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Title: From Dublin to Chicago - Some Notes on a Tour in America
Author: Birmingham, George A.
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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                 *        *        *        *        *

                         FROM DUBLIN TO CHICAGO

                 *        *        *        *        *

                              FROM DUBLIN
                               TO CHICAGO

                    SOME NOTES ON A TOUR IN AMERICA


                                   BY
                          GEORGE A. BIRMINGHAM

   AUTHOR OF "SPANISH GOLD," "GENERAL JOHN REGAN," "THE LOST TRIBES,"
                     "THE RED HAND OF ULSTER," ETC.


                                NEW YORK
                        GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY

                            COPYRIGHT, 1914
                                   BY
                        GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
                 *        *        *        *        *
                            Printed in 1914



                                CONTENTS


                                CHAPTER I
                                               PAGE
                      THE SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE     9

                               CHAPTER II
                      PRESSMEN AND POLITICIANS   40

                               CHAPTER III
                      THE "HUSTLING" LEGEND      66

                               CHAPTER IV
                      HOLIDAY FEVER              93

                                CHAPTER V
                      THE IRON TRAIL            113

                               CHAPTER VI
                      ADVANCE, CHICAGO!         132

                               CHAPTER VII
                      MEMPHIS AND THE NEGRO     149

                              CHAPTER VIII
                      THE LAND OF THE FREE      177

                               CHAPTER IX
                      WOMAN IN THE STATES       210

                                CHAPTER X
                      MEN AND HUSBANDS          229

                               CHAPTER XI
                      THE OPEN DOOR             247

                               CHAPTER XII
                      COLLEGES AND STUDENTS     270

                              CHAPTER XIII
                      THE IRISHMAN ABROAD       299

                             FROM DUBLIN TO
                                CHICAGO



                               CHAPTER I
                        THE SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE


"From Dublin to Chicago." You can take the phrase as the epitome of a
tragedy, the long, slow, century and a half old tragedy of the flight of
the Irish people from their own country, the flight of the younger men
and women of our race from the land of their birth to the "Oilean Úr,"
the new island of promise and hope across the Atlantic. Much might be
written very feelingly about that exodus. The first part of it began in
reality long ago, in the middle of the 18th century, when the farmers of
north-east Ulster were making their struggle for conditions of life
which were economically possible. When the land war of those days was
being waged and the fighters on the one side were called "Hearts of
Steel," that war which resulted in the establishment of the once famous
Ulster Custom, hopeless men fled with their families from Belfast, from
Derry, and from many smaller northern ports. They settled in America and
avenged their wrongs in the course of the War of Independence. For the
rest of Ireland the great exodus began later. Not until the middle of
the 19th century when the famine of 1846 and the following years showed
unmistakably that the social order of Connaught and Munster was
impossible. It continued, that exodus, all through the years of the
later land war. It is still going on, though the stream is feebler
to-day. I could write a good deal about this exodus, could tell of
forsaken cottages, of sorrowful departures, of broken hearts left
behind. But it was not in the spirit of tragedy that we made our
expedition to America, from Dublin to Chicago.

The phrase has another connotation. It carries with it a sense of
adventuring. It was often, almost always, the bravest and most
adventurous of our people who went. It was those who feared their fate
too much who stayed at home. There is something fascinating in all the
records of adventuring. We think of Vasco da Gama pushing his way along
an unknown coast till he rounded the Cape of Good Hope. We think of
Columbus sailing after the setting sun, and our hearts are lifted up.
Less daring, but surely hardly less romantic, were the goings forth of
our Irish boys and girls. They went to seek sustenance, fortune, life at
its fullest and freest in an unknown land in unguessed ways. I like to
think of the hope and courage of those who went. They had songs—in the
earlier days of the adventuring—one seldom hears them now—which
express the spirit of their going. I remember taking a long drive,
twenty years ago, through a summer night with a young farmer who for the
most part was tongue-tied and silent enough. But the twilight of that
June evening moved him beyond his self-restraint and he sang to me with
immense emotion:

"To the West! to the West! To the Land of the Free!" I was vaguely
uncomfortable then, not understanding what was in his heart. I know a
little better now. He was a man with a home, settled and safe, with a
moderate comfort secured to him, but the spirit of adventuring was in
his blood, and America represented to him in some vague way the Hy
Brasil, the Isles of the Blest, which had long ago captivated the
imagination of his ancestors.

Well, we went adventuring, too; but compared to theirs our adventure was
very tame, very unworthy. Our ship was swift and safe, or nearly safe.
It seemed hardly worth while to make our wills before we started. There
were waiting for us on the other side friends who would guide our steps
and guard us from—there were no dangers—all avoidable discomfort. We
even had a friend, such is our astounding good fortune, who offered to
go with us and actually did meet us in New York. He had spent much time
in America and was well accustomed to the ways of that country. We were
dining in his company, I remember, in the familiar comfort of a London
club, when the news that we were really to go to America first came to
us.

"I'd better go, too," he said, "you'll want some one to take care of
you. I don't think that either one or other of you is to be trusted to
the American newspaper reporters without an experienced friend at your
elbows."

Next time we dined in our friend's company it was in the restaurant of
the Ritz Carlton in New York, and very glad we were to see him, though
the newspaper reporter in America is by no means the dangerous wild
beast he is supposed to be.

There was thus little enough of real adventuring about our journey to
America. Yet to us it was a strange and wonderful thing. We felt as
Charles Kingsley did when he wrote "At Last," for a visit to America had
long been a dream with us. There are other places in the world to which
we wanted and still want to go. Egypt is one of them, for we desire to
see the deserts where St. Antony fasted and prayed. The South Pacific
Archipelago is another, for we are lovers of Stevenson; but for me, at
least, the United States came first. I wanted to see them more than I
wanted to see the Nitrian Desert or Samoa. It was not Niagara that laid
hold on my imagination, or the Mississippi, though I did want to see it
because of "Huckleberry Finn." What I desired most was to meet American
people in their own native land, to see for myself what they had made of
their continent, to understand, if I could, how they felt and thought,
to hear what they talked about, to experience their way of living. I
wanted to see Irish friends whom I had known as boys and girls. I had
been intimate with many of them before they went out. I had seen them,
changed almost beyond recognition, when they returned, on rare short
visits to their homes. I wanted to know what they were doing out there,
to see with my own eyes what it was which made new men and women of
them. I wanted to know why some of them succeeded and grew rich, why
others, not inferior according to our Irish judgment, came back beaten
and disillusioned to settle down again into the old ways. Neither Egypt
nor Samoa, not India, not Jerusalem itself, promised so much to me as
America did.

There is besides a certain practical advantage, in our particular case,
which America has over any other country to which we could travel. The
Americans speak English. This is a small matter, no doubt, to good
linguists, but we are both of us singularly stupid about foreign
tongues. My French, for instance, is despicable. It is good enough for
use in Italy. It serves all practical purposes in Spain and Portugal,
but it is a very poor means of conveying my thoughts in France. For some
reason the French people have great difficulty in understanding it, and
their version of the language is almost incomprehensible to me, though I
can carry on long conversations with people of any other nation when
they speak French. It is the same with my Italian, my German and my
Portuguese. They are none of them much good to me in the countries to
which they are supposed to belong. This is a severe handicap when
traveling. We both hate the feeling that we are mere tourists. We do not
like to be confined to hotels with polyglot head waiters in them, or to
be afraid to stir out of the channels buoyed out with Cook's
interpreters. We see sights, indeed, visit picture galleries,
cathedrals, gape at mountains and waterfalls; but we never penetrate
into the inside of the life of these foreign countries. We are never
able to philosophize pleasantly about the way in which people live in
them. The best we can do is to wander after nightfall along the side
streets of cities, or to rub shoulders with the shopping crowd during
the afternoon in Naples or Lisbon. America is foreign enough. It is as
foreign as any European country, as foreign as any country in the world
in which people wear ordinary clothes. I dare say Algiers is more
foreign. I am sure that Borneo must be. But New York is just as strange
a place as Paris or Rome and therefore just as interesting, with this
advantage for us that we could understand, after a few days, every word
that was spoken round us.

Indeed this similarity of language was something of a disappointment to
us. We did not actually expect to hear people say "I guess" at the
beginning of every sentence. We knew that was as impossible as the
frequent "Begorras" with which we Irish are credited. But we had read
several delightful American books, one called "Rules of the Game" with
particular attention, and we thought the American language would be more
vigorously picturesque than it turns out to be. The American in books
uses phrases and employs metaphors which are a continual joy. His
conversation is a series of stimulating shocks. In real life he does not
keep up to that level. He talks very much as an Englishman does. There
are, indeed, ways of pronouncing certain words which are strange and
very pleasant. I would give a good deal to be able to say "very" and
"America" as these words are said across the Atlantic. "Vurry" does not
represent the sound, nor does "Amurrica," but I have tried in vain to
pick up that vowel. I suppose I am tone deaf. I either caricature it as
"vurry" or relapse into the lean English version of the word. There are
also some familiar words which are used in ways strange to me.
"Through," for instance, is a word which I am thoroughly accustomed to,
and "cereal" is one which I often come across in books dealing with
agriculture. But I was puzzled one morning when an attentive American
parlor maid, with her eye on my porridge plate, asked me whether I was
"through with the cereal." Solicitors on this side of the Atlantic are
regarded as more or less respectable members of society. Some of their
clients may consider them crafty, but no one would class them, as actors
used to be classed, with vagabonds. It was therefore a surprise to me to
read a notice on an office door: "Solicitors and beggars are forbidden
to enter this building." I made enquiries about what the solicitors had
done to deserve this, and found that "solicitor," in that part of
America, perhaps all over America, means, not a kind of lawyer, but one
who solicits subscriptions, either for some charity or for his own use
and benefit.

There are other words, "Baggage check," for instance, which could not be
familiar to us, because we have not got the thing to which they belong
in the British Isles. And a highly picturesque vigorous phrase meets one
now and then. There was an occasion in which a laundry annoyed us very
much. It did not bring back some clothes which had gone to be washed. We
complained to a pleasant and highly vital young lady who controlled all
the telephones in our hotel. She took our side in the dispute at once,
seized the nearest receiver, and promised to "lay out that laundry right
now." We went up to our rooms comforted with the vision of a whole staff
of washer women lying in rows like corpses, with napkins tied under
their chins, and white sheets over them. Americans ought not to swear,
and do, in fact, swear much less than English people in ordinary
conversation. The Englishman, when things go wrong with him, is almost
forced to say "Damn" in order to express his feelings. His way of
speaking his native language offers him no alternative. The American has
at command a small battery of phrases far more helpful than any oath. It
is no temptation to damn a laundry when you can "lay it out" by
telephone.

I like the American use of the word "right" in such phrases as "right
here," "right now," and "right away." When you are told, by telephone,
as you are told almost everything in America, that your luggage will be
sent up to your room in the hotel "right now," you are conscious of the
friendliness of intention in the hall porter, which the English phrase
"at once" wholly fails to convey. Even if you have to wait several hours
before you actually get the luggage you know that every effort is being
made to meet your wishes. You may perhaps have got into a bath and find
yourself, for the want of clean clothes, forced to decide between
staying there, going straight to bed, and getting back into the dirty
garments in which you have traveled. But you have no business to
complain. The "right now" ought to comfort you. Especially when it is
repeated cheerily, while you stand dripping and embarrassed at the
receiver to make a final appeal. The word "right" in these phrases does
not intensify, it modifies, the immediateness of the now. This is one of
the things to which you must get accustomed in America. But it is a
friendly phrase, offering and inviting brotherliness of the most
desirable kind. That it means no more than the "Anon, sir, anon," of
Shakespeare's tapster is not the fault of anybody. Some sacrifices must
be made for the sake of friendliness.

But taken as a whole the American language is very little different from
English. I imagine the tendency to diverge has been checked by the
growing frequency of intercourse between the two countries. So many
Americans come to England and so many English go to America that the
languages are being reduced to one dead level. What used to be called
"Americanisms" are current in common talk on this side of the Atlantic
and on the other there is a regrettable tendency to drop even the fine
old forms which the English themselves lost long ago. "Gotten" still
survives in America instead of the degraded "got," but I am afraid it is
losing its hold. "Wheel" is in all ways preferable to bicycle, and may
perhaps become naturalized here. I cannot imagine that the Americans
will be so foolish as to give it up. Whether "an automobile ride" is
preferable to "a drive in a motor" I do not know. They both strike me as
vile phrases, and it is difficult to choose between them.

America, as a country to travel in, had for us another attraction
besides its language. Some people have relations in Spain to whom they
can go and in whose houses they can stay as guests. Others have
relatives of the same convenient kind in Austria and even in Russia.
Many people have friends in France and Germany. We are not so fortunate.
When we go to those countries we spend our time in hotels, or at best in
pensions. We do not discover intimate things about the people there. It
is impossible for us to learn, except through books, and they seldom
tell us the things we want to know, whether the Austrians are morose or
cheerful at breakfast time, and whether the Germans when at home hate
fresh air as bitterly as they hate it when traveling. And these are just
the sort of things which it is most interesting to know about any
people. The politics of a foreign country are more easily studied in the
pages of periodicals like "The Nineteenth Century" than in the daily
press of the country itself. Statistics about trade and population can
be read up in books devoted to the purpose. All sorts of other
information are supplied by the invaluable Baedeker, so that it is in no
way necessary to go to Venice in order to find out things about St.
Mark's. But very intimate details about the insides of houses, domestic
manners and so forth can only be obtained by staying in private homes.
This we thought we might accomplish in America because we had some
friends there before we started. In reality ready made friends are
unnecessary for the traveler in America. He makes them as he goes along,
for the Americans are an amazingly sociable people and hospitable beyond
all other nations. To us Irish—and we are supposed to be
hospitable—the stranger is a stranger until he is shown in some way to
be a friend. In America he is regarded as a friend unless he makes
himself objectionable, unless he makes himself very objectionable
indeed. We heard of American hospitality before we started. We feel now,
as the Queen of Sheba felt after her visit to King Solomon, that the
half was not told us. To be treated hospitably is always delightful. It
is doubly so when the hospitality enables the fortunate guest to learn
something of a kind of life which is not his own.

For all these reasons—I have enumerated four, I think—we desired
greatly to go to America; and there was still another thing which
attracted us. You cannot go to America except by sea. Even if you are
seasick—and I occasionally am, a little—traveling in a steamer is
greatly to be preferred to traveling in a train. A good steamer is
clean. The best train covers you with smuts. The noise of the train is
nerve-shattering. The noise which a steamer makes, even in a gale, is
soothing. When a train stops and when it starts again it jerks and
bumps. It also runs over things called points and then it bumps more. A
steamer stops far seldomer than a train, and does so very gently and
smoothly. It never actually bumps, and though it very often rolls or
pitches, it does these things in a dignified way with due deliberation.
We chose a slow steamer for our voyage out and if we are fortunate
enough to go to America again we shall choose another slow steamer.

Having made up our minds to go—or rather since these things are really
decided for us and we are never the masters of our movements—having
been shepherded by Destiny into a trip to America we naturally sought
for information about that country. We got a great deal more than we
actually sought. Everyone we met gave us advice and told us what to
expect. Advice is always contradictory, and the only wise thing to do is
to take none of what is offered. But it puzzled us to find that the
accounts we got of the country were equally contradictory. English
people, using a curious phrase of which they seem to be very fond,
prophesied for us "the time of our lives." They said that we should
enjoy ourselves from the day we landed in New York until the day when we
sank exhausted by too much joy, a day which some of them placed a
fortnight off, some three weeks, all of them underestimating, as it
turned out, our capacity for enduring delight. Americans on the other
hand decried the country, and told us that the lot of the traveler in it
was very far from being pleasant. This puzzled us. A very modest and
retiring people might be expected to underestimate the attractions of
their own land. We Irish, for instance, always assert that it rains
three days out of every four in Ireland. But the Americans are not
popularly supposed to be, and in fact are not, particularly modest. I
can only suppose that the Americans we met before we started were in bad
tempers because they were for one reason or another obliged to stay in
England, and that they belittled their country in the spirit of the fox
who said the grapes were sour.

One piece of advice which we got gave us, incidentally and accidentally,
our first glimpse at one of the peculiarities of the American people,
their hatred of letter writing as a means of communication. The advice
was this:

"Do not attempt to take a sealskin coat into America, because there is a
law there against sealskin coats and the Custom House officers will hold
up the garment."

This seemed to us very improbable. I remembered the song I have already
quoted about the "Land of the Free" and could not bring myself to
believe that a great nation, a nation that had fought an expensive war
in order to set its slaves at liberty, could possibly want to interfere
with the wearing apparel of a casual stranger. The Law, which is very
great and majestic everywhere, is, according to the proverb, indifferent
to very small matters. America, which is as great and majestic as any
law, could not possibly be supposed to concern itself with the material
of a woman's coat. So we reasoned. But the warning was given with
authority by one who knew a lady who had tried to bring a sealskin coat
into America and failed. We thought it well to make sure. An inquiry at
the steamboat office was useless. The clerk there declined to say
anything either good or bad about the American Custom House regulations.
I have noticed this same kind of cautious reticence among all Americans
when the subject of customs comes up. I imagine that the people of
ancient Crete avoided speaking about that god of theirs who ate young
girls, and for the same reason. There is no use running risks, and the
American Custom House officer is a person whom it is not well to offend.
This is the way with all democracies. In Russia and Germany a man has to
be careful in speaking about the Czar or the Kaiser. In republics we
shut our mouths when a minor official is mentioned, unless we are among
tried and trusted friends. I myself dislike respecting any one; but if
respect is exacted of me I should rather yield it to a king with a
proper crown on his head than to an ordinary man done up with brass
buttons. However, Anglo-Saxons on both sides of the Atlantic seem to
like doing obeisance to officials, and their tastes are no affairs of
mine.

Having failed in the steamboat office, I wrote a letter to a high
American official in England—not the Ambassador. I did not like to
trouble him about a sealskin coat. An English official, high, or of
middling station, would have answered me by return of post, because he
is glad of an opportunity of writing a letter. In fact, he likes writing
letters so much that he would have sent me two answers, the first a
brief but courteous acknowledgment of my letter and an assurance that it
was receiving attention; the second an extract from the Act of
Parliament which dealt with my particular problem. The American official
does not like writing letters. No American does. Rather than write a
letter, an American will pursue you, _viva voce_, over hundreds of miles
of telephone wire, or spend an hour of valuable time in having an
interview with you in some more or less inaccessible place. Not even
promotion to a high official position will cause an American to feel
kindly toward a pen. The official to whom I wrote would, I am sure, have
told me all there is to know about the American dislike of sealskin
coats, if he could have got me on a telephone. He could not do that,
because my name is not in the London telephone directory. He would,
although he is a most important person and I am less than the least,
have come to me and talked face to face if he had known where to find
me; but I wrote from a club, and the chances were five to one at least
against his finding me there. There was nothing for it but to write a
letter; but it took him several days to make up his mind to the effort.
His answer, when he did write it, followed me to New York, and the
sealskin coat problem had solved itself then.

I noticed, when in New York, that it takes a posted letter much longer
to get from one street in that city to another quite near at hand than
it does in London for a letter posted in the same way to get from
Denmark Hill to Hampstead. I connect this fact with the dislike of
letter-writing which is prevalent among Americans. But I do not know
which is cause and which is effect. It may be that the American avoids
letters because he knows that they will go to their destination very
slowly. It may be, on the other hand, that the American post-office has
dropped into leisurely ways because it knows that it is seldom used for
business purposes. Love letters it carries, no doubt, for it is
difficult to express tender feelings on a telephone, and impossible to
telegraph them; but love letters are hardly ever urgent. The "Collins"
or "Hospitable Roof" communication must be a letter and must go through
the post, but the writer and the recipient would both be better pleased
if it never arrived at all. Business letters are different things, and I
am sure the American post-office carries comparatively few of them.

I wish that some one with a taste for statistics would make out a table
of the weights of the mail bags carried on Cunard steamers. I am
convinced, and nothing but statistics will make me think differently,
that the westward bound ships carry far more letters than those which
travel eastward. All Englishmen, except for obvious reasons English
journalists, write letters whenever they have a decent excuse. Americans
only write letters when they must. It was, I think, the late Charles
Stewart Parnell who observed that most letters answered themselves if
you leave them alone long enough. This is profoundly true, although
Englishmen do not believe it. I have tried and I know. Americans have
either come across Parnell's remark or worked out the same truth for
themselves. I applaud their wisdom, but I was once sorry that they
practice this form of economy. If we had got an answer to our letter
before we sailed, we should have left the coat behind us. As it was, we
took the coat with us and carried it about America, giving ourselves
indeed a good deal of trouble and reaping very little in the way of
comfort or credit by having it. When we did get the letter it showed us
that the Americans really do object strongly to these coats and have
made a law against them. If we had known that before starting, we should
have left the coat behind us at any cost to our feelings.

We are not aggressive people, either of us, and we always try to conform
to the customs of the country in which we are, and to respect the
feelings of the inhabitants. We cannot, indeed, afford to do anything
else. Members of powerful, conquering nations go about the world
insisting on having their own way wherever they are. The English, for
instance, have spread the practice of drinking tea in the afternoon all
over Europe. They make it understood that wherever they go afternoon tea
must be obtainable. Other peoples shrug their shoulders and give in. The
Americans have insisted that hotels shall be centrally heated and all
rooms and passages kept up to a very high temperature. No one else wants
this kind of heat, and until the Americans took to traveling in large
numbers we were all content with fireplaces in rooms and chilly
corridors. But the Americans are a great people, and there is hardly a
first-rate hotel left in Europe now which has not got a system of
central heating installed. The French have secured the use of their
language, or a colorable imitation of their language, on all menu cards
and bills of fare. No self-respecting _maître d'hotel_, even if 90% of
his patrons are Americans, English and Germans, would dare to call soup
anything except _potage_ or _consommé_. I think we owe it to the
Russians that ladies can now smoke cigarettes without reproach in all
European restaurants, though they cannot do this yet in America because
very few Russians of the tourist classes go to America. It must be very
gratifying to belong to one of these great nations and to be able to
import a favorite custom or a valued comfort wherever you go. We are
mere Irish. We have never conquered any one ourselves, although we are
rather good at winning other people's battles for them. We have not
money enough to make it worth anybody's while to consider our tastes;
nor, indeed, are we sure enough of ourselves to insist on having our own
way. There is always at the backs of our minds the paralyzing thought
that perhaps the other people may be right and we may be wrong. We
submit rather than struggle.

We like, for instance, good tea at breakfast, strong dark brown tea,
which leaves a distinct stain on the inside of the cup out of which we
drink it. Nobody else in the world likes this kind of tea. If we were a
conquering, domineering people, we should go about Europe and America
saying: "This which we drink is tea. Your miserable concoction is slop
or worse." If we were rich enough and if large numbers of us traveled,
we should establish our kind of tea as an institution. It would be
obtainable everywhere. At first it would be called "_Thé à
l'Irlandaise_" and we should get it by asking for it. Afterwards it
would be "thé" simply, and if a traveler wanted anything else he would
have to ask for that by some special name. But we are not that kind of
people. There are not enough of us, and the few there are have not
sufficient money to make them worth considering. Besides, we are never
self-confident enough to assert that our kind of tea is the true and
superior kind. We are uneasily conscious that it is rude to describe
other people's favorite beverages as "slop" even when they call ours
"poison." And there is always the doubt whether we may not be wrong,
after all. Great peoples do not suffer from this doubt. The American is
perfectly certain that houses ought to be centrally heated. To him there
does not seem to be any possibility of arguing about that. He has
discovered a universal truth, and the rest of the world must learn it
from him.

The German is equally sure that fresh air in a railway carriage brings
death to the person who breathes it. He is as certain about that as he
is that water wets him when it is poured over him. There is no room for
discussion. But we Irish are differently constituted. When any one tells
us that our type of tea reduces those who drink it to the condition of
nervous wrecks and ultimately drives them into lunatic asylums, we
wonder whether perhaps he may not be right. It is true that we have
drunk the stuff for years and felt no bad effects; but there is always
"the plaguy hundredth chance" that the bad effects may have been there
all the time without our noticing them, and that, though we seem sane,
we may be jibbering imbeciles. Thus it is that we never have the heart
to make any real struggle for strong tea.

This same infirmity would have prevented our dragging that coat into
America if we had found out in time that sealskin coats strike Americans
as wicked things. To us it seems plain that seals exist mainly for the
purpose of supplying men, and especially women, with skins; just as
fathers have their place among created things in order to supply money
for the use of their children, or steam in order that it may make
engines work. Left to ourselves, we should accept all these as final
truths and live in the light of them. But the moment any one assails
them with a flat contradiction we begin to doubt. The American says that
the seal, at all events the seal that has the luck to live in Hudson
Bay, ought not to be deprived of his skin, and that men and women must
be content with their own skins, supplemented when necessary by the
fleeces of sheep.

The Englishman or the German would stand up to the American.

"I will," one of them would say, "kill a Hudson Bay seal if I like or
have him killed for me by some one else. I will wear his skin unless you
prevent me by actual force, and I will resist your force as long as I
can."

We do not adopt that attitude. We cannot, for the spirit of defiance is
not in us. When we were assured, as we were in the end, that the
American really has strong feelings about seals, we began to think that
he might be right.

"America," so we argued, "is a much larger country than Ireland. It is
much richer. The buildings in its cities are far higher. Who are we that
we should set up our opinions about tea or skins or anything else
against the settled convictions of so great a people?"

Therefore, though we brought our coat into America, we did so in no
spirit of defiance. Once we found out the truth, we concealed the coat
as much as possible, carrying it about folded up so that only the lining
showed. It was hardly ever worn, only twice, I think, the whole time we
were there. The weather, indeed, was as a rule particularly warm for
that season of the year.



                               CHAPTER II
                        PRESSMEN AND POLITICIANS


Our ship, after a prosperous and pleasant voyage, steamed up the Hudson
River in a blinding downpour of rain which drove steadily across the
decks. Our clothes had been packed up since very early in the morning,
and we declined to get soaked to the skin when there was no chance of
our being able to get dry again for several hours. Therefore, we missed
seeing the Statue of Liberty and the Woolworth Building. We were
cowards, and we suffered for our cowardice by losing what little respect
our American fellow travelers may have had for us. They went out in the
rain to gaze at the Statue of Liberty and the Woolworth Building. We saw
nothing through the cabin windows except an advertisement of Colgate's
tooth paste. The Woolworth Building we did indeed see later on. The
Statue of Liberty we never saw at all. I could of course write
eloquently about it without having seen it. Many people do things of
this kind, but I desire to be perfectly honest. I leave out the Statue
of Liberty. I am perfectly sure it is there; but beyond that fact I know
nothing whatever about it.

We actually landed, set foot at last on the soil of the new world, a
little before 8 A.M., which is a detestable hour of the day under any
circumstances, and particularly abominable in a downpour of rain. If a
stranger with whom I was very slightly acquainted were to land at that
hour in Dublin, and if it were raining as hard there as it did that
morning in New York—it never does, but it is conceivable that it
might—I should no more think of going to meet him at the quay than I
should think of swimming out a mile or two to wave my hand at his ship
as she passed. A year ago I should have made this confession without the
smallest shame. It would not have occurred to me as possible that I
should make such an expedition. If a very honored guest arrived at a
reasonable hour and at an accessible place—steamboat quays are never
accessible anywhere in the world—if the day were fine and I had nothing
particular to do, I might perhaps go to meet that guest, and I should
expect him to be surprised and gratified. I now confess this with shame,
and I intend to reform my habits. I blush hotly when I think of the
feelings of Americans who come to visit us. They behave very much better
than we do to strangers. There were three people to meet us that morning
when we landed and two others arrived at the quay almost immediately
afterwards. Of the five there was only one whom I had ever seen before,
and him no oftener than twice. Yet they were there to shake our hands in
warm welcome, to help us in every conceivable way, to whisper advice
when advice seemed necessary.

There were also newspaper reporters, interviewers, and we had our first
experience of that business as the Americans do it, in the shed where
our baggage was examined by Custom House officers.

"Don't," said one of my friends, "say more than you can help about
religion."

The warning seemed to me unnecessary. I value my religion, not as much
as I ought to, but highly. Still it is not a subject which I should
voluntarily discuss at eight o'clock in the morning in a shed with rain
splashing on the roof. The very last thing I should dream of offering a
newspaper reporter is a formal proof of any of the articles of the
Apostle's Creed. Nor would any interviewer whom I ever met care to
listen to a sermon. I was on the point of resenting the advice; but I
reflected in time that it was certainly meant for my good and that the
ways of the American interviewer were strange to me. He might want to
find out whether I could say my catechism. I thanked my friend and
promised to mention religion as little as possible. I confess that the
warning made me nervous.

"What," I whispered, "are they likely to ask me?"

"Well, what you think of America, for one thing. They always begin with
that."

I had been told that before I left home. I had even been advised by an
experienced traveler to jot down, during the voyage out, all the things
I thought about America, and have them ready on slips of paper to hand
to the interviewers when I arrived. This plan, I was assured, would save
me trouble and would give the Americans a high opinion of my business
ability. I took the advice. I had quite a number of excellent remarks
about America ready in my pocket when I landed. They were no use to me.
Not one single interviewer asked me that question. Not even the one who
chatted with me in the evening of the day on which I left for home. I do
not know why I was not asked this question. Every other stranger who
goes to America is asked it, or at all events says he is asked it.
Perhaps the Americans have ceased to care what any stranger thinks about
them. Perhaps they were uninterested only in my opinion. I can
understand that.

Nor was I tempted or goaded to talk about religion. The warning which I
got to avoid that subject was wasted. No one seemed to care what I
believed. I do not think I should have startled the very youngest
interviewer if I had confided to him that I believed nothing at all. The
nearest I ever got to religion in an interview was when I was asked what
I thought about Ulster and Home Rule. That I was asked frequently,
almost as frequently as I was asked what I thought of Synge's "Playboy
of the Western World"; and both these seemed to me just the sort of
questions I ought to be asked, if, indeed, I ought to be asked any
questions at all. I do not, indeed cannot, think about Ulster and Home
Rule. Nobody can. It is one of those things, like the fourth dimension,
which baffle human thought. Just as you hope that you have got it into a
thinkable shape it eludes you and you see it sneering at your
discomfiture from the far side of the last ditch. But it was quite right
and proper to expect that an Irishman, especially an Irishman who came
originally from Belfast, would have something to say about it, some
thought to express which would illuminate the morass of that
controversy. I could not complain about being asked that question. I
ought to have had something to say about Synge's play, too, but I had
not. I think it is a wonderful play, by far the greatest piece of
dramatic literature that Ireland has produced; but I cannot give any
reasons for the faith that is in me. Therefore, I am afraid I must have
been a most unsatisfactory subject for the interviewers. They cannot
possibly have liked me.

