Page images
PDF
EPUB

through one of the two narrow exits at the ends. And the much vaunted "express" system of dealing with luggage is irritatingly slow. It is usually

necessary to have one's packing completed several hours before the train starts-if one is leaving home at eight or nine in the morning the luggage is called for overnight-and the delivery is always a considerable time after the passenger's arrival. Worries and delays in dealing with luggage are, in my experience, an invariable concomitant of American railway travel.

Every now and then prominent American postal officials report, after visiting Europe, that their own postal system is far ahead of that of other countries. But in Boston there are only four deliveries a day at private houses, the latest at 4.20 P.M., at Washington there are three, the latest at 3.30 P.M., in the residential section, and four in the business section. The house in which I was living in New York was within a mile and a half of the General Post Office, but no letters ever reached it after about six o'clock. At an important suburb, reached by frequent trains from the Grand Central Station, there are only three deliveries a day, the last at four o'clock, and there are other suburbs as easily reached by train or ferry, where until a date within the present century all letters had to be called for at the office. Spending a recent summer in a Massachusetts township with 1800 permanent residents, a place only three hours by rail from Boston, and with a station of its own, I found that there was no delivery of letters, but they had all to be called for at the local post office. The mail-bags were transported twice a day to the office from the station on the tail of a cart, long after the passengers had disappeared and the other baggage had been disposed of. Even in the cities postal matter sent at a lower rate than letters AGE. VOL. XXXV. 1838

LIVING

--including circulars, proofs, and printed documents generally-regularly takes from one to two days longer in transmission than letters posted at the same time.

American journalism is commonly supposed to supply the most brilliant illustrations of the national devotion to speed. Where the mere recording and publication of news is concerned this reputation is on the whole well de-' served, though even in this respect the use of the "fudge-box," unknown in America, gives our evening papers the lead. The chronicling of big disasters -for which the conditions of American life afford ample practice is carried out rather more quickly and fully there than here, but in some forms of reporting America is certainly behind. The reporting of speeches, for example, is almost a lost art. Almost every important utterance is sent out by the speaker in advance, to be "released" at a certain date. Its length is consequently measured by the space it covers-e.g., one reads of "Mr. Fassett's 7000-word speech" at the New York Republican Convention of 1904-instead of by the time it takes to deliver. An important speech given in Congress, if it is to reach the general publie at all, has to be copied several days later by the newspapers from the official report. Editorial comment is even more belated. Here is a typical example. The New York Times of May 9, 1904, has a leading article headed "Mr. Cockran on the Issue." The first paragraph runs as follows: "The rage of the Republicans in the House when Mr. Bourke Cockran made his speech on April 23 is explained and even justified by the full report which appears in The Congressional Record." Imagine a Parliamentary debate discussed for the first time by a London daily paper more than a fortnight after the debate itself! A grotesque instance of editorial sluggishness was given by the

New York Tribune, of October 29, 1904, which contained a leader eulogising the smooth working of the new Subway, although the news columns of the same issue reported a serious "tie-up” occurring before six o'clock the previous evening. Nothing is ever seen in American journalism comparable to the regular achievement of our London and Provincial press day after day during a general election. To provide well-written comment the next morning on political news that has not reached the office long before midnight appears to be a feat beyond the power of an American paper. The weekly papers of America are slower than ours in the publication not only of comment but of news. In this respect the religious weeklies of London are regularly from one to two days ahead of their most enterprising contemporaries in New York or Boston. Before leaving the subject of journalism, it is worth while to notice the incidental confirmation given to my general argument by the format of American papers. Their shape and size show that they are intended for a constituency which is anything but in a desperate hurry. Colonel Watterson, the most distinguished editor in the Southern States, has lately been warmly commending English papers for their conciseness. "London," he says, "compresses into a paragraph what New York would amplify into a column." A few years ago a single number of the New York World was issued under the direction of a well-known English journalist on the lines of a London halfpenny paper, but the experiment was not well received, the result being a sheet too compact for the public taste.

