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more cheerful, but was politely communi- report at seven o'clock on the next morncative enough when I asked after the like- ing, adding, as he disappeared within the lihood of my finding work in the town. building, that he was paying his men a
“ There is no business doing,” he said. dollar and a half a day. The old Irish “ The bottom has fallen out of this place. gardener showed the heartiest pleasure at There's two men looking for every job my success, and directed me to a boardinghere, and my advice to you is to go some- house near the Asylum grounds, where I where else.”
was soon settled, and where, at noon, I ate At the head of the street I came upon a memorable dinner, the first square meal the foundation-work of another building, for thirty-six hours, and the first one which which, I learned, was to be an armory. had about it the elements of decent comHere the boss instantly offered me a job, fort, since I left Mrs. Flaherty's table. if I could lay brick or do the work of a At seven o'clock on the next morning I mason, but of unskilled labor he said that was one of a gang of twenty laborers who he had an abundant supply.
were digging a sewer-ditch. The ditch had “But yonder," he added, “is the Asy- passed the farther edge of a meadow, and lum, and much work is in progress on the must cut its way through the field to the grounds, and there, surely, is your best Asylum buildings, two hundred yards bechance of employment."
yond. Its course was marked by a straight The Asylum was a State Homeopathic cut through the sod which was to furnish Institution for the Insane. I could see the us a guide. Some of the men took their large brick buildings on the highest area of former places in unfinished portions of the spacious grounds, which spread away in work, and the rest of us fell apart, leaving easy undulations, with their natural beauty intervals of about three yards from man to heightened by the tasteful work of a land- With the cut as a guide, and with scape gardener.
the single instruction to keep the ditch two Near the entrance to the grounds, I feet wide, we began to wield our picks and came upon a large force of laborers dig- shovels. ging a ditch for a water-main. The boss A thick, unmoving fog lay damp upon refused me a place, but not without evi- the meadow already saturated with dew. dent regret at the necessity, and he was at The sun-rays, gathering penetrating power pains to explain to me that, already on that as they pierced the fog, were soon producmorning, he had been obliged to turn away ing the effect of prickly heat. The athalf a dozen men.
mosphere, surcharged with moisture, and It was with no great expectation of suc- lifeless in its sluggish weight, yet quick cess at finding work there that I began with stinging heat, was a medium in which walking somewhat aimlessly through the the actual work done was out of proportion Asylum grounds. The first person whom I to its cost in potential energy. In the forcemet was an old Irish gardener. He pain- ful Irishism of one of the laborers : “ It fully stood erect as I questioned him as to was a muggy morning, and a man must whom I should apply to for a job, and sup- do his work twice over to get it done." ported himself with one hand on my shoul- By dint of strenuous industry and careful der, while he told me of the medical superin- imitation of the methods of the other men, tendent, and the overseer and the foreman, I managed to keep pace with them. I who are in charge of various departments saw, from the first, that the work would be of the work. Presently his face bright- hard; and, in point of severity, it proved ened with excitement as he pointed to a all that I had expected and more.
To large man who was walking toward one of ply a pick and urge a shovel for five conthe buildings, and he pushed me in his di- tinuous hours calls for endurance. Down rection with a pressing injunction to apply sweeps your pick with a mighty stroke upon to him, for he was the overseer of the what appears yielding, penetrable earth, grounds.
only to come into contact with a rock conThe overseer listened to my request, and cealed just below the surface—a contact read in silence my reference from the which sends a violent jar through all your
House," and looked me over for a ne, causing vibrations which end in the moment; and then abruptly ordered me to sensation of an electric shock at your finger-tips. A few repetitions of this experi- huge cans of swill from the kitchen to the ence are distinctly disheartening in effect. pig-sty at the edge of the wood below the Besides, the sun has cleared the fog, and meadow. Then we emptied the ash-baris shining full upon us through the still air. rels, and replaced them for a fresh supply; The trench is well below the surface now, and carted several loads of vegetables from and we work with the sun beating on our the garden to the kitchen; and spent most aching backs, and our heads buried in the of the afternoon in filling the great refrigditch, where we breathe the hot air, heavy erators with ice. with the smell of fresh soil, and the sweat With slight changes in detail, this condrips from our faces upon the damp clay. tinued the order of our work through the
By nine o'clock, what strength and cour- remaining days of my stay. I had reached age I have left seem oozing from every my level, and I held the job long enough pore. The demoralization is complete, and to find myself well ensconced at the asyI know that only “the shame of open lum, and then I told the foreman that I shame” holds me to my work. I dig me
wished to go.
