restaurant on a side street. He had never been in a
restaurant. As the waiter went around the table, the old man watched
him with curious eyes. I have explained that my father never swore. He
was mightily unfortunate in his selection of phrases and when
irritated by the attention of the waiter to the point of explosion he
said, in what he supposed was a whisper: "What th' hell is he dancin'
around us like an Indian fur?" I explained. Everybody in the place
heard the explanation; they also heard his reply: "Send him t'
blazes--he takes m' appetite away!"

We moved into the house of a friend after that.

One afternoon I took him for a walk in the suburbs of the city.

He rested on a rustic bench on the lawn of a beautiful villa while I
made a call.

"Twenty-five years ago," I said to the gentleman of the house, "I had
a great inspiration from the life of a young lady who lived in this
house, and I just called to say 'thank you.'"

"Her father is dead," he said. "I am her uncle."

Then he told me of the career of the city girl I had met on the farm
and whom I had watched entering the church on Sundays.

"About the time you missed her at church," he said, "she was married
to a rich young man. He spent his fortune in liquor and finally ended
his life. She began to drink, after his death, but was persuaded to
leave the country. She went to America. We haven't heard from her for
a long time."

The following Sunday I told my father we were going to church.

"Not me!" he said.

"Oh, yes," I coaxed; "just this once with me."

"What th' divil's the use whin I haave a praycher t' m'silf."

"I am to be the preacher at the church."

"Och, but that's a horse ov another colour, bedad. Shure thin I'll

When my father saw me in a Geneva gown, his eyes were filled with

The old white-haired lady who found the place in the book for him was
the young lady's mother. Her uncle had ushered him into her pew, but
they had never met each other nor did the old lady know until after
church that he was my father.

He never heard a word of the sermon, but as we emerged from the church
into the street he put his arms around my neck and kissing me said,
"Och, boy, if God wud only take me now I'd be happy!"

He had been listening with his eyes and what he saw so filled him with
joy that he was more willing to leave life than to have the emotion
leave him.

Though he was very feeble, I took him to Scotland with me to visit my
brothers and sisters; and there I left him. As the hour of farewell
drew near he wanted to have me alone--all to himself.

"Ye couldn't stay at home awhile? Shure I'll be goin' in a month or

"Ah, that's impossible, father." He hung his head.

"D'ye believe I'll know her whin I go? God wudn't shut me out from her
for th' things I've done--"

"Of course he won't."

"He wudn't be so d----d niggardly, wud He?"


He fondled my hands as if I were a child. The hour drew nigher. He had
so many questions to ask, but the inevitableness of the situation
struck him dumb. We were on the platform; the train was about to move
out. I made a motion; he gripped me tightly, whispering in my ear:

"Ask God onct in a while to let me be with yer mother--will ye, boy?"

I kissed him farewell and saw him no more.

I went on to France.

My objective point in France was the study of Millet and his work. I
wanted to interpret him to working people in New Haven.

So to Greville on La Hague I went with a camera.

Greville consists of a church and a dozen houses. Gruchy is half a
mile beyond, on the edge of the sea.

In Gruchy Millet was born; in Greville he first came into contact with
incentive--I photographed both places and spent a night and a day with
M. Polidor, the old inn-keeper who was the painter's friend.

Surely, never was so large a statue erected in so small a village. The
peasant artist sits there on a bank of mosses, looking over at the old
church that squats on the hillside. In Cherbourg I found more traces
of his art and some stories of his life there that would be out of
place here.

I found four portraits painted while he was paying court to his first
wife. I found them in a little shoe shop in a by-street, in possession
of a distant relative of his first wife.

From Cherbourg I went to Barbizon, where Millet spent the latter part
of his life. I was very graciously received and entertained by his son
François and his American wife.

To browse among the master's relics, to handle the old books of his
small library, to hold, as one would a babe of tender years, his
palette, were small things, judged by the values of the average life:
to me it was one of the most inspiring hours of my career.

Paris was to me an art centre--little more. I followed the footsteps
of Millet from one place to another. I sat before his paintings in the
Louvre--I met some of his old friends and gathered material for a
lecture on his work.

From Paris I went to London. The British capital was more than an art
centre to me. It was a centre, literary, sociological and religious. I
was the guest of Sir George Williams one afternoon at one of his
parties and met Lord Radstock whom I had heard preach on a street
corner in Whitechapel twenty years before.

Besides visiting and photographing the literary haunts of the great
masters, I made the acquaintance of the leaders of the Socialist
movement. I went to St. Albans to attend the first convention of the
Ruskin societies. The convention was composed of men who in literature
and life were translating into terms of life and labour the teachings
of John Ruskin.

From London I went to Oxford and spent a few weeks browsing around the
most fascinating city in the world, to me. My visit was in
anticipation of the British convention of the Young Men's Christian
Association to which I was a fraternal delegate from the Young Men's
Association of Yale University.

I was invited to a garden party at Blenheim Palace while at Oxford. I
arrived early and presented my card. Without waiting I went into the
grounds and proceeded to enjoy the beautiful walks. Before I had gone
far, I met a young man who seemed familiar with the place. I told him
that I had once taken the Duchess through part of the slum region of
New York, and expressed a hope that she was at home.

"No," he said, "she is conducting a fair in London for soldiers'
wives." My next remark was in the realm of ethics. I had heard that
the father of the present Duke was a good deal of a rake and asked the
young man whether that was true or not. He said he thought it was like
the obituary notice of Mark Twain--very much exaggerated.

"I have been a flunky to some of these high fliers," I said, "and I
know how hard it is to get at the facts and also how easy it is to
form a mistaken judgment."

"Yes," he said, "that's true, but men of that type, while they are
often worse than they are painted are more often much better than the
best the public think of them! I am the successor of the late Duke,
and speak with authority on at least one case."

He took me through the palace, not only the parts usually open to the
public but the private apartments also, and later in the afternoon he
took me over some of the property at Woodstock, stopping for a few
minutes at the house of Geoffrey Chaucer.

The Rector of Exeter College had invited a group of the leaders of the
convention to a luncheon in Exeter and, because I was the only
American, I was asked to be present and deliver a short address.

The grounds of Exeter show the good results of the four or five
hundred years' care bestowed upon them. In my brief sojourn in Oxford
as a student I had been chased out of the grounds of Exeter by the
caretaker, under the suspicion that I was a burglar, taking the
measure of the walks, windows, doors, etc.

I told this story to a man with whom I later exchanged cards; he was
an old man and his card, read "W. Creese, Y.M.C.A. secretary, June 6,

"You were in early, brother," I said. "Yes," he said modestly, "I was
in _first_." He helped George Williams to organize the first branch of
the Y.M.C.A. My story went the rounds of those invited to luncheon and
prepared the way for the address I delivered.

The first thing I did on my return from Europe was to visit the last
known address of the girl friend of my youth. It was in a Negro
quarter of the city.

"Does Mrs. G---- live here?" I asked the coloured woman who opened the

"She did, mistah--but she done gone left, dis mawnin'."

"Do you know where she has gone?"

"Yes'r, she done squeezed in wif ol' Mammy Jackson," and she pointed
out the tenement.

As I passed down the steps I noticed a small pile of furniture on the
sidewalk. Something impelled me to ask about it.

"Yes'r," the negress said, "dem's her house traps; d' landlord done
gone frow'd dem out."

I found her sitting with an old negress by the stove in a second-floor
back tenement.

"I bring you a message of love from your mother," I said, without
making myself known. We talked for a few minutes. I saw nothing
whatever of the girl of long ago. There was a little of the voice--the
fine musical voice--but nothing of form, nothing of feature. Deep
lines of care and suffering marred her face and labour had calloused
her hands. She was poorly dressed--had been ill and out of work, and
behind in her rent. Too proud to beg, she was starving with her
neighbours, the black people. I excused myself, found the landlord,
and rearranged the home she had so heroically struggled to hold

"Do you remember the farm at Moylena?" I asked.

"Yes, of course."

"And a farm boy----"

"Yes, yes," she said, adding: "those few days on that farm were the
only happy days of my life!"

"I am that boy and I have come to thank you for the inspiration you
were to me so long ago." She looked at me intently, perhaps searching
for the boy as I had been searching for the girl.

"There was a wide gulf between us then," she said. "In these long
years you have crossed to where I was and I--I have crossed to where
you were, and the gulf remains."



In December, 1901, the New Haven Water Company applied for a renewal
of its charter. The city had been getting nothing for this valuable
franchise, and there was considerable protest against a renewal on the
same terms. The Trades Council asked the ministers of the churches to
make a deliverance on the question, but there was no answer. I was
directly challenged to say something on the subject. I attended a
hearing in the city hall. It was the annual meeting night of our
church, and I closed the church meeting in the usual manner.

As quickly as possible I made my way to the public hearing. The
committee room was crowded; on one side were the labouring men and on
the other the stockholders and officers of the company. Several
prominent members of my church, whom I had missed at the annual
meeting, were in the committee room.

When called upon to speak, I asked the committee to hold the balance
level. "We tax a banana vendor a few dollars a year for the use of
the streets," I said, "then why should a rich corporation be given an
infinitely larger use of them for nothing?"

This provoked the rich men of the church, for most of them were
stockholders in the company, and two of them were officers.

The thing was talked over afterward in the back end of a small store
where all the church policies were formulated. One of the members was
sent to the parsonage to question and warn me. My visitor spoke of
former pastors who had been "called of God" elsewhere for much less
than I had done. Another man came later, and asked for a promise that
I would keep out of such affairs in the future.

This was the first fly in the ointment, the first break in the most
cordial of relationships between me and the church.

The church had been organized fifty years when this incident occurred.
We were preparing to celebrate the golden jubilee.

I gathered the officers together, and we went over the articles one by
one. Not a man in the church believed in "everlasting damnation," but
they voted unanimously to leave the hell-fire article just as they had
found it. They had all subscribed to it, and it "hadn't hurt them."

"Do you mean to tell me," I asked, "that none of you believe in
eternal punishment, and yet you are going to force every man, woman,
and child who joins your church to solemnly swear before God that they
do believe in it?" There was a great silence. "Yes, that's exactly
what's what," one man said.

This incident illustrates the seared, calloused, surfeited condition
of the average mind in the churches. It is glutted with sham, and
atrophied by the reiteration of high-sounding but meaningless, pious

I managed to persuade them to so amend their by-laws that children
baptized into the church became by that act church members. They did
not know that by that amendment they were setting aside two-thirds of
their creed, because they didn't know the creed.

One of my sermons at the Jubilee attracted the attention of Philo S.
Bennett, a New York tea merchant, who made his home in New Haven. We
became very close friends. One day Mr. Bennett and Mr. W.J. Bryan
called at the parsonage. I happened to be out at the time, but dined
with them that evening. Next morning a church member, who was a sort
of cat's-paw for the rich men, called at the parsonage and informed me
of the "disgust" of the leading members. "They won't stand for it!" he
said vehemently.

When I spoke at the city hall they catalogued me as a Socialist, and
when Mr. Bryan called, they moved me into the "free and unlimited
coinage of silver" column. By "they," I mean four or five men--men of
means, who absolutely ruled the church. The deacons had nothing to
say, the church had as little. "The Society" was the thing. The
"Society" in a Congregational church is a sort of secular adjunct
charged with the duty of providing the material essentials. Their word
is law, the only law. In their estimation business and religion could
not be mixed, nor could things of the church be permitted to interfere
in politics. The purchase of an alderman was to them as legitimate as
the purchase of a cow. Some of them laughed as they told me of buying
an election in the borough. It was a great joke to them. They were
patriotic, very loudly patriotic, and their special hobby was "the
majesty of the law."

I was to be punished for that water company affair, and a man was
selected to administer the punishment. I had brought this man into the
church; I had created a church office for him, and pushed him forward
before the men. He was supposed to be my closest friend. He came to
the parsonage one morning, to talk over casually the question of

"Now," he said, "you don't care how we raise your salary, do you?"

"Of course not."

"Well, the Society's hard up this year and can only raise $1,600; but
the church will raise the other $400, and I have one of them already

This seemed a most unusual proceeding, but I was unsuspecting. A few
months afterward this man, with tears in his eyes, said:

"Mr. Irvine, whatever happens you will be my friend--won't you?"

He was doing their work, and wincing under the load of it.

"Brother," I said, "when I know whether you are playing the rôle of
Judas or John, I will be better able to answer you."

At the end of the year it all came out. I was literally fined $400 for
attending that meeting.

As my term of service drew to a close, the workingmen who had joined
the church during my incumbency got together. They were in a majority.
A church meeting was called, and a motion passed to call a council of
the other churches. The purpose of the call was to advise the church
how to proceed to force its own Society to pay the pastor's salary. A
leading minister drew up the call. All ministers knew the record of
the church: only one minister in its history had left of his own
accord. The council met. It was composed of ministers and laymen of
other churches. Among the laymen was the president of the telephone
company. I had publicly criticized the company for disfiguring the
streets with ugly cross-bars that looked like gibbets. The
president's opposition to me was well known.

The council, under such influence, struck several technical snags, and
adjourned. The president of the council wrote me later that the
president of the telephone company had advised him not to recall the
council, and he had come to that decision.

Concerning the defrauding me of my salary, the best people in that
church to this day, when speaking of it, say: "Well, we didn't owe it
to him, _legally_." The Society spent the money in fitting up the
parsonage for my successor.



After the public hearing on the water contract, several labour unions
elected me to honorary membership. The carriage makers' union had so
elected me, and a night was set for my initiation. It was a wild
winter's night--the streets of the city were covered with snow, and
the thermometer registered five above zero. Few hard-working men would
come out a night like this. Who would expect them? I was rather glad
of the inclement weather. I was weary and tired, and hoped the thing
would soon be over. I entered an old office building on Orange street
and climbed to the top floor.