I, on the other hand, liked them very much indeed. I found them
delightful to talk to, and look back on the hours I spent with them as
some of the most interesting of my whole American trip. They all,
without exception, seemed to want to be pleasant. They were the least
conceited set of people I ever came across and generally apologized for
coming to see me. The apologies were entirely unnecessary. Their visits
were favors conferred on me. They were strictly honorable. When, as very
often happened, I said something particularly foolish and became
conscious of the fact, I used to ask the interviewer to whom I had said
it not to put it in print. He always promised to suppress it and he
always kept his promise, though my sillinesses must often have offered
attractive copy. Nor did any interviewer ever misrepresent me, except
when he failed to understand what I said, and that must always have been
more my fault than his. At first I used to be very cautious with
interviewers and made no statements of any kind without hedging. I used
to shy at topics which seemed dangerous, and trot away as quickly as I
could to something which offered opportunity for platitudes. I gradually
came to realize that this caution was unnecessary. I would talk
confidently now to an American interviewer on any subject, even
religion, for I know he would not print anything which I thought likely
to get me into trouble.

I cannot understand how it is that American interviewers have such a bad
reputation on this side of the Atlantic. They are a highly intelligent,
well-educated body of men and women engaged in the particularly
difficult job of trying to get stupid people, like me, or conceited
people to say something interesting. They never made any attempt to pry
into my private affairs. They never asked obviously silly questions. I
have heard of people who resorted to desperate expedients to avoid
interviewers in America. I should as soon think of trying to avoid a
good play or any other agreeable form of entertainment. After all, there
is no entertainment so pleasant as conversation with a clever man or
woman. I have heard of people who were deliberately rude to interviewers
and gloried in their rudeness afterwards. That seems to me just as grave
a breach of manners as to say insolent things to a host or hostess at a
dinner party.

Every now and then an interviewer, using a very slender foundation of
fact, produces something which is brilliantly amusing. There was one,
with whom I never came into personal contact at all, who published a
version of a conversation between Miss Maire O'Neill and me. What we
actually said to each other was dull enough. The interviewer, by the
simple expedient of making us talk after the fashion which "Mr. Dooley"
has made popular, represented us as exceedingly interesting and amusing
people. No one but a fool would resent being flattered after this
fashion.

The one thing which puzzles me about the business is why the public
wants it done. It is pleasant enough for the hero of the occasion, and
it is only affectation to call him a victim. The man who does the work,
the interviewer, is, I suppose, paid. He ought to be paid very highly.
But where does the public come in? It reads the interview—we must, I
think, take it for granted that somebody reads interviews, but it is
very difficult to imagine why. The American public, judging from the
number of interviews published, seems particularly fond of this kind of
reading. Yet, however clever the interviewer, the thing must be dull in
nine cases out of ten.

My first interviewer, my very first, photographed me. I told him that he
was wasting a plate, but he went on and wasted three. Why did he do it?
If I were a very beautiful woman I could understand it, though I think
it would be a mistake to photograph Venus herself on the gangway of a
steamer at eight o'clock in the morning in a downpour of rain. If I had
been a Christian missionary who had been tortured by Chinese, I could
understand it. Tortures might have left surprising marks on my face or
twisted my spine in an interesting way. If I had been an apostle of
physical culture, dressed in a pair of bathing drawers and part of a
tiger skin, the photographing would have been intelligible. But I am
none of these things. What pleasure could the public be expected to find
in the reproduction of a picture of a common place middle-aged man? Yet
the thing was done. I can only suppose that reading interviews and
looking at the attendant photographs has become a habit with the
American public, just as carrying a walking stick has with the English
gentleman. A walking stick is no real use except to a lame man. The
walker does not push himself along with it. He does not, when he sets
out from home, expect to meet any one whom he wants to hit. It cannot be
contended that the stick is ornamental or adds in any way to the beauty
of his appearance. He carries it because he always does carry it and
would feel strange if he did not. The Americans put up with interviews
in their papers for the same sort of reason. After all, no one, least of
all the subject, has any right to complain.

Those were our two first impressions of America, that it was a country
of boundless hospitality and a country pervaded by agreeable newspaper
men. I am told by those who make a study of such things that the first
glance you get at a face tells you something true and reliable about the
man or woman it belongs to, but that you get no further information by
looking at the face day after day for months. When you come to know the
man or woman really well, and have studied his actions and watched his
private life closely for years, you find, if you still recollect what it
was, that your first impression was right. I knew an Englishman once who
lived for ten years in Ireland and was deeply interested in our affairs.
He told me that when he had been a week in the country he understood it,
understood us and all belonging to us thoroughly. At the end of three
months he began to doubt whether he understood us quite as well as he
thought. After five years he was sure he did not understand us at all.
After ten years—he was a persevering man—he began to understand us a
little, and was inclined to think he was getting back to the exact
position he held at the end of the first week. Ten years hence, if he
and I live so long, I intend to ask him again what he thinks about
Ireland. Then, I expect, he will tell me that he is quite convinced that
his earliest impressions were correct. This is my justification for
recording my first impressions of America. I hope to get to know the
country much better as years go on. I shall probably pass through the
stage of laughing at my earliest ideas, but in the end I confidently
expect to get back to my joyous admiration for American hospitality and
my warm affection for American journalists.

Almost immediately—certainly before the end of our second day—we
arrived at the conclusion that New York was a singularly clean city. We
are, both of us, by inclination dwellers in country places. The noise of
great towns worries us. The sense of being closely surrounded by large
numbers of other people annoys us. But we should no doubt get used to
these things if we were forced to dwell long in any city. I am, however,
certain that I should always loathe the dirt of cities. The dirt of the
country, good red mud, or the slime of wet stems of trees, does not
trouble me, even if I am covered with it. I enjoy the dirt of quiet
harbors, fish scales, dabs of tar and rust off old anchor chains. I am
happier when these things are clinging to me than when I am free of
them. I am no fanatical worshipper of cleanliness. I do not rank it, as
the English proverb does, among the minor divinities of the world. But I
do not like, I thoroughly detest, the dirt of cities, that impalpable
grime which settles down visibly on face, hands, collar, cuffs, and
invisibly but sensibly on coats, hats and trousers. New York, of all the
cities I have ever been in, is freest of this grime. You can open your
bedroom window at night in New York, and the pocket handkerchief you
leave on your dressing table will still be white in the morning, fairly
white. You can walk about New York all day and your nose will not be
covered with smuts in the evening. I am told that the cleanness of New
York is partly due to the fact that trains running in and out of the
city are forced by the municipal authorities to use electricity as a
motive power and are forbidden to burn coal till they get into the
country. I am told that only a hard, comparatively smokeless coal may be
burned by any one in the city. If these things are true, then the City
Fathers of New York ought to be held up as a pattern to Town Councillors
and corporations all over the world.

As a matter of fact—such is the injustice of man—the municipal
government of New York is not very greatly admired by the rest of the
world. It is supposed to be singularly corrupt, and my fellow countrymen
are blamed for its corruptness. When an European city feels in a
pharisaical mood it says: "Thank God I am not as other cities are, even
as this New York." European cities may be morally cleaner. I do not know
whether they are or not. They are certainly physically much dirtier. And
from the point of view of the ordinary citizen physical dirt is more
continuously annoying than the moral kind. If I lived in a community
whose rulers openly sold contracts and offices, I should break out into
a violent rage once a year or so, and swear that I would no longer pay
taxes for the benefit of minor politicians and their henchmen. All the
rest of the year I should be placid enough, for I should forget the
corruption if I escaped the perpetual unpleasantness of dirt, city dirt.
No government, after all, is honest. The most that can be expected from
men placed in authority is that they should not outrage public opinion
by flaunting their dishonesty. But I cannot help feeling that men in
authority, whom after all the rest of us pay, should do their business,
and part of their business is to keep smuts away from our faces. If it
is really true that we Irish govern New York, then men ought to give up
speaking of us as "the dirty Irish." Dirty! It appears that we are the
only people who have ever kept a city clean. I wish we could do it at
home.

This Irish political corruption in New York is a very interesting thing,
and I tried hard to arrive at some understanding of it. Tammany was
defeated while we were in New York, and Mr. Mitchel became Mayor,
promising a clean, morally clean, administration. He also is of Irish
descent, so that there were countrymen of ours on both sides in the
struggle, and we are, evidently, not all of us lovers of corruption. The
scene in Broadway when the defeat of Tammany was announced surpassed
anything I have ever beheld in the way of a demonstration of popular
rejoicing, except perhaps "Mafeking Night" in London. Huge crowds
paraded the streets. Youths with horns marched in procession making
music like that of Edouard Strauss, but even louder. Hawkers did an
immense trade in small gongs with balls attached to them which made a
noise like cymbals. Grave-looking men wore on their heads huge plumes of
cut, wrinkled paper, like the paper with which some people hide
fireplaces in summer time. Others had notices on their hats which
declared "We told you so," notices printed beforehand and equally
applicable to a victory of the other side. Sky signs and lights of all
sorts blazed above our heads. Newspaper offices flashed election figures
on screens in front of their windows. Now and then an explosion rose
clear above the din, and we knew that some enterprising photographer was
making a flashlight picture of the scene.

There was no question about the fact that New York was pleased with
itself. The demonstration of popular delight would have followed very
appropriately the capture of a Bastille, some stronghold of an ancient
tyranny which held people down against their will. The supporters of
Tammany Rule were, of course, not in Broadway that night. They may have
been sitting at home behind drawn blinds, meditating on the fickleness
of men, or perhaps on the ingratitude of democracies. Tammany was
corrupt, no doubt, but the water supply of New York is very good, and it
was no easy matter to get water there. Also the city is strikingly
clean. But there was no question about the general disgust with Tammany
rule. No man whom I talked to before or after the election had a good
word to say for the organization. Only, if I were suspected of glorying
in their shame, patriotic Americans used occasionally to remind me of
Marconi scandals at home and the English sale of patents of nobility.
And this was no real defense of Tammany. But I was not glorying, and
Heaven forbid that I should ever hold up European political methods as a
model to any one. All I wanted was to understand. I was eagerly curious
to know how Tammany came to be, whence its power came. It did not
satisfy me to be told that Tammany bribed people and sold offices, and
therefore was powerful. That is like saying that Mohammed spread his
religion by force of arms. I am sure that Tammany did bribe, and I am
sure that Mohammedans did ultimately conquer and put pressure on the
conquered to accept the Koran. But before you can conquer you must have
soldiers, soldiers who believe of their own free will. Before you can
bribe you must have money to bribe with. Before you can sell offices you
must have offices to sell. How did Tammany get itself into the position
of being able to bribe?

I was always asking these questions and always failing to get satisfying
answers to them. In the end, when I had almost given up hope, I did get
a little light of the sort I wanted. It was after dinner one night at a
private house in New York. The ladies had left the room, and there were
five men sitting round the table. Four of them were clever and
distinguished men, and they might have talked very satisfactorily about
things which interested them. But with that thoughtful courtesy which is
one of the charms of American hospitality, they allowed the fifth man,
the stranger in their midst, to guide the conversation. I asked one of
my usual questions about Tammany. For a time I got nothing but the
familiar stories of Tammany corruption given with more than the usual
detail. We had names and dates put to scandalous achievements, and
learned who had been allowed a "rake off" on this or that financial
transaction. I heard about the alliance, under the banner of Tammany,
between the Irish and the Jews. I reflected that other things besides
misfortune makes strange bedfellows. Then came the illumination. One of
the men present leaned back in his chair and laid down his cigar.

"A Tammany ward boss," he said, "has the confidence of the people in his
ward. If he had not he would not be a ward boss."

I did not want to interrupt by asking questions, and felt that I could
guess sufficiently nearly the functions and business of a "ward boss" to
do without an explanation.

"He wouldn't," said my friend, "win or keep the confidence of the people
unless he deserved it more or less, unless he deserved it a good deal,
unless he really was a friend to the people. He may not be a man of much
ability. He generally isn't, but he has a good heart."

This was startling. My preconceived idea of a Tammany boss of any kind
was of a man of considerable ability and a bad heart. I suppose I looked
surprised. The speaker qualified his statement a little.

"A good heart, to start with. Every one in the ward who is in any kind
of difficulty or trouble goes to the boss. Most of them are poor
ignorant people and don't know how to manage things for themselves.
There's a sick child who ought to be got into a hospital. The ward boss
sees about it. There's a boy who ought to be in a situation. The ward
boss gets a situation for him. There's a man who has been badly treated
by his employer—— Oh! you know the sort of things which turn up.
They're the same with poor people all the world over."

I did know, very well. I was also beginning to understand.

"Then I suppose," I said, "the people vote the way the ward boss tells
them."

"Naturally."

Well, yes, naturally. What do political rights and wrongs matter to
them?

"After a while," my informant went on, "if he manages well, he is let a
little bit into the inner ring. He gets a bit of money dropped to him
here and another bit there. That makes a difference to him. He begins to
do himself pretty well, and he likes it."

Most men do. These "bits of money," however they come, bring very
pleasant things with them. That is the same everywhere.

"After a while—I don't say this is exactly what happens every time, but
it's something like this. After a while he goes uptown and dines at one
of the swagger restaurants, just to see what it's like. He is a bit out
of it at first, but he goes again. He sees people there and he picks up
their names. They are people with very impressive names, names he's been
hearing all his life and associating with millions and automobiles and
diamonds. It gives him rather a pleasant feeling to find himself sitting
at the next table and hearing the voices of these men; seeing the women
with their jewels, and smelling the scent off their clothes. You know
the sort of thing."

I could guess. I have, in my time, dined at restaurants of the kind,
though not often enough to get to know the looks of their native
millionaires.

"Then some night or other one of these men steps across to our man's
table and talks to him. He's as friendly as the devil. He introduces him
to one or two others, and perhaps to some women; but women don't come
much into business over here. Well, the poor fellow is a little bit
above himself, and no wonder. He's never been anything before but just a
'Mick,' and never expected to be anything else."

Here I had to interrupt.

"A Mick?" I said.

"An Irishman. That's what we generally call Irishmen."

They call us "Pat" on this side of the Atlantic, and I think I prefer
it, but I have no particular quarrel with "Mick." Both names are
conveniently short.

"There's nothing more than friendliness at first. Then, perhaps a week
later, there's something said about a contract or a new loan that is to
be floated. Influence, a word in the right quarter, comes in useful in
these cases. Our man, the man we're talking of, doesn't know very
clearly what the talk is about. He doesn't know that he has any
influence; but it rather pleases him to feel that the other men think he
has. There is a hint dropped about a subscription to the party funds
and—well, that's how it's done."

I grasped at ideas which flitted past me. There always are "party
funds." Politics cannot go on without them. There always are desirable
things, whether contracts, rakes off, appointments, or—as in our
monarch-ridden states—titles. But I wonder where the blame for the
corruption really lies, the heavy part of the blame. Tammany Mick had a
good heart to start with and he was not a man of much ability.

However, these are only the speculations of an inquisitive man. They do
not matter. New York smashed Tammany last autumn and perhaps will keep
it smashed. But a mere alliance of anti-Tammany forces will not
permanently get the better of a well-constructed machine, nor is
enthusiasm for clean government good in a long-distance race. An
American poet has noted as one of the characteristics of truth that,
though slain, it will rise again, and of error that when vanquished it
dies among its worshippers. In politics it is the machine which
possesses truth's valuable powers of recuperation, and idealism which
gets counted out after a knockdown blow. It seems as if a machine will
only go under finally in competition with another more efficient
machine, and the new, more efficient machine is just as great a danger
to political morality as the old one was. This is the vicious circle in
which democracies go round and round. Perhaps the truth is that
politics, like art, are non-moral in nature, that politicians have
nothing to do with right or wrong, honesty or dishonesty.



                              CHAPTER III
                         THE "HUSTLING" LEGEND


I walked through New York late at night, shortly after I landed, and had
for companions an Englishman who knew the city well and an American. The
roar of the traffic had ceased. The streets were almost deserted. Along
Fifth Avenue a few motors rushed swiftly, bearing belated revelers to
their homes. Save for them, the city was as nearly silent as any city
ever is. We talked. It was the Englishman who spoke first.

"New York and the sound of blasting go together," he said. "They are
inseparably connected in my mind. New York is built on rock out of
material blasted off rock with dynamite. This fact explains New York. It
is the characteristic thing about New York. No other city owes its
existence in the same way to the force of explosives shattering rock."

"New York," said the American, "is one of the soldiers of Attila the
Hun."

The night was warm. He unbuttoned his overcoat as he spoke and flung it
back from his chest. He squared his shoulders, looked up at the
immensely lofty buildings on each side of us, looked round at the
shadow-patched pavements, fixed his eyes finally on the lamps of a motor
which was racing toward us from a great distance along the endless
avenue. Then he pursued his comparison.

"Attila's soldier," he said, "went through some Roman city with his club
over his shoulder. There were round him evidences of old civilizations
which puzzled him. He gazed at the temples, the baths, the theaters with
wondering curiosity; but he was conscious that he could smash everything
and kill every one he saw. He was the barbarian, but he was also the
strong man. New York is like that among the cities of the world."

I contributed a borrowed comment on America.

"An Irishman once told me," I said, "that America isn't a country. It's
a great space in which there are the makings of a country lying about.
He might have said the same sort of thing about New York. There are the
makings of a city scattered round."

"Chunks of blasted rock," said the Englishman.

"The Hun had a lot to learn," said the American, "but he was the strong
man. He could smash and crush. Nobody else could."

There is a very interesting story or sketch—I do not know how it ought
to be described—by the late "O. Henry"—which he called "The Voice of
the City." He imagines that certain American cities speak and each of
them utters its characteristic word. Chicago says, "I will."
Philadelphia says, "I ought." New Orleans says, "I used to." If I had
"O. Henry's" genius I should try to concentrate into phrases the voices
of the cities I know. I should like to be able to hear distinctly what
they all say about themselves. Belfast, I am convinced, says, "I won't."
Dublin occasionally murmurs, "It doesn't really matter." So far I seem
to get, but there I am puzzled. I should like to hear what Edinburgh
says, what Paris says, what Rome would say if something waked her out of
her dream. I should be beaten by London, even if I had all his genius,
just as "O. Henry" was beaten by New York. He failed to disentangle the
_motif_ from the clamorous tumult of mighty chorus with which that city
assails the ear. There is a supreme moment which comes in the Waldstein
Sonata. The listener is a-quiver with maddening expectation. He is
wrought upon with sound until he feels that he must tear some soft thing
with his teeth. Then, at the moment when the passion in him becomes
intolerable, the great scrap of melody thunders triumphantly over the
confusion and it is possible to breathe again. This is just what does
not happen in the case of places like London and New York. A Beethoven
yet unborn will catch their melodies for us some day and the sonata of
great cities will be written. Till he comes it is better to leave the
thing alone. Neither blasting nor dynamite is the keyword. Attila's Hun
with his club fails us, though he helps a little. And there is more, a
great deal more, about New York than the confused massing of materials
on the site of what is to be a temple or a railway station.

When I was in New York they were building a large edifice of some kind
in Broadway, not far from Thirty-fifth Street. I used to see the work in
progress every day, and often stopped to watch the builders for a while.
Whenever I think of New York I shall remember the shrill scream of the
air drill which made holes in the steel girders. The essential thing
about that noise was its suggestion of relentlessness. Perhaps New York
is of all cities the most relentless. The steel suffers and shrieks
through a long chromatic scale of agony. New York drills a hole, pauses
to readjust its terrible force, and then drills again.

That is one aspect of New York. The stranger cannot fail to be conscious
of it. It is brought home to him by the rush of the overhead railway in
Sixth Avenue, by the hurry of the crowds in Broadway, by the grinding
clamor of the subway trains. It is this, no doubt, which has given rise
to the theory that New York is a city of hustle. It seems to me a very
cruel thing to say of any people that they hustle. The word suggests a
disagreeable kind of spurious activity. The hustler is not likely to be
efficient. He makes a fine show of doing things; but he does not,
somehow, get much done. The hustler is like a football player who is in
all parts of the field at different times, sometimes in the forward
line, sometimes among the backs, always breathless, generally very much
in the way, and contributing less than any one else to the winning of
the game for his side. If New York were a city of hustlers, New York
would drill no holes in steel girders.

The fact is that America has, in this matter of hustle, been grossly
slandered in Europe. I am not sure that the Americans, with a curious
perversity, have not slandered themselves, and done as much as any one
to keep the hustle myth alive. The American understands the value of not
hurrying as well as any one in the world. He has, justly, a high opinion
of himself and declines to be a slave to a wretched machine like a
clock. I realized this leisureliness the first time I went into a
restaurant to get something to eat. I could have smoked a cigarette
comfortably between the ordering and the getting of what I ordered. I
could have smoked other cigarettes, calmly, as cigarettes ought to be
smoked, between each course. American men do actually smoke in this way
during meals, and I trace the custom not to an excessive fondness for
tobacco but to the leisurely way in which the business of eating is gone
about. And it is not in restaurants only that this quiet disregard of
time's abominable habit of going on is evident. The New York business
man gets through his work—it is evident that he does get through
it—without feeling it necessary to give every one the impression that
each half hour of the day is dedicated to a separate affair and that the
entire time-table will be reduced to chaos if a single minute strays out
of its proper compartment into the next.

Perhaps it is because I am Irish that I like this way of doing business.
There is a character in one of the late Canon Sheehan's novels who says
that there are two things which are plenty in Ireland—water and time.
There are undoubtedly places in the world where water is scarce, the
Sahara desert for instance; but I suspect that time is quite abundant
everywhere though some people affect to believe that it is not. I know
English business men who scowl at you if you venture, having settled the
little affair which brought you to their office, to make a pleasant
remark about the chances of a general election before Christmas. They
pretend that they have not time to talk about General Elections. They do
this, as Bob Sawyer used to have himself summoned from church, in order
to keep up their reputation. They want you to think that they are
overwhelmed with pressing things. I have always suspected that, having
got rid of their visitor, they spend hours reading about General
Elections in the daily papers. The American business man is, apparently,
never too busy to enjoy a chat. He invites you to lunch with him when
you go to his office. He shows you the points of interest in the
neighborhood after luncheon. He discusses the present condition of
Ireland, a subject which demands an immense quantity of time. He settles
the little matter which brought you to his office with three sentences
and a wave of the hand. He does not write you a letter afterwards
beginning: "In confirmation of our conversation to-day I note that you
are prepared to——" It is, I suppose, a man's temperament which settles
which way of doing business he prefers. It is also very largely a
question of temper. In my normal mood I prefer the American method.
There is a broad humanity about it which appeals to me strongly. But if
I have been annoyed by anything early in the day, broken a bootlace, for
instance, or lost a collar stud, I would rather do business in the
English way. In the one case I like to come in contact with a fellow
man, to feel that he has affections and weaknesses like my own. It is
pleasant to get to know him personally. In the other case, thanks to the
misfortunes of the morning, I am filled with a gloomy hatred of my kind.
I want, until the mood has worn off, to see as little as possible of any
one and to keep inevitable people at arm's length. It is much easier to
do this when the inevitable people also want to keep me at arm's length,
and the English business man generally does. The friendliness of the
American business man is a little trying sometimes to any one in a bad
temper. Sometimes, not always. I remember one occasion on which I was
exceptionally cross. I forget what had happened to me in the morning,
but it was worse than breaking a bootlace. It may have had something to
do with telephones, instruments which generally drive me to fury. At all
events, though in a bad temper, I had to go to see a man in his office.
He was a man of extraordinarily friendly spirit, even for an American. I
dreaded my interview, fearing that I might say something actually rude
before it was over. Nothing could have been more soothing than my
reception. This wonderful man cast a single quick glance at me as I
entered his office. He realized my condition and got through with the
wretched necessity which had brought me there with a rapidity and
precision which would have done credit to any Englishman. Then he
ushered me out again without making or giving me time to make a single
remark of a miscellaneous kind. I apologized to him afterwards. He
patted me reassuringly on the shoulder.

"That's all right," he said. "I saw the minute you came into the room
that you were a bit rattled."

That seems to me a splendid example of tact. I do not suggest that all
American business men have this faculty for swift, self-sacrificing
sympathy. It must be rare, even in New York. Does it exist at all in
England? If I called on an English merchant some morning when the spring
was in my blood and I felt that I wanted to leap and spring like a lamb,
would he divine my mood, join hands and dance with me on his hearth rug?
I doubt it. He would not do it even if I were a hundred times more
important than I am. He would not do it if I were chairman of a
fantastically prosperous company. Yet it must have been just as hard for
my American friend to be austere as it would be for an Englishman to be
inanely gay.

I am not a business man myself. I have for many years practiced the art
of getting other people to manage my small affairs for me, so perhaps I
ought not to write about business men. But an author is always on the
horns of a dilemma. He knows he ought not to write about anything that
he does not thoroughly understand. But if he confined himself to those
subjects, he would never write anything at all. Even if he gave himself
some latitude and allowed himself to write about things of which he
knows a little, he would still find himself in a narrow place. His best
hope is that if he writes freely on every subject that comes into his
head he will only be found out by a few people at a time. Sailors will
find him out when he writes about the sea. Insurance agents will laugh
at his ignorance when he writes about premiums; doctors will be
irritated when he sets down what he thinks about measles. But the
sailors will believe that he knows a great deal about insurance and
disease in general; doctors will think him an expert about ships, and so
forth. And there are always far fewer people in any given profession
than there are people out of it. The writer has therefore a good hope
that those who find him out in any point in which he touches will always
be a minority. Minorities do not matter.

It is the consideration of this fact which gives me courage to write
about business men, and more courage now to go on and write about
buildings. I know nothing about architecture, but the people who do are
very few, so that the penalty of being found out will be light.

There does not seem at first glance to be any connection between
business men and architecture. But there is a very real one. There is
also a private connection of thought in my own mind. It was from the
windows of an office, high up in one of the skyscraper buildings, that I
got my first comprehensive view of New York. There is, generally, a
certain sameness about these bird's-eye views of cities. The bird, and
the man who gets into the position of the bird, sees a number of spires
of churches sticking up into the sky and below them a huddled mass of
roofs. Sometimes tall chimneys assert themselves beside the spires. But
the spires are the dominating things. The chimneys may have every
appearance of arrogance, but one feels that they are upstarts. The
spires hold the place of a recognized aristocracy. The bird, if he were
say an eagle, and had not the sparrow's intimate knowledge of the life
of the streets, would naturally come to the conclusion that the worship
of God is the most potent factor in the life of the European city. He
would, perhaps, be wrong, but he would have a good case to make for
himself when he was recounting his experiences to the other eagles.

"I have seen," he would say, "these vast nesting places of men, and the
spires of the churches are far the most important things in them. They
reach up higher than anything else, and there are great numbers of
them."

But the eagle would not say that about New York. It is not spires, nor
is it factory chimneys which stick up highest there and catch the
attention of a spectator from a height. Office buildings are the
dominant things. Churches are kept in what many people regard as their
proper place. You can see them if you look for them, but they are
subordinate. The same thing is true of another view of New York, that
marvelous spectacle of the city's profile which you get in the evening
from any of the Hudson River ferry boats. The sky line is jagged and the
silhouettes are not those of cross-crowned domes or spires, but of large
buildings dedicated to commerce.

The philosophic eagle might, reasoning as he did before, leap to the
conclusion that God is of little importance in the city of New York;
that bank books there count for more than Bibles. I am not at all sure
that he would be right. It looks, any one who has seen New York must
admit it, as if the American who coined the phrase, "the almighty
dollar," had really expressed the faith of his countrymen. But I am
inclined to think that he was led into injustice by a desire to be
epigrammatic. It may be that my experience was singularly fortunate, but
I came to the conclusion that God counts for a good deal in the life of
New York and of America generally. I do not mean that any creed has
obtained for itself national recognition, or that any particular church
has reached a position analogous to that of the English established
church. Religion in America seems to me a confused force, which has not
yet fully found itself; but it is a force. The desire to do justly, to
love mercy, though scarcely perhaps to walk humbly, is present and is
coming to be mightier than the dollar.

Yet it is certainly true that the most striking buildings in New York
are not ecclesiastical, but commercial. This is a defiance of the old
European tradition, a breach even of that feebler tradition which
America took over from Europe before she entered into possession of her
own soul. I am reminded of Attila's Hun with his contempt for Roman
civilization and his confidence in his own strength.

Business used to look askance at magnificence. It was the pride of the
London merchant that he managed mighty affairs in an unpretentious
counting house. But we are learning from the Americans. Our insurance
companies were the first to start building sumptuous habitations for
themselves. Banks and other corporations are following their example.
Yet even to-day the offices in the city of London are singularly
unimpressive to the eye, and many a house with world-wide influence
scorns to appeal to the passerby with anything more striking than a
"Push" or "Pull" stamped in worn letters on the brass plates of a pair
of swinging doors. It was a great tradition, this total lack of
ostentation where mighty forces were. At first New York too felt the
attraction of it. Wall Street, which is one of the older parts of the
city, is not impressive to look at. The Cotton Exchange is a building of
a very middling kind. Yet I am inclined to think that the instinct for
magnificence displayed by the newer American captains of commerce is
sound. I am not considering the advertisement value of a great building.
It may be worth something in that way, though grubbiness can also be an
effective advertisement. What seems to lie at the back of the display is
the desire of life to express itself in sumptuousness. The Venetians, a
nation of merchants, felt this and built in the spirit of it. After all,
commerce is a very great kind of life. There is energy in it, adventure,
romance. It offers opportunities for struggle, promises victory,
threatens defeat. Is it any wonder that men absorbed in it should feel
the thrill of the "_superbia vitæ_" and build to secure visible
embodiment for the emotion? Men have always tried to build finely for
their governors. Kings' palaces and parliament houses are impressive
everywhere. This was right when kings and parliaments were important.
Now that the offices of financiers are much more important than the
habitations of law makers, they too are becoming splendid.

It is, I suppose, to be expected that these mighty buildings should have
forms which at first are repellent in their strangeness. We, who were
nursed in an older artistic tradition, have learned to value, perhaps
too highly, restraint and dignity. The outstanding characteristics of
the American skyscraper seem to me to be exuberance. I am reminded of
the wild spirit of one or two European buildings, of the cloisters of
Belem, for instance, though there the sense of exultation expresses
itself in a very different way. But the essential spirit is similar. I
could imagine the builders chanting as they worked: "Behold ye are gods.
Ye are all children of the Highest." They are gods who have not
experienced the _tedium vitæ_ of Olympian happiness. But New York is not
so drunken with exuberance that it can not build with quiet dignity.
Tiffany's shop in Fifth Avenue, and, a little lower down, Altman's great
department store, are buildings on which the eye rests with undisturbed
satisfaction. The men who built these had more in mind than the erection
of houses in which rings or stockings might conveniently be sold. They
felt that commerce in jewelry or clothes was in itself a worthy thing
which might be undertaken in a lofty spirit, and greatly carried on.
There is a feeling of nobility in the proportion of windows and doors,
in the severity of the street fronts. These might be palaces of noblemen
of an ancient lineage. They are—shops. Has America discovered a dignity
in shop-keeping? The station of the Pennsylvania Railway is one of the
glories of New York, and here again New York is certainly right, though
I—it is a purely personal feeling—am infuriated to find the calm
self-restraint of the Greeks associated with anything so blatant as a
railway train. Anywhere else in the world the great hall of the Central
Station would be the nave of a Cathedral. It is impossible not to
feel—even when hurrying for a train—that the porters are really
acolytes masquerading for a moment in honor of some fantastic fool's
day.

