The Rebel At large

Two Tramps

The editor was correcting proofs. His wife sat at a desk near the street door addressing wrappers. His little daughter folded papers, standing on a box and reaching as far across the table as the shortness of her arms would permit. At a case in one corner of the room a boy perched on a high stool setting up a belated news item – a frying-sized boy with wide nostrils and abundant freckles.

The editor frowned as a man pushed open the door and slouched across the room. He had never seen the man before but one glance showed the class to which he belonged.

"I want work," he said, "any kind of work."

"I've nothing for you," the editor replied turning back to his proofs.

"Then for God's sake give me a dime."

"I've nothing for you," the editor repeated.

The boy in the corner looked around and his hand went instinctively toward his pocket. The tramp saw the motion and met the boy half-way across the floor. He did not know that the coin he carried away left the boy penniless but perhaps he would have taken it if he had known. The boy had at least a place to sleep, and pay-day was not far distant.

The editor looked after the retreating figure contemptuously.

That fellow wouldn't work," he said, "if his life depended on it."

Then he glanced over at the boy.

"I expect that fellow's a Socialist," he sneered. "If he isn't he ought to be," the boy retorted. "Do you know that there are more than one million unemployed men in the United States? Some of them won't work, and that man may be one of them, but there is always an army of unemployed who are anxious to work – will risk their lives for a chance to work. Every strike brings together a horde of men who are willing to fight for a chance to work on terms that other men have already found unendurable."

"There always have been evils in the world," the editor said, "and there always will be under any system."

"Under Socialism," the boy said, "there will at least be plenty of work for everybody; but under the present system there can't be."

"Why can't there be work for all under the present system?" asked the editor. He had finished his proofs and it amused him to argue with the boy.

"Because if there was the system would soon be changed. If every man had plenty of honest work all the time, there would be few if any strike breakers. Strikers would always win and they would demand more and more, until at last they would receive the full product of their toil."

"And would that change the capitalist system ?"

"Of course. If the worker received all he produced there would be nothing left for profits and the capitalist can't exist without profits."

"Oh! So you Socialists are scheming to starve the capitalist out of existence?"

"We're scheming to let him go to work and earn an honest living," answered the boy. "No tramp can exist under Socialism. There are two kinds of tramps, you know, and the millionaire tramp is a heavier burden than the pauper tramp for the laborer to carry for he absorbs more of labor's products."

The editor did not hear the latter half of the boy's remark. He was looking through the window at a man who had alighted from an automobile and was coming into the office. The editor recognized him at once as the one monied aristocrat of the little town and went forward to meet him with obsequious smiles; He had stopped for some copies of last week's paper which contained a glowing account of his sister's house party and New Year's ball.

As he passed out again he paused beside the desk where the editor's wife was still addressing wrappers.

"That looks too much like work," he said. "You shouldn't work – life is too short."

He laughed jovially as the door closed behind him. This time it was the boy who looked after the retreating figure contemptuously. The editor's face expressed only admiration.

"Doesn't he work at all?" asked the boy.

"Not a little bit," the editor sighed enviously. "I wouldn't work either if I were in his shoes. It's a fine thing to be independent."