A man met me as I reached the top of the stairs and led me to a door,
where certain formalities were performed. There was an eye-hole in the
door, through which men watched each other. There were whispered words
in an unknown tongue, then a long pause. Why all this secrecy? What
means this panther-like vigilance? It is a time of war. This body of
craftsmen is an organized regiment. The battle is for bread. Before
the door is opened there is a noise like the sound of far-off thunder.
What can it mean? To what mysterious doings am I to become an
eye-witness to-night? I became a little anxious, perhaps a little
nervous, and regretful. An eye appeared at the hole in the door; there
is a whispered conference and I find myself between two men marching
up the centre of the hall to the desk of the presiding officer.

My entrance was the signal of an outburst of applause such as I had
seldom heard before. The hall was small, and it was a mystery how six
hundred men could be packed into it. But there they were, solidly
packed on both sides of the hall, and as I marched through them they
seemed to shake the whole building with their cheers. The chairman
rapped for order, and made a short speech.

"I ain't what ye'd call a Christian," he said, "but I know the genuine
article when I see it. If the Bible is true, Jesus went to the poor,
and if the rich wanted him they'd have to look him up. Do you fellows
ever notice the church ads in the Sunday papers? They remind me of the
columns where ye look for a rent. They all advertise their 'modern
improvements.' This minister is doin' th' Jesus business in th' old
way. That's why we like him, an' that's why he's here."

Once again the rafters seemed to shake with the violent vibrations of
enthusiasm, and it was some time before order was restored. My
initiation concluded, I made an address. It was as brief as the

"Reference has been made to a great Master to-night," I said. "Let me
ask you craftsmen of New Haven to stand and with all the power of your
lungs give three cheers for the Master Craftsman of Galilee."

There was the shuffling of many feet for an instant--then a pause, a
pause which was full of awe--then, with a roar like thunder, six
hundred throats broke into wild applause for Jesus, whom such people
ever gladly heard; and straightway, for the first time in the history
of organized labour in New Haven, a union meeting was closed with the
apostolic benediction.

Other unions followed suit. I carried a union card of the "Painters,
Paper Hangers and Decorators," and there came a time when every street
car on the streets of New Haven carried at least two of my friends,
for I became chaplain of the Trolleymen's Union, and took an active
part in their work.

I was a factor in the wage scale adjustments of the Trolleymen's Union
for two years. I fought for them when they were right and against them
when they were wrong. I fought on the inside. At first the railroad
company looked upon me as a dangerous character; but when their spies
in the union reported my actions, the general manager wrote me a
letter of thanks and thereafter took me into his confidence. The
public, also, looked upon me as inimical to the interests of business,
but occasionally the newspapers got at the facts and published them.

The New Haven _Register_ of August 8, 1904, in its leading editorial
on an averted strike, said:

"There is a general feeling in New Haven to-day of satisfaction in the
news published in yesterday's papers, that the trolleymen's plans for
a strike had been relegated to the ash heap.

"The trolleymen were evidently satisfied with the attitude of the
railroad managers, and satisfied that they were going to get fair
treatment. We read with unusual pleasure the reports of 'cheers' at
the meeting; and cheers, not for the little pleasantries of battle,
but for the friendly propositions of peace. The sentiment shown by the
trolleymen does full justice to their record as law-abiding and
intelligent public servants.

"One or two phases of the completion of peace negotiations in the
local trolley situation call for particular notice here and now. We do
not remember, for instance, to have heard for some time of the active
participation in labour agitations of a regularly ordained clergyman
of the Christian church. We noted, therefore, with respectful
interest, the manner in which the Reverend Alexander Irvine took part
in the meeting at which the final decision was made, and especially
the influence which he brought to bear to clear the atmosphere.
Usually hot-headed sympathizers with the cause of labour agitation are
the principal advisers at such a time. We remember, and the trolleymen
certainly do, that at the critical juncture several summers ago, when
a final decision was to have been rendered by the striking trolleymen,
an agitator from Bridgeport not only agitated, but nearly managed to
turn the balance toward an irreparable break in negotiations. We
remember that New Haven people absolutely lost all patience at that
juncture, and would have stampeded from their thorough sympathy with
the trolleymen's cause had not better wisdom finally prevailed. Mr.
Irvine seems to have occupied that gentleman's shoes at the Saturday
night meeting, and to have acquitted himself much more to the taste of
the public. His interest was, we take it, purely that of any citizen
who has studied labour questions sufficiently to arrive at a fair and
unprejudiced point of view, and who, moreover, possessed the requisite
balance of mind and sincerity of purpose to counsel, when his counsel
was asked, judicially. There was absolutely lacking, in his whole
connection with the case, any of that sky-rocket, uncertain theorizing
that makes the attitude of so many labour 'organizers' so detrimental,
in the public eye, to real labour benefit. New Haven has considerable
to thank Mr. Irvine for in his attitude in the past crisis. More sound
advice and friendly counsel and wise sympathy from such men as he are
needed in labour troubles."

Another New Haven paper, commenting editorially on my attitude toward
a strike carried on by the bakers' union, said:

"We commend to the Connecticut Railway and Lighting Company, which has
now practically four strikes on its hands, in two Connecticut cities,
the sentiment of the Reverend Alexander Irvine, in his sermon last
Sunday night in reference to the striking bakers of this city who
declared against a proposition to arbitrate with the bosses. 'If they
have nothing to arbitrate,' said Mr. Irvine, 'they have nothing to
strike about.' The proposition would seem to involve a sound principle
of business ethics. An honest disagreement is always arbitrable. A
body of workmen who make a demand which they are unwilling to submit
to the judgment of a fair and intelligent committee deserve little
sympathy if they lose their fight, and an employer who refuses to
entrust his case to the honesty, fairness and justice of a committee
of respectable citizens representing the best element of that public
from which he derives his support, must not be surprised if he loses
public sympathy."

I was elected a member of the teamsters' union while the teamsters
were on strike. I was in their headquarters night and day, doing what
I could for them; but I was unable to offset the bad leadership which
landed nine of them in jail.

On May 1st, I left Pilgrim Church. My farewell sermon was a fair
statement of the case. The sermon was published in the press. The
Hartford _Post_ made the following editorial comments on it:


  "Plain speaking is so much out of fashion that when examples of it
  are discovered they rivet attention. Undoubtedly there was a good
  deal in the farewell sermon of the Reverend Alexander F. Irvine,
  who has just closed a pastorate of four and one-half years in the
  Pilgrim Congregational Church in New Haven, that was applicable
  only to that church, but possibly some statements have more or
  less general application. At any rate, it is an interesting case
  and the sermon was remarkable for its almost brutal directness,
  its cutting satire, its searching exposition of the wholesale
  spirit of charity mixed with kindly humour which runs through it.

  "After four years and six months of labour, a clergyman is
  certainly qualified to speak of the characteristics of the
  pastorate. In most cases the farewell sermon is, however, a mass
  of 'glittering generalities,' a formal, perfunctory affair. Often
  it is omitted altogether. The pastor simply goes out, leaving the
  church to its fate, commending it to the care of the Almighty.
  His private views are not expressed. Mr. Irvine retired in
  considerable turmoil, but he made his parting memorable by
  expressing his sentiments, and his frankness was absolute.

  "In reviewing his pastorate, Mr. Irvine spoke of the children's
  services on Wednesday nights, the men's Bible class and a group of
  sixty added to the church at its fiftieth anniversary as among the
  happy features of his administration. But he went on to say that
  those new members were not welcomed by the 'Society' because they
  brought no money into the treasury. The clash that went on during
  those four and one-half years is revealed by what the pastor said
  on this matter. He tried to democratize the church. He wanted to
  get in 'new blood.' He tried to interest the workingmen, as many
  other pastors have tried to do and are trying to do, with varying
  success. We hear a great deal about the church and the masses, how
  they are drifting apart. Here is a minister who tried to bring
  them together. He had services when all seats were free, and
  workingmen were invited. He interested many of them, and many
  joined the church. But the attempt was a failure, for the church
  as a whole didn't take kindly to people without money. 'In the
  making of a deacon,' said Mr. Irvine, 'goodness is a quality
  sought after, but the qualifications for the Society's committee
  is cash--cold cash. If there is a deviation from this rule, it is
  on the score of patronage. Power in the case of the former is a
  rope of sand; in the latter it is law.' Again on this line, Mr.
  Irvine said: 'It was inevitable that these workingmen should be
  weighed by their contributions. That is the standard of the

  "How true it is that this standard is applied in more churches
  than the Pilgrim Church in New Haven those who are in the churches
  know. It is not true, of course, universally, but this is not by
  any means an isolated case. Possibly the organization of the
  Congregational churches is faulty in this respect. There is the
  church and there is the Society. The Society's committee runs the
  business of the church. It is apt to be made up of men to whom the
  dollar is most essential, and often the committee exercises
  absolute power in most of the affairs of the church. In this case
  it froze out a man who wanted to go out and bring in men from the
  highways and byways, and now he has gone to establish what he
  calls the church of the democracy. It is to be a church
  independent of the rich. There are such churches--not many, to be
  sure--but they come pretty close to the gospel of the New

  "'A man here may do one of three things,' said the democratic
  clergyman in his good-bye address. 'He may degenerate and conform
  to type. He may stay for three or four years by the aid of
  diplomacy and much grace. He may go mad. Therefore, an essential
  qualification for this pastorate is a keen sense of humour. If my
  successor has this he will enjoy the community ministry for a few
  years and will do much good among the children--he will enjoy the
  view from the parsonage, the bay, the river, the mountains. He
  will make friends, too, of some of the most genuinely good people
  on earth. He must come, as I came, believing this place to be a
  suburb of paradise, and blessed will that man be if he departs
  before he changes his mind.'

  "That is satire, and possibly out of place in the pulpit, but it
  may be that the words could be applied without stretching the
  truth to other pastorates. 'The preacher is their "hired man." He
  may be brainy, but not too brainy--social, but not too
  social--religious, but not too religious. He must trim his sails
  to suit every breeze of the community; his mental qualities must
  be acceptable to the contemporary ancestors by whom he is
  surrounded, or he does not fit.' The bitterness in those words is
  evident, but the truths they contain are important.

  "It may be that more sermons with equal plain speaking would do
  good. It may be that the conservatism, not to say the Phariseeism,
  of the modern church requires a John the Baptist to pierce it to
  the core, and expose its inner rottenness. The church that does
  not welcome the poor man and his family with just as much
  heartiness, sincerity and kindly sympathy as it does the rich man
  and his family is certainly not worthy of the great Teacher who
  spoke of the great difficulty the rich man has in entering the
  kingdom of God."

I have delivered about two written sermons in twenty-five years. That
farewell message was one of them. I wanted to be careful, fair, just.
I could not escape the belief that at least seven of my predecessors
who had been pushed out by unfair means had left with a lie on their
lips. Pastor and people, in dissolving relationship, had always
assumed and often explicitly stated on the records that the departing
minister "had been called of God" elsewhere. If God was the author of
their methods of dismissal, He ought to be ashamed of Himself.

There was no interregnum. The Sunday following that farewell sermon I
preached my first sermon as pastor of the newly organized People's
Church of New Haven. About thirty people left the old church and
joined the new. Among them was a saintly woman, who had been a member
for half a century of Pilgrim Church. We had one man of means--Philo
Sherman Bennett, the friend of Mr. Bryan. The opening meeting was in
the Hyperion Theatre. The creed was simple, and brevity itself: "This
church is a self-governing community for the worship of God and the
service of man." A Jewish Rabbi read the Scriptures, a Universalist
minister made an address, and a judge of the city led in prayer. Part
of my address was a series of serious questions: "Will this movement
raise the tone of society? Will it increase mutual confidence? Will it
diminish intemperance? Will it find the people uneducated and leave
them educated? Will the voice of its leader be lifted in the cause of
justice and humanity? Will it tend after all to elevate or lower the
moral sentiments of mankind? Will it increase the love of truth or the
power of superstition or self-deception? Will it divide or unite the
world? Will it leave the minds of men clearer and more enlightened, or
will it add another element of confusion to the chaos? These are the
tests we put to this new church and to our personal lives."

We had an old hall in the outskirts of the city, on a railroad bank.
There we opened our Sunday School and began our church activities. I
got a band of Yale men to go to work at the hall. The son of Senator
Crane, of Massachusetts, became head of the movement, but that plan
was spoiled by a man of the English Lutheran persuasion, who was an
instructor in Yale. It appeared that the church of which this man was
a member had been trying to rent this old hall and, not succeeding in
that, they claimed the community. This instructor complained to the
Yale authorities, and without a word to me the Yale band was
withdrawn. A few weeks after the Lutherans claimed another community,
and went to work in it.

In the middle of our first year our little church received a
staggering blow in the death of Mr. Philo S. Bennett. We had become
very intimate. I dined with him once a week. He was about to retire
from business, and after a rest he was to give his time to the church
idea. He inquired about buildings, and he had fixed his mind on a
$25,000 structure. He spoke to others of these plans, but in Idaho,
that summer, he was killed in an accident. Mrs. Bennett sent for me
and I took charge of the funeral arrangements. Mr. Bryan came on at
once and helped. After the funeral he read and discussed the will. I
was present at several of these discussions. The sealed letter written
by the dead man was the bone of contention. Then the lawyers came in
and the case went into the courts. The world knew but a fragment of
the truth. It looked to me at first as if a selfish motive actuated
Mr. Bryan, but as I got at the details one after another, details the
world can never know, I developed a profound respect for him. He was
the only person involved that cared anything for the mind, will or
intention of the dead man, and his entire legal battle was not that he
should get what Mr. Bennett had willed him, but that the designs of
his friend should not be frustrated: not merely with regard to the
fifty thousand--he offered to distribute that--but with regard to the
money for poor students.

