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Title: One Way Out - A Middle-class New-Englander Emigrates to America
Author: Carleton, William, 1876-1945
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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ONE WAY OUT

A MIDDLE-CLASS NEW-ENGLANDER
EMIGRATES TO AMERICA



ONE WAY OUT

A MIDDLE-CLASS NEW-ENGLANDER
EMIGRATES TO AMERICA


BY
WILLIAM CARLETON



BOSTON
SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY
PUBLISHERS



Copyright, 1911

BY SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY
(INCORPORATED)

_Entered at Stationers' Hall_

Published January 28, 1911; second printing January


_Presswork by Geo. H. Ellis Co., Boston, U.S.A._



TO HER
WHO WASN'T AFRAID



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                                      PAGE

    I A BORN AND BRED NEW ENGLANDER                             1

   II THIRTY DOLLARS A WEEK                                    18

  III THE MIDDLE CLASS HELL                                    37

   IV WE EMIGRATE TO AMERICA                                   53

    V WE PROSPECT                                              67

   VI I BECOME A DAY LABORER                                   82

  VII NINE DOLLARS A WEEK                                      94

 VIII SUNDAY                                                  112

   IX PLANS FOR THE FUTURE                                    125

    X THE EMIGRANT SPIRIT                                     146

   XI NEW OPPORTUNITIES                                       165

  XII OUR FIRST WINTER                                        183

 XIII I BECOME A CITIZEN                                      200

  XIV FIFTEEN DOLLARS A WEEK                                  216

   XV THE GANG                                                234

  XVI DICK FINDS A WAY OUT, TOO                               252

 XVII THE SECOND YEAR                                         266

XVIII MATURING PLANS                                          283

  XIX ONCE AGAIN A NEW ENGLANDER                              298



ONE WAY OUT



ONE WAY OUT



CHAPTER I

A BORN AND BRED NEW ENGLANDER


My great-grandfather was killed in the Revolution; my grandfather
fought in the War of 1812; my father sacrificed his health in the
Civil War; but I, though born in New England, am the first of my
family to emigrate to this country--the United States of America. That
sounds like a riddle or a paradox. It isn't; it's a plain statement of
fact.

As a matter of convenience let me call myself Carleton. I've no desire
to make public my life for the sake of notoriety. My only idea in
writing these personal details is the hope that they may help some
poor devil out of the same hole in which I found myself mired. They
are of too sacred a nature to share except impersonally. Even behind
the disguise of an assumed name I passed some mighty uncomfortable
hours a few months ago when I sketched out for a magazine and saw in
cold print what I'm now going to give in full. It made me feel as
though I had pulled down the walls of my house and was living my life
open to the view of the street. For a man whose home means what it
does to me, there's nothing pleasant about that.

However, I received some letters following that brief article which
made the discomfort seem worth while. My wife and I read them over
with something like awe. They came from Maine and they came from
Texas; they came from the north, they came from the south, until we
numbered our unseen friends by the hundred. Running through these
letters was the racking cry that had once rended our own hearts--"How
to get out!" As we read some of them our throats grew lumpy.

"God help them," said my wife over and over again.

As we read others, we felt very glad that our lives had been in some
way an inspiration to them. After talking the whole matter over we
decided that if it helped any to let people know how we ourselves
pulled out, why it was our duty to do so. For that purpose, which is
the purpose of this book, Carleton is as good a name as any.

My people were all honest, plodding, middle-class Americans. They
stuck where they were born, accepted their duties as they came, earned
a respectable living and died without having money enough left to make
a will worth while. They were all privates in the ranks. But they were
the best type of private--honest, intelligent, and loyal unto death.
They were faithful to their families and unswerving in their duty to
their country. The records of their lives aren't interesting, but they
are as open as daylight.

My father seems to have had at first a bit more ambition stirring
within him than his ancestors. He started in the lumber business for
himself in a small way but with the first call for troops sold out and
enlisted. He did not distinguish himself but he fought in more battles
than many a man who came out a captain. He didn't quit until the war
was over. Then he crawled back home subdued and sick. He refused ever
to draw a pension because he felt it was as much a man's duty to fight
for his country as for his wife. He secured a position as head clerk
and confidential man with an old established lumber firm and here he
stuck the rest of his life. He earned a decent living and in the
course of time married and occupied a comfortable home. My mother died
when I was ten and after that father sold his house and we boarded. It
was a dreary enough life for both of us. Mother was the sort of mother
who lives her whole life in caring for her men folks so that her going
left us as helpless as babies. For a long while we didn't even know
when to change our stockings. But obeying the family tradition, father
accepted his lot stoically and as final. No one in our family ever
married twice. With the death of the wife and mother the home ceased
and that was the end of it.

I remember my father with some pride. He was a tall, old-fashioned
looking man with a great deal of quiet dignity. I came to know him
much better in the next few years after mother died than ever before
for we lived together in one room and had few friends. I can see him
now sitting by a small kerosene lamp after I had gone to bed clumsily
trying to mend some rent in my clothes. I thought it an odd occupation
for a man but I know now what he was about. I think his love for my
mother must have been deep for he talked to me a great deal of her and
seemed much more concerned about my future on her account than on
either his own or mine. I think it was she--she was a woman of some
spirit--who persuaded him to consider sending me to college. This
accounted partly for the mending although there was some sentiment
about it too. I think he liked to feel that he was carrying out her
work for me even in such a small matter as this.

How much he was earning and how much he saved I never knew. I went to
school and had all the common things of the ordinary boy and I don't
remember that I ever asked him for any pocket money but what he gave
it to me. It was towards the end of my senior year in the high school
that I began to notice a change in him. He was at times strangely
excited and at other times strangely blue. He asked me a great many
questions about my preference in the matter of a college and bade me
keep well up in my studies. He began to skimp a little and I found out
afterwards that one reason he grew so thin was because he did away
with his noon meal. It makes my blood boil now when I remember where
the fruit of this self-sacrifice went. I wouldn't recall it here
except as a humble tribute to his memory.

One night I came back to the room and though it was not yet dark I was
surprised to see a crack of yellow light creeping out from beneath the
sill. Suspecting something was wrong, I pushed open the door and saw
my father seated by the lamp with a pair of trousers I had worn when a
kid in his hands. His head was bent and he was trying to sew. I went
to his side and asked him what the trouble was. He looked up but he
didn't know me. He never knew me again. He died a few days afterwards.
I found then that he had invested all his savings in a wild-cat mining
scheme. They had been swept away.

So at eighteen I was left alone with the only capital that succeeding
generations of my family ever inherited--a common school education and
a big, sound physique. My father's tragic death was a heavy blow but
the mere fact that I was thrown on my own resources did not dishearten
me. In fact the prospect rather roused me. I had soaked in the humdrum
atmosphere of the boarding house so long that the idea of having to
earn my own living came rather as an adventure. While dependent on my
father, I had been chained to this one room and this one city, but now
I felt as though the whole wide world had suddenly been opened up to
me. I had no particular ambition beyond earning a comfortable living
and I was sure enough at eighteen of being able to do this. If I
chose, I could go to sea--there wasn't a vessel but what would take so
husky a youngster; if I wished, I could go into railroading--here
again there was a demand for youth and brawn. I could go into a
factory and learn manufacturing or I could go into an office and learn
a business. I was young, I was strong, I was unfettered. There is no
one on earth so free as such a young man. I could settle in New York
or work my way west and settle in Seattle or go north into Canada. My
legs were stout and I could walk if necessary. And wherever I was, I
had only to stop and offer the use of my back and arms in return for
food and clothes. Most men feel like this only once in their lives. In
a few years they become fettered again--this time for good.

Having no inclination towards the one thing or the other, I took the
first opportunity that offered. A chum of mine had entered the employ
of the United Woollen Company and seeing another vacancy there in the
clerical department, he persuaded me to join him. I began at five
dollars a week. I was put at work adding up columns of figures that
had no more meaning to me than the problems in the school arithmetic.
But it wasn't hard work and my hours were short and my associates
pleasant. After a while I took a certain pride in being part of this
vast enterprise. My chum and I hired a room together and we both felt
like pretty important business men as we bought our paper on the car
every morning and went down town.

It took close figuring to do anything but live that first year and yet
we pushed our way with the crowd into the nigger heavens and saw most
of the good shows. I had never been to the theatre before and I liked
it.

Next year I received a raise of five dollars and watched the shows
from the rear of the first balcony. That is the only change the raise
made that I can remember except that I renewed my stock of clothes.
The only thing I'm sure of is that at the end of the second year I
didn't have anything left over.

That is true of the next six years. My salary was advanced steadily to
twenty dollars and at that time it took just twenty dollars a week
for me to live. I wasn't extravagant and I wasn't dissipated but every
raise found a new demand. It seemed to work automatically. You might
almost say that our salaries were not raised at all but that we were
promoted from a ten dollar plane of life to a fifteen dollar plane and
then to a twenty. And we all went together--that is the men who
started together. Each advance meant unconsciously the wearing of
better clothes, rooming at better houses, eating at better
restaurants, smoking better tobacco, and more frequent amusements.
This left us better satisfied of course but after all it left us just
where we began. Life didn't mean much to any of us at this time and if
we were inclined to look ahead why there were the big salaried jobs
before us to dream about. But even if a man had been forehanded and of
a saving nature, he couldn't have done much without sacrificing the
only friends most of us had--his office associates. For instance--to
save five dollars a week at this time I would have had to drop back
into the fifteen dollars a week crowd and I'd have been as much out of
place there as a boy dropped into a lower grade at school. I remember
that when I was finally advanced another five dollars I half-heartedly
resolved to put that amount in the bank weekly. But at this point the
crowd all joined a small country club and I had either to follow or
drop out of their lives. Of course in looking back I can see where I
might have done differently but I wasn't looking back then--nor very
far ahead either. If it would have prevented my joining the country
club I'm glad I didn't.

It was out there that I met the girl who became my wife. My best
reason for remaining anonymous is the opportunity it will give me to
tell about Ruth. I want to feel free to rave about her if I wish. She
objected in the magazine article and she objects even more strongly
now but, as before, I must have an uncramped hand in this. The chances
are that I shall talk more about her than I did the first time. The
whole scheme of my life, beginning, middle and end, swings around her.
Without her inspiration I don't like to think what the end of me might
have been. And it's just as true to-day as it was in the stress of the
fight.

I was twenty-six when I met Ruth and she was eighteen. She came out to
the club one Saturday afternoon to watch some tennis. It happened
that I had worked into the finals of the tournament but that day I
wasn't playing very well. I was beaten in the first set, six-two. What
was worse I didn't care a hang if I was. I had found myself feeling
like this about a lot of things during those last few months. Then as
I made ready to serve the second set I happened to see in the front
row of the crowd to the right of the court a slight girl with blue
eyes. She was leaning forward looking at me with her mouth tense and
her fists tight closed. Somehow I had an idea that she wanted me to
win. I don't know why, because I was sure I'd never seen her before;
but I thought that perhaps she had bet a pair of gloves or a box of
candy on me. If she had, I made up my mind that she'd get them. I
started in and they said, afterwards, I never played better tennis in
my life. At any rate I beat my man.

After the game I found someone to introduce me to her and from that
moment on there was nothing else of so great consequence in my life. I
learned all about her in the course of the next few weeks. Her family,
too, was distinctly middle-class, in the sense that none of them had
ever done anything to distinguish themselves either for good or bad.
Her parents lived on a small New Hampshire farm and she had just been
graduated from the village academy and had come to town to visit her
aunt. The latter was a tall, lean woman, who, after the death of her
husband had been forced to keep lodgers to eke out a living. Ruth
showed me pictures of her mother and father, and they might have been
relatives of mine as far as looks went. The father had caught an
expression from the granite hills which most New England farmers
get--a rugged, strained look; the mother was lean and kind and
worried. I met them later and liked them.

Ruth was such a woman as my mother would have taken to; clear and
laughing on the surface, but with great depths hidden among the golden
shallows. Her experience had all been among the meadows and mountains
so that she was simple and direct and fearless in her thoughts and
acts. You never had to wonder what she meant when she spoke and when
you came to know her you didn't even have to wonder what she was
dreaming about. And yet she was never the same because she was always
growing. But the thing that woke me up most of all from the first day
I met her was the interest she took in everyone and everything. A
fellow couldn't bore Ruth if he tried. She would have the time of her
life sitting on a bench in the park or walking down the street or just
staring out the window of her aunt's front room. And that street
looked like Sunday afternoon all the week long.

I began to do some figuring when I was alone but there wasn't much
satisfaction in it. I had the clothes in my room, a good collection of
pipes, and ten dollars of my last week's salary. A man couldn't get
married on that even to a girl like Ruth who wouldn't want much. I cut
down here and there but I naturally wanted to appear well before Ruth
and so the savings went into new ties and shoes. In this way I fretted
along for a few months until I screwed my courage up to ask for
another raise. Those were prosperous days for the United Woollen and
everyone from the president to the office boy was in good humor. I
went to Morse, head of the department, and told him frankly that I
wished to get married and needed more money. That wasn't a business
reason for an increase but those of us who had worked there some years
had come to feel like one of the family and it wasn't unusual for the
company to raise a man at such a time. He said he'd see what he could
do about it and when I opened my pay envelope the next week I found an
extra five in it.

I went direct from the office to Ruth and asked her to marry me. She
didn't hang her head nor stammer but she looked me straight in the
eyes a moment longer than usual and answered:

"All right, Billy."

"Then let's go out this afternoon and see about getting a house," I
said.

I don't think a Carleton ever boarded when first married. To me it
wouldn't have seemed like getting married. I knew a suburb where some
of the men I had met at the country club lived and we went out there.
It was a beautiful June day and everything looked clean and fresh. We
found a little house of eight rooms that we knew we wanted as soon as
we saw it. It was one of a group of ten or fifteen that were all very
much alike. There was a piazza on the front and a little bit of lawn
that looked as though it had been squeezed in afterwards. In the rear
there was another strip of land where we thought we might raise some
garden stuff if we put it in boxes. The house itself had a front hall
out of which stairs led to the next floor. To the right there was a
large room separated by folding doors with another good-sized room
next to it which would naturally be used as a dining room. In the rear
of this was the kitchen and besides the door there was a slide through
which to pass the food. Upstairs there were four big rooms stretching
the whole width of the house. Above these there was a servant's room.
The whole house was prettily finished and in the two rooms down stairs
there were fireplaces which took my eye, although they weren't bigger
than coal hods. It was heated by a furnace and lighted by electricity
and there were stained glass panels either side of the front door.

The rent was forty dollars a month and I signed a three years' lease
before I left. The next week was a busy one for us both. We bought
almost a thousand dollars' worth of furniture on the installment plan
and even then we didn't seem to get more than the bare necessities. I
hadn't any idea that house furnishings cost so much. But if the bill
had come to five times that I wouldn't have cared. The installments
didn't amount to very much a week and I already saw Morse promoted and
myself filling his position at twenty-five hundred. I hadn't yet got
over the feeling I had at eighteen that life was a big adventure and
that a man with strong legs and a good back _couldn't_ lose. With Ruth
at my side I bought like a king. Though I never liked the idea of
running into debt this didn't seem like a debt. I had only to look
into her dear blue eyes to feel myself safe in buying the store
itself. Ruth herself sometimes hesitated but, as I told her, we might
as well start right and once for all as to go at it half heartedly.

The following Saturday we were married. My vacation wasn't due for
another month so we decided not to wait. The old folks came down from
the farm and we just called in a clergyman and were married in the
front parlor of the aunt's house. It was both very simple and very
solemn. For us both the ceremony meant the taking of a sacred oath of
so serious a nature as to forbid much lightheartedness. And yet I did
wish that the father and mother and aunt had not dressed in black and
cried during it all. Ruth wore a white dress and looked very beautiful
and didn't seem afraid. As for me, my knees trembled and I was chalk
white. I think it was the old people and the room, for when it was
over and we came out into the sunshine again I felt all right except a
bit light-headed. I remember that the street and the houses and the
cars seemed like very small matters.



CHAPTER II

THIRTY DOLLARS A WEEK


When, with Ruth on my arm, I walked up the steps of the house and
unlocked the front door, I entered upon a new life. It was my first
taste of home since my mother died and added to that was this new love
which was finer than anything I had ever dreamed about. It seemed hard
to have to leave every morning at half past six and not get back until
after five at night, but to offset this we used to get up as early as
four o'clock during the long summer days. Many the time even in June
Ruth and I ate our breakfast by lamp-light. It gave us an extra hour
and she was bred in the country where getting up in the morning is no
great hardship.

We couldn't afford a servant and we didn't want one. Ruth was a fine
cook and I certainly did justice to her dishes after ten years of
restaurants and boarding-houses. On rainy days when we couldn't get
out, she used to do her cooking early so that I might watch her. It
seemed a lot more like her cooking when I saw her pat out the dough
and put it in the oven instead of coming home and finding it all done.
I used to fill up my pipe and sit by the kitchen stove until I had
just time to catch the train by sprinting.

But when the morning was fine we'd either take a long walk through the
big park reservation which was near the house or we'd fuss over the
garden. We had twenty-two inches of radishes, thirty-eight inches of
lettuce, four tomato plants, two hills of corn, three hills of beans
and about four yards of early peas. In addition to this Ruth had
squeezed a geranium into one corner and a fern into another and
planted sweet alyssum around the whole business. Everyone out here
planned to raise his own vegetables. It was supposed to cut down
expenses but I noticed the market man always did a good business.

I had met two or three of the men at the country club and they
introduced me to the others. We were all earning about the same
salaries and living in about the same type of house. Still there were
differences and you could tell more by the wives than the husbands
those whose salaries went over two thousand. Two or three of the men
were in banks, one was in a leather firm, one was an agent for an
insurance company, another was with the telegraph company, another was
with the Standard Oil, and two or three others were with firms like
mine. Most of them had been settled out here three or four years and
had children. In a general way they looked comfortable and happy
enough but you heard a good deal of talk among them about the high
cost of living and you couldn't help noticing that those who dressed
the best had the fewest children. One or two of them owned horses but
even they felt obliged to explain that they saved the cost of them in
car fares.

They all called and left their cards but that first year we didn't see
much of them. There wasn't room in my life for anyone but Ruth at that
time. I didn't see even the old office gang except during business
hours and at lunch.

The rent scaled my salary down to one thousand and eighty dollars at
one swoop. Then we had to save out at least five dollars a week to pay
on the furniture. This left eight hundred and twenty, or fifteen
dollars and seventy-five cents a week, to cover running expenses. We
paid cash for everything and though we never had much left over at the
end of the week and never anything at the end of the month, we had
about everything we wanted. For one thing our tastes were not
extravagant and we did no entertaining. Our grocery and meat bill
amounted to from five to seven dollars a week. Of course I had my
lunches in town but I got out of those for twenty cents. My daily car
fare was twenty cents more which brought my total weekly expenses up
to about three dollars. This left a comfortable margin of from five to
seven dollars for light, coal, clothes and amusements. In the summer
the first three items didn't amount to much so some weeks we put most
of this into the furniture. But the city was new to Ruth, especially
at night, so we were in town a good deal. She used to meet me at the
office and we'd walk about the city and then take dinner at some
little French restaurant and then maybe go to a concert or the
theatre. She made everything new to me again. At the theatre she used
to perch on the edge of her seat so breathless, so responsive that I
often saw the old timers watch her instead of the show. I often did
myself. And sometimes it seemed as though the whole company acted to
her alone.

Those days were perfect. The only incident to mar them was the death
of Ruth's parents. They died suddenly and left an estate of six or
seven hundred dollars. Ruth insisted upon putting that into the
furniture. But in our own lives every day was as fair as the first. My
salary came as regularly as an annuity and there was every prospect
for advancement. The garden did well and Ruth became acquainted with
most of the women in a sociable way. She joined a sewing circle which
met twice a month chiefly I guess for the purpose of finding out about
one another's husbands. At any rate she told me more about them than I
would have learned in ten years.

Still, during the fall and winter we kept pretty much by ourselves,
not deliberately but because neither of us cared particularly about
whist parties and such things but preferred to spend together what
time we had. And then I guess Ruth was a little shy about her clothes.
She dressed mighty well to my eye but she made most of her things
herself and didn't care much about style. She didn't notice the
difference at home but when she was out among others, they made her
feel it. However spring came around again and we forgot all about
those details. We didn't go in town so much that summer and used to
spend more time on our piazza. I saw more of the men in this way and
found them a pleasant, companionable lot. They asked me to join the
Neighborhood Club and I did, more to meet them half way than because I
wanted to. There we played billiards and discussed the stock market
and furnaces. All of them had schemes for making fortunes if only they
had a few thousand dollars capital. Now and then you'd find a group of
them in one corner discussing a rumor that so and so had lost his job.
They spoke of this as they would of a death. But none of those
subjects interested me especially in view of what I was looking
forward to in my own family.

In the afternoons of the early fall the women sent over jellies and
such stuff to Ruth and dropped in upon her with whispered advice. She
used to repeat it to me at night with a gay little laugh and her eyes
sparkling like diamonds. She was happier now than I had ever seen her
and so was I myself. When I went in town in the morning I felt very
important.

I thought I had touched the climax of life when I married Ruth but
when the boy came he lifted me a notch higher. And with him he brought
me a new wife in Ruth, without taking one whit from the old.
Sweetheart, wife and mother now, she revealed to me new depths of
womanhood.

She taught me, too, what real courage is. I was the coward when the
time came. I had taken a day off but the doctor ordered me out of the
house. I went down to the club and I felt more one of the neighborhood
that day than I ever did before or afterwards. It was Saturday and
during the afternoon a number of the men came in and just silently
gripped my hand.

The women, too, seemed to take a new interest in us. When Ruth was
able to sit up they brought in numberless little things. But you'd
have thought it was their house and not mine, the way they treated me.
When any of them came I felt as though I didn't belong there and ought
to tip-toe out.

We'd been saving up during the summer for this emergency so that we
had enough to pay for the doctor and the nurse but that was only the
beginning of the new expenses. In the first place we had to have a
servant now. I secured a girl who knew how to cook after a fashion,
for four dollars a week. But that wasn't by any means what she cost
us. In spite of Ruth's supervision the girl wasted as much as she used
so that our provision bill was nearly doubled. If we hadn't succeeded
in paying for the furniture before this I don't know what we would
have done. As it was I found my salary pretty well strained. I hadn't
any idea that so small a thing as a baby could cost so much. Ruth had
made most of his things but I know that some of his shirts cost as
much as mine.

When the boy was older Ruth insisted upon getting along without a girl
again. I didn't approve of this but I saw that it would make her
happier to try anyway. How in the world she managed to do it I don't
know but she did. This gave her an excuse for not going out--though it
was an excuse that made me half ashamed of myself--and so we saved in
another way. Even with this we just made both ends meet and that was
all.

The boy grew like a weed and before I knew it he was five years old.
Until he began to walk and talk I didn't think of him as a possible
man. He didn't seem like anything in particular. He was just soft and
round and warm. But when he began to wear knickerbockers he set me to
thinking hard. He wasn't going to remain always a baby; he was going
to grow into a boy and then a young man and before I knew it he would
be facing the very same problem that now confronted me. And that
problem was how to get enough ahead of the game to give him a fair
start in life. I realized, too, that I wanted him to do something
better than I had done. When I stopped to think of it I had
accomplished mighty little. I had lived and that was about all. That I
had lived happily was due to Ruth. But if I was finding difficulty in
keeping even with the game now, what was I going to do when the
youngster would prove a decidedly more serious item of expense?

I talked this over with Ruth and we both decided that somehow, in some
way, we must save some money every year. We started in by reducing our
household expenses still further. But it seemed as though fate were
against us for prices rose just enough to absorb all our little
economies. Flour went up and sugar went up, and though we had done
away with meat almost wholly now, vegetables went up. So, too, did
coal. Not only that but we had long since found it impossible to keep
to ourselves as we had that first year. Little by little we had been
drawn into the social life of the neighborhood. Not a month went by
but what there was a dinner or two or a whist party or a dance.
Personally I didn't care about such things but as Ruth had become a
matron and in consequence had been thrown more in contact with the
women, she had lost her shyness and grown more sociable. She often
suggested declining an invitation but we couldn't decline one without
declining all. I saw clearly enough that I had no right to do this.
She did more work than I and did not have the daily change. To have
made a social exile of her would have been to make her little better
than a slave. But it cost money. It cost a lot of money. We had to do
our part in return and though Ruth accomplished this by careful buying
and all sorts of clever devices, the item became a big one in the
year's expenses.

I began to look forward with some anxiety for the next raise. At the
office I hunted for extra work with an eye upon the place above; but
though I found the work nothing came of it but extra hours. In fact I
began to think myself lucky to hold the job I had for a gradual change
of methods had been slowly going on in the office. Mechanical adding
machines had cost a dozen men their jobs; a card system of bookkeeping
had made it possible to discharge another dozen, while an off year in
woollens sent two or three more flying, among them the man who had
found me the position in the first place. But he hadn't married and he
went out west somewhere. Occasionally when work picked up again a
young man was taken on to fill the place of one of the discharged men.
The company always saved a few hundred dollars by such a shift for the
lad never got the salary of the old employee, and so far as anyone
could see the work went on just as well.

While these moves were ominous, as I can see now in looking back, they
didn't disturb me very much at the time. I filled a little niche in
the office that was all my own. At every opportunity I had
familiarized myself with the work of the man above me and was on very
good terms with him. I waited patiently and confidently for the day
when Morse should call me in and announce his own advance and leave me
to fill his place. I might have to begin on two thousand but it was a
sure twenty-five hundred eventually to say nothing of what it led to.
The president of the company had begun as I had and had moved up the
same steps that now lay ahead of me.

In the meanwhile the life at home ran smoothly in spite of everything.
Neither the wife, the boy nor I was sick a day for we all had sound
bodies to start with. Our country-bred ancestors didn't need a will to
leave us those. If at times we felt a trifle pinched especially in the
matter of clothes, it was wonderful how rich Ruth contrived to make us
feel. She knew how to take care of things and though I didn't spend
half what some of the men spent on their suits, I went in town every
morning looking better than two-thirds of them. I was inspected from
head to foot before I started and there wasn't a wrinkle or a spot so
small that it could last twenty-four hours. I shined my own shoes and
pressed my own trousers and Ruth looked to it that this was done well.
Moreover she could turn a tie, clean and press it so that it looked
brand new. I think some of the neighbors even thought I was
extravagant in my dressing.

She did the same for herself and had caught the knack of seeming to
dress stylishly without really doing so. She had beautiful hair and
this in itself made her look well dressed. As for the boy he was a
model for them all.

In the meanwhile the boy had grown into short trousers and before we
knew it he was in school. It made it lonesome for her during the day
when he began to trudge off every morning at nine o'clock. She began
to look forward to Saturdays as eagerly as the boy did. Then the next
thing we knew he'd start off even earlier on that day to join his
playmates. Sunday was the only day either of us had him to ourselves.

After he began to go to school, Ruth and I seemed to begin another
life. In a way we felt all by ourselves once more. I didn't get home
until half past seven now and Dick was then abed. He was abed too when
I left in the morning. Of course he was never off my mind and if he
hadn't been asleep upstairs I guess I'd have known a difference. But
at the same time he was, in a small way, living his own life now
which left Ruth and me to ourselves once more. She used to go over for
me all the details of his day from the time she took him up in the
morning until she tucked him away in bed again at night and then there
would come a pause. It seemed as though there ought to be something
more, but there wasn't. The next few months it seemed almost as though
she was waiting. For what, I didn't know and yet I too felt there was
a lapse in our lives. I never loved her more. There was never a time
when she was so truly my wife and yet in our combined lives there was
something lacking. After a while I began to notice a wistful
expression in her eyes. It always came after she had said,

"So Dicky said, 'God bless father and mother,' and then he went to
sleep."

Then one night it dawned on me. Hers was the same heart hunger that
had been eating at me. Dick was a boy now and there was no baby to
take his place. But, good Lord, as it was I hadn't been able to save a
dollar. I knew that we were simply holding on tight and drifting. The
boat was loaded to the gunwales even now. And yet that expression in
her eyes had a right to be answered. But I couldn't answer it. I
didn't dare open my mouth. I didn't dare speak even one night when she
said,

"He's all we have, Billy--just one."

I gripped her hand and sat staring into the little coal hod fireplace
which we didn't light more than once a month now. Even as I watched
the flames I saw them licking up pennies.

Just one! And I too wanted a houseful like Dick.

I had to see that look night after night and I had to go to town
knowing I was leaving her all alone with the one away at school. And
what a mother she was! She ought to have had a baby by her side all
the time.

As the one grew, his expenses increased. The only way to meet them was
by cutting down our own expenses still more. I cut out smoking and
made my old clothes do an extra year. Ruth spent half her time in
bargain hunting and saved still more by taking it out of herself. Poor
little woman, she worked harder for a quarter than I did and I was
working harder for that sum than I used to work for a dollar. But we
were not alone in the struggle. As we came to know more about the
people in that group of snug little houses we knew that the same grim
fight was going on in all of them. Some of them were not so lucky as
we and ran into debt while a few of them were luckier and were helped
out with legacies or by well-to-do relatives. We were as much alike as
peas in a pod. We were living on the future and bluffing out the
present. You'd have thought it would have cast a gloom over the
neighborhood--you'd have thought it would have done away with some of
the parties and dances. But it didn't. In the first place this was, to
most of us, just life. In the second place there didn't seem to be any
alternative. There was no other way of living. The conditions seemed
to be fixed; we had to eat, we had to wear a certain type of dress;
and unless we wished to exist as exiles we had to meet on a certain
plane of social intercourse. The conventions were as iron clad here as
among the nobility of England. No one thought of violating them; no
one thought it was possible. You had to live as the others did or die
and be done with it. If anyone of us had thought we might have seen
the foolishness of this but it was all so manifest that no one did
think. The only method of escape was a raise and that meant moving
into another sphere which would cover that.

A new complication came when the boy grew old enough to have social
functions of his own. He had made many new friends and he wanted to
join a tennis club, a dancing class and contribute towards the support
of the athletic teams of the school. Moreover he was invited to
parties and had to give parties himself. Once again I tried to see
some way out of this social business. It seemed such a pitiful waste
of ammunition under the circumstances. I wanted to save the money if
it was possible in any way to eke it out, for his education. But what
could I do? The boy had to live as his friends lived or give them up.
He wasn't asked to do any more than the other boys of the neighborhood
but he was rightly asked to do as much. If he couldn't it would be at
the sacrifice of his pride that he associated with them at all. And a
just pride in a boy is something you can't safely tamper with. He had
to have the money and we managed it somehow. But it brought home the
old grim fact that I hadn't as yet saved a dollar.

I clung more than ever now to the one ray of hope--the job ahead. It
was the only comfort Ruth and I had and whenever I felt especially
downhearted she'd start in and plan how we'd spend it. It took the
edge off the immediate thought of danger. In the meanwhile I resigned
even from the Neighborhood Club and let the boy join the tennis club.
I noticed at once a change in the attitude of the men towards me. But
I was reaching a point now where I didn't care.

In this way, then, we lived until I was thirty-eight and Ruth was
thirty, and the boy was eleven. For the last few months I had been
doing night work without extra pay and so was practically exiled from
the boy except on Sundays. He was not developing the way I wanted. The
local grammar school was almost a private school for the neighborhood.
I should have preferred to have it more cosmopolitan. The boy was
rubbing up against only his own kind and this was making him soft,
both physically and mentally. He was also getting querulous and
autocratic. Ruth saw it, but with only one.... Well, on Sundays I took
the boy with me on long cross-country jaunts and did a good deal of
talking to him. But all I said rolled off like water off a duck. He
lacked energy and initiative. He was becoming distinctly more
middle-class than either of us, with some of the faults of the
so-called upper class thrown in. He chattered about Harvard, not as an
opportunity, but as a class privilege. I didn't like it. But before I
had time to worry much about this the crash came that I had not been
wise enough to foresee.