He looked at me in some chanically on, through another sluggish surprise, and began to argue the point. hour of torment, and then I come to, and “You'd better stay by your job,” he find myself breathing deeply, with long, said. “It is not the best work, but we'll regular breaths, in the miracle of “ second find better for you in time.” wind,” with fresh energy flowing like a I thanked him heartily, and told him that stream of new life through my body. I was interested to learn that, but that I
Through all the working hours of the felt obliged to go. He shook hands with day the foreman sat upon a pile of tools, me, and cordially “wished me luck," and silently watching us at the job. Now and told me to apply to him for work, if I hapthen, he politely urged that the ditch be pened again in those parts. kept not less than two feet wide, and noth- It was clear that a rate of progress which ing could have been farther from his man- had carried me not even so far as the eastner and speech than any approach to ern border-line of Pennsylvania, during abusing the men. It was his evident pur- nearly two months of my expedition, would pose to treat us well, but the act of his require a considerable portion of a lifetime oversight, under the conditions of our em- in which to accomplish the three thousand ployment, involved the practical wasting miles before me. I resolved upon longer of his day, and cast upon us the suspicion walks as a wiser policy for at least the imof dishonesty.
mediate future. On the next day, which was Saturday, A rough plan was soon formed. I had the foreman sent me down the ditch, where saved nearly six dollars. It was a Wednesthe pipe was already laid, and ordered me, day morning. I would give three days to with two other men, to fill in the earth. uninterrupted walking, and by Friday evenOn Monday morning, he met me with an ing I should reach Wilkesbarre. The order for yet another change. At the barn whole of Saturday, if so much time were I would find “ Hunt,” he said, and I was needed, could then be given to a search to report to him as his “ help.”
for employment; and the rest of Sunday Hunt proved to be a good-looking, taci- would put me in trim to begin, on Monday turn teamster, who had just hitched his morning, the work which would provide horses to a “ truck," and he told me to get in a few days for present needs, and furaboard. The “truck" was a heavy, four- nish a balance with which to begin the wheeled vehicle, without a box, but with, journey once more. instead, a stout platform, suspended from I cannot dwell here upon the details the axle-trees, and resting but a few inches of that three days' tramp. At nightfall of from the ground. Standing upon this, we the third evening, I entered Wilkesbarre, drove all day, from point to point about but I got so far in that time only by the buildings and grounds, attending to virtue of a long lift, which carried me, by a manifold needs.
stroke of rare good fortune, over much We carted the milk-cans from the dairy the longest part of the last day's journey. to the kitchen, and great bags of soiled So far, my plan had been carried out. clothes from the entries to the laundry, and It was Friday evening, and I was safe in Wilkesbarre, somewhat worn with a walk remorse robbed the reading of all pleasof rather over eighty miles, and with an in- ure, and drove me to my task again. creased dislike for my burdensome pack, But I had fallen once, and by a sad but with every prospect of being fit for fatality, scarcely had I renewed the search, work so soon as I should find it.
with weakened powers of resistance, when My success, in this direction, had been I stumbled upon a fiercer temptation, in so uniform that, instead of sleeping in the the form of a library, which announced in open, as I had done on the night before, plain letters its freedom to the public until I allowed myself the luxury of a supper and the hour of nine in the evening. a bed in a cheap boarding-house, and a Forgetful of my character as a workbreakfast at its table, before beginning my man, miserably callous to the claim of duty search in the morning. Further good fort- to find employment, if possible, and in any une awaited me, for Saturday lent itself case, to live honestly the life which I had with cheerful brightness to the enterprise. assumed, I entered the wide open, hospitAt an early hour, I stepped out into a busy able doors, and was soon lost to other street of the city, sore and stiff with walk- thought, and even to the sense of shame, ing, but high of hope, and not without a in the absorbing interest of favorite books. certain elevation of spirit, which might In the lonely tramp across the mounhave warned me of a fall.
