- Edward Berwick, “Farming in the Year 2000,” Overland Monthly (second series) 15 no. 90 (June, 1890): 569–573.
FARMING IN THE YEAR 2000. A. D.
With nerves unstrung by that horrent nightmare, which had replunged me into the cruel vortex of nineteenth century antagonism and brutality, I cast around for some method of restoring my usual equanimity. An excursion into the country would, it appeared to me, serve the double purpose of acting as a nervous sedative, and of enabling me to realize something of the conditions of rural life in this year 2000 A. D.
Repairing to Dr. Leete’s study, I found him busily conning those pages of Storiot’s History of the Nineteenth Century in which agriculture was discussed. Having expressed to him my desire, I added, “Your methods of distribution and finance have proved so interesting to me that I long intensely to learn something of your performance of that more vital function, production.”
“Ah, Mr. West,” replied the Doctor, “that reminds me that I have very much wished to consult you upon what has always seemed to me a great mystery. This history of Storiot’s gives one to understand that the distaste for a farmer’s vocation was so great in your nineteenth century as to result in an exodus that left the rural districts almost depopulated. Can this be true? If so, it becomes yet more incomprehensible when one reconstructs mentally one of our overgrown yet crowded cities. The dense canopies of soot and impure gases, overhanging them like a funeral pall, were themselves danger-signals, warning the unwary that life’s most precious possession, health, was imperiled. Then the mud and dust, the squalor and malodorousness, the grime and filth of your back alleys and byways,—aye, often even of your main thoroughfares,—must have acted as repellents and nauseants to one accustomed to sweet country air. To complete this uninviting catalogue, one must add the deplorably insanitary condition of your dwellings. Why, Storiot actually affirms that the consort of Queen Victoria was literally poisoned in, Windsor Castle by sewage miasma; while, about the same time, over one hundred students of Princeton College were attacked by typhus fever from a similar cause. So late as 1889 a Hygienic Congress, sitting in the City of Paris, condemned 77,000 out of its 79,000 houses as defective in sanitation. And this in a city vaunting itself the center of civilization, whose system of sewers was world renowned, the pride of the poet Hugo. Presuming all this true, there must have been some remarkable fatuity to induce men to migrate from the sweet purity of God’s ‘un-man-stifled places,’ to coop themselves in such vile wildernesses of brick.”
“Though I can refute nothing of your historian’s indictment against the abominations of our cities,” I replied dejectedly, “I can perhaps solve your problem by a reference to that root of all our nineteenth century evils, the greedy grab for money. Money, if we ruin our bodies! Money, if we sell our souls! Incredible and monstrous as it may seem to you, there were among our farming community the same mutual jealousy, suspicion, and antagonism that embittered and impeded all other walks of life; the same blind, misdirected, feverish energy, unintelligently over-producing certain staples, which had to be sold at unremunerative prices. Hence heavy labor, long protracted, often repulsive and even brutal, was compulsory to obtain a bare sustenance. Some few evaded this curse by the successful substitution of the sweat of some one else’s brow; but, as a rule, the farmer and his family were debarred from almost all social recreation, and precluded by excessive fatigue from mental culture at home. Add to this that his business was the sport of the weather, to the inclemencies of which he was often exposed; that he was harassed by plagues innumerable, beetle and bug, mildew and mould, canker-worm and caterpillar; and bled impartially by rodent, rent-collector, and tax-gatherer. One theorist even proposed to make land bear the whole tax of the nation, promising a consequent millennium.”
“Stop,” said Doctor Leete, “that’s explanation enough. You will find our farming as diametrically different to that of your nineteenth century as is our storekeeping. Nothing you have said previous to this portrayal of the farmers woes has so made me realize how dim were your dawnings of science. I had failed to remember that your scientists could barely foretell the weather a few hours ahead, and that your farmers looked to birds, insects, and even trees for intimations of hard winters or early springs. Now, our meteorologists furnish accurate forecasts for the entire year, and our tillers of the soil shape their course accordingly. But let us continue our talk on the road, where both eye and ear can be busy.”
Seating ourselves in a light, beautifully appointed electric curricle, the doctor touched the ubiquitous contact button, and sped us rapidly westward along the smooth, broad, tree-shaded avenue. Crossing the sinuous Charles, with its sculpin-haunted bridges, our road was bordered on either hand with an endless succession of snuggest villas, lawn-begirt and flower-adorned. glorious in their greenery, the ideal of everything homelike and hospitable. More miles and more, and the same pleasing vista still charmed the eye, until I began to think that Boston must have taken the American continent. I noticed, however, that the gardens were becoming more extensive, and occasionally fairy palaces of iron and glass, covering acres of ground, diversified the scene; while every few miles magnificent assembly halls reared their inviting porticos at the roadside. In vain I looked around for some of the old familiar waste places and solitudes, for which my eyes seemed to long.
“How soon, Doctor Leete,” I asked, “shall we reach your farming district?”
“You are now in the heart of it,” he replied.
Rubbing my eyes to make sure I was awake, I stared at my companion in amazement. Where were all the shabby barns, the dilapidated outbuildings, pigsties, hen-houses, calf-sheds, stables, the malodorous middens and muckheaps, inseparable from nineteenth century farmsteads? Then it flashed across me that I had seen neither sheep nor cow,—no, not even a solitary hog, since I awoke from my century’s trance.
“You appear dazed!” said the Doctor. “What is it that strikes you as specially wonderful?”
“Why, the absence of all live stock, to be sure! Where do you keep your cows and pigs, your horses and sheep? Our farmers’ chief business was to provide provender for his livestock. Here I see no livestock. Nothing but garden, garden, garden!”
“You don’t see them because we have none!”
“Have none? Then whence came that juicy cutlet which I had for breakfast? Savory as the fattest of fat venison fed on the Delectable Mountains! “
A smile wreathed the Doctor’s face as he replied:
“It is satisfactory to hear so pronounced an opinion from one so qualified to judge. As we never taste flesh, it has been necessarily a doubtful point as to whether our edible fungi were really superior to animal food. Your morning meal was blood-guiltless; your juicy cutlet was but a slice from an agaric. In your age one class of savages was held in especial abhorrence. Your flesh crept and your blood curdled as you whispered the word “cannibal,” even when applied to a sailor, starvation-crazed on mid-ocean. Our generation similarly abhors all flesh-eaters. But do not suppose that we affect any contempt for the science of cooliery, because we eschew meat. Man is what he is by virtue of his education and environment, and food is no inconsiderable part of that environment. Our cooks prepare purely vegetable dishes, compared to which, we opine, the rarest fleshpots of your Egypt were but as carrion. If Storiot is right, your much esteemed fillet of beef had to be flavored with mushrooms, and that highly valued dainty of the gourmand, the paté de foie gras, depended for its piquancy on the added aroma of a fungous tuber. No! the farmer of today,—and his name is Legion, agriculture being by far the most popular of all vocations, —performs none of that repulsive and brutalizing labor in connection with live stock which constituted farming in your day. Growing and stacking huge ricks of hay, and threshing endless bushels of grain, for the maintenance of his horses and bullocks, his hogs and sheep, during winter; collecting and distributing all kinds of unsavory fertilizers; daily tending and caring for his flocks and herds,—made up a farmer’s life. How needless was all this labor, let the stalwart frames and ruddy countenances of this generation witness. Even you had the example of Daniel and his friends, who, preferring a pulse diet, refused the king’s meat; but whose countenances were fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. I believe also that the nourishing and nitrogenous bean was a staple food of your poorer Bostonians. Under our improved dietetic regime, we not only have succeeded in maintaining a population of thirty from the same acreage that on a meat diet fed one, but we have effectually banished that demon of the nineteenth century, dyspepsia: the demon that tortured the body, embittered the soul, and envenomed the pen of your great master of satire, Carlyle.”
“But,” queried I, “if you thus eliminate all live stock from your farming system, how are your fields and gardens fertilized?”
The smile of conscious power and adequate knowledge again illumined the Doctor’s visage, as he replied:
“In the first place, by that endless natural supply, the refuse of cities. This, suitably deodorized by dry earth, is delivered by our pneumatic transmitters to such lands as need renewing, and there distributed by electric carry-alls. If I am rightly informed, this supply was in your day not only allowed to waste, but actually discharged into your rivers, poisoning alike air and water; while at the same time your lack of nitrogenous fertilizers put you to immense expense in the mining and transportation of nitrates. These, by the aid of our slave of the lamp, electricity, we obtain in any quantity from that omnipresent and inexhaustible nitrogen mine, the atmosphere; of course, combining the nitric acid thence obtained with the necessary bases.
“This reminds me of another laborious, ever-recurring piece of work, from which that same slave of the lamp has freed our agriculturists; the cutting and cleaving of cord-wood for heating the wintry air of your abodes. Not only our artificial light and heat, but all the motive power of our machinery is supplied by electricity. Fields are plowed, seeds sown, crops harvested, all by that same swift servitor, whom your contemporaries had but just learned to harness. Fluvial and tidal forces furnish ample energy for all purposes: so that cold water literally boils our kettles, warms our hands, and even smelts the most refractory ores. You may judge then how easy the farmer’s yoke, how light his burden today; especially when you remember that all anxiety and care as to marketing his crops, or providing for his family’s present and future, have under our social system become utterly needless.”
“You are, my dear Doctor, indeed favored above mortals!” I gladly assented. “But you have not yet by any means exhausted Farmer Hayseed’s catalogue of woes. Tares sprung up and choked his wheat; codlin moth or curculio rendered hateful his pleasant fruits; cut worm, wire worm, gopher, squirrel, scale bug, locust, and fly ravaged his fields and stripped his trees, robbing him of half his due reward. If your system and science have extirpated these I shall hail you as victors indeed.”
“What appeared impossible, and was impossible in your chaos of antagonism,” replied the Doctor, “has become not only possible, but easy, with our system of harmonious co-operation. In your day the farmer who, by trap and poison, would rid his fields of vermin, was checkmated by the neighbor who was too lazy or apathetic to do the like. The lazy man’s fields bred vermin enough to more than restock the runs and burrows that the diligent man had emptied. One orchardist by endless vigilance strove to keep his trees healthy; his neighbor, perhaps out of sheer spite, neglected his; and scale bug, curculio, or codlin moth migrated in myriads to the vigilant man’s orchard. With weeds the same:—what industry kept free, idleness reseeded. Now, by united effort, not a weed goes to seed, not a noxious insect lives within our borders. Entomology became so thoroughly understood that, by giving favorable environment to certain predatory varieties, the noxious species were long ago exterminated. We thus reap the full reward of our toil. Moreover, there is no attempt made to produce crops that are unfitted for the locality. Distribution is so rapid and easy that we can utilize natural adaptations to the utmost, and thus results a perfection not known in your age. This is accomplished the more readily in that our command of chemistry ensures us that needful supply of the requisite fertilizing ingredients which renders us independent of soil constituents. Add to all these advantages an abundance of competent labor, plus the absolute possession of the unbounded and untiring energy of our slave of the lamp, and the horticulture of today has been made possible.”
Here the Doctor slackened the speed of our curricle, as we neared one of those immense palaces of crystal I had previously noticed. Alighting, we entered a portico, tastefully lit by transparent mosaics; thence passed into a glorious sylvan cloister, extending all around the building, rich with the verdure of the tropics, through which flashed the starry wings of strange, bright birds, and among whose arches echoed their warbled melodies.