CHAPTER III

THE MIDDLE CLASS HELL


One Saturday afternoon, after we had been paid off, Morse, the head of
the department, whose job I had been eyeing enviously for five years
now, called me into his office. For three minutes I saw all my hopes
realized; for three minutes I walked dizzily with my whole life
justified. I could hardly catch my breath as I followed him. I didn't
realize until then how big a load I had been carrying. As a drowning
man is said to see visions of his whole past life, I saw visions of my
whole future. I saw Ruth's eager face lifted to mine as I told her the
good news; I saw the boy taken from his commonplace surroundings and
doing himself proud in some big preparatory school where he brushed up
against a variety of other boys; I saw--God pity me for the fool I
was--other children at home to take his place. I can say that for
three minutes I have lived.

Morse seated himself in the chair before his desk and, bending over
his papers, talked without looking at me. He was a small fellow. I
don't suppose a beefy man ever quite gets over a certain feeling of
superiority before a small man. I could have picked up Morse in one
hand.

"Carleton," he began, "I've got to cut down your salary five hundred
dollars."

It came like a blow in the face. I don't think I answered.

"Sorry," he added, "but Evans says he can double up on your work and
offers to do it for two hundred dollars more."

I repeated that name Evans over and over. He was the man under me.
Then I saw my mistake. While watching the man ahead of me I had
neglected to watch the man behind me. Evans and I had been good
friends. I liked him. He was about twenty, and a hard worker.

"Well?" said Morse.

I recovered my wind.

"Good God," I cried; "I can't live on any less than I'm getting now!"

"Then you resign?" he asked quickly.

For a second I saw red. I wanted to take this pigmy by the throat. I
wanted to shake him. He didn't give me time before exclaiming:

"Very well, Carleton. I'll give you an order for two weeks' pay in
advance."

The next thing I knew I was in the outer office with the order in my
hand. I saw Evans at his desk. I guess I must have looked queer, for
at first he shrank away from me. Then he came to my side.

"Carleton," he said, "what's the matter?"

"I guess you know," I answered.

"You aren't fired?"

I bucked up at this. I tried to speak naturally.

"Yes," I said, "I'm fired."

"But that isn't right, Carleton," he protested. "I didn't think it
would come to that. I went to Morse and told him I wanted to get
married and needed more money. He asked me if I thought I could do
your work. I said yes. I'd have said yes if he'd asked me if I could
do the president's work. But--come back and let me explain it to
Morse."

It was white of him, wasn't it? But I saw clearly enough that he was
only fighting for his right to love as I was fighting for mine. I
don't know that I should have been as generous as he was--ten years
before. He had started toward the door when I called him back.

"Don't go in there," I warned. "The first thing you know you'll be
doing my work without your two hundred."

"That's so," he answered. "But what are you going to do now?"

"Get another job," I answered.

One of the great blessings of my life is the fact that it has always
been easy to report bad news to Ruth. I never had to break things
gently to her. She always took a blow standing up, like a man. So now
I boarded my train and went straight to the house and told her. She
listened quietly and then took my hand, patting it for a moment
without saying anything. Finally she smiled at me.

"Well, Billy," she said, "it can't be helped, can it? So good luck to
Evans and his bride."

When a woman is as brave as that it stirs up all the fighting blood in
a man. Looking into her steady blue eyes I felt that I had exaggerated
my misfortune. Thirty-eight is not old and I was able-bodied. I might
land something even better than that which I had lost. So instead of
a night of misery I actually felt almost glad.

I started in town on Monday in high hope. But when I got off the train
I began to wonder just where I was bound. What sort of a job was I
going to apply for? What was my profession, anyway? I sat down in the
station to think the problem over.

For twenty years now I had been a cog in the clerical machinery of the
United Woollen Company. I was known as a United Woollen man. But just
what else had this experience made of me? I was not a bookkeeper. I
knew no more about keeping a full set of books than my boy. I had
handled only strings of United Woollen figures; those meant nothing
outside that particular office. I was not a stenographer, or an
accountant, or a secretary. I had been called a clerk in the
directory. But what did that mean? What the devil was I, after twenty
years of hard work?

The question started the sweat to my forehead. But I pulled myself
together again. At least I was an able-bodied man. I was willing to
work, had a record of honesty and faithfulness, and was intelligent as
men go. I didn't care what I did, so long as it gave me a living
wage. Surely, then, there must be some place for me in this alert,
hustling city.

I bought a paper and turned to "Help Wanted." I felt encouraged at
sight of the long column. I read it through carefully. Half of the
positions demanded technical training; a fourth of them demanded
special experience; the rest asked for young men. I couldn't answer
the requirements of one of them. Again and again the question was
forced in upon me--what the devil was I?

I didn't know which way to turn. I had no relatives to help me--from
the days of my great-grandfather no Carleton had ever quit the game
more than even. My business associates were as badly off as I was and
so were my neighbors.

My relations with the latter were peculiar, now that I came to think
of it. In these last dozen years I had come to know the details of
their lives as intimately as my own. In a way we had been like one big
family. We knew each other as Frank, and Joe, and Bill, and Josh, and
were familiar with one another's physical ailments when any of us had
any. If any of the children had whooping cough or the measles every
man and woman in the neighborhood watched at the bedside, in a sense,
until the youngster was well, again. We knew to a dollar what each man
was earning and what each was spending. We borrowed one another's
garden tools and the women borrowed from each other's kitchens. On the
surface we were just about as intimate as it's possible for a
community to be. And yet what did it amount to?

There wasn't a man-son of them to whom I would have dared go and
confess the fact I'd lost my job. They'd know it soon enough, be sure
of that; but it mustn't come from me. There wasn't one of them to whom
I felt free to go and ask their help to interest their own firms to
secure another position for me. Their respect for me depended upon my
ability to maintain my social position. They were like steamer
friends. On the voyage they clung to one another closer than bark to a
tree, but once the gang plank was lowered the intimacy vanished. If I
wished to keep them as friends I must stick to the boat.

I knew they couldn't do anything if they had wanted to, but at the
same time I felt there was something wrong in a situation that would
not allow me to ask even for a letter of introduction without feeling
like a beggar. I felt there was something wrong when they made me feel
not like a brother in hard luck but like a criminal. I began to wonder
what of sterling worth I had got out of this life during the past
decade.

However that was an incidental matter. The only time I did such
thinking as this was towards the early morning after I had lain awake
all night and exhausted all other resources. I tackled the problem in
the only way I could think of and that was to visit the houses with
whom I had learned the United Woollen did business. I remembered the
names of about a dozen of them and made the rounds of these for a
starter. It seemed like a poor chance and I myself did not know
exactly what they could do with me but it would keep me busy for a
while.

With waits and delays this took me two weeks. Without letters it was
almost impossible to reach the managers but I hung on in every case
until I succeeded. Here again I didn't feel like an honest man
offering to do a fair return of work for pay, so much as I did a
beggar. This may have been my fault; but after you've sat around in
offices and corridors and been scowled at as an intruder for three or
four hours and then been greeted with a surly "What do you want?" you
can't help having a grouch. There wasn't a man who treated my offer as
a business proposition.

At the end of that time two questions were burned into my brain: "What
can you do?" and "How old are you?" The latter question came as a
revelation. It seems that from a business point of view I was
considered an old man. My good strong body counted for nothing; my
willingness to undertake any task counted for nothing. I was too old.
No one wanted to bother with a beginner over eighteen or twenty. The
market demanded youth--youth with the years ahead that I had already
sold. Wherever I stumbled by chance upon a vacant position I found
waiting there half a dozen stalwart youngsters. They looked as I had
looked when I joined the United Woollen Company. I offered to do the
same work at the same wages as the youngsters, but the managers didn't
want me. They didn't want a man around with wrinkles in his face.
Moreover, they were looking to the future. They didn't intend to
adjust a man into their machinery only to have him die in a dozen
years. I wasn't a good risk. Moreover, I wouldn't be so easily
trained, and with a wider experience might prove more bothersome. At
thirty-eight I was too old to make a beginning. The verdict was
unanimous. And yet I had a physique like an ox and there wasn't a gray
hair in my head. I came out of the last of those offices with my fists
clenched.

In the meanwhile I had used up my advance salary and was, for the
first time in my life, running into debt. Having always paid my bills
weekly I had no credit whatever. Even at the end of the third week I
knew that the grocery man and butcher were beginning to fidget. The
neighbors had by this time learned of my plight and were gossiping.
And yet in the midst of all this I had some of the finest hours with
my wife I had ever known.

She sent me away every morning with fresh hope and greeted me at night
with a cheerfulness that was like wine. And she did this without any
show of false optimism. She was not blind to the seriousness of our
present position, but she exhibited a confidence in me that did not
admit of doubt or fear. There was something almost awesomely beautiful
about standing by her side and facing the approaching storm. She used
to place her small hands upon my back and exclaim:

"Why, Billy, there's work for shoulders like those."

It made me feel like a giant.

So another month passed. I subscribed to an employment bureau, but the
only offer I received was to act as a sort of bouncer in a barroom. I
suppose my height and weight and reputation for sobriety recommended
me there. There was five dollars a week in it, and as far as I alone
was concerned I would have taken it. That sum would at least buy
bread, and though it may sound incredible the problem of getting
enough to eat was fast becoming acute. The provision men became daily
more suspicious. We cut down on everything, but I knew it was only a
question of time when they would refuse to extend our credit for the
little we _had_ to have. And all around me my neighbors went their
cheerful ways and waited for me to work it out. But whenever I thought
of the barroom job and the money it would bring I could see them shake
their heads.

It was hell. It was the deepest of all deep hells--the middle-class
hell. There was nothing theatrical about it--no fireworks or red
lights. It was plain, dull, sodden. Here was my position: work in my
own class I couldn't get; work as a young man I was too old to get;
work as just plain physical labor these same middle-class neighbors
refused to allow me to undertake. I couldn't black my neighbors' boots
without social ostracism, though Pasquale, who kept the stand in the
United Woollen building, once confided to me that he cleared some
twenty-five dollars a week. I couldn't mow my neighbors' front lawns
or deliver milk at their doors, though there was food in it. That was
honest work--clean work; but if I attempted it would they play golf
with me? Personally I didn't care. I would have taken a job that day.
But there were the wife and boy. They were held in ransom. It's all
very well to talk about scorning the conventions, to philosophize
about the dignity of honest work, to quote "a man's a man for a'
that"; but associates of their own kind mean more to a woman and a
growing boy than they do to a man. At least I thought so at that time.
When I saw my wife surrounded by well-bred, well-dressed women, they
seemed to me an essential part of her life. What else did living mean
for her? When my boy brought home with him other boys of his age and
kind--though to me they did not represent the highest type--I felt
under obligations to retain those friends for him. I had begot him
into this set. It seemed barbarous to do anything that would allow
them to point the finger at him.

I felt a yearning for some primeval employment. I hungered to join the
army or go to sea. But here again were the wife and boy. I felt like
going into the Northwest and preempting a homestead. That was a saner
idea, but it took capital and I didn't have enough. I was tied hand
and foot. It was like one of those nightmares where in the face of
danger you are suddenly struck dumb and immovable.

I was beginning to look wild-eyed. Ruth and I were living on bread,
without butter, and canned soup. I sneaked in town with a few books
and sold them for enough to keep the boy supplied with meat. My shoes
were worn out at the bottom and my clothes were getting decidedly
seedy. The men with whom I was in the habit of riding to town in the
morning gave me as wide a berth as though I had the leprosy. I guess
they were afraid my hard luck was catching. God pity them, many of
them were dangerously near the rim of this same hell themselves.

One morning my wife came to me reluctantly, but with her usual
courage, and said:

"Billy, the grocery man didn't bring our order last night." It was
like a sword-thrust. It made me desperate. But the worst of the
middle-class hell is that there is nothing to fight back at. There you
are. I couldn't say anything. There was no answer. My eyes must have
looked queer, for Ruth came nearer and whispered:

"Don't go in town to-day, Billy."

I had on my hat and had gathered up two or three more volumes in my
green bag. I looked at the trim little house that had been my home for
so long. The rent would be due next month. I looked at the other trim
little houses around me. Was it actually possible that a man could
starve in such a community? It seemed like a satanic joke. Why, every
year this country was absorbing immigrants by the thousand. They did
not go hungry. They waxed fat and prosperous. There was Pasquale, the
bootblack, who was earning nearly as much as I ever did.

We were standing on the porch. I took Ruth in my arms and kissed her.
She drew back with a modest protest that the neighbors might see. The
word neighbors goaded me. I shook my fist at their trim little houses
and voiced a passion that had slowly been gathering strength.

"Damn the neighbors!" I cried.

Ruth was startled. I don't often swear.

"Have they been talking about you?" she asked suddenly, her mouth
hardening.

"I don't know. I don't care. But they hold you in ransom like bloody
Moroccan pirates."

"How do they, Billy?"

"They won't let me work without taking it out of you and the boy."

Her head dropped for a second at mention of the boy, but it was soon
lifted.

"Let's get away from them," she gasped. "Let's go where there are no
neighbors."

"Would you?" I asked.

"I'd go to the ends of the earth with you, Billy," she answered
quietly.

How plucky she was! I couldn't help but smile as I answered, more to
myself:

"We haven't even the carfare to go to the ends of the earth, Ruth. It
will take all we have to pay our bills."

"All we have?" she asked.

No, not that. They could get only a little of what she and I had. They
could take our belongings, that's all. And they hadn't got those yet.

But I had begun to hate those neighbors with a fierce, unreasoning
hatred. In silence they dictated, without assisting. For a dozen years
I had lived with them, played with them, been an integral part of
their lives, and now they were worse than useless to me. There wasn't
one of them big enough to receive me into his home for myself alone,
apart from the work I did. There wasn't a true brother among them.

Our lives turn upon little things. They turn swiftly. Within fifteen
minutes I had solved my problem in a fashion as unexpected as it was
radical.



CHAPTER IV

WE EMIGRATE TO AMERICA


Going down the path to town bitterly and blindly, I met Murphy. He was
a man with not a gray hair in his head who was a sort of
man-of-all-work for the neighborhood. He took care of my furnace and
fussed about the grounds when I was tied up at the office with night
work. He stopped me with rather a shamefaced air.

"Beg pardon, sor," he began, "but I've got a bill comin' due on the
new house--"

I remembered that I owed him some fifteen dollars. I had in my pocket
just ten cents over my carfare. But what arrested my attention was the
mention of a new house.

"You mean to tell me that you're putting up a house?"

"The bit of a rint, sor, in ---- Street."

The contrast was dramatic. The man who emptied my ashes was erecting
tenements and I was looking for work that would bring me in food. My
people had lived in this country some two hundred years or more, and
Murphy had probably not been here over thirty. There was something
wrong about this, but I seemed to be getting hold of an idea.

"How old are you, Murphy?" I asked.

"Goin' on sixty, sor."

"You came to America broke?"

"Dead broke, sor."

"You have a wife and children?"

"A woman and six childer."

Six! Think of it! And I had one.

"Children in school?"

I asked it almost in hope that here at least I would hold the
advantage.

"Two of them in college, sor."

He spoke it proudly. Well he might. But to me it was confusing.

"And you have enough left over to put up a house?" I stammered.

"It's better than the bank," Murphy said apologetically.

"And you aren't an old man yet," I murmured.

"Old, sor?"

"Why you're young and strong and independent, Murphy. You're----" But
I guess I talked a bit wild. I don't know what I said. I was
breathless--lightheaded. I wanted to get back to Ruth.

"Pat," I said, seizing his hand--"Pat, you shall have the money within
a week. I'm going to sell out and emigrate."

"Emigrate?" he gasped. "Where to?"

I laughed. The solution now seemed so easy.

"Why, to America, Pat. To America where you came thirty years ago." I
left him staring at me. I hurried into the house with my heart in my
throat.

I found Ruth in the sitting-room with her chin in her hands and her
white forehead knotted in a frown. She didn't hear me come in, but
when I touched her arm she jumped up, ashamed to think I had caught
her looking even puzzled. But at sight of my face her expression
changed in a flash.

"Oh, Billy," she cried, "it's good news?"

"It's a way out--if you approve," I answered.

"I do, Billy," she answered, without waiting to hear.

"Then listen," I said. "If we were living in England or Ireland or
France or Germany and found life as hard as this and some one left us
five hundred dollars what would you advise doing?"

"Why, we'd emigrate, Billy," she said instantly.

"Exactly. Where to?"

"To America."

"Right," I cried. "And we'd be one out of a thousand if we didn't make
good, wouldn't we?"

"Why, every one succeeds who comes here from somewhere else," she
exclaimed.

"And why do they?" I demanded, getting excited with my idea. "Why do
they? There are a dozen reasons. One is because they come as
pioneers--with all the enthusiasm and eagerness of adventurers. Life
is fresh and romantic to them over here. Hardships only add zest to
the game. Another reason is that it is all a fine big gamble to them.
They have everything to gain and nothing to lose. It's the same spirit
that drives young New Englanders out west to try their luck, to
preëmpt homesteads in the Northwest, to till the prairies. Another
reason is that they come over here free--unbound by conventions. They
can work as they please, live as they please. They haven't any caste
to hamper them. Another reason is that, being on the same great
adventure, they are all brothers. They pull together. Still another
reason is that as emigrants the whole United States stands ready to
help them with schools and playgrounds and hospitals and parks."

I paused for breath. She cut in excitedly:

"Then we're going out west?"

"No; we haven't the capital for that. By selling all our things we can
pay our debts and have a few dollars over, but that wouldn't take us
to Chicago. I'm not going ten miles from home."

"Where then, Billy?"

"You've seen the big ships come in along the water-front? They are
bringing over hundreds of emigrants every year and landing them right
on those docks. These people have had to cross the ocean to reach that
point, but our ancestors made the voyage for you and me two hundred
years ago. We're within ten miles of the wharf now."

She couldn't make out what I meant.

"Why, wife o' mine," I ran on, "all we need to do is to pack up, go
down to the dock and start from there. We must join the emigrants and
follow them into the city. These are the only people who are finding
America to-day. We must take up life among them; work as they work;
live as they live. Why, I feel my back muscles straining even now; I
feel the tingle of coming down the gangplank with our fortunes yet to
make in this land of opportunity. Pasquale has done it; Murphy has
done it. Don't you think I can do it?"

She looked up at me. I had never seen her face more beautiful. It was
flushed and eager. She clutched my arm. Then she whispered:

"My man--my wonderful, good man!"

The primitive appellation was in itself like a whiff of salt air. It
bore me back to the days when a husband's chief function was just
that--being a man to his own good woman. We looked for a moment into
each other's eyes. Then the same question was born to both of us in a
moment.

"What of the boy?"

It was a more serious question to her, I think, than it was to me. I
knew that the sons of other fathers and mothers had wrestled with that
life and come out strong. There were Murphy's boys, for instance. Of
course the life would be new to my boy, but the keen competition
ought to drive him to his best. His present life was not doing that.
As for the coarser details from which he had been so sheltered--well,
a man has to learn sooner or later, and I wasn't sure but that it was
better for him to learn at an age when such things would offer no real
temptations. With Ruth back of him I didn't worry much about that.
Besides, the boy had let drop a phrase or two that made me suspect
that even among his present associates that same ground was being
explored.

"Ruth," I said, "I'm not worrying about Dick."

"He has been kept so fresh," she murmured.

"It isn't the fresh things that keep longest," I said.

"That's true, Billy," she answered.

Then she thought a moment, and as though with new inspiration answered
me using again that same tender, primitive expression:

"I don't fear for my man-child."

When the boy came home from school that night I had a long talk with
him. I told him frankly how I had been forced out of my position, how
I had tried for another, how at length I had resolved to go pioneering
just as his great-grandfather had done among the Indians. As I
thought, the naked adventure of it appealed to him. That was all I
wished; it was enough to work on.

The next day I brought out a second-hand furniture dealer and made as
good a bargain as I could with him for the contents of the house. We
saved nothing but the sheer essentials for light housekeeping. These
consisted of most of the cooking utensils, a half dozen plates, cups
and saucers and about a dozen other pieces for the table, four
tablecloths, all the bed linen, all our clothes, including some old
clothes we had been upon the point of throwing away, a few personal
gimcracks, and for furniture the following articles: the folding
wooden kitchen table, a half dozen chairs, the cot bed in the boy's
room, the iron bed in our room, the long mirror I gave Ruth on her
birthday, and a sort of china closet that stood in the dining-room. To
this we added bowls, pitchers, and lamps. All the rest, which included
a full dining-room set, a full dinner set of china, the furnishings of
the front room, including books and book case, chairs, rugs, pictures
and two or three good chairs, a full bed-room set in our room and a
cheaper one in the boy's room, piazza furnishings, garden tools, and
forty odds and ends all of which had cost me first and last something
like two thousand dollars, I told the dealer to lump together. He
looked it over and bid six hundred dollars. I saw Ruth swallow hard,
for she had taken good care of everything so that to us it was worth
as much to-day as we had paid for it. But I accepted the offer without
dickering, for it was large enough to serve my ends. It would pay off
all our debts and leave us a hundred dollars to the good. It was the
first time since I married that I had been that much ahead.

That afternoon I saw Murphy and hired of him the top tenement of his
new house. It was in the Italian quarter of the city and my flat
consisted of four rooms. The rent was three dollars a week. Murphy
looked surprised enough at the change in my affairs and I made him
promise not to gossip to the neighbors about where I'd gone.

"Faith, sor," he said, "and they wouldn't believe it if I told them."

This wasn't all I accomplished that day. I bought a pair of overalls
and presented myself at the office of a contractor's agent. I didn't
have any trouble in getting in there and I didn't feel like a beggar
as I took my place in line with about a dozen foreigners. I looked
them over with a certain amount of self-confidence. Most of them were
undersized men with sagging shoulders and primitive faces. With their
big eyes they made me think of shaggy Shetland ponies. Lined up man
for man with my late associates they certainly looked like an inferior
lot. I studied them with curiosity; there must be more in them than
showed on the surface to bring them over here--there must be something
that wasn't in the rest of us for them to make good the way they did.
In the next six months I meant to find out what that was. In the
meantime just sitting there among them I felt as though I had more
elbow room than I had had since I was eighteen. Before me as before
them a continent stretched its great length and breadth. They laughed
and joked among themselves and stared about at everything with eager,
curious eyes. They were ready for anything, and everything was ready
for them--the ditch, the mines, the railroads, the wheat fields.
Wherever things were growing and needed men to help them grow, they
would play their part. They say there's plenty of room at the top,
but there's plenty of room at the bottom, too. It's in the middle that
men get pinched.

I worked my way up to the window where a sallow, pale-faced clerk sat
in front of a big book. He gave me a start, he was such a contrast to
the others. In my new enthusiasm I wanted to ask him why he didn't
come out and get in line the other side of the window. He yawned as he
wrote down my name. I didn't have to answer more than half a dozen
questions before he told me to report for work Monday at such and such
a place. I asked him what the work was and he looked up.

"Subway," he answered.

I asked him how much the pay was. He looked me over at this. I don't
know what he thought I was.

"Dollar and a half--nine hours."

"All right," I answered.

He gave me a slip of paper and I hurried out. It hadn't taken ten
minutes. And a dollar and a half a day was nine dollars a week! It was
almost twice as much as I had started on with the United; it was over
a third of what I had been getting after my first ten years of hard
work with them. It seemed too good to be true. Taking out the rent,
this left me six dollars for food. That was as much as it had cost
Ruth and me the first year we were married. There was no need of going
hungry on that.

I came back home jubilant. Ruth at first took the prospect of my
digging in a ditch a bit hard, but that was only because she
contrasted it with my former genteel employment.

"Why, girl," I explained, "it's no more than I would have to do if we
took a homestead out west. I'd as soon dig in Massachusetts as
Montana."

She felt of my arm. It's a big arm. Then she smiled. It was the last
time she mentioned the subject.

We didn't say anything to the neighbors until the furniture began to
go out. Then the women flocked in and Ruth was hard pressed to keep
our secret. I sat upstairs and chuckled as I heard her replies. She
says it's the only time I ever failed to stand by her, but it didn't
seem to me like anything but a joke.

"We shall want to keep track of you," said little Mrs. Grover. "Where
shall we address you?"

"Oh, I can't tell," answered Ruth, truthfully enough.

"Are you going far?"

"Yes. Oh--a long, long way."

That was true enough too. We couldn't have gone farther out of their
lives if we'd sailed for Australia.

And so they kept it up. That night we made a round of the houses and
everyone was very much surprised and very much grieved and very
curious. To all their inquiries, I made the same reply; that I was
going to emigrate. Some of them looked wistful.

"Jove," said Brown, who was with the insurance company, "but I wish I
had the nerve to do that. I suppose you're going west?"

"We're going west first," I answered.

The road to the station was almost due west.

"They say there are great chances out in that country," he said. "It
isn't so overcrowded as here."

"I don't know about that," I answered, "but there are chances enough."

Some of the women cried and all the men shook hands cordially and
wished us good luck. But it didn't mean much to me. The time I needed
their handshakes was gone. I learned later that as a result of our
secrecy I was variously credited with having lost my reason with my
job; with having inherited a fortune, with having gambled in the
market, with, thrown in for good measure, a darker hint about having
misappropriated funds of the United Woollen. But somehow their
nastiest gossip did not disturb me. It had no power to harm either me
or mine. I was already beyond their reach. Before I left I wished them
all Godspeed on the dainty journey they were making in their
cockleshell. Then so far as they were concerned I dropped off into the
sea with my wife and boy.



CHAPTER V

WE PROSPECT


We were lucky in getting into a new tenement and lucky in securing the
top floor. This gave us easy access to the flat roof five stories
above the street. From here we not only had a magnificent view of the
harbor, but even on the hottest days felt something of a sea breeze.
Coming down here in June we appreciated that before the summer was
over.

The street was located half a dozen blocks from the waterfront and was
inhabited almost wholly by Italians, save for a Frenchman on the
corner who ran a bake-shop. The street itself was narrow and dirty
enough, but it opened into a public square which was decidedly
picturesque. This was surrounded by tiny shops and foreign banks, and
was always alive with color and incident. The vegetables displayed on
the sidewalk stands, the gay hues of the women's gowns, the gaudy
kerchiefs of the men, gave it a kaleidoscopic effect that made it as
fascinating to us as a trip abroad. The section was known as Little
Italy, and so far as we were concerned was as interesting as Italy
itself.

There were four other families in the house, but the only things we
used in common were the narrow iron stairway leading upstairs and the
roof. The other tenants, however, seldom used the latter at all except
to hang out their occasional washings. For the first month or so we
saw little of these people. We were far too busy to make overtures,
and as for them they let us severely alone. They were not noisy, and
except for a sick baby on the first floor we heard little of them
above the clamor of the street below. We had four rooms. The front
room we gave to the boy, the next room we ourselves occupied, the
third room we used for a sitting-and dining-room, while the fourth was
a small kitchen with running water. As compared with our house the
quarters at first seemed cramped, but we had cut down our furniture to
what was absolutely essential, and as soon as our eyes ceased making
the comparison we were surprised to find how comfortable we were. In
the dining-room, for instance, we had nothing but three chairs, a
folding table and a closet for the dishes. Lounging chairs and so
forth we did away with altogether. Nor was there any need of making
provision for possible guests. Here throughout the whole house was the
greatest saving. I took a fierce pleasure at first in thus caring for
my own alone.

The boy's room contained a cot, a chair, a rug and a few of his
personal treasures; our own room contained just the bed, chair and
washstand. Ruth added a few touches with pictures and odds and ends
that took off the bare aspect without cluttering up. In two weeks
these scant quarters were every whit as much home as our tidy little
house had been. That was Ruth's part in it. She'd make a home out of a
prison.

On the second day we were fairly settled, and that night after the boy
had gone to bed Ruth sat down at my side with a pad and pencil in her
hand.

"Billy," she said, "there's one thing we're going to do in this new
beginning: we're going to save--if it's only ten cents a week."

I shook my head doubtfully.

"I'm afraid you can't until I get a raise," I said.

"We tried waiting for raises before," she answered.

"I know, but--"

"There aren't going to be any buts," she answered decidedly.

"But six dollars a week--"

"Is six dollars a week," she broke in. "We must live on five-fifty,
that's all."

"With steak thirty cents a pound?"

"We won't have steak. That's the point. Our neighbors around here
don't look starved, and they have larger families than ours. And they
don't even buy intelligently."

"How do you know that?"

"I've been watching them at the little stores in the square. They pay
there as much for half-decayed stuff as they'd have to pay for fresh
odds and ends at the big market."

She rested her pad upon her knee.

"Now in the first place, Billy, we're going to live much more simply."

"We've never been extravagant," I said.

"Not in a way," she answered slowly, "but in another way we have. I've
been doing a lot of thinking in the last few days and I see now where
we've had a great many unnecessary things."

"Not for the last few weeks, anyhow," I said.

"Those don't count. But before that I mean. For instance there's
coffee. It's a luxury. Why we spent almost thirty cents a week on that
alone."

"I know but--"

"There's another but. There's no nourishment in coffee and we can't
afford it. We'll spend that money for milk. We must have good milk and
you must get it for me somewhere up town. I don't like the looks of
the milk around here. That will be eight cents a day."

"Better have two quarts," I suggested.

She thought a moment.

"Yes," she agreed, "two quarts, because that's going to be the basis
of our food. That's a dollar twelve cents a week."

She made up a little face at this. I smiled grandly.

"Now for breakfast we must have oatmeal every morning. And we'll get
it in bulk. I've priced it and it's only a little over three cents a
pound at some of the stores."

"And the kind we've always had?"

"About twelve when it's done up in packages. That's about the
proportion by which I expect to cut down everything. But you'll have
to eat milk on it instead of cream. Then we'll use a lot of potatoes.
They are very good baked for breakfast. And with them you may have
salt fish--oh, there are a dozen nice ways of fixing that. And you may
have griddle cakes and--you wait and see the things I'll give you for
breakfast. You'll have to have a good luncheon of course, but we'll
have our principal meal when you get back from work at night. But you
won't get steak. When we do get meat we'll buy soup bones and meat we
can boil. And instead of pies and cakes we'll have nourishing puddings
of cornstarch and rice. There's another good point--rice. It's cheap
and we'll have a lot of it. Look at how the Japanese live on it day
after day and keep fat and strong. Then there's cheap fish; rock cod
and such to make good chowders of or to fry in pork fat like the bass
and trout I used to have back home. Then there's baked beans. We ought
to have them at least twice a week in the winter. But this summer
we'll live mostly on fish and vegetables. I can get them fresh at the
market."

"It sounds good," I said.

"Just you wait," she cried excitedly. "I'll fatten up both you and the
boy."

"And yourself, little woman," I reminded her. "I'm not going to take
the saving out of you."

"Don't you worry about me," she answered. "This will be easier than
the other life. I shan't have to worry about clothes or dinners or
parties for the boy. And it isn't going to take any time at all to
keep these four rooms clean and sweet."

I took the rest of the week as a sort of vacation and used it to get
acquainted with my new surroundings. It's a fact that this section of
the city which for twenty years had been within a short walk of my
office was as foreign to me as Europe. I had never before been down
here and all I knew about it was through the occasional head-lines in
the papers in connection with stabbing affrays. For the first day or
two I felt as though I ought to carry a revolver. Whenever I was
forced to leave Ruth alone in the house I instructed her upon no
circumstances to open the door. The boy and I arranged a secret
rap--an idea that pleased him mightily--and until she heard the single
knock followed by two quick sharp ones, she was not to answer. But in
wandering around among these people it was difficult to think of them
as vicious. The Italian element was a laughing, indolent-appearing
group; the scattered Jewish folk were almost timid and kept very much
to themselves. I didn't find a really tough face until I came to the
water front where they spoke English.

