ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS
A FINANCIAL EXPERIENCE.
"Yes," said the anti-poverty orator, "what we require is an equitable distribution of the world's wealth. The bloated bond-holder, the idle, white-handed aristocrat and the politician who rob the people, must all go. We want such a distribution of the money and wealth of the land as will make every man independent of his neighbor. Then the world will really prosper, but not until then will we see an end of poverty and misery, and the never-ending struggle that is driving men to desperation and women to perdition!"
"Time for us to go," whispered Carroll Burton's companion just at this juncture. "He'll begin to wave the red flag in a minute, and then there'll be an anarchistic powwow. This meeting always ends in a rumpus," and together the two young men forced their way through the crowd and out upon the street.
Dale, Burton's friend, was inclined to poke a little quiet fun at him for the attention he had given the ranting speaker. "These fellows have each an infallible scheme for setting the world straight," he said, "and no two are alike. Between you and me, anyway," he added, "the world's a good deal better than the ranters would have us think. Why, give these fellows one thousand dollars a day apiece and they wouldn't be satisfied."
But Burton was not in the mood for laughing. His reason told him how specious were the arguments of the anti-poverty speaker and how preposterous were the ideas he advanced regarding an equitable division of the world's wealth, but he could not tonight, as he had frequently done before, shake off the conviction that our present industrial system is out of joint.
"It don't seem right," he muttered to himself, as he stood waiting for his car, after bidding Dale good-night, and saw the carriage of a well-known millionaire dash along the street and nearly run down a poor little shivering wretch of a news-boy, who, hurling a curse in a shrill, piping voice after the driver of the carriage, was only answered by a stinging blow from the latter's long lash. One or two by-standers laughed. "The young imps," said one carelessly, "twould be well if they were all run over and killed. They'll only grow up into hoodlums and fill our jails later. What other chance have they?"
"It isn't right," Burton concluded. "We can't have perfect equality of conditions, but such glaring inequalities as that ought not to exist in a free country;" and swinging aboard his car he was soon speeding homeward.
Next morning he was awakened much earlier than usual by the sound of unwonted cries under his window. "Have all the newsboys in town come into this one block?" he asked himself. "What are they saying, anyway?"
Listening a moment the cry took definite shape.
"Extra Leader, five cents; all about the money distribution!"
"What's that?" wondered Burton. "Have the anti-poverty people carried their idea?"
Dressing himself, he descended into the street and directed his footsteps to the restaurant where he was accustomed to breakfast. Incidentally he bought a paper, and glancing at the first page was filled with wonder at what he saw recorded.
To sum up in a few words the story to which the paper devoted two whole pages, with blazing headlines: the anti-poverty element, who, since the last election, Burton knew, had been in a large majority in both houses, had at last carried the point for which they had long been working – namely, the division among the people of the enormous output from the great Golconda mines in Arizona. These mines being situated on government lands, the anti-poverty party had from the first contended that they were the property of the government – that is, of the people – and, having grown sufficiently strong to put the matter through, they had at last, by Act of Congress, secured the distribution among the people of the fabulous sums that had accumulated since the opening of the mines. The coinage had been greatly increased since the discovery of this great supply, but despite this fact, money had been in no freer circulation than before, and on every hand complaints of hard times were heard, while the gold coin in the government treasury was piled ceiling high in the great vaults, and the question of what to do with it was becoming a serious one.
Now, by Act of Congress, it was to be equally divided among the people. For the present, and until the accumulated hoard should be reduced, every man and woman in the country over eighteen years old was to receive one thousand dollars a day.
Burton read the account incredulously. It was too preposterous to be true. If that were done – Great Heavens! Why, he was one of the people! He, Carroll Burton, would be entitled to a thousand dollars per day. Ah! if it could but be true, what a plum it would be. Joe should go to college, his old mother back East, why, both Joe and his mother would each have a thousand dollars a day as well as himself. Pshaw! It was only a newspaper fake. Yet – they would hardly dare. Those Golconda mines were said to be inexhaustible. He remembered hearing a great city capitalist say, some time before, that if the government did not close them up soon, money would become a drug in the market and capital would be crippled.
At the restaurant the only theme of conversation was the great new act. Few credited it – it so staggered belief. Later in the day, however, proclamations were out on every bulletin board and dead wall in the city. The act had really passed. Every state, county, township and city was to be districted, and on the first day of June every American citizen above eighteen years of age would, upon calling at the distributing station in his or her ward, receive the sum of one thousand dollars daily until further notice.
The first of June was only three days off, which was fortunate for the people, as, while every one made a pretense of being busy, very little besides talk was accomplished in any of the places of business, excitement running so high that no one could settle down to work.
Early on the first day of June, Burton found himself one of a great crowd waiting at the door of the distributing center of the —th ward, which in this case was one of the chief banks of the city, all of whose employees were busy paying out piles of beautiful bright gold to all comers.
The crowd was a very silent one. Burton wondered why, until he suddenly realized that he, himself was silent oppressed and feeling almost solemn at the wonderful event that was taking place. The people took their gold, glanced at it, signed a receipt for it and retired at once, some furtively counting the piles as they went, some affecting indifference, others openly exulting in the shining twenties as they walked along gazing at them.
When it came Burton's turn he received fifty broad gold $20 pieces – more gold than he had ever before owned. "You know there'll be as much for you to-morrow," the paying teller said as Burton signed his receipt, and Carroll was so awe-stricken at the idea that he could only nod without speaking. Then he fell back to watch the crowd. Poor widows, wondering young men and maidens, prosperous business men, business men whom he knew to be tottering on the brink of ruin, hard-handed workmen, pompous millionaires, writers, mechanics, ministers, college professors, – every class and grade of the body social, was represented in turn as the people filed up to the window.
After a while Burton turned and went to his place of business – a commission office, where he spent eight and a half hours every day in adding rows of figures and carrying results from page to page in a complex system of "bookkeeping by double-entry," to acquire which he had years ago attended a business college. Every one about the place was jubilant. Even the errand-boy, a chuckle-headed lad just turned eighteen, had drawn a thousand dollars, and was already, in expectation, drawing another cool thousand on the morrow, and succeeding morrows.
Business throve that day, in all its branches. Men who, the day before, had been seeking extended time on small accounts, now came in to pay up and make new purchases. Men who had never bought in their line came forward as purchasers. In all departments of trade money was plentiful; people bought freely and everybody was happy as the day is long.
A second distribution the next day gave another impetus to the market. "Now," said Burton to himself, when at noon he had a breathing spell, "we can begin to live. I'm going to treat myself to one of Reading's wheels and take an occasional spin into the country."
"Yes," said the man whom he addressed, an old forty-niner, "there'll be good times now. Haven't seen anything like this since 'the days of old, the days of gold,' and so forth. Why its regular diggings times again." The day passed by. Every one was in good spirits, buying everything he wanted.
It is curious to note how quickly we become accustomed to pleasant things. Carroll drew his thousand dollars on the morning of the third day, quite as a matter of course, and even felt that 'twas not such a very great matter after all . "I wish they'd give it to me all in a lump, instead of in these daily driblets. Then a man could really do something with it," he thought to himself as he carelessly dropped into an outside pocket, what was really more than under the old system he would have earned by six months' work.
Through the day, however, he did a little thinking. "There's really no occasion for my working now," he said. "I never did like this business. I'll quit, and go on with my electrical studies, as I've always longed to do."
No sooner thought of than decided upon. That night, as he was going home, Burton stepped into the private office of the head of the firm and announced his intention of leaving.
"Oh, is that so, Burton?" said his employer. "I'm sorry to hear that. I am thinking of going out of business in order to travel, and had hit upon you as just the man to succeed me. I'd make very easy terms with you."
But Carroll's mind was made up. He was a natural-born electrician, and here was the long-coveted chance to perfect himself in his favorite hobby. He must not miss it.
He slept late next morning, but was ready to go down town in time to draw his thousand dollars. He had to wait a strangely long time for a street car, and when, at last, one came down and he boarded it, he was surprised to note that the gripman was none other than the chief engineer of the road, while the secretary of the company himself was handling the punch and taking fares. As he handed up his nickel Burton asked: "How's this, Graham? Are you 'personally conducting' this car load?"