“This,” said Dr. Leete, with a glow of pride, “is one of our winter promenades. This is the ornate fringe of the useful center, devoted as you see to such vegetables as need artificial heat. Below is a crypt allotted to the culture of agarics and fungous tubers, such as delighted your palate this morning. Our slave of the lamp automatically maintains the required temperature, and in winter prolongs the day to the extent required for continuous growth. So that here we fear not even the Shaksperian enemies, ‘Winter and rough weather.”‘
Words fail to picture the marvel of horticultural perfection on which I gazed. Tender care and exquisite taste were displayed everywhere, as though each plant had been ranged by an artist.
The Doctor read my admiring look, and gave utterance to my thought.
“Yes, our gardeners are all artists. I believe in the nineteenth century they were not included in that denomination. But surely if to reproduce nature on canvas be art, to embellish nature, which is the true gardener’s office, is yet higher art. And I think, Mr. West, you will be hardly disposed to deny, after what you have seen today of rural Massachusetts, that we have been fairly successful in embellishing nature.”
“Success! Yes, your success to me is miraculous! The incomprehensible part of it to me is where the money—”
“Ah,” broke in the Doctor, “there comes in your old-world bogey again! It was an eternal question as to money?—money?—money? You want to ask where the means to promote and carry out such schemes are found. You forget how much more rapid psychical evolution is than physical. In your century a Harvard professor could say with reason, ‘Only a small fraction of the human race have as yet, by thousands of years of struggle, been partially emancipated from poverty, ignorance, and brutishness.’ Our change of social polity has multiplied that fraction many fold. Now our people are all emancipated from that vilest of slavery. The office of brains nowadays is not to aggrandize and exalt their fortunate possessorat the expense of the debasement of his fellows. We find our highest gratification in self-devotion to the uplifting of t hose who are less richly endowed; and reap a harvest of admiration and love consequent on that only pious course. Thus we have a population capable of the grandest achievements in art or science; a population free from all internal and external cares and anxieties, eager to concentrate thought, time, and energy on such productive work as you have glanced at today. Usefulness is with us the sole title to nobility. With you the typical ‘good fellow’ was one who had money, no matter how acquired, that he was ready to squander in ostentatious idleness or profligacy. For such characters our age finds neither name nor place. Whether our methods be happier, whether they result in success, you have now seen enough to judge.”
The look of admiration with which I could but behold the magnificent triumph of art-aided nature before me was a sufficiently eloquent reply.
As we rode homewards I gathered many further details from Doctor Leete as to the crops grown in different districts. These, of course, remained a great deal as in the nineteenth century. The Doctor was specially enthusiastic over a visit he had lately paid to California, in his capacity of National Sanitary Inspector. Fruit forming so large a part of the nation’s sustenance, it was one of his duties to learn and teach the newest and best methods of its growth and preservation.
“After your nineteenth century experience,” said he! “you can have no conception of the glories of that American paradise. All your visions of vine and fig tree, of myrtle, and palm, and orange, your grapes of Eshcol and clusters of Mamre, are belittled by the Edenic reality! Blossom-clad rose fields for perfume, hills purpled with wealth of the vine, terraces silvered with olives, or gold with the orange’s glow, plains where the peach and the pear shared the bounteous soil with the prune, mountain sides where the racy apple stored up the sun’s kisses for winter. No more dread of drought, as in your day, no more crying of a parched earth to a pitiless sky, but intelligent man working in happy harmony with bounteous nature; the State overspread with a network of waterways, wealth-bearing, life-giving, making even the deserts kind and hospitable, and the barren hillside a fruitful grove. All this and more, because man has, after centuries of strife and antagonism, learned at last the wisdom and policy of mutual help; a lesson long taught him by the practical socialism of the ant, the bee, and even of that type of envenomed malice, the wasp.”
DEACON VAN WINKLE’S DREAM
BY THE REV. GEO. H. HUBBARD
Deacon Van Winkle was proud of his pedigree. He delighted to talk of the old Van Winkle family in Holland, and pointed with satisfaction to various characteristics in the children which, he said, indicated their Dutch ancestry. Again and again in the long winter evenings he would take down a well-worn copy of Irving’s “Sketch Book,” and read the story of Rip Van Winkle, and none of the family ever seemed to tire of hearing it.
Not long since, however, the deacon was seriously startled, not to say grieved, by a rumor that his famous ancestor had found a formidable rival in the person of one Julian West, whose story had just been placed before the public. Filled with jealousy, not a wicked, worldly jealousy, but a mild and righteous jealousy becoming to an orthodox deacon, he determined at the first opportunity to purchase a copy of “Looking Backward” to see if it was anything more than a weak imitation of the old story of Rip Van Winkle’s sleep
He happened to find it on the day before Thanksgiving Day, and brought it home to read in the evening.
At the supper-table the conversation turned on the plans for the next day. Heretofore it had been the custom for the Van Winkle family to attend church on Thanksgiving Day; for they were somewhat conservative in their ideas, a became a family with so long a pedigree. This year, however, a revolution seemed imminent. The younger members of the family pleaded for a change. They couldn’t see the use of going to church to hear a political or historical sermon. There would be only a few there, and the service would be dull. Besides they really ought to stay at home to prepare for the grand family gathering of Van Winkles that would be with them to take dinner. Finally it was decided that the church service should be given up, and the whole force of the family should be concentrated on the dinner.
Immediately after supper the deacon sat down to read his new book, and so absorbed did he become that, notwithstanding sundry admonitions from Mrs. Van Winkle, he refused to retire till he had finished the very last page. Then, hastily closing the book, he went to bed and quickly fell asleep. As a result of his unusual mental exertion of the evening he began to dream.
It was Thanksgiving Day, but he was not in the old house. His surroundings were strange. He was in a well-furnished parlor, and opposite to him sat a pleasant looking old gentleman, whom he at once recognized as Dr. Leete. With as little surprise as dreamers usually feel, he realized that he, too, had dropped into the twentieth century, and he determined to make some investigations on his own account.
With what seemed quite a natural transition from preceding conversation, he said: “By the way, Doctor, as this is Thanksgiving Day, shall we go to church, as has always been the custom in my family?”
The doctor looked at him thoughtfully, and replied: “You speak of something that few would understand at the present day. I remember, however, having read about it in history. This is one of our public holidays; but we do not call it Thanksgiving Day, altho it takes the place of that ancient festival. We call it Social Day. We attribute all the blessings that we enjoy not to a mythical being called God, but to our refined and perfected social system. Hence we devote the day to feasting and pleasure in honor of our social system.”
“This is indeed a great change from the old idea,” said the deacon. “How did it come about? Were there not very many who protested when the change was made?”
“Oh no,” replied Dr. Leete. ”The change was so gradual that it would be hard to say just when it took place. In fact, it was but the expression of a gradual development in public thought and feeling. If I mistake not, you yourself saw some of the beginnings of the movement. Do you not remember how few people cared to attend church on Thanksgiving Day? Half a dozen churches by uniting, could not secure as large an audience as would be found in any one of the churches on the Sabbath, These gatherings grew smaller each succeeding year until at length they were wholly abandoned.
The next step was the inevitable decay of the sense of gratitude in the heart. Such emotions unexpressed soon cease to exist. All the while the popular mind was developing and men began to see the folly of looking for help and blessing to an external and mysterious power utterly beyond their ken. It gradually dawned upon them that the secret of all good or evil lies in the make up of society. Given a correct social system and all evil will disappear as if by magic. Viewed in its true light, sin is atavism, suffering is error, and gratitude is superstition. Social reforms have saved the world; they have regenerated humanity. How foolish then, to talk of gratitude to God for these things! I see you are somewhat shocked; but when you have time to think it over carefully I am sure you will acknowledge the present state of things to be the natural outcome of the tendencies of your own time.”
“It seems to me,” said the deacon, “That religion itself has become a thing of the past. I see no place for it in the present order of things.”
“That is a mistake naturally arising from the narrow and distorted views in which you were educated, if you will pardon the adjectives,” replied Dr. Leete. “Religion has not ceased to exist. On the contrary, it has grown broader, more practical, more consistent with itself, and as a natural consequence it is universally accepted. We have no infidels or skeptics now except among those who are recognized as unworthy members of society. In your day skeptics were the result of the inconsistencies of your religion. You preached one system of truth and practiced another. You said a great deal about God and his Word In your pulpits: but expediency was usually the controlling motive of your life. You seldom brought the Bible into direct contact with practical affairs. When you urged men to keep the Sabbath, it was seldom on the ground of sanctity, or because it was God’s day. The all-powerful arguments were personal profit, physical health, and other economic advantages. And even the most devout Christians looked for greater practical blessings from proposed social reforms than from the preaching of the Gospel. How many of your ministers, for example, gave over the preaching of Christianity to become advocates of political prohibition, the single tax doctrine, and various other schemes of reform.
“We have merely carried out their ideas in a more logical fashion. Dropping the purely sentimental ideas of God and spirituality, we recognize the essence of religion in love for mankind and a true devotion to the interests of society.”
“Can this be the end of that which seemed so slight at the beginning?” said the deacon. “The edge of the wedge was very thin. Only a slight indifference to duty, only a little yielding to worldly principles, only a trifling lack of faith in the power of God: and the result has been the dethronement of God from his place in the universe.”
Just at that moment the doctor accidentally touched an electric button connected with the machinery of the National Orchestra, and the sudden ringing of a peel of musical bells gave the deacon such a start that he awoke to hear the last tones of the breakfast-bell reminding him that he had overslept in consequence of sitting up so late the previous evening,
At the breakfast-table he related his dream to the family and concluded by saying: “I’ve made up my mind to stick to the old custom and go to church today whatever the rest of you do. You know,” he added, addressing his wife, “We’ve really more than usual to be thankful for this year. Tom and Mary were brought out of the fever almost by a miracle. And I shall not easily forget how providential it was that I missed that train that was wrecked. Besides my business has been more prosperous this year than ever before.”
As be spoke of these things the other members of the family were reminded of numerous unusual blessings enjoyed during the year, and soon the old superstition of gratitude got the better of their progressive ideas, and they unanimously voted that the dinner would taste better and the family gathering be all the more jolly if they went to church first.
IN THE YEAR ’26
THE year 2025 was drawing to its close in a sweeping storm of wind and rain. In the hall of a noble house on the edge of the Contra Costa hills, a tall girl with a sad and somewhat lonely expression was taking off the wraps in which she had driven through the storm, and a sweet-faced woman, standingon tiptoe to do it, helped her, evidently anxious to lessen in every possible way the strangeness of the moment.
Juliana West had come from Boston on that afternoon’s train, to make her home with her mother’s cousin, Mrs. Roger Davenport. Mrs. West had been an only child, and Mr. West still more alone in the world, so that this cousin was the nearest relative left to the orphan daughter ; and as Irene Davenport had been brought up more like a sister than a cousin with the young girl’s mother, who had been but a few years the elder, it was natural that Juliana should come to her now.
No one could have been kinder than the Davenports had been. Mrs. Davenport had telegraphed for Juliana the instant she heard of her loss, begging the girl to come to her, and saying that Roger would go on to Boston and bring her ; and it had seemed more like home to the desolate girl than any place that was possible to her. It made it the more so that her cousin’s husband, instead of being a drawback to the sense of kinship and homelikeness, was already a favorite with Juliana. She had not seen him of
late years, as she had her cousin, who had made several long visits to Boston ; but she remembered him with the peculiarly pleasant memory children acquire in their early teens of those who are appreciatively kind and considerate with them. Roger Davenport was, moreover, a man of very high scientific standing, and a member of Congress for many years, and the whole family were proud of his reputation and the esteem in which he was held in public and in private. It had been a pleasure to Juliana, even in her sadness, to find that her childish memory of him had not been at fault; on the contrary, she saw that her older and more trained mind perceived new qualities to admire in him. As for his behavior to herself, no one would ever know what his perfect consideration and sympathy were to her during those first days of loneliness, when he had come on by the three-day train from San Francisco,—a journey that no improvements can make anything but arduous and fatiguing, — to be with her in time for the funeral.