On the third morning after a breakfast of oatmeal and hot
biscuit--and, by the way, Ruth effected a fifty per cent. saving right
here by using the old-fashioned formula of soda and cream of tartar
instead of baking powder--and baked potatoes, Ruth and the boy and
myself started on an exploring trip. Our idea was to get a line on
just what our opportunities were down here and to nose out the best
and cheapest places to buy. The thing that impressed us right off was
the big advantage we had in being within easy access of the big
provision centres. We were within ten minutes' walk of the market,
within fifteen of the water front, within three of the square and
within twenty of the department stores. At all of these places we
found special bargains for the day made to attract in town those from
a distance. If one rose early and reached them about as soon as they
were opened one could often buy things almost at cost and sometimes
below cost. For instance, we went up town to one of the largest but
cheaper grade department stores--we had heard its name for years but
had never been inside the building--and we found that in their grocery
department they had special mark-downs every day in the week for a
limited supply of goods. We bought sugar this day at a cent a pound
less than the market price and good beans for two cents a quart less.
It sounds at first like rather picayune saving but it counts up at the
end of the year. Then every stall in the market had its bargain of
meats--wholesome bits but unattractive to the careless buyer. We
bought here for fifty cents enough round steak for several good meals
of hash. We couldn't have bought it for less than a dollar in the
suburbs and even at that we wouldn't have known anything about it for
the store was too far for Ruth to make a personal visit and the
butcher himself would never have mentioned such an odd end to a member
of our neighborhood.

We enjoyed wandering around this big market which in itself was like a
trip to another land. Later one of our favorite amusements was to
come down here at night and watch the hustling crowds and the lights
and the pretty colors and confusion. It reminded Ruth, she said, of a
country fair. She always carried a pad and pencil and made notes of
good places to buy. I still have those and am referring to them now as
I write this.

"Blanks," she writes (I omit the name), "nice clean store with
pleasant salesman. Has good soup bones."

Again, "Blank and Blank--good place to buy sausage."

Here too the market gardeners gathered as early as four o'clock with
their vegetables fresh from the suburbs. They did mostly a wholesale
business but if one knew how it was always possible to buy of them a
cabbage or a head of lettuce or a few apples or a peck of potatoes.
They were a genial, ruddy-cheeked lot and after a while they came to
know Ruth. Often I'd go up there with her before work and she with a
basket on her arm would buy for the day. It was always, "Good morning,
miss," in answer to her smile. They were respectful whether I was
along or not. But for that matter I never knew anyone who wasn't
respectful to Ruth. They used to like to see her come, I think, for
she stood out in rather marked contrast to the bowed figures of the
other women. Later on they used to save out for her any particularly
choice vegetable they might have. She insisted however in paying them
an extra penny for such things.

From the market we went down a series of narrow streets which led to
the water front. Here the vessels from the Banks come in to unload.
The air was salty and though to us at first the wharves seemed dirty
we got used to them, after a while, and enjoyed the smell of the fish
fresh from the water.

Seeing whole push carts full of fish and watching them handled with a
pitch fork as a man tosses hay didn't whet our appetites any, but when
we remembered that it was these same fish--a day or two older,--for
which we had been paying double the price charged for them here the
difference overcame our scruples. The men here interested me. I found
that while the crew of every schooner numbered a goodly per cent. of
foreigners, still the greater part were American born. The new comers
as a rule bought small launches of their own and went into business
for themselves. The English speaking portion of the crews were also
as a rule the rougher element. The loafers and hangers-on about the
wharves were also English speaking. This was a fact that later on I
found to be rather significant and to hold true in a general way in
all branches of the lower class of labor.

The barrooms about here--always a pretty sure index of the men of any
community--were more numerous and of decidedly a rougher character
than those about the square. A man would be a good deal better
justified in carrying a revolver on this street than he would in
Little Italy. I never allowed Ruth to come down here alone.

From here we wandered back and I found a public playground and
bathhouse by the water's edge. This attracted me at once. I
investigated this and found it offered a fine opportunity for bathing.
Little dressing-rooms were provided and for a penny a man could get a
clean towel and for five cents a bathing suit. There was no reason
that I could see, however, why we shouldn't provide our own. It was
within an easy ten minutes of the flat and I saw right then where I
would get a dip every day. It would be a great thing for the boy,
too. I had always wanted him to learn to swim.

On the way home we passed through the Jewish quarter and I made a note
of the clothing offered for sale here. The street was lined with
second hand stores with coats and trousers swinging over the sidewalk,
and the windows were filled with odd lots of shoes. Then too there
were the pawnshops. I'd always thought of a pawnshop as not being
exactly respectable and had the feeling that anyone who secured
anything from one of them was in a way a receiver of stolen goods. But
as I passed them now, I received a new impression. They seemed, down
here, as legitimate a business as the second hand stores. The windows
offered an assortment of everything from watches to banjoes and guns
but among them I also noticed many carpenter's tools and so forth.
That might be a useful thing to remember.

It was odd how in a day our point of view had changed. If I had
brought Ruth and the boy down through here a month before, we would
all, I think, have been more impressed by the congestion and the
picturesque details of the squalor than anything else. We would have
picked our way gingerly and Ruth would have sighed often in pity and,
comparing the lives of these people with our own, would probably have
made an extra generous contribution to the Salvation Army the next
time they came round. I'm not saying now that there isn't misery
enough there and in every like section of every city, but I'll say
that in a great many cases the same people who grovel in the filth
here would grovel in a different kind of filth if they had ten
thousand a year. At that you can't blame them greatly for they don't
know any better. But when you learn, as I learned later, that some of
the proprietors of these second hand stores and fly-blown butcher
shops have sons in Harvard and daughters in Wellesley, it makes you
think. But I'm running ahead.

The point was that now that we felt ourselves in a way one of these
people and viewed the street not from the superior height of
native-born Americans but just as emigrants, neither the soiled
clothes of the inhabitants nor the cluttered street swarming with
laughing youngsters impressed us unfavorably at all. The impassive men
smoking cigarettes at their doors looked contented enough, the women
were not such as to excite pity, and if you noticed, there were as
many children around the local soda water fountains as you'd find in a
suburban drug store. They all had clothes enough and appeared well fed
and if some of them looked pasty, the sweet stuff in the stores was
enough to account for that.

At any rate we came back to our flat that day neither depressed nor
discouraged but decidedly in better spirits. Of course we had seen
only the surface and I suspected that when we really got into these
lives we'd find a bad condition of things. It must be so, for that was
the burden of all we read. But we would have time enough to worry
about that when we discovered it for ourselves.



CHAPTER VI

I BECOME A DAY LABORER


That night Ruth and I had a talk about the boy. We both came back from
our walk, with him more on our minds than anything else. He had been
interested in everything and had asked about a thousand questions and
gone to bed eager to be out on the street again the next day. We knew
we couldn't keep him cooped up in the flat all the time and of course
both Ruth and I were going to be too busy to go out with him every
time he went. As for letting him run loose around these streets with
nothing to do, that would be sheer foolhardiness. It was too late in
the season to enroll him in the public schools and even that would
have left him idle during the long summer months.

We talked some at first of sending him off into the country to a farm.
There were two or three families back where Ruth had lived who might
be willing to take him for three or four dollars a week and we had
the money left over from the sale of our household goods to cover
that. But this would mean the sacrifice of our emergency fund which we
wished to preserve more for the boy's sake than our own and it would
mean leaving Ruth very much alone.

"I'll do it, Billy," she said bravely, "but can't we wait a day or two
before deciding? And I think I can _make_ time to get out with him.
I'll get up earlier in the morning and I'll leave my work at night
until after he's gone to bed."

So she would. She'd have worked all night to keep him at home and then
gone out with him all day if it had been possible. I saw it would be
dragging the heart out of her to send the boy away and made up my mind
right then and there that some other solution must be found for the
problem. Good Lord, after I'd led her down here the least I could do
was to let her keep the one. And to tell the truth I found my own
heart sink at the suggestion.

"What do the boys round here do in the summer?" she asked.

I didn't know and I made up my mind to find out. The next day I went
down to a settlement house which I remembered passing at some time or
other. I didn't know what it was but it sounded like some sort of
philanthropic enterprise for the neighborhood and if so they ought to
be able to answer my questions there. The outside of the building was
not particularly attractive but upon entering I was pleasantly
surprised at the air of cleanliness and comfort which prevailed. There
were a number of small boys around and in one room I saw them reading
and playing checkers. I sought out the secretary and found him a
pleasant young fellow though with something of the professional
pleasantness which men in this work seem to acquire. He smiled too
much and held my hand a bit too long to suit me. He took me into his
office and offered me a chair. I told him briefly that I had just
moved down here and had a boy of ten whom I wished to keep off the
streets and keep occupied. I asked him what the boys around here did
during the summer.

"Most of them work," he answered.

I hadn't thought of this.

"What do they do?"

"A good many sell papers, some of them serve as errand boys and others
help their parents."

Dick was certainly too inexperienced for the first two jobs and there
was nothing in my work he could do to help. Then the man began to ask
me questions. He was evidently struck by the fact that I didn't seem
to be in place here. I answered briefly that I had been a clerk all my
life, had lost my position and was now a common day laborer. The boy,
I explained, was not yet used to his life down here and I wanted to
keep him occupied until he got his strength.

"You're right," he answered. "Why don't you bring him in here?"

"What would he do here?"

"It's a good loafing place for him and we have some evening classes."

"I want him at home nights," I answered.

"The Y.M.C.A. has summer classes which begin a little later on. Why
don't you put him into some of those?"

I had always heard of the Y.M.C.A., but I had never got into touch
with it, for I thought it was purely a religious organization. But
that proposition sounded good. I'd passed the building a thousand
times but had never been inside. I thanked him and started to leave.

"I hope this won't be your last visit," he said cordially. "Come down
and see what we're doing. You'll find a lot of boys here at night."

"Thanks," I answered.

I went direct to the Y.M.C.A. building. Here again I was surprised to
find a most attractive interior. It looked like the inside of a
prosperous club house. I don't know what I expected but I wouldn't
have been startled if I'd found a hall filled with wooden settees and
a prayer meeting going on. I had a lot of such preconceived notions
knocked out of my head in the next few years.

In response to my questions I received replies that made me feel I'd
strayed by mistake into some university. For that matter it _was_ a
university. There was nothing from the primary class in English to a
professional education in the law that a man couldn't acquire here for
a sum that was astonishingly small. The most of the classes cost
nothing after payment of the membership fee of ten dollars. The
instructors were, many of them, the same men who gave similar courses
at a neighboring college. Not only that, but the hours were so
arranged as to accommodate workers of all classes. If you couldn't
attend in the daytime, you could at night. I was astonished to think
that this opportunity had always been at my hand and I had never
suspected it. In the ten years before I was married I could have
qualified as a lawyer or almost anything else.

This was not all; a young man took me over the building and showed me
the library, the reading-room, rooms where the young men gathered for
games, and then down stairs to the well equipped gymnasium with its
shower baths. Here a boy could take a regular course in gymnasium work
under a skilled instructor or if he showed any skill devote himself to
such sports as basketball, running, baseball or swimming. In addition
to these advantages amusements were provided through the year in the
form of lectures, amateur shows and music. In the summer, special
opportunities were offered for out-door sports. Moreover the
Association managed summer camps where for a nominal fee the boys
could enjoy the life of the woods. A boy must be poor indeed who could
not afford most of these opportunities. And if he was out of work the
employment bureau conducted here would help him to a position. I came
back to the main office wondering still more how in the world I'd
ever missed such chances all these years. It was a question I asked
myself many times during the next few months. And the answer seemed to
lie in the dead level of that other life. We never lifted our eyes; we
never looked around us. If we were hard pressed either we accepted our
lot resignedly or cursed our luck, and let it go at that. These
opportunities were for a class which had no lot and didn't know the
meaning of luck. The others could have had them, too--can have
them--for the taking, but neither by education nor temperament are
they qualified to do so. There's a good field for missionary work
there for someone.

Before I came out of the building I had enrolled Dick as a member and
picked out for him a summer course in English in which he was a bit
backward. I also determined to start him in some regular gymnasium
work. He needed hardening up.

I came home and announced my success to Ruth and she was delighted. I
suspected by the look in her eyes that she had been worrying all day
for fear there would be no alternative but to send the boy off.

"I knew you would find a way," she said excitedly.

"I wish I'd found it twenty years ago," I said regretfully. "Then
you'd have a lawyer for a husband instead of a--."

"Hush," she answered putting her hand over my mouth. "I've a man for a
husband and that's all I care about."

The way she said it made me feel that after all being a man was what
counted and that if I could live up to that day by day, no matter what
happened, then I could be well satisfied. I guess the city directory
was right when before now it couldn't define me any more definitely
than, "clerk." And there is about as much man in a clerk as in a
valet. They are both shadows.

The boy fell in with my plans eagerly, for the gymnasium work made him
forget the study part of the programme. The next day I took him up
there and saw him introduced to the various department heads. I paid
his membership fee and they gave him a card which made him feel like a
real club man. I tell you it took a weight off my mind.

On the Monday following our arrival in our new quarters, I rose at
five-thirty, put on my overalls and had breakfast. I ate a large bowl
of oatmeal, a generous supply of flapjacks, made of some milk that had
soured, sprinkled with molasses, and a cup of hot black coffee--the
last of a can we had brought down with us among the left-over kitchen
supplies.

For lunch Ruth had packed my box with cold cream-of-tartar biscuit,
well buttered, a bit of cheese, a little bowl of rice pudding, two
hard-boiled eggs and a pint bottle of cold coffee. I kissed her goodby
and started out on foot for the street where I was to take up my work.
The foreman demanded my name, registered me, told me where to find a
shovel and assigned me to a gang under another foreman. At seven
o'clock I took my place with a dozen Italians and began to shovel. My
muscles were decidedly flabby, and by noon I began to find it hard
work. I was glad to stop and eat my lunch. I couldn't remember a meal
in five years that tasted as good as that did. My companions watched
me curiously--perhaps a bit suspiciously--but they chattered in a
foreign tongue among themselves and rather shied away from me. On that
first day I made up my mind to one thing--I would learn Italian before
the year was done, and know something more about these people and
their ways. They were the key to the contractor's problem and it would
pay a man to know how to handle them. As I watched the boss over us
that day it did not seem to me that he understood very well.

From one to five the work became an increasing strain. Even with my
athletic training I wasn't used to such a prolonged test of one set of
muscles. My legs became heavy, my back ached, and my shoulders finally
refused to obey me except under the sheer command of my will. I knew,
however, that time would remedy this. I might be sore and lame for a
day or two, but I had twice the natural strength of these short,
close-knit foreigners. The excitement and novelty of the employment
helped me through those first few days. I felt the joy of the
pioneer--felt the sweet sense of delving in the mother earth. It
touched in me some responsive chord that harked back to my ancestors
who broke the rocky soil of New England. Of the life of my fellows
bustling by on the earth-crust overhead--those fellows of whom so
lately I had been one--I was not at all conscious. I might have been
at work on some new planet for all they touched my new life. I could
see them peering over the wooden rail around our excavation as they
stopped to stare down at us, but I did not connect them with myself.
And yet I felt closer to this old city than ever before. I thrilled
with the joy of the constructor, the builder, even in this humble
capacity. I felt superior to those for whom I was building. In a
coarse way I suppose it was a reflection of some artistic
sense--something akin to the creative impulse. I can say truthfully
that at the end of that first day I came home--begrimed and sore as I
was--with a sense of fuller life than so far I had ever experienced.

I found Ruth waiting for me with some anxiety. She came into my
soil-stained arms as eagerly as a bride. It was good. It took all the
soreness out of me. Before supper I took the boy and we went down to
the public baths on the waterfront and there I dived and splashed and
swam like a young whale. The sting of the cold salt water was all the
further balm I needed. I came out tingling and fit right then for
another nine-hour day. But when I came back I threatened our first
week's savings at the supper-table. Ruth had made more hot
griddle-cakes and I kept her at the stove until I was ashamed to do it
longer. The boy, too, after his plunge, showed a better appetite than
for weeks.



CHAPTER VII

NINE DOLLARS A WEEK


The second day, I woke up lame and stiff but I gave myself a good
brisk rub down and kneaded my arm and leg muscles until they were
pretty well limbered up. The thing that pleased me was the way I felt
towards my new work that second morning. I'd been a bit afraid of a
reaction--of waking up with all the romance gone. That, I knew, would
be deadly. Once let me dwell on the naked material facts of my
condition and I'd be lost. That's true of course in any occupation.
The man who works without an inspiration of some sort is not only
discontented but a poor workman. I remember distinctly that when I
opened my eyes and realized my surroundings and traced back the
incidents of yesterday to the ditch, I was concerned principally with
the problem of a stone in our path upon which we had been working. I
wanted to get back to it. We had worked upon it for an hour without
fully uncovering it and I was as eager as the foreman to learn whether
it was a ledge rock or just a fragment. This interest was not
associated with the elevated road for whom the work was being done,
nor the contractor who had undertaken the job, nor the foreman who was
supervising it. It was a question which concerned only me and Mother
Earth who seemed to be doing her best to balk us at every turn. I
forgot the sticky, wet clay in which I had floundered for nine hours,
forgot the noisome stench which at times we were forced to breathe,
forgot my lame hands and back. I recalled only the problem itself and
the skill with which the man they called Anton' handled his crow bar.
He was a master of it. In removing the smaller slabs which lay around
the big one he astonished me with his knowledge of how to place the
bar. He'd come to my side where I was prying with all my strength and
with a wave of his hand for me to stand back, would adjust two or
three smaller rocks as a fulcrum and then, with the gentlest of
movements, work the half-ton weight inch by inch to where he wanted
it. He could swing the rock to the right or left, raise or lower it,
at will, and always he made the weight of the rock, against which I
had striven so vainly, do the work. That was something worth learning.
I wanted to get back and study him. I wanted to get back and finish
uncovering that rock. I wanted to get back and bring the job as a
whole to a finish so as to have a new one to tackle. Even at the end
of that first day I felt I had learned enough to make myself a man of
greater power than I was the day before. And always in the background
was the unknown goal to which this toil was to lead. I hadn't yet
stopped to figure out what the goal was but that it was worth while I
had no doubt for I was no longer stationary. I was a constructor. I
was in touch with a big enterprise of development.

I don't know that I've made myself clear. I wasn't very clear in my
own mind then but I know that I had a very conscious impression of the
sort which I've tried to put into words. And I know that it filled me
with a great big joy. I never woke up with any such feeling when with
the United Woollen. My only thought in the morning then was how much
time I must give myself to catch the six-thirty. When I reached the
office I hung up my hat and coat and sat down to the impersonal
figures like an automaton. There was nothing of me in the work; there
couldn't be. How petty it seemed now! I suppose the company, as an
industrial enterprise, was in the line of development, but that idea
never penetrated as far as the clerical department. We didn't feel it
any more than the adding machines do.

Ruth had a good breakfast for me and when I came into the kitchen she
was trying to brush the dried clay off my overalls.

"Good Heavens!" I said, "don't waste your strength doing that."

She looked up from her task with a smile.

"I'm not going to let you get slack down here" she said.

"But those things will look just as bad again five minutes after I've
gone down the ladder."

"But I don't intend they shall look like this on your way to the
ladder," she answered.

"All right," I said "then let me have them. I'll do it myself."

"Have you shaved?" she asked.

I rubbed my hand over my chin. It wasn't very bad and I'd made up my
mind I wouldn't shave every day now.

"No," I said. "But twice or three times a week--"

"Billy!" she broke in, "that will never do. You're going down to your
new business looking just as ship-shape as you went to the old. You
don't belong to that contractor; you belong to me."

In the meanwhile the boy came in with my heavy boots which he had
brushed clean and oiled. There was nothing left for me to do but to
shave and I'll admit I felt better for it.

"Do you want me to put on a high collar?" I asked.

"Didn't you find the things I laid out for you?"

I hadn't looked about. I'd put on the things I took off. She led me
back into the bed room, and over a chair I saw a clean change of
underclothing and a new grey flannel shirt.

"Where did you get this?" I asked.

"I bought it for a dollar," she answered. "It's too much to pay. I can
make one for fifty cents as soon as I get time to sew."

That's the way Ruth was. Every day after this she made me change,
after I came back from my swim, into the business suit I wore when I
came down here, and which now by contrast looked almost new. She even
made me wear a tie with my flannel shirt. Every morning I started out
clean shaven and with my work clothes as fresh as though I were a
contractor myself. I objected at first because it seemed too much for
her to do to wash the things every day, but she said it was a good
deal easier than washing them once a week. Incidentally that was one
of her own little schemes for saving trouble and it seemed to me a
good one; instead of collecting her soiled clothes for seven days and
then tearing herself all to pieces with a whole hard forenoon's work,
she washed a little every day. By this plan it took her only about an
hour each morning to keep all the linen in the house clean and sweet.
We had the roof to dry it on and she never ironed anything except
perhaps the tablecloths and handkerchiefs. We had no company to cater
to and as long as we knew things were clean that's all we cared.

We got around the rock all right. It proved not to be a ledge after
all. I myself, however, didn't accomplish as much as I did the first
day, for I was slower in my movements. On the other hand, I think I
improved a little in my handling of the crowbar. At the noon hour I
tried to start a conversation with Anton', but he understood little
English and I knew no Italian, so we didn't get far. As he sat in a
group of his fellow countrymen laughing and jabbering he made me feel
distinctly like an outsider. There were one or two English-speaking
workmen besides myself, but somehow they didn't interest me as much as
these Italians. It may have been my imagination but they seemed to me
a decidedly inferior lot. As a rule they were men who took the job
only to keep themselves from starving and quit at the end of a week or
two only to come back when they needed more money.

I must make an exception of an Irishman I will call Dan Rafferty. He
was a big blue-eyed fellow, full of fun and fight, with a good natured
contempt of the Dagoes, and was a born leader. I noticed, the first
day, that he came nearer being the boss of the gang than the foreman,
and I suspect the latter himself noticed it, for he seemed to have it
in for Dan. There never was an especially dirty job to be done but
what Dan was sent. He always obeyed but he used to slouch off with his
big red fist doubled up, muttering curses that brought out his brogue
at its best. Later on he confided in me what he was going to do to
that boss. If he had carried out his threats he would long since have
been electrocuted and I would have lost a good friend. Several times I
thought the two men were coming to blows but though Dan would have
dearly loved a fight and could have handled a dozen men like the
foreman, he always managed to control himself in time to avoid it.

"I don't wanter be after losin' me job for the dirthy spalpeen," he
growled to me.

But he came near it in a way he wasn't looking for later in the week.
It was Friday and half a dozen of us had been sent down to work on the
second level. It was damp and suffocating down there, fifty feet below
the street. I felt as though I had gone into the mines. I didn't like
it but I knew that there was just as much to learn here as above and
that it must all be learned eventually. The sides were braced with
heavy timbers like a mine shaft to prevent the dirt from falling in
and there was the constant danger that in spite of this it might cave
in. We went down by rough ladders made by nailing strips of board
across two pieces of joist and the work down there was back-breaking
and monotonous. We heaved the dirt into a big iron bucket lowered by
the hoisting engine above. It was heavy, wet soil that weighed like
lead.

From the beginning the men complained of headaches and one by one they
crawled up the ladder again for fresh air. Others were sent down but
at the end of an hour they too retreated. Dan and I stuck it out for a
while. Then I began to get dizzy myself. I didn't know what the
trouble was but when I began to wobble a bit Dan placed his hand on my
shoulder.

"Betther climb out o' here," he said. "I'm thinkin' it's gas."

At that time I didn't know what sewer gas was. I couldn't smell
anything and thought he must be mistaken.

"You'd better come too," I answered, making for the ladder.

He wasn't coming but I couldn't get up very well without him so he
followed along behind. At the top we found the foreman fighting mad
and trying to spur on another gang to go down. They wouldn't move.
When he saw us come up he turned upon Dan.

"Who ordered you out of there?" he growled.

"The gas," answered Dan.

"Gas be damned," shouted the foreman. "You're a bunch of white livered
cowards--all of you."

I saw Dan double up his fists and start towards the man. The latter
checked him with a command.

"Go back down there or you're fired," he said to him.

Dan turned red. Then I saw his jaws come together.

"Begod!" he answered. "_You_ shan't fire me, anyhow."

Without another word he started down the ladder again. I saw the
Italians crowd together and watch him. By that time my head was
clearer but my legs were weak. I sat down a moment uncertain what to
do. Then I heard someone shout:

"By God, he's right! He's lying there at the bottom."

I started towards the ladder but some one shoved me back. Then I
thought of the bucket. It was above ground and I staggered towards it
gaining strength at each step. I jumped in and shouted to the engineer
to lower me. He obeyed from instinct. I went down, down, down to what
seemed like the center of the earth. When the bucket struck the ground
I was dizzy again but I managed to get out, heave the unconscious Dan
in and pile on top of him myself. When I came to, I was in an
ambulance on my way to the hospital but by the time I had reached the
emergency room I had taken a grip on myself. I knew that if ever Ruth
heard of this she would never again be comfortable. When they took us
out I was able to walk a little. The doctors wanted to put me to bed
but I refused to go. I sat there for about an hour while they worked
over Dan. When I found that he would be all right by morning I
insisted upon going out. I had a bad headache, but I knew the fresh
air would drive this away and so it did, though it left me weak.

One of the hardest day's work I ever did in my life was killing time
from then until five o'clock. Of course the papers got hold of it and
that gave me another scare but luckily the nearest they came to my
name was Darlinton, so no harm was done. And they didn't come within a
mile of getting the real story. When in a later edition one of them
published my photograph I felt absolutely safe for they had me in a
full beard and thinner than I've ever been in my life.

When I came home at my usual time looking a bit white perhaps but
otherwise normal enough, the first question Ruth asked me was:

"What have you done with your dinner pail, Billy?"

Isn't a man always sure to do some such fool thing as that, when he's
trying to keep something quiet from the wife? I had to explain that I
had forgotten it and that was enough to excite suspicion at any time.
She kept me uneasy for ten minutes and the best I could do was to
admit finally that I wasn't feeling very well. Whereupon she made me
go to bed and fussed over me all the evening and worried all the next
day.

I reported for work as usual in the morning and found we had a new
foreman. It was a relief because I guess if Dan hadn't knocked down
the other one, someone else would have done it sooner or later. At
that the man had taught me something about sewer gas and that is when
you begin to feel dizzy fifty feet below the street, it's time to go
up the ladder about as fast as your wobbly legs will let you, even if
you don't smell anything.

Rafferty didn't turn up for two or three days. When he did appear it
was with a simple:

"Mawnin, mon."

It wasn't until several days later I learned that the late foreman had
left town nursing a black eye and a cut on one cheek such as might
have been made by a set of red knuckles backed by an arm the size of a
small ham.

On Saturday night of that first week I came home with nine dollars in
my pocket. I'll never be prouder again than I was when I handed them
over to Ruth. And Ruth will never again be prouder than she was when,
after she had laid aside three of them for the rent and five for
current expenses, she picked out a one-dollar bill and, crossing the
room, placed it in the ginger jar. This was a little blue affair in
which we had always dropped what pennies and nickels we could spare.

"There's our nest-egg," she announced.

"You don't mean to tell me you're that much ahead of the game the
first week?"

"Look here, Billy," she answered.

She brought out an itemized list of everything she had bought from
last Monday, including Sunday's dinner. I've kept that list. Many of
the things she had bought were not yet used up but she had computed
the cost of the amount actually used. Here it is as I copied it off:

    Flour, .25
    Lard, .15
    Cream of tartar and soda, .05
    Oat meal, .04
    Molasses, .05
    Sugar, .12
    Potatoes, .20
    Rice, .06
    Milk, 1.12
    Eggs, .24
    Rye bread, .10
    Sausages, .22
    Lettuce, .03
    Beans, .12
    Salt pork, .15
    Corn meal, .06
    Graham meal, .05
    Butter, .45
    Cheese, .06
    Shin of beef, .39
    Fish, .22
    Oil, .28
    Soap, .09
    Vinegar, salt and pepper, about .05
    Can of corn, .07
    Onions, .06
    Total $4.68

In this account, too, Ruth was liberal in her margins. She did better
than this later on. A fairer estimate could have been made at the end
of the month and a still fairer even than that, at the end of the
year. It sounded almost too good to be true but it was a fact. We had
lived, and lived well on this amount and as yet Ruth was
inexperienced. She hadn't learned all she learned later. For the
benefit of those who may think we went hungry I have asked Ruth to
write out the bill of fare for this week as nearly as she can remember
it. One thing you must keep in mind is that of everything we had, we
had enough. Neither Ruth, the boy, nor myself ever left the table or
dinner pail unsatisfied. Here's what we had and it was better even
than it sounds for whatever Ruth made, she made well. I copy it as she
wrote it out.

  Monday.

  Breakfast: oatmeal, griddle-cakes with molasses, cream of tartar
  biscuits, milk.

  Luncheon: for Billy: cold biscuits, two hard-boiled eggs, bowl of
  rice, cold coffee; for Dick and me: cold biscuits, milk, rice.

  Dinner: baked potatoes, griddle-cakes, milk.


  Tuesday.

  Breakfast: baked potatoes, graham muffins, oatmeal, milk.

  Luncheon: for Billy: cold muffins, two hard-boiled eggs, rice,
  milk; for Dick and me: cold muffins, rice and milk.

  Dinner: boiled potatoes, pork scraps, hot biscuits, milk.


  Wednesday.

  Breakfast: oatmeal, fried potatoes, warmed over biscuits.

  Luncheon: for Billy: cold biscuits, two hard-boiled eggs, bread
  pudding; for Dick and me: baked potatoes, cold biscuits, bread
  pudding.

  Dinner: beef stew with dumplings, hot biscuits, milk.


  Thursday.

  Breakfast: fried sausages, baked potatoes, graham muffins, milk.

  Luncheon: for Billy: cold muffins, cold sausage and rice; for Dick
  and me: the same.

  Dinner: warmed over stew, lettuce, hot biscuits, milk.


  Friday.

  Breakfast: oatmeal, fried rock cod, baked potatoes, rye bread,
  milk.

  Luncheon: for Billy: rye bread, potato salad, rice; for Dick and
  me: the same.

  Dinner: soup made from stock of beef, left over fish, boiled
  potatoes, rice, milk.


  Saturday.

  Breakfast: oatmeal, fried corn mush with molasses, milk.

  Luncheon: for Billy: cold biscuits, two hard-boiled eggs, cheese,
  rice; for Dick and me: German toast.

  Dinner: baked beans, hot biscuits.


  Sunday.

  Breakfast: baked beans, graham muffins.

  Dinner: boiled potatoes, pork scraps, canned corn, corn cake,
  bread pudding.

A word about that bread pudding. Ruth tells me she puts in an extra
quart of milk and then bakes it all day when she bakes her beans,
stirring it every now and then. I never knew before how the trick was
done but it comes out a rich brown and tastes like plum pudding
without the raisins. She says that if you put in raisins it tastes
exactly like a plum pudding.

So at the end of the first week I found myself with eighty dollars
left over from the old home, one dollar saved in the new, all my bills
paid, and Ruth, Dick and myself all fit as a fiddle.



CHAPTER VIII

SUNDAY


That first dollar saved was the germ of a new idea.

It is a further confession of a middle-class mind that in coming down
here I had not looked forward beyond the immediate present. With the
horror of that last week still on me I had considered only the
opportunity I had for earning a livelihood. To be sure I had seen no
reason why an intelligent man should not in time be advanced to
foreman, and why he should not then be able to save enough to ward off
the poorhouse before old age came on. But now--with that first dollar
tucked away in the ginger jar--I felt within me the stirring of a new
ambition, an ambition born of this quick young country into which I
had plunged. Why, in time, should I not become the employer? Why
should I not take the initiative in some of these progressive
enterprises? Why should I not learn this business of contracting and
building and some day contract and build for myself? With that first
dollar saved I was already at heart a capitalist.

I said nothing of this to Ruth. For six months I let the idea grow. If
it did nothing else it added zest to my new work. I shoveled as though
I were digging for diamonds. It made me a young man again. It made me
a young American again. It brought me out of bed every morning with
visions; it sent me to sleep at night with dreams.

But I'm running ahead of my story.

