The American Claimant
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Part 2 out of 4
thereafter impossible to her forever.
"Have they found the body, Rossmore?" asked the wife.
"Yes, that is, they've found several. It must be one of them, but none
of them are recognizable."
"What are you going to do?"
"I am going down there and identify one of them and send it home to the
"But papa, did you ever see the young man?"
"How will you identify it?"
"I--well, you know it says none of them are recognizable. I'll send his
father one of them--there's probably no choice."
Gwendolen knew it was not worth while to argue the matter further, since
her father's mind was made up and there was a chance for him to appear
upon that sad scene down yonder in an authentic and official way. So she
said no more--till he asked for a basket.
"A basket, papa? What for?"
"It might be ashes."
The earl and Washington started on the sorrowful errand, talking as they
"And as usual!"
"Seven of them in that hotel. Actresses. And all burnt out, of
"Any of them burnt up?"
"Oh, no they escaped; they always do; but there's never a one of them
that knows enough to fetch out her jewelry with her."
"Strange--it's the most unaccountable thing in the world. Experience
teaches them nothing; they can't seem to learn anything except out of a
book. In some uses there's manifestly a fatality about it. For
instance, take What's-her-name, that plays those sensational thunder and
lightning parts. She's got a perfectly immense reputation--draws like a
dog-fight--and it all came from getting burnt out in hotels."
"Why, how could that give her a reputation as an actress?"
"It didn't--it only made her name familiar. People want to see her play
because her name is familiar, but they don't know what made it familiar,
because they don't remember. First, she was at the bottom of the
ladder, and absolutely obscure wages thirteen dollars a week and find her
"Yes--things to fat up her spindles with so as to be plump and attractive.
Well, she got burnt out in a hotel and lost $30,000 worth of diamonds."
"She? Where'd she get them?"
"Goodness knows--given to her, no doubt, by spoony young flats and sappy
old bald-heads in the front row. All the papers were full of it. She
struck for higher pay and got it. Well, she got burnt out again and lost
all her diamonds, and it gave her such a lift that she went starring."
"Well, if hotel fires are all she's got to depend on to keep up her name,
it's a pretty precarious kind of a reputation I should think."
"Not with her. No, anything but that. Because she's so lucky; born
lucky, I reckon. Every time there's a hotel fire she's in it. She's
always there--and if she can't be there herself, her diamonds are. Now
you can't make anything out of that but just sheer luck."
"I never heard of such a thing. She must have lost quarts of diamonds."
"Quarts, she's lost bushels of them. It's got so that the hotels are
superstitious about her. They won't let her in. They think there will
be a fire; and besides, if she's there it cancels the insurance. She's
been waning a little lately, but this fire will set her up. She lost
$60,000 worth last night."
"I think she's a fool. If I had $60,000 worth of diamonds I wouldn't
trust them in a hotel."
"I wouldn't either; but you can't teach an actress that. This one's been
burnt out thirty-five times. And yet if there's a hotel fire in San
Francisco to-night she's got to bleed again, you mark my words. Perfect
ass; they say she's got diamonds in every hotel in the country."
When they arrived at the scene of the fire the poor old earl took one
glimpse at the melancholy morgue and turned away his face overcome by the
spectacle. He said:
"It is too true, Hawkins--recognition is impossible, not one of the five
could be identified by its nearest friend. You make the selection, I
can't bear it."
"Which one had I better--"
"Oh, take any of them. Pick out the best one."
However, the officers assured the earl--for they knew him, everybody in
Washington knew him--that the position in which these bodies were found
made it impossible that any one of them could be that of his noble young
kinsman. They pointed out the spot where, if the newspaper account was
correct, he must have sunk down to destruction; and at a wide distance
from this spot they showed him where the young man must have gone down in
case he was suffocated in his room; and they showed him still a third
place, quite remote, where he might possibly have found his death if
perchance he tried to escape by the side exit toward the rear. The old
Colonel brushed away a tear and said to Hawkins:
"As it turns out there was something prophetic in my fears. Yes, it's a
matter of ashes. Will you kindly step to a grocery and fetch a couple
Reverently they got a basket of ashes from each of those now hallowed
spots, and carried them home to consult as to the best manner of
forwarding them to England, and also to give them an opportunity to "lie
in state,"--a mark of respect which the colonel deemed obligatory,
considering the high rank of the deceased.
They set the baskets on the table in what was formerly the library,
drawing-room and workshop--now the Hall of Audience--and went up stairs
to the lumber room to see if they could find a British flag to use as a
part of the outfit proper to the lying in state. A moment later, Lady
Rossmore came in from the street and caught sight of the baskets just as
old Jinny crossed her field of vision. She quite lost her patience and
"Well, what will you do next? What in the world possessed you to clutter
up the parlor table with these baskets of ashes?"
"Ashes?" And she came to look. She put up her hands in pathetic
astonishment. "Well, I never see de like!"
"Didn't you do it?"
"Who, me? Clah to goodness it's de fust time I've sot eyes on 'em, Miss
Polly. Dat's Dan'l. Dat ole moke is losin' his mine."
But it wasn't Dan'l, for he was called, and denied it.
"Dey ain't no way to 'splain dat. Wen hit's one er dese-yer common
'currences, a body kin reckon maybe de cat--"
"Oh!" and a shudder shook Lady Rossmore to her foundations. "I see it
all. Keep away from them--they're his."
"His, m' lady?"
"Yes--your young Marse Sellers from England that's burnt up."
She was alone with the ashes--alone before she could take half a breath.
Then she went after Mulberry Sellers, purposing to make short work with
his program, whatever it might be; "for," said she, "when his
sentimentals are up, he's a numskull, and there's no knowing what
extravagance he'll contrive, if you let him alone." She found him.
He had found the flag and was bringing it. When she heard that his idea
was to have the remains "lie in state, and invite the government and the
public," she broke it up. She said:
"Your intentions are all right--they always are--you want to do honour to
the remains, and surely nobody can find any fault with that, for he was
your kin; but you are going the wrong way about it, and you will see it
yourself if you stop and think. You can't file around a basket of ashes
trying to look sorry for it and make a sight that is really solemn,
because the solemner it is, the more it isn't--anybody can see that. It
would be so with one basket; it would be three times so with three.
Well, it stands to reason that if it wouldn't be solemn with one mourner,
it wouldn't be with a procession--and there would be five thousand people
here. I don't know but it would be pretty near ridiculous; I think it
would. No, Mulberry, they can't lie in state--it would be a mistake.
Give that up and think of something else."
So he gave it up; and not reluctantly, when he had thought it over and
realized how right her instinct was. He concluded to merely sit up with
the remains just himself and Hawkins. Even this seemed a doubtful
attention, to his wife, but she offered no objection, for it was plain
that he had a quite honest and simple-hearted desire to do the friendly
and honourable thing by these forlorn poor relics which could command no
hospitality in this far off land of strangers but his. He draped the
flag about the baskets, put some crape on the door-knob, and said with
"There--he is as comfortable, now, as we can make him in the
circumstances. Except--yes, we must strain a point there--one must do as
one would wish to be done by--he must have it."
"Have what, dear?"
The wife felt that the house-front was standing about all it could well
stand, in that way; the prospect of another stunning decoration of that
nature distressed her, and she wished the thing had not occurred to him.
She said, hesitatingly:
"But I thought such an honour as that wasn't allowed to any but very very
near relations, who--"
"Right, you are quite right, my lady, perfectly right; but there aren't
any nearer relatives than relatives by usurpation. We cannot avoid it;
we are slaves of aristocratic custom and must submit."
The hatchments were unnecessarily generous, each being as large as a
blanket, and they were unnecessarily volcanic, too, as to variety and
violence of color, but they pleased the earl's barbaric eye, and they
satisfied his taste for symmetry and completeness, too, for they left no
waste room to speak of on the house-front.
Lady Rossmore and her daughter assisted at the sitting-up till near
midnight, and helped the gentlemen to consider what ought to be done next
with the remains. Rossmore thought they ought to be sent home with a
committee and resolutions,--at once. But the wife was doubtful. She
"Would you send all of the baskets?"
"Oh, yes, all."
"All at once?"
"To his father? Oh, no--by no means. Think of the shock. No--one at a
time; break it to him by degrees."
"Would that have that effect, father?"
"Yes, my daughter. Remember, you are young and elastic, but he is old.
To send him the whole at once might well be more than he could bear.
But mitigated--one basket at a time, with restful intervals between,
he would be used to it by the time he got all of him. And sending him
in three ships is safer anyway. On account of wrecks and storms."
"I don't like the idea, father. If I were his father it would be
dreadful to have him coming in that--in that--"
"On the installment plan," suggested Hawkins, gravely, and proud of being
able to help.
"Yes--dreadful to have him coming in that incoherent way. There would be
the strain of suspense upon me all the time. To have so depressing a
thing as a funeral impending, delayed, waiting, unaccomplished--"
"Oh, no, my child," said the earl reassuringly, "there would be nothing
of that kind; so old a gentleman could not endure a long-drawn suspense
like that. There will be three funerals."
Lady Rossmore looked up surprised, and said:
"How is that going to make it easier for him? It's a total mistake, to
my mind. He ought to be buried all at once; I'm sure of it."
"I should think so, too," said Hawkins.
"And certainly I should," said the daughter.
"You are all wrong," said the earl. "You will see it yourselves, if you
think. Only one of these baskets has got him in it."
"Very well, then," said Lady Rossmore, "the thing is perfectly simple--
bury that one."
"Certainly," said Lady Gwendolen.
"But it is not simple," said the earl, "because we do not know which
basket he is in. We know he is in one of them, but that is all we do
know. You see now, I reckon, that I was right; it takes three funerals,
there is no other way."
"And three graves and three monuments and three inscriptions?" asked the
"Well--yes--to do it right. That is what I should do."