The churches of New York are of subordinate interest. Trinity Church has
a singularly suggestive position, right opposite the end of Wall Street,
God in protest against Mammon. But the building itself might be anywhere
in England. I can fancy it in Nottingham or Bath, and there would be no
need to alter the place of a stone in it. It is a dignified and
beautiful parish church, but it has, as a building, nothing American
about it. It has not, apparently, influenced the spirit of New York
architecture. The people have not found self-expression in it. St.
Patrick's Cathedral, in Fifth Avenue, is a fine, a very fine example of
modern Gothic. Except the new Graduate College buildings at Princeton,
this cathedral strikes me as the finest example of modern Gothic I have
ever seen. But ought New York to have Gothic buildings? Here, I know, I
come up against the difficult question. There are those who hold that
for certain purposes—for worship and for the dignified ceremonial life
of a university—the Gothic building is the one perfect form which man
has devised. We cannot better it. All we can do is soak ourselves in the
spirit of the men of the great centuries of this style and humbly try to
feel as they felt so that we may build as they. It may be granted that
we shall devise nothing better. I, for one, gladly admit that St.
Patrick's in New York and the Hall at Princeton are conceived in the old
spirit and are as perfect as any modern work of the kind is, perhaps as
perfect as any modern Gothic work can be. But when all this is said it
remains true that the life of New York is not the life of mediæval
Rouen, of the London which built Westminster or of the Cologne which
paid honor to the Three Kings. Can New York accept as its vision of the
divine the conception, however splendid, of those "dear dead days"?

It may well be that I am all wrong in my feeling about modern Gothic,
that what is wanting in these buildings is not the spirit which was in
the old ones. It may be that, like certain finer kinds of wine, they
require maturing. I can conceive that a church which seems remote now,
almost to the point of frigidity, may not only seem, but actually be,
different two hundred years hence. It is scarcely possible to think that
the prayers of generations have no effect upon the walls of the building
in which they are uttered. There must cling to the place some aroma,
some subtle essence of the reachings after God of generation after
generation. The repentances of broken hearts, the supplications of
sorrowing women, the vows of strong, hopeful souls, the pieties of meek
priests, must be present still among the arches and the dim places above
them. Men consecrate their temples, but it takes them centuries to do
it. Perhaps Westminster would have left me cold if I had walked its
aisles four hundred years ago. This lack of maturity and not, as I
suppose, the fact that they do not come of the spirit of our time, may
be what is the matter with our newer Gothic buildings.

There is one church in New York—there may be others unknown to
me—which gives the impression of having grown out of the life which
dwelt in it, in the same sense in which certain English churches, those
especially of the Sussex country side, have grown rather than been
deliberately and consciously built. This is the unpretentious building
known as "The Little Church Round the Corner." The affectionate
familiarity of the name suits the place and means more to the discerning
soul than any dedication could mean. The student of architecture would
perhaps reckon this church contemptible, and having seen it once would
bestow no second glance upon it. It is built in no style of recognized
orthodoxy. I do not know its history, but it looks as if bits had been
added on to it time after time by people who knew nothing and cared
nothing for unity of design, but who had in their hearts a genuine love
for the building. It is an expression of life, this little church, but
not, I think, of the life of New York. It is as if someone had made a
little garden and filled it with all kinds of delicate sweet-smelling
flowers in a glade of a mighty forest. Within the garden are the
flowers, tended and well-beloved. Outside and all around are great trees
with gnarled trunks and far-off branches which have fought their own way
in desperate competition to the sunlight. I could, I think, worship very
faithfully in that "Little Church Round the Corner," but I should have
to shut New York out of my heart every time I passed through the doors
of it. Just so I can find delight in the sweetness of Keble's "Christian
Year," but while I do I must forget the sea, and how "at his word the
stormy wind ariseth which lifteth up the waves thereof." I must cease to
be in love with the perils of adventuring.

There is one church in New York which seems to me to have caught the
spirit of the city, the unfinished cathedral of St. John the Divine. It
gives the worshipper within its walls a strange sense of titanic
strength striving majestically to express itself in stone. I am told
that the building is to be finished in some other way, in accordance
with the rules and orthodoxies of some school of architecture. This may
not be true, but, even if it is, there still remains the hope that
enough has been already done to preserve for the finished work its
character of relentless strength. If its builders are brave enough to go
as they have begun, this cathedral should rank in the eyes of future
generations as one of the great houses of God in the world. St. Mark's,
with its fantastic spires and gorgeous coloring, expresses all the past
history of Venice and her commerce with the East, all which that strange
republic learnt of the Divine, from the glow of Syrian deserts, where
sun-baked caravans crawled slowly, and from the heavy scents of
Midianitish merchandise in the market places of Damascus. The confused
and misty aisles of Westminster embody in stone a realized conception of
the tumultuous life of London, of its black river weary with the weight
of the untold wealth it bears, of its crowds thronging narrow places, of
its streets where past and present look suspiciously into each other's
eyes, while things which are to be already push for elbow room. The
Cathedral of St. John the Divine, standing on the very edge of its
steep, broken hill, gives me as no other building does the sense of
strength of the kind of strength which will do rather than endure, which
is unwilling to abide restraint of any kind.

The building is a fit mate for the skyscrapers, can hold its own among
them because its spirit is their spirit, touched with the flame of
inspiration by the torch of the divine. The very absence of unity of
style seems the crowning glory of it. It is Attila's Hun once more. What
did he care that the spoils in which he decked himself were of various
fashionings? It is the dynamite blasting living rock. It is, as it seems
to me, New York in process of being given in stone an interpretation
which neither words nor music have given her yet. It will be a loss, not
only to New York but to the world, if the builders of the Cathedral of
St. John the Divine allow themselves to be frightened by the spectre of
European artistic tradition. They may tame their church, civilize it,
curl and comb the seven locks of its hair. If they do, the strength will
surely depart from it and it will become a common thing.



                               CHAPTER IV
                             HOLIDAY FEVER


We shall always be thankful that we paid a visit to Atlantic City. It is
not, I believe, one of the places of which Americans are particularly
proud. The trains which connect it with New York have indeed the
reputation of being the fastest in the world, but that may not be
because every one is in a great hurry to get to Atlantic City. They run
at high speed both ways, and it is quite possible that some men may be
in an equal hurry to get away. Our friends were certainly a little cold
when we said we were going there. Left to ourselves, or meekly
following, as we generally do, the advice given to us by well-instructed
people, we should not have gone to Atlantic City. But we were shepherded
there by circumstance, fate, or whatever the power is called which
regulates the minor affairs of life. And we were glad we went. No one,
says Tennyson, can be more wise than destiny. Our visit to Atlantic City
went to prove the truth of that profound remark.

The mean which destiny used for getting us to Atlantic City was a play.
We had a play of our own, and it was produced there for the first time
on the west side of the Atlantic. American theatrical managers believe
in experimenting with a play in some minor place before taking the
plunge of the New York production. They call this—in a phrase not
unknown in England—"trying it on the dog." It seems to me rather a good
plan. The verdict of the dog is not indeed of great value. Dogs, human
dogs, are the same everywhere. They are afraid to say they like anything
which has not got the seal of a great city's approval set on it. They
take refuge in damning with dubious phrase; and, in fact, no one with
any experience much minds what they say. But the experimental production
has a value of its own apart from the opinion of the dog. The company
shakes down and learns to work together. The first performance in an
important place, when the time comes for it, is much more likely to go
smoothly if the actors have faced audiences, even audiences of the dog
kind, every night for a week beforehand.

We did not understand the philosophy of these dog productions at first,
and were therefore a little nervous all the time we were in Atlantic
City, but not, I am glad to say, nervous enough to have our enjoyment of
the place spoiled. Nothing would induce me to say, or for a single
moment to think, that Atlantic City is in any way a characteristic
product of American civilization. All our civilizations produce places
of this kind. But it is fair, I think, to say that America does this
particular thing better than any other country. Superior people might
say that America does it worse; but I am not superior. I recognize that
the toiling masses have a right to revel during their brief holidays in
the way that appeals to them as most delightful. I do not revel in that
way myself; but that is not because I have found better ways, but only
because I am growing older and prefer to take my humble pleasures
quietly. When I was young I enjoyed tumultuous pleasures as much as any
one. I revelled with the best of my day in the town of Douglas; and, if
I did not get as much out of it as I might now if I were young again, it
was only because there was not, in those days, nearly so much in it. The
holiday resort has been enormously developed during the last twenty-five
years, and America, judging by Atlantic City—and I am told Coney Island
is better—is in the very van of human progress.

I have seen Portrush, our humble Irish attempt at a pleasure city. I
have seen Blackpool, which far surpasses Portrush in its opportunities
for delight. I have seen the Lido, where the Germans bathe. I have seen
Brighton, which is spoiled by a want of _abandon_ and a paralyzing
respect for gentility. Atlantic City outdoes them all. Atlantic City is
Portrush, Blackpool, Brighton, the Lido, and Ostend rolled into one, and
then, in all the essential features of such places, raised to the third
power, so to speak; multiplied by itself and then multiplied by itself
again.

Our friends, as I have hinted, warned us against Atlantic City. They
said:

"You won't enjoy _that_ place."

Or, varying the emphasis in a way very flattering to our reputations for
cultivated gentility:

"_You_ won't enjoy that place."

Or, altering the emphasis once more, after we had explained
apologetically that we went there on business:

"You won't _enjoy_ that place."

When we persisted in going, they took it for granted that we wanted to
argue with them. Then they closed the discussion with an emphatic
insistence on the one word which had hitherto escaped them.

"You _won't_ enjoy that place."

One friend, mistaking us for cynical students of the weaknesses and
follies of humanity, varied the warning in another way:

"You won't," he said, "enjoy it _now_. It's not the season."

They were all wrong. In spite of the private anxiety which gnawed at our
hearts, we did enjoy Atlantic City. We enjoyed it all the more because
we went there out of season. It is our deliberate practice to visit
places of this kind out of season, and the date of the production of our
play at Atlantic City was a most fortunate one for us. We no longer want
to revel. The time for that is past for us, but we do want to
understand, and we seem to get nearer that when the chief side shows are
closed, when the hotels are being painted, and when the sea has given up
the attempt to sparkle and look cheerful. In one of Mr. Anthony Hope's
novels there is a statesman of great craftiness who warns a Prince
Consort that he must not think he knows the Queen, his wife, because he
is allowed to see her in her stays. I daresay there is a good deal in
the warning. But I cannot help feeling that you would understand a queen
better if you saw her frequently, let us say in her dressing gown, than
if you never saw her except in her robes of state, with the crown royal
firmly fixed on her head with hairpins. It must be the same with
pleasure cities. One knows them, not well, but a little better when they
have tucked up their skirts, put on old blouses and turned to the task
of cleaning up after the festivities.

It is more instructive to walk along the broad sea front of Blackpool
through a fine chill mist of January rain than to stand there on a
blazing August day when the colliers' week of holiday is in full swing.
Deeper thoughts come to him who gazes at the forlorn rows of notices
that lodgings are to let within than to him who hurries through street
after street, looking for some place in which to lay his head. I am sure
that I catch the essential spirit of the Lido when the November sea is
brown, when the sands are drab, when the thousands of bathing boxes
stand locked and empty, than I would if smiling wavelets enticed plump
Germans to splash in them and _bruat paars_ lingered, indecently
affectionate, in the shadows behind. I did once, accidentally, see
Portrush in the very height of its season, and it was a disappointment
to me. Bevies of girls, hatless but with hair elaborately dressed,
paraded the streets with their arms round each others' waists. Critical
young men, in well-creased suits of the kind supposed to be suitable for
yachting, watched other girls being taught to swim in a deep pool.
Nursemaids helped children to build sand castles. Mothers of forty years
of age or thereabouts sat uncomfortably knitting with their backs
against the rocks. More than five thousand people carried hand cameras
about. Lovers, united for a day or two, wrote each others' names in huge
letters on the sand, where the retiring tide had left it smooth and dry.
There was too much to feel, far too much to think about. I grew confused
and desperate. I could not understand. Out of season the observer has a
better chance. If Portrush confused me, Atlantic City, seen in its full
glory, would have bewildered me utterly. Also out of season I am not
tormented with vain regrets. I am spared the vexation of feeling that a
yachting suit, carefully creased, would no longer lift my heart up to
the skies. It is not forced upon me that my pulses no longer throb
wildly at the sight of girls who smile. I do not think how sad it is
that I shall never again want to win the applause of a crowd by taking a
header into deep water from a giddy height. I am glad that we visited
Atlantic City out of season.

I forget how many piers Atlantic City has, but it is unusually rich in
these structures, and I have no doubt that the builders of them were
wise. A pier makes an irresistible appeal to the pleasure-seeker. He
would rather dance on a pier, under proper shelter, of course, and on a
good floor, than in a well-appointed salon on solid land. He would
rather eat ices on a pier than in an ordinary shop, though he has to pay
more for them, the cost of the ice being the same and the two pence for
entry into the enchanted region being an extra. A cinematograph show
draws more customers if it is on a pier. The reason of this is that the
normal and properly constituted holiday-maker wants to get as much sea
as he can. When he is not in it he likes to have it all round him, or as
nearly all round him as possible without going in a boat. Boats, for
several reasons, are undesirable. They sometimes make people sick. They
are expensive. They demand an undivided allegiance. You cannot have a
cinematograph, for instance, in a boat. The nearest thing to a boat is a
pier. It is almost surrounded by the sea. That is why piers are a
regular feature of up-to-date pleasure cities, and why Atlantic City has
so many of them. It is all to the credit of our revelers that they love
to be near the sea, to feel it round them, to hear it splashing under
their feet. The sea is the cleanest thing there is. You can vulgarize
it, but it is almost impossible, except at the heads of long estuaries,
to dirty it. It seems as if pleasure-seekers, who are also seekers of
the sea, must be essentially clean people, clean-hearted, otherwise they
would not feel as strongly impelled as they evidently do to get into
touch with the ocean. And it is real ocean at Atlantic City. Far out one
sees ships passing, the lean three-masted schooners of the American
coasting trade, trawlers in fleets, tramp steamers, companionless
things, all of these given to the real business of the sea, not to
pleasure voyaging. The eye lingers on them, and it is hard afterwards to
adjust the focus of the mental vision to the long wooden parade, itself
almost a pier, the flaunting sky signs, the innumerable tiny shops where
every kind of useless thing is sold. Atlantic City has, indeed, some
boats of its own, boats which go out from a haven tucked away behind the
north corner of the parade, and pass up and down across the sea front.
Their sails are covered with huge advertisements of cigarettes and
chewing gums. They are manned, no doubt, by the kind of longshoremen who
cater for the trippers' pleasure. They have in them as passengers
whoever in America corresponds to the London cockney. Among ships which
sail these are surely as the women of the streets. But you cannot
altogether degrade a boat. She retains some pathetic remnant of her
dignity, even if you make her sails into advertisement hoardings. It was
good to watch these boats, their masts set far forward, after the
American catboat fashion, making short, swift tacks among the sand banks
over which the Atlantic rollers foamed threateningly.

It is easy to understand why the shops along seafronts of places like
Atlantic City are for the most part devoted to the sale of useless
things. Picture postcards I reckon to be very nearly useless. They give
a transient gleam of pleasure to the buyer, none at all to the person
who receives them. The whole class of goods called souvenirs is entirely
useless. The photographs taken by seaside artists are not such as can
give any satisfaction to the sitters afterwards. Yet the impulse to buy
these things and to be photographed is almost irresistible. We yielded,
not to the seductions of the photographers, nor to the lure of the
souvenir-sellers, but with shameless self-abandonment to the postcard
shops. I found it very hard to pass any of them without buying. I still
have many of the Atlantic City postcards, and I look at them whenever I
feel in danger of growing conceited in order to reduce myself to a
proper condition of humility. We also—moved by what strange
impulse?—bought several instruments for cutting up potatoes. Under
ordinary circumstances a potato-chopper has no attractions whatever for
me. I could pass a shop window filled with them and not feel one prick
of covetous desire. And Atlantic City, of all places in the world, was
for us—I suppose in some degree for every visitor—most unsuitable for
the purchase of kitchen utensils. We knew, even while we bought them,
that we should have to haul them with us round America and back across
the Atlantic, that they would be a perpetual nuisance to us all the
time, and in all probability no use whatever when we got them home. Yet
we bought them. If the dollar we spent on them had been the last we
possessed we should have bought them all the same. Such is the strange
effect of places like Atlantic City on people who are in other places
sane enough. I can analyze and understand the impulse well enough though
I cannot resist it. It is the holiday spirit of the place which gets a
hold on visitors. All a whole long year we commonplace people, who are
not millionaires, are spending our money warily on things of carefully
calculated usefulness. We watch each shilling and see that it buys its
full worth of something which will make life more tolerable or pleasant.
Then comes the brief holiday, and with it the sudden loosing of all
bonds of ordinary restraint. Our souls revolt against spending money on
things which are any real good to us. We want, we are compelled to fling
it from us, asking in exchange nothing but trifles light as air. In
desperate reaction against the tyranny of domestic economics we even
insist on buying things, like potato cutters, which will be an actual
encumbrance to us afterwards.

Cowper represents John Gilpin's wife as insisting on taking her own wine
on a pleasure party and writes of her that

    "Though on pleasure she was bent
        She had a frugal mind."

I refuse to believe that of any human being, and I count Cowper a good
poet but a bad psychologist. The man who brought a load of
potato-cutters down to Atlantic City was probably not a poet at all, but
he had a profound knowledge of human nature. He knew that he would sell
the things there. It was the place of all places in the world for his
trade. It is a high tribute to Atlantic City as a holiday resort that it
forced us to buy two of these machines. None of the other pleasure
cities we have visited have had such a drastic effect upon us. Postcards
we yield to everywhere. Even the dreariest of second-rate watering
places can sell them to us. In Blackpool I found a paper-knife
irresistible. In Portrush I once bought a colored mug. Atlantic City
alone could have sold me potato-choppers, two of them.

In towns and rural districts where men and women live their ordinary
lives, work, love and ultimately die, it is the rarest thing possible to
see any grown person wheeled about in a perambulator or bath chair.
Occasionally some pitiful victim of a surgeon's skill is lifted out of
the door of a nursing home and placed tenderly in one of these vehicles.
He is wheeled about in the fresh air in obedience to the doctor's
orders, no doubt in hope that he will recover sufficient strength to
make another operation possible. But a bath chair, even now when surgery
has become a recognized form of sport, is a very unusual sight. In all
pleasure cities it is quite common. In Brighton, for instance, or at
Bournemouth, any one who can, with any chance of being believed,
represent himself as an invalid, takes advantage of his infirmity to get
himself wheeled about in a bath chair. At international exhibitions and
in some of the greater picture galleries which are also pleasure resorts
it is generally possible to hire a bath chair. Atlantic City, being, as
I believe, the greatest of all such places, has devised a kind of
glorified perambulator, something far more seductive than a bath chair.
It has room for two in it, and this in itself is a great advance. It has
the neatest imaginable hood, which you can pull over you in case of rain
or if you desire privacy. It looks something like a very small but
sumptuously appointed motor car.

You need not even pretend to be a cripple in Atlantic City in order to
make good your right to enter one of these chairs. All sorts of people,
brisk-looking young girls and men whose limbs are plainly sound, are
wheeled about, not only shamelessly but with evident enjoyment. There
are immense numbers of these vehicles, more, surely, than there are
invalids in the whole world. Out of season, when we saw them, they are
absurdly cheap, almost the only thing in America except oysters and
chocolates, and, curiously enough, silk stockings, which are cheap
judged by European standards. I longed very earnestly to go in one of
these vehicles, but at the last moment I always shrank from the
strangeness of it. Neither the taxi of the London streets nor the
outside car of my native land ever made so strong an appeal to me as
these perambulators of Atlantic City. I suppose it was the holiday
spirit of the place again. Girls and young men, certainly middle-aged
men, would feel like fools if they sat in perambulators anywhere else,
but it is a sweet and pleasant thing—according to a Latin poet who must
have known—to play the fool in the proper place. Atlantic City is the
proper place. Hence the enormous numbers of perambulators.

The hotels in Atlantic City are, most of them, as fantastic in
appearance as the place itself. I imagine that the architects who
planned them must, before they began their work, have been kept for
weeks on the sea-front and forced to go to all the entertainments which
offered themselves by day and night. They were probably fed on crab
dressed in various ways and given gin rickeys to drink. Then, when
allowed to drop to sleep in the early morning, they would naturally
dream. At the end of a fortnight or so of this treatment their dreams
would be imprinted on their memories and they would draw plans of hotels
suitable for Atlantic City. Only in this way, I think, can some of the
newer hotels have been conceived. They are not ugly, far from it. Crab,
dressed as American cooks dress it, does not induce nightmares, nor is a
gin rickey nearly so terrific a drink as it sounds. The architect merely
dreams, as Coleridge did when his Kubla Khan decreed a stately pleasure
dome in Xamadu. But Coleridge dreamed on opium and his visions were of
stately things. The Atlantic City hotel is less stately than fantastic.
It is a building which any one would declare to be impossible if he did
not see it in actual existence.

It will always be a source of regret to me that I did not stay in one of
these hotels which captivated me utterly. It was just what, as a boy, I
used to imagine that the palace of the Sleeping Beauty must be. A look
at it brought back dear memories of the transformation scenes of
pantomimes, in the days before transformation scenes went out of
fashion. It was colored pale green all over, and, looked at with
half-closed eyes, made me think of mermaids. I am sure that it was
perfectly delightful inside; but we did not stay there. A friend had
recommended to us another hotel, of great excellence and comfort, but
built before Atlantic City understood the proper way to treat
architects. In any case we could not have stayed in the pale green
hotel. It was closed. We were in Atlantic City out of season.



                               CHAPTER V
                             THE IRON TRAIL


Our luck, which had up to that point been as good as luck could be,
failed us miserably when we started for Chicago. The very day before we
left New York there was a blizzard and a snowstorm. Not in New York
itself. There was only a very strong wind there. Nor in Chicago, but all
over the district which lay between. One train was held up for eighteen
hours in a snowdrift. The last fragments of food in the restaurant car
were consumed, and the passengers arrived chilled and desperately hungry
at their destination. We might have been in that train. It was not,
indeed, possible for us to leave New York a day sooner than we did; but
I cannot see why the blizzard could not have waited a little.
Twenty-four hours' delay would have made no difference to it. It might
even have gathered force. To us it would have made all the difference in
the world. We missed a great experience. That is why I say that our luck
failed us at this point.

It would not, at the moment, have been a pleasant experience, and I do
not pretend that we should have enjoyed either the cold or the hunger;
and we are not the sort of people who, under such circumstances, secure
the last sardine. We should, owing to our feebleness in self-assertion,
have been among the first to go foodless. But afterwards we could have
thought about it and all our lives told steadily improving stories about
the adventure. The recollection of it would have added zest to every
remaining hour of comfort in our lives. What is a short spell of
suffering compared to such enduring joys? But in these matters we have
been singularly unlucky through life. We have never been in a shipwreck
or a railway accident or been forced to escape from a burning house.
Only once did a horse run away with us, and it fell almost immediately
after making its dash for liberty. No burglar has roused us to do battle
with him in the middle of the night. It seems hard, when we have been
denied all the great adventures of life, to miss by the narrow margin of
a single day the minor excitement of being snowed up in a train.

However, it is useless to complain. The thing was not to be and it was
not. Our journey was commonplace and unadventurous. We hired what is
called a drawing-room car on our train. This is an extravagant thing to
do. For people of our humble means it is almost criminally reckless.
Some day when we cannot afford to have our boots re-soled, when we are
looking at the loaves in the windows of bakers' shops with vain desire,
when we have neither money nor credit left to us, we shall think with
poignant regret of the huge sums we spent on that drawing-room car. We
shall be sorry, at least one of us will be sorry that we were not more
careful when he or she, the survivor, cannot afford a simple tombstone
to mark the grave of the other. But at the moment the money, in spite of
Atlantic City, being actually in our pockets, we felt that the
drawing-room car was an absolute necessity. I should take it again if I
were going to Chicago. But then we are not yet reduced to penury.

The alternative to a drawing-room car, on most trains, is a section in a
Pullman sleeping-car. Against this we rose in revolt. I cannot imagine
how the Americans, who are in many ways much more highly civilized than
Europeans, tolerate the existence of Pullman sleeping-cars. I am not
physically—though I am in every other way—an exceptionally modest man.
I have, for instance, no objection to mixed bathing, and it does not
make me blush to meet one of the housemaids in a hotel when, dressed
only in my pajamas, I am searching for the bathroom. But I do object to
undressing in the corridor of a Pullman sleeping-car, and I cannot, not
being a professional acrobat, undress in my berth. For a lady the thing
is, of course, much worse. Besides the undressing and the still more
difficult dressing again, there is the business of washing in the
morning, washing and, for most men, shaving. You go into a sort of
dressing-room to do that. There are not nearly basins enough. There is
not room enough. Somebody is sure to walk on your sponge, will walk on
your toothbrush, too, unless you happen to be a clerk, and therefore
practiced in the art of holding things behind your ear.

I think Americans are beginning to recognize that these sleeping-cars
are barbarous. I met one lady who told me that she would always gladly
sacrifice a new dress in order to spend the money on a drawing-room car.
I entirely sympathize with her; but, even if you are prepared for these
heroic extravagances, you cannot always get a drawing-room car. There
was one occasion on which we failed, though we telegraphed three days
before to engage one. On some of the best trains of the best lines there
are also what are called "compartments." These are comparable in comfort
to the cabins of the International Company of Wagon Lits on the
Continental trains de luxe, though inferior to the London and North
Western Railway Company's sleeper. No one has any right to grumble who
secures a compartment. Unfortunately, it is not every railway company
which has them, and it is by no means every train on which they are run.

The drawing-room car, when you get it, is in itself a comfortable thing
to travel in. There is a good deal of room in it. There is satisfactory
lavatory accommodation. The attendants are civil and competent. Any one
who can sleep in a train at all could sleep in a drawing-room car if
only he were not waked up every time the train stops or starts. Trains
must stop occasionally, of course. But there is no real need for
emphasizing the stops as American trains do. It is possible—I know
this, because both the French and English trains do it—to stop without
giving inexperienced passengers the impression that there has been a
collision. Stopping is not a thing a train ought to be proud of. There
is no reason why the attention of passengers should be drawn to it
forcibly. For starting with a bang there is, of course, more excuse. To
start at all is a triumph. It is a victory of mind over inert matter,
and any one who accomplishes it wants, naturally and properly, to be
admired. I can understand the annoyance of the train, conscious of being
able to start, at feeling that its passengers, who ought to be praising
it, are perhaps sound asleep. Yet I cannot help thinking that all the
admiration any train ought to want might be secured without excessive
violence. Suppose a notice were hung up in every coach: "This train will
stop twice during the night and after each stop will start again.
Passengers are requested to realize that this is not an easy thing to
do. They will therefore admire the train." No passenger with a spark of
decent feeling in him would refuse an appreciative pat to the engine in
the morning. We do as much for horses who cannot drag us nearly so far
or half so fast. We do it for dogs who do not drag us at all, only fetch
things for us. We should certainly treat engines with the same kindness
if they were a little tenderer to us. But I refuse to pat, stroke or in
any way fondle an engine which, out of mere vanity, wakes me up by
starting boisterously.

We ran during the night through the tail of the snowstorm which had
stopped the train the day before. We had left New York in pleasant
autumn weather, on one of those days which, without being cold, has an
exhilarating nip about it. We arrived in Chicago in what seemed to us
midsummer weather, though I believe it was not really hot for Chicago.
We passed on our way through a snow-covered district and had the
greatest difficulty in keeping warm during the night. This is one of the
advantages of traveling in America. The distances are so immense that in
the course of a single journey you have the chance of trying several
kinds of climate. In England you get the same result by staying in one
place. But the American plan is much better. There, having discovered a
climate which suits you, you can settle down in it with a fair amount of
confidence that it will remain what it is for a week or two at a time.
In England, whether you travel about or stay still, you have got to
accustom yourself to continual variety.

After breakfast, when the train had passed the snow-covered region and
the air became a little warmer, we sat on the platform at the end of the
observation car and looked out at the country through which we were
going. Nothing could conceivably be more monotonous. The land was quite
flat, the railway line was absolutely straight. The train sped on at a
uniform pace of about forty miles an hour. As far back as the eye could
see were the rails of the track, narrowing and narrowing until they
looked like a single sharp line, ruled with remorseless precision from
some point at an infinite distance in the east. On each side of us were
broad spaces of flat land, reaching, still flat, to the horizons north
and south of us. Every half-hour or so we passed a village, a collection
of meanly conceived, two-storied houses with a hideous little church
standing just apart from them. Hour after hour we rushed on with no
other change of scenery, no mountain, no lake, no river, just flat land,
with a straight line ruled on it. It was incredibly monotonous. I
suppose that the life of the people who inhabit that region is as
interesting, in reality, as any other life. The seasons change there, I
hope. Harvests ripen, cows calve, men die; but on us, strangers from a
very different land, the unvarying flatness of it all lay like an
intolerable weight.

Yet that journey gave me, more than anything else I saw, a sense of the
greatness of the American people. There is, I suppose, some one thing in
the history of every nation which impresses the man who realizes, even
dimly, the meaning of it, more than anything else does. Elizabethan
England's buccaneering adventures to the Spanish main seem to me to make
intelligible the peculiar greatness of England more than anything else
her people have ever done. Revolutionary France in arms against Europe
is France at her most glorious, with her special splendor at its
brightest. So my imagination fixes on America's settlement of her vast
central plain as the greatest thing in her story. Her fight for
independence was fine, of course; but many other nations have fought
such wars and won, or, just as finely, lost. Her civil war stirs
thoughts of greatness in any one who reads it. But this tremendous
journey of the American people from the east to the Mississippi shores,
halfway across a continent, was something greater than any war.