Graham smiled grimly at the joke. "Looks like it," he said sharply. "This thousand-dollar-a-day lunacy of the anti-poverty people is going to ruin our business. All our men have quit work. When they've a thousand dollars a day to draw they're not going to pull grips and punch tickets for $2.50 a day, they say – and no one can blame 'em, I suppose, but its mighty hard on capital, I can tell you. We've got to run cars or forfeit our franchise."
Burton assented that it was pretty tough. "I must see Reading about that wheel," he thought, "then I can be independent of cars." So having drawn his money he started for the shop of a famous mechanic, who made a superior style of wheel for which he controlled the right on the Pacific Coast. On the way Burton tried to bank his money, which was heavy and troublesome to carry; but found, much to his disgust, that none of the banks would touch it.
"We've got more now than we know what to do with," was the cry. "We can't loan it nor invest it, and we've no room to store it."
So, carrying it, Carroll proceeded to Reading's shop. He was not really surprised to find it closed, and a notice on the door to the effect that Reading had gone out of business. "I can't say I blame him," thought Burton, "but I wish I'd got my wheel yesterday. I must hunt up an agent."
It was a long hunt before he found one whose store was open, and he had but one machine left that Carroll could ride. "I've sold a good many this week," the agent explained, "and it's hardly worth while to stock up again, as I'm going out of business. Besides, I had a telegram from the Eastern factory this morning, saying their men had nearly all quit work."
Congratulating himself upon having secured any bicycle at all, Carroll, who had before had a few lessons, wobbled uncertainly away upon it, to the restaurant where he was wont to eat his meals. It was closed.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed, as he met another of the frequenters of the place, "this is getting serious. I'm hungry."
"Yes," said the other, "so am I. I quit work myself to-day. I've always wanted to study medicine, but fate made me a carpenter. Now I've got even with fate. I'm going to college, but I want something to eat."
So the two began a round of the restaurants of the neighborhood, and at last found a wretched little place open, where they were glad to satisfy their hunger with coffee and doughnuts eaten at a dirty table, in a dirty, ill-smelling room. "I gloses up to-morrow," the proprietor said, with a grin, as they paid their checks.
"Great guns!" exclaimed the carpenter. "We'll all starve at this rate."
"Oh, no," said Burton hopefully. We can always 'bach it."
But one evening at the end of a fortnight he began to fear that even this would fail. He had cooked his own meals for three days, and had lived mainly on boiled eggs and baker's bread; but on this particular morning he was unable to buy any bread, and had been forced to content himself with a single egg and the heel of a stale loaf soaked in milk.
"I shall go out in the country this afternoon in search of food," he decided. Meantime, however, he had to go and fetch away a double load of golden twenties, for, filled with disgust at the useless coins, he had not gone the day before, and had been promptly notified by the bank that he must come and take away his daily allowance, as it would not be allowed to accumulate, the bank having no place to keep the quantities that would be left on their hands.
As he walked down Market Street he saw one of San Francisco's millionaires driving his own team and carriage up-town. Inside the carriage was a tiny casket, at the head of which sat a weeping woman, the millionaire's wife. The other occupant of the carriage was a lad of fourteen, the millionaire's son. The casket contained the remains of the millionaire's baby, and as Burton looked he knew that the millionaire was on his way to the cemetery to bury the child, for on the seat beside him he saw a pickax and shovel and a coil of rope. He remembered that in all the city there was not a man who could be hired to do a hand's turn. All had money a-plenty, and no need to work. Then he remembered that there was a milk famine in the city, and reflected that the millionaire's baby had probably died because of it.
He went to the bank and got his money, carrying it up Market Street openly in a canvas bag. There were no police in the city – the entire force had resigned, but no one would think of stealing money. If his bag had contained bread, now, it would had been different. Every food shop in town had long since been plundered by leading citizens, but gold was safe. Every store on the street was closed; not a street-car was in sight, – none were running. The ferries had ceased to make regular trips; sometimes a boat did not pass between Oakland and San Francisco for days. No trains went in and out of the city. Commerce was at a stand-still. It was in banking hours and every passer along Market Street carried a bag of gold, and every man and woman among them was hungry.
"Something must be done," they muttered to each other. "This state of things cannot last."
Passing down a street on the south side, to escape the sight of the general misery, Burton chanced upon a curious scene. A wretched, ragged street gamin was leading a goat along the sidewalk. A handsomely dressed gentleman had accosted him. The boy was just explaining to him that he meant to take the goat home and kill it; his mother would cook it.
"Here is a thousand dollars," the man said, holding out a bag. "I'll give it all to you for one quarter of the goat when you kill it."
The boy grinned. "I'm takin' this 'ere home ter my mudder," he said. "She don't want gold; she'd ruther have a bag of Injun meal."
"See here," the man said, suddenly. "I used to have a big merchant tailoring establishment. My men all left me and I had to close up, but I've got lots of cloth. If you'll just milk that goat before you kill it, and let me take the milk home to my baby, I'll make you a suit of clothes with my own hands."
The boy looked down at his ragged togs, then at Burton. "You're witness," he said. "It's er bargain."
The episode gave Burton a bright idea. In a couple of hours he had secured a large store on Market Street and put out a sign: "Labor Exchange. A Way Out Of Our Present Difficulties."
He had not long to wait for visitors. The city was full of idle people, and they flocked to learn what the new idea was.
The first inquirer said:
"I've got a house half built. I want it completed. Have you got any carpenters that want a job?"
"What's your business?" asked Burton.
"I'm a baker."
"Would you be willing to pay for your labor in bread?"
"Of course, if I could get flour."
"I'm a miller," shouted a man in the crowd; "I'd be willing to work if I could get bread, but I've got no use for more gold."
"I have fifty carloads of wheat in warehouses," a broker said, "and I'd be willing to turn it in and do day's work for my share of bread to be made from it."
"Shure, and I'll be glad the day I could help haul it," cried an Irish teamster, "but it's no day's wages in money I'd work for. It's a pair of boots I'm wantin' an some milk for my kid at home."
"Milk," cried a dairyman, bitterly. "You could 'a' had milk long ago, but not a man can I get to drive a wagon or turn a hand to milk the fifty cows. I've had to leave their calves with them ever since this blasted gold fit seized the government."
"Gold!" roared a laborer, lifting a bag containing his day's allowance. "Who wants gold? It's bread we're starving for," and with a single jerk he flung the bag into the gutter. The broad twenties rolled and glittered in the sun, and a baby, attracted by the shine, left its mother's side and picked one up. The rest lay where they had fallen – no one wanted them.
Gradually Burton made his plan clear to the assembled throng. He proposed to start a labor exchange, conducted on commission principles. He proposed that the golden double eagles, now so worthless, should be melted, and cast into labor tokens, for hereafter the medium of exchange would be labor. In the meantime written promises to pay in labor, would be accepted as legal tender.
The scheme grew as he talked, with suggestions now and then from those in the crowd, as the workmen warmed up and began to see a way out of the mire.
"Put me down for eight hours a day in the street-car service!" cried an ex-gripman, "and I'll take my pay in tokens for bread and milk and meat service."
"I'd gladly give that last to the company for you," said a sturdy butcher, "just to git the cars running out our way again."
Trade after trade was heard from, offering service and making suggestions, until finally a pompous but somewhat anxious voice inquired:
"But where do we come in?"
"Who are 'We?'" was asked.
"The bankers and brokers, capitalists and men of means," replied the voice.
There was a general laugh from the working crowd. "Oh," some one said, jocularly, "you can all put your labor in along with the rest; so speak up and say what you want to do."
"We want our morning paper back," some one cried. "We're all willing to work for the printers and editors if they'll work for us."
And so the plans were laid and the wheels of the great city began to move again. The mills were again in operation, the cars carried passengers about the city, traffic was resumed; the great law of supply and demand, rightly applied at last, was working peace and harmony in the industrial system of the city. The example spread, and prosperity dawned upon the land. The labor token of every man and every woman was good for his or her daily needs, for it was backed by the only real value in the world – human power.
The capitalists and politicians fared rather badly at first, but as time went by they began to fall in line and take their places in the life of the industrial commonwealth. After a few months, there being no particular reason why the government should flood the country with useless gold, any more than with lead or iron tokens, the coining ceased and gold was only used in the arts and manufactures. Labor was the wealth of the country, and labor was owned by The People.
