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Chapter 35

I was soon near out of money and at my wit's end, but my will was
unconquered. In this plight I ran upon Fogarty, the policeman who
had been the good angel of my one hopeful day in journalism. His
manner invited my confidence.

'What luck?' said he.

'Bad luck' I answered. 'Only ten dollars in my pocket and nothing
to do.'

He swung his stick thoughtfully.

'If I was you,' said he, 'I'd take anything honest. Upon me wurred,
I'd ruther pound rocks than lay idle.'

'So would I.'

'Wud ye?' said he with animation, as he took my measure from
head to foot.

'I'll do anything that's honest.'

'Ah ha!' said he, rubbing his sandy chin whiskers. 'Don't seem like
ye'd been used if hard wurruk.'

'But I can do it,' I said.

He looked at me sternly and beckoned with his head.

'Come along,' said he.

He took me to a gang of Irishmen working in the street near by.

'Boss McCormick!' he shouted.

A hearty voice answered, 'Aye, aye, Counsellor,' and McCormick
came out of the crowd, using his shovel for a staff.

'A happy day if ye!' said Fogarty.

'Same if youse an' manny o' thim,' said McCormick.

'Ye'll gi'me one if ye do me a favour,' said Fogarty.

'An' what?' said the other.

'A job for this lad. Wull ye do it?'

'I wall,' said McCormick, and he did.

I went to work early the next morning, with nothing on but my
underclothing and trousers, save a pair of gloves, that excited the
ridicule of my fellows. With this livery and the righteous
determination of earning two dollars a day, I began the inelegant
task of 'pounding rocks no merry occupation, I assure you, for a
hot summer's day on Manhattan Island.

We were paving Park Place and we had to break stone and lay
them and shovel dirt and dig with a pick and crowbar.

My face and neck were burned crimson when we quit work at five,
and I went home with a feeling of having been run over by the
cars. I had a strong sense of soul and body, the latter dominated by
a mighty appetite. McClingan viewed me at first with suspicion in
which there was a faint flavour of envy. He invited me at once to
his room, and was amazed at seeing it was no lark. I told him
frankly what I was doing and why and where.

'I would not mind the loaning of a few dollars,' he said, 'as a matter
o' personal obligement I would be most happy to do it - most
happy, Brower, indeed I would.'

I thanked him cordially, but declined the favour, for at home they
had always taught me the danger of borrowing, and I was bound to
have it out with ill luck on my own resources.

'Greeley is back,' said he, 'and I shall see him tomorrow. I will put
him in mind o'you.'

I went away sore in the morning, but with no drooping spirit. In the
middle of the afternoon I straightened up a moment to ease my
back and look about me.

There at the edge of the gang stood the great Horace Greeley and
Waxy McClingan. The latter beckoned me as he caught my eye.
I went aside to greet them. Mr Greeley gave me his hand.

'Do you mean to tell me that you'd rather work than beg or
borrow?' said he.

'That's about it,' I answered.

'And ain't ashamed of it?

'Ashamed! Why?' said I, not quite sure of his meaning. It had never
occurred to me that one had any cause to be ashamed of working.

He turned to McClingan and laughed.

'I guess you'll do for the Tribune,' he said. 'Come and see me at
twelve tomorrow.

And then they went away.

If I had been a knight of the garter I could not have been treated
with more distinguished courtesy by those hard-handed men the
rest of the day. I bade them goodbye at night and got my order for
four dollars. One Pat Devlin, a great-hearted Irishman, who had
shared my confidence and some of my doughnuts on the curb at
luncheon time, I remember best of all.

'Ye'll niver fergit the toime we wurruked together under Boss
McCormick,' said he.

And to this day, whenever I meet the good man, now bent and
grey, he says always, 'Good-day if ye, Mr Brower. D'ye mind the
toime we pounded the rock under Boss McCormick?

Mr Greeley gave me a place at once on the local staff and invited
me to dine with him at his home that evening. Meanwhile he sent
me to the headquarters of the Republican Central Campaign
Committee, on Broadway, opposite the New York Hotel. Lincoln
had been nominated in May, and the great political fight of 1860
was shaking the city with its thunders.