"It could not be done so, father. Each of the inscriptions would give
the same name and the same facts and say he was under each and all of
these monuments, and that would not answer at all."
The earl nestled uncomfortably in his chair.
"No," he said, "that is an objection. That is a serious objection. I
see no way out."
There was a general silence for a while. Then Hawkins said:
"It seems to me that if we mixed the three ramifications together--"
The earl grasped him by the hand and shook it gratefully.
"It solves the whole problem," he said. "One ship, one funeral, one
grave, one monument--it is admirably conceived. It does you honor, Major
Hawkins, it has relieved me of a most painful embarrassment and distress,
and it will save that poor stricken old father much suffering. Yes, he
shall go over in one basket."
"When?" asked the wife.
"To-morrow-immediately, of course."
"I would wait, Mulberry."
"You don't want to break that childless old man's heart."
"God knows I don't!"
"Then wait till he sends for his son's remains. If you do that, you will
never have to give him the last and sharpest pain a parent can know--
I mean, the certainty that his son is dead. For he will never send."
"Why won't he?"
"Because to send--and find out the truth--would rob him of the one
precious thing left him, the uncertainty, the dim hope that maybe, after
all, his boy escaped, and he will see him again some day."
"Why Polly, he'll know by the papers that he was burnt up."
"He won't let himself believe the papers; he'll argue against anything
and everything that proves his son is dead; and he will keep that up and
live on it, and on nothing else till he dies. But if the remains should
actually come, and be put before that poor old dim-hoping soul--"
"Oh, my God, they never shall! Polly, you've saved me from a crime, and
I'll bless you for it always. Now we know what to do. We'll place them
reverently away, and he shall never know."
The young Lord Berkeley, with the fresh air of freedom in his nostrils,
was feeling invincibly strong for his new career; and yet--and yet--if
the fight should prove a very hard one at first, very discouraging, very
taxing on untoughened moral sinews, he might in some weak moment want to
retreat. Not likely, of course, but possibly that might happen. And so
on the whole it might be pardonable caution to burn his bridges behind
him. Oh, without doubt. He must not stop with advertising for the owner
of that money, but must put it where he could not borrow from it himself,
meantime, under stress of circumstances. So he went down town, and put
in his advertisement, then went to a bank and handed in the $500 for
He hesitated and colored a little; he had forgotten to make a selection.
He now brought out the first one that suggested itself:
When he was gone the clerks, marveling, said:
"The cowboy blushed."
The first step was accomplished. The money was still under his command
and at his disposal, but the next step would dispose of that difficulty.
He went to another bank and drew upon the first bank for the 500 by
check. The money was collected and deposited a second time to the credit
of Howard Tracy. He was asked to leave a few samples of his signature,
which he did. Then he went away, once more proud and of perfect courage,
"No help for me now, for henceforth I couldn't draw that money without
identification, and that is become legally impossible. No resources to
fall back on. It is work or starve from now to the end. I am ready--and
Then he sent this cablegram to his father:
"Escaped unhurt from burning hotel. Have taken fictitious name.
During the, evening while he was wandering about in one of the outlying
districts of the city, he came across a small brick church, with a bill
posted there with these words printed on it: "MECHANICS' CLUB DEBATE.
ALL INVITED." He saw people, apparently mainly of the working class,
entering the place, and he followed and took his seat. It was a humble
little church, quite bare as to ornamentation. It had painted pews
without cushions, and no pulpit, properly speaking, but it had a
platform. On the platform sat the chairman, and by his side sat a man
who held a manuscript in his hand and had the waiting look of one who is
going to perform the principal part. The church was soon filled with a
quiet and orderly congregation of decently dressed and modest people.
This is what the chairman said:
"The essayist for this evening is an old member of our club whom you all
know, Mr. Parker, assistant editor of the Daily Democrat. The subject
of his essay is the American Press, and he will use as his text a couple
of paragraphs taken from Mr. Matthew Arnold's new book. He asks me to
read these texts for him. The first is as follows:
"'Goethe says somewhere that "the thrill of awe," that is to say,
REVERENCE, is the best thing humanity has."
"Mr. Arnold's other paragraph is as follows:
"'I should say that if one were searching for the best means to efface
and kill in a whole nation the discipline of respect, one could not do
better than take the American newspapers."
Mr. Parker rose and bowed, and was received with warm applause. He then
began to read in a good round resonant voice, with clear enunciation and
careful attention to his pauses and emphases. His points were received
with approval as he went on.
The essayist took the position that the most important function of a
public journal in any country was the propagating of national feeling and
pride in the national name--the keeping the people "in love with their
country and its institutions, and shielded from the allurements of alien
and inimical systems." He sketched the manner in which the reverent
Turkish or Russian journalist fulfilled this function--the one assisted
by the prevalent "discipline of respect" for the bastinado, the other for
Siberia. Continuing, he said:
The chief function of an English journal is that of all other journals
the world over: it must keep the public eye fixed admiringly upon certain
things, and keep it diligently diverted from certain others. For
instance, it must keep the public eye fixed admiringly upon the glories
of England, a processional splendor stretching its receding line down the
hazy vistas of time, with the mellowed lights of a thousand years
glinting from its banners; and it must keep it diligently diverted from
the fact that all these glories were for the enrichment and
aggrandizement of the petted and privileged few, at cost of the blood and
sweat and poverty of the unconsidered masses who achieved them but might
not enter in and partake of them. It must keep the public eye fixed in
loving and awful reverence upon the throne as a sacred thing, and
diligently divert it from the fact that no throne was ever set up by the
unhampered vote of a majority of any nation; and that hence no throne
exists that has a right to exist, and no symbol of it, flying from any
flagstaff, is righteously entitled to wear any device but the skull and
crossbones of that kindred industry which differs from royalty only
business-wise--merely as retail differs from wholesale. It must keep the
citizen's eye fixed in reverent docility upon that curious invention of
machine politics, an Established Church, and upon that bald contradiction
of common justice, a hereditary nobility; and diligently divert it from
the fact that the one damns him if he doesn't wear its collar, and robs
him under the gentle name of taxation whether he wears it or not, and the
other gets all the honors while he does all the work.
The essayist thought that Mr. Arnold, with his trained eye and
intelligent observation, ought to have perceived that the very quality
which he so regretfully missed from our press--respectfulness, reverence
--was exactly the thing which would make our press useless to us if it
had it--rob it of the very thing which differentiates it from all other
journalism in the world and makes it distinctively and preciously
American, its frank and cheerful irreverence being by all odds the most
valuable of all its qualities. "For its mission--overlooked by Mr.
Arnold--is to stand guard over a nation's liberties, not its humbugs and
shams." He thought that if during fifty years the institutions of the
old world could be exposed to the fire of a flouting and scoffing press
like ours, "monarchy and its attendant crimes would disappear from
Christendom." Monarchists might doubt this; then "why not persuade the
Czar to give it a trial in Russia?" Concluding, he said:
Well, the charge is, that our press has but little of that old world
quality, reverence. Let us be candidly grateful that it is so. With its
limited reverence it at least reveres the things which this nation
reveres, as a rule, and that is sufficient: what other people revere is
fairly and properly matter of light importance to us. Our press does not
reverence kings, it does not reverence so called nobilities, it does not
reverence established ecclesiastical slaveries, it does not reverence
laws which rob a younger son to fatten an elder one, it does not
reverence any fraud or sham or infamy, howsoever old or rotten or holy,
which sets one citizen above his neighbor by accident of birth: it does
not reverence any law or custom, howsoever old or decayed or sacred,
which shuts against the best man in the land the best place in the land
and the divine right to prove property and go up and occupy it. In the
sense of the poet Goethe--that meek idolater of provincial three carat
royalty and nobility--our press is certainly bankrupt in the "thrill of
awe"--otherwise reverence; reverence for nickel plate and brummagem.
Let us sincerely hope that this fact will remain a fact forever: for to
my mind a discriminating irreverence is the creator and protector of
human liberty--even as the other thing is the creator, nurse, and
steadfast protector of all forms of human slavery, bodily and mental.
Tracy said to himself, almost shouted to himself, "I'm glad I came to
this country. I was right. I was right to seek out a land where such
healthy principles and theories are in men's hearty and minds. Think of
the innumerable slaveries imposed by misplaced reverence! How well he
brought that out, and how true it is. There's manifestly prodigious
force in reverence. If you can get a man to reverence your ideals, he's
your slave. Oh, yes, in all the ages the peoples of Europe have been
diligently taught to avoid reasoning about the shams of monarchy and
nobility, been taught to avoid examining them, been taught to reverence
them; and now, as a natural result, to reverence them is second nature.
In order to shock them it is sufficient to inject a thought of the
opposite kind into their dull minds. For ages, any expression of
so-called irreverence from their lips has been sin and crime. The sham
and swindle of all this is apparent the moment one reflects that he is
himself the only legitimately qualified judge of what is entitled to
reverence and what is not. Come, I hadn't thought of that before, but
it is true, absolutely true. What right has Goethe, what right has
Arnold, what right has any dictionary, to define the word Irreverence
for me? What their ideals are is nothing to me. So long as I reverence
my own ideals my whole duty is done, and I commit no profanation if I
laugh at theirs. I may scoff at other people's ideals as much as I want
to. It is my right and my privilege. No man has any right to deny it."
Tracy was expecting to hear the essay debated, but this did not happen.
The chairman said, by way of explanation:
"I would say, for the information of the strangers present here, that in
accordance with our custom the subject of this meeting will be debated at
the next meeting of the club. This is in order to enable our members to
prepare what they may wish to say upon the subject with pen and paper,
for we are mainly mechanics and unaccustomed to speaking. We are obliged
to write down what we desire to say."