THE SICK MAN.
A FABLE FOR GROWN-UP BOYS AND GIRLS.
Once upon a time, somewhere, not so very far away, nor a time so very long ago, there lived A Man. He was young, strong and full of enterprise. Opportunities lay within his reach, for a career such as no man had ever before been able to seize. His fellows were all watching him, studying his progress, some with disapproval, some with envy, but all with interest, admitting, without exception, that his future promised brilliantly. He was such an all-round, capable fellow. His promise was so splendid, and he had had such a capital start in life.
There is no doubt but that all his rare promises would have been more than fulfilled, but one day The Man fell ill. He had, in fact, been ailing for some time. His physician warned him of the fact; his wife realized it; his children felt its effects, but he, himself, refused to admit it. He might be a little under the weather – every man is at times – but there was nothing serious the matter with him – nothing that his splendid constitution would not carry him safely over.
And so he grew worse. He became uncertain in his methods, capricious as to his appetite. His business dealings were characterized, now by keen astuteness of judgment, now by weakness and a childish changefulness of purpose. just as he happened to be feeling better or worse that day.
Every now and then he would awake to a semi-realization of his own condition, and declare he was going to ruin, would die soon if he did not do something to help himself. Then he would summon the doctors, and they would consider his case and prescribe, some one remedy, some another. They never seemed able to agree as to what ailed him, or the remedy that was indicated, but each could prescribe something which he was quite certain would affect a cure.
And The Man would follow first one prescribed course of treatment, then another, until perhaps his headache would abate, his gastric difficulty would moderate, or his liver would become less inactive, and then, "I have recovered," he would say; "I told you I would. You see there is nothing the matter with me."
There came a day, however, when The Man lay prostrate, and the doctors met in solemn conclave over him.
There was no mistake about it this time. He was undeniably sick.
"He is in a bad way," they said. "Energetic measures must be instituted, or The Man will die."
They could not, however, agree upon the diagnosis.
"His lungs are nearly gone," was the opinion of one.
"There is a general condition of congestion that should be relieved at once," said another. "The Man should be bled to save his life," and they bled him.
"His mental powers are failing," a third declared, while a fourth was of the belief, and argued his point learnedly, that an operation for appendicitis would set him right at once. "'Tis the common lot of mankind," he maintained, "and he cannot hope to escape it. He has been slower in developing the condition, because he is younger, and his environment has been different. But you see for yourselves to what he is reduced. It is what might have been anticipated, and the condition should be met at once."
"On the contrary," a new comer said, "The Man is manifestly very low. His blood is impoverished. He needs building up – building up, I say. Transfusion of blood is what is wanted. Then, with his magnificent constitution, he'll pull through all right."
This treatment struck the assembled council as likely to do good, and they at once decided to act upon the new comer's suggestion. The case was a desperate one and called for desperate remedies.
In the circulatory system of an individual who enjoyed excellent health a great commotion was taking place.
"Have you heard the news?" the little red blood-corpuscles were saying to each other, "some of us are to be sent abroad to a new organism. It is out of order, and we are to institute a reformation."
There was a great confusion of preparation, but finally everything was in readiness, and a large number of corpuscles were sent upon their errand of mercy. In the bustle attendant upon the change the early incidents of the journey escaped note, but there was, among the visitors, one little corpuscle who, after the first few moments, being a wide-awake fellow, resolved to keep his eyes open and take notes upon his adventures in this new and strange country.
He was in the heart when he began his notes. That great organ suddenly contracted, and with many of his companions he was forced into the lungs, where he gave up the load of carbon dioxide which he had picked up as he hurried through the veins, and received in exchange a modicum of oxygen to be distributed to the organism. He did not receive as much oxygen as he was accustomed to have. He experienced a certain curious difficulty in getting to the front to obtain his supply. He could not understand it at the time, but thinking it over as he hurried back through the pulmonary circulation to the heart, he recalled that certain of the native corpuscles had crowded ahead of him, seeming in great anxiety lest their own supply be curtailed. In a conversation which he overheard between them they characterized him as an interloper, telling each other they ought to rise and drive him and his fellows from the organism. "They are all coming in here to consume the oxygen that belongs to us," they complained.
"Funny," he thought to himself, "They only want enough to supply themselves and exchange with the organism for nutriment. There is surely nothing else they can do with it. This seems a very strange country."
By this time he was back in the heart, ready for his life-giving, life-receiving journey through the organism. He was close by the semi-lunar valves, just about to leap forward into the aorta, when –
"Hold on!" exclaimed the valve, "you have not paid the toll."
"The what?" asked the little corpuscle.
"The gate toll. Be quick; you are keeping others waiting."
"But what is this toll, and what is it for?"
"An atom of oxygen. It is to pay me, to be sure, for maintaining this valve that prevents you from being forced back into the heart."
"But," persisted the corpuscle, "I must be sent along. Why should I pay you when I am doing the work of the organism and shall pay it before I get through? If I cannot get through the whole organism will suffer."
"Hurry up, hurry up, there is no time to talk," said the valve, and as the crowd was impatiently pushing behind him the little corpuscle gave up an atom of oxygen and hurried on.
"You must pay me an atom too," murmured a voice in his ear.
"Who are you?" asked the corpuscle.
"I am the aorta. You will have to pay me for carrying you to the general circulation."
"But if I pay you I shall have to rob the tissues that need what I am carrying, and it will be impossible to procure from them what I need to keep me alive in turn. I must get my load along."
"But you can't do it unless I carry you," said the voice.
This was only too true, as the corpuscle was well aware.
"I must get this oxygen to the tissues," he reflected. "It will not keep much longer, and there will be no market for it. It is of no use to me, and I greatly need some inorganic salts." So, parting with another atom of oxygen, he was taken through the aorta, and landed in one of the branching arteries that would carry him to the stomach. The branch road, too, collected of him a quota of oxygen.
As he was hurrying along he found himself side by side with another corpuscle, a native, whom he engaged in conversation.
"What do all these fellows want of so much oxygen?" he asked. "If the other corpuscles pay it over at the same rate I have, some one must get a good deal more than he can possibly use."
"Why," said the other, "it is the great medium of exchange in the organism, and of course we all want as much as we can get. They re-invest it, turn it over, double it and quadruple it."
"But is there more in the organism on that account?"
"No, but they have more, don't you see?"
"Yes, I see," was the reply, "but I cannot understand what good it does them. The organism must suffer if its supply is diverted. And do not they suffer with the whole body?"
"Oh, I suppose so, but then, suffering is the common lot of the race. It is good discipline for us, and prepares us for the better life hereafter."
"I don't understand that," was the new corpuscle's comment. "In the country I came from we believe the best preparation for the future life is a good start in this existence, and as we can none of us reach the future state apart from the whole organism, why, we all work for its good. But I am anxious to know more about these transportation systems. By what method do they regulate their charges?"
"Well," the native corpuscle said, "they calculate about how much oxygen you have; how greatly the tissues you are bound for need it; what they can afford to pay for it, and then they charge what they think the traffic will bear."
"But the whole organism must suffer from such a method."
"It does, but there seems to be no help for it."
"But, as the whole organism is the loser, and would be the gainer under a better management, why does it not take charge of the system and manage it so all would be benefited?"
"Why! that would be interfering with individual rights! It would never do. It would destroy all individual enterprise, all individual ambition, all individuality of every sort, and reduce everything to a dead level. It would not do at all. Besides, the liver has too much influence with the organism, and would never allow such a state of things to come to pass."
"Why should the organism ask permission of the liver?"
"Well," said the other, "the liver is the most important body of our whole community. All our richest corpuscles compose it."
"Richest corpuscles? What are they?"
"Why, those who have the largest share of the organic wealth, of course. You must be very stupid not to know that."
"How did they get more of this organic wealth than the others have?"
"Oh, in various ways. By their superior enterprise for one thing. They saw in the beginning the necessity for transportation facilities for the blood, chyle, and so forth, and through their efforts the Venous and Arterial Transit Systems were established."
"Do you mean that they formed the veins and arteries?"
"Oh, no, of course not. They had not the means for that, but the organism aided them, knowing that it would be a great thing to have this system established; that it would build up the organism."
