Read CHAPTER IV - THE BOY LEADER OF A CRUSADE of The Boy With the U.S. Census, free online book, by Francis Rolt-Wheeler, on ReadCentral.com.

So long as Hamilton’s work dealt with the larger manufactories of the district he encountered comparatively little trouble, as he knew enough of the desires of the Census Bureau to be able to help those business men whose books did not specifically divide receipts, expenses, and so forth in the same order as the government required. Indeed, he made several very pleasant acquaintanceships during the weeks in New Haven, and it was not until he was “checking up,” going to all the small places that had not been listed, that he really found himself in difficulties. He anticipated trouble with the dressmakers, and consequently his delight was great when he learned that this had been omitted from the census since 1904 because it is a “neighborhood industry.” But the milliners proved just as bad.

In the first place, Hamilton could not work up any enthusiasm over a millinery establishment, and although he had definite instructions that each one was to be considered as a factory and entered upon the schedules as one, he thought such an idea was stretching the point a little far. Fortunately he had covered a large number of them during the first weeks of the work, visiting the places in the early morning and in the evening when the offices of the larger factories were closed. His worst clash occurred at almost the very last one to which he went.

It was a little after five o’clock, just as it was beginning to get dark, that Hamilton, having ascertained from the Business Telephone Directory the address of a milliner not down on his lists, who did work for wholesale as well as retail trade, went up the steps of a really handsome house, and rang the bell. He did so reluctantly, for there was no plate on the door, and he did not wish to annoy strangers. But the address seemed straight enough.

The door was opened by a becapped maid, and Hamilton was shown into a handsomely furnished drawing room. On a table in the corner, the boy caught sight of a pile of fashion magazines, and he was sure that he was on the right track. After a few moments’ delay, a richly dressed little Frenchwoman bustled in. She seemed surprised to see the boy, and halted on the threshold. Hamilton rose.

“I understand, Madame,” he said, “that you are an ‘exclusive’ milliner?”

The woman looked bewildered.

“You make hats?” Hamilton continued, perceiving at a glance that the woman was foreign-born.

“Is it a hatter zat you want?” she asked.

“No, no,” the boy replied, “I just want to know if you are a milliner?”

The Frenchwoman, not at all enlightened by this explanation, answered:

“I do not make ze hats; I design zem, and ze ozzers make zem.”

“Oh, I thought you were the proprietor,” said Hamilton; “then you don’t own this place!”

“I am ze proprietor, but I do not own ze house,” she said; “I pay ze rent. But why you ask? I pay my rent!”

“Oh, of course,” answered Hamilton, “but that has nothing to do with it. I did not wish to trouble you that way. I come from the census, and wanted to make sure that this was the place I was looking for.”

“What is zat ze census?”

“That is the way the government finds out about all the people in the country,” explained Hamilton, “their names and how old they are, what they work at and how many people they employ, the wages they pay or are paid, and all sorts of things.”

The Frenchwoman’s eyes had been getting bigger and rounder at every sentence, and when Hamilton had finished, she said with an air of regretful surprise:

“An’ they tol’ me zere was no police spy in America!”

“There isn’t, so far as I know,” the boy answered.

“But you ”

“I’m not a police spy,” the boy said, a little nettled at being misunderstood.

“No? Zen zat is all ze more strange. In my country zose are ze questions ze gendarmes ask. An’ if you are not policeman, why do you wear badge?” she queried, pointing to the little census shield on Hamilton’s coat.

“That has nothing to do with the police,” the boy insisted, “that’s a census badge. Madame,” he added, “do I look like a policeman?”

The Frenchwoman, remembering the military appearance of the gendarmes of her native land and the burly make-up of the American policeman, shook her head.

“Perhaps you are disguise’?” she said, with a smile.

“No, I’m not disguised,” Hamilton responded, “and the badge is just to show that I have the right to ask you these questions.”

“I do not know anyzing at all about it,” the milliner objected, “but if you say you have ze right!” she shrugged her shoulders and sat down.