First, no doubt, hunters went out from the narrow strip of settled
seaboard land. They pushed their adventurous way across the Alleghanies,
finding passes, camping in strange fastnesses. They came upon the
westward-flowing waters of the great network of rivers which drain into
the Mississippi. They made their long, dim trails. They fought, with
equal cunning, bands of Indian braves. They returned, in love with
wildness, weaned from the ways of civilization, to tell their tales of
strange places by the firesides of sober men. Or they did not return.
They were great men, and their achievements very great, but not the
greatest.

More wonderful was the accomplishment of those long streams of settlers
who crossed Virginia and Pennsylvania to find the upper reaches of the
waterways which should lead and bear them mile by mile to the
Mississippi shore. It is barely a century since these men, home lovers,
not wanderers with the call of the wild in their ears, home builders,
not hunters, went floating in rude arks down the Ohio, the Cumberland,
the Tennessee. With unimaginable courage and faith they took with them
women, children, cattle, and household plenishing. Somewhere each ark
grounded and the work of settlement began. I saw the woods which stretch
for miles over rolling hills and round lakes beyond that curious colony
of very wealthy people at Tuxedo. My imagination pictured for me, as I
gazed at these woods, the outpost settlements of one hundred years ago.
The "half-faced camp," rudest of the dwellings of civilized man, was
built. Trees were "girdled" or cut down with patient toil. A small
clearing was made amid the interminable miles of forest land. I imagined
the men, lean and grim, the anxious women, ever on the alert because of
the perpetual menace of the Indians who might lurk a stone's throw off
among the shadows of the trees.

We can guess at the satisfaction of each triumph won; the day when the
lean-to shed with its open side gave place to the log hut, still rude
enough; the day when some great tree, sapless from its "girdling," was
hewn down at last; the adding of acre after acre of cleared land; the
incredibly swift growth of villages and towns; the pushing out of
settlements, south and north, into yet stranger wildernesses, away from
the friendly banks of the waterways. The courage and endurance of these
settlers must have been far beyond that required of soldiers, explorers
or adventurers. Step by step, almost literally step by step, they made
this wonderful journey, conquering every acre as they passed it. Yet we
know very little about them. Homer made a list of the ships which sailed
for Troy. Who has chronicled the arks and rafts of these still braver
men? Camoens wrote his Luciad to glorify the voyage of Vasco da Gama
round the African coast. All England's Elizabethan literature is,
rightly understood, an interpretation of the spirit of Drake and
Raleigh. No one has written an epic of these American pioneer settlers.
Yet surely if ever men deserved such commemoration they did.

Our train ran on and on at forty miles an hour, and my spirit was cowed
by the vast monotony. What sort of spirit had the men who faced it
first, to whom the conquest of a mile was a great achievement, to whom
it must have seemed that there was no end to it at all? I wonder whether
there was in them some great kind of faith, of which we have lost the
secret now, a belief that God Himself had bidden them go forward? Or
perhaps there was strong in them that instinct for the conquest of
nature which, whether he knew it or not, has always been in man, which
has made him greater than the beasts, only a little lower than the
angels. Or perhaps it was hunger for life itself, not for a fuller or a
richer life, but for the bare material existence, which sent them on,
threatened by want in civilized places, to look for ground where things
would grow, where the fruit of their toil would not be taken from them.
To find a parallel for the achievement of these men the mind must go
back to dim ages before history began, when our ancestors—why and how
we cannot guess—learned to light fires, chip flints, snare beasts, make
laws; groped through a palpable obscurity toward justice and right,
fought those impossible battles of theirs which have won for us the
kingship of the world. Theirs was an achievement greater indeed than
that of America's pioneer settlers, but of the same kind.

I went to church in New York on Thanksgiving Day, and I, though a
stranger, was given the privilege of reading aloud that wonderful
chapter in the Book of Deuteronomy which tells how God led His people
through a great and terrible wilderness. I forgot, as I read it, all
about Israel and Sinai. I remembered how the people among whom I was had
journeyed across their vast continent. They are not my people. Their
glory is none of mine. Their Thanksgiving Day had nothing to do with me,
but emotion thrilled me strangely as I read. I wondered, thanked, and
bent my head with fear, so great was the past which is remembered, so
terrible the warning which follows the recital. "Beware lest thou at all
forget the Lord thy God."

The observation car, with its sheltered platform at the back of it, is a
pleasant feature of the long-distance American train, one which might,
with advantage, be copied in Europe. But the best thing, the most wholly
satisfactory, about American railway traveling is that certain trains
are fined for being late. This happens in England, I think, certainly in
Ireland, in the case of mail trains. It does them a lot of good, but
gives small gratification to the suffering passengers, because the
Post-Office authorities take the money. In America the passengers get
the fine. Our train was an hour and a quarter late in getting to
Chicago, and we were handed a dollar each as compensation for our
annoyance. I felt sorrier than ever that we had not traveled the day
before in the train that was delayed by the blizzard. Then we should
have got eighteen dollars each and been able to buy several splendid
dinners to make up for our starvation.

It is not every train in America which pays for unpunctuality in this
way. I am not sure that the rule applies even to express trains all over
the continent, nor do I know whether the railway companies deal thus
justly with their passengers of their own free will. It seems very
unlikely that they do. I am inclined to think that there must be a law
on the subject, either a law made by the State of Illinois or, as I
hope, one made by Congress itself. However this may be, I have no doubt
at all that the law, if it is a law, ought to be made and strictly
enforced in every civilized country. I traveled once by a London & North
Western Railway express train, which was three hours late; and I
suffered a loss, was actually obliged to disperse no less a sum than
£2-18-0 in consequence. I tried in vain to make the company see that it
ought to pay me back that £2-18-0. I never got a penny. Yet the offense
of the American company was a trifling one in comparison. It was one
hour and a quarter late in a journey supposed to occupy twenty-three
hours. The London & North Western Railway took nine hours over a journey
which it professed to do in six. I cannot help feeling that the English
company would have got its train to London on that occasion much more
rapidly if it had known beforehand that it might have to pay each
passenger fifteen shillings at Euston. We hear a great deal on this side
of the Atlantic about the scandalous way in which American railway
magnates control American legislation. It appears that occasionally, at
all events, the legislators exercise a very salutary control over the
railways.

Charges of corrupting senates are certainly made against American
railway directors. They may conceivably be true. If they are it seems
desirable, in the interests of the passengers, that some of the British
railways would take in hand the task of corrupting the House of Commons
in the American way. The morals of that assembly could in no case be
much worse than they are, so there would be little loss in that way,
while the gain to the public would be immense if trains, even a few of
the best trains, were forced under heavy penalties to keep time.



                               CHAPTER VI
                           ADVANCE, CHICAGO!


Chicago possesses one exceedingly good hotel. We know this by
experience. The other hotels in the city may be equally good, but we
shall never try them. Having found one almost perfect hotel, we shall,
whenever we visit that city again, go back to it. But I expect that all
the other hotels there are good too, very good; for Chicago appears to
take an interest in its hotels. In most cities, perhaps in all other
cities, hotels are good or bad according as their managers are efficient
or the reverse. The city itself does not care about its hotels any more
than it cares about its bootmakers. A London bootmaker might provide
very bad leather for the soles of a stranger's boots. "The Times" would
not deal with that bootmaker in a special article. It might be very
difficult to obtain hot water in one of the great London hotels—I have
seen it stated, on the authority of an American, that it is very
difficult—but London itself does not care whether it is or not. The
soling of boots and the comfort of casual guests are, according to the
generally prevailing view, affairs best settled between the people
directly interested, the traveler on the one hand and the bootmaker or
manager on the other. No one else thinks that he has a right to
interfere.

Chicago takes a different view. It has a sense of civic responsibility
for its hotels, possibly also for its bootmakers. I did not try the
bootmakers and therefore cannot say anything certainly about them. But I
am sure about the hotels. It happened that there was a letter awaiting
my arrival at the hotel, the very excellent hotel, in which we stayed.
This letter was not immediately delivered to me. I believe that I ought
to have asked for it, that the hotel manager expects guests to ask for
letters, and that I had no reasonable ground of complaint when the
letter was not delivered to me. Nor did I complain. I am far too meek a
man to complain about anything in a large hotel. I am desperately afraid
of hotel officials. They are all much grander than I am and occupy far
more important positions in the world. I should not grumble if a
princess trod on my toe. Princesses have a right, owing to the splendour
of their position, to trample on me. But I would rather grumble at a
princess than complain to a head waiter or the clerk in charge of the
offices of a large hotel. Princesses are common clay compared to these
functionaries. But even if I were a very brave man, and even if I
believed that one man was as good as another and I the equal of the
manager of a large hotel, I should not have complained about the failure
to deliver that letter. The hotel when we were there was very full, and
full of the most important kind of people, doctors. It was not to be
expected that such a trifle as a letter for me would engage the
attention of anybody.

Next morning there was a paragraph in one of the leading Chicago papers
about my letter and the manager of the hotel was told plainly, in clear
print, that he must do his business better than he did. I was astonished
when the manager, taking me solemnly apart, showed me the paragraph,
astonished and terror-stricken. I apologized at once for daring to have
a letter addressed to me at his hotel. I apologized for not asking for
it when I arrived. I apologized for the trouble his staff had been put
to in carrying the letter up to my room in the end. Then I stopped
apologizing because, to my amazement, the manager began. He apologized
so amply that I came gradually to feel as if I were not entirely in the
wrong. Also I realized why it is that this hotel—and no doubt all the
others in Chicago—is so superlatively good. Chicago keeps an eye on
them. The press is alive to the fact that every citizen of a great city,
even a hotel manager, should do not merely his duty but more, should
practice counsels of perfection, perform works of supererogation,
deliver letters which are not asked for.

The incident is in itself unimportant, but it seems to me to illustrate
the spirit of Chicago. It is a great city and is determined to get
things done right. It has besides, and this is its rare distinction, an
unfaltering conviction that it can get things done right. Most
communities are conscious of some limitations of their powers. For
Chicago there are no limitations at all anywhere. Whatever ought to be
done Chicago will do. Nothing is too small, nothing too great to be
attempted and carried through. It may be an insignificant matter, like
the comfort of a helpless and foolish stranger. It may be a problem
against which civilized society has broken its teeth for centuries, like
the evil of prostitution. Chicago is convinced that it can be got right
and Chicago means to do it.

I admire this sublime self-confidence. I ought always to be happy when I
am among men who have it, because I was born in Belfast and the first
air I breathed was charged with exactly this same intensely bracing
ozone of strong-willedness.

Belfast is very like Chicago. If a Belfast man were taken while asleep
and transported on a magic carpet to Chicago, he would not, on waking
up, feel that anything very strange had happened to him. The outward
circumstances of life would indeed be different, but he would find
himself in all essential respects at home. He would talk to men who said
"We will," with a conviction that their "We will" is the last word which
can or need be said on any subject; just as he had all his life before
talked to men who said, "We won't," with the same certainty that beyond
their "We won't" there was nothing.

Chicago is, indeed, greater than Belfast, not merely in the number of
its inhabitants and the importance of its business, but in the fact that
it asserts where Belfast denies. It is a greater and harder thing to say
"Yes" than "No." But there is a spiritual kinship between the two places
in that both of them mean what they say and are quite sure that they can
make good their "yes" and "no" against the world. If all the rest of
America finds itself up against Chicago as the British empire is at
present up against Belfast, the result will be the bewilderment of the
rest of America.

I was in Chicago only for a short time. I did not see any of the things
which visitors usually see there. I went there with certain prejudices.
I had read, like every one else, Mr. Upton Sinclair's account of the
slaughter of pigs in Chicago. I had read several times over the late Mr.
Frank Norris's "The Pit." I had read and heard many things about the
wonderful work of Miss Jane Addams. I had a vague idea that Chicago was
both better and worse than other places, that God and the devil had
joined battle there more definitely than elsewhere, that the points at
issue were plainer, that there was something nearer to a straight fight
in Chicago between good and evil than we find in other places.

    "We are here," says Matthew Arnold, "as on a darkling plain,
    Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
    Where ignorant armies strive by night."

In Chicago I felt the armies would be less ignorant, the alarms a little
less confused. I am not sure now that this is so. It may be quite as
hard in Chicago as it is anywhere else to find out quite certainly what
is right; which, in certain tangled matters, is God's side and which the
devil's. But I do not believe that the Chicago man, any more than the
Belfast man, is tormented with the paralysis of indecision. He may and
very likely will do a great many things which will turn out in the end
not to be good things. But he will do them quite unfalteringly. When,
having done them, he has time to look round at the far side of them, he
may discover that there was some mistake about them somewhere. Then he
will undo them and do something else instead with the same vigorous
conviction. He will, in any case, keep on doing things and believing in
them.

I was in a large bookseller's shop while I was in Chicago. It was so
large that it was impossible to discover with any certainty what pleases
Chicago most in the way of literature. There seemed to me to be copies
of every book I had ever heard of waiting there for buyers, and, I
presume, they would not wait unless buyers were likely to come. But I
was struck with the very large number of books dealing with those
subjects which may be classed roughly under the term Eugenics. There
were more of these books in that shop than I had ever seen before. I
should not have guessed that there were so many in the world. I may, of
course, have received a wrong impression. This particular shop had its
books arranged according to subjects. There was not, as generally in
England and Ireland, a counter devoted to the latest publications, or a
series of shelves given over to books priced at a shilling. In this shop
all books on economics, for example, whether old or new, cheap or dear,
were in one place; all books on music in another; and so forth. The idea
underlying the arrangement being that a customer knows more or less the
subject he wants to read about and is pleased to find all books on that
subject ready waiting for him in rows. Our idea, on the other hand, that
which underlies the arrangements of our shops, is that a customer wants,
perhaps a new book, perhaps a ten-and-sixpenny book, perhaps a shilling
book, without minding much what the book is about. He is best suited by
finding all the new books in one place, all the ten-and-sixpenny books
in another, and all the shilling books in a third. I do not know which
is the better plan, but that adopted in the Chicago shop has the effect
of making the casual customer realize the very large number of books
there are on every subject. I may therefore have been deceived about the
popularity of books on eugenics in Chicago. There may be no more on sale
there than elsewhere. But I think there are. Of some of these books
there were very large numbers, twenty or thirty copies of a single book
all standing in a row. Plainly it was anticipated that there were in
Chicago twenty or thirty people who would want that particular book. I
never, in any book shop elsewhere, saw more than five or six copies of a
eugenic book in stock at the same time. I also noticed that the majority
of these books were cheap; not detailed and elaborate treatises on, let
us say, Weissmannism and the mechanism of heredity; but short handbooks,
statements of conclusions supposed to be arrived at and practical advice
suited to plain people. I formed the opinion that the study of eugenics
is popular in Chicago, more popular than elsewhere, and that a good many
people believe that some good is to be got out of knowing what science
has to teach on these subjects.

I was told by a man who ought to have known that these books are
steadily becoming more popular. The demand for them was very small five
years ago. It is very large now and becoming steadily larger. This seems
to me a very interesting thing. For a long time people were content just
to take children as they came, and they did not bother much about the
hows and the whys of the business. Grown-up men and women did not indeed
believe that storks dropped babies down chimneys or that doctors brought
them in bags. But they might just as well have believed these things for
all the difference such knowledge as they had made in their way of
conducting the business. Their philosophy was summed up in a proverb.
"When God sends the mouth He sends the food to fill it." To go further
into details struck people, twenty years ago, as rather a disgusting
proceeding.

Now we have all, everywhere, grown out of this primitive innocence. We
have been driven away from our old casual ways of reproducing ourselves,
and are forced to think about what we are doing. There is nothing very
interesting or curious about this. It is simply a rather unpleasant
fact. What is interesting is that Chicago seems to be thinking more than
the rest of us, is at all events more interested than the rest of us in
the range of subjects which I have very roughly called eugenics. Chicago
is, apparently, buying more books on these subjects, and presumably buys
them in order to read them. Is this a symptom of the existence of a
latent vein of weakness in Chicago?

I am not a very good judge of a question of this sort. The whole subject
of Eugenics and all the other subjects which are associated with it are
extremely distasteful to me. I like to think of young men and young
women falling in love with each other and getting married because they
are in love without considering overmuch the almost inevitable
consequences until these are forced upon them. I fancy that in an
entirely healthy community things would be managed in this way, and that
the result, generally speaking and taking a wide number of cases into
consideration, would be a race of wholesome, sound children, fairly well
endowed with natural powers and fitted to meet the struggle of life. But
Chicago evidently thinks otherwise. The subject of Eugenics is studied
there, and, as a consequence of the study, a number of clergy of various
churches have declared that they will not marry people who are suffering
from certain diseases. They have all reason on their side. I admit it. I
have nothing to urge against them except an old-fashioned prejudice in
favor of the fullest possible liberty to the individual. Yet I cannot
help feeling that it is not a sign of strength in a community that it
should think very much about these things. A man seldom worries about
his digestion or reads books about his stomach until his stomach and his
digestion have gone wrong and begun to worry him. A great interest in
what is going on in our insides is either a sign that things are not
going on properly or else a deliberate invitation to our insides to give
us trouble. It is the same with the community. But I should not like to
think that anything either is or soon will be the matter with Chicago.
It would be a lamentable loss to the world if Chicago's definite "I
will" were to weaken, if the native hue of this magnificent,
self-confident resolution were to be sicklied o'er with a pale cast of
thought.

At present, at all events, there is very little sign of any such
disaster. It happened that while we were in Chicago there was some sort
of Congress of literary men. They dined together, of course, as all
civilized men do when they meet to take counsel together on any subject
except the making of laws. In all probability laws would be better made
if Parliaments were dining clubs; but this is too wide a subject for me
to discuss. The literary men who met in Chicago had a dinner, and I was
highly honored by receiving an invitation to it. I wish it had been
possible for me to be there. I could not manage it, but I did the next
best thing, I read the report of the proceedings in the papers on the
following morning. One speaker said that he looked forward to the day
when Chicago would be the world center of literature, music and art. He
was not, of course, a stranger, one of the literary men who had gathered
there from various parts of America. He was a citizen of Chicago. No
stranger would have ventured to say so magnificent a thing. As long as
Chicago says things like that, simply and unaffectedly, and believes
them, Chicago can study eugenics as much as it likes, might even devote
itself to Christian Science or take to Spiritualism. It would still
remain strong and sane. For this was not a silly boast, made in the name
of a community which knows nothing of literature, music or art. Chicago
knows perfectly well what literature is and what art is. Chicago
understands what England has done in literature and art, what France has
done, what Germany has done. Chicago has even a very good idea of what
Athens did. If I were to say that I looked forward to inventing a
perfect flying machine I should be a fool, because I know nothing
whatever about flying machines and have not the dimmest idea of what the
difficulties of making them are. If Chicago were as ignorant about
literature and art as I am about aeronautics, its hope of becoming the
world center of these things would be fit matter for a comic paper. What
makes this boast so impressive is just the fact that Chicago knows quite
well what it means.

There are no bounds to what a man can do except his own self-distrust.
There is nothing beyond the reach of a city which unfalteringly believes
in itself. No other city believes in itself quite so whole-heartedly as
Chicago does, and I expect Chicago _will_ be the world center of
literature, music and art. There is nothing to stop it, unless indeed
Chicago itself gives up the idea and chooses to be something else
instead. It may, I hope it will, decide to be the New Jerusalem, with
gates of pearl and streets of gold and a tree of life growing in the
midst of it. Then Chicago will be the New Jerusalem and I shall humbly
sue to be admitted as a citizen. My petition will, I am sure, be
granted, for the hospitality of the people of Chicago seems to me to
exceed, if that be possible, the hospitality of other parts of America.
I am not sure that I should be altogether happy there, even under the
new, perfected conditions of life; but perhaps I may. I was indeed born
in Belfast, and as a young man shared its spirit. That gives me hope.
But I left Belfast early in life. I have dwelt much among other peoples,
and learned self-distrust. It may be too late for me to go back to my
youth and learn confidence again. If it is too late, I shall not be
really happy in Chicago.



                              CHAPTER VII
                         MEMPHIS AND THE NEGRO


Chicago is generous as well as strong. There is no note of petty
jealousy in its judgment of other cities. Memphis belongs to the South
and is very different from the cities of the East and the middle West.
It is easily conceivable that Chicago might be a little contemptuous of
Memphis, just as Belfast is more than a little contemptuous of Dublin.
But Chicago displays a fine spirit. I was assured, more than once, when
I was in Chicago, that Memphis is a good business city, and I suppose
that no higher praise could be given than that. I never met a Belfast
man who would say as much for Dublin. But, of course, Chicago is not in
this matter so highly tried as Belfast is. Memphis does not assume an
air of social superiority to Chicago as Dublin does to Belfast. It is
not therefore so very hard for Chicago to be generous in her judgment.

Perhaps "generous" is the wrong word to use; "just" would be better. No
generosity is required, because Memphis really is one of those places in
which business is efficiently done. Timber, I understand, is one of the
things in which Memphis deals. Cotton is another. I do not know which of
the two is a greater source of trade, but cotton is the more impressive
to the stranger. The place is full of cotton. Mule carts drag great
bales of it to and from railway stations. Sternwheel steamers full of it
ply up and down the Mississippi. I shall never again take out a pocket
handkerchief—I use the cheaper, not the linen or silken
handkerchief—without looking to see if there is a little piece of white
fluff sticking on my sleeve. When I next visit one of the vast whirling
mills of Lancashire I shall think of a large quiet room in Memphis full
of tables on which are laid little bundles of cotton, each bearing a
neat ticket with mysterious numbers and letters written on it. As I
watch the operatives tending the huge machines which spin their endless
threads, I shall think of the men who handle the samples of the cotton
crop in that Memphis office. They take the stuff between their fingers
and thumbs and slowly pull it apart, looking attentively at the fine
fibers which stretch and separate as the gentle pull is completed. By
some exquisite sensitiveness of touch and some subtle skill of glance
they can tell to within an eighth of an inch how long these fibers are.
And on the length of the fiber depends to a great extent the value of
the crop of the particular plantation from which that sample comes.
Outside the windows of the room is the Mississippi,—a broad, sluggish,
gray river when I saw it; where the deeply laden steamers splash their
way from riverside plantations to Memphis and then down to New Orleans,
where much of the cotton is shipped to Europe.

Beyond the room where the cotton is graded is an office, a sunlit
pleasant place with comfortable writing desks and a case full of various
books. You might fancy yourself in the private room of some cultivated
lawyer in an English country town, if it were not that in a corner of
that office there stands one of those machines which, with an infinite
amount of fussy ticking, disgorge a steady stream of ribbon stamped with
figures. In New York and Liverpool men are shouting furiously at each
other across the floors of Cotton Exchanges. Prices are made, raised,
lowered by their shouts. Transactions involving huge sums of money are
settled by a gesture or two and a shouted number. A hand thrust forward,
palm outward, sells what twenty panting steamers carry to the Memphis
quays. A nod and a swiftly penciled note buys on the assurance that the
men with the sensitive fingers have rightly judged the exact length of a
fiber, impalpable to most of us. All the time the shouting and the
gestures are going on thousands of miles away this machine, with
detached and unexcited indifference, is stamping a record of the
frenzied bidding, there in the sunlit Memphis office. Chicago is no more
than just when it says that Memphis is a city where business is done.

Modern business seems to me the most wonderful and romantic thing that
the world has ever seen. A doctor in London takes a knife and cuts a bit
out of a man's side. By doing that he acquires, if he chooses to
exercise it, the right to levy a perpetual tax on the earnings of a
railway somewhere in the Argentine Republic. No traveler on that railway
knows of his existence. None of the engine drivers, porters, guards or
clerks who work the railway have ever heard of that doctor or of the man
whose side was cut. But of the fruit of their labors some portion will
go to that doctor and to his children after him if he chooses, with the
money his victim pays him, to buy part of the stock of that railway
company. An obscure writer, living perhaps in some remote corner of
Wales, tells a story which catches the fancy of the ladies who subscribe
to Mudie's library. He is able, because he has written feelingly of
Evangelina's first kiss, to take to himself and assure to his heirs some
part of the steel which sweating toilers make in Pittsburgh, or, if that
please him better, he can levy a toll upon the gold dug from a mine in
South Africa. What do the Pittsburgh steel workers know or care about
him or Evangelina or the ladies who thrill over her caress? Why should
they give up part of the fruit of their toil because an imaginary man is
said to have kissed a girl who never existed? It is very difficult to
explain it, but all society, all nations, peoples and languages agree
that they must. The whole force of humanity, combined for this purpose
only, agrees that the doctor, because of his knife, which has very
likely killed its victim, and the novelist because of his silly
simpering heroine, shall have an indefeasible right to tax for their own
private benefit almost any industry in the whole wide world. This is an
unimaginable romance. So is all business; but Memphis brought home the
strangeness of it to me most compellingly.

Here is a dainty lady, furclad, scented, pacing with delicate steps
across the floor of one of our huge shops. In front of her, not less
exquisitely dressed, a handsome man bows low with the courtesy of a
great lord of other days:

"Lingerie, madam, this way if you please. The second turning to the
left. _This_ way, madam. Miss Jones, _if_ you please. Madam wishes to
see——"

And madam, with her insolent eyes, deigns to survey some frothy piles of
frilly garments, touches, appraises the material, peers at the stitches
of the hems, plucks at inserted strips of lace.

Here are broad acres of black, caked earth and all across them are rows
and rows of stunted bushes, like gooseberry bushes, but thinner and much
darker. On all their prickly branches hang little tufts of white
fluff—cotton. Among the bushes go men, women and children, black,
negroes every one of them, dressed in bright yellow, bright blue and
flaming red. From their shoulders hang long sacks which trail on the
ground behind them. They steadily pick, pick, pick the fluffs of cotton
out of the opened pods, and push each little bit into a sack. There you
have the beginning of all, the ending of part of this wonderful
substance which clothes, so they tell us, nine-tenths of the men and
women in the world who wear clothes. What is in between the dainty
English lady and the negro in Tennessee?

The plantation owner drives his mule along winding tracks through the
fields where the bushes are and watches. He is a man harassed by the
unsolvable negro problem, in constant dread of insect pests, oppressed
by economic difficulties. Men in mills nearby comb the thick seeds from
the raw cotton, press it tight and bind it into huge bales. Men grade
and sort the samples of it. Men shout at each other in great marts, buy
and sell cotton yet unsorted, unpicked, ungrown; and the record of their
doings is flashed across continents and oceans. Ships laden down to the
limit of safety plunge through great seas with tired men on their
bridges guiding them. In Lancashire, in Russia, in Austria, huge
factories set their engines working and their wheels go whirling round.
Men and women sweat at the machines. In Derry and a thousand other
places women in gaunt bare rooms with sewing machines, or in quiet
chambers of French convents with needles in their hands, are working at
long strips of cotton fabric. In shops women again, officered by men,
are selling countless different stuffs made out of this same cotton
fluff.

And the whole complex organization, the last achieved result of man's
age-long struggle for civilization, works on the perilous verge of
breaking down. The fine lady at the one end of it may buy what she
cannot pay for and disturb the delicately balanced calculations of the
shopkeeper. Some well-intentioned Government somewhere may insist that
the women who sew shall have fire and a share of the sunlight, things
which cost money. Inspectors come, with pains and penalties ready in
their pockets, and it seems possible that they will dislocate the whole
machine. Labor, painfully organized, suddenly claims a larger share of
the profits which are flowing in. The wheels of all the factories stop
whirling. Their stopping affects every one through the whole length of
the tremendous chain, alters the manner of life in the tiniest of the
negroes' huts. A sanguine broker may speculate disastrously and the long
chain of the organization quivers through its entire length and
threatens breaking. A ship owner raises rates, the servants of a railway
company go on strike. Some one makes a blunder in estimating the size of
a future crop. Negroes prove less satisfactory than usual as workers.
The possibilities of a breakdown somewhere are almost uncountable. Yet
somehow the thing works. It is a wonderful accomplishment of man that it
should work and break down as seldom as it does; but the dread of
breakdown is present everywhere.

Everyone, the whole way from the lady who wants lingerie to the negro
who picks at the bushes, is beset with anxiety. But fortunately no one
ever really feels more than his own immediate share of it. The cotton
planter will indeed be affected seriously by an epidemic of speculation
in New York, or a strike in Lancashire or the legislation of some
well-meaning government. He knows all this, but it does not actually
trouble him much. He has his own particular worry and it is at him so
constantly that it leaves all the other worries no time to get at him at
all. His worry is the negro.

According to the theory of the American constitution the negro is a free
man, a brother, as responsible as anyone else for the due ordering of
the state. In actual practice the negro is either slowly emerging from
the slave status or slowly sinking back to it again. It does not matter
which way you look at it, the essential thing is, whichever way he is
going, he is not yet settled down in either position. It is
impossible—on account of the law—to treat him as a slave. It is
impossible—on account of his nature, so I am told—to treat him as a
free man. He is somewhere in between the two. He is economically
difficult and socially undesirable. But he is the only means yet
discovered of getting cotton picked. If anyone would invent a machine
for picking cotton he would benefit the world at large immensely and
make the cotton planter, save for the fear of certain insects, a happy
man. But the shape of the cotton bush renders it very difficult to get
the cotton off it except by the use of the human finger and thumb. We
are not nearly so clever at inventing things as we think we are. The
cotton bush has so far defeated us. The negro, who supplies the finger
and thumb, has very nearly defeated us too. It is hard to get him to
work at all and still harder to keep him at it. He does not seem to be
responsive to the ordinary rules of political economy. If he can earn
enough in one day to keep him for three days he sees no sense in working
during the other two.

The southern American does not seem to be trying to solve this negro
problem. He makes all sorts of makeshift arrangements, tries plans which
may work this year and next year but which plainly will not work for
very many years. These seem the best he can do. Perhaps they are the
best anyone could do. Perhaps it is always wisest to be content to keep
things going and to let the remoter future take care of itself. The
cotton crop has to be picked somehow this year, and it may have to be
picked next year too. After that—well nobody speculates in futures as
far ahead as 1916.

The problem of the social position of the negro seems to be quite as
difficult to solve as that created by his indifference to the laws of
political economy. The "man and brother" theory has broken down
hopelessly and the line drawn between the white and colored parts of the
population in the South is as well defined and distinct as any line can
be. The stranger is told horrible tales of negro doings and is convinced
that the white men believe them by the precautions they take for the
protection of women. There may be a good deal of exaggeration about
these stories, and in any case the morality or immorality of the negro
is not the most difficult element in the problem. Education, the steady
enforcement of law, and the gradual pressure of civilization will no
doubt in time render outrages rarer. It is at all events possible to
look forward hopefully. The real difficulty seems to me to lie in the
strong, contemptuous dislike which white people who are brought into
close contact with negroes almost invariably seem to feel for them. In
the northern parts of America where negroes form a very small part of
the population, this feeling does not exist. A northern American or an
Englishman would not feel that he were insulted if he were asked to sit
next a negro at a public banquet. A southern American would decline an
invitation if he thought it likely that he would be called upon to do
such a thing. A southern lady, who happened to be in New York, was
offered by a polite stranger a seat in a street car next a negro. She
indignantly refused to occupy it. The very offer was an outrage.