I thought I had appreciated Sunday when it meant a release for one day
from the office of the United Woollen, but as with all the other
things I felt as though it had been but the shadow and that only now
had I found the substance. In the first place I had not been able
completely to shake the office in the last few years. I brought it
home with me and on Sundays it furnished half the subject of
conversation. Every little incident, every bit of conversation, every
expression on Morse's face was analyzed in the attempt to see what it
counted, for or against, the possible future raise. Even when out
walking with the boy the latter was a constant reminder. It was as
though he were merely a ward of the United Woollen Company.

But when I put away my shovel at five o'clock on Saturday that was the
end of my ditch digging. I came home after that and I was at home
until I reported for work on Monday morning. There was neither work
nor worry left hanging over. It meant complete relaxation--complete
rest. And the body, I found, rests better than the mind.

Later in my work I didn't experience this so perfectly as I now did
because then I accepted new responsibilities, but for the first few
months I lived in lazy content on this one day. For the most part
those who lived around me did all the time. On fair summer days half
the population of the little square basked in the sun with eyes half
closed from morning until night. Those who didn't, went to the
neighboring beaches many of which they could reach for a nickel or
visited such public buildings as were open. But wherever they went or
whatever they did, they loafed about it. And a man can't truly loaf
until he's done a hard week's work which ends with the week.

As for us we had our choice of any number of pleasant occupations. I
insisted that Ruth should make the meals as simple as possible on that
day and both the boy and myself helped her about them. We always
washed the dishes and swept the floor. First of all there was the
roof. I early saw the possibility of this much neglected spot. It was
flat and had a fence around it for it was meant to be used for the
hanging out of clothes. Being a new building it had been built a story
higher than its older neighbors so that we overlooked the other roofs.
There was a generous space through which we saw the harbor. I picked
up a strip of old canvas for a trifle in one of the shore-front
junk-shops which deal in second-hand ship supplies and arranged it
over one corner like a canopy. Then I brought home with me some bits
of board that were left over from the wood construction at the ditch
and nailed these together to make a rude sort of window box. It was
harder to get dirt than it was wood but little by little I brought
home enough finally to fill the boxes. In these we planted radishes
and lettuce and a few flower seeds. We had almost as good a garden as
we used to have in our back yard. At any rate it was just as much fun
to watch the things grow, and though the lettuce never amounted to
much we actually raised some very good radishes. The flowers did well,
too.

We brought up an old blanket and spread it out beneath the canopy and
that, with a chair or two, made our roof garden. A local branch of the
Public Library was not far distant so that we had all the reading
matter we wanted and here we used to sit all day Sunday when we didn't
feel like doing anything else. Here, too, we used to sit evenings. On
several hot nights Ruth, the boy and I brought up our blankets and
slept out. The boy liked it so well that finally he came to sleep up
here most of the summer. It was fine for him. The harbor breeze swept
the air clean of smoke so that it was as good for him as being at the
sea-shore.

To us the sights from this roof were marvelous. They appealed strongly
because they were unlike anything we had ever seen or for that matter
unlike anything our friends had ever seen. I think that a man's
friends often take away the freshness from sights that otherwise might
move him. I've never been to Europe but what with magazine pictures
and snap shots and Mrs. Grover, who never forgot that before she
married Grover she had travelled for a whole year, I haven't any
special desire to visit London or Paris. I suppose it would be
different if I ever went but even then I don't think there would be
the novelty to it we found from our roof. And it was just that novelty
and the ability to appreciate it that made our whole emigrant life
possible. It was for us the Great Adventure again. I suppose there are
men who will growl that it's all bosh to say there is any real romance
in living in four rooms in a tenement district, eating what we ate,
digging in a ditch and mooning over a view from a roof top. I want to
say right here that for such men there wouldn't be any romance or
beauty in such a life. They'd be miserable. There are plenty of men
living down there now and they never miss a chance to air their
opinions. Some of them have big bodies but I wouldn't give them fifty
cents a day to work for me. Luckily however, there are not many of
them in proportion to the others, even though they make more noise.

But when you stop to think about it what else is it but romance that
leads men to spend their lives fishing off the Banks when they could
remain safely ashore and get better pay driving a team? Or what drives
them into the army or to work on railroads when they neither expect
nor hope to be advanced? The men themselves can't tell you. They take
up the work unthinkingly but there is something in the very hardships
they suffer which lends a sting to the life and holds them. The only
thing I know of that will do this and turn the grind into an
inspiration is romance. It's what the new-comers have and it's what
our ancestors had and it's what a lot of us who have stayed over here
too long out of the current have lost.

On the lazy summer mornings we could hear the church bells and now and
then a set of chimes. Because we were above the street and next to the
sky they sounded as drowsily musical as in a country village. They
made me a bit conscience-stricken to think that for the boy's sake I
didn't make an effort and go to some church. But for a while it was
church enough to devote the seventh day to what the Bible says it was
made for. Ruth used to read out loud to us and we planned to make our
book suit the day after a fashion. Sometimes it was Emerson, sometimes
Tennyson--I was very fond of the Idylls--and sometimes a book of
sermons. Later on we had a call from a young minister who had a little
mission chapel not far from our flat and who looked in upon us at the
suggestion of the secretary of the settlement house. We went to a
service at his chapel one Sunday and before we ourselves realized it
we were attending regularly with a zest and interest which we had
never felt in our suburban church-going. Later still we each of us
found a share in the work ourselves and came to have a great
satisfaction and contentment in it. But I am running ahead of my
story.

We'd have dinner this first summer at about half past one and then
perhaps we'd go for a walk. There wasn't a street in the city that
didn't interest us but as a rule we'd plan to visit one of the parks.
I didn't know there were so many of them or that they were so
different. We had our choice of the ocean or a river or the woods. If
we had wished to spend say thirty cents in car fare we could have had
a further choice of the beach, the mountains, or a taste of the
country which in places had not changed in the last hundred years.
This would have given us a two hours' ride. Occasionally we did this
but at present there was too much to see within walking distance.

For one thing it suddenly occurred to me that though I had lived in
this city over thirty years I had not yet seen such places of interest
as always attracted visitors from out of town. My attention was
brought to this first by the need of limiting ourselves to amusements
that didn't cost anything, but chiefly by learning where the better
element down here spent their Sundays. You have only to follow this
crowd to find out where the objects of national pride are located. An
old battle flag will attract twenty foreigners to one American. And
incidentally I wish to confess it was they who made me ashamed of my
ignorance of the country's history. Beyond a memory of the Revolution,
the Civil War and a few names of men and battles connected therewith,
I'd forgotten all I ever learned at school on this subject. But here
the many patriotic celebrations arranged by the local schools in the
endeavor to instill patriotism and the frequent visits of the boys to
the museums, kept the subject fresh. Not only Dick but Ruth and myself
soon turned to it as a vital part of our education. Inspired by the
old trophies that ought to stand for so much to us of to-day we took
from the library the first volume of Fiske's fine series and in the
course of time read them all. As we traced the fortunes of those early
adventurers who dreamed and sailed towards an unknown continent,
pictured to ourselves the lives of the tribes who wandered about in
the big tangle of forest growth between the Atlantic and the Pacific,
as we landed on the bleak New England shores with the early Pilgrims,
then fought with Washington, then studied the perilous internal
struggle culminating with Lincoln and the Civil War, then the
dangerous period of reconstruction with the breathless progress
following--why it left us all better Americans than we had ever been
in our lives. It gave new meaning to my present surroundings and
helped me better to understand the new-comers. Somehow all those
things of the past didn't seem to concern Grover and the rest of them
in the trim little houses. They had no history and they were a part of
no history. Perhaps that's because they were making no history
themselves. As for myself, I know that I was just beginning to get
acquainted with my ancestors--that for the first time in my life, I
was really conscious of being a citizen of the United States of
America.

But I soon discovered that not only the historic but the beautiful
attracted these people. They introduced me to the Art Museum. In the
winter following our first summer here, when the out of door
attractions were considerably narrowed down, Ruth and I used to go
there about every other Sunday with the boy. We came to feel as
familiar with our favorite pictures as though they hung in our own
house. The Museum ceased to be a public building; it was our own. We
went in with a nod to the old doorkeeper who came to know us and felt
as unconstrained there as at home. We had our favorite nooks, our
favorite seats and we lounged about in the soft lights of the rooms
for hours at a time. The more we looked at the beautiful paintings,
the old tapestries, the treasures of stone and china, the more we
enjoyed them. We were sure to meet some of our neighbors there and a
young artist who lived on the second floor of our house and whom
later I came to know very well, pointed out to us new beauties in the
old masters. He was selling plaster casts at that time and studying
art in the night school.

In the old life, an art museum had meant nothing to me more than that
it seemed a necessary institution in every city. It was a mark of good
breeding in a town, like the library in a good many homes. But it had
never occurred to me to visit it and I know it hadn't to any of my
former associates. The women occasionally went to a special exhibition
that was likely to be discussed at the little dinners, but a week
later they couldn't have told you what they had seen. Perhaps our
neighborhood was the exception and a bit more ignorant than the
average about such things, but I'll venture to say there isn't a
middle-class community in this country where the paintings play the
part in the lives of the people that they do among the foreign-born. A
class better than they does the work; a class lower enjoys it. Where
the middle-class comes in, I don't know.

After being gone all the afternoon we'd be glad to get home again and
maybe we'd have a lunch of cold beans and biscuits or some of the
pudding that was left over. Then during the summer months we'd go back
to the roof for a restful evening. At night the view was as different
from the day as you could imagine. Behind us the city proper was in a
bluish haze made by the electric lights. Then we could see the yellow
lights of the upper windows in all the neighboring houses and beyond
these, over the roof tops which seemed now to huddle closer together,
we saw the passing red and green lights of moving vessels. Overhead
were the same clean stars which were at the same time shining down
upon the woods and the mountain tops. There was something about it
that made me feel a man and a free man. There was twenty years of
slavery back of me to make me appreciate this.

And Ruth reading my thoughts in my eyes used to nestle closer to me
and the boy with his chin in his hands would stare out at sea and
dream his own dreams.



CHAPTER IX

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE


As I said, with that first dollar in the ginger jar representing the
first actual saving I had ever effected in my whole life, my
imagination became fired with new plans. I saw no reason why I myself
should not become an employer. As in the next few weeks I enlarged my
circle of acquaintances and pushed my inquiries in every possible
direction I found this idea was in the air down here. The ambition of
all these people was towards complete independence. Either they hoped
to set up in business for themselves in this country or they looked
forward to saving enough to return to the land of their birth and live
there as small land owners. I speak more especially of the Italians
because just now I was thrown more in contact with them than the
others. In my city they, with the Irish, seemed peculiarly of real
emigrant stuff. The Jews were so clannish that they were a problem in
themselves; the Germans assimilated a little better and yet they too
were like one large family. They did not get into the city life very
much and even in their business stuck pretty closely to one line. For
a good many years they remained essentially Germans. But the Irish
were citizens from the time they landed and the Italians eventually
became such if by a slower process.

The former went into everything. They are a tremendously adaptable
people. But whatever they tackled they looked forward to independence
and generally won it. Even a man of so humble an ambition as Murphy
had accomplished this. The Italians either went into the fruit
business for which they seem to have a knack or served as day laborers
and saved. There was a man down here who was always ready to stake
them to a cart and a supply of fruit, at an exorbitant price to be
sure, but they pushed their carts patiently mile upon mile until in
the end they saved enough to buy one of their own. The next step was a
small fruit store. The laborers, once they had acquired a working
capital, took up many things--a lot of them going into the country and
buying deserted farms. It was wonderful what they did with this land
upon which the old stock New Englander had not been able to live. But
of course in part explanation of this, you must remember that these
New England villages have long been drained of their best. In many
cases only the maim, the halt, and the blind are left and these stand
no more chance against the modern pioneer than they would against one
of their own sturdy forefathers.

Another occupation which the Italians seemed to preëmpt was the
boot-blacking business. It may seem odd to dignify so menial an
employment as a business but there is many a head of such an
establishment who could show a fatter bank account than two-thirds of
his clients. The next time you go into a little nook containing say
fifteen chairs, figure out for yourself how many nickels are left
there in a day. The rent is often high--it is some proof of a business
worth thought when you consider that they are able to pay for
positions on the leading business streets--but the labor is cheap and
the furnishings and cost of raw material slight. Pasquale had set me
to thinking long before, when I learned that he was earning almost as
much a week as I. It is no unusual thing for a man who owns his
"emporium" to draw ten dollars a day in profits and not show himself
until he empties the cash register at night.

But the fact that impressed me in these people--and this holds
peculiarly true of the Jews--was that they all shied away from the
salaried jobs. In making such generalizations I may be running a risk
because I'm only giving the results of my own limited observation and
experience. But I want it understood that from the beginning to the
end of these recollections I'm trying to do nothing more. I'm not a
student. I'm not a sociologist. The conditions which I observed may
not hold elsewhere for all I know. From a different point of view,
they might not to another seem to hold even in my own city. I won't
argue with anyone about it. I set down what I myself saw and let it go
at that.

Going back to the small group among whom I lived when I was with the
United Woollen, it seems to me that every man clung to a salary as
though it were his only possible hope. I know men among them who even
refused to work on a commission basis although they were practically
sure of earning in this way double what they were being paid by the
year. They considered a salary as a form of insurance and once in the
grip of this idea they had nothing to look forward to except an
increase. I was no better myself. I didn't really expect to be head of
the firm. Nor did the other men. We weren't working and holding on
with any notion of winning independence along that line. The most we
hoped for was a bigger salary. Some men didn't anticipate more than
twenty-five hundred like me, and others--the younger men--talked about
five thousand and even ten thousand. I didn't hear them discuss what
they were going to do when they were general managers or
vice-presidents but always what they could enjoy when they drew the
larger annuity. And save those who saw in professional work a way out,
this was the career they were choosing for their sons. They wanted to
get them into banks and the big companies where the assurance of lazy
routine advancement up to a certain point was the reward for industry,
sobriety and honesty. A salary with an old, strongly established
company seemed to them about as big a stroke of luck for a young man
as a legacy. I myself had hoped to find a place for Dick with one of
the big trust companies.

Of course down here these people did not have the same opportunities.
Most of the old firms preferred the "bright young American" and I
guess they secured most of them. I pity the "bright young American"
but I can't help congratulating the bright young Italians and the
bright young Irishmen. They are forced as a result to make business
for themselves and they are given every opportunity in the world for
doing it. And they _are_ doing it. And I, breathing in this
atmosphere, made up my mind that I would do it, too.

With this in mind I outlined for myself a systematic course of
procedure. It was evident that in this as in any other business I must
master thoroughly the details before taking up the larger problems.
The details of this as of any other business lay at the bottom and so
for these at least I was at present in the best possible position. The
two most important factors to the success of a contractor seemed to me
to be, roughly speaking, the securing and handling of men and the
purchase and use of materials. Of the two, the former appeared to be
the more important. Even in the few weeks I had been at work here I
had observed a big difference in the amount of labor accomplished by
different men individually. I could have picked out a half dozen that
were worth more than all the others put together. And in the two
foremen I had noticed another big difference in the varying capacity
of a boss to get work out of the men collectively. In work where labor
counted for so much in the final cost as here, it appeared as though
this involved almost the whole question of profit and loss. With a
hundred men employed at a dollar and a half a day, the saving of a
single hour meant the saving of a good many dollars.

It may seem odd that so obvious a fact was not taken advantage of by
the present contractors. Doubtless it was realized but my later
experience showed me that the obvious is very often neglected. In this
business as in many others, the details fall into a rut and often a
newcomer with a fresh point of view will detect waste that has been
going on unnoticed for years. I was almost forty years old, fairly
intelligent, and I had everything at stake. So I was distinctly more
alert than those who retained their positions merely by letting
things run along as well as they always had been going. But however
you may explain it, I knew that the foreman didn't get as much work
out of me as he might have done. In spite of all the control I
exercised over myself I often quit work realizing that half my
strength during the day had gone for nothing. And though it may sound
like boasting to say it, I think I worked both more conscientiously
and intelligently than most of the men.

In the first place the foreman was a bully. He believed in driving his
men. He swore at them and goaded them as an ignorant countryman often
tries to drive oxen. The result was a good deal the same as it is with
oxen--the men worked excitedly when under the sting and loafed the
rest of the time. In a crisis the boss was able to spur them on to
their best--though even then they wasted strength in frantic
endeavor--but he could not keep them up to a consistent level of
steady work. And that's what counts. As in a Marathon race the men who
maintain a steady plugging pace from start to finish are the ones who
accomplish.

The question may be asked how such a boss could keep his job. I myself
did not understand that at first but later as I worked with different
men and under different bosses I saw that it was because their methods
were much alike and that the results were much alike. A certain
standard had been established as to the amount of work that should be
done by a hundred men and this was maintained. The boss had figured
out loosely how much the men would work and the men had figured out to
a minute how much they could loaf. Neither man nor boss took any
special interest in the work itself. The men were allowed to waste
just so much time in getting water, in filling their pipes, in
spitting on their hands, in resting on their shovels, in lazy chatter,
and so long as they did not exceed this nothing was said.

The trouble was that the standard was low and this was because the men
had nothing to gain by steady conscientious work and also because the
boss did not understand them nor distinguish between them. For
instance the foreman ought to have got the work of two men out of me
but he wouldn't have, if I hadn't chosen to give it. That held true
also of Rafferty and one or two others.

Now my idea was this: that if a man made a study of these men who, in
this city at any rate, were the key to the contractor's problem, and
learned their little peculiarities, their standards of justice, their
ambitions, their weakness and their strength, he ought to be able to
increase their working capacity. Certainly an intelligent teamster
does this with horses and it seemed as though it ought to be possible
to accomplish still finer results with men. To go a little farther in
my ambition, it also seemed possible to pick and select the best of
these men instead of taking them at random. For instance in the
present gang there were at least a half dozen who stood out as more
intelligent and stronger physically than all the others. Why couldn't
a man in time gather about him say a hundred such men and by better
treatment, possibly better pay, possibly a guarantee of continuous
work, make of them a loyal, hard working machine with a capacity for
double the work of the ordinary gang? Such organization as this was
going on in other lines of business, why not in this? With such a
machine at his command, a man ought to make himself a formidable
competitor with even the long established firms.

At any rate this was my theory and it gave a fresh inspiration to my
work. Whether anything came of it or not it was something to hope for,
something to toil for, something which raised this digging to the
plane of the pioneer who joyfully clears his field of stumps and
rocks. It swung me from the present into the future. It was a
different future from that which had weighed me down when with the
United Woollen. This was no waiting game. Neither your pioneer nor
your true emigrant sits down and waits. Here was something which
depended solely upon my own efforts for its success or failure. And I
knew that it wasn't possible to fail so dismally but what the joy of
the struggle would always be mine.

In the meanwhile I carried with me to my work a note book and during
the noon hour I set down everything which I thought might be of any
possible use to me. I missed no opportunity for learning even the most
trivial details. A great deal of the information was superficial and a
great deal of it was incorrect but down it went in the note book to be
revised later when I became better informed.

I watched my fellow workmen as much as possible and plied them with
questions. I wanted to know where the cement came from and in what
proportion it was mixed with sand and gravel and stone for different
work. I wanted to know where the sand and gravel and stone came from
and how it was graded. Wherever it was possible I secured rough prices
for different materials. I wanted to know where the lumber was bought
and I wanted to know how the staging was built and why it was built.
Understand that I did not flatter myself that I was fast becoming a
mason, a carpenter, an engineer and a contractor all in one and all at
once. I knew that the most of my information was vague and loose. Half
the men who were doing the work didn't know why they were doing it and
a lot of them didn't know how they were doing it. They worked by
instinct and habit. Then, too, they were a clannish lot and a jealous
lot. They resented my questioning however delicately I might do it and
often refused to answer me. But in spite of this I found myself
surprised later with the fund of really valuable knowledge I acquired.

In addition to this I acquired _sources_ of information. I found out
where to go for the real facts. I learned for instance who for this
particular job was supplying for the contractor his cement and gravel
and crushed stone--though as it happened this contractor himself
either owned or controlled his own plant for the production of most of
his material. However I learned something when I learned that. For a
man who had apparently been in business all his life, I was densely
ignorant of even the fundamentals of business. This idea of running
the business back to the sources of the raw material was a new idea to
me. I had not thought of the contractor as owning his own quarries and
gravel pits, obvious as the advantage was. I wanted to know where the
tools were bought and how much they cost--from the engines and
hoisting cranes and carrying system down to pick-axes, crowbars and
shovels. I made a note of the fact that many of the smaller implements
were not cared for properly and even tried to estimate how with proper
attention the life of a pick-axe could be prolonged. I joyed
particularly in every such opportunity as this no matter how trivial
it appeared later. It was just such details as these which gave
reality to my dream.

I figured out how many cubic feet of earth per day per man was being
handled here and how this varied under different bosses. I pried and
listened and questioned and figured even when digging. I worked with
my eyes and ears wide open. It was wonderful how quickly in this way
the hours flew. A day now didn't seem more than four hours long. Many
the time I've felt actually sorry when the signal to quit work was
given at night and have hung around for half an hour while the
engineer fixed his boiler for the night and the old man lighted his
lanterns to string along the excavation. I don't know what they all
thought of me, but I know some of them set me down for a college man
doing the work for experience. This to say the least was flattering to
my years.

As I say, a lot of this work was wasted energy in the sense that I
acquired anything worth while, but none of it was wasted when I recall
the joy of it. If I had actually been a college boy in the first flush
of youthful enthusiasm I could not have gone at my work more
enthusiastically or dreamed wilder or bigger dreams. Even after many
of these bubbles were pricked and had vanished, the mood which made
them did not vanish. I have never forgotten and never can forget the
sheer delight of those months. I was eighteen again with a lot besides
that I didn't have at eighteen.

My work along another line was more practical and more successful.
What I learned about the men and the best way to handle them was
genuine capital. In the first place I lost no opportunity to make
myself as solid as possible with Dan Rafferty. This was not altogether
from a purely selfish motive either. I liked the man. In a way I think
he was the most lovable man I ever met, although that seems a
lady-like term to apply to so rugged a fellow. But below his beef and
brawn, below his aggressiveness, below his coarseness, below even a
peculiar moral bluntness about a good many things, there was a strain
of something fine about Dan Rafferty. I had a glimpse of it when he
preferred going back to the sewer gas rather than let a man like the
old foreman force him into a position where the latter could fire him.
But that was only one side of him. He had a heart as big as a woman's
and one as keen to respond to sympathy. This in its turn inspired in
others a feeling towards him that to save my life I can only describe
as love--love in its big sense. He'd swear like a pirate at the
Dagoes and they'd only grin back at him where'd they'd feel like
knifing any other man. And when Dan learned that Anton' had lost his
boy he sent down to the house a wreath of flowers half as big as a
cart wheel. There was scarcely a day when some old lady didn't manage
to see Dan at the noon hour and draw him aside with a mumbled plea
that always made him dig into his pockets. He caught me watching him
one day and said in explanation, "She's me grandmither."

After I'd seen at least a dozen different ones approach him I asked
him if they were all his grandmothers.

"Sure," he said. "Ivery ould woman in the ward is me grandmither."

Those same grandmothers stood him in good stead later in his life, for
every single grandmother had some forty grandchildren and half of
these had votes. But Dan wasn't looking that far ahead then. Two facts
rather distinguished him at the start; he didn't either drink or
smoke. He didn't have any opinions upon the subject but he was one of
the rare Irishmen born that way. Now and then you'll find one and as
likely as not he'll prove one of the good fellows you'd expect to see
in the other crowd. However, beyond exciting my interest and leading
me to score him some fifty points in my estimate of him as a good
workman, I was indifferent to this side of his character. The thing
that impressed me most was a quality of leadership he seemed to
possess. There was nothing masterful about it. You didn't look to see
him lead in any especially good or great cause, but you could see
readily enough that whatever cause he chose, it would be possible for
him to gather about him a large personal following. I was attracted to
this side of him in considering him as having about all the good raw
material for a great boss. Put twenty men on a rope with Dan at the
head of them and just let him say, "Now, biys--altogither," and you'd
see every man's neck grow taut with the strain. I know because I've
been one of the twenty and felt as though I wanted to drag every
muscle out of my body. And when it was over I'd ask myself why in the
devil I pulled that way. When I told myself that it was because I was
pulling with Dan Rafferty I said all I knew about it.

It seemed to me that any man who secured Dan as a boss would already
have the backbone of his gang. I didn't ever expect to use him in this
way but I wanted the man for a friend and I wanted to learn the secret
of his power if I could. But I may as well confess right now that I
never fully fathomed that.

In the meanwhile I had not neglected the other men. At every
opportunity I talked with them. At the beginning I made it a point to
learn their names and addresses which I jotted down in my book. I
learned something from them of the padrone system and the unfair
contracts into which they were trapped. I learned their likes and
dislikes, their ambitions, and as much as possible about their
families. It all came hard at first but little by little as I worked
with them I found them trusting me more with their confidences.

In this way then the first summer passed. Both Ruth and the boy in the
meanwhile were just as busy about their respective tasks as I was. The
latter took to the gymnasium work like a duck to water and in his
enthusiasm for this tackled his lessons with renewed interest. He put
on five pounds of weight and what with the daily ocean swim which we
both enjoyed, his cheeks took on color and he became as brown as an
Indian. If he had passed the summer at the White Mountains he could
not have looked any hardier. He made many friends at the Y.M.C.A. They
were all ambitious boys and they woke him up wonderfully. I was
careful to follow him closely in this new life and made it a point to
see the boys myself and to make him tell me at the end of each day
just what he had been about. Dick was a boy I could trust to tell me
every detail. He was absolutely truthful and he wasn't afraid to open
his heart to me with whatever new questions might be bothering him. As
far as possible I tried to point out to him what to me seemed the good
points in his new friends and to warn him against any little
weaknesses among them which from time to time I might detect. Ruth did
the rest. A father, however much a comrade he may be with his boy, can
go only so far. There is always plenty left which belongs to the
mother--if she is such a mother as Ruth.

As for Ruth herself I watched her anxiously in fear lest the new life
might wear her down but honestly as far as the house was concerned she
didn't seem to have as much to bother her as she had before. She was
slowly getting the buying and the cooking down to a science. Many a
week now our food bill went as low as a little over three dollars. We
bought in larger quantities and this always effected a saving. We
bought a barrel of flour and half a barrel of sugar for one thing.
Then as the new potatoes came into the market we bought half a barrel
of those and half a barrel of apples. She did wonders with those
apples and they added a big variety to our menus. Another saving was
effected by buying suet which cost but a few cents a pound, trying
this out and mixing it with the lard for shortening. As the weather
became cooler we had baked beans twice a week instead of once. These
made for us four and sometimes five or six meals. We figured out that
we could bake a quart pot of beans, using half a pound of pork to a
pot, for less than twenty cents. This gave the three of us two meals
with some left over for lunch, making the cost per man about three
cents. And they made a hearty meal, too. That was a trick she had
learned in the country where baked beans are a staple article of diet.
I liked them cold for my lunch.

As for clothes neither Ruth nor myself needed much more than we had. I
bought nothing but one pair of heavy boots which Ruth picked up at a
bankrupt sale for two dollars. On herself she didn't spend a cent. She
brought down here with her a winter and a summer street suit, several
house dresses and three or four petticoats and a goodly supply of
under things. She knew how to care for them and they lasted her. I
brought down, in addition to my business suit, a Sunday suit of blue
serge and a dress suit and a Prince Albert. I sold the last two to a
second hand dealer for eleven dollars and this helped towards the
boy's outfit in the fall. She bought for him a pair of three dollar
shoes for a dollar and a half at this same "Sold Out" sale, a dollar's
worth of stockings and about a dollar's worth of underclothes. He had
a winter overcoat and hat, though I could have picked up these in
either a pawnshop or second hand store for a couple of dollars. It was
wonderful what you could get at these places, especially if anyone had
the knack which Ruth had of making over things.



CHAPTER X

THE EMIGRANT SPIRIT


That fall the boy passed his entrance examinations and entered the
finest school in the state--the city high school. If he had been worth
a million he couldn't have had better advantages. I was told that the
graduates of this school entered college with a higher average than
the graduates of most of the big preparatory schools. Certainly they
had just as good instruction and if anything better discipline. There
was more competition here and a real competition. Many of the pupils
were foreign born and a much larger per cent of them children of
foreign born. Their parents had been over here long enough to realize
what an advantage an education was and the children went at their work
with the feeling that their future depended upon their application
here.

The boy's associates might have been more carefully selected at some
fashionable school but I was already beginning to realize that
selected associates aren't always select associates and that even if
they are this is more of a disadvantage than an advantage. The fact
that the boy's fellows were all of a kind was what had disturbed me
even in the little suburban grammar school. For that matter I can see
now that even for Ruth and me this sameness was a handicap for both us
and our neighbors. There was no clash. There was a dead level. I don't
believe that's good for either boys or men or for women.

Supposing this open door policy did admit a few worthless youngsters
into the school and supposing again that the private school didn't
admit such of a different order (which I very much doubt)--along with
these Dick was going to find here the men--the past had proved this
and the present was proving it--who eventually would become our
statesmen, our progressive business men, our lawyers and doctors--if
not our conservative bankers. For one graduate of such a school as my
former surroundings had made me think essential for the boy, I could
count now a dozen graduates of this very high school who were
distinguishing themselves in the city. The boy was going to meet here
the same spirit I was getting in touch with among my emigrant
friends--a zeal for life, a belief in the possibilities of life, an
optimistic determination to use these possibilities, which somehow the
blue-blooded Americans were losing. It seemed to me that life was
getting stale for the fourth and fifth generation. I tried to make the
boy see this point of view. I went back again with him to the pioneer
idea.

"Dick," I said in substance, "your great-great-grandfather pulled up
stakes and came over to this country when there was nothing here but
trees, rocks and Indians. It was a hard fight but a good fight and he
left a son to carry on the fight. So generation after generation they
fought but somehow they grew a bit weaker as they fought. Now," I
said, "you and I are going to try to recover that lost ground. Let's
think of ourselves as like our great-great-grandfathers. We've just
come over here. So have about a million others. The fight is a
different fight to-day but it's no less a fight and we're going to
win. We have a good many advantages that these newcomers haven't. You
see them making good on every side of you but I'll bet they can't lick
a good American--when he isn't asleep. You and I are going to make
good too."

"You bet we are, Dad," he said, with his eyes grown bright.

"Then," I said, "you must work the way the newcomers work. I don't
want you to think you're any better than they are. You aren't. But
you're just as good and these two hundred years we've lived here ought
to count for something."

The boy lifted his head at this.

"You make me feel as though we'd just landed with the Pilgrims," he
said.

"So we have," I said. "June seventh of this very year we landed on
Plymouth Rock just as our ancestors did two centuries ago. They've
been all this time paving the way for you and me. They've built roads
and schools and factories and it's up to us now to use them. You and I
have just landed from England. Let's see what we can do as pioneers."

I wanted to get at the young American in him. I wanted him to realize
that he was something more than the son of his parents; something more
than just an average English-speaking boy. I wanted him to feel the
impetus of the big history back of him and the big history yet to be
made ahead of him. He had known nothing of that before. The word
American had no meaning to him except when a regiment of soldiers was
marching by. I wanted him to feel all the time as he did when his
throat grew lumpy with the band playing and the stars and stripes
flying on Fourth of July or Decoration Day.

I urged him to study hard as the first essential towards success but I
also told him to get into the school life. I didn't want him to stand
back as his tendency was and watch the other fellows. I didn't want
him to sit in the bleachers--at least not until he had proved that
this was the place for him. Even then I wanted him to lead the
cheering. I wanted him to test himself in the literary societies, the
dramatic clubs, on the athletic field. In other words, instead of
remaining passive I wanted him to take an aggressive attitude towards
life. In still other words instead of being a middle-classer I wanted
him to get something of the emigrant spirit. And I had the
satisfaction of seeing him begin his work with the germ of that idea
in his brain.