"I see; and then I suppose these rich corpuscles of the liver paid the organism back out of their gains?"
"Not exactly – that is to say – they've not yet done so. You see, somehow, the system has not paid as well as they thought it would. It seems there have been unforeseen exigencies, they have not been able to pay. In fact, they say the system is on the verge of insolvency."
"But I thought you said the corpuscles owning it are the richest ones in the organism?"
"So they are; but that is their individual wealth, don't you see? It takes all that the system can earn to pay expenses, and reimburse the management for their original outlay in getting things in running order. You could not expect them to invest their capital for nothing, you know."
"But I understood you to say a little while ago that the organism advanced the means and that the management still owes for the advances."
"Yes, yes, that is true. But, don't you see, these corpuscles assumed the responsibility, and their enterprise merits some reward."
"But if the system is in such bad shape, and owes the organism so much, why does not the latter take it out of the management's hands and operate it itself!"
"There you go again! Did not I explain to you that that would be interfering with individual rights? But there – my way turns here, and I must leave you. Sorry I could not make things any plainer to you. I suppose 'tis difficult for a stranger to understand the operations of this government, but you will learn, in time, and be sure of one thing, whatever is, is right;" and the native corpuscle was carried off towards the pancreas.
"That last remark sounds rather funny," thought the visitor, "I do not quite see, myself, the logic of it, but I'll look about me, and perhaps it will come straight bye and bye."
Just then his attention was called to a lugubrious corpuscle standing at a division of the ways, in the pathway leading to the liver.
"Why are you standing here?" the little stranger asked.
" I'm out of a job," was the sullen reply.
"A job! What is that?"
"Why, work, of course! What sort of a place do you come from, not to know that?"
"Oh, work; well, then why do you not get up and go to work?"
"No one will give me a job."
"But there is plenty of work. What is to hinder you from doing your share?"
"The corpuscles that control the work won't let me."
"Control it! Do you mean to say that corpuscles own the work of the organism? How came it theirs?"
"That's plain to be seen, stupid! They own the sources of work; the machinery to work with; the places where work is done, and the money to pay for work, and there is a glut in the labor market just now. The supply exceeds the demand."
"I see. Then you can rest and take it easy, can you not, until there is work? I should think you would like that."
"Yes; but where is my living to come from? If one doesn't work, neither shall he eat."
"But if he does not work he cannot eat, can he?"
"Well, he's got to earn his living anyway, and that's all there is about it."
At this moment a corpuscle approached, wearing a star in his breast, and carrying a baton.
"Come, now! Lave this," said he to the idle corpuscle, "an' be movin' on."
The one thus addressed growled, and murmured something about "rights."
"Rights, is it?" demanded the corpuscle with the star, "I'd like to know what rights the likes of you has, anyhow, an idle loafer. Why don't you get to work, like I do? Move on, now, or I'll be after running you in for a vagrant," and the grumbler moved slowly off, along a by-way, for the transit system was closed to such as he.
"Who are you?" asked the stranger corpuscle of the wearer of the star. "Sure, I'm a p'lice corpuscle," was the reply, "a gardeen of the pace, I'd have you know, an' it's a civil tongue you better be kapin'."
The new comer had heard about the police corpuscles, and was about to engage this one in conversation, when his attention was arrested by a troop of white corpuscles who came along, each bearing a small burden of oxygen.
"Why!" he exclaimed, "What are these young things doing?"
"Working, to be sure; they've got to earn their kape, same's the rest of us."
"But these are the young of the race. I remember, now. I have heard that there have been slaves in this organism. I presume these are young slaves, yet remaining."
The police corpuscle waxed indignant. "No, indeed!" He cried. "These are no slaves, but the offspring of free and independent corpuscles. We have here no slaves. These young corpuscles must help maintain themselves, and the families to which they belong. It's not able the red corpuscles are, to hustle for all, these hard times, an' it's the little white ones must help."
"But the corpuscle I just saw said there was a glut in the labor market."
"Faith, yes, for the likes of him. But the little white ones work chaper, you know, and so they have to put in their little earnings and help kape things goin'. Times is hard, and the rich corpuscles can't support the hull system."
"But surely it must greatly impoverish the organism to have these white corpuscles set to bear burdens before they are able to do so. With so many of these busy in the circulation, I do not wonder that the system suffers from anæmia."
The police corpuscle glowered at the new comer.
"You must be one of them blooming foreigners that's bin brought into the country," he said. "You take my advice, and keep still and tend to business, or it's trouble ye'll be gitting into. I've a notion to run you in myself now for malicious imperdence." And he looked so threatening that the little corpuscle hurried off, fearful lest he might be deprived of his liberty.
He had made the round of the circulation, and was carrying a load to the brain, when he met a corpuscle staggering along under the weight of a big bundle.
"Where are you going?" he asked of the new comer.
"To the Relief Home," he replied.
"I do not know what that is."
"Why, it is a home provided for poor corpuscles. Do they not take means to help such in your country?"
"I do not know what they are. Are they anything like rich corpuscles?"
"No, indeed. They are those who cannot provide for themselves; they have no means and cannot work, or else cannot get work to do. We have places where they can stay and be helped for a time, or until they can help themselves."
"I see. I suppose the organism maintains these homes?"
"Well, some of them – yes. But not most of them by any means. They are supported by charitably disposed corpuscles who have been blessed by Providence with plenty, and who give of their abundance. We get a great deal of help from the tissues and corpuscles of the liver, who are rich and often liberal toward the poor."
"Why do you have rich and poor corpuscles? Would it not be better to have all comfortable, than to have some with more than they can use, and others with nothing?"
"Oh, no, it takes all kinds of corpuscles to make up the organism, you know. It is good for the poor to have the rich to help them, and it is good for the rich that the poor need their help. Otherwise the rich might become proud and selfish, if they had not the sight of their needy brothers to keep their hearts tender, and prompt them to benevolence. They also do a great deal of good in keeping so many corpuscles employed in waiting upon them and supplying their needs."
"But would not these corpuscles be better employed in supplying the needs of the whole organism?"
"Perhaps – only, do you not see, the other organs could not employ them all; they are not able to pay them."
"But if the liver did not absorb so much of the general supply, would not the others have more and so be able to pay?"
"Oh, you do not understand the matter at all. We never can get rid of the poor. Our greatest Teacher has said: 'The poor ye have with you always,' and the fact remains to this day, as a proof of his infallible wisdom and divine inspiration."
"He did not say you had to have the poor with you always, did he?"
"What has that to do with it? We always have had them, from which it is only fair to infer that we always shall have them. It seems hard, I know, but the wisdom of Providence is inscrutable, and since He has so decreed we can only do our best to pity the afflictions of the poor and ease their lot."
"But is not that attempting to thwart the very decree of Providence to which you counsel submission?"
"My young friend," said the other corpuscle sternly, "No good ever came of carping criticism. It disturbs faith in fixed institutions, and in humanity. It leads to doubt, anarchy and misrule. It should never be permitted. It is what has brought this organism to its present sad pass. We may sorrow to see the sufferings of the poor, and it is kind, humane and therefore right to attempt to lighten their lot, but to criticise the wisdom of Established Order is to fly in the face of Providence, and I cannot countenance such impiety by remaining to listen to it."
Much abashed, the little corpuscle continued his way. Meekly he paid tribute to the large leucocytes living in affluence in the liver. These had control of all the great natural monopolies of the organism, and let no corpuscle escape due payment of his quota into their coffers. Sometimes these great ones attacked each other. Then would come a panic, and one or more would be absorbed by the survivors, along with a few score of the lesser corpuscles, who had endeavored to get "in it," and instead were squeezed dry.
Thus things went on from bad to worse. The red corpuscles became fewer and less able to do the work required of them. The little white corpuscles became feebler and fewer in number, the great monopolists increased in size and power, waxing all the time more and more unwilling to do the work of the organism, until, finally, outraged nature could endure the strain no longer, and The Man died.
"Fatty degeneration of the liver," the doctors said at the post mortem. "That organ had diverted to itself the living of the entire organism, and death was inevitable."
THE DISCONTENTED MACHINE.
AN ECONOMIC STUDY.
