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Storage
by [?]

It has been the belief of certain kindly philosophers that if the one half of mankind knew how the other half lived, the two halves might be brought together in a family affection not now so observable in human relations. Probably if this knowledge were perfect, there would still be things, to bar the perfect brotherhood; and yet the knowledge itself is so interesting, if not so salutary as it has been imagined, that one can hardly refuse to impart it if one has it, and can reasonably hope, in the advantage of the ignorant, to find one’s excuse with the better informed.

I.

City and country are still so widely apart in every civilization that one can safely count upon a reciprocal strangeness in many every-day things. For instance, in the country, when people break up house-keeping, they sell their household goods and gods, as they did in cities fifty or a hundred years ago; but now in cities they simply store them; and vast warehouses in all the principal towns have been devoted to their storage. The warehouses are of all types, from dusty lofts over stores, and ammoniacal lofts over stables, to buildings offering acres of space, and carefully planned for the purpose. They are more or less fire-proof, slow-burning, or briskly combustible, like the dwellings they have devastated. But the modern tendency is to a type where flames do not destroy, nor moth corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal. Such a warehouse is a city in itself, laid out in streets and avenues, with the private tenements on either hand duly numbered, and accessible only to the tenants or their order. The aisles are concreted, the doors are iron, and the roofs are ceiled with iron; the whole place is heated by steam and lighted by electricity. Behind the iron doors, which in the New York warehouses must number hundreds of thousands, and throughout all our other cities, millions, the furniture of a myriad households is stored–the effects of people who have gone to Europe, or broken up house-keeping provisionally or definitively, or have died, or been divorced. They are the dead bones of homes, or their ghosts, or their yet living bodies held in hypnotic trances; destined again in some future time to animate some house or flat anew. In certain cases the spell lasts for many years, in others for a few, and in others yet it prolongs itself indefinitely.

I may mention the case of one owner whom I saw visiting the warehouse to take out the household stuff that had lain there a long fifteen years. He had been all that while in Europe, expecting any day to come home and begin life again, in his own land. That dream had passed, and now he was taking his stuff out of storage and shipping it to Italy. I did not envy him his feelings as the parts of his long-dead past rose round him in formless resurrection. It was not that they were all broken or defaced. On the contrary, they were in a state of preservation far more heartbreaking than any decay. In well-managed storage warehouses the things are handled with scrupulous care, and they are so packed into the appointed rooms that if not disturbed they could suffer little harm in fifteen or fifty years. The places are wonderfully well kept, and if you will visit them, say in midwinter, after the fall influx of furniture has all been hidden away behind the iron doors of the several cells, you shall find their far-branching corridors scrupulously swept and dusted, and shall walk up and down their concrete length with some such sense of secure finality as you would experience in pacing the aisle of your family vault.

That is what it comes to. One may feign that these storage warehouses are cities, but they are really cemeteries: sad columbaria on whose shelves are stowed exanimate things once so intimately of their owners’ lives that it is with the sense of looking at pieces and bits of one’s dead self that one revisits them. If one takes the fragments out to fit them to new circumstance, one finds them not only uncomformable and incapable, but so volubly confidential of the associations in which they are steeped, that one wishes to hurry them back to their cell and lock it upon them forever. One feels then that the old way was far better, and that if the things had been auctioned off, and scattered up and down, as chance willed, to serve new uses with people who wanted them enough to pay for them even a tithe of their cost, it would have been wiser. Failing this, a fire seems the only thing for them, and their removal to the cheaper custody of a combustible or slow-burning warehouse the best recourse. Desperate people, aging husbands and wives, who have attempted the reconstruction of their homes with these