Hamilton promptly picked up his portfolio, opened it on his knee, and began to put some of the queries required. He got along well enough while the formal questions about name, address, nature of work, and so forth were in hand, but the question about the number of hours worked during the year made the woman most indignant.

“What is ze good of a question like zat?” she asked. “What does it matter if ze girls work all ze night to finish ze hat for ze gr-rand occasion, ze wedding, ze garden party? When zey work more, zey get more pay!”

“Of course,” said Hamilton diplomatically, “with such a number of society people as you deal with that must happen very often.”

It was a successful move. The Frenchwoman beamed on him.

“In ze season, yes, perhaps twenty or thirty evenings, but even zen ze girl go home by twelve o’clock.”

Hamilton smiled to himself as he did a little figuring and filled up the schedule to show the prevailing practice followed in the establishment during the year. He was a little dubious about asking the questions concerning the wages paid, but he found no trouble.

“In your kind of work,” he said, “I suppose the girls get good wages.”

“Ze very best,” the woman answered, and Hamilton found that this was true. Indeed, so anxious was she to impress on him how much better were the wages paid by her than those in other establishments that the boy secured a large amount of unexpected valuable information. But he came to a dead stop on the question of raw material used during the year. For the material used in wholesale work the figures were easily secured, but the retail trade was another matter. This the milliner really could not give, for, as she pointed out, most of the few especial customers she had, brought the materials to her to be made up, and she had no means of knowing what had been paid for them. Nor would she even try to make an estimate.

“But I must know,” said Hamilton, in despair. “See for yourself, here it says that every factory must state the total cost of all material used during the year and the value of the products.”

“Factory!” the milliner jumped to her feet. “What you say a factory! Zis establishment a factory! And me, one of ze designers of ze great Maison Chic in Paris! Zis is insult!”

For a moment Hamilton was amazed at the tempest he had so suddenly evoked; then he tried to pacify the woman.

“That’s just a general word,” he said, “and it is used for every place where things are made.”

“No, no, no,” she cried, “I know bezzer zan zat. A factory has chimney, high, high, and smoke, an’ nasty smells, an’ machines. I have seen zem!”

“That’s one kind of factory,” answered the boy, “but it is only one kind. But if you like we won’t use the word at all.”

This time, however, Hamilton’s persuasions were of no avail. The milliner had taken offense at the word “factory,” and not another word could the boy get out of her on any subject; the deadlock had become absolute when the door opened and the maid showed in a young girl, evidently a customer. The proprietress immediately greeted her in voluble French, recounting as nearly as Hamilton could judge from her gestures her sorrows and trials at the boy’s hands.

As soon as there was a lull, Hamilton said to the newcomer:

“I beg your pardon, but since you seem to know French, would you mind explaining to Madame what the census is? She seems to think I am a police spy, or something.”

“Oh, the census!” the girl exclaimed. “I could not make out what it was all about. I thought it must be some question of taxes.”

“No,” Hamilton explained, “it is the Census of Manufactures, and millinery places have to be counted. I got along all right, and have finished my schedule but for one thing, and that I cannot get hold of. If you would just ask her the cost of the materials in the hats she made last year, I’ll be through and then I won’t be delaying you.”

But not even the girl’s fluent French could bring any light on this subject, and laughingly she had to admit to the boy that her success had been no greater than his own.

“I’ll tell you,” said Hamilton; “I’ve got an idea how we could get at it.”

“How?” asked the girl interestedly, for having taken a part in it, she was American enough to be unwilling to give up; “what have you to suggest what is your plan?”

“You are one of Madame’s customers?”

“Yes.”

“And, of course, whatever kind of books are kept here, there must be some sort of ledger, so that your bills can go to you every month.”

The girl made a little grimace.

“The bills certainly come,” she assured him.

“Well, then,” said Hamilton triumphantly, “if we can find out from Madame what proportion of all her trade your account is, and if you can make a guess as to what the material you have brought her cost you, we shall come pretty close to being able to make an estimate on the cost of goods of all her customers.”

“That’s an excellent scheme,” the girl said. “I don’t know that I can give very exact figures, but you want just a rough idea?”

