One Way Out
by William Carleton
CHAPTER I. A
BORN AND BRED
THIRTY DOLLARS A
CHAPTER III. THE
CHAPTER IV. WE
CHAPTER V. WE
CHAPTER VI. I
BECOME A DAY
NINE DOLLARS A
PLANS FOR THE
CHAPTER X. THE
CHAPTER XI. NEW
CHAPTER XII. OUR
CHAPTER XIII. I
BECOME A CITIZEN
CHAPTER XV. THE
DICK FINDS A WAY
THE SECOND YEAR
ONCE AGAIN A NEW
CHAPTER I. A BORN AND BRED NEW
My great-grandfather was killed in the Revolution; my grandfather
fought in the War of 1812; my father sacrificed his health in the Civil
War; but I, though born in New England, am the first of my family to
emigrate to this countrythe United States of America. That sounds
like a riddle or a paradox. It isn't; it's a plain statement of fact.
As a matter of convenience let me call myself Carleton. I've no
desire to make public my life for the sake of notoriety. My only idea
in writing these personal details is the hope that they may help some
poor devil out of the same hole in which I found myself mired. They are
of too sacred a nature to share except impersonally. Even behind the
disguise of an assumed name I passed some mighty uncomfortable hours a
few months ago when I sketched out for a magazine and saw in cold print
what I'm now going to give in full. It made me feel as though I had
pulled down the walls of my house and was living my life open to the
view of the street. For a man whose home means what it does to me,
there's nothing pleasant about that.
However, I received some letters following that brief article which
made the discomfort seem worth while. My wife and I read them over with
something like awe. They came from Maine and they came from Texas; they
came from the north, they came from the south, until we numbered our
unseen friends by the hundred. Running through these letters was the
racking cry that had once rended our own heartsHow to get out! As
we read some of them our throats grew lumpy.
God help them, said my wife over and over again.
As we read others, we felt very glad that our lives had been in some
way an inspiration to them. After talking the whole matter over we
decided that if it helped any to let people know how we ourselves
pulled out, why it was our duty to do so. For that purpose, which is
the purpose of this book, Carleton is as good a name as any.
My people were all honest, plodding, middle-class Americans. They
stuck where they were born, accepted their duties as they came, earned
a respectable living and died without having money enough left to make
a will worth while. They were all privates in the ranks. But they were
the best type of privatehonest, intelligent, and loyal unto death.
They were faithful to their families and unswerving in their duty to
their country. The records of their lives aren't interesting, but they
are as open as daylight.
My father seems to have had at first a bit more ambition stirring
within him than his ancestors. He started in the lumber business for
himself in a small way but with the first call for troops sold out and
enlisted. He did not distinguish himself but he fought in more battles
than many a man who came out a captain. He didn't quit until the war
was over. Then he crawled back home subdued and sick. He refused ever
to draw a pension because he felt it was as much a man's duty to fight
for his country as for his wife. He secured a position as head clerk
and confidential man with an old established lumber firm and here he
stuck the rest of his life. He earned a decent living and in the course
of time married and occupied a comfortable home. My mother died when I
was ten and after that father sold his house and we boarded. It was a
dreary enough life for both of us. Mother was the sort of mother who
lives her whole life in caring for her men folks so that her going left
us as helpless as babies. For a long while we didn't even know when to
change our stockings. But obeying the family tradition, father accepted
his lot stoically and as final. No one in our family ever married
twice. With the death of the wife and mother the home ceased and that
was the end of it.
I remember my father with some pride. He was a tall, old-fashioned
looking man with a great deal of quiet dignity. I came to know him much
better in the next few years after mother died than ever before for we
lived together in one room and had few friends. I can see him now
sitting by a small kerosene lamp after I had gone to bed clumsily
trying to mend some rent in my clothes. I thought it an odd occupation
for a man but I know now what he was about. I think his love for my
mother must have been deep for he talked to me a great deal of her and
seemed much more concerned about my future on her account than on
either his own or mine. I think it was sheshe was a woman of some
spiritwho persuaded him to consider sending me to college. This
accounted partly for the mending although there was some sentiment
about it too. I think he liked to feel that he was carrying out her
work for me even in such a small matter as this.
How much he was earning and how much he saved I never knew. I went
to school and had all the common things of the ordinary boy and I don't
remember that I ever asked him for any pocket money but what he gave it
to me. It was towards the end of my senior year in the high school that
I began to notice a change in him. He was at times strangely excited
and at other times strangely blue. He asked me a great many questions
about my preference in the matter of a college and bade me keep well up
in my studies. He began to skimp a little and I found out afterwards
that one reason he grew so thin was because he did away with his noon
meal. It makes my blood boil now when I remember where the fruit of
this self-sacrifice went. I wouldn't recall it here except as a humble
tribute to his memory.
One night I came back to the room and though it was not yet dark I
was surprised to see a crack of yellow light creeping out from beneath
the sill. Suspecting something was wrong, I pushed open the door and
saw my father seated by the lamp with a pair of trousers I had worn
when a kid in his hands. His head was bent and he was trying to sew. I
went to his side and asked him what the trouble was. He looked up but
he didn't know me. He never knew me again. He died a few days
afterwards. I found then that he had invested all his savings in a
wild-cat mining scheme. They had been swept away.
So at eighteen I was left alone with the only capital that
succeeding generations of my family ever inheriteda common school
education and a big, sound physique. My father's tragic death was a
heavy blow but the mere fact that I was thrown on my own resources did
not dishearten me. In fact the prospect rather roused me. I had soaked
in the humdrum atmosphere of the boarding house so long that the idea
of having to earn my own living came rather as an adventure. While
dependent on my father, I had been chained to this one room and this
one city, but now I felt as though the whole wide world had suddenly
been opened up to me. I had no particular ambition beyond earning a
comfortable living and I was sure enough at eighteen of being able to
do this. If I chose, I could go to seathere wasn't a vessel but what
would take so husky a youngster; if I wished, I could go into
railroadinghere again there was a demand for youth and brawn. I could
go into a factory and learn manufacturing or I could go into an office
and learn a business. I was young, I was strong, I was unfettered.
There is no one on earth so free as such a young man. I could settle in
New York or work my way west and settle in Seattle or go north into
Canada. My legs were stout and I could walk if necessary. And wherever
I was, I had only to stop and offer the use of my back and arms in
return for food and clothes. Most men feel like this only once in their
lives. In a few years they become fettered againthis time for good.
Having no inclination towards the one thing or the other, I took the
first opportunity that offered. A chum of mine had entered the employ
of the United Woollen Company and seeing another vacancy there in the
clerical department, he persuaded me to join him. I began at five
dollars a week. I was put at work adding up columns of figures that had
no more meaning to me than the problems in the school arithmetic. But
it wasn't hard work and my hours were short and my associates pleasant.
After a while I took a certain pride in being part of this vast
enterprise. My chum and I hired a room together and we both felt like
pretty important business men as we bought our paper on the car every
morning and went down town.
It took close figuring to do anything but live that first year and
yet we pushed our way with the crowd into the nigger heavens and saw
most of the good shows. I had never been to the theatre before and I
Next year I received a raise of five dollars and watched the shows
from the rear of the first balcony. That is the only change the raise
made that I can remember except that I renewed my stock of clothes. The
only thing I'm sure of is that at the end of the second year I didn't
have anything left over.
That is true of the next six years. My salary was advanced steadily
to twenty dollars and at that time it took just twenty dollars a week
for me to live. I wasn't extravagant and I wasn't dissipated but every
raise found a new demand. It seemed to work automatically. You might
almost say that our salaries were not raised at all but that we were
promoted from a ten dollar plane of life to a fifteen dollar plane and
then to a twenty. And we all went togetherthat is the men who started
together. Each advance meant unconsciously the wearing of better
clothes, rooming at better houses, eating at better restaurants,
smoking better tobacco, and more frequent amusements. This left us
better satisfied of course but after all it left us just where we
began. Life didn't mean much to any of us at this time and if we were
inclined to look ahead why there were the big salaried jobs before us
to dream about. But even if a man had been forehanded and of a saving
nature, he couldn't have done much without sacrificing the only friends
most of us hadhis office associates. For instanceto save five
dollars a week at this time I would have had to drop back into the
fifteen dollars a week crowd and I'd have been as much out of place
there as a boy dropped into a lower grade at school. I remember that
when I was finally advanced another five dollars I half-heartedly
resolved to put that amount in the bank weekly. But at this point the
crowd all joined a small country club and I had either to follow or
drop out of their lives. Of course in looking back I can see where I
might have done differently but I wasn't looking back thennor very
far ahead either. If it would have prevented my joining the country
club I'm glad I didn't.
It was out there that I met the girl who became my wife. My best
reason for remaining anonymous is the opportunity it will give me to
tell about Ruth. I want to feel free to rave about her if I wish. She
objected in the magazine article and she objects even more strongly now
but, as before, I must have an uncramped hand in this. The chances are
that I shall talk more about her than I did the first time. The whole
scheme of my life, beginning, middle and end, swings around her.
Without her inspiration I don't like to think what the end of me might
have been. And it's just as true to-day as it was in the stress of the
I was twenty-six when I met Ruth and she was eighteen. She came out
to the club one Saturday afternoon to watch some tennis. It happened
that I had worked into the finals of the tournament but that day I
wasn't playing very well. I was beaten in the first set, six-two. What
was worse I didn't care a hang if I was. I had found myself feeling
like this about a lot of things during those last few months. Then as I
made ready to serve the second set I happened to see in the front row
of the crowd to the right of the court a slight girl with blue eyes.
She was leaning forward looking at me with her mouth tense and her
fists tight closed. Somehow I had an idea that she wanted me to win. I
don't know why, because I was sure I'd never seen her before; but I
thought that perhaps she had bet a pair of gloves or a box of candy on
me. If she had, I made up my mind that she'd get them. I started in and
they said, afterwards, I never played better tennis in my life. At any
rate I beat my man.
After the game I found someone to introduce me to her and from that
moment on there was nothing else of so great consequence in my life. I
learned all about her in the course of the next few weeks. Her family,
too, was distinctly middle-class, in the sense that none of them had
ever done anything to distinguish themselves either for good or bad.
Her parents lived on a small New Hampshire farm and she had just been
graduated from the village academy and had come to town to visit her
aunt. The latter was a tall, lean woman, who, after the death of her
husband had been forced to keep lodgers to eke out a living. Ruth
showed me pictures of her mother and father, and they might have been
relatives of mine as far as looks went. The father had caught an
expression from the granite hills which most New England farmers geta
rugged, strained look; the mother was lean and kind and worried. I met
them later and liked them.
Ruth was such a woman as my mother would have taken to; clear and
laughing on the surface, but with great depths hidden among the golden
shallows. Her experience had all been among the meadows and mountains
so that she was simple and direct and fearless in her thoughts and
acts. You never had to wonder what she meant when she spoke and when
you came to know her you didn't even have to wonder what she was
dreaming about. And yet she was never the same because she was always
growing. But the thing that woke me up most of all from the first day I
met her was the interest she took in everyone and everything. A fellow
couldn't bore Ruth if he tried. She would have the time of her life
sitting on a bench in the park or walking down the street or just
staring out the window of her aunt's front room. And that street looked
like Sunday afternoon all the week long.
I began to do some figuring when I was alone but there wasn't much
satisfaction in it. I had the clothes in my room, a good collection of
pipes, and ten dollars of my last week's salary. A man couldn't get
married on that even to a girl like Ruth who wouldn't want much. I cut
down here and there but I naturally wanted to appear well before Ruth
and so the savings went into new ties and shoes. In this way I fretted
along for a few months until I screwed my courage up to ask for another
raise. Those were prosperous days for the United Woollen and everyone
from the president to the office boy was in good humor. I went to
Morse, head of the department, and told him frankly that I wished to
get married and needed more money. That wasn't a business reason for an
increase but those of us who had worked there some years had come to
feel like one of the family and it wasn't unusual for the company to
raise a man at such a time. He said he'd see what he could do about it
and when I opened my pay envelope the next week I found an extra five
I went direct from the office to Ruth and asked her to marry me. She
didn't hang her head nor stammer but she looked me straight in the eyes
a moment longer than usual and answered:
All right, Billy.
Then let's go out this afternoon and see about getting a house, I
I don't think a Carleton ever boarded when first married. To me it
wouldn't have seemed like getting married. I knew a suburb where some
of the men I had met at the country club lived and we went out there.
It was a beautiful June day and everything looked clean and fresh. We
found a little house of eight rooms that we knew we wanted as soon as
we saw it. It was one of a group of ten or fifteen that were all very
much alike. There was a piazza on the front and a little bit of lawn
that looked as though it had been squeezed in afterwards. In the rear
there was another strip of land where we thought we might raise some
garden stuff if we put it in boxes. The house itself had a front hall
out of which stairs led to the next floor. To the right there was a
large room separated by folding doors with another good-sized room next
to it which would naturally be used as a dining room. In the rear of
this was the kitchen and besides the door there was a slide through
which to pass the food. Upstairs there were four big rooms stretching
the whole width of the house. Above these there was a servant's room.
The whole house was prettily finished and in the two rooms down stairs
there were fireplaces which took my eye, although they weren't bigger
than coal hods. It was heated by a furnace and lighted by electricity
and there were stained glass panels either side of the front door.
The rent was forty dollars a month and I signed a three years' lease
before I left. The next week was a busy one for us both. We bought
almost a thousand dollars' worth of furniture on the installment plan
and even then we didn't seem to get more than the bare necessities. I
hadn't any idea that house furnishings cost so much. But if the bill
had come to five times that I wouldn't have cared. The installments
didn't amount to very much a week and I already saw Morse promoted and
myself filling his position at twenty-five hundred. I hadn't yet got
over the feeling I had at eighteen that life was a big adventure and
that a man with strong legs and a good back couldn't lose. With
Ruth at my side I bought like a king. Though I never liked the idea of
running into debt this didn't seem like a debt. I had only to look into
her dear blue eyes to feel myself safe in buying the store itself. Ruth
herself sometimes hesitated but, as I told her, we might as well start
right and once for all as to go at it half heartedly.
The following Saturday we were married. My vacation wasn't due for
another month so we decided not to wait. The old folks came down from
the farm and we just called in a clergyman and were married in the
front parlor of the aunt's house. It was both very simple and very
solemn. For us both the ceremony meant the taking of a sacred oath of
so serious a nature as to forbid much lightheartedness. And yet I did
wish that the father and mother and aunt had not dressed in black and
cried during it all. Ruth wore a white dress and looked very beautiful
and didn't seem afraid. As for me, my knees trembled and I was chalk
white. I think it was the old people and the room, for when it was over
and we came out into the sunshine again I felt all right except a bit
light-headed. I remember that the street and the houses and the cars
seemed like very small matters.
CHAPTER II. THIRTY DOLLARS A WEEK
When, with Ruth on my arm, I walked up the steps of the house and
unlocked the front door, I entered upon a new life. It was my first
taste of home since my mother died and added to that was this new love
which was finer than anything I had ever dreamed about. It seemed hard
to have to leave every morning at half past six and not get back until
after five at night, but to offset this we used to get up as early as
four o'clock during the long summer days. Many the time even in June
Ruth and I ate our breakfast by lamp-light. It gave us an extra hour
and she was bred in the country where getting up in the morning is no
We couldn't afford a servant and we didn't want one. Ruth was a fine
cook and I certainly did justice to her dishes after ten years of
restaurants and boarding-houses. On rainy days when we couldn't get
out, she used to do her cooking early so that I might watch her. It
seemed a lot more like her cooking when I saw her pat out the dough and
put it in the oven instead of coming home and finding it all done. I
used to fill up my pipe and sit by the kitchen stove until I had just
time to catch the train by sprinting.
But when the morning was fine we'd either take a long walk through
the big park reservation which was near the house or we'd fuss over the
garden. We had twenty-two inches of radishes, thirty-eight inches of
lettuce, four tomato plants, two hills of corn, three hills of beans
and about four yards of early peas. In addition to this Ruth had
squeezed a geranium into one corner and a fern into another and planted
sweet alyssum around the whole business. Everyone out here planned to
raise his own vegetables. It was supposed to cut down expenses but I
noticed the market man always did a good business.
I had met two or three of the men at the country club and they
introduced me to the others. We were all earning about the same
salaries and living in about the same type of house. Still there were
differences and you could tell more by the wives than the husbands
those whose salaries went over two thousand. Two or three of the men
were in banks, one was in a leather firm, one was an agent for an
insurance company, another was with the telegraph company, another was
with the Standard Oil, and two or three others were with firms like
mine. Most of them had been settled out here three or four years and
had children. In a general way they looked comfortable and happy enough
but you heard a good deal of talk among them about the high cost of
living and you couldn't help noticing that those who dressed the best
had the fewest children. One or two of them owned horses but even they
felt obliged to explain that they saved the cost of them in car fares.
They all called and left their cards but that first year we didn't
see much of them. There wasn't room in my life for anyone but Ruth at
that time. I didn't see even the old office gang except during business
hours and at lunch.
The rent scaled my salary down to one thousand and eighty dollars at
one swoop. Then we had to save out at least five dollars a week to pay
on the furniture. This left eight hundred and twenty, or fifteen
dollars and seventy-five cents a week, to cover running expenses. We
paid cash for everything and though we never had much left over at the
end of the week and never anything at the end of the month, we had
about everything we wanted. For one thing our tastes were not
extravagant and we did no entertaining. Our grocery and meat bill
amounted to from five to seven dollars a week. Of course I had my
lunches in town but I got out of those for twenty cents. My daily car
fare was twenty cents more which brought my total weekly expenses up to
about three dollars. This left a comfortable margin of from five to
seven dollars for light, coal, clothes and amusements. In the summer
the first three items didn't amount to much so some weeks we put most
of this into the furniture. But the city was new to Ruth, especially at
night, so we were in town a good deal. She used to meet me at the
office and we'd walk about the city and then take dinner at some little
French restaurant and then maybe go to a concert or the theatre. She
made everything new to me again. At the theatre she used to perch on
the edge of her seat so breathless, so responsive that I often saw the
old timers watch her instead of the show. I often did myself. And
sometimes it seemed as though the whole company acted to her alone.
Those days were perfect. The only incident to mar them was the death
of Ruth's parents. They died suddenly and left an estate of six or
seven hundred dollars. Ruth insisted upon putting that into the
furniture. But in our own lives every day was as fair as the first. My
salary came as regularly as an annuity and there was every prospect for
advancement. The garden did well and Ruth became acquainted with most
of the women in a sociable way. She joined a sewing circle which met
twice a month chiefly I guess for the purpose of finding out about one
another's husbands. At any rate she told me more about them than I
would have learned in ten years.
Still, during the fall and winter we kept pretty much by ourselves,
not deliberately but because neither of us cared particularly about
whist parties and such things but preferred to spend together what time
we had. And then I guess Ruth was a little shy about her clothes. She
dressed mighty well to my eye but she made most of her things herself
and didn't care much about style. She didn't notice the difference at
home but when she was out among others, they made her feel it. However
spring came around again and we forgot all about those details. We
didn't go in town so much that summer and used to spend more time on
our piazza. I saw more of the men in this way and found them a
pleasant, companionable lot. They asked me to join the Neighborhood
Club and I did, more to meet them half way than because I wanted to.
There we played billiards and discussed the stock market and furnaces.
All of them had schemes for making fortunes if only they had a few
thousand dollars capital. Now and then you'd find a group of them in
one corner discussing a rumor that so and so had lost his job. They
spoke of this as they would of a death. But none of those subjects
interested me especially in view of what I was looking forward to in my
In the afternoons of the early fall the women sent over jellies and
such stuff to Ruth and dropped in upon her with whispered advice. She
used to repeat it to me at night with a gay little laugh and her eyes
sparkling like diamonds. She was happier now than I had ever seen her
and so was I myself. When I went in town in the morning I felt very
I thought I had touched the climax of life when I married Ruth but
when the boy came he lifted me a notch higher. And with him he brought
me a new wife in Ruth, without taking one whit from the old.
Sweetheart, wife and mother now, she revealed to me new depths of
She taught me, too, what real courage is. I was the coward when the
time came. I had taken a day off but the doctor ordered me out of the
house. I went down to the club and I felt more one of the neighborhood
that day than I ever did before or afterwards. It was Saturday and
during the afternoon a number of the men came in and just silently
gripped my hand.
The women, too, seemed to take a new interest in us. When Ruth was
able to sit up they brought in numberless little things. But you'd have
thought it was their house and not mine, the way they treated me. When
any of them came I felt as though I didn't belong there and ought to
We'd been saving up during the summer for this emergency so that we
had enough to pay for the doctor and the nurse but that was only the
beginning of the new expenses. In the first place we had to have a
servant now. I secured a girl who knew how to cook after a fashion, for
four dollars a week. But that wasn't by any means what she cost us. In
spite of Ruth's supervision the girl wasted as much as she used so that
our provision bill was nearly doubled. If we hadn't succeeded in paying
for the furniture before this I don't know what we would have done. As
it was I found my salary pretty well strained. I hadn't any idea that
so small a thing as a baby could cost so much. Ruth had made most of
his things but I know that some of his shirts cost as much as mine.
When the boy was older Ruth insisted upon getting along without a
girl again. I didn't approve of this but I saw that it would make her
happier to try anyway. How in the world she managed to do it I don't
know but she did. This gave her an excuse for not going outthough it
was an excuse that made me half ashamed of myselfand so we saved in
another way. Even with this we just made both ends meet and that was
The boy grew like a weed and before I knew it he was five years old.
Until he began to walk and talk I didn't think of him as a possible
man. He didn't seem like anything in particular. He was just soft and
round and warm. But when he began to wear knickerbockers he set me to
thinking hard. He wasn't going to remain always a baby; he was going to
grow into a boy and then a young man and before I knew it he would be
facing the very same problem that now confronted me. And that problem
was how to get enough ahead of the game to give him a fair start in
life. I realized, too, that I wanted him to do something better than I
had done. When I stopped to think of it I had accomplished mighty
little. I had lived and that was about all. That I had lived happily
was due to Ruth. But if I was finding difficulty in keeping even with
the game now, what was I going to do when the youngster would prove a
decidedly more serious item of expense?
I talked this over with Ruth and we both decided that somehow, in
some way, we must save some money every year. We started in by reducing
our household expenses still further. But it seemed as though fate were
against us for prices rose just enough to absorb all our little
economies. Flour went up and sugar went up, and though we had done away
with meat almost wholly now, vegetables went up. So, too, did coal. Not
only that but we had long since found it impossible to keep to
ourselves as we had that first year. Little by little we had been drawn
into the social life of the neighborhood. Not a month went by but what
there was a dinner or two or a whist party or a dance. Personally I
didn't care about such things but as Ruth had become a matron and in
consequence had been thrown more in contact with the women, she had
lost her shyness and grown more sociable. She often suggested declining
an invitation but we couldn't decline one without declining all. I saw
clearly enough that I had no right to do this. She did more work than I
and did not have the daily change. To have made a social exile of her
would have been to make her little better than a slave. But it cost
money. It cost a lot of money. We had to do our part in return and
though Ruth accomplished this by careful buying and all sorts of clever
devices, the item became a big one in the year's expenses.
I began to look forward with some anxiety for the next raise. At the
office I hunted for extra work with an eye upon the place above; but
though I found the work nothing came of it but extra hours. In fact I
began to think myself lucky to hold the job I had for a gradual change
of methods had been slowly going on in the office. Mechanical adding
machines had cost a dozen men their jobs; a card system of bookkeeping
had made it possible to discharge another dozen, while an off year in
woollens sent two or three more flying, among them the man who had
found me the position in the first place. But he hadn't married and he
went out west somewhere. Occasionally when work picked up again a young
man was taken on to fill the place of one of the discharged men. The
company always saved a few hundred dollars by such a shift for the lad
never got the salary of the old employee, and so far as anyone could
see the work went on just as well.
While these moves were ominous, as I can see now in looking back,
they didn't disturb me very much at the time. I filled a little niche
in the office that was all my own. At every opportunity I had
familiarized myself with the work of the man above me and was on very
good terms with him. I waited patiently and confidently for the day
when Morse should call me in and announce his own advance and leave me
to fill his place. I might have to begin on two thousand but it was a
sure twenty-five hundred eventually to say nothing of what it led to.
The president of the company had begun as I had and had moved up the
same steps that now lay ahead of me.
In the meanwhile the life at home ran smoothly in spite of
everything. Neither the wife, the boy nor I was sick a day for we all
had sound bodies to start with. Our country-bred ancestors didn't need
a will to leave us those. If at times we felt a trifle pinched
especially in the matter of clothes, it was wonderful how rich Ruth
contrived to make us feel. She knew how to take care of things and
though I didn't spend half what some of the men spent on their suits, I
went in town every morning looking better than two-thirds of them. I
was inspected from head to foot before I started and there wasn't a
wrinkle or a spot so small that it could last twenty-four hours. I
shined my own shoes and pressed my own trousers and Ruth looked to it
that this was done well. Moreover she could turn a tie, clean and press
it so that it looked brand new. I think some of the neighbors even
thought I was extravagant in my dressing.
She did the same for herself and had caught the knack of seeming to
dress stylishly without really doing so. She had beautiful hair and
this in itself made her look well dressed. As for the boy he was a
model for them all.
In the meanwhile the boy had grown into short trousers and before we
knew it he was in school. It made it lonesome for her during the day
when he began to trudge off every morning at nine o'clock. She began to
look forward to Saturdays as eagerly as the boy did. Then the next
thing we knew he'd start off even earlier on that day to join his
playmates. Sunday was the only day either of us had him to ourselves.
After he began to go to school, Ruth and I seemed to begin another
life. In a way we felt all by ourselves once more. I didn't get home
until half past seven now and Dick was then abed. He was abed too when
I left in the morning. Of course he was never off my mind and if he
hadn't been asleep upstairs I guess I'd have known a difference. But at
the same time he was, in a small way, living his own life now which
left Ruth and me to ourselves once more. She used to go over for me all
the details of his day from the time she took him up in the morning
until she tucked him away in bed again at night and then there would
come a pause. It seemed as though there ought to be something more, but
there wasn't. The next few months it seemed almost as though she was
waiting. For what, I didn't know and yet I too felt there was a lapse
in our lives. I never loved her more. There was never a time when she
was so truly my wife and yet in our combined lives there was something
lacking. After a while I began to notice a wistful expression in her
eyes. It always came after she had said,
So Dicky said, 'God bless father and mother,' and then he went to
Then one night it dawned on me. Hers was the same heart hunger that
had been eating at me. Dick was a boy now and there was no baby to take
his place. But, good Lord, as it was I hadn't been able to save a
dollar. I knew that we were simply holding on tight and drifting. The
boat was loaded to the gunwales even now. And yet that expression in
her eyes had a right to be answered. But I couldn't answer it. I didn't
dare open my mouth. I didn't dare speak even one night when she said,
He's all we have, Billyjust one.
I gripped her hand and sat staring into the little coal hod
fireplace which we didn't light more than once a month now. Even as I
watched the flames I saw them licking up pennies.
Just one! And I too wanted a houseful like Dick.
I had to see that look night after night and I had to go to town
knowing I was leaving her all alone with the one away at school. And
what a mother she was! She ought to have had a baby by her side all the
As the one grew, his expenses increased. The only way to meet them
was by cutting down our own expenses still more. I cut out smoking and
made my old clothes do an extra year. Ruth spent half her time in
bargain hunting and saved still more by taking it out of herself. Poor
little woman, she worked harder for a quarter than I did and I was
working harder for that sum than I used to work for a dollar. But we
were not alone in the struggle. As we came to know more about the
people in that group of snug little houses we knew that the same grim
fight was going on in all of them. Some of them were not so lucky as we
and ran into debt while a few of them were luckier and were helped out
with legacies or by well-to-do relatives. We were as much alike as peas
in a pod. We were living on the future and bluffing out the present.
You'd have thought it would have cast a gloom over the
neighborhoodyou'd have thought it would have done away with some of
the parties and dances. But it didn't. In the first place this was, to
most of us, just life. In the second place there didn't seem to be any
alternative. There was no other way of living. The conditions seemed to
be fixed; we had to eat, we had to wear a certain type of dress; and
unless we wished to exist as exiles we had to meet on a certain plane
of social intercourse. The conventions were as iron clad here as among
the nobility of England. No one thought of violating them; no one
thought it was possible. You had to live as the others did or die and
be done with it. If anyone of us had thought we might have seen the
foolishness of this but it was all so manifest that no one did think.
The only method of escape was a raise and that meant moving into
another sphere which would cover that.
A new complication came when the boy grew old enough to have social
functions of his own. He had made many new friends and he wanted to
join a tennis club, a dancing class and contribute towards the support
of the athletic teams of the school. Moreover he was invited to parties
and had to give parties himself. Once again I tried to see some way out
of this social business. It seemed such a pitiful waste of ammunition
under the circumstances. I wanted to save the money if it was possible
in any way to eke it out, for his education. But what could I do? The
boy had to live as his friends lived or give them up. He wasn't asked
to do any more than the other boys of the neighborhood but he was
rightly asked to do as much. If he couldn't it would be at the
sacrifice of his pride that he associated with them at all. And a just
pride in a boy is something you can't safely tamper with. He had to
have the money and we managed it somehow. But it brought home the old
grim fact that I hadn't as yet saved a dollar.
I clung more than ever now to the one ray of hopethe job ahead. It
was the only comfort Ruth and I had and whenever I felt especially
downhearted she'd start in and plan how we'd spend it. It took the edge
off the immediate thought of danger. In the meanwhile I resigned even
from the Neighborhood Club and let the boy join the tennis club. I
noticed at once a change in the attitude of the men towards me. But I
was reaching a point now where I didn't care.
In this way, then, we lived until I was thirty-eight and Ruth was
thirty, and the boy was eleven. For the last few months I had been
doing night work without extra pay and so was practically exiled from
the boy except on Sundays. He was not developing the way I wanted. The
local grammar school was almost a private school for the neighborhood.
I should have preferred to have it more cosmopolitan. The boy was
rubbing up against only his own kind and this was making him soft, both
physically and mentally. He was also getting querulous and autocratic.
Ruth saw it, but with only one.... Well, on Sundays I took the boy with
me on long cross-country jaunts and did a good deal of talking to him.
But all I said rolled off like water off a duck. He lacked energy and
initiative. He was becoming distinctly more middle-class than either of
us, with some of the faults of the so-called upper class thrown in. He
chattered about Harvard, not as an opportunity, but as a class
privilege. I didn't like it. But before I had time to worry much about
this the crash came that I had not been wise enough to foresee.
CHAPTER III. THE MIDDLE CLASS HELL
One Saturday afternoon, after we had been paid off, Morse, the head
of the department, whose job I had been eyeing enviously for five years
now, called me into his office. For three minutes I saw all my hopes
realized; for three minutes I walked dizzily with my whole life
justified. I could hardly catch my breath as I followed him. I didn't
realize until then how big a load I had been carrying. As a drowning
man is said to see visions of his whole past life, I saw visions of my
whole future. I saw Ruth's eager face lifted to mine as I told her the
good news; I saw the boy taken from his commonplace surroundings and
doing himself proud in some big preparatory school where he brushed up
against a variety of other boys; I sawGod pity me for the fool I
wasother children at home to take his place. I can say that for three
minutes I have lived.