In the meanwhile with the approach of cold weather I saw a new item of
expense loom up in the form of coal. We had used kerosene all summer
but now it became necessary for the sake of heat to get a stove. For a
week I took what time I could spare and wandered around among the junk
shops looking for a second hand stove and finally found just what I
wanted. I paid three dollars for it and it cost me another dollar to
have some small repairs made. I set it up myself in the living room
which we decided to use as a kitchen for the winter. But when I came
to look into the matter of getting coal down here I found I was facing
a pretty serious problem. Coal had been a big item in the suburbs but
the way people around me were buying it, made it a still bigger one.
No cellar accommodations came with the tenement and so each one was
forced to buy his coal by the basket or bag. A basket of anthracite
was costing them at this time about forty cents. This was for about
eighty pounds of coal, which made the total cost per ton eleven
dollars--at least three dollars and a half over the regular price.
Even with economy a person would use at least a bag a week. This, to
leave a liberal margin, would amount to about a ton and a half of coal
during the winter months. I didn't like the idea of absorbing the
half dollar or so a week that Ruth was squeezing out towards what few
clothes we had to buy, in this way--at least the over-charge part of
it. With the first basket I brought home, I said, "I see where you'll
have to dig down into the ginger jar this winter, little woman."

She looked as startled as though I had told her someone had stolen the
savings.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

I pointed to the basket.

"Coal costs about eleven dollars a ton, down here."

When she found out that this was all that caused my remark, she didn't
seem to be disturbed.

"Billy," she said, "before we touch the ginger jar it will have to
cost twenty dollars a ton. We'll live on pea soup and rice three times
a day before I touch that."

"All right," I said, "but it does seem a pity that the burden of such
prices as these should fall on the poor."

"Why do they?" she asked.

"Because in this case," I said, "the dealers seem to have us where the
wool is short."

"How have they?" she insisted.

"We can't buy coal by the ton because we haven't any place to put it."
She thought a moment and then she said:

"We could take care of a fifth of a ton, Billy. That's only five
baskets."

"They won't sell five any cheaper than one."

"And every family in this house could take care of five," she went on.
"That would make a ton."

I began to see what she meant and as I thought of it I didn't see why
it wasn't a practical scheme.

"I believe that's a good idea," I said. "And if there were more women
like you in the world I don't believe there'd be any trusts at all."

"Nonsense," she said. "You leave it to me now and I'll see the other
women in the house. They are the ones who'll appreciate a good saving
like that."

She saw them and after a good deal of talk they agreed, so I told Ruth
to tell them to save out of next Saturday night's pay a dollar and a
half apiece. I was a bit afraid that if I didn't get the cash when the
coal was delivered I might get stuck on the deal. The next Monday I
ordered the coal and asked to have it delivered late in the day. When
I came home I found the wagon waiting and it created about as much
excitement on the street as an ambulance. I guess it was the first
time in the history of Little Italy that a coal team had ever stopped
before a tenement. The driver had brought baskets with him and I
filled up one and took it to a store nearby and weighed into it eighty
pounds of coal. With that for my guide I gathered the other men of the
families about me and made them carry the coal in while I measured it
out. The driver who at first was inclined to object to the whole
proceeding was content to let things go on when he found himself
relieved of all the carrying. We emptied the wagon in no time and the
other men insisted upon carrying up my coal for me. I collected every
cent of my money and incidentally established myself on a firm footing
with every family in the house. Several other tenements later adopted
the plan but the idea didn't take hold the way you'd have thought it
would. I guess it was because there weren't any more Ruths around
there to oversee the job. Then, too, while these people are
far-sighted in a good many ways, they are short-sighted in others.
Neither the wholesale nor co-operative plans appeal to them. For one
thing they are suspicious and for another they don't like to spend any
more than they have to day by day. Later on through Ruth's influence
we carried our scheme a little farther with just the people in the
house and bought flour and sugar that way but it was made possible
only through their absolute trust in her. We always insisted on
carrying out every such little operation on a cash basis and they
never failed us.

Ruth's influence had been gradually spreading through the
neighborhood. She had found time to meet the other families in the
house and through them had met a dozen more. The first floor was
occupied by Michele, an Italian laborer, his wife, his wife's sister
and two children. On the second floor there was Giuseppe, the young
sculptor, and his father and mother. The father was an invalid and the
lad supported the three. On the third floor lived a fruit peddler, his
wife and his wife's mother--rather a commonplace family, while the
fourth floor was occupied by Pietro, a young fellow who sold cut
flowers on the street and hoped some day to have a garden of his own.
He had two children and a grandmother to care for.

It certainly afforded a contrast to visit those other flats and then
Ruth's. Right here is where her superior intelligence came in, of
course. The foreign-born women do not so quickly adapt themselves to
the standards of this country as the men do. Most of them as I
learned, come from the country districts of Italy where they live very
rudely. Once here they make their new quarters little better than
their old. The younger ones however who are going to school are doing
better. But taken by and large it was difficult to persuade them that
cleanliness offered any especial advantages. It wasn't as though they
minded the dirt and were chained to it by circumstances from which
they couldn't escape--as I used to think. They simply didn't object to
it. So long as they were warm and had food enough they were content.
They didn't suffer in any way that they themselves could see.

But when Ruth first went into their quarters she was horrified. She
thought that at length she was face to face with all the misery and
squalor of the slums of which she had read. I remember her chalk-white
face as she met me at the door upon my return home one night. She
nearly drove the color out of my own cheeks for I thought surely that
something had happened to the boy. But it wasn't that; she had heard
that the baby on the first floor was ill and had gone down there to
see if there was anything she might do for it. Until then she had seen
nothing but the outside of the other doors from the hall and they
looked no different from our own. But once inside--well I guess that's
where the two hundred years if not the four hundred years back of us
native Americans counts.

"Why, Billy," she cried, "it was awful. I'll never get that picture
out of mind if I live to be a hundred."

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"Why the poor little thing--"

"What poor little thing?" I interrupted.

"Michele's baby. It lay there in dirty rags with its pinched white
face staring up at me as though just begging for a clean bed."

"What's the matter with it?"

"Matter with it? It's a wonder it isn't dead and buried. The district
nurse came in while I was there and told me,"--she shuddered--"that
they'd been feeding it on macaroni cooked in greasy gravy. And it
isn't six months old yet."

"No wonder it looked white," I said, remembering how we had discussed
for a week the wisdom of giving Dick the coddled white of an egg at
that age.

"Why the conditions down there are terrible," cried Ruth. "Michele
must be very, very poor. The floor wasn't washed, you couldn't see out
of the windows, and the clothes--"

She held up her hands unable to find words.

"That _does_ sound bad," I said.

"It's criminal. Billy--we can't allow a family in the same house with
us to suffer like that, can we?"

I shook my head.

"Then go down and see what you can do. I guess we can squeeze out
fifty cents for them, can't we, Billy?"

"I guess you could squeeze fifty cents out of a stone for a sick
baby," I said.

The upshot of it was that I went down and saw Michele. As Ruth had
said his quarters were anything but clean but they didn't impress me
as being in so bad a condition as she had described them. Perhaps my
work in the ditch had made me a little more used to dirt. I found
Michele a healthy, temperate, able-bodied man and I learned that he
was earning as much as I. Not only that but the women took in
garments to finish and picked up the matter of two or three dollars a
week extra. There were five in the family but they were far from being
in want. In fact Michele had a good bank account. They had all they
wanted to eat, were warm and really prosperous. There was absolutely
no need of the dirt. It was there because they didn't mind it. A five
cent cake of soap would have made the rooms clean as a whistle and
there were two women to do the scrubbing. I didn't leave my fifty
cents but I came back upstairs with a better appreciation, if that
were possible, of what such a woman as Ruth means to a man. Even the
baby began to get better as soon as the district nurse drove into the
parent's head a few facts about sensible infant feeding.

I don't want to make out that life is all beer and skittles for the
tenement dwellers. It isn't. But I ran across any number of such cases
as this where conditions were not nearly so bad as they appeared on
the surface. Taking into account the number of people who were
gathered together here in a small area I didn't see among the
temperate and able-bodied any worse examples of hard luck than I saw
among my former associates. In fact of sheer abstract hard luck I
didn't see as much. In seventy-five per cent of the cases the
conditions were of their own making--either the man was a drunkard or
the women slovenly or the whole family was just naturally vicious.
Ignorance may excuse some of this but not all of it. Perhaps I'm not
what you'd call sympathetic but I've heard a lot of men talk about
these people in a way that sounds to me like twaddle. I never ran
across a family down here in such misery as that which Steve
Bonnington's wife endured for years without a whimper.

Bonnington was a clerk with a big insurance company. He lived four
houses below us on our street. I suppose he was earning about eighteen
hundred dollars a year when he died. He left five children and he
never had money enough even to insure in his own company. He didn't
leave a cent. When Helen Bonnington came back from the grave it was to
face the problem of supporting unaided, either by experience or
relatives, five children ranging from twelve to one. She was a shy,
retiring little body who had sapped her strength in just bringing the
children into the world and caring for them in the privacy of her
home. She had neither the temperament nor the training to face the
world. But she bucked up to it. She sold out of the house what things
she could spare, secured cheap rooms on the outskirts of the
neighborhood and announced that she would do sewing. What it cost her
to come back among her old friends and do that is a particularly
choice type of agony that it would be impossible for a tenement widow
to appreciate. And this same self-respect which both Helen's education
and her environment forced her to maintain, handicapped her in other
ways. You couldn't give Mrs. Bonnington scraps from your table; you
couldn't give her old clothes or old shoes or money. It wasn't her
fault because this was so; it wasn't your fault.

When her children were sick she couldn't send them off to the public
wards of the hospitals. In the first place half the hospitals wouldn't
take them as charity patients simply because she maintained a certain
dignity, and in the second place the idea, by education, was so
repugnant to her that it never entered her head to try. So she stayed
at home and sewed from daylight until she couldn't hold open her eyes
at night. That's where you get your true "Song of the Shirt." She not
only sewed her fingers to the bone but while doing it she suffered a
very fine kind of torture wondering what would happen to the five if
she broke down. Asylums and homes and hospitals don't imply any great
disgrace to most of the tenement dwellers but to a woman of that type
they mean Hell. God knows how she did it but she kept the five alive
and clothed and in school until the boy was about fifteen and went to
work. When I hear of the lone widows of the tenements, who are apt to
be very husky, and who work out with no great mental struggle and who
have clothes and food given them and who set the children to work as
soon as they are able to walk, I feel like getting up in my seat and
telling about Helen Bonnington--a plain middle-classer. And she was no
exception either.

I seem to have rambled off a bit here but this was only one of many
contrasts which I made in these years which seemed to me to be all in
favor of my new neighbors. The point is that at the bottom you not
only see advantages you didn't see before but you're in a position to
use them. You aren't shackled by conventions; you aren't cramped by
caste. The world stands ready to help the under dog but before it will
lift a finger it wants to see the dog stretched out on its back with
all four legs sticking up in prayer. Of the middle-class dog who
fights on and on, even after he's wobbly and can't see, it doesn't
seem to take much notice.

However Ruth started in with a few reforms of her own. She made it a
point to go down and see young Michele every day and watch that he
didn't get any more macaroni and gravy. The youngster himself resented
this interference but the parents took it in good part. Then in time
she ventured further and suggested that the baby would be better off
if the windows were washed to let in the sunshine and the floor
scrubbed a bit. Finally she became bold enough to hint that it might
be well to wash some of the bed clothing.

The district nurse appreciated the change, if Michele himself didn't
and I found that it wasn't long before Miss Colver was making use of
this new influence in the house. She made a call on Ruth and discussed
her cases with her until in the end she made of her a sort of first
assistant. This was the beginning of a new field of activity for Ruth
which finally won for her the name of Little Mother. It was wonderful
how quickly these people discovered the sweet qualities in Ruth that
had passed all unnoticed in the old life.

It made me very proud.



CHAPTER XI

NEW OPPORTUNITIES


I had found that I was badly handicapped in all intercourse with my
Italian fellow workers by the fact that I knew nothing of their
language and that they knew but little English. The handicap did not
lie so much in the fact that we couldn't make ourselves understood--we
could after a rough fashion--as it did in the fact that this made a
barrier which kept our two nationalities sharply defined. I was always
an American talking to an Italian. The boss was always an American
talking to a Dago. This seemed to me a great disadvantage. It ought to
be just a foreman to his man or one man to another.

The chance to acquire a new language I thought had passed with my high
school days, but down here everyone was learning English and so I
resolved to study Italian. I made a bargain with Giuseppe, the young
sculptor, who was now a frequent visitor at our flat, to teach me his
language in return for instruction in mine. He agreed though he had
long been getting good instruction at the night school. But the lad
had found an appreciative friend in Ruth who not only sincerely
admired the work he was doing but who admired his enthusiasm and his
knowledge of art. I liked him myself for he was dreaming bigger things
than I. To watch his thin cheeks grow red and his big brown eyes flash
as he talked of some old painting gave me a realization that there was
something else to be thought of even down here than mere money
success. It was good for me.

The poor fellow was driven almost mad by having to offer for sale some
of the casts which his master made him carry. He would have liked to
sell only busts of Michael Angelo and Dante and worthy reproductions
of the old masters.

"There are so many beautiful things," he used to exclaim excitedly in
broken English; "why should they want to make anything that is not
beautiful?"

He sputtered time and time again over the pity of gilding the casts.
You'd have thought it was a crime which ought to be punished by
hanging.

"Even Dante," he groaned one night, "that wonderful, white sad face of
Dante covered all over with gilt!"

"It has to look like gold before an American will buy it," I
suggested.

"Yes," he nodded. "They would even gild the Christ."

Ruth said she wanted to learn Italian with me, and so the three of us
used to get together every night right after dinner. I bought a
grammar at a second hand bookstore but we used to spend most of our
time in memorizing the common every day things a man would be likely
to use in ordinary conversation. Giuseppe would say, "Ha Ella il mio
cappello?"

And I would say,

"Si, Signore, ho il di Lei cappello."

"Ha Ella il di Lei pane?"

"Si, Signore, ho il mio pane."

"Ha Ella il mio zucchero?"

"Si, Signore, ho il di Lei zucchero."

There wasn't much use in going over such simple things in English for
Giuseppe and so instead of this Ruth would read aloud something from
Tennyson. After explaining to him just what every new word meant, she
would let him read aloud to her the same passage. He soon became very
enthusiastic over the text itself and would often stop her with the
exclamation,

"Ah, there is a study!"

Then he would tell us just how he would model whatever the picture
happened to be that he saw in his mind. It was wonderful how clearly
he saw these pictures. He could tell you even down to how the folds of
the women's dresses should fall just as though he were actually
looking at living people.

After a week or two when we had learned some of the simpler phrases
Ruth and I used to practise them as much as possible every day. We
felt quite proud when we could ask one another for "quel libro" or
"quell' abito" or "il cotello" or "il cucchiaio." I was surprised at
how soon we were able to carry on quite a long talk.

This new idea--that even though I was approaching forty I wasn't too
old to resume my studies--took root in another direction. As I had
become accustomed to the daily physical exercise and no longer
returned home exhausted I felt as though I had no right to loaf
through my evenings, much as the privilege of spending them with Ruth
meant to me. My muscles had become as hard and tireless as those of a
well-trained athlete so that at night I was as alert mentally as in
the morning. It made me feel lazy to sit around the house after an
hour's lesson in Italian and watch Ruth busy with her sewing and see
the boy bending over his books. Still I couldn't think of anything
that was practicable until I heard Giuseppe talk one evening about the
night school. I had thought this was a sort of grammar school with
clay modeling thrown in for amusement.

"No, Signore," he said. "You can learn anything there. And there is
another school where you can learn other things."

I went out that very evening and found that the school he attended
taught among other subjects, book keeping and stenography--two things
which appealed to me strongly. But in talking to the principal he
suggested that before I decided I look into the night trade school
which was run in connection with a manual training school. I took his
advice and there I found so many things I wanted that I didn't know
what to choose. I was amazed at the opportunity. A man could learn
here about any trade he cared to take up. Both tools and material
were furnished him. And all this was within ten minutes' walk of the
house. I could still have my early evenings with Ruth and the boy even
on the three nights I would be in school until a quarter past seven,
spend two hours at learning my trade, and get back to the house again
before ten. I don't see how a man could ask for anything better than
this. Even then I wouldn't be away from home as much as I often was in
my old life. There were many dreary stretches towards the end of my
service with the United Woollen when I didn't get home until midnight.
And the only extra pay we salaried men received for that was a
brighter hope for the job ahead. This was always dangled before our
eyes by Morse as a bait when he wished to drive us harder than usual.

I had my choice of a course in carpentry, bricklaying, sheet metal
work, plumbing, electricity, drawing and pattern draughting. The work
covered from one to three years and assured a man at the end of this
time of a position among the skilled workmen who make in wages as much
as many a professional man. Not only this but a man with such training
as this and with ambition could look forward without any great
stretch of the imagination to becoming a foreman in his trade and
eventually winning independence. All this he could accomplish while
earning his daily wages as an apprentice or a common laborer.

The class in masonry seemed to be more in line with my present plans
than any of the other subjects. It ought to prove of value, I thought,
to a man in the general contracting business and certainly to a man who
undertook the contracting of building construction. At any rate it was
a trade in which I was told there was a steady demand for good men and
at which many men were earning from three to five dollars a day. I must
admit that at first I didn't understand how brick-laying could be
taught for I thought it merely a matter of practice but a glance at the
outline of the course showed me my error. It looked as complicated as
many of the university courses. The work included first the laying of a
brick to line. A man was given actual practice with bricks and mortar
under an expert mason. From this a man was advanced, when he had
acquired sufficient skill, to the laying out of the American bond; then
the building of square piers of different sizes; then the building of
square and pigeon hole corners, then the laying out of brick footings.
The second year included rowlock and bonded segmental arches; blocking,
toothing, and corbeling; building and bonding of vaulted walls;
polygonal and circular walls, piers and chimneys; fire-places and
flues. The third year advanced a man to the nice points of the trade
such as the foreign bonds--Flemish, Dutch, Roman and Old English;
cutting and turning of arches of all kinds,--straight, cambered,
semi-circular, three centred elliptical, and many forms of Gothic and
Moorish arches; also brick panels and cornices. Finally it gave
practice in the laying out of plans and work from these plans. Whatever
time was left was devoted to speed in all these things as far as it was
consistent with accurate and careful workmanship.

I enrolled at once and also entered a class in architectural drawing
which was given in connection with this.

I came back and told Ruth and though of course she was afraid it might
be too hard work for me she admitted that in the end it might save me
many months of still harder work. If it hadn't been for the boy I
think she would have liked to follow me even in these studies.
Whatever new thing I took up, she wanted to take up too. But as I told
her, it was she who was making the whole business possible and that
was enough for one woman to do.

The school didn't open for a week and during that time I saw something
of Rafferty. He surprised me by coming around to the flat one
night--for what I couldn't imagine. I was glad to see him but I
suspected that he had some purpose in making such an effort. I
introduced him to Ruth and we all sat down in the kitchen and I told
him what I was planning to do this winter and asked him why he didn't
join me. I was rather surprised that the idea didn't appeal to him but
I soon found out that he had another interest which took all his spare
time. This interest was nothing else than politics. And Rafferty
hadn't been over here long enough yet to qualify as a voter. In spite
of this he was already on speaking terms with the state representative
from our district, the local alderman, and was an active lieutenant of
Sweeney's--the ward boss. At present he was interesting himself in
the candidacy of this same Sweeney who was the Democratic machine
candidate for Congress. Owing to some local row he was in danger of
being knifed. Dan had come round to make sure I was registered and to
swing me over if possible to the ranks of the faithful.

The names of which he spoke so familiarly meant nothing to me. I had
heard a few of them from reading the papers but I hadn't read a paper
for three months now and knew nothing at all about the present
campaign. As a matter of fact I never voted except for the regular
Republican candidate for governor and the regular Republican candidate
for president. And I did that much only from habit. My father had been
a Republican and I was a Republican after him and I felt that in a
general way this party stood for honesty as against Tammanyism. But
with councillors, and senators and aldermen, or even with congressmen
I never bothered my head. Their election seemed to be all prearranged
and I figured that one vote more or less wouldn't make much
difference. I don't know as I even thought that much about it; I
ignored the whole matter. What was true of me was true largely of the
other men in our old neighborhood. Politics, except perhaps for an
abstract discussion of the tariff, was not a vital issue with any of
us.

Now here I found an emigrant who couldn't as yet qualify as a citizen
knowing all the local politicians by their first names and spending
his nights working for a candidate for congress. Evidently my arrival
down here had been noted by those keen eyes which look after every
single vote as a miser does his pennies. A man had been found who had
at least a speaking acquaintance with me, and plans already set on
foot to round me up.

I was inclined at first to treat this new development as a joke. But
as Rafferty talked on he set me to thinking. I didn't know anything
about the merits of the two present candidates but was strongly
prejudiced to believe that the Democratic candidate, on general
principles, was the worst one. However quite apart from this, wasn't
Rafferty to-day a better citizen than I? Even admitting for the sake
of argument that Sweeney was a crook, wasn't Rafferty who was trying
his humble best to get him elected a better American than I who was
willing to sit down passively and allow him to be elected? Rafferty at
any rate was getting into the fight. His motive may have been selfish
but I think his interest really sprang first from an instinctive
desire to get into the game. Here he had come to a new country where
every man had not only the chance to mix with the affairs of the ward,
the city, the state, the nation, but also a good chance to make
himself a leader in them. Sweeney himself was an example.

For twenty-five years or more Rafferty's countrymen had appreciated
this opportunity for power and gone after it. The result everyone
knows. Their victory in city politics at least had been so decisive
year after year that the native born had practically laid down his
arms as I had. And the reason for this perennial victory lay in just
this fact that men like Rafferty were busy from the time they landed
and men like me were lazily indifferent.

Three months before, a dozen speakers couldn't have made me see this.
I had no American spirit back of me then to make me appreciate it. You
might better have talked to a sleepy Russian Jew a week off the
steamer. He at least would have sensed the sacred power for liberty
which the voting privilege bestows.

I began to ask questions of Rafferty about the two men. He didn't know
much about the other fellow except that he was "agin honest labor and
a tool of the thrusts." But on Sweeney he grew eloquent.

"Sure," he said. "There's a mon after ye own heart, me biy. Faith he's
dug in ditches himself an he knows wot a full dinner pail manes."

"What's his business?" I asked.

"A contracthor," he said. "He does big jobs for the city."

He let himself loose on what Sweeney proposed to do for the ward if
elected. He would have the government undertake the dredging of the
harbor thereby giving hundreds of jobs to the local men. He would do
this thing and that--all of which had for their object apparently just
that one goal. It was a direct personal appeal to every man toiler. In
addition to this, Rafferty let drop a hint or two that Sweeney had
jobs in his own business which he filled discreetly from the ranks of
the wavering. It wasn't more than a month later, by the way, that
Rafferty himself was appointed a foreman in the firm of Sweeney
Brothers.

But apart from the merits of the question, the thing that impressed me
was Rafferty's earnestness, the delight he took in the contest itself,
and his activity. He was very much disappointed when I told him I
wasn't even registered in the ward but he made me promise to look
after that as soon as the lists were again opened and made an
appointment for the next evening to take me round to a rally to meet
the boys.

I went and was escorted to the home of the Sweeney Club. It was a good
sized hall up a long flight of stairs. Through the heavy blue smoke
which filled the room I saw the walls decorated with American flags
and the framed crayon portraits of Sweeney and other local
politicians. Large duck banners proclaimed in black ink the current
catch lines of the campaign. At one end there was a raised platform,
the rest of the room was filled with wooden settees. My first
impression of it all was anything but favorable. It looked rather
tawdry and cheap. The men themselves who filled the room were pretty
tough-looking specimens. I noticed a few Italians of the fat class and
one or two sharp-faced Jews, but for the most part these men were the
cheaper element of the second and third generation. They were the
loafers--the ward heelers. I certainly felt out of place among them
and to me even Rafferty looked out of place. There was a freshness, a
bulk about him, that his fellows here didn't have.

As he shoved his big body through the crowd, they greeted him by his
first name with an oath or a joke and he beamed back at them all with
a broad wave of his hand. It was evident that he was a man of some
importance here. He worked a passage for me to the front of the hall
and didn't stop until he reached a group of about a dozen men who were
all puffing away at cigars. In the midst of them stood a man of about
Rafferty's size in frame but fully fifty pounds heavier. He had a
quiet, good-natured face. On the whole it was a strong face though a
bit heavy. His eyes were everywhere. He was the first to notice
Rafferty. He nodded with a familiar,

"Hello, Dan."

Dan seized my arm and dragged me forward:

"I want ye to meet me frind, Mister Carleton," he said.

Sweeney rested his grey eyes on me a second, saw that I was a
stranger here, and stepped forward instantly with his big hand
outstretched. He spoke without a trace of brogue.

"I'm very glad to meet you, Mr. Carleton," he said.

I don't know that I'm easily impressed and I flattered myself that I
could recognize a politician when I saw one, but I want to confess
that there was something in the way he grasped my hand that instantly
gave me a distinctly friendly feeling towards Sweeney. I should have
said right then and there that the man wasn't as black as he was
painted. He was neither oily nor sleek in his manner. We chatted a
minute and I think he was a bit surprised in me. He wanted to know
where I lived, where I was working, and how much of a family I had. He
put these questions in so frank and fatherly a fashion that they
didn't seem so impertinent to me at the time as they did later. Some
one called him and as he turned away, he said to Rafferty,

"See me before you go, Dan."

Then he said to me,

"I hope I'll see you down here often, Carleton."

With that Dan took me around and introduced me to Tom, Dick and Harry
or rather to Tim, Denny and Larry. This crowd came nearer to the
notion I had of ward politicians. They were a noisy, husky-throated
lot, but they didn't leave you in doubt for a minute but what every
mother's son of them was working for Sweeney as though they were one
big family with Daddy Sweeney at the head. You could overhear bits of
plots and counter plots on every side. I was offered a dozen cigars in
as many minutes and though some of the men rather shied away from me
at first a whispered endorsement from Dan was all that was needed to
bring them back.

There was something contagious about it and when later the meeting
itself opened and Sweeney rose to speak I cheered him as heartily as
anyone. By this time a hundred or more other men had come in who
looked more outside the inner circle. Sweeney spoke simply and
directly. It was a personal appeal he made, based on promises. I
listened with interest and though it seemed to me that many of his
pledges were extravagant he showed such a good spirit back of them
that his speech on a whole produced a favorable effect.

At any rate I came away from the meeting with a stronger personal
interest in politics than I had ever felt in my life. Instead of
seeming like an abstruse or vague issue it seemed to me pretty
concrete and pretty vital. It concerned me and my immediate neighbors.
Here was a man who was going to Congress not as a figurehead of his
party but to make laws for Rafferty and for me. He was to be my
congressman if I chose to help make him such. He knew my name, knew my
occupation, knew that I had a wife and one child, knew my address. And
I want to say that he didn't forget them either.

As I walked back through the brightly lighted streets which were still
as much alive as at high noon, I felt that after all this was my ward
and my city. I wasn't a mere dummy, I was a member of a vast
corporation. I had been to a rally and had shaken hands with Sweeney.

Ruth's only comment was a disgusted grunt as she smelled the rank
tobacco in my clothes. She kept them out on the roof all the next
day.



CHAPTER XII

OUR FIRST WINTER


This first winter was filled with just about as much interest as it
was possible for three people to crowd into six or seven months. And
even then there was so much left over which we wanted to do that we
fairly groaned as we saw opportunity after opportunity slip by which
we simply didn't have the time to improve.

To begin with the boy, he went at his studies with a zest that placed
him among the first ten of his class. Dick wasn't a quick boy at his
books and so this stood for sheer hard plugging. To me this made his
success all the more noteworthy. Furthermore it wasn't the result of
goading either from Ruth or myself. I kept after him about the details
of his school life and about the boys he met, but I let him go his own
gait in his studies. I wanted to see just how the new point of view
would work out in him. The result as I saw it was that every night
after supper he went at his problems not as a mere school boy but
man-fashion. He sailed in to learn. He had to. There was no prestige
in that school coming from what the fathers did. No one knew what the
fathers did. It didn't matter. With half a dozen nationalities in the
race the school was too cosmopolitan to admit such local issues. A few
boys might chum together feeling they were better than the others, but
the school as a whole didn't recognize them. Each boy counted for what
he did--what he was.

Of the other nine boys in the first ten, four were of Jewish origin,
three were Irish, one was Italian, and the other was American born but
of Irish descent. Half of them hoped to go through college on
scholarships and the others had equally ambitious plans for business.
The Jews were easily the most brilliant students but they didn't
attempt anything else. The Italian showed some literary ability and
wrote a little for the school paper. The American born Irish boy was
made manager of the Freshman football team. The other four were
natural athletes--two of them played on the school eleven and the
others were just built for track athletics and basket ball. Dick
tried for the eleven but he wasn't heavy enough for one thing and so
didn't make anything but a substitute's position with the freshmen. I
was just as well satisfied. I didn't mind the preliminary training but
I felt I would as soon he added a couple more years to his age before
he really played football, even if it was in him to play. My point had
been won when he went out and tried.

At the end of the first four months in the school I thought I saw a
general improvement in him. He held himself better for one thing--with
his head higher and his shoulders well back. This wasn't due to his
physical training either. It meant a changed mental attitude. Ruth
says she didn't notice any difference and she thinks this is nothing
but my imagination. But she's wrong. I was looking for something she
couldn't see that the boy lacked before. Dick to her was always all
right. Of course I knew myself that the boy couldn't go far wrong
whatever his training, but I knew also that his former indifferent
attitude was going to make his path just so much harder for him. Dick,
when he read over this manuscript, said he thought the whole business
was foolish and that even if I wanted to tell the story of my own
life, the least I could do was to leave out him. But his life was more
largely my life than he realizes even now. And his case was in many
ways a better example of the true emigrant spirit than my own.

He joined the indoor track squad this winter, too, but here again he
didn't distinguish himself. He fought his way into the finals at the
interscholastic meet but that was all. However this, too, was good
training for him. I saw that race myself and I watched his mouth
instead of his legs. I liked the way his jaws came together on the
last lap though it hurt to see the look in his eyes when he fell so
far behind after trying so hard. But he crossed the finish line.

In the meanwhile Ruth was just about the busiest little woman in the
city. And yet strangely enough this instead of dragging her down,
built her up. She took on weight, her cheeks grew rosier than I had
seen them for five years and she seemed altogether happier. I watched
her closely because I made up my mind that ginger jar or no ginger jar
the moment I saw a trace of heaviness in her eyes, she would have to
quit some of her bargain hunting. I didn't mean to barter her good
health for a few hundred dollars even if I had to remain a day laborer
the rest of my life.

That possibility didn't seem to me now half so terrifying as did the
old bogey of not getting a raise. I suppose for one thing this was
because we neither of us felt so keenly the responsibility of the boy.
In the old days we had both thought that he was doomed if we didn't
save enough to send him through college and give him, at the end of
his course, capital enough to start in business for himself. In other
words, Dick seemed then utterly dependent upon us. It was as terrible
a thought to think of leaving him penniless at twenty-one as leaving
him an orphan at five months. The burden of his whole career rested on
our shoulders.

But now as I saw him take his place among fellows who were born
dependent upon themselves, as I learned about youngsters at the school
who at ten earned their own living selling newspapers and even went
through college on their earnings, as I watched him grow strong
physically and tackle his work aggressively, I realized that even if
anything should happen to either Ruth or myself the boy would be able
to stand on his own feet. He had the whole world before him down here.
If worst came to worst he could easily support himself daytimes, and
at night learn either a trade or a profession. This was not a dream on
my part; I saw men who were actually doing it. I was doing it myself
for that matter. Personally I felt as easy about Dick's future by the
middle of that first winter as though I had established an annuity for
him which would assure him all the advantages I had ever hoped he
might receive. So did Ruth.