“I’d like it exact, of course,” the boy answered, “but since that doesn’t seem easy to get, the next best thing is a close estimate.”

With this device in mind, very few minutes elapsed before the required information was secured, a rough guess made at the result, and the schedule finally filled out. As Hamilton rose to go, the girl said laughingly: “I think I should at least receive ‘honorable mention’ in the dispatches as a census-taker, the same as soldiers do in war.”

“Very well,” said Hamilton, smiling in return, “I’ll bear it in mind,” and thanking her heartily, he went on his way, greatly relieved that the difficulty was over.

In a piece of extra territory that Mr. Burns had assigned to the boy, there were several factories in which there had been some difficulty in securing properly filled schedules, partly because much of the work was done on the night shift. Because of this, Hamilton had got in touch with some of these factories they were principally glass works on the night side first. He frequently found it necessary to work thus in the evenings, especially after this added work, which was given him because the district proved too large for the agent having it in charge.

Little by little he worked these down until but one remained, owned by Germans, where the boy experienced great difficulty in securing any sort of attention. The night superintendent, however, was ready to help, and Hamilton went to him constantly in the endeavor to have the schedule for that factory filled. This was the easier, as the night superintendent in question had recently been promoted to that position from head bookkeeper.

One night, waiting for the superintendent to work out these figures, he sauntered through the works. A phrase from Edwin Markham’s “The Hoe-Man in the Making” kept ringing through his head. It ran as follows “It is in the glass-factory perhaps, that the child is pushed most hopelessly under the blind hammer of greed,” and the boy wondered whether this especial works was one of those which the poet-author had visited. Owing to the number of times Hamilton had been forced to go to this factory, two or three of the men had come to know him by sight, and they nodded now as he passed through. Noticing a boy that looked even younger than himself, for unconsciously his eye was seeking that of which he was thinking, he turned to one of the men who had nodded to him, and said casually, and with an air of surprise:

“Why, that chap there doesn’t look any older than me!”

“I don’t suppose he is so very old,” the man replied, “sixteen, maybe.”

“Seems a shame to have to start in so young,” Hamilton went on, with an assumed air of carelessness, “and I suppose he’s been here some years.”

“Probably about four or five,” was the reply.

“You know,” continued Hamilton, in a conversational tone, “I should think it would be hard for a boy to start in working like that, and at night especially.”

The man paused in his work an instant, and looked at the lad, passing his hand over his forehead as he did so.

“I was just ten years old when I began,” he said. “I’m only thirty now. I look fifty, don’t I?”

“You certainly look over thirty,” Hamilton admitted.

“Oh, I look fifty all right, I know that, and I’m as nearly played out as a man of fifty. And it’s all due to work when I was a youngster. Every year that a boy is put to hard physical work before he is sixteen is equal to five years taken off his life.”

“I wonder that any employer does it, and that any State permits it,” said Hamilton.

“There’s not as much of it in Connecticut as in other States, although the figures show that it is growing here,” was the reply. “But you talk as though you had been having a session with ‘the crusader,’” the workman continued.

“Who’s the crusader?” asked Hamilton.

“Haven’t you seen him, then? With your ideas, you ought to get along well together. And,” he added, more seriously, “‘the crusader’ will be heard of yet.”

“Why?”

“He’s a boy who started at work in this place when he was only seven years old,” the workman answered. “He’s been here eight years now, and he’s an odd genius. He taught himself to read and write, but he doesn’t read anything except about labor conditions all over the world, and he knows all there is to know, I guess, about this business of children working. All the labor union people and the socialists know ’the crusader,’ young as he is, and they send him, free, nearly every book and paper that’s published.”

“But why do you call him ’the crusader’?” asked Hamilton.

“Because he has some crusade idea on the brain, thinks he can start a revolution or something that will put a stop to child labor, and he talks all the time of getting ready for this ‘crusade’ as he calls it. But everybody likes him just the same, and he’s a good worker when he’s not talking.”

“Which is he?” asked Hamilton. “I’d like to talk to him, if I might.”