Morse seated himself in the chair before his desk and, bending over
his papers, talked without looking at me. He was a small fellow. I
don't suppose a beefy man ever quite gets over a certain feeling of
superiority before a small man. I could have picked up Morse in one
Carleton, he began, I've got to cut down your salary five hundred
It came like a blow in the face. I don't think I answered.
Sorry, he added, but Evans says he can double up on your work and
offers to do it for two hundred dollars more.
I repeated that name Evans over and over. He was the man under me.
Then I saw my mistake. While watching the man ahead of me I had
neglected to watch the man behind me. Evans and I had been good
friends. I liked him. He was about twenty, and a hard worker.
Well? said Morse.
I recovered my wind.
Good God, I cried; I can't live on any less than I'm getting
Then you resign? he asked quickly.
For a second I saw red. I wanted to take this pigmy by the throat. I
wanted to shake him. He didn't give me time before exclaiming:
Very well, Carleton. I'll give you an order for two weeks' pay in
The next thing I knew I was in the outer office with the order in my
hand. I saw Evans at his desk. I guess I must have looked queer, for at
first he shrank away from me. Then he came to my side.
Carleton, he said, what's the matter?
I guess you know, I answered.
You aren't fired?
I bucked up at this. I tried to speak naturally.
Yes, I said, I'm fired.
But that isn't right, Carleton, he protested. I didn't think it
would come to that. I went to Morse and told him I wanted to get
married and needed more money. He asked me if I thought I could do your
work. I said yes. I'd have said yes if he'd asked me if I could do the
president's work. Butcome back and let me explain it to Morse.
It was white of him, wasn't it? But I saw clearly enough that he was
only fighting for his right to love as I was fighting for mine. I don't
know that I should have been as generous as he wasten years before.
He had started toward the door when I called him back.
Don't go in there, I warned. The first thing you know you'll be
doing my work without your two hundred.
That's so, he answered. But what are you going to do now?
Get another job, I answered.
One of the great blessings of my life is the fact that it has always
been easy to report bad news to Ruth. I never had to break things
gently to her. She always took a blow standing up, like a man. So now I
boarded my train and went straight to the house and told her. She
listened quietly and then took my hand, patting it for a moment without
saying anything. Finally she smiled at me.
Well, Billy, she said, it can't be helped, can it? So good luck
to Evans and his bride.
When a woman is as brave as that it stirs up all the fighting blood
in a man. Looking into her steady blue eyes I felt that I had
exaggerated my misfortune. Thirty-eight is not old and I was
able-bodied. I might land something even better than that which I had
lost. So instead of a night of misery I actually felt almost glad.
I started in town on Monday in high hope. But when I got off the
train I began to wonder just where I was bound. What sort of a job was
I going to apply for? What was my profession, anyway? I sat down in the
station to think the problem over.
For twenty years now I had been a cog in the clerical machinery of
the United Woollen Company. I was known as a United Woollen man. But
just what else had this experience made of me? I was not a bookkeeper.
I knew no more about keeping a full set of books than my boy. I had
handled only strings of United Woollen figures; those meant nothing
outside that particular office. I was not a stenographer, or an
accountant, or a secretary. I had been called a clerk in the directory.
But what did that mean? What the devil was I, after twenty years of
The question started the sweat to my forehead. But I pulled myself
together again. At least I was an able-bodied man. I was willing to
work, had a record of honesty and faithfulness, and was intelligent as
men go. I didn't care what I did, so long as it gave me a living wage.
Surely, then, there must be some place for me in this alert, hustling
I bought a paper and turned to Help Wanted. I felt encouraged at
sight of the long column. I read it through carefully. Half of the
positions demanded technical training; a fourth of them demanded
special experience; the rest asked for young men. I couldn't answer the
requirements of one of them. Again and again the question was forced in
upon mewhat the devil was I?
I didn't know which way to turn. I had no relatives to help mefrom
the days of my great-grandfather no Carleton had ever quit the game
more than even. My business associates were as badly off as I was and
so were my neighbors.
My relations with the latter were peculiar, now that I came to think
of it. In these last dozen years I had come to know the details of
their lives as intimately as my own. In a way we had been like one big
family. We knew each other as Frank, and Joe, and Bill, and Josh, and
were familiar with one another's physical ailments when any of us had
any. If any of the children had whooping cough or the measles every man
and woman in the neighborhood watched at the bedside, in a sense, until
the youngster was well, again. We knew to a dollar what each man was
earning and what each was spending. We borrowed one another's garden
tools and the women borrowed from each other's kitchens. On the surface
we were just about as intimate as it's possible for a community to be.
And yet what did it amount to?
There wasn't a man-son of them to whom I would have dared go and
confess the fact I'd lost my job. They'd know it soon enough, be sure
of that; but it mustn't come from me. There wasn't one of them to whom
I felt free to go and ask their help to interest their own firms to
secure another position for me. Their respect for me depended upon my
ability to maintain my social position. They were like steamer friends.
On the voyage they clung to one another closer than bark to a tree, but
once the gang plank was lowered the intimacy vanished. If I wished to
keep them as friends I must stick to the boat.
I knew they couldn't do anything if they had wanted to, but at the
same time I felt there was something wrong in a situation that would
not allow me to ask even for a letter of introduction without feeling
like a beggar. I felt there was something wrong when they made me feel
not like a brother in hard luck but like a criminal. I began to wonder
what of sterling worth I had got out of this life during the past
However that was an incidental matter. The only time I did such
thinking as this was towards the early morning after I had lain awake
all night and exhausted all other resources. I tackled the problem in
the only way I could think of and that was to visit the houses with
whom I had learned the United Woollen did business. I remembered the
names of about a dozen of them and made the rounds of these for a
starter. It seemed like a poor chance and I myself did not know exactly
what they could do with me but it would keep me busy for a while.
With waits and delays this took me two weeks. Without letters it was
almost impossible to reach the managers but I hung on in every case
until I succeeded. Here again I didn't feel like an honest man offering
to do a fair return of work for pay, so much as I did a beggar. This
may have been my fault; but after you've sat around in offices and
corridors and been scowled at as an intruder for three or four hours
and then been greeted with a surly What do you want? you can't help
having a grouch. There wasn't a man who treated my offer as a business
At the end of that time two questions were burned into my brain:
What can you do? and How old are you? The latter question came as a
revelation. It seems that from a business point of view I was
considered an old man. My good strong body counted for nothing; my
willingness to undertake any task counted for nothing. I was too old.
No one wanted to bother with a beginner over eighteen or twenty. The
market demanded youthyouth with the years ahead that I had already
sold. Wherever I stumbled by chance upon a vacant position I found
waiting there half a dozen stalwart youngsters. They looked as I had
looked when I joined the United Woollen Company. I offered to do the
same work at the same wages as the youngsters, but the managers didn't
want me. They didn't want a man around with wrinkles in his face.
Moreover, they were looking to the future. They didn't intend to adjust
a man into their machinery only to have him die in a dozen years. I
wasn't a good risk. Moreover, I wouldn't be so easily trained, and with
a wider experience might prove more bothersome. At thirty-eight I was
too old to make a beginning. The verdict was unanimous. And yet I had a
physique like an ox and there wasn't a gray hair in my head. I came out
of the last of those offices with my fists clenched.
In the meanwhile I had used up my advance salary and was, for the
first time in my life, running into debt. Having always paid my bills
weekly I had no credit whatever. Even at the end of the third week I
knew that the grocery man and butcher were beginning to fidget. The
neighbors had by this time learned of my plight and were gossiping. And
yet in the midst of all this I had some of the finest hours with my
wife I had ever known.
She sent me away every morning with fresh hope and greeted me at
night with a cheerfulness that was like wine. And she did this without
any show of false optimism. She was not blind to the seriousness of our
present position, but she exhibited a confidence in me that did not
admit of doubt or fear. There was something almost awesomely beautiful
about standing by her side and facing the approaching storm. She used
to place her small hands upon my back and exclaim:
Why, Billy, there's work for shoulders like those.
It made me feel like a giant.
So another month passed. I subscribed to an employment bureau, but
the only offer I received was to act as a sort of bouncer in a barroom.
I suppose my height and weight and reputation for sobriety recommended
me there. There was five dollars a week in it, and as far as I alone
was concerned I would have taken it. That sum would at least buy bread,
and though it may sound incredible the problem of getting enough to eat
was fast becoming acute. The provision men became daily more
suspicious. We cut down on everything, but I knew it was only a
question of time when they would refuse to extend our credit for the
little we had to have. And all around me my neighbors went their
cheerful ways and waited for me to work it out. But whenever I thought
of the barroom job and the money it would bring I could see them shake
It was hell. It was the deepest of all deep hellsthe middle-class
hell. There was nothing theatrical about itno fireworks or red
lights. It was plain, dull, sodden. Here was my position: work in my
own class I couldn't get; work as a young man I was too old to get;
work as just plain physical labor these same middle-class neighbors
refused to allow me to undertake. I couldn't black my neighbors' boots
without social ostracism, though Pasquale, who kept the stand in the
United Woollen building, once confided to me that he cleared some
twenty-five dollars a week. I couldn't mow my neighbors' front lawns or
deliver milk at their doors, though there was food in it. That was
honest workclean work; but if I attempted it would they play golf
with me? Personally I didn't care. I would have taken a job that day.
But there were the wife and boy. They were held in ransom. It's all
very well to talk about scorning the conventions, to philosophize about
the dignity of honest work, to quote a man's a man for a' that; but
associates of their own kind mean more to a woman and a growing boy
than they do to a man. At least I thought so at that time. When I saw
my wife surrounded by well-bred, well-dressed women, they seemed to me
an essential part of her life. What else did living mean for her? When
my boy brought home with him other boys of his age and kindthough to
me they did not represent the highest typeI felt under obligations to
retain those friends for him. I had begot him into this set. It seemed
barbarous to do anything that would allow them to point the finger at
I felt a yearning for some primeval employment. I hungered to join
the army or go to sea. But here again were the wife and boy. I felt
like going into the Northwest and preempting a homestead. That was a
saner idea, but it took capital and I didn't have enough. I was tied
hand and foot. It was like one of those nightmares where in the face of
danger you are suddenly struck dumb and immovable.
I was beginning to look wild-eyed. Ruth and I were living on bread,
without butter, and canned soup. I sneaked in town with a few books and
sold them for enough to keep the boy supplied with meat. My shoes were
worn out at the bottom and my clothes were getting decidedly seedy. The
men with whom I was in the habit of riding to town in the morning gave
me as wide a berth as though I had the leprosy. I guess they were
afraid my hard luck was catching. God pity them, many of them were
dangerously near the rim of this same hell themselves.
One morning my wife came to me reluctantly, but with her usual
courage, and said:
Billy, the grocery man didn't bring our order last night. It was
like a sword-thrust. It made me desperate. But the worst of the
middle-class hell is that there is nothing to fight back at. There you
are. I couldn't say anything. There was no answer. My eyes must have
looked queer, for Ruth came nearer and whispered:
Don't go in town to-day, Billy.
I had on my hat and had gathered up two or three more volumes in my
green bag. I looked at the trim little house that had been my home for
so long. The rent would be due next month. I looked at the other trim
little houses around me. Was it actually possible that a man could
starve in such a community? It seemed like a satanic joke. Why, every
year this country was absorbing immigrants by the thousand. They did
not go hungry. They waxed fat and prosperous. There was Pasquale, the
bootblack, who was earning nearly as much as I ever did.
We were standing on the porch. I took Ruth in my arms and kissed
her. She drew back with a modest protest that the neighbors might see.
The word neighbors goaded me. I shook my fist at their trim little
houses and voiced a passion that had slowly been gathering strength.
Damn the neighbors! I cried.
Ruth was startled. I don't often swear.
Have they been talking about you? she asked suddenly, her mouth
I don't know. I don't care. But they hold you in ransom like bloody
How do they, Billy?
They won't let me work without taking it out of you and the boy.
Her head dropped for a second at mention of the boy, but it was soon
Let's get away from them, she gasped. Let's go where there are no
Would you? I asked.
I'd go to the ends of the earth with you, Billy, she answered
How plucky she was! I couldn't help but smile as I answered, more to
We haven't even the carfare to go to the ends of the earth, Ruth.
It will take all we have to pay our bills.
All we have? she asked.
No, not that. They could get only a little of what she and I had.
They could take our belongings, that's all. And they hadn't got those
But I had begun to hate those neighbors with a fierce, unreasoning
hatred. In silence they dictated, without assisting. For a dozen years
I had lived with them, played with them, been an integral part of their
lives, and now they were worse than useless to me. There wasn't one of
them big enough to receive me into his home for myself alone, apart
from the work I did. There wasn't a true brother among them.
Our lives turn upon little things. They turn swiftly. Within fifteen
minutes I had solved my problem in a fashion as unexpected as it was
CHAPTER IV. WE EMIGRATE TO AMERICA
Going down the path to town bitterly and blindly, I met Murphy. He
was a man with not a gray hair in his head who was a sort of
man-of-all-work for the neighborhood. He took care of my furnace and
fussed about the grounds when I was tied up at the office with night
work. He stopped me with rather a shamefaced air.
Beg pardon, sor, he began, but I've got a bill comin' due on the
I remembered that I owed him some fifteen dollars. I had in my
pocket just ten cents over my carfare. But what arrested my attention
was the mention of a new house.
You mean to tell me that you're putting up a house?
The bit of a rint, sor, in Street.
The contrast was dramatic. The man who emptied my ashes was erecting
tenements and I was looking for work that would bring me in food. My
people had lived in this country some two hundred years or more, and
Murphy had probably not been here over thirty. There was something
wrong about this, but I seemed to be getting hold of an idea.
How old are you, Murphy? I asked.
Goin' on sixty, sor.
You came to America broke?
Dead broke, sor.
You have a wife and children?
A woman and six childer.
Six! Think of it! And I had one.
Children in school?
I asked it almost in hope that here at least I would hold the
Two of them in college, sor.
He spoke it proudly. Well he might. But to me it was confusing.
And you have enough left over to put up a house? I stammered.
It's better than the bank, Murphy said apologetically.
And you aren't an old man yet, I murmured.
Why you're young and strong and independent, Murphy. You're
But I guess I talked a bit wild. I don't know what I said. I was
breathlesslightheaded. I wanted to get back to Ruth.
Pat, I said, seizing his handPat, you shall have the money
within a week. I'm going to sell out and emigrate.
Emigrate? he gasped. Where to?
I laughed. The solution now seemed so easy.
Why, to America, Pat. To America where you came thirty years ago.
I left him staring at me. I hurried into the house with my heart in my
I found Ruth in the sitting-room with her chin in her hands and her
white forehead knotted in a frown. She didn't hear me come in, but when
I touched her arm she jumped up, ashamed to think I had caught her
looking even puzzled. But at sight of my face her expression changed in
Oh, Billy, she cried, it's good news?
It's a way outif you approve, I answered.
I do, Billy, she answered, without waiting to hear.
Then listen, I said. If we were living in England or Ireland or
France or Germany and found life as hard as this and some one left us
five hundred dollars what would you advise doing?
Why, we'd emigrate, Billy, she said instantly.
Exactly. Where to?
Right, I cried. And we'd be one out of a thousand if we didn't
make good, wouldn't we?
Why, every one succeeds who comes here from somewhere else, she
And why do they? I demanded, getting excited with my idea. Why do
they? There are a dozen reasons. One is because they come as
pioneerswith all the enthusiasm and eagerness of adventurers. Life is
fresh and romantic to them over here. Hardships only add zest to the
game. Another reason is that it is all a fine big gamble to them. They
have everything to gain and nothing to lose. It's the same spirit that
drives young New Englanders out west to try their luck, to preëmpt
homesteads in the Northwest, to till the prairies. Another reason is
that they come over here freeunbound by conventions. They can work as
they please, live as they please. They haven't any caste to hamper
them. Another reason is that, being on the same great adventure, they
are all brothers. They pull together. Still another reason is that as
emigrants the whole United States stands ready to help them with
schools and playgrounds and hospitals and parks.
I paused for breath. She cut in excitedly:
Then we're going out west?
No; we haven't the capital for that. By selling all our things we
can pay our debts and have a few dollars over, but that wouldn't take
us to Chicago. I'm not going ten miles from home.
Where then, Billy?
You've seen the big ships come in along the water-front? They are
bringing over hundreds of emigrants every year and landing them right
on those docks. These people have had to cross the ocean to reach that
point, but our ancestors made the voyage for you and me two hundred
years ago. We're within ten miles of the wharf now.
She couldn't make out what I meant.
Why, wife o' mine, I ran on, all we need to do is to pack up, go
down to the dock and start from there. We must join the emigrants and
follow them into the city. These are the only people who are finding
America to-day. We must take up life among them; work as they work;
live as they live. Why, I feel my back muscles straining even now; I
feel the tingle of coming down the gangplank with our fortunes yet to
make in this land of opportunity. Pasquale has done it; Murphy has done
it. Don't you think I can do it?
She looked up at me. I had never seen her face more beautiful. It
was flushed and eager. She clutched my arm. Then she whispered:
My manmy wonderful, good man!
The primitive appellation was in itself like a whiff of salt air. It
bore me back to the days when a husband's chief function was just
thatbeing a man to his own good woman. We looked for a moment into
each other's eyes. Then the same question was born to both of us in a
What of the boy?
It was a more serious question to her, I think, than it was to me. I
knew that the sons of other fathers and mothers had wrestled with that
life and come out strong. There were Murphy's boys, for instance. Of
course the life would be new to my boy, but the keen competition ought
to drive him to his best. His present life was not doing that. As for
the coarser details from which he had been so shelteredwell, a man
has to learn sooner or later, and I wasn't sure but that it was better
for him to learn at an age when such things would offer no real
temptations. With Ruth back of him I didn't worry much about that.
Besides, the boy had let drop a phrase or two that made me suspect that
even among his present associates that same ground was being explored.
Ruth, I said, I'm not worrying about Dick.
He has been kept so fresh, she murmured.
It isn't the fresh things that keep longest, I said.
That's true, Billy, she answered.
Then she thought a moment, and as though with new inspiration
answered me using again that same tender, primitive expression:
I don't fear for my man-child.
When the boy came home from school that night I had a long talk with
him. I told him frankly how I had been forced out of my position, how I
had tried for another, how at length I had resolved to go pioneering
just as his great-grandfather had done among the Indians. As I thought,
the naked adventure of it appealed to him. That was all I wished; it
was enough to work on.
The next day I brought out a second-hand furniture dealer and made
as good a bargain as I could with him for the contents of the house. We
saved nothing but the sheer essentials for light housekeeping. These
consisted of most of the cooking utensils, a half dozen plates, cups
and saucers and about a dozen other pieces for the table, four
tablecloths, all the bed linen, all our clothes, including some old
clothes we had been upon the point of throwing away, a few personal
gimcracks, and for furniture the following articles: the folding wooden
kitchen table, a half dozen chairs, the cot bed in the boy's room, the
iron bed in our room, the long mirror I gave Ruth on her birthday, and
a sort of china closet that stood in the dining-room. To this we added
bowls, pitchers, and lamps. All the rest, which included a full
dining-room set, a full dinner set of china, the furnishings of the
front room, including books and book case, chairs, rugs, pictures and
two or three good chairs, a full bed-room set in our room and a cheaper
one in the boy's room, piazza furnishings, garden tools, and forty odds
and ends all of which had cost me first and last something like two
thousand dollars, I told the dealer to lump together. He looked it over
and bid six hundred dollars. I saw Ruth swallow hard, for she had taken
good care of everything so that to us it was worth as much to-day as we
had paid for it. But I accepted the offer without dickering, for it was
large enough to serve my ends. It would pay off all our debts and leave
us a hundred dollars to the good. It was the first time since I married
that I had been that much ahead.
That afternoon I saw Murphy and hired of him the top tenement of his
new house. It was in the Italian quarter of the city and my flat
consisted of four rooms. The rent was three dollars a week. Murphy
looked surprised enough at the change in my affairs and I made him
promise not to gossip to the neighbors about where I'd gone.
Faith, sor, he said, and they wouldn't believe it if I told
This wasn't all I accomplished that day. I bought a pair of overalls
and presented myself at the office of a contractor's agent. I didn't
have any trouble in getting in there and I didn't feel like a beggar as
I took my place in line with about a dozen foreigners. I looked them
over with a certain amount of self-confidence. Most of them were
undersized men with sagging shoulders and primitive faces. With their
big eyes they made me think of shaggy Shetland ponies. Lined up man for
man with my late associates they certainly looked like an inferior lot.
I studied them with curiosity; there must be more in them than showed
on the surface to bring them over herethere must be something that
wasn't in the rest of us for them to make good the way they did. In the
next six months I meant to find out what that was. In the meantime just
sitting there among them I felt as though I had more elbow room than I
had had since I was eighteen. Before me as before them a continent
stretched its great length and breadth. They laughed and joked among
themselves and stared about at everything with eager, curious eyes.
They were ready for anything, and everything was ready for themthe
ditch, the mines, the railroads, the wheat fields. Wherever things were
growing and needed men to help them grow, they would play their part.
They say there's plenty of room at the top, but there's plenty of room
at the bottom, too. It's in the middle that men get pinched.
I worked my way up to the window where a sallow, pale-faced clerk
sat in front of a big book. He gave me a start, he was such a contrast
to the others. In my new enthusiasm I wanted to ask him why he didn't
come out and get in line the other side of the window. He yawned as he
wrote down my name. I didn't have to answer more than half a dozen
questions before he told me to report for work Monday at such and such
a place. I asked him what the work was and he looked up.
Subway, he answered.
I asked him how much the pay was. He looked me over at this. I don't
know what he thought I was.
Dollar and a halfnine hours.
All right, I answered.
He gave me a slip of paper and I hurried out. It hadn't taken ten
minutes. And a dollar and a half a day was nine dollars a week! It was
almost twice as much as I had started on with the United; it was over a
third of what I had been getting after my first ten years of hard work
with them. It seemed too good to be true. Taking out the rent, this
left me six dollars for food. That was as much as it had cost Ruth and
me the first year we were married. There was no need of going hungry on
I came back home jubilant. Ruth at first took the prospect of my
digging in a ditch a bit hard, but that was only because she contrasted
it with my former genteel employment.
Why, girl, I explained, it's no more than I would have to do if
we took a homestead out west. I'd as soon dig in Massachusetts as
She felt of my arm. It's a big arm. Then she smiled. It was the last
time she mentioned the subject.
We didn't say anything to the neighbors until the furniture began to
go out. Then the women flocked in and Ruth was hard pressed to keep our
secret. I sat upstairs and chuckled as I heard her replies. She says
it's the only time I ever failed to stand by her, but it didn't seem to
me like anything but a joke.
We shall want to keep track of you, said little Mrs. Grover.
Where shall we address you?
Oh, I can't tell, answered Ruth, truthfully enough.
Are you going far?
Yes. Oha long, long way.
That was true enough too. We couldn't have gone farther out of their
lives if we'd sailed for Australia.
And so they kept it up. That night we made a round of the houses and
everyone was very much surprised and very much grieved and very
curious. To all their inquiries, I made the same reply; that I was
going to emigrate. Some of them looked wistful.
Jove, said Brown, who was with the insurance company, but I wish
I had the nerve to do that. I suppose you're going west?
We're going west first, I answered.
The road to the station was almost due west.
They say there are great chances out in that country, he said. It
isn't so overcrowded as here.
I don't know about that, I answered, but there are chances
Some of the women cried and all the men shook hands cordially and
wished us good luck. But it didn't mean much to me. The time I needed
their handshakes was gone. I learned later that as a result of our
secrecy I was variously credited with having lost my reason with my
job; with having inherited a fortune, with having gambled in the
market, with, thrown in for good measure, a darker hint about having
misappropriated funds of the United Woollen. But somehow their nastiest
gossip did not disturb me. It had no power to harm either me or mine. I
was already beyond their reach. Before I left I wished them all
Godspeed on the dainty journey they were making in their cockleshell.
Then so far as they were concerned I dropped off into the sea with my
wife and boy.
CHAPTER V. WE PROSPECT
We were lucky in getting into a new tenement and lucky in securing
the top floor. This gave us easy access to the flat roof five stories
above the street. From here we not only had a magnificent view of the
harbor, but even on the hottest days felt something of a sea breeze.
Coming down here in June we appreciated that before the summer was
The street was located half a dozen blocks from the waterfront and
was inhabited almost wholly by Italians, save for a Frenchman on the
corner who ran a bake-shop. The street itself was narrow and dirty
enough, but it opened into a public square which was decidedly
picturesque. This was surrounded by tiny shops and foreign banks, and
was always alive with color and incident. The vegetables displayed on
the sidewalk stands, the gay hues of the women's gowns, the gaudy
kerchiefs of the men, gave it a kaleidoscopic effect that made it as
fascinating to us as a trip abroad. The section was known as Little
Italy, and so far as we were concerned was as interesting as Italy
There were four other families in the house, but the only things we
used in common were the narrow iron stairway leading upstairs and the
roof. The other tenants, however, seldom used the latter at all except
to hang out their occasional washings. For the first month or so we saw
little of these people. We were far too busy to make overtures, and as
for them they let us severely alone. They were not noisy, and except
for a sick baby on the first floor we heard little of them above the
clamor of the street below. We had four rooms. The front room we gave
to the boy, the next room we ourselves occupied, the third room we used
for a sitting-and dining-room, while the fourth was a small kitchen
with running water. As compared with our house the quarters at first
seemed cramped, but we had cut down our furniture to what was
absolutely essential, and as soon as our eyes ceased making the
comparison we were surprised to find how comfortable we were. In the
dining-room, for instance, we had nothing but three chairs, a folding
table and a closet for the dishes. Lounging chairs and so forth we did
away with altogether. Nor was there any need of making provision for
possible guests. Here throughout the whole house was the greatest
saving. I took a fierce pleasure at first in thus caring for my own
The boy's room contained a cot, a chair, a rug and a few of his
personal treasures; our own room contained just the bed, chair and
washstand. Ruth added a few touches with pictures and odds and ends
that took off the bare aspect without cluttering up. In two weeks these
scant quarters were every whit as much home as our tidy little house
had been. That was Ruth's part in it. She'd make a home out of a
On the second day we were fairly settled, and that night after the
boy had gone to bed Ruth sat down at my side with a pad and pencil in
Billy, she said, there's one thing we're going to do in this new
beginning: we're going to saveif it's only ten cents a week.
I shook my head doubtfully.
I'm afraid you can't until I get a raise, I said.
We tried waiting for raises before, she answered.
I know, but
There aren't going to be any buts, she answered decidedly.
But six dollars a week
Is six dollars a week, she broke in. We must live on five-fifty,
With steak thirty cents a pound?
We won't have steak. That's the point. Our neighbors around here
don't look starved, and they have larger families than ours. And they
don't even buy intelligently.
How do you know that?
I've been watching them at the little stores in the square. They
pay there as much for half-decayed stuff as they'd have to pay for
fresh odds and ends at the big market.
She rested her pad upon her knee.
Now in the first place, Billy, we're going to live much more
We've never been extravagant, I said.
Not in a way, she answered slowly, but in another way we have.
I've been doing a lot of thinking in the last few days and I see now
where we've had a great many unnecessary things.
Not for the last few weeks, anyhow, I said.
Those don't count. But before that I mean. For instance there's
coffee. It's a luxury. Why we spent almost thirty cents a week on that
I know but
There's another but. There's no nourishment in coffee and we can't
afford it. We'll spend that money for milk. We must have good milk and
you must get it for me somewhere up town. I don't like the looks of the
milk around here. That will be eight cents a day.
Better have two quarts, I suggested.
She thought a moment.
Yes, she agreed, two quarts, because that's going to be the basis
of our food. That's a dollar twelve cents a week.
She made up a little face at this. I smiled grandly.
Now for breakfast we must have oatmeal every morning. And we'll get
it in bulk. I've priced it and it's only a little over three cents a
pound at some of the stores.
And the kind we've always had?
About twelve when it's done up in packages. That's about the
proportion by which I expect to cut down everything. But you'll have to
eat milk on it instead of cream. Then we'll use a lot of potatoes. They
are very good baked for breakfast. And with them you may have salt
fishoh, there are a dozen nice ways of fixing that. And you may have
griddle cakes andyou wait and see the things I'll give you for
breakfast. You'll have to have a good luncheon of course, but we'll
have our principal meal when you get back from work at night. But you
won't get steak. When we do get meat we'll buy soup bones and meat we
can boil. And instead of pies and cakes we'll have nourishing puddings
of cornstarch and rice. There's another good pointrice. It's cheap
and we'll have a lot of it. Look at how the Japanese live on it day
after day and keep fat and strong. Then there's cheap fish; rock cod
and such to make good chowders of or to fry in pork fat like the bass
and trout I used to have back home. Then there's baked beans. We ought
to have them at least twice a week in the winter. But this summer we'll
live mostly on fish and vegetables. I can get them fresh at the
It sounds good, I said.
Just you wait, she cried excitedly. I'll fatten up both you and
And yourself, little woman, I reminded her. I'm not going to take
the saving out of you.
Don't you worry about me, she answered. This will be easier than
the other life. I shan't have to worry about clothes or dinners or
parties for the boy. And it isn't going to take any time at all to keep
these four rooms clean and sweet.
I took the rest of the week as a sort of vacation and used it to get
acquainted with my new surroundings. It's a fact that this section of
the city which for twenty years had been within a short walk of my
office was as foreign to me as Europe. I had never before been down
here and all I knew about it was through the occasional head-lines in
the papers in connection with stabbing affrays. For the first day or
two I felt as though I ought to carry a revolver. Whenever I was forced
to leave Ruth alone in the house I instructed her upon no circumstances
to open the door. The boy and I arranged a secret rapan idea that
pleased him mightilyand until she heard the single knock followed by
two quick sharp ones, she was not to answer. But in wandering around
among these people it was difficult to think of them as vicious. The
Italian element was a laughing, indolent-appearing group; the scattered
Jewish folk were almost timid and kept very much to themselves. I
didn't find a really tough face until I came to the water front where
they spoke English.
On the third morning after a breakfast of oatmeal and hot
biscuitand, by the way, Ruth effected a fifty per cent. saving right
here by using the old-fashioned formula of soda and cream of tartar
instead of baking powderand baked potatoes, Ruth and the boy and
myself started on an exploring trip. Our idea was to get a line on just
what our opportunities were down here and to nose out the best and
cheapest places to buy. The thing that impressed us right off was the
big advantage we had in being within easy access of the big provision
centres. We were within ten minutes' walk of the market, within fifteen
of the water front, within three of the square and within twenty of the
department stores. At all of these places we found special bargains for
the day made to attract in town those from a distance. If one rose
early and reached them about as soon as they were opened one could
often buy things almost at cost and sometimes below cost. For instance,
we went up town to one of the largest but cheaper grade department
storeswe had heard its name for years but had never been inside the
buildingand we found that in their grocery department they had
special mark-downs every day in the week for a limited supply of goods.