They returned more comfortably and leisurely. The traveling was perfectly simple, and it was for pure kindness’s sake that the Davenports had not allowed Juliana to come alone ; but it would have been a sorrowful journey, and she appreciated the thought that had given her this grave, handsome, kind man to watch every detail of her comfort, and especially to divert her with unfailing tact from her sadness. Roger Davenport was at this time somewhat past forty, and looked old for his age, — early touched with gray in hair and mustache, and showing a certain effect of care or responsibility in the fine, clear features of his face. Juliana thought that if he had not been so kind, or if it were in the old days of evil-doers, one might be afraid of him. Yet, in fact, she soon became in a way less afraid of him than of anyone,— perhaps in another way more afraid of him than of anyone, for she was always conscious of a great desire to have his good opinion, and a sense that his standards must be very high, and that she was not very wise or superior; but she could say things to him easily that she could not say to any one else.
It was to him that she first found herself able to talk about her bereavement. “It seems to me strange, Cousin Roger,” she said, as the train made its way across the plains, and they had fallen into one of the talks that he saw diverted her mind, and that he liked to encourage for his own sake, too, for he could not be without interest in the simple unfolding of a sweet young girl’s thought, — ” it seems to me strange to find myself sorrowful and lonely in the midst of our happy era. If it were not for the talks I used to have with my mother, after my father died, it would shake my faith in the essential sweetness and happiness of life, and that would almost be shaking my faith in God. She told me that after she lost my father, it was at first a shock to her faith in our solutions of ‘the riddle of the painful earth ‘; and then she saw that she was really set apart from other people by the strange and unparalleled things in my father’s history,—you know,—that made him, and her as her life was bound up in his, rather the last of the nineteenth century people, than people of our own time ; that now right living and the advance of science made it almost impossible that men should die in the flower of their age, as he did; so her experience did not justify her first thought, that as long as death was unconquered all our conquests came to little. Somebody must now and then have to bear the last remnants of evil, bequeathed from the old times; and each one that does, can be comforted, thinking the account is that much nearer being cleared off, for the perfecting of the present almost perfect happiness of the world.”
Davenport listened with interest to all she said, but answered thoughtfully that he fancied in all eras the world had seemed without trouble to young hearts before they knew it in themselves. “When we first grieve, we think grief has entered into the world; when we first sin, that sin has come to man.” But when he saw her look puzzled and troubled, he said she was quite right in thinking premature death grew rarer; and added with a graciousness that took an especial value from the dignity and station of the man : “It is a good comfort to feel in sorrow that others are happier, — the comfort of sweet souls. You would not like to cheer yourself, as thousands of sad hearts have done, by the opposite reflection, that pain is the common lot, would you?”
“O, I am glad I did not live then!’, said Juliana, touched and pleased by the praise. But none the less, she thought over his first answer afterward a good many times.
After she had taken off her wraps in the Davenports’ warm and homelike hall, Mrs. Davenport made her rest on a lounge, and sat beside her, holding her hand, and venturing after a little to speak of Cousin Edith, and her own love for her. Edith’s few years of seniority, her amiable character, and her fair beauty,—”which it is a pleasure to me to see again in you, dear,” she said,— had made her quite an ideal to the younger and plainer cousin. Juliana felt the affection and the welcome, but the conversation was hard for her, and she was afraid that she was going to cry, when Roger Davenport came in. He stood a moment, appreciating the young girl’s beauty and instinctive grace of attitude, as she leaned back on the cushions. His wife turned to smile at his approach, which visibly gave her as much pleasure now as when she was a bride; and Juliana felt the dangerous point of tears past, as he sat down close by, and began to talk with Mrs. Davenport about the journey, including herself in the conversation by a look or reference now and then, but not addressing her directly. She lay in the ease and warmth, with her cousin’s hand closely clasping hers, and Davenport’s reassuring glance from time to time seeking her, and felt the sense of comfort and home-coming deepen in her.
From time to time in the weeks after, Davenport waked again in her that troubled surprise at some of his views that had stirred on the train. She spoke once of the equality of fortune in the modern world, comparing it with the cruel inequalities of a century and a half before.
“Do you say that of your own thought, my dear ?” said Davenport, “or do you repeat the current phrase of the time about it?”
Juliana stared, a little hurt, and more abashed. “I do not know that I h ave any own thought about it,” she said. “How should I? It is an accepted fact.”
“And you could scarcely be asked to have a more searching thought in your young head than the run of your seniors have,” he said. “But none the less, these current laudations of our own achievements will stand some modifications.”
“But people are all equal in property now,” insisted Juliana, as nineteen years will insist when a dogma it has been taught is questioned. Perhaps we are never so sure of a generalization of our own acquiring,—we have learned its shaky points.
“Let me give you a bit of family history,” said Davenport, sitting down on the divan beside the low window on whose broad ledge she was sitting. “At the time of the revolution, early in the twentieth century, my great grandfather was an architect of real fame, — you know that?”
“O yes, I know that his work is among the models studied now. I was always taught that in art we often had to go back to more barbarous times for masterpieces that we prize still.”
“Very well. My great-grandfather was a prosperous and successful man in 1920. He had just married a woman of a great deal of family pride, who, like himself, had been an impoverished representative of a once distinguished line. They were at one in their ambition to re-make a great family. They bought a place on these hills, close to where we now are, and there built a family mansion, to which the heir had just been born, when the revolution deprived them of all title to it. The previous owner might have the first opportunity to rent it, if he wished. But the size and magnificence with which it was planned would have made its rent take a larger piece out of the government allowance he now had to live on than he could well afford. The allowances were small to begin with, you know; but for the great caution and shrewdness of the men who managed that transition time, it never could have been carried through at all. My ancestor had had a sufficient income to carry out his plans; he had suffered in early life every deprivation, had obtained his education at great cost of labor and self-denial, had been through a whole romance of courageous struggle, and after years of effort,—thoroughly honest effort, mind, in which he had more than once risked the whole success of his life to defy some fraudulent practice of thetime, and had never (so his manuscript journal tells me)elbowed another man unfairly, or made any one the poorer) — had achieved what in those days was called an honorable and deserved success. He had not enjoyed it as he went along, but had saved, so as to buy his estate and build his home without encroaching on his means for enjoyment afterward. He had just entered into the results of his labor, when it was all swept away, and, instead, he was given a stipend, comparatively small, and having no relation to his own exertions, by the new government. His estate was divided into smaller ones, and an idle and drunken workman, whom he had dismissed for worthlessness, was installed in the new house, with precisely the same income as the former owner.”
Juliana listened with a kind of pained fascination. Perhaps it made a difference to her that the loser by the great reform had been the ancestor of Roger Davenport.
“I never realized,” she said ; “it must have been very hard for many just at the time of the change.”
“He was a resolute man, and well accustomed to self-denial for an end in view. He felt the profoundest bitterness over the change, which he was yet too shrewd to try to resist. He said to his wife: ‘This leveling business can be defeated easily enough, after all; only we shall have to take another generation or two to do it’; and she answered, ‘I live for my baby,—I will make any sacrifices that are necessary.’ So the old journal says. You must catch their spirit about this, my dear; they were not to themselves conspirators, but honest people, defeating in the interest of their child a popular conspiracy, and sacrificing personal comfort for the rest of a life that had already been sacrificed so far,— and in vain, — in the same way. Well, my ancestor thereupon moved a little farther along the line of the hills,and took several acres of land, paying the government ground rent for it, — a comparatively small sum, as there was no house. He then secured through a test case concerning some one else, a decision that the person who had rented a piece of land should always have the first opportunity to re-rent it at the expiration of the lease. This was approved both by Congress and the courts, since it was evident that the making of homes would be greatly discouraged if there could be
no permanency of tenure, and in fact, as you know, most men, when they have thoroughly settled themselves in a house, expect to stay there year after year, and get to thinking of it as theirs, saying ‘my house,’ or ‘ my garden,’— I remember your grandfather Leete used to, ardent nationalist as he was. And he built a laboratory in his garden, you remember. He could not have done that had not my ancestor and many other persons brought before the very first congress the question whether the government should raise rents on tenants for improvements they had themselves made on their holdings, — should rackrent, in short. But you know about this from your history.”
“Yes, — Congress decided justly, of course, that what a man had bought himself and put on the soil was his own, and government had nothing to do with it; only if it was of such a nature that he could not take it with him when he went away, he could not claim any compensation from the nation. I learned that at school, but I never thought of connecting it with grandfather’s laboratory.”
“Well, on the strength of this decision, which he very well foresaw could never be upset without rousing endless resistance, my ancestor proceeded to lay out his acres with the greatest care and without sparing expense. He was at the time about forty years old, and was of course in the government service as an architect. He confined his services strictly to the hours required by law, although it had been his custom to work night and day. The consequence was that almost every moment of his working time was given to public buildings, to the disappointment of those who wished his designs for their own homes. Very soon he made a proposal to an old friend, a grower of fine trees, that if he would rent a small piece of land from the nation, and employ it in raising for him the trees that he wished, out of government hours, he would in turn, outside of his hours, make for him the plans he wished, which he could then put into the hands of the builders. Remember that a small service from him was accepted by his contemporaries as of much more value than a larger one from another, because of its quality.- The tree-grower thought he was lucky to get two hours of Davenport’s work in return for forty of his own. In like manner he paid the workmen who planted his trees and made his terraces. When a man did not care for his work in return, he sold it to some one else who had what the man did want, and gave him an order for the transfer. I have seen papers in his hand reading thus: ‘My dear Mr. Lyon: Please transfer to a\c of Patrick Mulhaney, who desires portrait, such and such portion of the credit due me for designs for garden studio. Yours, &c.’ The portrait was, of course, done out of hours, as all the artist’s work within hours was due to the government. Thus, very soon Davenport’s time was as full, earl}’ and late, as it had been in his most arduous days before the revolution. Where he wanted something not to be had except from the government, he used his own allowance of credit, or bought a portion of some one else’s—”
“But that is not allowed.” “Nominally not. But how much trouble was it to have his customer purchase the desired article and turn it over to him?”
Juliana caught her breath, for though as utterly untrained in business as most people of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, she had a quick little head, and the possibilities of this sort of transaction lengthened dimly out to her. “Some one else records that when first refused-a transfer of credit from another man’s card, my ancestor raised his eye-brows, shrugged his shoulders, and remarked: ‘My dear friend the nation, you are only compelling one more step in the transaction!’
“You know the regular method of house-building is to request the nation to build for you in such a location, and according to such and such plans, previously selected from among the work of the architects: the house is built without expense to the petitioner, according to his wishes, and the ownership remains with the nation. But did it ever occur to you to ask who would own a house built by a man at his own expense, with materials purchased by himself, from his own plans?”
“No. If he ever left the place, it would lapse to government,” said Juliana.
“Clearly. But as long as he paid his rent, no one could compel him to leave the place. And he was offering his descendants an irresistible inducement to continue to rent it. Living with strict economy, using all his credit, and all the large earnings of his outside hours,—and in a few years he reached the age of retirement, and had all his time for private earnings, — he was able before he died, at the age of seventy-eight,to create here an estate far more noble than his earlier ambition. My child, did you imagine that the combined credit of your cousin and myself could rent a place like this, and enable us to live in other respects as we do?”