We missed Mr. Bennett, not only for his moral and financial help, but
because of his great business ability. During the coal strike of
1902, for instance, when coal was beyond the reach of the poor, we
organized among the working people a coal company. The coal dealers
blocked our plans everywhere. We were shut out. Then the idea came to
us to charter a shipload and bring it from Glasgow. It was the keen
business ability of Mr. Bennett that helped us to success. We needed
$15,000 to cable over. I laid the plans before Mr. Bennett; he went
over them carefully and put up the money. Before we needed it,
however, we had sold stock at a dollar a share, and the coal in
Scotland brought in an amount beyond our immediate needs. This, of
course, was "interfering with business men's affairs," and the dealers
in coal were not slow to express themselves. I was a director of the
coal company for some time. The newspapers announced that I was going
into the coal business to make a living; but I had neither desire nor
ability in that direction. It was a great day in New Haven when our
ship entered the harbour and broke the siege. We sold coal for half
the current price.

The idea of a church building had held a number of people in our
little church for a long time, but after Mr. Bennett's death that hope
seemed to die, and those to whom a church home was more than a church,
left us; those of that mind that didn't leave voluntarily were lured
away by ministers who had a building. The amount of ecclesiastical
pilfering that goes on in a small city like New Haven is surprising.
Conversion is a lost art or a lost experience, and the average
minister whose reputation and salary depend upon the number of people
he can corral, usually has two fields of action: one is the Sunday
School and the other is the loose membership of other churches. The
theft is usually deliberate.

When my income was about forty dollars a month, subscribed by very
poor people, a pastor who had been building up his church at the
expense of his neighbours, wrote me that he was trying to persuade one
of our members to join his church. It was the most brazen thing I had
ever known. He felt that our dissolution was a matter of time, and he
wanted his share of the wreckage. He went after the only person in our
church who had an income that more than supplied personal needs.
Afterward, this same minister entered into a deal with the trustees of
the hall we used, by which the hall and the Sunday School were handed
over to him. Of course, we made no fight over the thing--we just let
him take them. This is called "bringing in the Kingdom of God."

We were not free from dissension within our own ranks, either. Mr.
Bryan came to lecture for us in the largest theatre in town. Admission
was to be by ticket, on Sunday afternoon. The committee of our church
that took charge of the tickets began to distribute seats--the best
seats and boxes--to their personal friends. Thousands were clamouring
for tickets. It was an opportunity to give the city a big, helpful
meeting, and to do it democratically and well. But the committee would
brook no interference.

I announced in the papers that all tickets were general admissions,
and "first come, first served" would be our principle. Sunday morning,
when I was half-way through my discourse, one of the committee handed
me a note. I did not open it until I finished. It was a threat that if
I did not call off the democratic order, the committee would leave the
church. The meeting was a great success, and the committee made good
its threat. What the writer of the following letter expected of me I
have no idea, nor did his letter enlighten me:


  "Wen I gave my name for a church member it was fer a peeples
  church, not a fol-de-rol solo and labour union church.

  "Drop my name."

We had at our opening a solo by the finest singer in the city, and I
had thanked the labour unions for their help. His name was dropped.

An educated woman thought she saw in our simple creed an open door she
had been seeking for years. She joined us with enthusiasm. One day I
was calling on her, and as I sat by the door I saw a dark figure pass
with a sack of coal on his back. The figure looked familiar.

"Pardon me," I said, as I stepped out to make sure.

"Hello, Fritz!" I called. The coal heaver had only trousers and an
undershirt on, and looked as black as a Negro. Sweat poured over his
coal-blackened face. We gripped hands. The lady watched us with

"Do you know him?" she asked.

"Yes, indeed!" I said. "And you must know him, for he is one of our

She never came back. Democracy like that was too much for her. The
deacon himself left our church a few months later because he
discovered that I did not believe in a literal hell of "fire and
brimstone," whatever that is.

The chairman of our trustees was a business man who was very much
engrossed with the New Thought. He saw a great future for me if I
would get "in tune with the infinite." I was more than willing. He
expounded to me the wonders of the new régime. Would I take lessons in
healing? Certainly! He paid an American Yogi a hundred dollars to
teach me. I was unaware of the cost. At first it was by
correspondence. His chirography looked like a plate of spaghetti. I
was instructed how to take a bath and when. The second letter ordered
me to sleep with my head to the East. I was "a Capricorner, buoyant,
lucky," so he said. At the end of a month I paid him a visit. He
showed me how to manipulate a patient--absent or present--and how to

The correspondence was taken verbatim from a ten-cent book on
astrology; I got tired, and handed the letters over to my wife. She
took them seriously, and when she had made what she thought was
progress she inadvertently told the chairman of the trustees. That
settled him. He resigned forthwith, and we saw him no more.

I thought we had reached the point where there was nothing further to
lose; but I was mistaken. I had been charged with being a Socialist,
and, curious to know what a Socialist was, I began to study the
subject. What I feared came upon me: I announced myself a Socialist.
That settled the Single Taxers; they left in a bunch! No, hardly in a
bunch; for two of them remained.

The Universalists invited us to use their church for our Sunday night
meetings. We thought that a fortunate windfall. We were to pay five
dollars a night. We did so until one week we had nothing to eat and we
let the rent wait. The trustees of the Universalist Church met and
passed a resolution something like this: "Resolved, that in order that
the good feeling existing between the People's Church and the
Universalist Church be maintained, that the People's Church be
requested to pay the rent after each service." We paid up and quit.

The most intelligent man in our church was a young draftsman in the
Winchester Arms Company. He was a man of boundless energy and great
courage. He lost his job. No reason was given. His wife, before her
marriage, had been a trained nurse, and in her professional life had
nursed the wife of a bank president, who was a director in the gun
company. One day these ladies met, and the lady of the bank said she
would find out why the husband of her former nurse was discharged. The
director got at the facts, and gave them to his wife, _sub rosa_: "He
belongs to Irvine's church--and Irvine is an anarchist." The young man
got another job in another city. After a few discharges of that kind,
men who did not want to leave the city got scared and gave me a wide

I looked around for something to do to earn a living. I found a young
bookbinder in a commercial house, and as he was a master craftsman, I
advised him to hang out a shingle and work for himself. He did so.
When I was casting around for a new method of earning a living I
thought of him, and asked him to take me as an apprentice. He did so,
and I put an apron on and began to work at his bench. One day, when
the reporters were hard up for news, one of them called for an

"Have you ever published any sermons, Mr. Irvine?"

"Yes; one, and a fine one."

"Where was it published?"

"Right here in New Haven!"

"A volume?"


I went to my case and produced a book--I had sewed it, backed it,
bound and tooled it. It was my first job, and I was proud of it. I am
proud of it now. It is the best sermon I ever preached.

Another day a professor in the Yale Medical School called to have some
books bound at the bindery.

"Who is that fellow at your bench?" he asked.

"Mr. Irvine," the bookbinder replied.

"The Socialist?"


He took the young man aside and told him that he could expect no
recognition from the "best citizens" as long as he kept me. Off came
my apron, and I looked around again.

I was very fond of Dr. T.T. Munger. In his vigorous days his was a
great intellect, and when in his study one day he told me that I had
no gospel to preach, I felt deeply the injustice of the charge. I
could not argue. I would not defend myself. I valued his friendship
too highly. I hit upon a plan, however. I had published in a labour
paper seventeen sermons for working people. I went to a printer and
told him that, if he would print them in a book, I would peddle them
from door to door until I got the printer's bill. They were printed in
a neat volume, entitled "The Master and the Chisel." I paid the
printer's bill, and gave the rest away. I sent one to Dr. Munger; and
this is what he said of it:


  "Many thanks for the little book you sent me. I have read nearly
  all the brief chapters, and this would not be the case if they
  were dull. That they certainly are not. Nor would they have held
  my interest if they did not in the main strike me as true. I can
  say more, namely, that they seem to me admirably suited to the
  people you have in charge, and good for anybody. They have at
  least done me good, and often stirred me deeply. Their strong
  point is the humanity that runs along their pages--along with a
  sincere reverence. I hope they will have a wide circulation."

The tide was ebbing, but it was not yet out. The announcement that I
was a Socialist brought, of course, the members of the party around
me, but on Sunday nights, when they came, expecting a discourse on
economic determinism and found me searching for the hidden springs of
the heart, and the larger personal life, as well as the larger social
life, they went away disappointed and never came back.

As I looked around, however, at the churches and the university, I
could find nothing to equal the social passion of the socialists--it
was a religion with them. True, they were limited in their expression
of that passion, but they were live coals, all of them, and I was more
at home in their meetings than in the churches.



I soon joined the party and gave myself body, soul and spirit to the
Socialists' propaganda. The quest for a living took me to a little
farm on the outskirts of the city. There were eighteen acres--sixteen
of them stones.

Gradually I began to feel that my rejection was not a mere matter of
being let alone, of ignoring me; it was a positive attitude. There was
a design to drive me out of the city. On the farm I was without the
gates in person but my influence was within, among the workers. We
spent every penny we had on the farm. I hired a neighbouring farmer to
plow my ground and plant my seed, for I had neither horse nor
machinery. I told him I had a little cottage in the woods in
Massachusetts that I was offering for sale and I would pay him out of
the proceeds. At first he believed me and did the work.

It took me two months to get that cottage sold and get the money for
it. The farmer's son camped on my doorstep daily. Every day I met him,
in the fields or on the road. I spoke in such soft tones and promised
so volubly every time he approached me that he got the impression
that I had no cottage--that I was a fraud and cheating his father. He
spread that impression. He began after a while to insult me, to make
fun of me. I debated with myself one afternoon whether when he again
repeated his insults I should thrash him or treat him as a joke. I
decided on the former. Meantime the check for the cottage came and
relieved the situation. Despite my inability to become a Yogi, I
believed in the New Thought. My wife and I used to "hold the thought,"
"make the mental picture," and "go into the silence." We did this

I had an old counterfeit ten-dollar bill for a decoy. I shut my eyes
and imagined myself stuffing big bundles of them into the pigeon-holes
of my desk.

I got an incubator, filled it with Buff Orpington eggs and kept the
thermometer at 103° F. My knees grew as hard as a goat's from watching
it. In the course of events, two chickens came. We had pictured the
yard literally covered with them. These poor things broke their legs
over the eggs. My wife was more optimistic than I was.

"Wait," she said, "these things are often several days late." So we
waited; waited ten days and then refilled the thing and began all over

We lost an old hen that was so worthless that we never looked for her.
In the fullness of her time she returned with a brood of fourteen! She
had been in "the silence" to some purpose!

"Well, let's let the hens alone," my wife said with a sigh; "they know
this business better than we do." But we kept on monkeying with mental
images--it was great fun.

During our stay on that farm I did four times more pastoral work than
I had ever done in my life. I was the minister of the nondescript and
the destitute. I presided over funerals, weddings, baptisms, strikes,
protests, mass meetings. Nobody thought of paying anything. To those I
served I had a sort of halo, a wall of mystery; to me it was often the
halo of hunger--of the wolf and the wall--yes, a wall, truly, and very
high that separated me from my own.

An incident will show what my brethren thought of my service to the
poor. I was in the public library one day when the scribe of the
ministerial association to which I belonged accosted me:

"Hello, Irvine!"

"Hello, C----! Splendid weather we're having, isn't it?"

"Splendid," replied C----; and in the same breath he said, "say, you
don't come around to the association; do you want your name kept on
the roll?"

I hesitated for a moment, then said: "Whatever would give you most
pleasure, brother--leaving it on or taking it off--do that!"

That was all--not another word--he reported that I wanted my name
removed, and that practically ended my ministerial standing in the
Congregational ministry.

The Jewish Rabbi who had taken part in our opening service met me on
the street one day.

"Dr. Smyth and I are coming to see you, Irvine," he said.

"I'll be mighty glad to see you both, Rabbi. What are you coming for?"

"Well, we think it's too bad that the labour gang use you as a sucker
and we want to see if we can't get a place in some mission for you."

"Rabbi, some of your rich Jews have been after you for appearing on
our platform. Come now, isn't that so?"

"Well, it's because they believe as I believe, that you are used as a

"I don't like your word, Rabbi; but there are fifty ministers in town.
If Capital has forty-nine suckers, why not let Labour have one?"

That made him rather furious and he said:

"You remind me of Jesus, a fanatic. He died at 33 when he might have
lived to a good old age and done some good!"

"That," I said, "is the highest compliment I have ever received." I
bared my head at the word and then left him on the sidewalk.

The New Haven water company managed to get what was called an "eternal
contract" passed through both chambers of the city government. Only
labouring people opposed it. Naturally there was a strong suspicion of
foul play.

[Illustration: State Convention of the Socialist Party of Connecticut,
May 31, 1906]

A year afterward a man came to me with a grip-sack full of documents.
He had been expert book-keeper for the water company, and knew the
facts and figures for twenty-five years.

Among them were two cancelled checks--one for a thousand, which was
made out by and to the president, and dated the day a certain
committee was to meet to go over the terms of the contract. The other
was made out to a shyster lawyer and was for fifteen thousand. He
expected to create a sensation. The thing had worked on his conscience
until it became unbearable. He came to me because of what he had
learned of me at the water company office. It takes a civic conscience
to deal with such a problem and New Haven had no such thing at that

He took the documents from one place to another--to ministers,
lawyers, judges, legislators, etc. Nothing could be done. They were
all the personal friends of the officials.

The papers wouldn't print anything about it. The book-keeper said he
thought he knew why "editors never had any water bills." Some radicals
got the big check printed in facsimile and scattered it abroad. The
aldermen had been bought; there was no doubt of that, but it was a
matter of business.

