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One Man’s Fortunes
by [?]

“There’s India and the young Englishmen, if I remember rightly,” said McLean.

“Oh, yes, that’s all right, with the Cabots and Drake and Sir John Franklin behind them. Their traditions, their blood, all that they know makes them willing to go ‘where there ain’t no ten commandments and a man can raise a thirst,’ but for me, home, if I can call it home.”

“Well, then, stick it out.”

“That’s easy enough to say, McLean; but ten to one you’ve got some snap picked out for you already, now ‘fess up, ain’t you?”

“Well, of course I’m going in with my father, I can’t help that, but I’ve got–“

“To be sure,” broke in Davis, “you go in with your father. Well, if all I had to do was to step right out of college into my father’s business with an assured salary, however small, I shouldn’t be falling on my own neck and weeping to-night. But that’s just the trouble with us; we haven’t got fathers before us or behind us, if you’d rather.”

“More luck to you, you’ll be a father before or behind some one else; you’ll be an ancestor.”

“It’s more profitable being a descendant, I find.”

A glow came into McLean’s face and his eyes sparkled as he replied: “Why, man, if I could, I’d change places with you. You don’t deserve your fate. What is before you? Hardships, perhaps, and long waiting. But then, you have the zest of the fight, the joy of the action and the chance of conquering. Now what is before me,–me, whom you are envying? I go out of here into a dull counting-room. The way is prepared for me. Perhaps I shall have no hardships, but neither have I the joy that comes from pains endured. Perhaps I shall have no battle, but even so, I lose the pleasure of the fight and the glory of winning. Your fate is infinitely to be preferred to mine.”

“Ah, now you talk with the voluminous voice of the centuries,” bantered Davis. “You are but echoing the breath of your Nelsons, your Cabots, your Drakes and your Franklins. Why, can’t you see, you sentimental idiot, that it’s all different and has to be different with us? The Anglo-Saxon race has been producing that fine frenzy in you for seven centuries and more. You come, with the blood of merchants, pioneers and heroes in your veins, to a normal battle. But for me, my forebears were savages two hundred years ago. My people learn to know civilization by the lowest and most degrading contact with it, and thus equipped or unequipped I tempt, an abnormal contest. Can’t you see the disproportion?”

“If I do, I can also see the advantage of it.”

“For the sake of common sense, Halliday,” said Davis, turning to his companion, “don’t sit there like a clam; open up and say something to convince this Don Quixote who, because he himself, sees only windmills, cannot be persuaded that we have real dragons to fight.”

“Do you fellows know Henley?” asked Halliday, with apparent irrelevance.

“I know him as a critic,” said McLean.

“I know him as a name,” echoed the worldly Davis, “but–“

“I mean his poems,” resumed Halliday, “he is the most virile of the present-day poets. Kipling is virile, but he gives you the man in hot blood with the brute in him to the fore; but the strong masculinity of Henley is essentially intellectual. It is the mind that is conquering always.”

“Well, now that you have settled the relative place in English letters of Kipling and Henley, might I be allowed humbly to ask what in the name of all that is good has that to do with the question before the house?”

“I don’t know your man’s poetry,” said McLean, “but I do believe that I can see what you are driving at.”

“Wonderful perspicacity, oh, youth!”

“If Webb will agree not to run, I’ll spring on you the poem that seems to me to strike the keynote of the matter in hand.”