The conception of the American as impatient of technicalities, and eager to get immediately at the heart of things, receives a severe shock if one examines his handling of questions of

law and government. In these matters America is pre-eminently the land of red-tape. The delays in the administration of justice are a crying national scandal. A few years ago, on the hanging of the "Moat House" murderer less than three months after the discovery of his victim's body, surprise and admiration were generally expressed by the American papers at the speed of English justice. The Philadelphia Ledger remarked that a similar case in America would have occupied as many years, and the history of the American courts abundantly supports this opinion. In Vermont, for instance, a woman murdered her husband on August 13, 1902, was arrested a few days later, was shortly afterwards condemned to death, but in consequence of several appeals, was not actually hanged until December 8, 1905. Ꭺ New York lawyer, arrested for murder in September 1900, was indicted in May 1901, was convicted in March 1902, and remained under sentence of death from that time until December 1906, when his punishment was commuted by the Governor of the State to that of imprisonment for life. A judge of the New York Court of General Sessions, when recently pronouncing sentence of death on a convicted murderer, and naming a date for the execution, declared his own sentence "a farce." "There is only one instance," he said, "of a sentence of death being carried out on the date fixed by the lower court. That was in the case of the slayer of President McKinley." The captain of the General Slocum, which was burnt in the East River in June 1904, with the loss of 1000 lives, was not tried until January 1906, and the owners of the steamboat, though pronounced equally culpable by the Government inquiry, have not yet been placed in the dock. At the beginning of 1906 the manager of the Iroquois Theatre, Chicago, burnt in December

.

1903, was at last notified that he would have to stand his trial, but his attorney immediately declared that they would attempt to secure a change of venue, and "this motion," the newspapers reported, "will be argued within a few weeks." It was not until March of the present year that the anticipated trial actually began. In all serious criminal trials, by the way, an amazing time is consumed in forming the jury, as in the notorious Thaw case.

In civil courts, also, American administration appears to be modelled on Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. A boy in Cleveland, Ohio, was injured by a railway train ten years ago, when he was eleven years old. The case has been bandied to and fro between the courts until the lad has come of age, and it is now ruled that whatever results have so far been reached are invalidated by the fact that he is an adult and must therefore plead in his own name. By a careful study of averages it has been found that a year must elapse for a jury case to be reached for trial in Indianapolis and San Francisco, two years in Boston, and three years in Chicago and New York. It has been estimated that an English judge disposes of twice as many cases in the time as his American contemporary. The same disinclination to be hurried shows itself in the management of what might be called semi-judicial cases-the determination of customs claims, for example. Not long ago it was reported that no less than 150,000 suspended protests were awaiting the decision of the gen eral appraisers. In January 1905 a case was decided which had been carried on the calendar for nearly thirteen years. As a result of this decision a firm of importers obtained a refund of a dollar a dozen pairs on a consignment of gloves that had been imported, sold, and worn out in 1892.

In all departments of his service

Uncle Sam allows himself to be regarded as an indulgent employer. The new Chicago Post Office has taken ten years to build. In 1902 a report of the Chief Constructor showed that there was not a single vessel under contract for the United States Navy that was not a year behindhand. Six submarine torpedo-boats, contracted for to be delivered in eight months, were still unfinished after twenty-five. The penalties provided for in such contracts are uniformly remitted. According to present indications there will be much edification to foreign observers in watching the progress of the Panama Canal-the undertaking in which President Roosevelt declared his intention of "making the dirt fly." The Government offices in Washington itself can scarcely be said to set a good example to the contractors. Not until February 1906 did the Department of Agriculture issue its "Report on the Relations between Climates and Crops," recording an investigation begun by order of the Secretary in February 1891, and completed in June of the same year. Congress itself devotes a considerable time every session to the discussion of Bills awarding compensation for damages to property, &c., received during the Civil War, concluded more than forty years ago. But the Congressman may be excused for thinking that he is expected to be behindhand, inasmuch as he is not allowed to take his seat until more than twelve months after the election at which he was returned.

In other American cities it is sometimes suggested that if you want to refresh your memory as to what the nineteenth century was like you should go to Philadelphia. A visit to America might in the same way be recommended to any Englishman desirous of reviving the sensations of a vanished past. Professor Wendell's favorite formula-"Eighteenth-century American

Seventeenth-century Englishman”--

might be adapted to later centuries in many important relations. In spite of certain superficial signs of progress, especially in the application of electricity, it is still the conditions of the first part of the nineteenth century that meet the eye of the Englishman in America to-day. The law courts are choked by methods of procedure obsolete among us for generations; the municipal government smells rankly of the offences of the era of unreformed corporations in our own land; few of the most up-to-date cities have a postal service equal to that described by Sir Walter Besant as existing in the London of 1680; at public meetings everywhere one encounters a tiresome and elaborate ceremonial that was probably brought over in the Mayflower; even the tunes sung in the leading city churches are those whose linked sweetness long drawn out has been forgotten in England since the days of our grandfathers. How then can we explain the American's rooted that conviction his country is a "hustler" beyond all her competitors? It is mainly due to one simple error of observation-his belief that the speed with which a thing is done, and incidentally its efficiency, may be measured by the noise made in doing it. To the American success means, literally as well as metaphorically, making a noise in the world. The present Archbishop of Canterbury put his finger exactly upon this national characteristic when, speaking in Trinity Church, New York, he said: "In no surroundings which I have ever known, in no city which I have ever seen in any of the world's continents, have life's activities seemed to whirr and buzz so restlessly as here." "To whirr and buzz" - that is precisely the distinguishing feature of American activity of every kind, and in proportion as this The Monthly Review.