I remember some horrible hours I passed in that little suburban house
towards the end of my life there. Ruth would sit huddled up in a chair
and try to turn my thoughts to other things but I could only pace the
floor when I thought what would happen to her and the boy if anything
should happen to me; or what would happen to the boy alone if anything
should happen to the both of us. The case of Mrs. Bonnington hung over
me like a nightmare and the other possibility was even worse. Why,
when Cummings came down with pneumonia and it looked for a while as
though he might die, I guess I suffered, by applying his case to
mine, as much as ever he himself did on his sick bed. I used to
inquire for his temperature every night as though it were my own. So
did every man in the neighborhood.

Sickness was a wicked misfortune to that little crowd. When death did
pick one of us, the whole structure of that family came tumbling down
like a house of cards. If by the grace of God the man escaped, he was
left hopelessly in debt by doctor's bills if in the meanwhile he
hadn't lost his job. Sickness meant disaster, swift and terrible
whatever its outcome. We ourselves escaped it, to be sure, but I've
sweat blood over the mere thought of it.

Now if our thoughts ever took so grim a turn, we could speak quite
calmly about it. It was impossible for me ever to think of Ruth as
sick. My mind couldn't grasp that. But occasionally when I have come
home wet and Ruth has said something about my getting pneumonia if I
didn't look out, I've asked myself what this would mean. In the first
place I now could secure admission to the best hospitals in the
country free of cost. I had only to report my case to the city
physician and if I were sick enough to warrant it, he would notify
the hospital and they would send down an ambulance for me. I would be
carried to a clean bed in a clean room and would receive such medical
attention as before I could have had only as a millionaire. Physicians
of national reputation would attend me, medicines would be supplied
me, and I'd have a night and day nurse for whom outside I would have
had to pay some forty dollars a week. Not only this but if I recovered
I would be supplied the most nourishing foods in the market and after
that sent out of town to one of the quiet convalescent hospitals if my
condition warranted it. I don't suppose a thousand dollars would cover
what here would be given me for nothing. And I wouldn't either be
considered or treated like a charity patient. This was all my due as a
citizen--as a toiler. Of course this would be done also for Dick as
well as for Ruth.

I don't mean to say that such thoughts took up much of my time. I'm
not morbid and we never did have any sickness--we lived too sanely for
that. But just as our new viewpoint on Dick relieved us of a tension
which before had sapped our strength, so it was a great relief to have
such insurance as this in the background of our minds. It took all
the curse off sickness that it's possible to take off. In three or
four such ways as these a load of responsibility was removed from us
and we were left free to apply all our energy to the task of
upbuilding which we had in hand.

This may account somewhat for the reserve strength which Ruth as well
as myself seemed to tap. Then of course the situation as a whole was
such as to make any woman with imagination buoyant. Ruth had an active
part in making a big rosy dream come true. She was now not merely a
passive agent. She wasn't economizing merely to make the salary cover
the current expenses. Her task was really the vital one of the whole
undertaking; she was accumulating capital. When you stop to think of
it she was the brains of the business; I was only the machine. I dug
the money out of the ground but that wouldn't have amounted to much if
it had all gone for nothing except to keep the machine moving from day
to day. The dollar she saved was worth more than a hundred dollars
earned and spent again. It was the only dollar which counted. They say
a penny saved is a penny earned. To my mind a penny saved was worth
to us at this time every cent of a dollar.

So Ruth was not only an active partner but there was another side to
the game that appealed to her.

"The thing I like about our life down here," she said to me one night,
"is the chance it gives me to get something of myself into every
single detail of the home."

I didn't know what she meant because it seemed to me that was just
what she had always done. But she shook her head when I said so.

"No," she said. "Not the way I can now."

"Well, you didn't have a servant and must have done whatever was
done," I said.

"I didn't have time to pick out the food for the table," she said. "I
had to order it of the grocery man. I didn't have time to make as many
of your clothes as I wanted. Why I didn't even have time to plan."

"If anyone had told me that a woman could do any more than you then
were doing, I should have laughed at them," I said.

"You and the boy weren't all my own then," she said. "I had to waste a
great deal of time on things outside the house. Sometimes it used to
make me feel as though you were just one of the neighbors, Billy."

I began to see what she meant. But she certainly found now just as
much time if not more to spare on the women and babies all around us.

"They aren't neighbors," she said. "They are friends."

I suppose she felt like that because what she did for them wasn't just
wasted energy like an evening at cards.

But she went back again and again, as though it were a song, to this
notion that our new home was all her own.

"You may think me a pig, Billy," she said. "But I like it. I like to
pick out all myself, every single potato you and the boy eat; I like
to pick out every leaf of lettuce, every apple. It makes me feel as
though I was doing something for you."

"Good land--" I said.

But she wouldn't let me finish.

"No, Billy," she said. "You don't understand what all that means to
me--how it makes me a part of you and Dick as I never was before. And
I like to think that in everything you wear there's a stitch of mine
right close to you. And that when you and the boy lie down at night
I'm touching you because I made everything clean for you with my own
hands."

It makes my throat grow lumpy even now when I remember the eager,
half-ashamed way she looked up into my eyes as she said this. Lord,
sometimes she made me feel like a little child and other times she
made me feel like a giant. But whichever way she made me feel at the
moment, she always left me wishing that I had in me every good thing a
man can have so that I might be half way worthy of her. There are
times when a fellow knows that as a man he doesn't count for much as
compared with any woman. And with such a woman as Ruth--well, God
knows I tried to do my best in those days and have tried to do that
ever since, but it makes me ache to think how little I've been able to
give her of all she deserves.

In her housework Ruth had developed a system that would have made a
fortune for any man if applied in the same degree to his business. I
learned a lot from her. Instead of going at her tasks in the haphazard
fashion of most women or doing things just because her grandmother
and her mother did them a certain way, she used her head. I've already
told how she did her washing little by little every day instead of
waiting for Monday and then tearing herself all to pieces, and that's
a fair example of her method. When she was cooking breakfast and had a
good fire, she'd have half her dinner on at the same time. Anything
that was just as good warmed up, she'd do then. She'd make her stews
and soups while waiting for the biscuits to bake and boil her rice or
make her cold puddings while we were eating. When that stove was
working in the morning you couldn't find a square inch of it that
wasn't working. As a result, she planned never to spend over half an
hour on her dinner at night and by the time the breakfast dishes were
washed she was through with her cooking until then.

She used her head even in little things; she'd make one dish do the
work of three. She never washed this dish until she was through with
it for good. And she'd find the time at odd moments during her cooking
to wash these dishes as they came along. If she spilled anything on
the floor she stopped right then and there and cleaned it up, with the
result that when breakfast was served, the kitchen looked as
ship-shape as when she began. When she _was_ busy, she was the busiest
woman you ever saw. She worked with her head, both hands, and her
feet. As a result instead of fiddling around all day, when she was
through she was through.

When she got up in the morning she knew exactly what she had to do for
the day, just how she was going to do it and just when she was going
to do it. And you could bank that the things at night would be done,
and be done just as she had planned. She thought ahead. That's a great
thing to master in any business.

In my own work, the plan I had outlined for myself I developed day by
day. At the end of three months I found that even what little Italian
I had then learned was a help to me. The mere fact that I was studying
their language placed me on a better footing with my fellows. They
seemed to receive it as a compliment and to feel that I was taking a
personal interest in them as a race. My desire to practise my few
phrases was always a letter of introduction to a newcomer.

I talked with them about everything--where they came from, what made
them come, what they did before they came, how long they worked and
what pay they got in Italy, how they saved to get over here, how they
secured their jobs, what they hoped to do eventually, where they
lived, how large their families were, how much it cost them to live
and what they ate. I inquired as to what they liked and what they
disliked about their work; what they considered fair and what unfair
about the labor and the pay; what they liked and didn't like about the
foreman. Often I couldn't get any opinion at all out of them on these
subjects; often it wasn't honest and often it wasn't intelligent. But
as with my other questioning when I sifted it all down and thought it
over, I was surprised at how much information I did get. If I didn't
learn facts which could be put into words, I was left with a very
definite impression and a very wide general knowledge.

In the meanwhile my note book was always busy. I kept jotting down
names and addresses with enough running comment to help me to recall
the men individually. I wasn't able to locate one out of ten of these
men later but the tenth man was worth all the trouble.

As the winter advanced and the air grew frosty and the snow and ice
came, the work in a good many ways was harder. And yet everything
considered I don't know but what I'd rather work outdoors at zero than
at eighty-five. Except that my hands got numb and everything was more
difficult to handle I didn't mind the cold. There was generally
exercise enough to keep the blood moving.

We had a variety of work before spring. After the subway job I shifted
to a big house foundation and there met another group of skilled
workmen from whom I learned much. The work was easier and the
surroundings pleasanter if you can speak of pleasant surroundings
about a hole in the ground. The soil was easier to handle and we went
to no great depth. Here too I met a new gang of laborers. I missed
many familiar faces out of the old crowd and found some interesting
new men. Rafferty had gone and I was sorry. I saw more or less of him
however during the winter for he dropped around now and then on Sunday
evenings. I don't think he ever forgot the incident of the sewer gas.

I enjoyed too every hour in my night school. I found here a very large
per cent. of foreigners and they were naturally of the more ambitious
type. I found I had a great deal to learn even in the matter of
spreading mortar and using a trowel. It was really fascinating work
and in the instructor I made an invaluable friend. Through him I was
able to arrange my scattered fragments of information into larger
groups. Little by little I told him something of my plan and he was
very much interested in it. He gave me many valuable suggestions and
later proved of substantial help in more ways than one.



CHAPTER XIII

I BECOME A CITIZEN


As I said, there were still many opportunities which I didn't have
time to improve. The three of us seemed to have breathed in down here
some spirit which left us almost feverish in our desire to learn.
Whether it was the opportunity which bred the desire or the desire as
expressed by all these newcomers, fresh from the shackles of their old
lives, which created the opportunity, I leave to the students of such
matters. All I know is that we were offered the best in practical
information, such as the trade schools and the night high schools; the
best in art, the best in music, the best in the drama. I am speaking
always of the newcomer--the emigrant. Sprinkled in with these was the
cheaper element of the native-born, whether of foreign or of American
descent, who spent their evenings on the street or at the cheap
theatres or in the barrooms. This class despised the whole business.
Incidentally these were the men who haunted the bread line, the
Salvation Army barracks, and were the first to join in any public
demonstration against the rich. The women, not always so much by their
own fault, were the type which keeps the charitable associations busy.
I'm not saying that among these there were not often cases of sheer
hard luck. Now and then sickness played the devil with a family and
more often the cussedness of some one member dragged down a half dozen
innocent ones with him, but I do say that when misfortune did come to
this particular class they didn't buck up to it as Helen Bonnington
did or use such means as were at their disposal to pull out of it.
They just caved in. Even in their daily lives, when things were going
well with them, they lost in the glitter and glare of the city that
spark which my middle-class friends lost by stagnation.

Because there was no poetic romance left in their own lives, they
despised it in the lives of others and laughed at it in art. Whatever
went back into the past, they looked upon scornfully as "ancient."
They lived each day as it came with a pride in being up-to-date. As a
result, they preferred musical comedy of the horse play kind to real
music; they preferred cheap melodrama to Shakespere. They lived and
breathed the spirit of the yellow journals.

I don't know what sort of an education it is the Italians come over
here with, but they were a constant surprise to me in their
appreciation of the best in art. And it was genuine--it was simple.
I've heard a good many jokes about the foolishness of giving them a
diet of Shakespere and Beethoven, of Mæterlinck and Mascagni, but that
sort of talk comes either from the outsiders or from the Great White
Way crowd. When you've seen Italians not only crowd in to the free
productions down here but have seen them put up good money to attend
the best theatres; when you've heard them whistle grand opera at their
work and save hard earned dollars to spend on it down town; when
you've seen them crowd the art museums on free days and spend a half
dollar to look at some private exhibition of a fellow countryman's,
you begin to think, if you're honest, that the laugh is on you. They
made me feel ashamed not only because I was ignorant but because after
I became more familiar with the works of the masters I was slower
than they to appreciate them. In many cases I couldn't. I didn't
flatter myself either that this was because of my superior frankness
or up-to-dateness. I knew well enough that it was because of a lack in
me and my ancestors.

Scarcely a week passed when there wasn't something worth seeing or
hearing presented to these people. It came either through a settlement
house or through the generosity of some interested private patron.
However it came, it was always through the medium of a class which
until now had been only a name to me. This was the independently
well-to-do American class--the Americans who had partly made and
partly inherited their fortunes and had not yet come to misuse them.
It is a class still active in American life, running however more to
the professions than to business. Many of their family names have been
familiar in history to succeeding generations since the early
settlement of New England. They were intellectual leaders then and
they are intellectual leaders now. If I could with propriety I'd like
to give here a list of half a dozen of these men and women who came,
in time, to revive for me my belief that after all there still is
left in this country the backbone of a worthy old stock. But they
don't need any such trivial tribute as I might give them. The thing
that struck me at once about them was that they were still finding an
outlet for their pioneer instinct not only in their professions and
their business, but in the interest they took in the new pioneer.
Shoulder to shoulder with the modern Pilgrims they were pushing
forward their investigations in medicine, in science, in economics.
They were adapting old laws to new conditions; they were developing
the new West; they were the new thinkers and the new politicians.

I don't suppose that if I had lived for fifty years under the old
conditions I would have met one of them. There was no meeting ground
for us, for we had nothing in common. I couldn't possibly interest
them and I'm sure I was too busy with my own troubles to take any
interest in them even if I had known of their existence.

Even down here I resented at first their presence as an intrusion.
Whenever I met them I was inclined to play the cad and there's no
bigger cad on the face of the earth than a workingman who is beginning
to feel his oats. But as I watched them and saw how earnest they were
and how really valuable their efforts were I was able to distinguish
them from still another crowd who flaunted their silly charities in
the newspapers. But these other quiet men and women were of different
calibre; they were the ones who established pure milk stations, who
encouraged the young men of real talent like Giuseppe, and who headed
all the real work for good done down here.

They came into my life when I needed them; when perhaps I was swinging
too far in my belief that the emigrant was the only force for progress
in our nation. I know they checked me in some wild thinking in which I
was beginning to indulge.

I find I have been wandering a little. But what we thought, counted
for as much towards the goal as what we did and even if the thinking
is only that of one man--and an ordinary man at that--why, so for that
matter was the whole venture. I want to say again that all I'm trying
to do is to put down as well as I can remember and as well as I am
able, my own acts and thoughts and nothing but my own. Of course that
means Ruth's and Dick's too as far as I understood them, for they
were a part of my own. I don't want what I write to be taken as the
report of an investigation but just as the diary of one man's
experience.

If I had had the time I could have seen at least two of Shakespere's
plays--presented by amateurs, to be sure, but amateurs with talent and
enthusiasm and guided by professionals. I could have heard at least a
half dozen good readers read from the more modern classics. I could
have listened to as many concerts by musicians of good standing. I
could have heard lectures on a dozen subjects of vital interest. Then
there were entertainments designed confessedly to entertain. In
addition to these there were many more lectures in the city itself
open free to the public and which I now for the first time learned
about. There was one series in particular which was addressed once a
week by men of international renown. It was a liberal education in
itself. Many of my neighbors attended.

But as for Dick he was too busy with his studies and Ruth was too glad
to sit at home and watch him, to go out at night.

What spare time I myself had I began to devote to a new interest.
Rafferty had first roused me to my duty as a citizen in the matter of
local politics and through the winter called often enough to keep my
interest whetted. But even without him I couldn't have escaped the
question. Politics was a live issue down here every day in the year.
One campaign was no sooner ended than another was begun. Sweeney was
no sooner elected than he began to lay wires for his fellows in the
coming city election who in their turn would sustain him in whatever
further political ambitions he might have. If the hold the boss had on
a ward or a city was a mystery to me at first, it didn't long remain
so. The secret of his power lay in the fact that he never let go. He
was at work every day in the year and he had an organization with
which he could keep in touch through his lieutenants whether he was in
Washington or at home. Sweeney's personality was always right there in
his ward wherever his body might be.

The Sweeney Club rooms were always open. Night after night you could
find his trusted men there. Here the man out of a job came and from
here was recommended to one contractor or another or to the "city";
here the man with the sick wife came to have her sent to some
hospital which perhaps for some reason would not ordinarily receive
her; here the men in court sent their friends for bail; here came
those with bigger plans afoot in the matter of special contracts. If
Sweeney couldn't get them what they wanted, he at least sent them away
with a feeling of deep obligation to him. Naturally then when election
time came around these people obeyed Sweeney's order. It wasn't
reasonable to suppose that a campaign speech or two could affect their
loyalty.

Of course the rival party followed much the same methods but the man
in power had a tremendous advantage. The only danger he needed to fear
was a split in his own faction as some young man loomed up with
ambitions that moved faster than Sweeney's own for him. Such a man I
began to suspect--though it was looking a long way into the
future--was Rafferty. That winter he took out his naturalization
papers and soon afterwards he began an active campaign for the Common
Council. It was partly my interest in him and partly a new sense of
duty I felt towards the whole game that made me resolve to have a hand
in this. I owed that much to the ward in which I lived and which was
doing so much for me.

In talking with some of the active settlement workers down here, I
found them as strongly prejudiced against the party in power as I had
been and when I spoke to them of Rafferty I found him damned in their
eyes as soon as I mentioned his party.

"The whole system is corrupt from top to bottom," said the head of one
settlement house to me.

"Are you doing anything to remedy it?" I asked.

"What _can_ you do?" he said. "We are doing the only thing
possible--we're trying to get hold of the youngsters and give them a
higher sense of civic virtue."

"That's good," I said, "but you don't get hold of one in ten of the
coming voters. And you don't get hold of one in a hundred of the
coming politicians. Why don't you take hold of a man like Dan who is
bound to get power some day and talk a little civic virtue into him."

"You said he was a Democrat and a machine man," said he, as though
that settled it.

"I don't see any harm in either fact," I said, "if you get at the good
in him. A good Democrat is a good citizen and a good machine is a
good power," I said.

The man smiled.

"You don't know," he said.

"Do _you_ know?" I asked. "Have you been to the rallies and met the
men and studied their methods?"

"All you have to do is to read the papers," he answered.

"I don't think so," I said. "To beat an enemy you ought to study him
at first hand. You ought to find out the good as well as the bad in
him. You ought to find out where he gets his power."

"Graft and patronage," he answered.

"What about the other party?" I said.

"Just as bad."

"Then what are you going to do about it?" I asked.

"Our only hope is education," he said.

"Then," I said, "why not educate the young politicians? Get to know
Rafferty--he's young and simple and honest now. Help him to advance
honestly and keep him that way."

He shook his head doubtfully but he agreed to have a talk with Dan. In
the meanwhile I had a talk with Dan myself. I told him what my scheme
was.

"Dan," I said, "you must decide right at the beginning of your career
whether you're going to be just a tool of Sweeney's or whether you're
going to stand on your own feet."

"Phot's the mather with Sweeney, now?" he asked.

"In some ways he's all right," I said. "And in other ways he isn't.
But anyhow he's your boss and you have to do what he tells you to do
just as though he was your landlord back in Ireland and you nothing
but a tenant."

"Eh?" he said looking up quick.

I thought I'd strike a sore spot there and I made the most of it. I
talked along like this for a half hour and I saw his lips come
together.

"He'd knife me," he said finally. "He's sore now 'cause I'm afther
wantin' to run for the council this year."

I had heard the rumor.

"Then," I said, "why don't you pull free and make a little machine of
your own. Some of the boys will stand by you, won't they?"

"Will they?" he grinned.

With that I took him around to the settlement house. Dan listened good
naturedly to a lot of talk he didn't understand but he listened with
more interest to a lot of talk about the needs of the district which
it was now getting cheated out of, which he did understand. And
incidentally the man who at first did all the talking in the end
listened to Dan. After the latter had gone, he turned to me and said:

"I like that fellow Rafferty."

That seemed to me the really important thing and right there and then
we sat down and worked out the basis of the "Young American Political
Club." Our object was to reach the young voter first of all and
through him to reach the older ones. To this end we had a "Committee
on Boys" and a "Committee on Naturalization." I insisted from the
beginning that we must have an organization as perfect as that of any
political machine. Until we felt our strength a little however, I
suggested it was best to limit our efforts to the districts alone. We
took a map of the city and we cut up the districts into blocks with a
young man at the head of each block. He was to make a list of all the
young voters and keep as closely in touch as possible with the
political gossip of both parties. Over him there was to be a street
captain and over him a district captain and finally a president.

All this was the result of slow and careful study. All the workers
down here fell in with the plan eagerly and one of them agreed to pay
the expenses of a hall any time we wished to use one for campaign
purposes. At first our efforts passed unnoticed by either political
party. It was thought to be just another fanciful civic dream. We were
glad of it. It gave us time to perfect our organization without
interference.

This business took up all the time I could spare during the winter.
But instead of finding it a drag I found it an inspiration. They
insisted upon making me president of the Club and though I would
rather have had a younger man at its head I accepted the honor with a
feeling of some pride. It was the first public office I had ever held
and it gave me a new sense of responsibility and a better sense of
citizenship.

In the meanwhile Dan made no open break with Sweeney but it soon
became clear that he was not in such good favor as before. Although we
had not yet openly endorsed his candidacy we were doing a good deal
of talking for him. I received several visits from Sweeney's
lieutenants who tried to find out just what we were about. My answer
invariably was "No partisanship but clean politics."

When it came time to register I was forced to register with one of the
two parties in order to take any part in the primaries. I registered
as a Democrat for the first time in my life. I also attended a primary
for the first time in my life. I also felt a new power back of me for
the first time in my life. Little by little Dan had come to be an
issue. Sweeney did not openly declare himself but it was soon evident
that he had come to the primaries prepared to knife Rafferty if it
were possible. Back of Dan stood his large personal following; back of
me stood the balance of power. Sweeney saw it, gave the nod, and Dan
was nominated.

Six weeks later he was elected, too. You'd have thought he had been
elected mayor by the noise the small boys made. Rafferty came to me
with his big paw outstretched,

"Carleton," he said, "the only thing I've got agin ye is thot ye ain't
an Irishmon. Faith, ye'd make a domd foine Irishmon."

"It's up to you now," I said, "to make a damned fine American."

It wasn't more than two months later that Dan came to me to ask my
opinion on a request of Sweeney's. It looked a bit off color and I
said so.

"You can't do it, Dan," I said.

"It manes throuble," he said.

"Let it come. We're back of you with both feet."

Dan followed my advice and the trouble came. He was fired from his job
as foreman under Sweeney.

But you can't keep down as good a foreman as Dan was and he had
another job within a week.

A few months later I had another job myself. I was made foreman with
my own firm at a wage of two dollars and a half a day. When I went
back and announced this to Ruth, she cried a little. Truly our cup
seemed full and running over.



CHAPTER XIV

FIFTEEN DOLLARS A WEEK


My first thought when I received my advance in pay was that I could
now relieve Ruth of some of her burdens. There was no longer any need
of her spending so much time in trotting around the markets and the
department stores. Nor was there any need of her doing so much
plotting and planning in her endeavor to save a penny. Furthermore I
was determined that she should now enjoy some of the little luxuries
of life in the way of better things to wear and better things to eat.
But that idea was taken out of me in short order.

"No," she said, as soon as she recovered from the good news. "We
mustn't spend one cent more than we've been spending."

"But look here," I said; "what's the good of a raise if we don't use
it?"

"What's the good of a raise if we spend it?" she asked me. "We'll use
it, Billy, but we'll use it wisely. How many times have you told me
that if you had your life to live over again you wouldn't spend one
cent over the first salary you received, if it was only three dollars
a week, until you had a bank account?"

"I know that," I said. "But when a man has a wife and boy like you and
Dick--"

"He doesn't want to turn them into burdens that will hold him down all
his life," she broke in. "It isn't fair to the wife and boy," she
said.

I couldn't quite follow her reasoning but I didn't have to. When I
came home the next Saturday night with fifteen dollars in my pocket
instead of nine she calmly took out three for the rent, five for
household expenses and put seven in the ginger jar. I suggested that
at least we have one celebration and with the boy go to the little
French restaurant we used to visit, but she held up her hands in
horror.

"Do you think I'd spend two dollars and a half for--why, Billy, you
wouldn't!"

"I'd like to spend ten," I said. "I'd like to go there to dinner and
buy you a half dozen roses and get the three best seats in the best
theater in town," I said.

She came to my side and patted my arm.

"Thank you, Billy," she said. "But honest--it's just as much fun to
have you want to do those things as really do them."

I believe she meant it. I wouldn't believe it of anyone else but for a
week she talked about that dinner and those flowers and the theater
until she had me wondering if we hadn't actually gone. Dick thought we
were crazy.

And so, just as usual, after this she'd take her basket and start out
two or three mornings a week and walk with me as far as the market.
She'd spend an hour here and then if she needed anything more she'd go
down town to the big stores and wander around here for another hour.
But Saturday nights was her great bargain opportunity. If I couldn't
go with her she'd take Dick and the two would plan to get there at
about nine o'clock. From this time on she often picked up for a song
odd ends of meat and good vegetables which the market men didn't want
to carry over to Monday. In fact they _had_ to sell out these things
as their stock at the beginning of the week had to be fresh. I suppose
marketing at this time of day would be a good deal of a hardship for
those living in the suburbs but it was a regular lark for her. Most
everyone is good natured on Saturday night if on no other night. The
week's work is done and people have enough money from their pay
envelopes to feel rich for a few hours anyway. Then there were the
lights and the crowd and the shouting so that it was like twenty
country fairs rolled into one.

After the excitement of coming home Saturdays with so much money wore
off, I began to forget that I _was_ earning fifteen instead of nine.
If Ruth had spent it on the table I'm sure I'd have forgotten it even
more quickly. I was getting all I wanted to eat, was warm and had a
good clean bed to sleep in and what more can a man have even if he's
earning a hundred a week? I think people are very apt to forget that
after all a millionaire can spend only about so much on himself. And
after the newness of fresh toys has worn off--like steam yachts and
private cars--he is forced to be satisfied with just what I had, no
matter how much more money he makes. He has only his five senses and
once these are satisfied he's no better off than a man who satisfies
these same senses on eight dollars a week. Generally he's worse off
because in a year or so he has probably dulled them all. Rockefeller
himself probably never in his life got half the fun out of anything
that I did in just crawling into my clean bed at night with every
tired muscle purring contentedly and my mind at rest about the next
day. I doubt if he knows the joy of waking up in the morning rested
and hungry. The only advantage he had over me that I can see is the
power he had to help others. In a way I don't believe he found any
greater opportunity even for that than Ruth found right here.

For those interested in the details I'm going to give another
quotation from Ruth's note book. But to my mind these details aren't
the important part of our venture. The thing that counted was the
spirit back of them. It isn't the fact that we lived on from six to
eight dollars a week or the statistics of how we lived on that which
makes my life worth telling about if it _is_ worth telling about. In
the first place prices vary in different localities and shift from
year to year. In fact since we began they have almost doubled. In the
second place people have lived and are living to-day on less than we
did. I give our figures simply to satisfy the curious and to show how
Ruth planned. But no one could do as she did or do as we did merely by
aping her little economies, or accepting the result of them. Either
they would find the task impossible or look upon it as a privation and
endure it as martyrs. In this mood they wouldn't last a week. I know
that people who read this without at least a germ of the pioneer in
them will either smile or shrug their shoulders. I've met plenty of
this sort. I met them by the dozen down here. As I said, you can find
them in every bread line, in every Salvation Army barracks or the
Associated Charities will furnish you a list of as many as you want.
You'll find them in the suburbs or you'll find them marching in line
the next time there is a procession of the unemployed.

But give me true pioneers such as our own forefathers were, such as
the young men out West are to-day, such as every steamer lands here by
the hundreds from foreign countries every week and I say you can't
down that kind, you can't kill them. I don't say that it's right to
raise the price of necessities. I don't think it is, though I don't
know much about it. But I do say that if you double the cost of food
stuffs and then double it again, though you may cruelly starve out the
weaklings, you'll find the pioneers still on their feet, still
fighting.

It seems strange to me that men will go to Alaska and contentedly
freeze and dig all day in a mine--not of their own, but for wages--and
not feel so greatly abused or unhappy; that they will swing an axe all
day in a forest and live on baked beans and bread without feeling like
martyrs; that they will go to sea and grub on hard tack and salt pork
and fish without complaint and then will turn Anarchists on the same
fare in the East. It seems strange too that these men keep strong and
healthy, and that our ancestors kept strong and healthy on even a
still simpler diet. Why, my father fought battles--and the mental
strain must have been terrific--and did more actual labor every day in
carrying a rifle and marching than I do in a week, and slept out doors
under a blanket--all on a diet that the average tramp of to-day would
spurn. He did this for four years and if the sanitary conditions had
been decent would have returned well and strong as many a man did who
didn't run afoul typhoid fever and malaria. Men who do such things
have something in them that the men back East have lost. I call it the
romantic spirit or the pioneer spirit and I say that a man who has it
won't care whether he's living in Maine or California and that
whatever the conditions are he will overcome them. I know that we
three would have lived on almost rice alone as the Japanese do before
we'd have cried quit. That was because we were tackling this problem
not as Easterners but as Westerners; not as poor whites but as
emigrants. Men on a ranch stand for worse things than we had and have
less of a future to dream about.

So I repeat that to my mind the house details don't count here for any
more than they did in the lives of the original New England settlers,
or the forty-niners, or those on homesteads or in Alaska to-day.
However, I'll put them in and I'll take the month of May as an
example--the first month after I was made foreman. It's fairer to give
the items for a month. They are as follows:

    Oatmeal, .17
    Corn meal, .10
    About one tenth barrel flour, .65
    Potatoes, .35
    Rice, .08
    Sugar, .40
    White beans, .16
    Pork, .20
    Molasses, .10
    Onions, .23
    Lard, .50
    Apples, .36
    Soda, etc., .14
    Soap, .20
    Cornstarch, .10
    Cocoa shells, .05
    Eggs, .75
    Butter, 1.12
    Milk, 4.48
    Meats, 1.60
    Fish, .60
    Oil, .20
    Yeast cakes, .06
    Macaroni, .09
    Crackers, .06
    Total $12.75

This makes an average of three dollars and nineteen cents a week. With
a fluctuation of perhaps twenty-five cents either way Ruth maintained
this pretty much throughout the year now. It fell off a little in the
summer and increased a little in the winter. It's impossible to give
any closer estimate than this. Even this month many things were used
which were left over from the week preceding and, on the other hand,
some things on this list like molasses and sugar and cornstarch went
towards reducing the total of the month following.

This left say a dollar and seventy-five cents a week for such small
incidentals as are not accounted for here but chiefly for sewing
material, bargains in cloth remnants and such things as were needed
towards the repair of our clothes as well as for such new clothes as
we had to buy from time to time. I think we spent more on shoes than
we did clothes but Ruth by patronizing the sample shoe shops always
came home with a three or four dollar pair for which she never paid
over two dollars and sometimes as low as a dollar and a half. The boy
and I bought our shoes at the same reduction at bankrupt sales. We
gave our neighbors this tip and saw them save a good many dollars in
this way.

On the whole these people were not good buyers; they never looked
ahead but bought only when they were in urgent need and then bought at
the cheapest price regardless of quality. They would pay two and two
and a half for shoes that wouldn't last them any time at all. Whatever
Ruth bought she considered the quality first and the price afterwards.
Then, too, she often ran across something she didn't need at the time
but which was a good bargain; she would buy this and put it away. She
was able to buy many things which were out of season for half what the
same things would cost six months later. It was very difficult to make
our neighbors see the advantage of this practice and their blindness
cost them many a good dollar.

We also had the advantage of our neighbors in knowing how to take good
care of our clothes. The average man was careless and slovenly. In a
week a new suit would be spotted with grease, wrinkled, and all out of
shape. He never thought of pressing it, cleaning it or of putting it
away carefully when through wearing it. The women were no better about
their own clothes. This was also true of their shoes. They might
shine them once a month but generally they let them go until they
dried up and cracked. In this way their new clothes soon became
workday clothes, their new shoes, old shoes, and as such they lasted a
very few months.