The feeling would be intelligible if it were the outcome of instinctive
physical prejudice. An Englishwoman, who had hardly ever come into
contact with a negro, once found herself seated at tea in the saloon of
a steamer opposite a negress who was in charge of some white children.
She found it impossible to help herself to cake from the dish from which
the negress had helped herself. The idea of doing so filled her with a
sense of sickness. Yet she did not feel herself insulted or outraged at
being placed where she was. A southern American woman would have felt
outraged. But the southern American woman has no instinctive shrinking
from physical contact with black people. She is accustomed to it. She
has at home a black cook who handles the food of the household, a black
nurse who minds the children, perhaps a black maid who performs for her
all sorts of intimate acts of service. As servants she has no objection
to negroes. There is in her nothing corresponding to the Englishwoman's
instinctive shrinking from the touch of a black hand.

Nor is the southern American's contempt for the negroes anything at all
analogous to the contempt which most people feel for those who are
plainly their inferiors. A brave man has a thoroughly intelligible
contempt for one who has shown himself to be a coward. But this is an
entirely different thing, different in kind, not merely in degree, from
a southern white man's contempt for a negro. It is the existence of this
feeling, intensely strong and very difficult to explain, which makes the
problem of the negro's social future seem hopeless of solution. No moral
or intellectual advance which the negro can make affects this feeling in
the slightest. It is not the brutalized negro or the ignorant negro, but
the negro, whom the white man refuses to recognize as a possible equal.

Memphis, in spite of its negro problem, seems to me to be rapidly
emerging from the ruins of one civilization and to be pressing forward
to take a foremost place in another. I do not suppose that Memphis now
regrets the past very much or even thinks often of the terrible
humiliation of the Civil War and the years of blank hopeless ruin which
followed it. There was that indeed in the past which must have left
indelible marks behind it. It was not easy for a proud people,
essentially aristocratic in their outlook upon life, to accept defeat at
the hands of men whom they looked down upon. It is not easy to forget
the intolerable injustice which, inevitably, I suppose, followed the
defeat. But Memphis is looking forward and not back, is grasping at the
possibilities of the future rather than brooding over the past.

But if Memphis and the South generally are content to forget the past,
it does not follow that the past has forgotten them. The spirit of the
older civilization abides. It haunts the new life like some pathetic
ghost, doomed to wander helplessly among people who no longer want to
see it. There is a certain suavity about Memphis which the stranger
feels directly he touches the life of the place. It is a lingering
perfume, delicate, faint but appreciable. I am told that it is to be
traced to Europe, that the business men in Memphis have closer relations
with England, Austria and Russia than with the northern states of their
own country. I am also told that we must look to the origin of it to the
Cavalier settlers of the southern states from whom the people who live
there now claim descent. I do not like either explanation. A man does
not catch suavity by doing business with Lancashire. The quality is not
one on which the northern Englishman prides himself, or indeed which is
very obvious in his way of living. The blood of those original
cavaliers, gentlemen all of them I am sure, must have got a good deal
mixed in the course of the last two hundred years, especially as
strangers are always pouring into the South. It must be an attenuated
fluid now, scarcely capable of flavoring perceptibly a new and vigorous
life. I prefer my own hypothesis of a ghost. Some of these creatures
smell of sulphur and leave a reek of it behind them when they pay visits
to their old homes on earth. Others betray their presence by the damp,
cold earthy air they bring with them from the tombs in which their
bodies were laid. This Memphis ghost, which no one in Memphis sees, but
which yet has its influence on Memphis life, is of quite a different
kind. It is scented with pot-pourri, and the delicate rose water which
great ladies of bygone generations made and used. It is the ghost of
some grande dame like Madame Esmond, who owned slaves and used them with
no misgiving about her right to do so, whose pride was very great, whose
manners were dignified, whose ways among those of her own caste were
exceedingly gracious. There is something, some lingering suggestion of
great ladies about Memphis still, in spite of its new commercial
prosperity. I think it must be because the spirits of them haunt the
place.

Someone must surely have written a book on the philosophy of American
place names. The subject is an interesting one, and the world has a lot
of authors in it. It cannot have escaped them all. But I have not seen
the book. If I ever do see it I shall turn straight to the chapter which
deals with Memphis and Cairo, for I very much want to know how those two
places came to have Egypt for their godfather. Most American place names
are easy enough to understand, and they seem to me to surpass, in their
fascinating suggestion of romance, our older Irish and English names. It
is, of course, interesting to know that all the chesters in
England—Colchester, Dorchester, Manchester and Chester itself—were
once Roman camps; and that most of the Irish kils—Kilkenny, Kildare,
Killaloe, Kilrush—were the churches of once honored saints. But the
Romans and the saints are very remote. They were important people in
their day no doubt, but it is very hard to feel the personal touch of
them now. American place names bring us closer to men with whom we feel
that we can sympathize. There is a whole range of names taken straight
from old homes, New York, for instance, Boston, New Orleans. We do not
need to go back in search of emotions to the original meaning of York or
to worry over the derivation of Orleans. It is enough for us that these
names suggest all the pathetic nostalgia of exiles. The men who named
these places must have been thinking of dearly loved cathedral towers,
of the streets and market places of country towns whose every detail was
well remembered and much regretted, of homes which they would scarcely
hope to see again. It is not hard, either, to catch the spirit of the
Puritan settlers in theological and biblical names, in Philadelphia,
Salem and so forth. The men who gave these names to their new homes must
have felt that like Abraham they had gone forth from their kindred and
their people, from the familiar Ur of the Chaldees, to seek a country,
to find that better city whose builder and maker is God. Philadelphia is
perhaps to-day no more remarkable for the prevalence of brotherly love
among its people than any other city is. But there were great thoughts
in the minds of the men who named it first; and reading the name to-day,
even in a railway guide, our hearts are lifted up into some sort of
communion with theirs. Then there are the Indian names, of lakes,
mountains and rivers chiefly, but occasionally of cities too. Chicago is
a city with an Indian name. Perhaps these are of all the most suggestive
of romance. It must have been the hunters and explorers, pioneers of the
pioneers, who fixed these names. One imagines these men, hardened with
intolerable toil, skilled in all the lore of wild life, brave,
adventurous, picking up here and there a word or two of Indian speech,
adopting Indian names for places which they had no time to name
themselves, handing on these strange syllables to those who came after
them to settle and to build. Greater, so it seems, than the romance of
the homesick exile, greater than the romance of the Puritan with his
Bible in his hand, is the wild adventurousness which comes blown to us
across the years in these Indian names.

But there are names like Memphis which entirely baffle the imagination.
It is almost impossible to think that the people who named that place
were homesick for Egypt. What would Copts be doing on the shores of the
Mississippi? How could they have got there? Nor is it easy to think of
any emotion which the name Memphis would be likely to stir in the mind
of a settler. Memphis means nothing to most men. It is easy to see why
there should be an American Rome. A man might never have been in Rome,
might have no more than the barest smattering of its history, yet the
name would suggest to him thoughts of imperial greatness. Any one who
admires imperial greatness would be inclined to call a new city Rome.
But Memphis suggests nothing to most of us, and to the few is associated
only with the worship of some long forsaken gods. I can understand
Indianapolis. There was Indiana to start with, a name which anyone with
a taste for sonorous vowel sounds might easily make out of Indian. The
Greek termination is natural enough. It gives a very desirable
suggestion of classical culture to a scholar. But a scholar would be
driven far afield indeed before he searched out Memphis for a name.

I asked several learned and thoughtful people how Memphis came by its
name. I got no answer which was really satisfactory. It was suggested to
me that cotton grows in Egypt and also in the neighborhood of Memphis.
But cotton does not immediately suggest Egypt to the mind. Mummies
suggest Egypt. So, though less directly, does corn. If a caché of
mummies had been discovered on the banks of the Mississippi it would be
easy to account for Memphis. If Tennessee were a great wheat state one
could imagine settlers saying "There is corn in Egypt, according to the
Scriptures. Let us call our new city by an Egyptian name." But I doubt
whether cotton suggested Memphis. It certainly did not suggest Cairo,
for Cairo is not a cotton place. I was told,—though without any strong
conviction—that the sight of the Mississippi reminded somebody once of
the Nile. It would of course remind an Egyptian fellah of the Nile; but
the original settlers in Memphis were almost certainly not Egyptian
fellaheen. Why should it remind any one else of the Nile? It reminds me
of the Shannon, and I should probably have wanted to call Memphis
Athlone if I had had a voice in the naming of it. It would remind an
Englishman of the Severn, a German of the Rhine, an Austrian of the
Danube, a Spaniard—it was, I think, a Spaniard who went there first—of
the Guadalquiver. I cannot believe that the sight of a very great river
naturally suggests the Nile to anyone who is not familiar with Egypt
beforehand.

It is indeed true that both the Mississippi and the Nile have a way of
overflowing their banks, but most large rivers do that from time to
time. The habit is not so peculiar as to force the thought of the Nile
on early observers of the Mississippi. Indeed there is a great
difference between the overflowings of the Nile and those of the
Mississippi. The Nile, so I have always understood, fertilizes the land
round it when it overflows. The Mississippi destroys cotton crops when
it breaks loose. South of Memphis for very many miles the river is
contained by large dykes, called levees, a word of French origin. These
are built up far above the level of the land which they protect. It is a
very strange thing to stand on one of these dykes and look down on one
side at the roofs of the houses of the village, and on the other side at
the river. When we were there the river was very low. Long banks of sand
pushed their backs up everywhere in the main stream and there was half a
mile of dry land between the river and the bank on which we stood. But
at flood time the river comes right up to the dyke, rises along the
slope of it, and the level of the water is far above that of the land
which the dykes protect. Then the people in the villages near the dyke
live in constant fear of inundation, and I saw, beside a house far
inland, a boat moored—should I in such a case say tethered?—to a tree
in a garden ready for use if the river swept away a dyke. I suppose the
people get accustomed to living under such conditions. Men cultivate
vines and make excellent wine on the slopes of Vesuvius though Pompeii
lies, a bleached skeleton, at their feet. I should myself rather plant
cotton behind a dyke, than do that. But I am not nearly so much afraid
of water as I am of fire.

I was told that at flood time men patrol the tops of the dykes with
loaded rifles in their hands, ready to shoot at sight anyone who
attempts to land from a boat. The idea is that unscrupulous people on
the left bank, seeing that their own dyke is in danger of collapsing,
might try to relieve the pressure on it by digging down a dyke on the
right bank and inundating the country behind it. The people on the other
side of course take similar precautions. Most men, such unfortunately is
human nature, would undoubtedly prefer to see their neighbors' houses
and fields flooded rather than their own. But I find it difficult to
believe that anyone would be so entirely unscrupulous as to dig down a
protecting dyke. The rifle men can scarcely be really necessary but
their existence witnesses to the greatness of the peril.

I saw, while I was in Memphis, a place where the river had torn a large
piece of land out of the side of a public park. The park stood high
above the river and I looked down over the edge of a moderately lofty
cliff at the marks of the river's violence. Some unexpected obstacle or
some unforeseen alteration in the river bed had sent the mighty current
in full force against the land in this particular place. The result was
the disappearance of a tract of ground and a semicircle of clay cliff
which looked as if it had been made with a gigantic cheese scoop. The
river was placid enough when I saw it, a broad but lazy stream. But for
the torn edge of the park I should have failed to realize how terrific
its force can be. The dykes were convincing. So were the stories of the
riflemen. But the other brought the reality home to me almost as well as
if I had actually seen a flood.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                          THE LAND OF THE FREE


We should have been hard indeed to please if we had not enjoyed our
visits to Chicago and Memphis. We should be ungrateful now if we
confessed that there was any note of disappointment in the memory of the
joyous time we had. Yet there is one thing we regret about that journey
of ours to the Middle West and South. We should dearly have liked to see
a dozen other places, smaller and less important, which lay along the
railway line between Chicago and Memphis, and between Memphis and
Indianapolis. We made the former of these journeys entirely, and the
latter partly, by day. Some unimaginative friends warned us beforehand
that these journeys were dull, that it would be better to sleep through
them if possible, rather than spend hours looking out of railway
carriage windows at uninteresting landscapes. These friends were
entirely wrong. The journeys were anything but dull. The trains dragged
us through a whole series of small towns, and, after the manner of many
American trains, gave us ample opportunity of looking at the houses and
the streets.

In other countries trains are obliged to hide themselves as much as
possible when they come to towns. They go into tunnels when they can or
wander round the backs of mean houses so that the traveler sees nothing
except patches of half bald earth sown with discarded tins and rows of
shirts and stockings hanging out to dry. European peoples, it appears,
do not welcome trains. In America the train seems to be an honored
guest. It is allowed, perhaps invited, to wander along or across the
chief streets. I have been told by a very angry critic that this way of
stating the fact is wrong, misleading, and abominably unjust to the
American people. The towns, he says, did not invite the train, but the
train, being there first, so to speak, invited the towns to exist. Very
likely this is so. But it seems to me to matter but little whether the
train or the town came first. The noticeable thing is that the town
evidently likes the train. It is just as sure a mark of affection to lay
out a main street alongside the railway line as it would be to invite
the railway to run its line down the middle of the main street. An
English town, if it found that a railway was established on its site
before it got there would angrily turn its back to the line, would, even
at the cost of great inconvenience, run its streets away from the
railway. The American plan from the point of view of the passenger is
far better. He gets the most delightful glances of human activity and is
set wondering at ways of life that are strange to him.

Our imagination would, I think, have in any case been equal to the task
of conjuring up mental pictures of what life is like in these small
isolated inland towns. We should, no doubt, have gone grievously wrong,
but we should have enjoyed ourselves even without guidance. Fortunately
we were not left to our own imaginative blunderings. We had with us a
volume of Mr. Irvin Cobb's stories for the possession of which we
selfishly disputed. It gave us just what we wanted, a sure groundwork
for our imaginings. We peopled those little towns with the men and women
whom Mr. Cobb revealed to us. His humor and his delightful tenderness
gave us real glimpses of the lives, the hopes, the fears, the prejudices
and memories of many people who otherwise would have been quite strange
to us. Each little town as we came to it was inhabited by friendly men
and women. Thanks to Mr. Cobb they were our friends. All that was wanted
was that we should be theirs. Hence the bitter disappointment at not
being able to stop at one after the other of the towns, at being denied
the chance of completing a friendship with people whom we already liked.
But it may well be that we should not really have got to know them any
better. We have not, alas! Mr. Cobb's gift of gentle humor or his power
of sympathetic understanding. Also it takes years to get to know anyone.
We could not, in any case, have stayed for years in all these towns.
Life has not years enough in it.

Besides the towns there were the people we met on the trains. There was,
for instance, a man who went up and down selling apples and grapes in
little paper bags. We bought from him and while buying we heard him
speak. There was no doubt about the matter. He was an Irishman, and not
merely an Irishman by descent, the son or grandson of an emigrant, but
one who had quite recently left Ireland. His voice to our ears was like
well-remembered music. I know the feeling of joy which comes with
landing from an English-manned steamer on the quay in Dublin and hearing
again the Irish intonation and the Irish turns of phrase. But that is an
expected pleasure. It is nothing compared to the sudden delight of
hearing an Irish voice in some place thousands of miles from Ireland
where the last thing you expect to happen is a meeting with an Irishman.
I remember being told of an Irishwoman who was traveling from Singapore
to Ceylon in a steamer. She lay in her cabin, helplessly ill with some
fever contracted during her stay in the Far East. She seemed incapable
of taking an interest in anything until two men came to mend something
in the corridor outside her cabin door. They talked together and at the
sound of their voices the sick lady roused herself. She had found
something in life which still interested her. She wanted very much to
know whether the men came from County Antrim or County Down. She was
sure their homes were in one or the other. The Irish voices had stirred
her.

We were neither sick nor apathetic, but we were roused to fresh vitality
by the sound of our Irish apple seller's voice. He came from County
Wicklow. He told us so, needlessly indeed, for we knew it by his talk.
He had been in America for two years, had drifted westward from New
York, was selling apples in a train. Did he like America? Was he happy?
Was he doing well? and—crucial, test question—would he like to go back
to Ireland?

"I would so, if there was any way I could get my living there."

I suppose that is the way it is with the most of us. We have it fixed
somehow in our minds that a living is easier got anywhere than at home.
Perhaps it is. Yet surely apples might be sold in Ireland with as good a
hope of profit as in Illinois or Tennessee. Baskets are cheap at home,
and a basket is the sole outfit required for that trade. The apples
themselves are as easy to come by in the one place as in the other. But
possibly there are better openings in America. The profession may be
overcrowded at home. Many professions are, medicine, for instance, and
the law. Apple selling may be in the like case. At all events, here was
an Irishman, doing fairly well by his own account in the middle west of
America yet with a sincere desire to go back again to Ireland if only he
could get a living there.

There was another man whom we met and talked to with great pleasure. Our
train lingered, as trains sometimes will, for an hour or more at a
junction. It was waiting for another train which ought to have met ours,
but did not. We sat on the platform of the observation car, and gazed at
the blinking signal lights, for the darkness had come. Suddenly a man
climbed over the rail of the car and sat down beside us. He had, as we
could see, a very dirty face, and very dirty hands. He wore clothes like
those of an engine stoker. He was, I think, employed in shunting trains.
He apologized for startling us and expressed the hope that we had not
mistaken him for a murderous red Indian. He was a humorist, and he had
seen at a glance that we were innocent strangers, the sort of people who
might expect an American train to be held up by red Indians with
scalping knives. He told us a long story about a lady who was walking
from coach to coach of a train while he was engaged in shunting it about
and was detaching some coaches from it. She was crossing the bridge
between two coaches at an unlucky moment and found herself suddenly on
the line between two portions of the train. The expression of her face
had greatly amused our friend. His account of the incident greatly
amused us. But the most interesting thing about this man, the most
interesting thing to us, was his unaffected friendliness. In England a
signal man or a shunter would not climb into a train, sit down beside a
passenger and chat to him. A miserable consciousness of class
distinction would render this kind of intercourse as impossible on the
one side as on the other. Neither the passenger nor the shunter would be
comfortable, not even if the passenger were a Liberal politician, or a
newly made Liberal peer. In America this sense of class distinction does
not seem to exist. I have heard English people complain that Americans
are disrespectful. I should rather use the word unrespectful, if such a
word existed. For disrespectful seems to imply that respect is somehow
due, and I do not see why it should be. I am quite prepared to sign my
assent to the democratic creed that one man is as good as another. I
even go further than most Democrats and say that one man is generally
better than the other, whenever it happen that I am the other. I see no
reason why a railway signal man should not talk to me or to anyone else
in the friendly tones of an equal, provided of course that he does not
turn out to be a bore. It is a glory and not a shame of American society
that it refuses to recognize class distinction.

My only complaint is that America has not gone far enough in the path of
democratic equality. There are Americans who take tips. Now men neither
take tips from nor give tips to their equals. If a friend were to slip
sixpence into my hand when saying good-by I should resent it bitterly.
Unless I were quite sure that he was either drunk or mad, I should feel
that he was deliberately treating me as his inferior. I should admit
that I was his inferior if I pocketed the tip. I should feel bound to
touch my hat to him and say "Thank you, Sir," or "Much obliged to your
honor." No man is in any way degraded by taking wages for the work he
does, whatever that work may be, cleaning boots or lecturing in a
University. But a man does lower himself when, in addition to his wages,
he accepts gifts of money from strangers. He is being paid then not for
courtesy or civility, which he ought to show in any case, but for
servility; and that no one can render except to a recognized superior.
The tip in a country where class distinctions are a regular part of the
social order is right enough. It is at all events a natural outcome of
the theory that some men by reason of their station in life are superior
to others. In a social order which is based upon the principle of
equality among men the tip has no proper place.

The distinction between tips and wages is a real one, although it is
sometimes obscured by the fact that the wages of some kinds of work are
paid entirely or almost entirely in the form of tips. A waiter in a
restaurant or an hotel lives, I believe, mainly on tips. Tips are his
wages. Nevertheless he places himself in a position of inferiority by
allowing himself to be paid in this way. It is plain that this is so.
There is a sharp line which divides those who are tipped from those who
are not. It may, for instance, be the misfortune of anyone to require
the services of a hospital nurse; but we do not tip her however kind and
attentive she may be. She gets her wages, her salary, a fixed sum. It
would be insulting to offer her, in addition, five shillings for
herself. Hers is a profession which neither involves nor is supposed to
involve any loss of self respect. On the other hand the chambermaid who
makes the beds in an hotel is tipped. She expects it. And her
profession, in the popular estimation at least, does involve a certain
loss of self respect. The best class of young women are unwilling to be
domestic servants, but are not unwilling to be hospital nurses. Yet the
hospital nurse works as hard as, if not harder than, a housemaid. She
does the same kind of work. There is no real difference between making
the bed of a man who is sick and making the bed of a man who is well. In
either case it is a matter of handling sheets and blankets. But a
suggestion of inferiority clings to the profession of a housemaid and
none to that of a hospital nurse. The reason is that the one woman
belongs to the class which takes tips, while the other belongs to the
class which does not.

It is easy to see that in a country like America into which immigrants
are continually flowing from Europe there is sure to be a large number
of people—Italian waiters for instance, and Swedish and Irish domestic
servants—who have not yet grasped the American theory of social
equality. They have grown up in countries where the theory does not
prevail. They naturally and inevitably expect and take tips, the
largesse of their recognized superiors. No one accustomed to European
life grudges them their tips. But there are, unfortunately, many
American citizens, born and bred in America, with the American theory of
equality in their minds, who also take tips and are very much aggrieved
if they do not get them. Yet they, by word and manner, are continually
asserting their position of equality with those who tip them. This is
where the American theory of equality between man and man breaks down.
The driver of a taxicab for instance can have it one way or the other.
He cannot have it both. He may, like a doctor, a lawyer, or a plumber,
take his regular fee, the sum marked down on the dial of his cab, and
treat his passenger as an equal. Or he may take, as a tip, an extra
twenty cents, in which case he sacrifices his equality and proclaims
himself the inferior of the man who tips him, a member of a tippable
class. There ought to be no tippable class of American citizens. The
English complaint of the disrespectfulness of Americans is, in my
opinion, a foolish one, unless the American expects and takes tips. Then
the complaint is well founded and just. The tipper pays for
respectfulness when he gives a tip and what he pays for he ought to get.

It is, I think, quite possible that the custom of tipping has something
to do with the difficulty, so acute in America, of getting domestic
servants. It is widely felt that domestic service in some way degrades
the man or woman who engages in it. There is no real reason why it
should. It is not in itself degrading to do things for other people,
even to render intimate personal service to other people. The dentist
who fills a tooth for me does something for me, renders me a special
kind of personal service. He loses no self respect by supplying me with
a sound instrument for chewing food. Why should the person who cooks the
food which that tooth will chew lose self respect by doing so? There is
no real distinction between these two kinds of service. Nor is there
anything in the contention that the domestic servant is degraded by
abrogating her own will and taking orders from someone else. Nine men
out of ten take orders from somebody. From the soldier on the
battlefield, the most honorable of men, to the clerk in a bank, we are
almost all of us obeying orders, doing not what we ourselves think best
or pleasantest but what someone in authority thinks right. What is the
difference between obeying when you are told to clean a gun and obeying
when you are told to wash a jug? The real reason why a suggestion of
inferiority clings to the profession of domestic service is that
domestic servants belong to the tippable class. Society can, if it
likes, raise domestic service to a place among the honorable
professions, by ceasing to tip and paying wages which do not require to
be supplemented by tips. If this were done there would be far less
difficulty in keeping up the supply of domestic servants.

I find myself on much more difficult ground when I pass on to discuss
the impression made on me by the claim of America to be, in some special
way, a free country.

"To the West! to the West! to the land of the free." So my farmer friend
sang to me twenty years ago. The tradition survives. The American
citizen believes that a man is freer in America than he is for instance
in England. If freedom means the power of the individual to do what he
likes without being interfered with by laws then no man can ever be
quite free anywhere except on a desert island. I, as an individual, may
earnestly desire to go out into a crowded thoroughfare and shoot at the
street cars with a revolver. I am not free to do this in any civilized
country in the world. For people with desires of that kind there is no
such thing as liberty. The freedom of the individual is everywhere a
compromise between his personal inclination and the general sense of the
community. Men are more free where the community makes fewer laws, less
free where the community makes more. In England I can, if I like, buy,
and drink at dinner, a bottle of beer in the restaurant car of any train
which has a restaurant car, in any part of the country. In certain
states in America I cannot buy a bottle of beer in the restaurant car of
the train. There is a law which stops me. It may be a very good law. The
infringement of my liberty which it entails may be for my good and the
good of society in general; but where that law exists I am certainly
less free than where it does not exist.

The tendency of modern democratic states is to make more and more laws
and thereby to confine within ever narrower limits the freedom of the
individual man. A few years ago an Englishman could send his child to
school or keep his child at home without any education just as he chose.
Now he must send his child to school. The law insists on it. The
Irishman, in most parts of Ireland, can still, if he likes, allow his
child to grow up without ever going to school. There is no law to
interfere with him. In that particular respect Ireland is freer than
England, for England has gone further along the path of curtailing
individual liberty. In the matter of buying beer England is freer than
America, because you can buy beer anywhere in England if you go to a
house licensed to sell beer. In some parts of America there are no
houses licensed to sell beer and you cannot buy it. America has, in this
particular respect, gone further than England along the path of
curtailing individual liberty.

There are several other things about which there are laws in America
which do not exist in England and with regard to which America is not so
free a country as England is. But there are also laws in England which
do not exist in America. The Englishman is more or less accustomed to
his laws. He has got into the habit of obeying them and they do not seem
to interfere with his freedom. The American laws, to which he is not
accustomed, strike him as unwarrantable examples of minor tyranny. But
it is likely that the American is, in the same way, accustomed to his
laws and is not irritated by them. He has got into the way of not
wanting to buy beer in Texas, and does not feel that his liberty is
curtailed by the existence of a law which it does not occur to him to
break. He may be, on the other hand, profoundly annoyed by English laws,
to which he is not accustomed. It may strike him, when he comes to
England, that his liberty is being continually interfered with just as
an Englishman feels himself continually hampered in America. I can, for
instance, understand that an American in England might feel that his
liberty was most unwarrantably interfered with by the law which obliges
him to have a penny stamp on every check he writes. It must strike him
as monstrous that he cannot get his own money out of a bank without
paying the government for being allowed to do so. After all it is his
money and the Government is not even a banker. Why should he pay for
taking a sovereign from the little pile of sovereigns which his banker
keeps for him when he would not have to pay for taking one out of a
stocking if he adopted the old-fashioned plan of keeping his money
there? The Englishman feels no annoyance at the payment of this penny.
He is so entirely accustomed to it that it seems to him a violation of
one of the laws of nature to write a check on a simple, unstamped piece
of paper.

On the whole, although the citizens of both countries feel free enough
when they are at home, there is probably less freedom, that is to say
there are more laws, in America than in England. America is more
thoroughly democratic in constitution than England is and therefore less
free. This seems a paradox, but is in reality a simple statement of
obvious fact, nor is there any difficulty in seeing the reason for it.
Democracies produce professional politicians. The professional
politician differs from the amateur or voluntary politician exactly as
any professional differs from any amateur. An amateur carpenter saws
wood and hammers nails for the fun of the thing, and stops sawing and
hammering as soon as sawing and hammering cease to amuse him. The
professional carpenter must go on sawing and hammering even if he does
not want to, because it is in this way that he earns his bread. He
therefore gets a great deal more sawing and hammering done in a year
than any amateur does. It is the same with politicians. The amateur
politician makes a law now and then when he feels like it. When
law-making ceases to interest him he goes off to hunt or fish. The
professional politician must go on making laws even though the business
has become inexpressibly wearisome. Thus it is that in states where
there are professional politicians, in democratic states, there are more
laws, and therefore less freedom, than in states which only have amateur
politicians. America, being slightly more democratic than England, has
slightly more laws and slightly less freedom.

But it would be easy to make too much of this difference between England
and America.

The freedom which men value most is very little affected by laws. Laws
neither give nor withhold it. Freedom is really an atmosphere in which
we are able to breathe without anxiety or fear. There are some societies
in which a man must be constantly watching himself lest he should give
expression to a thought or an opinion which is liable to offend some
powerful interest or outrage some cherished conviction. All sorts of
unpleasant consequences follow incautious utterance of an unpopular
opinion, or even the discovery that unpopular opinions are held. It may
be that the rash individual is looked on very coldly. It may be that
those who seem to be his friends gradually draw away from him. It may
be—this is not so unpleasant but quite unpleasant enough—that he is
assailed in newspapers and held up in their columns to public odium. It
may be that he is made to suffer in more material ways, that he loses
business or runs the risk of being deprived of some position which he
holds. In very uncivilized communities he is sometimes actually treated
with physical violence. The windows of his house are broken or he is
mobbed. The dread of some or all of these penalties makes him very
cautious. He goes through life glancing timidly from side to side,
always anxious, always a little frightened and therefore—since fear is
the real antithesis of liberty—never free.

All communities suffer from spasmodic fits of this kind of intolerance.
In England in the year 1900 it was not safe to be a pro-Boer, and
England at that time was not a free country. England is now free to
quite an extraordinary extent. A man may hold and express almost any
conceivable opinion without suffering for it. He can stand up in a
public assembly and say hard things about England herself, point out her
faults in plain and even bitter language. The English people as a whole
remain totally indifferent to what he says about them. If the hard thing
is said wittily they laugh. If it is said dully they yawn. In neither
case do they display any signs of anger. They succeed in giving the
stranger in their midst the impression that nothing he does or says
matters in the least so long as he avoids crossing the indefinable line
which separates "good form" from bad. His manners may get him into
trouble. His opinions will not.

America is free too in this same way, but is not, I think, so free as
England. There are several subjects about which it is not wise to talk
quite freely in America. The ordinary middle class American, the man
with whom one falls into casual conversation in a train, is sensitive
about criticism of his country and its institutions in a way that the
ordinary Englishman is not. It may very well be that in this he is the
Englishman's superior. A perfectly detached judge of humanity, some
epicurean deity observing all things with passion-less calm and weighing
all emotion in the scales of absolute justice—might, quite conceivably,
rank a slightly resentful patriotism higher than tolerant apathy. We
Irishmen are not tolerant of criticism, and I sincerely hope that ours
is the better part. We do not like the expression of opinions which
differ from our own and are inclined to suppress them with some violence
when we can. As a nation we value truth far more than liberty; truth
being, of course, the thing which we ourselves believe; obviously that,
for we would not believe it unless we were quite sure that it was true.
Americans are not so whole hearted as we are in this matter. The more
highly educated Americans are even inclined to drift into a tolerant
agnosticism which is almost English. But most Americans are still a
little intolerant of strange opinions and still have enough conscious
patriotism to resent criticism.