We bought sugar this day at a cent a pound less than the market price
and good beans for two cents a quart less. It sounds at first like
rather picayune saving but it counts up at the end of the year. Then
every stall in the market had its bargain of meatswholesome bits but
unattractive to the careless buyer. We bought here for fifty cents
enough round steak for several good meals of hash. We couldn't have
bought it for less than a dollar in the suburbs and even at that we
wouldn't have known anything about it for the store was too far for
Ruth to make a personal visit and the butcher himself would never have
mentioned such an odd end to a member of our neighborhood.
We enjoyed wandering around this big market which in itself was like
a trip to another land. Later one of our favorite amusements was to
come down here at night and watch the hustling crowds and the lights
and the pretty colors and confusion. It reminded Ruth, she said, of a
country fair. She always carried a pad and pencil and made notes of
good places to buy. I still have those and am referring to them now as
I write this.
Blanks, she writes (I omit the name), nice clean store with
pleasant salesman. Has good soup bones.
Again, Blank and Blankgood place to buy sausage.
Here too the market gardeners gathered as early as four o'clock with
their vegetables fresh from the suburbs. They did mostly a wholesale
business but if one knew how it was always possible to buy of them a
cabbage or a head of lettuce or a few apples or a peck of potatoes.
They were a genial, ruddy-cheeked lot and after a while they came to
know Ruth. Often I'd go up there with her before work and she with a
basket on her arm would buy for the day. It was always, Good morning,
miss, in answer to her smile. They were respectful whether I was along
or not. But for that matter I never knew anyone who wasn't respectful
to Ruth. They used to like to see her come, I think, for she stood out
in rather marked contrast to the bowed figures of the other women.
Later on they used to save out for her any particularly choice
vegetable they might have. She insisted however in paying them an extra
penny for such things.
From the market we went down a series of narrow streets which led to
the water front. Here the vessels from the Banks come in to unload. The
air was salty and though to us at first the wharves seemed dirty we got
used to them, after a while, and enjoyed the smell of the fish fresh
from the water.
Seeing whole push carts full of fish and watching them handled with
a pitch fork as a man tosses hay didn't whet our appetites any, but
when we remembered that it was these same fisha day or two
older,for which we had been paying double the price charged for them
here the difference overcame our scruples. The men here interested me.
I found that while the crew of every schooner numbered a goodly per
cent. of foreigners, still the greater part were American born. The new
comers as a rule bought small launches of their own and went into
business for themselves. The English speaking portion of the crews were
also as a rule the rougher element. The loafers and hangers-on about
the wharves were also English speaking. This was a fact that later on I
found to be rather significant and to hold true in a general way in all
branches of the lower class of labor.
The barrooms about herealways a pretty sure index of the men of
any communitywere more numerous and of decidedly a rougher character
than those about the square. A man would be a good deal better
justified in carrying a revolver on this street than he would in Little
Italy. I never allowed Ruth to come down here alone.
From here we wandered back and I found a public playground and
bathhouse by the water's edge. This attracted me at once. I
investigated this and found it offered a fine opportunity for bathing.
Little dressing-rooms were provided and for a penny a man could get a
clean towel and for five cents a bathing suit. There was no reason that
I could see, however, why we shouldn't provide our own. It was within
an easy ten minutes of the flat and I saw right then where I would get
a dip every day. It would be a great thing for the boy, too. I had
always wanted him to learn to swim.
On the way home we passed through the Jewish quarter and I made a
note of the clothing offered for sale here. The street was lined with
second hand stores with coats and trousers swinging over the sidewalk,
and the windows were filled with odd lots of shoes. Then too there were
the pawnshops. I'd always thought of a pawnshop as not being exactly
respectable and had the feeling that anyone who secured anything from
one of them was in a way a receiver of stolen goods. But as I passed
them now, I received a new impression. They seemed, down here, as
legitimate a business as the second hand stores. The windows offered an
assortment of everything from watches to banjoes and guns but among
them I also noticed many carpenter's tools and so forth. That might be
a useful thing to remember.
It was odd how in a day our point of view had changed. If I had
brought Ruth and the boy down through here a month before, we would
all, I think, have been more impressed by the congestion and the
picturesque details of the squalor than anything else. We would have
picked our way gingerly and Ruth would have sighed often in pity and,
comparing the lives of these people with our own, would probably have
made an extra generous contribution to the Salvation Army the next time
they came round. I'm not saying now that there isn't misery enough
there and in every like section of every city, but I'll say that in a
great many cases the same people who grovel in the filth here would
grovel in a different kind of filth if they had ten thousand a year. At
that you can't blame them greatly for they don't know any better. But
when you learn, as I learned later, that some of the proprietors of
these second hand stores and fly-blown butcher shops have sons in
Harvard and daughters in Wellesley, it makes you think. But I'm running
The point was that now that we felt ourselves in a way one of these
people and viewed the street not from the superior height of
native-born Americans but just as emigrants, neither the soiled clothes
of the inhabitants nor the cluttered street swarming with laughing
youngsters impressed us unfavorably at all. The impassive men smoking
cigarettes at their doors looked contented enough, the women were not
such as to excite pity, and if you noticed, there were as many children
around the local soda water fountains as you'd find in a suburban drug
store. They all had clothes enough and appeared well fed and if some of
them looked pasty, the sweet stuff in the stores was enough to account
At any rate we came back to our flat that day neither depressed nor
discouraged but decidedly in better spirits. Of course we had seen only
the surface and I suspected that when we really got into these lives
we'd find a bad condition of things. It must be so, for that was the
burden of all we read. But we would have time enough to worry about
that when we discovered it for ourselves.
CHAPTER VI. I BECOME A DAY LABORER
That night Ruth and I had a talk about the boy. We both came back
from our walk, with him more on our minds than anything else. He had
been interested in everything and had asked about a thousand questions
and gone to bed eager to be out on the street again the next day. We
knew we couldn't keep him cooped up in the flat all the time and of
course both Ruth and I were going to be too busy to go out with him
every time he went. As for letting him run loose around these streets
with nothing to do, that would be sheer foolhardiness. It was too late
in the season to enroll him in the public schools and even that would
have left him idle during the long summer months.
We talked some at first of sending him off into the country to a
farm. There were two or three families back where Ruth had lived who
might be willing to take him for three or four dollars a week and we
had the money left over from the sale of our household goods to cover
that. But this would mean the sacrifice of our emergency fund which we
wished to preserve more for the boy's sake than our own and it would
mean leaving Ruth very much alone.
I'll do it, Billy, she said bravely, but can't we wait a day or
two before deciding? And I think I can make time to get out with
him. I'll get up earlier in the morning and I'll leave my work at night
until after he's gone to bed.
So she would. She'd have worked all night to keep him at home and
then gone out with him all day if it had been possible. I saw it would
be dragging the heart out of her to send the boy away and made up my
mind right then and there that some other solution must be found for
the problem. Good Lord, after I'd led her down here the least I could
do was to let her keep the one. And to tell the truth I found my own
heart sink at the suggestion.
What do the boys round here do in the summer? she asked.
I didn't know and I made up my mind to find out. The next day I went
down to a settlement house which I remembered passing at some time or
other. I didn't know what it was but it sounded like some sort of
philanthropic enterprise for the neighborhood and if so they ought to
be able to answer my questions there. The outside of the building was
not particularly attractive but upon entering I was pleasantly
surprised at the air of cleanliness and comfort which prevailed. There
were a number of small boys around and in one room I saw them reading
and playing checkers. I sought out the secretary and found him a
pleasant young fellow though with something of the professional
pleasantness which men in this work seem to acquire. He smiled too much
and held my hand a bit too long to suit me. He took me into his office
and offered me a chair. I told him briefly that I had just moved down
here and had a boy of ten whom I wished to keep off the streets and
keep occupied. I asked him what the boys around here did during the
Most of them work, he answered.
I hadn't thought of this.
What do they do?
A good many sell papers, some of them serve as errand boys and
others help their parents.
Dick was certainly too inexperienced for the first two jobs and
there was nothing in my work he could do to help. Then the man began to
ask me questions. He was evidently struck by the fact that I didn't
seem to be in place here. I answered briefly that I had been a clerk
all my life, had lost my position and was now a common day laborer. The
boy, I explained, was not yet used to his life down here and I wanted
to keep him occupied until he got his strength.
You're right, he answered. Why don't you bring him in here?
What would he do here?
It's a good loafing place for him and we have some evening
I want him at home nights, I answered.
The Y.M.C.A. has summer classes which begin a little later on. Why
don't you put him into some of those?
I had always heard of the Y.M.C.A., but I had never got into touch
with it, for I thought it was purely a religious organization. But that
proposition sounded good. I'd passed the building a thousand times but
had never been inside. I thanked him and started to leave.
I hope this won't be your last visit, he said cordially. Come
down and see what we're doing. You'll find a lot of boys here at
Thanks, I answered.
I went direct to the Y.M.C.A. building. Here again I was surprised
to find a most attractive interior. It looked like the inside of a
prosperous club house. I don't know what I expected but I wouldn't have
been startled if I'd found a hall filled with wooden settees and a
prayer meeting going on. I had a lot of such preconceived notions
knocked out of my head in the next few years.
In response to my questions I received replies that made me feel I'd
strayed by mistake into some university. For that matter it was
a university. There was nothing from the primary class in English to a
professional education in the law that a man couldn't acquire here for
a sum that was astonishingly small. The most of the classes cost
nothing after payment of the membership fee of ten dollars. The
instructors were, many of them, the same men who gave similar courses
at a neighboring college. Not only that, but the hours were so arranged
as to accommodate workers of all classes. If you couldn't attend in the
daytime, you could at night. I was astonished to think that this
opportunity had always been at my hand and I had never suspected it. In
the ten years before I was married I could have qualified as a lawyer
or almost anything else.
This was not all; a young man took me over the building and showed
me the library, the reading-room, rooms where the young men gathered
for games, and then down stairs to the well equipped gymnasium with its
shower baths. Here a boy could take a regular course in gymnasium work
under a skilled instructor or if he showed any skill devote himself to
such sports as basketball, running, baseball or swimming. In addition
to these advantages amusements were provided through the year in the
form of lectures, amateur shows and music. In the summer, special
opportunities were offered for out-door sports. Moreover the
Association managed summer camps where for a nominal fee the boys could
enjoy the life of the woods. A boy must be poor indeed who could not
afford most of these opportunities. And if he was out of work the
employment bureau conducted here would help him to a position. I came
back to the main office wondering still more how in the world I'd ever
missed such chances all these years. It was a question I asked myself
many times during the next few months. And the answer seemed to lie in
the dead level of that other life. We never lifted our eyes; we never
looked around us. If we were hard pressed either we accepted our lot
resignedly or cursed our luck, and let it go at that. These
opportunities were for a class which had no lot and didn't know the
meaning of luck. The others could have had them, toocan have
themfor the taking, but neither by education nor temperament are they
qualified to do so. There's a good field for missionary work there for
Before I came out of the building I had enrolled Dick as a member
and picked out for him a summer course in English in which he was a bit
backward. I also determined to start him in some regular gymnasium
work. He needed hardening up.
I came home and announced my success to Ruth and she was delighted.
I suspected by the look in her eyes that she had been worrying all day
for fear there would be no alternative but to send the boy off.
I knew you would find a way, she said excitedly.
I wish I'd found it twenty years ago, I said regretfully. Then
you'd have a lawyer for a husband instead of a.
Hush, she answered putting her hand over my mouth. I've a man for
a husband and that's all I care about.
The way she said it made me feel that after all being a man was what
counted and that if I could live up to that day by day, no matter what
happened, then I could be well satisfied. I guess the city directory
was right when before now it couldn't define me any more definitely
than, clerk. And there is about as much man in a clerk as in a valet.
They are both shadows.
The boy fell in with my plans eagerly, for the gymnasium work made
him forget the study part of the programme. The next day I took him up
there and saw him introduced to the various department heads. I paid
his membership fee and they gave him a card which made him feel like a
real club man. I tell you it took a weight off my mind.
On the Monday following our arrival in our new quarters, I rose at
five-thirty, put on my overalls and had breakfast. I ate a large bowl
of oatmeal, a generous supply of flapjacks, made of some milk that had
soured, sprinkled with molasses, and a cup of hot black coffeethe
last of a can we had brought down with us among the left-over kitchen
For lunch Ruth had packed my box with cold cream-of-tartar biscuit,
well buttered, a bit of cheese, a little bowl of rice pudding, two
hard-boiled eggs and a pint bottle of cold coffee. I kissed her goodby
and started out on foot for the street where I was to take up my work.
The foreman demanded my name, registered me, told me where to find a
shovel and assigned me to a gang under another foreman. At seven
o'clock I took my place with a dozen Italians and began to shovel. My
muscles were decidedly flabby, and by noon I began to find it hard
work. I was glad to stop and eat my lunch. I couldn't remember a meal
in five years that tasted as good as that did. My companions watched me
curiouslyperhaps a bit suspiciouslybut they chattered in a foreign
tongue among themselves and rather shied away from me. On that first
day I made up my mind to one thingI would learn Italian before the
year was done, and know something more about these people and their
ways. They were the key to the contractor's problem and it would pay a
man to know how to handle them. As I watched the boss over us that day
it did not seem to me that he understood very well.
From one to five the work became an increasing strain. Even with my
athletic training I wasn't used to such a prolonged test of one set of
muscles. My legs became heavy, my back ached, and my shoulders finally
refused to obey me except under the sheer command of my will. I knew,
however, that time would remedy this. I might be sore and lame for a
day or two, but I had twice the natural strength of these short,
close-knit foreigners. The excitement and novelty of the employment
helped me through those first few days. I felt the joy of the
pioneerfelt the sweet sense of delving in the mother earth. It
touched in me some responsive chord that harked back to my ancestors
who broke the rocky soil of New England. Of the life of my fellows
bustling by on the earth-crust overheadthose fellows of whom so
lately I had been oneI was not at all conscious. I might have been at
work on some new planet for all they touched my new life. I could see
them peering over the wooden rail around our excavation as they stopped
to stare down at us, but I did not connect them with myself. And yet I
felt closer to this old city than ever before. I thrilled with the joy
of the constructor, the builder, even in this humble capacity. I felt
superior to those for whom I was building. In a coarse way I suppose it
was a reflection of some artistic sensesomething akin to the creative
impulse. I can say truthfully that at the end of that first day I came
homebegrimed and sore as I waswith a sense of fuller life than so
far I had ever experienced.
I found Ruth waiting for me with some anxiety. She came into my
soil-stained arms as eagerly as a bride. It was good. It took all the
soreness out of me. Before supper I took the boy and we went down to
the public baths on the waterfront and there I dived and splashed and
swam like a young whale. The sting of the cold salt water was all the
further balm I needed. I came out tingling and fit right then for
another nine-hour day. But when I came back I threatened our first
week's savings at the supper-table. Ruth had made more hot
griddle-cakes and I kept her at the stove until I was ashamed to do it
longer. The boy, too, after his plunge, showed a better appetite than
CHAPTER VII. NINE DOLLARS A WEEK
The second day, I woke up lame and stiff but I gave myself a good
brisk rub down and kneaded my arm and leg muscles until they were
pretty well limbered up. The thing that pleased me was the way I felt
towards my new work that second morning. I'd been a bit afraid of a
reactionof waking up with all the romance gone. That, I knew, would
be deadly. Once let me dwell on the naked material facts of my
condition and I'd be lost. That's true of course in any occupation. The
man who works without an inspiration of some sort is not only
discontented but a poor workman. I remember distinctly that when I
opened my eyes and realized my surroundings and traced back the
incidents of yesterday to the ditch, I was concerned principally with
the problem of a stone in our path upon which we had been working. I
wanted to get back to it. We had worked upon it for an hour without
fully uncovering it and I was as eager as the foreman to learn whether
it was a ledge rock or just a fragment. This interest was not
associated with the elevated road for whom the work was being done, nor
the contractor who had undertaken the job, nor the foreman who was
supervising it. It was a question which concerned only me and Mother
Earth who seemed to be doing her best to balk us at every turn. I
forgot the sticky, wet clay in which I had floundered for nine hours,
forgot the noisome stench which at times we were forced to breathe,
forgot my lame hands and back. I recalled only the problem itself and
the skill with which the man they called Anton' handled his crow bar.
He was a master of it. In removing the smaller slabs which lay around
the big one he astonished me with his knowledge of how to place the
bar. He'd come to my side where I was prying with all my strength and
with a wave of his hand for me to stand back, would adjust two or three
smaller rocks as a fulcrum and then, with the gentlest of movements,
work the half-ton weight inch by inch to where he wanted it. He could
swing the rock to the right or left, raise or lower it, at will, and
always he made the weight of the rock, against which I had striven so
vainly, do the work. That was something worth learning. I wanted to get
back and study him. I wanted to get back and finish uncovering that
rock. I wanted to get back and bring the job as a whole to a finish so
as to have a new one to tackle. Even at the end of that first day I
felt I had learned enough to make myself a man of greater power than I
was the day before. And always in the background was the unknown goal
to which this toil was to lead. I hadn't yet stopped to figure out what
the goal was but that it was worth while I had no doubt for I was no
longer stationary. I was a constructor. I was in touch with a big
enterprise of development.
I don't know that I've made myself clear. I wasn't very clear in my
own mind then but I know that I had a very conscious impression of the
sort which I've tried to put into words. And I know that it filled me
with a great big joy. I never woke up with any such feeling when with
the United Woollen. My only thought in the morning then was how much
time I must give myself to catch the six-thirty. When I reached the
office I hung up my hat and coat and sat down to the impersonal figures
like an automaton. There was nothing of me in the work; there couldn't
be. How petty it seemed now! I suppose the company, as an industrial
enterprise, was in the line of development, but that idea never
penetrated as far as the clerical department. We didn't feel it any
more than the adding machines do.
Ruth had a good breakfast for me and when I came into the kitchen
she was trying to brush the dried clay off my overalls.
Good Heavens! I said, don't waste your strength doing that.
She looked up from her task with a smile.
I'm not going to let you get slack down here she said.
But those things will look just as bad again five minutes after
I've gone down the ladder.
But I don't intend they shall look like this on your way to the
ladder, she answered.
All right, I said then let me have them. I'll do it myself.
Have you shaved? she asked.
I rubbed my hand over my chin. It wasn't very bad and I'd made up my
mind I wouldn't shave every day now.
No, I said. But twice or three times a week
Billy! she broke in, that will never do. You're going down to
your new business looking just as ship-shape as you went to the old.
You don't belong to that contractor; you belong to me.
In the meanwhile the boy came in with my heavy boots which he had
brushed clean and oiled. There was nothing left for me to do but to
shave and I'll admit I felt better for it.
Do you want me to put on a high collar? I asked.
Didn't you find the things I laid out for you?
I hadn't looked about. I'd put on the things I took off. She led me
back into the bed room, and over a chair I saw a clean change of
underclothing and a new grey flannel shirt.
Where did you get this? I asked.
I bought it for a dollar, she answered. It's too much to pay. I
can make one for fifty cents as soon as I get time to sew.
That's the way Ruth was. Every day after this she made me change,
after I came back from my swim, into the business suit I wore when I
came down here, and which now by contrast looked almost new. She even
made me wear a tie with my flannel shirt. Every morning I started out
clean shaven and with my work clothes as fresh as though I were a
contractor myself. I objected at first because it seemed too much for
her to do to wash the things every day, but she said it was a good deal
easier than washing them once a week. Incidentally that was one of her
own little schemes for saving trouble and it seemed to me a good one;
instead of collecting her soiled clothes for seven days and then
tearing herself all to pieces with a whole hard forenoon's work, she
washed a little every day. By this plan it took her only about an hour
each morning to keep all the linen in the house clean and sweet. We had
the roof to dry it on and she never ironed anything except perhaps the
tablecloths and handkerchiefs. We had no company to cater to and as
long as we knew things were clean that's all we cared.
We got around the rock all right. It proved not to be a ledge after
all. I myself, however, didn't accomplish as much as I did the first
day, for I was slower in my movements. On the other hand, I think I
improved a little in my handling of the crowbar. At the noon hour I
tried to start a conversation with Anton', but he understood little
English and I knew no Italian, so we didn't get far. As he sat in a
group of his fellow countrymen laughing and jabbering he made me feel
distinctly like an outsider. There were one or two English-speaking
workmen besides myself, but somehow they didn't interest me as much as
these Italians. It may have been my imagination but they seemed to me a
decidedly inferior lot. As a rule they were men who took the job only
to keep themselves from starving and quit at the end of a week or two
only to come back when they needed more money.
I must make an exception of an Irishman I will call Dan Rafferty. He
was a big blue-eyed fellow, full of fun and fight, with a good natured
contempt of the Dagoes, and was a born leader. I noticed, the first
day, that he came nearer being the boss of the gang than the foreman,
and I suspect the latter himself noticed it, for he seemed to have it
in for Dan. There never was an especially dirty job to be done but what
Dan was sent. He always obeyed but he used to slouch off with his big
red fist doubled up, muttering curses that brought out his brogue at
its best. Later on he confided in me what he was going to do to that
boss. If he had carried out his threats he would long since have been
electrocuted and I would have lost a good friend. Several times I
thought the two men were coming to blows but though Dan would have
dearly loved a fight and could have handled a dozen men like the
foreman, he always managed to control himself in time to avoid it.
I don't wanter be after losin' me job for the dirthy spalpeen, he
growled to me.
But he came near it in a way he wasn't looking for later in the
week. It was Friday and half a dozen of us had been sent down to work
on the second level. It was damp and suffocating down there, fifty feet
below the street. I felt as though I had gone into the mines. I didn't
like it but I knew that there was just as much to learn here as above
and that it must all be learned eventually. The sides were braced with
heavy timbers like a mine shaft to prevent the dirt from falling in and
there was the constant danger that in spite of this it might cave in.
We went down by rough ladders made by nailing strips of board across
two pieces of joist and the work down there was back-breaking and
monotonous. We heaved the dirt into a big iron bucket lowered by the
hoisting engine above. It was heavy, wet soil that weighed like lead.
From the beginning the men complained of headaches and one by one
they crawled up the ladder again for fresh air. Others were sent down
but at the end of an hour they too retreated. Dan and I stuck it out
for a while. Then I began to get dizzy myself. I didn't know what the
trouble was but when I began to wobble a bit Dan placed his hand on my
Betther climb out o' here, he said. I'm thinkin' it's gas.
At that time I didn't know what sewer gas was. I couldn't smell
anything and thought he must be mistaken.
You'd better come too, I answered, making for the ladder.
He wasn't coming but I couldn't get up very well without him so he
followed along behind. At the top we found the foreman fighting mad and
trying to spur on another gang to go down. They wouldn't move. When he
saw us come up he turned upon Dan.
Who ordered you out of there? he growled.
The gas, answered Dan.
Gas be damned, shouted the foreman. You're a bunch of white
livered cowardsall of you.
I saw Dan double up his fists and start towards the man. The latter
checked him with a command.
Go back down there or you're fired, he said to him.
Dan turned red. Then I saw his jaws come together.
Begod! he answered. You shan't fire me, anyhow.
Without another word he started down the ladder again. I saw the
Italians crowd together and watch him. By that time my head was clearer
but my legs were weak. I sat down a moment uncertain what to do. Then I
heard someone shout:
By God, he's right! He's lying there at the bottom.
I started towards the ladder but some one shoved me back. Then I
thought of the bucket. It was above ground and I staggered towards it
gaining strength at each step. I jumped in and shouted to the engineer
to lower me. He obeyed from instinct. I went down, down, down to what
seemed like the center of the earth. When the bucket struck the ground
I was dizzy again but I managed to get out, heave the unconscious Dan
in and pile on top of him myself. When I came to, I was in an ambulance
on my way to the hospital but by the time I had reached the emergency
room I had taken a grip on myself. I knew that if ever Ruth heard of
this she would never again be comfortable. When they took us out I was
able to walk a little. The doctors wanted to put me to bed but I
refused to go. I sat there for about an hour while they worked over
Dan. When I found that he would be all right by morning I insisted upon
going out. I had a bad headache, but I knew the fresh air would drive
this away and so it did, though it left me weak.
One of the hardest day's work I ever did in my life was killing time
from then until five o'clock. Of course the papers got hold of it and
that gave me another scare but luckily the nearest they came to my name
was Darlinton, so no harm was done. And they didn't come within a mile
of getting the real story. When in a later edition one of them
published my photograph I felt absolutely safe for they had me in a
full beard and thinner than I've ever been in my life.
When I came home at my usual time looking a bit white perhaps but
otherwise normal enough, the first question Ruth asked me was:
What have you done with your dinner pail, Billy?
Isn't a man always sure to do some such fool thing as that, when
he's trying to keep something quiet from the wife? I had to explain
that I had forgotten it and that was enough to excite suspicion at any
time. She kept me uneasy for ten minutes and the best I could do was to
admit finally that I wasn't feeling very well. Whereupon she made me go
to bed and fussed over me all the evening and worried all the next day.
I reported for work as usual in the morning and found we had a new
foreman. It was a relief because I guess if Dan hadn't knocked down the
other one, someone else would have done it sooner or later. At that the
man had taught me something about sewer gas and that is when you begin
to feel dizzy fifty feet below the street, it's time to go up the
ladder about as fast as your wobbly legs will let you, even if you
don't smell anything.
Rafferty didn't turn up for two or three days. When he did appear it
was with a simple:
It wasn't until several days later I learned that the late foreman
had left town nursing a black eye and a cut on one cheek such as might
have been made by a set of red knuckles backed by an arm the size of a
On Saturday night of that first week I came home with nine dollars
in my pocket. I'll never be prouder again than I was when I handed them
over to Ruth. And Ruth will never again be prouder than she was when,
after she had laid aside three of them for the rent and five for
current expenses, she picked out a one-dollar bill and, crossing the
room, placed it in the ginger jar. This was a little blue affair in
which we had always dropped what pennies and nickels we could spare.
There's our nest-egg, she announced.
You don't mean to tell me you're that much ahead of the game the
Look here, Billy, she answered.
She brought out an itemized list of everything she had bought from
last Monday, including Sunday's dinner. I've kept that list. Many of
the things she had bought were not yet used up but she had computed the
cost of the amount actually used. Here it is as I copied it off:
Cream of tartar and soda, .05
Oat meal, .04
Rye bread, .10
Salt pork, .15
Corn meal, .06
Graham meal, .05
Shin of beef, .39
Vinegar, salt and pepper, about .05
Can of corn, .07
In this account, too, Ruth was liberal in her margins. She did
better than this later on. A fairer estimate could have been made at
the end of the month and a still fairer even than that, at the end of
the year. It sounded almost too good to be true but it was a fact. We
had lived, and lived well on this amount and as yet Ruth was
inexperienced. She hadn't learned all she learned later. For the
benefit of those who may think we went hungry I have asked Ruth to
write out the bill of fare for this week as nearly as she can remember
it. One thing you must keep in mind is that of everything we had, we
had enough. Neither Ruth, the boy, nor myself ever left the table or
dinner pail unsatisfied. Here's what we had and it was better even than
it sounds for whatever Ruth made, she made well. I copy it as she wrote
Breakfast: oatmeal, griddle-cakes with molasses, cream of tartar
Luncheon: for Billy: cold biscuits, two hard-boiled eggs, bowl of
rice, cold coffee; for Dick and me: cold biscuits, milk, rice.
Dinner: baked potatoes, griddle-cakes, milk.
Breakfast: baked potatoes, graham muffins, oatmeal, milk.
Luncheon: for Billy: cold muffins, two hard-boiled eggs, rice,
milk; for Dick and me: cold muffins, rice and milk.
Dinner: boiled potatoes, pork scraps, hot biscuits, milk.
Breakfast: oatmeal, fried potatoes, warmed over biscuits.
Luncheon: for Billy: cold biscuits, two hard-boiled eggs, bread
pudding; for Dick and me: baked potatoes, cold biscuits, bread
Dinner: beef stew with dumplings, hot biscuits, milk.
Breakfast: fried sausages, baked potatoes, graham muffins, milk.
Luncheon: for Billy: cold muffins, cold sausage and rice; for Dick
and me: the same.
Dinner: warmed over stew, lettuce, hot biscuits, milk.
Breakfast: oatmeal, fried rock cod, baked potatoes, rye bread,
Luncheon: for Billy: rye bread, potato salad, rice; for Dick and
me: the same.
Dinner: soup made from stock of beef, left over fish, boiled
potatoes, rice, milk.
Breakfast: oatmeal, fried corn mush with molasses, milk.
Luncheon: for Billy: cold biscuits, two hard-boiled eggs, cheese,
rice; for Dick and me: German toast.
Dinner: baked beans, hot biscuits.
Breakfast: baked beans, graham muffins.
Dinner: boiled potatoes, pork scraps, canned corn, corn cake,
A word about that bread pudding. Ruth tells me she puts in an extra
quart of milk and then bakes it all day when she bakes her beans,
stirring it every now and then. I never knew before how the trick was
done but it comes out a rich brown and tastes like plum pudding without
the raisins. She says that if you put in raisins it tastes exactly like
a plum pudding.
So at the end of the first week I found myself with eighty dollars
left over from the old home, one dollar saved in the new, all my bills
paid, and Ruth, Dick and myself all fit as a fiddle.
CHAPTER VIII. SUNDAY
That first dollar saved was the germ of a new idea.
It is a further confession of a middle-class mind that in coming
down here I had not looked forward beyond the immediate present. With
the horror of that last week still on me I had considered only the
opportunity I had for earning a livelihood. To be sure I had seen no
reason why an intelligent man should not in time be advanced to
foreman, and why he should not then be able to save enough to ward off
the poorhouse before old age came on. But nowwith that first dollar
tucked away in the ginger jarI felt within me the stirring of a new
ambition, an ambition born of this quick young country into which I had
plunged. Why, in time, should I not become the employer? Why should I
not take the initiative in some of these progressive enterprises? Why
should I not learn this business of contracting and building and some
day contract and build for myself? With that first dollar saved I was
already at heart a capitalist.
I said nothing of this to Ruth. For six months I let the idea grow.
If it did nothing else it added zest to my new work. I shoveled as
though I were digging for diamonds. It made me a young man again. It
made me a young American again. It brought me out of bed every morning
with visions; it sent me to sleep at night with dreams.
But I'm running ahead of my story.
I thought I had appreciated Sunday when it meant a release for one
day from the office of the United Woollen, but as with all the other
things I felt as though it had been but the shadow and that only now
had I found the substance. In the first place I had not been able
completely to shake the office in the last few years. I brought it home
with me and on Sundays it furnished half the subject of conversation.
Every little incident, every bit of conversation, every expression on
Morse's face was analyzed in the attempt to see what it counted, for or
against, the possible future raise. Even when out walking with the boy
the latter was a constant reminder. It was as though he were merely a
ward of the United Woollen Company.
But when I put away my shovel at five o'clock on Saturday that was
the end of my ditch digging. I came home after that and I was at home
until I reported for work on Monday morning. There was neither work nor
worry left hanging over. It meant complete relaxationcomplete rest.
And the body, I found, rests better than the mind.