It was not unnatural that Juliana, ignorant of house building, should have imagined that good taste only had given the singular beauty to her cousin’s home: for the house, in the very best Davenport manner for home architecture, was built for lasting comfort, not for display. The beauty was inwrought in material and form so ineffaceably that centuries could scarcely mar it. Everything was done with reference to the least possible troublein caring for the house, in keeping up and renewing. The beautiful stones and marbles, wrought with hand labor to the utmost perfection, and only more beautiful for nearly a hundred years of exposure to sun and rain ; the choice woods, in the simplest possible surfaces, whose polish and grain the years only helped; the wonderful pavements of courts, and halls, and walks, the few stone and wood carvings, the deep, firm paint inside, where color had been called for, or the frescoes, every stroke from a famous hand,—all was easier to live in, without much service or anxiety, than most houses of a fraction the cost. The few acres of grounds, too, — enough to secure a sense of retirement and seclusion, but not enough to be a burdensome estate,—were planted from the first with reference to a beauty and luxuriance so much like that of nature as to require the minimum of a gardener’s care. The proud old man had builded and laid out with conscious power, and a quiet certainty that time would never make “the Davenport style ” antiquated.
“I pay the nation’s ground-rent on all this,” said his great-grandson; “raised to meet the greater value of land now, but not to cover any of the improvements. If I were charged on all this, at the regular government per cent of the cost, it would be simply impossible for me to pay it.
“Well, my ancestor died happy, having left practically secured to his descendants the value of nearly half a million dollars, including some of these almost priceless statues, carvings, and frescoes. Now what of my grandfather, brought up from his earliest years to see the building up of this store the object of life? It became the object of his also. He lived very modestly, and spent lavishly on the books that fill my libraries, — you have no idea how rare and valuable the collection is. He also used his extra hours and his years of retirement in private earnings. But my father, who was a physician, gave his for zeal and public spirit.”
Juliana drew a long breath, as one who recognizes a familiar tone among strange faces and ways.
“He had a sister, who inherited the place jointly with him. When she mar
ried and left it, he divided with her the movables, and furnished her in such commodities as she wished the equivalent annually of the interest on her half of the remaining property. Had she not died childless, this would have been an increasing tax from generation to generation, which would have had to be settled by some sort of quit-claim transaction.
“The accidents of marriage have helped a little, too. My grandmother was the inheritor of some superb old furniture; my mother’s family were devoted collectors of paintings and other works of art. Moreover, my grandfather left on the place a strain of fine horses, which we have always kept at trifling expense. So I could go on to enumerate many ways in which it has been the family habit to spend on permanent and transferable possessions, which when inherited set free the income of the heir to that extent for other pleasures, and make him a richer man than his neighbor. The things that my aunt took came back at her death.”
“It was merely the accident of your being an only descendant,” said the girl, using her sharpness again, “that made it’possible. The payment of commodities to your aunt must have been half as great as the government rent would have been. It would not take long at that rate for the estate to become impossible to carry, once the practice of illegal private earnings to make good the commuted payments was given up.”
Roger Davenport smiled, pleased at the quickness with which she grasped the new idea. “You are quite right, my child,” he said; “and tell me, how was that different under the old regime? If a rich man had many descendants, and divided his property among them, unless each one worked hard to make good the lessening, it was soon dissipated. Inheritance by primogeniture was necessary to stem the natural tendency of inequalities to break down, and that was a decaying custom even then. You may think of many forces tending to check my ancestor’s method of saving for descendants, and re-distribute; but if you will study the matter, not in your textbooks, but in nineteepth century law books, decisions, deeds, transfers, and family records,—in certain unpopular and little read modern authors, too, — you will see that most of them were also in operation then.
“But I should not have told you this family story as a quaint and curious exceptional instance. Do you think the same thing, in greater or less degree, could have been uncommon? Think how customary it was in the nineteenth century for parents to deny themselves for their children; how wrought into their very natures was the habit of enduring present scarcity for the sake of future plenty. Why, do you fancy that the Stanfords and Carnegies of the twentieth century had so suddenly lost their business genius, that such simple adjustments to the new regime as my grandfather’s, and far more complex ones, should never occur to them? They were merely thrown back on devices common before the elaborate banking and clearing house systems of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries grew up; private paper and securities, barter instead of purchase; they • only had to go back and reconstruct the system from its original materials. That always has been done, and always will be done, after a revolution. After the French revolution, men thought they had reconstructed the whole face of society, and they had gained a great deal. But they could only get to a certain distance from the social conceptions their generation had been living in. They came up with a wrench from a condition that represented the most belated minds of their time, to one that was up to the most radical ideals, and then slowly settled back to one between the two, and in accord with the average moral sense of
their people,—exactly as we are doing.” “You do not mean,” said the girl, slowly, “that this sort of thing is common now? Not an exceptional case, a survival of nineteenth century ideas and principles, now in the main extinct?”
“Let us face the truth, little girl,” said Roger Davenport. “It could not fail to be common. No law was ever yet carried out that assumed sudden changes in the ways and thoughts of a people. Why, look here.” He rose, and taking her hand lightly in his, led her into the next room, where Irene was assorting a number of pamphlets and faded and ancient papers, upon the shelves of the library, for she was her husband’s private secretary. “These are the material for a study of the working of prohibition laws in the nineteenth century. Here are cities of that date in which the sale of liquors was prohibited by vote of the people, and continued under the eyes of those voters, sometimes without pretense of concealment. Here are newspaper editorials, suggesting that it would be decent for the saloons to close on Sundays at least, in districts where, according to law, there are no saloons. I wish to present these points to Congress in connection with some of these very questions. You ask if private exchange is not now extinct. I should say it was rather on the increase, as the systems perfect themselves, and the reaction gets swing. I am now delving in records, private letters, and deeds, to see how general it is, and whether it has or has not been so all along. Look there,” and he opened a drawer, where a chaos of papers lay waiting for Irene’s assorting; “those are all specimens of private securities, bonds, and currencies of various sorts, which I have been collecting. Here are some dated in the year of the revolution, and here are some of last week. Do you see how much more systematic they become? This last one bears the name of what is practically a private ban king firm. That intimates an increase of demand for such things. A few months ago, I had an application to sublet half of these grounds, — the leaser to pay to me in this private credit paper the excess of rental value over the ground rent due to the improvements. That is often done, where improvements have been inherited. No one could have prevented your mother, for instance, from renting for some consideration of direct or indirect barter your grandfather’s laboratory when she inherited it.”
“She would not have thought of it!” said Juliana. “She let a young couple who were studyingchemistry at Harvard take it, — the ones who took the house when I came away, you know. It saved them just so much money for other things, —the trip they wanted to make to Heidelberg, and some very expensive experiments. They were very grateful, and afterward used often to insist on taking me on pleasure trips as their guest, and gave me some beautiful books and bric-a-brac,—” and then she flushed as she saw Davenport smile. “It was not private barter,” she cried. “It was an exchange of friendly services. It had no money or credit measurement.”
“Surely not!” he said. “But every one is not Edith or Juliana. Supposing it had been a pre-arranged exchange, how would government have distinguished between that and your friendly reciprocity?”
“Do you mean, cousin Roger,” said the girl, sitting down on the fine old sixteenth century oak chair by his writing table, “that government could not prevent all this? Why were not these illegal transactions forbidden from the very outset?”
“They were not illegal. They were perfectly legal and strictly honorable, according to the old laws of generations, — and remember that though these had been swept away, and deprived of all compulsory force, they had not been superseded by others. On the contrary,
it was the very note of the new regime that it was to meddle as little as possible in the private arrangements of citizens. It was on that condition that it held its existence. A little drawing of the reins too tight would have made it a rule of force instead of consent, and that could not have stood. The government itself was very willing to escape the endless burden of inspection, wrangling, and devising of punishments. It had indeed no provision for punishments, I may almost say no powers. The records of the first congresses contain instances of complaints against evasions, but they are among such a curious medley of wild suggestions, grotesque misunderstandings, and a general outpouring from a class who used then to be called ‘ cranks,’ that it is no wonder all alike were ignored. There was no secret and no display about these evasions of the intent of the revolution. No one’s jealousy was likely to be aroused toward one who was living more poorly than himself for the sake of a future when both would be dead. It struck no one as improper that men should exchange such voluntary services as the nation had no claim on,— the transaction was in essence the same as when two schoolboys swap knives. I find some evidence that there were men who saw danger of a re-institution of individualism in all this, but the men at the head of affairs were too thorough enthusiasts for their idea to wish to know that it was in one of its main points consistently set aside. If instances were forced on their attention, they said these were disappearing survivals. And Congress had its hands too full with far more trying matters to wish to add to its burdens. I must not pass over, either, the unquestionable and dark fact that members of Congress were elected expressly to wink at such things. This my great-grandfather, who had been a stanch civil service reformer, — you know what that is.”
“By a bare mention in history,—yes.”
“This he did not do. But do you think the trained founders of trusts, lobbyists, political organizers, and shrewd manipulators of every sort, went out of existence in 1920? Their hand was in at the business, and a little adjustment to new conditions was all that was necessary. But I am not going to talk politics to you. I am only going to talk of inequality. Now let us look at the other side.
“Over there in that now- somewhat seedy house on the other slope, — my great-grandfather’s first house, — lived Jim Farrish, a drunken and worthless laborer. His first idea was that the revolution had made him a lord, and all he had to do was to lie back and smoke and drink. He was soon disabused of this idea, for the government was rigid on the point that every man should work, and public feeling was overwhelmingly with it there. Accordingly, Jim learned after a good many experiments, exactly what was the least and worst work with which he could get off without actually going to the guardhouse. You know the law reads, — it used to be a favorite theme with your grandfather,—that each man shall do his best. But who was to say what was the best of such a fellow as Jim was no easy question for any inspector. Who could tell how much was stupidity, native inefficiency, shiftlessness, and indifference, and how much sheer shirking? Jim had shirked and scamped work when bread and butter depended on it; it was the sentiment of the time to believe that this proved that it was a sort of disease of his nature, which he could not help. Very likely it was.
“He soon learned, too, that the discipline was too merciful for floggings or any severe punishments, and that his superiors had really no defense against insolences and insubordinations. He could not be dismissed the service; if he chose to go off on a drunk and be unfit for work for days, his allowance went on
just the same, and work was ready for him when he wanted it again. Whatever compunction about the ‘old woman’ and babies had kept him in bounds before, now was at an end; each of them had a separate maintenance. Jim soon had his system down to a fine point; he drank up the whole of his allowance and lived on Katie and the children. They gave up the fine house and took a cheap one. He had learned the trick of private exchange of services very soon, and when the government shops did not supply him sufficiently potent stuff, he found the illicit low saloons, where an elaborate system of exchanges soon grew up, based on such commodities as fighting cocks, tickets to slogging matches, and all the means of the lower vices—” he glanced at the girl and saw that the phrase conveyed no meaning to her mind. “In these places Jim found opportunities to keep himself provided with his lawless indulgences till the end of the year and the next credit-card. Much that he wanted was not to be had from the regular government sources, but it was easily paid for by an indirect use of his card. Katie bore to him eleven children. They were not especially weakly in health, but showed vicious inheritance in a sort of native inefficiency, and a profound dislike of work, especially mental. They were all sent to school until they were twenty-one. While they were little, the mere physical power of the teacher kept them up to some sort of work, but after fifteen they became practically unmanageable. The subjects had gone beyond their mental grasp; they had plenty of money, and were beginning, boys and girls alike, to be absorbed in such pleasures as appealed to their natures; and they knew that whatever they did, no one could set them at work until they were of age, nor expel them from the school. The numbers of such young people in the schools had by this time led to the establishment of many technical classes, where they might perhaps be stimulated to an ambition that could not be touched by purely intellectual studies; and undoubtedly many were thus reached : but these Farrishes simply laughed, and asked why they should learn a trade, when the government was bound to find them work and support them in any case. They came to no good, and at twenty-one were as unfit in every way to be of any service to the public as possible. My ancestor kept a record of their history in his journal, and a recent sociologist has used this with researches of his own to trace out the result of the stock. There are over four hundred of them in the same generation that in my case is represented by my single self; and not one has ever received the value of five dollars by bequest. As a rule, they are worthless creatures, though some have shown the effect of the education offered them. The death-rate has been high among them, but as they have never suffered want, not as high as it would have been in a similar stock in old times.
