American Notes By Rudyard Kipling








































































































































 -   (Name, age, and town of the
man were given at great length.)  To him no case had ever come as - Page 6
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(Name, Age, And Town Of The Man Were Given At Great Length.) To Him No Case Had Ever Come As

A client, partly because he lived in a district where lynch law prevailed, and partly because the most desperate prisoner

Shrunk from intrusting himself to the mercies of a phenomenal stammerer. But in time there happened an aggravated murder - so bad, indeed, that by common consent the citizens decided, as a prelude to lynching, to give the real law a chance. They could, in fact, gambol round that murder. They met - the court in its shirt-sleeves - and against the raw square of the Court House window a temptingly suggestive branch of a tree fretted the sky. No one appeared for the prisoner, and, partly in jest, the court advised young Samuelson to take up the case.

"The prisoner is undefended, Sam," said the court. "The square thing to do would be for you to take him aside and do the best you can for him."

Court, jury, and witness then adjourned to the veranda, while Samuelson led his client aside to the Court House cells. An hour passed ere the lawyer returned alone. Mutely the audience questioned.

"May it p-p-please the c-court," said Samuel-son, "my client's case is a b-b-b-bad one - a d-d-amn bad one. You told me to do the b-b-best I c-could for him, judge, so I've jest given him y-your b-b-bay gelding, an' told him to light out for healthier c-climes, my p-p-professional opinion being he'd be hanged quicker'n h-h-hades if he dallied here. B-by this time my client's 'bout fifteen mile out yonder somewheres. That was the b-b-best I could do for him, may it p-p-please the court."

The young man, escaping punishment in lieu of the prisoner, made his fortune ere five years.

Other voices followed, with equally wondrous tales of riata-throwing in Mexico and Arizona, of gambling at army posts in Texas, of newspaper wars waged in godless Chicago (I could not help being interested, but they were not pretty tricks), of deaths sudden and violent in Montana and Dakota, of the loves of half-breed maidens in the South, and fantastic huntings for gold in mysterious Alaska. Above all, they told the story of the building of old San Francisco, when the "finest collection of humanity on God's earth, sir, started this town, and the water came up to the foot of Market Street." Very terrible were some of the tales, grimly humorous the others, and the men in broadcloth and fine linen who told them had played their parts in them.

"And now and again when things got too bad they would toll the city bell, and the Vigilance Committee turned out and hanged the suspicious characters. A man didn't begin to be suspected in those days till he had committed at least one unprovoked murder," said a calm-eyed, portly old gentleman.

I looked at the pictures around me, the noiseless, neat-uniformed waiter behind me, the oak-ribbed ceiling above, the velvet carpet beneath. It was hard to realize that even twenty years ago you could see a man hanged with great pomp. Later on I found reason to change my opinion. The tales gave me a headache and set me thinking. How in the world was it possible to take in even one thousandth of this huge, roaring, many-sided continent? In the tobacco-scented silence of the sumptuous library lay Professor Bryce's book on the American Republic.

"It is an omen," said I. "He has done all things in all seriousness, and he may be purchased for half a guinea. Those who desire information of the most undoubted, must refer to his pages. For me is the daily round of vagabondage, the recording of the incidents of the hour and inter-course with the travelling-companion of the day. I will not 'do' this country at all."

And I forgot all about India for ten days while I went out to dinners and watched the social customs of the people, which are entirely different from our customs, and was introduced to men of many millions. These persons are harmless in their earlier stages - that is to say, a man worth three or four million dollars may be a good talker, clever, amusing, and of the world; a man with twice that amount is to be avoided, and a twenty million man is - just twenty millions. Take an instance. I was speaking to a newspaper man about seeing the proprietor of his journal, as in my innocence I supposed newspaper men occasionally did. My friend snorted indignantly: - "See him! Great Scott! No. If he happens to appear in the office, I have to associate with him; but, thank Heaven! outside of that I move in circles where he cannot come."

And yet the first thing I have been taught to believe is that money was everything in America!

II

American Politics

I HAVE been watching machinery in repose after reading about machinery in action.

An excellent gentleman, who bears a name honored in the magazine, writes, much as Disraeli orated, of "the sublime instincts of an ancient people," the certainty with which they can be trusted to manage their own affairs in their own way, and the speed with which they are making for all sorts of desirable goals. This he called a statement or purview of American politics.

I went almost directly afterward to a saloon where gentlemen interested in ward politics nightly congregate. They were not pretty persons. Some of them were bloated, and they all swore cheerfully till the heavy gold watch-chains on their fat stomachs rose and fell again; but they talked over their liquor as men who had power and unquestioned access to places of trust and profit.

The magazine writer discussed theories of government; these men the practice.

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