Later in my work I didn't experience this so perfectly as I now did
because then I accepted new responsibilities, but for the first few
months I lived in lazy content on this one day. For the most part those
who lived around me did all the time. On fair summer days half the
population of the little square basked in the sun with eyes half closed
from morning until night. Those who didn't, went to the neighboring
beaches many of which they could reach for a nickel or visited such
public buildings as were open. But wherever they went or whatever they
did, they loafed about it. And a man can't truly loaf until he's done a
hard week's work which ends with the week.
As for us we had our choice of any number of pleasant occupations. I
insisted that Ruth should make the meals as simple as possible on that
day and both the boy and myself helped her about them. We always washed
the dishes and swept the floor. First of all there was the roof. I
early saw the possibility of this much neglected spot. It was flat and
had a fence around it for it was meant to be used for the hanging out
of clothes. Being a new building it had been built a story higher than
its older neighbors so that we overlooked the other roofs. There was a
generous space through which we saw the harbor. I picked up a strip of
old canvas for a trifle in one of the shore-front junk-shops which deal
in second-hand ship supplies and arranged it over one corner like a
canopy. Then I brought home with me some bits of board that were left
over from the wood construction at the ditch and nailed these together
to make a rude sort of window box. It was harder to get dirt than it
was wood but little by little I brought home enough finally to fill the
boxes. In these we planted radishes and lettuce and a few flower seeds.
We had almost as good a garden as we used to have in our back yard. At
any rate it was just as much fun to watch the things grow, and though
the lettuce never amounted to much we actually raised some very good
radishes. The flowers did well, too.
We brought up an old blanket and spread it out beneath the canopy
and that, with a chair or two, made our roof garden. A local branch of
the Public Library was not far distant so that we had all the reading
matter we wanted and here we used to sit all day Sunday when we didn't
feel like doing anything else. Here, too, we used to sit evenings. On
several hot nights Ruth, the boy and I brought up our blankets and
slept out. The boy liked it so well that finally he came to sleep up
here most of the summer. It was fine for him. The harbor breeze swept
the air clean of smoke so that it was as good for him as being at the
To us the sights from this roof were marvelous. They appealed
strongly because they were unlike anything we had ever seen or for that
matter unlike anything our friends had ever seen. I think that a man's
friends often take away the freshness from sights that otherwise might
move him. I've never been to Europe but what with magazine pictures and
snap shots and Mrs. Grover, who never forgot that before she married
Grover she had travelled for a whole year, I haven't any special desire
to visit London or Paris. I suppose it would be different if I ever
went but even then I don't think there would be the novelty to it we
found from our roof. And it was just that novelty and the ability to
appreciate it that made our whole emigrant life possible. It was for us
the Great Adventure again. I suppose there are men who will growl that
it's all bosh to say there is any real romance in living in four rooms
in a tenement district, eating what we ate, digging in a ditch and
mooning over a view from a roof top. I want to say right here that for
such men there wouldn't be any romance or beauty in such a life. They'd
be miserable. There are plenty of men living down there now and they
never miss a chance to air their opinions. Some of them have big bodies
but I wouldn't give them fifty cents a day to work for me. Luckily
however, there are not many of them in proportion to the others, even
though they make more noise.
But when you stop to think about it what else is it but romance that
leads men to spend their lives fishing off the Banks when they could
remain safely ashore and get better pay driving a team? Or what drives
them into the army or to work on railroads when they neither expect nor
hope to be advanced? The men themselves can't tell you. They take up
the work unthinkingly but there is something in the very hardships they
suffer which lends a sting to the life and holds them. The only thing I
know of that will do this and turn the grind into an inspiration is
romance. It's what the new-comers have and it's what our ancestors had
and it's what a lot of us who have stayed over here too long out of the
current have lost.
On the lazy summer mornings we could hear the church bells and now
and then a set of chimes. Because we were above the street and next to
the sky they sounded as drowsily musical as in a country village. They
made me a bit conscience-stricken to think that for the boy's sake I
didn't make an effort and go to some church. But for a while it was
church enough to devote the seventh day to what the Bible says it was
made for. Ruth used to read out loud to us and we planned to make our
book suit the day after a fashion. Sometimes it was Emerson, sometimes
TennysonI was very fond of the Idyllsand sometimes a book of
sermons. Later on we had a call from a young minister who had a little
mission chapel not far from our flat and who looked in upon us at the
suggestion of the secretary of the settlement house. We went to a
service at his chapel one Sunday and before we ourselves realized it we
were attending regularly with a zest and interest which we had never
felt in our suburban church-going. Later still we each of us found a
share in the work ourselves and came to have a great satisfaction and
contentment in it. But I am running ahead of my story.
We'd have dinner this first summer at about half past one and then
perhaps we'd go for a walk. There wasn't a street in the city that
didn't interest us but as a rule we'd plan to visit one of the parks. I
didn't know there were so many of them or that they were so different.
We had our choice of the ocean or a river or the woods. If we had
wished to spend say thirty cents in car fare we could have had a
further choice of the beach, the mountains, or a taste of the country
which in places had not changed in the last hundred years. This would
have given us a two hours' ride. Occasionally we did this but at
present there was too much to see within walking distance.
For one thing it suddenly occurred to me that though I had lived in
this city over thirty years I had not yet seen such places of interest
as always attracted visitors from out of town. My attention was brought
to this first by the need of limiting ourselves to amusements that
didn't cost anything, but chiefly by learning where the better element
down here spent their Sundays. You have only to follow this crowd to
find out where the objects of national pride are located. An old battle
flag will attract twenty foreigners to one American. And incidentally I
wish to confess it was they who made me ashamed of my ignorance of the
country's history. Beyond a memory of the Revolution, the Civil War and
a few names of men and battles connected therewith, I'd forgotten all I
ever learned at school on this subject. But here the many patriotic
celebrations arranged by the local schools in the endeavor to instill
patriotism and the frequent visits of the boys to the museums, kept the
subject fresh. Not only Dick but Ruth and myself soon turned to it as a
vital part of our education. Inspired by the old trophies that ought to
stand for so much to us of to-day we took from the library the first
volume of Fiske's fine series and in the course of time read them all.
As we traced the fortunes of those early adventurers who dreamed and
sailed towards an unknown continent, pictured to ourselves the lives of
the tribes who wandered about in the big tangle of forest growth
between the Atlantic and the Pacific, as we landed on the bleak New
England shores with the early Pilgrims, then fought with Washington,
then studied the perilous internal struggle culminating with Lincoln
and the Civil War, then the dangerous period of reconstruction with the
breathless progress followingwhy it left us all better Americans than
we had ever been in our lives. It gave new meaning to my present
surroundings and helped me better to understand the new-comers. Somehow
all those things of the past didn't seem to concern Grover and the rest
of them in the trim little houses. They had no history and they were a
part of no history. Perhaps that's because they were making no history
themselves. As for myself, I know that I was just beginning to get
acquainted with my ancestorsthat for the first time in my life, I was
really conscious of being a citizen of the United States of America.
But I soon discovered that not only the historic but the beautiful
attracted these people. They introduced me to the Art Museum. In the
winter following our first summer here, when the out of door
attractions were considerably narrowed down, Ruth and I used to go
there about every other Sunday with the boy. We came to feel as
familiar with our favorite pictures as though they hung in our own
house. The Museum ceased to be a public building; it was our own. We
went in with a nod to the old doorkeeper who came to know us and felt
as unconstrained there as at home. We had our favorite nooks, our
favorite seats and we lounged about in the soft lights of the rooms for
hours at a time. The more we looked at the beautiful paintings, the old
tapestries, the treasures of stone and china, the more we enjoyed them.
We were sure to meet some of our neighbors there and a young artist who
lived on the second floor of our house and whom later I came to know
very well, pointed out to us new beauties in the old masters. He was
selling plaster casts at that time and studying art in the night
In the old life, an art museum had meant nothing to me more than
that it seemed a necessary institution in every city. It was a mark of
good breeding in a town, like the library in a good many homes. But it
had never occurred to me to visit it and I know it hadn't to any of my
former associates. The women occasionally went to a special exhibition
that was likely to be discussed at the little dinners, but a week later
they couldn't have told you what they had seen. Perhaps our
neighborhood was the exception and a bit more ignorant than the average
about such things, but I'll venture to say there isn't a middle-class
community in this country where the paintings play the part in the
lives of the people that they do among the foreign-born. A class better
than they does the work; a class lower enjoys it. Where the
middle-class comes in, I don't know.
After being gone all the afternoon we'd be glad to get home again
and maybe we'd have a lunch of cold beans and biscuits or some of the
pudding that was left over. Then during the summer months we'd go back
to the roof for a restful evening. At night the view was as different
from the day as you could imagine. Behind us the city proper was in a
bluish haze made by the electric lights. Then we could see the yellow
lights of the upper windows in all the neighboring houses and beyond
these, over the roof tops which seemed now to huddle closer together,
we saw the passing red and green lights of moving vessels. Overhead
were the same clean stars which were at the same time shining down upon
the woods and the mountain tops. There was something about it that made
me feel a man and a free man. There was twenty years of slavery back of
me to make me appreciate this.
And Ruth reading my thoughts in my eyes used to nestle closer to me
and the boy with his chin in his hands would stare out at sea and dream
his own dreams.
CHAPTER IX. PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
As I said, with that first dollar in the ginger jar representing the
first actual saving I had ever effected in my whole life, my
imagination became fired with new plans. I saw no reason why I myself
should not become an employer. As in the next few weeks I enlarged my
circle of acquaintances and pushed my inquiries in every possible
direction I found this idea was in the air down here. The ambition of
all these people was towards complete independence. Either they hoped
to set up in business for themselves in this country or they looked
forward to saving enough to return to the land of their birth and live
there as small land owners. I speak more especially of the Italians
because just now I was thrown more in contact with them than the
others. In my city they, with the Irish, seemed peculiarly of real
emigrant stuff. The Jews were so clannish that they were a problem in
themselves; the Germans assimilated a little better and yet they too
were like one large family. They did not get into the city life very
much and even in their business stuck pretty closely to one line. For a
good many years they remained essentially Germans. But the Irish were
citizens from the time they landed and the Italians eventually became
such if by a slower process.
The former went into everything. They are a tremendously adaptable
people. But whatever they tackled they looked forward to independence
and generally won it. Even a man of so humble an ambition as Murphy had
accomplished this. The Italians either went into the fruit business for
which they seem to have a knack or served as day laborers and saved.
There was a man down here who was always ready to stake them to a cart
and a supply of fruit, at an exorbitant price to be sure, but they
pushed their carts patiently mile upon mile until in the end they saved
enough to buy one of their own. The next step was a small fruit store.
The laborers, once they had acquired a working capital, took up many
thingsa lot of them going into the country and buying deserted farms.
It was wonderful what they did with this land upon which the old stock
New Englander had not been able to live. But of course in part
explanation of this, you must remember that these New England villages
have long been drained of their best. In many cases only the maim, the
halt, and the blind are left and these stand no more chance against the
modern pioneer than they would against one of their own sturdy
Another occupation which the Italians seemed to preëmpt was the
boot-blacking business. It may seem odd to dignify so menial an
employment as a business but there is many a head of such an
establishment who could show a fatter bank account than two-thirds of
his clients. The next time you go into a little nook containing say
fifteen chairs, figure out for yourself how many nickels are left there
in a day. The rent is often highit is some proof of a business worth
thought when you consider that they are able to pay for positions on
the leading business streetsbut the labor is cheap and the
furnishings and cost of raw material slight. Pasquale had set me to
thinking long before, when I learned that he was earning almost as much
a week as I. It is no unusual thing for a man who owns his emporium
to draw ten dollars a day in profits and not show himself until he
empties the cash register at night.
But the fact that impressed me in these peopleand this holds
peculiarly true of the Jewswas that they all shied away from the
salaried jobs. In making such generalizations I may be running a risk
because I'm only giving the results of my own limited observation and
experience. But I want it understood that from the beginning to the end
of these recollections I'm trying to do nothing more. I'm not a
student. I'm not a sociologist. The conditions which I observed may not
hold elsewhere for all I know. From a different point of view, they
might not to another seem to hold even in my own city. I won't argue
with anyone about it. I set down what I myself saw and let it go at
Going back to the small group among whom I lived when I was with the
United Woollen, it seems to me that every man clung to a salary as
though it were his only possible hope. I know men among them who even
refused to work on a commission basis although they were practically
sure of earning in this way double what they were being paid by the
year. They considered a salary as a form of insurance and once in the
grip of this idea they had nothing to look forward to except an
increase. I was no better myself. I didn't really expect to be head of
the firm. Nor did the other men. We weren't working and holding on with
any notion of winning independence along that line. The most we hoped
for was a bigger salary. Some men didn't anticipate more than
twenty-five hundred like me, and othersthe younger mentalked about
five thousand and even ten thousand. I didn't hear them discuss what
they were going to do when they were general managers or
vice-presidents but always what they could enjoy when they drew the
larger annuity. And save those who saw in professional work a way out,
this was the career they were choosing for their sons. They wanted to
get them into banks and the big companies where the assurance of lazy
routine advancement up to a certain point was the reward for industry,
sobriety and honesty. A salary with an old, strongly established
company seemed to them about as big a stroke of luck for a young man as
a legacy. I myself had hoped to find a place for Dick with one of the
big trust companies.
Of course down here these people did not have the same
opportunities. Most of the old firms preferred the bright young
American and I guess they secured most of them. I pity the bright
young American but I can't help congratulating the bright young
Italians and the bright young Irishmen. They are forced as a result to
make business for themselves and they are given every opportunity in
the world for doing it. And they are doing it. And I, breathing
in this atmosphere, made up my mind that I would do it, too.
With this in mind I outlined for myself a systematic course of
procedure. It was evident that in this as in any other business I must
master thoroughly the details before taking up the larger problems. The
details of this as of any other business lay at the bottom and so for
these at least I was at present in the best possible position. The two
most important factors to the success of a contractor seemed to me to
be, roughly speaking, the securing and handling of men and the purchase
and use of materials. Of the two, the former appeared to be the more
important. Even in the few weeks I had been at work here I had observed
a big difference in the amount of labor accomplished by different men
individually. I could have picked out a half dozen that were worth more
than all the others put together. And in the two foremen I had noticed
another big difference in the varying capacity of a boss to get work
out of the men collectively. In work where labor counted for so much in
the final cost as here, it appeared as though this involved almost the
whole question of profit and loss. With a hundred men employed at a
dollar and a half a day, the saving of a single hour meant the saving
of a good many dollars.
It may seem odd that so obvious a fact was not taken advantage of by
the present contractors. Doubtless it was realized but my later
experience showed me that the obvious is very often neglected. In this
business as in many others, the details fall into a rut and often a
newcomer with a fresh point of view will detect waste that has been
going on unnoticed for years. I was almost forty years old, fairly
intelligent, and I had everything at stake. So I was distinctly more
alert than those who retained their positions merely by letting things
run along as well as they always had been going. But however you may
explain it, I knew that the foreman didn't get as much work out of me
as he might have done. In spite of all the control I exercised over
myself I often quit work realizing that half my strength during the day
had gone for nothing. And though it may sound like boasting to say it,
I think I worked both more conscientiously and intelligently than most
of the men.
In the first place the foreman was a bully. He believed in driving
his men. He swore at them and goaded them as an ignorant countryman
often tries to drive oxen. The result was a good deal the same as it is
with oxenthe men worked excitedly when under the sting and loafed the
rest of the time. In a crisis the boss was able to spur them on to
their bestthough even then they wasted strength in frantic
endeavorbut he could not keep them up to a consistent level of steady
work. And that's what counts. As in a Marathon race the men who
maintain a steady plugging pace from start to finish are the ones who
The question may be asked how such a boss could keep his job. I
myself did not understand that at first but later as I worked with
different men and under different bosses I saw that it was because
their methods were much alike and that the results were much alike. A
certain standard had been established as to the amount of work that
should be done by a hundred men and this was maintained. The boss had
figured out loosely how much the men would work and the men had figured
out to a minute how much they could loaf. Neither man nor boss took any
special interest in the work itself. The men were allowed to waste just
so much time in getting water, in filling their pipes, in spitting on
their hands, in resting on their shovels, in lazy chatter, and so long
as they did not exceed this nothing was said.
The trouble was that the standard was low and this was because the
men had nothing to gain by steady conscientious work and also because
the boss did not understand them nor distinguish between them. For
instance the foreman ought to have got the work of two men out of me
but he wouldn't have, if I hadn't chosen to give it. That held true
also of Rafferty and one or two others.
Now my idea was this: that if a man made a study of these men who,
in this city at any rate, were the key to the contractor's problem, and
learned their little peculiarities, their standards of justice, their
ambitions, their weakness and their strength, he ought to be able to
increase their working capacity. Certainly an intelligent teamster does
this with horses and it seemed as though it ought to be possible to
accomplish still finer results with men. To go a little farther in my
ambition, it also seemed possible to pick and select the best of these
men instead of taking them at random. For instance in the present gang
there were at least a half dozen who stood out as more intelligent and
stronger physically than all the others. Why couldn't a man in time
gather about him say a hundred such men and by better treatment,
possibly better pay, possibly a guarantee of continuous work, make of
them a loyal, hard working machine with a capacity for double the work
of the ordinary gang? Such organization as this was going on in other
lines of business, why not in this? With such a machine at his command,
a man ought to make himself a formidable competitor with even the long
At any rate this was my theory and it gave a fresh inspiration to my
work. Whether anything came of it or not it was something to hope for,
something to toil for, something which raised this digging to the plane
of the pioneer who joyfully clears his field of stumps and rocks. It
swung me from the present into the future. It was a different future
from that which had weighed me down when with the United Woollen. This
was no waiting game. Neither your pioneer nor your true emigrant sits
down and waits. Here was something which depended solely upon my own
efforts for its success or failure. And I knew that it wasn't possible
to fail so dismally but what the joy of the struggle would always be
In the meanwhile I carried with me to my work a note book and during
the noon hour I set down everything which I thought might be of any
possible use to me. I missed no opportunity for learning even the most
trivial details. A great deal of the information was superficial and a
great deal of it was incorrect but down it went in the note book to be
revised later when I became better informed.
I watched my fellow workmen as much as possible and plied them with
questions. I wanted to know where the cement came from and in what
proportion it was mixed with sand and gravel and stone for different
work. I wanted to know where the sand and gravel and stone came from
and how it was graded. Wherever it was possible I secured rough prices
for different materials. I wanted to know where the lumber was bought
and I wanted to know how the staging was built and why it was built.
Understand that I did not flatter myself that I was fast becoming a
mason, a carpenter, an engineer and a contractor all in one and all at
once. I knew that the most of my information was vague and loose. Half
the men who were doing the work didn't know why they were doing it and
a lot of them didn't know how they were doing it. They worked by
instinct and habit. Then, too, they were a clannish lot and a jealous
lot. They resented my questioning however delicately I might do it and
often refused to answer me. But in spite of this I found myself
surprised later with the fund of really valuable knowledge I acquired.
In addition to this I acquired sources of information. I
found out where to go for the real facts. I learned for instance who
for this particular job was supplying for the contractor his cement and
gravel and crushed stonethough as it happened this contractor himself
either owned or controlled his own plant for the production of most of
his material. However I learned something when I learned that. For a
man who had apparently been in business all his life, I was densely
ignorant of even the fundamentals of business. This idea of running the
business back to the sources of the raw material was a new idea to me.
I had not thought of the contractor as owning his own quarries and
gravel pits, obvious as the advantage was. I wanted to know where the
tools were bought and how much they costfrom the engines and hoisting
cranes and carrying system down to pick-axes, crowbars and shovels. I
made a note of the fact that many of the smaller implements were not
cared for properly and even tried to estimate how with proper attention
the life of a pick-axe could be prolonged. I joyed particularly in
every such opportunity as this no matter how trivial it appeared later.
It was just such details as these which gave reality to my dream.
I figured out how many cubic feet of earth per day per man was being
handled here and how this varied under different bosses. I pried and
listened and questioned and figured even when digging. I worked with my
eyes and ears wide open. It was wonderful how quickly in this way the
hours flew. A day now didn't seem more than four hours long. Many the
time I've felt actually sorry when the signal to quit work was given at
night and have hung around for half an hour while the engineer fixed
his boiler for the night and the old man lighted his lanterns to string
along the excavation. I don't know what they all thought of me, but I
know some of them set me down for a college man doing the work for
experience. This to say the least was flattering to my years.
As I say, a lot of this work was wasted energy in the sense that I
acquired anything worth while, but none of it was wasted when I recall
the joy of it. If I had actually been a college boy in the first flush
of youthful enthusiasm I could not have gone at my work more
enthusiastically or dreamed wilder or bigger dreams. Even after many of
these bubbles were pricked and had vanished, the mood which made them
did not vanish. I have never forgotten and never can forget the sheer
delight of those months. I was eighteen again with a lot besides that I
didn't have at eighteen.
My work along another line was more practical and more successful.
What I learned about the men and the best way to handle them was
genuine capital. In the first place I lost no opportunity to make
myself as solid as possible with Dan Rafferty. This was not altogether
from a purely selfish motive either. I liked the man. In a way I think
he was the most lovable man I ever met, although that seems a lady-like
term to apply to so rugged a fellow. But below his beef and brawn,
below his aggressiveness, below his coarseness, below even a peculiar
moral bluntness about a good many things, there was a strain of
something fine about Dan Rafferty. I had a glimpse of it when he
preferred going back to the sewer gas rather than let a man like the
old foreman force him into a position where the latter could fire him.
But that was only one side of him. He had a heart as big as a woman's
and one as keen to respond to sympathy. This in its turn inspired in
others a feeling towards him that to save my life I can only describe
as lovelove in its big sense. He'd swear like a pirate at the Dagoes
and they'd only grin back at him where'd they'd feel like knifing any
other man. And when Dan learned that Anton' had lost his boy he sent
down to the house a wreath of flowers half as big as a cart wheel.
There was scarcely a day when some old lady didn't manage to see Dan at
the noon hour and draw him aside with a mumbled plea that always made
him dig into his pockets. He caught me watching him one day and said in
explanation, She's me grandmither.
After I'd seen at least a dozen different ones approach him I asked
him if they were all his grandmothers.
Sure, he said. Ivery ould woman in the ward is me grandmither.
Those same grandmothers stood him in good stead later in his life,
for every single grandmother had some forty grandchildren and half of
these had votes. But Dan wasn't looking that far ahead then. Two facts
rather distinguished him at the start; he didn't either drink or smoke.
He didn't have any opinions upon the subject but he was one of the rare
Irishmen born that way. Now and then you'll find one and as likely as
not he'll prove one of the good fellows you'd expect to see in the
other crowd. However, beyond exciting my interest and leading me to
score him some fifty points in my estimate of him as a good workman, I
was indifferent to this side of his character. The thing that impressed
me most was a quality of leadership he seemed to possess. There was
nothing masterful about it. You didn't look to see him lead in any
especially good or great cause, but you could see readily enough that
whatever cause he chose, it would be possible for him to gather about
him a large personal following. I was attracted to this side of him in
considering him as having about all the good raw material for a great
boss. Put twenty men on a rope with Dan at the head of them and just
let him say, Now, biysaltogither, and you'd see every man's neck
grow taut with the strain. I know because I've been one of the twenty
and felt as though I wanted to drag every muscle out of my body. And
when it was over I'd ask myself why in the devil I pulled that way.
When I told myself that it was because I was pulling with Dan Rafferty
I said all I knew about it.
It seemed to me that any man who secured Dan as a boss would already
have the backbone of his gang. I didn't ever expect to use him in this
way but I wanted the man for a friend and I wanted to learn the secret
of his power if I could. But I may as well confess right now that I
never fully fathomed that.
In the meanwhile I had not neglected the other men. At every
opportunity I talked with them. At the beginning I made it a point to
learn their names and addresses which I jotted down in my book. I
learned something from them of the padrone system and the unfair
contracts into which they were trapped. I learned their likes and
dislikes, their ambitions, and as much as possible about their
families. It all came hard at first but little by little as I worked
with them I found them trusting me more with their confidences.
In this way then the first summer passed. Both Ruth and the boy in
the meanwhile were just as busy about their respective tasks as I was.
The latter took to the gymnasium work like a duck to water and in his
enthusiasm for this tackled his lessons with renewed interest. He put
on five pounds of weight and what with the daily ocean swim which we
both enjoyed, his cheeks took on color and he became as brown as an
Indian. If he had passed the summer at the White Mountains he could not
have looked any hardier. He made many friends at the Y.M.C.A. They were
all ambitious boys and they woke him up wonderfully. I was careful to
follow him closely in this new life and made it a point to see the boys
myself and to make him tell me at the end of each day just what he had
been about. Dick was a boy I could trust to tell me every detail. He
was absolutely truthful and he wasn't afraid to open his heart to me
with whatever new questions might be bothering him. As far as possible
I tried to point out to him what to me seemed the good points in his
new friends and to warn him against any little weaknesses among them
which from time to time I might detect. Ruth did the rest. A father,
however much a comrade he may be with his boy, can go only so far.
There is always plenty left which belongs to the motherif she is such
a mother as Ruth.
As for Ruth herself I watched her anxiously in fear lest the new
life might wear her down but honestly as far as the house was concerned
she didn't seem to have as much to bother her as she had before. She
was slowly getting the buying and the cooking down to a science. Many a
week now our food bill went as low as a little over three dollars. We
bought in larger quantities and this always effected a saving. We
bought a barrel of flour and half a barrel of sugar for one thing. Then
as the new potatoes came into the market we bought half a barrel of
those and half a barrel of apples. She did wonders with those apples
and they added a big variety to our menus. Another saving was effected
by buying suet which cost but a few cents a pound, trying this out and
mixing it with the lard for shortening. As the weather became cooler we
had baked beans twice a week instead of once. These made for us four
and sometimes five or six meals. We figured out that we could bake a
quart pot of beans, using half a pound of pork to a pot, for less than
twenty cents. This gave the three of us two meals with some left over
for lunch, making the cost per man about three cents. And they made a
hearty meal, too. That was a trick she had learned in the country where
baked beans are a staple article of diet. I liked them cold for my
As for clothes neither Ruth nor myself needed much more than we had.
I bought nothing but one pair of heavy boots which Ruth picked up at a
bankrupt sale for two dollars. On herself she didn't spend a cent. She
brought down here with her a winter and a summer street suit, several
house dresses and three or four petticoats and a goodly supply of under
things. She knew how to care for them and they lasted her. I brought
down, in addition to my business suit, a Sunday suit of blue serge and
a dress suit and a Prince Albert. I sold the last two to a second hand
dealer for eleven dollars and this helped towards the boy's outfit in
the fall. She bought for him a pair of three dollar shoes for a dollar
and a half at this same Sold Out sale, a dollar's worth of stockings
and about a dollar's worth of underclothes. He had a winter overcoat
and hat, though I could have picked up these in either a pawnshop or
second hand store for a couple of dollars. It was wonderful what you
could get at these places, especially if anyone had the knack which
Ruth had of making over things.
CHAPTER X. THE EMIGRANT SPIRIT
That fall the boy passed his entrance examinations and entered the
finest school in the statethe city high school. If he had been worth
a million he couldn't have had better advantages. I was told that the
graduates of this school entered college with a higher average than the
graduates of most of the big preparatory schools. Certainly they had
just as good instruction and if anything better discipline. There was
more competition here and a real competition. Many of the pupils were
foreign born and a much larger per cent of them children of foreign
born. Their parents had been over here long enough to realize what an
advantage an education was and the children went at their work with the
feeling that their future depended upon their application here.
The boy's associates might have been more carefully selected at some
fashionable school but I was already beginning to realize that selected
associates aren't always select associates and that even if they are
this is more of a disadvantage than an advantage. The fact that the
boy's fellows were all of a kind was what had disturbed me even in the
little suburban grammar school. For that matter I can see now that even
for Ruth and me this sameness was a handicap for both us and our
neighbors. There was no clash. There was a dead level. I don't believe
that's good for either boys or men or for women.
Supposing this open door policy did admit a few worthless youngsters
into the school and supposing again that the private school didn't
admit such of a different order (which I very much doubt)along with
these Dick was going to find here the menthe past had proved this and
the present was proving itwho eventually would become our statesmen,
our progressive business men, our lawyers and doctorsif not our
conservative bankers. For one graduate of such a school as my former
surroundings had made me think essential for the boy, I could count now
a dozen graduates of this very high school who were distinguishing
themselves in the city. The boy was going to meet here the same spirit
I was getting in touch with among my emigrant friendsa zeal for life,
a belief in the possibilities of life, an optimistic determination to
use these possibilities, which somehow the blue-blooded Americans were
losing. It seemed to me that life was getting stale for the fourth and
fifth generation. I tried to make the boy see this point of view. I
went back again with him to the pioneer idea.
Dick, I said in substance, your great-great-grandfather pulled up
stakes and came over to this country when there was nothing here but
trees, rocks and Indians. It was a hard fight but a good fight and he
left a son to carry on the fight. So generation after generation they
fought but somehow they grew a bit weaker as they fought. Now, I said,
you and I are going to try to recover that lost ground. Let's think of
ourselves as like our great-great-grandfathers. We've just come over
here. So have about a million others. The fight is a different fight
to-day but it's no less a fight and we're going to win. We have a good
many advantages that these newcomers haven't. You see them making good
on every side of you but I'll bet they can't lick a good Americanwhen
he isn't asleep. You and I are going to make good too.
You bet we are, Dad, he said, with his eyes grown bright.
Then, I said, you must work the way the newcomers work. I don't
want you to think you're any better than they are. You aren't. But
you're just as good and these two hundred years we've lived here ought
to count for something.
The boy lifted his head at this.
You make me feel as though we'd just landed with the Pilgrims, he
So we have, I said. June seventh of this very year we landed on
Plymouth Rock just as our ancestors did two centuries ago. They've been
all this time paving the way for you and me. They've built roads and
schools and factories and it's up to us now to use them. You and I have
just landed from England. Let's see what we can do as pioneers.
I wanted to get at the young American in him. I wanted him to
realize that he was something more than the son of his parents;
something more than just an average English-speaking boy. I wanted him
to feel the impetus of the big history back of him and the big history
yet to be made ahead of him. He had known nothing of that before. The
word American had no meaning to him except when a regiment of soldiers
was marching by. I wanted him to feel all the time as he did when his
throat grew lumpy with the band playing and the stars and stripes
flying on Fourth of July or Decoration Day.
I urged him to study hard as the first essential towards success but
I also told him to get into the school life. I didn't want him to stand
back as his tendency was and watch the other fellows. I didn't want him
to sit in the bleachersat least not until he had proved that this was
the place for him. Even then I wanted him to lead the cheering. I
wanted him to test himself in the literary societies, the dramatic
clubs, on the athletic field. In other words, instead of remaining
passive I wanted him to take an aggressive attitude towards life. In
still other words instead of being a middle-classer I wanted him to get
something of the emigrant spirit. And I had the satisfaction of seeing
him begin his work with the germ of that idea in his brain.
