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A Race Of Slaves
by [?]

In restaurants American citizens are treated even worse than in the shops. You will see cowed customers who are anxious to get away to their business or pleasure sitting mutely patient, until a waiter happens to remember their orders. I do not know a single establishment in this city where the waiters take any notice of their customers’ arrival, or where the proprietor comes, toward the end of the meal, to inquire if the dishes have been cooked to their taste. The interest so general on the Continent or in England is replaced here by the same air of being disturbed from more important occupations, that characterizes the shop- girl and elevator boy.

Numbers of our people live apparently in awe of their servants and the opinion of the tradespeople. One middle-aged lady whom I occasionally take to the theatre, insists when we arrive at her door on my accompanying her to the elevator, in order that the youth who presides therein may see that she has an escort, the opinion of this subordinate apparently being of supreme importance to her. One of our “gilded youths” recently told me of a thrilling adventure in which he had figured. At the moment he was passing under an awning on his way to a reception, a gust of wind sent his hat gambolling down the block. “Think what a situation,” he exclaimed. “There stood a group of my friends’ footmen watching me. But I was equal to the situation and entered the house as if nothing had happened!” Sir Walter Raleigh sacrificed a cloak to please a queen. This youth abandoned a new hat, fearing the laughter of a half-dozen servants.

One of the reasons why we have become so weak in the presence of our paid masters is that nowhere is the individual allowed to protest. The other night a friend who was with me at a theatre considered the acting inferior, and expressed his opinion by hissing. He was promptly ejected by a policeman. The man next me was, on the contrary, so pleased with the piece that he encored every song. I had paid to see the piece once, and rebelled at being obliged to see it twice to suit my neighbor. On referring the matter to the box-office, the caliph in charge informed me that the slaves he allowed to enter his establishment (like those who in other days formed the court of Louis XIV.) were permitted to praise, but were suppressed if they murmured dissent. In his Memoires, Dumas, pere, tells of a “first night” when three thousand people applauded a play of his and one spectator hissed. “He was the only one I respected,” said Dumas, “for the piece was bad, and that criticism spurred me on to improve it.”

How can we hope for any improvement in the standard of our entertainments, the manners of our servants or the ways of corporations when no one complains? We are too much in a hurry to follow up a grievance and have it righted. “It doesn’t pay,” “I haven’t got the time,” are phrases with which all such subjects are dismissed. We will sit in over-heated cars, eat vilely cooked food, put up with insolence from subordinates, because it is too much trouble to assert our rights. Is the spirit that prompted the first shots on Lexington Common becoming extinct? Have the floods of emigration so diluted our Anglo-Saxon blood that we no longer care to fight for liberty? Will no patriot arise and lead a revolt against our tyrants?

I am prepared to follow such a leader, and have already marked my prey. First, I will slay a certain miscreant who sits at the receipt of customs in the box-office of an up-town theatre. For years I have tried to propitiate that satrap with modest politeness and feeble little jokes. He has never been softened by either, but continues to “chuck” the worst places out to me (no matter how early I arrive, the best have always been given to the speculators), and to frown down my attempts at self-assertion.

When I have seen this enemy at my feet, I shall start down town (stopping on the way to brain the teller at my bank, who is perennially paring his nails, and refuses to see me until that operation is performed), to the office of a night-boat line, where the clerk has so often forced me, with hundreds of other weary victims, to stand in line like convicts, while he chats with a “lady friend,” his back turned to us and his leg comfortably thrown over the arm of his chair. Then I will take my blood-stained way–but, no! It is better not to put my victims on their guard, but to abide my time in silence! Courage, fellow-slaves, our day will come!