“No reason why you shouldn’t,” the other answered “he’s kept busy of course, but there are minutes in which he can talk, and ‘the crusader’ is given special favors, anyway. That’s the boy, ‘carrying in’ over there.”

Hamilton looked with interest at the boy thus pointed out. He would have been noticeable, even without the knowledge of his peculiar position, but with it, his difference from his fellows became most marked. Hamilton had a couple of large apples in his pocket, and he thought this might be a good opening. Taking one of them out of his pocket, he started to eat it, and sauntered leisurely over to where the boy was working. He watched him for a minute or two; then, when the boy looked up, he said casually:

“Have an apple?”

Almost wolfishly the work-boy took the fruit from Hamilton and commenced to devour it. It was clear either that he was hungry or that such a luxury as an apple seldom fell to his lot. A few sentences passed, and then Hamilton asked:

“How long have you been in the factory here?”

“Eight years,” ‘the crusader’ replied.

“You must have been just a youngster when you first came, then?”

“Seven years old,” was the answer, “and small at that!”

“It’s a shame to let little children work like that, I think,” said Hamilton, wondering whether this would have the effect of rousing the other, “it must do them harm.”

But even though expecting some fiery retort, Hamilton was unprepared for the transformation in the lad. A moment before he had been a stooped childish figure with an old and weary face, carrying trays of hot glass from furnace to bench and bench to furnace, but at the word he turned. The air of weariness fell from him, his back straightened, life and passion flamed into his eyes, and despite the grime and sordidness of his surroundings, despite the rags in which he was clothed, under the dull glow of the furnaces and the flickering violet play of a distant arc light he seemed the bearer of some high message as his boyish treble, rich in the tones of a familiar despair, rang through the factory.

“The land is filled with the voice o’ cryin’,” he began, “an’ no one seems to hear. Tens o’ thousands o’ children cry themselves to sleep every night, knowin’ that the mornin’ only brings another day o’ misery. Think of a little boy or girl o’ ten years old, sufferin’ already so much that hope is gone, an’ tired enough to die! There are twenty-five thousand children less than ten years old in the fact’ries of America.”

“Perhaps the people who could help don’t know about it,” suggested Hamilton.

“They know,” the other continued, “but they don’t care. They stop their ears to the cryin’ o’ the children an’ talk about America as the land of opportunity. It is the land of opportunity opportunity for the children to starve, opportunity to suffer, opportunity to die wretched an’ to be glad to die. There’s no country in the world where children are tortured as they are in the fact’ries of the United States.”

“Oh, surely it can’t be as bad as that,” protested Hamilton.

The objection only increased the “crusader’s” vehemence.

“There don’t any children have to work anywhere as they do here,” he fairly shouted, “here where they rob the cradle for workers, where the little voices become sad and bitter ’most as soon as they can lisp, where the brightness o’ childhood fades out before its time, an’ where its only world is the mill, the shop, an’ the fact’ry. Their tiny bones unset, they make them stand in one position all day long until you hear the children moanin’ hour after hour, moanin’ and no one hears, or hearin’, cares.

“They send missionaries to China,” cried the lad further, “but there’s no child labor there; they try to reform the ‘unspeakable Turk’ but there’s no atrocity upon the children there; they call the heathen lost, though in the worst an’ wildes’ tribes the children have a home an’ lovin’, if savage care; Russia cries shame on what goes on in our fact’ries here, an’ even an Indian chief that they were showin’ the sights of our great cities to, when asked what had surprised him most, answered, ‘Little children workin’.’”

“You mean it is peculiar to America? That there is really more of it here than in Europe?” asked Hamilton incredulously.

“More? There’s none there like there is here. An’ it’s gettin’ worse all the time, worse this year than last year, worse last year than ten years ago. ‘Child-labor,’ somebody says, ’has about it no halo of antiquity. It is a thing of yesterday, a sudden toadstool in the infernal garden.’ It is all our own,” he laughed harshly, “let us be proud of it.”

“How many children did you say?” asked Hamilton tersely, staggered and shocked by this statement of the facts of the case.

