I entered upon my new duties with enthusiasm, and produced some editorials, for which I was complimented by Mr. Goldstick.

"That's the kind of thing wanted!" he said; "a firm, moral tone, and steady religious convictions; that pleases the old standards."

Emboldened by this I proceeded to attack a specific abuse in New York administration, which had struck me as needing to be at once righted. If ever a moral trumpet ought to have its voice, it was on this subject. I read my article to Bolton; in fact I had gradually fallen into the habit of referring myself to his judgment.

"It is all perfectly true," he remarked, when I had finished, while he leaned back in his chair and stroked his cat, "but they never will put that into the paper, in the world."

"Why!" said I, "if ever there was an abuse that required exposing, it is this."

"Precisely!" he replied.

"And what is the use," I went on, "of general moral preaching that is never applied to any particular case?"

"The use," he replied calmly, "is that that kind of preaching pleases everybody, and increases subscribers, while the other kind makes enemies, and decreases them."

"And you really think that they won't put this article in?" said I.

"I'm certain they won't," he replied. "The fact is this paper is bought up on the other side. Messrs. Goldstick and Co. have intimate connection with Messrs. Bunkam and Chaffem, who are part and parcel of this very affair."

I opened my mouth with astonishment. "Then Goldstick is a hypocrite," I said.

"Not consciously," he answered, calmly.

"Why!" said I, "you would have thought by the way he talked to me that he had nothing so much at heart as the moral progress of society, and was ready to sacrifice everything to it."

"Well," said Bolton, quietly, "did you never see a woman who thought she was handsome, when she was not? Did you never see a man who thought he was witty, when he was only scurrilous and impudent? Did you never see people who flattered themselves they were frank, because they were obtuse and impertinent? And cannot you imagine that a man may think himself a philanthropist, when he is only a worshiper of the golden calf? That same calf," he continued, stroking his cat till she purred aloud, "has the largest Church of any on earth."

"Well," said I, "at any rate I'll hand it in."

"You can do so," he replied, "and that will be the last you will hear of it. You see, I've been this way before you, and I have learned to save myself time and trouble on these subjects."

The result was precisely as Bolton predicted.

"We must be a little careful, my young friend," said Mr. Goldstick, "how we handle specific matters of this kind; they have extended relations that a young man cannot be expected to appreciate, and I would advise you to confine yourself to abstract moral principles; keep up a high moral standard, sir, and things will come right of themselves. Now, sir, if you could expose the corruptions in England it would have an admirable moral effect, and our general line of policy now is down on England."

A day or two after, however, I fell into serious disgrace. A part of my duties consisted in reviewing the current literature of the day; Bolton, Jim, and I, took that department among us, and I soon learned to sympathize with the tea-tasters, who are said to ruin their digestion by an incessant tasting of the different qualities of tea. The enormous quantity and variety of magazines and books that I had to "sample" in a few days brought me into such a state of mental dyspepsia, that I began to wish every book in the Red Sea. I really was brought to consider the usual pleas and tone of book notices in America to be evidence of a high degree of Christian forbearance. In looking over my share, however, I fell upon a novel of the modern, hot, sensuous school, in which glowing coloring and a sort of religious sentimentalism were thrown around actions and principles which tended directly to the dissolution of society. Here was exactly the opportunity to stem that tide of corruption against which Mr. Goldstick so solemnly had warned me. I made the analysis of the book a text for exposing the whole class of principles and practices it inculcated, and uttering my warning against corrupt literature; I sent it to the paper, and in it went. A day or two after Mr. Goldstick came into the office in great disorder, with an open letter in his hand.

"What's all this?" he said; "here's Sillery and Peacham, blowing us up for being down on their books, and threatening to take away their advertising from us."

Nobody seemed to know anything about it, till finally the matter was traced back to me.

"It was a corrupt book, Mr. Goldstick," said I, with firmness, "and the very object you stated to me was to establish a just moral criticism."

"Go to thunder! young man," said Mr. Goldstick, in a tone I had never heard before. "Have you no discrimination? are you going to blow us up? The Great Democracy, sir, is a great moral engine, and the advertising of this publishing house gives thousands of dollars yearly towards its support. It's an understood thing that Sillery and Peacham's books are to be treated handsomely."

"I say, Captain," said Jim, who came up behind us at this time, "let me manage this matter; I'll straighten it out; Sillery and Peacham know me, and I'll fix it with them."

"Come! Hal, my boy!" he said, hooking me by the arm, and leading me out.

We walked to our lodgings together. I was gloriously indignant all the way, but Jim laughed till the tears rolled down his cheeks.

"You sweet babe of Eden," said he, as we entered my room, "do get quiet! I'll sit right down and write a letter from the Boston correspondent on that book, saying that your article has created a most immense sensation in the literary circles of Boston, in regard to its moral character, and exhort everybody to rush to the book-store and see for themselves. Now, 'hush, my dear, lie still and slumber,' while I do it."

