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Dangerous Days

Chapter 16
There had been once, in Herman Klein the making of a good American. He had
come to America, not at the call of freedom, but of peace and plenty.
Nevertheless, he had possibilities.
Taken in time he might have become a good American. But nothing was done to
stimulate in him a sentiment for his adopted land. He would, indeed, have been,
for all his citizenship papers, a man without a country but for one thing.
The Fatherland had never let go. When he went to the Turnverein, it was to hear
the old tongue, to sing the old songs. Visiting Germans from overseas were
constantly lecturing, holding before him the vision of great Germany. He saw
moving-pictures of Germany; he went to meetings which commenced with "Die
Wacht am Rhine." One Christmas he received a handsome copy of a photograph
of the Kaiser through the mail. He never knew who sent it, but he had it framed in
a gilt frame, and it hung over the fireplace in the sitting-room.
He had been adopted by America, but he had not adopted America, save his
own tiny bit of it. He took what the new country gave him with no faintest sense
that he owed anything in return beyond his small yearly taxes. He was neither
friendly nor inimical.
His creed through the years had been simple: to owe no man money, even for a
day; to spend less than he earned; to own his own home; to rise early, work hard,
and to live at peace with his neighbors. He had learned English and had sent
Anna to the public school. He spoke English with her, always. And on Sunday he
put on his best clothes, and sat in the German Lutheran church, dozing
occasionally, but always rigidly erect.
With his first savings he had bought a home, a tiny two-roomed frame cottage on
a bill above the Spencer mill, with a bit of waste land that he turned into a thrifty
garden. Anna was born there, and her mother had died there ten years later. But
long enough before that he had added four rooms, and bought an adjoining lot.
At that time the hill had been green; the way to the little white house had been
along and up a winding path, where in the spring the early wild flowers came out
on sunny banks, and the first buds of the neighborhood were on Klein's own lilac-
bushes.
He had had a magnificent sense of independence those days, and of freedom.
He voted religiously, and now and then in the evenings he had been the
moderate member of a mild socialist group. Theoretically, he believed that no
man should amass a fortune by the labor of others. Actually he felt himself well
paid, a respected member of society, and a property owner.
In the early morning, winter and summer, he emerged into the small side porch of
his cottage and there threw over himself a pail of cold water from the well
outside. Then he rubbed down, dressed in the open air behind the old awning
hung there, took a dozen deep breaths and a cup of coffee, and was off for work.
The addition of a bathroom, with running hot water, had made no change in his
daily habits.
 
 
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