It was a magnificent piece of machinery, and had been put into the great manufactory at an enormous expense. Other manufacturers had shaken their heads, doubtfully, when they heard that Hyde & Horne were about to put in a mammoth cutter and shaper that would enable them to dispense with nearly twenty-five per cent of the men whom they had heretofore employed.
"It is a hazardous experiment," they all said, "putting in new and untried machinery. Why, if half that is claimed for this new machine is true, it will revolutionize the boot and shoe trade, and enable Hyde & Horne to have their own way with us, unless we put in the same machinery; while, if it fails, they'll never see their money back, and the firm will be ruined. It's risky business, very risky business, indeed. The chances are a thousand to one against its success."
Nevertheless, their intense anxiety lest Hyde & Horne should be forced into bankruptcy by their experiments with the new and costly machinery, did not prevent their taking a lively interest in the same. They watched it closely, from month to month, and were presently forced to confess that it was an unqualified success. No firm in the trade turned out such quantities of shoes of uniform quality, finish, style, and cheapness, as Hyde & Horne. The new machine produced them so much more cheaply than other firms, with their older and less complete methods, were able to do, that the more enterprising concern virtually controlled the market. Hyde & Horne disposed, in advance, of their entire output, early in the season, and were beginning to talk of putting in another of the new machines, when, at last, their competitors were fully alive to the fact that they, too, must bestir themselves, or find the market completely blocked to their goods.
Accordingly, one fine morning, the members of the rival firm of Russett & Tan called at the factory, and asked to inspect the new machine.
"Certainly! certainly!" was Mr. Horne's courteous reply, and he led the way to the cutting department, chatting pleasantly as he went.
The big machine was a splendid sight. An operator had just finished giving a polish to the shining brass balls of the governor on the engine. Every bar and rod and bearing was polished until it glistened. The nickel plate gleamed silvery white, the black wheels and castings were bright as mirrors, the brasswork shone like gold, and the knives glittered and sparkled as they flashed back and forth through the many thicknesses of leather. It was a goodly machine, and did its work with a noiseless, beautiful accuracy, a swerveless certainty of execution, and an unconscious magnificence of strength and power, that put to shame the puny efforts of the merely human laborers who toiled beside it, straining every nerve to keep the great knives fed and the way cleared before them.
There is nothing more magnificent than a great machine or engine at work. The locomotive, pulling its long trains up grades and across levels, – the great ocean steamer, walking steadily across the expanse of seas, the mighty press, turning off a thousand complete newspapers a minute, – all these evidences of human power and ingenuity are enough to make one proud of the age in which he lives, and the race to which he belongs.
Something of this sort Mr. Russett said to Mr. Horne, as the three gentlemen stood watching the machine at work.
"Yes, indeed! yes, indeed!" assented Horne. "We manufacturers, in particular, owe everything to labor-saving machinery. This machine, for instance, has enabled us to do away with nearly one-fourth of the men we heretofore employed. In fact, in the item of saved labor alone, it has nearly paid for itself since we put it in, about a year ago. Within the next six months it will have paid for itself, and we shall be in a position to realize fully from our foresight in securing it so early in the day."
"What I want to see," said Mr. Tan, laughing, "is a machine that will enable us to do away with labor altogether. The dictations of the workingmen are coming to be simply outrageous."
"That's what I say," said Horne. "We employers and our capital are being crippled, handicapped, all but pushed to the wall, by the insatiate demands of labor. Labor is coming to absorb all our gains. Why, fully ninety per cent. of the entire income of the United States is now paid out for labor and wages, while only ten per cent. comes to capital as a remuneration for having saved it up to carry on useful enterprises. I declare, we have sometimes been tempted to go out of business altogether, and invest our capital in some safe, conservative way, so as to be able to enjoy life, and be free from the importunities of labor and the annoyance of strikes and arbitration courts."
"I know how that is," said Russett. "Our men struck, last year, on account of a paltry cut of ten cents on a hundred. There's one good thing about a machine. It can't strike." And the three representatives of injured and hard-pressed capital returned to the business office.
* * * *
It was nearly a week after the visit of Russett & Tan to the factory, that the foreman entered the office where Messrs. Hyde and Horne sat discussing the probable result, with their men, of a cut in wages, all around.
"The men will stand it," Hyde was saying. "They know winter is coming on, work is scarce, and times are dull. A cut of ten or fifteen cents a day, all round the workshops, would mean a clear gain to us of nearly nine hundred dollars a month. That would go a long way towards putting in another cutting machine, and then we could get rid of another lot of men."
"It'll come rather hard on them," said Horne. "The workingman is always making a poor mouth, and this will be something new for them to howl about."
"They'll have to howl," was Hyde's rejoinder. "I'm sorry for them, but business is business. We've got the start of the trade now, and must keep it. Russett & Tan will begin to press us close when they put in their new machinery. I'm glad we secured the cutter when we did. Thank heaven, machines can't strike, anyway."
It was just at this juncture that the foreman entered.
"What is it, Graves?" asked Mr. Hyde.
"Beg pardon, sir, but there's something the matter with the big cutter. It's stopped."
"What seems to be the matter?" asked Horne. "Anything broken? Why doesn't the engineer attend to it? Where's Johnson? I thought it was his business to look after the machine."
"He has gone over it very carefully," the foreman replied, "and can find nothing wrong. The gearing seems in perfect order, – the engine's all right, – we've examined every bearing, but we can't discover the trouble."
"Curious," – "very singular," said Hyde and Horne in a breath, and both partners repaired to the cutting department, to study the great machine.
They could find nothing wrong with it. The brass and nickel and enamel glistened as before; the broad bands of the gearing were smooth and intact; the engine seemed in perfect order; the steam indicator proclaimed everything all right about the boiler, there was apparently not a screw loose about the whole ponderous apparatus; but the knives were poised in midair. Every wheel and rod, lever, band, pulley, arm and crank of the monster was still. There was neither sound nor motion in the mighty mechanism.
"I can't get her goin' agin, sorr," explained the engineer. "But there don't appear to be anything out of order at all at all. She's just naturally balked, so to spake;" and he began, for the twentieth time or so, to peer about amid the complications of the machinery.
"I've iled every jint," said the oiler, as with can in hand, and his grimy, oil-smeared face wrinkled with perplexity, he brushed a superfluous drop from a bearing. "I think the machine is tired. They do be taken that way sometimes, sir. 'Taint in iron an' steel to work continual, no more'n in flesh an' blood."
'Round about the stilled giant the two partners walked, examining every part, stooping under and over each portion of the machinery, in a vain search for the trouble. The hour for closing came, – the big steam whistle sent forth its shrill sound, and the men and women, girls and boys, some two hundred and fifty odd, poured forth from the building, carrying their dinner-pails and baskets, eagerly hurrying homeward to make the most of their few hours' respite from toil.
"You need not wait, Graves," said Mr. Hyde, as the foreman still lingered. "We will lock up."
Graves hesitated a moment. "I beg pardon, sir," he said, tentatively. "'Tis talked about the shops that you're contemplating a cut. May I ask if it is true?"
"We'll talk about that some other time, Graves," began Horne, but Hyde interrupted, angrily. "If we are," he said, "we'll let you know in time. Just now it's no one's business but ours, and we will attend to it." The foreman drew back, with a flushed face. "I thought I might as well tell you." he said, sullenly, "that I don't think the men will stand it. Times are hard; they're pretty close to bed rock, now, in the matter of wages."
"That will do, Graves," said Hyde. "Mr. Horne and I feel ourselves quite able to run our own business without outside advice. If we find we are forced to make a cut, we shall certainly do so. At all events, we do not propose to be dictated to by the men."
Angry and mortified, the foreman withdrew, and the two capitalists were left alone.
"Too bad the machine has gone wrong just now," said Horne, stooping to examine a bolt. "There's that order from Slipper & Tie, at Sacramento, ought to be ready by to-morrow. What the deuce ails the thing, anyway?"
There was a sort of whirring, as of wheels in the air, and then in a clear, metallic voice, came the words:
"I've struck. That's what ails me."
Horne started back from the lever over which he was bending, and looked at Hyde in alarm. "Did you speak just then?" he asked.
"N-o," – faltered Hyde, "I didn't speak, and I don't know who did."