“Enough to sink the land in shame,” the speaker declared. “There were a trifle over a hundred thousand children between the ages of six and fourteen workin’ in the fact’ries of America last year. The figures showed that over half of ’em were workin’ more’n eight hours a day, that a large percentage were workin’ twelve to sixteen hours, an’ twenty-two thousand of ’em are at night work.”

As he said the last words, the “crusader” hurried away in response to a call from one of the men. He resumed his carrying in of the red-hot bottles from the benches where the men had been molding them, to the annealing oven, and for a time Hamilton watched him. The work was a fearful strain. Sitting where he was, Hamilton could see all the way to the annealing oven. Counting the number of steps the “crusader” had to take, Hamilton found the distance to be about one hundred feet, and watching another boy, who was working regularly, not intermittently as was the city lad’s new acquaintance, he found that seventy-two trips an hour were made, making the distance covered in eight hours nearly twenty-two miles.

The red-hot bottles were carried in asbestos shovels, and these had to be kept fairly straight, imposing a terrific strain upon the back. In addition to this, the boys were compelled to face the furnace each time they came back, passing from the heat of the melting oven, in front of a draughty open door, to the heat of the annealing oven.

In order to keep up with the work, the boys had to run, for it could not be done at a walk, and thus were alternately greatly overheated and chilled with icy draughts.

Seeing that the “crusader” would be busy for a while, but wanting to take the matter up with him further, Hamilton strolled over to where the glass-blowers were working. This particular factory was turning out cheap glass bottles, and there was little of the fascination that exists in factories where high-grade glass is made into many curious shapes and blown with great skill into marvelous thinness. In the middle of the room was a large round furnace containing a number of small doors not quite four feet from the ground, and a glass-blower was stationed before each of these. With long iron blowpipes these men, by giving the blowpipe a little twirl as they thrust it into the semi-molten metal, drew out on the end of it a small mass of glass, of about the consistency of nearly melted sealing wax, and holding this mass on the end of the blowpipe by keeping it in motion, they blew it into balls and rolled the ball of soft, red-hot glass on their rolling boards. Then they lifted the blowpipe and blew again, sharp and hard, forcing the soft glass to its proper form. The now cooling glass was broken from the end of the blowpipe with a sharp, snapping sound, and the blowpipe was plunged in the furnace again for another bottle. The whole had taken but a few seconds.

“Why do they have so many boys around these places?” queried Hamilton of the workman he had been watching.

“Have to, they say,” the glass-blower replied, “cheap bottles mean cheap labor. No one ever expects to pay anything for a bottle that is thrown in with everything liquid you buy. The manufacturer’s got to make his little profit somewhere an’ in a cheap bottle he makes it by employin’ young boys cheap an’ workin’ ’em till they drop.”

“Is it done this way everywhere?”

The workman shook his head.

“No need to do it even here,” he said. “It takes money, though, to put in an endless belt to carry the bottles to the annealin’ oven. The big fact’ries mostly have ’em, but there are plenty o’ places like this in small towns where everythin’ is done on a cheap scale, an’ a boy’s labor is about the cheapes’ thing in the United States unless it’s a girl’s.”

Seeing that the glass-blower was being delayed in his task, Hamilton sauntered away, and went back to the place where the “crusader” worked. The latter broke out again as soon as he saw the boy coming.

“I’ve been talkin’ to you about children workin’,” he said, “but you haven’t thought of babies bein’ made to work?”

“Babies!”

“Of four an’ five years old.”

“But they couldn’t do any real work!” exclaimed Hamilton.

“Do you know what one factory owner in the South said, not knowin’ he was talkin’ to a member o’ the child-labor commission? He said ’A kid three year old can soon learn to straighten out tobacco leaves for wrappers, and a little worker of four is good help in stripping.’”

“In a cigar factory?”

“Of course, an’ the children find it so hard to keep up that they are taught to chew snuff as a stimulant before they are six year old. Jane Addams, writin’ o’ the torture chambers they call cotton mills in parts o’ the South, said she saw on the night shift, with her teeth all blackened and decayed from excessive snuff chewin’, a little girl o’ five year old, busily and clumsily tyin’ threads in coarse muslin, an’ answerin’ a question she said she had been there every night throughout the hot summer excep’ two, when ’her legs and back wouldn’t let her get up.’ An’ what do you suppose the fact’ry owner did send a physician? No, he docked her the two days’ wages for the time she’d been away ill, an’ another day’s fine as a punishment.”