It is the fault of a great quality. No society can be both enthusiastic
and free. It is the tips and the equality over again. We can not have
things both ways. If society allows a man, without pain or penalty, to
say exactly what he means, it is always because that society is
convinced, deep down in its soul, that he cannot possibly mean what he
says. A man is free to speak what he chooses, to criticize, to abuse, to
sneer, wherever his fellow men have made up their minds that it does not
matter what he says how keenly he criticizes, abuses or sneers. On the
other hand, a society which is very much in earnest about anything,—and
a great many Americans are—will not suffer differences of opinion
patiently and will always be resentful of criticism. Say to an
Englishman that American football is superior to the Rugby Union game.
He will look at you with a sleepy expression in his eyes, and, after a
short pause, politeness requiring some answer from him, he will say: "Is
it really?" His tone suggests that he does not care whether it is or
not, but that he means to go on playing the Rugby Union game if he plays
at all, a point about which he has not quite made up his mind. Say to an
American that Rugby Union football is superior to his game and he will
look at you with highly alert but slightly troubled eyes. He wants to
respect you if he can, and he does not like to hear you saying a thing
which cannot possibly be true. But he too is polite.

"There may be," he says, "some points of superiority about the English
game—but on the whole—think of the organization of our forwards. Think
of the amount of thought required. Think of the rapid decisions which
have to be made. Think of——But come and see the match next Saturday
and then you'll understand."

There is still another kind of freedom—freedom to behave as we like,
freedom of manners. This is almost as important as freedom to speak and
think without fear of consequences. Indeed, for most people it is more
important. Only a few of us think, or want to say what we think. All of
us have to behave, to have manners of some sort either good or bad. It
is curious to notice that, while men everywhere are acquiescing without
much protest to the curtailment of the sort of freedom which is affected
by law, they are steadily claiming and securing more and more freedom of
manners. We are far less bound by conventions than we used to be. There
was a time when everybody possessed and once a week wore what were
called "Sunday clothes." One hardly ever hears the phrase now, and men
go to church in coats which would have struck their grandmothers as
distinctly unsuited to a place of worship. Sunday clothes were a bondage
and we have broken free. There was, very long ago, a definite code of
manners binding upon men and women when they met together. When it
prevailed the intercourse between the sexes must have been singularly
stiff and uncomfortable. There were many things which a woman could not
do without losing her character for womanliness, and many things which a
man could not do in the company of ladies—smoke, for instance.

It is, I think, women and not men who decide how much of this sort of
liberty people are to enjoy. If I am right about this, then American
women are more generous than English women. There is much more freedom
in the matter of clothes in America than England. I remember hearing an
Englishwoman complain that no matter how she tried she never could
succeed in dressing correctly in America. In England she knew exactly
the kind of gown to wear at an afternoon party, at a small dinner, at a
large dinner, at an evening reception, in the box of a theater. In
America she perpetually found herself wearing the wrong thing. I imagine
that in reality she did not wear the _wrong_ thing, because there is no
such rigid standard of appropriateness of dress in America as there is
in England. More latitude is allowed, and if a gown is hardly ever
correct it is also hardly ever wrong. Every man who sits in the stalls
of a London theater must display eighteen inches of white shirt above
the top button of his waistcoat. In America he may wear a blue flannel
shirt if he likes, and nobody cares whether it is visible beneath his
tie or not. In England a man who dines in a very smart restaurant must
wear a tail coat and a white tie. In America he can, if he chooses, wear
a tail coat and a black tie, or a short coat and a white tie. There is
no fixed rule determining the connection between coats and ties.

It is not only the class of people who dine in smart restaurants and sit
in stalls of theaters which is subject to rules of this kind. Every
class has its own conventions, and, so far as my observation goes, every
class is a little freer in America than it is in England. No English
chauffeur with any self-respect would consent to drive a motor car about
London unless he were wearing some kind of uniform. In America the most
magnificent cars are frequently driven by chauffeurs in gray tweed suits
with ordinary caps on their heads.

I am nearly sure that it is women, the women of our own class, who
decide what clothes we shall wear and what clothes they will wear
themselves. I am quite sure that it is they who regulate the degree of
formal stiffness there is to be in our intercourse with them. English
women have to a very considerable extent given up requiring from men
those symbols of respect which had long ago ceased to be anything but
the mere conventional survivals of the mediæval idea of chivalry. Men
and women in England meet on friendlier and more equal terms than they
used to. American women have gone even further than the English in
setting themselves and us free from the old restrictions. They invite
comradeship and have, as far as possible, swept away the barriers to
free intercourse between sex and sex.

To some people liberty of any sort, liberty for its own sake, will
always seem a desirable thing. These will prefer the manners of America
to those of England, but will cling to their admiration of the
Englishman's tolerance of criticism. There are others—it is a matter of
temperament—who prefer restraint, who like to talk cautiously, who
cling to social conventions. To them it will be a comfort to know that
in one respect the American woman is not so free as her English sister.
In England a woman may, without loss of reputation, smoke almost
anywhere, anywhere that men smoke, except in the streets and the
entrance halls of theaters. In New York there are only two or three
restaurants in which a woman is allowed to smoke. Even if she is
indifferent to her reputation and does not mind being considered fast,
she cannot smoke in the other restaurants. The head waiter comes and
stops her if she tries. This may be quite right. I do not know whether
it is or not. Many very strong arguments may be and are brought against
women smoking. It is, I am thankful to say, no business of mine to weigh
them against the other arguments which go to show that women are as well
entitled to the solace of tobacco as men are. What interests me far more
than the arguments on either side is the fact that American women are in
this one respect much less free than English women. The women of both
nations smoke, but the American woman must do it in privacy or
semi-privacy. The Englishwoman inhales her cigarette with untroubled
enjoyment in any restaurant in London. She must dress herself strictly
as convention prescribes for each occasion. She must be a little careful
in her intercourse with men. She has not yet got a vote. But she may
smoke. The American woman has much more freedom in the matter of
clothes. She can be as friendly with a man as she likes. In several
states she has a vote. But society in general frowns on her smoking and
sets its policeman, the head waiter, to prevent her doing it. I should
myself prefer a cigarette to a vote; but I am fond of tobacco, and all
elections bore me, so I am not an unprejudiced judge. American women may
be in this matter, as indeed they certainly are in other matters, nobler
than I am. They may gladly sacrifice tobacco for the sake of the
franchise, but I do not see why they should not have both.



                               CHAPTER IX
                          WOMAN IN THE STATES


There is a story told about Lord Beaconsfield which, if true, goes to
show that he was not nearly so astute a man as is generally supposed. A
lady, an ardent advocate of Woman Suffrage, once called on him and tried
to convince him of the justice of her cause. She was a very pretty lady
and she spoke with great enthusiasm. One imagines flashing eyes,
heightened color, graceful gestures of the hands. Lord Beaconsfield
listened to her and looked at her. When she had finished speaking he
said: "You darling!" The lady, we are told, was angry, thinking that she
had been insulted. She was perfectly right. The remark, which might
under other circumstances have been received with blushing satisfaction,
was just then and there a piece of intolerable rudeness. It was stupid
besides. But perhaps the great statesman meant to be rude. Perhaps, on
the other hand, he was carried away for the moment and ceased to be
intelligent. Perhaps the whole story was invented by some malicious
person and is entirely without foundation. In any case it is a serious
warning to the man who sits down to write about American women. It makes
him hesitate, fearfully, before venturing to say the very first thing he
must want to say. But he who writes takes his life in his hands. I
should be little better than a poltroon if I shrank from uttering the
truth.

I was asked by an able and influential editor in New York to write an
article on American women. It is not every day that I am thus invited to
write articles, so I take a pardonable pride in mentioning the request
of this American editor. It was after dinner that he asked me, and a
lady who was with us heard him do it. I looked at her before I answered.
If she had scowled or even frowned I should not now be writing about
American women. She encouraged me with a nod and a smile. Yet she
knew—she must have known—what I should write first of all. Upon her
head be at least part of the blame. She not merely smiled. She went on
to persuade me to write the article. By persuading me she helped to make
me quite certain that what I am writing is true.

The American woman is singularly charming.

Is this an insult? I think of the many American women whom I met who
were kind enough to talk to me, and I know that this is not what they
would like to have written about them. Some of them were very earnest
knights errant, who rode about redressing human wrongs. It happens
occasionally, not often, of course, but very occasionally, that women
with causes are not charming. They are inclined to overemphasize their
causes, to keep on hammering at a possible convert, to become just a
little tiresome. This is, as far as I could judge, never the case with
the American ladies who have causes. Others whom I met were learned and
knew all about philosophies dim to me. Others again were highly
cultured. I am an ignorant and stupid man. Very clever women sometimes
frighten me. I was never frightened in America. Others again, without
being learned or particularly cultured, were brilliant. They were all
charming. That is the truth. I have written it, and if the skies come
tumbling indignantly about my ears they just must tumble. "_Impavidum
ferient ruinæ_;" but I hope nothing so bad as that will happen to me.

There are people in the world who believe that we are born again and
again, rising or sinking in the scale of living things at each
successive incarnation according as we behave ourselves well or badly in
our present state. If this creed were true, I should try very hard
indeed to be good, because I should want, next time I am born, to be an
American woman. She seems to me to have a better kind of life than the
woman of any other nation, or, indeed, than anybody else, man or woman.
She is, as I hope I have suggested, more free than her European sister.
"So full of burrs," said a great lady of old times, "is this work-a-day
world, that our very petticoats will catch them." This is a true
estimate of the position of the European woman. They who wear petticoats
over here must walk warily with chaperons beside them. But in America
there are either fewer burrs or petticoats are made of some better
material. The American woman, even when she is quite young, can go
freely enough and no scandalous suggestions attach to her unless she
does something very outrageous. She has in other ways too a far better
time than the English woman. American social life seems to me—the word
is one to apologize for—gynocentric. It is arranged with a view to the
convenience and delight of women. Men come in where and how they can.
The late Mr. Price Collier observed this, and drew from it the deduction
that the English man tends on the whole to be more efficient than the
American, everything in an English home being sacrificed to his good.
That may or may not be true; but I think the American woman is certainly
more her own mistress than the Englishwoman, just because America does
its best for women and only its second best for men.

I do not pretend to be superior to these advantages. I like a good time
as well as any one. But I have other ambitions. And I do not want to be
an American woman only for the sake of material gains. She seems to me
to deserve her good luck because she has done her business in life
exceedingly well, better on the whole than the American man has done
his.

I am—I wish to make this clear at once—a good feminist. No man is less
inclined than I am to endorse the words of the German Emperor and
confine woman's activities to "Kirche, Küche und Kinder." I would, if I
had my way, give every woman a vote. I would invite her to discuss the
most intricate political problems, with a full confidence that she could
not possibly make a worse muddle of them than our male politicians do. I
should like to see her conducting great businesses, doctoring her
neighbors, pleading for them in law courts, driving railway engines,
and, if she wanted to, carrying a rifle or steering a submarine. I would
place woman in every possible way on an equality with man and confine
her with no restriction except those with which she voluntarily impedes
her own activities, like petticoats, stays, and blouses which hook up
the back. Having made this full confession of faith, I shall not, I
hope, be reproached for appearing to recognize a distinction between
woman's business in life, the thing which the American woman has done
very well, and man's business, which the American man seems to me to
have managed rather badly. Strictly speaking, in the ideal state all
public affairs are women's just as much as men's. Strictly speaking,
again in the ideal state, man is just as responsible as woman for the
arts of domestic life. But we are not yet living in the ideal state, and
for a long while now the household has been recognized as woman's
sphere, while man has resented her interference with anything outside
the circle of social and family life.

It is in these matters which have been entrusted to her that the
American woman has shown herself superior to the American man. I admit,
of course, that the American man has done a great many things very
brilliantly. But he does not seem to me to have succeeded in making the
business of living, so far as it falls within his province, either
comfortable or agreeable. The Englishman has done better. Examples of
what I mean absolutely crowd upon me. Take the question of cooking food.
The American man, left to his own devices, is not strikingly successful
with food. The highest average of cooking in England is to be found in
good men's clubs. You may, and often do, get excellent dinners in
private houses in England; but you are surer of an excellent dinner in a
first rate club. In America it is the other way about. Many men's clubs
have skilful cooks, but you are on the whole more likely to get very
good food in a woman's club or in a private house than in a man's club.
I am not myself an expert in cooked food. The subject has never had a
real fascination for me. But I have a sense of taste like my better
educated gourmet brethren, and I am convinced that where the American
woman has control of the cooking the business is better done than it
generally is in England, and far better done than when it is left to
American men.

The kindred subjects of drinks, again, marks the superiority of the
American woman. For some reason quite obscure to me, women are not
supposed to know anything about wine. They either do not like it at all
or they like bad kinds of wine. Wine is man's business in all countries.
In America wine is dear, and usually of indifferent quality. Man has
mismanaged the cellar. On the other hand, women are supposed—again the
reason is beyond me—to like eating sweets, to be specialists in that
whole range of food which in America goes under the name of candies. Men
have not created the demand for candies or secured the supply. They are
woman's affair. The consequence is that American candies are better than
any others in the world, better even than the French. It is necessary to
search New York narrowly and patiently in order to find a good bottle of
claret. I speak on this matter as an outsider, for I drink but little
claret myself; but I am assured by highly skilled experts that the fact
is as I state it. On the other hand—I know this by experience—you can
satisfy your soul with an almost infinite variety of chocolates without
going three hundred yards from the door of your hotel in New York or
Philadelphia.

The one form of alcoholic drink in which America surpasses the rest of
the world is the cocktail. I have never yet seen a properly written
history of cocktails. The subject still waits its philosopher. But I am
inclined to think that the cocktail, the original of the species,
Manhattan, Bronx or whatever it may have been, was invented by a woman.
True, these drinks are now universally mixed by men. But the inspiration
is unquestionably feminine. Formulæ for the making of cocktails exist. I
was once asked to review a book which contained several hundred receipts
for cocktails. But every one agrees that the formula is of minor
importance. The cocktail depends for its excellence not on careful
measurements, but on the incalculable and indescribable thing called
personality. The most skilful pharmaceutical chemist, trained all his
life to the accurate weighing of scruples and measurement of drams,
might well fail as a maker of cocktails. He would fail if he did not
possess an instinct for the art. Now this is characteristic of all
women's work. Man reaches his conclusions by argument, bases his
convictions on reason, and is generally wrong. Woman responds to
emotion, follows instinct, and is very often right. Man is the drudging
scientist, patient, dull. Woman is the dashing empiricist,
inconsequential, brilliant. The cocktail must be hers. I shall continue,
until strong evidence to the contrary is offered to me, to believe that
the credit for this glory of American life belongs to her and not to
man.

It would, no doubt, be insulting to say that part of the business of a
woman, as distinguished from a man, is to dress well and be agreeable. I
should not dream of saying such a thing. But there can be no harm in
suggesting that it is the duty of both sexes to do these things. There
is no real reason why an idealist, man or woman, should not be pleasant
to look at, nor is it necessary that very estimable people should
administer snubs to the rest of us. It seems to me that even very good
people are better when they have nice manners and pleasanter when they
dress well. It is not, I admit, their fault when they are not good
looking, but it is their fault if they do not, by means of clothes, make
themselves as good looking as they can. There is no excuse for the man
or woman who emphasizes a natural ugliness. Man, I regret to say, does
not often recognize his duty in these matters. Woman, generally
speaking, has done her best. The American woman has made the very most
of her opportunities and has succeeded both in looking nice and in being
an agreeable companion. In the art of putting on her clothes she has no
superior except the Parisienne, and even in Paris itself it is often
difficult to tell, without hearing her speak, whether the lady at the
next table in a restaurant is French or American. I knew an English
mother who sent her daughter to Paris for six months in order that the
girl might learn to dress herself. The journey to America would have
been longer, but once there the girl would have had just as good a
chance of acquiring the art. I am very unskilful in describing clothes,
and the finer nuances of costume are far beyond the power of any
language at my command to express. But it is possible to appreciate
effects without being able to analyze the way in which they are
produced. The effect on the emotions of a symphony rendered by a good
orchestra is almost as great for the man who does not know exactly what
the trombones are doing as it is for the musician who understands that
they are adding to the general noise by playing chromatic scales, or
whatever it is that trombones do play. It is the same with clothes. I
cannot name materials, or discuss styles in technical language, but I am
pleasantly conscious that the American woman has the air of being very
well dressed.

I am not attempting to make a comparison between the clothes of very
wealthy women of the leisured classes in America and those of women
similarly placed in other countries. Aristocracies and plutocracies are
cosmopolitan. National characteristics are to a considerable extent
smoothed off them. The women of these classes dress almost equally well
everywhere. The possibility of comparison exists only when one considers
the comparatively poor women of the middle and lower middle classes. It
is these who, in America, have the instinct for dressing well unusually
highly developed. Some women have this instinct. Others have not. It
seems to be distributed geographically. There are cities—no bribe would
induce me to name one of them—where the women are usually badly
dressed. You walk up and down the chief thoroughfares. You enter the
most fashionable restaurants and are oppressed by a sense of prevailing
dowdiness. It is not a question of money. The gowns which you see, the
coats, the hats have obviously cost great sums. For half the expenditure
women in other places look well dressed. It is not a matter of the skill
of dressmakers and milliners. A woman who has not got the instinct for
clothes might go to—I forget the man's name, but he is the chief
costumier in Paris—might give him a free hand to do his best for her,
and afterwards she would not look a bit better dressed. It is not, I
believe, possible to explain exactly what she lacks. It is an extra
sense, as incommunicable as an ear for music. A woman either has it or
has not. The American woman has it.

I know—no one knows better than I do—that it is a contemptible thing
to take any notice of clothes. The soul is what matters. The body may be
in rags. The mind is what counts, and fine feathers do not make fine
birds. A great prophet would not be the less a great prophet though his
finger nails were black. I hope we should all adore him just the same
even if he never washed his face or wore a collar. But just at first,
before we got to know him really well, it is possible that we might be a
little prejudiced against him if he looked as if he never washed. That
is all I wish or mean to say about the American woman's power of
dressing herself. It disarms prejudice. The stranger starts fair, so to
speak, when he is introduced to her. In the case of women who cannot, or
for any reason will not, dress themselves nicely, there are preliminary
difficulties in the way of appreciating their real worth.

But the best clothes in the world are no help when it comes to
conversation, unless, indeed, one is able to discuss them in detail, and
I am not. I have met exquisitely dressed women who were very difficult
to talk to. The American woman is not one of these. Besides being well
dressed, she is a delightful talker on all subjects. She may or may not
be profound. I am not profound myself, so I have no way of judging about
that. But profoundness is not wanted in conversation. Its proper place
is in scientific books. In conversation it is merely a nuisance, and the
American woman, when she is profound, has more sense than to show it.
She talks well because she is not in the least shy or self-conscious.
Even young American girls are not shy. Brought into sudden contact with
a middle-aged man, they treat him as an equal, with a frank sense of
comradeship. They have, apparently, no awe of advanced or advancing
years. They do not pretend to think that elderly people are in any way
their superiors, or display in the presence of the aged that kind of
chilling aloofness which is called respect. I detest people who behave
as if they respected me because I am older than they are. I recognize at
once that they are hypocrites. Boys and girls must know, in their
hearts, just as well as we do, that respect is due to the young from the
elderly and not the other way about. The ancient Romans understood this:
"_Maxima debitur reverentia pueris_" is in the Latin grammar, and the
Latin grammar is a good authority on all subjects connected with ancient
Roman civilization.

It is her power of making herself agreeable which is the greatest charm
of the American woman, a greater charm than her ability in dressing. I
am a man very little practiced in the art of conversation. A dinner
party—a party of any kind, but particularly a dinner party—is a thing
from which I shrink. I am always very sorry for the two women who are
placed beside me. I know that they will have to make great exertions to
keep up a conversation with me. I watch them suffering and am myself a
prey to excruciating pangs of self-reproach. But my agony is less in
America than elsewhere. The American woman must of course suffer as much
as the Englishwoman when I take her in to dinner; but she possesses in
an extraordinary degree the art of not showing it. She frequently
deceives me for several minutes at a time, making me think that she is
actually enjoying herself. She is able to do this because she has an
amazing vitality and a very acute kind of intelligence. Now, the highest
compliment which a woman can pay to a man is to enjoy his company. The
American woman understands this and succeeds in pretending she is doing
it. She is wise, too. Recognizing that even her powers have their
limits, and that no woman, however vital and intelligent, can go on
disguising her weariness for very long, she makes her dinners and
luncheons as short as possible, shorter than similar functions are in
England. She does not attempt anything in the way of a long-distance
contest with the heavy stupidity of the ordinary man. Her's is the
triumph of the sprinter. For a short time she flashes, sympathizes,
subtly flatters, talks with amazing brilliance, charms. Then she
escapes. What happens to her next I can only guess, but I imagine that
she must be very much exhausted.



                               CHAPTER X
                            MEN AND HUSBANDS


Comic papers on both sides of the Atlantic have adopted the marriages
between American women and English men of the upper classes as a
standing joke; one of those jokes of which the public never gets tired,
whose infinite variety repetition does not stale. The fun lies in the
idea of barter. The Englishman has a title. The American woman has
dollars. He lays a coronet at her feet. She hands money bags to him.
Essentially the joke is the same on whichever side of the Atlantic it is
made. But there is a slight difference in the way the parts of it are
emphasized. The tendency among American humorists is to dwell a little
on the greed of the Englishman, who is represented as incapable of
earning money for himself. The English jester lays more stress on the
American woman's desire to be called "my lady," and pokes sly fun at the
true democrat's fondness for titles. I appreciate the joke thoroughly
wherever it is made, and I invariably laugh heartily at it. But I
decline to take it as anything more than a joke. It is not a precise and
scientific explanation of fact.

There are a great many marriages between American women of large or
moderate fortune and English men, or other Europeans, of title. That is
the fact. No doubt the dollars are as attractive to noblemen as they are
to anybody else. There are a number of pleasant things, steam yachts,
for instance, which can be got by those who have dollars, but not by
those who are without them. They may occasionally be the determining
factor in the choice of a wife. But I feel sure that most Englishmen,
when they marry American women, do so because they like them. They marry
the woman, not the money. In the same way a title is a very pleasant
thing to have. I have never enjoyed the sensation and never shall, but I
know that it must be most agreeable to be styled "Your Grace," or to
have a coronet embroidered on a pocket handkerchief. But I do not
believe that American women marry coronets. They marry men. The coronet
counts, I daresay, but the man counts more.

It is interesting to notice that, although there are many marriages
between American women and Englishmen, there are comparatively few
marriages between English women and American men. If it were a mere
question of exchanging money for titles we might expect English women of
title to marry American men. There are a great many English women with
titles and a great many rich American men. They might marry each other,
but they do not, not, at all events, in large numbers. It is true that
the woman cannot, unless she is a princess, give her husband a title, as
a man can give a title to his wife. But it is no small thing to have a
wife with a title. It is a pleasure well worth buying, if it is to be
bought. But apparently it is not. The English woman of title prefers to
marry an English man, however rich Americans may be. The American man
prefers American women, though none of them have titles. Exact
statistics about these marriages are not available, but we may take the
vitality of current jokes as an indication of what the facts are. The
joke about the marriage between Miss Sadie K. Bock, daughter of the
well-known dollar dictator of Capernaum, Pa., U.S.A., and the Viscount
Fitzeffingham Plantagenet, is fresh and always popular. But no one ever
made a joke about a marriage between the dollar dictator's son and Lady
Ermyntrude. There would be no point in that joke if it were made because
the thing does not happen, or does not happen often enough to strike the
popular imagination.

The truth appears to be that American women, apart from any question of
their dowries, are attractive both to English and American men. English
men, on the other hand, are attractive both to English and American
women.

I occupy in this investigation the position of an unprejudiced outsider.
I am neither English nor American, but Irish, and I can afford to
discuss the matter without passion, since Irish women are admittedly
more attractive than any others in the world and Irish men are seldom
tempted to marry outside their own people. A very wise English lady, one
who has much experience of life, once said that young Englishmen of good
position are lured into marrying music hall dancers, a thing which
occasionally happens to them, because they find these ladies more
entertaining and exciting than girls of their own class. I do not know
whether this is true or not, but if it is it helps to explain the
attractiveness of American women. There is always a certain
unexpectedness about them. They are always stimulating and agreeable. It
is much more difficult to account for the attractiveness of the English
man.

The manners of a well-bred English man are not superior to those of a
well-bred American man. Nor are they inferior. Looked at superficially,
they are the same. As far as mere conventional behavior toward women is
concerned, there is no difference between an Englishman and an American.
A well-mannered Englishman rises up and opens the door for a woman when
she leaves the room. So does a well-mannered American. The Englishman
hands tea, bread and butter or cake to a woman before he takes tea,
bread and butter or cake for himself. So does the American. The outward
acts are identical. But there is a subtle difference in the spirit which
inspires them. The English man does these things because he is
chivalrous. His manners are based on the theory "Noblesse oblige." The
woman belongs to the weaker sex, he to the stronger. All courtesy is
therefore due to her. This is the theory which underlies the behavior of
Englishmen to women. Good manners are a survival, one of the few
survivals, of the old idea of chivalry; and chivalry was the nobly
conceived homage of the strong to the weak, of the superior to the
inferior. The American, performing exactly the same outward acts, is
reverent. And reverence is essentially the opposite of chivalry. It is
not the homage of the strong to the weak, but the obeisance of the
inferior in the presence of a superior.

This difference of spirit underlies the whole relationship of men to
women in England and America. It helps to explain the fact that the
feminist movement in England is much fiercer than it is in America. The
English feminist is up against chivalry and wants equality. The American
woman, though she may claim rights, has no inducement to destroy
reverence.

I should be very sorry to think, I should be mad to say, that this
difference in spirit has anything to do with the attractiveness of
Englishmen, considered not as temporary companions, but as husbands. But
there are, or once were, people who held the theory that the natural
woman—and all women are perhaps more or less natural—prefers as a
husband the kind of man who asserts himself as her superior. "O. Henry"
has a story of a woman who learned to respect and love her husband only
after she had goaded him into beating her. Up to that point she had
despised him thoroughly. Other novelists, deep students of human nature
all of them, have worked on the same scheme. They are quite wrong, of
course. But if they were right they might quote the Englishman's
invincible chivalry as the reason of his attractiveness; maintaining,
cynically, that a woman prefers, in a husband, that kind of homage to
the reverence that the American man continually offers her.

The American man strikes me as more alert than the Englishman. If this
were noticeable only in New York, I should attribute the alertness to
the climate. The air of New York is extraordinarily stimulating. The
stranger feels himself tireless, as if he could go on doing things of an
exhausting kind all day long without intervals for rest. It would be
small wonder if the natives of the place were eager beyond other men.
But they are not more eager and alert than other Americans. Therefore we
cannot blame, or thank, the climate for these qualities. They must
depend upon some peculiarity of the American nervous system, unless
indeed they are the result of living under the American constitution. A
man would naturally feel it his duty to be as alert as he could if he
felt that his country was preeminently the land of progress and that all
the other countries in the world were more or less old-fashioned and
effete. But wherever the alertness comes from it is certainly one of the
characteristics of the American man.

With it goes sanguineness. Every man who undertakes any enterprise looks
at it from two points of view. He thinks how very nice life will be if
the enterprise succeeds. He also considers how disagreeable things will
become if, for any reason, it fails to come off. The Englishman, unless
he is a politician, is temperamentally inclined to give full weight to
the possibility of failure. The American dwells rather on the prospects
of success. There are, of course, a great many sanguine Englishmen. Most
Members of Parliament, for instance, must be extraordinarily hopeful,
otherwise they would not go on expecting to get things done by voting
and listening to speeches. Some Americans, though not many, are cautious
to the point of being almost pessimistic. But, broadly speaking,
Americans are more sanguine than Englishmen. That is why so many new
faiths, and new foods, come from America. Only a very hopeful people
could have invented Christian Science or expect to be benefited by
eating patent foods at breakfast time. That is also, I imagine, why
Americans drink so much iced water. Conscious of the dangers of being
too sanguine, they try to cool down their spirits in the way which is
generally recognized as best for reducing excessive hopefulness. To pour
cold water on anything is a proverbial expression. The Americans pour
gallons of very cold water down their throats, which shows that they are
on the watch against the defects of their high qualities.

With the alertness and hopefulness there goes, inevitably, a certain
restlessness. "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't" is a
proverb which appeals to the English man. It could never be popular in
America. The American, if he made up his mind to go in for the
acquaintance of devils at all, would be inclined to try the newer kinds,
not merely because he would be hopeful about them, but because he would
feel sure that the old ones would bore him. He would never settle down
to a monotonous cat and dog life with a thoroughly familiar devil. The
Englishman prefers to remain where he is unless the odds are in favor of
a change being a change for the better. The American will make a change
unless he thinks it likely to be a change for the worse.

We were greatly struck while we were in America by the fact that there
were very few gardens there. The season of the year, late autumn, was
not, indeed, favorable to gardens. Still I think we should have
recognized flower beds and the remains of flowers if we had seen them.
At first we were inclined to think that Americans do not care for
flowers; but we were constantly assured, on unimpeachable authority,
that they do. And we were not dependent on mere assertion. We saw that
Americans adorn their rooms with cut flowers, sometimes at huge expense.
They must therefore like flowers. They also, we were told, like growing
them; but as a matter of fact they do not grow them to anything like the
same extent that flowers are grown in England or Ireland. We used to ask
why people who like flowers and would like to grow them have so few
gardens. We got several answers. The climate, of course, was one. But it
is not fair to make the climate responsible for too many things. Besides
the climate, as I have said before, is not the same all over America. It
is difficult to believe that it is everywhere fatal to gardening.

Another answer—a much more satisfactory one—was that it takes time to
create a garden, and Americans do not usually stay long enough in one
house to make it worth while to start gardening. It is plainly an
unsatisfactory thing to inaugurate a herbaceous border in 1914 if you
are likely to leave it early in 1915. As for yew hedges and delights of
that kind, no one plants them unless he has a good hope that his son
will be there to enjoy them after he has gone. The American, so we were
told, and so of course believed, is always looking forward to moving
into a new house. This is because he is alert, sanguine and a lover of
change. The Englishman is inclined to settle down in one house, and it
is very difficult to root him out of it. Therefore gardens are commonly
possible in England and rarely so in America.

We did indeed see some gardens in America, and they were tended with all
the care which flower lovers display everywhere. We saw in them plants
brought from very different places, round which there doubtless gathered
all sorts of associations, whose blossoms were redolent with the perfume
of happy memories as well as their own natural scents. But these gardens
belonged to men who either through the necessity of their particular
occupation or through some eccentricity of character felt that they were
likely to remain in one place.