"Why, do you mean to go to Boston?" said I.

"Only in spirit, my dear. Bless you! did you suppose that the Boston correspondents, or any other correspondents, are there, or anywhere else in fact, that they profess to be? I told you that I was the professor of humbug. This little affair lies strictly in my department."

"Jim!" said I, solemnly, "I don't want to be in such a network of chicanery."

"Oh, come, Hal, nobody else wants to be just where they are, and after all, it's none of your business; you and Bolton are great moral forty-pounders. When we get you pointed the right way for the paper you can roar and fire away at your leisure, and the moral effect will be prodigious. I'm your flying-artillery—all over the field everywhere, pop, and off again; and what is it to you what I do? Now you see, Hal, you must just have some general lines about your work; the fact is, I ought to have told you before. There's Sillery and Peacham's books have got to be put straight along: you see there is no mistake about that; and when you and Bolton find one you can't praise honestly, turn it over to me. Then, again, there's Burill and Bangem's books have got to be put down. They had a row with us last year, and turned over their advertising to the Spouting Horn. Now, if you happen to find a bad novel among their books show it up, cut into it without mercy; it will give you just as good a chance to preach, with your muzzle pointed the right way, and do exactly as much good. You see there's everything with you fellows in getting you pointed right."

"But," said I, "Jim, this course is utterly subversive of all just criticism. It makes book notices good for nothing."

"Well, they are not good for much," said Jim reflectively. "I sometimes pity a poor devil whose first book has been all cut up, just because Goldstick's had a row with his publishers. But then there's this comfort—what we run down, the Spouting Horn will run up, so it is about as broad as it is long. Then there's our Magazines. We're in with the Rocky Mountains now—we've been out with them for a year or two and cut up all their articles. Now you see we are in, and the rule is, to begin at the beginning and praise them all straight through, so you'll have plain sailing there. Then there's the Pacific—you are to pick on that all you can. I think you had better leave that to me. I have a talent for saying little provoking things that gall people, and that they can't answer. The fact is, the Pacific has got to come down a little, and come to our terms, before we are civil to it."

"Jim Fellows"—I began,

"Come, come, go and let off to Bolton, if you have got anything more to say;" he added, "I want to write my Boston letter. You see, Hal, I shall bring you out with flying colors, and get a better sale for the book than if you hadn't written."

"Jim," said I, "I'm going to get out of this paper."

"And pray, my dear Sir, what will you get into?"

"I'll get into one of the religious papers."

Jim upon this leaned back, kicked up his heels, and laughed aloud. "I could help you there," he said. "I do the literary for three religious newspapers now. These solemn old Dons are so busy about their tweedle-dums and tweedle-dees of justification and election, baptism and church government, that they don't know anything about current literature, and get us fellows to write their book notices. I rather think that they'd stare if they should read some of the books that we puff up. I tell you, Christy's Minstrels are nothing to it. Think of it, Hal,—the solemn Holy Sentinel with a laudatory criticism of Dante Rosetti's "Jenny" in it—and the Trumpet of Zion with a commendatory notice of Georges Sand's novels." Here Jim laughed with a fresh impulse. "You see the dear, good souls are altogether too pious to know anything about it, and so we liberalize the papers, and the publishers make us a little consideration for getting their books started in religious circles."

"Well, Jim," said I, "I want to just ask you, do you think this sort of thing is right?"

"Bless your soul now!" said Jim, "if you are going to begin with that, here in New York, where are you going to end—'Where do you 'spect to die when you go to?'—as the old darkey said."

"Well," said I, "would you like to have Dante Rosetti's "Jenny" put into the hands of your sister or younger brother, recommended by a religious newspaper?"

"Well, to tell the truth, Hal, I didn't write those notices. Bill Jones wrote them. Bill's up to anything. You know every person in England and this country have praised Dante Rosetti, and particularly "Jenny," and religious papers may as well be out of the world as out of fashion,—and so mother she bought a copy for a Christmas present to sister Nell. And I tell you if I didn't get a going over about it!"

"I showed her the article in the Holy Sentinel, but it didn't do a bit of good. She made me promise I wouldn't write it up, and I never have. She said it was a shame. You see mother isn't up to the talk about high art, that's got up now a days about Dante Rosetti and Swinburne, and those. I thought myself that "Jenny" was coming it pretty strong,—and honest now, I never could see the sense in it. But then you see I am not artistic. If a fellow should tell a story of that kind to my sister, I should horsewhip him, and kick him down the front steps. But he dresses it up in poetry, and it lies around on pious people's tables, and nobody dares to say a word because it's "artistic." People are so afraid they shall not be supposed to understand what high art is, that they'll knuckle down under most anything. That's the kind of world we live in. Well! I didn't make the world and I don't govern it. But the world owes me a living, and hang it! it shall give me one. So you go up to Bolton, and leave me to do my work; I've got to write columns, and then tramp out to that confounded water-color exhibition, because I promised Snooks a puff,—I shan't get to bed till twelve or one. I tell you it's steep on a fellow now."