Many brief papers were now read, and several offhand speeches made in
discussion of the essay read at the last meeting of the club, which had
been a laudation, by some visiting professor, of college culture, and the
grand results flowing from it to the nation. One of the papers was read
by a man approaching middle age, who said he hadn't had a college
education, that he had got his education in a printing office, and had
graduated from there into the patent office, where he had been a clerk
now for a great many years. Then he continued to this effect:
The essayist contrasted the America of to-day with the America of bygone
times, and certainly the result is the exhibition of a mighty progress.
But I think he a little overrated the college-culture share in the
production of that result. It can no doubt be easily shown that the
colleges have contributed the intellectual part of this progress,
and that that part is vast; but that the material progress has been
immeasurably vaster, I think you will concede. Now I have been looking
over a list of inventors--the creators of this amazing material
development--and I find that they were not college-bred men. Of course
there are exceptions--like Professor Henry of Princeton, the inventor of
Mr. Morse's system of telegraphy--but these exceptions are few. It is
not overstatement to say that the imagination-stunning material
development of this century, the only century worth living in since time
itself was invented, is the creation of men not college-bred. We think
we see what these inventors have done: no, we see only the visible vast
frontage of their work; behind it is their far vaster work, and it is
invisible to the careless glance. They have reconstructed this nation--
made it over, that is--and metaphorically speaking, have multiplied its
numbers almost beyond the power of figures to express. I will explain
what I mean. What constitutes the population of a land? Merely the
numberable packages of meat and bones in it called by courtesy men and
women? Shall a million ounces of brass and a million ounces of gold be
held to be of the same value? Take a truer standard: the measure of a
man's contributing capacity to his time and his people--the work he can
do--and then number the population of this country to-day, as multiplied
by what a man can now do, more than his grandfather could do. By this
standard of measurement, this nation, two or three generations ago,
consisted of mere cripples, paralytics, dead men, as compared with the
men of to-day. In 1840 our population was 17,000,000. By way of rude
but striking illustration, let us consider, for argument's sake, that
four of these millions consisted of aged people, little children, and
other incapables, and that the remaining 13,000,000 were divided and
employed as follows:
2,000,000 as ginners of cotton.
6,000,000 (women) as stocking-knitters.
2,000,000 (women) as thread-spinners.
500,000 as screw makers.
400,000 as reapers, binders, etc.
1,000,000 as corn shellers.
40,000 as weavers.
1,000 as stitchers of shoe soles.
Now the deductions which I am going to append to these figures may sound
extravagant, but they are not. I take them from Miscellaneous Documents
No. 50, second session 45th Congress, and they are official and
trustworthy. To-day, the work of those 2,000,000 cotton-ginners is done
by 2,000 men; that of the 6,000,000 stocking-knitters is done by 3,000
boys; that of the 2,000,000 thread-spinners is done by 1,000 girls; that
of the 500,000 screw makers is done by 500 girls; that of the 400,000
reapers, binders, etc., is done by 4,000 boys; that of the 1,000,000 corn
shelters is done by 7,500 men; that of the 40,000 weavers is done by
1,200 men; and that of the 1,000 stitchers of shoe soles is done by
6 men. To bunch the figures, 17,900 persons to-day do the above-work,
whereas fifty years ago it would have taken thirteen millions of persons
to do it. Now then, how many of that ignorant race--our fathers and
grandfathers--with their ignorant methods, would it take to do our work
to-day? It would take forty thousand millions--a hundred times the
swarming population of China--twenty times the present population of the
globe. You look around you and you see a nation of sixty millions--
apparently; but secreted in their hands and brains, and invisible to your
eyes, is the true population of this Republic, and it numbers forty
billions! It is the stupendous creation of those humble unlettered,
un-college-bred inventors--all honor to their name.
"How grand that is!" said Tracy, as he wended homeward. "What a
civilization it is, and what prodigious results these are! and brought
about almost wholly by common men; not by Oxford-trained aristocrats,
but men who stand shoulder to shoulder in the humble ranks of life and
earn the bread that they eat. Again, I'm glad I came. I have found a
country at last where one may start fair, and breast to breast with his
fellow man, rise by his own efforts, and be something in the world and be
proud of that something; not be something created by an ancestor three
hundred years ago."
During the first few days he kept the fact diligently before his mind
that he was in a land where there was "work and bread for all." In fact,
for convenience' sake he fitted it to a little tune and hummed it to
himself; but as time wore on the fact itself began to take on a doubtful
look, and next the tune got fatigued and presently ran down and stopped.
His first effort was to get an upper clerkship in one of the departments,
where his Oxford education could come into play and do him service.
But he stood no chance whatever. There, competency was no
recommendation; political backing, without competency, was worth six of
it. He was glaringly English, and that was necessarily against him in
the political centre of a nation where both parties prayed for the Irish
cause on the house-top and blasphemed it in the cellar. By his dress he
was a cowboy; that won him respect--when his back was not turned--but it
couldn't get a clerkship for him. But he had said, in a rash moment,
that he would wear those clothes till the owner or the owner's friends
caught sight of them and asked for that money, and his conscience would
not let him retire from that engagement now.
At the end of a week things were beginning to wear rather a startling
look. He had hunted everywhere for work, descending gradually the scale
of quality, until apparently he had sued for all the various kinds of
work a man without a special calling might hope to be able to do, except
ditching and the other coarse manual sorts--and had got neither work nor
the promise of it.
He was mechanically turning over the leaves of his diary, meanwhile, and
now his eye fell upon the first record made after he was burnt out:
"I myself did not doubt my stamina before, nobody could doubt it now, if
they could see how I am housed, and realise that I feel absolutely no
disgust with these quarters, but am as serenely content with them as any
dog would be in a similar kennel. Terms, twenty-five dollars a week.
I said I would start at the bottom. I have kept my word."
A shudder went quaking through him, and he exclaimed:
"What have I been thinking of! This the bottom! Mooning along a whole
week, and these terrific expenses climbing and climbing all the time!
I must end this folly straightway."
He settled up at once and went forth to find less sumptuous lodgings. He
had to wander far and seek with diligence, but he succeeded. They made
him pay in advance--four dollars and a half; this secured both bed and
food for a week. The good-natured, hardworked landlady took him up three
flights of narrow, uncarpeted stairs and delivered him into his room.
There were two double-bedsteads in it, and one single one. He would be
allowed to sleep alone in one of the double beds until some new boarder
should come, but he wouldn't be charged extra.
So he would presently be required to sleep with some stranger!
The thought of it made him sick. Mrs. Marsh, the landlady, was very
friendly and hoped he would like her house--they all liked it, she said.
"And they're a very nice set of boys. They carry on a good deal, but
that's their fun. You see, this room opens right into this back one,
and sometimes they're all in one and sometimes in the other; and hot
nights they all sleep on the roof when it don't rain. They get out there
the minute it's hot enough. The season's so early that they've already
had a night or two up there. If you'd like to go up and pick out a
place, you can. You'll find chalk in the side of the chimney where
there's a brick wanting. You just take the chalk and--but of course
you've done it before."
"Oh, no, I haven't."
"Why, of course you haven't--what am I thinking of? Plenty of room on the
Plains without chalking, I'll be bound. Well, you just chalk out a place
the size of a blanket anywhere on the tin that ain't already marked off,
you know, and that's your property. You and your bed-mate take turnabout
carrying up the blanket and pillows and fetching them down again;
or one carries them up and the other fetches them down, you fix it the
way you like, you know. You'll like the boys, they're everlasting
sociable--except the printer. He's the one that sleeps in that single
bed--the strangest creature; why, I don't believe you could get that man
to sleep with another man, not if the house was afire. Mind you, I'm not
just talking, I know. The boys tried him, to see. They took his bed out
one night, and so when he got home about three in the morning--he was on
a morning paper then, but he's on an evening one now--there wasn't any
place for him but with the iron-moulder; and if you'll believe me, he
just set up the rest of the night--he did, honest. They say he's
cracked, but it ain't so, he's English--they're awful particular.
You won't mind my saying that. You--you're English?"
"I thought so. I could tell it by the way you mispronounce the words
that's got a's in them, you know; such as saying loff when you mean laff
--but you'll get over that. He's a right down good fellow, and a little
sociable with the photographer's boy and the caulker and the blacksmith
that work in the navy yard, but not so much with the others. The fact
is, though it's private, and the others don't know it, he's a kind of an
aristocrat, his father being a doctor, and you know what style that is--
in England, I mean, because in this country a doctor ain't so very much,
even if he's that. But over there of course it's different. So this
chap had a falling out with his father, and was pretty high strung, and
just cut for this country, and the first he knew he had to get to work or
starve. Well, he'd been to college, you see, and so he judged he was all
right--did you say anything?"
"No--I only sighed."
"And there's where he was mistaken. Why, he mighty near starved. And I
reckon he would have starved sure enough, if some jour' printer or other
hadn't took pity on him and got him a place as apprentice. So he learnt
the trade, and then he was all right--but it was a close call. Once he
thought he had got to haul in his pride and holler for his father and--
why, you're sighing again. Is anything the matter with you?--does my
"Oh, dear--no. Pray go on--I like it."
"Yes, you see, he's been over here ten years; he's twenty-eight, now,
and he ain't pretty well satisfied in his mind, because he can't get
reconciled to being a mechanic and associating with mechanics, he being,
as he says to me, a gentleman, which is a pretty plain letting-on that
the boys ain't, but of course I know enough not to let that cat out of
"Why--would there be any harm in it?"
"Harm in it? They'd lick him, wouldn't they? Wouldn't you? Of course
you would. Don't you ever let a man say you ain't a gentleman in this
country. But laws, what am I thinking about? I reckon a body would
think twice before he said a cowboy wasn't a gentleman."
A trim, active, slender and very pretty girl of about eighteen walked
into the room now, in the most satisfied and unembarrassed way. She was
cheaply but smartly and gracefully dressed, and the mother's quick glance
at the stranger's face as he rose, was of the kind which inquires what
effect has been produced, and expects to find indications of surprise and
"This is my daughter Hattie--we call her Puss. It's the new boarder,
Puss." This without rising.