I turned in my copy at the city desk in good season, and, although
the great editor had not yet left his room, I took a car at once to
keep my appointment. A servant showed me to a seat in the big
back parlour of Mr Greeley's home, where I spent a lonely hour
before I heard his heavy footsteps in the hail. He immediately
rushed upstairs, two steps at a time, and, in a moment, I heard his
high voice greeting the babies. He came down shortly with one of
them clinging to his hand.

'Thunder!' said he, 'I had forgotten all about you. Let's go right
in to dinner.

He sat at the head of the table and I next to him. I remember how,
wearied by the day's burden, he sat, lounging heavily, in careless
attitudes. He stirred his dinner into a hash of eggs, potatoes, squash
and parsnips, and ate it leisurely with a spoon, his head braced
often with his left forearm, its elbow resting on the table. It was a
sort of letting go, after the immense activity of the day, and a
casual observer would have thought he affected the uncouth,
which was not true of him.

He asked me to tell him all about my father and his farm. At length
I saw an absent look in his eye, and stopped talking, because I
thought he had ceased to listen.

'Very well! very well!' said he.

I looked up at him, not knowing what he meant.

'Go on! Tell me all about it,' he added.

'I like the country best,' said he, when I had finished, 'because there
I see more truth in things. Here the lie has many forms - unique,
varied, ingenious. The rouge and powder on the lady's cheek - they
are lies, both of them; the baronial and ducal crests are lies and the
fools who use them are liars; the people who soak themselves in
rum have nothing but lies in their heads; the multitude who live by
their wits and the lack of them in others - they are all liars; the
many who imagine a vain thing and pretend to be what they are
not liars everyone of them. It is bound to be so in the great cities,
and it is a mark of decay. The skirts of Elegabalus, the wigs and
rouge pots of Madame Pompadour, the crucifix of Machiavelli and
the innocent smile of Fernando Wood stand for something horribly
and vastly false in the people about them. For truth you ve got to
get back into the woods. You can find men there a good deal as
God made them' genuine, strong and simple. When those men
cease to come here you'll see grass growing in Broadway.

I made no answer and the great commoner stirred his coffee a
moment in silence.

'Vanity is the curse of cities,' he continued, 'and Flattery is its
handmaiden. Vanity, flattery and Deceit are the three disgraces. I
like a man to be what he is - out and out. If he's ashamed of
himself it won't be long before his friends'll be ashamed of him.
There's the trouble with this town. Many a fellow is pretending to
be what he isn't. A man cannot be strong unless he is genuine.

One of his children - a little girl - came and stood close to him as
he spoke. He put his big arm around her and that gentle, permanent
smile of his broadened as he kissed her and patted her red cheek.

'Anything new in the South?' Mrs Greeley enquired.

'Worse and worse every day,' he said. 'Serious trouble coming!
The Charleston dinner yesterday was a feast of treason and a flow
of criminal rhetoric. The Union was the chief dish. Everybody
slashed it with his knife and jabbed it with his fork. It was
slaughtered, roasted, made into mincemeat and devoured. One
orator spoke of "rolling back the tide of fanaticism that finds its
root in the conscience of the people." Their metaphors are as bad
as their morals.

He laughed heartily at this example of fervid eloquence, and then
we rose from the table. He had to go to the office that evening, and
I came away soon after dinner. I had nothing to do and went home
reflecting upon all the great man had said.

I began shortly to see the truth of what he had told me - men
licking the hand of riches with the tongue of flattery men so
stricken with the itch of vanity that they grovelled for the touch of
praise; men even who would do perjury for applause. I do not say
that most of the men I saw were of that ilk, but enough to show the
tendency of life in a great town.

I was filled with wonder at first by meeting so many who had been
everywhere and seen everything, who had mastered all sciences
and all philosophies and endured many perils on land and sea. I
had met liars before - it was no Eden there in the north country -
and some of them had attained a good degree of efficiency, but
they lacked the candour and finish of the metropolitan school. I
confess they were all too much for me at first. They borrowed my
cash, they shared my confidence, they taxed my credulity, and I
saw the truth at last.

'Tom's breaking down,' said a co-labourer on the staff one day.
'How is that?' I enquired.

'Served me a mean trick.'

'Indeed!'

'Deceived me,' said he sorrowfully.

'Lied, I suppose?'

'No. He told the truth, as God's my witness.'

Tom had been absolutely reliable up to that time.

Irving Bacheller