Gardens are generally best loved and most carefully tended by women. I
have known men who took a real interest in plants, but for the most part
men who spend their leisure hours in gardens occupy themselves in mowing
the grass or scuffling the walks. They will trim the edges of flowerbeds
with shears, they will sometimes even dig, but their hearts are not with
the growing plants. Often they confess as much openly, saying without
shame that mowing is capital exercise after office hours, or that the
celery bed must be properly trenched if it is to come to perfection. No
one who works in this spirit is a gardener, nor is a man who merely
desires a tidy trimness. To the real gardener neatness is an unimportant
detail. It is better that a flower should grow in a bed with ragged
edges than that it should wither slowly in the middle of the trimmest of
lawns. It is women, far oftener than men, who possess or are possessed
by the instinct for getting things to grow. It is after all a sort of
mother instinct, since flowers, like children, only respond to those who
love them. Probably every woman who has the mother instinct has the
garden instinct too, and most women, we may be thankful for it, are
potentially good mothers.

Perhaps it is the fact that he is content to stay still long enough to
render gardens possible which makes the Englishman attractive as a
husband. It is easy to understand that there is something very
fascinating to a garden lover in the prospect of attachment to one
particular spot. It is a great thing to feel: "Here I shall live until
the end of living comes, and then my sons will live here after me. All
the rockeries I build, all the trees I plant, all my pergolas and rose
hedges are for delight in coming years, for delight still in the years
beyond my span of living." This instinct for a settled home, of which a
garden is the symbol, is surely stronger in woman than in any man. Woman
is after all the stable part of humanity. Man fights, invents, frets,
fusses and passes. Woman is the link between the generations. Man makes
life possible and great. It is woman who continues life, hands it on.
Her nature requires stability. She feels after settledness in the hope
of finding it.

If I were a philosopher I should pursue these speculations and write
several pages about men and women which it would be very difficult for
any one to understand. But I have no taste for hunting elusive thoughts
among the shadows of vague words. I am content to note my little facts;
that American men are more restless than Englishmen, that there are
fewer gardens in America than in England, that most women like gardens,
and that there are more marriages between American women and Englishmen
than between English women and American men.

I came across a curious example of American restlessness a little while
ago. There was a footman, very expert in his business, who lived and
earned good wages in an English house. He was an ambitious footman, and,
though his wages were good, he wanted them to be better still. His
opportunity came to him. An American wanted a valet and was prepared to
pay very large wages indeed. The footman offered his services, and
being, as I said, a very good footman, he secured the vacant position,
and the wages which were far beyond any he would ever have earned in
England. At the end of two years he happened to meet the butler under
whom he had served in the English house. The butler congratulated him on
his great wealth. The footman, now a valet, replied that there are
several things in the world better worth having than money.

"I haven't," he said, "slept a fortnight at a time in the same bed since
I left you, and it's killing me."

Now that would not have killed or gone near killing an American born
footman, if there is such a thing as an American born footman. He would
have enjoyed it, just as his master did; for that American, being very
wealthy, could if he liked have slept in the same bed every night for a
year, every night for many years, until indeed the bed wore out. He
preferred to vary his beds as much as possible. He had, no doubt, many
beds which were in a sense his own, beds in town houses, beds in
shooting boxes, beds in fishing lodges, beds in Europe, beds which he
had bought with money and to which he had an indefeasible title as
proprietor. But not one of these was, as an Englishman would understand
the words, his own bed. There was not one to which he came back after
wandering as to a familiar resting place. They were all just couches to
sleep on, to be occupied for a night or two, indistinguishable from
those which he hired in hotels.

I am told that the English are learning the habit of restlessness from
the Americans, as indeed they have learned many other things. If they
learn it thoroughly they will, I think, have to give up the hope of
being able to marry wealthy American women. Their titles will not
purchase desirable brides for them if they are no longer able to offer
settled homes. According to a very learned German historian, it was the
introduction of the "_stabilitas loci_" ideal into the western rules
which made monasticism the popular career it was in the church. It is
his old fondness for settling down and staying there which made the
Englishman so popular as a husband.



                               CHAPTER XI
                             THE OPEN DOOR


Americans are forced by the restlessness of their nature to move about
frequently from house to house, but they have arranged that each
temporary abode is very comfortable. They are ahead of the English in
their domestic arrangements. I pay this tribute to them very
unwillingly, because I myself am more at my ease in an inconveniently
arranged house. That is because I am accustomed to inconvenience. The
English houses are greatly superior to the Irish, therefore to go
straight from an Irish house to an American, from Connaught to Chicago,
is to plunge oneself too suddenly into strangely civilized surroundings.
I admire, but I fear it would be years before I could enjoy, an American
house. I go to bed most contentedly in a bedroom in which a single
candle lights a little circle round it, leaving dim, fascinating spaces
in which anything may lurk. I like when the candle is extinguished to
see a faint glow of light from a fire reflected on the ceiling. I find
it pleasant to remember, after I have got into bed, that I do not know
in what part of the room I left the matches, that if I awake in the
night and want the light I must go on a dangerous and exciting quest,
feeling my way toward the dressing table, sweeping one thing after
another off it while I pass my hand along in search of the matchbox. The
glare of the electric light robs bed-going of its romance. The
convenient switch beside my hand cuts me off from all chance of midnight
adventure.

I like to get out of bed on a frosty morning and find myself in a
thoroughly cold room. The effort to do this very trying thing braces me
for the day. I slip a hand, an arm, a foot, from the blankets, feel the
nip of the air, draw them back again, go through a period of intense
mental struggle, make a gallant effort, fling all the bedclothes from me
and stand shivering on the floor. I feel then that I am a strong,
virtuous man, fit to go forth and conquer. The glow of righteousness
becomes even more delightful if I find a film of ice on the water of my
jug and break it with the handle of a toothbrush. All this is denied me
in an American house. Getting out of bed there is no real test of moral
courage. The room is pleasantly warm, a sponge is soft and pliable, not
a frozen stone.

I like, where this is still possible, to have my bath in a large tin
dish, shallow and flat, which stands in the middle of the bedroom floor
with a mat under it. There are fine old Irish houses in which this
delightful way of bathing still survives. Alas! they are, even in
Ireland, getting fewer every day. The next best thing is to wander down
chilly corridors in search of the single bathroom which the house
contains. This is, fortunately, still necessary in most English and
nearly all Irish houses. Any one who is fond of the amusement of reading
house agents' advertisements must have noticed the English economy in
bathrooms. "Handsome mansion, four reception rooms, lounge hall,
billiard room, fifteen bedrooms, bath, hot and cold." I do not believe
that there is a house like that in all America. Imagine the excitement
of living in it when all the fifteen bedrooms are full. It stimulates a
man to feel, as he sallies forth with his towel over his arm, that any
one of the other fourteen inhabitants may have reached the bath before
him, that thirteen people may possibly be waiting in a queue outside the
door. To get into the bathroom in a house of that kind at the first
attempt must be like holding a hand at bridge with four aces, four
kings, four queens and a knave in it, a thing worth living and waiting
for. In America all this is denied us. A bathroom, luxuriously arranged,
adjoins each bedroom. Washing is made so ridiculously easy that there
ceases to be any virtue in it. No one would say in America that
cleanliness is next to godliness. There is no connection between the two
things. It would be as sensible to say that breathing is a subordinate
kind of virtue. In England a dressing gown is well-nigh a necessity. I
know a thoughtful host who provides one for his guests; a warm
voluminous garment in which it is possible to go comfortably to the
bathroom. In America a dressing gown, for a man, is a useless
incumbrance. I dragged one with me, but I shall never take it again;
for, like many other things, it is misnamed. It is only when one has to
stop dressing that a dressing gown is any use.

In these matters of the heating of houses and the arrangement of baths I
prefer what I am accustomed to, but I know that I am little better than
a barbarian. I might, if I had lived in the days when matches were first
invented, have sighed for my flint and steel, but I hope I should have
recognized the superiority of matches. I might, in the early days of
railways, have wished to go on traveling in stage coaches, but I should
have known that steam engines are really better things than horses at
dragging heavy weights for long distances. Thus I cling to the romance
of icy bedrooms and inconvenient baths, but I acknowledge freely that
the Americans have found the better way and made a step forward along
the road of human progress.

I am not, however, so obstinately conservative as to fail in
appreciating some other points in the American mastery of the domestic
arts. I may long for chilly rooms and remote baths, but I thoroughly
enjoy clean towels. Never have I met so many clean towels as in America.
The English middle-class housekeeper is behind her French sister in the
provision of towels, but the American is ahead even of France. The
American towel is indeed small, the bath towel particularly small; but
that seems to me a trifling matter, hardly worth mentioning, when the
supply is abundant. I would rather any day have three small apples than
one large one, and my feeling about towels is the same. It is a real
pleasure to find a row of clean ones waiting every time it becomes
necessary to wash. It is certainly a mark of superior civilization to
realize the importance of house linen in daily life. On the other hand,
it must be admitted that the American fails in the matter of sheets.
What you get are good, very good, smooth and cool. You are constantly
given clean ones. But they are not long enough. In England the sheet on
your bed covers your feet completely and leaves a broad flap at the
other end which you can turn over the blankets and tuck under your chin.
In America you must either leave your feet sheetless or be content with
a mere ribbon of linen under your chin, a narrow strip which will
certainly wriggle away during the night. This may not be the fault of
the American housekeeper. There may be some kind of linen drapers' trust
which baffles the efforts of reformers. I have heard that in one of the
western states, where the suffrage has been granted to women, a law has
been passed that all sheets must be made eighteen inches longer than
they usually are in the other American states. That law is a strong
proof of the advantages to the community of allowing women to vote. It
also seems to show that the American woman, at all events, is alive to
the necessity of reform in this matter of sheets, and is determined to
do her best to remedy a defect in her household management.

The disuse of doors in those parts of the house which are inhabited
during the daytime is a very interesting feature of American domestic
life. The first action of an Englishman when he enters a room is to shut
the door. His first duty when leaving it, if any one remains inside, is
to shut the door. No well-trained servant ever leaves a door open unless
specially requested to do so. Children, from their very earliest years,
are taught to shut doors, and punished—it is one of the few things for
which a child is systematically punished now—for leaving doors open. An
English mother calls after her child as he leaves the room the single
word "door," or, if she is a very polite and affectionate mother, two
words, "door, dear," or "door, please." An American child would not
understand a request made in this elliptical form. It knows of course
what a door is, just as it knows what a wall is, but it would be puzzled
by the mere utterance of the word, just as an English child would be if
its mother suddenly called to it, "wall," or "wall, dear," or "wall,
please." The American child would wonder what its mother wanted to say
about a door. The English child understands thoroughly in the same way
as we all understand what a dentist means when he says, "Open, please."
It is never our favorite books, our tightly clenched hands, or our
screwed up eyes which he wants us to open, always our mouths. The word
"open" is enough for us. So the word "door" through a long association
of ideas at once suggests to the English child the idea of shutting it.

An Englishman is thoroughly uncomfortable in a room with the door open.
An American's feeling about shut doors was very well expressed to me by
a lady who had been paying a number of visits to friends in England.

"English houses," she said, "always seem to me like hotels. When you go
into them you see nothing except shut doors."

If, after due apologies, you ask why Americans have no doors between
their sitting-rooms, or why, when they have doors, they do not use them,
you always get the same answer.

"Doors," they say, "are necessary in England to keep out draughts,
because the English do not know how to heat their houses. In our houses
all rooms and passages are kept up to an even temperature and we do not
require doors."

This is an intelligible but not the real explanation of this curious
difference between the Americans and the English. There are some English
homes which are centrally heated and in which the temperature is as
even, though rarely as high, as in American houses; but the Englishmen
who live in them still shut doors. An Englishman would shut the door of
the inner chamber of a Turkish bath if there were a door to shut. In
summer, when the days are very warm, he opens all the windows he can,
but he does not sit with the door open. Temperature has nothing to do
with his fondness for doors. In the same way there are in America some
houses which are not centrally heated, very old-fashioned houses, but
they are as doorless as the others. The fact seems to be not that doors
were disused when central heating became common, but that central
heating was invented so that people who disliked doors could be warm
without them.

I think the lady who told me that the English houses seemed like hotels
to her hinted at the real explanation. The open door is a symbol of
hospitality. It is the expression of sociability of disposition. The
Americans are hospitable and marvelously sociable. They naturally like
to live among open doors or with no doors at all, so that any one can
walk up to him and speak to him without difficulty. The Englishman, on
the other hand, wants to keep other people away from him, even members
of his own family. His dearest desire is to have some room of his own
into which he can shut himself, where no one has a right to intrude. He
calls it his "den," which means the lurking place of a morose and
solitary animal. Rabbits, which are sociable creatures, live in burrows.
Bees, which have perfected the art of life in community, have hives. The
bear has its den. Every room in an old-fashioned English middle-class
house is really a den, though sometimes, as in the case of the
drawing-room, a den which is meant for the use of several beasts of the
same kind at once. A change is indeed coming slowly over English life in
this matter. The introduction into the middle classes of what is called
by house agents "the lounge hall" is a departure from the "den" theory
of domestic life. The "lounge hall" is properly speaking a public room.
It is available at all hours of the day and no one claims it specially
as his own. It is accessible at once to the stranger who comes into the
house from the street. It is still rare in England, but where it exists
it marks an approach toward American ideals. The term "living-room" only
lately introduced by architects into descriptions of English houses is
another sign that we are becoming more sociable than we were. It is not
simply another name for a drawing-room. It stands for a new idea, an
American idea. The drawing-room—properly the withdrawing-room—is for
the use of people who want to escape temporarily from family life. The
living-room for those who live it to the full.

In the American house there are no "dens." The American likes to feel
that he is in direct personal contact with the members of his family and
with his guest. It does not annoy him, even if he happen to be reading a
book on economics, to feel that his wife may sit down beside him or his
daughter walk past the back of his chair humming a tune without his
having had any warning that either of them was at hand. The noise made
by a servant collecting knives and plates after dinner, reaching him
through a drawn curtain, does not disturb his enjoyment of a cigar. The
servant is to him a fellow human being, and the sound of her activities
is a pleasant reminder of the comradeship of man. He too has had his
moments of activity during the day. A guest in an American house is for
the time being a member of the family, not a stranger who, however
welcome he may be, does not presume to intrude upon his host's privacy.

The "porch," as it is called, a striking feature of the American house,
is another evidence of the spirit of sociability. A "porch" is a
glorified and perfected veranda. In summer it is a large open-air
sitting-room. In winter it can, by a common arrangement, be made into a
kind of sun parlor. It has its roof, supported by wooden posts. When the
cold weather comes, frames, like very large window sashes, are fitted
between the posts and a glass-sided room is made. It is evident that the
life in these porches is of a very public kind. The passer-by, the
casual wanderer along the road outside, sees the American family in its
porch, can, if he cares to, note what each member of the family is
doing. The American has no objection to this publicity. He is not doing
anything of which he is the least ashamed. If other people can see him,
he can see them in return. The arrangement gratifies his instinct for
sociability. The Englishman, on the other hand, hates to be seen.
Nothing would induce him to make a habit of sitting in a veranda. Even
in the depths of the country, when his house is a long way from the
road, he fits thin muslin curtains across the lower part of his windows.
These keep out a good deal of light and in that way are annoying to him,
but he puts up with gloom rather than run any risk, however small, that
a stranger, glancing through the window, might actually see him. Yet the
Englishman commonly leads a blameless life in his own home. He seldom
employs his leisure in any shameful practices. His casement curtains are
simply evidences of an almost morbid love of privacy.

The first thing an Englishman does when he builds a house is to surround
it with a high wall. This, indeed, is not an English peculiarity. It
prevails all over western Europe. It is a most anti-social custom and
ought to be suppressed by law, because it robs many people of a great
deal of innocent pleasure. The suburbs of Dublin, to take an example,
ought to be very beautiful. There are mountains to the south and hills
to the west and north of the city, all of them lovely in outline and
coloring. There is a wide and beautiful bay on the east. But the casual
wayfarer cannot see either the mountains or the bay. He must walk
between high yellow walls, walls built, I suppose, round houses; but we
can only know this by hearsay. For the walls hide the houses as well as
the view. In Sorrento, which is even more exquisitely situated than
Dublin, you walk for miles and miles between high walls, white in this
case. The only difference between the view you see at Dublin and that
which you see at Sorrento is that the patch of sky you see in Dublin is
gray, at Sorrento generally blue. At Cintra, one of the world's most
famous beauty spots, the walls are gray, and there you cannot even see
the sky, because the owners of the houses inside the walls have planted
trees and the branches of the trees meet over the road. The Americans do
not build walls round their houses. The humblest pedestrian, going afoot
through the suburbs of Philadelphia, Indianapolis or any other city,
sees not only the houses but anything in the way of a view which lies
beyond them.

This is not because America is a republic and therefore democratic in
spirit. Portugal is a republic too, having very vigorously got rid of
its king, but the walls of Cintra are as high as ever. No one in the
world is more democratic than an English Liberal, but the most
uncompromising Liberals build walls round their houses as high as those
of any Tory. The absence of walls in America is simply another evidence
of the wonderful sociability of the people. Walls outside houses are
like doors inside. The European likes both because the desire of privacy
is in his blood. The American likes neither.

The "Country Club" is an institution which could flourish only among a
very sociable people. There are of course clubs of many sorts in
England. There is the club proper, the club without qualification, which
is found at its very best in London. In books like Whitaker's Almanac,
which classify clubs, it is described as "social," but this is only
intended to distinguish it from political or sporting clubs. There is no
suggestion that it is sociable, and in fact it is not. It is possible to
belong to a club in London for years without knowing a dozen of your
fellow members. It often seems as if the members of these clubs went to
them mainly for the purpose of not getting to know each other; a
misfortune which might happen to them anywhere else, but from which they
are secure in their clubs. There are also all over England clubs
specially devoted to particular objects, golf clubs, yacht clubs and so
forth. In these the members are drawn together by their interest in a
common pursuit, and are forced into some sort of acquaintanceship. But
these are very different in spirit and intention from the American
Country Club. It exists as a kind of center of the social life of the
neighborhood. There may be and often are golf links connected with it.
There are tennis courts, sometimes swimming baths. There is always a
ball-room. There are luncheon rooms, tea rooms, reading rooms. In
connection with one such club which I saw there are sailing matches for
a one design class of boats. But neither golf nor tennis, dancing nor
sailing, is the object of the club's existence. Sport is encouraged by
these clubs for the sake of general sociability. In England sociability
is a by-product of an interest in sport.

The Country Club at Tuxedo is not perhaps the oldest, but it is one of
the oldest institutions of the kind in America. In connection with it a
man can enjoy almost any kind of recreation from a Turkish bath to a
game of tennis, either the lawn or the far rarer original kind. At the
proper time of year there are dances, and a débutante acquires, I
believe, a certain prestige by "coming out" at one of them. But the club
exists primarily as the social center of Tuxedo. It is in one way the
ideal, the perfect country club. It not only fosters, it regulates and
governs the social life of the place.

Tuxedo has been spoken of as a millionaire's colony. It is a settlement,
if not of millionaires, at all events of wealthy people. The park, an
immense tract of land, is owned by the club. Ground for building can be
obtained only by those who are elected members of the club and who are
prepared to spend a certain sum as a minimum on the building of their
houses. In theory the place is reserved for people who either do or will
know each other socially, who are approximately on the same level as
regards wealth and who all want to meet each other frequently, for one
purpose or another, in the club. In practice, certain difficulties
necessarily arise. A man may be elected a member of the club and build a
house. He may be a thoroughly desirable person, but in course of time he
dies. His son may be very undesirable, or his son may sell the house to
some one whom the club is not willing to admit to membership. But Tuxedo
society, instead of becoming, as might have been expected, a very narrow
clique, seems to be singularly broad minded and tolerant. The difficulty
of preserving the character of the place and keeping a large society
together as, in all its essentials, a club, is very much less than might
be expected. The place is extremely interesting to any observer of
American social life. The club regulates everything. It runs a private
police force for the park. It keeps up roads. It supplies electric light
and, what is hardly less necessary in America, ice to all the houses. It
levies, though I suppose without any actual legal warrant, regular
rates. The fact that the experiment was not wrecked long ago on the
rocks of snobbery goes to show that society in America is singularly
fluid compared to that of any European country. That a considerable
number of people should want to live together in such a way is a witness
to the sociability of America. No other country club has realized its
ideal as the club at Tuxedo has, but every country club—and you find
them all over America—has something of the spirit of Tuxedo.

Tuxedo is immensely interesting in another way. Nowhere else in the
world, I suppose, is it possible to see so many different kinds of
domestic architecture gathered together in a comparatively small space.
A walk round the shores of the lake gives you an opportunity of seeing
houses built in the dignified and spacious colonial style, a happy
modification of the English Georgian. Beside one of these, close to it,
may be a house like that of a Mexican rancher, and the hill behind is
crowned with a French château. There are houses which must have had
Italian models, others which suggest memories of Tudor manor houses,
others built after the fashion of Queen Anne's time. There are houses
whose architects evidently had an eclectic appreciation of all the
houses built anywhere or at any time, who had tried to embody the most
desirable features of very various styles in one building. The general
effect of a view of Tuxedo is exceedingly bewildering at first, but
almost every house is the expression of some individual tastes, either
good or bad. An architect may start, apparently very often does start,
with the idea of building a house with twelve rooms in it at a cost of
four thousand pounds. Having thus settled size and price, he may go
ahead, trusting to luck about the appearance. Or an architect may start
with the idea of building a house in a certain style, or to express some
feeling, dignity, homeliness, grandeur, or anything else. The architects
who built the Tuxedo houses all seem to have gone to work on the latter
plan.

If the Tuxedo experiment in social life fails and the club goes into
liquidation, the United States Government might do worse than buy the
whole place as it stands and turn it into a college of domestic
architecture. The students could, without traveling more than a mile or
two, study every known kind of country house. But, indeed, a college of
this sort seems less needed in America than anywhere else. It is not
only the insides of the houses which are well planned. The outsides of
the newer houses are for the most part beautiful to look at. And one can
see them, there being no walls.



                              CHAPTER XII
                         COLLEGES AND STUDENTS


The municipal elections in New York which resulted in the defeat of
Tammany were fought out with great vigor in all the usual ways. There
were speeches, bands and flags. The newspapers were full of the sayings
of the different candidates, and the leader writers of each party seemed
to be highly successful in cornering the speakers of the other party. It
was shown clearly every day that orators shamelessly contradicted
themselves, went back on their own principles, and must, if they had any
respect for logic or decency, either retract their latest remarks or
explain them. All this was very interesting to us. It would have been
interesting to any one. It was particularly interesting to us because it
was almost new to us. Elections are, I suppose, fought in more or less
the same way everywhere; but in Connaught we hardly ever have elections.
An independent candidate bubbles up occasionally, but as a rule we are
content to return to Parliament the proper man, that is to say the man
whom somebody, we never quite know who, says we ought to return.

I gathered the impression that elections must be an exciting sport for
those engaged in them. I do not think that the "pomp and circumstance"
of the business, the outward manifestations of activity, can make much
difference to the result. Speeches, for instance, are certainly
thrilling things to make, and I can understand how it is that orators
welcome elections as heaven sent opportunities for the exercise of their
art. But the people who listen to the speeches always seem to have their
minds made up beforehand whether they agree with the speaker or not.
They know what he is going to say and are prepared with hoots or cheers.
I never heard of any one who came to hoot remaining to cheer. I doubt
whether there is a single modern instance of a speech having affected
the destiny of a vote. A very good speech might indeed produce some
effect if it were not that there is always an equally good speech made
at the same time on the other side. Election speeches are like tug boats
pulling different ways at the opposite ends of a large ship. They
neutralize each other and the ship drifts gently, sideways, with the
tide.

It cannot be seriously maintained that bands or flags help voters to
make up their minds. In nine cases out of ten it is impossible to tell
for which side a band is playing, and therefore unlikely that it will
draw voters to one side rather than the other. In the tenth case, when
the band, by selecting some particular tune, makes its meaning clear,
the music is not of a quality which moves the listener to any feeling of
gratitude to the candidate who pays for it. I should, I think, feel
bound to vote for a man who gave me "_panem et circenses_," but I should
expect good bread and an attractive circus. I should not dream of voting
for a candidate who provided me with inferior music. The flags are a
real addition to the gaiety of city life. The ordinary elector loves to
see them fluttering about. But the ordinary elector is not by any means
a fool. He knows that the flags will be taken down very soon after the
election is over. If any candidate promised to keep his flags flying as
a permanent decoration of the city streets he might capture a few votes.
But we all know that none of them will do anything as useful as that.

Nor do I think that the editors of newspapers produce much effect by
showing up the inconsistencies of politicians and pinning them down
to-day, when they are driven to say something quite different, to the
things which, under stress of other circumstances, they said yesterday.
It does not take a clever man, like a newspaper editor, to corner a
politician. Any fool can do that, and the performance of an obviously
easy trick does not move an audience at all. An acrobat who merely hops
across the stage on one leg gets no applause and the box office returns
fall away. The thing is too easy. It is the man who does something
really hard, balances himself on the end of an umbrella and juggles with
twenty balls at once, who attracts the public. If a newspaper editor at
an election time would, instead of showing up the other side, offer
proofs that the men on his own side are consistent, logical and
high-principled, he would have enormous influence with the voters. "Any
one," so the ordinary man would reason, "who can prove things like that
about politicians must be amazingly clever. If he is amazingly clever,
far cleverer than I ever hope to be, then there is a strong probability
that his side is the right one. I shall vote for it." The ordinary man,
so we ought to recollect, is not nearly such a fool as is generally
supposed. He is quite capable of reasoning, and he would reason, I am
sure, just in the way I have suggested, if he were given a chance.

The keen interest which we took in the showy side of electioneering made
us diligent readers of the newspapers. We were rewarded beyond our
hopes. We came across, on the very evening of the election itself, a
little paragraph, tucked away in a corner, which we might very easily
have missed if we had been less earnest students. In a certain district
in New York, so this paragraph told us, there was a queue of voters
waiting outside a polling station. Among them was a man who was known to
be or was suspected of being hostile to Tammany. It was likely that he
would cast his vote on the other side. There were, looking thoughtfully
at the queue, certain men described by the newspaper as "gangsters" in
the pay of the Tammany organization. They seized the voter whose
principles seemed to them objectionable and dragged him out of the
queue, plainly in order to prevent his recording his vote. So far there
was nothing of very special interest in the paragraph. We knew
beforehand—even in Ireland we know this—that voters are a good deal
influenced by the strength of the party machine. The strength is seldom
displayed in its nakedly physical form on this side of the Atlantic, but
it is always there and is really the determining force in most
elections. It was the thing which happened next which gave the incident
its value. A university student who happened to be engaged in social
work in the neighborhood saw what was done. He was one man and there
were several "gangsters," but he attacked them at once. He was, as might
be supposed, as he himself must surely have foreseen, worsted in the
fray which followed. The gangsters, after the manner of their kind,
mauled, beat and kicked him to such an extent that he had to be carried
to a hospital. It did not appear that this university student was a
party man, eager for the triumph of his side as the gangsters were for
the victory of theirs. He seems to have acted on the simple principle
that a man who has a right to vote ought not to be interfered with in
the exercise of that right. He was on the side of justice and liberty.
He was not concerned with politics of either kind.

I do not know what happened to that student afterwards. I searched the
papers in vain for any further reference to the incident. I wanted to
know whether the voter voted in the end. I wanted to know what was done
to the gangsters. I wanted to know whether the student recovered from
his injuries or not. I wanted, above all, to know whether anyone
recognized how fine a thing that student did. I never discovered another
paragraph about the incident.

I was talking some time afterwards to an English friend, the friend to
whom I have already referred, who knows America very well and who
offered to take care of me while I was there. I told him the story of
the voter and the Tammany gangsters.

"These things," he said, "happen over here. They are constantly
happening. One gets into the way of not being shocked by them. But there
always is that university student somewhere round, when they do happen."

It is an amazingly high tribute to the American universities. If my
friend is right, if blatant force and abominable injustice do indeed
find themselves faced, always and as a matter of course, by a university
student, then the universities are doing a very splendid work. And I am
inclined to think that my friend is right. There is another story of the
same kind, one of many which might be told. This one came to me, not in
a newspaper but from the lips of a man who told me that he was a witness
of what happened.

There was—I forget where—a kind of settlement, half camp, half town,
built in a lonely place for the workmen of a company which was
conducting some mining or engineering enterprise. The town, if I am to
call it a town, was owned and ruled by the company. The workmen were of
various nationalities, and, taken as a whole, a rough lot. It was, no
doubt, difficult to keep them contented, difficult enough to keep them
at all in such a place. It would probably be unjust to say that the
company encouraged immorality; but the existence of disorderly houses in
the place was winked at. The men wanted them. The officials of the
company, we may suppose, found their line of least resistance in
ignoring an evil which they may have felt they could not cure. After a
while, during one summer vacation, there came to the place a university
student. He was not a miner or an engineer and had no particular
business with the company. He was, apparently, on a kind of mission; but
whether he was preaching Christianity or social reform of a general kind
I was not told. He was the inevitable university student of my friend's
remark.

He found himself face to face with an evil thing which he at all events
would not ignore. He made his protest. Now no man of the world,
certainly no business man, objects to a proper protest, temperately
made, provided the protester does not go too far. The man of the world
is tolerant. He is a consistent believer in the policy of living and
letting live. He recognizes that people with principles must be allowed
to state them. It is in order to be stated that principles exist. But he
holds that in common fairness he ought to be allowed to ignore these
statements of principle. That was just what this university student
could not understand. He went on protesting more and more forcibly until
he made the officials uncomfortable and the men exceedingly angry. It
was the men, either with, or, as I hope, without the knowledge of their
superiors, who first threatened, then beat that university student, beat
him on the head with a sandbag and finally drove him from the place with
a warning that he had better not return again.

He did return, bringing with him certain officers of the law. He was a
man of some strength of character and the recollection of the beating
did not cause him to hesitate. Unfortunately the officers of the law
could not do much. The disorderly houses were all quite orderly when
they appeared. They were small shops selling apples, matches and other
innocent things. There was no evidence to be got that anything worse had
ever gone on in them than the sale of apples and matches. The previous
inhabitants of these houses were picnicking in the woods for a few days.
All that the officers of the law were able to do was to conduct the
university student safely out of the place. That was difficult enough.

I am not sure that this story is true, for I did not read it in a
newspaper; but it is very like several others which I heard. They may
all be false or very greatly exaggerated, but they show, at least, the
existence of a popular myth in which the university student figures,
always with the same kind of character. Behind every myth there is some
reality. Even solar myths, the vaguest myths there are, lead back
ultimately to the sun, which is indubitably there. It seems to me that
whether he actually does these fine things or not the American
university student has succeeded in impressing the public with the idea
that he is the kind of man who might do them. That in itself is no small
achievement.