The young Englishman made the awkward bow common to his nationality and
time of life in circumstances of delicacy and difficulty, and these were
of that sort; for, being taken by surprise, his natural, lifelong self
sprang to the front, and that self of course would not know just how to
act when introduced to a chambermaid, or to the heiress of a mechanics'
boarding house. His other self--the self which recognized the equality
of all men--would have managed the thing better, if it hadn't been caught
off guard and robbed of its chance. The young girl paid no attention to
the bow, but put out her hand frankly and gave the stranger a friendly
shake and said:
"How do you do?"
Then she marched to the one washstand in the room, tilted her head this
way and that before the wreck of a cheap mirror that hung above it,
dampened her fingers with her tongue, perfected the circle of a little
lock of hair that was pasted against her forehead, then began to busy
herself with the slops.
"Well, I must be going--it's getting towards supper time. Make yourself
at home, Mr. Tracy, you'll hear the bell when it's ready."
The landlady took her tranquil departure, without commanding either of
the young people to vacate the room. The young man wondered a little
that a mother who seemed so honest and respectable should be so
thoughtless, and was reaching for his hat, intending to disembarrass the
girl of his presence; but she said:
"Where are you going?"
"Well--nowhere in particular, but as I am only in the way here--"
"Why, who said you were in the way? Sit down--I'll move you when you are
in the way."
She was making the beds, now. He sat down and watched her deft and
"What gave you that notion? Do you reckon I need a whole room just to
make up a bed or two in?"
"Well no, it wasn't that, exactly. We are away up here in an empty
house, and your mother being gone--"
The girl interrupted him with an amused laugh, and said:
"Nobody to protect me? Bless you, I don't need it. I'm not afraid.
I might be if I was alone, because I do hate ghosts, and I don't deny it.
Not that I believe in them, for I don't. I'm only just afraid of them."
"How can you be afraid of them if you don't believe in them?"
"Oh, I don't know the how of it--that's too many for me; I only know it's
so. It's the same with Maggie Lee."
"Who is that?"
"One of the boarders; young lady that works in the factry."
"She works in a factory?"
"Yes. Shoe factory."
"In a shoe factory; and you call her a young lady?"
"Why, she's only twenty-two; what should you call her?"
"I wasn't thinking of her age, I was thinking of the title. The fact is,
I came away from England to get away from artificial forms--for
artificial forms suit artificial people only--and here you've got them
too. I'm sorry. I hoped you had only men and women; everybody equal;
no differences in rank."
The girl stopped with a pillow in her teeth and the case spread open
below it, contemplating him from under her brows with a slightly puzzled
expression. She released the pillow and said:
"Why, they are all equal. Where's any difference in rank?"
"If you call a factory girl a young lady, what do you call the
"Call her an old one."
"Oh, you make age the only distinction?"
"There ain't any other to make as far as I can see."
"Then all women are ladies?"
"Certainly they are. All the respectable ones."
"Well, that puts a better face on it. Certainly there is no harm in a
title when it is given to everybody. It is only an offense and a wrong
when it is restricted to a favored few. But Miss--er--"
"Miss Hattie, be frank; confess that that title isn't accorded by
everybody to everybody. The rich American doesn't call her cook a lady--
isn't that so?"
"Yes, it's so. What of it?"
He was surprised and a little disappointed, to see that his admirable
shot had produced no perceptible effect.
"What of it?" he said. "Why this: equality is not conceded here, after
all, and the Americans are no better off than the English. In fact
there's no difference."
"Now what an idea. There's nothing in a title except what is put into
it--you've said that yourself. Suppose the title is 'clean,' instead of
'lady.' You get that?"
"I believe so. Instead of speaking of a woman as a lady, you substitute
clean and say she's a clean person."
"That's it. In England the swell folks don't speak of the working people
as gentlemen and ladies?"
"And the working people don't call themselves gentlemen and ladies?"
"So if you used the other word there wouldn't be any change. The swell
people wouldn't call anybody but themselves 'clean,' and those others
would drop sort of meekly into their way of talking and they wouldn't
call themselves clean. We don't do that way here. Everybody calls
himself a lady or gentleman, and thinks he is, and don't care what
anybody else thinks him, so long as he don't say it out loud. You think
there's no difference. You knuckle down and we don't. Ain't that a
"It is a difference I hadn't thought of; I admit that. Still--calling
one's self a lady doesn't--er--"
"I wouldn't go on if I were you."
Howard Tracy turned his head to see who it might be that had introduced
this remark. It was a short man about forty years old, with sandy hair,
no beard, and a pleasant face badly freckled but alive and intelligent,
and he wore slop-shop clothing which was neat but showed wear. He had
come from the front room beyond the hall, where he had left his hat, and
he had a chipped and cracked white wash-bowl in his hand. The girl came
and took the bowl.
"I'll get it for you. You go right ahead and give it to him, Mr.
Barrow. He's the new boarder--Mr. Tracy--and I'd just got to where it
was getting too deep for me."
"Much obliged if you will, Hattie. I was coming to borrow of the boys."
He sat down at his ease on an old trunk, and said, "I've been listening
and got interested; and as I was saying, I wouldn't go on, if I were you.
You see where you are coming to, don't you? Calling yourself a lady
doesn't elect you; that is what you were going to say; and you saw that
if you said it you were going to run right up against another difference
that you hadn't thought of: to-wit, Whose right is it to do the electing?
Over there, twenty thousand people in a million elect themselves
gentlemen and ladies, and the nine hundred and eighty thousand accept
that decree and swallow the affront which it puts upon them. Why, if
they didn't accept it, it wouldn't be an election, it would be a dead
letter and have no force at all. Over here the twenty thousand would-be
exclusives come up to the polls and vote themselves to be ladies and
gentlemen. But the thing doesn't stop there. The nine hundred and
eighty thousand come and vote themselves to be ladies and gentlemen too,
and that elects the whole nation. Since the whole million vote
themselves ladies and gentlemen, there is no question about that
election. It does make absolute equality, and there is no fiction about
it; while over yonder the inequality, (by decree of the infinitely
feeble, and consent of the infinitely strong,) is also absolute--as real
and absolute as our equality."
Tracy had shrunk promptly into his English shell when this speech began,
notwithstanding he had now been in severe training several weeks for
contact and intercourse with the common herd on the common herd's terms;
but he lost no time in pulling himself out again, and so by the time the
speech was finished his valves were open once more, and he was forcing
himself to accept without resentment the common herd's frank fashion of
dropping sociably into other people's conversations unembarrassed and
uninvited. The process was not very difficult this time, for the man's
smile and voice and manner were persuasive and winning. Tracy would even
have liked him on the spot, but for the fact--fact which he was not
really aware of--that the equality of men was not yet a reality to him,
it was only a theory; the mind perceived, but the man failed to feel it.
It was Hattie's ghost over again, merely turned around. Theoretically
Barrow was his equal, but it was distinctly distasteful to see him
exhibit it. He presently said:
"I hope in all sincerity that what you have said is true, as regards the
Americans, for doubts have crept into my mind several times. It seemed
that the equality must be ungenuine where the sign-names of castes were
still in vogue; but those sign-names have certainly lost their offence
and are wholly neutralized, nullified and harmless if they are the
undisputed property of every individual in the nation. I think I realize
that caste does not exist and cannot exist except by common consent of
the masses outside of its limits. I thought caste created itself and
perpetuated itself; but it seems quite true that it only creates itself,
and is perpetuated by the people whom it despises, and who can dissolve
it at any time by assuming its mere sign-names themselves."
"It's what I think. There isn't any power on earth that can prevent
England's thirty millions from electing themselves dukes and duchesses
to-morrow and calling themselves so. And within six months all the
former dukes and duchesses would have retired from the business.
I wish they'd try that. Royalty itself couldn't survive such a process.
A handful of frowners against thirty million laughers in a state of
irruption. Why, it's Herculaneum against Vesuvius; it would take another
eighteen centuries to find that Herculaneum after the cataclysm. What's
a Colonel in our South? He's a nobody; because they're all colonels down
there. No, Tracy" (shudder from Tracy) "nobody in England would call you
a gentleman and you wouldn't call yourself one; and I tell you it's a
state of things that makes a man put himself into most unbecoming
attitudes sometimes--the broad and general recognition and acceptance of
caste as caste does, I mean. Makes him do it unconsciously--being bred
in him, you see, and never thought over and reasoned out. You couldn't
conceive of the Matterhorn being flattered by the notice of one of your
comely little English hills, could you?"
"Well, then, let a man in his right mind try to conceive of Darwin
feeling flattered by the notice of a princess. It's so grotesque that
it--well, it paralyzes the imagination. Yet that Memnon was flattered by
the notice of that statuette; he says so--says so himself. The system
that can make a god disown his godship and profane it--oh, well, it's all
wrong, it's all wrong and ought to be abolished, I should say."
The mention of Darwin brought on a literary discussion, and this topic
roused such enthusiasm in Barrow that he took off his coat and made
himself the more free and comfortable for it, and detained him so long
that he was still at it when the noisy proprietors of the room came
shouting and skylarking in and began to romp, scuffle, wash, and
otherwise entertain themselves. He lingered yet a little longer to offer
the hospitalities of his room and his book shelf to Tracy and ask him a
personal question or two:
"What is your trade?"
"They--well, they call me a cowboy, but that is a fancy. I'm not that.
I haven't any trade."
"What do you work at for your living?"
Oh, anything--I mean I would work at, anything I could get to do, but
thus far I haven't been able to find an occupation."
"Maybe I can help you; I'd like to try."
"I shall be very glad. I've tried, myself, to weariness."