The whole agitation came back on the reformers like a boomerang.
Leading politicians determined to do something to vindicate the
leading citizen who had been accused. They elected him to the State
Senate! A city of a hundred thousand can by either a positive or a
negative process, destroy the usefulness of any man who would be its

I felt my loneliness very keenly--indeed, so much so that it was often
as though I had committed a great crime. Always, however, at the
breaking-point came a word of cheer--a note of approval.

Bishop Lines of Newark, New Jersey, who was then Rector of St. Paul's
church, sent me a note, that reached me in a dark hour.

"I do not suppose," he said, "that I look at things as you do, in all
respects, but I would like to assure you of my great regard for you
and of my implicit faith in your sincerity and goodness. I know that
the world's great sorrow rests upon your heart and that many men who
feel it not sit in judgment upon you."

The People's Church dwindled to a vanishing point. The farm produced
nothing. Autumn came and we lived largely upon apples.

"Make a break!" my wife said, but it seemed like running away from the
fight. The fight was already over and I was beaten--beaten, but
unaware of defeat.

One morning I was at the top of a big apple tree, shaking it for three
Italian women whom we believed to be worse off than ourselves. A
branch broke and I fell on my back on a boulder. I lay as one dead. My
wife found me there and hailed a passing grocer's wagon. The boy
whipped up his horse to bring a doctor, but on the way spread the news
that I had been killed by a fall. Among the first callers after the
accident were Donald G. Mitchell and his daughter, my neighbours. I
lay on a mattress on the lawn all afternoon in great agony.

Although it was with the greatest difficulty that we scraped together
the twenty-five dollars a month for the farm, my wife, putting her
philosophy of the New Thought to the test, had rented a house in the
city at seventy dollars a month. When she rented it, we hadn't seventy
cents. We were to move into it the day of the accident. I insisted
that we proceed.

"Send for Jimmy Moohan," I said. Jimmy was a genial old Irish
expressman whose stand was at the New Haven Green. Jimmy came and
looked me over. Then came Bob Grant, a foreman from a near-by
manufacturing concern, and after him four Socialist comrades on their
way home from work.

"Ah, Mother o' God," Jimmy said, "shure it's an ambulance yer
riverence shud haave."

"I want you, Jimmy; pile me in."

"Holy Saints," he exclaimed, "shure th' ould cyart'll jolt yer guts

"Pile me in."

So they lifted me on the mattress and laid me in the express wagon.
Bob Grant sat beside me; the four comrades steadied it--two on each

"Git up now, Larry, an' be aisy wid ye."

When the wagon wheel mounted a stone, Jimmy blamed Larry and swore at
him. Occasionally he would turn around and say: "How's it goin', yer

I was in such agony that I sweat. Pains were shooting through every
part of my body but I usually answered:

"Fine, Jimmy, fine!"

So I came back within the gates of the city--rejected, defeated,
deserted, and practically a pauper.

It had been a long fight but the city had conquered. A few more
attempts at work; a few more appeals for fair play, a few more
speeches for the propaganda; but as baggage in Jimmy Moohan's express
wagon I was down and out!

At a regular meeting of the Trades Council of New Haven a member moved
that a letter of sympathy be sent to me. A week after my fall, another
was made and carried to make me a member of the council and a third to
send me a check for fifty dollars. This was the only money I ever
received for my services to labour and as it arrived a few hours
before the agent called for his rent, it was very welcome.

It seemed odd to all sorts of people that, after being starved out, I
should bob up again in one of the largest houses on Chapel Street--I
couldn't quite understand it myself. My wife could, however. She said
the whole business of life was a matter of mental attitude and she
only laughed when I asked whether there was any chance of my being
kicked to death by a mule for the next month's rent!

I made another attempt to interest the students of Yale in the human
affairs of New Haven. Ten years previous to this, when there was some
suggestion that I take charge of Yale's mission work, I was astounded
to be told by the leaders of the Yale Y.M.C.A. that the chief end in
view was not the work but the worker. Yale's mission was to give the
student practice. Missions were to be laboratories--the specimens were
to be humans. The eternal questions of sin and poverty were to be
answered by the pious phrases and the cast-off junk of immature
students. I gave a series of talks on labour unions to a selected
group of students who were leaders.

I was a social evangelist then and, after the talks, took stock of the
results. Many fell by the wayside, but a group of strong men formed
themselves into a "University Federal Labour Union." Dick Morse,
captain of the 'Varsity crew, became president of it. Representative
union constitutions were studied. The following sentences from the
declaration of principles will illustrate how thoroughly these young
men got in line with the union movement:

"We believe it inconsistent and unworthy that a wage-worker should
take the benefits that accrue to a craft as a direct result of
organization and at the same time hold himself aloof from the
responsibilities and from his share of the expenses of that

"We believe that union men whenever possible should demand the union
label as a guarantee that the goods were manufactured under conditions
fair to labour. We believe that eight hours should constitute a day's

In the preamble was this statement: "We do not look upon the labour
union as an ultimate conception of labour, but we believe that
whatever progress has been made in the lot of the labourer has been
due wholly to the organization of the wage-workers!"

The preamble concludes with this paragraph: "Believing, therefore, in
the cause of labour and desiring to add according to our ability to
the support of the union movement, we pledge ourselves to study it
intelligently and to support it loyally."

Here was the beginning of a splendid mission work among the students;
but the New Haven labour movement wasn't big enough to take it in; nor
was the American Federation of Labour. The labour men would have no
dealings whatever with the students. We managed to keep the big house
for a year, but we kept little else during that period. Twice we lost
the mental image of the monthly rent. Sam Read supplied it the first
time and Anson Phelps Stokes the other. These were my only borrowings
in New Haven. In that house I had one of the most bitter experiences
of my life.

"I think," said my wife to me, one morning at 2 A.M., "that the baby
will be born in an hour."

The announcement chilled me. There was but five cents in the house and
that was needed to telephone for the family physician. As I walked
down Chapel Street it seemed as if my heart was a nest of scorpions
spitting poison.

There was no breakfast in the house for the mother of the new-born
babe. The churches, the homes of the wealthy and the university filled
me with unutterable hate as I passed them. I was in the frame of mind
in which murder, theft, violence are committed.

I had held my integrity intact until that exigency. Then I only lacked
opportunity to smash my ideals--to bend my head, my back, my morals!

Cold sweat covered my body, my teeth chattered and my hands twitched.
My Socialist philosophy told me that society was in process of
evolution. Democracy at heart was correcting its own evils and like a
snake sloughing off its outworn skin. I was part of that process.
Reason pounded these things in on me but hate pushed them aside and
demanded something else. I wondered that morning whether after all
there weren't more reforms wrapped up in a stick of dynamite than in a
whole life of preaching and moralizing. In that fifteen-minute walk
there passed through my mind and heart all the elements of hell.

It was a new experience to me--I had not travelled that way before. I
went into a little restaurant to use the 'phone. I laid the nickel on
the counter, when I had finished, and as I did so the waiter said,
"It's a 'phone on me, Mr. Irvine;" and he rang up five cents in the
cash register.

"Ah," I said, "you know me then?"

"Sure thing," he said, "don't you know me?"

I shook my head.

"Gee!" he said, "you're sick. You look like hell!"

"I feel like it."

"What's up?"

"You heard me 'phone?"

"Sure--aint you glad?"


"Say, have a cup of hot coffee, won't you?"

"Thank you, I think I will."

His intuition was keen enough to perceive that the trouble was mental
and as I took the coffee he said:

"Discouraged a bit, hey?"

Without waiting for a reply he proceeded to tell me how a few words of
mine at one of the trolleymen's midnight meetings had changed his
life. He went into details and as he went on I saw a look of
contentment on his face and as I watched, it changed the look on my

I could not drink his coffee but I shared his comradeship and as I
went back home I became normal. Hate left my heart. I was beaten, in a
way; but the love of mankind was a fundamental thing and the other was
a mental storm that passed over and left no ill results.

Things took a new turn that morning. We saw a rift in the clouds and
were encouraged. It became clear that my work in New Haven was ended.

I took a commission from the Young Men's Christian Association on West
57th Street to open up meetings in some of the big shops and factories
of New York.

Mr. Charles F. Powlison, who is one of the largest minded and noblest
hearted men in the Association, is special secretary there, and it was
through his faith and confidence that the work came to me.

The Interborough Rapid Transit Company gave us permission to hold
meetings in several of their largest shops.

I enjoyed the work very much--these big crowds of men in jumpers and
overalls had a fascination for me. The work in the Interborough went
well for a year. I reviewed great books, I gave the biographies of the
world's greatest men, I talked of ethics, science, art and religion.
I taught the truth as I understood it; but it was all utterly
unsectarian and universal. In one shop the company cleaned out the
junk and replaced it with a restaurant: the superintendent told me it
was the result of my work there. My talks were never over fifteen
minutes long and seldom over ten. I was always assisted by a musician
of some sort.

The work went well for a year in the big shops; then my part in them
came to an abrupt end.

The board of directors at the West Side Y.M.C.A. is composed of
representative men of affairs in New York--men of big responsibilities
and large wealth; as splendid a set of men as ever governed an

This particular Y.M.C.A. was a pioneer institution in a big way. It
stood for large things when those things were unpopular. It was a
heretic in a way. In ten years the procession came up and the
institution seemed to stand still.

It had given the Y.M.C.A. world a larger outlook in religion and it
may be that it will yet become a pioneer in giving it a larger

I was one of two men to address the board of directors one night and I
stated the case at more length than I do here.

"What shall I tell those workingmen you stand for?" I asked. "Do you
believe in the right of the workers to organize? If you do, say so,
and, as your representative, let me tell them that you do."

[Illustration: The Lunch Hour in an Interborough Shop]

The next time I addressed a big shop meeting I gave the musician all
the minutes save three. Several hundreds of men stood around
me--disorganized, poorly paid men.

"Men," I said, "there is in this city a thing called the Civic
Federation. Its leaders are directly the owners of this shop. In it
are also leaders of labour, Mitchell and Gompers. There are several
bishops of various beliefs. Now the Civic Federation tells us--tells
the world--that it believes in labour unions. What I want to suggest
is this: A dozen of you get together; write a note to your masters and
ask them if that belief applies to _you_?"

Of course I knew it didn't apply to them, but I got very tired merely
telling the slaves to be good, and ended my service there in that way.
A spy at once informed the superintendent, and I was told--the
Y.M.C.A. was told--that I could never enter their shops again. The man
who succeeded me as a speaker at that shop, the following week, went
much further; he positively advised them to organize, for hardly in
the United States could one find greater need of organization.



The last piece of work in New Haven was a master stroke. It was an
inoculation. Jack London was in the East and I persuaded him to pay
the comrades in New Haven a visit and make a speech. The theatres were
all engaged, so were the halls.

The new Y.M.C.A. hall could not be rented--for London. There was only
one hope left--Yale. I knew a student who was a Socialist. We outlined
a plan. London was a literary man; Yale had probably heard of him. The
Yale Union was canvassed. It was a Freshman debating society.
Certainly; they had read London's books--"The Call of the Wild," "The
Sea Wolf," etc.

"Well now, boys, here's your chance. Jack London can be had for a

The Union had no money and Woolsey Hall cost fifty dollars. "That's
easy," I suggested, though I didn't have fifty cents at the time. That
seemed fine. "Of course," I said, as I remembered the empty Socialist
treasury, "we'll have to charge an admission fee of ten cents." That,
too, was all right. In case of frost or failure I promised to make
good so that the Union would have no responsibility. I meekly
suggested that as compensation for "risk involved" I would take the
surplus--if there was any.

"They say Jack London is Socialistically inclined, Doctor," said the
youthful president of the Yale Union.

"Yes, he is, rather," I answered.

"Well," he added, "I suppose we will have to take our chances." The
chances seemed small then; they loomed up larger later.

He hoped President Hadley would not interfere with him.

"Will you introduce him, Doctor?"


"What's his topic?"

"He calls it 'The Coming Crisis.'"

"Social, I suppose, eh?"

"Yes, it's a suggested remedy for a lot of our troubles."

The Socialist student had a few rounds with Lee McClung, the Yale
treasurer. "Mac" didn't know Irvine from a gate-post but took Billy
Phelps's word for it that London was a literary man and let it go at
that--let the hall go, I mean.

"Yale," said the brilliant Phelps, "is a university, and not a
monastery; besides, Jack London is one of the most distinguished men
in America."

When it was decided we could have the hall the advertising began.
Streets, shops and factories were bombarded with printed
announcements. Next morning--the morning after securing the hall--Yale
official and unofficial awoke to find tacked to every tree on the
campus the inscription, "Jack London at Woolsey Hall."

Max Dellfant painted a flaming poster that gripped men by the eyes. In
it London appeared in a red sweater and in the background the lurid
glare of a great conflagration. Yale and New Haven had never been so
thoroughly informed on such short notice. The information was in red

The first thing done was to run down the officers of the Yale Union.
They had previously run each other down. The boys were thoroughly
scared, explanations were in order all around.

The wiseacres of Yale got busy and the new Yale took a hand also.
Professor Charles Foster Kent--the Henry Drummond of Yale--and
Professor William Lyon Phelps counselled a square deal and fair play.

The Yale Union had a stormy meeting. A real sensation was on their
hands; there was possible censure and probable glory and every man in
the Union went after his share.

It was indignantly moved and carried that the president of the Union
introduce the speaker.

"Irvine is a Socialist," the mover said, "and would spoil the show
before it began."

[Illustration: Alexander Irvine and Jack London, 1906]

They next discussed the topic. One boy suggested that London be asked
to cut out all mention of Socialism. That was tabooed because no one
knew that he would mention it anyway.