Dick and I might have done a little better than our neighbors even
without Ruth to watch us, but we certainly would not have had the
training we did have. Shoes had to be cleaned and either oiled or
shined before going to bed. If it rained we wore our old pairs whether
it was Sunday or not or else we stayed at home. Every time Dick or I
put on our good clothes we were as carefully inspected as troops on
parade. If a grease spot was found, it was removed then and there. If
a button was missing or a bit of fringe showed or a hole the size of a
pin head was found we had to wait until the defect was remedied. Every
Sunday morning the boy pressed both his suit and mine and every night
we had to hang our coats over a chair and fold our trousers. If we
were careless about it, the little woman without a word simply got up
and did them over again herself.

These may seem like small matters but the result was that we all of us
kept looking shipshape and our clothes lasted. When we finally did
finish with them they weren't good for anything but old rags and even
then Ruth used them about her housework. I figured roughly that Ruth
kept us well dressed on about half what it cost most of our neighbors
and yet we appeared to be twice as well dressed as any of them. Of
course we had a good many things to start with when we came down here
but our clothing bill didn't go up much even during the last year when
our original stock was very nearly exhausted. She accomplished this
result about one-half by long-headed buying, and one-half by her
carefulness and her skill with the needle.

To go back to the matter of food, I'll copy off a week's bill of fare
during this month. Ruth has written it out for me. You'll notice that
it doesn't vary very much from the earlier ones.


  Sunday.

  Breakfast: fried hasty pudding with molasses; doughnuts, cocoa
  made from cocoa shells.

  Dinner: lamb stew with dumplings, boiled potatoes, boiled onions,
  cornstarch pudding.


  Monday.

  Breakfast: oatmeal, baked potatoes, creamed codfish, biscuits.

  Luncheon: for Billy: brown bread sandwiches, cold beans,
  doughnuts, milk; for Dick and me: boiled rice, cold biscuits,
  baked apples, milk.

  Dinner: warmed over lamb stew, baked apples, cocoa, cold biscuits.


  Tuesday.

  Breakfast: oatmeal, milk toast, cocoa.

  Luncheon: for Billy: cold biscuits, hard-boiled eggs, doughnuts;
  for Dick and me: warmed over beans, biscuits.

  Dinner: hamburg steak, baked potatoes, graham muffins, apple
  sauce, milk.


  Wednesday.

  Breakfast: oatmeal, griddle-cakes with molasses, cocoa shells.

  Luncheon: for Billy: sandwiches made of biscuits and left over
  steak, doughnuts; for Dick and me: crackers and milk, hot
  gingerbread.

  Dinner: vegetable hash, hot biscuits, gingerbread, apple sauce,
  milk.


  Thursday.

  Breakfast: oatmeal, fried hasty pudding, doughnuts, cocoa shells.

  Luncheon: for Billy: hard-boiled eggs, cold biscuits, gingerbread,
  baked apple; for Dick and me: baked potatoes, apple sauce, cold
  biscuits, milk.

  Dinner: lyonnaise potatoes, hot corn bread, Poor man's pudding,
  milk.


  Friday.

  Breakfast: smoked herring, baked potatoes, oatmeal, graham
  muffins.

  Luncheon: for Billy: herring, cold muffins, doughnuts; for Dick
  and me: German toast, apple sauce.

  Dinner: fish hash, biscuits, Indian pudding, milk.


  Saturday.

  Breakfast: oatmeal, German toast, cocoa shells.

  Luncheon: for Billy: cold biscuits, hard-boiled eggs, bowl of
  rice; for Dick and me: rice and milk, doughnuts, apple sauce.

  Dinner: baked beans, new raised bread.

To a man accustomed to a beefsteak breakfast, fried hasty pudding may
seem a poor substitute and griddle cakes may seem well enough to taper
off with but scarcely stuff for a full meal. All I say is, have those
things well made, have enough of them and then try it. If a man has a
sound digestion and a good body I'll guarantee that such food will not
only satisfy him but furnish him fuel for the hardest kind of physical
exercise. I know because I've tried it. And though to some my lunches
may sound slight, they averaged more in substance and variety than the
lunches of my foreign fellow-workmen. A hunk of bread and a bit of
cheese was often all they brought with them.

Dick thrived on it too. The elimination of pastry from his simple
luncheons brought back the color to his cheeks and left him hard as
nails.

I've read since then many articles on domestic economy and how on a
few dollars a week a man can make many fancy dishes which will fool
him into the belief that he is getting the same things which before
cost him a great many more dollars. Their object appears to be to
give such a variety that the man will not notice a change. Now this
seems to me all wrong. What's the use of clinging to the notion that a
man lives to eat? Why not get down to bed rock at once and face the
fact that a man doesn't need the bill of fare of a modern hotel or any
substitute for it? A few simple foods and plenty of them is enough.
When a man begins to crave a variety he hasn't placed his emphasis
right. He hasn't worked up to the right kind of hunger. Compare the
old-time country grocery store with the modern provision house and it
may help you to understand why our lean sinewy forefathers have given
place to the sallow, fat parodies of to-day. A comparison might also
help to explain something of the high cost of living. My grandfather
kept such a store and I've seen some of his old account books. About
all he had to sell in the way of food was flour, rice, potatoes, sugar
and molasses, butter, cheese and eggs. These articles weren't put up
in packages and they weren't advertised. They were sold in bulk and
all you paid for was the raw material. The catalogue of a modern
provision house makes a book. The whole object of the change it seems
to me is to fill the demand for variety. You have to pay for that. But
when you trim your ship to run before a gale you must throw overboard
just such freight. Once you do, you'll find it will have to blow
harder than it does even to-day to sink you. I am constantly surprised
at how few of the things we think we need we actually _do_ need.

The pioneer of to-day doesn't need any more than the pioneer of a
hundred years ago. To me this talk that a return to the customs of our
ancestors involves a lowering of the standard of living is all
nonsense; it means nothing but a simplifying of the standard of
living. If that's a return to barbarism then I'm glad to be a
barbarian and I'll say there never were three happier barbarians than
Ruth, the boy and myself.



CHAPTER XV

THE GANG


If I'd been making five dollars a day at this time, I wouldn't have
moved from the tenement. In the first place as far as physical comfort
went I was never better off. We had all the room we needed. During the
winter we had used the living room as a kitchen and dining room just
as our forefathers did. We economized fuel in this way and Ruth kept
the rooms spotless. We had no fires in our bedrooms and did not want
any. We all of us slept with our windows wide open. If we had had ten
more rooms we wouldn't have known what to do with them. When we had a
visitor we received him in the kitchen. Some of our neighbors took
boarders and also slept in the kitchen. I don't know as I should want
to do that but at the same time many a family lives in a one room hut
in the forest after this fashion. By outsiders it's looked upon as
rather romantic. It isn't considered a great hardship by the settlers
themselves.

Then we had the advantage of our roof and with summer coming on we
looked forward to the garden and the joy of the warm starry nights. We
had some wonderful winter pictures, too, from that same roof. It was
worth going up there to see the house tops after a heavy snow storm.

If I had wanted to move I could have done only one of two things;
either gone back into the suburbs or taken a more expensive flat up
town. I certainly had had enough of the former and as for the latter I
could see no comparison. If anything this flat business was worse than
the suburbs. I would be surrounded by an ordinary group of people who
had all the airs of the latter with none of their good points. I'd be
hedged in by conventions with which I was now even in less sympathy
than before. I wouldn't have exchanged my present freedom of movement
and independence of action for even the best suite in the most
expensive apartment house in the city. Not for a hundred dollars a
week. Advantages? What were they? Would a higher grade of wall paper,
a more expensive set of furniture and steam heat compensate me for
the loss of the solid comfort I found here by the side of my little
iron stove? Was an electric elevator a fair swap for my roof? Were the
gilt, the tinsel and the soft carpets worth the privilege I enjoyed
here of dressing as I pleased, eating what I pleased, doing what I
pleased? Was their apartment-house friendship, however polished, worth
the simple genuine fellowship I enjoyed among my present neighbors?
What could such a life offer me for my soul's or my body's good that I
didn't have here? I couldn't see how in a single respect I could
better my present condition except with the complete independence that
might come with a fortune and a country estate. Any middle ground,
assuming that I could afford it, meant nothing but the undertaking
again of all the old burdens I had just shaken off.

Ruth, the boy and myself now knew genuinely more people than we had
ever before known in our lives. And most of them were worth knowing
and the others worth some endeavor to _make_ worth knowing. We were
all pulling together down here--some harder than others, to be sure,
but all with a distinct ambition that was dependent for success upon
nothing but our own efforts.

I was in touch with more opportunities than I had ever dreamed
existed. All three of us were enjoying more advantages than we had
ever dreamed would be ours. My Italian was improving from day to day.
I could handle mortar easily and naturally and point a joint as well
as my instructor. I could build a true square pier of any size from
one brick to twenty. I could make a square or pigeonhole corner or lay
out a brick footing. And I was proud of my accomplishment.

But more interesting to me than anything else was the opportunity I
now had as a foreman to test the value of the knowledge of my former
fellow workmen which I had been slowly acquiring. I was anxious to see
if my ideas were pure theory or whether they were practical. They had
proven practical at any rate in securing my own advance. This had come
about through no such pull as Rafferty's. It was the result of nothing
but my intelligent and conscientious work in the ditch and among the
men. And this in turn was made possible by the application of the
knowledge I picked up and used as I had the chance. It was only
because I had shown my employers that I was more valuable as a foreman
than a common laborer that I was not still digging. I had been able to
do this because having learned from twenty different men how to handle
a crowbar for instance, I had from time to time been able to direct
the men with whom I was working as at the start I myself had been
directed by Anton'. Anton' was still digging because that was all he
knew. I had learned other things. I had learned how to handle Anton'.

I had no idea that my efforts were being watched. I don't know now how
I was picked out. Except of course that it must have been because of
the work I did.

At any rate I found myself at the head of twenty men--all Italians,
all strangers and among them three or four just off the steamer. My
first job was on a foundation for an apartment house. Of course my
part in it was the very humble one of seeing that the men kept at work
digging. The work had all been staked out and the architect's agent
was there to give all incidental instructions. He was a young graduate
of a technical school and I took the opportunity this offered--for he
was a good-natured boy--to use what little I had learned in my night
school and study his blue prints. At odd times he explained them to me
and aside from what I learned myself from them it helped me to direct
the men more intelligently.

But it was on the men themselves that I centred my efforts. As soon as
possible I learned them by name. At the noon hour I took my lunch with
them and talked with them in their own language. I made a note of
where they lived and found as I expected that many were from my ward.
Incidentally I dropped a word here and there about the "Young American
Political Club," and asked them to come around to some of the
meetings. I found out where they came from and wherever I could, I
associated them with some of their fellows with whom I had worked. I
found out about their families. In brief I made myself know every man
of them as intimately as was possible.

I don't suppose for a minute that I could have done this successfully
if I hadn't really been genuinely interested in them. If I had gone at
it like a professional hand shaker they would have detected the
hypocrisy in no time. Neither did I attempt a chummy attitude nor a
fatherly attitude. I made it clearly understood that I was an American
first of all and that I was their boss. It was perfectly easy to do
this and at the same time treat them like men and like units. I tried
to make them feel that instead of being merely a bunch of Dagoes they
were Italian workingmen. Your foreign laborer is quick to appreciate
such a distinction and quick to respond to it. With the American-born
you have to draw a sharper line and hold a steadier rein. I figured
out that when you find a member of the second or third generation
still digging, you've found a man with something wrong about him.

The next thing I did was to learn what each man could do best. Of
course I could make only broad classifications. Still there were men
better at lifting than others; men better with the crowbar; men better
at shoveling; men naturally industrious who would leaven a group of
three or four lazy ones. As well as I could I sorted them out in this
way.

In addition to taking this personal interest in them individually, I
based my relations with them collectively on a principle of strict,
homely justice. I found there was no quality of such universal appeal
as this one of justice. Whether dealing with Italians, Russians,
Portuguese, Poles, Irish or Irish-Americans you could always get below
their national peculiarities if you reached this common denominator.
However browbeaten, however slavish, they had been in their former
lives this spark seemed always alive. However cocky or anarchistic
they might feel in their new freedom you could pull them up with a
sharp turn by an appeal to their sense of justice. And by justice I
mean nothing but what ex-president Roosevelt has now made familiar by
the phrase "a square deal." Justice in the abstract might not appeal
to them but they knew when they were being treated fairly and when
they were not. Also they knew when they were treating you fairly and
when they were not. I never allowed a man to feel bullied or abused; I
never gave a sharp order without an explanation. I never discharged a
man without making him feel guilty in his heart no matter how much he
protested with his lips. And I never discharged him without making the
other men clearly see his guilt. When a man went, he left no
sympathizers behind him.

On the other hand I made them act justly towards their employer and
towards me. I taught them that justice must be on both sides. I tried
to make them understand that their part was not to see how little work
they could do for their money and that mine was not to see how much
they could do, but that it was up to both of us to turn out a full
fair day's work. They were not a chain gang but workmen selling their
labor. Just as they expected the store-keepers to sell them fair
measure and full weight, so I expected them to sell a full day and
honest effort.

It wasn't always possible to secure a result but when it wasn't I got
rid of that man on the first occasion. It was very much easier to
handle in this way the freedom-loving foreigners than I looked for;
with the American-born it was harder than I expected.

On the whole however I was mighty well pleased. I certainly got a lot
of work out of them without in any way pushing them. They didn't sweat
for me and I didn't want them to--but they kept steadily at their work
from morning until night. Then too, I didn't hesitate to do a little
work myself now and then. If at any point another man seemed to be
needed to help over a difficulty I jumped in. I not only often saved
the useless efforts of three or four men in this way but I convinced
them that I too had my employers' interests at heart. My object wasn't
simply to earn my day's pay, it was to finish the job we were on in
the shortest possible time. It makes a big difference whether a man
feels he is working by the day or by the job. I tried to make them
feel that we were all working by the job.

Without boasting I think I can say that we cut down the contractor's
estimate by at least a full day. I know they had to do some hustling
to get the pile-drivers to the spot on time.

On the next job I had to begin all over again with a new gang. It
seemed a pity that all my work on the other should be wasted but I
didn't say anything. For two months I took each time the men I had and
did my best with them. I had my reward in finding myself placed at the
head of a constantly increasing force. I also found that I was being
sent on all the hurry-up work. I learned something every day. Finally
when the time seemed ripe I went to the contractor's agent with the
proposition towards which I had all along been working. This was that
I should be allowed to hire my own men.

The agent was skeptical at first about the wisdom of entrusting such
power as this to a subordinate but I put my case to him squarely. I
said in brief that I was sure I could pick a gang of fifty men who
would do the work of seventy-five. I told him that for a year now I
had been making notes on the best workers and I thought I could secure
them. But I would have to do it myself. It would be only through my
personal influence with them that they could be got. He raised several
objections but I finally said:

"Let me try it anyhow. The men won't cost you any more than the others
and if I don't make good it's easy enough to go back to the old way."

It's queer how stubbornly business men cling to routine. They get
stuck in a system and hate to change. He finally gave me permission to
see the men. I was then to turn them over to the regular paymaster who
would engage them. This was all I wanted and with my note book I
started out.

It was no easy job for me and for a week I had to cut out my night
school and give all my time to it. Many of the men had moved and
others had gone into other work but I kept at it night after night
trotting from one end of the city to the other until I rounded up
about thirty of them. This seemed to me enough to form a core. I could
pick up others from time to time as I found them. The men remembered
me and when I told them something of my plan they all agreed with a
grin to report for work as soon as they were free. And this was how
Carleton's gang happened to be formed.

It took me about three months to put all my fifty men into good
working order and it wasn't for a year that I had my machine where I
wanted it. But it was a success from the start. At the end of a year I
learned that even the contractor himself began to speak with some
pride of Carleton's gang. And he used it. He used it hard. In fact he
made something of a special feature of it. It began to bring him
emergency business. Wherever speed was a big essential, he secured the
contract through my gang. He used us altogether for foundation work
and his business increased so rapidly that we were never idle. I
became proud of my men and my reputation.

But of course this success--this proof that my idea was a good
one--only whetted my appetite for the big goal still ahead of me. I
was eager for the day when this group of men should really be
Carleton's gang. It was hard in a way to see the result of my own
thought and work turning out big profits for another when all I needed
was a little capital to make it my own. Still I knew I must be
patient. There were many things yet that I must learn before I should
be competent to undertake contracts for myself. In the meanwhile I
could satisfy my ambition by constantly strengthening and perfecting
the machine.

Then, too, I found that the gang was bringing me into closer touch
with my superiors. One day I was called to the office of the firm and
there I met the two men who until now had been nothing to me but two
names. For a year I had stared at these names painted in black on
white boards and posted about the grounds of every job upon which I
had worked. I had never thought of them as human beings so much as
some hidden force--like the unseen dynamo of a power plant. They were
both Irish-Americans--strong, prosperous-looking men. Somehow they
made me distinctly conscious of my own ancestry. I don't mean that I
was over-proud--in a way I don't suppose there was anything to boast
of in the Carletons--but as I stood before these men in the position
of a minor employee I suppose that unconsciously I looked for
something in my past to offset my present humiliating situation. And
from a business point of view, it was humiliating. The Carletons had
been in this country two hundred years and these men but twenty-five
or thirty and yet I was the man who stood while they faced me in their
easy chairs before their roll-top desks. It was then that I was glad
to remember there hadn't been a war in this country in which a
Carleton had not played his part. I held myself a little better for
the thought.

They were unaffected and business-like but when they spoke it was
plain "Carleton" and when I spoke it was "Mr. Corkery," or "Mr.
Galvin." That was right and proper enough.

They had called me in to consult with me on a big job which they were
trying to figure down to the very lowest point. They were willing to
get out of it with the smallest possible margin of profit for the
advertisement it would give them and in view of future contracts with
the same firm which it might bring. The largest item in it was the
handling of the dirt. They showed me their blue prints and their rough
estimate and then Mr. Corkery said:

"How much can you take off that, Carleton?"

I told him I would need two or three hours to figure it out. He called
a clerk.

"Give Carleton a desk," he said.

Then he turned to me:

"Stay here until you've done it," he said.

It took me all the forenoon. I worked carefully because it seemed to
me that here was a big chance to prove myself. I worked at those
figures as though I had every dollar I ever hoped to have at stake. I
didn't trim it as close as I would have done for myself but as it was
I took off a fifth--the matter of five thousand dollars. When I came
back, Mr. Corkery looked over my figures.

"Sure you can do that?" he asked.

I could see he was surprised.

"Yes, sir," I said.

"I'd hate like hell to get stuck," he said.

"You won't get stuck," I answered.

"It isn't the loss I mind," he said, "but--well there is a firm or two
that is waiting to give me the laugh."

"They won't laugh," I said.

He looked at me a moment and then called in a clerk.

"Have those figures put in shape," he said, "and send in this bid."

Corkery secured the contract. I picked one hundred men. The morning we
began I held a sort of convention.

"Men," I said, "I've promised to do this in so many days. They say we
can't do it. If we don't, here's where they laugh at the gang."

We did it. I never heard from Corkery about it but when we were
through I thanked the gang and I found them more truly mine than they
had ever been before.

Every Saturday night I brought home my fifteen dollars, and Ruth took
out three for the rent, five for household expenses, and put seven in
the ginger jar. We had one hundred and thirty dollars in the bank
before the raise came, and after this it increased rapidly. There
wasn't a week we didn't put aside seven dollars, and sometimes eight.
The end of my first year as an emigrant found me with the following
items to my credit: Ruth, the boy and myself in better health than we
had ever been; Ruth's big mother-love finding outlet in the
neighborhood; the boy alert and ambitious; myself with the beginning
of a good technical education, to say nothing of the rudiments of a
new language, with a loyal gang of one hundred men and two hundred
dollars in cash.

This inventory does not take into account my new friends, my new
mental and spiritual outlook upon life, or my enhanced self-respect.
Such things cannot be calculated.

That first year was, of course, the important year--the big year. It
proved what could be done, and nothing remained now but time in which
to do it. It established the evident fact that if a raw, uneducated
foreigner can come to this country and succeed, a native-born with
experience plus intelligence ought to do the same thing more rapidly.
But it had taught me that what the native-born must do is to simplify
his standard of living, take advantage of the same opportunities, toil
with the same spirit, and free himself from the burdensome bonds of
caste. The advantage is all with the pioneer, the adventurer, the
emigrant. These are the real children of the republic--here in the
East, at any rate. Every landing dock is Plymouth Rock to them. They
are the real forefathers of the coming century, because they possess
all the rugged strength of settlers. They are making their own
colonial history.



CHAPTER XVI

DICK FINDS A WAY OUT, TOO


When school closed in June, Dick came to me and said:

"Dad, I don't want to loaf all summer."

"No need of it," I said. "Take another course in the summer school."

"I want to earn some money," he said, "I want to go to work."

If the boy had come to me a year ago with that suggestion I should
have felt hurt. I would have thought it a reflection upon my ability
to support my family. We salaried men used to expect our children to
be dependent on us until they completed their educations. For a boy to
work during his summer vacation was almost as bad form as for the wife
to work for money at any time. It had to be explained that the boy was
a prodigy with unusual business ability or that he was merely seeking
experience. But Dick did not fall into any of these classes. This was
what made his proposal the more remarkable to me. It meant that he
was willing to take just a plain every-day plugging job.

And underlying this willingness was the spirit that was resurrecting
us all. Instead of acting on the defensive, Dick was now eager to play
the aggressive game. I hadn't looked for this spirit to show in him so
soon, in his life outside of school. I was mighty well pleased.

"All right," I said, "what do you think you can do?"

"I've talked with some of the fellows," he said, "and the surest thing
seems to be selling papers."

I gave a gasp at that. I hadn't yet lost the feeling that a newsboy
was a sort of cross between an orphan and a beggar. He was to me
purely an object of pity. Of course I'd formed this notion like a good
many others from the story books and the daily paper. I connected a
newsboy with blind fathers and sick mothers if he had any parents at
all.

"I guess you can get something better than that to do," I said.

"What's the matter with selling papers?" he asked.

When I stopped to think of the work in that way--as just the buying
and selling of papers--I _couldn't_ see anything the matter with it.
Why wasn't it like buying and selling anything? You were selling a
product in which millions of money was invested, a product which
everyone wanted, a product where you gave your customers their money's
worth. The only objection I could think of at the moment was that
there was so little in it.

"It will keep you on the streets five or six hours a day," I said,
"and I don't suppose you can make more than a dollar a week."

"A dollar a week!" he said. "Do you know what one fellow in our class
makes right through the year?"

"How much?" I asked.

"He makes between six and eight dollars a week," said Dick.

"That doesn't sound possible," I said.

"He told me he made that. And another fellow he knows about did as
well as this even while he was in college. He pretty nearly paid his
own way."

"What do you make on a paper?" I asked.

"About half a cent on the one cent papers, and a cent on the two cent
papers."

"Then these boys have to sell over two hundred papers a day."

"They have about a hundred regular customers," said Dick, "and they
sell another hundred papers besides."

It seemed to me the boys must have exaggerated because eight dollars a
week was pretty nearly the pay of an able-bodied man. It didn't seem
possible that these youngsters whom I'd pitied all my life could earn
such an income. However if they didn't earn half as much, it wasn't a
bad proposition for a lad.

I talked the matter over with Ruth and I found she had the same
prejudices I had had. She, too, thought selling papers was a branch of
begging. I repeated what Dick told me and she shook her head
doubtfully.

"It doesn't seem as though I could let the boy do that," she said.

If there was one thing down here the little woman always worried about
deep in her heart, it was lest the boy and myself might get coarsened.
She thought, I think, without ever exactly saying so to herself that
in our ambition to forge ahead we might lose some of the finer
standards of life. She was bucking against that tendency all the
time. That's why she made me shave every morning, that's why she made
me keep my shoes blacked, that's why she made us both dress up on
Sunday whether we went to church or not. She for her part kept herself
looking even more trig than when she had the fear that Mrs. Grover
might drop in at any time. And every night at dinner she presided with
as much form as though she were entertaining a dinner party. I guess
she thought we might learn to eat with our knives if she didn't.

"Well," I said, "your word is final. But let's look at this first as a
straight business proposition."

So I went over the scheme just as I had to myself.

"These boys aren't beggars," I said. "They are little business men.
And as a matter of fact most of them are earning as much as their
fathers. The trouble is that they've been given a black eye by
well-meaning sympathizers who haven't taken the trouble to find out
just what the actual facts are. A group of big-hearted women who see
their own chickens safely rounded up at six every night, find the
newsboys on the street as they themselves are on their way to the
opera and conclude it's a great hardship and that the lads must be
homeless and suffering. Maybe they even find a case or two which
justifies this theory. But on the whole they are simply comparing the
outside of these boys' lives with the lives of their own sheltered
boys. They don't stop to consider that these lads are toughened and
that they'd probably be on the street anyway. And they don't figure
out how much they earn or what that amount stands for down here."

Ruth listened and then she said:

"But isn't it a pity that the boys _are_ toughened, Billy?"

"No," I said, "it would be a pity if they weren't. They wouldn't last
a year. We have to have some seasoned fighters in the world."

"But Dick--"

"Dick has found his feet now. The suggestion was his own. Personally I
believe in letting him try it."

"All right, Billy," she said.

But she said it in such a sad sort of way that I said:

"If you're going to worry about him, this ends it. But I'd like to see
the boy so well seasoned that you won't have to worry about him no
matter where he is, no matter what he's doing."

"You're right," she said, "I want to see him like you. I never worry
about you, Billy."

It pleased me to have her say that. I know a lot of men who wouldn't
believe their wives loved them unless they fretted about them all the
time. I think a good many fellows even make up things just to see the
women worry. I remember that Stevens always used to come home either
with a sick headache or a tale of how he thought he might lose his job
or something of the sort and poor Dolly Stevens would stay awake half
the night comforting him. She'd tell Ruth about it the next day. I may
have had a touch of that disease myself before I came down here but I
know that ever since then I've tried to lift the worrying load off the
wife's shoulders. I've done my best to make Ruth feel I'm strong
enough to take care of myself. I've wanted her to trust me so that
she'd know I act always just as though she was by my side. Of course
I've never been able to do away altogether with her fear of sickness
and sudden death, but so far as my own conduct is concerned I've
tried to make her feel secure in me.

When I stop to think about it, Ruth has really lived three lives. She
has lived her own and she has lived it hard. She not only has done her
daily tasks as well as she knew how but she has tried to make herself
a little better every day. That has been a waste of time because she
was just naturally as good as they make them but you couldn't ever
make her see that. I don't suppose there's been a day when at night
she hasn't thought she might have done something a little better and
lain awake to tell me so.

Then Ruth has lived my life and done over again every single thing
I've done except the actual physical labor. Why every evening when I
came back from work she wanted me to begin with seven-thirty A.M. and
tell her everything that happened after that. And when I came back
from school at night, she'd wake up out of a sound sleep if she had
gone to bed and ask me to tell her just what I'd learned. Though she
never held a trowel in her hand I'll bet she could go out to-day and
build a true brick wall. And though she has never seen half the men
I've met, she knows them as well as I do myself. Some of them she
knows better and has proved to me time and again that she does. I've
often told her about some man I'd just met and about whom I was
enthusiastic for the moment and she'd say:

"Tell me what he looks like, Billy."

I'd tell her and then she'd ask about his eyes and about his mouth and
what kind of a voice he had and whether he smiled when he said so and
so and whether he looked me in the eyes at that point and so on. Then
she'd say:

"Better be a little careful about him"; or "I guess you can trust him,
Billy."

Sometimes she made mistakes but that was because I hadn't reported
things to her just right. Generally I'd trust her judgment in the face
of my own.

Then Ruth led the boy's life. Every ambition he had was her ambition.
Besides that she had a dozen ambitions for him that he didn't know
anything about. And she thought and worked and schemed to make every
single one of them come true. Every trouble he had was her trouble
too. If he worried a half hour over something, she worried an hour.
Then again there were a whole lot of other troubles in connection
with him which bothered her and which he didn't know about.

Besides all these things she was busy about dressing us and feeding us
and making us comfortable. She was always cleaning our rooms and
washing our clothes and mending our socks. Then, too, she looked after
the finances and this in itself was enough for one woman to do. Then
as though this wasn't plenty she kept light-hearted for our sakes.
You'd find her singing about her work whenever you came in and always
ready with a smile and a joke. And if she herself had a headache you
had to be a doctor and a lawyer rolled in one to find it out.

So I say the least I could do was to make her trust me so thoroughly
that she'd have one less burden. And I wanted to bring up Dick in the
same way. Dick was a good boy and I'll say that he did his best.

Ruth says that if I don't tear up these last few pages, people will
think I'm silly. I'm willing so long as they believe me honest. Of
course, in a way, such details are no one's business but if I couldn't
give Ruth the credit which is her due in this undertaking, I wouldn't
take the trouble to write it all out.

Dick told his school friend what he wanted to do and asked his advice
on the best way to go at it. The latter went with him and helped him
get his license, took him down to the newspaper offices and showed him
where to buy his papers, and introduced him to the other boys. The
newsboys hadn't at that time formed a union but there was an agreement
among them about the territory each should cover. Some of the boys had
worked up a regular trade in certain places and of course it wasn't
right for a newcomer to infringe upon this. There was considerable
talking and some bargaining and finally Dick was given a stand in the
banking district. This was due to Dick's classmate also. The latter
realized that a boy of Dick's appearance would do better there than
anywhere.

So one morning Dick rose early and I staked him to a dollar and he
started off in high spirits. He didn't have any of the false pride
about the work that at first I myself had felt. He was on my mind
pretty much all that day and I came home curious and a little bit
anxious to learn the result. He had been back after the morning
editions. Ruth reported he had sold fifty papers and had returned
more eager than ever. She said he wouldn't probably be home until
after seven. He wanted to catch the crowds on their way to the
station.

I suggested to Ruth that we wait dinner for him and go on up town and
watch him. She hesitated at this, fearing the boy wouldn't like it and
perhaps not over anxious herself to see him on such a job. But as I
said, if the boy wasn't ashamed I didn't think we ought to be. So she
put on her things and we started.

We found him by the entrance to one of the big buildings with his
papers in a strap thrown over his shoulder. He had one paper in his
hand and was offering it, perhaps a bit shyly, to each passer-by with
a quiet, "Paper, sir?" We watched him a moment and Ruth kept a tight
grip on my arm.

"Well," I said, "what do you think of him?"

"Billy," she said with a little tremble in her voice, "I'm proud of
him."

"He'll do," I said.

Then I said:

"Wait here a moment."

I took a nickel from my pocket and hurried towards him as though I
were one of the crowd hustling for the train. I stopped in front of
him and he handed me a paper without looking up. He began to make
change and it wasn't until he handed me back my three coppers that he
saw who I was. Then he grinned.

"Hello, Dad," he said.

Then he asked quickly,

"Where's mother?"

But Ruth couldn't wait any longer and she came hurrying up and placed
her hand underneath the papers to see if they were too heavy for him.

Dick earned three dollars that first week and he never fell below this
during the summer. Sometimes he went as high as five and when it came
time for him to go to school again he had about seventy-five regular
customers. He had been kept out of doors between six and seven hours a
day. The contact with a new type of boy and even the contact with the
brisk business men who were his customers had sharpened up his wits
all round. In the ten weeks he saved over forty dollars. I wanted him
to put this in the bank but he insisted on buying his own winter
clothes with it and on the whole I thought he'd feel better if I let
him. Then he had another proposition. He wanted to keep his evening
customers through the year. I thought it was going to be pretty hard
for him to do this with his school work but we finally agreed to let
him try it for a while anyway. After all I didn't like to think he
couldn't do what other boys were doing.



