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One Man’s Fortunes
by [?]

“Yes, but the time has not come when a white person will employ a colored attorney.”

“Do you mean to say that the prejudice here at home is such that if I were as competent as a white lawyer a white person would not employ me?”

“I say nothing about prejudice at all. It’s nature. They have their own lawyers; why should they go outside of their own to employ a colored man?”

“But I am of their own. I am an American citizen, there should be no thought of color about it.”

“Oh, my boy, that theory is very nice, but State University democracy doesn’t obtain in real life.”

“More’s the pity, then, for real life.”

“Perhaps, but we must take things as we find them, not as we think they ought to be. You people are having and will have for the next ten or a dozen years the hardest fight of your lives. The sentiment of remorse and the desire for atoning which actuated so many white men to help negroes right after the war has passed off without being replaced by that sense of plain justice which gives a black man his due, not because of, nor in spite of, but without consideration of his color.”

“I wonder if it can be true, as my friend Davis says, that a colored man must do twice as much and twice as well as a white man before he can hope for even equal chances with him? That white mediocrity demands black genius to cope with it?”

“I am afraid your friend has philosophized the situation about right.”

“Well, we have dealt in generalities,” said Bert, smiling, “let us take up the particular and personal part of this matter. Is there any way you could help me to a situation?”

“Well,–I should be glad to see you get on, Bert, but as you see, I have nothing in my office that you could do. Now, if you don’t mind beginning at the bottom–“

“That’s just what I expected to do.”

“–Why I could speak to the head-waiter of the hotel where I stay. He’s a very nice colored man and I have some influence with him. No doubt Charlie could give you a place.”

“But that’s a work I abhor.”

“Yes, but you must begin at the bottom, you know. All young men must.”

“To be sure, but would you have recommended the same thing to your nephew on his leaving college?”

“Ah–ah–that’s different.”

“Yes,” said Halliday, rising, “it is different. There’s a different bottom at which black and white young men should begin, and by a logical sequence, a different top to which they should aspire. However, Mr. Featherton, I’ll ask you to hold your offer in abeyance. If I can find nothing else, I’ll ask you to speak to the head-waiter. Good-morning.”

“I’ll do so with pleasure,” said Mr. Featherton, “and good-morning.”

As the young man went up the street, an announcement card in the window of a publishing house caught his eye. It was the announcement of the next Sunday’s number in a series of addresses which the local business men were giving before the Y.M.C.A. It read, “‘How a Christian young man can get on in the law’–an address by a Christian lawyer–H.G. Featherton.”

Bert laughed. “I should like to hear that address,” he said. “I wonder if he’ll recommend them to his head-waiter. No, ‘that’s different.’ All the addresses and all the books written on how to get on, are written for white men. We blacks must solve the question for ourselves.”

He had lost some of the ardor with which he had started out but he was still full of hope. He refused to accept Mr. Featherton’s point of view as general or final. So he hailed a passing car that in the course of a half hour set him down at the door of the great factory which, with its improvements, its army of clerks and employees, had built up one whole section of the town. He felt especially hopeful in attacking this citadel, because they were constantly advertising for clerks and their placards plainly stated that preference would be given to graduates of the local high school. The owners were philanthropists in their way. Well, what better chance could there be before him? He had graduated there and stood well in his classes, and besides, he knew that a number of his classmates were holding good positions in the factory. So his voice was cheerful as he asked to see Mr. Stockard, who had charge of the clerical department.