“Now where is the equality, even in wealth, between the Farrishes of my generation and me?”
“My father and grandfather —” began Juliana, and stopped.
“Your father did not live long enough among us to have defined his ideas, and in any event he had never been a business man, or a man given to watching social movements. I have heard him regret that himself. Your grandfather was a quiet physician, and like all the Leetes, very incredulous of flaws in any order or creed he had given his faith to. Irene here has letters among her family papers from a Doctor Leete of 1888, in which he refers with indignation to the charge that votes had been bought by his party, saying that he believes that to be an almost unknown crime under a free government, although it may be done in England. Your text books have probably told you some things about the election of 1888.”
“Roger,” said Irene, putting her fingers lightly over his lips. “You shall not trouble the child any longer with your pessimisms? She is a Leete, too — don’t try to break her of her cheerful beliefs.”
“She is a brave girl, who wishes to know the truth. She would rather be a meliorist than an optimist—I know her,” said the senator; and Juliana looked up to his face, and the praise comforted her a little for the dismaying things that had gone before.
A few days later she had occasion to go into Oakland, and Roger Davenport was also going, to see one of his colleagues; so he suggested that instead of faking the rapid transit cars, they should drive in, as it was a clear and beautiful March day. Irene stood on the terrace, and waved her hand with her sweet, affectionate smile as they drove away, —a striking pair, the man’s noble presence, and the girl’s perfect figure wrapped in handsome furs, (like her mother, she spent much on beautiful dress,—a Bartlett, not a Leete trait; Irene dressed plainly,) making passers turn and comment as they saw them. “Senator Davenport,—a noticeable face. A very hard-working and publicspirited man.”
“Cousin Roger,” said Juliana, shyly, “I want to ask you something.”
“You want to ask me,” said the senator, quietly, “how I feel, as a matter of ethics, about keeping my inherited wealth.”
“Cousin Roger!” cried the girl, astonished.
He laughed. “Our minds are cast in like mold, though there is no common blood. You are more kin to me than to Irene. — Well, let us see. Whom do I defraud? No stone of that house, no stick of the grounds, represents anything taken from any one. It represents production that would not have been without the extra stimulus my ancestor applied. It is as clearly my inheritance as that beautiful fur you are wearing is yours, and its inheritance has set me free to use money for other purposes no more truly than your inheritance of your mother’s furs, laces, and jewels has set you free to get that superfluous bonnet you are going to look for today.”
“Yes, I see, though it is a new thought to me, that there must be some inequality. But the illegal — or I suppose you would tell me to call it extra-legal— way in which it was got?”
“You mean,” said Davenport again, with the quiet tone of assertion, not question, that always surprises young people when older ones use it, divining their transparent young thougjit, “that though no one was defrauded at any step, some one was harmed, — the public, by the help he gave to undermine a righteous institution. You mean, too, that the best people recognize their whole service as due the world, and we have no business to stop at barely what is required, and use the rest of our powers for our own benefit. And you think that one should be loyal to a government that means well by us, carrying out in spirit as well as letter its demands.”
“That is it,” said Juliana, relieved to have her thought phrased. “Loyal is what I meant.”
“I understand you. But now, my little girl, let us see. In the first place, we must not surrender our own reason to any government. You do not think it wrong to use our surplus of time and strength for our own pleasure, the purpose it is avowedly given for by the nation: is it any more than a mere conventional habit to feel that it may not be used for our future pleasure, or for storing up pleasure for our children? Always, remember, by means of the honest creation of new good for others, which the nation has not provided for. Loyalty must not be slavishness of thought.
“But put that one side ; for myself, it is only a speculation, — my own time
is given, up to my full strength, to public service.”
“O, I know !” said Juliana, quickly.
“But what am I to do with this result of my ancestor’s different reasoning? There is but one thing, — keep it, or give it away. I might say that perhaps some filial loyalty is due from me to that brave and patient old man, who in his own toil laid the foundations of the beauty and unusual pleasure of my surroundings; that in surrendering the house, I should surrender not merely the wealth, but the traditions and memories of generations, letting them go where they would have only a commercial value, —”
“Yes,” sighed the girl, quick to catch the sentiment of the situation.
“But put that aside, too. I have been over all this ground, Juliana,” he said, speaking to her seriously, as if she had a right to be accounted to for his action ; and the young girl flushed with a keen sense of the honor. “And this is the common sense of it. The house is not fit for any public purposes; the old architect builded too shrewdly for that. It is a home to the very heart of its rafters. And no one can afford to carry it as a home, save one to whom it belongs in absolute property. I can no more rid myself of this inequality than a man could rid himself of the inequality of having been born,—perhaps through unjust advantages held by his ancestors, — with better brains and temper than others, except that I could transfer it to some other single person. Much of its equipment I could strip and give the public, it is true, but the public does not desire it; the pictures, and statues, and plans that it chooses by popular vote, the artists it elects to the government employ by the same authority, are more to its taste. If the best old standards of art are not preserved in private homes, there is no certainty that they will be preserved at all.”
“There were many who did not agree with my grandfather in thinking that a good provision,” murmured Juliana.
“Do you acquit me now ?” he went on, smiling down at her.
“O Cousin Roger! I did not — You are very good to explain to me so patiently— If I seemed to criticize—”
“You did not, child. Your prompt feeling of the ethical question in the matter was a pleasure to me. And do you not realize that it is a question about which it is not merely your right, but your duty, to have your mind clear? Do you not know that it will all be yours some day? . . . Whose else?” he said, smiling, as the young girl looked at him in startled amazement. “Who else is as near and as dear to us?”
Juliana had resumed her studies ; she had always been fond of them, and her pleasure in them revived the sooner now for Roger Davenport’s interest. Busy as his life was, he always found time to keep track of her work, demanding of her every night a report of the day’s salient points. He had always managed, in his busy senatorial life, to keep more or less in touch with his former scholarly occupations; and to renew his college memories now through the experience of this beautiful young creature, was a keen pleasure to him. Juliana, on her side, came to count on the twilight hour when the three sat and talked over her day as one of her precious possessions. Sometimes Irene’s interest flagged, when the talk ceased to concern her cousin’s immediate experience, and ran into general topics; and then she would leave them and write letters, or arrange her husband’s papers for the evening’s work; and at such times Juliana often found herself expressing her thoughts and feelings more freely than when any one besides Davenport was present.
In these talks, he rarely repeated the criticisms on the social state that had
troubled Juliana. Whatever he did say of the sort she thought over afterward, and somehow fitted into her’ own faith in the natural goodness of people and things. The intimation Davenport had made of a traffic still existent in base services, of a nether world in modern society, where such people as the Farrishes lived by choice, had passed by her, only very vaguely comprehended. She had always known there were hospitals and asylums, where wretched transgressors were confined; she classed the Farrishes now as similar abnormal cases, not quite enough developed for the asylums.
And after a little reflection, it became to her clear that even if incomes were not equal, as she had supposed, it really did not matter much: for though some, by the forethought of their ancestors or the sacrifice of their own leisure, might be richer, none were poorer. Cousin Roger had showed quite plainly that this betterment of themselves was only the correlative of betterment to others, by extra service,—there was surely nothing selfish in that, nothing of the ancient competitive struggle to snatch away the limited good of the world from each other, but a creating of two new goods. And then a still more cheerful thought struck her : had not much of the ancient commercial system been the same thing? — an effort to prosper by doing each other good, not by robbing each other. Why, people were really working for each other all the time, then, after all as now! Then even more truly than she had been taught, human nature had always been right, and life essentially good.
The economical orthodoxy of the time was, in fact, not what she cared for, but its ethical optimism: so after making all her adjustments to save this, she felt as if she had, on the whole, found a new treasure, at but slight cost to the old one. She even became up to a certain point a convert, and an apologist of the nineteenth century, delving in Davenport’s books for proofs of unsuspected compensations in its life, and virtues in its humanity, and producing her discoveries in arguments with the other young women at college.
When she repeated these discussions and conclusions to Davenport, he sometimes took her seriously, and gave her suggestions, or directed her researches, and sometimes listened, smiled, and sighed. Now and then he took issue with her.
“I am glad to think,” she said one night, “that the past has been happier than I was taught to believe, and people never so barbarous as orators make out to heighten the contrast with today; but some things make me very thankful to live now. Our professor referred us to Storiot —”
“Did he?” said Davenport. “That old fellow had a great run at one time, chiefly because of his tone of enthusiastic patriotism. Twenty-five years ago it was quite a note with respectable and patriotic elderly gentlemen to have him in their libraries, and quote him with great reverence. At the time he wrote, probably no more judicial estimate of the nineteenth century would have been accepted : many elderly people, who had lived in that century, resented its descriptions, but they were out of court; the professional critics and teachers were all under middle age, and were carried away with the book. It is effectively written, and has some good chapters. But he collected material very inadequately, depending largely on newspapers and agitators’ books; and he had a most imperfect understanding of the industrial system.”
“The chapters we read are the two that open the last section, — ‘ The Election of ’88 and its Consequences,’ and “Political Corruption in the Last Decades of the Century.’ The picture is perfectly sickening. The girls brandished it at me.”
“Yes,”said Davenport, thoughtfully, “there were some appalling things in the politics of that date. In a way, those chapters are not unjust, though the analysis of the causes is of no value. Storiot is at his best on these political points, because there his favorite authorities, the newspapers, are the best sources of information. But, Juliana, you will have some bitter disappointments if you think all that is done away with. Recall what you have seen already, that private transactions are not abolished by abolishing money, and you will see that if human nature remains the same, as you insist that it does, direct bribery is as practicable as ever in politics. Men may grow rich in fast horses, and fine wines, and luxurious rooms, and whatever attracts the politician’s cupidity, as easily as if they used a token in coin for the transfer of these things. And if it is competition that creates all cruelty, and greed, and dishonor, why is not the same human nature to be as easily degraded by the competition for fame as for money? I am not sure but history shows blacker deeds done for lust of fame than for lust of wealth. Indeed, wealth was sought largely to buy place and fame with. And there is the greatest facility for intrigue offered by this system of promotions passionately competed for, proceeding down ward from officers elected by constituencies that are constantly recruited from the subordinates of these very officers, and linked with the nonelectors by family and local ties of all sorts.’
Juliana did not follow this comment with any clearness. The concrete story of the elder Davenport and the Farrishes had made its point, but “intrigue ” meant nothing to her.