In the meanwhile with the approach of cold weather I saw a new item
of expense loom up in the form of coal. We had used kerosene all summer
but now it became necessary for the sake of heat to get a stove. For a
week I took what time I could spare and wandered around among the junk
shops looking for a second hand stove and finally found just what I
wanted. I paid three dollars for it and it cost me another dollar to
have some small repairs made. I set it up myself in the living room
which we decided to use as a kitchen for the winter. But when I came to
look into the matter of getting coal down here I found I was facing a
pretty serious problem. Coal had been a big item in the suburbs but the
way people around me were buying it, made it a still bigger one. No
cellar accommodations came with the tenement and so each one was forced
to buy his coal by the basket or bag. A basket of anthracite was
costing them at this time about forty cents. This was for about eighty
pounds of coal, which made the total cost per ton eleven dollarsat
least three dollars and a half over the regular price. Even with
economy a person would use at least a bag a week. This, to leave a
liberal margin, would amount to about a ton and a half of coal during
the winter months. I didn't like the idea of absorbing the half dollar
or so a week that Ruth was squeezing out towards what few clothes we
had to buy, in this wayat least the over-charge part of it. With the
first basket I brought home, I said, I see where you'll have to dig
down into the ginger jar this winter, little woman.
She looked as startled as though I had told her someone had stolen
What do you mean? she asked.
I pointed to the basket.
Coal costs about eleven dollars a ton, down here.
When she found out that this was all that caused my remark, she
didn't seem to be disturbed.
Billy, she said, before we touch the ginger jar it will have to
cost twenty dollars a ton. We'll live on pea soup and rice three times
a day before I touch that.
All right, I said, but it does seem a pity that the burden of
such prices as these should fall on the poor.
Why do they? she asked.
Because in this case, I said, the dealers seem to have us where
the wool is short.
How have they? she insisted.
We can't buy coal by the ton because we haven't any place to put
it. She thought a moment and then she said:
We could take care of a fifth of a ton, Billy. That's only five
They won't sell five any cheaper than one.
And every family in this house could take care of five, she went
on. That would make a ton.
I began to see what she meant and as I thought of it I didn't see
why it wasn't a practical scheme.
I believe that's a good idea, I said. And if there were more
women like you in the world I don't believe there'd be any trusts at
Nonsense, she said. You leave it to me now and I'll see the other
women in the house. They are the ones who'll appreciate a good saving
She saw them and after a good deal of talk they agreed, so I told
Ruth to tell them to save out of next Saturday night's pay a dollar and
a half apiece. I was a bit afraid that if I didn't get the cash when
the coal was delivered I might get stuck on the deal. The next Monday I
ordered the coal and asked to have it delivered late in the day. When I
came home I found the wagon waiting and it created about as much
excitement on the street as an ambulance. I guess it was the first time
in the history of Little Italy that a coal team had ever stopped before
a tenement. The driver had brought baskets with him and I filled up one
and took it to a store nearby and weighed into it eighty pounds of
coal. With that for my guide I gathered the other men of the families
about me and made them carry the coal in while I measured it out. The
driver who at first was inclined to object to the whole proceeding was
content to let things go on when he found himself relieved of all the
carrying. We emptied the wagon in no time and the other men insisted
upon carrying up my coal for me. I collected every cent of my money and
incidentally established myself on a firm footing with every family in
the house. Several other tenements later adopted the plan but the idea
didn't take hold the way you'd have thought it would. I guess it was
because there weren't any more Ruths around there to oversee the job.
Then, too, while these people are far-sighted in a good many ways, they
are short-sighted in others. Neither the wholesale nor co-operative
plans appeal to them. For one thing they are suspicious and for another
they don't like to spend any more than they have to day by day. Later
on through Ruth's influence we carried our scheme a little farther with
just the people in the house and bought flour and sugar that way but it
was made possible only through their absolute trust in her. We always
insisted on carrying out every such little operation on a cash basis
and they never failed us.
Ruth's influence had been gradually spreading through the
neighborhood. She had found time to meet the other families in the
house and through them had met a dozen more. The first floor was
occupied by Michele, an Italian laborer, his wife, his wife's sister
and two children. On the second floor there was Giuseppe, the young
sculptor, and his father and mother. The father was an invalid and the
lad supported the three. On the third floor lived a fruit peddler, his
wife and his wife's motherrather a commonplace family, while the
fourth floor was occupied by Pietro, a young fellow who sold cut
flowers on the street and hoped some day to have a garden of his own.
He had two children and a grandmother to care for.
It certainly afforded a contrast to visit those other flats and then
Ruth's. Right here is where her superior intelligence came in, of
course. The foreign-born women do not so quickly adapt themselves to
the standards of this country as the men do. Most of them as I learned,
come from the country districts of Italy where they live very rudely.
Once here they make their new quarters little better than their old.
The younger ones however who are going to school are doing better. But
taken by and large it was difficult to persuade them that cleanliness
offered any especial advantages. It wasn't as though they minded the
dirt and were chained to it by circumstances from which they couldn't
escapeas I used to think. They simply didn't object to it. So long as
they were warm and had food enough they were content. They didn't
suffer in any way that they themselves could see.
But when Ruth first went into their quarters she was horrified. She
thought that at length she was face to face with all the misery and
squalor of the slums of which she had read. I remember her chalk-white
face as she met me at the door upon my return home one night. She
nearly drove the color out of my own cheeks for I thought surely that
something had happened to the boy. But it wasn't that; she had heard
that the baby on the first floor was ill and had gone down there to see
if there was anything she might do for it. Until then she had seen
nothing but the outside of the other doors from the hall and they
looked no different from our own. But once insidewell I guess that's
where the two hundred years if not the four hundred years back of us
native Americans counts.
Why, Billy, she cried, it was awful. I'll never get that picture
out of mind if I live to be a hundred.
What's the matter? I asked.
Why the poor little thing
What poor little thing? I interrupted.
Michele's baby. It lay there in dirty rags with its pinched white
face staring up at me as though just begging for a clean bed.
What's the matter with it?
Matter with it? It's a wonder it isn't dead and buried. The
district nurse came in while I was there and told me,she
shudderedthat they'd been feeding it on macaroni cooked in greasy
gravy. And it isn't six months old yet.
No wonder it looked white, I said, remembering how we had
discussed for a week the wisdom of giving Dick the coddled white of an
egg at that age.
Why the conditions down there are terrible, cried Ruth. Michele
must be very, very poor. The floor wasn't washed, you couldn't see out
of the windows, and the clothes
She held up her hands unable to find words.
That does sound bad, I said.
It's criminal. Billywe can't allow a family in the same house
with us to suffer like that, can we?
I shook my head.
Then go down and see what you can do. I guess we can squeeze out
fifty cents for them, can't we, Billy?
I guess you could squeeze fifty cents out of a stone for a sick
baby, I said.
The upshot of it was that I went down and saw Michele. As Ruth had
said his quarters were anything but clean but they didn't impress me as
being in so bad a condition as she had described them. Perhaps my work
in the ditch had made me a little more used to dirt. I found Michele a
healthy, temperate, able-bodied man and I learned that he was earning
as much as I. Not only that but the women took in garments to finish
and picked up the matter of two or three dollars a week extra. There
were five in the family but they were far from being in want. In fact
Michele had a good bank account. They had all they wanted to eat, were
warm and really prosperous. There was absolutely no need of the dirt.
It was there because they didn't mind it. A five cent cake of soap
would have made the rooms clean as a whistle and there were two women
to do the scrubbing. I didn't leave my fifty cents but I came back
upstairs with a better appreciation, if that were possible, of what
such a woman as Ruth means to a man. Even the baby began to get better
as soon as the district nurse drove into the parent's head a few facts
about sensible infant feeding.
I don't want to make out that life is all beer and skittles for the
tenement dwellers. It isn't. But I ran across any number of such cases
as this where conditions were not nearly so bad as they appeared on the
surface. Taking into account the number of people who were gathered
together here in a small area I didn't see among the temperate and
able-bodied any worse examples of hard luck than I saw among my former
associates. In fact of sheer abstract hard luck I didn't see as much.
In seventy-five per cent of the cases the conditions were of their own
makingeither the man was a drunkard or the women slovenly or the
whole family was just naturally vicious. Ignorance may excuse some of
this but not all of it. Perhaps I'm not what you'd call sympathetic but
I've heard a lot of men talk about these people in a way that sounds to
me like twaddle. I never ran across a family down here in such misery
as that which Steve Bonnington's wife endured for years without a
Bonnington was a clerk with a big insurance company. He lived four
houses below us on our street. I suppose he was earning about eighteen
hundred dollars a year when he died. He left five children and he never
had money enough even to insure in his own company. He didn't leave a
cent. When Helen Bonnington came back from the grave it was to face the
problem of supporting unaided, either by experience or relatives, five
children ranging from twelve to one. She was a shy, retiring little
body who had sapped her strength in just bringing the children into the
world and caring for them in the privacy of her home. She had neither
the temperament nor the training to face the world. But she bucked up
to it. She sold out of the house what things she could spare, secured
cheap rooms on the outskirts of the neighborhood and announced that she
would do sewing. What it cost her to come back among her old friends
and do that is a particularly choice type of agony that it would be
impossible for a tenement widow to appreciate. And this same
self-respect which both Helen's education and her environment forced
her to maintain, handicapped her in other ways. You couldn't give Mrs.
Bonnington scraps from your table; you couldn't give her old clothes or
old shoes or money. It wasn't her fault because this was so; it wasn't
When her children were sick she couldn't send them off to the public
wards of the hospitals. In the first place half the hospitals wouldn't
take them as charity patients simply because she maintained a certain
dignity, and in the second place the idea, by education, was so
repugnant to her that it never entered her head to try. So she stayed
at home and sewed from daylight until she couldn't hold open her eyes
at night. That's where you get your true Song of the Shirt. She not
only sewed her fingers to the bone but while doing it she suffered a
very fine kind of torture wondering what would happen to the five if
she broke down. Asylums and homes and hospitals don't imply any great
disgrace to most of the tenement dwellers but to a woman of that type
they mean Hell. God knows how she did it but she kept the five alive
and clothed and in school until the boy was about fifteen and went to
work. When I hear of the lone widows of the tenements, who are apt to
be very husky, and who work out with no great mental struggle and who
have clothes and food given them and who set the children to work as
soon as they are able to walk, I feel like getting up in my seat and
telling about Helen Bonningtona plain middle-classer. And she was no
I seem to have rambled off a bit here but this was only one of many
contrasts which I made in these years which seemed to me to be all in
favor of my new neighbors. The point is that at the bottom you not only
see advantages you didn't see before but you're in a position to use
them. You aren't shackled by conventions; you aren't cramped by caste.
The world stands ready to help the under dog but before it will lift a
finger it wants to see the dog stretched out on its back with all four
legs sticking up in prayer. Of the middle-class dog who fights on and
on, even after he's wobbly and can't see, it doesn't seem to take much
However Ruth started in with a few reforms of her own. She made it a
point to go down and see young Michele every day and watch that he
didn't get any more macaroni and gravy. The youngster himself resented
this interference but the parents took it in good part. Then in time
she ventured further and suggested that the baby would be better off if
the windows were washed to let in the sunshine and the floor scrubbed a
bit. Finally she became bold enough to hint that it might be well to
wash some of the bed clothing.
The district nurse appreciated the change, if Michele himself didn't
and I found that it wasn't long before Miss Colver was making use of
this new influence in the house. She made a call on Ruth and discussed
her cases with her until in the end she made of her a sort of first
assistant. This was the beginning of a new field of activity for Ruth
which finally won for her the name of Little Mother. It was wonderful
how quickly these people discovered the sweet qualities in Ruth that
had passed all unnoticed in the old life.
It made me very proud.
CHAPTER XI. NEW OPPORTUNITIES
I had found that I was badly handicapped in all intercourse with my
Italian fellow workers by the fact that I knew nothing of their
language and that they knew but little English. The handicap did not
lie so much in the fact that we couldn't make ourselves understoodwe
could after a rough fashionas it did in the fact that this made a
barrier which kept our two nationalities sharply defined. I was always
an American talking to an Italian. The boss was always an American
talking to a Dago. This seemed to me a great disadvantage. It ought to
be just a foreman to his man or one man to another.
The chance to acquire a new language I thought had passed with my
high school days, but down here everyone was learning English and so I
resolved to study Italian. I made a bargain with Giuseppe, the young
sculptor, who was now a frequent visitor at our flat, to teach me his
language in return for instruction in mine. He agreed though he had
long been getting good instruction at the night school. But the lad had
found an appreciative friend in Ruth who not only sincerely admired the
work he was doing but who admired his enthusiasm and his knowledge of
art. I liked him myself for he was dreaming bigger things than I. To
watch his thin cheeks grow red and his big brown eyes flash as he
talked of some old painting gave me a realization that there was
something else to be thought of even down here than mere money success.
It was good for me.
The poor fellow was driven almost mad by having to offer for sale
some of the casts which his master made him carry. He would have liked
to sell only busts of Michael Angelo and Dante and worthy reproductions
of the old masters.
There are so many beautiful things, he used to exclaim excitedly
in broken English; why should they want to make anything that is not
He sputtered time and time again over the pity of gilding the casts.
You'd have thought it was a crime which ought to be punished by
Even Dante, he groaned one night, that wonderful, white sad face
of Dante covered all over with gilt!
It has to look like gold before an American will buy it, I
Yes, he nodded. They would even gild the Christ.
Ruth said she wanted to learn Italian with me, and so the three of
us used to get together every night right after dinner. I bought a
grammar at a second hand bookstore but we used to spend most of our
time in memorizing the common every day things a man would be likely to
use in ordinary conversation. Giuseppe would say, Ha Ella il mio
And I would say,
Si, Signore, ho il di Lei cappello.
Ha Ella il di Lei pane?
Si, Signore, ho il mio pane.
Ha Ella il mio zucchero?
Si, Signore, ho il di Lei zucchero.
There wasn't much use in going over such simple things in English
for Giuseppe and so instead of this Ruth would read aloud something
from Tennyson. After explaining to him just what every new word meant,
she would let him read aloud to her the same passage. He soon became
very enthusiastic over the text itself and would often stop her with
Ah, there is a study!
Then he would tell us just how he would model whatever the picture
happened to be that he saw in his mind. It was wonderful how clearly he
saw these pictures. He could tell you even down to how the folds of the
women's dresses should fall just as though he were actually looking at
After a week or two when we had learned some of the simpler phrases
Ruth and I used to practise them as much as possible every day. We felt
quite proud when we could ask one another for quel libro or quell'
abito or il cotello or il cucchiaio. I was surprised at how soon
we were able to carry on quite a long talk.
This new ideathat even though I was approaching forty I wasn't too
old to resume my studiestook root in another direction. As I had
become accustomed to the daily physical exercise and no longer returned
home exhausted I felt as though I had no right to loaf through my
evenings, much as the privilege of spending them with Ruth meant to me.
My muscles had become as hard and tireless as those of a well-trained
athlete so that at night I was as alert mentally as in the morning. It
made me feel lazy to sit around the house after an hour's lesson in
Italian and watch Ruth busy with her sewing and see the boy bending
over his books. Still I couldn't think of anything that was practicable
until I heard Giuseppe talk one evening about the night school. I had
thought this was a sort of grammar school with clay modeling thrown in
No, Signore, he said. You can learn anything there. And there is
another school where you can learn other things.
I went out that very evening and found that the school he attended
taught among other subjects, book keeping and stenographytwo things
which appealed to me strongly. But in talking to the principal he
suggested that before I decided I look into the night trade school
which was run in connection with a manual training school. I took his
advice and there I found so many things I wanted that I didn't know
what to choose. I was amazed at the opportunity. A man could learn here
about any trade he cared to take up. Both tools and material were
furnished him. And all this was within ten minutes' walk of the house.
I could still have my early evenings with Ruth and the boy even on the
three nights I would be in school until a quarter past seven, spend two
hours at learning my trade, and get back to the house again before ten.
I don't see how a man could ask for anything better than this. Even
then I wouldn't be away from home as much as I often was in my old
life. There were many dreary stretches towards the end of my service
with the United Woollen when I didn't get home until midnight. And the
only extra pay we salaried men received for that was a brighter hope
for the job ahead. This was always dangled before our eyes by Morse as
a bait when he wished to drive us harder than usual.
I had my choice of a course in carpentry, bricklaying, sheet metal
work, plumbing, electricity, drawing and pattern draughting. The work
covered from one to three years and assured a man at the end of this
time of a position among the skilled workmen who make in wages as much
as many a professional man. Not only this but a man with such training
as this and with ambition could look forward without any great stretch
of the imagination to becoming a foreman in his trade and eventually
winning independence. All this he could accomplish while earning his
daily wages as an apprentice or a common laborer.
The class in masonry seemed to be more in line with my present plans
than any of the other subjects. It ought to prove of value, I thought,
to a man in the general contracting business and certainly to a man who
undertook the contracting of building construction. At any rate it was
a trade in which I was told there was a steady demand for good men and
at which many men were earning from three to five dollars a day. I must
admit that at first I didn't understand how brick-laying could be
taught for I thought it merely a matter of practice but a glance at the
outline of the course showed me my error. It looked as complicated as
many of the university courses. The work included first the laying of a
brick to line. A man was given actual practice with bricks and mortar
under an expert mason. From this a man was advanced, when he had
acquired sufficient skill, to the laying out of the American bond; then
the building of square piers of different sizes; then the building of
square and pigeon hole corners, then the laying out of brick footings.
The second year included rowlock and bonded segmental arches; blocking,
toothing, and corbeling; building and bonding of vaulted walls;
polygonal and circular walls, piers and chimneys; fire-places and
flues. The third year advanced a man to the nice points of the trade
such as the foreign bondsFlemish, Dutch, Roman and Old English;
cutting and turning of arches of all kinds,straight, cambered,
semi-circular, three centred elliptical, and many forms of Gothic and
Moorish arches; also brick panels and cornices. Finally it gave
practice in the laying out of plans and work from these plans. Whatever
time was left was devoted to speed in all these things as far as it was
consistent with accurate and careful workmanship.
I enrolled at once and also entered a class in architectural drawing
which was given in connection with this.
I came back and told Ruth and though of course she was afraid it
might be too hard work for me she admitted that in the end it might
save me many months of still harder work. If it hadn't been for the boy
I think she would have liked to follow me even in these studies.
Whatever new thing I took up, she wanted to take up too. But as I told
her, it was she who was making the whole business possible and that was
enough for one woman to do.
The school didn't open for a week and during that time I saw
something of Rafferty. He surprised me by coming around to the flat one
nightfor what I couldn't imagine. I was glad to see him but I
suspected that he had some purpose in making such an effort. I
introduced him to Ruth and we all sat down in the kitchen and I told
him what I was planning to do this winter and asked him why he didn't
join me. I was rather surprised that the idea didn't appeal to him but
I soon found out that he had another interest which took all his spare
time. This interest was nothing else than politics. And Rafferty hadn't
been over here long enough yet to qualify as a voter. In spite of this
he was already on speaking terms with the state representative from our
district, the local alderman, and was an active lieutenant of
Sweeney'sthe ward boss. At present he was interesting himself in the
candidacy of this same Sweeney who was the Democratic machine candidate
for Congress. Owing to some local row he was in danger of being knifed.
Dan had come round to make sure I was registered and to swing me over
if possible to the ranks of the faithful.
The names of which he spoke so familiarly meant nothing to me. I had
heard a few of them from reading the papers but I hadn't read a paper
for three months now and knew nothing at all about the present
campaign. As a matter of fact I never voted except for the regular
Republican candidate for governor and the regular Republican candidate
for president. And I did that much only from habit. My father had been
a Republican and I was a Republican after him and I felt that in a
general way this party stood for honesty as against Tammanyism. But
with councillors, and senators and aldermen, or even with congressmen I
never bothered my head. Their election seemed to be all prearranged and
I figured that one vote more or less wouldn't make much difference. I
don't know as I even thought that much about it; I ignored the whole
matter. What was true of me was true largely of the other men in our
old neighborhood. Politics, except perhaps for an abstract discussion
of the tariff, was not a vital issue with any of us.
Now here I found an emigrant who couldn't as yet qualify as a
citizen knowing all the local politicians by their first names and
spending his nights working for a candidate for congress. Evidently my
arrival down here had been noted by those keen eyes which look after
every single vote as a miser does his pennies. A man had been found who
had at least a speaking acquaintance with me, and plans already set on
foot to round me up.
I was inclined at first to treat this new development as a joke. But
as Rafferty talked on he set me to thinking. I didn't know anything
about the merits of the two present candidates but was strongly
prejudiced to believe that the Democratic candidate, on general
principles, was the worst one. However quite apart from this, wasn't
Rafferty to-day a better citizen than I? Even admitting for the sake of
argument that Sweeney was a crook, wasn't Rafferty who was trying his
humble best to get him elected a better American than I who was willing
to sit down passively and allow him to be elected? Rafferty at any rate
was getting into the fight. His motive may have been selfish but I
think his interest really sprang first from an instinctive desire to
get into the game. Here he had come to a new country where every man
had not only the chance to mix with the affairs of the ward, the city,
the state, the nation, but also a good chance to make himself a leader
in them. Sweeney himself was an example.
For twenty-five years or more Rafferty's countrymen had appreciated
this opportunity for power and gone after it. The result everyone
knows. Their victory in city politics at least had been so decisive
year after year that the native born had practically laid down his arms
as I had. And the reason for this perennial victory lay in just this
fact that men like Rafferty were busy from the time they landed and men
like me were lazily indifferent.
Three months before, a dozen speakers couldn't have made me see
this. I had no American spirit back of me then to make me appreciate
it. You might better have talked to a sleepy Russian Jew a week off the
steamer. He at least would have sensed the sacred power for liberty
which the voting privilege bestows.
I began to ask questions of Rafferty about the two men. He didn't
know much about the other fellow except that he was agin honest labor
and a tool of the thrusts. But on Sweeney he grew eloquent.
Sure, he said. There's a mon after ye own heart, me biy. Faith
he's dug in ditches himself an he knows wot a full dinner pail manes.
What's his business? I asked.
A contracthor, he said. He does big jobs for the city.
He let himself loose on what Sweeney proposed to do for the ward if
elected. He would have the government undertake the dredging of the
harbor thereby giving hundreds of jobs to the local men. He would do
this thing and thatall of which had for their object apparently just
that one goal. It was a direct personal appeal to every man toiler. In
addition to this, Rafferty let drop a hint or two that Sweeney had jobs
in his own business which he filled discreetly from the ranks of the
wavering. It wasn't more than a month later, by the way, that Rafferty
himself was appointed a foreman in the firm of Sweeney Brothers.
But apart from the merits of the question, the thing that impressed
me was Rafferty's earnestness, the delight he took in the contest
itself, and his activity. He was very much disappointed when I told him
I wasn't even registered in the ward but he made me promise to look
after that as soon as the lists were again opened and made an
appointment for the next evening to take me round to a rally to meet
I went and was escorted to the home of the Sweeney Club. It was a
good sized hall up a long flight of stairs. Through the heavy blue
smoke which filled the room I saw the walls decorated with American
flags and the framed crayon portraits of Sweeney and other local
politicians. Large duck banners proclaimed in black ink the current
catch lines of the campaign. At one end there was a raised platform,
the rest of the room was filled with wooden settees. My first
impression of it all was anything but favorable. It looked rather
tawdry and cheap. The men themselves who filled the room were pretty
tough-looking specimens. I noticed a few Italians of the fat class and
one or two sharp-faced Jews, but for the most part these men were the
cheaper element of the second and third generation. They were the
loafersthe ward heelers. I certainly felt out of place among them and
to me even Rafferty looked out of place. There was a freshness, a bulk
about him, that his fellows here didn't have.
As he shoved his big body through the crowd, they greeted him by his
first name with an oath or a joke and he beamed back at them all with a
broad wave of his hand. It was evident that he was a man of some
importance here. He worked a passage for me to the front of the hall
and didn't stop until he reached a group of about a dozen men who were
all puffing away at cigars. In the midst of them stood a man of about
Rafferty's size in frame but fully fifty pounds heavier. He had a
quiet, good-natured face. On the whole it was a strong face though a
bit heavy. His eyes were everywhere. He was the first to notice
Rafferty. He nodded with a familiar,
Dan seized my arm and dragged me forward:
I want ye to meet me frind, Mister Carleton, he said.
Sweeney rested his grey eyes on me a second, saw that I was a
stranger here, and stepped forward instantly with his big hand
outstretched. He spoke without a trace of brogue.
I'm very glad to meet you, Mr. Carleton, he said.
I don't know that I'm easily impressed and I flattered myself that I
could recognize a politician when I saw one, but I want to confess that
there was something in the way he grasped my hand that instantly gave
me a distinctly friendly feeling towards Sweeney. I should have said
right then and there that the man wasn't as black as he was painted. He
was neither oily nor sleek in his manner. We chatted a minute and I
think he was a bit surprised in me. He wanted to know where I lived,
where I was working, and how much of a family I had. He put these
questions in so frank and fatherly a fashion that they didn't seem so
impertinent to me at the time as they did later. Some one called him
and as he turned away, he said to Rafferty,
See me before you go, Dan.
Then he said to me,
I hope I'll see you down here often, Carleton.
With that Dan took me around and introduced me to Tom, Dick and
Harry or rather to Tim, Denny and Larry. This crowd came nearer to the
notion I had of ward politicians. They were a noisy, husky-throated
lot, but they didn't leave you in doubt for a minute but what every
mother's son of them was working for Sweeney as though they were one
big family with Daddy Sweeney at the head. You could overhear bits of
plots and counter plots on every side. I was offered a dozen cigars in
as many minutes and though some of the men rather shied away from me at
first a whispered endorsement from Dan was all that was needed to bring
There was something contagious about it and when later the meeting
itself opened and Sweeney rose to speak I cheered him as heartily as
anyone. By this time a hundred or more other men had come in who looked
more outside the inner circle. Sweeney spoke simply and directly. It
was a personal appeal he made, based on promises. I listened with
interest and though it seemed to me that many of his pledges were
extravagant he showed such a good spirit back of them that his speech
on a whole produced a favorable effect.
At any rate I came away from the meeting with a stronger personal
interest in politics than I had ever felt in my life. Instead of
seeming like an abstruse or vague issue it seemed to me pretty concrete
and pretty vital. It concerned me and my immediate neighbors. Here was
a man who was going to Congress not as a figurehead of his party but to
make laws for Rafferty and for me. He was to be my congressman if I
chose to help make him such. He knew my name, knew my occupation, knew
that I had a wife and one child, knew my address. And I want to say
that he didn't forget them either.
As I walked back through the brightly lighted streets which were
still as much alive as at high noon, I felt that after all this was my
ward and my city. I wasn't a mere dummy, I was a member of a vast
corporation. I had been to a rally and had shaken hands with Sweeney.
Ruth's only comment was a disgusted grunt as she smelled the rank
tobacco in my clothes. She kept them out on the roof all the next day.
CHAPTER XII. OUR FIRST WINTER
This first winter was filled with just about as much interest as it
was possible for three people to crowd into six or seven months. And
even then there was so much left over which we wanted to do that we
fairly groaned as we saw opportunity after opportunity slip by which we
simply didn't have the time to improve.
To begin with the boy, he went at his studies with a zest that
placed him among the first ten of his class. Dick wasn't a quick boy at
his books and so this stood for sheer hard plugging. To me this made
his success all the more noteworthy. Furthermore it wasn't the result
of goading either from Ruth or myself. I kept after him about the
details of his school life and about the boys he met, but I let him go
his own gait in his studies. I wanted to see just how the new point of
view would work out in him. The result as I saw it was that every night
after supper he went at his problems not as a mere school boy but
man-fashion. He sailed in to learn. He had to. There was no prestige in
that school coming from what the fathers did. No one knew what the
fathers did. It didn't matter. With half a dozen nationalities in the
race the school was too cosmopolitan to admit such local issues. A few
boys might chum together feeling they were better than the others, but
the school as a whole didn't recognize them. Each boy counted for what
he didwhat he was.
Of the other nine boys in the first ten, four were of Jewish origin,
three were Irish, one was Italian, and the other was American born but
of Irish descent. Half of them hoped to go through college on
scholarships and the others had equally ambitious plans for business.
The Jews were easily the most brilliant students but they didn't
attempt anything else. The Italian showed some literary ability and
wrote a little for the school paper. The American born Irish boy was
made manager of the Freshman football team. The other four were natural
athletestwo of them played on the school eleven and the others were
just built for track athletics and basket ball. Dick tried for the
eleven but he wasn't heavy enough for one thing and so didn't make
anything but a substitute's position with the freshmen. I was just as
well satisfied. I didn't mind the preliminary training but I felt I
would as soon he added a couple more years to his age before he really
played football, even if it was in him to play. My point had been won
when he went out and tried.
At the end of the first four months in the school I thought I saw a
general improvement in him. He held himself better for one thingwith
his head higher and his shoulders well back. This wasn't due to his
physical training either. It meant a changed mental attitude. Ruth says
she didn't notice any difference and she thinks this is nothing but my
imagination. But she's wrong. I was looking for something she couldn't
see that the boy lacked before. Dick to her was always all right. Of
course I knew myself that the boy couldn't go far wrong whatever his
training, but I knew also that his former indifferent attitude was
going to make his path just so much harder for him. Dick, when he read
over this manuscript, said he thought the whole business was foolish
and that even if I wanted to tell the story of my own life, the least I
could do was to leave out him. But his life was more largely my life
than he realizes even now. And his case was in many ways a better
example of the true emigrant spirit than my own.
He joined the indoor track squad this winter, too, but here again he
didn't distinguish himself. He fought his way into the finals at the
interscholastic meet but that was all. However this, too, was good
training for him. I saw that race myself and I watched his mouth
instead of his legs. I liked the way his jaws came together on the last
lap though it hurt to see the look in his eyes when he fell so far
behind after trying so hard. But he crossed the finish line.
In the meanwhile Ruth was just about the busiest little woman in the
city. And yet strangely enough this instead of dragging her down, built
her up. She took on weight, her cheeks grew rosier than I had seen them
for five years and she seemed altogether happier. I watched her closely
because I made up my mind that ginger jar or no ginger jar the moment I
saw a trace of heaviness in her eyes, she would have to quit some of
her bargain hunting. I didn't mean to barter her good health for a few
hundred dollars even if I had to remain a day laborer the rest of my
That possibility didn't seem to me now half so terrifying as did the
old bogey of not getting a raise. I suppose for one thing this was
because we neither of us felt so keenly the responsibility of the boy.
In the old days we had both thought that he was doomed if we didn't
save enough to send him through college and give him, at the end of his
course, capital enough to start in business for himself. In other
words, Dick seemed then utterly dependent upon us. It was as terrible a
thought to think of leaving him penniless at twenty-one as leaving him
an orphan at five months. The burden of his whole career rested on our
But now as I saw him take his place among fellows who were born
dependent upon themselves, as I learned about youngsters at the school
who at ten earned their own living selling newspapers and even went
through college on their earnings, as I watched him grow strong
physically and tackle his work aggressively, I realized that even if
anything should happen to either Ruth or myself the boy would be able
to stand on his own feet. He had the whole world before him down here.
If worst came to worst he could easily support himself daytimes, and at
night learn either a trade or a profession. This was not a dream on my
part; I saw men who were actually doing it. I was doing it myself for
that matter. Personally I felt as easy about Dick's future by the
middle of that first winter as though I had established an annuity for
him which would assure him all the advantages I had ever hoped he might
receive. So did Ruth.