"Well, of course where a man hasn't a regular trade he's pretty bad off
in this world. What you needed, I reckon, was less book learning and
more bread-and-butter learning. I don't know what your father could have
been thinking of. You ought to have had a trade, you ought to have had a
trade, by all means. But never mind about that; we'll stir up something
to do, I guess. And don't you get homesick; that's a bad business.
We'll talk the thing over and look around a little. You'll come out all
right. Wait for me--I'll go down to supper with you."
By this time Tracy had achieved a very friendly feeling for Barrow and
would have called him a friend, maybe, if not taken too suddenly on a
straight-out requirement to realize on his theories. He was glad of his
society, anyway, and was feeling lighter hearted than before. Also he
was pretty curious to know what vocation it might be which had furnished
Barrow such a large acquaintanceship with books and allowed him so much
time to read.
Presently the supper bell began to ring in the depths of the house, and
the sound proceeded steadily upward, growing in intensity all the way up
towards the upper floors. The higher it came the more maddening was the
noise, until at last what it lacked of being absolutely deafening, was
made up of the sudden crash and clatter of an avalanche of boarders down
the uncarpeted stairway. The peerage did not go to meals in this
fashion; Tracy's training had not fitted him to enjoy this hilarious
zoological clamor and enthusiasm. He had to confess that there was
something about this extraordinary outpouring of animal spirits which he
would have to get inured to before he could accept it. No doubt in time
he would prefer it; but he wished the process might be modified and made
just a little more gradual, and not quite so pronounced and violent.
Barrow and Tracy followed the avalanche down through an ever increasing
and ever more and more aggressive stench of bygone cabbage and kindred
smells; smells which are to be found nowhere but in a cheap private
boarding house; smells which once encountered can never be forgotten;
smells which encountered generations later are instantly recognizable,
but never recognizable with pleasure. To Tracy these odors were
suffocating, horrible, almost unendurable; but he held his peace and said
nothing. Arrived in the basement, they entered a large dining-room where
thirty-five or forty people sat at a long table. They took their places.
The feast had already begun and the conversation was going on in the
liveliest way from one end of the table to the other. The table cloth
was of very coarse material and was liberally spotted with coffee stains
and grease. The knives and forks were iron, with bone handles, the
spoons appeared to be iron or sheet iron or something of the sort.
The tea and coffee cups were of the commonest and heaviest and most
durable stone ware. All the furniture of the table was of the commonest
and cheapest sort. There was a single large thick slice of bread by each
boarder's plate, and it was observable that he economized it as if he
were not expecting it to be duplicated. Dishes of butter were
distributed along the table within reach of people's arms, if they had
long ones, but there were no private butter plates. The butter was
perhaps good enough, and was quiet and well behaved; but it had more
bouquet than was necessary, though nobody commented upon that fact or
seemed in any way disturbed by it. The main feature of the feast was a
piping hot Irish stew made of the potatoes and meat left over from a
procession of previous meals. Everybody was liberally supplied with this
dish. On the table were a couple of great dishes of sliced ham, and
there were some other eatables of minor importance--preserves and New
Orleans molasses and such things. There was also plenty of tea and
coffee of an infernal sort, with brown sugar and condensed milk, but the
milk and sugar supply was not left at the discretion of the boarders, but
was rationed out at headquarters--one spoonful of sugar and one of
condensed milk to each cup and no more. The table was waited upon by two
stalwart negro women who raced back and forth from the bases of supplies
with splendid dash and clatter and energy. Their labors were
supplemented after a fashion by the young girl Puss. She carried coffee
and tea back and forth among the boarders, but she made pleasure
excursions rather than business ones in this way, to speak strictly.
She made jokes with various people. She chaffed the young men pleasantly
and wittily, as she supposed, and as the rest also supposed, apparently,
judging by the applause and laughter which she got by her efforts.
Manifestly she was a favorite with most of the young fellows and
sweetheart of the rest of them. Where she conferred notice she conferred
happiness, as was seen by the face of the recipient; and; at the same
time she conferred unhappiness--one could see it fall and dim the faces
of the other young fellows like a shadow. She never "Mistered" these
friends of hers, but called them "Billy," "Tom," "John," and they called
her "Puss" or "Hattie."
Mr. Marsh sat at the head of the table, his wife sat at the foot. Marsh
was a man of sixty, and was an American; but if he had been born a month
earlier he would have been a Spaniard. He was plenty good enough
Spaniard as it was; his face was very dark, his hair very black, and his
eyes were not only exceedingly black but were very intense, and there was
something about them that indicated that they could burn with passion
upon occasion. He was stoop-shouldered and lean-faced, and the general
aspect of him was disagreeable; he was evidently not a very companionable
person. If looks went for anything, he was the very opposite of his
wife, who was all motherliness and charity, good will and good nature.
All the young men and the women called her Aunt Rachael, which was
another sign. Tracy's wandering and interested eye presently fell upon
one boarder who had been overlooked in the distribution of the stew.
He was very pale and looked as if he had but lately come out of a sick
bed, and also as if he ought to get back into it again as soon as
possible. His face was very melancholy. The waves of laughter and
conversation broke upon it without affecting it any more than if it had
been a rock in the sea and the words and the laughter veritable waters.
He held his head down and looked ashamed. Some of the women cast glances
of pity toward him from time to time in a furtive and half afraid way,
and some of the youngest of the men plainly had compassion on the young
fellow--a compassion exhibited in their faces but not in any more active
or compromising way. But the great majority of the people present showed
entire indifference to the youth and his sorrows. Marsh sat with his
head down, but one could catch the malicious gleam of his eyes through
his shaggy brows. He was watching that young fellow with evident relish.
He had not neglected him through carelessness, and apparently the table
understood that fact. The spectacle was making Mrs. Marsh very
uncomfortable. She had the look of one who hopes against hope that the
impossible may happen. But as the impossible did not happen, she finally
ventured to speak up and remind her husband that Nat Brady hadn't been
helped to the Irish stew.
Marsh lifted his head and gasped out with mock courtliness, "Oh, he
hasn't, hasn't he? What a pity that is. I don't know how I came to
overlook him. Ah, he must pardon me. You must indeed Mr--er--Baxter--
Barker, you must pardon me. I--er--my attention was directed to some
other matter, I don't know what. The thing that grieves me mainly is,
that it happens every meal now. But you must try to overlook these
little things, Mr. Bunker, these little neglects on my part. They're
always likely to happen with me in any case, and they are especially
likely to happen where a person has--er--well, where a person is, say,
about three weeks in arrears for his board. You get my meaning?--you get
my idea? Here is your Irish stew, and--er--it gives me the greatest
pleasure to send it to you, and I hope that you will enjoy the charity as
much as I enjoy conferring it."
A blush rose in Brady's white cheeks and flowed slowly backward to his
ears and upward toward his forehead, but he said nothing and began to eat
his food under the embarrassment of a general silence and the sense that
all eyes were fastened upon him. Barrow whispered to Tracy:
"The old man's been waiting for that. He wouldn't have missed that
chance for anything."
"It's a brutal business," said Tracy. Then he said to himself, purposing
to set the thought down in his diary later:
"Well, here in this very house is a republic where all are free and
equal, if men are free and equal anywhere in the earth, therefore I have
arrived at the place I started to find, and I am a man among men, and on
the strictest equality possible to men, no doubt. Yet here on the
threshold I find an inequality. There are people at this table who are
looked up to for some reason or another, and here is a poor devil of a
boy who is looked down upon, treated with indifference, and shamed by
humiliations, when he has committed no crime but that common one of being
poor. Equality ought to make men noble-minded. In fact I had supposed
it did do that."
After supper, Barrow proposed a walk, and they started. Barrow had a
purpose. He wanted Tracy to get rid of that cowboy hat. He didn't see
his way to finding mechanical or manual employment for a person rigged in
that fashion. Barrow presently said:
"As I understand it, you're not a cowboy."
"No, I'm not."
"Well, now if you will not think me too curious, how did you come to
mount that hat? Where'd you get it?"
Tracy didn't know quite how to reply to this, but presently said,
"Well, without going into particulars; I exchanged clothes with a
stranger under stress of weather, and I would like to find him and
"Well, why don't you find him? Where is he?"
"I don't know. I supposed the best way to find him would be to continue
to wear his clothes, which are conspicuous enough to attract his
attention if I should meet him on the street."
"Oh, very well," said Barrow, "the rest of the outfit, is well enough,
and while it's not too conspicuous, it isn't quite like the clothes that
anybody else wears. Suppress the hat. When you meet your man he'll
recognize the rest of his suit. That's a mighty embarrassing hat, you
know, in a centre of civilization like this. I don't believe an angel
could get employment in Washington in a halo like that."
Tracy agreed to replace the hat with something of a modester form, and
they stepped aboard a crowded car and stood with others on the rear
platform. Presently, as the car moved swiftly along the rails, two men
crossing the street caught sight of the backs of Barrow and Tracy, and
both exclaimed at once, "There he is!" It was Sellers and Hawkins.
Both were so paralyzed with joy that before they could pull themselves
together and make an effort to stop the car, it was gone too far,
and they decided to wait for the next one. They waited a while; then
it occurred to Washington that there could be no use in chasing one
horse-car with another, and he wanted to hunt up a hack. But the
"When you come to think of it, there's no occasion for that at all.
Now that I've got him materialized, I can command his motions. I'll have
him at the house by the time we get there."
Then they hurried off home in a state of great and joyful excitement.
The hat exchange accomplished, the two new friends started to walk back
leisurely to the boarding house. Barrow's mind was full of curiosity
about this young fellow. He said,
"You've never been to the Rocky Mountains?"
"You've never been out on the plains?"
"How long have you been in this country?"
"Only a few days."
"You've never been in America before?"
