“That is true,” said Mr. Harry, “the road question is a serious one. Do you know how father and I settle it?”
“No,” said Mr. Maxwell.
“We got so tired of the whole business, and the farmers around here spent so much time in discussing the art of roadmaking, as to whether it should be viewed from the engineering point of view, or the farmers’ practical point of view, and whether we would require this number of stump extractors or that number, and how many shovels and crushers and ditchers would be necessary to keep our roads in order, and so on, that we simply withdrew. We keep our own roads in order. Once a year, father gets a gang of men and tackles every section of the road that borders upon our land, and our roads are the best around here. I wish the government would take up this matter of making roads and settle it. If we had good, smooth, country roads, such as they have in some parts of Europe, we would be able to travel comfortably over them all through the year, and our draught animals would last longer, for they would not have to expend so much energy in drawing their loads.”
* * * * *
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE TEA TABLE
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.”