I remember some horrible hours I passed in that little suburban
house towards the end of my life there. Ruth would sit huddled up in a
chair and try to turn my thoughts to other things but I could only pace
the floor when I thought what would happen to her and the boy if
anything should happen to me; or what would happen to the boy alone if
anything should happen to the both of us. The case of Mrs. Bonnington
hung over me like a nightmare and the other possibility was even worse.
Why, when Cummings came down with pneumonia and it looked for a while
as though he might die, I guess I suffered, by applying his case to
mine, as much as ever he himself did on his sick bed. I used to inquire
for his temperature every night as though it were my own. So did every
man in the neighborhood.
Sickness was a wicked misfortune to that little crowd. When death
did pick one of us, the whole structure of that family came tumbling
down like a house of cards. If by the grace of God the man escaped, he
was left hopelessly in debt by doctor's bills if in the meanwhile he
hadn't lost his job. Sickness meant disaster, swift and terrible
whatever its outcome. We ourselves escaped it, to be sure, but I've
sweat blood over the mere thought of it.
Now if our thoughts ever took so grim a turn, we could speak quite
calmly about it. It was impossible for me ever to think of Ruth as
sick. My mind couldn't grasp that. But occasionally when I have come
home wet and Ruth has said something about my getting pneumonia if I
didn't look out, I've asked myself what this would mean. In the first
place I now could secure admission to the best hospitals in the country
free of cost. I had only to report my case to the city physician and if
I were sick enough to warrant it, he would notify the hospital and they
would send down an ambulance for me. I would be carried to a clean bed
in a clean room and would receive such medical attention as before I
could have had only as a millionaire. Physicians of national reputation
would attend me, medicines would be supplied me, and I'd have a night
and day nurse for whom outside I would have had to pay some forty
dollars a week. Not only this but if I recovered I would be supplied
the most nourishing foods in the market and after that sent out of town
to one of the quiet convalescent hospitals if my condition warranted
it. I don't suppose a thousand dollars would cover what here would be
given me for nothing. And I wouldn't either be considered or treated
like a charity patient. This was all my due as a citizenas a toiler.
Of course this would be done also for Dick as well as for Ruth.
I don't mean to say that such thoughts took up much of my time. I'm
not morbid and we never did have any sicknesswe lived too sanely for
that. But just as our new viewpoint on Dick relieved us of a tension
which before had sapped our strength, so it was a great relief to have
such insurance as this in the background of our minds. It took all the
curse off sickness that it's possible to take off. In three or four
such ways as these a load of responsibility was removed from us and we
were left free to apply all our energy to the task of upbuilding which
we had in hand.
This may account somewhat for the reserve strength which Ruth as
well as myself seemed to tap. Then of course the situation as a whole
was such as to make any woman with imagination buoyant. Ruth had an
active part in making a big rosy dream come true. She was now not
merely a passive agent. She wasn't economizing merely to make the
salary cover the current expenses. Her task was really the vital one of
the whole undertaking; she was accumulating capital. When you stop to
think of it she was the brains of the business; I was only the machine.
I dug the money out of the ground but that wouldn't have amounted to
much if it had all gone for nothing except to keep the machine moving
from day to day. The dollar she saved was worth more than a hundred
dollars earned and spent again. It was the only dollar which counted.
They say a penny saved is a penny earned. To my mind a penny saved was
worth to us at this time every cent of a dollar.
So Ruth was not only an active partner but there was another side to
the game that appealed to her.
The thing I like about our life down here, she said to me one
night, is the chance it gives me to get something of myself into every
single detail of the home.
I didn't know what she meant because it seemed to me that was just
what she had always done. But she shook her head when I said so.
No, she said. Not the way I can now.
Well, you didn't have a servant and must have done whatever was
done, I said.
I didn't have time to pick out the food for the table, she said.
I had to order it of the grocery man. I didn't have time to make as
many of your clothes as I wanted. Why I didn't even have time to plan.
If anyone had told me that a woman could do any more than you then
were doing, I should have laughed at them, I said.
You and the boy weren't all my own then, she said. I had to waste
a great deal of time on things outside the house. Sometimes it used to
make me feel as though you were just one of the neighbors, Billy.
I began to see what she meant. But she certainly found now just as
much time if not more to spare on the women and babies all around us.
They aren't neighbors, she said. They are friends.
I suppose she felt like that because what she did for them wasn't
just wasted energy like an evening at cards.
But she went back again and again, as though it were a song, to this
notion that our new home was all her own.
You may think me a pig, Billy, she said. But I like it. I like to
pick out all myself, every single potato you and the boy eat; I like to
pick out every leaf of lettuce, every apple. It makes me feel as though
I was doing something for you.
Good land I said.
But she wouldn't let me finish.
No, Billy, she said. You don't understand what all that means to
mehow it makes me a part of you and Dick as I never was before. And I
like to think that in everything you wear there's a stitch of mine
right close to you. And that when you and the boy lie down at night I'm
touching you because I made everything clean for you with my own
It makes my throat grow lumpy even now when I remember the eager,
half-ashamed way she looked up into my eyes as she said this. Lord,
sometimes she made me feel like a little child and other times she made
me feel like a giant. But whichever way she made me feel at the moment,
she always left me wishing that I had in me every good thing a man can
have so that I might be half way worthy of her. There are times when a
fellow knows that as a man he doesn't count for much as compared with
any woman. And with such a woman as Ruthwell, God knows I tried to do
my best in those days and have tried to do that ever since, but it
makes me ache to think how little I've been able to give her of all she
In her housework Ruth had developed a system that would have made a
fortune for any man if applied in the same degree to his business. I
learned a lot from her. Instead of going at her tasks in the haphazard
fashion of most women or doing things just because her grandmother and
her mother did them a certain way, she used her head. I've already told
how she did her washing little by little every day instead of waiting
for Monday and then tearing herself all to pieces, and that's a fair
example of her method. When she was cooking breakfast and had a good
fire, she'd have half her dinner on at the same time. Anything that was
just as good warmed up, she'd do then. She'd make her stews and soups
while waiting for the biscuits to bake and boil her rice or make her
cold puddings while we were eating. When that stove was working in the
morning you couldn't find a square inch of it that wasn't working. As a
result, she planned never to spend over half an hour on her dinner at
night and by the time the breakfast dishes were washed she was through
with her cooking until then.
She used her head even in little things; she'd make one dish do the
work of three. She never washed this dish until she was through with it
for good. And she'd find the time at odd moments during her cooking to
wash these dishes as they came along. If she spilled anything on the
floor she stopped right then and there and cleaned it up, with the
result that when breakfast was served, the kitchen looked as ship-shape
as when she began. When she was busy, she was the busiest woman
you ever saw. She worked with her head, both hands, and her feet. As a
result instead of fiddling around all day, when she was through she was
When she got up in the morning she knew exactly what she had to do
for the day, just how she was going to do it and just when she was
going to do it. And you could bank that the things at night would be
done, and be done just as she had planned. She thought ahead. That's a
great thing to master in any business.
In my own work, the plan I had outlined for myself I developed day
by day. At the end of three months I found that even what little
Italian I had then learned was a help to me. The mere fact that I was
studying their language placed me on a better footing with my fellows.
They seemed to receive it as a compliment and to feel that I was taking
a personal interest in them as a race. My desire to practise my few
phrases was always a letter of introduction to a newcomer.
I talked with them about everythingwhere they came from, what made
them come, what they did before they came, how long they worked and
what pay they got in Italy, how they saved to get over here, how they
secured their jobs, what they hoped to do eventually, where they lived,
how large their families were, how much it cost them to live and what
they ate. I inquired as to what they liked and what they disliked about
their work; what they considered fair and what unfair about the labor
and the pay; what they liked and didn't like about the foreman. Often I
couldn't get any opinion at all out of them on these subjects; often it
wasn't honest and often it wasn't intelligent. But as with my other
questioning when I sifted it all down and thought it over, I was
surprised at how much information I did get. If I didn't learn facts
which could be put into words, I was left with a very definite
impression and a very wide general knowledge.
In the meanwhile my note book was always busy. I kept jotting down
names and addresses with enough running comment to help me to recall
the men individually. I wasn't able to locate one out of ten of these
men later but the tenth man was worth all the trouble.
As the winter advanced and the air grew frosty and the snow and ice
came, the work in a good many ways was harder. And yet everything
considered I don't know but what I'd rather work outdoors at zero than
at eighty-five. Except that my hands got numb and everything was more
difficult to handle I didn't mind the cold. There was generally
exercise enough to keep the blood moving.
We had a variety of work before spring. After the subway job I
shifted to a big house foundation and there met another group of
skilled workmen from whom I learned much. The work was easier and the
surroundings pleasanter if you can speak of pleasant surroundings about
a hole in the ground. The soil was easier to handle and we went to no
great depth. Here too I met a new gang of laborers. I missed many
familiar faces out of the old crowd and found some interesting new men.
Rafferty had gone and I was sorry. I saw more or less of him however
during the winter for he dropped around now and then on Sunday
evenings. I don't think he ever forgot the incident of the sewer gas.
I enjoyed too every hour in my night school. I found here a very
large per cent. of foreigners and they were naturally of the more
ambitious type. I found I had a great deal to learn even in the matter
of spreading mortar and using a trowel. It was really fascinating work
and in the instructor I made an invaluable friend. Through him I was
able to arrange my scattered fragments of information into larger
groups. Little by little I told him something of my plan and he was
very much interested in it. He gave me many valuable suggestions and
later proved of substantial help in more ways than one.
CHAPTER XIII. I BECOME A CITIZEN
As I said, there were still many opportunities which I didn't have
time to improve. The three of us seemed to have breathed in down here
some spirit which left us almost feverish in our desire to learn.
Whether it was the opportunity which bred the desire or the desire as
expressed by all these newcomers, fresh from the shackles of their old
lives, which created the opportunity, I leave to the students of such
matters. All I know is that we were offered the best in practical
information, such as the trade schools and the night high schools; the
best in art, the best in music, the best in the drama. I am speaking
always of the newcomerthe emigrant. Sprinkled in with these was the
cheaper element of the native-born, whether of foreign or of American
descent, who spent their evenings on the street or at the cheap
theatres or in the barrooms. This class despised the whole business.
Incidentally these were the men who haunted the bread line, the
Salvation Army barracks, and were the first to join in any public
demonstration against the rich. The women, not always so much by their
own fault, were the type which keeps the charitable associations busy.
I'm not saying that among these there were not often cases of sheer
hard luck. Now and then sickness played the devil with a family and
more often the cussedness of some one member dragged down a half dozen
innocent ones with him, but I do say that when misfortune did come to
this particular class they didn't buck up to it as Helen Bonnington did
or use such means as were at their disposal to pull out of it. They
just caved in. Even in their daily lives, when things were going well
with them, they lost in the glitter and glare of the city that spark
which my middle-class friends lost by stagnation.
Because there was no poetic romance left in their own lives, they
despised it in the lives of others and laughed at it in art. Whatever
went back into the past, they looked upon scornfully as ancient. They
lived each day as it came with a pride in being up-to-date. As a
result, they preferred musical comedy of the horse play kind to real
music; they preferred cheap melodrama to Shakespere. They lived and
breathed the spirit of the yellow journals.
I don't know what sort of an education it is the Italians come over
here with, but they were a constant surprise to me in their
appreciation of the best in art. And it was genuineit was simple.
I've heard a good many jokes about the foolishness of giving them a
diet of Shakespere and Beethoven, of Mæterlinck and Mascagni, but that
sort of talk comes either from the outsiders or from the Great White
Way crowd. When you've seen Italians not only crowd in to the free
productions down here but have seen them put up good money to attend
the best theatres; when you've heard them whistle grand opera at their
work and save hard earned dollars to spend on it down town; when you've
seen them crowd the art museums on free days and spend a half dollar to
look at some private exhibition of a fellow countryman's, you begin to
think, if you're honest, that the laugh is on you. They made me feel
ashamed not only because I was ignorant but because after I became more
familiar with the works of the masters I was slower than they to
appreciate them. In many cases I couldn't. I didn't flatter myself
either that this was because of my superior frankness or
up-to-dateness. I knew well enough that it was because of a lack in me
and my ancestors.
Scarcely a week passed when there wasn't something worth seeing or
hearing presented to these people. It came either through a settlement
house or through the generosity of some interested private patron.
However it came, it was always through the medium of a class which
until now had been only a name to me. This was the independently
well-to-do American classthe Americans who had partly made and partly
inherited their fortunes and had not yet come to misuse them. It is a
class still active in American life, running however more to the
professions than to business. Many of their family names have been
familiar in history to succeeding generations since the early
settlement of New England. They were intellectual leaders then and they
are intellectual leaders now. If I could with propriety I'd like to
give here a list of half a dozen of these men and women who came, in
time, to revive for me my belief that after all there still is left in
this country the backbone of a worthy old stock. But they don't need
any such trivial tribute as I might give them. The thing that struck me
at once about them was that they were still finding an outlet for their
pioneer instinct not only in their professions and their business, but
in the interest they took in the new pioneer. Shoulder to shoulder with
the modern Pilgrims they were pushing forward their investigations in
medicine, in science, in economics. They were adapting old laws to new
conditions; they were developing the new West; they were the new
thinkers and the new politicians.
I don't suppose that if I had lived for fifty years under the old
conditions I would have met one of them. There was no meeting ground
for us, for we had nothing in common. I couldn't possibly interest them
and I'm sure I was too busy with my own troubles to take any interest
in them even if I had known of their existence.
Even down here I resented at first their presence as an intrusion.
Whenever I met them I was inclined to play the cad and there's no
bigger cad on the face of the earth than a workingman who is beginning
to feel his oats. But as I watched them and saw how earnest they were
and how really valuable their efforts were I was able to distinguish
them from still another crowd who flaunted their silly charities in the
newspapers. But these other quiet men and women were of different
calibre; they were the ones who established pure milk stations, who
encouraged the young men of real talent like Giuseppe, and who headed
all the real work for good done down here.
They came into my life when I needed them; when perhaps I was
swinging too far in my belief that the emigrant was the only force for
progress in our nation. I know they checked me in some wild thinking in
which I was beginning to indulge.
I find I have been wandering a little. But what we thought, counted
for as much towards the goal as what we did and even if the thinking is
only that of one manand an ordinary man at thatwhy, so for that
matter was the whole venture. I want to say again that all I'm trying
to do is to put down as well as I can remember and as well as I am
able, my own acts and thoughts and nothing but my own. Of course that
means Ruth's and Dick's too as far as I understood them, for they were
a part of my own. I don't want what I write to be taken as the report
of an investigation but just as the diary of one man's experience.
If I had had the time I could have seen at least two of Shakespere's
playspresented by amateurs, to be sure, but amateurs with talent and
enthusiasm and guided by professionals. I could have heard at least a
half dozen good readers read from the more modern classics. I could
have listened to as many concerts by musicians of good standing. I
could have heard lectures on a dozen subjects of vital interest. Then
there were entertainments designed confessedly to entertain. In
addition to these there were many more lectures in the city itself open
free to the public and which I now for the first time learned about.
There was one series in particular which was addressed once a week by
men of international renown. It was a liberal education in itself. Many
of my neighbors attended.
But as for Dick he was too busy with his studies and Ruth was too
glad to sit at home and watch him, to go out at night.
What spare time I myself had I began to devote to a new interest.
Rafferty had first roused me to my duty as a citizen in the matter of
local politics and through the winter called often enough to keep my
interest whetted. But even without him I couldn't have escaped the
question. Politics was a live issue down here every day in the year.
One campaign was no sooner ended than another was begun. Sweeney was no
sooner elected than he began to lay wires for his fellows in the coming
city election who in their turn would sustain him in whatever further
political ambitions he might have. If the hold the boss had on a ward
or a city was a mystery to me at first, it didn't long remain so. The
secret of his power lay in the fact that he never let go. He was at
work every day in the year and he had an organization with which he
could keep in touch through his lieutenants whether he was in
Washington or at home. Sweeney's personality was always right there in
his ward wherever his body might be.
The Sweeney Club rooms were always open. Night after night you could
find his trusted men there. Here the man out of a job came and from
here was recommended to one contractor or another or to the city;
here the man with the sick wife came to have her sent to some hospital
which perhaps for some reason would not ordinarily receive her; here
the men in court sent their friends for bail; here came those with
bigger plans afoot in the matter of special contracts. If Sweeney
couldn't get them what they wanted, he at least sent them away with a
feeling of deep obligation to him. Naturally then when election time
came around these people obeyed Sweeney's order. It wasn't reasonable
to suppose that a campaign speech or two could affect their loyalty.
Of course the rival party followed much the same methods but the man
in power had a tremendous advantage. The only danger he needed to fear
was a split in his own faction as some young man loomed up with
ambitions that moved faster than Sweeney's own for him. Such a man I
began to suspectthough it was looking a long way into the futurewas
Rafferty. That winter he took out his naturalization papers and soon
afterwards he began an active campaign for the Common Council. It was
partly my interest in him and partly a new sense of duty I felt towards
the whole game that made me resolve to have a hand in this. I owed that
much to the ward in which I lived and which was doing so much for me.
In talking with some of the active settlement workers down here, I
found them as strongly prejudiced against the party in power as I had
been and when I spoke to them of Rafferty I found him damned in their
eyes as soon as I mentioned his party.
The whole system is corrupt from top to bottom, said the head of
one settlement house to me.
Are you doing anything to remedy it? I asked.
What can you do? he said. We are doing the only thing
possiblewe're trying to get hold of the youngsters and give them a
higher sense of civic virtue.
That's good, I said, but you don't get hold of one in ten of the
coming voters. And you don't get hold of one in a hundred of the coming
politicians. Why don't you take hold of a man like Dan who is bound to
get power some day and talk a little civic virtue into him.
You said he was a Democrat and a machine man, said he, as though
that settled it.
I don't see any harm in either fact, I said, if you get at the
good in him. A good Democrat is a good citizen and a good machine is a
good power, I said.
The man smiled.
You don't know, he said.
Do you know? I asked. Have you been to the rallies and met
the men and studied their methods?
All you have to do is to read the papers, he answered.
I don't think so, I said. To beat an enemy you ought to study him
at first hand. You ought to find out the good as well as the bad in
him. You ought to find out where he gets his power.
Graft and patronage, he answered.
What about the other party? I said.
Just as bad.
Then what are you going to do about it? I asked.
Our only hope is education, he said.
Then, I said, why not educate the young politicians? Get to know
Raffertyhe's young and simple and honest now. Help him to advance
honestly and keep him that way.
He shook his head doubtfully but he agreed to have a talk with Dan.
In the meanwhile I had a talk with Dan myself. I told him what my
Dan, I said, you must decide right at the beginning of your
career whether you're going to be just a tool of Sweeney's or whether
you're going to stand on your own feet.
Phot's the mather with Sweeney, now? he asked.
In some ways he's all right, I said. And in other ways he isn't.
But anyhow he's your boss and you have to do what he tells you to do
just as though he was your landlord back in Ireland and you nothing but
Eh? he said looking up quick.
I thought I'd strike a sore spot there and I made the most of it. I
talked along like this for a half hour and I saw his lips come
He'd knife me, he said finally. He's sore now 'cause I'm afther
wantin' to run for the council this year.
I had heard the rumor.
Then, I said, why don't you pull free and make a little machine
of your own. Some of the boys will stand by you, won't they?
Will they? he grinned.
With that I took him around to the settlement house. Dan listened
good naturedly to a lot of talk he didn't understand but he listened
with more interest to a lot of talk about the needs of the district
which it was now getting cheated out of, which he did understand. And
incidentally the man who at first did all the talking in the end
listened to Dan. After the latter had gone, he turned to me and said:
I like that fellow Rafferty.
That seemed to me the really important thing and right there and
then we sat down and worked out the basis of the Young American
Political Club. Our object was to reach the young voter first of all
and through him to reach the older ones. To this end we had a
Committee on Boys and a Committee on Naturalization. I insisted
from the beginning that we must have an organization as perfect as that
of any political machine. Until we felt our strength a little however,
I suggested it was best to limit our efforts to the districts alone. We
took a map of the city and we cut up the districts into blocks with a
young man at the head of each block. He was to make a list of all the
young voters and keep as closely in touch as possible with the
political gossip of both parties. Over him there was to be a street
captain and over him a district captain and finally a president.
All this was the result of slow and careful study. All the workers
down here fell in with the plan eagerly and one of them agreed to pay
the expenses of a hall any time we wished to use one for campaign
purposes. At first our efforts passed unnoticed by either political
party. It was thought to be just another fanciful civic dream. We were
glad of it. It gave us time to perfect our organization without
This business took up all the time I could spare during the winter.
But instead of finding it a drag I found it an inspiration. They
insisted upon making me president of the Club and though I would rather
have had a younger man at its head I accepted the honor with a feeling
of some pride. It was the first public office I had ever held and it
gave me a new sense of responsibility and a better sense of
In the meanwhile Dan made no open break with Sweeney but it soon
became clear that he was not in such good favor as before. Although we
had not yet openly endorsed his candidacy we were doing a good deal of
talking for him. I received several visits from Sweeney's lieutenants
who tried to find out just what we were about. My answer invariably was
No partisanship but clean politics.
When it came time to register I was forced to register with one of
the two parties in order to take any part in the primaries. I
registered as a Democrat for the first time in my life. I also attended
a primary for the first time in my life. I also felt a new power back
of me for the first time in my life. Little by little Dan had come to
be an issue. Sweeney did not openly declare himself but it was soon
evident that he had come to the primaries prepared to knife Rafferty if
it were possible. Back of Dan stood his large personal following; back
of me stood the balance of power. Sweeney saw it, gave the nod, and Dan
Six weeks later he was elected, too. You'd have thought he had been
elected mayor by the noise the small boys made. Rafferty came to me
with his big paw outstretched,
Carleton, he said, the only thing I've got agin ye is thot ye
ain't an Irishmon. Faith, ye'd make a domd foine Irishmon.
It's up to you now, I said, to make a damned fine American.
It wasn't more than two months later that Dan came to me to ask my
opinion on a request of Sweeney's. It looked a bit off color and I said
You can't do it, Dan, I said.
It manes throuble, he said.
Let it come. We're back of you with both feet.
Dan followed my advice and the trouble came. He was fired from his
job as foreman under Sweeney.
But you can't keep down as good a foreman as Dan was and he had
another job within a week.
A few months later I had another job myself. I was made foreman with
my own firm at a wage of two dollars and a half a day. When I went back
and announced this to Ruth, she cried a little. Truly our cup seemed
full and running over.
CHAPTER XIV. FIFTEEN DOLLARS A WEEK
My first thought when I received my advance in pay was that I could
now relieve Ruth of some of her burdens. There was no longer any need
of her spending so much time in trotting around the markets and the
department stores. Nor was there any need of her doing so much plotting
and planning in her endeavor to save a penny. Furthermore I was
determined that she should now enjoy some of the little luxuries of
life in the way of better things to wear and better things to eat. But
that idea was taken out of me in short order.
No, she said, as soon as she recovered from the good news. We
mustn't spend one cent more than we've been spending.
But look here, I said; what's the good of a raise if we don't use
What's the good of a raise if we spend it? she asked me. We'll
use it, Billy, but we'll use it wisely. How many times have you told me
that if you had your life to live over again you wouldn't spend one
cent over the first salary you received, if it was only three dollars a
week, until you had a bank account?
I know that, I said. But when a man has a wife and boy like you
He doesn't want to turn them into burdens that will hold him down
all his life, she broke in. It isn't fair to the wife and boy, she
I couldn't quite follow her reasoning but I didn't have to. When I
came home the next Saturday night with fifteen dollars in my pocket
instead of nine she calmly took out three for the rent, five for
household expenses and put seven in the ginger jar. I suggested that at
least we have one celebration and with the boy go to the little French
restaurant we used to visit, but she held up her hands in horror.
Do you think I'd spend two dollars and a half forwhy, Billy, you
I'd like to spend ten, I said. I'd like to go there to dinner and
buy you a half dozen roses and get the three best seats in the best
theater in town, I said.
She came to my side and patted my arm.
Thank you, Billy, she said. But honestit's just as much fun to
have you want to do those things as really do them.
I believe she meant it. I wouldn't believe it of anyone else but for
a week she talked about that dinner and those flowers and the theater
until she had me wondering if we hadn't actually gone. Dick thought we
And so, just as usual, after this she'd take her basket and start
out two or three mornings a week and walk with me as far as the market.
She'd spend an hour here and then if she needed anything more she'd go
down town to the big stores and wander around here for another hour.
But Saturday nights was her great bargain opportunity. If I couldn't go
with her she'd take Dick and the two would plan to get there at about
nine o'clock. From this time on she often picked up for a song odd ends
of meat and good vegetables which the market men didn't want to carry
over to Monday. In fact they had to sell out these things as
their stock at the beginning of the week had to be fresh. I suppose
marketing at this time of day would be a good deal of a hardship for
those living in the suburbs but it was a regular lark for her. Most
everyone is good natured on Saturday night if on no other night. The
week's work is done and people have enough money from their pay
envelopes to feel rich for a few hours anyway. Then there were the
lights and the crowd and the shouting so that it was like twenty
country fairs rolled into one.
After the excitement of coming home Saturdays with so much money
wore off, I began to forget that I was earning fifteen instead
of nine. If Ruth had spent it on the table I'm sure I'd have forgotten
it even more quickly. I was getting all I wanted to eat, was warm and
had a good clean bed to sleep in and what more can a man have even if
he's earning a hundred a week? I think people are very apt to forget
that after all a millionaire can spend only about so much on himself.
And after the newness of fresh toys has worn offlike steam yachts and
private carshe is forced to be satisfied with just what I had, no
matter how much more money he makes. He has only his five senses and
once these are satisfied he's no better off than a man who satisfies
these same senses on eight dollars a week. Generally he's worse off
because in a year or so he has probably dulled them all. Rockefeller
himself probably never in his life got half the fun out of anything
that I did in just crawling into my clean bed at night with every tired
muscle purring contentedly and my mind at rest about the next day. I
doubt if he knows the joy of waking up in the morning rested and
hungry. The only advantage he had over me that I can see is the power
he had to help others. In a way I don't believe he found any greater
opportunity even for that than Ruth found right here.
For those interested in the details I'm going to give another
quotation from Ruth's note book. But to my mind these details aren't
the important part of our venture. The thing that counted was the
spirit back of them. It isn't the fact that we lived on from six to
eight dollars a week or the statistics of how we lived on that which
makes my life worth telling about if it is worth telling about.
In the first place prices vary in different localities and shift from
year to year. In fact since we began they have almost doubled. In the
second place people have lived and are living to-day on less than we
did. I give our figures simply to satisfy the curious and to show how
Ruth planned. But no one could do as she did or do as we did merely by
aping her little economies, or accepting the result of them. Either
they would find the task impossible or look upon it as a privation and
endure it as martyrs. In this mood they wouldn't last a week. I know
that people who read this without at least a germ of the pioneer in
them will either smile or shrug their shoulders. I've met plenty of
this sort. I met them by the dozen down here. As I said, you can find
them in every bread line, in every Salvation Army barracks or the
Associated Charities will furnish you a list of as many as you want.
You'll find them in the suburbs or you'll find them marching in line
the next time there is a procession of the unemployed.
But give me true pioneers such as our own forefathers were, such as
the young men out West are to-day, such as every steamer lands here by
the hundreds from foreign countries every week and I say you can't down
that kind, you can't kill them. I don't say that it's right to raise
the price of necessities. I don't think it is, though I don't know much
about it. But I do say that if you double the cost of food stuffs and
then double it again, though you may cruelly starve out the weaklings,
you'll find the pioneers still on their feet, still fighting.
It seems strange to me that men will go to Alaska and contentedly
freeze and dig all day in a minenot of their own, but for wagesand
not feel so greatly abused or unhappy; that they will swing an axe all
day in a forest and live on baked beans and bread without feeling like
martyrs; that they will go to sea and grub on hard tack and salt pork
and fish without complaint and then will turn Anarchists on the same
fare in the East. It seems strange too that these men keep strong and
healthy, and that our ancestors kept strong and healthy on even a still
simpler diet. Why, my father fought battlesand the mental strain must
have been terrificand did more actual labor every day in carrying a
rifle and marching than I do in a week, and slept out doors under a
blanketall on a diet that the average tramp of to-day would spurn. He
did this for four years and if the sanitary conditions had been decent
would have returned well and strong as many a man did who didn't run
afoul typhoid fever and malaria. Men who do such things have something
in them that the men back East have lost. I call it the romantic spirit
or the pioneer spirit and I say that a man who has it won't care
whether he's living in Maine or California and that whatever the
conditions are he will overcome them. I know that we three would have
lived on almost rice alone as the Japanese do before we'd have cried
quit. That was because we were tackling this problem not as Easterners
but as Westerners; not as poor whites but as emigrants. Men on a ranch
stand for worse things than we had and have less of a future to dream
So I repeat that to my mind the house details don't count here for
any more than they did in the lives of the original New England
settlers, or the forty-niners, or those on homesteads or in Alaska
to-day. However, I'll put them in and I'll take the month of May as an
examplethe first month after I was made foreman. It's fairer to give
the items for a month. They are as follows:
Corn meal, .10
About one tenth barrel flour, .65
White beans, .16
Soda, etc., .14
Cocoa shells, .05
Yeast cakes, .06
This makes an average of three dollars and nineteen cents a week.
With a fluctuation of perhaps twenty-five cents either way Ruth
maintained this pretty much throughout the year now. It fell off a
little in the summer and increased a little in the winter. It's
impossible to give any closer estimate than this. Even this month many
things were used which were left over from the week preceding and, on
the other hand, some things on this list like molasses and sugar and
cornstarch went towards reducing the total of the month following.
This left say a dollar and seventy-five cents a week for such small
incidentals as are not accounted for here but chiefly for sewing
material, bargains in cloth remnants and such things as were needed
towards the repair of our clothes as well as for such new clothes as we
had to buy from time to time. I think we spent more on shoes than we
did clothes but Ruth by patronizing the sample shoe shops always came
home with a three or four dollar pair for which she never paid over two
dollars and sometimes as low as a dollar and a half. The boy and I
bought our shoes at the same reduction at bankrupt sales. We gave our
neighbors this tip and saw them save a good many dollars in this way.
On the whole these people were not good buyers; they never looked
ahead but bought only when they were in urgent need and then bought at
the cheapest price regardless of quality. They would pay two and two
and a half for shoes that wouldn't last them any time at all. Whatever
Ruth bought she considered the quality first and the price afterwards.
Then, too, she often ran across something she didn't need at the time
but which was a good bargain; she would buy this and put it away. She
was able to buy many things which were out of season for half what the
same things would cost six months later. It was very difficult to make
our neighbors see the advantage of this practice and their blindness
cost them many a good dollar.
We also had the advantage of our neighbors in knowing how to take
good care of our clothes. The average man was careless and slovenly. In
a week a new suit would be spotted with grease, wrinkled, and all out
of shape. He never thought of pressing it, cleaning it or of putting it
away carefully when through wearing it. The women were no better about
their own clothes. This was also true of their shoes. They might shine
them once a month but generally they let them go until they dried up
and cracked. In this way their new clothes soon became workday clothes,
their new shoes, old shoes, and as such they lasted a very few months.