Then Barrow communed with himself. "Now what odd shapes the notions of
romantic people take. Here's a young, fellow who's read in England about
cowboys and adventures on the plains. He comes here and buys a cowboy's
suit. Thinks he can play himself on folks for a cowboy,
all inexperienced as he is. Now the minute he's caught in this poor
little game, he's ashamed of it and ready to retire from it. It is that
exchange that he has put up as an explanation. It's rather thin,
too thin altogether. Well, he's young, never been anywhere, knows
nothing about the world, sentimental, no doubt. Perhaps it was the
natural thing for him to do, but it was a most singular choice, curious
Both men were busy with their thoughts for a time, then Tracy heaved a
sigh and said,
"Mr. Barrow, the case of that young fellow troubles me."
"You mean Nat Brady?"
"Yes, Brady, or Baxter, or whatever it was. The old landlord called him
by several different names."
"Oh, yes, he has been very liberal with names for Brady, since Brady fell
into arrears for his board. Well, that's one of his sarcasms--the old
man thinks he's great on sarcasm."
"Well, what is Brady's difficulty? What is Brady--who is he?"
"Brady is a tinner. He's a young journeyman tinner who was getting along
all right till he fell sick and lost his job. He was very popular before
he lost his job; everybody in the house liked Brady. The old man was
rather especially fond of him, but you know that when a man loses his job
and loses his ability to support himself and to pay his way as he goes,
it makes a great difference in the way people look at him and feel about
"Is that so! Is it so?"
Barrow looked at Tracy in a puzzled way. "Why of course it's so.
Wouldn't you know that, naturally. Don't you know that the wounded deer
is always attacked and killed by its companions and friends?"
Tracy said to himself, while a chilly and boding discomfort spread itself
through his system, "In a republic of deer and men where all are free and
equal, misfortune is a crime, and the prosperous gore the unfortunate to
death." Then he said aloud, "Here in the boarding house, if one would
have friends and be popular instead of having the cold shoulder turned
upon him, he must be prosperous."
"Yes," Barrow said, "that is so. It's their human nature. They do turn
against Brady, now that he's unfortunate, and they don't like him as well
as they did before; but it isn't because of any lack in Brady--he's just
as he was before, has the same nature and the same impulses, but they--
well, Brady is a thorn in their consciences, you see. They know they
ought to help him and they're too stingy to do it, and they're ashamed of
themselves for that, and they ought also to hate themselves on that
account, but instead of that they hate Brady because he makes them
ashamed of themselves. I say that's human nature; that occurs
everywhere; this boarding house is merely the world in little, it's the
case all over--they're all alike. In prosperity we are popular;
popularity comes easy in that case, but when the other thing comes our
friends are pretty likely to turn against us."
Tracy's noble theories and high purposes were beginning to feel pretty
damp and clammy. He wondered if by any possibility he had made a mistake
in throwing his own prosperity to the winds and taking up the cross
of other people's unprosperity. But he wouldn't listen to that sort of
thing; he cast it out of his mind and resolved to go ahead resolutely
along the course he had mapped out for himself.
Extracts from his diary:
Have now spent several days in this singular hive. I don't know quite
what to make out of these people. They have merits and virtues, but they
have some other qualities, and some ways that are hard to get along with.
I can't enjoy them. The moment I appeared in a hat of the period,
I noticed a change. The respect which had been paid me before, passed
suddenly away, and the people became friendly--more than that--they
became familiar, and I'm not used to familiarity, and can't take to it
right off; I find that out. These people's familiarity amounts to
impudence, sometimes. I suppose it's all right; no doubt I can get used
to it, but it's not a satisfactory process at all. I have accomplished
my dearest wish, I am a man among men, on an equal footing with Tom, Dick
and Harry, and yet it isn't just exactly what I thought it was going to
be. I--I miss home. Am obliged to say I am homesick. Another thing--
and this is a confession--a reluctant one, but I will make it: The thing
I miss most and most severely, is the respect, the deference, with which
I was treated all my life in England, and which seems to be somehow
necessary to me. I get along very well without the luxury and the wealth
and the sort of society I've been accustomed to, but I do miss the
respect and can't seem to get reconciled to the absence of it. There is
respect, there is deference here, but it doesn't fall to my share. It is
lavished on two men. One of them is a portly man of middle age who is a
retired plumber. Everybody is pleased to have that man's notice.
He's full of pomp and circumstance and self complacency and bad grammar,
and at table he is Sir Oracle and when he opens his mouth not any
dog in the kennel barks. The other person is a policeman at the
capitol-building. He represents the government. The deference paid to
these two men is not so very far short of that which is paid to an earl
in England, though the method of it differs. Not so much courtliness,
but the deference is all there.
Yes, and there is obsequiousness, too.
It does rather look as if in a republic where all are free and equal,
prosperity and position constitute rank.
The days drifted by, and they grew ever more dreary. For Barrow's
efforts to find work for Tracy were unavailing. Always the first
question asked was, "What Union do you belong to?"
Tracy was obliged to reply that he didn't belong to any trade-union.
"Very well, then, it's impossible to employ you. My men wouldn't stay
with me if I should employ a 'scab,' or 'rat,'" or whatever the phrase
Finally, Tracy had a happy thought. He said, "Why the thing for me to
do, of course, is to join a trade-union."
"Yes," Barrow said, "that is the thing for you to do--if you can."
"If I can? Is it difficult?"
"Well, Yes," Barrow said, "it's sometimes difficult--in fact, very
difficult. But you can try, and of course it will be best to try."
Therefore Tracy tried; but he did not succeed. He was refused admission
with a good deal of promptness, and was advised to go back home, where he
belonged, not come here taking honest men's bread out of their mouths.
Tracy began to realize that the situation was desperate, and the thought
made him cold to the marrow. He said to himself, "So there is an
aristocracy of position here, and an aristocracy of prosperity, and
apparently there is also an aristocracy of the ins as opposed to the
outs, and I am with the outs. So the ranks grow daily, here. Plainly
there are all kinds of castes here and only one that I belong to, the
outcasts." But he couldn't even smile at his small joke, although he was
obliged to confess that he had a rather good opinion of it. He was
feeling so defeated and miserable by this time that he could no longer
look with philosophical complacency on the horseplay of the young fellows
in the upper rooms at night. At first it had been pleasant to see them
unbend and have a good time after having so well earned it by the labors
of the day, but now it all rasped upon his feelings and his dignity.
He lost patience with the spectacle. When they were feeling good, they
shouted, they scuffled, they sang songs, they romped about the place like
cattle, and they generally wound up with a pillow fight, in which they
banged each other over the head, and threw the pillows in all directions,
and every now and then he got a buffet himself; and they were always
inviting him to join in. They called him "Johnny Bull," and invited him
with excessive familiarity to take a hand. At first he had endured all
this with good nature, but latterly he had shown by his manner that it
was distinctly distasteful to him, and very soon he saw a change in the
manner of these young people toward him. They were souring on him as
they would have expressed it in their language. He had never been what
might be called popular. That was hardly the phrase for it; he had
merely been liked, but now dislike for him was growing. His case was not
helped by the fact that he was out of luck, couldn't get work, didn't
belong to a union, and couldn't gain admission to one. He got a good many
slights of that small ill-defined sort that you can't quite put your
finger on, and it was manifest that there was only one thing which
protected him from open insult, and that was his muscle. These young
people had seen him exercising, mornings, after his cold sponge bath,
and they had perceived by his performance and the build of his body,
that he was athletic, and also versed in boxing. He felt pretty naked
now, recognizing that he was shorn of all respect except respect for his
fists. One night when he entered his room he found about a dozen of the
young fellows there carrying on a very lively conversation punctuated
with horse-laughter. The talking ceased instantly, and the frank affront
of a dead silence followed. He said,
"Good evening gentlemen," and sat down.
There was no response. He flushed to the temples but forced himself to
maintain silence. He sat there in this uncomfortable stillness some
time, then got up and went out.
The moment he had disappeared he heard a prodigious shout of laughter
break forth. He saw that their plain purpose had been to insult him.
He ascended to the flat roof, hoping to be able to cool down his spirit
there and get back his tranquility. He found the young tinner up there,
alone and brooding, and entered into conversation with him. They were
pretty fairly matched, now, in unpopularity and general ill-luck and
misery, and they had no trouble in meeting upon this common ground with
advantage and something of comfort to both. But Tracy's movements had
been watched, and in a few minutes the tormentors came straggling one
after another to the roof, where they began to stroll up and down in an
apparently purposeless way. But presently they fell to dropping remarks
that were evidently aimed at Tracy, and some of them at the tinner.
The ringleader of this little mob was a short-haired bully and amateur
prize-fighter named Allen, who was accustomed to lording it over the
upper floor, and had more than once shown a disposition to make trouble
with Tracy. Now there was an occasional cat-call, and hootings, and
whistlings, and finally the diversion of an exchange of connected remarks
"How many does it take to make a pair?"
"Well, two generally makes a pair, but sometimes there ain't stuff enough
in them to make a whole pair." General laugh.
"What were you saying about the English a while ago?"
"Oh, nothing, the English are all right, only--I--"
"What was it you said about them?"
"Oh, I only said they swallow well."
"Swallow better than other people?"
"Oh, yes, the English swallow a good deal better than other people."
"What is it they swallow best?"
"Oh, insults." Another general laugh.
"Pretty hard to make 'em fight, ain't it?"
"No, taint hard to make 'em fight."
"Ain't it, really?"
"No, taint hard. It's impossible." Another laugh.
"This one's kind of spiritless, that's certain."
"Couldn't be the other way--in his case."
"Don't you know the secret of his birth?"
"No! has he got a secret of his birth?"
"You bet he has."
"What is it?"
"His father was a wax-figger."
Allen came strolling by where the pair were sitting; stopped, and said to
"How are you off for friends, these days?"
"Well enough off."
"Got a good many?"
"Well, as many as I need."
"A friend is valuable, sometimes--as a protector, you know. What do you
reckon would happen if I was to snatch your cap off and slap you in the
face with it?"
"Please don't trouble me, Mr. Allen, I ain't doing anything to you."