“That’s brutal!” cried Hamilton. “Didn’t the parents protest?”

“The parents? That’s where the mill-owners have their strongest help. They threaten to discharge the parents if the children don’t work an’ work hard, and they force the father or mother into whippin’ the child to compel it to stay at the loom. The whole country went to war once over the question of a negro havin’ to work under compulsion, or at least, that had quite a bit to do with the war, but you can enslave white children, you can starve ’em, you can shut ’em up in rooms without air, you can surround ’em with dangerous machinery, you can force ’em to be whipped, you can snatch ’em from their cradles in their homes, you can snap your fingers at the schools, an’ you can fill churchyards with a worse Massacre o’ the Innocents than history ever tells about, an’ the men and women of America don’t care.”

“Oh, yes, they do,” again protested Hamilton. “It must be that they don’t know.”

“How can they help but know? There are a few that have heard what Spargo calls ‘The Bitter Cry of the Children,’ but those few are very few, an’ the misery an’ shame goes on, gettin’ worse with ev’ry year.”

“What’s going to be done?”

“The children will have to rescue the children,” the boy cried. “If men’s hearts are cold and women’s hearts are asleep, at least the boys can hear. There’s no power like a boy’s, an’ a boy will do anythin’ that’s big and brave and worth the doin’. In a year from now I’m goin’ to start a crusade, like the Children’s Crusade in hist’ry, an’ march to every mill an’ fact’ry in the United States where a child is workin’, and make the owner sign a paper pledgin’ himself not to employ a child again. Give me an army of American boys an’ I’ll sweep the country like a flight o’ locusts.”

“But who would join?”

“Every boy worth his salt. S’pose I came to you an’ said ’In that mill at the end o’ your street, little children are bein’ slaved and driven to death because no one has the nerve to say what they think. We’ll rescue those children. Join us, we’re five hundred strong!’ Would you go along?”

“Guess I’d have to join,” the boy agreed, “but you’d get into all sorts of trouble.”

“Can I get into a worse trouble than any o’ those babies have?” the other asked indignantly. “What right have I to go on, even as I do, knowin’ how they are sufferin’. I don’t care about trouble, I’ve had nothin’ else all my life. But if by gettin’ into trouble myself, I could get even one hollow-eyed shadow of a child to run about and play like other folks, I’d be willin’ to take anythin’ that come after. I don’t see that carryin’ bottles is goin’ to help the world much, but if I can carry hope an’ health to some little boy or girl, I’m goin’ to do it. How, I don’t know. But I ain’t goin’ to die without bein’ able to remember some poor child that’s better off because lived.”

“What can I do to help?” asked Hamilton eagerly and aggressively, as though he expected instant marching orders to some distant factory.

“You can do somethin’, every boy can do somethin’. If nothin’ else, you can help to wake a sleepin’ an’ selfish nation. If the cryin’ o’ the children has ever rung in your ears, it’ll never stop till you’re doin’ somethin’ to help. Do you think I could dream every day, as I do, o’ that ’spectral army of pygmy people sucked in from the hills to dance beside the crazing wheel’ and not do somethin’?”

“But ”

“Could I hear trampin’ round me day an’ night, the laggin’ step of a ‘gaunt goblin army that outwatches the sun by day an’ the stars by night, an’ work an’ sleep in peace? An’ there’s one thing more to say, an’ then I must go, that there’s a stain o’ shame ’pon the honor of America that’ll never be wiped away until child labor is put down!”

Thoughtful and subdued in spirit, Hamilton strolled back to the night superintendent’s office, where he found the figures done at last and the completed schedule awaiting him. He gratefully accepted the offer of a cup of coffee, from some which had just been sent in, and sat down beside the desk.

“I’ve been talking with the ‘crusader,’” he remarked.

The night superintendent looked up interestedly.

