Beautiful Joe
Chapter 22


Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


From my station under Miss Laura's chair, I could see that all the time Mr. Harry was speaking, Mr. Maxwell, although he spoke rather as if he was laughing at him, was yet glancing at him admiringly.

When Mr. Harry was silent, he exclaimed, "You are right, you are right, Gray. With your smooth highways, and plenty of schools, and churches, and libraries, and meetings for young people, you would make country life a paradise, and I tell you what you would do, too; you would empty the slums of the cities. It is the slowness and dullness of country life, and not their poverty alone, that keep the poor in dirty lanes and tenement houses. They want stir and amusement, too, poor souls, when their day's work is over. I believe they would come to the country if it were made more pleasant for them."

"That is another question," said Mr. Harry, "a burning question in my mind — the labor and capital one. When I was in New York, Maxwell, I was in a hospital, and saw a number of men who had been day laborers. Some of them were old and feeble, and others were young men, broken down in the prime of life. Their limbs were shrunken and drawn. They had been digging in the earth, and working on high buildings, and confined in dingy basements, and had done all kinds of hard labor for other men. They had given their lives and strength for others, and this was the end of it — to die poor and forsaken. I looked at them, and they reminded me of the martyrs of old. Ground down, living from hand to mouth, separated from their families in many cases — they had had a bitter lot. They had never had a chance to get away from their fate, and had to work till they dropped. I tell you there is something wrong. We don't do enough for the people that slave and toil for us. We should take better care of them, we should not herd them together like cattle, and when we get rich, we should carry them along with us, and give them a part of our gains, for without them we would be as poor as they are."

"Good, Harry — I'm with you there," said a voice behind him, and looking around, we saw Mr. Wood standing in the doorway, gazing down proudly at his step-son.

Mr. Harry smiled, and getting up, said, "Won't you have my chair, sir?"

"No, thank you; your mother wishes us to come to tea. There are muffins, and you know they won't improve with keeping."

They all went to the dining-room, and I followed them. On the way, Mr. Wood said, "Right on top of that talk of yours, Harry, I've got to tell you of another person who is going to Boston to live."

"Who is it?" said Mr. Harry.

"Lazy Dan Wilson. I've been to see him this afternoon. You know his wife is sick, and they're half starved. He says he is going to the city, for he hates to chop wood and work, and he thinks maybe he'll get some light job there."

Mr. Harry looked grave, and Mr. Maxwell said, "He will starve, that's what he will do."

"Precisely," said Mr. Wood, spreading out his hard, brown hands, as he sat down at the table. "I don't know why it is, but the present generation has a marvelous way of skimming around any kind of work with their hands. They'll work their brains till they haven't got any more backbone than a caterpillar, but as for manual labor, it's old-timey and out of fashion. I wonder how these farms would ever have been carved out of the backwoods, if the old Puritans had sat down on the rocks with their noses in a lot of books, and tried to figure out just how little work they could do, and yet exist."

"Now, father," said Mrs. Wood, "you are trying to insinuate that the present generation is lazy, and I'm sure it isn't. Look at Harry. He works as hard as you do."

"Isn't that like a woman?" said Mr. Wood, with a good-natured laugh. "The present generation consists of her son, and the past of her husband. I don't think all our young people are lazy, Hattie; but how in creation, unless the Lord rains down a few farmers, are we going to support all our young lawyers and doctors? They say the world is getting healthier and better, but we've got to fight a little more, and raise some more criminals, and we've got to take to eating pies and doughnuts for breakfast again, or some of our young sprouts from the colleges will go a begging."