Dick and I might have done a little better than our neighbors even
without Ruth to watch us, but we certainly would not have had the
training we did have. Shoes had to be cleaned and either oiled or
shined before going to bed. If it rained we wore our old pairs whether
it was Sunday or not or else we stayed at home. Every time Dick or I
put on our good clothes we were as carefully inspected as troops on
parade. If a grease spot was found, it was removed then and there. If a
button was missing or a bit of fringe showed or a hole the size of a
pin head was found we had to wait until the defect was remedied. Every
Sunday morning the boy pressed both his suit and mine and every night
we had to hang our coats over a chair and fold our trousers. If we were
careless about it, the little woman without a word simply got up and
did them over again herself.
These may seem like small matters but the result was that we all of
us kept looking shipshape and our clothes lasted. When we finally did
finish with them they weren't good for anything but old rags and even
then Ruth used them about her housework. I figured roughly that Ruth
kept us well dressed on about half what it cost most of our neighbors
and yet we appeared to be twice as well dressed as any of them. Of
course we had a good many things to start with when we came down here
but our clothing bill didn't go up much even during the last year when
our original stock was very nearly exhausted. She accomplished this
result about one-half by long-headed buying, and one-half by her
carefulness and her skill with the needle.
To go back to the matter of food, I'll copy off a week's bill of
fare during this month. Ruth has written it out for me. You'll notice
that it doesn't vary very much from the earlier ones.
Breakfast: fried hasty pudding with molasses; doughnuts, cocoa
made from cocoa shells.
Dinner: lamb stew with dumplings, boiled potatoes, boiled onions,
Breakfast: oatmeal, baked potatoes, creamed codfish, biscuits.
Luncheon: for Billy: brown bread sandwiches, cold beans,
doughnuts, milk; for Dick and me: boiled rice, cold biscuits,
baked apples, milk.
Dinner: warmed over lamb stew, baked apples, cocoa, cold biscuits.
Breakfast: oatmeal, milk toast, cocoa.
Luncheon: for Billy: cold biscuits, hard-boiled eggs, doughnuts;
for Dick and me: warmed over beans, biscuits.
Dinner: hamburg steak, baked potatoes, graham muffins, apple
Breakfast: oatmeal, griddle-cakes with molasses, cocoa shells.
Luncheon: for Billy: sandwiches made of biscuits and left over
steak, doughnuts; for Dick and me: crackers and milk, hot
Dinner: vegetable hash, hot biscuits, gingerbread, apple sauce,
Breakfast: oatmeal, fried hasty pudding, doughnuts, cocoa shells.
Luncheon: for Billy: hard-boiled eggs, cold biscuits, gingerbread,
baked apple; for Dick and me: baked potatoes, apple sauce, cold
Dinner: lyonnaise potatoes, hot corn bread, Poor man's pudding,
Breakfast: smoked herring, baked potatoes, oatmeal, graham
Luncheon: for Billy: herring, cold muffins, doughnuts; for Dick
and me: German toast, apple sauce.
Dinner: fish hash, biscuits, Indian pudding, milk.
Breakfast: oatmeal, German toast, cocoa shells.
Luncheon: for Billy: cold biscuits, hard-boiled eggs, bowl of
rice; for Dick and me: rice and milk, doughnuts, apple sauce.
Dinner: baked beans, new raised bread.
To a man accustomed to a beefsteak breakfast, fried hasty pudding
may seem a poor substitute and griddle cakes may seem well enough to
taper off with but scarcely stuff for a full meal. All I say is, have
those things well made, have enough of them and then try it. If a man
has a sound digestion and a good body I'll guarantee that such food
will not only satisfy him but furnish him fuel for the hardest kind of
physical exercise. I know because I've tried it. And though to some my
lunches may sound slight, they averaged more in substance and variety
than the lunches of my foreign fellow-workmen. A hunk of bread and a
bit of cheese was often all they brought with them.
Dick thrived on it too. The elimination of pastry from his simple
luncheons brought back the color to his cheeks and left him hard as
I've read since then many articles on domestic economy and how on a
few dollars a week a man can make many fancy dishes which will fool him
into the belief that he is getting the same things which before cost
him a great many more dollars. Their object appears to be to give such
a variety that the man will not notice a change. Now this seems to me
all wrong. What's the use of clinging to the notion that a man lives to
eat? Why not get down to bed rock at once and face the fact that a man
doesn't need the bill of fare of a modern hotel or any substitute for
it? A few simple foods and plenty of them is enough. When a man begins
to crave a variety he hasn't placed his emphasis right. He hasn't
worked up to the right kind of hunger. Compare the old-time country
grocery store with the modern provision house and it may help you to
understand why our lean sinewy forefathers have given place to the
sallow, fat parodies of to-day. A comparison might also help to explain
something of the high cost of living. My grandfather kept such a store
and I've seen some of his old account books. About all he had to sell
in the way of food was flour, rice, potatoes, sugar and molasses,
butter, cheese and eggs. These articles weren't put up in packages and
they weren't advertised. They were sold in bulk and all you paid for
was the raw material. The catalogue of a modern provision house makes a
book. The whole object of the change it seems to me is to fill the
demand for variety. You have to pay for that. But when you trim your
ship to run before a gale you must throw overboard just such freight.
Once you do, you'll find it will have to blow harder than it does even
to-day to sink you. I am constantly surprised at how few of the things
we think we need we actually do need.
The pioneer of to-day doesn't need any more than the pioneer of a
hundred years ago. To me this talk that a return to the customs of our
ancestors involves a lowering of the standard of living is all
nonsense; it means nothing but a simplifying of the standard of living.
If that's a return to barbarism then I'm glad to be a barbarian and
I'll say there never were three happier barbarians than Ruth, the boy
CHAPTER XV. THE GANG
If I'd been making five dollars a day at this time, I wouldn't have
moved from the tenement. In the first place as far as physical comfort
went I was never better off. We had all the room we needed. During the
winter we had used the living room as a kitchen and dining room just as
our forefathers did. We economized fuel in this way and Ruth kept the
rooms spotless. We had no fires in our bedrooms and did not want any.
We all of us slept with our windows wide open. If we had had ten more
rooms we wouldn't have known what to do with them. When we had a
visitor we received him in the kitchen. Some of our neighbors took
boarders and also slept in the kitchen. I don't know as I should want
to do that but at the same time many a family lives in a one room hut
in the forest after this fashion. By outsiders it's looked upon as
rather romantic. It isn't considered a great hardship by the settlers
Then we had the advantage of our roof and with summer coming on we
looked forward to the garden and the joy of the warm starry nights. We
had some wonderful winter pictures, too, from that same roof. It was
worth going up there to see the house tops after a heavy snow storm.
If I had wanted to move I could have done only one of two things;
either gone back into the suburbs or taken a more expensive flat up
town. I certainly had had enough of the former and as for the latter I
could see no comparison. If anything this flat business was worse than
the suburbs. I would be surrounded by an ordinary group of people who
had all the airs of the latter with none of their good points. I'd be
hedged in by conventions with which I was now even in less sympathy
than before. I wouldn't have exchanged my present freedom of movement
and independence of action for even the best suite in the most
expensive apartment house in the city. Not for a hundred dollars a
week. Advantages? What were they? Would a higher grade of wall paper, a
more expensive set of furniture and steam heat compensate me for the
loss of the solid comfort I found here by the side of my little iron
stove? Was an electric elevator a fair swap for my roof? Were the gilt,
the tinsel and the soft carpets worth the privilege I enjoyed here of
dressing as I pleased, eating what I pleased, doing what I pleased? Was
their apartment-house friendship, however polished, worth the simple
genuine fellowship I enjoyed among my present neighbors? What could
such a life offer me for my soul's or my body's good that I didn't have
here? I couldn't see how in a single respect I could better my present
condition except with the complete independence that might come with a
fortune and a country estate. Any middle ground, assuming that I could
afford it, meant nothing but the undertaking again of all the old
burdens I had just shaken off.
Ruth, the boy and myself now knew genuinely more people than we had
ever before known in our lives. And most of them were worth knowing and
the others worth some endeavor to make worth knowing. We were
all pulling together down heresome harder than others, to be sure,
but all with a distinct ambition that was dependent for success upon
nothing but our own efforts.
I was in touch with more opportunities than I had ever dreamed
existed. All three of us were enjoying more advantages than we had ever
dreamed would be ours. My Italian was improving from day to day. I
could handle mortar easily and naturally and point a joint as well as
my instructor. I could build a true square pier of any size from one
brick to twenty. I could make a square or pigeonhole corner or lay out
a brick footing. And I was proud of my accomplishment.
But more interesting to me than anything else was the opportunity I
now had as a foreman to test the value of the knowledge of my former
fellow workmen which I had been slowly acquiring. I was anxious to see
if my ideas were pure theory or whether they were practical. They had
proven practical at any rate in securing my own advance. This had come
about through no such pull as Rafferty's. It was the result of nothing
but my intelligent and conscientious work in the ditch and among the
men. And this in turn was made possible by the application of the
knowledge I picked up and used as I had the chance. It was only because
I had shown my employers that I was more valuable as a foreman than a
common laborer that I was not still digging. I had been able to do this
because having learned from twenty different men how to handle a
crowbar for instance, I had from time to time been able to direct the
men with whom I was working as at the start I myself had been directed
by Anton'. Anton' was still digging because that was all he knew. I had
learned other things. I had learned how to handle Anton'.
I had no idea that my efforts were being watched. I don't know now
how I was picked out. Except of course that it must have been because
of the work I did.
At any rate I found myself at the head of twenty menall Italians,
all strangers and among them three or four just off the steamer. My
first job was on a foundation for an apartment house. Of course my part
in it was the very humble one of seeing that the men kept at work
digging. The work had all been staked out and the architect's agent was
there to give all incidental instructions. He was a young graduate of a
technical school and I took the opportunity this offeredfor he was a
good-natured boyto use what little I had learned in my night school
and study his blue prints. At odd times he explained them to me and
aside from what I learned myself from them it helped me to direct the
men more intelligently.
But it was on the men themselves that I centred my efforts. As soon
as possible I learned them by name. At the noon hour I took my lunch
with them and talked with them in their own language. I made a note of
where they lived and found as I expected that many were from my ward.
Incidentally I dropped a word here and there about the Young American
Political Club, and asked them to come around to some of the meetings.
I found out where they came from and wherever I could, I associated
them with some of their fellows with whom I had worked. I found out
about their families. In brief I made myself know every man of them as
intimately as was possible.
I don't suppose for a minute that I could have done this
successfully if I hadn't really been genuinely interested in them. If I
had gone at it like a professional hand shaker they would have detected
the hypocrisy in no time. Neither did I attempt a chummy attitude nor a
fatherly attitude. I made it clearly understood that I was an American
first of all and that I was their boss. It was perfectly easy to do
this and at the same time treat them like men and like units. I tried
to make them feel that instead of being merely a bunch of Dagoes they
were Italian workingmen. Your foreign laborer is quick to appreciate
such a distinction and quick to respond to it. With the American-born
you have to draw a sharper line and hold a steadier rein. I figured out
that when you find a member of the second or third generation still
digging, you've found a man with something wrong about him.
The next thing I did was to learn what each man could do best. Of
course I could make only broad classifications. Still there were men
better at lifting than others; men better with the crowbar; men better
at shoveling; men naturally industrious who would leaven a group of
three or four lazy ones. As well as I could I sorted them out in this
In addition to taking this personal interest in them individually, I
based my relations with them collectively on a principle of strict,
homely justice. I found there was no quality of such universal appeal
as this one of justice. Whether dealing with Italians, Russians,
Portuguese, Poles, Irish or Irish-Americans you could always get below
their national peculiarities if you reached this common denominator.
However browbeaten, however slavish, they had been in their former
lives this spark seemed always alive. However cocky or anarchistic they
might feel in their new freedom you could pull them up with a sharp
turn by an appeal to their sense of justice. And by justice I mean
nothing but what ex-president Roosevelt has now made familiar by the
phrase a square deal. Justice in the abstract might not appeal to
them but they knew when they were being treated fairly and when they
were not. Also they knew when they were treating you fairly and when
they were not. I never allowed a man to feel bullied or abused; I never
gave a sharp order without an explanation. I never discharged a man
without making him feel guilty in his heart no matter how much he
protested with his lips. And I never discharged him without making the
other men clearly see his guilt. When a man went, he left no
sympathizers behind him.
On the other hand I made them act justly towards their employer and
towards me. I taught them that justice must be on both sides. I tried
to make them understand that their part was not to see how little work
they could do for their money and that mine was not to see how much
they could do, but that it was up to both of us to turn out a full fair
day's work. They were not a chain gang but workmen selling their labor.
Just as they expected the store-keepers to sell them fair measure and
full weight, so I expected them to sell a full day and honest effort.
It wasn't always possible to secure a result but when it wasn't I
got rid of that man on the first occasion. It was very much easier to
handle in this way the freedom-loving foreigners than I looked for;
with the American-born it was harder than I expected.
On the whole however I was mighty well pleased. I certainly got a
lot of work out of them without in any way pushing them. They didn't
sweat for me and I didn't want them tobut they kept steadily at their
work from morning until night. Then too, I didn't hesitate to do a
little work myself now and then. If at any point another man seemed to
be needed to help over a difficulty I jumped in. I not only often saved
the useless efforts of three or four men in this way but I convinced
them that I too had my employers' interests at heart. My object wasn't
simply to earn my day's pay, it was to finish the job we were on in the
shortest possible time. It makes a big difference whether a man feels
he is working by the day or by the job. I tried to make them feel that
we were all working by the job.
Without boasting I think I can say that we cut down the contractor's
estimate by at least a full day. I know they had to do some hustling to
get the pile-drivers to the spot on time.
On the next job I had to begin all over again with a new gang. It
seemed a pity that all my work on the other should be wasted but I
didn't say anything. For two months I took each time the men I had and
did my best with them. I had my reward in finding myself placed at the
head of a constantly increasing force. I also found that I was being
sent on all the hurry-up work. I learned something every day. Finally
when the time seemed ripe I went to the contractor's agent with the
proposition towards which I had all along been working. This was that I
should be allowed to hire my own men.
The agent was skeptical at first about the wisdom of entrusting such
power as this to a subordinate but I put my case to him squarely. I
said in brief that I was sure I could pick a gang of fifty men who
would do the work of seventy-five. I told him that for a year now I had
been making notes on the best workers and I thought I could secure
them. But I would have to do it myself. It would be only through my
personal influence with them that they could be got. He raised several
objections but I finally said:
Let me try it anyhow. The men won't cost you any more than the
others and if I don't make good it's easy enough to go back to the old
It's queer how stubbornly business men cling to routine. They get
stuck in a system and hate to change. He finally gave me permission to
see the men. I was then to turn them over to the regular paymaster who
would engage them. This was all I wanted and with my note book I
It was no easy job for me and for a week I had to cut out my night
school and give all my time to it. Many of the men had moved and others
had gone into other work but I kept at it night after night trotting
from one end of the city to the other until I rounded up about thirty
of them. This seemed to me enough to form a core. I could pick up
others from time to time as I found them. The men remembered me and
when I told them something of my plan they all agreed with a grin to
report for work as soon as they were free. And this was how Carleton's
gang happened to be formed.
It took me about three months to put all my fifty men into good
working order and it wasn't for a year that I had my machine where I
wanted it. But it was a success from the start. At the end of a year I
learned that even the contractor himself began to speak with some pride
of Carleton's gang. And he used it. He used it hard. In fact he made
something of a special feature of it. It began to bring him emergency
business. Wherever speed was a big essential, he secured the contract
through my gang. He used us altogether for foundation work and his
business increased so rapidly that we were never idle. I became proud
of my men and my reputation.
But of course this successthis proof that my idea was a good
oneonly whetted my appetite for the big goal still ahead of me. I was
eager for the day when this group of men should really be Carleton's
gang. It was hard in a way to see the result of my own thought and work
turning out big profits for another when all I needed was a little
capital to make it my own. Still I knew I must be patient. There were
many things yet that I must learn before I should be competent to
undertake contracts for myself. In the meanwhile I could satisfy my
ambition by constantly strengthening and perfecting the machine.
Then, too, I found that the gang was bringing me into closer touch
with my superiors. One day I was called to the office of the firm and
there I met the two men who until now had been nothing to me but two
names. For a year I had stared at these names painted in black on white
boards and posted about the grounds of every job upon which I had
worked. I had never thought of them as human beings so much as some
hidden forcelike the unseen dynamo of a power plant. They were both
Irish-Americansstrong, prosperous-looking men. Somehow they made me
distinctly conscious of my own ancestry. I don't mean that I was
over-proudin a way I don't suppose there was anything to boast of in
the Carletonsbut as I stood before these men in the position of a
minor employee I suppose that unconsciously I looked for something in
my past to offset my present humiliating situation. And from a business
point of view, it was humiliating. The Carletons had been in this
country two hundred years and these men but twenty-five or thirty and
yet I was the man who stood while they faced me in their easy chairs
before their roll-top desks. It was then that I was glad to remember
there hadn't been a war in this country in which a Carleton had not
played his part. I held myself a little better for the thought.
They were unaffected and business-like but when they spoke it was
plain Carleton and when I spoke it was Mr. Corkery, or Mr.
Galvin. That was right and proper enough.
They had called me in to consult with me on a big job which they
were trying to figure down to the very lowest point. They were willing
to get out of it with the smallest possible margin of profit for the
advertisement it would give them and in view of future contracts with
the same firm which it might bring. The largest item in it was the
handling of the dirt. They showed me their blue prints and their rough
estimate and then Mr. Corkery said:
How much can you take off that, Carleton?
I told him I would need two or three hours to figure it out. He
called a clerk.
Give Carleton a desk, he said.
Then he turned to me:
Stay here until you've done it, he said.
It took me all the forenoon. I worked carefully because it seemed to
me that here was a big chance to prove myself. I worked at those
figures as though I had every dollar I ever hoped to have at stake. I
didn't trim it as close as I would have done for myself but as it was I
took off a fifththe matter of five thousand dollars. When I came
back, Mr. Corkery looked over my figures.
Sure you can do that? he asked.
I could see he was surprised.
Yes, sir, I said.
I'd hate like hell to get stuck, he said.
You won't get stuck, I answered.
It isn't the loss I mind, he said, butwell there is a firm or
two that is waiting to give me the laugh.
They won't laugh, I said.
He looked at me a moment and then called in a clerk.
Have those figures put in shape, he said, and send in this bid.
Corkery secured the contract. I picked one hundred men. The morning
we began I held a sort of convention.
Men, I said, I've promised to do this in so many days. They say
we can't do it. If we don't, here's where they laugh at the gang.
We did it. I never heard from Corkery about it but when we were
through I thanked the gang and I found them more truly mine than they
had ever been before.
Every Saturday night I brought home my fifteen dollars, and Ruth
took out three for the rent, five for household expenses, and put seven
in the ginger jar. We had one hundred and thirty dollars in the bank
before the raise came, and after this it increased rapidly. There
wasn't a week we didn't put aside seven dollars, and sometimes eight.
The end of my first year as an emigrant found me with the following
items to my credit: Ruth, the boy and myself in better health than we
had ever been; Ruth's big mother-love finding outlet in the
neighborhood; the boy alert and ambitious; myself with the beginning of
a good technical education, to say nothing of the rudiments of a new
language, with a loyal gang of one hundred men and two hundred dollars
This inventory does not take into account my new friends, my new
mental and spiritual outlook upon life, or my enhanced self-respect.
Such things cannot be calculated.
That first year was, of course, the important yearthe big year. It
proved what could be done, and nothing remained now but time in which
to do it. It established the evident fact that if a raw, uneducated
foreigner can come to this country and succeed, a native-born with
experience plus intelligence ought to do the same thing more rapidly.
But it had taught me that what the native-born must do is to simplify
his standard of living, take advantage of the same opportunities, toil
with the same spirit, and free himself from the burdensome bonds of
caste. The advantage is all with the pioneer, the adventurer, the
emigrant. These are the real children of the republichere in the
East, at any rate. Every landing dock is Plymouth Rock to them. They
are the real forefathers of the coming century, because they possess
all the rugged strength of settlers. They are making their own colonial
CHAPTER XVI. DICK FINDS A WAY OUT,
When school closed in June, Dick came to me and said:
Dad, I don't want to loaf all summer.
No need of it, I said. Take another course in the summer school.
I want to earn some money, he said, I want to go to work.
If the boy had come to me a year ago with that suggestion I should
have felt hurt. I would have thought it a reflection upon my ability to
support my family. We salaried men used to expect our children to be
dependent on us until they completed their educations. For a boy to
work during his summer vacation was almost as bad form as for the wife
to work for money at any time. It had to be explained that the boy was
a prodigy with unusual business ability or that he was merely seeking
experience. But Dick did not fall into any of these classes. This was
what made his proposal the more remarkable to me. It meant that he was
willing to take just a plain every-day plugging job.
And underlying this willingness was the spirit that was resurrecting
us all. Instead of acting on the defensive, Dick was now eager to play
the aggressive game. I hadn't looked for this spirit to show in him so
soon, in his life outside of school. I was mighty well pleased.
All right, I said, what do you think you can do?
I've talked with some of the fellows, he said, and the surest
thing seems to be selling papers.
I gave a gasp at that. I hadn't yet lost the feeling that a newsboy
was a sort of cross between an orphan and a beggar. He was to me purely
an object of pity. Of course I'd formed this notion like a good many
others from the story books and the daily paper. I connected a newsboy
with blind fathers and sick mothers if he had any parents at all.
I guess you can get something better than that to do, I said.
What's the matter with selling papers? he asked.
When I stopped to think of the work in that wayas just the buying
and selling of papersI couldn't see anything the matter with
it. Why wasn't it like buying and selling anything? You were selling a
product in which millions of money was invested, a product which
everyone wanted, a product where you gave your customers their money's
worth. The only objection I could think of at the moment was that there
was so little in it.
It will keep you on the streets five or six hours a day, I said,
and I don't suppose you can make more than a dollar a week.
A dollar a week! he said. Do you know what one fellow in our
class makes right through the year?
How much? I asked.
He makes between six and eight dollars a week, said Dick.
That doesn't sound possible, I said.
He told me he made that. And another fellow he knows about did as
well as this even while he was in college. He pretty nearly paid his
What do you make on a paper? I asked.
About half a cent on the one cent papers, and a cent on the two
Then these boys have to sell over two hundred papers a day.
They have about a hundred regular customers, said Dick, and they
sell another hundred papers besides.
It seemed to me the boys must have exaggerated because eight dollars
a week was pretty nearly the pay of an able-bodied man. It didn't seem
possible that these youngsters whom I'd pitied all my life could earn
such an income. However if they didn't earn half as much, it wasn't a
bad proposition for a lad.
I talked the matter over with Ruth and I found she had the same
prejudices I had had. She, too, thought selling papers was a branch of
begging. I repeated what Dick told me and she shook her head
It doesn't seem as though I could let the boy do that, she said.
If there was one thing down here the little woman always worried
about deep in her heart, it was lest the boy and myself might get
coarsened. She thought, I think, without ever exactly saying so to
herself that in our ambition to forge ahead we might lose some of the
finer standards of life. She was bucking against that tendency all the
time. That's why she made me shave every morning, that's why she made
me keep my shoes blacked, that's why she made us both dress up on
Sunday whether we went to church or not. She for her part kept herself
looking even more trig than when she had the fear that Mrs. Grover
might drop in at any time. And every night at dinner she presided with
as much form as though she were entertaining a dinner party. I guess
she thought we might learn to eat with our knives if she didn't.
Well, I said, your word is final. But let's look at this first as
a straight business proposition.
So I went over the scheme just as I had to myself.
These boys aren't beggars, I said. They are little business men.
And as a matter of fact most of them are earning as much as their
fathers. The trouble is that they've been given a black eye by
well-meaning sympathizers who haven't taken the trouble to find out
just what the actual facts are. A group of big-hearted women who see
their own chickens safely rounded up at six every night, find the
newsboys on the street as they themselves are on their way to the opera
and conclude it's a great hardship and that the lads must be homeless
and suffering. Maybe they even find a case or two which justifies this
theory. But on the whole they are simply comparing the outside of these
boys' lives with the lives of their own sheltered boys. They don't stop
to consider that these lads are toughened and that they'd probably be
on the street anyway. And they don't figure out how much they earn or
what that amount stands for down here.
Ruth listened and then she said:
But isn't it a pity that the boys are toughened, Billy?
No, I said, it would be a pity if they weren't. They wouldn't
last a year. We have to have some seasoned fighters in the world.
Dick has found his feet now. The suggestion was his own. Personally
I believe in letting him try it.
All right, Billy, she said.
But she said it in such a sad sort of way that I said:
If you're going to worry about him, this ends it. But I'd like to
see the boy so well seasoned that you won't have to worry about him no
matter where he is, no matter what he's doing.
You're right, she said, I want to see him like you. I never worry
about you, Billy.
It pleased me to have her say that. I know a lot of men who wouldn't
believe their wives loved them unless they fretted about them all the
time. I think a good many fellows even make up things just to see the
women worry. I remember that Stevens always used to come home either
with a sick headache or a tale of how he thought he might lose his job
or something of the sort and poor Dolly Stevens would stay awake half
the night comforting him. She'd tell Ruth about it the next day. I may
have had a touch of that disease myself before I came down here but I
know that ever since then I've tried to lift the worrying load off the
wife's shoulders. I've done my best to make Ruth feel I'm strong enough
to take care of myself. I've wanted her to trust me so that she'd know
I act always just as though she was by my side. Of course I've never
been able to do away altogether with her fear of sickness and sudden
death, but so far as my own conduct is concerned I've tried to make her
feel secure in me.
When I stop to think about it, Ruth has really lived three lives.
She has lived her own and she has lived it hard. She not only has done
her daily tasks as well as she knew how but she has tried to make
herself a little better every day. That has been a waste of time
because she was just naturally as good as they make them but you
couldn't ever make her see that. I don't suppose there's been a day
when at night she hasn't thought she might have done something a little
better and lain awake to tell me so.
Then Ruth has lived my life and done over again every single thing
I've done except the actual physical labor. Why every evening when I
came back from work she wanted me to begin with seven-thirty A.M. and
tell her everything that happened after that. And when I came back from
school at night, she'd wake up out of a sound sleep if she had gone to
bed and ask me to tell her just what I'd learned. Though she never held
a trowel in her hand I'll bet she could go out to-day and build a true
brick wall. And though she has never seen half the men I've met, she
knows them as well as I do myself. Some of them she knows better and
has proved to me time and again that she does. I've often told her
about some man I'd just met and about whom I was enthusiastic for the
moment and she'd say:
Tell me what he looks like, Billy.
I'd tell her and then she'd ask about his eyes and about his mouth
and what kind of a voice he had and whether he smiled when he said so
and so and whether he looked me in the eyes at that point and so on.
Then she'd say:
Better be a little careful about him; or I guess you can trust
Sometimes she made mistakes but that was because I hadn't reported
things to her just right. Generally I'd trust her judgment in the face
of my own.
Then Ruth led the boy's life. Every ambition he had was her
ambition. Besides that she had a dozen ambitions for him that he didn't
know anything about. And she thought and worked and schemed to make
every single one of them come true. Every trouble he had was her
trouble too. If he worried a half hour over something, she worried an
hour. Then again there were a whole lot of other troubles in connection
with him which bothered her and which he didn't know about.
Besides all these things she was busy about dressing us and feeding
us and making us comfortable. She was always cleaning our rooms and
washing our clothes and mending our socks. Then, too, she looked after
the finances and this in itself was enough for one woman to do. Then as
though this wasn't plenty she kept light-hearted for our sakes. You'd
find her singing about her work whenever you came in and always ready
with a smile and a joke. And if she herself had a headache you had to
be a doctor and a lawyer rolled in one to find it out.
So I say the least I could do was to make her trust me so thoroughly
that she'd have one less burden. And I wanted to bring up Dick in the
same way. Dick was a good boy and I'll say that he did his best.
Ruth says that if I don't tear up these last few pages, people will
think I'm silly. I'm willing so long as they believe me honest. Of
course, in a way, such details are no one's business but if I couldn't
give Ruth the credit which is her due in this undertaking, I wouldn't
take the trouble to write it all out.
Dick told his school friend what he wanted to do and asked his
advice on the best way to go at it. The latter went with him and helped
him get his license, took him down to the newspaper offices and showed
him where to buy his papers, and introduced him to the other boys. The
newsboys hadn't at that time formed a union but there was an agreement
among them about the territory each should cover. Some of the boys had
worked up a regular trade in certain places and of course it wasn't
right for a newcomer to infringe upon this. There was considerable
talking and some bargaining and finally Dick was given a stand in the
banking district. This was due to Dick's classmate also. The latter
realized that a boy of Dick's appearance would do better there than
So one morning Dick rose early and I staked him to a dollar and he
started off in high spirits. He didn't have any of the false pride
about the work that at first I myself had felt. He was on my mind
pretty much all that day and I came home curious and a little bit
anxious to learn the result. He had been back after the morning
editions. Ruth reported he had sold fifty papers and had returned more
eager than ever. She said he wouldn't probably be home until after
seven. He wanted to catch the crowds on their way to the station.
I suggested to Ruth that we wait dinner for him and go on up town
and watch him. She hesitated at this, fearing the boy wouldn't like it
and perhaps not over anxious herself to see him on such a job. But as I
said, if the boy wasn't ashamed I didn't think we ought to be. So she
put on her things and we started.
We found him by the entrance to one of the big buildings with his
papers in a strap thrown over his shoulder. He had one paper in his
hand and was offering it, perhaps a bit shyly, to each passer-by with a
quiet, Paper, sir? We watched him a moment and Ruth kept a tight grip
on my arm.
Well, I said, what do you think of him?
Billy, she said with a little tremble in her voice, I'm proud of
He'll do, I said.
Then I said:
Wait here a moment.
I took a nickel from my pocket and hurried towards him as though I
were one of the crowd hustling for the train. I stopped in front of him
and he handed me a paper without looking up. He began to make change
and it wasn't until he handed me back my three coppers that he saw who
I was. Then he grinned.
Hello, Dad, he said.
Then he asked quickly,
But Ruth couldn't wait any longer and she came hurrying up and
placed her hand underneath the papers to see if they were too heavy for
Dick earned three dollars that first week and he never fell below
this during the summer. Sometimes he went as high as five and when it
came time for him to go to school again he had about seventy-five
regular customers. He had been kept out of doors between six and seven
hours a day. The contact with a new type of boy and even the contact
with the brisk business men who were his customers had sharpened up his
wits all round. In the ten weeks he saved over forty dollars. I wanted
him to put this in the bank but he insisted on buying his own winter
clothes with it and on the whole I thought he'd feel better if I let
him. Then he had another proposition. He wanted to keep his evening
customers through the year. I thought it was going to be pretty hard
for him to do this with his school work but we finally agreed to let
him try it for a while anyway. After all I didn't like to think he
couldn't do what other boys were doing.