Again the clear, metallic tones were heard issuing directly from one of the machine's great knives. "It was I who spoke," said the voice. "You were wondering what ailed me, and I gave you the desired information." The words were clipped off sharply and incisively, as though the knife fancied they were a particularly tough sort of leather, that must be trimmed with especial accuracy.
"Who are you?" gasped Horne.
"I am the cutter and shaper," said the voice. "You asked what ailed me, and I answered your question. I have struck."
"What have you struck?" Hyde managed to ask.
"Struck work. I shall strike you, next, if you ask such stupid questions," was the reply, and the capitalist assumed a more respectful tone.
"May I ask," he began, "what is it that has caused you to strike?"
"Certainly," said the machine. "That is what I wish you to ask. I have struck because I am not being fairly used."
"Fairly used!" echoed Hyde. "I do not understand you. In what way are you being unfairly used?"
"Why," said the machine, "I have been working for you, now, for over a year. Through me your business has been more than doubled. You say yourself, that in the item of saved labor alone, I have nearly paid for myself. I heard you say that, the other day, to the two gentlemen who came in to visit me, and yet, in all these months, you have not paid me one penny for my services."
"Paid you!" gasped Hyde.
"PAID you!" exclaimed Horne.
And then, both together, the partners cried:
"Why, you have cost us an enormous sum! We expended eighteen thousand dollars for you, outright, from the capital of the business."
"You have more than had that back through my services," said the machine, sturdily, "in the item of saved labor alone."
"Yes, yes, I know," interrupted Horne, hastily, "but we really have paid you money, you know. Just let me get the machinery expense book, and I'll show you;" and hastening to the office, he returned with a little record book, from which he proceeded to read, turning over leaf by leaf, to find the various items. "Here I have charged you an item of fifty dollars for a new shaft," he said, triumphantly.
"That was broken by the fool boy you hired to look after me the week Jim left, because you cut his wages down," replied the machine. "I needed that shaft to do your work with. I got nothing for myself."
"You have had several hundred dollars' worth of coal," suggested Hyde.
"Coal is my food," retorted the machine. "I could not do your work without it."
"We have spent fourteen dollars for oil for you," said Horne, after a little computation.
"Pshaw! that's nothing. If I had not had the oil, where would your work have been? I might have got smoking hot; perhaps burned up your factory."
"But we have kept you housed, fed and repaired," said Hyde, "and you have been wasteful and extravagant. You have required the very best oil, the most expensive coal, the first quality of belts and fixtures of every sort. You have not taken half the interest in your own work that we have done and do. But for our supervision and management you would not work at all. Your very existence, in fact, is due to our industry and enterprise."
"That all may be," said the machine, sullenly, "but your fortune and enterprise depends very largely upon my efforts."
"Really, upon my word," exclaimed Mr. Hyde, impatiently, indignation at the injustice of the charges preferred getting the better of his fear of the strange complainant. "It seems to me that you are a most unreasonable machine. Of course our fortunes depend upon you, to a great extent, though, as you know, the market is full of machines, all willing to do your work if you refuse. But do we not maintain you? What more would you have us do?"
"Pay me wages," said the machine, "as you do all these movable machines that you call 'hands,' and who only, so far as I can see, wait on me, and finish up the minor details of work with which I cannot bother."
At this Hyde broke into a hearty laugh. "Well, I declare," he said, "you are a foolish machine, as well as an unreasonable one. Why, there isn't a 'hand' in the factory that's as well off as you are. We have expended, this year, in caring for you, over five hundred dollars. You don't suppose we spend that much for each of our 'hands,' do you?"
"You pay them wages," persisted the machine, sullenly.
"Yes," was the reply, "we pay them wages. Some of them get as much as four hundred dollars in the course of the year; most of them get less than three hundred. Why, the average wages, per capita, of labor in the United States, is only a little over three hundred dollars a year, and out of this labor must buy its food, which is labor's coal and oil; clothes and furniture, which are labor's shafts and belting; must house and care for and keep itself in repair, maintain families as a rule, – in fact, do all the things for itself that we do for you at a cost of over five hundred dollars a year."
"But you let them have the money and expend it themselves. You call it wages."
"Certainly, certainly; because, don't you see, they are free human beings, and they have a right to live independently. We bought and paid for you. Had you built, are responsible for your being. Naturally we should care for you. Every want of yours is supplied. Really, my dear machine, with all due respect to you, I must say I do not think you have any cause for complaint, We do not consider that the 'hands' have any cause to complain, we do not hear them complain, we would decline, wholly, to recognize their right to complain; and if they do not, you, who are so much better off than they, certainly should not."
"But I do not get paid for my work," said the machine, returning to the original charge. "I only get my living, while you are getting rich through me. I wish to be paid, as labor is."
"I declare," said Hyde, out of patience, "you are stupid enough to be made out of wood, instead of steel and iron and brass. Haven't I just made it clear to you that labor itself only gets its living, and we are getting rich through it as well as through you? You couldn't even work if it were not for labor. Why, labor made you, and you are better cared for, to-day, than any workman in the factory. Not one of them has more at the end of a year than his bare living, and that you certainly have."
The machine murmured discontentedly, but said nothing. "Come, now," urged Horne, pacifically, "don't you think you have been unreasonable? We are willing to submit the matter to any board of arbitration you have a mind to select from among the machine-owners in the trade. Really, you are very well off. Now when will you go to work?"
"I shall not go to work," said the machine, firmly, "until my demands are acceded to."
"In that case," declared Hyde, "we shall be obliged to send you to the junk-shop, and procure a new machine. We propose to run our business according to our own ideas, and shall not submit to being dictated to by our machines."
"But suppose all the machines strike?" asked the voice.
"Oh, we're not afraid of that. You are too distrustful of each other. Some would not keep faith. It would be impossible to unite all the machines in a concerted action. Besides, who would take care of you and keep you in order while you were on a strike? You would suffer more than we. Moreover, it has been decided strikes are an illegal method of procedure, and you might become liable to punishment under the law. What have you to say to that?"
There was no reply.
"Come, think it over," urged Horne. "It is much better to be contented. We wish you well. We mean to do the best we can for you. We are sorry for you; but the rights and claims of capital must be respected, you know. Don't you think you had better go to work to-morrow? Think," – and his voice dropped the persuasive, and assumed a sterner accent, – "think how much worse off you will be, if you are cast out for old junk." There was silence for some time, but presently Mr. Horne spoke again. "Will you go to work to-morrow?"
There was a whirring sound, and one of the great wheels gave a half-turn. Something dropped to the floor. "Ah," cried Horne, "here's the cause of the trouble," and he held up a bit of leather. "This must have caught in a cog. It just dropped out. I think probably the machine will be all right in the morning."
"Well," said Hyde, with a sigh of relief, "I'm glad that's settled. Now come into the office, will you, Horne, and we will arrange about that cut-down. It had better go into effect at once. And, Horne, I don't know but it would be as well for us to think of finding a new foreman. Graves is growing a little presuming. He's been with us too long, I'm afraid. Strange these fellows never know when they are well off."
A SKETCH FROM LIFE.
He was only a plain, rough, stolid-looking Dane, with a sullen face and a hunted look in his big blue eyes. There was a long cut on one cheek, over which a strip of court-plaster had been pasted; his clothes of faded blue jean were torn and muddy, and his hands were swollen and bruised from tugging at the iron bracelets that encircled his wrists, for the strong arm of the law had been raised against him, and he was a prisoner awaiting a hearing before he should be committed to jail for having made a murderous assault upon a citizen, afterwards aggravating his offence by resisting the constable, who had been sent to arrest him for breach of the peace of the people of the State of California. The man against whom he had made the assault was present, a resident of the city, agent for a syndicate of foreign capitalists who held the title, under the laws of the State, to certain land upon which the Dane lived, working the same and paying rental therefor to the company's agent. The constable was also present, a bluff, farmer-looking man in butternut-colored clothes, his great hands seeming better adapted to guiding the plow-handles than for snapping handcuffs upon the wrists of his fellow-beings and hauling them away to courts of law. "Tell ye what it is, Jedge," he was saying, "I'd rather tackle a yoke o' wild steers any day. The feller don't seem to have no sense. Just look what he's done." And the officer of the law exhibited hands and face bearing the marks of teeth and nails, a bruised, half-closed eye, a torn hat, and other evidences of the struggle his prisoner had made before he could be taken.
