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He pronounced the word with gusto, and I thought it suited with the scene.
It has long been the custom of the North German Lloyd steamers, which convey passengers from Bremen to New York, to anchor for several hours in the pleasant port of Southampton, where their human cargo receives many additions. An intelligent young German, Count Otto Vogelstein, hardly knew a few years ago whether to condemn this custom or approve it. He leaned over the bulwarks of the Donau as the American passengers crossed the plank—the travellers who embark at Southampton are mainly of that nationality—and curiously, indifferently, vaguely, through the smoke of his cigar, saw them absorbed in the huge capacity of the ship, where he had the agreeable consciousness that his own nest was comfortably made. To watch from such a point of vantage the struggles of those less fortunate than ourselves—of the uninformed, the unprovided, the belated, the bewildered—is an occupation not devoid of sweetness, and there was nothing to mitigate the complacency with which our young friend gave himself up to it; nothing, that is, save a natural benevolence which had not yet been extinguished by the consciousness of official greatness. For Count Vogelstein was official, as I think you would have seen from the straightness of his back, the lustre of his light elegant spectacles, and something discreet and diplomatic in the curve of his moustache, which looked as if it might well contribute to the principal function, as cynics say, of the lips—the active concealment of thought. He had been appointed to the secretaryship of the German legation at Washington and in these first days of the autumn was about to take possession of his post. He was a model character for such a purpose—serious civil ceremonious curious stiff, stuffed with knowledge and convinced that, as lately rearranged, the German Empire places in the most striking light the highest of all the possibilities of the greatest of all the peoples. He was quite aware, however, of the claims to economic and other consideration of the United States, and that this quarter of the globe offered a vast field for study.
But in Ireland fields of thistles and acres of ragwort, with tall purple spikes of loose strife everywhere, seem to be held as valid crops, fit for food and good at rent-paying. These are to be found at every step from Dublin to Kerry, and the most unpractised eye can see the waste and neglect and unnecessary squalor of both land and people. As an English farmer said, with indignation: "The land is brutally treated." So it is—idleness, unthrift, and bad farming generally, degrading it far below its possibilities and natural standard of production. Cross the Channel, and Wales looks like a trim garden. Go over to France, and you find every yard of soil carefully tilled and cultivated. Even in comparatively ramshackle Sicily, among the old lava beds of Etna, the peasants raise a handful of grain on the top of a rock no bigger than a lady's work-table. In Ireland the cultivated portion of a holding is often no bigger relatively than that work-table on an acre of waste. Will the tiller, now the owner and no longer only the leaseholder, go back from his evil ways of thriftlessness and neglect, and instead of being content to live just above the line of starvation, will he educate himself up to those artificial wants which only industry can supply? Will the women learn to love cleanliness, to regard their men's rags and their children's dirt as their own dishonour, and to understand that womanhood has its share of duties in social and domestic life? Will the sense of beauty grow with the sense of proprietorship, and the filth of the present surroundings be replaced by a flower garden before the cottage—a creeper against the wall—a few pots of more delicate blooms in the window? Will the taste for variety in garden produce be enlarged, and plots of peas, beans, carrots, artichokes, pot-herbs, and the like, be added to the one monotonous potato-patch, with a few cabbages and roots for the baste, and a strip of oats as the sole cereal attempted? Who knows? At present there is not a flower to be seen in the whole of the West, save those which a luxuriant Nature herself has sown and planted; and the immediate surroundings of the substantial farm-house, like those of the mud cabin, are filth unmentionable, savage squalor, and bestial neglect.
“Working the rattlers” proved a well-paying proposition. Our method of work was systematized to an extent little dreamed of by the mediocre guardians of the road. Night was the time of operation. We would wait at a division point on the railroad for a train loaded with merchandise to pull out.[Pg 72] Two of us would enter the car after breaking the seal. The two would then be locked in, the car resealed, and the remaining two would ride on the train itself to our prearranged point of debarkation.