A Poor Wise Man HTML version
The city turned its dreariest aspect toward the railway on blackened walls,
irregular and ill-paved streets, gloomy warehouses, and over all a gray, smoke-
laden atmosphere which gave it mystery and often beauty. Sometimes the
softened towers of the great steel bridges rose above the river mist like fairy
towers suspended between Heaven and earth. And again the sun tipped the
surrounding hills with gold, while the city lay buried in its smoke shroud, and
white ghosts of river boats moved spectrally along.
Sometimes it was ugly, sometimes beautiful, but always the city was powerful,
significant, important. It was a vast melting pot. Through its gates came alike the
hopeful and the hopeless, the dreamers and those who would destroy those
dreams. From all over the world there came men who sought a chance to labor.
They came in groups, anxious and dumb, carrying with them their pathetic
bundles, and shepherded by men with cunning eyes.
Raw material, for the crucible of the city, as potentially powerful as the iron ore
which entered the city by the same gate.
The city took them in, gave them sanctuary, and forgot them. But the shepherds
with the cunning eyes remembered.
Lily Cardew, standing in the train shed one morning early in March, watched
such a line go by. She watched it with interest. She had developed a new interest
in people during the year she had been away. She had seen, in the army camp,
similar shuffling lines of men, transformed in a few hours into ranks of uniformed
soldiers, beginning already to be actuated by the same motive. These aliens,
going by, would become citizens. Very soon now they would appear on the
streets in new American clothes of extraordinary cut and color, their hair cut with
clippers almost to the crown, and surmounted by derby hats always a size too
Lily smiled, and looked out for her mother. She was suddenly unaccountably glad
to be back again. She liked the smoke and the noise, the movement, the sense
of things doing. And the sight of her mother, small, faultlessly tailored, wearing a
great bunch of violets, and incongruous in that work-a-day atmosphere, set her
How familiar it all was! And heavens, how young she looked! The limousine was
at the curb, and a footman as immaculately turned out as her mother stood with a
folded rug over his arm. On the seat inside lay a purple box. Lily had known it
would be there. They would be ostensibly from her father, because he had not