I went up to Bolton, boiling, and bubbling and seething, with the spirit of sixteen reformers in my veins. The scene, as I opened the door, was sufficiently tranquilizing. Bolton sat reading by the side of his shaded study-lamp, with his cat asleep in his lap; the ill-favored dog, before mentioned, was planted by his side, with his nose upturned, surveying him with a fullness of doggish adoration and complacency, which made his rubbishly shop-worn figure quite an affecting item in the picture. Crouched down on the floor in the corner, was a ragged, unkempt, freckled-faced little boy, busy doing a sum on a slate.

"Ah! old fellow," he said, as he looked up and saw me. "Come in; there, there, Snubby," he said to the dog, pushing him gently into his corner; "let the gentleman sit down. You see you find me surrounded by my family," he said. "Wait one minute," he added, turning to the boy in the corner, and taking his slate out of his hand, and running over the sum. "All right, Bill. Now here's your book." He took a volume of the Arabian Nights from the table, and handed it to him, and Bill settled himself on the floor, and was soon lost in "Sinbad the Sailor." He watched him a minute or two, and then looked round at me, with a smile. "I wouldn't be afraid to bet that you might shout in that fellow's ear and he wouldn't hear you, now he is fairly in upon that book. Isn't it worth while to be able to give such perfect bliss in this world at so small an expense? I've lost the power of reading the Arabian Nights, but I comfort my self in seeing this chap."

"Who is he?" said I.

"Oh, he's my washerwoman's boy. Poor fellow. He has hard times. I've set him up in selling newspapers. You see, I try now and then to pick up one grain out of the heap of misery, and put it into the heap of happiness, as John Newton said."

I was still bubbling with the unrest of my spirit, and finally overflowed upon him with the whole history of my day's misadventures, and all the troubled thoughts and burning indignations that I had with reference to it.

"My dear fellow," he said, "take it easy. We have to accept this world as a fait accompli. It takes some time for us to learn how little we can do to help or to hinder. You cannot take a step in the business of life anywhere without meeting just this kind of thing; and one part of the science of living is to learn just what our own responsibility is, and to let other people's alone. The fact is," he said, "the growth of current literature in our times has been so sudden and so enormous that things are in a sort of revolutionary state with regard to it, in which it is very difficult to ascertain the exact right. For example, I am connected with a paper which is simply and purely, at bottom, a financial speculation; its owners must make money. Now, they are not bad men as the world goes—they are well-meaning men—amiable, patriotic, philanthropic—some of them are religious; they, all of them, would rather virtue would prevail than vice, and good than evil; they, all of them, would desire every kind of abuse to be reformed, and every good cause to be forwarded, that could be forwarded without a sacrifice of their main object. As for me, I am not a holder or proprietor. I am simply a servant engaged by these people for a certain sum. If I should sell myself to say what I do not think, or to praise what I consider harmful, to propitiate their favor, I should be a dastard. They understand perfectly that I never do it, and they never ask me to. Meanwhile, they employ persons who will do these things. I am not responsible for it any more than I am for anything else which goes on in the city of New York. I am allowed my choice among notices, and I never write them without saying, to the best of my ability, the exact truth, whether literary or in a moral point of view. Now, that is just my stand, and if it satisfies you, you can take the same."

"But," said I, "It makes me indignant, to have Goldstick talk to me as he did about a great self-denying moral enterprise—why, that man must know he's a liar."

"Do you think so?" said he. "I don't imagine he does. Goldstick has considerable sentiment. It's quite easy to get him excited on moral subjects, and he dearly loves to hear himself talk—he is sincerely interested in a good number of moral reforms, so long as they cost him nothing; and when a man is working his good faculties, he is generally delighted with himself, and it is the most natural thing in the world, to think that there is more of him than there is. I am often put in mind of that enthusiastic young ruler that came to the Saviour, who had kept all the commandments, and seemed determined to be on the high road to saintship. The Saviour just touched him on this financial question, and he wilted in a minute. I consider that to be still the test question, and there are a good many young rulers like him, who don't keep all the commandments."

"Your way of talking," said I, "seems to do away with all moral indignation."

He smiled, and then looked sadly into the fire—"God help us all," he said. "We are all struggling in the water together and pulling one another under—our best virtues are such a miserable muddle—and then—there's the beam in our own eye."

There was a depth of pathos in his dark eyes as he spoke, and suddenly a smile flashed over his features, and looking around, he said—

"So, what do you think of that, my cat,

And what do you think of that, my dog."

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