The day of the lecture I got this note from the Socialist student:
"Yale Union and many of the faculty are sweating under the collar for
fear London _might_ say something Socialistic. The Union realizes that
it would be absolutely useless to ask him to smooth over his lecture
and cut out anything which sounds radical. Also they have decided that
it would be a shock to the university and the public to have _you_
appear upon the platform in any way, shape or manner. They are going
to ask you to cancel your engagement to introduce London. In this I
think they are unwise, but as they are determined it must be so. I
advise you to agree to whatever arrangement they suggest. This done,
they will 'take the chances' that London will express Socialistic
ideas. Now I fear there will be the devil to pay for the lecture--the
university is going to be surprised, the faculty shocked beyond
measure and the Yale Union severely criticized!"

This is how the president of the Union expressed the situation in a
note to me on the day of the lecture. "At a meeting of the executive
committee of the Yale Union it was voted that the president of the
Union introduce the speaker of the evening as it would tend to
identify the Union more conspicuously and also to give it prominence
before the student body. For this reason--wholly beyond my power and
opposed to my opinion--I shall be forced to forego our little plan
which I thought by far the best," etc., etc.

Some small portion of prosperity having come our way I was able to
dine a small group with Jack London as the chief guest. Professor
Charles Foster Kent of Yale, and Charles W. De Forrest, a business
man, were among the guests.

It was a Socialist innings at Woolsey Hall that night. The big crowd
gave the Yale Union an idea--this time it was a financial
idea--twenty-eight hundred people paid admission--the officers swept
down on the box office; but there was a Socialist inside playing
capitalist. Socialists are not familiar enough with the game to play
it successfully, but in this instance we played in strict accordance
with the rules. We furnished the capital, took the risks and bagged
the pot! We conceded nine points out of ten--the tenth was a financial
one. The audience represented every phase of life in the city. Over a
hundred of the faculty and ten times as many students. Citizens of all
classes were there.

The Harvard Students had played horse with London a few weeks before
this and we--the Socialists--were prepared for any sort of

"The spectacle of an avowed Socialist," said the New Haven
_Register_, "one of the most conspicious in the country, standing upon
the platform of Woolsey Hall and boldly advocating the doctrines of
revolution was a sight for gods and men."

Jack London talked for over two hours to that packed hall and received
a most unusual attention. After the lecture he was taken to a
students' dormitory where he answered questions till midnight. Then he
was escorted by a smaller group to Mory's for supper and at one
o'clock we held a reception at the big house which was known as "the
Socialist Parsonage."

For over twenty years I have been a contributor to newspapers and
religious periodicals, but not until I met Jack London did it ever
occur to me that I could earn a living by my pen. London made me
promise to write. My first story I mailed to California for his
criticism and suggestion, but before it returned I had entered the



_Appleton's Magazine_ published my first serious attempt at fiction.
It was a short story entitled, "Two Social Pariahs."

The cry of peonage was in the air and I arranged with _Appleton's
Magazine_ for a series of articles on the subject. Dressed as a
labourer I went to the muscle market of New York and got hired. To do
this I had to assume a foreign accent and look as slovenly as
possible. With a picturesque contingent of Hungarians, Finns, Swedes
and Greeks, I was drafted for the iron mines of the Tennessee Coal and
Iron Company. The mines are near Bessemer, Ala. At every turn of the
road south we were herded and handled like cattle.

It was a big, black porter who led us into the car at Portsmouth, Va.
I was the leader of the contingent, and the porter addressed us for
the most part by signs, and when he spoke at all he called me
"Johnny." When inside, he arranged us in our seats, putting his hands
on some of our shoulders to press us down into them. I did not realize
that I was in a Southern state until I saw a big yellow card in this
car marked "Coloured." Then I knew instantly that we were in a Jim
Crow car. A coloured woman sat next to the window in my seat and by
her look and little toss of the head and a quick nervous movement she
seemed to say, "What are you doing here?"

When the train pulled out of the depot, I stepped up to the porter and

"Haven't you a law in Virginia on the separation of the races."

The big black fellow grinned.

"Dere sho' is, boss--but you ain't no races. You is jest Dagoes, ain't

At Atlanta we changed cars and were again driven into the Jim Crow
car. This time I made a more intelligent attempt to solve my race
problem. The conductor, faultlessly dressed in broadcloth and covered
with gold lace, strode into our car with the air of an admiral of the
fleet. He went straight through the car, collecting the block ticket
for our gang from the boss, and as he returned I stepped into the
aisle in front of him, blocking his passage.

"Pardon me, sir," I said, "isn't there a law in Georgia on the
separation of the races?"

Without a word, he removed the glasses from his nose, stared at me for
a moment, then turned sharply, walked to the end of the car, removed
the card which read "Coloured" and reversed it. It then read "White."
Then he came back through the car slowly, staring at me as he passed
but without uttering a word.

Our particular destination was "Muckers Camp" at Readers. A group of
three buildings on the brow of a hill--the hill where the blacks live.
The first of these buildings is a kitchen and dining room, the second
is a big dormitory and the third is a wash-house. This was our new
home. The dormitory was originally intended for a series of small
rooms but the work was arrested before completion. The uprights
marking the divisions of the rooms were still standing--bare and
uncovered. The floor of the big dormitory was littered with
rubbish--miners' cast-off clothing, shoes, broken lamps, and in a
corner there was a junk-heap of broken bedsteads, slats, army blankets
and sodden mattresses. We were told to make ourselves "at home." There
was room enough and plenty of bedding. All we had to do was to fish
for what we needed and put it in order. Everything was red--red with
ore that men carried out of the mines on their bodies.

The junk heap in the corner played an important part in the movements
of my gang. The thought of having to sleep in the sodden stuff chilled
me to the bones, but I kept silent. Whatever the previous condition of
the men had been, they felt as I did as they pulled their bedding out
piece by piece. They had gone to spend the winter in the mines of
the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company; they knew the work, conditions
and pay; they had refused to be bribed on the way down, but as they
tugged at the junk, a change came over them! They swore in half a
dozen languages--they gritted their teeth and vowed that they wouldn't
be treated like pigs.

[Illustration: In a Mucker's Camp in Alabama]

[Illustration: Irvine and Three Other Muckers as They Left Greenwich
Street for the South]

We went to the wash-house and the outlook was less encouraging. There
was a long, narrow trough in the centre. It was half full of red ore.
The floor was wet and covered with ore, rags, old papers and other
rubbish. There were compartments intended for shower-baths, but there
again the work had been arrested and was incomplete. We washed, made
our beds, ate dinner and proceeded to the company store to be fitted

Each man was furnished with a number. By that number he was to be
known while in the company's employ. Each man showed his number and
drew what he needed--overalls, lamps, and heavy boots. There was
nothing niggardly in the credit. The deeper the debt the tighter the
grip on the debtor. The goods cost just one hundred per cent. more
than anywhere else. The company paid wages once a month. If a labourer
borrowed of his own within that time, he paid ten per cent. on the

As we came back from the store, the miners were just leaving the mines
and it was interesting to see them gaze into our faces and address us
in Russian, Hungarian, Swedish and various other languages. It was
one of the excitements of camp life--to inspect and classify the

One of the men had a wheezy accordion and he relieved the monotony of
the evening with some German airs. The big shed was unlighted, save as
each man was his own lamp-post. Each made his own bed by the light of
the lamp on his cap. As he undressed, the cap was the last article to
be set aside and the extinguishing of the smoky, flickering blaze the
last act of the night.

As the first streak of the gray dawn came in through the bare windows,
four of our gang dressed and deliberately marched out of the
camp--never to return.

The first number in the programme of a "mucker's" toilet is to adjust
his cap with his lamp in it, trimmed and burning. The second is to
light his pipe; then he dresses.

It was half-past five and still dark, when those nude, shaggy men with
heads ablaze with smoky, flickering lamps, began to move around. They
looked grotesque--unearthly--denizens of some underground pit. They
were good-humoured and full of boisterous laughter.

A breakfast of pork, beans, potatoes, bread and coffee--plenty of
each--and we went off with dinner pails over the hill to the valley,
where five tall, smoking chimneys marked the entrances to as many

Each mine has a complete outfit of men and machinery, and a certain
number of chambers or pockets in which, with blast and hammer and
hand, the red hills are made to disgorge their treasures of iron ore.

Three of us perched ourselves on the rear end of the "skip"--a big
iron-ore disgorger--and began the half-mile descent. It was a 45 per
cent. grade, and the skip, at the end of a powerful wire cable, went
down by jerks. One of my companions was Franz, the Hungarian, the
other was a German. The big square mouth of the mine became smaller
and smaller as we bumped into the bowels of the earth. In a few
minutes it looked like a small window-pane, and then disappeared
altogether and we were left in the darkness.

Each mine is like a little town. It has a main street and side
alleys--"pockets," they are called. There are "live" and "dead"
pockets--the dead are the worked out.

At the first of the live pockets the skip was stopped by some
invisible hand and we clambered over the side to a platform where a
foreman met and conducted us to the task of the day.

The mine was filled with red dust. We could see but a few feet ahead
of us. The lamps on men's brows looked like fire-flies dancing in the
red mist. There was a sound of rushing water and the _chug, chug_ of
the pumps. As we waded ankle-deep through a water alley, we heard the
warning yells of a foreman. A charge of dynamite was about to burst
and the men were flying out of danger. We were whisked into a cleft
for safety. Half a dozen old miners were squeezed in beside us. Our
scarcely soiled caps told the story of our newness and the old hands
watched us closely.

Boom! The hills shivered like the deck of a warship as she discharges
a broadside. Franz shivered too. His eyes bulged and he stared,
loose-jawed, at the men around us, who laughed at his fright.

The explosion was in our alley; it had torn up the car-tracks like
strips of macaroni; it was the salute of dynamite to our soft, flabby
muscles, to our white caps and new overalls; it was a stick of
concentrated power throwing down the gauntlet to men in the raw.

We had a foreman who superintended our compartment, "a driller," who
with a steam drill sat all day boring holes for dynamite, and we were
the "muckers"--miner's helpers--who carried away with muscular power
the effects of the explosion. Each alley had similar crews.

"Mule boy!" I roared with all my vocal power into what looked like an
ugly rent in the rocks. A moment later, I saw a glimmer of light, then
a mule shot up out of a hole and a black boy brought up the rear,
clinging to the tail of "Emma," the mule, our sure-footed locomotive.

We were handed a huge sledge-hammer each and the work began. My hammer
bounded off the rocks as if it were an air ball. It bounded for a
dozen heavy strokes.

"Turn that rock over and look for the grain!" the foreman shouted in
my ear. Then he took the hammer, turned the huge boulder over on its
side, struck it twice or thrice and it flew into splinters.

We acquired the knack of things quickly, and instinctively struck the
working pace. It was the limit of human strength and endurance. My
jacket came off first, then my overalls, then my shirt, leaving
trousers and undershirt only. The others followed suit. The sweat
oozed out of every pore of my body. We smashed, filled and ran out the
full cars. We worked silently, doggedly and at top speed. Several
hundred men were doing likewise in other pockets; they were less
bloody, perhaps, but the work was the same and they did it without
knowing that it was brutally hard. There was a halt of fifteen minutes
for dinner. Then we went at it again. Our best fell short of the
demand. For every car of ore blasted, the foreman got fifty cents and
for running out each car, we got twenty cents--a little over six cents

"---- ---- your souls to h--l," the foreman shouted. "Why don't you
get a move on you ---- hey?"

We moved a little faster.

"You muckers ain't goin' t' get ten cars out t'day if ye don't mend
yer licks!"

We "mended our licks."

He looked like a wild beast. Short of stature, but his arms were
hardened and under the red skin the muscles were hard as whip-cords
and taut as a drum. His eyebrows were heavy and bushy and over his
strong chest grew shaggy masses of black hair. Our car slipped the
track once and when he heard the smash he came thundering along,
ripping out a string of oaths as he came. Putting his powerful body to
the lever, he lifted the car almost alone. As he did so, his lamp came
in contact with my hand. Unable to let go, I screamed to him to move.
As he did so, he saw the seared flesh.

"Too bad! Too bad!" he said, as he dropped the truck. I gazed into his

"Look here!" I said, "if you will look as human as that again, you may
burn the other hand!"

The human moles who empty these pockets of ore are inured. Life down
there is normal to them. After a few years' work, the skin becomes
calloused and tough. The hands become claws or talons--broken and
disfigured. The muckers laughed at us. They saw we were concerned
about trifles. Bloody sweat and hot oil held the red dust around us
like a tight-fitting garment. Our scanty clothing was glued to our
bodies. Our shoes were filled with water, but that was a luxury--it
was cool.

What a hades of noise and dust! The continual noise and clatter of the
pumps, the rattle of the drillers, the hissing of steam and the
ear-splitting roar of the dynamite explosions are matters that one
gets accustomed to in time. The frenzied desire to get cars filled and
run out leaves little time for novel sensations--for that, brute force
_alone_ is needed.

At the end of the first day we had filled and run out ten cars. Our
pay for that was sixty-six cents apiece. During the same time, Philo,
the mule boy, made seventy-five cents and Emma--she had earned what
would enable her to return to-morrow to repeat the work of to-day.

About five o'clock in the afternoon we were sandwiched into the big
iron skip with a score of others--black and white. Eight hours had
taken our newness away. We were as others in colour and condition. We
looked into their faces and felt their hot breath. Then a signal was
given and the panting, squirming mass was jerked to the surface.

As we passed over the hill to the camp I was in an ecstasy. The sense
of relief under the open sky was intense. Others seemed to have
it--for they joked and laughed boisterously over trifles as we went

Seven of us together went to the big wash-house. It was rather
crowded. I marvelled that nobody was using the shower-baths. I soaped
myself, stood beneath the big iron water-pipe and waited, but there
was no response. There was a loud laugh, then a miner asked:

"Air ye posin' for yer photo, mister?"