“But fame is to be had only by doing the most good,” she said, catching at the sentence that she did understand. “So it makes men better, and is next best as a motive to pure benevolence.”
Davenport laughed a little, and as he passed her to leave the room, brushed his hand lightly over the curly tips of her hair. “And false benefactors could not exist,” he said. “The public knows unerringly its saviours, and never passes them by in favor of blatant pretenders. No one could have any temptation to curry favor by trickery, or to flinch from doing the unpopular right.”
There was a moment’s silence,— puzzled, indignant, grieved on the young girl’s part, and under cover of the dusk the tears started to her eyes, as she sat still on a cushion at Mrs. Davenport’s feet, leaning against her knee. Then the elder woman bent forward from the divan where she sat by the open window, through which came the smell of newmown fields and the riotous roses of May, and the noises of birds nestling down to sleep, with many last little murmurs and interrogative calls, among the burdened rose trellises and ancient trees. “Dear,” she said softly, her sweet, middle-aged face close to the beautiful young head, “Roger is in a position to know and to have to battle with whatever evil still exists among us. Congress, you know, has the hardest part of all our system, because though it passes few laws, it has charge of inspecting all the work of the nation, and enforcing good work, and seeing that all promotions are justly made, and a great many such things. So sometimes, when workmen are lazy and shiftless, or politicians are tricky, he is pessimistic, and takes low views of human nature. But I have an argument for the real loftiness of human nature and its fitness to be happy that he is the last person to appreciate. Though there are doubtless some bad people, and some lingering abuses, an.d difficulty in making things quite perfect, my argument is — himself, Juliana.”
Juliana turned around, rose to her knees, and kissed her cousin gratefully.
She fell in soon with some one else to whom Mrs. Davenport’s argument was
conclusive. This was a frank and ardent young man in his early thirties, an editor by profession, and devoted to Davenport as a political leader. He told Juliana a good deal of Davenport’s public life, and called him “incorruptible” and “public-spirited,” in a way that rather surprised her, instead of taking such qualities as a matter of course. He assured her that to many men who doubted the adequacy of the present organization, and felt that it was breaking down in its vital point, the regulating and inspecting omnipotence of Congress, Davenport was the reassuring thought; his character and record held young men to an ideal of human nature that might otherwise have crumbled.
“Between you and me,” said Dick Gerry, “a fellow that is in newspaper and political work sees lots of things that make him shaky sometimes; but I pin to Davenport. If he were to go back on people’s faith, I guess there ‘d be a pretty widespread smash-up of confidence in human-nature stock,” — a phrase that was making its way in connection with some of the private commercial transactions then becoming resystematized.
Gerry’s wife was some years older than himself. She was an old neighbor of the Davenport family, and had still a pretty cottage close to them. She had just returned from a long sojourn in Washington, and had brought her husband from his rooms in the city to the cottage at the foot of the Contra Costa hills; hitherto Juliana had seen little of him.
Davenport frowned when he heard they were coming to the cottage.
“Roger does not like Sybil,” said Irene to Juliana privately. “I do not know why,—for some reason earlier than my acquaintance with him. But I always feel sorry for her. She is discontented with her husband; and though Mr. Gerry is so good and bright, there is something unusual about Sybil, you know, that seems to make them mismated.”
“Discontented with — I do not understand,” said the girl, growing a little pale.
“Do not understand what, dear?”
“In old times,” said Juliana, slowly, “women used to have to marry people they did not like, and so there must have been horrible unhappiness. But now—I do not understand. What could make her marry some one she did not — did not care for?”
“We cannot judge, my dear. We do not know what motives guide other people. She might marry some one and become discontented with him afterward.”
“I do not understand at all,” said the girl, turning and walking slowly away. Irene looked after her, smiling and sighing a little. Not for worlds would the gentle wife have told any human being her own conjecture why Sybil was discontented with her good husband. Suppose she had been Roger’s neighbor, and after all he had gone across the continent and married some one else?
Juliana went to her room, and letting her jEschylus lie open on the table before her, thought for a long time, in the strange, white confusion of a young maid’s mind. When people married, it was because some feeling had fallen between them,— something very holy, and great, and unchangeable,—that set them forever apart to each other. She could not, of course, know what its nature was, and it was not meet for her to try to imagine; but it was a bond that once joined could never be broken. How was it then with this poor Sybil Gerry? Had she for some mysterious reason married without that feeling that could never be broken? Or was there something abnormal in her, which had allowed her to change after marriage? She thought of her,— the woman who was discontented with her husband, — with a mixture of fascination and
horror. Her cousin Roger knew all about it, and did not like her. Yet Juliana could see a liking struggling with dislike in Davenport’s behavior to their neighbor, and she herself felt toward her a mixture of attraction and repulsion.
Sybil was in the house a great deal, coming in familiarly at all hours. She was a beautiful creature, and however one felt away from her, every one succumbed to her in her actual presence. There was an undernote of a soft melancholy in her, dashed with a sort of wicked recklessness. Gerry idolized her, and it was not possible to think that he perceived in her the discontent with him that others saw. He did not seem to be the less pleased with her for the little distance at which she kept him; possibly it increased his sense that she was a superior being. She was not especially clever, and had not much conversation, though many men talked their best to her. But every one felt the unusualness in her that Irene spoke of. It did not seem so much to consist in her beauty as to be expressed by her beauty,—her low, broad forehead under a cloud of dusky hair, her sweet, full, mocking lips, eyes of latent passion, and profile like a cameo. When she spoke, her voice had a cadence that haunted people after she was still.
While the Gerrys were at the cottage the home life of the three in the Davenport house was broken up. The first evening, as they sat in the warm twilight, there had been a soft movement at the doorway, and a graceful shadow, pausing a moment, had come swiftly in almost before Irene could start up exclaiming, “Sibyl!”
“No, do not touch the light,” said the soft, haunting voice. “Keep your easychair, Roger ; I will sit down here by the little cousin,—it is the little cousin, of course. Now, go on just as you were talking, and let me sit and listen.”
After that Davenport dropped out of the habit of sitting with the women at twilight. With the beginning of the vacation season in July, however, the Gerrys went away, and Juliana’s life seemed natural again. For about a week Davenport remainedabstracted and cold, then suddenly shook it off, and said to her that he felt as if an evil spell had been taken from the house now that that woman was gone.
One night Juliana came down from her room, where she had been writing letters, to put them into the box for the early mail, and going into Irene’s little sitting room, found that Irene had gone to bed, but Davenport was still at work in the library adjoining. He came in to her when he heard her step,and reproved her for sitting up so late ; then took her letters and put them into the box in the library for her, and came back. Meanwhile she sat down by the table to turn over the leaves of a new magazine there, and he lingered talking with her.
“There is an article here, Cousin Roger,—’Individual Happiness, Ancient and Modern,’ ” she said ; “andit begins, ‘We may lay it down as an accepted premise that human nature is the same in all times ; and all apparent modifications come from differences in the conditions surrounding it.'”
“If he had said that real — not apparent — modifications come from conditions, I do not know that I should have quarreled with him,” said Davenport, pacing up and down the room. “But it is the fallacy of all our popular preaching and poetry to utterly ignore the extent to which human nature makes its own conditions. If there was badness and suffering in the nineteenth century, it was because human beings made it for themselves out of their own natures ; and with those same natures, they would wrest any system to nearly as much evil. — Give up the dream, child, — our age has dreamed as other ages have dreamed, and it must awake as other ages have awakened. Wherever we have planned to re-make human nature, as by our
educational systems, we have gained ground; wherever we have tried to do new things with an old human nature, we have got only hollow shams. You were taught to attribute all old evils to financial maladjustments. It was not the financial question that made human nature,—it was human nature that made the financial question. But put that aside,—I will not talk economics to you; I will not ask you how long this equal government allowance is to be poured out to a populace recklessly increasing in its most stupid and least productive classes, and overcrowding the departments of unskilled labor beyond any use the nation can put them to; I will not ask you a dozen more questions such as are breaking Congress down now. But suppose all financial questions were settled. Do you think that would do away with all sorrow and all sin? Do you fancy, white spirit, that there is no sin but for money, no sorrow but poverty? Why, it is one of the least of sorrows!” He turned and walked back from the farther side of the room toward her. He had touched the key, and set a soft, wild melody to playing, —some folk-song, — which crept through the talk without interrupting it.
“Suppose,” he said, “that this world in this twenty-first century were exactly as your father and mother believed i t. Would that mean happiness? What of lovers, for instance, who see love going from them to some one else,— or do you think that our economics has found some adjustment by which love shall never miss its mark? What are the luxury, the ease, the freedom, of the modern ideal to such a broken heart? What are they worth to us two, — you and I? Would we keep them one moment if we could change them for a humble and anxious place in some old century where we two, in danger and pain, in good and evil, might belong to each other?”
The wild music went softly crying and calling in the silence of the room. They
looked at each other across the little space that separated them,—the man pale and reckless, the girl startled, appalled, feeling the world reel, and the solid ground sink and dissolve under her feet, and yet suddenly filled and shaken with an awful joy. All in a moment, out of the quiet and peace of the mellow little room, lit more by the great harvest moon outside than by the low light within, out of the security of simple and frank affection, it had descended upon them. Whether the man had known it before, or whether for both it sprang into being in the moment of speaking it.there it was, never to be reckoned without again in the life of either one. Even to the girl, who had tried a few weeks before, in that white confusion of thoughts, to understand how a woman could be discontented with her husband, it had become in a breath the one reasonable thing, the one thing to be understood in all the universe, that she and Roger Davenport should love each other. He stood still. With the luring music andtheunmanningmoonlightabouthim, perhaps nothing in the world would have kept him from crossing the little space, and drawing her from her seat to his arms, except the absolute trust in her eyes that he would not do it. Confessing, adoring, they none the less looked to him with simple confidence to know what to do with this sweet and terrible thing that had befallen. As the music whispered itself away, he turned, shook his manhood free now the evil was done, and crossed the room to shut away the new chords just beginning. When he came back, Juliana had grown white, and the long, long anguish had begun in her eyes. As they met his, she whispered helplessly, “Irene!” He looked away from her. “Go to bed, now, my child,” he said gently; and she rose and moved toward the door without a word; yet as? she passed him, she looked up to his face again, and then he bent and kissed her, and let her go.
“Irene!” Before the gray of the early August dawn cleared to the girl’s sleepless eyes the beautiful century-old coloring and laurel wainscots of her room, and the dark tree-tops on the sky outside, this had become the burden of her tossing, wretched, guiltily happy thoughts. Not for one moment did it enter her mind to think that there was any other way than that they both should guard as faithfully as possible what was left to his sweet wife. “O, poor Irene!” she cried to herself, “O, poor Irene!” with a growing passion of pity and sense of her cousin’s wrong, that almost drowned the other, dearer name out of her consciousness. Through the wild sobbing and crying of her young, undisciplined pain and excitement, pierced swift pangs of joy and tenderness; and “O, I know by this,” she cried in broken moans and’murmurs as she buried her face in the pillows, “I know by this how Irene cares, and what I have taken from her!”
She clung to her cousin in the days that followed, and for a time Roger Davenport let her. But one day he intercepted her under the great walnut trees, and made her sit down with him on an old stone seat that was there.
“Juliana,” he said, almost sternly, “it is nonsense for us to fight fate. You believe God meant happiness for human beings. If he meant you and me to stand apart, what becomes of your creed?”
She looked at him in dismay: she had not doubted that he would be stronger and juster than she. “And did he not mean happiness to Irene?” she said. “And she is the only one who has a right, — not I nor you.”