CHAPTER XVII

THE SECOND YEAR


Now as far as proving to us the truth of my theory that an intelligent
able-bodied American ought to succeed where millions of ignorant,
half-starved emigrants do right along, this first year had already
done it. It had also proved, to our own satisfaction at least, that
such success does not mean a return to a lower standard of living but
only a return to a simpler standard of living. With soap at five cents
a cake it isn't poverty that breeds filth, but ignorance and laziness.
When an able-bodied man can earn at the very bottom of the ladder a
dollar and a half a day and a boy can earn from three to five dollars
a week and still go to school, it isn't a lack of money that makes the
bread line; it's a lack of horse sense. We found that we could
maintain a higher standard of living down here than we were able to
maintain in our old life; we could live more sanely, breathe in higher
ideals, and find time to accept more opportunities. The sheer, naked
conditions were better for a higher life here than they were in the
suburbs.

I'm speaking always of the able-bodied man. A sick man is a sick man
whether he's worth a million or hasn't a cent. He's to be pitied. With
the public hospitals what they are to-day, you can't say that the sick
millionaire has any great advantage over the sick pauper. Money makes
a bigger difference of course to the sick man's family but at that
you'll find for every widow O'Toole, a widow Bonnington and for every
widow Bonnington you'll find the heart-broken widow of some
millionaire who doesn't consider her dollars any great consolation in
such a crisis.

Then, too, a man in hard luck is a man in hard luck whether he has a
bank account or whether he hasn't. I pity them both. If a rich man's
money prevents the necessity of his airing his grief in public, it
doesn't help him much when he's alone in his castle. It seems to me
that each class has its own peculiar misfortunes and that money breeds
about as much trouble as it kills. To my mind once a man earns enough
to buy himself a little food, put any sort of a roof over his head,
and keep himself warm, he has everything for which money is absolutely
essential. This much he can always get at the bottom. And this much is
all the ammunition a man needs for as good a fight as it's in him to
put up. It gives him a chance for an extra million over his nine
dollars a week if he wants it. But the point I learned down here is
that the million _is_ extra--it isn't essential. Its possession
doesn't make a Paradise free from sickness and worry and hard luck,
and the lack of it doesn't make a Hell's Kitchen where there is
nothing but sickness and trouble and where happiness cannot enter.

As I say, I consider this first year the big year because it taught me
these things. In a sense the value of my diary ends here. Once I was
able to understand that I had everything and more that the early
pioneers had and that all I needed to do to-day was to live as they
did and fight as they did, I had all the inspiration a man needs in
order to live and in order to _feel_ that he's living. In looking back
on the suburban life at the end of this first twelve months, it seemed
to me that the thing which made it so ghastly was just this lack of
inspiration that comes with the blessed privilege of fighting. That
other was a waiting game and no help for it. I was a shadow living in
the land of shadows with nothing to hit out at, nothing to feel the
sting of my fist against. The fight was going on above me and below me
and we in the middle only heard the din of it. It was as though we had
climbed half way up a rope leading from a pit to the surface. We had
climbed as far as we could and unless they hauled from above we had to
stay there. If we let go--poor devils, we thought there was nothing
but brimstone below us. So we couldn't do much but hold on and
kick--at nothing.

But down here if a man had any kick in him, he had something to kick
against. When he struck out with his feet they met something; when he
shot a blow from the shoulder he felt an impact. If he didn't like one
trade he could learn another. It took no capital. If he didn't like
his house, he could move; he wasn't tearing up anything by the roots.
If he didn't like his foreman, he could work under another. It didn't
mean the sacrifice of any past. If he found a chance to black boots or
sell papers, he could use it. His neighbors wouldn't exile him. He
was as free as the winds and what he didn't like he could change. I
don't suppose there is any human being on earth so independent as an
able-bodied working-man.

The record of the next three years only traces a slow, steady
strengthening of my position. Not one of us had any set-back through
sickness because I considered our health as so much capital and
guarded it as carefully as a banker does his money. I was afraid at
first of the city water but I found it was as pure as spring water. It
was protected from its very source and was stored in a carefully
guarded reservoir. It was frequently analyzed and there wasn't a case
of typhoid in the ward which could be traced to the water. The milk
was the great danger down here. At the small shops it was often
carelessly stored and carelessly handled. From the beginning, I bought
our milk up town though I had to pay a cent a quart more for it. Ruth
picked out all the fish and meat and of course nothing tainted in this
line could be sold to her. We ate few canned goods and then nothing
but canned vegetables. Many of our neighbors used canned meats. I
don't know whether any sickness resulted from this or not but I know
that they often left the stuff for hours in an opened tin. Many of the
tenements swarmed with flies in the summer although it was a small
matter to keep them out of four rooms. So if the canned stuff _didn't_
get infected it was a wonder.

The sanitary arrangements in the flat were good, though here again
many families proceeded to make them bad about as fast as they could.
These people didn't seem to mind dirt in any form. It was a perfectly
simple and inexpensive matter to keep themselves and their
surroundings clean if they cared to take the trouble.

Then the roof contributed largely towards our good health. Ruth spent
a great deal of time up there during the day and the boy slept there
during the summer.

Our simple food and exercise also helped, while for me nothing could
have been better than my daily plunge in the salt water. I kept this
up as long as the bath house was open and in the winter took a cold
sponge and rub-down every night. So, too, did the boy.

For the rest, we all took sensible precautions against exposure. We
dressed warmly and kept our feet dry. Here again our neighbors were
insanely foolish. They never changed their clothes until bed time,
didn't keep them clean or fresh at any time, and they lived in a
temperature of eighty-five with the air foul from many breaths and
tobacco smoke. Even the children had to breathe this. Then both men
and women went out from this into the cold air either over-dressed or
under-dressed. The result of such foolishness very naturally was
tuberculosis, pneumonia, typhoid and about everything else that
contributes to a high death rate. Not only this but one person
suffering from any of these things infected a whole family.

Such conditions were not due to a lack of money but to a lack of
education. The new generation was making some changes however. Often a
girl or boy in the public schools would come home and transform the
three or four rooms though always under protest from the elders. Clean
surroundings and fresh air troubled the old folks.

Ruth, too, was responsible for many changes for the better in the
lives of these people. Her very presence in a room was an inspiration
for cleanliness. Her clothes were no better than theirs but she stood
out among them like a vestal virgin. She came into their quarters and
made the women ashamed that the rooms were not better fitted to
receive so pure a being. You would scarcely have recognized Michele's
rooms at the end of the first year. The windows were cleaned, the
floors scrubbed, and even the bed linen was washed occasionally. The
baby gained in weight and Michele when he wanted to smoke either sat
outside on the door step or by an open window. But Michele was an
exception.

Ruth's efforts were not confined to our own building either. Her
influence spread down the street and through the whole district. The
district nurse was a frequent visitor and kept her informed of all her
cases. Wherever Ruth could do anything she did it. Her first object
was always to awaken the women to the value of cleanliness and after
that she tried her best to teach them little ways of preparing their
food more economically. Few of them knew the value of oatmeal for
instance though of course their macaroni and spaghetti was a pretty
good substitute. In fact Ruth picked up many new dishes of this sort
for herself from among them.

Some families spent as much for beer as for milk. Ruth couldn't change
that practice but she did make them more careful where they bought
their milk--especially when there was a baby in the house. Then, too,
she shared all her secrets of where and how to buy cheaply. Sometimes
advantage was taken of these hints, but more often not. They didn't
pay much more for many articles than she did but they didn't get as
good quality. However as long as the food tasted good and satisfied
their hunger you couldn't make them take an extra effort and get stuff
because it was more nutritious or more healthful. They couldn't think
ahead except in the matter of saving dollars and cents.

These people of course were of the lower class. There was another
element of decidedly finer quality. Giuseppe for example was one of
these and there were hundreds of others. It was among these that
Ruth's influence counted for the most. They not only took advantage of
her superior intelligence in conducting their households but they
breathed in something of the soul of her. When I saw them send for her
in their grief and in their joy, when I heard them ask her advice
with almost the confidence with which they prayed, when I heard them
give her such names as "the angel mother," "the blessed American
saint," I felt very proud and very humble. Such things made me glad in
another way for the change which had taken her out of the old life
where such qualities were lost and brought her down here where they
counted for so much. These people stripped of convention live with
their hearts very near the surface. They don't try to conceal their
emotions and so you are brought very quickly into close touch with
them. Ruth herself was a good deal like that and so her influence for
a day among them counted for as much as a year with the old crowd.

In the meanwhile I resumed my night school at the end of the summer
vacation and was glad to get back to it. I had missed the work and
went at it this next winter with increased eagerness to perfect myself
in my trade.

During this second year, too, I never relaxed my efforts to keep my
gang up to standard and whenever possible to better it by the addition
of new men. Every month I thought I increased the respect of the men
for me by my fair dealing with them. I don't mean to say I fully
realized the expectations of which I had dreamed. I suppose that at
first I dreamed a bit wildly. There was very little sentiment in the
relation of the men to me, although there was some. Still I don't want
to give the impression that I made of them a gang of blind personal
followers such as some religious cranks get together. It was necessary
to make them see that it was for their interest to work for me and
with me and that I did do. I made them see also that in order to work
for me they had to work a little more faithfully than they worked for
others. So it was a straight business proposition. What sentiment
there was came through the personal interest I took in them outside of
their work. It was this which made them loyal instead of merely hard
working. It was this which made them my gang instead of Corkery's
gang--a thing that counted for a good deal later on.

The personal reputation I had won gave me new opportunities of which I
took every advantage this second year. It put me in touch with the
responsible heads of departments. Through them I was able to acquire a
much broader and more accurate knowledge of the business as a whole. I
asked as many questions here as I had below. I received more
intelligent answers and was able to understand them more
intelligently. I not only learned prices but where to get
authoritative prices. As far as possible I made myself acquainted with
the men working for the building constructors and for those working
for firms whose specialty was the tearing down of buildings. I used my
note-book as usual and entered the names of every man who, in his
line, seemed to me especially valuable.

And everywhere, I found that my experiment with the gang was well
known. I found also that my tendency for asking questions was even
better known. It passed as a joke in a good many cases. But better
than this I found that I had established a reputation for sobriety,
industry and level-headedness. I can't help smiling how little those
things counted for me with the United Woollen or when I sought work
after leaving that company. Here they counted for a lot. I realized
that when it came time for me to seek credit.

In the meanwhile I didn't neglect the fight for clean politics in my
ward.

I resigned from the presidency of the young men's club at the end of a
year and we elected a young lawyer who was taking a great interest in
the work down here to fill the vacancy. That was a fine selection. The
man was fresh from the law school and was full of ideals which dated
back to the _Mayflower_. He hadn't been long enough in the world to
have them dimmed and was full of energy. He took hold of the original
idea and developed it until the organization included every ward in
this section of the city. He held rallies every month and brought down
big speakers and kept the sentiment of the youngsters red hot. This
had its effect upon the older men and before we knew it we had a
machine that looked like a real power in the whole city. Sweeney saw
it and so did the bigger bosses of both parties. But the president
kept clear of alliances with any of them. He stood pat with what
promised to be a balance of power, ready to swing it to the cleanest
man of either party who came up for office.

I made several speeches myself though it was hard work for me. I don't
run to that sort of thing. I did it however just because I didn't like
it and because I felt it was the duty of a citizen to do something now
and then he doesn't like for his city and his country. The old excuse
with me had been that politics was a dirty business at best and that
it ought to be left to the lawyers and such who had something to gain
from it. The only men I ever knew who went into it at all were those
who had a talent for it and who liked it. Of course that's dead wrong.
A man who won't take the trouble to find out about the men up for
office and who won't bother himself to get out and hustle for the best
of them isn't a good citizen or a good American. He deserves to be
governed by the newcomers and deserves all they hand out to him. And
the time to do the work isn't when a man is up for president of the
United States, it's when the man is up for the common council. The
higher up a politician gets, the less the influence of the single
voter counts.

It was in the spring that some of my ideals received a set back. The
alderman from our ward died suddenly and Rafferty was naturally hot
after the vacancy. He came to see me about it, but before he broached
this subject he laid another before me that took away my breath. It
was nothing else than that I should go into partnership with him under
the firm name of "Carleton and Rafferty." I couldn't believe it
possible that he was in a position to take such a step within a couple
of years of digging in the ditch. But when he explained the scheme to
me, it was as simple as rolling off a log. A firm of liquor dealers
had agreed to back him--form a stock company and give him a third
interest to manage it. He had spoken to them of me and said he'd do it
if they would make it a half interest and give us each a quarter.

"But good Lord, Dan," I said, "we'd have to swing a lot of business to
make it go."

"Never you worry about thot, mon," he said. "I'll fix thot all right
if I'm elicted to the boord."

"You mean city contracts?" I said.

"Sure."

I began to see. The liquor house was looking for more licenses and
would get their pay out of Dan even if the firm didn't make a cent.
But Dan with such capital back of him as well as his aldermanic power
was sure to get the contracts. He would leave the actual work to me
and my men.

I sat down and for two hours tried to make Dan realize how this crowd
wanted to use him. I couldn't. In addition to being blinded by his
overwhelming ambition, he actually couldn't see anything crooked in
what they wanted. He couldn't understand why he should let such an
opportunity drop for someone else to pick up. He had slipped out of my
hands completely. This was where the difference between five or six
years in America as against two hundred showed itself. And yet what
was the old stock doing to offset such personal ambition and energy as
Rafferty stood for?

"No, Dan," I said, "I can't do it. And what's more I won't let you do
it if I can help it."

"Phot do yez mane?" he asked.

"That I'm going to fight you tooth and nail," I said.

He turned red. Then he grinned.

"Well," he said, "it'll be a foine fight anyhow."

I went to the president of the club and told him that here was where
we had to stop Rafferty. He listened and then he said,

"Well, here's where we do stop him."

We went at the job in whirlwind fashion. I spoke a half dozen times
but to save my life I couldn't say what I wanted to say. Every time I
stood up I seemed to see Dan's big round face and I remembered the
kindly things he used to do for the old ladies. And I knew that Dan's
offer to take me into partnership wasn't prompted altogether by
selfish motives. He could have found other men who would have served
his purpose better.

In the meanwhile Dan had organized "Social Clubs" in half a dozen
sections. For the first few weeks of the campaign I never heard of him
except as leading grand marches. But the last week he waded in.
There's no use going into details. He beat us. He rolled up a
tremendous majority. The president of the club couldn't understand it.
He was discouraged.

"I had every boy in the ward out working," he said.

"Yes," I said, "but Dan had every grandmother and every daughter and
every granddaughter out working."

Dan came around to the flat one night after the election. He was as
happy as a boy over his victory.

"Carleton," he said, again, "it's too domd bad ye ain't an Irishmon."

After he had gone, Ruth said to me:

"I don't think Mr. Rafferty will make a bad alderman at all."



CHAPTER XVIII

MATURING PLANS


I received several offers from other firms and as a result of these my
wages were advanced first to three dollars a day and then to three and
a half. Still Ruth refused to take things easier by increasing the
household expenses. During the third year we lived exactly as we had
lived during the first year. In a way it was easier to do this now
that we knew there was no actual necessity for it. Of course it was
easier, too, now that we had fallen into a familiar routine. The
things which had seemed to us like necessities when we came down here
now seemed like luxuries. And we none of us had either the craving for
luxuries or the time to enjoy them had we wished to spend the money on
them. In the matter of clothes we cared for nothing except to be
warmly and cleanly dressed. Strip the problem of clothes down to this
and it's not a very serious one. To realize that you've only to
remember how the average farmer dresses or how the homesteader
dresses. It's only when you introduce style and the conventions that
the matter becomes complicated. Perhaps it was easier for me to dress
as I pleased than for the boy or Ruth but even they got right down to
bed rock. The boy wore grey flannel shirts and so at a stroke did away
with collars and cuffs. For the rest a simple blue suit, a cap,
stockings and shoes were all he needed outside his under clothes which
Ruth made for him. Ruth herself dressed in plain gowns that she could
do up herself. For the street, she still had the costumes she came
down here with. None of us kept any extra clothes for parade.

We carried out the same idea in our food, as I've tried to show; we
insisted that it must be wholesome and that there must be enough of
it. Those were the only two things that counted. Variety except of the
humblest kind, we didn't strive for. I've seen cook books which
contain five hundred pages; if Ruth compiled one it wouldn't have
twenty. Here again the farmer and the pioneer were our models. If
anyone in the country had lived the way we were living, it wouldn't
have seemed worth telling about. I find the fact which amazes people
in our experiment was that we should have tried the same standard in
the city. Everyone seems to think this was a most dangerous thing to
attempt. The men who on a camping trip consider themselves well fed on
such food as we had to eat expect to starve to death if placed on the
same diet once within sound of the trolley cars. And on the camping
trip they do ten times the physical labor and do it month after month
in air that whets the appetite. Then they come back and boast how
strong they've grown, and begin to eat like hogs again and wonder why
they get sick.

We camped out in the city--that's all we did. And we did just what
every man in camp does; we stripped down to essentials. We could have
lived on pork scraps and potatoes if that had been necessary. We could
have worried along on hard tack and jerked beef if we'd been pressed
hard enough. Men chase moose, and climb mountains and prospect for
gold on such food. Why in Heaven's name can't they shovel dirt on the
same diet?

So, too, about amusements. When a man is trying to clear thirty acres
of pine stumps, he doesn't fret at the end of the day because he
can't go to the theatre. He doesn't want to go. Bed and his dreams are
amusement enough for him. And he isn't called a low-browed savage
because he's satisfied with this. He's called a hero. The world at
large doesn't say that he has lowered the standard of living; it
boasts about him for a true American. Why can't a man lay bricks
without the theatre?

As a matter of fact however we could have had even the amusements if
we'd wanted them. For those who needed such things in order to
preserve a high standard of living they were here. And I don't say
they didn't serve a useful purpose. What I do say is that they aren't
absolutely necessary; that a high standard of living isn't altogether
dependent on sirloin steaks, starched collars and music halls as I've
heard a good many people claim.

This third year finished my course in masonry. I came out in June with
a trade at which I could earn from three dollars to five dollars a day
according to my skill. It was a trade, too, where there was pretty
generally steady employment. A good mason is more in demand than a
good lawyer. Not only that but a good mason can find work in any city
in this country. Wherever he lands, he's sure of a comfortable living.
I was told that out west some men were making as high as ten dollars a
day.

I had also qualified in a more modest way as a mechanical draftsman. I
could draw my own plans for work and what was more useful still, do my
work from the plans of others.

By now I had also become a fairly proficient Italian scholar. I could
speak the language fluently and read it fairly well. It wasn't the
fault of Giuseppe if my pronunciation was sometimes queer and if very
often I used the jargon of the provinces. My object was served as long
as I could make myself understood to the men. And I could do that
perfectly.

This year I watched Rafferty's progress with something like envy. The
firm was "D. Rafferty and Co." Within two months I began to see the
name on his dump carts whenever I went to work. Within six months he
secured a big contract for repaving a long stretch of street in our
ward. I knew our firm had put in a bid on it and knew they must have
been in a position to put in a mighty low bid. I didn't wonder so much
about how Dan got this away from us as I did how he got it away from
Sweeney. That was explained to me later when I found that Sweeney was
in reality back of the liquor dealers. Sweeney owned about half their
stores and had taken this method to bring Dan back to the fold, once
he found he couldn't check his progress.

During this year Dan bought a new house and married. We went to the
wedding and it was a grand affair with half the ward there. Mrs.
Rafferty was a nice looking girl, daughter of a well-to-do Irishman in
the real estate business. She had received a good education in a
convent and was altogether a girl Dan could be proud of. The house was
an old-fashioned structure built by one of the old families who had
been forced to move by the foreign invasion. Mrs. Rafferty had
furnished it somewhat lavishly but comfortably.

As Ruth and I came back that night I said:

"I suppose if it had been 'Carleton and Rafferty' I might have had a
house myself by now."

"I guess it's better as it is, Billy," she said, with a smile.

Of course it was better but I began to feel discontented with my
present position. I felt uncomfortable at still being merely a
foreman. When we reached the house Ruth and I took the bank book and
figured out just what our capital in money was. Including the boy's
savings which we could use in an emergency it amounted to fourteen
hundred dollars. During the first year we saved one hundred and twenty
dollars, which added to the eighty we came down here with, made two
hundred dollars. During the second year we saved three hundred and
ninety dollars. During the third year we saved six hundred dollars.
This made a total of eleven hundred and ninety dollars in the bank.
The boy had saved more than two hundred dollars over his clothes in
the last two years.

It was Rafferty who helped me turn this over in a real estate deal in
which he was interested. I made six hundred dollars by that.
Everything Rafferty touched now seemed to turn to money. One reason
was that he was thrown in contact with money-makers all of whom were
anxious to help him. He received any number of tips from those eager
to win his favor. Among the tips were many that were legitimate enough
like the one he shared with me but there were also many that were not
quite so above-board. But to Dan all was fair in business and
politics. Yet I don't know a man I'd sooner trust upon his honor in a
purely personal matter. He wouldn't graft from his friends however
much he might from the city. In fact his whole code as far as I could
see was based upon this unswerving loyalty to his friends and
scrupulous honesty in dealing with them. It was only when honesty
became abstract that he couldn't see it. You could put a thousand
dollars in gold in his keeping without security and come back twenty
years later and find it safe. But he'd scheme a week to frame up a
deal to cheat the city out of a hundred dollars. And he'd do it with
his head in the air and a grin on his face. I've seen the same thing
done by educated men who knew better. I wouldn't trust the latter with
a ten cent piece without first consulting a lawyer.

The money I had saved didn't represent all my capital. I had as my
chief asset the gang of men I had drilled. Everything else being equal
they stood ready to work for me in preference to any other man in the
city. In fact their value as a machine depended on me. If I had been
discharged and another man put in my place the gang would have
resolved itself again into merely one hundred day laborers. Nor was
this my only other asset. I had established myself as a reliable man
in the eyes of a large group of business men. This meant credit. Nor
must I leave out Dan and his influence. He stood ready to back me not
only financially but personally. And he knew me well enough to know
this would not involve anything but a business obligation on my part.

With these things in mind then I felt ready to take a radical
departure from the routine of my life when the opportunity came. But I
made up my mind I would wait for the opportunity. I must have a chance
which would not involve too much capital and in which my chief asset
would be the gang. Furthermore it must be a chance that I could use
without resorting to pull. Not only that but it must be something on
which I could prove myself to such good advantage that other business
would be sure to follow. I couldn't cut loose with my men and leave
them stranded at the end of a single job.

I watched every public proposal and analyzed them all. I found that
they very quickly resolved themselves into Dan's crowd. I kept my
ears wide open for private contracts but by the time I heard of any I
was too late. So I waited for perhaps three months. Then I saw in the
daily paper what seemed to me my opportunity. It was an open bid for
some park construction which was under the guardianship of a
commission. It was a grading job and so would require nothing but the
simplest equipment. I looked over the ground and figured out the
gang's part in it first. Then I went to Rafferty and told him what I
wanted in the way of teams. I wanted only the carts and horses--I
would put my own men to work with them. I asked him to take my note
for the cost.

"I'll take your word, Carleton," he said. "Thot's enough."

But I insisted on the note. He finally agreed and offered to secure
for me anything I wanted for the work.

I went back to Ruth and we sat down and figured the matter all over
once again. We stripped it down to a figure so low that my chief
profit would come on the time I could save with my machine. I allowed
for the scantiest profit on dirt and rock though I had secured a good
option on what I needed of this. I was lucky in finding a short haul
though I had had my eye on this for some time. Of one thing I was
extremely careful--to make my estimate large enough so that I couldn't
possibly lose anything but my profit. Even if I wasn't able to carry
out my hope of being able to speed up the gang I should be able to pay
my bills and come out of the venture even.

Ruth and I worked for a week on it and when I saw the grand total it
took away my breath. I wasn't used to dealing in big figures. They
frightened me. I've learned since then that it's a good deal easier in
some ways to deal in thousands than it is in ones. You have wider
margins, for one thing. But I must confess that now I was scared. I
was ready to back out. When I turned to Ruth for the final decision,
she looked into my eyes a second just as she did when I asked her to
marry me and said,

"Go after it, Billy. You can do it."

That night I sent in my estimate endorsed by Dan and a friend of his
and for a month I waited. I didn't sleep as well as usual but Ruth
didn't seem to be bothered. Then one night when I came home I found
Ruth at the outside door waiting for me. I knew the thing had been
decided. She came up to me and put her hand on my shoulder and patted
me.

"It's yours, Billy," she said.

My heart stopped beating for a moment and then it went on again
beating a dozen ticks to the second.

The next day I closed up my options. I went to Corkery, gave my notice
and told him what I was going to do. He was madder than a hornet. I
listened to what he had to say and went off without a word in reply.
He was so unreasonable that it didn't seem worth it. That noon I
rounded up the men and told them frankly that I was going to start in
business for myself and needed a hundred men. I told them also that
this first job might last only four or five weeks and that while I had
nothing definite in mind after that I was in hopes to secure in the
meanwhile other contracts. I said this would be largely up to them. I
told them that I didn't want a man to come who wasn't willing to take
the chance. Of course it was something of a chance because Corkery had
been giving them steady employment. Still it wasn't a very big chance
because there was always work for such men.

I watched anxiously to see how they would take it. I felt that the
truth of my theories were having their hardest test. When they let out
a cheer and started towards me in a mass I saw blurry.

I'll never forget the feeling I had when I started out in the morning
that first day as an independent contractor; I'll never forget my
feeling as I reached the work an hour ahead of my men and waited for
them to come straggling up. I seemed closer than ever to my ancestors.
I felt as my great-great-grandfather must have felt when he cut loose
from the Massachusetts colony and went off down into the unknown
Connecticut. I was full enough of confidence but I knew that a month
might drive me back again. Deeper than this trivial fear however there
was something bigger--something finer. I was a free man in a larger
way than I had ever been before. It made me feel an American to the
very core of my marrow.

The work was all staked out but before the men began I called them all
together. I didn't make a speech; I just said:

"Men--I've estimated that this can be done by an ordinary bunch of men
in forty days; I've banked that you can do it in thirty. If you
succeed, it gives me profit enough to take another contract. Do the
best you can."

There wasn't a mother's son among them who didn't appreciate my
position. There were a good many who knew Ruth and knew her through
what she had done for their families, and these understood it even
better. The dirt began to fly and it was a pretty sight to watch. I
never spoke again to the men. I simply directed their efforts. I spent
about half the time with a shovel in my hands myself. There was
scarcely a day when Ruth didn't come out to watch the work with an
anxious eye but after the first week there was little need for
anxiety. I think she would have liked to take a shovel herself. One
Saturday Dick came out and actually insisted upon being allowed to do
this. The men knew him and liked to see such spirit.

Well, we clipped ten days from my estimate, which left me with all my
bills paid and with a handsome profit. Better still I had secured on
the strength of Carleton's gang another contract.

The night I deposited my profit in the bank, Ruth quite unconsciously
took her pad and pencil and sat down by my side as usual to figure up
the household expenses for the week. We had been a bit extravagant
that week because she had been away from the house a good deal. The
total came to four dollars and sixty-seven cents. When Ruth had
finished I took the pad and pencil away from her and put it in my
pocket.

"There's no use bothering your head any more over these details," I
said.

She looked at me almost sadly.

"No, Billy," she said, with a sigh, "there isn't, is there?"



CHAPTER XIX

ONCE AGAIN A NEW ENGLANDER


During all those years we had never seen or heard of any of our old
neighbors. They had hardly ever entered our thoughts except as very
occasionally the boy ran across one of his former playmates. Shortly
after this, however, business took me out into the old neighborhood
and I was curious enough to make a few inquiries. There was no change.
My trim little house stood just as it then stood and around it were
the other trim little houses. There were a few new houses and a few
new-comers, but all the old-timers were still there. I met Grover, who
was just recovering from a long sickness. He didn't recognize me at
first. I was tanned and had filled out a good deal.

"Why, yes," he said, after I had told my name. "Let me see, you went
off to Australia or somewhere, didn't you, Carleton?"

"I emigrated," I answered.

He looked up eagerly.

"I remember now. It seems to have agreed with you."

"You're still with the leather firm?" I inquired.

He almost started at this unexpected question.

"Yes," he answered.

His eyes turned back to his trim little house, then to me as though he
feared I was bringing him bad news.

"But I've been laid up for six weeks," he faltered.

I knew what was troubling him. He was wondering whether he would find
his job when he got back. Poor devil! If he didn't what would become
of his trim little house? Grover was older by five years than I had
been when the axe fell.

I talked with him a few minutes. There had been a death or two in the
neighborhood and the children had grown up. That was the only change.
The sight of Grover made me uncomfortable, so I hurried about my
business, eager to get home again.

God pity the poor? Bah! The poor are all right if by poor you mean the
tenement dwellers. When you pray again pray God to pity the
middle-class American on a salary. Pray that he may not lose his job;
pray that if he does it shall be when he is very young; pray that he
may find the route to America. The tenement dwellers are safe enough.
Pray--and pray hard--for the dwellers in the trim little houses of the
suburbs.

I've had my ups and downs, my profits and losses since I entered
business for myself but I've come out at the end of each year well
ahead of the game. I never made again as much in so short a time as I
made on that first job. One reason is that as soon as I was solidly on
my feet I started a profit sharing scheme, dividing with the men what
was made on every job over a certain per cent. Many of the original
gang have left and gone into business for themselves of one sort and
another but each one when he went, picked a good man to take his place
and handed down to him the spirit of the gang.

Dick went through college and is now in my office. He's a hustler and
is going to make a good business man. But thank God he has a heart in
him as well as brains. He hopes to make "Carleton and Son" a big firm
some day and he will. If he does, every man who faithfully and
honestly handles his shovel will be part of the big firm. His idea
isn't to make things easy for the men; it's to preserve the spirit
they come over with and give them a share of the success due to that
spirit.

We didn't move away from our dear, true friends until the other boy
came. Then I bought two or three deserted farms outside the
city--fifty acres in all. I bought them on time and at a bargain. I'm
trying another experiment here. I want to see if the pioneer spirit
won't bring even these worn out acres to life. I find that some of my
foreign neighbors have made their old farms pay even though the good
Americans who left them nearly starved to death. I have some cows and
chickens and pigs and am using every square foot of the soil for one
purpose or another. We pretty nearly get our living from the farm now.

We entertain a good deal but we don't entertain our new neighbors.
There isn't a week summer or winter that I don't have one or more
families of Carleton's gang out here for a half holiday. It's the only
way I can reconcile myself to having moved away from among them. Ruth
keeps very closely in touch with them all and has any number of
schemes to help them. Her pet one just now is for us to raise enough
cows so that we can sell fresh milk at cost to those families which
have kiddies.

Dan comes out to see us every now and then. He's making ten dollars to
my one. He says he's going to be mayor of the city some day. I told
him I'd do my best to prevent it. That didn't seem to worry him.

"If ye was an Irishmon, now," he said, "I'd be after sittin' up nights
in fear of ye. But ye ain't."

I'm almost done. This has been a hard job for me. And yet it's been a
pleasant job. It's always pleasant to talk about Ruth. I found that
even by taking away her pad and pencil I didn't accomplish much in the
way of making her less busy. Even with three children to look after
instead of one she does just as much planning about the housework. And
we don't have sirloin steaks even now. We don't want them. Our daily
fare doesn't vary much from what it was in the tenement.

Ruth just came in with Billy, Jr., in her arms and read over these
last few paragraphs. She says she's glad I'm getting through with this
because she doesn't know what I might tell about next. But there's
nothing more to tell about except that to-day as at the beginning
Ruth is the biggest thing in my life. I can't wish any better luck for
those trying to fight their way out than they may find for a partner
half as good a wife as Ruth. I wouldn't be afraid to start all over
again to-day with her by my side.


THE END

       *       *       *       *       *

    +-----------------------------------------------------------+
    | Typographical errors corrected in text:                   |
    |                                                           |
    | Page 129: semed replaced with seemed                      |
    | Page 219: exitement replaced with excitement              |
    | Page 231: beafsteak replaced with beefsteak               |
    | Page 252: dependdent replaced with dependent              |
    |                                                           |
    | The following words are legitimate alternate spelling,    |
    | and left as found:                                        |
    |                                                           |
    | Shakespere                                                |
    | goodby                                                    |
    |                                                           |
    +-----------------------------------------------------------+

       *       *       *       *       *





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