I wanted very much, because of the myth and for other reasons, to see
something of American university life. I did see something, a little of
it, both at Yale and Princeton.

I have heard it said that the Englishman is more attached to his school
than to his university, that in after life he will think of himself as
belonging to Eton, to Harrow, to Winchester, rather than to Oxford or to
Cambridge. The school, for some reason, rather than the university, is
regarded as "the mother" from whom the life of the man's soul flowed, to
whom his affection turns. An Oxford man or a Cambridge man is indeed all
his life long proud, as he very well may be, of his connection with his
university, but his school is the subject of his deepest feeling. Round
it rather than the university gathers that emotion which for want of
better words may be described as educational patriotism. An Irishman, on
the other hand, if he is a graduate of Dublin University, thinks more of
"Trinity" than he does of his school. He may have been at one of the
most famous English public schools, but his university, to a
considerable extent, obliterates the memories of it. He thinks of
himself through life as a T. C. D. man.

America is like Ireland in this respect. I find, looking back on my
memories of the American men whom I met most frequently, that I know
about several of them whether they are Yale men, Princeton men or
Harvard men. I do not know about any single one of them what school they
belonged to. I never asked any questions on the subject. Such
information as I got came to me accidentally. It came to me without my
knowing that I was getting it. Only afterwards did I realize that I knew
A. to be a Yale man, B. to be a Harvard man and so forth. In England the
information which comes unsought about a man concerns his school rather
than his university. It is the name of his school which drops from his
lips when he begins talking about old days. There are oftener books
about his school than about his university on his shelves, photographs
of his school on the walls of his study.

I do not know that there is in the American universities any definitely
planned and deliberate effort to create or foster this spirit of
patriotism. There is certainly no such effort apparent in Dublin
University. The spirit is there. That is all that can be said. It
pervades these institutions. Only an occasional and more or less
eccentric undergraduate escapes its influence.

The patriotism is indeed much more obvious and vocal in America than in
Dublin. We had the good luck to be present at a football match between
Yale and Colgate Universities. It was not a match of first-rate
importance, but an enormous crowd of spectators gathered to witness it.
The excitement of the supporters of both sides was intense. There was no
possible mistake about the fact that professors and undergraduates, old
men who had graduated long ago and boys who were not yet undergraduates,
wives, mothers and sisters of graduates and undergraduates, were all
eagerly anxious about the result of the game. Yale, in the end, was
quite unexpectedly beaten. It is not too much to say that a certain
gloom was distinctly noticeable afterward everywhere in New Haven. It
hung over people who were not specially interested in athletics of any
kind. It affected the spirits of my host's parlormaid.

Very shortly after my return home I watched a football match between
Dublin University and Oxford. The play was just as keen and
sportsmanlike as the play between Yale and Colgate; but there was
nothing like the same general interest in the game. There was a
sprinkling of spectators round the ground, an audience which could not
compare in size with that of Yale. They were interested in the game,
intelligently interested. They applauded good play when they saw it; but
there was nothing to correspond to the tense excitement which we
witnessed in America. The game was a game. If Dublin won, well and good.
If Oxford won, then Dublin must try to do better next time. No one
feared defeat as a disaster. No one was prepared to hail victory with
wild enthusiasm. A stranger could not have gone through New Haven on the
day of the Yale and Colgate football match without being aware that
something of great importance was happening. The whole town seemed to be
streaming toward the football ground. In Dublin you might have walked
not only through the city but through most parts of the college itself
on the day of the match against Oxford and you would not have
discovered, unless you went into the park, that there was a football
match. Yet the pride of a Dublin man in his university is as deep and
lasting as that of any American.

The reason of the difference is perhaps to be found in the fact that
everything connected with university athletics is far more highly
organized in America than on this side of the Atlantic. The
undergraduate spectators are drilled to shout together. They practice
beforehand songs which they sing on the occasion of the match for the
encouragement of their own side. Young men with megaphones stand in
front of closely packed rows of undergraduates. They give the signal for
shouting. With wavings of their arms they conduct the yells of the crowd
as musicians conduct their orchestras. The result is something as
different as possible from the casual, accidental applause of our
spectators. It is the difference between a winter rainstorm and the
shower of an April morning. This organized enthusiasm affects everyone
present. Sober-looking men and women shout and wave little flags
tumultuously. They cannot help themselves. I understood, after seeing
that football match, why it is that America produces more successful
religious revivalists than England does. The Americans realize that
emotion is highly infectious. They have mastered the art of spreading
it. I do not know whether this is a useful art or not. It probably is,
if the emotion is a genuine and worthy one; but it is not pleasant to
think that one might be swept away, temporarily intoxicated, by the
skill of some organizer who is engaged in propagating a morbid
enthusiasm. However that may be, love for a university is a thoroughly
healthy thing. It cannot be wrong to foster it by songs and shouts or
even—a curious reversion to the totem religion of our remote
ancestors—by identifying oneself with a bulldog or a tiger.

I met one evening some young men who had graduated in Trinity College,
Dublin, and afterwards gone over for a post-graduate course to a
theological college connected with one of the American universities. We
talked about Dublin chiefly, but I made one inquiry from them about
their American experience.

"I suppose," I said, "that you have to work a great deal harder here
than you did at home?"

Their answer was given with smiling assurance.

"Oh, dear no; nothing like so hard."

I should like very much to have further reliable information on this
point. Something might be got, perhaps, by consulting a number of Rhodes
scholars at Oxford. My impression, a vague one, is that the ordinary
undistinguished American undergraduate is not required to work so hard
as an undergraduate of the same kind is in England or Ireland. In an
American magazine devoted to education I came across an article which
complained that, in the matter of what may be called examination
knowledge, the American undergraduate is not the equal of the English
undergraduate. He does not know as much when he enters the university
and he does not know as much when he leaves it. This was an American
opinion. It would be very interesting to have it confirmed or refuted.
But no one, on either side of the Atlantic, supposes that the kind of
knowledge which is useful in examinations is of the first importance.
The value of a university does not depend upon the number of facts which
it can drive into the heads of average men; but on whether it can, by
means of its teaching and its atmosphere, get the average man into the
habit of thinking nobly, largely and sanely. It seems certain that the
American university training does have a permanent effect on the men who
go through it, an effect like that produced by English schools, and
certainly also by English universities, on their students. A man who is,
throughout life, loyal to his school or university has not passed
through it uninfluenced. It seems likely that the American universities
are succeeding in turning out very good citizens. The existence of what
I have called the university student myth, the existence of a general
opinion that university men are likely to be found on the side of civic
righteousness, is a witness to the fact that the universities are doing
their main work well.

The little, the very little I was able to see of university life helped
me to understand how the work is being done. The chapel services, on
weekdays and Sundays, were in many ways strange to me and I cannot
imagine that I, trained in other rituals, would find digestible the
bread of life which they provide. But I was profoundly impressed by the
reality of them. Here was no official tribute to a God conceived of as a
constitutional monarch to whom respect and loyalty is due but whose will
is of no very great importance, a tribute saved perhaps from formality
by the mystic devotion of a few; but an effort, groping and tentative no
doubt, to get into actual personal touch with a divinity conceived of as
not far remote from common life. These chapel services—exercises is the
better word for them—can hardly fail to have a profound effect upon the
ordinary man. I have stood in the chapel of Oriel College at Oxford and
felt that now and then men of the finer kind, worshiping amid the
austere dignity of the place, might grow to be saints, might see with
their eyes and handle with their hands the mysterious Word of Life. I
sat in the chapel at Princeton, I listened to a sermon at Yale, and felt
that men of commoner clay might go out from them to face a battering
from the fists and boots of Tammany gangsters.

It seems to me significant that Americans have not got the words "don"
and "donnish." They are terms of reproach in England, but the very fact
that they are in use proves that they are required. They describe what
exists. The Americans have no use for the words because they have not
got the man or the quality which they name. The teaching staffs of the
American universities do not develop the qualities of the don. They do
not tend to become a class apart with a special outlook upon life. It is
possible to meet a professor—even a professor of English literature—in
ordinary society, to talk to him, to be intimate with him and not to
discover that he is a professor. Charles Lamb maintained that
school-mastering left an indelible mark upon a man, that having
school-mastered he never afterward was quite the same as other men. I
had a friend once who boasted that he could "spot" a parson however he
was dressed, had spotted parsons who were not dressed at all—in Turkish
baths. I do not believe that the most careful student of professional
mannerisms could detect an American professor out of his lecture room.
It is possible that this note of ordinary worldliness in the members of
the staff of the American university has a beneficial effect upon the
students. It may help to suggest the thought that a university course is
no more than a preparation for life, is not, as most of us thought once,
a thing complete in itself.

In all good universities there is a broad democratic spirit among the
undergraduates. They may, and sometimes do, despise the students of
other universities as men of inferior class, but they only despise those
of their fellow students in their own university who, according to the
peculiar standards of youth, deserve contempt. In American universities
this democratic spirit is stronger than it is with us because there is
greater opportunity for its development. There are wider differences of
wealth—it is difficult to speak of class in America—among the
university students there than here. There are no men in English or
Irish universities earning their keep by cleaning the boots and pressing
the clothes of their better-endowed fellow students. In American
universities there are such men and it is quite possible that one of
them may be president of an important club, or captain of a team,
elected to these posts by the very men whose boots he cleans. If he is
fit for such honors they will be given him. The fact that he cleans
boots will not stand in his way. The wisdom of medieval schoolmen made
room in universities for poor students, sizars, servitors. The American
universities, with their committees of employment for students who want
to earn, are doing the old thing in a new way; and public opinion among
the graduates themselves approves.

On the subject of the higher university education of girls American
opinion is sharply divided. There are people there, just as there are in
England, who say that the whole thing is a mistake, that it is better
for girls not to go to college on any terms, under any system. I suppose
that we must call these people reactionary. There cannot be very many of
them anywhere. It was a surprise to me to find any at all in America.
They are not, I think, very influential. Among those who favor the
higher education of girls there are many who believe whole-heartedly in
co-education. I had no opportunity of seeing a co-educational college,
but I listened to a detailed description of the life in one from a lady
who had lived it. According to her co-education is the one perfect
system yet hit upon. Its critics urge two curiously inconsistent
objections to it. One man, who is a philosopher and also seemed to know
what he was talking about, told me that boys and girls educated together
lose the sense of sex mystery, which lies at the base of romantic love
and consequently do not want to marry. According to his theory, based
upon a careful observation of facts, the students of co-educational
universities never fall in love with each other or with anyone else. If
the system were widely adopted and had this effect upon the students
everywhere, the results would certainly be very unfortunate. Another
critic, equally well informed, said that the real objection to
co-education is that the students do little else except fall in love
with each other. This, though no doubt educative in a broad sense of the
word, is not exactly the kind of education we send boys and girls to
universities to get. It must be very gratifying to the friends of the
system to feel that these two objections cannot both be sound.

Co-educational colleges are chiefly to be found in the West, among the
newer states. In the East girls get their higher education for the most
part in colleges of their own. Smith College for instance has no
connection with any of the men's universities. Nor has Vassar nor Bryn
Mawr. These institutions have their own staffs, their own courses and
examinations, their own rules, and confer their own degrees. Barnard
College, on the other hand, is closely connected with Columbia
University, occupying much the same position as Girton and St.
Margaret's Hall do with regard to Cambridge and Oxford, scarcely as
intimately joined to Columbia as Trinity Hall is to Dublin University. I
had the opportunity of learning something of the life of Smith College.
I was immensely impressed by the spirit of the place, as indeed I was by
that of all the girls' schools and colleges which I saw. There was an
infectious kind of eagerness about both pupils and teachers. There is a
feeling of hopefulness. It is as if life were looked upon as a great and
joyful adventure in which many discoveries of good things may be
expected, much strenuous work may be done gladly, in which no
disillusion waits for those who are of good heart. Not the girls alone,
but those who teach and guide them, are young, young in the way which
defies the passing of years to make them old. We are not young because
we have seen eighteen summers and no more, or old, because we have seen
eighty. We are old when we have shut the doors of our hearts against the
desire of new things and steeled ourselves against the hope of good. We
are young if we refuse, even when our heads are gray, to believe that
disappointment inevitably waits for us. The world and everything in it
belongs to the young. It is this pervading sense of youthfulness which
makes the American girls' colleges so fascinating to a stranger. It is
not difficult to believe that the girls who come out of them are able to
take their places by the side of men in business life, or if the
commoner and happier lot waits them, are well fitted to be the partners
of men who do great things and the mothers of men who will do greater
things still.

I take it that the American universities, both those for men and women,
are the greatest things in America to-day. This, curiously enough, is
not the American idea. The ordinary American citizen is proud of every
single thing in his country except his universities. He is always a
little apologetic about them. He compares his country with England and
is convinced that America is superior in every respect, except the
matter of universities. When he speaks of the English universities he
shows a certain sense of reverence and makes mention of his own much in
the spirit of Touchstone who introduced Audrey as "a poor thing, but my
own."



                              CHAPTER XIII
                          THE IRISHMAN ABROAD


The educated American seems to have a great deal of affection for
Ireland, but is not over fond of Irishmen. Our country, considered as an
Island situated on the far side of the Atlantic, makes a strong appeal
to him. It is a land of thousand wrongs, a pitiful waif on the hard
highway of the world. It smells strongly of poetry and music in a minor
key, and the American is, like all good business men, an incurable
sentimentalist.

It is always pleasant to be loved and it is nice to feel that America
has this affection for our poor, lost land. But the love would gratify
us much more than it does if there were a little less pity mixed up in
it, and if it were not taken for granted that we all write poetry. I
remember meeting an American lady who was quite lyrical in her
appreciation of Ireland. She had penetrated into the country as far as
Avoca, making the trip from Dublin in a motor car. She stayed, so she
told me, "in a dear old-fashioned inn in Dublin." She had forgotten its
name, but described its situation to me very accurately. I could not
possibly make a mistake about it. My heart was hot within me when I
suggested that it might have been the Shelbourne Hotel at which she
stayed. Her face lit up with a gleam of recognition of the name.

"Yes," she said, "that's it, such a sweet old place; just Ireland all
over, and really quite comfortable when you get used to it."

Now the Shelbourne Hotel is our idea of a thoroughly up-to-date,
cosmopolitan caravanserai.

Even after a visit to America and a considerable experience of American
hotels, I cannot think of the Shelbourne Hotel as an inn, as
old-fashioned, or as in any way Irish except through the accident of its
situation. It evidently suggests to the American mind tender thoughts of
Mr. Yeats' "small cabin, of mud and wattles made" on Inishfree. It
suggests no such thoughts to us. Dinner at the Shelbourne Hotel costs
five shillings, nothing to an American, of course, but a heavy price to
us in Ireland. It consists of several courses and we think it quite a
grand dinner. It seems to the American that he is at last reduced to the
traditional Irish diet of potatoes and potheen whiskey. It is this way
of thinking about Ireland which takes the sweetness out of the
American's genuine affection for our country. We do not mind admitting
that we are half a century behind America in every respect, but we like
to think that we are making some progress.

An American's eyes soften when you talk to him about Ireland, and you
feel that at any moment he may say "dear land," so deep is his
sentimental pity and affection for our country. But his eyes harden when
you mention Irishmen and you feel that at any moment he may say
something very nasty about them. The plain fact is that Irishmen are not
very popular in America. We have, it appears, managed the American's
municipal politics for him in several of his principal cities and he
does not like it. But I am not sure that his resentment is quite just.
Somebody must manage municipal politics everywhere. For a good many
years the American would not manage them himself. He was too busy making
money to bother himself about municipal politics. We took over the
job—at a price. He paid the price with a shrug of the shoulders. I
cannot see that he has much to complain about. Lately he has kicked—not
against the size of the price—it is not the American way to higgle
about money—but against there being any price at all. He has got it
into his head that municipal politics ought to be run "free gratis and
for nothing" by high-souled patriotic men. I sincerely hope that he will
realize his ideal, though I doubt whether any politics anywhere can be
run in that way. It will certainly be better for my fellow countrymen to
earn their bread in any way rather than by politics. But there is, no
sense in being angry with us or abusing us. We worked the machine and
took our wages. The American watched the machine running and paid the
wages. There was not much to choose between him and us.

There is another reason why we are not as popular as we might be—as, no
doubt, we ought to be—in America. We have remained Irish. One of the
most wonderful things about America is its power of absorbing people.
Men and women flow into it from all corners of the world, and in a very
short time, in a couple of generations, become American. I have seen it
stated that the very shapes of the skulls of immigrants alter in
America; that the son of an Italian man has an American not an Italian
skull, even if his mother also came from Italy. Whether this change
really takes place in the bones of immigrants I do not know. Quite as
surprising a change certainly does take place in their nature. They
cease to be foreigners and become American. But the Irish have never
been thoroughly Americanized. Their American citizenship becomes a great
and dear thing to them, but they are still in some sense citizens of
Ireland. If a question ever arose in which American interests clashed
with Irish interests there might well be a solid Irish vote in favor of
sacrificing America to Ireland. The Irish are a partial exception to the
rule that America absorbs its immigrants. It has not thoroughly absorbed
us.

This is the shape which the Irish problem has assumed in America. Here
at home the question is, is England to govern Irishmen? It has obviously
failed to make Englishmen of us. On the other side of the Atlantic the
question is: Are Irishmen to govern America? America has not succeeded
in making Americans of all of us so far.

So far. But the position of Irishmen in America is changing. There was a
time when we took our place in the American social order as hewers of
wood and drawers of water. We were the navvies, the laborers, the men
who handled the pickaxe and spade. Now it is men of other races who do
this work—Italians and Slavs. We have risen in the scale. The Irish
emigrant who lands in New York to-day starts higher up than the Irish
emigrant of twenty-five years ago. So long as we were at the bottom of
the social scale we were bound together by a community of interest and
outlook as well as by nationality. We were easily organized as a voting
unit. But men, as they rise in the world, tend more and more to become
individuals. They have differing interests. They look at things in
different ways. They are far more difficult to organize. The sense of
original nationality will remain to us, no doubt, as it remains among
Americans of Scottish descent. But it may cease to be an effective
political force.

The Ulster Irishman went to America in large numbers before there was
any great immigration of southern and western Irishmen. He fought his
way up in the social scale very quickly and became thoroughly
Americanized. He has had a profound influence on American civilization
and character. It has been the influence of digested food, not the force
exercised by a lump of dough swallowed hastily. But in time even a lump
of dough is digested by a healthy stomach and the gradual rise of the
Irish in the social life of America looks like the beginning of the
process of digestion.

There is something else besides the change in his social position which
will in time make it easier for America to absorb thoroughly the Irish
immigrant. The Irish who went to America during the last half of the
19th century left their homes with a sense in them of burning wrong.
They were men who hated. They hated England and all in Irish life which
stood for England. This hate bound them together. Irish political
struggles, whether of the Fenian or the Parnell type, appealed to them.
Ireland was, in one way or the other, up against England. But all this
has changed. Irish politicians are no longer engaged in a struggle with
England. They are in alliance with one set of Englishmen and only
against another set of Englishmen. There is in Irish politics at home an
appeal to the man of party feeling. He is keen enough for his own party,
keen enough against the other party, but when he gets to America neither
of the parties at home can move him to any special enthusiasm. He no
longer, when at home, hates England. He hates, if hate is not too strong
a word, some Englishmen. There is a great difference between hating
England and hating some Englishmen, when you are so far away that all
Englishmen get blurred. It is easy in Ireland to feel that Codlin is the
friend, not Short. It is not so easy to distinguish Codlin from Short,
Liberal from Conservative, when they are both no more than little dots,
barely visible at a distance of three thousand miles. Codlin gets mixed
up with Short. Some of the original party hatred of Short attaches to
Codlin, no doubt. But some of the love for Codlin, love which is the
fruit of long alliance, passes to Short.

I do not mean to suggest that the sense of nationality has passed away
from Ireland. It has not. In some ways the spirit of nationality is
stronger in Ireland to-day than it was at any time during the last
century. It has certainly penetrated to classes which used to have no
consciousness of nationality at all. There are fewer Irishmen now who
are ashamed of being Irish. There are more men now than ever, in every
class, who want the good of Ireland as distinguished from that of
England or of any other country. But the sense of nationality has to a
very large extent passed out of Irish political life. The platform
appeal of the politician to the voter in Ireland now is far oftener an
appeal to Irishmen as part of the British democracy than to Irishmen as
members of a nation governed against its will by foreigners. The ideas
of John O'Leary, even the ideas of Parnell, have almost vanished from
Irish political life. Instead of them we have the idea of international
democracy.

This change of feeling in Ireland itself will make for a modification of
the position of the Irish in America. They will tend, as the older
generation passes, to become more American and less Irish. This is
already felt in Ireland itself. Of late years there has arisen a strong
feeling against emigration. It is realized, as it used not to be, that
Ireland loses those who go. The feeling is quite new. The phrase "a
greater Ireland beyond the seas" is beginning to mean a little less than
it did, and the general consciousness of patriotic Irishmen at home is
instinctively recognizing this. But it is noticeable that this dislike
of emigration has not found expression among politicians. The movement
is outside politics. The local political boss is frequently an
emigration agent and feels no inconsistency in his position.

It would be quite easy to exaggerate the present value of the change I
have tried to indicate. The old solidarity of the Irish in America
remains a fact. It is to Irish friends and relatives that our emigrants
go. It is among Irish people that they live when they settle in America.
It is Irish people whom they marry. But the tendency is toward a
breaking away from this national isolation.

The movement against emigration at home has much in it besides the
instinctive protest of a nation against the loss of its people. It is in
part religious and rests on a fear that faith is more easily lost in
America than in Ireland. It is in part no doubt the result of shrinking
of sensitive and loving souls from the horror of the great sorrow of
farewell.

All emotions lose their keenness with repetition. The fine rapture of a
joy is never quite so delightful as it was when the joy came first and
was strange. The bitterness of sorrow and disappointment gradually loses
its intensity when sorrow and disappointment become familiar things.
Even insults cease after a while to move us to fierce anger. The law is
universal; but there are some emotions which are only very slowly
dulled. The sadness which comes of watching the departure of a train
full of Irish emigrants is one of these. We are, or ought to be, well
accustomed to the sight. Those of us who have lived long in the country
parts of Ireland have seen these trains and traveled a little way in
them many times; but we are still saddened, hardly less saddened than
when we saw them first.

There is one day in the week on which emigrants go, and in the west of
Ireland one train on that day by which they travel. It goes slowly,
stopping at every station no matter how small, and at every station
there is the same scene. The platform is crowded long before the train
comes in. There are many old women weeping without restraint, mothers
these, or grandmothers of the boys and girls who are going. Their eyes
are swollen. Their cheeks are tear-stained. Every now and then one of
them wails aloud, and the others, catching at the sound, wail with her,
their voices rising and falling in a kind of weird melody like the
ancient plain song of the church. There are men, too, but they are more
silent. Very often their eyes are wet. Their lips, tightly pressed,
twitch spasmodically. Occasionally an uncontrollable sob breaks from one
of them. The boys and girls who are to go are helplessly sorrow
stricken. It is no longer possible for them to weep, for they have wept
too much already. They are drooping despairingly. At their feet are
carpet bags and little yellow tin trunks, each bearing a great flaring
steamboat label. They wear stiff new clothes, shoddy tweed suits from
the shop of the village draper, dresses and blouses long discussed with
some country dressmaker. These pitiful braveries mark them out
unmistakably from the men in muddy frieze and the women in wide crimson
petticoats, with shawls over their heads, who have come to say good-by.

The train comes in. There is a rush to the carriage doors. Soon the
windows of the carriages are filled with tear-stained faces. Hands are
stretched out, grasped, held tight. Final kisses are pressed on lips and
cheeks. The guard of the train gives his signal at last. The engine
whistles. A porter, mercifully brutal, by main force pushes the people
back. The train moves slowly, gathers speed. For a while the whole crowd
moves along the platform beside the train. Then a long sad cry rises,
swelling to a pitch of actual agony. Some brave soul somewhere chokes
down a sob, waves his hat and makes pretence to cheer. Then the scene is
over.

What happens next in the railway carriages? For a while there is sobbing
or silence. Then wonder and the excitement of change begin to take the
place of grief. Words are whispered, questions asked. Little stores of
money are taken out and counted over. Steamboat tickets are examined,
unfolded, folded, put in yet securer places. Already the present is
something more than a dull ache; and the future is looked to as well as
the past.

What happens next to the crowd which was left behind? In little groups
the men and women go slowly back along the country roads to the houses
left at dawn, go back to take up the work of every day. Poverty is a
merciful mistress to those whom she holds in bondage. There are the
fields to be dug, the cattle to be tended, the bread to be made. The
steady succession of things which must be done dulls the edge of grief.
They suffer less who are obliged to work as well as weep. But the sorrow
remains. He has but a shallow knowledge of our people who supposes that
because they go about the business of their lives afterward as they did
before there is no lasting reality in their grief. An Irish mother will
say: "I had seven childer, but there's only two of them left to me now.
I buried two and three is in America." She classes those who have
crossed the sea with those who are dead. Both are lost to her.

Sometimes those who have gone are indeed lost utterly. There comes a
letter once, and after a long interval another letter. Then no more
letters nor any news at all. More often there is some kind of touch kept
with the people at home. Letters come at Christmas time, often with very
welcome gifts of money in them. There are photographs. Molly, whom we
all knew when she was a bare-footed child running home from school, whom
we remember as a half-grown girl climbing into her father's cart on
market days, appears almost a stranger in her picture. Her clothes are
grand beyond our imagining. Her face has a new look in it. There are few
Irish country houses in which such photographs are not shown with a
mixture of pride and grief. It is a fine thing that Molly is so grand.
It is a sad thing that Molly is so strange.

Sometimes, but not very often, a boy or girl comes home again, like a
frightened child to a mother. America is too hard for some of us. These
are beaten and return to the old poverty, preferring it because the ways
of Irish poverty are less strenuous than the ways of American success.
Sometimes, but this is rare too, a young man or woman returns, not
beaten but satisfied with moderate success. These bring with them money,
the girl a marriage portion for herself, the man enough to restock his
father's farm, which he looks to inherit in the future. Sometimes older
people come back to buy land, build houses and settle down. But these
are always afterward strangers in Irish life. They never recapture the
spirit of it. They have worked in America, thought in America, breathed
in America. America has marked them as hers and they are ours no longer
though they come back to us.

Often we have passing visits from those who left us. The new easiness of
traveling and the comparative comfort of the journey make these visits
commoner than they were. Our friends come back for two months or three.
It is wonderful to see how quickly they seem to fall into the old ways.
The young man, who was perhaps an insurance agent in New York, will fold
away his city clothes and turn to with a loy at cutting turf. The girl,
who got out of the train so fine to look at that her own father hardly
dared to greet her, will be out next day in the fields making hay with
her sisters and brothers. But there is a restlessness about these
visitors of ours. They want us to do new things. They find much amiss
which we had not noticed. They are back with us and glad to be back; but
America is calling them all the time. There is very much that we cannot
give. Soon they will go again, and any tears shed at the second parting
are ours, not theirs.

There are many histories of Ireland dealing sometimes with the whole,
sometimes with this or that part of her story. They are written with the
passion of patriots, with the bitterness of enemies, with the blind fury
of partisans, with the cold justice of scientific men who stand aloof.
None of them are wholly satisfactory as histories of England are, or
histories of America. No one can write a history of Ireland which will
set forth intelligently Ireland's place in the world. We wait for the
coming of some larger-minded man who will write the history, not of
Ireland, but of the Irish. In one respect it is not with us as it is
with other nations. Their stories center in their homes. Their
conquerors go forth, but return again. Their thinkers live amid the
scenes on which their eyes first opened. Their contributions to human
knowledge are connected in all men's minds with their own lands. The
statesmen of other nations rule their own people, build empires on which
their own flag flies. The workmen of other nations, captains of industry
or sweating laborers, make wealth in their home lands. It has never been
so with us.

Our historian when he comes and writes of us may take as the motto of
his book Virgil's comment on the honey-making of the bees. "Sic vos non
vobis." Long ago we spread the gospel of the Cross over the dark places
of Europe. The monasteries of our monks, the churches of our missionary
preachers were everywhere. But our own land is still the prey of that
acrimonious theological bitterness which is of all things the most
utterly opposed to the spirit of Christ. So we, but not for ourselves,
made sweetness. Kant is a German. Bergson is a Frenchman. All the world
knows it. Who knows or cares that John Scotus Erigena or Bishop Berkeley
were Irish? The greatness of their names has shed no luster over us. Our
captains and soldiers have fought and won under every flag in Europe and
under the Stars and Stripes of America. Under our own flag they rarely
fought and never won. Statesmen of our race have been among the
governors of almost every nation under the sun. Our own land we have
never governed yet. The names of Swift, of Goldsmith, of Sheridan, of a
score of other men of letters add to the glory of the record of English
literature, not of ours. Our people by their toil of mind and muscle
have made other lands rich in manufacture and commerce. Ireland remains
poor.

That is why there is not and cannot be a history of Ireland. It is never
in Ireland that our history has been made. The threads of our story are
ours, spun at home, but they are woven into splendid fabrics elsewhere,
not in Ireland. But the history of the Irish people will be a great work
when it is written. There will be strange chapters in it, and none
stranger than those which tell of our part in the making of America. It
will be a record of mingled good and evil, but it will always have in it
the elements of high romance. From the middle of the 18th century, when
the tide of emigration set westward from Ulster, down to to-day when
with slackening force it flows from Connaught, those who went have
always been the men and women for whom life at home seemed hopeless.
There was no promise of good for them here. But in spite of the
intolerable sadness of their going, in spite of the fact that at home
they were beaten men, there was in them some capacity for doing things.
We can succeed, it seems, elsewhere but not here. This is the strange
law which has governed our history. We recognize its force everywhere
for centuries back. America gives the latest example of its working. An
Irishman returns from a visit to America wondering, despairing, hoping.
The wonder is in him because he knows those who went and has seen the
manner of their going. Success for them seemed impossible, yet very
often they have succeeded. The despair is in him because he knows that
it has always been in other lands, not in their own that our people
succeed, and because there is no power which can alter the decrees of
destiny. But hope survives in him, flickering, because what our people
can do elsewhere they can certainly do at home if only we can discover
the solution of the malignant riddle of our failure.



                          Transcriber's Notes


p. 82 "passerby" was changed to "passer-by"
 p. 133 "betwen" was changed to "between"
The spelling of all other words, and the punctuation, are as in the
  original.


[The end of _From Dublin To Chicago_ by James Owen Hannay (1865-1950) [writing as George A. Birmingham]]





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