tains of Pike County, I walked someWork on the city sewers was being car- times for miles with no opportunity of ried through the public square. I found quenching a growing thirst, when suddenly the contractor, and applied for work as a I came upon a mountain spring that tricdigger. Very courteously, he took the kled from the solid rock, and formed a pains to explain to me that he was obliged pool in its shade, where I threw myself on to keep on hand, and pay for full time, a the ground, and, with a glorious sense of force of men far larger than was demanded, relief, drank deeply of its cold water. The except by certain exigencies, and that he analogy is a weak one, for the physical recould not increase their number. Not far lief and the momentary pleasure but faintly from the square, another gang of workmen suggest the prolonged intellectual delight, were laying the curbstones and repairing after two months of unslackened thirst. the street, but here I was again refused. I Here was an inexhaustible supply, and lifted my eyes to the sight of a stone build- there were polite librarians, who responded ing that was nearing completion, and there, cheerfully to your slightest wish; and, best too, no added hands were needed. of all, there was an inner door which dis
By this time, I had neared the post- closed a reading-room, where perfect quiet office, and I found letters awaiting me there reigned, and comfortable chairs invited which claimed the next half-hour. But you to grateful ease, and shelves on shelves even more embarrassing, as a check to fur- of books were free to your eager hand. ther search, was a “Free Reading Room,” To pass from one writer to another which now invited me to files of New York among the volumes that lay on the table, newspapers, in which I knew that I should lingering over long-loved passages, or dipfind details of recent interesting political ping lightly here and there, absorbing developments at Rochester and Saratoga, pleasure from the very touch of the book not to mention possible fresh complica- and the sight of the well-printed page, tions in the more exciting game of politics charmed by some characteristic phrase, abroad. I went in, and, like Charles Kings- as when George Eliot describes a crucifix ley's young monk, Philemon, who, wan- as "the image of a willing anguish for a dering one day, farther than ever before, great end,” or in commenting, in passing, from the monastery in the desert, chanced upon the quotation,“ delvòv tò TIKTEL COTÍV,” upon the ruins of an old Egyptian temple, she paraphrases it in her glowing English, and, mindful of a warning against such “Mighty is the force of motherhood ! " seductions, yet guiltily charmed by the rare beauty of the frescoes, prayed aloud,
Ah, what delights can equal those
That stir the spirit's inner deeps ? Lord, turn away mine eyes, lest they behold vanity,” but looked, nevertheless—I What indeed, unless it be to sink into looked, too, and read on until mounting the folds of an easy-chair, with a hitherto unseen edition of Tennyson in six vol- priceless hours. Crestfallen I hurry to my umes, new and beautiful, a fit setting for boarding-house, longing, like any conthe verse of that great master, whom Mr. science-stricken inebriate, to lose remorse Andrew Lang has lately called, with the in sleep. glow of a true enthusiasm, “ the sweetest As I walk to my lodgings a certain feland strongest, the most exquisite, the most low-feeling warms me with fresh sympathy learned, and the most Virgilian of all our for my kind. I have met with my first remodern poets.” To catch once more the verse, not a serious one, but still the search pure, rich melody of his music as he sings for work, for the first time in my experifrom “the midmost heart of grief,” or ence, has been fruitless through most of a mounts to the abounding ecstasy of the morning. Instead of persevering indus“hungry heart,” to whom life piled on life triously I yield weakly to the desire to forwere all too little ! Old passages, worn
get my present lot and the duty it entails by wont and use to little meaning, but re- in the intoxication that beacons to me turning now to my craving sense with the from free books. That happens to be my freshness of their first awakening power. temptation, and I fall. Another workman
And last, and best of all, to reach an Iliad of my class in precisely my position enfrom its shelf and lose myself in strong de- counters, not one chance temptation which light in
he might escape by taking another street, matin songs that woke
but at every corner open doors that invite The darkness of the planet
him to the companionship of other men,
who will help him to forget his discoursongs of rich, abundant life, when the agements so long as his savings last; and world was young and men were heroes all, as we are both turned into the street at and knew their vital kinship with the gods, night, in what do we differ as regards our and with the living springs and fragrant moral strength? He yielded to his tempflowers, and with the singing birds and tation and I to mine. snow-white sheep. And life moved for- The history of the next few days does ward in the strength of great passions that not belong to the present story. A refermake men, and in the glorious might of ence in church on the following morning heaven-born freedom”
men grew to nat- to a sorrow which threatened the home of ure's strength and beauty, and never knew friends, and threatened me with the loss of the yoke of long tradition nor the load of a most honored teacher, drove me in anxcustom that “lies upon us with a weight ious haste to a point in the mountains heavy as frost and deep almost as life.” where I learned that his near kinsfolk were
And now the noise of battle rose in that camping. For a time I forgot the exciting incomparable hexameter, and “ three times perplexities of a common laborer's life in the bravest of the Greeks attacked the the ease and comfort and delightful interwalls of Troy, there by the fig-tree near the course of a charming home. Scaian gates where the city lies lowest, led on by Ajax and Idomeneus, by the two Atridæ and Tydeus's son, whether some WILLIAMSPORT, LYCOMING COUNTY, PA., cunning seer taught the craft or their own
Saturday, 3d October, 1891. spirits stirred and drove them on !” And FROM Wilkesbarre it was an easy day's clanging in horrid discord with the clash march to the village of Pleasant Hill, of arms, there broke suddenly the sound of which lies in the way to Williamsport. slamming shutters, which was the janitor's The only notable incident of the tramp signal for nine o'clock, the hour of closing was one which confirmed me in an early for the night.