“Right!” said Davenport. “Who talks of rights and duties nowadays? What preacher or what teacher ever told you and me, as they told our ancestors, that life meant not happiness, but pitiless, self-slaying duty? Why, we have even put a stop to parents’ thinking, and planning, and denying themselves for their children : tender-hearted society cannot bear that any one should have to suffer that much sternness in life. Whatever ability to put away present desire the ages had disciplined into us we threw away. Who ever taught you and me that the human nature in us was to be feared? No, human nature was an innocent, maligned thing, that need be no trouble to anybody, if only government would keep the harmless creature fed and amused! Ancient ways linger long in a woman’s veins, and the impulse to ‘bear hardness as a good soldier’ may be in yours still. I, lifelong skeptic of our easy faith, am yet bred in its school. To give time and strength to public service, — that is an easy virtue; men have always done it, good men and bad. But wait till the life and death clinch comes between duty and desire, and see what human nature is.”
Juliana was still a moment after his deep, resolute voice ceased. “I do not understand all that,” she said. “I see as well as you do that it has all been a dream to think human nature safe, and life easy. I do not know if God means life to be so terrible, and us to be so weak, — I do not know any longer if there is God at all, or if he cares. I do not know if there is right or wrong, or if love is not more than they. I am not standing for right, nor duty, nor honor; I am standing for Irene. I know that if I were Irene, it would be cruel wrong to me that this should pass between you and another woman.”
She said it gently, tremulously; she looked up as if she deprecated his displeasure. He thought he held her will in his hand. He spoke low, and with the full power of a man’s tenderness over the woman that loves him.
“Your love for Irene is a dam of straw to your love for me. Sweet soul, we are helpless in the clutch of a mightier force than our complacent century has any weapon against. We belong to each Vol. xv.—42.
other: that is reality, that is truth, and nature; and no fiction, however well meant, can stand against it. Our lives will be one long falsehood till we surrender to it.” He put out his hand and took hers, as it lay on the stone seat between them, in a soft and firm clasp, as if he quietly possessed himself of her forever.
The girl grew white. She had no thought of answering but one thing, — there was no struggle in her mind as to that. The thing that whitened her very lips, the thing that seemed to her beyond mortal power to do, was not to put away all the future, but to draw her hand that moment from the clasp to which every atom in her responded. She sprang up from the seat and freed herself.
“You do not understand,” she said. “I know the truth you speak of, — but there is another truth. I know my love for Irene is a shadow,— a forgotten old song,— to my love for you. It is strange you do not see that every word you say to make me realize how I love you argues against itself! By every longing of mine for you, I know hers; by the impossibility to me of giving you up, it becomes impossible to me to take you from her. Don’t you see ?—O, cannot a man see ?—that I cannot do this to her? that everything that draws me to you pushes me away at the same time just as hard.”
No, he did not see; but he knew he had not reached her. A few days later he told the two women that he was going on to Washington with the Gerrys.
Sibyl Gerry came out to spend a few days with the Davenports before she left the coast. To Juliana’s eyes, cleared to the knowledge of good and evil, there was no doubt now whither Sibyl’s restlessness tended,— and her first jealousy ached in her breast as she watched Davenport, apparently in a sort of recklessness, no longer shunning what he had called the “evil spell,” but letting Sibyl seek him as she would.
Sibyl herself was intent, quietly eager and resolute. She was more heedless of Juliana’s presence now when she said daring things ; perhaps she had quickly discerned about all there was to know. “They do these things better in France,” she said once, on some slight apropos, in her musical, dangerous voice. “There they are not such fools as to think that when they have arranged to make everybody comfortable, with soup-pot and parlor chairs, they have made everybody happy. A nation of Philistines! There, from the time the Nationalist state was established, love had its rights, without having to hide and hang its head; as long as people love, they are husband and wife ; when one changes, he is free. ‘M. Maire, I wish to wed’; and he weds you. ‘M. Maire, I wish to unwed,’—he unweds you. It is no one’s business ivhy you wish it.”
“And the one that is deserted,” said Juliana,—”is her happiness secured, too, by that method?”
“My dear,” said Sibyl, looking at her with a smile that stirred a swift repulsion in her, “if we cannot hold love, let us lose it. Let the best one win.”
Just before he went Roger Davenport tried once more to plead with Juliana, but she had not changed. “I am on Irene’s side,” she said. “I will not hear things I would not have her know.” He said a good deal, however, and much of it was enigmatical to her. Later, it was all clear.
That was the last day of the year. His absence had extended on and on through the fall and winter. Irene was a little worried about him. She said things must be unusually trying at Washington, for his letters and brief telephone chats were forced and unnatural. Gerry had come back to San Francisco, but his wife was spending the winter again in Washington. There were always whispers of some sort about Mrs. Gerry, wherever she stayed long, but these did not reach the quiet women at Davenport
House. And so the end of the year came on,— not in a sweeping storm this time, but in a transcendent winter sunshine, and a mild, “star-clear” evening, as the Germans say. Juliana came home late from an ” old year out ” party, where she had dragged herself sadly enough; for love, and loneliness, and remorse preyed no less on her sore young heart for the months that had passed. She went to her room, and saw on the table, laid there by Irene as a pleasant New Year surprise, a letter from Washington.
He had hardly ever written to her directly, and she permitted herself to bend her head and touch the writing with her lips before she read. But after she read, she started up from the chair, with a face that grew haggard, for all her fresh young beauty. O, foolish child, that she had imagined she knew what life’s torture chambers were! O, foolish child, that she had thought her feet had already broken through the thin bridge on which life walked over hidden fire!
It was no consecutive letter,— only a few incoherent sentences. “The papers will tell you, — there is nothing for me to say,— only one word :—Sweet, I love you, — not her. If I had not loved you and lost you, I should have kept away from her wicked spell, — I told you so before I came away. I have been under it before,—but she was young then, and had other plans, and did not care to hold me. Forget me, child,— and comfort Irene, if you can.”
She had bought a paper as she came, a midnight edition. She tore it open with shaking hands, — not Gerry’s paper,— Gerry would never print another paper. She caught dizzily fragments of what she had hoped against hope not to see: “— to France, with the well-known beauty, Mrs. Gerry— “, “— a man very widely trusted—”, “—disastrous stimulus to a growing reaction against not only the ethical standards of our time, but against all such standards —”
She dropped the paper. Her brain cleared from the horrible stunned moment to the more horrible realization. How should she tell Irene? How should she bear it herself? And under and over all, a torture of mad jealousy and hate, a horror of doubt of everything human or superhuman. She stood in the middle of the room, shivering and looking blindly about her as if for some respite or refuge from this utter disaster, utter pain. “God?” She laughed.
“He thinks, like her, ‘Let the best one win.’ She is more after his heart than Irene and I,—hers is the side God is on.” She turned and threw herself with a broken cry across her bed. “Yet, in all the world’s long, long, unended agony that may come my way, whether it is God’s side or not,—whether he pities or laughs at the victims,—God keep me on the side of the betrayed, not the betrayers! keep me with the tortured, not the torturers!”
Pauline Carsten Curtis.
A JOURNALIST’S CONFESSION.
BOSTON, A. D., 2001.
[COMMUNICATED THROUGH DYER D LUM.]
You will be surprised, my dear Dr. Leete, to learn that I have severed my connection with the “Trumpet of Liberty,” but such is the fact. Your kindness in the past, your earnest zeal in laboring to secure sufficient subscribers to reimburse the executive power for expense incurred, as well as your unfailing optimism even when circumstances looked dark, all alike convince me that I would be derelict to favors received were I not to lay before you the reasons which have actuated me in this final step. Nor are the reasons purely sentimental, though I know that if I should place them upon that ground I could at once command the tender sympathies of your generous and trusting heart And if my private criticisms herein as to the wisdom of our mode of conducting newspapers should seem to lean toward treason, I can but simply throw myself upon your good nature.
The imperative necessity of first securing enough subscribers to guarantee cost before permission to publish could be obtained, necessarily made the venture in a large degree local. To the circulars sent out the replies from a distance were, as we expected, not very encouraging; the utter lack of advertising, if I may he permitted that antique word, prevented the fact from being widely known, as well as the character and scope of our work, and at the same time deprived us of means to collect names. In fact, my dear doctor, while in no wise depreciating the calm security we now possess of knowing that our material wants will he easily gratified, it still seems to me, but without indorsing Carlyle’s allusion to ”pig’s wash,” that this security of the stomach tends to confine our efforts within narrower circles and restrict our intellectual horizon within the boundaries of personal intercourse. Without means to reach unknown inquirers, our work and progress has been largely retarded.
But the “Trumpet,” fortunately, having a goodly subscription list, and I being elected editor, these difficulties were surmounted, even if it prevented a material reduction in terms or increase of attractions. But here a greater difficulty arose. You remember the biting sarcasms in works of a former age in which the clergy were assailed for being necessarily subservient to the pews whence arose their support. I fancy I can put myself in the place of a clergyman under those semi-barbarous conditions prevailing before government kindly relieved us of the care of overlooking our own morals. For even under our resplendent liberty, which I have done so much to trumpet, I have found myself continually treading on tender corns and drawing forth indignant protests from my constituency. Our beloved institutions have not fostered criticism; on the contrary, the tendency is plainly toward its repression. Though our presses continually issue books, they, like papers, find great difficulty in reaching beyond a merely local market, which while heightening cost necessarily limits circulation. To write for the “pews” only, so to speak, restricts independence; while independence either curtails my list of readers or changes its personnel, in either case depriving the paper of an assured and solid basis.
To antagonize those within immediate reach, whom everything tends to render extremely conservative toward speculations relative to wider personal liberty, and without means to reach others at a distance to whom such thoughts might he welcome, is but one of the many difficulties I have encountered. Individual initiative having long since gone out of fashion, in the collapse of the ancient system of political economy, it becomes more and more difficult to assert it in the economy of intellect. I am aware that the field of journalism is regarded as exempted from the general rule of authoritative direction and, like the clergy, left to personal merit to win success; still the universal tendency of all our institutions to militant measures and direction largely invalidates the theory. This tendency to centralization, which has become the crowning glory of our civilization, is strikingly manifest even in journalism, despite its theoretical exemption.
The subscribers being, so to speak, stockholders, and persons whose everyday occupations and mode of living tend to disparage individual initiative, the first effect of anything blasphemous to the sacred shrine of the commonplace is the appointment of a committee, or board of directors, by the subscribers whose chief functions consist in promoting solidarity among the enrolled subscribers. Theoretically, I had become convinced that this was the flower of our civilization and frequently elucidated its philosophy at Shawmut College, but my later experience has not led me to be enraptured with its fragrance. Each one, in so far as individuality has survived, to however slight a degree, feels not only competent but authorized to express himself editorially; for those most fervent in presenting the superiority of collective wisdom are equally convinced that they are its organs.
When I accepted the position as editor, I believed that this reservation of journalism from collective control was wise, but what was excluded in theory reappears in practice. If you could but look over the articles I have received from the stockholders whom I represent, the “pews” to whom I preach, you might be tempted to change the name of the paper to the “Scrap Book,” or face the problem of reducing material cost without increasing intellectual costiveness. You see my dilemma: if I insert them I am publishing contradictory principles, if I exclude them I am flying in the face of our great and glorious institutions by looking backward to outgrown conditions, wherein some of your semi-barbarous forefathers were wont to prate of the inseparableness of personal initiative and responsibility.
