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John Ruskin
by [?]

We walked up the steps, and my friend let the brass knocker drop just once, for only Americans give a rat-a-tat-tat, and the door was opened by a white-whiskered butler, who took our cards and ushered us into the library. My heart beat a trifle fast as I took inventory of the room; for I never before had called on a man who was believed to have refused the poet-laureateship. A dimly lighted room was this library–walls painted brown, running up to mellow yellow at the ceiling, high bookshelves, with a stepladder, and only five pictures on the walls, and of these three were etchings, and two water-colors of a very simple sort; leather-covered chairs; a long table in the center, on which were strewn sundry magazines and papers, also several photographs; and at one end of the room a big fireplace, where a yew log smoldered. Here my inventory was cut short by a cheery voice behind:

“Ah! now, gentlemen, I am glad to see you.”

There was no time nor necessity for a formal introduction. The great man took my hand as if he had always known me, as perhaps he thought he had. Then he greeted my friend in the same way, stirred up the fire, for it was a North of England summer day, and took a seat by the table. We were all silent for a space–a silence without embarrassment.

“You are looking at the etching over the fireplace–it was sent to me by a young lady in America,” said Mr. Ruskin, “and I placed it there to get acquainted with it. I like it more and more. Do you know the scene?” I knew the scene and explained somewhat about it.

Mr. Ruskin has the faculty of making his interviewer do most of the talking. He is a rare listener, and leans forward, putting a hand behind his right ear to get each word you say. He was particularly interested in the industrial conditions of America, and I soon found myself “occupying the time,” while an occasional word of interrogation from Mr. Ruskin gave me no chance to stop. I came to hear him, not to defend our “republican experiment,” as he was pleased to call the United States of America. Yet Mr. Ruskin was so gentle and respectful in his manner, and so complimentary in his attitude of listener, that my impatience at his want of sympathy for our “experiment” only caused me to feel a little heated.

“The fact of women being elected to mayoralties in Kansas makes me think of certain African tribes that exalt their women into warriors–you want your women to fight your political battles!”

“You evidently hold the same opinion on the subject of equal rights that you expressed some years ago,” interposed my companion.

“What did I say–really I have forgotten?”

“You replied to a correspondent, saying: ‘You are certainly right as to my views respecting the female franchise. So far from wishing to give votes to women, I would fain take them away from most men.'”

“Surely that was a sensible answer. My respect for woman is too great to force on her increased responsibilities. Then as for restricting the franchise with men, I am of the firm conviction that no man should be allowed to vote who does not own property, or who can not do considerably more than read and write. The voter makes the laws, and why should the laws regulating the holding of property be made by a man who has no interest in property beyond a covetous desire; or why should he legislate on education when he possesses none! Then again, women do not bear arms to protect the State.”

“But what do you say to Mrs. Carlock, who answers that inasmuch as men do not bear children, they have no right to vote: going to war possibly being necessary and possibly not, but the perpetuity of the State demanding that some one bear children?”