Davis' Short Stories Vol. 3 HTML version
A Question Of Latitude
Of the school of earnest young writers at whom the word muckraker had been thrown in
opprobrium, and by whom it had been caught up as a title of honor, Everett was among
the younger and less conspicuous. But, if in his skirmishes with graft and corruption he
had failed to correct the evils he attacked, from the contests he himself had always
emerged with credit. His sincerity and his methods were above suspicion. No one had
caught him in misstatement, or exaggeration. Even those whom he attacked, admitted he
fought fair. For these reasons, the editors of magazines, with the fear of libel before their
eyes, regarded him as a "safe" man, the public, feeling that the evils he exposed were due
to its own indifference, with uncomfortable approval, and those he attacked, with
impotent anger. Their anger was impotent because, in the case of Everett, the weapons
used by their class in "striking back" were denied them. They could not say that for
money he sold sensations, because it was known that a proud and wealthy parent supplied
him with all the money he wanted. Nor in his private life could they find anything to
offset his attacks upon the misconduct of others. Men had been sent to spy upon him, and
women to lay traps. But the men reported that his evenings were spent at his club, and,
from the women, those who sent them learned only that Everett "treats a lady just as
though she IS a lady."
Accordingly, when, with much trumpeting, he departed to investigate conditions in the
Congo, there were some who rejoiced.
The standard of life to which Everett was accustomed was high. In his home in Boston it
had been set for him by a father and mother who, though critics rather than workers in the
world, had taught him to despise what was mean and ungenerous, to write the truth and
abhor a compromise. At Harvard he had interested himself in municipal reform, and
when later he moved to New York, he transferred his interest to the problems of that city.
His attack upon Tammany Hall did not utterly destroy that organization, but at once
brought him to the notice of the editors. By them he was invited to tilt his lance at evils in
other parts of the United States, at "systems," trusts, convict camps, municipal misrule.
His work had met with a measure of success that seemed to justify Lowell's Weekly in
sending him further afield, and he now was on his way to tell the truth about the Congo.
Personally, Everett was a healthy, clean-minded enthusiast. He possessed all of the
advantages of youth, and all of its intolerance. He was supposed to be engaged to
Florence Carey, but he was not. There was, however, between them an "understanding,"
which understanding, as Everett understood it, meant that until she was ready to say, "I
am ready," he was to think of her, dream of her, write love-letters to her, and keep
himself only for her. He loved her very dearly, and, having no choice, was content to
wait. His content was fortunate, as Miss Carey seemed inclined to keep him waiting
Except in Europe, Everett had never travelled outside the limits of his own country. But
the new land toward which he was advancing held no terrors. As he understood it, the
Congo was at the mercy of a corrupt "ring." In every part of the United States he had