formed policy. I have avoided the railTaking my hat and stick I walk out ways, and have walked, in preference, along into the gas-lit street and into our modern the country roads, as affording better opworld so different from the past, with its portunities of intercourse with people. But artificialities and its social and labor prob- in going on that morning from Wilkeslems, and I remember that I am a prole- barre to the ferry, which crosses the river taire out of a job, and that with shameless to Plymouth, I took the advice of a gateneglect of duty I have been idling through keeper at a railway-crossing and started down the track on a long trestle as a short gate to the cottage door was swept like a cut to the ferry. All went well until I was threshing-floor. half way over, and then two coal-trains On the doorstep sat a girl in a calico passed simultaneously in opposite direc- dress of delicate pink, with a dark gingtions, and I hung by my hands from the ham apron concealing all its front. She framework at one side, while the engineer was shelling peas into a milk-pan which and fireman on the locomotive nearest me rested on her lap, and the morning sunlaughed heartily at the figure that I cut, light was in her flaxen hair, and showed with the side of each car grazing my pack you the delicate freshness of a pink and and my hold on the railing growing visibly white complexion. slacker.
Sober hazel eyes were fixed on me as I It was a little after nightfall when I walked up the footpath, and of us two I reached the tavern at Pleasant Hill. Of was the embarrassed one. I have not got my wages I had fifty cents left. I ques- over a certain timidity in asking for work, tioned the proprietor as to the demand and each request is a sturdy effort of the for work in his community. He was quite will, with the rest of me in cowardly reencouraging. Only that afternoon, he volt, and a timid shrinking much in evisaid, one of the best farmers of the neigh- dence, I fear. borhood had been inquiring in the village “ Is this Mr. Hill's farm?” I ask. for a possible man, and to the best of his “ Yes," says the young woman, with knowledge he had not found one. I said grave dignity, and the most natural selfthat I should apply at his farm in the possession in the world. morning, and then I broached the subject “ Is he at home?" I am sweating of entertainment. We soon struck a bar- freely now, as I stand with my hat crushed gain for a supper and breakfast and the between my hands, and the pack feeling privilege of a bed on the hay, but when, like a mountain on my back. after supper, I asked to be directed to the “ He is down at the pond on the edge barn, the landlord silently led the way to of the farm.” And her serious eyes fola little room upstairs, and there wished me low the line of the lane which sinks from good-night.
the house with the downward slope of the In the early morning he pointed out for land. me the road to his neighbor's farm, which With her permission, I leave the pack I followed with ready success. I was behind, and then follow the indicated way. penniless now and had only an uncertain The barn is on my right, a large, unpainted chance of work. And then, if the farmer structure, stained by weather to as dark a should ask me, I should be obliged to own hue as the house, but there are no loose to inexperience, and the demand for farm boards about it, nor any rifts among the hands, I supposed, must be limited at a shingles, and the doors hang true on their date so far into the autumn. But the hinges, and meet in well-adjusted touch. morning was exquisite, and the buoyancy The cow-yard and the pig-sty flank the lane, that it bred was an easy match for mis- and the neatness of the yard and the tightgivings, so that it was with a light heart ness of the troughs make clear that there that I turned from the road into a lane is no waste of fodder there. Farther down which leads to the house of a farmer, whom and on my left is the wagon-house, as good I shall call Mr. Hill.
a building almost as the cottage, and with All about me were the marks of thrift. much the same clean, strong compactness. The fences stood straight and stout, with There are no ploughs nor other farming an air of lasting security. On a rising tools lying exposed to the weather, no ledge above the lane was the farm-house, signs of idle capital wasting with the wear a small, unpainted wooden cottage, of rust, but everywhere the active, thrifty bleached to the rich, deep brown of a strength of wise economy. well-colored meerschaum pipe, and as snug Two men are at work at the pond, and and tight as a pilot's schooner. Near it I pick my man at once. They are plainly was a summer kitchen, that seemed fairly brothers, but the Mr. Hill of whom I am to glow with conscious pride in its clean- in search is the stronger looking man, and ness, and the very foot-path from the is clearly in command of the job. I am