You answer me! What do you reckon would happen?"
"Well, I don't know."
Tracy spoke up with a good deal of deliberation and said:
"Don't trouble the young fellow, I can tell you what would happen."
"Oh, you can, can you? Boys, Johnny Bull can tell us what would happen
if I was to snatch this chump's cap off and slap him in the face with it.
Now you'll see."
He snatched the cap and struck the youth in the face, and before he could
inquire what was going to happen, it had already happened, and he was
warming the tin with the broad of his back. Instantly there was a rush,
and shouts of:
"A ring, a ring, make a ring! Fair play all round! Johnny's grit; give
him a chance."
The ring was quickly chalked on the tin, and Tracy found himself as eager
to begin as he could have been if his antagonist had been a prince
instead of a mechanic. At bottom he was a little surprised at this,
because although his theories had been all in that direction for some
time, he was not prepared to find himself actually eager to measure
strength with quite so common a man as this ruffian. In a moment all the
windows in the neighborhood were filled with people, and the roofs also.
The men squared off, and the fight began. But Allen stood no chance
whatever, against the young Englishman. Neither in muscle nor in science
was he his equal. He measured his length on the tin time and again;
in fact, as fast as he could get up he went down again, and the applause
was kept up in liberal fashion from all the neighborhood around.
Finally, Allen had to be helped up. Then Tracy declined to punish him
further and the fight was at an end. Allen was carried off by some of
his friends in a very much humbled condition, his face black and blue and
bleeding, and Tracy was at once surrounded by the young fellows, who
congratulated him, and told him that he had done the whole house a
service, and that from this out Mr. Allen would be a little more
particular about how he handled slights and insults and maltreatment
around amongst the boarders.
Tracy was a hero now, and exceedingly popular. Perhaps nobody had ever
been quite so popular on that upper floor before. But if being
discountenanced by these young fellows had been hard to bear, their
lavish commendations and approval and hero-worship was harder still to
endure. He felt degraded, but he did not allow himself to analyze the
reasons why, too closely. He was content to satisfy himself with the
suggestion that he looked upon himself as degraded by the public
spectacle which he had made of himself, fighting on a tin roof, for the
delectation of everybody a block or two around. But he wasn't entirely
satisfied with that explanation of it. Once he went a little too far and
wrote in his diary that his case was worse than that of the prodigal son.
He said the prodigal son merely fed swine, he didn't have to chum with
them. But he struck that out, and said "All men are equal. I will not
disown my principles. These men are as good as I am."
Tracy was become popular on the lower floors also. Everybody was
grateful for Allen's reduction to the ranks, and for his transformation
from a doer of outrages to a mere threatener of them. The young girls,
of whom there were half a dozen, showed many attentions to Tracy,
particularly that boarding house pet Hattie, the landlady's daughter.
She said to him, very sweetly,
"I think you're ever so nice."
And when he said, "I'm glad you think so, Miss Hattie," she said, still
"Don't call me Miss Hattie--call me Puss."
Ah, here was promotion! He had struck the summit. There were no higher
heights to climb in that boarding house. His popularity was complete.
In the presence of people, Tracy showed a tranquil outside, but his heart
was being eaten out of him by distress and despair.
In a little while he should be out of money, and then what should he do?
He wished, now, that he had borrowed a little more liberally from that
stranger's store. He found it impossible to sleep. A single torturing,
terrifying thought went racking round and round in his head, wearing a
groove in his brain: What should he do--What was to become of him? And
along with it began to intrude a something presently which was very like
a wish that he had not joined the great and noble ranks of martyrdom, but
had stayed at home and been content to be merely an earl and nothing
better, with nothing more to do in this world of a useful sort than an
earl finds to do. But he smothered that part of his thought as well as
he could; he made every effort to drive it away, and with fair keep it
from intruding a little success, but he couldn't now and then, and when
it intruded it came suddenly and nipped him like a bite, a sting, a burn.
He recognized that thought by the peculiar sharpness of its pang. The
others were painful enough, but that one cut to the quick when it calm.
Night after night he lay tossing to the music of the hideous snoring of
the honest bread-winners until two and three o'clock in the morning,
then got up and took refuge on the roof, where he sometimes got a nap and
sometimes failed entirely. His appetite was leaving him and the zest of
life was going along with it. Finally, owe day, being near the imminent
verge of total discouragement, he said to himself--and took occasion to
blush privately when he said it, "If my father knew what my American name
is,--he--well, my duty to my father rather requires that I furnish him my
name. I have no right to make his days and nights unhappy, I can do
enough unhappiness for the family all by myself. Really he ought to know
what my American name is." He thought over it a while and framed a
cablegram in his mind to this effect:
"My American name is Howard Tracy."
That wouldn't be suggesting anything. His father could understand that
as he chose, and doubtless he would understand it as it was meant, as a
dutiful and affectionate desire on the part of a son to make his old
father happy for a moment. Continuing his train of thought, Tracy said
to himself, "Ah, but if he should cable me to come home! I--I--couldn't
do that--I mustn't do that. I've started out on a mission, and I mustn't
turn my back on it in cowardice. No, no, I couldn't go home, at--at--
least I shouldn't want to go home." After a reflective pause: "Well,
maybe--perhaps--it would be my duty to go in the circumstances; he's very
old and he does need me by him to stay his footsteps down the long hill
that inclines westward toward the sunset of his life. Well, I'll think
about that. Yes, of course it wouldn't be right to stay here. If I--
well, perhaps I could just drop him a line and put it off a little while
and satisfy him in that way. It would be--well, it would mar everything
to have him require me to come instantly." Another reflective pause--
then: "And yet if he should do that I don't know but--oh, dear me--home!
how good it sounds! and a body is excusable for wanting to see his home
again, now and then, anyway."
He went to one of the telegraph offices in the avenue and got the first
end of what Barrow called the "usual Washington courtesy," where "they
treat you as a tramp until they find out you're a congressman, and then
they slobber all over you." There was a boy of seventeen on duty there,
tying his shoe. He had his foot on a chair and his back turned towards
the wicket. He glanced over his shoulder, took Tracy's measure, turned
back, and went on tying his shoe. Tracy finished writing his telegram
and waited, still waited, and still waited, for that performance to
finish, but there didn't seem to be any finish to it; so finally Tracy
"Can't you take my telegram?"
The youth looked over his shoulder and said, by his manner, not his
"Don't you think you could wait a minute, if you tried?"
However, he got the shoe tied at last, and came and took the telegram,
glanced over it, then looked up surprised, at Tracy. There was something
in his look that bordered upon respect, almost reverence, it seemed to
Tracy, although he had been so long without anything of this kind he was
not sure that he knew the signs of it.
The boy read the address aloud, with pleased expression in face and
"The Earl of Rossmore! Cracky! Do you know him?"
"Is that so! Does he know you?"
"Well, I swear! Will he answer you?"
"I think he will."
"Will he though? Where'll you have it sent?"
"Oh, nowhere. I'll call here and get it. When shall I call?"
"Oh, I don't know--I'll send it to you. Where shall I send it? Give me
your address; I'll send it to you soon's it comes."
But Tracy didn't propose to do this. He had acquired the boy's
admiration and deferential respect, and he wasn't willing to throw these
precious things away, a result sure to follow if he should give the
address of that boarding house. So he said again that he would call and
get the telegram, and went his way.
He idled along, reflecting. He said to himself, "There is something
pleasant about being respected. I have acquired the respect of Mr.
Allen and some of those others, and almost the deference of some of them
on pure merit, for having thrashed Allen. While their respect and their
deference--if it is deference--is pleasant, a deference based upon a
sham, a shadow, does really seem pleasanter still. It's no real merit to
be in correspondence with an earl, and yet after all, that boy makes me
feel as if there was."
The cablegram was actually gone home! the thought of it gave him an
immense uplift. He walked with a lighter tread. His heart was full of
happiness. He threw aside all hesitances and confessed to himself that
he was glad through and through that he was going to give up this
experiment and go back to his home again. His eagerness to get his
father's answer began to grow, now, and it grew with marvelous celerity,
after it began. He waited an hour, walking about, putting in his time as
well as he could, but interested in nothing that came under his eye, and
at last he presented himself at the office again and asked if any answer
had come yet. The boy said,
"No, no answer yet," then glanced at the clock and added, "I don't think
it's likely you'll get one to-day."
"Well, you see it's getting pretty late. You can't always tell where
'bouts a man is when he's on the other side, and you can't always find
him just the minute you want him, and you see it's getting about six
o'clock now, and over there it's pretty late at night."
"Why yes," said Tracy, "I hadn't thought of that."
"Yes, pretty late, now, half past ten or eleven. Oh yes, you probably
won't get any answer to-night."
So Tracy went home to supper. The odors in that supper room seemed more
strenuous and more horrible than ever before, and he was happy in the
thought that he was so soon to be free from them again. When the supper
was over he hardly knew whether he had eaten any of it or not, and he
certainly hadn't heard any of the conversation. His heart had been
dancing all the time, his thoughts had been faraway from these things,
and in the visions of his mind the sumptuous appointments of his father's
castle had risen before him without rebuke. Even the plushed flunkey,
that walking symbol of a sham inequality, had not been unpleasant to his
dreaming view. After the meal Barrow said,
"Come with me. I'll give you a jolly evening."
"Very good. Where are you going?"
"To my club."
"What club is that?"
"Mechanics' Debating Club."
Tracy shuddered, slightly. He didn't say anything about having visited
that place himself. Somehow he didn't quite relish the memory of that
time. The sentiments which had made his former visit there so enjoyable,
and filled him with such enthusiasm, had undergone a gradual change, and
they had rotted away to such a degree that he couldn't contemplate
another visit there with anything strongly resembling delight. In fact
he was a little ashamed to go; he didn't want to go there and find out by
the rude impact of the thought of those people upon his reorganized
condition of mind, how sharp the change had been. He would have
preferred to stay away. He expected that now he should hear nothing
except sentiments which would be a reproach to him in his changed mental
attitude, and he rather wished he might be excused. And yet he didn't
quite want to say that, he didn't want to show how he did feel, or show
any disinclination to go, and so he forced himself to go along with
Barrow, privately purposing to take an early opportunity to get away.