"No. What's the matter with the water?"

"Fits, Buttie--it's got fits!"

There was plenty of food, of a kind. The supper, at the close of the
day was a brief function, but brutal as it was brief. It was something
of a shock, the first night we were in camp, but at the close of my
first day's work I found myself on a level with the grossest. The
finer instincts were blunted or gone and I was in the clutch of a
hunger like that of the jungle, where might and cunning rule. At a
signal from the cook, we rushed in, crushed by main force into a seat,
seized whatever was nearest and began. Scarcely a word was
spoken--heads down, hands and jaws at top speed. The disgusting
spectacle lasted but a few minutes, then up and out to smoke and talk.

Beside me sat a strong, powerfully built German boy, who joked about
the age of the pork for supper.

"What you guff about?" the burly steward asked.

"Schmell, py gee--its tick mit bad schmell!"

"Vell, you shut your ---- maut or I smash your ---- head, see?"

The boy laughed, then the steward removed his plate and refused to
give any more. Nobody took any notice. We were too busy and too
brutally selfish to interfere. The steward was the camp bully and the
men were afraid of him. They must not even laugh at his provisions. We
had pork for breakfast, we took pork chops to the mines for dinner,
and the staple article--the standby--of every supper was pork. Pigs in
Alabama are like turnips in Scotland--there are no property rights in
them. They breed and litter in the tall dog-fennel; they root around
the shanties and cover the landscape.

"Who owns these pigs?" I asked old Ransom Pope, a Negro.

"One an' anoder!" he said.

The gullies and the weeds were full of them and the steward found them
easy and cheap feeding.

"You come yere for breakfast to-morrow an' I smash your dam head!" the
steward said to the boy, as we left the dining room. There was no
reply. Each man went his way. They were tired--too tired to think.
Though a stranger to even the taste of liquor, I had an intense
craving for it and it seemed as if I had used it all my life. An hour
after supper, I lay down on my sodden pile and went to sleep.

I was awakened next morning by a Norwegian mucker who was organizing a
strike over the incident of the tainted pork. Five minutes later,
every man in the shed was around the stove in an impromptu indignation
meeting. It was agreed that Max, the German boy, should go in first;
if the steward put him out, we were all to leave with him and refuse
to work. He was allowed to take breakfast but was refused a dinner
pail. We dropped ours and marched to the office in a body. An
investigation was made and it was discovered that the steward was
feeding us on his neighbour's pork and charging it to the company. He
was discharged and we went back to the camp to make merry for the rest
of the forenoon. The fun, for most of them, consisted of an extra
demand on their physical force--rough horse-play, leap-frog and
wrestling. One man went to town for extra stimulants. Another, a big
Swede, stripped nude, drained at a single draught a bottle of whiskey
and lay down to sleep himself drunk and sober again before his next
call to the pits. At the close of the day he lay there--a big, shaggy
animal, wallowing.

The mines were shut down on Sunday and we had an opportunity to look
around. Though a place of one thousand inhabitants, it has no
post-office. There are ditches but no drains; wide, deep gullies, but
no streets. The moon shines there in her season, but there are no
street lamps. The hogs are somewhat tame and we fed them as we went
along. There is a church but it's for black folks--it's essential to
them. The whites fare not so well. If they want one, they travel for
it. They do likewise for a school, for the little school beside the
church is for coloured children. The only "modern convenience" was an
ancient style of hydrant, around which the children were organizing
fire companies and extinguishing imaginary fires.

After visiting the mule boy in Rat Hollow on Sunday, I returned to the
camp. The men were lounging around the stove, smoking, and exchanging
experiences. In one corner, a German sailor was playing his wheezy
accordion, and in another, to a group of Slavs, a Russian soldier was
singing a love song. It was my last day with the muckers. Many of my
gang had already gone--the rest would follow. It wasn't a matter of
wages or hours--it was a question of muck. Once in it, men lived,
moved, and had their being in it, but even the most brutalized quailed
at the junk pile in the corner of the shed.

The sun was setting behind the red hills. Save for a long, yellow
streak just above the horizon, the sky was a mass of purple billows.
The yellow changed to amber and later to a blood red. Then rays of
sun-fire shot up and splashed the purple billows; the purple and gold
later gave place to black clouds through which the stars came one by
one, while the muckers were settling down for the night.

It seemed at first as if I would have to commit some crime to get
admission to the stockade where the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company
had their largest convict labour force. I was seedy-looking--my beard
had grown and I was still in blue shirt and overalls. I approached the
chaplain--told him my story and gained admission to his night school;
and for three weeks moved in and out among the socially damned of that
horrible stockade.

In that time I got the facts of the life there and I became so
depressed by what I saw that I had to fight daily to keep off a sense
of hate that pressed in upon me every time I went into that

Here were eight hundred men, seven hundred of them coloured. They had
committed crimes against persons and property. The state of Alabama
hired them out to the corporation at so much a head and the
corporation proceeded, with state aid, to make their investment pay.

The men were underfed and overworked and in addition were exploited in
the most shameful manner by officials from the top to the bottom.

For the slightest infraction of the rules they were flogged like
galley slaves. Women were flogged as well as men. What the lash and
the labour left undone tuberculosis finished. Unsanitary conditions,
rotten sheds, sent many of them into eternity, where they were better

They were classified according to their ability to dig coal, not
according to the crimes committed.

From the stockade I went to a lumber camp where some officials had
been found guilty of peonage.

[Illustration: Irvine Punching Logs in the Gulf of Mexico, 1907]

I got a job as a teamster and took my place in the camp among the
labourers as if I had spent my life at it.

In this way I got at the facts of how and why men had been decoyed
from New York and imprisoned in the forests.

I was so much at home in my work and so disguised that no one ever for
a moment suspected me. I obtained photographs of the bosses, the
bloodhounds and the camp box cars in which the lumber Jacks lived.

Several times around a bonfire of pine knots I entertained the men of
the camp with stories of travel, history and romance.

If I had been discovered, if the purpose of my presence had been known
I would have been shot like a dog; for life is as cheap in a Southern
lumber field as in any part of the world.

From the lumber camp I went to one of the big turpentine camps where
conditions are as primitive and as inhuman as in the stockades.

My next and last job in the South was punching logs in Pensacola
harbour for a dollar and six "bits" a day. There I got material for
several stories of peons who had escaped from the woods.

While in Pensacola I made a visit, one Sunday morning, to the city
jail and asked permission to address the prisoners. The jailer, of
course, wanted to know what an unkempt labourer had to say to his

In order to convince him I had to deliver an exegesis before the desk!
The cells were iron cages with stone floors.

A young Englishman, who had just landed after a long sea voyage the
night before, was the first man to whom I talked. He claimed to have
been drugged and robbed in a saloon. The fact of his incarceration was
a small thing to him; what made him swear was the condition of his
cage. The excrements of probably half a dozen of his predecessors in
the cell lay around him, nauseating and suffocating him. Fire shot
from his eyes as he pointed to it. He was bitter, sarcastic, sneering,
and with evident and abundant cause.

Whatever I had to say to the men and women in that dungeon that
morning was driven from my mind and my lips.

The young man pushed all the resentment of his soul over into mine! I
spent that Sunday in working out a plan by which I could help
Pensacola to clean up this social ulcer.

There was a Tourist Club there and I offered to lecture for them. It
was arranged for the following Sunday afternoon. I called on the mayor
and he promised to preside. I interviewed several aldermen and they
promised to attend. I lectured for forty minutes on my experiences as
a labourer in the camps of the South, and for ten minutes at the close
described what I had seen in the city jail.

It was a somewhat heroic method of treatment, and I did not remain
long enough to see the effect, but I at least deprived them of the
plea of ignorance.

I found in Florida two Government officials who had done splendid work
in behalf of labour. I mean the labourers who were decoyed by false
promises and brutally abused on their arrival in the camps. They were
both modest men--men unlikely to enter politics for personal
advancement. I cut my articles out of the magazine and sent them to
President Roosevelt, calling his attention to the conditions and
commending these men to his notice. The result was that they were both
promoted to positions where their usefulness was increased and the
cause of labour considerably helped.



A group of literary people with whom I was acquainted had rented No. 3
Fifth Avenue, and were operating a coöperative housekeeping scheme. I
became part of the plan and it was there that I first met the Rector
of the Church of the Ascension, the Rev. Percy Stickney Grant.

Naturally, we talked of the church and its work. I was so impressed
with Mr. Grant's bigness that I volunteered to devote some of my spare
time to the work of his parish. A few weeks later I got a letter from
him inviting me to become a member of his staff. This was a surprise
to me, but I made no immediate decision. I was earning a comfortable
living and devoting my spare time to the Socialist propaganda. I was
_free_--very free--and I saw danger ahead in church work.

I had several interviews with Mr. Grant and went over the situation. I
wasn't a man with Socialistic tendencies; I was a Socialist--a member
of the party.

The danger ahead looked smaller to Mr. Grant than it did to me. He had
absolute confidence in the broad-minded men of affairs around him. My
Socialism was explained and understood. Just how to fit in was the
next problem.

The mission of the church is at No. 10 Horatio Street. It was without
a minister in charge. For a few Sunday evenings I conducted the
service. The audience was composed of half a dozen parishoners and a
dozen of my personal friends. Mr. Grant knew nothing of my ability in
public address. I took his place one night in the church and that
ended my career at the chapel. I had discarded an ecclesiastical title
I possessed but never used; I became a lay reader in the Episcopal
Church--the church of my youth--the church in which I was baptized and

The conference and discussion following the service was an
afterthought. The audiences steadily grew. It was and is the most
cosmopolitan audience I ever saw. I wanted to get acquainted with the
people and suggested a sort of reception in the chapel. The ladies of
the church provided refreshments.

"Who is that man?" one of the ladies at the tea table asked one night.

"He is a Socialist agitator," I answered.

"Why don't you ask him to talk?"

The man was Sol Fieldman and I asked him to speak for five minutes. He
did so and from that time the character of the after-meeting changed.
The first few evenings after the change the speaking was very
informal: any one of note who happened to be in the meeting was asked
to speak. Later, the invitation was enlarged and any one who desired
to speak could do so. Then came a time limit. A workingman asked that
the refreshments be cut out. The table took up valuable space and the
time consumed in "serving" was "a pure waste," so he said. Then we
arranged for a formal presentation of a topic and a discussion to
follow it.

The Socialists were always in the majority. Every Socialist is a
propagandist--not always an intelligent propagandist. Intelligent and
leading Socialists are generally engaged Sunday evenings, so the
majority of those who came to us were of the hard-working
kind--limited, very limited, in the literary expression of the social
soul flame that so passionately moves them.

Some of our church officers who took an active part in the first
year's meetings were somewhat alarmed at the brusqueness of these men
and women, and undertook to correct their manners.

The Rector understood. And with great patience and tact he heard all.
The Church of the Ascension has in its membership some of the
country's biggest leaders in industry; some of these men came to the
meetings. What they saw and heard was different to what they expected.
They fraternized with the men of toil. It was a fraternity utterly
devoid of patronage. There were free exchanges of thought. The
average labouring man is incapable of such conference, for no matter
how many years a member of a labour union it is only when he becomes a
Socialist that he becomes an intelligent advocate of anything.

[Illustration: The Church of the Ascension]

The Rector and I tried to avoid the notice of the newspapers and for
about six months we succeeded. Then came the explosion of the bomb on
Union Square and we were at once thrown into the limelight. I was on
the Square that afternoon.

It was designed to be a mass meeting of the unemployed. The unemployed
are not usually interested in any sort of propaganda; the more
intelligent of the labour men are, and the Socialists are more so.

So the promoters of the mass meeting for the unemployed were
Socialists. It was at this meeting that a police official declared to
a man who had the temerity to question him that the policeman's club
was mightier than the Constitution of the United States.

No permit was given and no mass meeting held, but the multitude was
there and when the police began to disperse it the people who were
neither Socialists nor unemployed resented being driven off the
streets. I saw men clubbed and women deliberately ridden over by the
mounted police. I kept moving: I wanted to be where it was most
dangerous. I suffered for months with a bruised arm that I got as I
went with the crowd in front of the horses: it was a blow aimed at a
man's head; I was clubbed on the back for not moving fast enough. At
every turn, at every angle of the Square, the police were as brutal as
any Cossack that ever wielded a knout.

Late on that afternoon the police opened the Square--that is, the
people were permitted to cross it in all directions. My study was at
No. 75 Fifth Avenue, and I was moving in that direction past the
fountain when the explosion took place. I was hurled off my feet; that
is, the shock to my nervous system was so great that I collapsed. My
first flash of thought was of the battle-field!

Fifteen feet in front of me two men staggered. It seemed to me that
one of them had been ripped in twain. He fell and the other fell on
top of him. Instantly the policemen around me seemed crazed: as I
staggered to my feet one of them struck me a terrific blow with his
club. The blow landed between my shoulders, but glanced upward,
striking me on the back of the head. I tumbled over, dazed, but the
thought that his next blow would murder me seemed to give me
superhuman strength and I ran. As I turned he attacked another man and
I thought I was free. I was mistaken, however, for he gave chase and
if I had not escaped into the crowd I would have fared badly at his

My nerves were so badly shattered that on the way to my room I fell
several times. The following Sunday night the Civic Federation packed
our meeting with their speakers.

Mr. Gompers's representative in New York was the first man put up. He
was furnished with quotations from alleged Socialist writers on the
question of religion. Then a woman from Boston who had once been a
Socialist, sent a note to me--I was presiding--asking for extended
time. I was the only Socialist in the place who knew what was going

The newspapers had all been "tipped off," as the _Herald_ reporter
told me later. The discussion waxed so warm that fifty people were on
their feet at once, shouting for recognition.