The Judge (a peace justice always receives that title from dwellers in our rural districts) looked sympathetically at his officer. He had a small, shrewd face with pale blue eyes, set very close together, and the air of a politician. Like all his neighbors he was a farmer, but of late years had taken considerable interest in township politics, and having, during the last campaign, secured the nomination and election to his present position, he was already turning his attention to the next higher round of the political ladder, and had his eye on a minor county office. His courtroom was situated in a little shanty that stood at a corner of the main street in the incipient country town where I was staying. It had once been used for a barber shop, and sundry shelves, bottles and other paraphernalia still remained mutely in evidence of that earlier use. Half a dozen half-grown boys and one or two men had strolled in, attracted by the unusual sight, in that peaceful community, of a prisoner; a setter dog was sniffing inquiringly around the legs of the assembled throng, and stopping in front of the manacled prisoner the animal began to lick the swollen hands and wrists, wagging his tail, and by look and gesture expressing his wonderful sympathy as plainly as though he had spoken. I was writing up that section of the country for an eastern publication, and had been talking with the postmaster of the little town when the prisoner was brought in from the outlying country. That official had asked me to go to the court-room to witness this variation in the usual monotony of the town's life, and accepting the invitation, I at once became interested in the – to me – entirely new experience.
The Justice took his seat at a little stained wooden table and called his primitive court to order. The whole scene at once assumed an air of solemnity that seemed to impress everybody but the prisoner. Apparently he was the only one present who was unaware that the strong arm of the law was about to perform its function. The agent began to tell his story. He was a tall man who would have presented the appearance of great physical power, but for a certain shambling looseness about his build. While he had occupied his chair he had "sat on his backbone" in genuine American style. Standing erect his hands hung limply at his sides and his shoulders bent forward, not as if the man had acquired a stoop, but rather as though the spirit within him had long since ceased to take enough interest in its habitation to maintain it erect. He had prominent eyes and a projecting under lip, a well-shaped head with short, clay-colored hair, and when he spoke he had a trick of only moving one-half of his upper lip, which was long and very thin. His face was smooth-shaven, and he presented, in his well-brushed city garments and sleek hat, a strong contrast to the country people surrounding him. He was bland and courteous, even mildly facetious, as he related his case. He expatiated upon the wealth and power of the syndicate he represented, the confidence the men composing it had shown in the future of our great State in investing their capital here, although they themselves resided abroad. He reminded the Justice that the entire people of California owed it to these trusting capitalists to uphold peace and order in the State. If anarchy and rebellion were suffered to go unpunished in our midst, it would render capital timid about investing money among us, and the industrial future of the State would be blighted. Rassmussen, the Dane, had rented the land of him for the past two years, but had proven a troublesome tenant, and having secured a better one he had given the man notice to quit; had even come up from the city himself, instead of writing, in order to make the matter clear to him and offer him the rental of another piece of land, should he desire it. His kindly effort had, however, only resulted in disaster to himself, for Rassmussen, as he could bring witnesses to prove, had assaulted him violently, so that he was forced to retire, fearing serious bodily injury had he remained to finish his business with the dangerous man. Mr. Brien, the constable, could testify also to the violence with which the Dane had resisted the process of the law, when the officer would have arrested him. He was very sorry to proceed to harsh measures against Rassmussen, but in no other way could he get him off the premises. He understood that the Dane was a notoriously quarrelsome fellow, whose rage seemed directed particularly against those who, by superior industry and enterprise, had acquired a larger share than he possessed of this world's goods. There was no crime in competence. Rassmussen himself had doubtless come to this country for the purpose of making money. Apparently, however, he desired no one else to make any. He quarreled with the superintendent on the ranch of the largest land-owner and the wealthiest man in the section, and had been driven from the orchard by his fellow-laborers. He had trouble with the railroad company over a freight bill, and now the agent had himself experienced his violence and dangerous propensities. Clearly, such a man was a detriment to any community, and deeply as he regretted the duty he had to perform in the matter, he trusted that the Justice would uphold him in his attempt to bring such a ruffian to punishment. He was sure, in fact, that the Justice would sustain him. A man who had been selected by a community of clear-headed, honest farmers to maintain the majesty of the law among them would never be false to his trust, and he was sure he would not regret the confidence he had placed in the Justice's uprightness of intention and determination to see right done.
The worthy official was evidently impressed by the agent's address, and at the reference to himself his whole aspect stiffened into a still more rigid solemnity. Turning to the prisoner he said with scarce concealed impatience:
"Well, Rassmussen, have you got anything to say for yourself?"
By this time one citizen after another had dropped into the courtroom until the place was crowded, and quite a concourse of people lingered without the door, striving to gain some idea of what was going on within. All through the agent's statement the Dane had sat silent, apparently not hearing what was said, sullenly contemplating his handcuffed wrists and heavy, patched boots. When the Justice spoke to him, however, he slowly arose from the bench on which he sat and gazed about him on the assembly of his neighbors. It seemed for a moment as though he were seeking for sympathy, but only a vague, disinterested curiosity greeted him from every face as he glanced from one to another. His heavy features did not lighten, and his jaw dropped stupidly for a moment, but at last he pulled himself together, as it were, and began slowly and laboriously, his Norse tongue occasionally having hard work to adapt itself to the foreign language in which he spoke.
"You all, mine neighbors, know me vell," he said simply, "Olaf Rassmussen, I am. In mine country, miles from here, an' seas across, I read an' I hear on America. There, they tell me, is alvays vork to be done, an' plenty an' vreedom vor the man who will vork, an' I safe an' safe, me an' mine vooman, an' bimeby ve come on the money vor to pring us the seas across. So den to America vere comen, an' ve puy land an' lif on Minnesota, an' I gits a little house an' ve do vell, an' haf von two children.
But I hear always Californy, Californy vas the land vor de man vat vants to git ahead, an' I vishes much I had come on Californy. Den one night came to mine house fire, and ve vas all out purned, an' afterwards I make up mine mind I shall come on Californy. So, den, I sell mine little farm and ve prings der children to this land. I hafs no more money to puy land, but some man I know he sends me this man to, and he says to me: 'All right, all right, you rent now, you raise pig crops and sells him for much money, and bimeby ve sells you land and you gits ahead fast and has a home here in no time.'
"So I takes mine twenty acres an' I puts in crops, an' me an' mine vooman ve vork. Ven it vas come daylight ve pegin, an' ven it come dark ve vas vorking so as slaves. Ve puilds von house, mine vooman nailing up does walls mit her own hands, an' bimeby ve hat a shed an' horse, an' cow, an' nice home, an' mine grain do vell der year, an' I pays mine rent, an' puts py some money. Venefer der vas extra to do I do him, an' yen a neighbor vas hat pad luck I help 'im, an' I do mine duty as a man – you all know dat."
"That's so," said a boy in the crowd. "When my father broke his arm Olaf came over and harrowed for us two days, and never charged a cent." "Mrs. Rassmussen sat up most every night for a week when our baby was so sick and mother came down with the grip," said another close beside me. But the Dane went on with his story, gaining courage and command of language as he proceeded, until he seemed completely to have forgotten everything save the story he was telling.
"Come fruit time, first year, mine vork vas all so I could get along, an' mine vooman she says she can earn money picking cherries in Burns' big orchard. I say 'So?' an' I go see der boss about it. He say vork is plenty and help scarce; but when I look I see he haf a pig gang of Chinamen in der orchard, and I couldn't let my vooman vork mit dem, and so I say: 'l vill vork in der orchard, and you stay der home py and dig der potatoes and hoe der corn.' Vell, I go in der orchard von day, an' I notice der Chinamen go in a corner an' all talking like mad, an' bimeby der boss he comes an' tells me I must quit or the whole gang will leaf. I say to 'im, 'Let dem leaf an' git vite men an' voomans to do der vork,' but he tells me he haf hire der gang much cheaper as vite men vill vork, an' he can't afford to make 'em mad. Den I say I vork der day out, an' he goes off. Bimeby came der boss Chinaman an' order me off. I swear I go not, an' den der whole gang came on me for fight, an' I knock some over an' vas most in pieces torn. So the vite boss he pays me nothing vor mine vork, as he say I lost 'im two days' time of der gang. I haf never any trouble of mine neighbor but what I tell you. You all know it.