ideal is attained is the American content. His trains and tram-cars are noisier than the English; therefore they must be faster. The incessant clang of the streets of New York is far more piercing than the noise of London; therefore New York must be the busier city. One reason why the typewriter has been adopted much more readily there than here is that the American believes himself to be writing to much better purpose if he can hear himself write. A curious illustration of the difference in national standards is afforded by the use made of fireworks. In England fireworks are something to see; in America they are something to hear. In an English celebration they are reserved until after dark; in America one lets them off in the day-time -sometimes all day long for several days running. Accordingly, the temper of the people might appropriately be expressed in these lines of one of their own poets:

Be strenuous, and let who will be clever.

Strike crashing blows, nor shun

them all day long;

And so make life, death, and the vast forever

One Chinese Gong!

There have been writers-Goethe and Schopenhauer are sometimes quoted among them-who have made sensitiveness to noise one of the chief criteria of culture; who have contended that a man's refinement is in inverse ratio to the amount of noise he will tolerate complacently. Without expressing any opinion on this doctrine, one may at least point out that by his love of noise the American misses the one advantage of his sluggish pacethe advantage, namely, that slowness normally means restfulness too.

H. W. Horwill.

THE ENEMY'S CAMP. CHAPTER VIII.

Cicely announced her intention of fishing again. As the perch had surpassed expectation Mr. Lauriston encouraged the idea; but, unluckily, Martin's services were required; there was no one to row the boat. It is true that Mr. Lauriston volunteered, and so did Doris, but Miss Cicely declined their offers, when it became apparent that they were going to give her their company as well. Fishing, she explained, was a solitary occupation. If Doris sat and sketched near her that would frighten the fish; if her uncle stayed with her and smoked that would certainly distract her attention, and quite possibly cause her to lose just such another perch as they had eaten. Moreover, she hinted that there were both gnats and nettles in the vicinity of her fishing-ground, which would make a visitor very uncomfortable. It was only her zeal as an angler that induced her to go near such a place herself, and she would not dream of sacrificing any one else; and besides, she could manage quite nicely.

And so, to the astonishment of Agatha, she started off unaided, and also somewhat heavily laden. She carried the inevitable rug, two novels, and the box of chocolates; in addition there were the indispensables of her craft, the bait-tin, the fishing-basket, and Martin's rod. With the air of a martyr, but with decision, she began her progress from the camp. The others watched in admiration; the country indeed was working wonders.

However, Cicely did not bear her burdens very long, at least not all of them. As soon as she had crossed the bridge and was out of sight she looked about her for a hiding-place. On her left was a clump of bushes or

namented with flowering convolvulus, and in the middle a small holly-tree stood up dark and stiff. This struck her as a suitable landmark. She threw a guilty look round. There was no one to see. She took out the bait-tin very gingerly, and put it carefully behind a clump of meadow-sweet under the holly-tree. With a sigh of relief she went on at her more usual pace. It was very hot. Cicely liked the weather to be hot, but she did not like getting hot herself. And she was still encumbered with much she considered superfluous. The rod was very inconvenient. After all was it necessary? She did not intend to be left to her own resources for bait; why should she for a rod? Twenty yards further on she perceived a hollow tree. It seemed sinful to neglect such an opportunity, and Martin's rod was soon reposing inside. She fixed the hollow tree also in her memory for future use, and sauntered on.

Her burdens were still oppressive. The rug was heavy, the fishing-basket too big. She thought of putting her novels and her box of chocolates inside, but remembered with a little shiver that it had contained slimy dead things,-and worms! She conceived a distaste for the fishing-basket.

By this time Cicely had reached the mill. The miller's man was about and wished her good-morning. With an eye to a possible donation he offered to carry her things for her. Cicely hesitated; should she tell him to go back for the others? However, she decided not, since she would have to go back and show him where to find them; and besides, he would wonder why she had put them there. "No, thank you," she said pleasantly;

« PreviousContinue »