American Notes By Rudyard Kipling

 -  - He had to work at the next desk to a white
girl, the daughter of a colonel, one of the - Page 10
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- He Had To Work At The Next Desk To A White Girl, The Daughter Of A Colonel, One Of The First Families Of Georgia's Modern Chivalry, And All The Weary, Weary Rest Of It.

The Southern chivalry howled, and hanged or burned some one in effigy.

Perhaps it was the President, and perhaps it was the negro - but the principle remains the same. They said it was an insult. It is not good to be a negro in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

But this is nothing to do with San Francisco and her merry maidens, her strong, swaggering men, and her wealth of gold and pride. They bore me to a banquet in honor of a brave lieutenant - Carlin, of the "Vandalia" - who stuck by his ship in the great cyclone at Apia and comported himself as an officer should. On that occasion - 'twas at the Bohemian Club - I heard oratory with the roundest of o's, and devoured a dinner the memory of which will descend with me into the hungry grave.

There were about forty speeches delivered, and not one of them was average or ordinary. It was my first introduction to the American eagle screaming for all it was worth. The lieutenant's heroism served as a peg from which the silver-tongued ones turned themselves loose and kicked.

They ransacked the clouds of sunset, the thunderbolts of heaven, the deeps of hell, and the splendor of the resurrection for tropes and metaphors, and hurled the result at the head of the guest of the evening.

Never since the morning stars sung together for joy, I learned, had an amazed creation witnessed such superhuman bravery as that displayed by the American navy in the Samoa cyclone. Till earth rotted in the phosphorescent star-and-stripe slime of a decayed universe, that god-like gallantry would not be forgotten. I grieve that I cannot give the exact words. My attempt at reproducing their spirit is pale and inadequate. I sat bewildered on a coruscating Niagara of blatherum-skite. It was magnificent - it was stupendous - and I was conscious of a wicked desire to hide my face in a napkin and grin. Then, according to rule, they produced their dead, and across the snowy table-cloths dragged the corpse of every man slain in the Civil War, and hurled defiance at "our natural enemy" (England, so please you), "with her chain of fortresses across the world." Thereafter they glorified their nation afresh from the beginning, in case any detail should have been overlooked, and that made me uncomfortable for their sakes. How in the world can a white man, a sahib, of our blood, stand up and plaster praise on his own country? He can think as highly as he likes, but this open-mouthed vehemence of adoration struck me almost as indelicate. My hosts talked for rather more than three hours, and at the end seemed ready for three hours more.

But when the lieutenant - such a big, brave, gentle giant - rose to his feet, he delivered what seemed to me as the speech of the evening. I remember nearly the whole of it, and it ran some-thing in this way: - "Gentlemen - It's very good of you to give me this dinner and to tell me all these prettythings, but what I want you to understand - the fact is, what we want and what we ought to get at once, is a navy - more ships - lots of 'em - "

Then we howled the top of the roof off, and I for one fell in love with Carlin on the spot. Wallah! He was a man.

The prince among merchants bid me take no heed to the warlike sentiments of some of the old generals.

"The sky-rockets are thrown in for effect," quoth he, "and whenever we get on our hind legs we always express a desire to chaw up England. It's a sort of family affair."

And, indeed, when you come to think of it, there is no other country for the American public speaker to trample upon.

France has Germany; we have Russia; for Italy Austria is provided; and the humblest Pathan possesses an ancestral enemy.

Only America stands out of the racket, and there-fore to be in fashion makes a sand-bag of the mother country, and hangs her when occasion requires.

"The chain of fortresses" man, a fascinating talker, explained to me after the affair that he was compelled to blow off steam. Everybody expected it.

When we had chanted "The Star Spangled Banner" not more than eight times, we adjourned. America is a very great country, but it is not yet heaven, with electric lights and plush fittings, as the speakers professed to believe. My listening mind went back to the politicians in the saloon, who wasted no time in talking about freedom, but quietly made arrangements to impose their will on the citizens.

"The judge is a great man, but give thy presents to the clerk," as the proverb saith.

And what more remains to tell? I cannot write connectedly, because I am in love with all those girls aforesaid, and some others who do not appear in the invoice. The typewriter is an in-stitution of which the comic papers make much capital, but she is vastly convenient. She and a companion rent a room in a business quarter, and, aided by a typewriting machine, copy MSS. at the rate of six annas a page. Only a woman can operate a typewriting machine, because she has served apprenticeship to the sewing machine. She can earn as much as one hundred dollars a month, and professes to regard this form of bread-winning as her natural destiny. But, oh! how she hates it in her heart of hearts! When I had got over the surprise of doing business with and trying to give orders to a young woman of coldly, clerkly aspect intrenched behind gold-rimmed spectacles, I made inquiries concerning the pleasures of this independence.

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