“What do you think of him?” he asked, a little sharply, Hamilton thought.

“I think there’s no question about his being sincere,” the boy answered, “but I can hardly believe that the figures he gives and the facts he talks about are true.”

“They’re true enough, I’m sorry to say,” said the older man, sighing, “but the ‘crusader’ usually isn’t fair to the South. He blames the South for the cotton mill horrors, when, as a matter of fact, a very large proportion of the mills in which the worst conditions were found are owned by New England capitalists. I’m a New Englander by birth myself, ‘naughty-two’ at Yale, but I’m able to see the mistakes of the North just the same.”

“I’ve always been taught that the North was more or less mixed up in it,” answered Hamilton. “It was shown to me a long time ago that the slavery in the South wasn’t started by the plantation owners. There were no Southern vessels in the slave trade, they were all New England skippers and New England bottoms. The shame of the slave traffic belongs originally to the North.”

“And now a large share of the child labor, too,” the other agreed. “But you’ve got to remember that it was the easy shiftlessness of the South that made such conditions possible. I guess the blame is about even.”

“But is nothing being done on this child-labor business?” asked Hamilton. “I tried to find that out from the ‘crusader’ but he didn’t answer.”

“Yes,” said the superintendent heartily, “a great deal is being done. The Bureau of the Census has been of immense service, and other bureaus of the Department of Commerce and Labor are working on it, largely through information gathered for them by the census. Then there have been thorough Congressional investigations, and the States are being checked up hard to insure that factory inspection shall be real, not nominal. Don’t let the ‘crusader’ persuade you that everybody is asleep and that nothing is being done; the government is doing a good deal, although the country as a whole is unaware of it.”

“Yet it is increasing?”

“In spite of all that is done to prevent it, it is increasing,” the other said quietly, “that is the sad part. If it could be thought of as a passing thing, it would be bad enough, but to know that every month hundreds of children die from enforced labor and that greater numbers fill their places, is a sad reflection on the industrial life of to-day.”

“Well, as the South progresses, that will probably take care of itself, won’t it?” queried the boy.

The superintendent looked at him curiously.

“I think you told me last evening that you were a New York boy,” he said.

“Yes, Mr. Wharton,” answered Hamilton.

“I suppose you consider New York a fairly progressive city?”

“Greatest on earth!” affirmed the boy in true Gotham style.

“Yet that same progressive city,” the older man declared, “is the headquarters of several forms of industry in which large percentages of the workers are children under fourteen years of age.”

“What kinds of business can those be?” asked Hamilton in surprise.

“Making ostrich plumes and artificial flowers. It’s not factory labor, of course, but that doesn’t alter the point that at least half the output of artificial flowers is made by the cramped fingers of children, generally after school and far into the night. They are not officially reported, of course, but less than twenty per cent is done by men. The disgraceful fact that the New York schools are so crowded that many of them can only give ‘half-time’ to the children and consequently teach them in two sections is a great help to the sweat-shop managers. But every city has its own share of this child labor in the homes, although in some of the smaller places, civic associations and municipalities have taken the matter in hand with considerable success. Even that is but a drop in the ocean.”

“Your ‘crusader’ will have to lead his crusade then, it seems,” the boy suggested.

“Poor lad!” sighed the superintendent.

“Why?” asked Hamilton.

“He will never lead that crusade,” the older man replied pensively.

“Why not?”

The man tapped his chest significantly.

“He is incurably ill,” he said, “partly glass-blowers’ disease from breathing the particles of glass dust. Men don’t mind it so much, but it is fatal to children when the lungs are not yet strong. We keep the ‘crusader’ here in order to help him as much as we can, although he gives a lot of trouble in the works with his revolutionary theories. I haven’t the heart to send him away; he couldn’t get other work, and being all alone in the world, he might starve.”

“You mean ”

“That he will not live six months. That army of boys of which he speaks so often will never go on the march, the banners he has designed for it will wave over no other battalions than those he has seen in dreams, and the drums will sound the final ‘taps’ for him before they roll for the advance. And in that sleep, the cries of the children shall all be happy ones.”