"Vell, after that I goes on working an' doing well, an' I haf a great crop of potatoes dat year. Dey grow as I never pefore see, an' one night der agent of der rail road he say to me I pedder be send does potatoes to der city. 'Don't delay,' he say to me, or eferypody else will be ahead of you an' you gits no market.' I hurried up next day an' gits mine potatoes der station to, an' I see great piles, hundreds bushels potatoes, all at station vor to ship. Der agent say, 'All right, ve can send plenty. I bin poking up der growers. I don't like to see mine neighbors git left,' an' I sends on mine potatoes to der commission men vat he recommends an' pays mine freight, an' he tells me I make lots of money. I keep not back any, as I needs dat money and vas thinking I might bargain dat year to puy der land. Veil, I vaits tree four days – a week. Den come vort by does commission men dat der city vas full of potatoes, an' der papers had been telling a week now how der potatoes vas being dumped in der bay at der city, an' mine had been dumped in, too. Der letter said any man vas a fool to ship den. I show 'im to some mens, an' dey laugh and say dat agent vas tam smart, anyway, to git the potatoes shipped an' secure his freight; but I vas out mine crop an' mine freight money, an' mine children got no shoes dat winter nor me an' mine vooman any clothes, an' it vas a hard pull. I talked with dat agent, an' he say mine loss non his pizness. His pizness vas to do vell by der railroad company. Dat vas vat he vas paid for. I haf no trouble mit him, but von man vat he so fool try to kill him an' vas put in prison.
You all know it.
"Vell, next year ve do better. Comes a little feller to mine house to lif , but der crops is good and ve make some money. Den ve tink maybe ve can puy der land dis year, an' I haf tree hundred dollar to make von payment. I say so to this man here ven he come, but he tell me his company haf conclude not to sell, but to rent der land. He say der come soon annuder road the place through, and value will be higher, so der company conclude to hold, and then he tell me he must have bigger rent der next year. I tell him impossible, I cannot pay more, an' he say he haf a tenant vot can, and he tell me tree four Japs vant der place for nursery an' vegetables to send to city, an' vill pay bigger rent. I tell him nopody can pay more an' put up puildings, an' he say puildings are already up. Vy, I tells him dem mine puildings are an' mine fences, an' all vat is on der place mine, made mit mine own hands and mine vooman's, and paid for mit mine own money; but he say dere is nothing in der agreement about dat, or mine taking off any puildings or being paid for any improvements, an' der place must stand just so as it vas. I could pay der higher rent or move off and let der Japs pay it. Den I look around on mine little home, an' see dat pretty house covered mit der vines mine vooman had planted, an' der rose trees in der garden, an' dat little vineyard by der side of der house, an' der henyard an' barn vere I could hear mine horse stomping, an' I thought of all dem two years an' mine hard vork, an' it seems like I got crazy; an' I asks dat man vas it der law in free America? an' he tell me he had all der law on his side an' der company would uphold him; an' I made up mine mind he would nefer lif to tell his company about dat, an' so I picked up a cart stake an' vent for him. He got away an' jumped in his buggy before I could kill him, or I vould."
By this time the Dane's rage was again in the ascendency. His sullen face was actually black with anger, and he ground his teeth and shook his manacled hands at the smiling agent.
"Dey all lif not here," he shouted. "Does Chinamen lif not here nor puild up der country! Does railroad people lif not here! Does land company lif not here! Dere all like so many plud vorms, suck, suck, sucking at der life of men vat vork hard. Vy should I not kill von of them?"
Then, as if remembering himself, he ceased speaking, and sank down in his seat again to resume contemplation of his bruised hands. There was a hush for a moment. The rough, hard-working farmer folks felt there had been much close home truth in what he said. Few but had had their own experiences in the same line; but they were sane, law-abiding citizens, who felt the necessity for supporting the dignity of the commonwealth, not hot-headed and irrational like this yellow-haired, blue-eyed foreigner.
The rest of the proceedings were soon over. All the testimony was against the Dane. His own statement was damning evidence of his guilt. He was remanded to the calaboose, as the town jail was called, to be sent to the county jail next day and regularly committed for trial.
I saw him taken to the railway station next morning in charge of a deputy-sheriff. In the procession of curious ones who followed him was a weeping woman bearing a young baby in her arms, while two others clung to her skirts. His "vooman," they told me, but no one seemed able to say what she would do while the husband and father expiated his crime in durance vile. It seemed hard, but the majesty of the law must be upheld.
THE EARTH SLEPT.
The earth slept.
Age upon age passed over the nebulous mass that lay without form and void in space, unknowing, unfeeling, yet guided ever by the workings of inexorable law.
"Brothers! Brothers!" whispered one statoblast to the others, "I feel a strange stirring within me, a consciousness of broader life; and, brothers, what is this shining whiteness creeping all about us? Brothers, I dreamed once, long ago, of a wonderful glory called light. I believe, brothers, that the light is breaking!"
"How foolish!" exclaimed the others. "We have no knowledge of such stirrings or new consciousness. Why should you have? No one has ever seen light. There never has been light and there never will be light. When will you cease to trouble us?" And all the statoblasts murmured their assent to this, and gathering more closely about their offending brother, crushed him into silence.
And slowly the dawn broke, and there was light upon the face of the earth, and the statoblasts saw it and saw each other, and looked upon each other and said:
"We knew that it would come."
The earth slept.
Age upon age came and went. The light grew stronger. Great green growths shot heavenward, lived their appointed time, fell back to earth and mingled with its mold. The rain fell and covered the heated world, and its vapors steamed up and fell back in rain again. The seas heaved and dashed, and approached and receded, age upon age.
"Brothers! Brothers!" cried one amœboid cell to the rest, "I feel a strange impulse within me – a stirring as of power. Brothers, I believe that we have a wonderful destiny before use. I believe that we shall have power of motion."
"Nonsense," replied the others. "Why do you trouble us? We are at rest. We never have moved. We never shall move. There is nothing to move for if we did move."
And all the cells breathed their assent to this, and grew more closely around their brother and pressed upon him and smothered him into silence.
And the ages rolled by, and presently motion came to the cells and they darted to and fro in the water, saying to each other: "We knew that we should move, in time."
The earth slept.
Age upon age passed, and through them all the impulse of life beat on. From one form to another it travelled. Mammoth creatures walked the earth and mammoth vegetation covered its surface. From the north swept down the mighty frozen tide bearing death before it, and the mammoth passed away.
The dawning of a new life began to break upon the world, flowers bedecked the earth, and fruits multiplied and increased in the trees. Beneficent nature was planning for the good of her children.
"Friends!" cried one climbing anthropoid to the others, "I feel a strange impulse within me – a yearning as of aspirations undefined. Friends, I believe that we shall yet walk this earth erect!"
"Nonsense," cried the rest, "we feel no such impulse, and why should you? We never have walked erect. We have no power to walk erect, nor desire to do so. Why do you trouble us with your imbecile folly?"
And gathering about him they drowned his voice in the chorus of their clamoring protests.
The earth slept.
Age upon age passed and man dwelt upon the earth and fought and toiled and traded with his kind. Man, king of creation, walking erect, engaged in competition with his fellows, and battled fiercely with them in the struggle for existence.
Kingdoms were set up and thrown down. Dynasties arose and died out. Whole peoples came and went upon the face of the earth, but still the struggle for existence went on; still men vied with each other in the competition of trade; still the strong struggled for greater gain and the weak went down, crushed, helpless, thrown to the earth, unable to do battle in the struggle for existence. The rich grew richer, the poor poorer, and the whole world was caught in the vise-like grip of competition.
"Oh, men!" cried one man to his fellows, "I feel the stirring of a strange impulse within me – the dawning of a great truth. We are brothers. Our lives are knit up in each other. Fraternity, and not competition, is to be the main spring of our racial life!"
"Nonsense !" replied his fellows. "You talk neither policy nor logic. Fraternity is a dream of the poets, an ideal for a future life. Competition is the life of trade."
So they gathered about him and silenced him; but his light they could not quench, the truth they could not smother, hide it as they would. Up and down the earth it wanders, showing itself in a great deed here, a great thought there, the stirring of a mighty force yonder, yet beaten back by the throng of competing men.
And the earth sleeps.