Humour in such a situation is a tremendous relief. I managed to inject
some into the discussion and it was like grease to a cartwheel. In a
humorous way I turned the light on the Civic Federation and the
audience laughed. Next day every newspaper in New York had an account
of the meeting. From that time until the end of the first year of the
meeting the papers reported not only what happened but much that never
happened. Most of them were humorous in their treatment. The Marceline
of the press gave us much space in its characteristic style.

The result was that we were forced to have policemen guard the door so
that when the chapel was full the crowd unable to gain admittance
could be dispersed. We admitted by ticket for some weeks, but the
plan didn't work well. Of course, many who came were moved solely by
curiosity, but for two years the chapel has been filled at every
meeting. On the wildest winter nights it looked sometimes as if the
choir was to be my only audience, yet when the after-meeting opened,
the place was as full as usual.

The Sunday evening service is designed to be of special helpfulness to
working people; it is an extra service permitted by the canons of the
church, and in this instance directed to helpful and constructive
social criticism. The discourses have not been theological in any
sense, but I have seen men and women converted, experiencing a change
of heart in exactly the same manner as people are converted in revival
meetings. The same energies of the soul were released and the same
results obtained with this extra consideration, that the change was a
new attitude toward society as well as a change of heart.

Men and women who had not been in church since they were children have
found an atmosphere--a spiritual atmosphere--that has been a distinct
help to them during the week. There have been unique examples of this
that cannot be recorded or catalogued. If we were padding a year-book,
bolstering a creed or attracting men merely to put our tag on them the
meetings would have waned long ago, for the class of people who attend
are quick to discover undercurrents or ulterior motives.

The spiritual atmosphere is created by a combination of forces. The
picture of the Ascension by La Farge has contributed not a little to
it--even to people to whom the circumstance was a myth. The
architecture and music contributed much.

We held the after-meeting in the church one night--to accommodate
hundreds of people who couldn't get into the chapel. The meeting was a
failure. The most radically minded men told me that they couldn't talk
in the church.

"Why?" I asked one man.

"---- if I know, but it took the fight out of me!"

It took the fight out of all. So we went back to the chapel. One man
whom I have known for years as a Socialist agitator who fought the
intellectuals in his party and was a materialist of the most radical
kind made this statement at the last meeting of the first year:

"I appreciate the courage of Mr. Grant in opening this church to the
people and opening its pulpit to a representative of the people. I am
grateful for the fine fellowship, the freedom of discussion, the
music, the beautiful architecture and the inspiration that comes from
such contact, but these are the smallest of what has come to me during
the past winter. I am the son of an orthodox Rabbi but I have been an
atheist all my life. I have been over-bitter and destructive in my
addresses. I have learned something here. I did not expect nor did I
want to, but I have. I am now a believer in the immortality of the
soul and I look forward to life instead of death. This has influenced
my work, my life. Instead of a hundred words against human slavery to
one for human freedom I speak a hundred for human freedom to one
against human slavery. That may seem small to you. It's big to
me--it's a new psychology."

A school teacher, a brilliant young Jewess, said: "The inspiration of
that service in the church lasts all week with my scholars. I am worth
twice as much as I was to the public schools."

A letter from a trained nurse says: "I am going away for the summer,
but before I go I want you to know how much of a blessing your service
has been to me, and to both physicians and nurses in this hospital,
for we have all been at one time or another, and we have always talked
over your topics with interest and profit."

During the first year we had a tremendous stimulus in the meetings
from the active participation of four of the most prominent
theosophists in the country--two of whom are members of the vestry.
They sharpened the line between spiritual and material things. They
brought to the notice of working-class Socialists the essential things
of the soul. They made the meetings a melting-pot in which the finest,
best and most permanent things were made to stand out distinctly. The
world affords not a better field either for the testing or propagating
of their philosophy, but they did not come the second year and we
missed them very much.

There was a good deal of misunderstanding about the meetings, arising
from garbled newspaper reports. The newspaper reporter has a bias for
things off colour--buzzard-like, he sees only the carrion--at least he
is trained to report only the carrion--this always against his will.
So we were kept explaining to men and women of the church who had not
been able to attend and see for themselves. There was not only
misunderstanding but prejudice. I came in contact with it in quarters
the most unlikely. The people of independent means in the Church of
the Ascension have social ideals, those of the working class who are
in the church have none--none whatever, and what prejudice I found
came from those who had never contributed anything to the church but
their presence, and to whom the church from their childhood had been
an almshouse, a hospital, and a place of amusement.

These were the people, baptized and confirmed Christians, who spoke
with bitterness and a sneer of the evening meetings because the
majority of the attendants were Jews. The other phase of their
prejudice was against Socialism--which they supposed to be a process
of "dividing up." My chief encouragement came from the richest people
in the church, the sneer came from the poorest.

The range of topics was as wide as the interests of human life. The
speakers were the leading men of New York and distinguished visitors
from other lands. One of the earliest speakers was Mrs. Cobden
Sanderson, the daughter of Richard Cobden and the intimate friend of
William Morris. Capitalism was represented by Professor J.B. Clark,
Dr. Thomas R. Slicer and Herman Robinson of the American Federation of
Labour. There were many others, of course, but these were the best
known. The Socialist leaders were W.J. Ghent, Rufus Weeks, Gaylord
Wilshire and R.W. Bruére. Exponents of individualism were many, and
most of them were brilliant. The most powerful address on behalf of
labour was made by R. Fulton Cutting. There has been no attempt to
bait an ecclesiastical hook to catch the masses. We have tried to make
men think and to act on their best thought.

This venture in ecclesiology is not the democratization of a church.
It is the leadership of a rector--Mr. Grant is an ecclesiastical
statesman--he has a strong cabinet in his vestry. Men who, having made
big ventures in the business world, are not averse to an occasional
venture in matters not directly in their line. He has enough reaction
among them to keep the balance level.

The Church of the Ascension is the real Cathedral of New York. What
matters it about Canon, Chapter, Dean and Prebend? A cathedral is a
church of the people--all the people!



My vision spiritual came to me out of the unknown. The facts and
experiences of life led me to Socialism. In each case it was a

"The Way" of Jesus was at first a state of mind; it had no relation to
a book; it had no connection with a church. Socialism is a passion for
the regeneration of society, it is a state of mind, a point of view.
The religion of the peasant Saviour and the movement for industrial
democracy expand as they are understood. Both thrive under opposition
and are retarded only by unfaithful friends. I caught the spirit, then
studied the forms. I got tired of doling out alms. It became degrading
to me either to take them from the rich or to give them to the poor.
Almsgiving deludes the one and demoralizes the other. I had
distributed the crumbs that fall from rich men's tables until my soul
became sick. I expected Lazarus the legion to be grateful; I expected
him to become pious, to attend church, to number himself with the
saved, and he didn't.

Almsgiving not only degrades the recipient but the medium also. The
average minister or missionary is looked upon by the middle and upper
classes as a sort of refined pauper himself. So, like a mendicant he
goes to the merchant and trades his piety for a rebate of ten per
cent.; or he travels on a child's fare on the railroads. I have scores
of times given away my own clothes and have gone to the missionary
"Dorcas Room" and fitted myself out with somebody's worn-out garments;
and I, too, was expected to be grateful and to write of my gratitude
to the person who, "for Jesus' sake," had cleaned out his cellar or
garret. In the West I have been the recipient of Home Missionary
barrels packed in some rich church in New York or New England--annual
barrels in which there is usually a ten-dollar suit for the
missionary, bought by some dear old lady to whom all men were
alike--in size. This whole process is hoary, antiquated, stupid and

My Socialism is the outcome of my desire to make real the dreams I
have dreamed of God. It came to me, not through Marx or Lassalle, but
by the way of Moses and Jesus. Twenty years' experience in reform
movements taught me the hopelessness of reformation from without. It
was like soldering up a thousand little holes in the bottom of a

For a hundred years men and women have been begging the industrial
lords to spare the little children of the poor. Have they? Ask the
census taker. Millions of them are the victims of the sweater--the
dealer in human endurance. The cure for child labour is justice to the
father, and justice to the father is his full share of the good things
of life. As long as he has to pay tribute to a horde of non-producers,
who have merely invested in his endurance, so long will he be unable
to keep his child at school.

It is the daughters of the poor that become the victims of
middle-class lust--Fantine is the daughter of a working man. She is
multiplied by tens of thousands on the streets of great cities,
selling her soul for a morsel of bread. We are hardened to that and we
think we are meriting the approbation of angels when we start a rescue
mission for her special class.

How pure in the sight of God is poor Fantine when compared with the
cowards who will not smash the mill of which she is the mere grist.
Just so long as there is a cash consideration in her life must
capitalism bear the burden of her sin!

There were millions of men out of work last winter. The political
parties took no notice. The leaders knew the minds of the electors.
They knew that those millions of unemployed were too stupid to see any
connection between government and work.

Mr. Taft was asked in the campaign what a workless, homeless man could
do to find employment.

"God knows!" was his reply.

Out of this army of the unemployed the ranks of the criminals are
reinforced, and the search for creature comforts recruits the ranks
of women who are not fallen, but knocked down. The supreme function of
the state is to make it easy for citizens to live in harmony with one
another and hard to be out of joint.

Poverty is the mother curse of the ages. No man suffering from her
withering, blighting touch can be in harmony with the best. Socialism
tackles the master job of abolishing it. Not by any fantastic plan of
redistribution but by giving to the creator all that he creates and to
the social charges, pensioners and cripples an assurance of life
without the stigma of pauperism.

Socialism asks for the application of science to the disease of
poverty. Science has chained the lightning and harnessed the ether
waves, it has filled the world with horseless carriages and is now
filling the air with machines that fly like birds. The inventions of
the last twenty years are modern miracles but the sunken millions of
our fellowmen never speak through a telephone, never ride in an
automobile, never send a telegram, never read good books, or see good
plays! They make all these things. They make them all possible for
others, but the enjoyment of them is beyond their wildest dreams!

The strength of the social chain cannot be greater than its weakest

Socialists are grouped around the thin places, the leakages, the
weaknesses of democracy, and engross themselves in making them
strong. The propaganda in times past wielded only a sword; now it has
a trowel. Socialism is a positive force; it is leaven in the lump.

The party has a discipline which often hampers its own progress, but
in the regimentation of an idea discipline can not be dispensed with.
There are Socialists who see only the goal--are not willing to see
anything else or less. There are others who see every step of the way
and emphasize each step.

"What kind of a Socialist are you?" a rich man asked me the other day.

"Catalogue me with the worst!" I said, "for he who numbers himself
with the transgressors is in direct apostolic succession."

The Socialists are the only people who seem to have the Bible idea of
work. The scriptures make no provision for parasites. In the
commonwealth of Israel everybody worked. When there was a departure
from this ideal, came the prophet to speak for God and the divine

Socialists are doing for America what the prophets did for Israel
thousands of years ago: we are pointing the way to simple and right
living, to justice, brotherhood and religion. Socialism is not an
ultimate conception of society: it only paves the way for a divine
individualism. When the fear of hunger is vanished men will have a
chance to be individuals.

Men striving all their lives to live--to merely live--have no time, no
opportunity for a career.

Opposition to the democratic ideal of Socialism is based on ignorance.
Opponents ask for a mechanical contrivance that will wind up and go
like a clock. We are asked questions that only our great-grandchildren
can answer. We are told by the good people that the ideal leaves out
God. The British Parliament proclaimed that bloodhounds and scalping
were "means that God and nature had given into its hand." A coal baron
of Pennsylvania declares that God has entrusted a few men with untold
wealth and consigned a multitude to degrading poverty--that kind of a
God the democratic ideal does leave out. He is a God spun out of the
fertile brain of the materialist. Critics of Socialism assume and
herald their own patriotism, their devotion to law and order, but they
are usually men who distrust any extension of the functions of the
state not directly beneficial to their personal interests.

The Socialists of to-day know that their ideal can not be realized
during their lifetime; they are people of vision; they are not saying,
"Lord, Lord," but they are bringing in His Kingdom.

The early Socialists met their worst opposition in a corrupt church
and their writings were coloured by the conflict. We are asked to
stand sponsor for all they said. One might as well charge 20th century
Christians with the horrors of the Inquisition!

We are not even willing to stand sponsor for their economics. Many of
their prophecies are yet unfulfilled, the currents of thought and
action are not flowing in the direction they anticipated, but the
facts they faced have altered little and we moderns have made our own
diagnosis, and we have decided on a remedy. The remedy is not
revolution in the historic sense; it is not a cataclysm, it has no
room for hatred. Its method is evolutionary; its watch-word is
solidarity, its hope is regeneration.

The process levels up, not down. It has an upward look. It will
abolish class struggles and divisions. It will usher in a reign of
peace. Just at present it is a class struggle, a struggle on behalf of
that social group of labourers on whose back are borne the world's
heaviest burdens, but it is no more a labour movement than the
emancipation of the slaves was a Negro movement.

The man who enunciated the doctrine of the class struggle belonged
only by soul contact to the struggling class. The Socialist appeal is
made directly to that class, for until it is awakened to its own peril
and its own need little progress can be made.

Changes in society are like changes in human character: they must have
their origin in the heart and work outward. It is at the heart of
things we place our hope and the secret of the social passion to me is
the knowledge that I am a coöperator with God.

There comes over me occasionally an idea, as I look into the future,
that the fact may become the mockery of the dream. Our temples are
built with hands, they are fair to look upon even in the dream, but
other builders will come and build on other foundations temples of the
soul more fair, more enduring. Socialism the fact will have the higher
individualism as the dream; but the conflict will be lifted from the
sordid plane of the stomach to the realm of mind, heart, and soul.