That our social system can be criticised by writers for its compulsory enlistment for three years to secure ample supply for social demand for sewer-ditchers, night scavengers, domestic service, etc., you would undoubtedly agree with me in regarding as only coming from those in whom our beneficent institutions had not eradicated as yet the hereditary taint of being “born tired,” a complaint of which we read in some ancient authors. Yet, whatever its source, such criticisms are received, though generally concealed in allegory. Thus, recently, I bad to reject a story of considerable literary excellence, wherein was described a fancied society where parity of conditions rendered free competition equitable, and remuneration for work was determined in open market by intensity and degree of repugnance overcome, thus unsocially offered the highest inducements to disagreeable labor. I saw at once the anarchistic character of the work, and promptly suppressed it as treasonous.
I have also come to the conclusion, my dear Dr. Leete, that the newspaper is obsolete. For current gossip and small talk we already have abundant vehicles; for criticism on public polity there is no room, even if there were need, nor would it be wise to tolerate it in a community where individuality is subordinated to general welfare and protection constitutes the genius of ail institutions. Our general news we receive officially, all alike, as it is given to us, and the official bulletins meet all demands that may arise which public safety and morality deem wisdom to publish. Titles of heavier treatises than the ephemeral requirements of newspapers may always be found in the official record of publications distributed among our purchasing agencies, to those who have time to search through their voluminous bulk, and even if a title should prove misleading, a common misfortune for which I can suggest no adequate remedy, our material prosperity is so well assured that credit so wasted will not injure anyone.
Finding, therefore, that our present legally instituted scheme of journalism is incompatible with our social constitution, to preserve which all else must be sacrificed, in that it cannot be successfully conducted without individual initiative, control, and responsibility, I gladly cease the struggle to return to my chair of philosophy of history at Shawmut College. My own opinion is that the collective direction now so simplified over production and exchange in material fabrics, should be logically extended to the production and exchange of the more subtle fabrics of the brain if our glorious institutions are to permanently remain on a solid and immovable basis, To admit anarchy in thought, and insist on artificial regulation of relations which are horn of thought, is plainly illogical and dangerous to collective liberty. A social system once instituted must be preserved at all hazards; to preserve is as essential as to create; and this is the more evident when we are the creators and know the result to be to our social well being.
Happily, the compulsory solidarity to which civilization has now attained in material wealth, and the moralization of militancy a century ago, effected by political high-priests, already gives every indication of being dominant in the intellectual sphere before the close of this newly-opened century. Having organized liberty, having brought the spirit of freedom down from abstract heights to add a local habitation to its name, by excluding individual initiative and personal responsibility in economics, having substituted the kind fraternalism of direction for the wild freedom of competition, let us hasten the rapidly nearing day when intellect will also reject these survivals of a ruder age—a day wherein we will reach the culminating point of our civilization, where looking forward will be synonymous with looking backward!
Yours for organized and instituted liberty.
P. S.—Edith sends love; the baby is well, J. W.
DR. LEETE’S ANSWER TO JULIAN WEST.
(COMMUNICATED THROUGH S. SCHINDLER.)
My Dear Julian:—Your last letter, although I noticed therein your ill-hidden feeling of disappointment and the pain which the failure in your journalistic enterprise Has caused you, made me rather smile than grieve for you. I hope, dear Julian, that you will pardon my apparent lack of sympathy, and if you will accept from me a fatherly word, there may he a chance that the wound which your pride has received may soon heal. The short and long of your letter is that, although at your time you had never received a journalistic training, you have ventured to enter upon a journalistic enterprise even before you had made yourself thoroughly familiar with our present conditions, and that you have failed. Owing to your marvelous appearance among us, we gave you something to do which we thought would meet with your taste. We thought that as a teacher of ancient history and especially of the history of the nineteenth century, you might do some good to the community and thus give an equivalent for the support the community grants to yon. Yet, before hardly a year has passed by, before you could have hardly familiarized yourself with the needs and wants of our present time you have had the presumption—pardon the harshness of my expression—to criticize us and to teach us what we ought to do. Again, owing to the sensation which your sudden appearance among us had created, quite a number of good-natured people were found ready to subscribe for the Trumpet, as you pleased to call your paper. Good naturedly they were satisfied to give you a chance and to hear what you had to say to them. If you had ever considered it worth your while to ask me about it, I would have told you to leave well enough alone; I would have told you that as little as an Indian, at your time, could have been made a member of your civilized society by merely taking him from the prairies and dropping him into the streets of Boston, so little can a person that has been reared in different conditions and under the former system of individualism at once comprehend our social conditions, sympathize with them, and appreciate them; I would have told you that first of all you ought to learn the A B C of journalism; I would have told you that, although every one of us has indeed the right of expressing his opinion, nobody must think that his opinion is the ne plus ultra of human wisdom or that after he has expressed it the whole world must at once become convinced of it. If you then had heeded my advice, you would have escaped the ridicule that always attaches to failure and the consequent pain caused by the disappointment. You did not ask me, but you went to work, got up a subscription-list and began to issue the paper. What kind of a paper? A journal after the fashion of the last century and not after the fashion of ours. Would you have expected in the year 1890 a paper to flourish that was issued in the style of the year 1790? This misplacement of time which we all find quite natural in you has been the sole cause of your failure. I do not wonder that the journals as we have them do not suit you, and that therefore you desired to establish one that would suit your taste better but you forgot that the style which would suit you because you bad become accustomed to it must not necessarily suit everybody else.
At your time, a paper contained four distinct departments.
1. The department most interesting to the public was the news department. People wanted and needed to know what has happened all over the world and many more things did happen then than do to-day. At your time, columns of a newspaper were filled with the description of crimes that bad been committed, of wars that were waged to-day nothing of the kind occurs. At your time, people wished to be informed what the members of the aristocracy or the plutocracy were doing, how they amused themselves, what dresses the rich ladies wore, what summer resorts they were seeking, etc. Who would care for such trash to-day? At your time, the quotations of the market, the rising and the falling of stocks had an all absorbing interest. It was necessary for every business man, for every manufacturer, for every capitalist to know whether gold has gone down one point or silver has risen to-day we have no exchange, money has ceased to be the pendulum on the clock work of human society and such events do not occur. Whatever remains as “News” and what is of interest to the public is supplied by the “National Bulletin.”
2. The second department of your newspapers and the one which interested the editors and the stockholders most was the advertising department. Your pronounced individualism and the spirit of competition which arose in consequence of it made it a necessity to push oneself before the eye of the public. “Don’t care for anybody else but buy from John Jones,” was the tenor of all your advertisements. If people had something to sell or if they wanted to buy an article if they were seeking help or were wanting employment they had to make use of the advertising columns of your newspapers. This, of course, does not apply to us. Whatever articles a person wishes to purchase, be can find in our distributing department and whatever help is to be employed, can be obtained at the National Employment Bureau. There being no demand for advertising columns the supply of course has ceased.
3. The third department of your newspapers was the belletristic department. It reached its highest development at the close of the last century. There was not a newspaper in the land that would not supply its readers with stories of all kinds, mostly of a sensational nature. The novelists who wrote for a journal were told that they must not write stories that contain more than about 40,000 to 50,000 words, that after every 1000 words the reader must be kept in suspense in order that he may be induced to buy the next paper, which was to contain the continuation. This kind of newspaper literature flourished because people had absolutely no time to sit down and read a book. If they intended to feed their imagination they had to snatch away a moment here and a moment there; this want the newspaper supplied. People could read such a story while they were riding in the street cars, or while they were eating their luncheon, As every person was obliged to buy a newspaper anyway, if he wished to be informed of the occurrences of the day, the novel which be bought with the paper did not cost him anything extra. All this is changed to-day. We have our comfortable libraries, we have sufficient means to buy a book that we wish to own, and what is more, we have the time to read ;t carefully. Your newspapers struggling for existence were obliged to cater to the public taste and to embody in their columns all that might induce people to patronize them. In our days, it would be considered absurd to cut up a story into a number of daily or weekly installments. You complain that yon were obliged to reject a story that was sent to you for publication on account of the tendencies which it contained and which ran counter to the supposed sentiments of your patrons. I am astonished that a person was found indeed who would endeavor to publish a literary production in this way and I am rather inclined to think that the writer, knowing your antiquated ideas of newspapers, merely wished to pass a good joke on you.
4. The fourth department of your newspapers was finally the editorial department. The editor made use of his opportunities and offered to his readers his comments and opinions on all matters of public interest. You were accustomed to be awed by authority and the editorial of a newspaper of large circulation was not taken as the opinion of the one man who wrote it, hut as the expression of the public itself. Again, because you had no time to consider carefully a topic, the editorials, at your time, had to he short and brisk. The government, furthermore, was always supposed to stand in opposition to the public will, even when chosen by an overwhelming majority of the people the administration was always looked upon with suspicion, and fault was found with almost every step which a president or a governor took. If officials pleased a certain party, they could be sure to displease the other, and thus as each party had its organ, the editorial columns were devoted to a constant warfare for or against the government. At your time, this was not more than natural, because every act of the government needed careful watching, inasmuch as individual interests were at stake. The suspicion was always near that the motives of an administration were sordid, and that having come in possession of power he would use it to enrich himself at the expense of others. All this has been changed. our officials are not suspected, they are rather honored, admired, and their work appreciated by the public. They need not to be watched, because although the wealth of the whole country is in their hands, they cannot make more use of it for themselves than you can or I. The trouble with you, my dear Julian, is that your ingrained individualistic tendencies are still blinding you and that on account of your early education you cannot understand how a government should not need the watching or the criticism of the press. What was a necessity and a very good thing at your age has ceased to he so in ours. If some of us think that he has a suggestion to make he can do so by bringing it to the notice of the superior officer, through whom it will reach headquarters, or if he thinks that his propositions have not received the proper attention he can publish what he has to say in pamphlet form. If it is good it will spread without much advertising; one will tell the other, and in a short time the people will see to it that his proposed reforms are brought about. If, on the other band, his propositions seem good only to him and to a few others and will not strike the people as founded upon common sense, they will fall flat and be ignored.
Now, in fact, we have not got newspapers or a press as you had them, nor do we need them. We are satisfied to let you have your way, but if you have failed in your enterprise, please do not lay the blame before our doors, but see to it first whether it does not lie with you.
One more point of your letter I cannot help touching. You say, somewhat sneeringly, that a social system once instituted must be preserved at all hazards, merely because some time ago it has been created. As soon as we shall find that the social order which surrounds us ceases to be beneficial to us: as soon as we shall find that any individual or any class of individuals is unduly benefitted by it while another individual or another class of individuals is unduly debarred by it from happiness, we shall surely change it and not hesitate a moment. No, no, my dear Julian, do not borrow troubles. Behold what a glorious institution ours is! Learn by your own experience! Supposing a person would have come to you in the 19th century as you came to us, could he have found at once a place in which to make himself useful? Or, supposing that you, at your time, should have been infected with the ambit on of becoming an editor, how would you have succeeded at your time without a thorough knowledge of the work? You might have undertaken the task, as did many of your contemporaries. As you were rich you could have pushed the enterprise with money, but supposing you had failed to strike the right chord, supposing that your editorials would not have met with public approbation, you would have become beggared. With the loss of your fortune you would have lost your self on the top of the coach, you would have been compelled to take your turn on the rope and your former friends would have had no sympathy with you; at best they might have thrown to you a gift of charity. Now, although unsuccessful, you can return to the work for which you have some fitness, and after a time, you may try again to climb upon an editorial chair. Yours truly,
LEETE, M. D.
P. S. Mother and myself send love to Edith and the baby