After the essayist of the evening had read his paper, the chairman
announced that the debate would now be upon the subject of the previous
meeting, "The American Press." It saddened the backsliding disciple to
hear this announcement. It brought up too many reminiscences. He wished
he had happened upon some other subject. But the debate began, and he
sat still and listened.
In the course of the discussion one of the speakers--a blacksmith named
Tompkins--arraigned all monarchs and all lords in the earth for their
cold selfishness in retaining their unearned dignities. He said that no
monarch and no son of a monarch, no lord and no son of a lord ought to be
able to look his fellow man in the face without shame. Shame for
consenting to keep his unearned titles, property, and privileges--at the
expense of other people; shame for consenting to remain, on any terms, in
dishonourable possession of these things, which represented bygone
robberies and wrongs inflicted upon the general people of the nation.
He said, "if there were a laid or the son of a lord here, I would like to
reason with him, and try to show him how unfair and how selfish his
position is. I would try to persuade him to relinquish it, take his
place among men on equal terms, earn the bread he eats, and hold of
slight value all deference paid him because of artificial position, all
reverence not the just due of his own personal merits."
Tracy seemed to be listening to utterances of his own made in talks with
his radical friends in England. It was as if some eavesdropping
phonograph had treasured up his words and brought them across the
Atlantic to accuse him with them in the hour of his defection and
retreat. Every word spoken by this stranger seemed to leave a blister on
Tracy's conscience, and by the time the speech was finished he felt that
he was all conscience and one blister. This man's deep compassion for
the enslaved and oppressed millions in Europe who had to bear with the
contempt of that small class above them, throned upon shining heights
whose paths were shut against them, was the very thing he had often
uttered himself. The pity in this man's voice and words was the very
twin of the pity that used to reside in his own heart and come from his
own lips when he thought of these oppressed peoples.
The homeward tramp was accomplished in brooding silence. It was a
silence most grateful to Tracy's feelings. He wouldn't have broken it
for anything; for he was ashamed of himself all the way through to his
spine. He kept saying to himself:
"How unanswerable it all is--how absolutely unanswerable! It is basely,
degradingly selfish to keep those unearned honors, and--and--oh, hang
it, nobody but a cur--"
"What an idiotic damned speech that Tompkins made!"
This outburst was from Barrow. It flooded Tracy's demoralized soul with
waters of refreshment. These were the darlingest words the poor
vacillating young apostate had ever heard--for they whitewashed his shame
for him, and that is a good service to have when you can't get the best
of all verdicts, self-acquittal.
"Come up to my room and smoke a pipe, Tracy."
Tracy had been expecting this invitation, and had had his declination all
ready: but he was glad enough to accept, now. Was it possible that a
reasonable argument could be made against that man's desolating speech?
He was burning to hear Barrow try it. He knew how to start him, and keep
him going: it was to seem to combat his positions--a process effective
with most people.
"What is it you object to in Tompkins's speech, Barrow?"
"Oh, the leaving out of the factor of human nature; requiring another man
to do what you wouldn't do yourself."
"Do you mean--"
"Why here's what I mean; it's very simple. Tompkins is a blacksmith; has
a family; works for wages; and hard, too--fooling around won't furnish
the bread. Suppose it should turn out that by the death of somebody in
England he is suddenly an earl--income, half a million dollars a year.
What would he do?"
"Well, I--I suppose he would have to decline to--"
"Man, he would grab it in a second!"
"Do you really think he would?"
"Think?--I don't think anything about it, I know it."
"Because he's not a fool."
"So you think that if he were a fool, he--"
"No, I don't. Fool or no fool, he would grab it. Anybody would.
Anybody that's alive. And I've seen dead people that would get up and go
for it. I would myself."
"This was balm, this was healing, this was rest and peace and comfort."
"But I thought you were opposed to nobilities."
"Transmissible ones, yes. But that's nothing. I'm opposed to
millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position."
"You'd take it?"
"I would leave the funeral of my dearest enemy to go and assume its
burdens and responsibilities."
Tracy thought a while, then said:
"I don't know that I quite get the bearings of your position. You say
you are opposed to hereditary nobilities, and yet if you had the chance
"Take one? In a minute I would. And there isn't a mechanic in that
entire club that wouldn't. There isn't a lawyer, doctor, editor, author,
tinker, loafer, railroad president, saint-land, there isn't a human being
in the United States that wouldn't jump at the chance!"
"Except me," said Tracy softly.
"Except you!" Barrow could hardly get the words out, his scorn so
choked him. And he couldn't get any further than that form of words;
it seemed to dam his flow, utterly. He got up and came and glared upon
Tracy in a kind of outraged and unappeasable way, and said again, "Except
you!" He walked around him--inspecting him from one point of view and
then another, and relieving his soul now and then by exploding that
formula at him; "Except you!" Finally he slumped down into his chair
with the air of one who gives it up, and said:
"He's straining his viscera and he's breaking his heart trying to get
some low-down job that a good dog wouldn't have, and yet wants to let on
that if he had a chance to scoop an earldom he wouldn't do it. Tracy,
don't put this kind of a strain on me. Lately I'm not as strong as I
"Well, I wasn't meaning to put--a strain on you, Barrow, I was only
meaning to intimate that if an earldom ever does fall in my way--"
"There--I wouldn't give myself any worry about that, if I was you. And
besides, I can settle what you would do. Are you any different from me?"
"Are you any better than me?"
"O,--er--why, certainly not."
"Are you as good? Come!"
"Indeed, I--the fact is you take me so suddenly--"
"Suddenly? What is there sudden about it? It isn't a difficult question
is it? Or doubtful? Just measure us on the only fair lines--the lines
of merit--and of course you'll admit that a journeyman chairmaker that
earns his twenty dollars a week, and has had the good and genuine culture
of contact with men, and care, and hardship, and failure, and success,
and downs and ups and ups and downs, is just a trifle the superior of a
young fellow like you, who doesn't know how to do anything that's
valuable, can't earn his living in any secure and steady way, hasn't had
any experience of life and its seriousness, hasn't any culture but the
artificial culture of books, which adorns but doesn't really educate
--come! if I wouldn't scorn an earldom, what the devil right have you
to do it!"
Tracy dissembled his joy, though he wanted to thank the chair-maker for
that last remark. Presently a thought struck him, and he spoke up
briskly and said:
"But look here, I really can't quite get the hang of your notions--your,
principles, if they are principles. You are inconsistent. You are
opposed to aristocracies, yet you'd take an earldom if you could. Am I
to understand that you don't blame an earl for being and remaining an
"I certainly don't."
"And you wouldn't blame Tompkins, or yourself, or me, or anybody, for
accepting an earldom if it was offered?"
"Indeed I wouldn't."
"Well, then, who would you blame?"
"The whole nation--any bulk and mass of population anywhere, in any
country, that will put up with the infamy, the outrage, the insult of a
hereditary aristocracy which they can't enter--and on absolutely free and
"Come, aren't you beclouding yourself with distinctions that are not
"Indeed I am not. I am entirely clear-headed about this thing. If I
could extirpate an aristocratic system by declining its honors, then I
should be a rascal to accept them. And if enough of the mass would join
me to make the extirpation possible, then I should be a rascal to do
otherwise than help in the attempt."
"I believe I understand--yes, I think I get the idea. You have no blame
for the lucky few who naturally decline to vacate the pleasant nest they
were born into, you only despise the all-powerful and stupid mass of the
nation for allowing the nest to exist."
"That's it, that's it! You can get a simple thing through your head if
you work at it long enough."
"Don't mention it. And I'll give you some sound advice: when you go
back; if you find your nation up and ready to abolish that hoary affront,
lend a hand; but if that isn't the state of things and you get a chance
at an earldom, don't you be a fool--you take it."
Tracy responded with earnestness and enthusiasm:
"As I live, I'll do it!"
"I never saw such a fellow. I begin to think you've got a good deal of
imagination. With you, the idlest-fancy freezes into a reality at a
breath. Why, you looked, then, as if it wouldn't astonish you if you did
tumble into an earldom."
Tracy blushed. Barrow added: "Earldom! Oh, yes, take it, if it offers;
but meantime we'll go on looking around, in a modest way, and if you get
a chance to superintend a sausage-stuffer at six or eight dollars a week,
you just trade off the earldom for a last year's almanac and stick to the
Tracy went to bed happy once more, at rest in his mind once more. He had
started out on a high emprise--that was to his credit, he argued; he had
fought the best fight he could, considering the odds against him--that
was to his credit; he had been defeated--certainly there was nothing
discreditable in that. Being defeated, he had a right to retire with the
honors of war and go back without prejudice to the position in the
world's society to which he had been born. Why not? even the rabid
republican chair-maker would do that. Yes, his conscience was
comfortable once more.
He woke refreshed, happy, and eager for his cablegram. He had been born
an aristocrat, he had been a democrat for a time, he was now an
aristocrat again. He marveled to find that this final change was not
merely intellectual, it had invaded his feeling; and he also marveled to
note that this feeling seemed a good deal less artificial than any he had
entertained in his system for a long time. He could also have noted,
if he had thought of it, that his bearing had stiffened, over night,
and that his chin had lifted itself a shade. Arrived in the basement,
he was about to enter the breakfast room when he saw old Marsh in the dim
light of a corner of the hall, beckoning him with his finger to approach.
The blood welled slowly up in Tracy's cheek, and he said with a grade of
injured dignity almost ducal:
"Is that for me?"
"What is the purpose of it?"
"I want to speak to you--in private."
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