The apologist of the _status quo_ is of all things the most pitiful.
If a politician, he has no dream; if a business man, he has no vision;
if a preacher, he lives in a mausoleum of dead hopes. To these the ten
commandments sum up the moral order of the universe. The eleventh
commandment shares the fate of the seed that fell on stony ground.

The worst that a man can do against the democratic ideal is not to
work for it. He might as well fight against the stars in their
courses. What does it matter who brings it to pass or how it comes?

To work for it is the thing. To feel the thrill of a
world-comradeship, a world-endeavour, to be in line with the workers
and touch hands with men of all creeds, all classes, this is social
joy, this is incentive for life!

    "Then a man shall work and bethink him, and rejoice in the deeds
      of his hand,
    Nor yet come home in the even, too faint and weary to stand.
    Men in that time a-coming shall work and have no fear
    For to-morrow's lack of earning and the hunger-wolf a-near.
    Oh, strange, new wonderful justice! But for whom shall we gather
      the gain?
    For ourselves and for each of our fellows, and no hand shall labour
      in vain.
    Then all mine and all thine shall be ours and no more shall any
      man crave
    For riches that serve for nothing but to fetter a friend for a slave.
    And what wealth then shall be left us when none shall gather gold
    To buy his friend in the market and pinch and pine the sold?
    Nay, what save the lovely city and the little house on the hill,
    And the wastes and the woodland beauty and the happy fields we till,
    And the homes of ancient stories, the tombs of the mighty dead,
    And the wise men seeking out marvels and the poet's teaming head.
    And the painter's hand of wonder, and the marvellous fiddle-bow,
    And the banded choirs of music--all those that do and know.
    For all these shall be ours and all men's, nor shall any lack a share
    Of the toil and the gain of living in the days when the world grows

In the very advent of my spiritual life I gravitated toward the
church. There I added to my faith a theology. A theologian is a
fighter--a doctrinaire. Every item of knowledge I got I sharpened into
a weapon to confound the Catholics.

Before my nakedness was wholly covered I was shouting with my sect for
"Queen and Constitution," and I could discuss the historic Episcopate
before I could write my own name. Then came a hidebound orthodoxy. I
measured life by a book and for every ill that flesh is heir to I had
an "appropriate" text. I had a formula for the salvation of the race.
I divided humanity into two camps--the goats and the sheep. I had a
literal hell for one crowd and a beautiful heaven for the other. The
logical result of this was a caste of good (saved) people for whom I
became a sort of an ecclesiastical attorney. Naturally one outgrows
such obsolescence. Such archaism has an antidote: it is an open-minded
study of the life of Jesus. The result of such a study to me was a
rediscovery of myself, that I think is what Jesus always does for an
inquiring soul. He is the Supreme Individualist, the Master of

I did not ask him what to wear or how to vote. I did not even ask him
what was moral or immoral, for these things change with time and place
and circumstance.

I asked him the old eternal questions of life and death and
immortality, of God and my neighbour, of sin and service. The answers
stripped me of fear and gave me a scorn of consequences. The secret of
Jesus is to find God in the soul of humanity. The cause of Jesus is
the righting of world wrongs; the religion of Jesus the binding
together of souls in the solidarity of the race.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three miles north of Peekskill and two miles east of the Hudson river
lies this farm place that I have named Happy Hollow. It looks to me as
if God had just taken a big handful of earth out from between these
hills of Putnam County and made a shelter here for man and beast.

[Illustration: "Happy Hollow," Mr. Irvine's Present Home Near
Peekskill, New York]

The Hollow is meadow-land through which runs a brook. Across the
meadow in front of the house, rises almost perpendicularly a hill five
hundred feet high. It is clothed now in autumnal glory. On the summit
there are several bare patches of granite rock surrounded by tall dark
green cedars that look like forest monks, from my study window. There
are over two hundred acres, two-thirds of them woodland. Through the
woods there are miles and miles of old lumber roads over which my
predecessors have hauled lumber since the days of the Revolution.

"Is there a view of the Hudson River from any of these hills?" I asked
when buying.

"Somewhere," said the owner, but she was not quite sure.

One day I was exploring the fastnesses and came upon a rock ledge
standing a hundred feet high. I walked to the edge, pushed the
branches of the elder bushes aside and out there in front of me lay
that glorious valley and beyond the valley over the top of my house
lay the mighty river like an unsheathed sword!

On that ledge I have built a platform of white birch and behind the
platform a bungalow from the window of which I have a full view of the
valley, the Westchester County hills and the river. I have named the
ledge "Ascension Point" in memory of the valued friendships formed at
the church on Fifth Avenue.

On the edge of the amphitheatre-shaped meadow, beside the old road
that leads to the river, stands the farmhouse. It is sheltered from
winter winds by the hills and from summer sun by elm, maple and walnut

There is nothing to boast of in the arrangement; it was built quickly
and not over-well. If the man who planned it had any more taste than a
cow he must have expressed it on the building of the barn, not on the
house. It had been heated with stoves for years, but I tore away the
boards that covered the open fireplaces. I built a cistern on the hill
and a cesspool down in the meadow, and between them, in a large room
in the house, arranged a bathroom, a big bathroom, big enough to swing
a cat around.

I am now knocking a wall down here and there, wiping some outbuildings
off the map, and by degrees making it habitable throughout the year.

There is a five-acre orchard on the hill east of the house and through
it runs a brook that can be turned to good account.

I had a population of twenty-five during the summer. They were
encamped within a few hundred yards of each other in tents, overhauled
barns, etc. We were all hand-picked Socialists--dreamers of dreams.

Of course we had to eat and as the raw-food fad did not appeal to us
we had to have a fire on which to cook; and as there was an abundance
of wood I instituted a wood pile!

To any one about to form a coöperative community I can recommend this
institution as an infinitely better gauge of human character than
either the ten commandments or the royal eight-fold pathway! We didn't
need much wood and there were plenty of men. We had good tools and--I
was going to say, "wood to burn."

"It was jolly good fun, don't you know," to hack up about three
sticks; then the woodcutter would have a story to tell or he "had
something he had left undone for days." There was an atmosphere around
the pile that affected us as the hookworm affects its victims in some
Southern communities--we grew listless, dull, flaccid.

The influence was baneful, subtle. None of us ever confessed to being
affected. It rather emphasized our idealism.

"In the future," said one comrade as he laid the axe down after his
second stick, "wood will be cut by machinery!" We looked interested.
"Yes," he said as he rolled a cigarette, "there will be a machine that
will cut a cord a second!"

"Why don't you invent one?" we asked.

"How can one invent anything in this slave age?" he asked, as he
glared at us between the curling puffs of smoke.

"That's true," we said, and piped down.

He went over to the well to get a drink. The housekeeper called for
firewood. He smiled--he was a jolly good-natured chap.

"Keep cool, comrades," he said gently, "it'll be all the same in a
thousand years!" The axe was blunt. He took it to the grindstone--a
new patent, with a bicycle seat on it, and there he sat puffing and
grinding until a neighbour's cow broke into our corn. He dropped the
axe and went after the cow.

The housekeeper kept calling for wood. Another comrade was pressed
into the killing ether and he smashed and hacked for five minutes;
then he straightened himself up and, said, with a look of disgust on
his face, "That's a mucker's job!"

"Who will be the muckers under Socialism?" I asked mildly.

"The dull, brainless clods who can do nothing else!" he said.

Just then our neighbour's hired man, a Russian muzik, passed with his
ox-team. He wore a smock of his own making and a pair of shoes he had
made of hickory bark.

"That," said the comrade at the block in a stage whisper, "is the type
that will do the rough work. You couldn't wake that thing up with a
plug of dynamite!"

We watched Michael and his ox-team as they lumbered lazily along the

[Illustration: "Happy Hollow" in the Winter, Looking From the House]

We had one poet in our midst--just one. He had lately completed a poem
on the glories of our valley. Two men stooped to pick up the axe.
Gaston and Alphonse like, they stooped together. As they did so the
poet came along with a beaming face. "Stop!" he said; "listen, boys,

We all straightened up, and stood at attention. He read:

    "Not far from turmoil, strife, the mountain-vying waves
      Of life's antagonisms that delude the world--
    Amidst elysian valleys, slopes, majestic hills and caves
      That mark the path where ages wrought their wrath and hurled
    The crumbling sinews of the soil down to defeat,
      To linger in the depth as symbols that all power
    Is at the will of the Supreme--in this retreat,
      Filled with the chirping music of the nightly hour,
    And seeking rest from joyous toil, reward for which
      Is given by the thought that all is mine, that none
    Do rob, that love adds to each stroke its rich
      And sweetening cheer: In such rare world that I have won----"

The housekeeper rudely broke the spell!

"You comrades had better eat that poetry for dinner," she said.

We all looked and all understood--all save the poet. He looked aghast,
thinking in Yiddish.

"Go on," somebody said, but the poet was a sensitive youth and could
sense an atmosphere quicker than most of us.

"Wood," said the housekeeper, pointing at the few sticks lying around
the block.

"Ah," exclaimed the poet as he took up the axe, "you shall have it,
comrade--have it good and plenty."

He laid the poem in the white birch frame against a stone and
proceeded. We moved away, every man to his own place.

In a community where the communers have to chop the fire-wood, canned
salmon is a good standby.

That day we had salmon for dinner.

Just as a matter of encouragement I had the artist of the community
print a Latin motto in fine Gothic characters:


This I tacked to the block at the woodpile. We had one orator in the
community--just one.

Next morning, when the motto stared him in the face, he said: "Gee
whiz! that's great--Labour is oratory!" It was a blow at a venture in
the interpretation of Latin and instead of wood to cook the breakfast
we had a speech on the labour of the orator!

The idea that I was giving land away got noised abroad, and a thousand
letters of inquiry came to me. Most of the inquirers asked if I gave
"deeds" to the land.

Others got an idea that I had a coöperative colony and all they had to
do was to come and plant themselves on the land. I never intended to
organize a colony but I did invite some families to enjoy the summer
on the farm.

I shall not ask as many next year for I have no talent as a manager
and it takes more management than I imagined to look after even half a
dozen families.

I had a number of parties from the city during the summer--the largest
being from the Church of the Ascension and the Cosmopolitan Church.
From Ascension Church came a young men's club on Decoration day. I
introduced the boys to their first experience in archery.

The people from the Cosmopolitan Church came on a Sunday and I took
them over the hill to call on my friends, the Franciscan monks, of the
society of the Atonement. The Franciscans are my nearest neighbours on
the north and on the south is my neighbour Mr. Epstein, a Russian
Jewish farmer.

From the north we have had an intellectual and moral fellowship and
from the south the comradeship of the soil.

To Mr. Epstein's bull we are indebted for the element of excitement--a
very necessary element if one could get it in any sort of orderly

The bull objected to Mr. Epstein interfering in what might be called
his (the bull's) family affairs. He tossed his owner into the air
three times one afternoon in my meadow and, but for the timely
interference of a dog, would have gathered the farmer to his fathers.
Several of our community saw the incident, but the vibrations had a
more enervating effect than even those around the woodpile, and being
armed only with the first law of nature they left the honours of the
incident to the dog.

The following Sunday morning I saw a crowd in Mr. Epstein's orchard.
It looked like a small county fair. A cow doctor had been imported to
perform an operation on the bull. Mr. Epstein and his muzik, Michael,
almost came to blows in trying to decide which of them should put the
yoke on the bull's neck. No decent farmer will stand aloof in such a
crisis: so I threw my coat off and offered my services. The patient
made serious objections to me, but permitted the yoke to be adjusted
by a day labourer named Harvey Outhouse.

This Holstein aristocrat had a terrible come-down. He used to stalk
around as if he owned the earth, but now he is a common "hewer of wood
and drawer of water" like ourselves.

I see him occasionally, now, pulling a heavy load of stones or hay
past our place as meekly and quiet as the dull ox by his side, and
involuntarily I exclaim: "How are the mighty fallen!"

I have a horse and a cow. The artist of the community, who remains as
one of my family, took charge of the cow and the care of the horse was
distributed among the rest of us. The house is made comfortable and
snug for the winter and I have settled down here for the remainder of
my life.

With my family are these two comrades, the artist and the mechanic,
and we are in complete harmony in work and ideals. I have been a gypsy
most of my life. I am to have a respite now. Here in this corner of
Putnam County I have found my happy hills of rest. My work will always
be in the city but here my home is to me and here I am to do my
writing, thinking, living. In the solitude of these woods I am to find
inspiration and quiet, here I am to dream my dreams and see my
visions. I am forty-seven years of age now, but I have the health and
vigour of a boy and I feel that for me life has just really begun. I
have but one ambition: it is not wealth, or fame, or even rest. It is
to be of service to my fellow-men; for that is my highest conception
of service to God.

This memoir is but a catalogue of events--a series of milestones that
I have passed. My life has been at times such a tempest and at other
times such a calm, and between these extremes I have failed so often
and my successes have been so phenomenal that the world would not
believe a true recital of the facts, even though I were able to write

The conflicts of the soul, the scalding tears that bespeak the
breaking heart, can not be reduced to print. Nevertheless, I hope that
what I have written may be of encouragement to my fellow-travellers
along the highway of life, especially men who mistakenly imagine they
have been worsted in the fight.

There is a great truth in the doctrine of the economic interpretation
of history but there is also truth, and a mighty truth, in the
spiritual interpretation of life. The awakened human soul is
indissolubly inknit with the warp and woof of things divine. It fights
not alone, it is linked with God.

    "No man is born into the world whose work
    Is not born with him; there is always work
    And tools to work withal for those who will.
    And blessed are the horny hands of toil!
    The busy world shoves angrily aside
    The man who stands with arms akimbo set,
    Until occasion tells him what to do;
    And he who waits to have his task worked out--
    Shall die and leave his errand unfulfilled."

       *       *       *       *       *

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