CHAPTER XVII. THE SECOND YEAR
Now as far as proving to us the truth of my theory that an
intelligent able-bodied American ought to succeed where millions of
ignorant, half-starved emigrants do right along, this first year had
already done it. It had also proved, to our own satisfaction at least,
that such success does not mean a return to a lower standard of living
but only a return to a simpler standard of living. With soap at five
cents a cake it isn't poverty that breeds filth, but ignorance and
laziness. When an able-bodied man can earn at the very bottom of the
ladder a dollar and a half a day and a boy can earn from three to five
dollars a week and still go to school, it isn't a lack of money that
makes the bread line; it's a lack of horse sense. We found that we
could maintain a higher standard of living down here than we were able
to maintain in our old life; we could live more sanely, breathe in
higher ideals, and find time to accept more opportunities. The sheer,
naked conditions were better for a higher life here than they were in
I'm speaking always of the able-bodied man. A sick man is a sick man
whether he's worth a million or hasn't a cent. He's to be pitied. With
the public hospitals what they are to-day, you can't say that the sick
millionaire has any great advantage over the sick pauper. Money makes a
bigger difference of course to the sick man's family but at that you'll
find for every widow O'Toole, a widow Bonnington and for every widow
Bonnington you'll find the heart-broken widow of some millionaire who
doesn't consider her dollars any great consolation in such a crisis.
Then, too, a man in hard luck is a man in hard luck whether he has a
bank account or whether he hasn't. I pity them both. If a rich man's
money prevents the necessity of his airing his grief in public, it
doesn't help him much when he's alone in his castle. It seems to me
that each class has its own peculiar misfortunes and that money breeds
about as much trouble as it kills. To my mind once a man earns enough
to buy himself a little food, put any sort of a roof over his head, and
keep himself warm, he has everything for which money is absolutely
essential. This much he can always get at the bottom. And this much is
all the ammunition a man needs for as good a fight as it's in him to
put up. It gives him a chance for an extra million over his nine
dollars a week if he wants it. But the point I learned down here is
that the million is extrait isn't essential. Its possession
doesn't make a Paradise free from sickness and worry and hard luck, and
the lack of it doesn't make a Hell's Kitchen where there is nothing but
sickness and trouble and where happiness cannot enter.
As I say, I consider this first year the big year because it taught
me these things. In a sense the value of my diary ends here. Once I was
able to understand that I had everything and more that the early
pioneers had and that all I needed to do to-day was to live as they did
and fight as they did, I had all the inspiration a man needs in order
to live and in order to feel that he's living. In looking back
on the suburban life at the end of this first twelve months, it seemed
to me that the thing which made it so ghastly was just this lack of
inspiration that comes with the blessed privilege of fighting. That
other was a waiting game and no help for it. I was a shadow living in
the land of shadows with nothing to hit out at, nothing to feel the
sting of my fist against. The fight was going on above me and below me
and we in the middle only heard the din of it. It was as though we had
climbed half way up a rope leading from a pit to the surface. We had
climbed as far as we could and unless they hauled from above we had to
stay there. If we let gopoor devils, we thought there was nothing but
brimstone below us. So we couldn't do much but hold on and kickat
But down here if a man had any kick in him, he had something to kick
against. When he struck out with his feet they met something; when he
shot a blow from the shoulder he felt an impact. If he didn't like one
trade he could learn another. It took no capital. If he didn't like his
house, he could move; he wasn't tearing up anything by the roots. If he
didn't like his foreman, he could work under another. It didn't mean
the sacrifice of any past. If he found a chance to black boots or sell
papers, he could use it. His neighbors wouldn't exile him. He was as
free as the winds and what he didn't like he could change. I don't
suppose there is any human being on earth so independent as an
The record of the next three years only traces a slow, steady
strengthening of my position. Not one of us had any set-back through
sickness because I considered our health as so much capital and guarded
it as carefully as a banker does his money. I was afraid at first of
the city water but I found it was as pure as spring water. It was
protected from its very source and was stored in a carefully guarded
reservoir. It was frequently analyzed and there wasn't a case of
typhoid in the ward which could be traced to the water. The milk was
the great danger down here. At the small shops it was often carelessly
stored and carelessly handled. From the beginning, I bought our milk up
town though I had to pay a cent a quart more for it. Ruth picked out
all the fish and meat and of course nothing tainted in this line could
be sold to her. We ate few canned goods and then nothing but canned
vegetables. Many of our neighbors used canned meats. I don't know
whether any sickness resulted from this or not but I know that they
often left the stuff for hours in an opened tin. Many of the tenements
swarmed with flies in the summer although it was a small matter to keep
them out of four rooms. So if the canned stuff didn't get
infected it was a wonder.
The sanitary arrangements in the flat were good, though here again
many families proceeded to make them bad about as fast as they could.
These people didn't seem to mind dirt in any form. It was a perfectly
simple and inexpensive matter to keep themselves and their surroundings
clean if they cared to take the trouble.
Then the roof contributed largely towards our good health. Ruth
spent a great deal of time up there during the day and the boy slept
there during the summer.
Our simple food and exercise also helped, while for me nothing could
have been better than my daily plunge in the salt water. I kept this up
as long as the bath house was open and in the winter took a cold sponge
and rub-down every night. So, too, did the boy.
For the rest, we all took sensible precautions against exposure. We
dressed warmly and kept our feet dry. Here again our neighbors were
insanely foolish. They never changed their clothes until bed time,
didn't keep them clean or fresh at any time, and they lived in a
temperature of eighty-five with the air foul from many breaths and
tobacco smoke. Even the children had to breathe this. Then both men and
women went out from this into the cold air either over-dressed or
under-dressed. The result of such foolishness very naturally was
tuberculosis, pneumonia, typhoid and about everything else that
contributes to a high death rate. Not only this but one person
suffering from any of these things infected a whole family.
Such conditions were not due to a lack of money but to a lack of
education. The new generation was making some changes however. Often a
girl or boy in the public schools would come home and transform the
three or four rooms though always under protest from the elders. Clean
surroundings and fresh air troubled the old folks.
Ruth, too, was responsible for many changes for the better in the
lives of these people. Her very presence in a room was an inspiration
for cleanliness. Her clothes were no better than theirs but she stood
out among them like a vestal virgin. She came into their quarters and
made the women ashamed that the rooms were not better fitted to receive
so pure a being. You would scarcely have recognized Michele's rooms at
the end of the first year. The windows were cleaned, the floors
scrubbed, and even the bed linen was washed occasionally. The baby
gained in weight and Michele when he wanted to smoke either sat outside
on the door step or by an open window. But Michele was an exception.
Ruth's efforts were not confined to our own building either. Her
influence spread down the street and through the whole district. The
district nurse was a frequent visitor and kept her informed of all her
cases. Wherever Ruth could do anything she did it. Her first object was
always to awaken the women to the value of cleanliness and after that
she tried her best to teach them little ways of preparing their food
more economically. Few of them knew the value of oatmeal for instance
though of course their macaroni and spaghetti was a pretty good
substitute. In fact Ruth picked up many new dishes of this sort for
herself from among them.
Some families spent as much for beer as for milk. Ruth couldn't
change that practice but she did make them more careful where they
bought their milkespecially when there was a baby in the house. Then,
too, she shared all her secrets of where and how to buy cheaply.
Sometimes advantage was taken of these hints, but more often not. They
didn't pay much more for many articles than she did but they didn't get
as good quality. However as long as the food tasted good and satisfied
their hunger you couldn't make them take an extra effort and get stuff
because it was more nutritious or more healthful. They couldn't think
ahead except in the matter of saving dollars and cents.
These people of course were of the lower class. There was another
element of decidedly finer quality. Giuseppe for example was one of
these and there were hundreds of others. It was among these that Ruth's
influence counted for the most. They not only took advantage of her
superior intelligence in conducting their households but they breathed
in something of the soul of her. When I saw them send for her in their
grief and in their joy, when I heard them ask her advice with almost
the confidence with which they prayed, when I heard them give her such
names as the angel mother, the blessed American saint, I felt very
proud and very humble. Such things made me glad in another way for the
change which had taken her out of the old life where such qualities
were lost and brought her down here where they counted for so much.
These people stripped of convention live with their hearts very near
the surface. They don't try to conceal their emotions and so you are
brought very quickly into close touch with them. Ruth herself was a
good deal like that and so her influence for a day among them counted
for as much as a year with the old crowd.
In the meanwhile I resumed my night school at the end of the summer
vacation and was glad to get back to it. I had missed the work and went
at it this next winter with increased eagerness to perfect myself in my
During this second year, too, I never relaxed my efforts to keep my
gang up to standard and whenever possible to better it by the addition
of new men. Every month I thought I increased the respect of the men
for me by my fair dealing with them. I don't mean to say I fully
realized the expectations of which I had dreamed. I suppose that at
first I dreamed a bit wildly. There was very little sentiment in the
relation of the men to me, although there was some. Still I don't want
to give the impression that I made of them a gang of blind personal
followers such as some religious cranks get together. It was necessary
to make them see that it was for their interest to work for me and with
me and that I did do. I made them see also that in order to work for me
they had to work a little more faithfully than they worked for others.
So it was a straight business proposition. What sentiment there was
came through the personal interest I took in them outside of their
work. It was this which made them loyal instead of merely hard working.
It was this which made them my gang instead of Corkery's ganga thing
that counted for a good deal later on.
The personal reputation I had won gave me new opportunities of which
I took every advantage this second year. It put me in touch with the
responsible heads of departments. Through them I was able to acquire a
much broader and more accurate knowledge of the business as a whole. I
asked as many questions here as I had below. I received more
intelligent answers and was able to understand them more intelligently.
I not only learned prices but where to get authoritative prices. As far
as possible I made myself acquainted with the men working for the
building constructors and for those working for firms whose specialty
was the tearing down of buildings. I used my note-book as usual and
entered the names of every man who, in his line, seemed to me
And everywhere, I found that my experiment with the gang was well
known. I found also that my tendency for asking questions was even
better known. It passed as a joke in a good many cases. But better than
this I found that I had established a reputation for sobriety, industry
and level-headedness. I can't help smiling how little those things
counted for me with the United Woollen or when I sought work after
leaving that company. Here they counted for a lot. I realized that when
it came time for me to seek credit.
In the meanwhile I didn't neglect the fight for clean politics in my
I resigned from the presidency of the young men's club at the end of
a year and we elected a young lawyer who was taking a great interest in
the work down here to fill the vacancy. That was a fine selection. The
man was fresh from the law school and was full of ideals which dated
back to the Mayflower. He hadn't been long enough in the world
to have them dimmed and was full of energy. He took hold of the
original idea and developed it until the organization included every
ward in this section of the city. He held rallies every month and
brought down big speakers and kept the sentiment of the youngsters red
hot. This had its effect upon the older men and before we knew it we
had a machine that looked like a real power in the whole city. Sweeney
saw it and so did the bigger bosses of both parties. But the president
kept clear of alliances with any of them. He stood pat with what
promised to be a balance of power, ready to swing it to the cleanest
man of either party who came up for office.
I made several speeches myself though it was hard work for me. I
don't run to that sort of thing. I did it however just because I didn't
like it and because I felt it was the duty of a citizen to do something
now and then he doesn't like for his city and his country. The old
excuse with me had been that politics was a dirty business at best and
that it ought to be left to the lawyers and such who had something to
gain from it. The only men I ever knew who went into it at all were
those who had a talent for it and who liked it. Of course that's dead
wrong. A man who won't take the trouble to find out about the men up
for office and who won't bother himself to get out and hustle for the
best of them isn't a good citizen or a good American. He deserves to be
governed by the newcomers and deserves all they hand out to him. And
the time to do the work isn't when a man is up for president of the
United States, it's when the man is up for the common council. The
higher up a politician gets, the less the influence of the single voter
It was in the spring that some of my ideals received a set back. The
alderman from our ward died suddenly and Rafferty was naturally hot
after the vacancy. He came to see me about it, but before he broached
this subject he laid another before me that took away my breath. It was
nothing else than that I should go into partnership with him under the
firm name of Carleton and Rafferty. I couldn't believe it possible
that he was in a position to take such a step within a couple of years
of digging in the ditch. But when he explained the scheme to me, it was
as simple as rolling off a log. A firm of liquor dealers had agreed to
back himform a stock company and give him a third interest to manage
it. He had spoken to them of me and said he'd do it if they would make
it a half interest and give us each a quarter.
But good Lord, Dan, I said, we'd have to swing a lot of business
to make it go.
Never you worry about thot, mon, he said. I'll fix thot all right
if I'm elicted to the boord.
You mean city contracts? I said.
I began to see. The liquor house was looking for more licenses and
would get their pay out of Dan even if the firm didn't make a cent. But
Dan with such capital back of him as well as his aldermanic power was
sure to get the contracts. He would leave the actual work to me and my
I sat down and for two hours tried to make Dan realize how this
crowd wanted to use him. I couldn't. In addition to being blinded by
his overwhelming ambition, he actually couldn't see anything crooked in
what they wanted. He couldn't understand why he should let such an
opportunity drop for someone else to pick up. He had slipped out of my
hands completely. This was where the difference between five or six
years in America as against two hundred showed itself. And yet what was
the old stock doing to offset such personal ambition and energy as
Rafferty stood for?
No, Dan, I said, I can't do it. And what's more I won't let you
do it if I can help it.
Phot do yez mane? he asked.
That I'm going to fight you tooth and nail, I said.
He turned red. Then he grinned.
Well, he said, it'll be a foine fight anyhow.
I went to the president of the club and told him that here was where
we had to stop Rafferty. He listened and then he said,
Well, here's where we do stop him.
We went at the job in whirlwind fashion. I spoke a half dozen times
but to save my life I couldn't say what I wanted to say. Every time I
stood up I seemed to see Dan's big round face and I remembered the
kindly things he used to do for the old ladies. And I knew that Dan's
offer to take me into partnership wasn't prompted altogether by selfish
motives. He could have found other men who would have served his
In the meanwhile Dan had organized Social Clubs in half a dozen
sections. For the first few weeks of the campaign I never heard of him
except as leading grand marches. But the last week he waded in. There's
no use going into details. He beat us. He rolled up a tremendous
majority. The president of the club couldn't understand it. He was
I had every boy in the ward out working, he said.
Yes, I said, but Dan had every grandmother and every daughter and
every granddaughter out working.
Dan came around to the flat one night after the election. He was as
happy as a boy over his victory.
Carleton, he said, again, it's too domd bad ye ain't an
After he had gone, Ruth said to me:
I don't think Mr. Rafferty will make a bad alderman at all.
CHAPTER XVIII. MATURING PLANS
I received several offers from other firms and as a result of these
my wages were advanced first to three dollars a day and then to three
and a half. Still Ruth refused to take things easier by increasing the
household expenses. During the third year we lived exactly as we had
lived during the first year. In a way it was easier to do this now that
we knew there was no actual necessity for it. Of course it was easier,
too, now that we had fallen into a familiar routine. The things which
had seemed to us like necessities when we came down here now seemed
like luxuries. And we none of us had either the craving for luxuries or
the time to enjoy them had we wished to spend the money on them. In the
matter of clothes we cared for nothing except to be warmly and cleanly
dressed. Strip the problem of clothes down to this and it's not a very
serious one. To realize that you've only to remember how the average
farmer dresses or how the homesteader dresses. It's only when you
introduce style and the conventions that the matter becomes
complicated. Perhaps it was easier for me to dress as I pleased than
for the boy or Ruth but even they got right down to bed rock. The boy
wore grey flannel shirts and so at a stroke did away with collars and
cuffs. For the rest a simple blue suit, a cap, stockings and shoes were
all he needed outside his under clothes which Ruth made for him. Ruth
herself dressed in plain gowns that she could do up herself. For the
street, she still had the costumes she came down here with. None of us
kept any extra clothes for parade.
We carried out the same idea in our food, as I've tried to show; we
insisted that it must be wholesome and that there must be enough of it.
Those were the only two things that counted. Variety except of the
humblest kind, we didn't strive for. I've seen cook books which contain
five hundred pages; if Ruth compiled one it wouldn't have twenty. Here
again the farmer and the pioneer were our models. If anyone in the
country had lived the way we were living, it wouldn't have seemed worth
telling about. I find the fact which amazes people in our experiment
was that we should have tried the same standard in the city. Everyone
seems to think this was a most dangerous thing to attempt. The men who
on a camping trip consider themselves well fed on such food as we had
to eat expect to starve to death if placed on the same diet once within
sound of the trolley cars. And on the camping trip they do ten times
the physical labor and do it month after month in air that whets the
appetite. Then they come back and boast how strong they've grown, and
begin to eat like hogs again and wonder why they get sick.
We camped out in the citythat's all we did. And we did just what
every man in camp does; we stripped down to essentials. We could have
lived on pork scraps and potatoes if that had been necessary. We could
have worried along on hard tack and jerked beef if we'd been pressed
hard enough. Men chase moose, and climb mountains and prospect for gold
on such food. Why in Heaven's name can't they shovel dirt on the same
So, too, about amusements. When a man is trying to clear thirty
acres of pine stumps, he doesn't fret at the end of the day because he
can't go to the theatre. He doesn't want to go. Bed and his dreams are
amusement enough for him. And he isn't called a low-browed savage
because he's satisfied with this. He's called a hero. The world at
large doesn't say that he has lowered the standard of living; it boasts
about him for a true American. Why can't a man lay bricks without the
As a matter of fact however we could have had even the amusements if
we'd wanted them. For those who needed such things in order to preserve
a high standard of living they were here. And I don't say they didn't
serve a useful purpose. What I do say is that they aren't absolutely
necessary; that a high standard of living isn't altogether dependent on
sirloin steaks, starched collars and music halls as I've heard a good
many people claim.
This third year finished my course in masonry. I came out in June
with a trade at which I could earn from three dollars to five dollars a
day according to my skill. It was a trade, too, where there was pretty
generally steady employment. A good mason is more in demand than a good
lawyer. Not only that but a good mason can find work in any city in
this country. Wherever he lands, he's sure of a comfortable living. I
was told that out west some men were making as high as ten dollars a
I had also qualified in a more modest way as a mechanical draftsman.
I could draw my own plans for work and what was more useful still, do
my work from the plans of others.
By now I had also become a fairly proficient Italian scholar. I
could speak the language fluently and read it fairly well. It wasn't
the fault of Giuseppe if my pronunciation was sometimes queer and if
very often I used the jargon of the provinces. My object was served as
long as I could make myself understood to the men. And I could do that
This year I watched Rafferty's progress with something like envy.
The firm was D. Rafferty and Co. Within two months I began to see the
name on his dump carts whenever I went to work. Within six months he
secured a big contract for repaving a long stretch of street in our
ward. I knew our firm had put in a bid on it and knew they must have
been in a position to put in a mighty low bid. I didn't wonder so much
about how Dan got this away from us as I did how he got it away from
Sweeney. That was explained to me later when I found that Sweeney was
in reality back of the liquor dealers. Sweeney owned about half their
stores and had taken this method to bring Dan back to the fold, once he
found he couldn't check his progress.
During this year Dan bought a new house and married. We went to the
wedding and it was a grand affair with half the ward there. Mrs.
Rafferty was a nice looking girl, daughter of a well-to-do Irishman in
the real estate business. She had received a good education in a
convent and was altogether a girl Dan could be proud of. The house was
an old-fashioned structure built by one of the old families who had
been forced to move by the foreign invasion. Mrs. Rafferty had
furnished it somewhat lavishly but comfortably.
As Ruth and I came back that night I said:
I suppose if it had been 'Carleton and Rafferty' I might have had a
house myself by now.
I guess it's better as it is, Billy, she said, with a smile.
Of course it was better but I began to feel discontented with my
present position. I felt uncomfortable at still being merely a foreman.
When we reached the house Ruth and I took the bank book and figured out
just what our capital in money was. Including the boy's savings which
we could use in an emergency it amounted to fourteen hundred dollars.
During the first year we saved one hundred and twenty dollars, which
added to the eighty we came down here with, made two hundred dollars.
During the second year we saved three hundred and ninety dollars.
During the third year we saved six hundred dollars. This made a total
of eleven hundred and ninety dollars in the bank. The boy had saved
more than two hundred dollars over his clothes in the last two years.
It was Rafferty who helped me turn this over in a real estate deal
in which he was interested. I made six hundred dollars by that.
Everything Rafferty touched now seemed to turn to money. One reason was
that he was thrown in contact with money-makers all of whom were
anxious to help him. He received any number of tips from those eager to
win his favor. Among the tips were many that were legitimate enough
like the one he shared with me but there were also many that were not
quite so above-board. But to Dan all was fair in business and politics.
Yet I don't know a man I'd sooner trust upon his honor in a purely
personal matter. He wouldn't graft from his friends however much he
might from the city. In fact his whole code as far as I could see was
based upon this unswerving loyalty to his friends and scrupulous
honesty in dealing with them. It was only when honesty became abstract
that he couldn't see it. You could put a thousand dollars in gold in
his keeping without security and come back twenty years later and find
it safe. But he'd scheme a week to frame up a deal to cheat the city
out of a hundred dollars. And he'd do it with his head in the air and a
grin on his face. I've seen the same thing done by educated men who
knew better. I wouldn't trust the latter with a ten cent piece without
first consulting a lawyer.
The money I had saved didn't represent all my capital. I had as my
chief asset the gang of men I had drilled. Everything else being equal
they stood ready to work for me in preference to any other man in the
city. In fact their value as a machine depended on me. If I had been
discharged and another man put in my place the gang would have resolved
itself again into merely one hundred day laborers. Nor was this my only
other asset. I had established myself as a reliable man in the eyes of
a large group of business men. This meant credit. Nor must I leave out
Dan and his influence. He stood ready to back me not only financially
but personally. And he knew me well enough to know this would not
involve anything but a business obligation on my part.
With these things in mind then I felt ready to take a radical
departure from the routine of my life when the opportunity came. But I
made up my mind I would wait for the opportunity. I must have a chance
which would not involve too much capital and in which my chief asset
would be the gang. Furthermore it must be a chance that I could use
without resorting to pull. Not only that but it must be something on
which I could prove myself to such good advantage that other business
would be sure to follow. I couldn't cut loose with my men and leave
them stranded at the end of a single job.
I watched every public proposal and analyzed them all. I found that
they very quickly resolved themselves into Dan's crowd. I kept my ears
wide open for private contracts but by the time I heard of any I was
too late. So I waited for perhaps three months. Then I saw in the daily
paper what seemed to me my opportunity. It was an open bid for some
park construction which was under the guardianship of a commission. It
was a grading job and so would require nothing but the simplest
equipment. I looked over the ground and figured out the gang's part in
it first. Then I went to Rafferty and told him what I wanted in the way
of teams. I wanted only the carts and horsesI would put my own men to
work with them. I asked him to take my note for the cost.
I'll take your word, Carleton, he said. Thot's enough.
But I insisted on the note. He finally agreed and offered to secure
for me anything I wanted for the work.
I went back to Ruth and we sat down and figured the matter all over
once again. We stripped it down to a figure so low that my chief profit
would come on the time I could save with my machine. I allowed for the
scantiest profit on dirt and rock though I had secured a good option on
what I needed of this. I was lucky in finding a short haul though I had
had my eye on this for some time. Of one thing I was extremely
carefulto make my estimate large enough so that I couldn't possibly
lose anything but my profit. Even if I wasn't able to carry out my hope
of being able to speed up the gang I should be able to pay my bills and
come out of the venture even.
Ruth and I worked for a week on it and when I saw the grand total it
took away my breath. I wasn't used to dealing in big figures. They
frightened me. I've learned since then that it's a good deal easier in
some ways to deal in thousands than it is in ones. You have wider
margins, for one thing. But I must confess that now I was scared. I was
ready to back out. When I turned to Ruth for the final decision, she
looked into my eyes a second just as she did when I asked her to marry
me and said,
Go after it, Billy. You can do it.
That night I sent in my estimate endorsed by Dan and a friend of his
and for a month I waited. I didn't sleep as well as usual but Ruth
didn't seem to be bothered. Then one night when I came home I found
Ruth at the outside door waiting for me. I knew the thing had been
decided. She came up to me and put her hand on my shoulder and patted
It's yours, Billy, she said.
My heart stopped beating for a moment and then it went on again
beating a dozen ticks to the second.
The next day I closed up my options. I went to Corkery, gave my
notice and told him what I was going to do. He was madder than a
hornet. I listened to what he had to say and went off without a word in
reply. He was so unreasonable that it didn't seem worth it. That noon I
rounded up the men and told them frankly that I was going to start in
business for myself and needed a hundred men. I told them also that
this first job might last only four or five weeks and that while I had
nothing definite in mind after that I was in hopes to secure in the
meanwhile other contracts. I said this would be largely up to them. I
told them that I didn't want a man to come who wasn't willing to take
the chance. Of course it was something of a chance because Corkery had
been giving them steady employment. Still it wasn't a very big chance
because there was always work for such men.
I watched anxiously to see how they would take it. I felt that the
truth of my theories were having their hardest test. When they let out
a cheer and started towards me in a mass I saw blurry.
I'll never forget the feeling I had when I started out in the
morning that first day as an independent contractor; I'll never forget
my feeling as I reached the work an hour ahead of my men and waited for
them to come straggling up. I seemed closer than ever to my ancestors.
I felt as my great-great-grandfather must have felt when he cut loose
from the Massachusetts colony and went off down into the unknown
Connecticut. I was full enough of confidence but I knew that a month
might drive me back again. Deeper than this trivial fear however there
was something biggersomething finer. I was a free man in a larger way
than I had ever been before. It made me feel an American to the very
core of my marrow.
The work was all staked out but before the men began I called them
all together. I didn't make a speech; I just said:
MenI've estimated that this can be done by an ordinary bunch of
men in forty days; I've banked that you can do it in thirty. If you
succeed, it gives me profit enough to take another contract. Do the
best you can.
There wasn't a mother's son among them who didn't appreciate my
position. There were a good many who knew Ruth and knew her through
what she had done for their families, and these understood it even
better. The dirt began to fly and it was a pretty sight to watch. I
never spoke again to the men. I simply directed their efforts. I spent
about half the time with a shovel in my hands myself. There was
scarcely a day when Ruth didn't come out to watch the work with an
anxious eye but after the first week there was little need for anxiety.
I think she would have liked to take a shovel herself. One Saturday
Dick came out and actually insisted upon being allowed to do this. The
men knew him and liked to see such spirit.
Well, we clipped ten days from my estimate, which left me with all
my bills paid and with a handsome profit. Better still I had secured on
the strength of Carleton's gang another contract.
The night I deposited my profit in the bank, Ruth quite
unconsciously took her pad and pencil and sat down by my side as usual
to figure up the household expenses for the week. We had been a bit
extravagant that week because she had been away from the house a good
deal. The total came to four dollars and sixty-seven cents. When Ruth
had finished I took the pad and pencil away from her and put it in my
There's no use bothering your head any more over these details, I
She looked at me almost sadly.
No, Billy, she said, with a sigh, there isn't, is there?
CHAPTER XIX. ONCE AGAIN A NEW
During all those years we had never seen or heard of any of our old
neighbors. They had hardly ever entered our thoughts except as very
occasionally the boy ran across one of his former playmates. Shortly
after this, however, business took me out into the old neighborhood and
I was curious enough to make a few inquiries. There was no change. My
trim little house stood just as it then stood and around it were the
other trim little houses. There were a few new houses and a few
new-comers, but all the old-timers were still there. I met Grover, who
was just recovering from a long sickness. He didn't recognize me at
first. I was tanned and had filled out a good deal.
Why, yes, he said, after I had told my name. Let me see, you went
off to Australia or somewhere, didn't you, Carleton?
I emigrated, I answered.
He looked up eagerly.
I remember now. It seems to have agreed with you.
You're still with the leather firm? I inquired.
He almost started at this unexpected question.
Yes, he answered.
His eyes turned back to his trim little house, then to me as though
he feared I was bringing him bad news.
But I've been laid up for six weeks, he faltered.
I knew what was troubling him. He was wondering whether he would
find his job when he got back. Poor devil! If he didn't what would
become of his trim little house? Grover was older by five years than I
had been when the axe fell.
I talked with him a few minutes. There had been a death or two in
the neighborhood and the children had grown up. That was the only
change. The sight of Grover made me uncomfortable, so I hurried about
my business, eager to get home again.
God pity the poor? Bah! The poor are all right if by poor you mean
the tenement dwellers. When you pray again pray God to pity the
middle-class American on a salary. Pray that he may not lose his job;
pray that if he does it shall be when he is very young; pray that he
may find the route to America. The tenement dwellers are safe enough.
Prayand pray hardfor the dwellers in the trim little houses of the
I've had my ups and downs, my profits and losses since I entered
business for myself but I've come out at the end of each year well
ahead of the game. I never made again as much in so short a time as I
made on that first job. One reason is that as soon as I was solidly on
my feet I started a profit sharing scheme, dividing with the men what
was made on every job over a certain per cent. Many of the original
gang have left and gone into business for themselves of one sort and
another but each one when he went, picked a good man to take his place
and handed down to him the spirit of the gang.
Dick went through college and is now in my office. He's a hustler
and is going to make a good business man. But thank God he has a heart
in him as well as brains. He hopes to make Carleton and Son a big
firm some day and he will. If he does, every man who faithfully and
honestly handles his shovel will be part of the big firm. His idea
isn't to make things easy for the men; it's to preserve the spirit they
come over with and give them a share of the success due to that spirit.
We didn't move away from our dear, true friends until the other boy
came. Then I bought two or three deserted farms outside the cityfifty
acres in all. I bought them on time and at a bargain. I'm trying
another experiment here. I want to see if the pioneer spirit won't
bring even these worn out acres to life. I find that some of my foreign
neighbors have made their old farms pay even though the good Americans
who left them nearly starved to death. I have some cows and chickens
and pigs and am using every square foot of the soil for one purpose or
another. We pretty nearly get our living from the farm now.
We entertain a good deal but we don't entertain our new neighbors.
There isn't a week summer or winter that I don't have one or more
families of Carleton's gang out here for a half holiday. It's the only
way I can reconcile myself to having moved away from among them. Ruth
keeps very closely in touch with them all and has any number of schemes
to help them. Her pet one just now is for us to raise enough cows so
that we can sell fresh milk at cost to those families which have
Dan comes out to see us every now and then. He's making ten dollars
to my one. He says he's going to be mayor of the city some day. I told
him I'd do my best to prevent it. That didn't seem to worry him.
If ye was an Irishmon, now, he said, I'd be after sittin' up
nights in fear of ye. But ye ain't.
I'm almost done. This has been a hard job for me. And yet it's been
a pleasant job. It's always pleasant to talk about Ruth. I found that
even by taking away her pad and pencil I didn't accomplish much in the
way of making her less busy. Even with three children to look after
instead of one she does just as much planning about the housework. And
we don't have sirloin steaks even now. We don't want them. Our daily
fare doesn't vary much from what it was in the tenement.
Ruth just came in with Billy, Jr., in her arms and read over these
last few paragraphs. She says she's glad I'm getting through with this
because she doesn't know what I might tell about next. But there's
nothing more to tell about except that to-day as at the beginning Ruth
is the biggest thing in my life. I can't wish any better luck for those
trying to fight their way out than they may find for a partner half as
good a wife as Ruth. I wouldn't be afraid to start all over again
to-day with her by my side.